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johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 01:35 PM
I reread chapter six of Marie Lavigne's Economics of Transition this afternoon. Although not too detailed it gives a good economic summary of the events inside ComEcon which preceded the 1990 meltdown. One of the major things was attempts at stimulus spending to jar the economy and get things rolling again so the USSR would not be underwriting all the other members while itself falling ever deeper into debt. Sound familiar?

This lead me back to a my standing conviction that this country needs substantial change immediately in order ward off long term dire consequences. The only real way to do this(peaceably), is for the states to call a constitutional convention. I do not think DC is going to take advantage of their ability to do so.

Would a constitutional convention be good or bad?

It would update the constitution to reflect the present values of our society. Would that be good or bad? I have to say I believe the Second amendment would likely be rewritten and directly limited to personal defense. I think there would likely be adjustments to the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments also. Most people would not even think there was a purpose to the third.

On the plus side, the first amendment would possibly be strengthened. The ninth and tenth might be strengthened/clarified(incorporation of other amendments). Seventh probably needs a face lift considering how out of control some jury settlements have been. Term limits could be brought into it.

Of course there is always the chance that such a convention could play a role in sparking a full scale revolution, as seen in France.

5whiskey
May 8, 2009, 01:48 PM
The true problem with our Nation at this point isn't the elected officials. Elected officials with a biased anti-constitutional agenda at this point is only a SYMPTOM of the real problem. The real problem, and the highest true power in this nation and in the world, is the media. We the people expect the media to be fair and un-biased in reporting on the deeds and misdeeds of our candidates and elected officials. If they report selectively or try to cover up information, then of course the sheeple will not have all of the information they need to make an informed decision as they vote.


With my little speech there, I think a constitutional convention would be a very bad thing right now. We the people would be at the mercy of elected officials who rode a coat-tail of populist majority voters... many of whom went to the polls to vote for one man and checked the box that voted for everyone on the same side he was on. The timing is off on a Constitutional convention. Give it a few years... there is too much power centered around one party right now and they're going to make a mess. The people will eventually get tired of it, then things will balance out, and it will likely take a constitutional convention to un-do the damage that has been and will be done under this current congress/administration.

Glenn E. Meyer
May 8, 2009, 01:50 PM
No. To be blunt, the call for a convention is from fringe groups who would want to posture about their own nuttiness from the left or the right.

Talking among themselves, they think a rewrite would strengthen whatever righteous cause they think the country would support.

The 2nd could go away just as easily as be strengthened. Religious nuts would want to get rid of church/state separation. Dogs and cats could be granted the right to live together - even in same sex interspecies marriage.

My, I'm cranky. :D

csmsss
May 8, 2009, 02:00 PM
We don't need a constitutional convention. What we need is the faithful application of the Constitution as it is. That means - Congress shall enact laws that conform to the limitations established by the Tenth Amendment. The President and offices of the Executive Branch to not exceed their authority. And the federal judiciary - specifically the Supreme Court - to apply the issues presented before it considering only the plain language of the Constitution as it was written - not how they wish it had been written.

5whiskey
May 8, 2009, 02:04 PM
We don't need a constitutional convention. What we need is the faithful application of the Constitution as it is. That means - Congress shall enact laws that conform to the limitations established by the Tenth Amendment. The President and offices of the Executive Branch to not exceed their authority. And the federal judiciary - specifically the Supreme Court - to apply the issues presented before it considering only the plain language of the Constitution as it was written - not how they wish it had been written.

Quoted for truth and +1 100%

BlueTrain
May 8, 2009, 02:10 PM
If anyone believes the media is the highest power in the country, they've been listening to the media too much.

But be careful what you wish for. How different was life for the average person before the revolution and after the revolution? You could almost say any revolution, too. And how different was life in either Russia before the breakup of the USSR and after or in Yugoslavia before and after (in that case, once the shooting stopped)? I have to admit that I have no direct experience in any of those cases and I'm relying on the media for my information.

People will forever be arguing about what the authors of the constitution and all the laws that followed, federal, state and local, meant. And, I suppose, people will forever be arguing about changing it. Some evidently think it shouldn't be changed, by which they might mean it shouldn't have been changed. Others are quite willing to change all of it, no doubt. I suspect that if a new constitution were written, it would be ten times longer.

I don't know what the majority thinks but apparently enough people didn't like the way things were and just maybe, wanted to try something else. What a revolutionary idea! Or it it revolting?

5whiskey
May 8, 2009, 02:13 PM
If anyone believes the media is the highest power in the country, they've been listening to the media too much.

So I suppose you've personally met and spoke with every single person you've voted for?

publius42
May 8, 2009, 02:54 PM
I said no because we're likely to end up with a worse Constitution than the one we already have. I say that because so many people don't know the three branches of government, don't understand the balance of fed/state/local powers, and expect the fedgov to solve everything. That was not true of the founders, and they came up with a pretty good Constitution. We could only do worse.

44 AMP
May 8, 2009, 02:54 PM
The problem with calling for (and getting) a new constitutional convention is that #1) EVERYTHING is open for change. Absolutely everything! Our entire system of government can be changed. They could, for example, if they had the votes, create a monarchy, (President for Life?) and it would be 100% legal! Once convened, there are no (zero, none) restrictions on what is to be changed, or how. The entire existing Constitution could be thrown out,and it would be legal for them to do so. NO arguments, NO method for redress of grievances, except for convening a second convention (assuming the results from the first one allow for it), and starting over. NOT GOOD!

and #2), it is the sitting congress (the one in office when the convention is called for) that determines the make up of the convention. How many members there are to be, and who is represented by how many of them. For example, they could decide the convention is to be 150 members, and 130 of them are to be Californians. (I know this is an extreme example, but there is nothing prohibiting such extremism, other than the personal integrity of the members of the sitting congress. and
#3) The sitting congress remains in office (and in power) until the new constitutional convention is conluded.

Considering the political and economic power of certain groups in our nation today, I find the idea of a new constitutional convention resulting in an improvement for us to be unrealistic wishful thinking.

Do you really think giving Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, etc. the legal ability to choose who will make the new rules for government (ALL of them) would be a good idea?

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 03:18 PM
I believe the Second amendment would likely be rewritten and directly limited to personal defense
I am a staunch believer in the 2nd amendment as defense against tyrannical government, not related to hunting, target shooting, etc. Of course stalking a deer and punching paper at 1000 yards are obviously indirectly related to the tyrannical government defense.

If the second amendment was rewritten to eliminate civilian weapons suitable for this defense I would seriously consider leaving the US.
I obviously don't think this act would be a surefire victory or without extreme risk.

I edited the rest of my post as the admins tend to PM me with warnings when I go into dark economic analysis mode.

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 03:24 PM
THis posted to the wrong thread, even though I am pretty sure I posted it in the correct thread with this thread open in another tab...
Saw a similar thing in another thread earlier.

OuTcAsT
May 8, 2009, 03:59 PM
I voted negative. As csmsss wisely pointed out, The constitution, as written, is perfectly fine. It has worked for centuries, and continues to reflect the principals that make us the greatest nation on Earth. The changes need to be to the way that "We the people" hold our government accountable to us. For far too long we have taken a passive role in our stewardship of the collective power we have as citizens. Poor voter turnout, turn the other cheek each time a right is squashed, stand around and mutter amongst ourselves while the constitution is shredded a bit more. Constitutional convention? no. Activism aimed at taking the rights granted by the constitution back ? Yes.

Don't fix the law, condemn the lawless.

I cannot argue that it is time for a "convention" of sorts, more of a "revival" (only a figure of speech for the secular folks) To get us off our a$$es and put our house in order. It is not that the constitution has somehow become "outdated" or obscure.

publius42
May 8, 2009, 04:18 PM
I think we should have an "emanation and penumbra" convention.

cjw3cma
May 8, 2009, 04:33 PM
Way back in 1975 I wrote my Master's thesis on the need for a Constitutional Convention of all 50 states and territories of the United States in order to rectify the errors of the judicial system in its interpretations of the law. My thesis was met with possibly the same level of "no way, our Constitution is just fine" as well as " it needs to be updated to what America is today" attitudes and opinions; it was an interesting discussion.

My conclusion was a Constitutional convention today is required as we have added many additional amendments since its inception and the quantity of rulings that have taken place in the 200+ years seem to contradict each other is astounding. Not that any wording of the (original) Constitution can be changed just many of these so called laws need to be stripped out and a strict adherence to the ideals of the founding fathers implemented.

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 04:37 PM
YEs. We as a country need to come together and answer questions like "Would the founding fathers have written the second amendment as they did if they could foresee GE miniguns and nuclear weapons?"
THere are many questions like this that we go back and forth on and the constitution is generally ignored b/c so many view it as a "dead" document. I have trouble arguing that it is "living" anymore considering the resistance to a convention even when there are so many glaring contradictions between US laws and the constitution. Neither party really seems all that concerned about following the constitution. Bush had absolutely no problem ignoring amendments 1, and 4-6 when it was convenient. Obama is obviously going after two through any backdoor he can find.
Something has gone out of whack and maybe the constitution is what needs to change. Not saying I predict I would like many of the changes, but maybe that is what is necessary at this juncture. If the majority of the people in the US say, "hey, we want to throw out the 2nd amendment, whittle down 4-6, or get rid of this seperation of church and state clause", at least I know where we stand and I can go ahead and apply for Swiss citizenship:)

alloy
May 8, 2009, 05:15 PM
The problem with a rewriting of the constitution is twofold, one...those in DC dont pay attention to the one we already have, and two, most of them aren't smart enough to write a better one. Want Pelosi and Reid and Frank and Dodd throwing in a few zingers, overseen by Pres Saetoro?

It would look like the 70,000 page tax code.

Be afraid of getting what you ask for. States Rights can do the same with less damage. It will change, it has before.

Hkmp5sd
May 8, 2009, 05:27 PM
Do we really want the current people running this country to have the opportunity of "updating" the Constitution?

I'm already fearing the possible of number of Supreme Court Justices that Obama will be able to appoint. Letting them get their hands on the Constitution is suicide.

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 05:28 PM
I wish:
The income tax would be repealed and the federal government would be limited to property, tariff, and excise tax.
Anyone not paying property tax would lose the right to vote, as our forefathers originally set it up. This would in short order take care of all our other concerns.

I wish we could repeal the entire NFA system and return to the days when a person in my neighborhood could leave their doors unlocked at night and order a TSG to their door from a mail order catalog. Back when everyone had a sawed off shotgun in their closet no one broke into houses in my neighborhood.

I wish I never had to think about what might happen if I am awoken in the middle of the night by a no knock warrant at the wrong address and start shooting, or just reach for my gun, before I get past "there are guys with guns coming towards me"

NONE of those things is going to happen, so lets sit down as a country and decide what we stand for and where we are going., because right now I am pretty sure we stand for nothing and are headed towards a bad place.

Vanya
May 8, 2009, 05:29 PM
No. In the first place, it isn't going to happen. Secondly, What Glenn said is correct: this is an idea that appeals to extremists on either side of the political spectrum, who are happy to ignore the fact that they might not get what they're wishing for.

The problem isn't with the Constitution, it's with politicians who ignore it or find ways to sneak around it, and with voters who keep electing them. If we want a goal for our activism, reforming the electoral system would be a great thing to work toward: get rid of a campaign finance system which allows the almost total control of Congress by large corporations and Wall Street, no matter which party is nominally in power; put a limit (6 weeks or a month would be plenty) on the length of political campaigns, and bring back some version of the Fairness Doctrine, preferably one which permits something more than a dichotomized view of complex issues.

Actually, I might be all for a new Constitutional Convention if I could persuade a majority of the delegates that switching to a parliamentary system would accomplish almost all of the above... :D

But it's not gonna happen.

OuTcAsT
May 8, 2009, 06:01 PM
and bring back some version of the Fairness Doctrine, :eek:

No thanks, I like the fact that the left has firm control over the print and network media, The right has talk radio, and a fair share of the interwebs, and I can stay in the middle and choose which dichotomy I prefer to listen to. Our 2A rights are stretched enough, (along with many others) Let's not give .gov more control of the 1st.

I have trouble arguing that it is "living" anymore considering the resistance to a convention even when there are so many glaring contradictions between US laws and the constitution.

I would submit that it is not the constitution that is at odds with the law, but rather the opposite.

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 06:10 PM
however you want to phrase it, the constitution has been left in the dust.

OuTcAsT
May 8, 2009, 06:29 PM
however you want to phrase it, the constitution has been left in the dust.

I could not agree more. But, rather than make an attempt to roll out Constitution 2.0 How about fixing the real problem; A hugely oversize government, a legislative branch that has taken on it's own agenda and is no longer the voice of "We the people", and a judicial branch that thinks it's the legislature.

johnwilliamson062
May 8, 2009, 06:52 PM
Mid 90's:Republicans with their "Contract with America" are swept into power after making all kinds of promises. They fail to keep pretty much all of them.

2008:Democrats swept into power on a platform of CHANGE. The dust hasn't settled yet, but Obama is losing support in polls faster than any past president, although the number were very high to begin with and still remain higher than many presidents have enjoyed. All the same, people seem to not be enjoying this "CHANGE."

What do you propose we do?

OuTcAsT
May 8, 2009, 08:27 PM
What do you propose we do?

I will not presume to speak for anyone but myself but, my treachery knows few bounds, but I digress, as further discussion would be off topic. :D

ftd
May 8, 2009, 09:31 PM
Hey Vanya,
You got that right!

Seriously, folks, a constitutional convention would only change 1 thing: at least some people who are not in elected federal positions would probably get to participate. But all the convention could do is to propose 0 - > 0 amendments to the constitution. The approval process for each amendmant offered would require that, either: 1) 3/4 of State legislators approve each amendment offered, OR 2) that states would each hold conventions to approve or not (# 2 has been used once, # 1 for all the others and also those that never got approved).

In other words, a constitutional convention is, in effect, only a different mechanism to propose amendments than is available to congress every day of every year.

It would undoubtedly be a rousing and rioting event (the convention, I mean), but with the hard core contention in our country today I think a constitutional convention would take decades (if ever) just to set the rules it would follow. So maybe that would be a good endeavor to assign to all the people who want things their way. Keep them out of everybody elses hair for a while.

Beetmagnet
May 8, 2009, 11:45 PM
A constitutional convention now would be the greatest disaster this country has ever faced. Their has been a strong push for several decades now to have one, but thank God it failed to come to pass. The last time a con/con was called the Articles of Confederation were cast aside and the current constitution was adopted. That was good then...but results now would be the death of this country. That second amendment that we all hold so dear would probably be scrapped...and it would be legal.

I know of nothing...NOTHING...that I can think of pertaining to government that I would oppose more fervently and more passionately than a con/con.

The late Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger, wrote in a private letter in 1988 also published in the same article:

" I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there
is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of
a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could
make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress
might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or
to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention
would obey. After a Convention is convened, it
will be too late to stop the Convention if we don't like
its agenda.... A new Convention could plunge our Nation
into constitutional confusion and confrontation at
every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on
the subjects needing attention. I have discouraged the
idea of a Constitutional Convention, and I am glad to see
states rescinding their previous resolutions requesting a
Convention. In these [constitutional] Bicentennial years,
we should be celebrating [the republic's] long life, not
challenging its very existence."

apr1775
May 9, 2009, 07:14 AM
I find it amusing, or disturbing, that whenever the issue of a constitutional convention is raised, people start getting all scared about stuff like, "we could loose the Second Amendment". It wouldn't be that easy. At the convention, amendments or even a complete rewrite are mearly PROPOSED by the delegates. The changes still must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures before they become the law of the land. It would only take 13 out of the 50 states to block any change. Am I to believe that we don't have at least thirteen states that would vote down a repeal of the right to keep and bear arms? On the other hand, we may have thirteen state legislatures not willing to agree that the right includes machine guns, grenades, etc. Changes would not come about easy or after much debate, which is a good thing.

Another issue that comes up a lot during these discussions is the sixteenth amendment. This is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Constitution, with people giving it all kinds of authority that it doesn't have. In two cases (Brushaber v Union Pacific Railroad; and Stanton v Baltic Mining) the US Supreme Court said, in very plain language, that the 16th amendment gave Congress no new taxing power. Look to some cases before 1913 to see what type of "income" taxes were upheld as constitutional and which were not. (Pollock v Farmers Loan and Trust; and Flint v Stone Tracey Company). But I digress...

The Federal government was created by the Constitution which was created by the States. It is the power of the States to alter or restrain the Federal Government. A constitutional convention is a method to use when the states are in a super majority agreement. The other check on federal power is secession, but that also requires a state to give up any benefits from membership in the Union.

The one greatest benefit from a convention is the public debate it would generate. The government education system has dumbed down much of the people into believing we have a democracy and not a constitutional republic. Public interest in constitutional matters could be renewed.

For those who say the Constitution is just fine as it is; we must make the government follow it. I agree, but how do we go about doing that?

OuTcAsT
May 9, 2009, 08:14 AM
I find it amusing, or disturbing, that whenever the issue of a constitutional convention is raised, people start getting all scared

What I find amusing is that anyone would trust the same state, and federal legislatures that brought us to the brink we now face, to re-write the constitution.


The changes still must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures before they become the law of the land. It would only take 13 out of the 50 states to block any change

Seems we just heard something else about "change" ?
Oh yes, I remember now, more than 51% of the (dare I use the word) registered voters wanted change, The result has been a less-than-optimal outcome. Sad truth is that sometimes folks vote for change for the sake of change it's self without regard for the "un-intended" consequences.

As I do not believe that either my state or federal legislators represent the public voice any longer I would certainly fear the outcome of their meddling with the law of the land.

ftd
May 9, 2009, 09:46 AM
What I find amusing is that anyone would trust the same state, and federal legislatures that brought us to the brink we now face, to re-write the constitution.


It is "the same state, and federal legislatures" that we must trust in every day - they are the means of amending the constitution now. A constitutional convention, called by the states (legislatures), can bypass the federal legislatures, but otherwise the process is the same.

Twnety-seven amendments have been approved by the process. Two, prohabition, canceled each other out. There have been many many more "changes" to the constitution - by the Supreme Court - totally uncontrolled by anybody's elected representatives.

I voted no, but maybe it is time for some changes.

OuTcAsT
May 9, 2009, 10:10 AM
It is "the same state, and federal legislatures" that we must trust in every day

Therein lies the problem, I Don't trust them any longer. They have proven to me that they do not have the best interest of the state, or country as a whole, in mind.

Otherwise they would not have voted us into the debt we are now in. They have chosen to ignore "we the people"

While we do agree that some change is needed, I think the instrument of change is the center of debate.

You propose a scalpel, I see something more akin to a bulldozer.

Glenn E. Meyer
May 9, 2009, 10:23 AM
Elect different people, problem solved. If you can't even elect people who are decent - you think trying to redo the fundamentals of the country is going to be better?

It's just a fantasy game as I said before.

johnwilliamson062
May 9, 2009, 10:34 AM
With both parties having been swept into power in the past 15 years with an absolute dictate from the people to reform, and both having failed pretty miserably(I guess the Democrats have a little time left, but I believe earmarks are back along with many other things that were supposed to "CHANGE" that I believe almost everyone agreed needed to go).

With a con/con 3/4 do have to approve. amendments could be added restricting earmarks and with term limits that I think could pass. As others said we may see restrictions of 2A, but having it removed is unlikely. We may very well see unconstitutional restrictions anyways. At least this way they have to get the 3/4 approval instead of 1/2. If no amendment succeeds it sends a very strong message to the supreme court and such to continue interpreting it as the founders intended, which I believe they have been doing a pretty good job of recently.

As pointed out, there are two ways to trey and right this ship, one has a chance of scary consequences, one guarantees them.

This pile of debt and out of control spending is not going to go away and we can not continue with it, so something drastic has to change. I fervently believe voting a few Republicans into office is not going to solve the problem as the last Republican ran up the debt something crazy. I declare anyone who thinks the RNC is the answer a fool fit for the guillotine.

Vanya
May 9, 2009, 11:23 AM
Elect different people, problem solved. If you can't even elect people who are decent - you think trying to redo the fundamentals of the country is going to be better?

Well said, Glenn.

I guess what I want isn't so much to bring back "some version of the Fairness Doctrine," as to bring back some version of the media in which facts and accuracy matter more to reporters than preserving their "access" to the people in power, which means, in practice, uncritically repeating the lies they tell, and never, ever, having the temerity to point out that they are in fact lying. And it would be nice if rather more of "the people" were less happy to be lied to, and had more of a grasp of things like the value of supporting an argument with actual evidence...

Which is, indirectly, why I find the idea of a second CC in the current climate so scary: there are so many fundamentally wrongheaded ideas out there at the moment that it's horrifying to think of all these deluded people trying to re-invent the government based on what they think they know...

ftd
May 9, 2009, 11:47 AM
If no amendment succeeds it sends a very strong message to the supreme court and such to continue interpreting it as the founders intended, which I believe they have been doing a pretty good job of recently.


I agree with you mostly. The one that bothers me is the interstate commerce clause which the SC continues to use to allow federal meddling with powers not given it by the constitution.

OuTcAsT
May 9, 2009, 12:45 PM
I fervently believe voting a few Republicans into office is not going to solve the problem

I declare anyone who thinks the RNC is the answer a fool fit for the guillotine.

As it exists at present (the RNC) I would have to agree. do not let my sig line fool you, I merely mean that I voted for the lesser of the two evils.

the last Republican ran up the debt something crazy.

As compared to some former administrations, quite correct.
But, compared to the current administration ? It was only penny-ante.

And it would be nice if rather more of "the people" were less happy to be lied to

Pretty sure that's the reason for the discussion.

there are so many fundamentally wrongheaded ideas out there at the moment that it's horrifying to think of all these deluded people trying to re-invent the government based on what they think they know...


That makes a bunch of us Vanya

johnwilliamson062
May 9, 2009, 03:33 PM
But, compared to the current administration ? It was only penny-ante.
Both administrations spent in ways that were absolutely unsustainable to 2020. Are we really going to argue over how unsustainable? If your government can't think out 10 years it is failing.
It absolutely was not penny ante. Bush over ran the budget by about a trillion dollars a year and came in on projected surplus. Obama came into one hell of a mess and is overshooting by about 1.5. I doubt Bush would have beat him, it just would have gone different places. What is to say the next Republican group would not outspend Obama? Bush certainly made Clinton's expenditure look like a pittance.


there are so many fundamentally wrongheaded ideas out there at the moment that it's horrifying to think of all these deluded people trying to re-invent the government based on what they think they know...
DO you really think there has been a time in history when there weren't fringe movements and interest groups?
Nothing out there any more radical than a republic of democratic states was in 1787.

thallub
May 9, 2009, 04:28 PM
Elect different people, problem solved. If you can't even elect people who are decent - you think trying to redo the fundamentals of the country is going to be better?

It's just a fantasy game as I said before.



#1
Best post that I have seen on any board this year.

brickeyee
May 9, 2009, 04:40 PM
The states that have passed anything calling for a convention have narrowly tailored the changes they are asking for.

If the states limit the power of their delegations it could make the entire convention a dead meeting.

If the limits are such that no agreement can be reached, no changes would occur.

In any case it would likely end up as a complete cluster f*** and achieve nothing.

johnwilliamson062
May 9, 2009, 09:46 PM
I think there is a general consensus among the lawyerball players that a convention can not be limited in scope.

OuTcAsT
May 9, 2009, 09:57 PM
Both administrations spent in ways that were absolutely unsustainable to 2020. Are we really going to argue over how unsustainable? If your government can't think out 10 years it is failing.
It absolutely was not penny ante. Bush over ran the budget by about a trillion dollars a year and came in on projected surplus. Obama came into one hell of a mess and is overshooting by about 1.5. I doubt Bush would have beat him, it just would have gone different places. What is to say the next Republican group would not outspend Obama?

Mr. Williamson,

Is this kind of partisan politics not the crux of the problem?

Respectfully, would it not be more productive to focus on a plan for moving forward rather than genuflect ?

You have put forth the argument in favor of a constitutional convention, or some sort of reforms to stop the decline of our country. There seems to be the beginning of some discussion, can we stay with that theme so that this thread will not fade into obscurity?

johnwilliamson062
May 9, 2009, 10:22 PM
One of these days the Chinese will say no more. If we stay the course between now and then people who have lived off of welfare will suddenly find themselves holding checks that banks will not cash. They will be upset. THey also will have extremely limited options as they have NEVER provided for themselves. In fact many come from third generation welfare families who's only skill handed from generation to generation is playing the system. THey have no education, no work ethic, and no job skills.

What can we do between today and the day the Chinese cut off our source of borrowing to prepare for that day? If a con con is too dangerous, what options do we have?

I have some connection to both my Rep and Senator(and at least one of Voinovich's likely replacements). I can push a little and I think they will at least listen to what I say and consider it, even if they do not follow my advice in the end.

As it stands I see this country falling in upon itself in about 5 years(25 trillion debt, 35+% of budget services debt), ten at most(45+ trillion debt, 50+% budget services debt), and within a year would not surprise me(15 trillion debt, 20+% budget services debt). Russia went from a legitimate threat to ruins in less than one year. At the point at which world powers start talking about changing their foreign currency reserves from the hegemonies currency, it usually does not take long. There are some strong rumblings to this effectaround the world.

At that point, as a 25-35 year old male I will be holding a rifle whether I want to or not(in this situation everyone my age holds a rifle or gets a bullet in the head historically). What can be done to avoid that outcome?

Con Con is all I see. What other options are there(besides just letting the debt pile up and bankrupt the country).

Maybe the EU will bail us out in thanks for the Marshall plan...

OuTcAsT
May 9, 2009, 11:22 PM
The thing I find interesting in this thread thus far are the numbers, as of this writing 34 negative, 5 positive, and 415 views. Leaving out the folks who came back to post that means that (loosely) around 9% voted.

This seems to be a recurring theme in this country, 10% of the people haul most of the load, the rest just coast along.

Until we somehow increase the number of people who actively get involved in a push for change it will be an almost impossible task.

I think the impetus is there, as evidenced by our last election, it just needs the proper compass.

alloy
May 10, 2009, 06:14 AM
This pile of debt and out of control spending is not going to go away and we can not continue with it, so something drastic has to change.
Con Con is all I see. What other options are there(besides just letting the debt pile up and bankrupt the country).

Oppressive times no doubt, comrade. But i have faith in the military and i support them when i can, i plan for the next election, and this time, aside from voting...i have volunteered to assist. Voice your opinion and don't let people think you are down with the status quo. Call for a convention, i don't think it will happen(and don't want it to happen) but the call sends a message nontheless. Term limits, campaign finance, gun rights... whatever floats your boat, pick one and work it. The Virginia gubbernatorial race is in my mind.

Overall, I predict a landslide for the far right, and will be working to those ends, because it makes me feel better to be involved, than not..:) I'm hopeing for another Reagan and the optimism that got us back to work...what we do best(aside from what some people think). Get out of my way, and let me make my bux.

So i guess all i got is...don't get overwhelmed by it, obviously common sense is kaput for the time being. Those who remember Viet nam/Watergate and then the Carter era know we have seen rough patches before. I'm sure those older than me, have even more tough times to recall.

gc70
May 10, 2009, 09:12 AM
No.

The last constitutional convention started with a commission to resolve a navigation dispute between a couple of states and ended with the proposal of our current Constitution. Changes to the Articles of Confederation required the unanimous consent of the states, but the proposal for our current Constitution only required a 75% majority for adoption.

Once convened, a constitutional convention can propose ANYTHING.

BTW, the Articles of Confederation contained term limits (3 years out of 6 for legislators and 1 year out of 3 for the President) that were neatly disposed of in the current Constitution.

5whiskey
May 10, 2009, 09:38 AM
Really, there are only two things I would like added to the constitution. One would be an amendment for a balanced budget unless 2/3rds of the states and 2/3rds of both houses call for an emergency deficit. The other would be term limits.

Since we ALL know that'll never in a million years happen, we need the constitution interpreted in a manner that keeps in mind what the framers intended. It doesn't matter that nuclear weapons and GE miniguns exist today.

If the government overstepped it's bounds enough that a majority portion of America was prepared to challenge it by force, the military could do virtually nothing about facing 150+ million people who are reasonably armed. We don't need GE miniguns to challenge the government, but by God we should have the right to carry the same foundational tool our troops carry, the assault rifle. The people of Iraq have given us a darn fit with cell phones, 155 shells, and a few AKs. You also have to remember that if it got to that point, I dare say we'd be amazed at the military units that would be on our side.

Flapjack23
May 10, 2009, 10:35 AM
I believe our constitution, as amended, is just fine. the problem is our politicians who disregard it for partisan political gain. This includes both sides of the isle. A con. conv. would encourage all the extremists on both sides to make a bunch of noise about what "we" need to make this country great. Some of those extreme opinions are on this thread. On July 12, 1974 I won the lottery. I was born a US citizen. This is and will continue to be the greatest country to live and work in. If there is the need, the constitution can be amended. We do not need a "re-do". The constitution is fine, we need to elect politicians who will honor it.

YodaMage
May 10, 2009, 06:43 PM
This is an interesting read.

There is an overtone to it that in a democratic state, the people and their opinions should not be allowed to override/modify a written document, one that mapped out and set down the majority of people's opinions 200+ years ago.


When did the constitution become a bible, written by an entity greater then men that were flesh and blood...


I tend to believe in democracy. Put measures to vote, institute policy. Simply put, put amendment questions in the referendum loop every four years and let the people speak. 75% is good enough for me.

Al Norris
May 10, 2009, 07:21 PM
The problem, YodaMage, is that this is not a democracy, nor was it ever intended to be.

Yes we have some democratic mechanisms in place. But a real democracy is a very scary thing.

That document, you sneered at, is what gives everyone the same rights and freedoms (even if it took awhile to do) as everyone else. In a democracy, the majority can simply vote your rights away.

They don't teach this stuff, anymore. Mores the pity.

madmo44mag
May 10, 2009, 08:11 PM
The constitution is fine as it stands now.
We need law makers and politicians to acknowledge we have a constitution and abide by it's laws, privileges and principles.
The Fed has run wild and rode rough shod over the individual states so long they forgot who they work for and what principles guide and govern our society.

Just a note here. I see some people want to turn the USA into a socialistic European type state.
If that's what you want, take a hike.
You don't fix something that ain't broke.

BlueTrain
May 11, 2009, 07:47 AM
A democracy is a where you can vote to have a man put to death.

brickeyee
May 11, 2009, 08:10 AM
I think there is a general consensus among the lawyerball players that a convention can not be limited in scope.

Far from clear, and only one of the issues that would tie things in knots for years.

OuTcAsT
May 11, 2009, 08:24 AM
The problem, YodaMage, is that this is not a democracy, nor was it ever intended to be.


Correct Al, To carry it a step further, we are a Constitutional Republic. Note the word "Constitutional" That means that all government is limited by the rights set forth in that "written document". when it works as it should, our elected representatives in congress/senate are our "proxy" to represent the will of "we the people". The problem is when we reach a level of bureaucracy that we are currently in, and "we the people" become a perceived inconvenience to the government representing it's own interests.


They don't teach this stuff, anymore.

Not in public schools at least, not even basic "civics"

Al Norris
May 11, 2009, 08:53 AM
Off Topic Opinion: I believe, based upon prior postings, we will not see YodaMage for a while.

On Topic Opinion: If one were to follow Article V procedures, we would be safe from a rewrite of the Constitution. However...

We have only one precedent before us. The original convention that tossed the Articles of Confederation. Granted we received something much better, but there is no saying that a convention called today would result in something better....

johnwilliamson062
May 11, 2009, 09:13 AM
Even simpler:

con con: Something bad might happen

No con con: Something bad will almost certainly happen.

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2009, 09:57 AM
What present values in society?

Define which ones you would use.

Would they be liberal societal values, conservative societal values, libertarian societal values, ultra-Christian societal values, athiest/agnostic societal values, what?

What of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights don't mesh with current societal values?

Free press and free religion? Get rid of those for an ultra-Christian or even ultra-Islamic societal value system?

Second Amendment? Get rid of that because current societal values say guns are bad?

I'd rather see us stay right where we are than run the risk of ending up with a 900+ page "Constitution" such as the one the European Union tried to hash out for well over a decade, one that dealt with incredible trivialities based on the "societal values" of a hugely disparate group of nations and their citizens.

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2009, 10:00 AM
"Even simpler:

con con: Something bad might happen

No con con: Something bad will almost certainly happen."


That's a ludicrous assertion.

"Something bad" happens all the time.

The nation has never crumbled, even when faced with a numerous depressions and recessions, including the Great Depression and 25% unemployment, a civil war, World War II, the Communist Scare of the 1950s, Watergate, etc.

If you start trying to microengineer the future based on what you THINK might happen, and on some arbitrarily selected set of "societal values," you're guaranteed of really screwing things up, not making things better. And, just what happens when societal values change, and those values no longer valid.

Another Constitutional Convention, right? Yeah, just so there can be even MORE micromanagement, more microplanning, more attempts at social engineering, and even more guaranteed failure points.

A looser, more flexible framework is FAR better than a restrictive one.

Glenn E. Meyer
May 11, 2009, 10:43 AM
John - chill out. As Mike said - we have been through major crisises without the end of the nation and your Mad Max scenario where you wear leather pants and stand there with a rifle.

We even recovered from the Civil War and came out stronger. We faced the Nazis and Imperial Japan. We beat the Soviet Union without a war that would have destroyed civilization.

So the economy is nutty now - relax. Said by someone whose pension plan took a real hit. You are not going to get a bullet in your head over world currency markets.

johnwilliamson062
May 11, 2009, 10:48 AM
Glenn is probably right.

Glenn E. Meyer
May 11, 2009, 11:02 AM
Wiser words have never been spoken. :D

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2009, 11:53 AM
"your Mad Max scenario..."

FACE COLANDER! WHERE THE HELL IS MY FACE COLANDER???

Vanya
May 11, 2009, 12:04 PM
FACE COLANDER! WHERE THE HELL IS MY FACE COLANDER???

You need to ask Wildalaska to issue you one.

I really like how mine makes me feel like Spiderwoman: looking though all those little holes is just like having compound eyes.

And I bet WA won't issue them to anyone who voted yes.

ftd
May 11, 2009, 02:30 PM
US Constitution
Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution,

or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments,

which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified

by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States;

or by Conventions in three fourths thereof

as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;

Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article

and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Color Codes:
One method of proposing amendments, only proposal meth used so far
The other method of proposing amendments - not used, so far
One method of ratification, applies to either method of proposal - used for all but one of the ratified amendments
The other method of ratification, applies to either method of proposal - used for one of the ratified amendments
Applies for either method of proposal and for either method of ratifications
Of Historical significance only

27 amendments have been ratified (including implementing alcohol prohibition and unprohibting alcohol) and 6 proposed amendments have never been ratified.

While I do not advocate and con-con, given the above part of the constitution, the thought of it does not terrify me. The times that I know of when some states have called for one were instances when a few states felt that the federal legislature was refusing to address or addressing issues that some states felt strongly about. Have we ever neared the 2/3 point?

Article 8 does not allocate "special powers" to a con-con. It could not "re-write" the constitution except by amendment. Could that happen? Possibly, but I strongly believe that it could not get concensus either in convention to propose, and certainly not get ratification votes from 38 states to allow that large a change.

My biggest fear comes from the Supreme Court, which has historically made more changes to the constitution than all 27 amendments conbined and without any way to override these changes. The biggest area is in the area of the "commerce clause":

Article I - The Legislative Branch, Section 1 - The Legislature, Section 8 - Powers of Congress: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes

which congress has repetedly justified to exert uninumerated powers into almost any area at all just because the subject of the exertive action can in any meager way be related to commerce - with consistant agreement from the supreme court. Since Congress would never propose a constitutional ban on this tyranny (limit in any way its own powers? I don't think so!), I could support a con-con to address this single issue.

publius42
May 11, 2009, 03:33 PM
ftd, we don't need a con con to address that issue. An amendment would do it. Maybe it should look like this:

The Congress and Supreme Court shall take note of the fact that "among the several states" means, well, "among the several states" and that commerce means, well, commerce, dude.

That oughta clear everything right up. ;)

ftd
May 11, 2009, 03:46 PM
An amendment would do it.I agree, publius42, but who would legally propose the amendment? Only two bodies,the federal congress and a state called "conventional called for proposing amendments" have that authority. I reason that the federal legislature would never propose an amendment that would eliminate their most effective means to exercise absolute and otherwise unconstitutional authority.

Hkmp5sd
May 11, 2009, 03:51 PM
27 amendments have been ratified

There are some that argue that the 14th Amendment has never been ratified.

publius42
May 12, 2009, 06:19 AM
ftd, I see your point, but did you look at the wording of my proposed amendment? My point was, how many different ways could a constitutional convention say "interstate commerce"? It has already been said! Try this: write the amendment you would like to see passed to restrain the commerce power within the bounds intended by Madison.

13 Feb. 1829
Letters 4:14--15 James Madison to Joseph C. Cabell


For a like reason, I made no reference to the "power to regulate commerce among the several States." I always foresaw that difficulties might be started in relation to that power which could not be fully explained without recurring to views of it, which, however just, might give birth to specious though unsound objections. Being in the same terms with the power over foreign commerce, the same extent, if taken literally, would belong to it. Yet it is very certain that it grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government, in which alone, however, the remedial power could be lodged.

BlueTrain
May 12, 2009, 06:35 AM
You know, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written mostly by lawyers, Ivy Leagers, and aristrocrats. Who do you suppose would be doing that today were there another convention?

alloy
May 12, 2009, 06:50 AM
lawyers, Ivy Leagers, and aristrocrats

Who do you suppose would be doing that today were there another convention?

samey same, but minus the integrity?

SwampYankee
May 12, 2009, 07:25 AM
samey same, but minus the integrity?

Just because someone was born in 1703 does mean that they were born with the last drop of integrity on the continent. Conversely, the framers of the Constitution were ambitious men and could be just as manipulative and duplicitous as the rest of us. For some ridiculous reason, we canonize our "forefathers" because they wrote the Constitution and founded the country. All great acts indeed, but performed by actual human men, not saints.

As the song goes, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Self interest is always paramount.

But it is all moot anyways, just wait for the days of peak oil and then things will really get fun!

BlueTrain
May 12, 2009, 07:26 AM
It is even possible that, as in the case of the Texas Republic, that most of them would be foreigners, though still likely to be lawyers, ivy leagers and aristrocrats. Scary stuff.

alloy
May 12, 2009, 07:33 AM
Just because someone was born in 1703 does mean that they were born with the last drop of integrity on the continent

Ok, i kinda buy that with no hesitation at all. But if you tell me Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and the latest crop of career politicians are their equals on any level, i gotta disagree, altho i could imagine them standing out in the rain with a key tied to a kite line. Few in congress and washington these days that i would call enlightened in any form that will be actually honored or celebrated for impressive deeds of patriotism...in years to come. More than a few of the originals were at least worthy of the philosopher or statesman distinction, a far cry from criminal dufus.

Time will tell i guess, maybe they will surprise me and this era will go down as the glorious days of old for future generations of comrades to admire.

ftd
May 12, 2009, 10:18 AM
Try this: write the amendment you would like to see passed to restrain the commerce power within the bounds intended by Madison.


It has taken me a while to understand what I think Madison was talking about. Several more days of studying the history of the use of the commerce clause "among the several states" is also needed. But I'll take a whack at it and hope that brighter minds than mine will fix it or at least expound on the ruin of it.

Proposed amendment:
The power of Congress to regulate commerce among the several States is intended only as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, by providing for the free movement of legal goods and materials between the States. This power shall not be used as a reason to gain other additional powers not specifically innumerated to Congress or any branch of the federal government. This power shall not be used as a reason to abrogate any rights or powers of the States or the rights of the people, except for enforcing a right of free passage along roads, waterways, and airways, between the States.

OuTcAsT
May 12, 2009, 10:38 AM
Proposed amendment:
The power of Congress to regulate commerce among the several States is intended only as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, by providing for the free movement of legal goods and materials between the States. This power shall not be used as a reason to gain other additional powers not specifically innumerated to Congress or any branch of the federal government. This power shall not be used as a reason to abrogate any rights or powers of the States or the rights of the people, except for enforcing a right of free passage along roads, waterways, and airways, between the States.
Today 07:33 AM


Well;

hope that brighter minds than mine will fix it or at least expound on the ruin of it.

I'm pretty sure this ^^ disqualifies me but, the only problem I see is that (much like it already has) Congress will simply
"innumerate" themselves the privilege to mangle it as they see fit. I don't think it is so much a problem of verbiage as much as the general malaise of the states to tell the fedgov no and then back it up. There are, however, some interesting cases being built as we speak that may begin to chip away at the fedgov's self-importance.

What? a state telling the fedgov to pound sand ? I speculate that it may be closer than we think and just may start the movement necessary to put things into perspective, IMHO.

ftd
May 12, 2009, 11:26 AM
OuTcasT,

I don't disagree with you. Congress will try to grab all the power they can. So will the other branches of government. Tryanny is always the route of government over time.

The purpose for an amendment is to keep our non-elected branch of government in check. The USSC keeps on allowing the power grabs of Congress even when state and citizen rights are trampled on and even when congress claims powers that are not specified in the Constitution (the 1oth amendment) by utilizing things like the commerce clause to override other reasonable constitution protections.

Al Norris
May 12, 2009, 01:54 PM
Shall we get to the "meat" of this particular problem? While the Commerce Clause has been over-extended, it has been the direct use of the (so-called) elastic clause (Necessary and Proper), that has been allowed by the Courts.

To my mind, however much you might try to curtail the over-broad use of the Commerce Clause, you will achieve nothing if you do not also address the elastic clause.

YodaMage
May 12, 2009, 02:13 PM
Somebody help me with the inherent conflict I see here. We want to ensure interstate commerce yet we also want to ensure states rights. So when state 'A' passes laws which contradict directly with bordering state 'B', then how is this to be handled? By allowing states more latitude to formulate their own laws and direction, how does this not lead essentially to a 'customs' between states and indirectly lead to check points and such to ensure that contraband is not flowing from a state where allowed into a state where restricted?


I ask this as I watch NYS pass law after law against illegal guns which have been shown to largely originate from outside the state...coming from the south and midwest where such laws are not present (which makes no sense and is accomplishing nothing...). How does failing to federalized and centralize certain laws (drugs, guns, child pornography, etc...) not contradict any measure to ensure free passage of people and goods across lines?

publius42
May 12, 2009, 02:37 PM
Hamilton said the elastic clause was redundant, and I tend to agree.

The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

If they have a power, then they can write laws "for carrying into Execution" that power.

In any case, I don't think it's the elastic clause that is at the root of commerce clause abuse. It's the aggregation principle and the "substantial effects" test that Justice Thomas correctly called a "rootless and malleable standard." Without those legal fictions, the elastic clause could not be stretched.

ftd
May 12, 2009, 11:17 PM
To my mind, however much you might try to curtail the over-broad use of the Commerce Clause, you will achieve nothing if you do not also address the elastic clause.

In what I have read so far the SC rulings about Commerce usually do pair it with elastic. In at least one case that I read about, I think that the elastic clause was paired with commerce, as a means of applying the aggregation principle and the "substantial effects" tests (which publius42 mentioned). Could you fill us in more, Antipitas, about the pairing of commererce and elastic?

IMHO the use and abuse the commerce clause has singularly been the source of all major power grabs by the feds to exert control of our states and us, for the most part not directly from specifically enacted laws, but from the laws that create regulatory agencies (Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Commerce, the USDA, the FCC, etc., etc.), that are not directly answerable to the people (us). The use of the constructed "constitutionality" of an all encompassing commerce clause is THE MAJOR domestic power of the federal government.

Want to grow some wheat on your family plot so that you can grind your own flour and make your own bread? Watch out, you may be in violation of federal regulations. Ah, you might say, the good people from Washington, D.C. want to make sure you don't kill yourself by doing something stupid while growing, harvesting, grinding, and baking, right? Wrong!

You might, however, be in violation of inter-state commerce regulations that might regulate how much wheat can be grown (market effect). But, you say, I'm buying the wheat seed to plant from a farmer in my state, I will grow the wheat in my state, I will grind it in my state, I will bake the bread in my state, I will eat the bread in my state and I will not sell any of the fruits of my labor in another state or even in my state. How can I be violating interstate commerce regulations?

Well, it's simple, really. If you grow your own wheat for your own bread, for your own consumption, you will be buying less bread, causing the bakery to buy less wheat. Even though your small operation will not actually affect interstate wheat prices, just think if a lot of people did what you are doing, wheat prices might be go down. So, you may not do this and if you do this dastardly deed anyway, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Wickard v. Filburn, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1942/1942_59/

This is the same reasoning, and ultimately, the same power of congress (interstate commerce regulation) that will evetually be used to liscense (or not) and otherwise regulate those of us who load our own ammunition. They can get us without bending the 2nd amendment. Constitutionally granted government powers trump constitutionally protected individual rights

apr1775
May 14, 2009, 04:28 PM
The case Wickard v. Filburn was decided in the "New Deal" era. The Supreme Court initially ruled many New Deal programs to be unconstitutional. FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court up with justices that would rule his way if the court did not start upholding his programs. That's when the court started coming up with crazy rulings such as any activity that could have any effect on interstate commerce can be regulated as such. We are still living in the effects of such precedents.

I think our constitution as it is now is good. However, I voted "yes" in the poll because it is being ignored and we don't seem to be able to achieve strict adherance without stricter wording or resorting to violence. I believe stricter wording in the constitution to limit the power of the federal government can only be brought forth by means of a constitutional convention. I'd much rather take my chances with a convention than violence, as that can often lead to events that would make now the good old days. I'm willing to listen to other ideas on how to return to strict adhearence to the constitution in order to reverse this path we are on now.

BlueTrain
May 14, 2009, 06:10 PM
All revolutions, successful or unsuccessful, lead to a more powerful government.

gc70
May 15, 2009, 07:08 AM
Try this: write the amendment you would like to see passed to restrain the commerce power within the bounds intended by Madison.

"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and with the Indian Tribes, and to prevent States from imposing restraints on Commerce with and between other States;"

apr1775
May 15, 2009, 02:28 PM
All revolutions, successful or unsuccessful, lead to a more powerful government.

I would not say "all" but that is often the case. Outcomes can be very unpredictable. I'd much rather take my chances with a constitutional convention than a revolution. Remember, it would take at least 38 state legislatures to ratify a change to the Constitution, but only 12 states to block it.

I like the idea of coming up with an amendment to more clearly define interstate commerce.

"The term Interstate Commerce as used in this Constitution shall mean...."

Something to think about.

johnwilliamson062
May 17, 2009, 11:32 AM
Well, at least it looks like some will make a serious push for one.
I can't see how it could be positive for gun rights, but may get some other things straightened out.
http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13649050&source=hptextfeature


The ungovernable state

May 14th 2009 | LOS ANGELES, SACRAMENTO AND SAN FRANCISCO
From The Economist print edition
As California ceases to function like a sensible state, a new constitution looks both necessary and likely

ON MAY 19th Californians will go to the polls to vote on six ballot measures that are as important as they are confusing. If these measures fail, America’s biggest state will enter a full-blown financial crisis that will require excruciating cuts in public services. If the measures succeed, the crisis will be only a little less acute. Recent polls suggest that voters are planning to vote most of them down.

The occasion has thus become an ugly summary of all that is wrong with California’s governance, and that list is long. This special election, the sixth in 36 years, came about because the state’s elected politicians once again—for the system virtually assures as much—could not agree on a budget in time and had to cobble together a compromise in February to fill a $42 billion gap between revenue and spending. But that compromise required extending some temporary taxes, shifting spending around and borrowing against future lottery profits. These are among the steps that voters must now approve, thanks to California’s brand of direct democracy, which is unique in extent, complexity and misuse.

A good outcome is no longer possible. California now has the worst bond rating among the 50 states. Income-tax receipts are coming in far below expectations. On May 11th Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor, sent a letter to the legislature warning it that, by his latest estimates, the state will face a budget gap of $15.4 billion if the ballot measures pass, $21.3 billion if they fail. Prisoners will have to be released, firefighters fired, and other services cut or eliminated. One way or the other, on May 20th Californians will have to begin discussing how to fix their broken state.

California has a unique combination of features which, individually, are shared by other states but collectively cause dysfunction. These begin with the requirement that any budget pass both houses of the legislature with a two-thirds majority. Two other states, Rhode Island and Arkansas, have such a law. But California, where taxation and budgets are determined separately, also requires two-thirds majorities for any tax increase. Twelve other states demand this. Only California, however, has both requirements.

If its representative democracy functioned well, that might not be so debilitating. But it does not. Only a minority of Californians bother to vote, and those voters tend to be older, whiter and richer than the state’s younger, browner and poorer population, says Steven Hill at the New America Foundation, a think-tank that is analysing the options for reform.

Those voters, moreover, have over time “self-sorted” themselves into highly partisan districts: loony left in Berkeley or Santa Monica, for instance; rabid right in Orange County or parts of the Central Valley. Politicians have done the rest by gerrymandering bizarre boundaries around their supporters. The result is that elections are won during the Republican or Democratic primaries, rather than in run-offs between the two parties. This makes for a state legislature full of mad-eyed extremists in a state that otherwise has surprising numbers of reasonable citizens.

And that is why sensible and timely budgets have become almost impossible, says Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, an association of corporate bosses. Because the Republicans are in a minority in the legislature, they have no sway until budget time, when they suddenly hold veto power thanks to the two-thirds requirement. Because in the primaries they have run on extremist platforms against other Republicans, they have no incentive to be pragmatic or moderate, and tend simply to balk.

What was unusual about this year’s deadlock was only its “record lateness”, says Mr Wunderman, which amounted to an “anti-stimulus” that negated much of the economic-recovery plan coming from Washington, DC. “No real conversation is possible on anything that matters,” he says, whether it be California’s fraught water supply, its barbaric prison conditions or its teetering public education.

Representative democracy is only one half of California’s peculiar governance system. The other half, direct democracy, fails just as badly. California is one of 24 states that allow referendums, recalls and voter initiatives. But it is the only state that does not allow its legislature to override successful initiatives (called “propositions”) and has no sunset clauses that let them expire. It also uses initiatives far more, and more irresponsibly, than any other state.

Direct democracy in America originated, largely in the Western states, during the Populist and then Progressive eras of the late 19th and early 20th century. It came to California in 1911, when Governor Hiram Johnson introduced it. At first, it made sense. The Southern Pacific Railroad dominated politics, society and the courts in the young frontier state, and direct democracy would be a welcome check and balance. The state in 1910 had only 2.4m residents, and 95% of them were white. (Today it has about 37m residents, and less than half are white.) A small, homogenous and informed electorate was to make sparing and disciplined use of the ballot to keep the legislature honest, rather as in Switzerland.
Citizen-power gone mad

Sparing and disciplined it stayed until the 1970s. But then came a decade of polarisation and voter mistrust. In 1978 Californians sparked a nationwide “tax revolt” by passing Proposition 13, which drastically limited property taxes and placed a permanent straitjacket on state revenues. That launched an entire industry of signature-gatherers and marketing strategists that now puts an average of ten initiatives a year on the ballot, as Mark Baldassare, the boss of the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, has calculated. In 2003 direct democracy reached a new zenith—or nadir, some might say—when Californians “recalled” their elected and sitting governor, Gray Davis, and replaced him with Mr Schwarzenegger.

The minority of eligible Californians who vote not only send extremists to Sacramento, but also circumscribe what those representatives can do by deciding many policies directly. It is the voters who decide, for instance, to limit legislators’ terms in office, to mandate prison terms for criminals, to withdraw benefits from undocumented immigrants, to spend money on trains or sewers, or to let Indian tribes run casinos.

Through such “ballot-box budgeting”, a large share of the state’s revenues is spoken for before budget negotiations even begin. “The voters get mad when they vote to spend a ton of money and the legislature can’t then find the money,” says Jean Ross of the California Budget Project, a research outfit in Sacramento. Indeed, voters being mad is the one constant; the only proposition that appears certain to pass on May 19th would punish legislators with pay freezes in budget-deficit years.

More than half of the initiatives don’t pass, and some that do are sensible. But much of the system has been perverted into the opposite of what Hiram Johnson intended. It is not ordinary citizens but rich tycoons from Hollywood or Silicon Valley, or special interests such as unions for prison guards, teachers or nurses, that bankroll most initiatives onto the ballots.

Then comes a barrage of television commercials, junk mail and robo-calls that leave no Californian home unmolested and the great majority confused. Propositions tend to be badly worded, with double negatives that leave some voters thinking they voted for something when they really voted against. One eloquent English teacher in Los Angeles recently called a radio show complaining that, after extensive study, she could not understand the ballot measures on grounds of syntax.

The broken budget mechanism and the twin failures in California’s representative and direct democracy are enough to guarantee dysfunction. The sheer complexity of the state exacerbates it. Peter Schrag, the author of “California: America’s High-Stakes Experiment”, has counted about 7,000 overlapping jurisdictions, from counties and cities to school and water districts, fire and park commissions, utility and mosquito-abatement boards, many with their own elected officials. The surprise is that anything works at all.

As a result, there is now a consensus among the political elite that California’s governance is “fundamentally broken” and that the state is “ungovernable, unless we make tough choices”, as Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles and a likely candidate for governor next year, puts it. What are those choices?

Incremental reform, says one set of analysts. Darrell Steinberg, a thoughtful Democrat who is the current leader of the state Senate, says that the dysfunction is often overstated, since the system was deliberately designed “to ensure that change occurs slowly”. He believes that several piecemeal reforms already slated will fix most of the problem.

So does California Forward, a bipartisan think-tank supported by several of the state’s éminences grises. A change to districting rules should end gerrymandering, starting next year. And there is talk of open primaries in which people vote irrespective of their party affiliation, and then elect a candidate in a run-off between the top two vote-getters, whether from the same party or not. Together, these two steps would make the state’s representative politics more moderate, says James Mayer, California Forward’s director. Representatives should also have longer terms in office, he thinks, to reduce the permanent turnover that pits greenhorn legislators against savvy and entrenched lobbyists.
Founding fathers wanted

Many others, however, now believe that California needs to start from scratch, with a fully-fledged constitutional convention. California’s current constitution rivals India’s and Alabama’s for being the longest and most convoluted in the world, and is several times longer than America’s. It has been amended or revised more than 500 times and now, with the cumulative dross of past voter initiatives incorporated, is a document that assures chaos.

Calls for a new constitution have resurfaced throughout the past century, but never went far. That changed last August, as the budget negotiations were once again going off the rails, when Mr Wunderman of the Bay Area Council renewed the call for a convention and received an astonishing outpouring of support. Mr Schwarzenegger has called a constitutional convention “a brilliant idea” and thinks it is “the right way to go”. (The new constitution would take effect well after he leaves office.) Most encouragingly, says Mr Wunderman, nobody, not even the so-called special interests, has yet come out against a convention.

To the extent that there is scepticism at all, it is not about the idea of a new and cleaner constitution but about the process that might lead to it. If a convention set out to rewrite the entire constitution, it would end in the usual war over hot-button social issues such as gay marriage or the perennial Californian fight over water. And there is concern that “the nutwings are the ones who will show up, not the soccer moms,” as Ms Ross of the California Budget Project puts it. The same partisan extremists bickering about the same controversies would lead nowhere.

To address these concerns, the Bay Area Council, which has become the driving force behind the scheme, has put forth two ideas. First, delegates to the convention should be chosen through the general jury pool to ensure that the whole population, as opposed to partisans or voters, is represented. Second, the scope of the constitutional convention would be explicitly limited to governance issues and the budget mechanism and would exclude all others.

This should enable reform in the most vital and interconnected areas. These are: reducing the two-thirds requirement for budgets and taxes; mandating two-year as opposed to annual budgets; giving local governments more access to local revenues; creating less partisan districts and primary elections; disciplining the process of direct democracy with new rules about signature collection; and introducing a “sunset” commission, as Texas has, that would gradually retire overlapping jurisdictions and offices to achieve something more manageable.

The plan is to introduce voter initiatives in next year’s ballot calling for a constitutional convention, to have the convention the following year, and to put the new constitution on a ballot in 2012, when it would take effect. In the meantime both the incrementalists, such as California Forward, and the wholesale reformers, such as the Bay Area Council, are backing the propositions on next week’s ballot. Even if they succeed, this would only temporarily reduce the urgency for radical reform; failure would cause intolerable pain.

OuTcAsT
May 17, 2009, 12:55 PM
If there is any state that needs some sort of a return to sanity it would be this one.

I can't see how it could be positive for gun rights, but may get some other things straightened out.

This (amongst other issues) is exactly why I would fear one for the country.

apr1775
May 18, 2009, 09:34 AM
California is one of the very few states who's constitution does not have a specific right to keep and bear arms clause, so I don't see much changing on that at a state con-con. Again, for repeal or modification of the second amendment to the US Constitution, it would only take 13 state legislatures voting no to repeal it. I think we still have at least 13 pro gun states left in the union.

miboso
May 18, 2009, 02:45 PM
If there is any state that needs some sort of a return to sanity it would be this one.
To understand why California is in such a mess, read Article !, Section I (Bold by me)
CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION - ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

Okay, so who do I sue if I am not happy? :rolleyes:
Don't you dare stand in the way of me obtaining happiness. :D

johnwilliamson062
May 18, 2009, 03:11 PM
California is one of the very few states who's constitution does not have a specific right to keep and bear arms clause, so I don't see much changing on that at a state con-con.
Doesn't mean they couldn't put an amendment indicating break action firearms sufficient for civilian purposes and forbidding all other private firearm ownership or any number of equally ridiculous restrictions.

ftd
May 19, 2009, 11:04 PM
"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and with the Indian Tribes, and to prevent States from imposing restraints on Commerce with and between other States;"

GC70 -

Good job.