Mike Kueber's Blog

July 12, 2012

Amending the U.S. Constitution

One of my favorite subjects is the United States Constitution.  Unlike other conservatives, I don’t think our Founding Fathers were inspired to create a timeless classic that shouldn’t be tampered with.  I believe that Americans have progressed over the years, and under similar circumstances could draft an even better constitution.  Periodically in this blog I have mentioned amendments that would improve that hoary document. 

Earlier this week, the New York Times in its Room for Debate section asked its pundits to describe some changes that they would make to the document, and the following were offered:  . 

  1. Term limits for federal judges.  This is a great idea, especially as applied to the Supreme Court, and I have previously blogged about it.  Lifetime tenure is antithetical to a democracy and everything we know about human nature.
  2. Clarify what is “cruel and unusual.”  This suggestion to enable courts to second-guess legislatures on the length of sentences and their mandatory nature is crazy.  Almost no one would support it.
  3. Allow naturalized citizens to become president.  Although I don’t disagree with this change, enabling Arnold Schwarzenegger to become president is not a high priority. 
  4. Restore federalism because it is not a bad word.  This suggestion is nonsensical and nonresponsive because the proponent suggests retaining the current language, but changing the attitude of judges.  It would be better to re-write the 10th Amendment to tell the courts that we really mean it.
  5. Do away with the Electoral College.  This is a no-brainer.  Everyone hates the electoral college, just like everyone hates gerrymandering.  The problem is that there is not enough support to overcome the inertia created by those who profit under the current system.
  6. End the monopoly on amendments.  This suggestion to enable states to initiate constitutional amendments is a solid one and could be fundamentally significant.
  7. Get rid of the right to bear arms.  This proposal is a liberal pipe dream that has as much chance of success as a constitutional amendment to endorse abortion rights or curtail the 2nd Amendment.  The Constitution is not a place to force unpopular ideas down people’s throats. 
  8. Acknowledge that treaties are laws.  This is not an important issue, but the suggestion makes sense.  
  9. Amend the Commerce clause.  This is an excellent idea because, even with Justice Roberts’s recent drawing back of the Commerce Clause, there is still much judicial precedent that grants far too much power to Congress under this problematic provision.
  10. Rewrite the First Amendment.  This suggestion to wordsmith the First Amendment so that it creates universal rights instead of limits on Congress could have unintended consequences (kind of like the Equal Rights Amendment), so I would keep the First Amendment as it is. 

What are my suggested constitutional amendments?  First I would borrow two from my ultra-conservative drinking buddy – term limits and a balanced-budget amendment.  Plus a line-item veto.  Then I would reverse Roe v. Wade and declare that this is a matter, along with same-sex marriage, that should be decided state-by-state.  As suggested in #5 above, I think the 10th Amendment (and the Commerce Clause) should be re-written to clearly tell the courts that we really mean it when we say the federal government has limited powers as compared to the states.  This would include a proscription on the federal government bribing states to do what the states don’t want to do, as with the drinking age, seat belts, etc., or even worse, giving the states unfunded mandates.  An amended constitution should also instruct that the document should be interpreted as it was originally intended, not as a living document as imagined by judges.  The 14th Amendment should be clarified to eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants.  Filibusters or other super-majorities should be prohibited unless expressly provided for in the Constitution.  The War Powers Act, which places significant limits on the ability of the President to commit America to war and whose validity is currently questioned, should be incorporated into the Constitution.  Regarding the electoral process, district gerrymandering should be prohibited, top-two primaries should be required, there should be public financing of campaigns, and limits placed on independent super-PAC expenditures.  The freedom-of-religion provision should be clarified to eliminate arguments over school prayer and Christmas celebrations. 

My personal favorite would be a provision that allows the voters to determine every two years whether Congress gets a 10% pay raise, a 10% pay cut, or no change.  This would motivate and encourage our Congress to become less partisan and more functional.     

Oh how I wish we had a constitutional convention to apply all we have learned over the years.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: