Monday, April 12, 2010

What's Wrong with the 28th Amendment? Part 2

(This is the second part of a two-part series.)
In part one of this series, I addressed the problems of one of three proposed constitutional amendments. The other two are called the Balanced Budget Amendment and the Term Limits Amendment. None of the three proposed amendments have been submitted to the states for ratification.
Surely, no one can be against our government "living within its means.” Proponents of a balanced budget amendment suggest that it would require the government to live within our means—that is, the means of us, the taxpayers.
There are several versions of the proposed amendment, and each has its problems. For texts of these proposals, click here.
In one version, the requirements may be waived by three-fourths of the Congress on a voice vote, or if the United States is involved in a military action that threatens our national security and a majority of the members of Congress vote that this is the case. Isn't that the rationale for all of America's military actions? As for military action, we need only to look at the National Defense Service (NDS) medal for a reality check. The NDS medal is awarded for joining the military during a time of conflict, and it has been awarded continuously since the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Other versions rely on estimated tax receipts and outlays. When has Congress been right about that?
The Cato Institute would add a clause giving the President the power to reduce spending by means of a line-item veto. This would give the President the power to threaten individual members of Congress into voting his way on the President’s favorite issues, lest the President veto their pet projects. If Barack Obama had been able to wield the line-item veto, his healthcare embezzlement bill would have been passed much sooner.
None of these versions of the proposed balanced budget amendment have any enforcement mechanism, so Congress can ignore the amendment just as they freely ignore any other constitutional restraint. They can also balance the budget by raising taxes rather than cutting spending. Congress already has the power to balance the budget. Congressmen can vote against programs that are unconstitutional, unwise, or unaffordable. All congressmen lack is the will.
Now, what about term limits? We already have term limits. They're called elections. A constitutionally mandated term limitation would take the power out of the hands of voters and put them into the hands of Washington.
Still worse, consider that the Washington bureaucracy acts as an unelected fourth branch of government. As bad as many of our congressmen are, the good ones still act as a check on the power of the bureaucracy.
That's why I, over the past few months, evolved from advocating all congressmen from office to targeting congressmen on specific issues that show whom they actually represent: their constituents or the banksters, military-industrial complex, and other thieves and murderers.
There's no quick fix, no magic bullet, or elixir that will solve all our electoral problems with little or no effort on our part. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” No constitutional amendment can take the place of an informed electorate, and no constitutional amendment can take the place of eternal vigilance.

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