The United States Republican Party has suggested up to twelve different ways to amend the US Constitution. They range from downright loopy to unnecessary, to done wrong. To be truthful, I actually agree with the intent behind one of them. They, in order and with commentary, are after the jump.
- Repeal the 17th Amendment. For those who don’t know, the US 17th Amendment mandates the direct election of Senators. Previously, the means varied. I think repealing this amendment is a bad idea on the grounds that a lot of people will be less likely to make an absurd decisions. For example, if ten thousand people estimate someone’s height, they will likely be close to reality, whereas one person doing the same might be badly off. With this principle in mind, better idea is to abolish appointment of replacements by state governors, always using special elections instead.
- Abolish citizenship by soil. The ridiculous “terror babies” controversy. Remember those Russian spies who were deported earlier this year? Apparently, they were incompetent. They liked living in America so much that they did nothing. The same process applies to other people. They just shouldn’t be allowed to isolate themselves, live in a bubble, and their family and form a parallel society.
- Ban the federal government from owning stock. This is the ridiculous “socialism” claim. Actual socialists, as opposed to people false accused of being socialist, don’t like the federal government at all. Since socialists aren’t running the federal government, this amendment is a waste that accomplishes nothing.
- Parental rights. “Parental rights” is just wingnut–speak for “isolate my kids, make live in a bubble, and keep them ignorant and unable to think for themselves”. Learning about (say) evolution in school does not violate anyone’s freedom of religion because you are still able to talk to your kids. What fundies do is abuse their kids by beating them, deliberately arranging it so that it is impossible for their daughters to support themselves, and not teaching them how to read.
- Congressional term limits. I see the intent behind this, but think it is unnecessary. A much better thing would be to ban gerrymandering. This way, it forces candidates to actually campaign in an election. This prevents extremist partisan hacks from getting elected and allows bipartisanship, saving the country from the worst excesses of both the left and right.
- Ban flag burning. This amendment will reduce people’s rights. No one has the right not to be offended. If you don’t like flag burning, don’t look at it. Make a stand for the principles behind it instead, and support people’s right to burn flags instead.
- Mandate balanced federal budgets. I agree with the intent behind this, but think it is likely to be handled absolutely wrong. According to Greg Mankiw, strong majorities of economists believe that “[f]iscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy” and that “[i]f the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly” (cite). In other words, you run a deficit to stimulate the economy in recessions, and use the surplus from boom years to pay this back. That’s how a balanced budget amendment should work. Simply mandating that the government never run a deficit will make recessions worse and unnecessarily constrain weaken government.
- Ban abortion. As this gets the GOP’s sex–obsessed fundie base all worked up, I’m sure that the GOP has no real intention of ending such a powerful vote–getter. But anyway, as someone who is pro–choice and pro–feminist, I must oppose such an amendment. If you really want to reduce the abortion rate, perhaps you should look at how countries like Canada, which has no laws regarding abortion, or other countries like Sweden and the Netherlands all manage to have abortion rates lower than the US. What are they doing? (Hint: freaking out and starting a shitstorm over the idea that people are having sex isn’t it.)
- Ban same–sex marriage. Another amendment to reduce people’s rights. The previous amendment to reduce people’s rights was the Eighteenth. Recall how well Prohibition went.
- Supermajority for tax increases. The GOP never wants to cut defense spending, and yet it claims to be the “party of fiscal responsibility”. Their refusal to ever consider tax increases, while refusing to cut military spending or anything else substantive, shows why their claim to be the “party of fiscal responsibility” is so vacuous and empty. If the US wants to avoid bankruptcy, tax increases are inevitable. Remember, it was Bush who raised turned a huge surplus into a huge deficit. Also, recall how well this system works in California.
- Capping spending at 20% of GDP. What makes this particular number so special? Picking any number is merely arbitrary.
- Restrict presidential powers to negotiate treaties and prevent the US from using a foreign currency. Whenever a country signs a treaty, they issue reservations. There is no reason to think would change. This is just an attempt to rile up the base over the “threat” of outsiders. I think adopting a common currency with the US is a bad idea given the state of the US’s trade and budget deficits. A separate currency gives flexibility. As Paul Krugman has made clear in his columns and blog posts, the lack of flexibility caused by the Euro has contributed to the situation in Greece. Adopting a common currency with the US will, if the US economy tanks, drag other adopters down with it.
Here are five better amendments, in no particular order:
- Pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Equal rights for men and women is always good.
- Ban gerrymandering. Constituents should choose their politicians, not the other way around.
- Stronger protection for unenumerated rights. Anyone who says that a constitution provides only a limited number of rights is ab authoritarian who thinks of rights as permissions. The onus should be on government to show why an unenumerated right does not exist, not on the person claiming it.
- Make secular public schooling the only education system. Everyone benefits from a well–educated populace. In addition, it prevents the creation of parallel societies impossible to escape from.
- Ban riders. For those who don’t know, a rider is a clause attached to a bill that amends something completely different. These end up as law if they are put in must–pass bill (like funding for soldiers). This results in laws dealing with dozens of different things at one. If a law is so necessary that you must add it as a clause to an unrelated bill, then it is necessary enough that you should have no difficulty passing it openly.