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Fixing our broken government

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  • Democrat
    Bolton, MA
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    At the time the Constitution was being written, George Washington was concerned that the Constitution gave no way to keep a small group of persons from obstructing the governance of our country. And here we are, today, with the Tea Party zealots up against an apathetic, but dissatisfied citizenry. I have become alarmed from the results of a recent survey, which looked at media usage from different perspectives, which claims that 1/3 of individuals spend as little as an average of 12 seconds a day listening to or reading about political matters on TV or the internet. The inequality between informed Americans and uninformed Americans is worse that the income inequality that exists in our country. Americans are SOOOO uninformed. And countering this apathy is paramount.

    As James Wilson, the writer of the Constitution, argued at the time of his writing, ‘If a sufficient number of citizens are unhappy with how they are being governed, that government will cease to exist.’ He also said, that from the way the constitution was being constructed, it is difficult to determine how a MAJOR TRANSITION can be made in how we are being governed. His sentiment was that there aught to be a way for unhappy citizens to make a popular amendment—but, he said, it is difficult to determine how that might come about. By the way, if you care to learn more about the United States Constitution, I recommend Akhil Reed Amar’s book, America’s Constitution: A Biography, which was published in 2006.

    Wisely, the framers of the Constitution gave us a way to make improvements in how we are being governed. That way is the passage of Amendments.

    Let’s briefly outline the principal way an Amendment comes into being in the United States.

    1. Bills for an Amendment are proposed separately in the two houses of Congress, where they are debated. If the bills are passed by 2/3rds of the legislators in each House of Congress, then the bills become combined into a Joint Resolution which is sent to each of the 50 States. The Joint Resolution is placed upon each State’s ballot so citizens may vote for ratification of the Amendment.
    2. If 50% of the voters in the election vote for ratification, ratification becomes law in that STATE.
    3. When 3/4ths of the 50 states (that’s 38 states) pass ratification of the Joint Resolution, then the Joint Resolution is sent to the President for his signature, and the Amendment becomes the law of the land.

    By the way, the President has no role in the amendment process. He cannot veto an amendment proposal. And he cannot veto a ratification. However he is free to express his opinion.

    At this time, more than 80% of United States voters are unhappy with the way our Congress is governing, or rather, not governing, our country. The question is ‘Are enough voters sufficiently unhappy for efforts to be made for major changes?’ Are there examples of more effective governments? Are there alternatives we might adopt directly, rather than stepping into the dangers of innovation?

    The United States experienced the zenith of its admiration at the end of WWII. Still, European countries, re-establishing their governments, chose parliamentary governance over our constitutional system. Even at that time it was apparent that our Constitution was impairing the facility with which we were being governed. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: ‘The parliamentary form of government is the WORST form of government, EXCEPT for all the rest.’

    Our next door neighbor, Canada, may have an embarrassing Toronto mayor, but Canada also is a parliamentary democracy which
    1. A balanced economy, with no needed debt ceiling, no sequesters, and no filibusters.
    2. A very effective universal health care system, administered by the government, at a fraction of the cost people in the United States pay. (Citizens NEVER pay a doctor’s bill or a hospital bill, they just show up for services; and they do this as freely as children in the United States show up for attending first grade at public schools.)
    3. An excellent educational system from preschool through graduate school,
    4. A housing market that is booming,
    5. An infrastructure that is in good repair,
    6. Citizens who own only hunting rifles,
    7. and the country’s legislators are not bought by money.

    The Parliamentary system differs in two main ways from our Constitutional system.
    The first is that countries with parliamentary systems have only one legislative body, while the United States has two. Our states follow the same bicameral legislative system --except for Nebraska. Nebraska decided it did not wish to pay for duplication of legislation and it adopted a successful unicameral legislative system. Nebraska’s precedent can help show the way for bringing the United States into a unicameral legislative system. I will not be covering here the particulars of arriving at a unicameral system.

    The second difference is the way elections are conducted and the way the country proceeds to govern itself. Let’s use Canada as an example.

    In Canada election districts are called ridings. The population of each riding is approximately the same across Canada. Each riding elects one representative to Parliament, regardless of the number of candidates running for office in the riding.
    The Head of the party with the most elected legislators in Parliament becomes the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister’s party holds a majority of the seats in parliament, the Prime Minister and his party can immediately set about implementing the party’s agenda--without interference from minority parties. If the Prime Minister’s party does not have a majority of the seats in parliament, a coalition or coalitions must be formed with another party or parties. Party members are obliged to vote for the party platform. Governance of the country follows until there is sufficient unhappiness with the platform of the ruling party, at which time another election is called. Elections can occur at any time; campaigning covers about 33 days. There are no limits on the number of times the Prime Minister can be elected. Legislators are not bought by money. Persons and businesses can donate only a total of $12,500 during each election campaign. Legislators may not receive donations at any other time. Laws are strictly enforced by jailing and finings.

    We can acquire for ourselves what Canada has, IF we push for parliamentary governance. We will need to push hard because our federal legislators are not going to volunteer to give up all the perks and money they receive from special interests and lobbyists working for companies. Indeed legislators running for office recently have been likened to MAFIA LORDS who extract payments from persons and businesses, in return for their votes.
    So what amendment might we make to our Constitution to bring about a more perfectly functioning government? Let me suggest the following:


    We have been led to believe that passage of an amendment is a difficult and lengthy process, and indeed hundreds of bills have failed to achieve passage. However, the 26th Amendment, granting voting rights to 18 year olds, was ratified in only three months and 8 days. Some states ratified the amendment the same day the Joint Resolution was issued, and other states quickly followed with their ratifications. Obviously, arrangements had been made in advance, so that voting upon ballots could take place in the States on or before the date the Joint Resolution was issued. Just like when Legislators got busy and passed legislation so they could avoid travel delays at airports, when legislator’s interests are paramount, they CAN get the job done!

    Amendments are said to START as bills in Congress. But in actuality much takes place even before a bill is submitted in Congress. We citizens can encourage candidates for federal legislative office to run on a platform which supports passage of our amendment. Then we must vote those candidates into office. Once in office, our newly elected legislators can submit the necessary bills and the process toward ratification can proceed.

    We can interest candidates for federal office to run on a platform for change. We might decide to call that change a reconstitution of our constitution. Regardless of what we call the change, we need to arrive at a way to keep the laws of our country up to date. What we are currently doing in the United States when passing each law is the equivalent of pasting a digital dashboard upon a rusty Model T Ford, or even pasting a digital dashboard upon a horse and buggy. When we achieve parliamentary governance, we, like Canada, will be able to move behind the steering wheel of a brand new Cadillac every time a new model rolls off the assembly line. In other words, we will be able to drive our up-to-date government forward. In the background, Canada has a Bill of Rights and Freedoms. We can keep our Bill of Rights, too! I thoroughly believe that if our Founding Fathers reappeared in our present day, in their wisdom they would advise us to embrace the more effective parliamentary system of government.

    In the mean time, while we are waiting for the date to vote upon our candidates for legislative office, we can make a separate push to expedite passage of our ‘Amendment of Interest.’

    That push is called an initiative, and is similar to efforts made in Wisconsin to recall Governor Scott Walker. Committees can be set up in each state for collecting signatures of voters wishing passage of our proposed new amendment. When sufficient signatures have been collected, and other state requirements have been met, the signatures can be presented to state legislatures with the request that the proposition for ratification of the amendment be placed upon the state’s ballot. State legislatures are obliged, by law, to respond favorably to placing a proposition for an amendment upon their state’s ballot. In fact, a state’s legislature can move on its own to place a proposition for ratification of an amendment upon its state’s ballot.

    With belief in the process outlined here, we can move forward.

    Even though we may be unsuccessful with persuading our legislators to propose bills for The Amendment, we citizens can let the strength of our sentiment become known. Then, over time, we can inch ever closer to our goal of a more perfect union.

    The chances of success for passing our amendment may be small, BUT, as Elizabeth Warren assures us, ‘If we do not make an effort, it is 100% guaranteed we will not succeed.’


    I also would like President Obama to take a presidential initiative to put an end to current healthcare sign-up issues. Why not simply declare the United States government as the single payer overseer of healthcare. Even if taxes may need to be increased, the increase will be less for everyone and companies (at least on the average, but likely much less) than the cost has been in the past. EVERYONE will be covered and we ALL will have excellent health care coverage. Furthermore, more persons receiving good healthcare services will help increase the number of jobs; ie., It will increase the number of persons being employed. This is a win-win situation! And universal healthcare is what the citizens of the United States want.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    You are 100% percent correct in everything you've posted..... But, there's absolutely nothing wrong with our government....WE (citizens) ARE THE PROBLEM.

    There's a rock that sits in the middle of Stockholm Sweden,,, inscribed in this rock is the word "Lagom" meaning: just enough
    We are the pigs of earth, the cancer of this planet......Yes, us great gluttonous Americans. Accountabilty is the word of the day
  • Liberal
    Durham, NH
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    Is that the same rock the mermaid sits on?
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    I'm not sure,,,what mermaid???

    The fake democrats here will argue that we have the best medicine in the world....WE DO.....If you have cash. Cheney, Limbaugh, Magic Johnson all have the ability to receive it. They did

    99% of us rely on insurance. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are considered global killers... this country does not lead the world in medicine regarding the 99% who rely on insurance combatting these diseases. We lead the world in deaths....our medicine treats symptoms so that you can live long enough to exhaust your insurance cap. Canada is just one of many countries that have had no insurance caps,,,,,, EVER!!!!!. The focus is the patient, not the treatment being billable.

  • Liberal
    Durham, NH
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    Opps, sorry the mermaid is in Copenhagen harbor!
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "liberna" Sure on paper and "law" structures only hide what is really going on. I've got the impression you look at it only from a structural perspective.
    However down here it does not work that way. The thing is in 1776 "money" was not the "driver" of everything. Right now whatever structure, money and kickbacks (corruption) has exploded. It is the "lobbyists" who rule; not the "constitution". Then you have powerhouses like the Pentagon,who just do whatever they want to do. For instance just on TV; if the Obama Care thing collapses the drug industry thinks they will loose 30% of their "sales"; that is why they "plug" day and "night" their wares on the media. So in my opinion, it will be extreemly hard to change this system; because our elected "Washington elite" do love it the way it is: Money, honey!!!
  • Center Left Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    Welcome to the forum.

    I very much appreciate your thorough analysis of the problems that we have in America.

    Since the approval rating of Congress is now at its lowest point in history (at 8.9%), it's obvious that we really need to change the way that our government is run, and Canada seems to be a very good example of how a country SHOULD be run.

    The minority party in our country (whether its the Tea Party in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives or the Republicans in the Senate) has far too much control over the direction of our country. On this very day 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln used the words "... government of the people, by the people, for the people .. " and it's very obvious that that noble idea is under serious attack,

    That's why the Koch brothers (through Americans for Prosperity) spent $122 million last year trying to influence the 2012 elections, and why a rash of "red states" have enacted restrictive voter ID laws.

    The government shutdown that was caused by the Tea Party cost our economy $24 billion in only 16 days - but Ted Cruz still thinks that it was a good idea:

    Just yesterday, the Republicans in the Senate blocked ANOTHER highly qualified individual to the D.C. appeals court (the third in a row) , and it seems as though the only solution now is for the Senate to go "nuclear" to prevent further shenanigans.

    The Republicans seem to be taking particular glee over the Affordable Care Act stumbles, even though the Republicans are actually the cause of the problem. The House Homeland Security Committee released a video last week that confirmed the fact that the healthcare website had been subjected to at least 16 cyber attacks, and at least some of them were designed specifically to deny access to the website by its intended users:

    One area that we currently have a common bond with Canada is related to its currency.

    The Canadian one dollar coin has a picture of a loon on one side, so the coins are nick named "loonies"

    We have Canadian-born Ted Cruz (and his father) Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Michelle Bachmann, Pat Robertson, Mitch McConnell, Wayne LaPierre, Ann Coulter etc which means that we likely have a lot more "loonies" than Canada has.

    Canada also has something in common with our southern neighbor, Mexico.

    Each year, illegal immigrants come into America from CANADA. So far, no one in the northern states is talking about erecting a multi-billion dollar wall to keep them out:

    in 2012, our country spent $11.7 billion on security at the U.S.- Mexican border, and some Republicans (like Marco Rubio) want the border to be 100 percent secure. which would increase the cost of border security to $28 billion PER YEAR. Since the net migration between the U.S. and Canada last year was ZERO, I'm of the opinion that it would be a horrible waste of money.
  • Center Left Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    The Little Mermaid on the rock became 100 years old on August 23 of this year. Like many public works of art, it's suffered its share of indignities over the years:
  • Other Party
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    that guy you make some great points. The price tag of the potential ..."cost of border security to $28 billion PER YEAR"... is especially eye-popping.

    But now lets put that potential $28 billion into perspective:

    The interest on the national debt in 2012 was $220 billion! And what did we get for that $220 billion? Nothing, it was just the price that had to be paid for past and present out of control borrowing and spending.

    And it's getting worse every day.

    If we are going to talk about wasted money, let's be fair and mention this $220 billion.

    Then we could bring up the wasted billions of the war in Afghanistan... President Obama could have and should have ended this war at least 4 years ago.
  • Center Left Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    You're absolutely correct that $220 billion a year in interest doesn't do us any good, but at least the current administration has managed to reduce the yearly deficit. History shows us (especially during the terms of FDR and Eisenhower ) that revenue growth, rather than cutting expenses (as evidenced by the sequester) is the proper was to reduce the debt. When Clinton was President, we were on target to ELIMINATE the national debt by the year 2010, but George W. took us in the wrong direction.

    One thing that is very clear (as shown by the chart below) is that we can't afford another Republican President:

    To date, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us almost $2 trillion, but the final costs are estimated to range from $4 to $6 trillion.
  • Other Party
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    that guy you say ..."at least the current administration has managed to reduce the yearly deficit"...

    Yes, that's one way to say at it. Another way would be to say that "the current administration has managed to reduce their own record yearly deficits.

    Bush Years
    FY05 318B
    FY06 248B
    FY07 161B
    FY08 458B
    FY09 1.4T
    Obama Years
    FY10 1.3T
    FY11 1.3T
    FY12 1.1T
    FY13 680B

    There are many ways to slice and dice the numbers but no way to change this fact: Highest deficits have been under Obama.

    There are many arguments as to why it's mostly the fault of Bush or Obama depending on which side you are on, but as you point out, at least the deficits are coming down.

    They are both at fault for our tremendous national debt, others are too, but mostly these two presidents.

  • Liberal Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    As the CBO and most economists acknowledge, President Obama inherited a budget deficit of $1.2 trillion on the day he took office. Taking into account forward spending of programs approved under George W. Bush:

    "CBO, Jan. 2009: The federal fiscal situation in 2009 will be dramatically worse than it was in 2008. Under the assumption that current laws and policies remain in place (that is, not accounting for any new legislation), CBO estimates that the deficit this year will total $1.2 trillion, more than two and a half times the size of last year’s."

    So most all of the deficits for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 are carryovers from the Bush administration. The deficits may have occurred while Obama was in office but they were mostly incurred by President Bush with forward commitments from a Medicare expansion (Part D) to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were kept "off budget" during the Bush years to two tax cuts that primarily benefited the rich with a 15 percent tax on capital gains and qualified dividends.

    This is the basis for the deficits that Obama inherited. He could not make them go away over night.

    Just to get the story straight.
  • Other Party
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    Like I said in my previous post..."There are many arguments as to why its mostly the fault of Bush or Obama depending on which side you are on"... and thanks for providing a perfect example of what I was talking about.
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    Our Constitution was written by the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, convened to amend the Articles of Confederation. The delegates decided to start a new Constitution, & the principals designing that document were some very familiar names: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, & John Adams, to name a few. The old Confederation gave too much power to the states and not enough to the Federal Govt, such as the ability to levy taxes & to mint our own currency. The office of President was created as a result of the new Constitution, & George Washington, Comdr General of the Continental Army that fought the Revolution, now became the First President of the United States, by unanimous vote. And Thomas Paine records that Washington would NOT accept any salary for his services, either as General or as President.

    In the English Parliament, they have 2 legislative bodies: the House of Lords & the House of Commons. I don't know about the Canadian version, but the idea would be interesting to study further. I believe we need to GET RID of the electoral college. It is a way that can be misused to bypass the true vote of We the People, & actually change the RESULTS of the federal election by the electoral college. Votes can be manipulated to get the results wanted by concentrating campaigns in the most populous states. NOT what the Founders really wanted.
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    There were so many good ideas & thoughts in the beginning post on this thread. It is great to hear new ideas & opinions, that could help solve the worst issues of our day. Thank You. This just came to mind, when thinking of a Constitutional Amendment, to fix all the wrongs in our old version. Most ideas of this kind, assume we could hold a Constitutional Convention, made possible by our Congress voting to do so, by certain percentages of votes in the State govts, and ratified by certain percentages of votes in Congress. This working at all, would require that we GOT RID of all the TEA PARTY MEMBERS, since they would do their usual thing, of DELAY, or REFUSAL TO VOTE, or doing a Filibuster, or simply "walking out." They are the epitome of childishness, mixed with retardation. But their stupid typical reactions are the Best Way to bring Democracy to its knees. They have been well-trained by their masters, like the Koch Brothers whose Father spent time in Soviet Russian landscapes. The whole plot of the Communists was to destroy democracy, & now the JBS (John Birch Society) & its next generation (The TEA PARTY) are busy everyday, trying to subvert & destroy whatever is left of our Democracy. Waging useless wars to bankrupt our economy, then putting subversive morons into our Congress, & then having their GOP friends "outsourcing" all our jobs, & letting their OIL businesses pollute our land; & then use foreign bank accts to "avoid" paying their just TAXES, to allow our economy to FAIL. Just like they constantly say they WANT OBAMA to FAIL. But that isn't ALL they want, they actually DO want AMERICA TO FAIL. For, of course, THEY ARE COMMUNISTS. The Future belongs to US or THEM. And you can guess which one they prefer.