Archive for February, 2010

The Upcoming Constitutional Convention (1)

February 27, 2010

     By now, it’s no longer a question of if, but when.  At least 20 years ago, I put the likely date as 2020, but, then, I’m no psychic.  The point is it’s making less and less sense for the country to be stretched like taffy whenever any significant governmental program is in question.  And I’m not talking only about the current health care quagmire, or even the mind-boggling question of when the Senate is bound by majority rule.  There are a lot of others that have popped up during the last half century or so.  We’ve seen them, talked and talked about them, and they remain unresolved. 

     Here are just a few:

          What is the relationship of the Press to the PUBLIC, specifically in terms of protections that go beyond what the average citizen enjoys?

          Do we want to retain the Electoral College?

          What is the will of the AMERICAN PEOPLE with regard to abortion?

          To what extent should the Government have the power to create and increase the national debt?

     Hold on!  Save your own suggestions for your elected representatives

     But first, let me explain why such a convention may even be sooner than 2020.  Specifically, why the Supreme Court seems unable to fix the problem.  For really major questions, especially those involving the Bill of Rights, the Court engages in refined, elevated debates concerning the language used by the Founding Fathers in drafting the Constitution.  It often results in yet another 5-4 decision that sets the clock running.  That is, the losing side starts counting the days, and piling its legal ammunition, until it regains a majority, and can pick a case that will reverse, or significantly weaken, that hateful decision.

     The most recent example was the Citizens Union case, which involved corporate contributions to federal elections.  The Court overturned two precedents and held that some restrictions on corporate funding of political speech was unconstitutional.  The most eye-opening part was not the decision itself but the dissent by Justice Stevens.  It’s not that I want to put my own take on the matter as superior, or even equal to his.  With his intellect and experience, he could run rings around me.  Similarly, we could all argue about whether Kennedy’s majority decision or Stevens’ dissent “wins” the argument.  I don’t believe that it can be won, or even that it needs to be.  The real question is why should the will of the American people about how we want to live today depend on what legal scholars tell us about what the Founding Fathers meant over two hundred years ago?

     The questions posed by the Citizens Union case are worth discussing by all Americans, not just lawmakers.  I’m sure that my readers can nominate a number of other questions of equal importance.  Well, it’s time we examined our options.  I hope we can start a dialogue, no a polylogue, on whether the American People should schedule a Constitutional Convention as quickly as possible.  Tell me what you think now.  I know that I’ll be writing more about this.

Fareed the Clueless

February 15, 2010

   On his CNN show today, Fareed Zakaria publicly admonished former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and former Chairman of the Fed Alan Greenspan for their,  in his opinion, gutless evasion of the need for tax increases.  He replayed part of their interview with David Gregory on last week’s Meet The Press.  They both expressed a total commitment to dealing with the deficit as the most serious problem facing the economy today.  And yet, when asked if a tax increase at this time should be considered, both backed away.  They felt that it would lead to a slowdown of the economy in the middle of a recession, and greater job loss.

   Zakaria was both angry and confused.  He said that the timidity of both men was symptomatic of why the public has lost any confidence in Washington to prevent the coming catastrophe.  Here were major public figures who could not commit to the painful choices that, all agreed, were absolutely necessary, but that no politician in Washington, including the President, was willing to make.  He was particularly upset that these two men would not commit themselves even though they no longer held public posts.  What possible reason could they have for not stating the obvious?

   I can understand Zakaria’s anger, but not his confusion.  If anything, Greenspan and Paulsen will be even more reluctant to state the obvious now, when they are not officially making economic policy.  This is because the public can be expected to interpret  their statements as the real deal; that is, what they think when they are not supposed to influence the market. Of course, it will have the opposite effect.

   We are crawling out of a deep recession now.  Paulsen and Greenberg may be government outsiders now, but in the main arena of action, the financial markets, they loom as large as ever, especially Greenspan.  Even a qualified endorsement of tax increases would be picked up by the media, and magnified.  Inevitably, the market would react, but exactly how is open to question.  But why take that risk?  The tremors would start within 24 hours, and could get worse.  I’m sure both men were imagining what they would say in the glare of a crisis that they created.  Timid?  Sure, they could live with that.


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