We Must Save the Constitution...
...and I'm just the guy for the job, Article I edition.
When it comes to individual liberty, the U.S. Constitution is the most important document ever written, other than the Bible. As American values have spread, so has freedom. Is it always a straight line? No. Are there exceptions? Sure. But the overall trend is undeniable.
However, we could try to knock the dust off grandma’s sofa. The lilly could always be gilded a bit, right? So, while it is audacious for a measly keyboard jockey, such as myself, to recommend changes, no one ever claimed that I was modest or intelligent (that I look like a young Antonio Banderas? Yes, but I digress). I want to recommend some enhancements to our vaunted document.
Please hold your throwing tomatoes until the end. Thank you, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.
Article I: Legislative Branch
1) No law can be longer than five pages, Times New Roman, single-spaced, not including the title page.
Remember this beauty from Nancy Pelosi during the Obamacare debate in 2009?
…it's going to be very very exciting but we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.
I have to give Nancy props here. She must have balls the size of a blue whale to say something like this in a public forum (blue whales weigh over 200 tons, so imagine how big their testicles must be, thank you for attending my Ted talk). This is like hiring a contractor to redo your kitchen, paying them 100% upfront, and providing them general designs for what you want, only to be informed that you can’t see the final design until it’s done. If you don’t like it, oh well, fuck off; I already cashed your check.
(side note - am I still allowed to criticize her without being a Fascist? Oh well…)
Though inartfully articulated, her thought was not without merit and, to a degree, eminently reasonable. The bill was just shy of 1,000 pages long, over 400,000 words, and would have taken over 24 hours of reading time because there was so much other junk in there.
As a comparison, War and Peace is approximately 600,000 words, covering the entire era of the Russian Napoleonic Wars! There is simply no way any legislator, much less all of them, read this bill which fundamentally changed the health care system in the U.S. To say nothing of the average voter who can’t bother to read an article on Twitter before commenting on it. That is unforgivable.
This turns the concept of representative government into a sclerotic bureaucracy unresponsive to the voters. If we pass laws, they need to be uncluttered and straightforward, so we know what our representatives are voting for. How do you hold an elected official accountable when a law saves the whales and kicks the puppies? Admonishes peanut butter and praises jelly? Hates the rock but loves the roll (ok, I’m done).
You learn nothing about their real values this way and who deserves your vote come election time. Therefore, my first amendment is:
No law can be longer than five pages, Times New Roman, single-spaced, not including the title page.
2) Legislators are outlawed from publically using any name for proposed legislation other than their formal resolution numbers.
Let’s see how things are going with the Inflation Reduction Act since it passed in August.
Yikes. It looks like the IRA is more like an inflation acceleration act. Or, maybe the law had nothing to do with inflation but was instead a grab-bag of shit for left-wing lawmakers? But that’s ok because the people who passed it are complete economic ignoramuses that think increasing the money supply will decrease inflation. So glad we have democracy in this country because what would we do without these guys?
That aside, let me know which of these provisions could have had the potential to decrease inflation:
Increasing the corporate tax rate minimum to 15%
Funding the Internal Revenue Service and improving taxpayer compliance
Prescription drug rebates
Affordable Care Act subsidies
A bunch of spending on “green” initiatives like:
Clean energy tax credit extension
Clean vehicle tax credit extension
Department of Energy grants for “green” buildings
Rural development and agricultural tax credit
Funding for the National Forest System
Funding for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facilities
This is not comprehensive, but you get the idea. Now tell me, which of these reduces inflation? If spending ourselves into oblivion reduced inflation, we would be at the worst deflationary cycle in history. Perversely, the only thing here that could conceivably reduce inflation is the 15% minimum corporate tax rate because that will likely reduce employee wages over time.
The point here is that name was purely a marketing feature which, if done in the private sector, would probably break ethical marketing laws in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and involve a Better Business Bureau investigation. Why do we let these fraudsters get away with it?
The original bill in the House was H.R. 5376. Is it boring? Yes. Does it get voters inspired? No. And these are good things because, most importantly, it doesn’t pull a bait-and-switch on voters, and maybe, just maybe, will get some more interested in actually reading the bills themselves, leading to a more knowledgeable voter base.
Therfore, my second amendment is: Legislators are outlawed from publically using any name for proposed legislation other than their formal resolution numbers.
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3) All laws carry 2x the statutory penalty for elected officials.
It’s terrible when anyone violates a morally justified law (not so much when it’s morally unjustifiable, but that’s for another article). However, it is doubly bad when a public official does it because it fundamentally erodes the public trust in our Democratic systems (and between the Covid authoritarians and Russiangate, we can’t afford another hit here, amirght?).
A prime example of this is stock trading by members of Congress. The website Unusual Whales has done yeoman’s work tracking the trades of congressional members. Some are either neural linked to Warren Buffet or using their insider knowledge to enrich themselves.
Let’s look at the biggest traders in Congress-
Not to pick on her again (now I’m really a fascist), but since she is the largest security trader in the House, let’s check out how trader Nancy does:
In years they already had massive returns, is beating the DOW and S&P 500 by 20 pts good? Seems like it. Per Unusual Whales, “Most of Pelosi's gains are quite interesting, given the timing of her plays. For example, she was able to get into TSLA, DIS around stimulus news, NVDA before American Semiconductor funding was announced, among a long list of interesting picks.”
She is certainly not the only member of Congress with the success that rivals any trading pro. Both parties are guilty, but as she is the most prominent trader and the third most powerful person in U.S. politics, she deserves extra scrutiny. Clearly, her success and that of the other congressional members are based on insider knowledge of legislation before it passes; there is simply no way else to explain it.
Since, by the definition of the SEC, she and most other members of Congress could be considered insiders in many instances, this would constitute insider trading, which carries fines and potential prison time (ask Martha Stuart). To restate my point, this is particularly egregious when carried out by a public official because of the distrust in the systems of government it causes.
A Republic can not survive as Hunger Games with two sets of rules, for those in Capital City and those outside it. Public officials violating any law must be treated in an extraordinarily harsh manner for the good of society.
Therefore my third amendment is: All laws carry 2x the statutory penalty for elected officials.
4) The annual federal budget must be limited to no more than 50% of GDP, adjusted for inflation.
Deficit hawks have been talking about this for decades, but now the Keynsian chickens have come home to roost, and oh my…are they roosting.
We have now been spending at, or in excess of, 100% of GDP for a decade, which peaked at 140% during Covid, and the national debt stands at over $31T. For years, Keynesian economists and Modern Monetary Theorist (MMT) followers told us debt didn't matter; it was just about keeping people employed. Well, I have one thing I want to say to all of you…
The issue isn’t only that our debt is growing fast than Rick Moranis’s children in the classic film sequel, Honey, I Blew Up the Kids, but that our interest rates are as well. Consider this chart, showing categorized spending as a percentage of GDP:
The thick green line is interest payments. It shows that by 2051, payments on our debt will jump from under 2% of total expenditures to 8.6%, and that’s not even the bad news!
The bad news is that this report was written in March 2021. Has anyone noticed how interest rates have fared in the last 18 months?
Now, I’m not an expert on macroeconomics, but I think I’ve come across this situation in my Austrian economics reading, and if I recall correctly, the technical term for this…FUCK ME IN THE GOAT ASS!
When this report was written, the Treasury Department saw a long-term average rate of ~2.3% on 20-year U.S. Treasuries. They now see a near doubling of that rate at ~4.5%.
Considering the March CBO report had a quadrupling of the debt payment obligations, as a percentage of GDP, before the jump in 20-year bond rates, and given the massive debt we already have, is it unreasonable to imagine a time when our debt financing reaches 15-20% of GDP? Probably not.
Unfortunately, we will have to head into a time of austerity in the near term because our debt payments will destroy the country completely. Still, since it is too easy for politicians to buy other people’s votes with your money, we need to formalize limits.
How did I arrive at 50% of GDP? When Reagan left office, the percentage was 52%, and I rounded it down. Very scientific, I know, but I reason that things were going well fiscally in the U.S. at that point, and we were just ending the Cold War, so defense spending was still at a reasonable figure, and we still manufactured stuff here.
Therefore my fourth amendment is: The annual federal budget must be limited to no more than 50% of GDP, adjusted for inflation.
Ready for more of my stupid ideas? Part two will cover Article II, Article III, and the Bill of Rights. We will wrap up with an extra special part three, covering election laws (and probably be my last article since the Feds will be knocking down my door within five minutes of me posting it).
Until next time - be free, and be sane…
Finally, a political platform that I can get behind.
Nitpick re: Congresspeople trading stocks. If you read that SEC thing you linked carefully, you'll see that it doesn't apply at all to this situation.
Insider trading is about using non-public information to trade *in the stock of the company you work for*. It's not about unfairness. It's more like theft from the company. The agent is self-dealing profits that belong to the principal.
This is a non-intuitive and often misunderstood thing.
Politicians using their position to make trades the rest of us couldn't make is corrupt and unfair to be sure. But it would require a different law that wouldn't even fall under under the SEC.