Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We the rich, not we the people

Everyone learns in school that America is a federal republic and that people have a big stake in it. That's just not true. People have very limited powers under the U.S. Constitution. An examination of one word in the Constitution shows the truth of the document.

I looked throughout all the words and found that "people" are only mentioned twice (in the opening phrase "We the People of the United States" and in Article I, section 2 that states: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the People of the several states."). But one word doesn’t prove everything, but it does propose the idea of a set of laws catered to the wealthy. A related word, “person” is mentioned fourteen times. Of those mentions of the word, none of these times it actually applies to the general populace. It relates to slaves, criminals or procedural matters (being elected to office or applying to those in public office). Another similar word is “citizen.” The word is used seven times in document and only once it applies to the all the people in America. Looking at words in the original Constitution (without amendments) isn’t even a full analysis of the document itself but it shows the people have a limited role and that that most educated are needed in power. Looking at the powers the Constitution gives the people helps further an investigation into the real intent of the Constitution.

I created a list of the rights the Constitution, including the amendments gives to the people [I am not counting requirements for any elected office]:

· People can vote for Representatives every two years (Article I, Section 2, Clause 1)

· People are entitled to the same rights in every state, rights that are in the Constitution (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1)

· People have the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceable assembly and right to petition government for grievances (Amendment I)

· People have the right to have guns (Amendment II)

· No soldier may be in someone’s house without the owner’s consent (Amendment III)

· Right of people to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure and a right to privacy (Amendment IV)

· People cannot be charged for a capital crimes unless in the military there can be no double jeopardy for a crime and no self-incrimination (Amendment V)

· People have the right to obtain witnesses, know why he/she is charged with a crime, have a lawyer and have a speedy public trial. (Amendment VI)

· People can have no excessive bail, fine or cruel or unusual punishment (Amendment VIII)

· People have rights not spelled out in the Constitution (Amendment IX)

· Slavery or involuntary servitude is abolished unless a punishment for a crime (Amendment XIII)

· All people born or naturalized in America are U.S. citizens (Amendment XIV)

· People of any race or color can vote (Amendment XV)

· Senators are elected by the people every six years (Amendment XVII)

· People of any gender can vote in elections (Amendment XIX)

· People do not have to pay a tax or poll tax to vote (Amendment XXIV)

· If you are 18 years or older, you can vote (Amendment XXVI)

· It is implied you can vote for President and Vice President in Amendment XII and in Article II Section 1 of the Constitution

Still, despite these powers that go to the people, only a few have to do with changing government. Many of the amendments that I mentioned only protect the rights of the people, but don’t allow them to change the system. The only power people have to change the system that is in place is to express their opinions, assemble in protest, petition the government and vote for public officials (I bolded these instances on the list above). If you boil it down, that’s not many rights available. I have some plans to help make the Constitution better and I’ll propose some amendments which I believe would give more power to the people, creating a government that works on more input from the people.

Going through online websites I looked for Amendments and I found some promising ones. The first Amendment is by a user on Democratic Undeground.com. I felt that the amendment had an interesting premise and I give credit to this user for coming up with the idea, but I had to change a few aspects of the Amendment itself. I do not expect this amendment to pass Congress, but it’s good to put every idea out there. Here’s the text of the Amendment, which would be Amendment XXVIII or Amendment 28:

AMENDMENT XXVIII [The Recall Amendment]

Section 1. The President and/or Vice President shall be subject to a recall election in the event that at least thirty-seven percent of the number of persons who voted in the most recent election for Presidential and Vice-Presidential electors petition the Federal Election Commission for a special election for the President and/or Vice President.

Section 2. If a petition is certified as valid by the Federal Election Commission, a time, place and date shall be set such an election by the Federal Election Commission with counsel from the Boards of Elections in every U.S. state and territory.

Section 3. Members of Congress shall be subject to a recall election in the event that at least thirty-seven percent of the number of persons who voted in the most recent election for that position petition the Federal Election Commission for such an election.

Section 4. If the petition is certified as valid by the Federal Election Commission, a time, place and date for a special election shall be set by the Federal Election Commission with counsel from the State Board of Elections in the state that said member of Congress represents.

Section 5. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I know it’s not perfect, but I tried to do the best. The amendment would give the power to the Federal Election Commission instead of the federal legislature because I feel that they are the board of elections on the federal level. Also I feared that if it went through the state legislatures, the governorship or United States Congress, that corruption could be present. I know that the Federal Election Commission could be corrupted, but I do not know any other agency to oversee this aspect of the law. It seemed to simplify the process. I would like to show another Amendment, this one proposed by U.S. representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. in 2005:

SECTION 1. All citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, shall have the right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides. The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, any State, or any other public or private person or entity, except that the United States or any State may establish regulations narrowly tailored to produce efficient and honest elections.

SECTION 2. Each State shall administer public elections in the State in accordance with election performance standards established by the Congress. The Congress shall reconsider such election performance standards at least once every four years to determine if higher standards should be established to reflect improvements in methods and practices regarding the administration of elections.

SECTION 3. Each State shall provide any eligible voter the opportunity to register and vote on the day of any public election.

SECTION 4. Each State and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall establish and abide by rules for appointing its respective number of Electors. Such rules shall provide for the appointment of Electors on the day designated by the Congress for holding an election for President and Vice President and shall ensure that each Elector votes for the candidate for President and Vice President who received a majority of the popular vote in the State or District.

SECTION 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I don’t like Section 4 of the amendment, feeling it supports the Electoral College but an amendment that replaces Amendment 26 and is shorter would be even better. I’ll write such an amendment in the future but for now this amendment shows that reform will happen in the future. The amendment proposed by Congressman Jackson explains the point: throughout the Constitution it says that all people have the right to vote but it is not the case and none of the Constitution says that States cannot set guidelines for who can vote. So, in a sense it never really says people have a constitutional right to vote, it only says they can vote. On the other hand, there are many other amendments that I will not mention that are presented on motiontoamend.org and reclaimdemocracy because to would repetitive. There is one more idea I would like to put forward. I have one more idea for an amendment:

The Ratification Amendment

Amendment XXVIII or Amendment XXVIV (Amendment 24 or 25)

Section 1. Article V of the Constitution is hereby repealed

Section 2. The Congress whenever fifty-one percent of both houses deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or when the people in all the states of the United States shall call a convention as implied by the freedom to assembly that is enumerated in Amendment I.

Section 3. An amendment shall become part of this Constitution when ratified in a vote by fifty-one percent of the people in an election which the date, time and place shall be set the appropriate boards of elections of every U.S. state and territory, or by conventions organized by the people in three fourths of the states in the United States or when the Congress approves an amendment by setting times to ratify such an amendment if determined to be necessary; or other methods may be proposed by the people or the Congress for the purpose of ratification.

Section 4. During the amendment process, the Archivist of the United States shall update the people and the Congress on the status of the ratification of the amendment; if the amendment is ratified, the Archivist of the United States shall announce it to the Congress and the people.

Section 5. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I could propose even more amendments but I feel that it would make this analysis too long. Throughout the next month I’ll be posting on my blog, HermannView, amendments that I have written around Independence Day this year. One such amendment is like H.J.RES.9 which would abolish the Electoral College and provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice President of the United States except my amendment would make it open to all political parties rather than just Democrats and Republicans. All parties must have the right to be in elections, it’s just what’s fair for everyone. America has never been a democratic republic; it was originally a federal republic. That’s the government that created by the 55 delegates in 1787 and revised by the Bill of Rights in 1791. Today the government we have is not a federal republic much anymore it is a plutocratic republic and it’s sad to admit that.

The wealthy control the political process and everyone should know it. If a politician is not aligned with the rich, they are limited by those that are rich. The only way we the people can get our power back is by protesting, speaking out against the injustice in America and promoting reform whenever possible. Don’t vote along party lines, vote for who you think is right for the job no matter what political party (Green Party, Democratic Party, Citizens Party, Republican Party, Independence Party, United Equality Party, and go to politics1 list for more), who you think will help usher in reform. Those people will help make America a better place. In the end, Americans need to do all they can to reestablish the original federal republic the Constitution asked for and go even further, giving more power to people in a democratic republic. America is not a democracy, it is a plutocratic republic where the government panders to the wealthy class and that can change with citizen action.

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