Benefits from Initiatives Amendment Solution
The Benefits are that this single Initiatives Amendment authorizes Direct U.S. Initiatives that provide congressional and constitutional Solutions to numerous Problems that Congress cannot solve.
This single Initiatives Amendment Solution provides an effective, relatively quick, and comparatively inexpensive method for resolving numerous problems and it is the only way to permanently restrain Oligarchy or worse.
For many advocates of solutions to many dozens of problems, their chances of achieving their government reform goals were virtually zero no matter how fierce their advocacy. With the Initiatives Solution, they have the benefits of an effective way to publish their case for consideration by the IQA, which after very careful consideration may find that it ranks among the very best and most worthy, and advance their Initiative for vote by all the People at Federal Elections.
Advisory Initiatives can lead to Solutions that cannot be found any other way for complex problems where the People must compromise.
Citizens Propose Initiatives
Small groups of Citizens and qualified U.S. organizations write and propose initiatives hoping that the People will approve them. Small groups tend to be far more creative than large groups. Some examples are a blue-ribbon panel, a study group, a self-selected team of the nation’s best minds, government insiders and ex-congresspersons, crowdsourcing, a nonprofit organization, or any group of at least 25 ordinary Citizen Authors and Supporters. They propose Initiatives for federal legislation and constitutional amendments by publishing them in a specific newspaper, category, and day of the week and the newspaper posts them to the IQA’s web site.
To control a flood of Initiatives, an initial fee of $10,000 will probably decline over time. For encouragement and reward, when Voters approve their Initiative, Authors share $1 million and Supporters share $50,000. A Citizen may propose one Initiative every two years.
Citizens’ On-Line Feedback
All proposed Initiatives, modifications and comments will be available and searchable on-line from the IQA’s web site in the form of web blogs or successor technologies.
After registering a valid Internet ID (or by publication), U.S. Citizens’ and qualified U.S. organizations will improve Initiatives by providing feedback on proposed Initiatives, participating in opinion polls to approve or reject, etc.
Initiatives Qualifying Assembly (IQA)
The IQA consists of 500 randomly selected Citizens (an accurate cross-section of all Citizens eligible to vote—a mirror or exact portrait of the People). It does what a large group does well—it deliberates and ranks the proposed Initiatives and chooses the best after a process of deliberation, duplicate team evaluations, expert help, feedback, elimination, etc. The IQA may suggest corrections and/or improvements to the Authors and the Authors may re-propose their Initiative.
The IQA will be independent from government, controlled by the People through Initiatives, meet monthly, protected to a higher degree than a Federal Grand Jury, extremely safe from tampering or media exploitation.
The final selection will be from Initiatives that have passed all the safeguards and will not overburden the Voters. At each general election, about ten to fifteen qualified Initiatives will go on the ballot as Candidate Direct Initiatives.
In addition, the IQA may submit up to twelve Candidate Indirect Initiatives to Congress over each two-year period. Congress may modify them, may or may not approve them, and they are subject to Presidential veto.
Indirect Initiatives are appropriate when the Authors believe that Congress will support them, thereby saving the nationwide Electorate much time and effort.
If Congress or the President decides not to take appropriate action, the Initiatives can still go on the ballot as Direct Initiatives.
Citizens Vote by Direct Democracy to Approve or Reject Initiatives
The people voting by direct democracy make the actual decision to approve or reject each Candidate Direct Initiative by voting at general elections. When a Legislative Initiative passes, it becomes law that neither Congress nor the President can overrule; when a Constitutional Initiative passes it still needs ratification by majority vote of the People in each of 38 States.
Examples of Issues that Initiatives (but not Congress) can Solve
We have used automation since the first water wheels in the 3rd century BC. The industrial revolution was from about 1760 to 1840. Replacement of human labor with automation has continued to expand since then. Often, but not always, good jobs requiring higher mental skills were available to employ those replaced by automation. But today’s new highly intelligent machines and robots are beginning to eliminate many high mental skills jobs too.
From a Corporate perspective, automation and robots have huge benefits; they work 24×7 (four times more than a human); never complain or strike; involve no hourly labor costs, only initial investment plus maintenance; rarely make an error. For example, intelligent automation is coming to road vehicles (video) making many professional drivers redundant. Similar human replacements are expected in many other occupations. The resulting extra corporate income does not have to be shared with workers.
As things are, many more humans will soon have no jobs, no income, no money, no hope. Many corporations will make excellent profits; Plutocrats will temporarily prosper. But who will buy all their products?
Many recent books analyze and warn about the central issues of income inequality, social and economic instability. Piketty summarizes the problem graphically – the peaks forewarning the 1929 and 2008 U.S. crashes – and summarized in a Moyers & Co. YouTube video (24 min.)
Our Oligarchic Congress, focused on short-term issues and re-election, cannot solve these long-term problems. Moreover, Oligarchs’ greed is a participating trigger in this chaos. The People are the losers. There is no constitutional mechanism to find or enact a solution. The best minds in the nation could probably find solutions that retain the productivity and rewards of Capitalism and concurrently a meaningful life for the People. We will need a political mechanism that can find and implement effective and efficient solutions.
The thought of Oligarchs owning the automated means of most production in our country as well as controlling our Government is terrifying. Will liberty mean anything? The Democratic power of Direct Initiatives is our only protection.©
Fifty-six countries retain death penalty capital punishment, 103 countries have completely abolished it. The U.S. is one of the few advanced countries to retain it Federally and in 31 States. The process for administering the punishment is occasionally brutal – many Citizens terminate their animals’ lives with greater compassion. (In fact, it would be far more humane to authorize Veterinarians, who are more skilled in this field and not bound by a doctor’s hippocratic oath, to administer the death penalty, if it did not raise aesthetic resistance.) Also, the finality of death leaves no remedy if innocence is determined later. On the other hand, vengeance is a valid human emotional expectation, and some Citizens would prefer death over life in prison. There currently appear to be under 40 executions per year. It also appears that the cost of getting, imprisoning, and administering a death penalty is greater than life in prison.
Thus, it appears that there are no clear decision-making criteria other than personal preference to reserve extreme punishment for some classes of crime. The Supreme Court struck down the Death Penalty from 1972 to 1976 when it was reinstated (Furman v. Georgia). Congress is wary about taking up the issue. As of October 1, 2016, there were 2,902 death row inmates in the United States, and 20 were executed in 2016. The number of death row inmates changes daily with new convictions, appellate decisions, sentence commutations, deaths (through execution or otherwise), and exonerations (Wikipedia).
The use of an Advisory Initiative would give the People general guidance on the appropriate action to be taken without trampling State rights.
Some Climate Change Facts are Virtually Indisputable
Climate change due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration from burning coal oil and gas is causing sea level and temperature to rise.
We know the earth is heated by the sun’s white light and cooled by infra-red light leaving the earth. Since 1928 we have been able to measure how carbon dioxide, methane, etc. (gases that contain carbon) block infra-red cooling, thereby increasing atmospheric energy (e.g., wind speed, temperature, water content, storm size).
We also know with certainty that:
- Carbon dioxide has increased from 280 ppm, (the level it had for the last 10,000 years up to 1850) to 409 ppm in 2017.
- Temperature records have been kept for over a hundred years, so we know that the average worldwide temperature has risen about 1.6°F in the last 75 years. As of March 2017, NOAA reports the rise is 1.89°F. (1.8°F = 1°C)
- It is easy to measure the average sea level, so we know that the sea has risen about 8 inches in the last 100 years.
- We know that arctic ice is melting by just looking at satellite photos.
When most of the Northern polar ice melts in summer, which results from a warming of about 3.6 to 5.4 °F according to the experts, the sea around the world will eventually be about 1 to 3 feet (NOAA says up to 8 feet in worst case) higher than today by about 2100–in the lifetime of today’s children. The general opinion seems to be that when the global average temperature has risen by 3.6 °F, we have reached the “tipping point” for the Northern ice and it will virtually all eventually melt.
The sun can sometimes get colder coincident with a decrease in sunspots beyond the normal 11-year cycle. This occurred most significantly during the late 17th Century, when virtually no sunspots occurred during the “Maunder Minimum“, creating noticeably colder conditions. However, there is currently no way to predict this phenomenon.
How Extreme Can Sea Levels Conceivably Get?
According to the scientists, at the peak of the last ice age about 25,000 years ago, sea levels fell to about 410 feet below current levels. As the world warmed, the sea rose to its current level by about 8,000 years ago. If we pass the tipping point, all the arctic ice (including the Greenland ice sheet) could eventually melt, and the sea around the world would eventually be 24 feet higher; if the Antarctic ice melted as well, sea level would be about 400 feet higher than today, but an Antarctic melt this has apparently not happened for many millions of years.
This means that throughout our 5,500 years of recorded history, the weather and sea level have remained abnormally constant. We have been living in a “Goldilocks” weather era without realizing it, that now supports 7½ billion of us; a 4-fold growth in the last century. If we fall out of our Goldilocks zone at this population level, it is likely that the consequences will be disastrous for huge numbers of people.
How Extreme Can Weather Get?
If you take an open pan of water and start heating it, you will notice that its movements get increasingly vigorous as it gets hotter. It is called convection heat transfer by which the fluid movement transfers the heat. The weather acts in a very complex version of this. The hotter the system, the more violent and extreme the movement from the norm. We will see heating effects as combinations of more violent storms, heavier rainfalls and flooding, bigger storm surges, coastline inundations, hotter weather, and more droughts. In some areas, it will mean rebuilding or moving; in some areas, there will be huge loss of life from crop failure, hunger, and disease; and in others mass migration, violence, and war.
The NASA Center for Climate Video Simulation shows its projections for this century in a visualization, predicting that the U.S. will get significantly warmer and snow in the Rockies will get less.
Technology to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and similar emissions is becoming increasingly effective and affordable, competitive with fossil fuel. The coal, oil, and gas tycoons make profits in their lifetime from exploiting their resources immediately. But if the effects of warming are bad, they can easily afford a move to cooler and higher places along with the Oligarchy and most members of Congress. This raises the question: should those who will suffer least make the decision for all the rest who will suffer more?
An important consideration should be our descendants, who will need the petrochemical products made from coal oil and gas for hundreds or thousands of years, so leaving them in the ground for them is not a bad idea – some think it an obligation.
The big question then is how much should we spend on Climate Change “insurance” today to control climate versus gambling on the speed of damage to ourselves, our children, and their children? We know that usually the earlier you buy insurance the better; eventually it is too late and you cannot buy it! But we cannot rely on those who can afford to dodge the worst of the climate effects to make decisions for the People. The cost of insurance appears to be declining due to the lower cost of “green” energy production.
If the People rise to the challenge, an Advisory Initiative can recommend a climate decision that the People really want, followed by a Direct Legislative Initiative to set the policies that Congress fails to address.
Authority of Congress and the President to Declare and to Enter into War
For the United States, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says “Congress shall have power to … declare War” that thereby provides authority to the President to fight. However, that passage provides no specific format the legislation must take to be considered a “declaration of war” nor does the Constitution itself use this term. There is no requirement to estimate, limit, or constrain the cost in lives, injuries, and treasure.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 is a federal law intended to check the president’s power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of the U.S. Congress. The Resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution. It provides that the U.S. President can send U.S. Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, “statutory authorization,” or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
However, Presidents have assumed responsibility to start a war, e.g. the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that kicked off the Vietnam war. Moreover, the President is the Commander-in-Chief and has the sole authority to release nuclear weapons. Moreover, once started, there is no mandatory legislative or constitutional mechanism to define or even consider an end.
According to Wikipedia in March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the U.S. economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion to $6 trillion, including interest, by 2053.
It seems that there should be more clarity about such monumental issues. Checks and balances between Congress and President warrant elevation of defining the declaration of war authority decision-making process above branches of Government to the Constitution. As of this writing, 2016-2017, the U.S. is attacking and killing and maiming opponents and collateral civilians in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, in the name, authority, and responsibility of all the People of the U.S..
This is a difficult but critical subject that the People may wish to take up, perhaps first by an Advisory Initiative, but care will be needed to avoid exposing the US to greater risk by making information public that is now secret. Obviously, the People cannot be responsive to immediate war threats, but the People have been through enough wars, some possibly avoidable and certainly hugely costly in life, limb, and money, to at least review the process taken by Congress and the President to declare war in the name of all the People.
Members of Congress enjoy an extraordinary lack of congressional oversight by the people to do exactly what they wish, such as telephone solicitation, setting their own perquisites, etc. using the Necessary and Proper Clause or Basket Clause.
The Constitution’s Framers realized that they could not anticipate and include all that Congress would need to do, so they added article 1, section 8, clause 18 (the “Necessary and Proper Clause” or “Basket Clause”) that allows Congress to: “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other
Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”
This has allowed Congress to operate to the personal benefit and aggrandizement of its members. For example, Congress sets its own compensation and perquisites, lobbying revolving-door policy, ethics, personally beneficial use of donations, etc. There are no checks and balances on congressional behavior possible within our Constitutional framework when Congress determines what is Necessary and Proper Clause per the Basket Clause, e.g., permitting telephone solicitation. The only remaining possibility available is for the People to assume that responsibility and authority as and when necessary.
Oath of Office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
Some examples of issues that the People may wish to address are:
- Time spent raising election funds, and time spent working on and reading legislation. “…Congressional representative is expected to spend half of his or her working hours doing [telephone solicitation] at a secret phone bank near Capitol Hill. … they are essentially full-time telemarketers who are told that their top priority is to raise obscene amounts of money by [telephone solicitation].” (U.S. Term Limits)
- The graph above show that Congressional Salaries are historically reasonable. The post Congressional lobbying income and perquisites are another matter.
- Removing, updating, and simplifying existing legislation.
- Lockstep voting along Party lines.
- Extent of reading and level of knowledge of legislation on which they vote. This is correlated to the size of staff.
- Size of staff “In 2000, every Representative hired 14 staff members, while the average Senator hired 34. In 2000, Representatives had a limit of 18 full-time and four part-time staffers; Senators had no limit on staff. Budgets for staff were determined by the population of the state; Senators from California, the most populous state, get more money for staff than Senators from Wyoming, the least populous state. Members can choose how to distribute staff between their Washington office and their United States congressional district home office or offices.” Courtesy © Wikipedia
Congress is supposed to work for the People not vice versa. Because the People have been careless and absent managers in the past does not make this a permanent condition. Just the fact of being subject to congressional oversight can have a major impact on improving behavior. The availability of Initiatives makes management possible albeit at irregular intervals and often not as quickly as optimal. But just the awareness that bad behavior may well be known and punished is a major motivator to good behavior.
The instigators of the best proposed initiatives submitted to the IQA on this issue will probably come from insiders who know far more about what goes on in Congress than we do. After selecting the best, hopefully the IQA can handle them by Indirect Initiatives and submit them directly to Congress for appropriate action. Otherwise, the can be submitted to the People’s vote as Direct Legislative Initiatives.
The Supreme Court has enacted some judgements that carry the full weight, force, and impact of important Constitutional Amendments, and that Congress has evaded addressing. This perverts our constitutional rights and can result in much unnecessary suffering by the People. A primary contributing factor is Congress’s unwillingness to propose Constitutional Amendments, preferring instead to shift responsibility to the unelected Supreme Court, constrained by historical legal precedents but not by the electorate’s preferences.
Moreover, it makes the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice by the President, with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, an event of colossal importance and causes the maximum exertion of the President and Senate. Some well-known exemplars of a Constitutional level of importance beyond the competence of those with purely legal experience are Roe v. Wade, Citizens United v FEC, McCutcheon v. FEC, and Bush v. Gore; each has resulted in colossal national impact for better or worse.
The issues here are not the decisions themselves, but the failure of Congress to deal with the issues by Constitutional Amendments in a timely manner: it is a failure of Congressional leadership and courage. The Founding Fathers appear to have considered the Constitution a living document and to have expected many more amendments to the Constitution than have occurred. Instead, Congress has evaded their responsibilities.
It is the People’s Constitution. They have every right and obligation to assume the responsibilities that Congress has evaded for so long. The right to propose amendments and to ratify amendments by Direct Constitutional Initiative is therefor included. As with other voting issues covered in this Initiatives Amendment, the People emulate their elected representatives voting the will of the People. Using this power, the People can perform the constitutional responsibilities that the Congress has so long evaded, and that by default the Supreme Court has been obliged to accommodate.
Citizens United v FEC grants corporate personhood permitting virtually unlimited political expenditures through Super PAC, nonprofit organizations, etc. Citizens United was possible because of two preceding decisions (Buckley v. Valeo, 1976 and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 1978). Their interrelations are explained in layman’s’ terms by an article from Huffington Post and elsewhere.
In the Citizens United decision on 21 January 2010, the Supreme Court narrowly (5-4) decided to extend Corporation Personhood to include freedom of speech, prohibiting the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.
The Court was in substantial disagreement. John Paul Stevens, the most senior justice in the minority, assigned the dissent to David Souter, who announced his retirement from the Court while he was working on it. The final draft went beyond critiquing the majority. Toobin described it as “air[ing] some of the Court’s dirty laundry,” writing that Souter’s dissent accused Roberts of having manipulated Court procedures to reach his desired result – an expansive decision that, Souter claimed, changed decades of election law and ruled on issues neither party to the litigation had presented.
The decision has had a rapid effect on elections, increasing in six years from almost zero to $1.2 billion. It has been a major boost to Oligarchy. Much of the funds cannot be followed from original source to its impact on the elections. It has acquired the name “Dark Money” for its un-traceability.
A leading opponent of Citizens United is the “Move to Amend” coalition, a California nonprofit (#3604575) incorporated in 2013 as a successor to its original formation in 2009. As of mid-2017, their website indicates over 40 affiliated organization have joined with them, and nearly 500 more support them. Their approach is to persuade members of congress to support their Amendment (H.J.Res.48) and at least 40 members have committed themselves as of May 2017.
Taking the position that persuading members of congress is not likely, once the Initiative Amendment is in place, reversal of the Citizens United decision will require one or two Direct Constitutional Initiatives and will take 3 to 5 years.
Gerrymandering with Redrawn Districts to Favor Incumbent Sitting Members
Though congressional redistricting is the responsibility of the States, special interests promoting a party or policy use gerrymandering with redrawn districts to favor incumbent sitting members and thereby have a major influence on the process.
In 36 states, redistricting is the responsibility of the state legislature; in seven states (AZ, HI, ID, NJ, WA, and WV), redistricting is done by independent means; and seven states (AL, DE, MT, ND, SD, VT, and WY) have only a single district (Wikipedia).
Gerrymandering has the effect of redrawing voting boundaries so that voters of the first group make their votes more effective than the votes of a second group. It wastes the second group votes artificially—thereby voiding their vote and their Article 1 Section 2 right of choice. As of 2012, the disenfranchisement due to partisan-controlled redistricting was a total of 4.4 million voters from both parties. (Princeton Election Consortium, Sam Wang).
Gerrymander works by packing opponents’ votes into redrawn districts where the opponents will already win, and by distributing the remainder into redrawn districts where opponents become a minority. It particularly favors incumbent congresspersons because they generally influence the drawing of the voting boundaries—and the effects are far from trivial. For example, if two parties have an equal number of votes, it is possible to gerrymander so that one party gets almost two times as many seats as the other. Sophisticated computer mapping systems, which require substantial financial support, design gerrymandering today. Consequently, special interest money is again crucial. Voters should choose which political party should be in power; instead, congresspersons, special interests and political parties choose their voters to assure their power. Today in the House of Representatives, about 190 sitting members are safe for each party, leaving only 55 seats (i.e., 13 percent) where the outcome is open. The underlying 1967 law creating gerrymander’s opportunity established that the number of Districts shall be equal to the number of Representatives (U.S. Code › Title 2 › Chapter 1 › § 2c).
There are several well documented, tested, and reliable solutions to this problem. But it is unlikely that a congress, with 87 percent of its sitting members and probable incumbent benefits from gerrymandering, will ever change the law. So, if the people want to remedy the problem, it will require a Constitutional Amendment today, or if we have the Initiatives Amendment, in can be done simply with a Direct Legislative Initiative.
Throughout the World, people have re-evaluated the simple “Winner take All” voting system prevalent in the U.S. and developed potentially fairer voting systems that allow a wider range of views to be represented. The U.S. does not have to change, but should always be on the lookout for, and open to, ways we can improve our political system. Some examples of alternatives are shown below.
Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is also known as the alternative vote (AV), preferential voting, or transferable vote. It is a voting method used in single-seat elections when there are more than two candidates. IRV has the effect of avoiding split votes when multiple candidates earn support from like-minded voters. In other words,
Rank Choice Voting (RCV) means that if no candidate has more than half the vote in first-choices, candidates finishing last are eliminated round-by-round in an instant runoff until two candidates are left.
These have the important benefit of encouraging a more diverse group of candidates without risking the election of a candidate supported by a minority of voters. They are used in national elections in several countries, and in several U.S. States and Cities. Congress is unlikely to adopt this as the Parties may lose some control of the electoral system and it would probably loosen Oligarchy’s control.
Various organizations support this approach and it is widely used around the world. Often the major issue is that it may confuse the voters. Minneapolis voters offer their experiences in a FairVote 3-min. video.
Though it has been proved that no voting system can be devised that always achieves perfect fairness, the effect of a powerful third candidate for a single office can easily cause the worst candidate to win. Many citizens believe that any reasonable alternative is better than this. If the Popular Vote replaced the Electoral College to elect the President, then it becomes essential for the People to make a choice by Direct Legislative Initiative, preceded by an Advisory Initiative if the IQA does believes that the best choice is not obvious.
The National debt of the United States is the amount owed by our federal government and ultimately by the People under Congressional Controls and Limits. When Congress cannot balance Oligarchy’s desired spending budget (e.g., for oil subsidies, unnecessary wars, contamination cleanup, tax breaks for the rich, etc.), it simply borrows more by a vote to raise the debt ceiling of the People. Consequently, the U.S. is one of the most debt-ridden counties in the world. The Figure shows that debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product which is a surrogate for the ability of the Public to pay the interest or pay down the total. The large jump in the 1940s was to pay for WWII; the large jump around 2010 was due to the lack of Congressional controls and risk limits on bank debt and risk-taking causing the 2008 economic meltdown disaster.
The interest is paid from federal taxes. The Fed has held the interest rate near zero for the last eight years, but is starting to increase it. Our Congress is holding tax rates on the Oligarchy (corporations and the very wealthy) at historic low levels.
The People are more aware than Congress about the effects of excessive debt, For Congress mistakes mean raising the debt ceiling; for the People, it can mean living on the street and family breakup. The People are far more concerned than Congress about burdening their children with debt, and the consequences of debt as they age. They are far more likely to limit the National Debt than our Oligarchic Congress. Nevertheless, the People will be hit the hardest, though they had no say in the matter. The People have an absolute right to influence these debt obligation decisions.
With the Initiatives Amendment, the People will have the power to control the quantity of debt that their government can borrow in their name. This control can be exercised in various ways, but will probably be done most easily by setting annual percentage changes rather than by annually changing the authorization limit. Emergency authorizations are another issue.
Probably the Candidate Initiative proposals on National Debt will lead to an Advisory Initiative, then when the People define their preferences, a Direct Legislative Initiative will set the controls and exceptions.
Prescription drug companies in the U.S. charge exorbitant prices simply because they can. And they can because a majority of those in Congress and other areas of government are unable to resist the huge personal benefits arising from their corruption by drug companies.
Medicare alone spends over a billion dollars a year; astonishingly, Congressional legislation makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, though private healthcare plans can negotiate. By itself, this private negotiating power looks beneficial, but it causes a highly fractured market where each buyer has little power to make a good deal with big pharma.
Total lobbying spending in 2016 was $3.15 Billion with 9.617 registered lobbyists (OpenSecrets); Pharmaceutical/Health’s portion was $78 Million with 1,149 lobbyists (OpenSecrets). Comparisons and explanations are shown in a 3-min. video. Total drug sales in the U.S are now 446 billion per year (46% of worldwide drug sales) (Statista).
Periodically, a bill is introduced in Congress (e,g, in 2015, 114th Congress, 1st Session S. 31, latest action:
01/06/2015 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance) to resolve this issue, but they always fail under big-pharma’s gigantic influence. An Indirect Initiative containing this type of bill could be proposed by the People, approved by the IQA, and sent to Congress – a straightforward process. If it were not passed without good reason in Congress, then the IQA could process it as a Direct Initiative for the People’s vote at the next Federal Election.
In McCutcheon on 2 April 2014, the Supreme Court narrowly (5-4) decided to remove a limit on contributions an individual can make over a two-year period to national party and federal candidate committees. It vastly increases the already huge amount of money available to influence congresspersons and create dark (untraceable) money to support Plutocratic causes.
Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment but wished to go further and abolish all campaign contribution limits: “limiting the amount of money a person may give to a candidate does impose a direct restraint on his political communication.” He rejected the rationale of Buckley v. Valeo that “[a] contribution serves as a general expression of support for the candidate and his views, but does not communicate the underlying basis for the support” since “this Court has never required a speaker to explain the reasons for his position in order to obtain full First Amendment protection.” (Courtesy © Wikipedia)
Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented, arguing that the decision “creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. 310 (2010), today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.” (Courtesy © Wikipedia)
If the People want to reduce the money available to corrupt our Congress, the McCutcheon decision would be a likely target. The Oligarchy and Congress are unlikely to turn their backs on such largess. The only option left would be a Constitutional Direct Initiative to reverse the decision.
The Electoral College currently consists of 538 electors corresponding to 435 representatives, 100 senators, and 3 from the District of Columbia and avoids a popular vote for election of candidates. Each State’s Electoral College (except in Maine and Nebraska) allocates all its votes in a winner-take-all method. Because every state has 2 electors corresponding to its senators, the smaller State have a larger per-capita impact in selecting the President.
The founding fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. In the intervening 230 or so years, the electorate has been expanded to include almost all U.S. Citizens of age.
At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, some delegates, “including James Wilson and James Madison, preferred popular election of the executive. Madison acknowledged that while a popular vote would be ideal, it would be difficult to get consensus on the proposal given the prevalence of slavery in the South: There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.” (Courtesy © Wikipedia)
The Electoral College has become an anachronism; its original purpose has disappeared. However, it still has a sentimental attachment to history, serves the party-political elite, and may help somewhat with fund-raising. On the other hand, it is indisputably anti-democratic, it causes much dissatisfaction with the electoral process, it can call into disrepute the validity of the electoral results, and Congress must like it or they would propose a repeal amendment to the States. The People should prevail over Congress.
The electoral college does not effectively acknowledge third-party Presidential Candidates, e.g., Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Millard Fillmore, Ross Perot, Robert La Follette, George Wallace, Ralph Nader, Strom Thurmond, and Ron Paul. Many worthy third-party candidates never run for fear of splitting the vote with like-minded candidates, and so causing election of the candidate they most opposed. This is a benefit to the two parties, but a disservice to the People who may prefer a third-party candidate as a better alternative. Thus, an electoral college solution must include a method to accommodate third party candidates, e.g., instant runoff or rank choice voting, that still guarantees the finally-selected candidate will have a majority of all the votes cast.
Replacing the Electoral College with Popular Vote for President and Vice President will require one or two Direct Constitutional Initiatives and will take 3 to 5 years.
“When the Social Security [Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance] program was initiated in 1935, the average life expectancy was 61 years old. Considering that the average age for retirement has remained consistently 65, beneficiaries in the early years of the program were receiving payment for a much shorter time. Currently, average life expectancy has increased to 75 and the average retirement age has remained at 65 rising to 67 by 2027 (i.e., for those born after 1960). So, not only are there more beneficiaries as compared to workers, but these beneficiaries are receiving payments for a much longer period.” (Stanford University) Total annual Social Security benefits paid have increased from $1,27 million in 1935 to $897 billion 2015. (Wikipedia) These number do not include Medicare or Medicaid.
Obviously, something should be done before too much of our entire economy becomes care for increasingly healthy and vigorous retirees. For example, plans allowing people to continue in less demanding and lower paid work while keeping eligibility for all or a portion of their monthly retirement benefits appear worth considering. Fear of an aging community voting backlash at the next election freezes Congress repeatedly into permanent inaction. Working in retirement is already encouraged by social security rules and recognized as a 21st Century phenomenon.
The People are more aware than Congress about the effects of excessive debt, are more concerned than Congress about burdening their children, and are far more likely to limit the National debt than an irresponsible Congress.
Wikipedia: The 1991 Patient Self-Determination Act passed by the US Congress at the request of the financial arm of Medicare does permit elderly Medicare/Medicaid patients (and by implication, all “terminal” patients) to prepare an advance directive in which they elect or choose to refuse life-extending and/or life-saving treatments as a means of shortening their lives to shorten their suffering unto certain death. The treatment refused in an advance directive under US law, because of the 1991 PSDA, does not have to be proved to be “medically futile” under some existing due-process procedure developed under state laws, such as TADA in Texas.
In the U.S., firearms remain the most common method of suicide, accounting for 51% of all suicides committed in 2006 (Wikipedia).
In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicides, and 11,078 firearm-related homicides in the U.S. (Wikipedia)
Presidents can be impeached or declared disabled, members of congress expelled or impeached; but there is no recall of a Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Justice, who may remain until death or retirement. The Constitution intends that the other two branches of government, POTUS and COTUS, should not have the power to influence the Justices, no matter how harmful to the People, senile, incompetent, even bedridden they may become.
The People on the other hand, are the sole beneficiaries of the Constitution. They have, and should have, the right to recall a Supreme Court Justice. A Constitutional Direct Initiative can accomplish this.
In the early years of the Congress, there was no need for congressional term limits due to frequent turnover, perhaps due in part to long travel times. Today, virtually all elected representatives dislike any limits to their tenure, feeling that their years of experience are valuable and that enforced retirement from office is a waste.
The People today generally like the concept of congressional term limits for Representatives and Senators, perhaps believing the it is much harder for Oligarchs to corrupt a moving target. The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, established limits for the delegates to the Continental Congress, mandating in Article V that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years.” The People enforced limits in 21 States, of which 6 managed to nullify the limits leaving 15 States today.
In the 1990’s 22 States set congressional term limits for their representatives. However, in 1995, the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision (Term Limits v. Thornton) determined that states do not have the authority to limit the terms of their Congresspersons. In the 22nd Amendment, Congress set a two-term limit for the of U.S. President. Duplicitously, Congress condones limits for others but not themselves. The People have a right to set term limits for Congress. An example would be a combined maximum of ten years in the House and Senate.
Unless there had been a credible prior evaluation of this issue, it is probable that the IQA will decide that there will be an Advisory Initiative to determine what Congressional Term Limits the People want, then the IQA will chose the best candidate Direct Constitutional Initiative to implement the People’s will.
The People will be able to decide if the U.S. Electoral System should be Winner Take All or so called Fair Representation. The issues are outlined in a 4-min. Fair Vote video. The Fair Representation Act has just been introduced to Congress by Representative Don Beyer (VA-08) and has the potential to fundamentally solve the problems facing our broken politics. Visit FairVote and Ballotpedia to learn more and get involved.
In the last century the world population has quadrupled from two to eight billion people despite two major world wars, many smaller wars, and numerous plagues. The power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death or lower birth rates must eventually occur. The United States is blessed with a lower population density, more wealth, and more fertile land compared to most of the rest of the world. It means that additional immigrations pressures are probably inevitable and require an adequate response by U.S. Citizens through their government
Due to the divisive issue of legal and illegal immigration across the porous Mexican land border, the issue of world immigration pressure has not received as much concern in the U.S. as it deserves. But if the world population growth rate is high or medium (see World Population graph), then substantial additional legal and desperate illegal immigration are an inevitable consequence.
Lacking a balanced budget amendment, our National debt recently climbed over 20 trillion dollars and now exceeds our Gross Annual Domestic Product. The debt amounts to $62,000 for each of our 325 million citizens. The only time it was higher is the end of World War II, when government bonds were widely sold to the public in support of our 16 million Americans who served in that conflict (291,557 died in battle).
Senator Hatch first introduced a modern Balanced Amendment in 1979. However, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was ineffective—Congress can always find its way around legislative solutions. A Constitutional Amendment is the only enforcement mechanism.
The Oligarchy plays a simple vicious trick on the People by persuading Congress not to balance the budget by a large margin to favor the Oligarchs and their friends. When national funds are diverted into corporate wealth (e.g., reducing taxes on the wealthy and corporations) it increases the National Debt (which is owed by the People). This is robbing the People to enrich Oligarchs and friends.
A balanced budget amendment is a constitutional rule requiring that a nation cannot spend more than its income except for specific circumstances. It requires a balance between the projected receipts and expenditures of the government. Balanced-budget provisions have been added to the constitutions of most U.S. states, the Basic Law of Germany, the Hong Kong Basic Law, Spain, Italy and the Swiss Constitution. It is often proposed that a balanced-budget rule be added to the federal United States Constitution. Most balanced-budget provisions make an exception for times of war, national emergency, or recession, or allow the legislature to suspend the rule by a supermajority vote.