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Old 09-10-2011, 05:18 AM   #1
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How would you tweak your country's government?

Granted unlimited power, what constitutional/legal alterations would you make? I've complained a fair bit about the American filibuster, so I think I should step up a bit. This is not simply about laws that should be passed, but about the structural nature of a country/ for me the United States.

1) Fewer States / Up Yours, North Dakota, aka Nebraska, Hero Of Our Times

If you MUST Have a bicameral system there's no need for slavish imitation on the state level. What benefit does a bicameral system provide for states? The original Great Compromise was a charity handout to the smaller states in order to convince them to ratify the Constitution. That should not be an issue with....what, counties? Why do states have Senates and Houses other than pure imitation?

Furthermore scuttlebutt (no source, sorry) says the reason we have a North and South Dakota is that Republicans in Congress arbitrarily split up Great Plains states in order to accure Senate advantage in the late 1800s. Is this true? If not, I won't be so giddy over the idea that North Dakota is actually not a state.

I would prefer there be fewer sparsely populated Great Plains states. Pretend that you're an Independent Frontier Cowboy all you want, understand that the Senate guarantees a substantial subsidy for rural living that wouldn't exist under strictly proportional representation.

I also want to headdesk when I hear the US Senate used as an example for reform of the House of Lords. No! No! Avoid!

2) Toodles, Electoral College

California is the most recent state to embrace the National Popular Vote movement. Once states representing 270 total electoral votes (enough to determine the winner of the Presidency) ratify this bill, every state that has ratified gives all its votes to the winner of the national popular vote, rather than the vote within its borders. Behold! An actual reason for Democrats to campaign in Texas! Republicans to campaign in California!

3) Seriously, Iowa and New Hampshire?

You both stink. Boo! Booooooo! A national, rotating regional primary! Alternate Eastern and then Western states to kick off primary season every 4 years.

Also, primaries/caucuses start in...I don't know, May. There's no need for this prolonged mayhem!

4) Abolish Congressional age/residency restrictions from the Constitution

If I'm a moron and want to vote for a 10 year old Congressman born in Austria I should be able to. If their opponent is unable to make the case they'd be better in Congress that's their, and the voting population's fault.

5) National Right to Vote

Over the last century the United States has made progress in negative restrictions on the right to vote such as the prohibition of a poll tax, yet there lacks an affirmative statement of the fundamental right to vote

Quote:
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. The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.
Quote:
The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists.

The 2000 Presidential Election was the first time many Americans realized the necessity of a constitutional right to vote. The majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore (2000), wrote, "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States." The U.S. is one of only 11 other democracies in the world with no affirmative right to vote enshrined in its constitution.

Because there is no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, individual states set their own electoral policies and procedures. This leads to confusing and sometimes contradictory policies regarding ballot design, polling hours, voting equipment, voter registration requirements, and ex-felon voting rights. As a result, our electoral system is divided into 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and approximately 13,000 voting districts, all separate and unequal.


The addition of a Right to Vote Amendment to the U.S Constitution would:

Guarantee the right of every citizen 18 and over to vote
Empower Congress to set national minimum electoral standards for all states to follow
Provide protection against attempts to disenfranchise individual voters
Ensure that every vote cast is counted correctly

Many reforms are needed to solve the electoral problems we continue to experience every election cycle. The first is providing a solid foundation upon which these reforms can be made. This solid foundation is an amendment that clearly protects an affirmative right to vote for every U.S. citizen.
Also: felons should have the right to vote.

6) A separate national election for Attorney General of the United States

The system has worked reasonably well thus far (Saturday Night Massacre notwithstanding) but there's a fundamental conflict of interest in an Attorney General appointed by the President that is responsible for investigating the President that should be unwound.

7) Quicker turnover between Election Day and Inauguration Day

We have jets! No one is traveling by wagon train across America. The 20th Amendment already changed the date from March 4th to January 20th, it's fair time people looked at Parliamentary systems. It's my understanding that Great Britain changes power in a matter of hours once the governing alliance is set. This means that the tomfoolery about Secretary of State or Secretary of Housing and Urban Development would start much sooner, but I find it hard to believe that knowing the potential President's team prior to enactment is a bad thing. There's no reason for lame duckery!

8) Abolish the filibuster

It should not be utilized as an arbitrary 60 vote requirement. The Constitution delinates the circumstances such higher vote requirements are necessary (overriding a veto, passing a treaty). If Rick Perry wins the Presidency, and Republicans win the Senate and House they can go hog wild. They've earned it. If Democrats can't make the downside case of voting for them then they don't deserve to preserve Social Security or Medicare. Additionally, unless a President nominates a drunk or a louse they should have the right to pass whatever dumb fools they want to the judiciary or cabinet.

9) 18 Year Supreme Court Justice tenure

Ugh, lifetime appointments. Have the existing Justices draw straws/stagger it so that nominations come up during the 1st and 3rd years of each President's term. Fewer senile appointees hanging on for dear life (Douglas, Rehnquist).

10) Make the District of Columbia a state!

It's the simplest solution. D.C has a larger population than Wyoming. This may be too practical for my dream scenario, however, so I think the optimal solution would be to narrowly restrict "D.C" to the Capital Building/Blair House/The White House and move the actual inhabitants into Maryland.

11) (Officially) Abolish the "Debt Ceiling"

This is not a question about further spending, it's about paying the bills that have already been appropriated for. This is a senseless rule. If you want to take a stand against government spending, there's a time and place for it: the annual budget! Reduce it! Whatever. I don't care. Don't risk causing a default on our prior obligations.

Those are my thoughts. Remember, when the Founding Patrons set about establishing our rules they had few working examples to base a republic off of. We now have well over 200 years' experience to refine and perfect what a Constitutional Republic looks like, and so we have far more experience then they did. Ideally we would have a parliamentary system (notice that the US tends to establish parliamentary systems in postwar overseas countries), and this:

Quote:
After the S&P downgrade of the United States, no country with a presidential system has a triple-A rating from all three major ratings agencies. Only countries with parliamentary systems have that honor (with the possible exception of France, which has a parliament and prime minister as well as an empowered president).

Juan Linz, professor of social science at Yale, argued that parliamentary systems are superior to presidential systems for reasons of stability. In a parliamentary system, he contended, the legislature and the executive are fused so there is no contest for national legitimacy.

Think of David Cameron in England. He is head of the coalition that won the election, head of the bloc that has a majority in parliament and head of the executive branch as Prime Minister.

In the American presidential system, in contrast, you have the presidency and the legislature, both of which claim to speak for the people. As a result, you always have a contest over basic legitimacy. Who is actually speaking for and representing the people?

In America today, we take this struggle to an extreme. We have one party in one house of the legislature claiming to speak for the people because theirs was the most recent electoral victory. And you have the president who claims a broader mandate as the only person elected by all the people. These irresolvable claims invite struggle.
These reforms would make Congress more representative to the people, and allow our government to function more efficiently. I grow frustrated when people casually deride the state of politics today and assume that all we need to do is stop electing "bad guys". It's the system! We need a system that ensures the chuckleheads who will always get elected end up doing good for the population, not Wall Street.

So that's what I'd do with the United States. It doesn't quite address the thornier issue of money in politics, but I'm still thinking about that. I'm honestly interested in what other countries think their issues are with creating a More Perfect Union.
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:58 AM   #2
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:45 AM   #3
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I'd get rid of career politicians and set only one term for both the President and members of Congress. All will have one shot with a six year term and that's it. Yes, some people may like their Congress man or woman, but if you keep electing them and they stay in office for decades, you create an aristocracy - a ruling class. That doesn't sound very democratic to me. As for the President, most spend their first term focusing on getting re-elected and not on taking care of the country. So, six years for them to work on America and move on.
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:52 AM   #4
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Elimination of the two party system.

Oh wait, that was never in the constitution to begin with.


One term limit... so politicians can focus more on doing their job and not on getting reelected.

eliminate campaign fund raising. Every candidate gets an equal piece of the pie. Get yourself elected on merit, not on your cash flow.

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Old 09-10-2011, 02:45 PM   #5
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Except for a rotating primary system and returning to the original filibuster rules I'd first reverse everything mobvok just did.

Then I'd;
Reform immigration
a harsh penalties for employers
b must have a sponsor (school, US citizen or employer) that will insure immigrate will not be a burden on taxpayer

Pass a workable balanced budget amendment

Cap federal spending at 20% of GDP

Redo federal tax system, flat rate including cap gains

Change tax date from april 15th to the first Tuesday in November.

Eliminate the Depts of Agriculture, Labor, Housing, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans and Homeland Sec. Let Congress go back to making laws and regulations--not the unelected bureaucratic leviathan.

Finally, start using every energy source available. Dig & drill everywhere, build more coal and nuc plants. Tipper's right, Al Gore sux.
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Old 09-10-2011, 03:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
I'd get rid of career politicians and set only one term for both the President and members of Congress. All will have one shot with a six year term and that's it. Yes, some people may like their Congress man or woman, but if you keep electing them and they stay in office for decades, you create an aristocracy - a ruling class. That doesn't sound very democratic to me. As for the President, most spend their first term focusing on getting re-elected and not on taking care of the country. So, six years for them to work on America and move on.
This is my concern about term limits, however:

Quote:
“Term limits, in other words, have converted the state legislature into a ‘farm team’ of potential candidates for other public offices,” the study says. “Most termed-out legislators do not beat their political spears into plowshares and return to the civilian sector. Instead, they simply seek other positions in the political arena … a form of political musical chairs for governmental office.”

More troubling, for those who want term limits to oppose special interests, the impact has been the opposite: “to increase lobbyist influence over the policy process.”

“Inexperienced new legislators rely on lobbyists for policy information when they are unable to obtain information from other members or their staffs,” the CGS found, citing a National Conference of State Legislatures study with similar conclusions: “Term limits have increased the power of lobbyists over the California Legislature.”
Quote:
Change tax date from april 15th to the first Tuesday in November.
Hmm I wonder where you're going with that..... Actually, I also think that national voting should be done on either a national holiday or on the weekend.
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Old 09-10-2011, 04:55 PM   #7
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Hmm, I would like to say on the behalf of my home state that North Dakota is a state. What would you do if it wasn't a state anymore, make us merge with South Dakota?
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Old 09-10-2011, 05:06 PM   #8
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Hmm, I would like to say on the behalf of my home state that North Dakota is a state. What would you do if it wasn't a state anymore, make us merge with South Dakota?

Your other option is to become a 100% reliable solid-Blue state. (see #10 Make the District of Columbia a state!)
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Old 09-10-2011, 06:31 PM   #9
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This is a concerning graph:



Maybe split California in two or three. But the Senate is deeply tilted in favor of conservative states. Two conservative states have a seemingly arbitrary split that gives them twice as many votes in the Senate as California.

Note that I also said retrocession of the District's population into Maryland would be a good solution.
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Old 09-10-2011, 07:03 PM   #10
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Hmm, I would like to say on the behalf of my home state that North Dakota is a state. What would you do if it wasn't a state anymore, make us merge with South Dakota?
On behalf of Minnesota, we'll take you (and your budget surplus ).
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Old 09-10-2011, 07:08 PM   #11
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I agree with Mobvok.
Only changing:
Fewer states to more representatives--not back to the original 1 per 30,000. I'd be happy with 1 rep per 300,000 people.

Keep the age/residency requirements.

Add:
Publicly financed campaigns.


And:
Hell yes!!! --on the Supremes' term limit.
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Old 09-11-2011, 02:27 AM   #12
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i'll just second everything mobvok said, except for #1, as well as the comment that california should be split into two or three states. too much of the population in the country isn't fairly represented as a result of california being a ginormous super state.

i would also have universal health care for everyone. i believe it's a right, not a privilege.

america would have mixed member proportional representation. it allows (hell, it begs for) more parties so it would help eliminate this silly unofficial two party system. the tea party could actually fully be its own party, and just to show i'm not picking on them, the more leftist democrats could form their own party too. and they'd all get more votes than the pathetic 1% or less third parties usually get in presidential elections.

more limitations on gas guzzlers. older cars would have to be grandfathered in of course, but these gigantic suvs that get awful mileage would be done away with. you want a car that seats eight? get a freaking minivan or something, then.

better incentives to go green. no, no one would be forced to add solar panels or anything so if you were fine depending solely on electricity and natural gas, so be it. though there would be a (small) carbon tax; the proceeds from that would go to offer the tax cuts/other incentives for people to go green and also help lower income families to make the change.

stronger central government. 'nuff said.

more regulations on corporations. none of this bullshit that allows huge corporations like ge to pay no income tax in a year. and very strict limits on them contributing to politicians' campaigns.

reduce sales tax, increase payroll tax. a higher sales tax favours the rich who can invest more of their money than the poor; payroll taxes are fairer.
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Old 09-11-2011, 03:39 AM   #13
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Amendment 28: Religious views have no impact, bearing or influence on the law of the United States of America.
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Old 09-11-2011, 04:30 AM   #14
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america would have mixed member proportional representation. it allows (hell, it begs for) more parties so it would help eliminate this silly unofficial two party system. the tea party could actually fully be its own party, and just to show i'm not picking on them, the more leftist democrats could form their own party too. and they'd all get more votes than the pathetic 1% or less third parties usually get in presidential elections.
I've heard the CPUSA are like that, more left than the Democrats but still supportive of them.
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Old 09-11-2011, 04:37 AM   #15
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Both Australia and New Zealand need to become republics. Immediately. I cannot actually fathom how any intelligent, thinking individual can disagree, it's such an absolute no-brainer.

New Zealand should adopt the Single Transferable Vote (as used by Australia's Senate) in lieu of Mixed Member Proportional representation, or at least incorporate Instant Run-off Voting into the local member aspect of MMP. I mean, MMP is good, but it's frustrating whenever I go to vote in New Zealand and can't rank the candidates in order of preference like I can when I vote in Australia. I'll fucking despair if we vote for a return to First Past The Post in this year's referendum though.

As for the Australian House of Representatives, I keep tossing and turning on whether to allow voters under IRV to only preference as far as they want to rather than rank ALL candidates (as is already done in some states). I can see the argument both ways.

And the Australian Senate? I'd like to assume the population is intelligent and informed enough that we can abolish above the line voting and make everybody vote below the line, but I suspect that assumption is too misplaced to make it workable, especially with compulsory voting.

Speaking of compulsory voting, although New Zealand's high voluntary turn-out sometimes approaches Australia's compulsory turn-out, I would nonetheless make voting compulsory in New Zealand like it is in Australia.
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