Sunday, September 14, 2014

The “New” Amendments

The Amendments to the Constitution after the 1st ten (the Bill of Rights) are a mixed bag of good and bad ideas, clarifications or definitions, and attempts to overcome the protections that the Constitutionoriginally guaranteed the citizens of the United States. Only two additional Amendments were ratified before the end of the Civil War in 1865 and only three more from that period until 1913 when the first of a number of questionable Amendments were created. In all during that 100 years we have created and ratified 12 more Amendments, some of which have either been bad ideas or unnecessary. I abide by and respect the law created by these 12, but disagree with and am working to rescind a few of them, just as we rescinded the 18th when we realized it was a bad idea.

Good ideas and clarifications - #11 clarified the role of the judiciary in lawsuits, #12 defined and clarified the process of electing the president and vice president, #13 outlawed slavery, #14 clarified equal rights and protections and applied them to all citizens, defined requirements for the election of members of Congress, and identified what is and is not a valid debt of the government. #15 extended the vote to all male citizens and #19 extended it to women, while #26 extended it to all citizens over age 18. #24 restricts the government from stopping anyone from voting because of failure to pay a poll tax or any other tax.  #20, #22 and #25 identify the terms of office for elected Federal officials and the way successors to the President should be chosen in case of death or inability to continue.

As you can see, most of these amendments were designed to make the government work better, correct problems that were politically unfixable at the time the Constitution was written (slavery, etc.) or expand the number and type of people allowed to vote. In general these are all good ideas with the possible exception of allowing people to vote and decide the direction of our country that have not studied the candidates and issues and become educated as to the history, freedoms and responsibilities of an informed electorate.

Two amendments, #18 and #21, cancel each other out as we outlawed alcohol and then realized the concept was a failure and simply created a criminal element instead of stopping people from consuming it. #23 allows the people residing in the District of Columbia to have representation in Congress and in the choosing of our President, but without the full benefits or responsibilities of being a separate state. The 27th Amendment disallows any pay increases to take effect during the current election cycle, thus decreasing the incentive for Congressmen to vote themselves pay increases. It seems to have not had the desired effect, since they are continuing to increase pay, even though they already receive much more than the normal citizens and “retirement” pay that is by far above what most of us receive.

The worst amendments are #16 and #17. They were both passed in the same year, 1913, and were part of a systematic effort to fundamentally change our system of government. In my opinion, those changes were much for the worse and have precipitated many of the problems we now face. For more info, read the book “1913” by Oliver DeMille and Orrin Woodward. #16 created the IRS and allowed for an individual income tax. Up until that point, all efforts to tax the income of individuals were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The government could not control or penalize your income, as long as that income was legally created. This was the basis of the success and prosperity of the citizens of the US, especially in comparison to the general citizenry of any other country. The 17th Amendment took the rights and protections of the individual states away and gave election of Senators to the general public. This sounds like a good idea until you realize that the Senators were a check and balance on the excessive promises of the generally elected House of Representatives. With that check and balance removed we now have out of control debt and laws that pander to special interests and the “gimme” mentality instead of looking at the long term effects of spending without restraint for unnecessary or unwise programs and redundancies.

All in all, most of the Amendments are good or at least non-destructive. A few, however, have set in motion things we really don’t want and should be rescinded.

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