What Might Initiatives Do for Us?
Defining an issue that a Nationwide Initiative might resolve carries the risk of simultaneously creating some Initiative antagonists. The more issues raised, the more opponents there may be. Moreover, the authors here are nowhere near the quality of the nationwide expert teams whose Initiatives will appear on the Ballot. However, to openly define what is being proposed, this risk must be taken. The hope is that those antagonistic to a few initiatives will find that the overall benefit is overwhelmingly worthwhile. It is the inherent problem of democracies – you cannot please all the people all the time. An Advisory Initiative can be used to find out what the People want on contentious issues. With that said, the following is a brief list of serious issues that may worry you, have not or cannot be addressed by Congress, and can be tackled by Nationwide Initiatives:
Automation, Work, Wages, and Inequality
Man has used automation since the first water wheels in the 3rd century BC. By 1830, automated looms had massively replaced human weaving labor. The industrial revolution had started. Replacement of human labor with automation has dramatically expanded since then. Often, but not always, the automated jobs were replaced by good jobs requiring higher mental skills. But today the new intelligent machines and robots will eliminate many high mental skills jobs.
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 and maintenance; rarely make an error. For example, intelligent automation is coming to road vehicles 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 union 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 analyse the central issues of income inequality, social and economic instability. Our corrupt Plutocratic Congress cannot solve such problems – it is a benefiting participant in the problem. 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 to find and implement effective and efficient solutions. The only such mechanism is Nationwide Initiatives.
Some facts are indisputable. We also know that temperatures and sea levels have both been much higher and lower in the past, more than enough to cause disastrous changes for us. We know the earth is heated by the sun’s radiation and cooled by radiation leaving the earth. Since 1928 we have been able to measure how carbon dioxide, methane, etc. (gases that contain carbon) reduce cooling, thereby increasing atmospheric energy (wind speed, temperature, water content, storm size). We know that glaciers and the north pole ice are melting by just looking. It is easy to measure the average sea level, so we know that the sea has definitely risen about 8 inches in the last 100 years. We also know that the average worldwide temperature has risen about 1.6°F in the last 75 years.
Predicting the rate of future heating and its effects are more difficult. It involves complex calculations based on known science. However, we do not know with absolute certainty how stable the calculations are. The “butterfly effect” is scientifically valid (very rarely, a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a hurricane in the Atlantic States). So there is some uncertainty as to when climate change will reach the tipping point where the earth’s weather becomes permanently and disastrously hot and the coastal cities lost.
Technology to reduce carbon emissions has become effective and affordable. The big question then is how much should we spend on insurance to control warming versus gambling on the hit to ourselves, our children, and their children? Nationwide Initiatives offer the only way to get the best possible advice to balance the risk and investment, for a decision by the People, not a Congress controlled by the oil and coal industries and all rich enough to move when they get too hot or flooded.
Members of Congress enjoy an extraordinary degree of constitutional authority and freedom that allows them to do exactly what they wish. 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, personal use of donations, etc. There are no checks and balances possible within our Constitutional framework – e.g., the Senate must approve selection of all Supreme Court Judges. The only remaining possibility available is for the People to assume that responsibility and authority as and when necessary. It is included in Initiatives Amendment Clause 2.2: Initiative Power Parallel to Congress.
Corporate Personhood and Donations
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. 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 Together, these decisions have enormously increased the already huge amount of money available to influence congresspersons and create dark (untraceable) money to support Plutocratic causes.
As of early 2017 (7 years after Citizens United) hundreds of Citizen organizations have consolidated their opposition into the “Move to Amend” coalition. Their website indicates 24 Congressional co-sponsors have agreed to support their Constitutional Amendment. Citizen action to amend the Constitution is a slow process.
A key purpose of the Initiatives Amendment is to enable the People to solve problems in a timely manner: congressional legislation in one to three years and a constitutional amendment in just a few more. If we had had the Initiatives Amendment in 2010, Citizens United could have been reversed as early as 2014.
Fifty-six countries retain 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. 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 is no clear decision-making criteria other than personal preference to reserve extreme punishment for some classes of crime. Congress is wary about taking up the issue. If a decision is to be made, making it by Initiative would be straightforward and conclusive.
Declaration of War Authority
For the United States, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says “Congress shall have power to … declare War”. However, that passage provides no specific format for what form legislation must have in order to be considered a “declaration of war” nor does the Constitution itself use this term.
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 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.
It seems that there should be more clarity about such monumental issues. Co-equal checks and balances warrant elevation above branches of Government to the Constitution. With Initiatives, the People would have the power to do this using the best brains in the nation to propose the Initiative, and to elevate it to the Constitution. At worst the People may duck the problem, leave the status quo, and hope for the best as we do now.
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. 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. Passage of the Initiatives Amendment will later authorize the People to repeal the Electoral College and further their democratic rights.
Though congressional redistricting is the responsibility of the States, special interests promoting a specific party or party 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 members 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.
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 three 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. In the House of Representatives, about 190 seats are safe for each party, leaving only 55 seats (i.e., 13 percent) where the outcome is open.
Supreme Court Justice Recall
Presidents can be impeached, members of congress expelled or impeached, but a Justice of SCOTUS 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.