Gallery B

Plugging The Holes

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Repairing Our Broken Government

By James Donahue

Outspoken Libertarian Ron Paul warned in a recent radio interview that the nation is so polarized over issues like health, finance, the environment, war and civil rights that he predicts a total collapse of government in the near future.

If it happens, Paul believes the time will be ripe for a complete rebuilding of our system of government. "I think we should anticipate that, and look at it as an opportunity . . . Less government and more freedom is what we need."

Paul, who is credited with launching the Tea Party movement, may be right when he warns of a pending government collapse. But his Libertarian ideas, and the more radical thoughts promoted by the Tea Party, appear to be more disruptive than helpful when it comes to fixing what has gone wrong in Washington.

A government collapse such as Paul is describing would quickly lead to a military takeover and if necessary, a call for marshal law. And that kind of national control would not be conducive to rebuilding anything. What is desperately needed is a Constitutional Convention, with great minds like those who drafted our original blueprint for Washington, collectively drafting a revised document of law to fit the needs of our radically changed nation.

We might start by incorporating some of the ideas outlined by George Mason, one of the men involved in drafting the original Constitution. Mason refused to sign that document because he said it was flawed. For example he argued strongly for, and got the Bill of Rights added in the first ten Constitutional Amendments.

But his other concerns, detailed in a draft titled "Objections to This Constitution of Government," were ignored mostly for political reasons and the original constitutional convention members thought they lacked the time to make any additional changes.

Mason believed the Senate was too powerful, the Congress was not designed to be a true representation of the people, and the federal judiciary was "so constructed and extended" as to render justice unattainable and "enable the rich to oppress and ruin the poor." This is exactly what has happened.

Mason also believed the President was given too much unbalanced power and would be receiving counsel from a secretarial staff of his own choosing. He suggested that the nation be run by a team of up to three presidents with staggered elected terms. He thought the office of vice-president should be eliminated.

He warned that the House of Representatives as it was designed "can never produce proper information in the legislature or inspire confidence in the people; the laws will therefore be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their effects and consequences." He was right about this too.

Mason saw a problem in giving the Senate the power of controlling the nation’s money and setting the salaries of the president and the appointed officers who were "not the representatives of the people or amenable to them." Indeed, it did not take the Senate long before passing the control of the nation’s monetary system over to the Federal Reserve, a creation of private representatives of the nation’s largest banks. The Reserve was a bad idea that needs to be shut down.

Mason worried about the issue of separation of church and state. He warned that to allow the church or any other religion to have influence over the two houses, executive office or judicial branch would "leave our country wide open for hostile take-over." And this, too, has been happening, although in more subtle ways than Mason imagined.

He also pressed for a weak central government, strong state governments, and the abolition of slavery. Had these issues been added to the Constitution the United States may have avoided the Civil War, one of the bloodiest stains on the nation’s history.

Nearly all of Mason’s ideas should perhaps be given serious consideration if the nation ever attempts to draft a new constitution. Other changes that we propose would include setting term limits on all elected legislators, giving the President only one term but perhaps extending it to six or eight years, and making the Supreme Court a body of elected judges with term limits.

The Constitution should also set limits for campaigns. Candidates should be allowed only a few weeks of public campaigning, have extreme spending limits for promoting their cause, and the media must provide equal time for all candidates, from all political parties, to be heard in public debate. The old two-party system has failed us and the time is ripe for more diversification in government leadership.

The practice of lobbying for candidates or political causes must be separated from the use of money or material gifts to help persuade legislators to "do favors" for certain corporations or powerful people in their districts. It should be made a crime to pay for political favors, punishable by stiff fines and prison.

The concept of "empire building" should be prohibited and the executive office should be stripped of the self-appointed freedoms it has created to send American troops to war anywhere in the world without a declaration of Congress.

Education, saving the environment and public health and liberty should become high priorities in national guidelines. And above all, America should rebuild its image as a place for people of all nationalities and creeds to gather to live in peace and harmony with one another. Our borders should be open to all.

This was the America our forefathers envisioned. If we can keep the gangsters and big money interests out of the picture, there is no reason why we can't collectively learn from past mistakes and write the new constitution needed to make it happen.