Saturday, August 13, 2011

Should Corporations have Personal Rights and Privileges?

The first corporations in the United States were plantations. Cotton, hemp, and tobacco were the primary exports and all involved the use of slaves. The first legislation corporations lobbied for is called the Three-fifths Compromise. Throughout the nation's history, corporations have swayed the national direction several times by influencing politicians as if a corporation had personal rights.

Personal rights and privileges are brought into play because corporations are able to enter into contracts just like a natural person. Therefore, a corporation has personal rights. This interpretation of 'person' draws the 14th Amendment into the fray and, it follows, the entire Constitution since it guarantees our legal personal rights - including the right to influence an election, the right to assemble, etc. Consequently, corporations can support and lobby for the candidate most likely to serve the aspirations of a board of directors. Corporations have the money to lobby Congress ruthlessly as opposed to The People.

The right to enter into a contract is not a proof of personhood. A corporation can enter into a contract on behalf of the board of directors who have a common goal; i.e. a faction. The corporation, as a faction, does not require personhood to enter into contracts since it does so at the whim of people serving it.

Some would have a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate personhood. The amendment would tear down the foundations of case law (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 1819, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886). I wonder if it would take something as difficult to achieve as a Constitutional amendment? It might be more prudent to attack the case law.

So what to do? Corporate personhood must be reversed. The notion that a corporation should enjoy personal rights is patently absurd. It seems obvious that the belligerent voice of lobbies overshadows our democratic voting process and drowns the voice of The People. I can boil it down to two sentences: A corporation is no more a person than a hive is a bee. The hive is a consequence of being a bee, but that doesn't imply the hive has bee-hood.

"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country"
Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Corporate personhood is wrong. Tell your representatives.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Can The United States Stay United?

We live in a nation that is fractured along racial, religious, and political lines. Society is cracking along the borders of abortion, immigration, and political philosophy. America's civil war won't be fought along geographical lines, it will be fought along philosophical borders. The pivotal issues will depend on the battle.

It's the 4th of July and a day we should recall that we live in a united Republic. It is one Nation, and it's the People's obligation to keep it.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It's much more than just a poem.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Don't Tread On Me

Recently people who have read Revolution have asked where I stand among the omnipresent pandemonium of political aisles. To be perfectly frank, I stand between the aisles. As a person who prefers a solitary life, to some extent I am on the outside looking into the fray and very content with my position. My perspective doesn't afford me any more rights or lend weight to being right about any issue. However, my perspective affords a more objective view of the political killing fields. As a direct response to the question, I list ten points that represent where I stand.

First, politics is about survival versus issues. A politician stays in office by virtue of how legislation deals with the issues. If the constituency believes their elected representative is dealing with their issues, the representative will be re-elected. How the politician delivers the rhetoric around the issue makes all the difference. U.S. culture keys on and believes marketing rhetoric. Because of the ubiquity of marketing, people become unaware of the effects. I simply don't believe the rhetoric nor the marketing. People don't look at track records and house bills for themselves. They expect the marketing to tell them the truth.

Second, with regard to today's bucket load of economic and social issues: There is no way out without a significant toll. The cost of correction is too steep for U.S. culture. To say there is no easy solution for any of the several major issues facing U.S. citizens today is a gross and naive understatement.

Third, President Obama didn't cause the economic crisis. The crash has its roots in the housing bubble and money squirting from the U.S. Treasury for foreign wars. President Nixon did the same thing in the early 1970s. In the context of the economic crisis of 2009: Traveling as I did earlier in my career, I saw many metropolitan areas. All of them were building like beavers in downtown and outlying suburbs. I saw so much new construction that I wondered where the people were to buy or rent all this real estate. The simple answer is the builders were in kahootz with the lenders. Follow the money. The cash flow stops at lenders, fund managers, and local governments. Everybody else was left holding the purse strings.

Fourth, the notion that Obama is ineffective is distorted. Congress is just as ineffective and in addition is dysfunctional. The system described by the Constitution requires the President and Congress to work together, which doesn't mean the two have to agree. Nevertheless, a President must have a functional Congress or there is no progress. When a partisan deadlock occurs in Congress nothing can be implemented. However, Obama's leadership to overcome the Congressional deficiency is deficient itself, as if (a) the President is waiting for Congress to become functional; or (b) the President has given up hope of a functional Congress. He seems disillusioned to me. Someone who is in over his head.

Fifth, the party system in the U.S. has been bipolar since the middle 1800s. The Republican and Democratic parties have grown into big corporations. This is inappropriate in the context of a republic. The subject is discussed by James Madison in the Federalist Papers under the Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction. The Republican and Democratic parties are the sort of faction Madison described as "..a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." [Overview of Federalist 10][Federalist 10]. Madison noted that "The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished." The Republican party (as well as The People) has forgotten the U.S. is a republic and the Democratic party has abandoned democracy. It's time to abandon the parties.

Sixth, the U.S. constituency has a twisted view of elected representatives. The culture categorizes representatives as leaders. The difference between a leader and a representative is an obvious one. Leaders lead and representatives represent - it's academic. Representatives reflect the political happiness of a community. Leaders shove legislation down the community's throat. Leaders are implementers. Representatives legislate. One is a doer and the other a speaker. Giving all respect to the Constitution, the persons the constituency elect are representatives and not leaders. A republican form of government is led by The People, not by politicians. The U.S has democratic process to choose directions. Written history of the 1780s shows those elected were called delegates. A delegate represents their constituents. Some communities told the delegate how to vote, others relied on the delegate's own knowledge and discretion. The People have the incorrect view of the system, a view that needs correcting. If corrected, The People will have no one but The People to blame. The U.S. has the government it deserves versus the one it needs; hard but true.

Seventh, there are no solutions to the U.S. crises that the constituency will accept. The cost in all cases is more than the U.S. electorate is willing to pay. For example, while the effects of fossil fuels have been known for decades, the emotions around entitlement to cheap gasoline are tight and persistent. The obvious solution to this, and many U.S. issues, is to reduce the dependency on oil as a whole. The leaders of OPEC understand they are dependent upon the U.S. dependency. They view the U.S. as a cash cow. The cost of gasoline will be moderated at levels that produce the largest returns for nationalized oil production and prices that don't produce too much resistance from the consumer; the phrase too much resistance should be emphasized because it implies a system of graduated prices over time. The price of gasoline will continue to climb. The U.S. has a co-dependent relationship with oil that must be broken.

Eighth, the [U.S. Supreme Court in 1819] conveyed personhood to corporations with respect to the 14th Amendment. Corporations have Constitutional rights as a matter of the interpretation of the word person. Those in favor of corporate personhood argue that a corporation is a group of people with common goals and that the individuals of that collection have the same rights as any individuals of any other group. In short, that says that corporations as an organization of people can not be denied the rights of a person in the context of Section 2 of the 14th Amendment. Corporations can form organizations like citizens. The organizations are called lobbies which have a great deal of money and power behind them. These lobbies mock the popular voice. A citizen group likely doesn't have the resources of a corporation and the popular voice is thus lost in the wind. I say to the Supreme Court: a corporation is no more a person than a hive is a bee. The interpretation is wrong and the factions known as corporate lobbies must be outlawed.

Ninth, the tax code (Title 26) is untenable. Title 26 origins are in the 16th Amendment. In 1919 a committee of the House of Representatives decided to codify the U.S. tax statutes. The codification has continued to become more complicated and less effective. The tax code allows corporations to pay no income tax despite reports of rising dividends. There are too many loopholes, and there is little hope for change. A fair system would entail every citizen and every corporation paying a share. Hope disappears in the question of what is fair. The question is a black hole of slippery slopes. In my opinion, a fair system would be a flat graduated tax not to exceed 15% on persons and 10% on corporations. There would be no exceptions or exemptions. The system would apply less to low income than high income. The percentage paid would actually in most cases be less but a greater population is paying.

Tenth, the idea of a revolution in the U.S. must be refined. The revolution must be peaceful and legal. Legal with respect to the Constitution and peaceful with respect to bloodshed. Any ideas about a political savior must be dispelled like Santa Claus. The People, still searching for the silver bullet, assign categories of philosophy, loosing sight of the issues by concentrating on redundantly asserting irreconcilable differences. The categorizations made today cause the polarization. Thus, the tendency is to blame the other side with plenty of sides to go around. Each side blaming the others for the current crises. If no one is right, then everyone is wrong. The revolution degrades quickly into a war between factions. The U.S. came to its current status over a long period of time. Unfortunately, U.S. citizens are unable to organize themselves against the weight of a government that condones corporate welfare over the general welfare and thus there will be no revolution. Corporate welfare and social welfare will continue. The People are very obviously conscripted to providing for more basic interests.

Concluding, if a category absolutely must be declared then perhaps progressive will serve but only in a peculiar way. I don't believe that any category of philosophy has it all right. I don't believe I do either. Categorizations don't work as a place to assign responsibility when distributing the responsibility is more pragmatic. The U.S. electorate desperately needs a turning post and only practical solutions will suffice. Political solutions alone have a shallow foundation and won't survive the force of the turn. The ideas listed are purely mine and subject to change at any time for what I hope is sufficient reason. Each point can be criticized but I'll not be criticized or categorized for having given the matter thought. Don't tread there.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Twenty Eight Section 4 - 7

The first three sections of the 28th set the tax system right. Moving on to Sections 4 through 7 the focus shifts to state's rights and budgetary controls. These four sections are made necessary by the broad affect of the Commerce Clause of the original Constitution. The Supreme Court in its interpretation has again used the Parthenon as an example of a Nebraska sod house. An important and unfortunate emergence caused by the Court's interpretation is the existence of an implicit uniform national standard. Sometimes a uniform standard is useful, but not all the time applied to all things. The Commerce Clause is carte blanche to dictate programs, entitlements, and the like among the states. Washington says: "If you want the money you will learn to do business like we do." The result is the Consolidated States of America versus the United States.

The intent of the original Constitution was to allow the States to distinguish themselves, but in the same stroke establish standards so that an ounce of gold in North Carolina was equal to an ounce of gold in New York. Standards like the ounce are indeed reasonable, but entitlements and social programs are the responsibility of the individual States. The state governments already have boots on the ground. Why risk making a mockery of the mission in the doing?
Section 4
All agencies, programs, entitlements and other devices that will be excised by budgetary requirements will be returned to the responsibility of the individual States. No federal regulations or legislation will dictate how the States fund or execute such devices.

This is a practical system wherein the States, still under the constraints of Article 1 Section 10 of the Constitution, can manage public programs commensurate with local circumstances. The States distinguish themselves by governing how local circumstances are handled. But even still, Congress has hold of the reins with respect to distributed revenue first generated through the income tax described in Section 2. Section 5 limits Congress' ability to stretch it's authority.
The Congress may not make State eligibility for redistribution of revenue contingent on compliance with regulations or legislation that in effect is a nationally uniform standard.

Ultimately, we the People are the source of budgetary revenue, be it state or federal. Revenue comes from the pockets of real persons and funds the budget. Funding any project requires a few preconditions. Control over spending is merely right business. So we clamp down hard on priorities and remove one more angle Congress could use as economic intimidation.
Section 6
Those areas of federal responsibility prescribed by the original Constitution will have budgetary priority. No bill will be passed that funds any other concern without first meeting the budgetary requirements of these areas. No funding will be included in the budget for a concern that is the responsibility of and reserved to the States.

Last and arguably most important, it's time to correct the Commerce Clause. The founders didn't foresee the advent of virtual shop space. They lived in a world where wagons crossed state boundaries to get to market. Today, data packets cross state and national boundaries by the second. Even doing business at a local grocery store, most likely the point of sale is talking to a computer in some other state. Virtually every purchase that's made from national chains crosses state boundaries. Every purchase falls under the Commerce Clause. Finally, we face the last elephant standing. All of the previous sections are dominoes that have fallen, but are meaningless if this one remains standing.
Section 7
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: "To regulate commerce with foreign Nations and with the Indian Tribes."

The phrase "among the States" is notably missing. The great elephant itself is gone! Congress, having abused the interpretation of the Commerce Clause, can no longer lean on it. Section 7 completes a system of taxation and budgetary law that puts things right and forever prevents runaway spending. This amendment is more complete than any balanced budget amendment. It goes directly after the pain points that are causing the most trouble. Addressing the cause rather than legislating masks for the symptoms. The proposed 28th Amendment empowers the States, limits the power to tax, and constrains the extent of the budget. If Congress repeats history, it will do so outside of Constitutional boundaries. Send a copy of the proposed 28th Amendment to your representatives and while you're at it, tell them you want your money back.

You can find the complete proposed 28th Amendment here. Show your support for the authors who have put a great deal of thought into it.

The Twenty Eighth Section 1 - 3

The first three sections of the proposed 28th Amendment target taxes. The U.S. tax system is a behemoth. Everyone knows it. Little can been done to simplify and shrink the bloated jabberwock. Alexander Hamilton argued for the unlimited power to tax. Due respect to the Honorable Mr. Hamilton, unlimited power to tax is not necessary and will always be abused. What were you thinking?

When little or nothing can be done to prune unnecessary complexity, the thing to do is cut the vine off at the root and stand vigil until the monster is dead. That's exactly what Section 1 does.
The 16th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Repealing the 16th Amendment does not target the Federal Reserve, however the IRS is not sacrosanct and the tax code must come down with it. Section 1 undermines the Internal Revenue Act of 1913. Section 2 establishes the tax code in the Constitution. The distribution of a direct tax must be equally apportioned according to the census. No other revenue means is allowed, and a ceiling is established to cap federal revenue.
Congress may collect no revenue by any means other than a flat individual income tax not to exceed 15% of an individual's net earnings, a flat corporate tax not to exceed 10% of net revenues and actual user fees for services. All citizens and businesses shall be taxed at the same rate, and no exceptions, exemptions, or credits will be allowed.

The phrase 'not to exceed' can't be stressed enough. Congress will still establish the actual rate, but the tax itself is flat and no exemptions, less chance of corporations getting off easy. Effectively, this caps the tax rate but gives Congress the flexibility it needs to address national crises. Nevertheless, Congressional power to tax must be limited. Likewise, the power to invent the budget also must be limited. But we still have to face the unpredictable caveats. If the power to tax is curtailed, how are wars and responses to national emergencies paid for? Hence, Section 3:
A. Any budget passed by the Congress must be funded by actual revenues collected through taxes as described in Section 2. Except in time of War as defined below, no deficit spending, borrowing on future funds, borrowing from other entities or other mechanisms to meet budget requirements will be allowed.
B. For the purposes of this section, "War" shall be defined as hostilities declared by the President of the United States in the Constitutional role of Commander-in-Chief, and authorized by the Congress under the terms of the "War Powers Act" of 1973. Any funds borrowed shall be used exclusively for executing that War and shall be re-paid entirely no later than 15 years from the end of the War.

War is the only emergency specified in Section 3 and we might be tempted to include natural disasters, but then the definitions get slimy. What precisely, as in the War Powers Act of 1973, is a national disaster and how is it declared? In my opinion, it's better not to open that rabbit hole. There are other ways to manage those situations. The question not withstanding, overall this is a good start at reconstructing the U.S. tax system. Much more than just a straw man.

The next post will complete my review of the 28th. See the original proposed 28th Amendment here. Show the authors your support.

Introducing the Twenty Eighth Amendment

There's a anti-war song with the refrain: "I know you're fit for fighting, but what are you fighting for?" That question has been roiling around in my head for months. When I ask people say they want their country back. "Let's get back to the Constitution," some say. The People obviously want a redress of grievances, but what is the compensation? If riding on the Constitution is how we arrived here, what do we mean by: get back to it? If a representative asked, how could I give a direct answer?

Maybe 'getting back' to the Constitution is only a truth in part while the real weight is a wish to revitalize the spirit wherein the original Constitution was created. However, the supreme law of the land has been patched twenty-seven times, the spirit threadbare and frayed. The original intent and meaning now vague and out of context, now we want to reengage the spirit of it's creation.

Reigniting the spirit of the Constitution implies 'cleaning house'. Clearing the cobwebs and polishing the tarnished, disposing the useless and protecting the treasured. A proposed 28th Amendment is a way to clean house without damaging the woodwork. The means to bring to bare the implements of political happiness sharpened and wielded with skill and care because these are ideas worth fighting for. Something meaningful when all it seems we have are grievances and the vote.

The proposed 28th Amendment consists of seven sections. Each section has a clear focus. The whole amendment can be divided into two areas of concern. The first three sections reinvent the tax system and establish a concise tax code. The last four sections focus on budgetary priorities and reestablish state's rights and standing. My next blog entry reprints sections 1 through 3 with commentary.

See the Proposed 28th Amendment here and lend some moral support to the authors.