Monthly Archives: August 2016

COS Amendments – My First Five

Three years ago, before Levin published his Article V book called “The Liberty Amendments”, I published the blog below so I could see how his proposals compared to mine after they were published.  As it turns out, only two were similar – the Balanced Budget Amendment and Term Limits.  The other three are worth a look and I plan to submit write separate blogs/papers about each in the coming weeks.  I’ve said this many times – if you genuinely interested in restoring our freedoms, it is through the Article V process, and the Convention of States project is our best chance to make that a reality.

The Liberty Amendments – My First Five

We’ve been begging our leaders for specifics on what to do to make a difference. Glenn Beck’s events (Restoring Honor, Courage & Love) represent a huge step towards getting our heads & hearts straight about the morality of our cause.  Others have also made contributions, but Levin’s proposal, The Liberty Amendments, deserves specific recognition – it is the first path to restore our founding ideals, based on the Constitution itself, that we can all contribute to, that has a realistic chance– if we pledge “our lives, our Fortunes, & our sacred Honor” to the success of the Liberty Amendments.

Our kids and our country deserve no less.

It will be a difficult climb but I believe the country is ready for a tangible solution to the threats our country faces. Make no mistake; we’re in a race against time and a ruthless progressive cancer. With a $17 trillion national debt, and $60 trillion more in unfunded liabilities, cities like Detroit going bankrupt and states like California threatening, we must right the American ship as soon as possible. Once a financial crisis occurs, it may be impossible to counter calls for a more powerful central government – especially if people go hungry or start blaming the usual suspects (capitalism, tea partiers, etc.)

One last comment before I summarize my ideas for the first five amendments. I believe it’s important for the leaders of our movement to rally behind these amendments and the Article V process.  We all have a different list, but mine would include, in addition to Levin, among others, Glenn BeckYaron Brook, Sen. Rand Paul (and his father Ron), Sen. Ted Cruz (& his father Rafael), Sen. Mike Lee, Mia Love , Rev C. L. Bryant and GMU’s Walt Williams.

Everybody has different ways of contributing to the cause of freedom. I hope that all of them discuss Levin’s book, advance the idea and help pass the Liberty Amendments. Sometimes silos are created where no one wants to promote what their “competition” is doing – that must not happen.  I would encourage all of them to be generous with their comments and their air & face time.  However, so far, I haven’t heard one word of the idea, or Levin’s upcoming book, from these folks – perhaps they’re waiting for the book?

As you can see from this post, I think it’s a mistake to wait. In fact, Levin’s idea motivated me to start blogging again for the first time in years.  It will be my 100thpost, with over 26,580 visitors, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate #100.  Not only is it fun to see if my ideas for reform match up with Levin’s, but until his book comes out on August 13, I hope and pray my ideas will encourage others to come up with their own – can there be too much engagement in the cause of freedom? Of course, Levin’s specific amendments will be very important, but just his idea has lit the torch – by urging us to look within the Constitution itself for how to repair our Constitutional Republic.

Everyone has ideas – my first five are listed below and I’ll follow-up with more details on each one – but the main thing is to jump in and start, time’s not on our side.

The Liberty Amendments – My First Five

1. Voter Campaign Finance (VCF)

  • Limit campaign contributions to those who are registered voters that can vote for the candidate. For example, I live in VA 5th Congressional District – Robert Hurt’s my congressman. If he ran for House, under this Amendment, he could only receive campaign contributions from registered 5th district voters (easily checked against existing voter rolls) – no unions, corporations, out-of-district fat cats, PACs, etc. If you don’t have a legal right to vote in 5th district, you can’t influence the 5th District election.

2. Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA)

  • Cut Cap & Balance (HR 2560) was a great idea that died in the corrupt halls of Harry Reid’s U.S Senate – but just barely (51Ds-46Rs) – a real life example of the wisdom of Levin’s idea – Congress will not reform itself, we must go around Congress. My twist on Cut Cap & Balance is this: Limit federal revenues to 18% GDP, spending to 17% GDP limit and the remaining 1% for debt relief and, after that, an “Emergency Fund”.
  • In case of war, Congress can authorize spending to exceed 18% only if two-thirds of Congress approves. The 1% of GDP (of the 18% collected for revenues) would go to pay down the national debt (about $16 Billion/yr at current GDP) and, once debt free (woohoo!!), use the 1% for an Emergency Fund – to pay for declared wars and disasters but only if two-thirds approve “withdrawals” – restoring Congress’ power to limit wars with their Constitutional funding power.

3. Term Limits

  • This has been around for a while but my version would limit service in Congress to just 12 years total. This could be three House terms (3×2=6) followed by a Senate term (1×6) or two Senate terms (2×6=12) or other combinations. The main idea is to not allow folks to make a career out of DC politics while allowing them enough time to be effective.

4. Law Limits

  • Obamacare was over 2700 pages long. The recent immigration bill was 1200 pages. Neither of these very devastating bills, that affect all of U.S., has been read by their supporters or detractors – that’s not a democracy, that’s a marketing campaign. Just vote on one or two issues at a time. I don’t know a specific # – others can work that out – but perhaps < 10 pages.

5. Pardon Accountability

  • Require Presidents to prioritize pardons (100 or less) and announce their last pardons at least 90 days before general election. Although an outgoing POTUS can’t be held accountable, voters can hold parties accountable. I predict the outrages from Obama’s pardons – both the # and who – will force this Amendment to top of list.
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Levin’s Liberty Amendments

Back in July 23, 2013, I first wrote (on a previous blog of mine) about Levin’s ambitious Article V project.  Given the recent rise of the Convention of States, I wanted to reprint the article below:

On July 10th, in the first hour of his radio show, Mark Levin (Constitutional Lawyer, A Tea Party Leader) announced the name of his new book, to be released August 13, is “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic”. I’m taking a class on the U.S. Constitution, so I knew instantly that he was referring to Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…

In America, we have what political scientists call a “democracy deficit” – this occurs when a governing body claims their legitimacy is derived from the consent of those they govern, yet the governed have lost the ability to hold their government accountable. This term usually refers to, in political science literature, the illegitimacy of the European Union because it claims broad sweeping powers –the Euro / monetary policy, for example – yet the average European is effectively disconnected from EU policymakers. THAT is exactly what the progressives have done to America. Some examples:

Obamacare passed despite the fact a) no one read it & b) 59% of public opposed it & just 39% approved it. (so why did it pass?)

Although a new GOP governor was elected in Virginia in 2009, by huge margins, both of our U.S. Senators (Democrats) maintained their support for Obamacare.
Over 84% want English to be America’s official language –no vote in Congress.
In 2010, because of the tea party surge, the GOP gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, recapturing the majority, the largest seat change since 1948, largest for any midterm since 1938 and yet not one member of tea party caucus was elected to Speaker or given any leadership positions.

In addition, those historic 2010 victories gave the House a mandate to repeal Obamacare and cut spending – yet under Speaker Boehner, members were pressured to approve Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that dumped trillions more debt on our kids & continued funding for Obamacare, Obama’s vacations, DHS purchase of 1.6 Billion rounds of Ammo and many other bad programs Why?
So, clearly, the American people feel untethered from their elected representatives…and the feeling is mutual!! The President, Congress, leaders of both parties are ignoring the wishes of the people except, strangely, the Supreme Court seems sensitive to “changes in public opinion” – but their supposed to make decisions on the facts, the law and THE CONSTITUTION!!! So, the voice of the people matters only when they happen to line up with the political elites, which means they don’t really matter at all.

The problem that has perplexed the Tea Party, and others who wish to restore sanity to our political process, is how to “Clean out the barn!”, as Ross Perot said, when reforms of Congress must be approved by the same Congress that needs reform. Asking Congress to reform itself is like asking criminals to turn themselves in. There’s a reason that seven of wealthiest 10 counties in America are within commuting distance of Washington, D.C..  Millions make a very good living off this corrupt system and they’re not going to let anyone derail the gravy train anytime soon.

So, what to do? Many of U.S. ask our intellectual leaders and, after “call your congressman” lost all its credibility, even our leaders were stumped. We tried to “vote the bums out” in 2010 – no luck. Even worse, in a blatant act of real voter suppression, we now discovered the IRS was being used to punish tea party groups, in the run-up to the 2012 election. We also discovered the NSA is being used to gather information about US including cell phone records, emails, Facebook postings, etc.

When confronted with the ugly truth of spying on all US Citizens – talk about your general warrants – Congress circled the wagons and claimed, simultaneously, that nothing new had been revealed by Edward Snowden, and Snowden had put the country in grave danger – how can both be true? Nevertheless, because all that FSA Court & NSA activity is being done in private, President and Congress asked that we trust them. Well, we don’t – as Obama himself admitted June 7th, when asked about the revelations:

That’s not to suggest that, you know, you just say, trust me, we’re doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are… that’s not how it works because we’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight. And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.

Yes, Mr. President, indeed, we have “some problems here”. The distrust of government – at all levels, in both parties – is creating a serious problem. Which brings us to the beautiful simplicity of Mark Levin’s idea about the Liberty Amendments: using the 2nd part of Article V, we can exclude the folks we don’t trust anymore, the President and Congress, from the solution. Look again at Article V – there are two ways to submit amendments to states for ratification: 1) approval of two-thirds of Congress (not likely) or 2) approval from two-thirds of state legislatures. So far, all post-Bill of Rights Amendments used Option #1. Mark Levin, rightly, says it’s time to use Option #2. In fact, it’s the only option that can be used for meaningful reforms.

The good news is that, as a result of the tea party work in the 2010 elections, the GOP gained over 680 state legislature seats and now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures. Two-thirds of 50 states means we need about 34 total state legislatures to “call a Convention for proposing Amendments” – let’s call it the “Proposal Convention” –others will come up with other names, but I don’t want to call it a “Constitutional Convention” – Levin has made the point, rightly, that unlike the original Constitutional Convention, the Proposal Convention will not place amendments in the Constitution, but will propose amendments for the states to consider for ratification. Only if three-fourths of the states approve each proposed amendment, separately, would that particular amendment be added to the Constitution. In his book, the Liberty Amendments, Levin says he will cover the history of the amendment process as well as the constitutional arguments related to the amendments that Levin will propose. I can’t wait – not only is Levin brilliant, but on this subject in particular, it seems he was born to do this – argue reforms to restore liberty for U.S.

Indeed, Levin, a constitutional lawyer, has indicated he has already drafted the legal language for each of his proposed amendments. Before any amendments can be considered, the Proposal Convention itself must be called from 34 state legislatures. Fortunately, the large population states that are desperate to keep feeding at the federal trough – California, Illinois, New York, Michigan, etc., can’t stop this process. As long as 34 states approve, the Proposal Convention goes forward. I predict that, once the ideas catch fire, momentum should get us to the magic number 38 for ratification.

MarkLevin_LibertyAmendments_Cover__33917.1373489734.251.374

Of course, Levin’s book will cover all this with much greater detail, citations and research than I’m capable of. In particular, I’m curious to find out, in Levin’s book, which ideas he argues would make good amendments, and what our founders, like George Mason, had to say about this process. I am very excited to dive into the new book and see which areas I can help advance. I’ve already ordered a signed “deluxe” copy for myself and a copy for my kids in anticipation of Levin’s just announced book-signing tour to promote the book and the cause of freedom over tyranny. I plan to attend the book-signing August 24th at Tyson’s Corner, VA. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Perhaps, it goes without saying that Article V Amendments represent our last best hope of “Restoring the American Republic’s” peace and prosperity.  As such, I urge all patriotic Americans to support the COS Project  (@COSProject) – one of my favorite “Liberty Projects

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An Historic Loss for Libertarians?

Back in the Fall of 1982, as a young IT student at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, I had the distinct pleasure of learning economics from Joseph Fuhrig.  Professor Fuhrig happened to be running for the U.S. Senate, as a Libertarian, and garnered 105,000 votes, including mine, that November.  Looking back, I consider myself very fortunate to learn free-market laissez-faire economics instead of the typical Keynesian government-intervention version of economics taught in the “top” schools of the day.  My professor taught us that many of the problems that major party candidates would claim justified government intervention, were actually caused by government intervention. Professor Fuhrig’s passion for free markets and freedom generally was contagious.  Later I would join the Libertarian party – five years before Ron Paul – and in 1984 cast my vote, in my first presidential election, for David Bergland, author of Libertarianism in One Lesson.

Over the following two decades, I left college to pursue success during the prosperity of the 1980s – first as a stock broker and later as an IT project manager.  I also raised two amazing kids and like most Americans did not spend much time following politics.  I usually voted for whatever candidate seemed most likely to restore the profound vision of our founding generation – what I call Tenth Amendment Federalism.  It’s a vision Alexis de Tocqueville wrote so eloquently about when he observed in the 1830s that America was ““happy and free as a small people, and glorious and strong as a great nation.”  Tocqueville understood that the Constitution, by limiting the federal government to truly national issues, all other matters are “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”, you achieve the most important checks and balances, that between the federal and state governments.

I’ve now returned to school to complete my college education.  I major in economics and constitutional law and plan to prusue an Economics PhD/JD.  Everything I’ve learned has only confirmed the wisdom of our constitutional framework and the free market principles I learned first from Libertarian Joseph Fuhrig.   While I had great personal success, the Libertarian Party has not met those heady expectations of the early days.  Listening to professor Fuhrig, one might come away feeling like most Americans have been misled by the major parties and if someone would only point this out – a Libertarian President would shortly follow.  That has not happened.

For one thing, it’s very hard to pierce the misconceptions learned in our public school system.  The typical American high school student learns that corporations and capitalism are an evil that must be contained and nothing written by our rich, white, male founders is worth paying attention to – let alone using as a basis for national policy.  Rather, in all things, whatever the majority wants, the majority gets.  Socrates would warn us 2500 years ago of the tyranny of the majority – a lesson completely lost on modern America.  Thus, the Libertarian Party history is one of some victories but mostly a history of loss.

In 1980, Ed Clark would earn a million votes as a Libertarian Presidential candidate.  After eight years of building, Ron Paul would earn just 430,000 votes in 1988 – causing many to wonder whether a “revitalized” Republican Party might be more effective at advancing the limited government principles Libertarians were seeking.  Despite their success under Reagan, the GOP turned back again to their establishment elites.  Anger at D.C. corruption, in both parties, elevated third party candidate Ross Perot to first place (in June) during the 1992 presidential race.  Although he would later drop out – he ultimately reentered the race and earned 19% of the general election vote (19.7 million) versus 291,628 votes for the Libertarian candidate that year – despite a 20 year head start on Perot.  Speaking only for myself, I felt Libertarians were unlikely to ever break through.  It seemed that beating the elites required a billionaire candidate with a strong personality (sound familiar).  All the Libertarian emphasis on building a grass roots effort and being on all 50 ballots seemed necessary, but not sufficient.

Which brings us to Gary Johnson, who earned 1,275,951 votes in 2012 – a record for Libertarians but still less than 1% and still way, way back of Romney’s 61 million and Obama’s 65 million votes.  That is the history of the Libertarian Party – they lose elections – while many will put lipstick on that pig, that’s a fact.  Then, 2016 happened.  For the first time in U.S. history, both major party candidates have unfavorable ratings over 50%.  For a time, many held out hope that Cruz or Sanders would replace Trump and Clinton for a classic capitalism versus socialism contest this November – never happened.

The good news for the Libertarians?  Millions of #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary voters began looking for options.  Most in both camps would never dream of supporting the other so it’s really a #NeverTrumpnorNeverHillary movement – perfect for Gary Johnson – the leading 3rd party option.  Millions have now drifted over to the Libertarians and not because Americans finally “get” libertarian arguments, nor because Gary Johnson is so awesome (he’s the same guy that came in a very, very, very distant 3rd in the last election.)  Thus, even though Johnson is now polling about 8.7% in a four-way race, almost all of Johnson’s support is unearned.  Gary is still the same Gary that got less than 1% four years ago, so of the 8.7% support one might say about 90% of Johnson’s support is folks that might vote for a tennis shoe if the shoe wasn’t named “Trump” or “Clinton”.    Even in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, Johnson only gets 8%.

Astoundingly, given this truly historic opportunity for libertarians to begin running the greatest country on earth, Johnson and the Libertarian Party have done little to advance their own cause.  My impression is Johnson and, especially, his running mate Bill Weld, seem smug and arrogant.  It’s as if they won the lottery but now claim their new found wealth is because they’re investment wizards – no, they were just lucky.  The key is to take this lucky break and advance libertarian principles while accommodating all the new voters.  I haven’t seen polling, but my review of twitter comments tells me a huge chunk of Johnson supporters are ex-Cruz folk – what we call #CruzCrew.  Yet, Johnson seems almost as dismissive of Cruz supporters as Trump is – tragic error given the historic opportunity for libertarians.  In the few interviews I’ve seen of Johnson and Weld I saw Johnson scoff at conservatives.  Worse, Weld embraced Justice Breyer – Breyer is one of the greatest architects of the “living constitution” that progressives use to consolidate power and terrify those that care about limited government.

So, what would I do if I was running the Johnson campaign?

First of all, I’d reach out to Ted Cruz about a Cruz/Johnson ticket.  A fair examination of Cruz’s record and rhetoric suggests he’s much more Libertarian than libertarians give him credit for.  My impression is libertarians seek minimal federal power and maximum freedom.  Yet, Gary Johnson talks about preserving the right to choose – properly a state matter.  Under the tenth amendment, the states should be left to restrict abortion or marriage or drug use – but Johnson seems to feel the feds should leave states to choose their laws – as long as he agrees with them.  In effect, Johnson seems to be against the freedom to choose our laws (a focus of my academic research).  Contrast that with Cruz comments at the RNC:

And freedom means recognizing that our Constitution allows states to choose policies that reflect local values. Colorado may decide something different than Texas. New York different than Iowa. Diversity. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. If not, what’s the point of having states to begin with?

Thus, a Cruz/Johnson ticket would seem to advance libertarian principles better than a Johnson/Weld ticket.  This should not come as a shock – the libertarians have a narrow range of candidates every 4 years.  It’s possible there are many candidates, capable of advancing libertarian ideals, that did not attend the Libertarian convention.  Hard truth is that if a candidate wants to have an impact, then attending the convention of a party that gets less than 1% of the vote is not a high priority.  There could be hundreds of worthy candidates without an (L) after their name – that are better than Johnson or Weld.  I will write much more about the beneficial freedom-advancing virtues of tenth-amendment federalism and the jurisdictional competition that follows.  For now, I will simply point out that Cruz is worth another look from libertarians, would do much better than Johnson/Weld and if Cruz/Johnson wins – the VP would be a Libertarian, for the first time in history, and set up the Libertarian Party nicely for 2024.  With one change – Cruz/Johnson for Johnson/Weld – the Libertarian Party realizes the dreams of generations of libertarians.

Aside from adding Cruz to the ticket, Johnson mus recognize that most of his supporters are not libertarians and change his message as a VP to reflect that.  I’m not talking about sacrificing his principles – I’d never recommend that. Rather, Johnson should encourage policy diversity, not uniformity.  Tell Cruz supporters that if Johnson is VP, he’ll appoint justices and judges who will allow us to determine our laws at the state level.  Texans may restrict abortion, gay marriage and marijuana while Californians may allow all three.  That is not “appealing to moderates”, as many libertarians have advised Johnson to do, it is appealing to conservatives and liberals and moderates because it allows all three to choose their state laws once the reach of federal government is withdrawn – creating the space for diversity.  If Johnson will not speak for his supporters, McMullin might.

If the Libertarian party fails to take advantage of this historic opportunity, we might lose the country.  Not to take it too far, but both Trump and Clinton are so corrupt it’s possible we may not get another chance to change course for generations.  Both would likely fill the Scalia seat with a progressive – setting the stage for another dramatic expansion of federal power. We have to get 2016 right and my plan does that.  If Johnson and Weld remain smug and self-aggrandizing and ignore the policy wishes of 90% of their supporters, they may get to 11 or 12% and still lose in November.  More likely, unless they add Cruz quickly, millions of Johnson’s supporters may switch to McMullin and 8.7% will end up being a high-water mark that libertarians will never reach again. From personal experience, I was open to the Libertarian ticket until the moment I saw this Reason.com interview  – they both demonstrate complete ignorance about the significance of the Scalia seat.  Given that and the new McMullin option, I will never support Johnson/Weld without Cruz on the ticket.  Nevertheless, the Libertarian Party will be on 50 state ballots – that’s a huge advantage over McMullin.  Without a change in course, the Libertarian Party will have wasted an historic opportunity to succeed as a party and restore freedom in America.

Yes, historically, Libertarians lose.  Yet, if Johnson and libertarians fail to seize this opportunity, it will be “An Historic Loss for Libertarians” we may not recover from.

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