If you missed PART 1 .... or PART 2
ESTABLISHING A VOTERS' BILL OF RIGHTS
And Codifying It in Our Constitution
Serious Lack of Voter Awareness of Government Procedures -- At All Levels
Not to be ignored in today's world is the glaring lack of public awareness of the content of government finance -- at federal, state, local, and even school-district levels -- and the distinct roles of the executive and legislative branches of each. The apparent disinterest in -- if not sheer ignorance of -- the well-established annual budget process is nothing short of astounding. It seems increasingly clear that the American Federal Government has become fiscally dysfunctional, with the full blessing of our hopelessly antiquated Constitution and further authorized by our ill-informed sanctimony towards it.
It is a safe bet that 80% of the John Q Public cannot describe the role of the Congress's complex, politicized, and self-serving committee/subcommittee structure; the important Budget Committees; the twin authorization/appropriation processes; the twin oversight committees for every major spending category; the difference between appropriated dollars (provided) and dollars outlaid (spent); the "conference committee" procedure for reconciling differences in House and Senate appropriations bills; the now-common abuse of the "continuing resolution" as a substitute for failing to pass an annual budget; or even the President's role in initiating, passing (signing), or vetoing (some parts of) the final product. And thus the public is in no position to judge the culprit (by name or office) from the fully-protected dissembling of its self-interested, well-bribed, participants.
It is also clear that the Founding Fathers had no idea how much of the Congress's time would be spent arguing over the annual budget, or the now-frequent consequences of failing to pass any annual budget at all. While the Constitution stipulates many of the fundamental necessities in Article I, Section 8, (i.e., laying and collecting taxes, duties, imports and excise taxes; paying debts; borrowing money (!); regulating commerce; defining bankruptcies; coining money; and punishing counterfeiters), the now-mammoth task of preparing and passing annual federal budgets is kissed off in Section 9 as:
"No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a Regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time." (my underline)
Modernizing the Process of Voting -- and Opinion Gathering
Finally, it is ludicrous that in the World's most technologically advanced country, votes are still cast in person in specially set up, temporary, partially automated, polling places, or by cumbersome paper absentee or now-early ballots. This is at the same time that various TV talent shows are gathering millions of votes for dozens of candidates in a few hours. It is also at the same time that polling places, banks, ticketing services -- and personal computers -- have converted to "touch screen" devices. And also at a time when personal identity can be assured by Social Security number, driver's license, credit card account number, or even lottery number!
There is no credible justification for avoiding a totally electronic voting system for elections and the approval of propositions -- or even Constitutional amendments. Why on Earth should we depend on amateur and self-serving small-sample polling, when electorate-wide opinions can be gathered at will? Why not embrace the 21st Century by fully accepting the concept of a contemporary, adaptable "Digital Ward Hall"?
Still Caught Between A Republic and a Democracy
One hundred years ago, in 1913, the US ratified its 17th amendment requiring direct popular vote of members of the Senate (rather than appointment by selected State appointees). And that bold step moved this country significantly beyond the label of "republic" to that if "democracy". But 100 years later, there is still no update to the Constitution to require the direct election of the president as well, and we are, in fact, less democratic than many of the other major nations on today's shrunken globe.
There is considerable confusion over the interchangeability of the classic term "republic" and the much more modern term "democracy" Originally, and at the time our Constitution was written, the key elements in a republic were that a) it was not a monarchy with a hereditary ruler, and b) there was a substantial input from "the people". But those people were not necessarily common voters: they could as well be elite members of the national society. In a democracy, however, the voter is king, and all legislators are elected by majority vote of all those entitled to vote.
Hence the newly formed United States of America was described as a republic, and it included both representatives elected by "the people" (the House of Representatives) and those chosen by the elite: the senators of the several states, and the electors who would choose a President in the Electoral College. It is not even clear that the word "president" should be considered "head of state", rather than just the head of the Executive Branch. (There still is, in fact, a President of the Senate as well!)
Hence it is proper to consider that all democracies are republics, but not that all republics are democracies. In fact, the United States is still not a true democracy, since our president is still chosen by intermediary electors, not by direct popular vote. In fact we have had four presidents, including George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote, but was chosen by the electors, due to lack of Constitutional specificity. It is another variation of the Gerrymander Trick, in which a "majority" morphs into a "winner takes all" in the vote count.
Several other democracies and republics maintain an electoral college as an intermediary step in electing their top leaders. Most are relatively small countries like Burundi and Khazakstan, but India stands out as the world's most populous democracy, and their president is elected by persons elected to lesser government posts, and each elector's vote is weighted by the number of voters in his jurisdiction. And again, this approach obfuscates the popular vote because of the intermediate step in which proportional vote tallies become binary (winner-takes-all). It seems abundantly clear that a true democracy should always permit direct voting for every major political office, the winner to be determined by a simple majority.
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