A Case for a New Constitution

Yes, I like to write essays in my spare time. Doesn’t everyone…?

America, Take Two… Action!
The first Constitutional Convention was initially an attempt to revise the Articles of Confederation, but ultimately led to the creation of a new government altogether. This massive overhaul was a dramatic moment in U.S. history, a radical move that some purport needs to be repeated. Contentions between party lines, record levels of income inequality, a failed foreign policy, massive debt, and a multitude of social issues are just a few of the many problems facing our nation. Can our system still yet be revised or altered or will a comprehensive rewrite be needed?
One of the more lively and grave subjects for debate is over what the tax rates should be for the wealthiest Americans, stemming from outrage over heightened levels of income inequality. The decade old Bush tax cuts have been a major contributor by benefiting the wealthy far more than the middle class. Those making between $16,751 and $68,000, or 36% of Americans, pay 15% in taxes with or without the Bush tax cuts. The top 21.3%, making $68,001 and higher, did receive a tax cut of about 3%. Certainly, someone making 68k a year isn’t exactly wealthy and some of the lower earners in that bracket needed the relief, especially small business owners. But why does someone making 250k get a 3% tax cut while someone making a paltry 20k a year receives a 0% tax cut?
The long-term yield has made the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. In response, President Obama has since rightfully called for an end to the Bush tax cuts, which has been responded to by a doubling down on the provably false theory of trickle-down economics. This theory suggests that the more money the wealthy have, the more jobs they will create, resulting in more wealth for everyone at the end of the day. How is this theory provably false…?
One way to measure its success, or lack thereof, is to examine the average income rates since the Bush tax cuts have been in effect. Between 2009 and 2010, the average income for 99% of Americans increased by eighty dollars (and for 90% of Americans it actually decreased by $127). Considering steady inflation on common goods like groceries and the spike in gas prices, health care costs, and college tuition, it’s not surprising that the middle class is comparable to a fish flailing around in a boat, begging for a merciful return to the waters. How has income changed for the top .1 to 0.01% during the same period? It increased just a little. And by little, I mean $336,775. It’sirrefutable that the rich became richer. If the trickle-down theory held true, the wealthy would be hiring more people and income for the middle class would have also increased. Instead, unemployment levels went higher during 2009-2010 (ranging from 7.2% in January 2009 to 9.7% in January 2010) while the bottom 99% of Americans that were employed did not see any significant increase in wages. That $80 nest egg certainly wasn’t enough to even keep up with inflation, meaning that 99% of the country’s earners actually became less wealthy.
Bipartisan committees and economists have agreed on the obvious, that the debt crisis cannot end without a combination of spending cuts and increases in revenue. The Republicans rightfully seek to reign in spending and the Democrats rightfully seek to raise taxes. One would think that a compromise would be well within reach if both ideas were shared. So why then has President Obama failed to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, especially with the top tax rate at a historical all-time low for the United States?
For starters, 238 members of the House of Representatives (thoroughly stocked with Tea Party candidates from the 2010 election) and 41 members of the Senate have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_for_Tax_Reform), assuring that none of them will vote for any increase in taxes. This Pledge was sponsored by the American’s for Tax Reform (ATR) and promoted by their president, Grover Norquist, who has gone so far as to say that President Obama should be impeached for treason if he didn’t renew the Bush tax cuts! (http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/impeach-obama–20120126). With such a radical position being held by nearly every Republican in Congress (along with three Democrats), there isn’t an opportunity for effective compromise.
The Constitution in its current form offers little to resolve this paralyzing political gridlock. So how can this problem be solved? As of now, the only solution is to vote out the majority of Congress and vote in a more practical and proactive group on representatives. Unfortunately, this means having to wait out the clock, hardly an efficient means of fixing a problem carrying immediate consequences. It’s important to remember that this horrendous Congress was only given power directly from the voters. More Americans watch Fox News than any other news source, resulting in less informed viewers compared to those who don’t watch any news at all (see “Some News Leaves People Knowing Less”: http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2011/knowless/). 
Even worse, the economic crisis has led to cuts in education. What we’re left with is a less-informed, less-educated voting public that will only further decay as the economy continues to struggle and additional cuts strike our learning institutions. Hoping that voters will make the right choice at the polls to usher in a new, responsible era for Congress requires a great deal of faith, (more than I personally have).
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizen’s United, the wealthy can now have unlimited financial influence on political campaigns, adding yet another monkey wrench to the problem. Even when the average American voter gets a chance to vote between option A and option B, and even if voters make the best choice between the two, the match-up of candidates would have already been rigged by the wealthiest among us. As the late George Carlin would say, what we really have is an illusion of choice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt49DsfKDMc).
A perpetual self-sustaining cycle of incompetence is in place and there appears to be only one way to pull the plug: by holding another Constitutional Convention comprised not by Congressmen but by an independent committee of scientists instead of theologians, the empathetic instead of the apathetic, the educated instead of the less intelligible, the practical instead of the ideologues. Only then could the United States stand a chance of avoiding a fall into oligarchy rule.
Unfortunately, we may already be there.
—-
For a comprehensive chart at the costs of new policies enacted by President Bush versus President Obama, look no further. It sums up the problem succinctly:
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