BECK index

Reforming the US Constitution

by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World.
For information on ordering, please click here.

The United States of America has emerged as the wealthiest nation with the most powerful military establishment in the history of the Earth. Currently the US is spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 gave the George W. Bush administration an excuse to accelerate its plans for world domination by developing and maintaining overwhelming military forces on land, in the seas, in the air, and even in outer space. Yet these expenditures are bankrupting the US Government, whose national debt is $8 trillion and is currently increasing at the rate of about $500 billion per year. Yet recent military adventures have got the US armed forces bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. The corrupt political system allows wealthy interests undue influence over politicians by making contributions to their campaigns, and the two dominant political parties have so far resisted the reforms that are needed.

The next chapters will discuss how we can reform our society so that we can solve the immense problems we face in this mega-crisis. Those chapters will discuss how we can make democracy and the media more interactive, the economy more sustainable, the justice system more humane, and spiritual values more authentic. Because the two corporate warfare parties (Republicans and Democrats) in the United States have institutionalized their control over the political process, third parties such as the Greens do not have a fair chance to gain political power. The people do not get the opportunity to learn of their views or are discouraged from voting for them because of the way the debates and elections are rigged by the two major parties.

One strategy to reform this political system is by amending the United States Constitution. I have drafted a revised US Constitution that could be a basis for discussion at a constitutional convention. (See Appendix.) The original Constitution of the United States is a marvelous document and does not require many changes. Its greatest flaw was of course the attempt to maintain the institution of slavery, and that was corrected by three amendments after the US Civil War. However, another undemocratic structure was written into the original document to protect the interests of those in the smaller states. This occurred because the small states threatened not to ratify the Constitution unless they got their demands. They even tried to put in a killer clause to block any amendment taking away the undemocratic privileges given to the small states by stating in Article V, "No state without its consent shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate." This could be used as justification by the small states to refuse to accept a revised Constitution, but I argue that the revision I am suggesting provides a more equal suffrage for the people in all the states and therefore may be considered constitutional. Currently the Republicans have 55 Senators and the Democrats have only 44. Yet those 44 Democrats in the Senate represent more people than the 55 Republicans. This is very unfair and is discriminatory against minorities who tend to live in large cities.

The first reform gives those citizens living in the District of Columbia a voting Representative in the House according to population as with any state. I also believe that the people of Puerto Rico should have the opportunity to vote whether to become a state or an independent nation. Keeping these and other island people as territories of the United States without giving them their voting rights is to treat them as colonies. Let us remember the credo of the American revolution, "Taxation without representation is tyranny." We should give them their voting rights, or let them become independent if that is their choice. The same could be done for the territories in the Pacific Ocean by letting them join the state of Hawaii if they vote to do so. In the revised Constitution the House of Representatives continues to have 435 members, but the District of Columbia is properly represented.

An important election reform for the Representatives is to allow instant runoff voting in both the primaries and the general elections so that the two major parties do not have an unfair advantage. Instant runoff voting allows voters to indicate their first, second, and third choices for each office so that the winner must have the approval of a majority of all the voters. This method accomplishes this easily without having to schedule a runoff election at a later date.

I am suggesting a major reform for the US Senate by proposing proportional representation in four equal regions. The Senate terms would be four years to make them more responsive to the voters, and they would all be elected in even-numbered years that are not divisible by four. Each of the four regions would elect twenty-five senators. The East region includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia; the South includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia; the Central region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin; and the West includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. According to population statistics in the year 2004, the states in the East and Central regions had about 75 million people each, and the states in the South and the West regions had about 71 million each. However, the West and the South regions are growing in population at a much faster rate than the East and Central regions. After each official census the US Supreme Court would determine if a state needs to be moved to another region in order to make the population of each region more equal. Thus the states of Kansas and Nebraska are likely to be moved from the West to the Central region in the future. If the South region gets too many people, the state of Kentucky could be moved to the East or the Central region. If Puerto Rico becomes a state, it could be placed in the South or East region.

Candidates would run for the Senate in the election years when the President is not being elected. The regional primaries would be held on the first Wednesday in March, April, May, and June with the sequence rotating every four years. During the primary elections the citizens would vote for the candidate of their choice within their party, and a list of the candidates within each party would be made according to the number of votes received. Then in the general election in November the citizens would vote for the party of their choice, and each party would elect one candidate from its list for each four percent of the vote the party received. This proportional method is much more fair to minorities of all kinds that may group together behind certain candidates and parties who will represent their voices and interests. For example, currently only one Afro-American and two Latin-Americans are in the US Senate even though each of these minorities makes up more than one-eighth of the US population. Under the majority-take-all system by states the minor parties have little chance of gaining even one voice in the Senate, but under proportional representation they could elect one or two Senators in each region.

From the powers of Congress I have deleted the following:

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

but I have retained the following:

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming (equipping), and disciplining the militia and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

except that I changed the word "arming" to "equipping."

I have proposed that the Department of Defense, which really has been what it originally was called, a Department of War, be phased out and merged with the Homeland Security Department, which would be called the Department of Security. Once the disarmament process I have recommended takes place, the United States Government would not need the authority to punish people outside its national boundaries nor should it be involved in any war, raise and support armies nor maintain a navy. Real national defense could be organized by the state militias and should be as nonviolent as possible in order to maintain the peace and bring violent criminals to justice. Such militias could respond to any attempted invasion, and the assistance of the Federal Earth Democracy could also be requested in such an emergency.

Otherwise, most of the powers of Congress have been maintained. I believe that states should have the right to admit immigrants and should not be prohibited from doing so by the US Congress.

The primary and general elections for President would also use instant runoff voting. In addition I have proposed that all the people elect the administrators of the federal departments by instant runoff voting. In addition to merging the departments of Defense and Homeland Security into Security, I have merged the department of Veterans Affairs and part of Health and Human Services with Housing and Urban Development into one department called Housing & Welfare. A department of Health remains an important department. I have upgraded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and combined it with Interior to form the Environment Department. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be part of a new department of Communication. Other agencies would be combined into a department of Science & Technology. I believe the intelligence agencies need major reforms, especially in eliminating covert operations (which are really secret terrorism) and secret spying on other nations.

Thus the fifteen departments would be Agriculture, Commerce, Communication, Education, Energy, Environment, Health, Housing & Welfare, Justice, Labor, Science & Technology, Security, State, Transportation, and Treasury. In the first election after the ratification of the new Constitution the first five administrators would be elected for two years, the next five for four years, and the last five for six years. After that, every two years five administrators would be elected for six-year terms. They would be responsible for administering their departments and could recommend legislation to the President and Congress. They would work under the President, who is responsible for integrating their operations, but they could not be removed except by impeachment and a trial or of course by death, resignation, or a regular election.

The terms of the elected President, Vice President, Administrators, Senators, and Representatives would all begin at noon on January 3 following their election. The President would continue to nominate judges and other officials, but they would have to be confirmed by the advice and consent of three-fifths of the Senate so that partisan appointments could not be made against the objections of a significant minority. The President may make recess appointments, but they only last until one month after the Senate reconvenes.

Judicial appointments are changed from life terms to ten years, and judges may be re-appointed. Treason is defined as "levying war or in adhering to the enemies of the United States."

In Article IV I have added the following statement: "The United States shall not possess nor occupy any territory that is not a part of one of the United States or the District of Columbia." This is an important safeguard against colonialism and imperialism.

Article VI contains most of the Bill of Rights and other relevant amendments, plus some additional rights that are needed. The second amendment about the right of the people to keep and bear arms has been deleted for obvious reasons. However, as mentioned above, the state militias are retained for the purpose of self-defense. Otherwise the rights in the first ten amendments are retained. I have proposed adding the abolition of capital punishment to the eighth amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments; certainly death is a cruel punishment. The important rights in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are retained. People may not be deprived of voting rights because of race, color or sex, and I have added religion, political association, sexual orientation, and previous condition. The last in my view would include any criminal record. I believe the right to vote should be universal for all citizens over the age of eighteen.

Two additional rights are made explicit as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to attend free public schools and use free public libraries shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state.

The right of citizens of the United States to receive free health care shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state, and Congress shall make no law interfering with a patient's right to be treated by a physician.

These enshrine in the new Constitution everyone's right to free education and health care. Though no particular methods of providing for the education and health care of all are mandated, the government is thus implicitly obligated to make sure that everyone does receive their right to free education and health care in some way or another. The patient's right to be treated by a doctor means the government cannot ban or make illegal any form of health care, which would include the right of a woman with her physician to choose an abortion and the right of people to end their lives with the consent and assistance of a physician. Also no drugs could be made illegal if they are prescribed by a physician, but drugs could be regulated and taxed by the government.

To purify the service of those in public office I have proposed the following discipline to make sure that they are not corrupted by financial interests:

Those serving in the offices of President, Administrator, Senator, Representative, and Judge shall not receive any other income during their term of public service.

Such persons receive ample compensation from the US Government, and public offices should not be used by those who want to use their political status to increase their wealth unduly. This safeguard would help to assure that those in these offices serve the public interest and not the financial interests of themselves and their friends.

Campaign reform is included as follows:

The election campaigns of candidates for the offices of President, Administrator, Senator, and Representative shall be publicly financed. Citizens may also contribute up to one hundred dollars to one candidate in each office for which they are qualified to vote during each primary and general election. No other person, group, organization, or business may contribute to any election campaign for any of these offices. The contributions from citizens not spent by the campaign by the primary or general election day shall go into the Treasury of the United States, which shall finance the debates broadcast for each office and for the sample ballots mailed to the voters that shall give equal time and space to all candidates on the ballots. Whenever and wherever primary or general elections for officers of the United States are held, that day shall be a federal holiday.

Balancing our first amendment rights to express our opinions on political issues with the need to remove the corruption of money from politics is a very difficult issue. I believe that placing some rules on the election campaigns does not limit the freedom of expression unduly. Persons would still be allowed to contribute a small amount to each candidate but only in an election in which that citizen has the right to vote for that person. No outside money would be allowed. People and groups could still express their views on all issues, but they could not spend money advocating the election of a particular person. To safeguard the interests of the people we need to remove the large amounts of money that have corrupted politics in the United States. Government financing the debates in the media for everyone who is on the ballot will correct a great injustice that has allowed the Republicans and Democrats to exclude others from their debates. Also the statements candidates are allowed to submit for printing in the sample ballots at the present time require a large fee; this fee would be abolished so that every candidate would at least have the equal opportunity to communicate in the official publication of the elections commission. Candidates would no longer be allowed to raise money and then keep what they do not spend during the campaign for future use. Making election days holidays is important so that working people will have more opportunity to vote.

Finally ratification of the new Constitution is either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by a majority vote of the citizens in three fourths of the states.

Adopting a new constitution such as this is not absolutely essential to most of the reforms discussed in this book, but I do believe that these political reforms would substantially improve our system of constitutional government. The process by which we could bring about consensus on a revised constitution and its ratification will be discussed in the last chapter on nonviolent strategies.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World.
For information on ordering, please click here.

Global Emergency
Alleviating Poverty
Disarming Weapons of War
Creating Global Democracy
Reforming the US Constitution
Restoring Justice
Sustainable Economics
Freeing Communication
Spiritual Awakening
Nonviolent Strategies
Global Disarmament Treaty (first draft by Beck)
Constitution of the Federal Earth Democracy (first draft by Beck)
Constitution of the United States Revised (first draft by Beck)

BECK index