Senate How to best fix U.S. government?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Mar 29, 2014.

?

How can U.S. government best be fixed? (besides constitutional amendments)

disclosure and transparency for political campaign financing 9 vote(s) 40.9%
nonpartisan congressional redistricting for the House 7 vote(s) 31.8%
further erode the filibuster and similar measures in the Senate 3 vote(s) 13.6%
automatic voter registration/updating 2 vote(s) 9.1%
mandate that the options of early voting and vote-by-mail be available in every state 4 vote(s) 18.2%
eliminate the debt ceiling 3 vote(s) 13.6%
make it so government is always continuously funded (shutdowns no longer possible) 2 vote(s) 9.1%
Other? (please explain) 13 vote(s) 59.1%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    At the very least, the Republican use of the filibuster was as novel and far outside anyone's intent for it as was Reid's elimination of the practice. So that whole line of complaint is rather hollow.

    To demonstrate consider that Republicans intended to filibuster any and all CFPB nominees because they disagreed with its existence as legally prescribed to begin with. That's insane. An advise and consent role is supposed to be about judging candidate quality, not debating their should be a position to consider candidates for. If they disagreed with the law, there are legislative processes of amendment or appeal they could have and should have availed themselves of instead. They thus destroyed any original or legitimate notion of filibustering appointees long before Reid formalized anything.
  2. MrZAP Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2007
    star 5
    Hold on, though. Why is a political structure considered good at all if it's against your preferences. Quite frankly I care a lot less about how government is run than I do about my personal agenda being met.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  3. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    As far as the filibuster, I don't understand how it's a more efficient use of our representatives' time than actually discussing the bill that they're trying to stall bringing to a vote.

    I've read Green Eggs and Ham at work too but I'm actually promoting childhood literacy while doing so. I'm assuming that our elected representatives already know how to read.

    For all the complaints that the ACA is long and none of our reps actually read it (complaints that I agree with), if the point is to read something to stall a vote, why not read the damn bill out loud?

    Seems that defense of the filibuster is a defense of paying a representative a six-digit income to waste time. But if lower level government employees were playing Solitaire or Minesweeper on their office computers, some small government advocate would demand that he or she be fired for doing that on the taxpayers' dollar.
  4. DarthWilliams Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2008
    star 4

    If Reps didn't read it, it's their own damn fault. Debate and negotiations on the bill started in the summer of 2009, an amended version of the bill was presented by Reid in mid-November (to which other amendments were added), and the Senate held its cloture vote until December 23. If as a United States Senator you can't find time to read a 960 page bill (not 2,500, not sure why that number is always thrown around) of this importance, you don't deserve to be a United States Senator. I could read a few pages both ways on my commute every day and another 10 pages or so before bed each night and still finish the bill in that time span.

    The House voted to approve the Senate bill in March 2010, so House members had an extra three months to read it. The GOP has loved to talk about how the bill was rushed through and no one had a chance to read it before passing it, which is crazy. If any member of Congress didn't read the bill before voting on the bill, they did so willfully.
  5. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I agree, not reading something before voting on it is idiotic and inexcusable.

    But I'm not seeing a defense for reading Green Eggs and Ham during a filibuster instead of the bill. Dr. Seuss rhymes words better?

    If reading something that has nothing to do with the bill is part of the point of a filibuster, we really are paying people to waste time.
  6. DarthWilliams Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2008
    star 4

    To be fair to Ted Cruz (yikes, I can't believe I just said that), his Green Eggs And Ham reading wasn't an actual filibuster - it was an arrangement where he held the floor until the start of Senate business the next day. He wasn't actually delaying any legislation with his speech.
  7. Rogue_Follower Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2003
    star 6
    Is the political structure against your preferences because it is poorly designed, or is it against your preferences simply because a party you don't like is in power? Changing the system because of the latter is dangerous, as it presupposes that your party will remain in power indefinitely. That's wishful thinking that will result in substantial blowback when the cards fall the other way. Making something easier to attain makes it easier to take away.

    Returning to the idea of SCOTUS rulings being overturnable by a direct popular vote, that is playing with fire in the worst way. If one has a problem with the way courts behave, there's an existing way to change that: elect better executives to nominate better judges, and elect better legislators to approve those better judges. That's a slow process, but intentionally so: harnessing the judiciary to the capriciousness of public opinion would further erode the rule of law. (Admittedly, the rule of law already something of a joke in certain circumstances, but that's another thread...)

    I realize that is easier said than done, as there are problems with the way we elect executives and legislators, and problems with the way those elected officials behave once in office. However, those issues are not solved by making the judiciary subservient to public opinion. In fact, such a change would spread the very same disease to the judiciary.

    I do not want vacuous campaign ads to have the ability to directly shape the way we interpret our Constitution.
  8. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper and Rumor Naysayer

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    I like the idea of a 10 year ban on being a lobbyist after serving in Congress. I think Congressional term limits should only be implemented if we're talking something long-term, say a total of 10-20 years. As has been stated, it seems like it takes a good long while to figure out all the arcane ways our legislative system actually works.

    I love the idea of nonpartisan Congressional districting. But I say take it a step further: abolish political parties altogether.
    -Jedi Joe- likes this.
  9. Souderwan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I take issue with the very premise of this thread. The proposition is that the US government* is not working. How do you figure? What metric are you using? Are vital services not being met? Are large-scale specific roles of the government as required by the Constitution not being filled? Even in the midst of the "disastrous" government shutdown, the vast majority of federal services continued to function normally.

    No, the question isn't how to fix the US government, which would be a nonpartisan question, based on the assumption that there is widespread agreement on precisely what is wrong with the US government. The question you're really asking is "How do I fix it so that my party's agenda can move forward in the face of fierce minority opposition"? Or more precisely, "How can we further minimize the effect of the Tea Party Republicans"?

    Many of you seem to lose sight of the fact that, like it or not, those individuals represent a fairly significant percentage of the American people. You may not agree with them and you might even find them repugnant, but they have every bit as much right to have their voices represented in our system of government as you and I do.

    On the subject of the filibuster, I agree that it is abused. But on the other hand, the Senate Majority abuses its power by not bringing the numerous House bills it doesn't approve of to the floor for debate and vote (to be fair, the House does the same thing). Removing one without curtailing the other is, as others have pointed out, rather dangerous in the long run.

    The ideas I'd love to see happen (congressional term limits, ban on post-Congressional lobbying, non-partisan redistricting) are also unworkable and impractical pipe dreams that most likely would require some kind of constitutional amendment.

    Edit: And now back to tongue-biting.
    Last edited by Souderwan, Mar 30, 2014
  10. Rogue_Follower Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2003
    star 6
    Something needs to be done about the "revolving door" and instituting a ban on Congresscritters becoming lobbyists must be a component of that reform. However, that is extremely hard to do. It requires that you define "lobbyist", and there lies the rub. Congress already has rules relating to lobbying and many rely upon the concept of a "registered lobbyist". People can skirt those rules by joining a company as an "advisor", not registering as a lobbyist, and not doing any "official" lobbying. EDIT: Read more about this problem here.

    Also, this problem is not limited to legislators themselves. It involves congressional aides, congressional spouses, military leaders, business leaders, almost everyone in Washington who has an iota of power or was at one time connected to those with power. All of those people must be covered by lobbying reform, or the reform will be toothless.

    I also think that nonpartisan Congressional redistricting is key. It needs to be done by computers, or, minimally, a neutral group with no political influence. This reform needs to happen at a state level, as the Constitution allows states determine their own districting schemes. That makes it unlikely to pass a state legislature, because a neutral redistricting often reduces the power of a majority party. State Constitutional amendments are likely the best avenue of attack.

    I don't think abolishing political parties will work, though, as I see parties as a natural emergent construct of the democratic political process. There will always be factions. And it would be difficult to limit them without running into Constitutional freedom-of-association/freedom-of-speech issues.

    If I sound pessimistic in this thread, that's partially because I am. :p But I also think it's important to recognize the complexity and difficulty of these issues. If they were easy, they'd already be solved.
    Last edited by Rogue_Follower, Mar 30, 2014
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  11. Bazinga'd Dark Lord of the SWC/PT/ Spinoff Forums

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2012
    star 5

    Under current ethic rules and, I think a 10-year ban is excessive. People have to be allowed to make a living. Limitations on what they can lobby on is a more effective limit. For instance, a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee can not lobby on behalf of a defense contractor for 18 months.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  12. Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2004
    star 6
    In theory, that's not a bad idea, but it would require changing some fairly fundamental elements of American culture, as it would probably require the adoption of a different form of democracy.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  13. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    TIL former congresspeople can only make a living by lobbying.
  14. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    The answer is exactly what @Rogue_Follower said. So instead of repeating him, I'll use an example.

    Most people agree that dictatorship is not a good thing. Why is that? Well, among many, many reasons, one of them is that if you don't like the person in office, or don't like his agenda, you're stuck with him. That's just the way dictatorship works.

    Democracy is different. Take Egypt, which went from a secular military dictatorship to a democracy which allowed for a plurality of views. The result of this revolution, largely started by secular liberals, was an election that resulted in a religiously-inclined party taking power. That was the result of the democratic vote. So what happened? The liberals protested because they didn't like the result of the election, and the military used it as an excuse to overturn the result of the democratic election.

    That's what happens when you let your personal agenda override the stability of the system. In a healthy democracy, what would happen is that the secular liberals would try to make a better case for why their guy should be elected next time around. But that's not what happened. What happens if there's a counter-coup, now?

    You sound like a guy who would want the system dramatically restructured to favor only your cause. Well, that's problematic in its own right but instead of talking about open-mindedness, we'll just assume for the sake of argument that whatever your personal agenda is ends up being the best thing for the country. What happens when the system you set up to guarentee whoever is in government gets what they want ends up putting the other side in power? Suddenly you're not gonna be so hot on the idea of the government being able to do whatever it wants.

    I mean, good grief, people who are Obama fans -- remember the Bush years, when the shoe was on the other foot? People who hate Obama, remember the Bush years, when you controlled Congress and the WH? You want a system that works even when your guys aren't in charge.
  15. Souderwan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    It's almost like Kant had a point or something.
  16. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9

    But he was a real pissant.
  17. Souderwan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Most philosophers are. Almost seems to be a prerequisite of the profession*.

    Edit: *Perhaps I should say "vocation"?
    Last edited by Souderwan, Mar 30, 2014
  18. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    But you're supposed to say "... who was very rarely stable."
    Souderwan likes this.
  19. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I said eliminate the debt ceiling, but I'm not sure what good that will do.
  20. DarthWilliams Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2008
    star 4

    Parties would naturally form as members of Congress look to form voting blocs to pass legislation, etc., etc. You can abolish parties, but you can't abolish ideologies, which is what groups these people together to begin with. Just because the guy drawing the district maps isn't a "Republican" doesn't mean he's not conservative and would therefore draw the maps in a way to benefit others who hold the same views.

    I don't think our political parties are necessarily operating effectively or that they're serving the best interests of citizens, but abolishing them wouldn't fix those problems.
  21. Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2004
    star 6

    My conception of "eliminating" the debt ceiling would be to pass an amendment stating that the US Government can not run a deficit.
  22. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    But is that even possible to accomplish?
  23. DarthWilliams Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2008
    star 4

    No. Unexpected things happen that require temporary spending increases (natural disasters, war), and if you're going to cut some sort of other spending on services every time that happens so it all evens out 100% of the time, the economy would crumble.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  24. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    So really, there's absolutely no solution in the foreseeable future?
  25. Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2004
    star 6

    Probably not right away, no, but over the long term, say 10 to 15 years, maybe? It may be possible that there's a better way to do it, but everyone keeps complaining about run away spending and how the government needs more fiscal discipline, so if its that important, what about enshrining that discipline the Constitution.