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To Form a More Perfect Union

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Fagin, Richard E. Dela Menardiere and Robert E. Doyle, Jr.
July 29, 2022

The Preamble of our Constitution, written in the summer of 1787 by Governeur Morris, New York, states: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” This implies that the progress of America is never complete and we must always be vigilant. In this context, we fear that inexorably men become less and less attached to private rights just when it is most necessary to retain and defend what little remains of them.

The Rule of Law is paramount in our system. It is the people’s belief in this concept that allows so much to be done on their behalf. This is the overarching precept that supports the faith required to allow 330 million Americans to believe in self-government.

American demographics are changing. The census projects that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population. The United States has the largest immigrant population at 14.4 percent. Disparities exist in wealth distribution. The bottom 50 percent of households has 1.6 percent of the net worth, versus 70 percent for the top 10 percent.

Inequalities exist between races (wealth, income, health, education, justice, et al.) At 12.4 percent of the total population, Black American wealth is one-tenth of a White American. One in seven children is living in poverty. Society has evolved to a level of inequality that challenges the core values. We can, and must, do better. 

We offer these observations as to how to “Form a more perfect Union.”

Fix the Electoral College (EC)

The EC was a grand compromise in the Constitutional Convention to account for the imbalance in population between the colonies of the North and South, with each slave counting as three-fifths of a person. This rationale no longer exists and undermines the core values of equality. The Constitution leaves the decision of how to select electors and distribute their votes completely up to states. If enough states chose to cast their electoral votes for the popular winner, U.S. voters would no longer see a mismatch between who wins the national popular vote and who wins the presidency. The Electoral College would always agree with the people: a national-winner-wins system rather than a state-by-state winner-take-all one. An alternative is a constitutional amendment eliminating the EC.

Campaign Contributions

The ability to retain a campaign war chest that grows with each successful election significantly interferes with the concept of a free, fair and open process. All funds left after the campaign expenses are paid should be liquidated to a charity or returned to the donors to eliminate an unfair advantage to incumbents, who already enjoy the benefits incumbency provides. 

Curtail Emergency Declarations

Recently, the threat to deploy the nation’s military to quell the exercise of the people’s right to petition and assemble to redress grievances goes beyond the proper use of the military and proper application of authority by the President.

Support for the Subpoena Powers of Congress

Congress must be able to gather information and issue subpoenas to that end, when appropriate, to assure meaningful input to carry out their duties. This necessitates strengthening the subpoena power and enforcement. 

Powers Vested in the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate

Such powers should not be construed or treated as to permit unilateral action to subvert the proper functioning of government. In recent years, the Majority Leader of the Senate has refused to move bills with which he disagreed for action by the Senate. The rules of each of the Houses of Congress should be changed to restrict the exercise of such power.

Senate Filibuster

The filibuster is an act of the minority to forestall actions by the majority. As such, on its very face, the filibuster violates a core principle of our government: rule by the majority without tyrannizing the minority. Indeed, the filibuster is just the opposite: tyranny of the majority by the minority. The Senate must end the particular filibuster by 60 votes of the membership, or by changing their rules. 

Advice and Consent of the Senate on Supreme Court Nominees

Particular note should be paid to this manner. Nominees have refused to answer “hypothetical” questions that would reveal their reasoning on important topics that are likely to come before the Court. This subverts the process entirely.

Tighten Operation of the Federal Budget Process

The Budget of the United States provides the legal and fiscal authorization to expend money to do the work of the people. Recent years have seen this process known as the Continuing Resolution (CR) process. In so doing, Congress abdicates its duties under the Constitution. Omnibus CRs constitute a statement of failure to function for the nation and must be severely limited rather than accepted as the routine outcome it is today. Congress should prepare legislation to end the Omnibus CR.

Control of the National Debt

The current national debt has increased to more than $31 trillion. This makes the U.S. debt 130 percent of gross domestic product. Congress must control spending.

Reprogramming of Congressionally Authorized Spending

Normally, to change the allocations of funds by Congress, a set of rules should assure that Congressional intent is not unilaterally cast aside by the President. What is needed are adequate controls to assure Congress isn’t muscled out of the way as the immediate becomes the successful enemy of the important.

Designate the Attorney General as the People’s Attorney

Enact legislation that makes clear that the Attorney General is the people’s attorney and not in any way the personal attorney of the President.

Citizen’s United v. FEC (2010)

This Supreme Court decision ruled that since corporations are associations of citizens they should be treated as people for election law purposes. This skews the voice of the people by self-interested players with vastly more money than individual citizens. Legislation should be passed to overturn this Supreme Court decision.

Reinstate Constitutional Language in Section 4B of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Stop Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court threw out the provisions for prior approval by the federal government of changes in election laws in specified states. As a result, at last count 43 states created more than 250 pieces of legislation that curtail access to voting in some form or another. The problem: the Supreme Court ruling went to the concept of “prior restraint” and only against past transgressors. A law to fix those objections is necessary and must have broad application(s) including anti-gerrymandering and make it illegal for states to pass such laws.

Make Health Care a Right of All Americans

We need to shore up the basis for the Affordable Care Act, fix the problems time has revealed (coverage for pre-existing conditions, etc.) and make provision for those who need it and still can’t afford it.

Fix Our Nation’s Immigration Laws

Much of our greatness as a nation and the wealth we have acquired is due to immigrants who took advantage of the freedoms America offered. We all benefit today from the knowledge and products derived from their labor and creativity.

We believe these suggestions will bring meaningful changes “To form a more perfect Union.”

Author: Robert F. Fagin (retired), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia; Masters in Public Administration (MPA), American University; U.S. Government Senior Executive Service (SES), administrative management; Vice President, Finance and Administration, University of North Florida (UNF); Treasurer, UNF Foundation; Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer for Palm Beach County, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

Author: Richard E. Dela Menardiere (retired), Bachelor of Science (BS) Industrial Engineering, University of South Florida; Master of Science (MS) in Management Systems, American University; Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Systems Acquisition; U.S. Government Senior Executive Service (SES), manager of procurement, grants and facilities. He can be reached at [email protected].

Author: Robert E. Doyle, Jr., (retired) Bachelor of Arts (BA) Political Science, College of the Holy Cross; Masters in Public Administration, (MPA), Southern Methodist University; U.S. Government Senior Executive Service (SES), manager, chief operating officer, director of finance and management and senior advisor of major federal agencies. He can be reached at [email protected]

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