Balkinization  

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's the Constitution, stupid

Sandy Levinson

I am suitably ambivalent about the compromise negotiated by President Obama, furious, like most Democrats, at the indefensible giveaway to the rich (including, if truth be known, most law professors like myself), but admiring of the way that he in fact has constructed a mini-stimulus program that is vitally needed, even if inadequate. What truly disturbs me, though, crank that I have become, is that Democrats are so determined to believe that the present situation is caused by the personal failings of the President, that it has nothing to do with our truly dysfunctional Constitution that threatens, almost daily, to send us over a cliff.

The Tea Party people are smarter: Wanting a stronger role for the states, they recognize, altogether accurately, that repealing the 17th Amendment would be functional to that aim. You also have Randy Barnett touting a "Repeal Amendment." Both of these views, which I believe to be mistaken on the merits, have the merit of recognizing that structures matter, and it would be good to have a substantive debate about these proposals rather than to engage in snarky dismissal of the Tea Party for even daring to suggest constitutional amendments. Democrats have yet to come to the realization that basic constitutional reform is necessary. My objection to "Constitution in 2020" project, coedited, of couse, by my good friends Jack Balkin and Reva Siegel, is that it totally fails to address needed changes in the Constitution itself, as against achieving better and more "progressive" interpretations of the existing Constitution.

I strongly recommend this dialogue between Gail Collins and David Brookis in yesterday's NYTimes. Even if one disagrees with her ultimte conclusion that we would be better off with a parliamentary system (though I am increasingly coming to agree with that), she is at least asking the right questions, unlike almost all of her fellow pundits who seem to believe that we can discuss contemporary American politics without paying any attention at all to the basic institutional structures tha were inflicted on us in 1787 and left remarkably unchanged (save for the 17th and 20th Amendments) since then.

Comments:

Sandy's:

"Even if one disagrees with her ultimte conclusion that we would be better off with a parliamentary system (though I am increasingly coming to agree with that), ...."

means we can expect from our former Backpacker an "I told you so!"
 

His critics do have a point in arguing that even w/i the system SL finds so distressing, the President could have acted in a better way.

The repeal of the 17A would give greater power to state legislatures. I'm not sure how much this would even ultimately empower states more since again most people want direct election so most states would just do so in a different route ala the Potemkin Village Electoral College. This beyond that I don't know how much it would affect policy much in the end.

The Repeal Amendment is a bad idea that practicably won't do much to actually help the problem. People have pointed out this in substantive ways. Since some liberals want to allow those not born here able to be President, want to do away with the Electoral College etc., it is not simply a conservative opposition to any change. Similarly, snark at amending the Constitution to hurt gays went to the merits.

I'm all for discussion but note that the more democratic (small 'd') house just went Republican. I realize this was in part based on lack of change explained by structure, but it does point out that structural change is not the only problem. Structure didn't lead 52% of California to vote to harm gays.

Other issues can be noted.
 

Joe is obviously right that one must also attend to political culture, the organization of mass movements, the role of money, etc., but my crankiness comes from the systematic denial by many that basic structures are someting we must attend to.
 

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"A government of laws and not of men" is a worthy goal. The problem is that it is men (and women now) who do the governing. If there were such a thing as a perfect constitution, men and women would continue to govern as such a constitution would not be self-implemented and enforced. Of course, our Constitution is not perfect. Over the years the quoted phrase has worked well from time to time and badly too often. Efforts to perfect our Constitution would have to battle the polarization that divides us. Is there a constitutional Solomon out there? I would prefer a "Restatement of the Law"-like procedure but "We the People" would - and should - complain about too many lawyers being involved. I wish being cranky could bring about better results; perhaps if there were more cranks a movement could get underway. (I confess I am a somewhat silent crank.) But I'm optimistic as we have survived much over my lifetime of 80 years so far. As I told my even more-liberal-than-I classmate when Nixon was elected in 1968, "He won't ruin the country," and he didn't (although he came close). But then again, we had 8 years of Bush/Cheney and the jury is still out. Now I'm getting cranky.
 

Let me say that today's DADT vote doesn't exactly hurt the professor's case.
 

"furious, like most Democrats, at the indefensible giveaway to the rich"

Where for "giveaway", read, "not take more away"; I love this business where the government is said to be "giving" something to somebody if it doesn't take as much from them as some liberal thinks it ought to.

Make no mistake, there ARE "giveaways" to the rich, such as agricultural subsidies. But when five percent of the population are paying for half or more of the government, we're a LONG way from "giving" anything to the rich by not raising their taxes.

Please, Sandy, words have meaning. Letting somebody KEEP more of what's already theirs is not 'giving' them anything.
 

The average law professor makes $250,000 a year? Really?
 

I am hardly a big fan of CINO David Brooks (apart from his insights concerning our credentialed elite which he calls the "educated class"), but he does have a good point concerning the benefits of checks and balances lacking in a parliamentary system without an enforceable constitution.
 

"furious, like most Democrats, at the indefensible giveaway to the rich"

Our tax system is a "giveaway to the rich?". That is rich.

The top 1% of earners earn 19% of total income, but pay 28% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 31%.

The top quintile of earners earn 56% of total income, but paid 69% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 26%.

It is a complete myth that the middle class carries the tax burden.


The second quintile of earners (upper middle class) earned 19% of total income, but paid 16% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 17%.

The third quintile of earners (middle middle class) earned 13% of total income, but paid 9% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 14%.

The fourth quintile of earners (lower middle class) earned 8% of total income, but paid 4% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 10%.

The difference between the Euro socialists and the US is that our wealthy carry nearly all the tax burden in the most progressively punitive system in the first world. Their middle and lower earners pay far more than ours.

And declining to raise taxes on the wealthy by another
11% is a "giveaway?"
 

The top 1% of earners earn 19% of total income, but pay 28% of all taxes under an effective total federal tax rate of 31%.

In 1979, the top 1% of earners earned 9.5% of total income. Their share has now doubled (and, of course, tax rates were higher in 1979 as well), but Bart nevertheless regards our system as "punitive." Yeah, clearly the top earners are just getting crushed.
 

Our former Backpacker is a man of "principal" when it comes to the 1%-ers which he wishes to join with royalties from his tome on Pres. Obama. Our yodeler is the conservative counterpart to "lottery democrats" who buy into the Republicans' "principal" of low taxes for the wealthy even though they pay little in taxes themselves as they do not want to pay taxes if they win the lottery. I should remind our"prinicipalled" pachyderm that his chances of reaching the 1%-ers are better with a lottery than with his tome on Pres. Obama.

And Brett seems to play Robin with his "principalled" views to our un-backpacked warrior. Perhaps each is relying upon the trickle-down theory for proselytizing their "principals" which amounts to "p**s on you." Yes, it's the "prinicpal" of the thing.
 

Shag, my principled position is that WORDS HAVE MEANINGS. If you're taking something from somebody, and you cancel an expected INCREASE IN THE AMOUNT YOU'RE TAKING, that can not, legitimately, be described as a "giveaway". You'd have to GIVE THEM SOMETHING to use a term like that.

What ever your opinion of the appropriate rates and distribution of taxation, we are a long way from any situation where a failure to increase taxes on wealthy Americans can, honestly, be described as a "giveaway". It's more of a "not-takeaway".

But that doesn't sound as bad, does it? Which is why people who want the tax system to be more "progressive" don't say they want to take more money from the wealthy; That's too clearly descriptive. No, they'll say they want to stop giving the wealthy so much.

The tax system isn't giving the wealthy anything, it's taking from them, And we could enormously reduce their taxes, (Let alone just not increase them, which is what's proposed here.) without getting anywhere near "giving".
 

Yes, Brett, Words Have Meaning. Without governance, how much wealth might be accrued? What would protect the wealthy from those that don't have? With respect to property, who gets more protection from governance? It is governance that permits for the accumulation of wealth. Progressive taxes helps to pay for the protection of accumulated wealth. [Incorporate Steve M's comment countering Brett.]

The word expiration has a meaning. Bush tax cuts are set to expire at year end. Obama wanted to give the middle class a tax cut but did not want to give a tax cut to the top 2% who would revert to levels of taxation pre-Bush tax cuts. But the deal now being considered gives away a tax cut to the wealthy. Thus, "giveaway" to the rich. Keep in mind that this is how people converse and it is not a constitution we are construing. As Louis Armstrong would sing:

"You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let's call the whole thing off ..."
 

I think that the Obama tax deal reflects a structural constitutional problem, but not the ones that Professor Levinson has in mind. In John Dinan’s “The American State Constitutional Tradition,” which I read based on Professor Levinson’s recommendation, the issue is discussed starting at page 68, where Dinan notes that “the leading instance of legislative failure was public indebtedness, which was brought about by state involvement in public improvements, which led in turn to increased taxation.” He further explains that state constitutional conventions “often concluded that legislatures were likely to incur debts not merely in exceptional circumstances but on a routine basis, and that the incurring of future debts could not effectively be prevented through existing institutional arrangements.”

A constitutional reform which addresses this structural problem should be welcomed, but I don’t see how moving toward a parliamentary democracy would do so. There are plenty of parliamentary democracies with debt problems even worse than ours. I guess that Gail Collins would put them in the category of “less functional” parliamentary democracies, but that seems question-begging. And I am not prepared to adopt the Chinese system, “functional” though it may be (for the moment).
 

"Without governance, how much wealth might be accrued? What would protect the wealthy from those that don't have? With respect to property, who gets more protection from governance? It is governance that permits for the accumulation of wealth. Progressive taxes helps to pay for the protection of accumulated wealth."

What's that, the "one essential element of production" theory? How much wealth might be accrued without garbage collection? Not much, I expect, we'd be hip deep in garbage and rats inside of six months. So I guess all economic production in the US is really attributable to the people driving those garbage trucks, and they're entitled to any fraction of it that seizes their fancy.

No, that's not "how we talk", That's how liberals talk, and want everybody else to talk.

Well, you can defend an increase in how much you're taking from somebody, without calling the decision not to take more a "giveaway". Or maybe you can't, and that's the point of using terms like that...
 

I wonder if Dinan was of the view that the state should not get involved in public improvements. If so, I wonder what America would look like without such public improvements. [I assume state = nation.]
 

Brett's:

"No, that's not 'how we talk,' That's how liberals talk, and want everybody else to talk."

suggests he prefers "potato, tomato." But that's agriculture, which reveals Brett's continued suffering from Wickburn and the Commerce Clause. "Giveaway" doesn't invoke the gravity of originalism. Neither does "not-takeaway;" is that how conservatives talk - like their references to "death panels"?
 

Shag:

Without governance, how much wealth might be accrued? What would protect the wealthy from those that don't have?

This pretty much summarizes the gangster mentality of progressivism/socialism. Sell protection much?

The governance which protects against theft should be enjoyed by all equally, thus cannot be a basis for compelling 20% of the population to bear 69% of the tax burden.

This reminds me of the spring of 2009, when SEIU and ACORN were busy making death threats against bank executives and their families, Obama told a group of banks " I am the only thing between you and the pitchforks" and then told the banks to submit to his illegal pay czar,s decrees.
 

mls' single quote from a long work that respected a different time (e.g., one where defense wasn't such a major cost) and a reference to the "Chinese" is of little usefulness to me even though the cited book is on my reading list. But, to the degree a parliamentary system would cut gridlock and open the way to major changes, yes, it could do something like that, if the will was there.

Brett might not "like the way you talk" ["we call it a sling blade"] but SL underlines this is not about how "liberals" talk or whatever, but about the structure that all sides are in. But, under our system, we do have a lot of "talk" though I don't see much of it during these filibusters actually.
 

The biggest flaw in Brett's argument is that the US has a debt. In order to pay off the debt, we need to have tax revenue. To give a tax cut to the wealthy is, therefore, to put the burden of the debt on the rest of us. It's perfectly proper, therefore, to describe the tax cut as a "giveaway" to the rich -- they are disproportionate beneficiaries of debt relief.
 

Joe- there is no reason why my quote from Dinan would convince you that the federal government has a debt problem, if you don’t believe that already. However, if you do believe it, the quote would suggest that this is not a novel issue, and that one might look to the experience of the states for constitutional remedies designed to address it.

I would like to understand exactly what the argument is for the proposition that a more parliamentary-type system would make it easier to solve our problems. As I have said before, I can see that single-party rule makes it easier to effect change at any given point in time. But, of course, a dictatorship can make changes even more easily, and you don’t have to worry that the next election will result in those changes being undone. Is that evidence that a dictatorship would be better able to address our problems?
 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the problem, fundamentally, are the representatives and the parties, not the structure. However, the Constitution was constructed to overcome problems with human nature, and Madison thought the structure of the Constitution could control the accumulation of power and the keep the system working. Most famously, he thought the separate branches' institutional ambitions would give an incentive to make them check one another. This has failed as we have reached a two-party duopoly on political power.

So I think a parlimentary system could actually alleviate, to some degree, the problems the country faces, because the incentives would change. Right now, as shown from last year, the Republicans have no reason to assist in crafting public policy. Not only are they opposed to most things, they don't want the dems or the President to get any credit for it. Although they live in some dimension divorced from reality, the strategy, on purely political power terms, is perfectly logical. But in a system with more parties, alliances on issues would be more fluid, and more problems could be solved, since the stakes would not result in such a simple cost/benefit analysis.

Current US politicians, for the most part, are purely political animals. the "public good" and "public service" take a back seat to internal party politics (much more so in the republican monolith). If we can't count on the representatives themselves to do the job in the manner they should, then let's at least change the political calculus in such a way that the political incentives align better with societal goals.

I wouldn't call the extensions of the tax cuts for the wealthy a "giveaway." A "giveaway" implies a free, or trivial cost to the grantor. Letting the tax cuts continue will do significant harm to the country, with zero benefit. I'd call it one more nail in the coffin of the American Republic, or at least, another mile marker in the country's continuing journey to concentrate wealth in as few hands as possible.
 

mls ... I didn't say there was no debt problem. I said the nature of the issue, including how defense is part of it, is different today in various ways. Again, if you are going to take my few sentences to warrant that response, I think I shall read the book before getting a sense of its overall message.

As to the parliamentary system, what is this business about dictatorships? A bike and a car gets you places at different speeds. The fact that an airplane goes faster doesn't mean it is great for the roads.

A dictatorship over history has been shown to be less helpful in the long run. A parliamentary system, which is not even "single party rule" is different than that. It very well can lead to quicker change but still at a moderated rate as shown in various Western nations that are not unfree or run by dictators.
 

Taking n's point a bit, perhaps a parliamentary system with many parties is more in the nature of the ideal system of Madison, F. 10 style, than two set parties.

I continue to think the Democrats, flawed obviously, still have some semblance to Madison ideal, while the Republicans are more lockstep sorts that Madison et. al. would have been horrified to consider. How the Dems split during the Bush years, a subset often supporting the administration, underlines this, even if I didn't like their policy choices.

The fact that so-called "originalists" are often more sympathetic to the Republicans is not surprising given my views as to originalism but still is a tad ironic on that level.
 

"The biggest flaw in Brett's argument is that the US has a debt. In order to pay off the debt, we need to have tax revenue."

You've completely failed to understand my point. I'm not, in the present instance, arguing about the proper level of revenue, or from whom it should be derived. I'm simply making a point concerning language. Not taking more from somebody is not properly describe as giving them somthing, regardless of whether or not you SHOULD be taking more from them.

How can we productively discuss anything, if we don't use accurate language?
 

"I'm simply making a point concerning language. Not taking more from somebody is not properly describe as giving them somthing, regardless of whether or not you SHOULD be taking more from them."

On the flip side, the government is providing roads, defense, rule of law, social services, a banking system, law enforcement, etc., etc. So, in the sense that no one is saying (to the wealthy), "here keep the tax cuts, and we'll reduce the services provided to you," one could accurately say we are "giving" the tax cuts away, since there is no quid pro quo in return. Everybody in society is getting something from the government - when it taxes someone for those benefits, it isn't "taking", people are "paying" for benefits received. debate who should pay what, and what should be provided, but let's not pretend those people would have what they do without the government providing the framework to allow it.
 

In addition to what nerpzillicus said, you missed the point: when someone owes money, their income isn't "theirs" any more. It belongs to their creditors. Failing to pay creditors is identical to giving someone money.
 

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The level of pretzel logic on this subject is amazing.

1) Maintaining the 2010 income tax rates for everyone is not a tax cut. Congress deferred a tax increase. The Obama plan was for an 11% increase in the top rate over 2010 levels.

2) All government benefits which are not redistributions of wealth are shared equally. On the other hand, the top quintile of earners pay far, far, far more than their equal share for government benefits. Even if you assume for the sake of argument that folks receive government benefits in proportion to the money they earn (a threadbare argument), then the wealthy still pay far more than their share of benefits.

3) This being the case, you would have to reduce the effective top tax rate for the top quintile below that paid by another quintile to even have a threadbare argument that the tax code is in any way an " indefensible giveaway to the rich."

Why can't progressives be honest about their intent here? You clearly believe that the wealthy earn too much money and you want to abuse the tax system to take money from the wealthy Pauls and give it to the various Peters you prefer through lower rates, a plethora of tax deductions and credits, and income based welfare payments.

Only then can we have an honest conversation about whether this type of government force enforced theft from an electoral minority can in any way be legally or morally justified.
 

Mr. DePalma,

The level of pretzel logic on this subject is amazing.

And it's extra twisty with you here!

1) Maintaining the 2010 income tax rates for everyone is not a tax cut. Congress deferred a tax increase. The Obama plan was for an 11% increase in the top rate over 2010 levels.

No. The Republican Party, when it created the initial tax cuts, set them to only last ten years. So, the tax cuts were meant to revert back to their prior levels. (Unless, you are saying the Republicans were being disingenous when they argued budget numbers based on the cuts only lasting ten years. Nah, that can't be it!) Congress will delay the return of the tax cuts to the levels the initial drafters intended them to be, after the ten years.

2) All government benefits which are not redistributions of wealth are shared equally. On the other hand, the top quintile of earners pay far, far, far more than their equal share for government benefits. Even if you assume for the sake of argument that folks receive government benefits in proportion to the money they earn (a threadbare argument), then the wealthy still pay far more than their share of benefits.

Gonna be definining “redistributions of wealth pretty broadly, eh? So, for the 50% of people who are not investors, the SEC must be a redistribution of their wealth to the investing class. For the very high percentage of people who are not involved in litigation, the court system must be a redistribution in favor of the litigious class. Freeways are a redistribution to the driving class. Rural power is a redistribution to the rural class. Food safety is a redistribution to the eating class (ooo – that one is apparently okay!). Police security is a redistribution to the property owning class, etc.

More importantly, once one gets out of the ridiculous Galt theory of the world, one can see the rich profit handsomely from stability and security for everyone else. Wealthy people should be more than happy to pay more in taxes if it results in a middle class with the income to consume products generated by the owners of production. If you don't have any consumers with any money, it's hard to be a capitalist.

3) This being the case, you would have to reduce the effective top tax rate for the top quintile below that paid by another quintile to even have a threadbare argument that the tax code is in any way an " indefensible giveaway to the rich."

Since its not the case, this argument doesn't follow (even if it would have, which is doubtful). The point is society will not benefit, and really, the rich would be richer without the tax cuts. The tax cuts are bad policy, with no discernible benefit.


Why can't progressives be honest about their intent here? You clearly believe that the wealthy earn too much money and you want to abuse the tax system to take money from the wealthy Pauls and give it to the various Peters you prefer through lower rates, a plethora of tax deductions and credits, and income based welfare payments.


At some point in your life, you are gonna have to realize progressives don't want tax the rich for the sake of taxing the rich. We actually think the system will run better. Your laughable assignments of “we hate the rich” (when I'd bet most posting here are in the upper two quintiles of earners – and some within the magical upper 2%) is nothing more than a way to avoid the merits. Otherwise, we must be self-loathing.


Only then can we have an honest conversation about whether this type of government force enforced theft from an electoral minority can in any way be legally or morally justified.

No one can have an honest discussion about this hopelessly biased and uniformed discussion point.
 

Does our former Backpacker state this as fact:

"This reminds me of the spring of 2009, when SEIU and ACORN were busy making death threats against bank executives and their families, ...."?

Death threats? Please don't choke on a soft pretzel and provide the evidence.
 

nerpzillicus said...

BD: 1) Maintaining the 2010 income tax rates for everyone is not a tax cut. Congress deferred a tax increase. The Obama plan was for an 11% increase in the top rate over 2010 levels.

No. The Republican Party, when it created the initial tax cuts, set them to only last ten years.


The tax rate reforms were not designed that way. The bill had to be amended to use the Byrd Rule to escape a Dem filibuster.

Unless, you are saying the Republicans were being disingenous when they argued budget numbers based on the cuts only lasting ten years.

If they assumed that the tax rate reforms would disappear in ten years in any argument, I do not recall it. Rather, they have been arguing to make them permanent for years now.

BD: 2) All government benefits which are not redistributions of wealth are shared equally. On the other hand, the top quintile of earners pay far, far, far more than their equal share for government benefits. Even if you assume for the sake of argument that folks receive government benefits in proportion to the money they earn (a threadbare argument), then the wealthy still pay far more than their share of benefits.

Gonna be definining “redistributions of wealth pretty broadly, eh? So, for the 50% of people who are not investors, the SEC must be a redistribution of their wealth to the investing class...


I did not define "redistributions," but rather distinguished them from public goods that anyone can enjoy. Enforcement of the law is not a redistribution of wealth, a program like EITC is.

More importantly, once one gets out of the ridiculous Galt theory of the world, one can see the rich profit handsomely from stability and security for everyone else. Wealthy people should be more than happy to pay more in taxes if it results in a middle class with the income to consume products generated by the owners of production.

People create wealth, governments at best move it around and at worst destroy it. Government no more creates a middle class to buy products than it creates investment capital to produce products.

BD: 3) This being the case, you would have to reduce the effective top tax rate for the top quintile below that paid by another quintile to even have a threadbare argument that the tax code is in any way an " indefensible giveaway to the rich."

[R]eally, the rich would be richer without the tax cuts.


The rich would be richer if we enacted the Obama plan and their income tax rates went ip by 11%? O-tay Buckwheat, how do you figure? Maybe, if you confiscate enough of someone's wealth he or she will simply hide it from the tax man and keep it all?

The pretzel continues to twist.
 

Shag:

On March 16th, President Obama condemned the “recklessness and greed” of AIG and then demanded broad government control over the entire financial sector, and commented: "The People are right to be angry. I’m angry."

AIG phone lines and email accounts were inundated with a “tidal wave” of angry calls and death threats on the same day President Obama delivered his remarks. The emails AIG turned over to the Connecticut Attorney General for criminal investigation included such threats as:

“Get the bonus, we will get your children.”

“We will hunt you down…We will hunt your children…”

“The Revolution is coming. The family members of your executives are not safe. Your blood will run in the streets in the coming months.”

Andrew Pergman, “Threats to AIG: ‘We Will Get Your Children,’” NBCConnecticut.com (March 26, 2009). http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local-beat/AIG-Threats-We-will-get-your-children.html

One day after the Obama remarks and barrage of death threats to AIG, protestors began demonstrating in front of not only AIG offices but also the homes of AIG employees and the offices of the nation’s largest banks. Rather than spontaneous assemblies of common citizens as was spun in some press accounts, these demonstrations were made up of the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, ACORN, the Communist Working Families Party, the Interfaith Alliance and other assorted leftist community organizing groups. The demonstrators carried print shopped signs reading -“Capitalism is Organized Crime!” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless.” – and hollered at the families of AIG employees trapped in their homes through megaphones for invited members of the press.

“http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52I7ZP20090319,” Reuters (March 19, 2009).

John Christoffersen, “Activists Protest Bonuses At AIG Executives’ Homes,” The Huffington Post (March 21, 2009). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/21/activists-protest-bonuses_n_177669.html

Michael P. Mayko, “Activists vent at AIG executives,” The Connecticut Post (March 24, 2009). http://www.connpost.com/ci_11968393

The purpose of these death threats and demonstrations aimed at employees and their families was not protest of AIG, but rather crude intimidation of the entire financial sector. It worked. One executive commented to the Washington Post: “It’s a mob effect. It’s putting people’s lives in danger.” Another senior financial products manager worried: “It’s going to blow up. I have a horrible, horrible, horrible feeling that this is going to end badly.” AIG was forced to hire private security guards to protect their employees’ homes and the local police patrolled the neighborhood two to three times a day.

“Rage at AIG Swells As Bonuses Go Out,” supra.

“AIG outrage has employees living in fear,” The Associated Press (March 20, 2009). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29802167/
 

After two weeks of thuggish threats, President Obama summoned the CEOs of the fifteen banks that received TARP money for a meeting at the White House on March 28th. Opening the meeting, Obama instructed the CEOs in no uncertain terms that their banks would submit to his rules for employee compensation, home mortgage restructuring and bank operations or those rules would be imposed by regulation. The reaction of the bankers was to offer to pay back the TARP money the Bush Administration compelled them to accept in order to escape management of their banks by the Obama Administration. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, illustrated the offer by giving Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner a fake refund check for the $25 billion in TARP money given to his bank.

Obama would have none of it and bluntly threatened the assembled bankers: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks” of the demonstrators harassing AIG and the banks. The President further informed the CEOs that their banks were too weak to be allowed to return the TARP loans. “This is like a patient who’s on antibiotics,” explained Obama. “Maybe the patient feels better after a couple days, but you don’t stop taking the medicine until you’ve finished the bottle.” In other words, the banks would not be healthy in Obama’s view until they had completely swallowed the President’s proposed medicine.

Eamon Javers, “Inside Obama’s bank CEOs meeting,” Politico.com (April 3, 2009). http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0409/20871.html
 

I do hate the rich, and if I were rich, then I would hate myself :)

I'm going to try to get us back on track. Sandy, almost all political scientists would agree that structures changes are a significant part of the problem. But would we have to have a constitutional convention to make such changes? And what if we made the wrong changes? Surely, your vision of what the U.S. Constitution should be isn't Randy Barnett's. Are thete any other options that don't involve another constitutional convention and a new constitution? Can we achieve structural reform through a few amendments?
 

The easiest and quickest way to achieve structural reform without a convention is to take power away from the Senate. Leave it with the power to confirm ambassadors, or something.
 

And what is the condition of the financial sector today and their bonuses - that may be paid early in case the high rollers' tax cuts don't go through? Is the financial sector in ruins? How unhealthy has the swallow been? Does the performance of the stock market serve as a thermometer? Now we have an expansion of the death threateners:

"Rather than spontaneous assemblies of common citizens as was spun in some press accounts, these demonstrations were made up of the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, ACORN, the Communist Working Families Party, the Interfaith Alliance and other assorted leftist community organizing groups."

Sounds like the Tea Partiers' tactics to me.

And the Republicans seem to want to provide monetary relief to those in the financial sector with tax cut extensions.

If these are death threats, they seem to be profitable to the recipients. Give me some of that medicine - and a pretzel.
 

"The easiest and quickest way to achieve structural reform without a convention is to take power away from the Senate. Leave it with the power to confirm ambassadors, or something."

Mark- now that we have a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, that sounds like a great idea. But what exactly would be the quick and easy way of achieving this result?
 

Well, quick and easy is relative, innit? It's quicker and easier to vote for Senators who agree in advance to vote for such an amendment, than it is to hold a Convention.
 

"Well, quick and easy is relative, innit? It's quicker and easier to vote for Senators who agree in advance to vote for such an amendment, than it is to hold a Convention."

It would be even quicker and easier, and probably equally effective, to just ask the current Senators to gut their own powers. Sure, the Convention would be more difficult, but at least it wouldn't be guaranteed to be futile.
 

The Senate can't gut its own powers. They're Constitutional.

My suggestion is no different than the term limits movement. But since you don't like it, here's another: increase the number of Senators to 1000 (each state has 20).
 

Sure, they can gut their own powers. They just can't do it alone. My point is simply that asking incoming Senators to sign onto such an amendment is about as likely to be successful as asking current Senators to do so; Not in their interest, and too many ways to sabotage the effort while making a show of trying to comply with their promise. (The Gingrich Republicans sure demonstrated that back in '95.)

If you want an amendment that is to the disadvantage of House or Senate members, a convention is the only realistic way to go. That it's more difficult than approaches that have no chance of working is kind of irrelevant.
 

For the longest time, senators didn't agree to the 17A, but then more and more were elected under state regimes that were de facto popular election in nature. And, these senators pressed for change.

The convention route would involve state legislatures, voted by the people, asking for a convention. Then, the people would vote for representatives to the convention.

Why these same people could not vote for senators who are inclined to support a weaker Senate is unclear. The current batch wouldn't be inclined, since they were voted for that purpose.

But, if the people were willing to go the convention route, they should be willing to vote for a senator who is willing to vote for an amendment. Just like senators once supported the 17A proposal.

At the very least, it's easier to imagine the people of many states electing such candidates than imagining a supermjajority would vote for a convention.
 

I left out a word -- I do wish there was an edit function -- but probably people know what I meant to say.
 

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