Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Third House of the Legislature

In light of our worsening budgetary problems, I'd just like to explore a fanciful idea about adding a third House to our federal Legislature with the following considerations in mind:

  1.    The menu is determined by those who are paying the bill. Democracy shouldn't be two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. People that take more from the government than they provide shouldn't be able to simply vote themselves money at their neighbor's expense.
  2.    Americans should have more direct say on how such a considerable slice of their income gets spent. Of necessity, they can't control all of it, but they can at least override the influence of their legislators to some degree. If a citizen does not want his money spent on defense, he/she can earmark up to 50% of his/her income for something else. If she wants 30% to go to Social Security and 20% to pay the debt, she can do this.
  3.    Each district would get financial representation that would be answerable, not on policy of who gets which entitlements (that's for the Senators and Representatives to work out with lobbyists and special interest groups), but to be judged solely on certain financial matters. The Senate and the HoR can still spend the money on wasteful enterprises, but they won't be able to arbitrarily run us into debt to do so. Meanwhile our financial representatives would have no say over culture war issues. They will mainly act as our budget balancers and investigate how our money is being spent. They determine how much the other Houses get to waste.
  4.    Not just anyone should be allowed to act as our accountants. Most legislators have legal training (lot of good it does them) and not much business sense beyond how to exploit the political process to make money. This is really, really, really bad for the rest of us.

With these considerations in mind, I introduce the Third House of our new Tricameral Legislature by Amendment 28 to the Constitution!

The House of Finance: 

  • Originates all budgets, determines tax rates, and determines partitions for budgets (explained below). 
  • Passes regulations binding on Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department with concurrence of the Senate.
  • Passes any necessary legislation for insuring that democratic contributions go where the taxpayers designated, and can demand reviews of any IRS/FED activity by the FBI or by any regulatory agency they set up. May conduct inquiries into all financial affairs of the federal government.
  • Determine whether other Congressmen get pay increase, but they can only authorize such a pay raise if balanced budgets have been approved in both the previous two years. (You want a pay raise, Sen. Farquaad? So would I.)
  • The HoR (House of Representatives) may still provide a budget to the Senate if the House of Finance fails to provide one in a timely fashion.
  • Does not meet in Washington D.C. (say, Philadelphia instead). It will not convene on federal grounds. Its Congressional meetings will be as transparent as any other Congressional session.
  • Same number of representatives per state as in House of Representatives. 
  • All candidates must have 15 years experience as owners or majority shareholders of a business/corporation, which was their primary source of income during those years. This does not include CEOs and delegated authorities that get paid a salary to run a business into the ground just to find a similar job at another place--this is for people who know what it takes to build (and lose) something.
  • Budgeteers determined by run-off voting in same districts as the Representatives.
  • Budgeteers are elected only by state citizens (with proof of U.S. citizenship) that fall into one or more categories:
(a) whose net payment (in previous year) to the federal government 
exceeded either $5,000 or 10% of their gross income.
 (b) who have served in the U.S. military without dishonorable discharge.
 (c) who are over 49 years of age.
  • Seats are up for election every two years.

Partitioned budget:

Government expenses are divided between a small number of well-defined partitions/accounts: e.g. defense, debt payment, social security, disaster/emergency, medical, and discretionary. The House may move any amount from Discretionary to the other accounts. All entitlements/infrastructure/reinvestment is paid out of Discretionary, as well as all tax refunds.


Democratic contribution:

For up to 50% of his/her income tax payment, every taxpayer can designate what percentage his payment will go into each of these categories. He/she can decide that all of the 50% can go toward paying the national debt, or decide that 30% goes to social security and 20% to defense. 50% of income tax revenue will automatically go to Discretionary (after paying the interest on the Debt) where the House will determine what accounts this 50% will fund. 
             If a partition's account exceeds its $500B ceiling from so many people paying into it, the overflow will go first to paying the National Debt, and if all debts are paid, go to Discretionary account. If the ceilings on all accounts are exceeded, the overflow will be apportioned by the House into tax-free rebates to tax-payers.  

State responsibilities:

  • Salaries for Budgeteers are determined and paid by each Budgeteer's home state. The Budgeteers have federal authority but are not on the federal teat. They are not federal employees and do not benefit directly from federal spending.
  • Each state must provide and pay for the means by which each Budgeteer gives a quarterly accounting for their votes and efforts in the House citing publicly available House minutes. A Budgeteer that fails to submit a complete timely report to his/her constituents will be ineligible for candidacy at the next election.
  • Each state determines the campaign finance rules, but must provide and pay for a public means (e.g. a website) for each party to present information on their candidates.
There are likely problems with this scenario, but keep in mind that many that would object to having another bunch of kooks representing us, are apparently fine with an extra-governmental banking system collecting all this revenue from us and altering the value of our money. Not to mention those who are ok with a superlegislature board that determines Affordable Care policy. A dedicated democratic legislature for appropriating our funds does not seem like such a stretch to me.
Now, some may note that while 16th Amendment allows for the Government to collect an income tax, it doesn't require the Government to do so. So what would happen if the Legislature decided to obtain the revenue through mostly other means? This is solved by having an alternative method for a state to determine who votes for their Budgeteers:  If an insufficient percentage of the populace meet the conditions above then condition (a) may be applied to state income tax.  For those states that have no state income tax, suffrage would revert to confirmed citizens that are not directly assisted by either the federal or state governments.  

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