Policy discussions and governmental actions have a way of tip toeing around the edges of problems. We miss the obvious answers as we drown in timid proposals.
1) In “Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It”, Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig explains how Supreme Court rulings based upon its interpretation of First Amendment rights of free speech and enabled the richest 0.05% of the population to unduly determine the nations agenda to the detriment of the general population. His remedy: A Constitutional Convention to address campaign financing. Either Congress or the States can initiate the process. Other than a highly unlikely reversal of prior opinions by the Supreme Court, there is no other practical remedy. We will write more on this when we have read the book.
Meanwhile, this is what the U. S. Constitution says on the matter:
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
2) An Intelligence Journal editorial “Hope for student$” praises a minor effort by Obama Administration to reduce the cost of college loans to students. This is the proverbial ‘drop in the bucket.’ What needs to be done is to rethink undergraduate education in view of the Internet Age. The cost of a college student living away from home comes to almost $50,000 a year! (We know.) This could be cut from ½ to possibly 1/3 by having much of the four years spent at home taking courses by the Internet.
Sound farfetched? This is what Harvard University Business School does with courses for established business executives, whereby they spend a term on campus initially and then gather together for a couple of weeks at a time during the program and otherwise study and converse via the Internet. (And this becomes easier year by year as technology advances!) Universities could educate three times the number of students without increasing their costs! Graduates would not be burdened with heavy debt. In fact, by studying at home, they may be able to find part time work to pay for their education.
John Sperling, founder of the Phoenix Academy, has launched a virtual Internet campus although students do gather together on occasions.
Certainly there can be a variety of approaches for different institutions with the purpose of reducing costs by more than half and educating twice or more of the number of qualified students.
3) Still another example of tunnel vision is our ‘Jim Crow’ drug policy which is enriching the worst elements of our society and even undermining governments, Mexico being the closest case in point. Instead of treating illegal drugs as a Criminal Justice problem, we should see it as a Public Health concern. We should tax, regulate and control marijuana as we do the more dangerous tobacco and alcoholic beverages. Hard drugs should be treated through prescription, much as we handle Buprenorphine which is used to control heroin addiction.
Regarding item #1. “His remedy: A Constitutional Convention to address campaign financing”. A great idea, and now is the best time to launch it because of our current and painful awareness of how money is corrupting the entire political process to the detriment of is all. This could become a central platform for the Occupy movements.
Lots of luck in getting a controlled congress with filibuster blocking rights or state legislators that are bought and paid for to endorse a constitutional convention to strip them of their sinecures. It might be easier to get the Pope to convert to his Jewish antecedents.
The only thing that I would fear more than I hate the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is a free ranging Constitutional Convention. I could support an Amendment to reverse Citizens United, place absolute limits on any political contributions and require strict identification of the ultimate source of all political contributions, but the thought of an open ended Constitutional Convention could be the end of much that we respect and cherish in the United States. You could probably enlist great support from the Koch Brothers and Limbaugh for that prospect.
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