The Patriot’s Bill of Rights

Terrence Wall, a well-known developer for Dane County and beyond, writes from a business man’s perspective. Often, he writes about the intersection of politics and business for IB, and how pending mandates or legislation affects bottom line. However, his topics vary.

The main problem with government these days is how our elected officials don’t listen and morph into something we don’t recognize; they present themselves one way on the campaign trail, but turn into someone different after being elected.

Why do they continue to vote for more special interest legislation that leads to more government, more regulation, and more taxation when they promise not to?

I finally figured out the answer: They believe they will never become subject to the laws they pass, because they expect to remain in elected office for life.

I’ve come to the conclusion that only changing the structure itself will change Washington; just changing the politicians won’t do it.

The solution lies in what I call the Patriots’ Bill of Rights, which will fundamentally alter how politics is conducted in Washington. If real change is to be made, we need to govern the politicians more, and have them govern us less. If they know that they will become subject to the laws they pass, maybe they’ll think twice before passing more legislation.

The Patriot’s Bill of Rights is about restoring integrity to the democratic process. If we are to return to the ideals that the Founding Fathers envisioned when they led a ragged band of patriots to fight and die for freedom and liberty, then we also must be willing to fight to stand and uphold our most basic liberties against the encroachment of the government.

We can start with Congress passing these as Acts, but then ask each state to vote to add them to the U.S. Constitution as Amendments so that future politicians can’t alter them.

  1. Term Limit Amendment
    Under this amendment, newly elected members of the House of Representatives shall serve no more than six consecutive terms (12 years). Newly elected members of the Senate shall serve no more than two consecutive terms (12 years) in the same office. When a member of Congress has spent 20, 30, or even 40 years in Washington, they lose sight of what is best for the country as a whole. They develop a closer relationship with Washington bureaucrats and lobbyists than the voters they represent.

  2. Balanced Budget Amendment
    The President, Congress, and the federal government shall be required to present and maintain a true balanced budget in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) with independent audit verification. The government should never spend more money than it brings in. The only way we can stop the out-of-control spending by politicians is by giving them no choice in the matter.

  3. Line Item Veto Amendment
    The President shall have the power to veto in whole or in part any spending, subject to congressional override by a two-thirds majority. One of the most powerful weapons against pork-filled earmarks and duplicative government programs is a line-item veto. However, the line-item veto must be carefully drafted so that it can only cut, not create, new spending or devise new laws.

  4. Transparency Amendment
    All federal legislation shall be disclosed in full to the public no less than two calendar weeks in advance of presentation and debate on the floor of the House or Senate. Amendments to legislation must be posted for at least 72 hours prior to receiving a vote. No votes shall occur on Saturday or Sunday or holidays. Justice Louis Brandeis once said that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Putting all proposed legislation on the Internet for the public to view and have time to discuss promotes the free exercise of democracy as our Founders intended.

  5. Single Subject Amendment
    All legislation under consideration by Congress shall be limited to addressing a single subject. Unrelated earmarks and other items shall not be allowed. Limiting the items in legislation to those relevant to the bill will force Congress to pass and vote on each law based upon its own merit and eliminate vote-buying through the use of earmarks, thereby forcing politicians to take a stand on legislation that would not withstand scrutiny on its own.

  6. Congressional Responsibility Amendment
    Congress shall not exempt itself or its employees from legislation Congress approves. If it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for them.

  7. Tax Limitation Amendment
    A two-thirds majority shall be required to approve any increase in taxes or fees. It’s time to make it just as hard for politicians to raise taxes as it is for taxpayers to pay them.

  8. Tax Simplification Amendment
    Only a flat income tax, in which all Americans are taxed at an equal rate, shall be allowed. We need to remove all of the credits, exemptions, and deductions that currently plague our complicated tax system in favor of a flat tax that treats all citizens and businesses the same.

  9. Social Security Trust Fund Amendment
    The federal government shall create a true segregated trust fund for receiving, holding, and investing of the people’s Social Security payments. The government shall be prohibited from borrowing or taking money from the Trust Fund. Presently, the so-called Social Security Trust Fund is in name only and does not actually exist. Politicians have stolen the money from this fund, and also the taxpayers, for the last 60 years to fund their wasteful pet projects and government programs. It’s time to keep the politicians’ hands out of the cookie jar.

  10. Personal Freedom Amendment
    The federal government shall make no law mandating the purchase of a private product or service. Seems obvious.

If we can get a nationwide groundswell of support for the Patriots’ Bill of Rights, we can secure these Acts and eventually (within seven years) see them become constitutional amendments that will guarantee our freedoms and structurally alter how elected officials operate. These Acts will remind politicians who they work for — namely, the American people. The key lies in preventing politicians from becoming career politicians, which is why Term Limits is the first Act.

Government Has Grown Too Large
In addition to structurally altering how politics is conducted in Washington, we also need to change one other fundamental issue that is eating away at the very foundation of our nation being able to sustain itself financially, and that is both the size of government (the number of employees) and what those government employees are paid.

Congratulations Wisconsin, as of 2009 Government is now the number industry in the state, employing more people than any other sector: 429,500. (The second and third largest industries are manufacturing and health care at 415,800 and 364,400, respectively.)

We all now work for the government! There’s only one problem, economies that exist to serve government eventually collapse under their own weight (i.e. the Soviet Union, Greece) and besides, government exists to serve the people, not to have the people serve it.

Unfortunately, both state governments and the federal government have grown so large that they collectively taken on the attitude that government is an end in itself. It’s a mathematical impossibility for a group of taxpayers to financially support a larger group of government employees.

Let’s not forget; every dollar spent by the government comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket — either that dollar is borrowed (driving up interest rates), printed (creating inflation), or taxed. Each of those forms of “taking” reduces capital in the private sector that otherwise would be available for economic growth. By spending more, the government reduces private sector growth — no surprise that the economy has stalled out with the recent massive increases in government spending.

And not only has government as a whole become the number one industry in Wisconsin, but the average compensation package has ballooned in recent years as well. And when government becomes larger, the workforce unionizes and demands more employee pay and benefits and higher pensions. A federal government employee’s combined pay, benefit, health care, and pension package now averages double that of the private sector; $120,000 vs. $60,000 a year.

Double! How is it that the private sector can continue to support that? It can’t.

And let’s be blunt; the number one cost of government (at all levels) is the employee compensation package, and a big reason for the cost is that government employees don’t have to contribute one dime out of their own pocket towards their ballooning health care costs, nor anything towards their exploding pensions, unlike a private-sector employee.

Take a real life (unnamed) school district here in Wisconsin, for example. This unnamed district has paid for the pensions of three now retired superintendents (not to mention scores of other employees) at nearly full salary (contributing while they were employed to state pension fund account), plus the district provides each of those three retirees full health care coverage for years (until Medicaid i.e. the taxpayers, pick up the tab). Soon a fourth superintendent will retire in a few years, adding to the burden. The district is then paying full freight for untold numbers of retired employees. The numbers of retirees covered by the taxpayers could even exceed the full-time employment of the district. It’s an unsustainable model.

The bottom line is that every government employee must begin to pay something towards their health care and pension costs, and the size and scope of those benefit packages must be contained or governments everywhere in this country will begin to go broke. (I forgot, that’s already started to happen.)

And if you really want to get upset, just read about the planning in Washington to bail out under-funded government employee pension systems around the country. They never consider reducing the payouts as an alternative solution.

This is why we need smaller government as well as avoid the false promise that consolidating smaller local governments into larger units of government in the name of “efficiency.” Larger governments are actually less efficient and more expensive than multiple units of smaller government.

Why? Because when government becomes larger, not only do the citizens demand more services, (for example, bus service, social services, and more regulatory services), but the employees demand more benefits and higher pensions as well. And all these additional services cost more even though in many cases they’re not needed. We’ve all seen Madison Metro buses driving around empty during non-peak hours while the drivers pull down six-figure compensation.

In contrast, smaller local units of government do more with less and at lower cost. Only fundamental basic services are offered, many needs are met through a volunteer network of local residents, and the pay scale and benefit package more closely approximates that of the private market sector. Likewise, smaller governments use part-time Mayors or village presidents as well as voluntary boards rather than paid councils with paid staff.

Bottom line: Consolidating multiple smaller units of government would lead to significant increases in cost to the taxpayers. Only focusing on reducing government employee compensation packages and reducing the number of government employees can we reduce the size of government and restore the balance that used to exist.

Tip of the Month: Congratulations Boy Scouts of America on your 100th anniversary! If you want your son to obtain a values based education and outdoor experience that will last a lifetime, consider joining your local Cub Scout or Boy Scout Troop or co-ed Venture or Explorer Post.

Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.