The United States Constitution is the greatest single governing document in the history of the world. It is the preeminent authority on self-determination, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty. The framers presented the world with a new structural framework in 1787, and ever since, the United States of America has been the world’s beacon of freedom and hope. We should all, as patriotic Americans, revere the Constitution and appreciate the nation our founding fathers have provided. However, in always pursuing the “more perfect union” the Constitution promotes, we must also be willing to revise the document to ensure the republic handed down for generations continues to survive and prosper.
First and foremost, we have pendulum swings in politics, resulting in years of dominance of one party or another, in which it may be too easy to promote radical legislation, or divided government, where there is total gridlock and both the nation, and her people suffer. The economic well-being of the nation, of American citizens, and the prosperity of future generations are all too important to be left to the whims of career politicians and changes in the political winds. According to the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom, the United States has the 20th freest economy in the world, with the overall score dropping from the previous year. The Heritage Foundation asserts that, “The major obstacles to greater economic freedom in the United States continue to be excessive government spending, unsustainable levels of debt, and intrusive regulation of the health care and financial sectors.” Over the past three years, government spending has averaged over 35% of GDP, with budget deficits at 5.3% of GDP. Over that time, we have seen the national debt grow to what is now 109% of GDP (Heritage Foundation). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns that the rising federal debt makes the economy more vulnerable to rising inflation, raises borrowing costs, slows economic growth, and increases the risk of a fiscal crisis.
It is clear that the sustainability of our economically free republic and future prosperity requires alterations to the typical government spending patterns. Thus, there should be a package of economic amendments to the Constitution that maintain a stable economic system rooted in American capitalism. I call these the G.R.E.A.T. (Government Responsibility in Economic Affairs Today) amendments, with four amendments limiting the damage any political pendulum swing may have on our economic well-being. First, the balanced budget amendment – there is no reason the government should not be able to live within its means and spend only as much as it takes in. Second is the responsible spending amendment, which would require federal government spending to be capped at 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product (20% at most). Federal government spending in most years since 1960 has hovered in the range of 18%-22% of GDP, minus periodic bumps such as the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 or the Covid Pandemic of 2020, demonstrating that this is not an impossible standard to meet. Additionally, we have the tax limitation amendment, which would require a 60% majority in both houses of Congress to raise income and corporate taxes (I would not be against repealing the 16th amendment). By limiting government spending and requiring a balanced budget each year, we can reduce the tax burden on American workers while stimulating economic growth and reducing the debt burden on future generations. Finally, the presidential line item veto should become a constitutionally approved instrument to eliminate wasteful spending. By empowering the president via constitutional amendment to target specific line items in legislation for veto, we can theoretically eliminate much pork, reduce profligate government spending, and avoid unnecessary vetoes due to limited undesirable components of legislation.
Having just discussed economic freedom, what about personal freedom? How do we ensure the liberty and rights assured the American people by the Constitution are actually granted and maintained? The Constitution, in Article III, established a free and independent judicial system to serve as the guardian of our individual liberties and ensure the proper application of the Constitution to our lives. That independent judiciary has become more politicized recently, threatening its role as protector of rights and impartial arbiter of justice and constitutionality. We have seen judicial nominations become a litmus test of political and ideological fit, rather than qualifications for the bench. Republicans refused a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, and Democrats tried at all costs to sabotage the various appointments of President Trump. Now, the newly empowered Democrats in control of all of Congress and the White House seek to pack the Supreme Court, adding justices to create a liberal activist majority. This politicization on both sides of the aisle is extremely dangerous and must immediately be curtailed. I suggest the following Judicial Amendments to the U.S Constitution: (1) Supreme Court Composition Amendment - setting the number of Supreme Court justices at nine, and (2) Judicial appointment amendment/revision - stipulating the authority of the President of the United States to appoint a judge or justice at any time from his/her inauguration to the inauguration of his/her successor, with no exceptions, as well as a stipulation requiring an up or down vote on all nominees within 60 days of nomination. Judicial nominations should not be political.
Speaking of freedoms, we sometimes think of our right to free speech as absolute, but is it really? Legally, it is in most instances, but we all know that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, and student speech could be prohibited if it substantially disrupts the school environment. But when it comes to the American flag, the symbol of our nation and the emblem of honor for all those who have shed blood and sacrificed lives to protect our freedoms, there is an absolute right to disrespect, tarnish, and even burn it. Justice William Brennan, of the majority opinion protecting flag burning as free speech, wrote, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, disagreeing with his Court’s decision to protect flag burning, said, “the flag is not simply another ‘idea’ or ‘point of view’ competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas.” He also said burning the flag “…is most likely to be indulged in not to express any particular idea, but to antagonize others." Flag burning is just that… a disrespectful attempt to ignite hostilities and antagonize patriotic Americans, accomplishing nothing as a form of protest. Justices Scalia and Kennedy, who were in the majority in protecting the right to burn the flag, both have great disdain for such actions, but decided the case in terms of an individual’s constitutionally protected rights. Rehnquist was right, as was Brennan… and so were Scalia and Kennedy. The only way to ban the desecration of the flag is by amending the Constitution, and we should add an amendment making it illegal to burn or desecrate the American flag in any intentional act. The last true attempt was in 2006, where it failed moving out of Congress by a single vote in the U.S. Senate. It’s time to try again!
Another amendment direly in need is an amendment to limit the terms of members of Congress. The founding fathers envisioned a “citizen legislature” where average citizens would basically take turns making laws. The purpose was to have the citizens spend a short term in Congress and then return home, opening the door for others to legislate. Congress was never meant to be a career choice or life profession. What we have today is a professional political class that has grown so distant from the lives of everyday Americans, that the people are no longer represented, and satisfying special interests is now the priority of our elected officials. We should immediately amend the Constitution to establish congressional term limits of 12 years – 6 terms for representatives, 2 terms for senators. It’s about time the fat cats in Washington come home and government is returned to we, the people.
The Constitution is an amazing document and has been the foundational component of the world’s oldest constitutional republic for over two centuries. It has secured for American citizens the basic liberties for which much blood was shed, and many lives were sacrificed, and it protects those same people from governmental overreach, tyranny, and oppression. While its words are sacred, and must always be honored, and the principles contained in its text should always be revered, we can never be afraid to perfect it. Remember, the nation founded by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and the others, was but an experiment, and that American experiment continues through this day. The experiment has been a resounding success, but centuries later we are still striving for that “more perfect union.” We, the people, must respect and support our Constitution, but we must also acknowledge its limitations and, while never weakening its protections for our individual liberties, we must always endure to protect and strengthen it.