February 17, 2014
There’s More – and Less – to Foreign Trade than Meets the Eye

On the positive side, U.S. EXPORTS rose some 40% in dollar value—from 10.6% of GDP in 2009 (the depth of our recent depression) to a new high of 13.4% in late 2013, creating many wonderful jobs in both goods and services.

However, over those same years, IMPORTS rose from 13.6% to 17.7% of GDP so that the unfavorable balance has now reached over $500B – which equates to 3.4% of GDP – and almost 2.3M jobs, and amounts to 1.5% of the total US workforce, of which 6.4% in currently unemployed..

In fact, the UNFAVORABLE TRADE BALANCE has been growing WORSE over the past 20 years at an average increase of 14% per year. More troubling, imports of goods now exceed the exports of goods by $742B resulting in a net loss of 3.8 million higher paying US “goods jobs”. Meanwhile,imports of services have grown at a lower rate (6+%) than exports of services (10+%),creating only 1.5 million lower wage “services jobs” over the 20 years. Missing? Enough jobs to lower our unemployment rate to 5.1%!

The inescapable fact is that boasting over the new jobs created by exports, without decrying the lost jobs due to imports is dangerous. Particularly since we are creating more higher paying “goods jobs” abroad than we are creating lower paying “service jobs” here. The currently murmuring voices for “Buy American” should certainly grow louder as the US tries to address its chronic unemployment problem, while possibly, if not probably, misunderstanding the mixed blessing of its freer trade agreements.

While the intelligent management of foreign trade is probably not a suitable topic for inclusion in the US Constitution, the distortion of facts by special interest lobbyists probably is.

February 14, 2014
How to Fix the Congressional Budget Process

NARPAC Urges Dr. Alice Rivlin to Think Bigger on Her Proposals re Reforming the Budget.

Dr. Rivlin, longtime leading expert on the US federal budget process, now Brookings Senior Fellow, and Georgetown University visiting professor, offers her thoughtful suggestions on repairing the current “ugly mess” on Brookings important new #FIXGOV program for MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK. Her suggestions include:

Expanding the budget process to include all spending and revenue programs, most notably including regular reviews of the burgeoning “entitlement” programs – and reviewing the tax code itself!

Consolidating the redundant authorizing and appropriating committee structure, adding both a revenue committee  and budget committee;

Budgeting for two years vs. one;

Making the current “budget resolution” a law passed by Congress, signed by President, elevating the Budget Committee to the major venue for compromising and negotiating with President;

NARPAC offered the following commentary:

Dr. Rivlin’s suggestions for improving the Congressional budget process certainly have merit, though going to a 2-year budget cycle means even less experience for green members of Congress with no prior understanding of the processes or consequences. Her suggestions also do nothing to restrict Congress’s freedom to shirk its key duty (by exercising the continuing resolution cop-out; the debt-limit farce; or the gov’t shut-down gambit). 

But the basic problem is that, while rearranging (or even reducing) the committee chairs may streamline the process, her proposals retain Congress’s “inalienable right to punt” for trite reasons. They ignore the overriding need to oblige the Congress to act responsibly. 

America’s future depends on bellying up willingly to the need to modify our Federal Constitution (as we now regularly update our state constitutions, as part of the election process). We must stop sanctifying a long-irrelevant document written to assure the freedoms of a republic, but setting forth none of the responsibilities of a democracy—and now interpreted by a politicized Supreme Court. Surely fiscal responsibility (domestic and global) is now one of our as-yet undefined National Obligations (like voting), even if they infringe on the naïve pursuit of happiness.  

Len Sullivan, President, Narpac, Inc. (blog.narpac.org)

December 1, 2013
Send us a comment...

Use our Tumblr comment form (link above), or tweet us @narpacDC to let us know what you think about these proposals… 

December 1, 2013
National Archives - The Constitution

 This transcription from the National Archives (*use link above) shows the Constitution in its original form. Items that are hyperlinked have since been amended or superseded. It’s a good way to compare the original document to various changes that have been made over the years.

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December 1, 2013
The US Constitution

Read your Constitution recently? Take a Look HERE.  (use link above)

As you’re thinking about ways we can update and revive our Constitution, it’s always good to have a handy reference to the original text!

November 25, 2013
http://www.narpac.org/reboot

To concerned Americans everywhere:

Isn’t it time to Re-write its Code, Re-boot our Congress?

Visit our recently relaunched website to read NarpacDC’s call to action!

November 25, 2013
THREE CONSTITUTIONAL VOIDS: Finances, Future Trends, and National Emergencies

Besides the Constitution’s complete silence on what “Voters’ Rights” should be in a democracy (see further down), it is also clear that in the 21st century, our basic set of American constitutional principles should include structural guidelines for  a) handling our national finances, b) preparing for ever-more rapid changes in national and/or global changes; and c) defining circumstances deserving declarations of National Emergencies — including those possibly caused by a dysfunctional Congress itself!  These are outlined below together with crude draft strawmen of possible amendments.
Narpac would be absolutely delighted to encourage positive suggestions for changes in, or additions to, these illustrative trial balloons.

Contact us with your ideas and be sure to visit our web page to learn more:  narpac.org/reboot

PART 1

Issue F: Congressional Recklessness with Federal Finances

Our 1787 constitution seems, by today’s standards, very naïve about federal finances, and quite surprisingly, has not been modified since, either by the original 12 amendments of the “Bill of Rights”, or by the 27 subsequent amendments (incl. the 14th—see below).  It establishes a few Congressional responsibilities, but essentially none for the President, the executive branch, or for any sort of stable, obligatory budgetary process.

Neither the original Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, nor any subsequently elaborations provide sufficient controls to avoid such current irresponsible actions as a) failing to pass annual budgets, and surviving on “continuing resolutions; b) playing political games with the probably counter-productive “national debt limit”, c) failing to control hidden “pork barrel” add-ons; d) ignoring unaffordable out-year fiscal projections for both “entitlements” and “discretionary” funding;  e) resisting the need to raise revenues to match spending demands; f) disagreeing on the proper roles for federal spending, disguised as some “size of government” mantra; g) accepting partisan “oaths” to avoid proper legislative participation; and so forth.

On the other hand, Section 4 of the catch-all 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 (in the immediate wake of the Civil War), makes a sweeping statement that “The validity of the public debt of the United States….shall not be questioned”…except for any outstanding debts for insurrection or the emancipation of slaves, “which shall be held illegal and void”.  Who knows what the Supreme Court will make out of that!

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Amendment F-1

Section 1

All relevant professional protocols shall be followed to assure both national and international confidence in the sound financial underpinnings of the United States, its currency and its fiscal obligations.

The preparation, authorization, and appropriation of annual federal budgets with objective ten-year projections should regularly be completed prior to the start of the fiscal year at hand, without partisan hindrance, and with rare exceptions only for extraordinary contingencies.

Management, servicing, and projections of the federal debt and deficits should be fully transparent, and shall never be used or threatened for partisan political purposes or budgetary machinations. 

Violations of financial/fiscal prudence shall be highlighted, and remedies identified by the Federal Reserve or some equivalent non-partisan agency not under direct control of Congress or the President. 

Section 2

The United States shall encourage the development of, and our participation in, international organizations that regulate, standardize, and encourage international financial, currency, and trade practices intended to improve global stability and balanced economic development.

Financial sanctions, however, may be used at judicious times by the United States to redress improper actions by various countries violating accepted international behavior, particularly in the hopes of avoiding military actions, or large-scale deprivation.

Section 3

No current members of the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of the federal government shall maintain any oaths, except their oath of office, which would in any way constrain their freedom and obligation to carry out their assigned duties in the best fiscal and/or financial interests of the United States. 



Send us your draft or comments via tumblr, twitter, or our web site… we’re looking forward to hearing your ideas…


PART 2

Issue T: Politicization of Major Global Trend Predictions

It now seems evident that there are major long-term physical and biological changes underway, regionally and globally, whose impacts will require long-term federal resources to mitigate for a) our own general welfare, and b) for our continued favorable posture in an increasingly populous, connected, and competitive world. Potentially dangerous trends already exist re: contagious diseases; genetic deformities; plant and insect invasions; climate changes; resource availability (including fresh water); energy demands; human, plant, and animal biological changes by chemical, electronic, or mechanical augmentation; instantaneous and uncontrolled distribution of unverified and potentially alarming information; “cyberspace” vulnerabilities of essential infrastructure and communications systems, cosmic events; relatively sudden traumas in the global economy, both financial (such a debt defaults) and unexpectedly rapid “robotization” of the workforce, causing massive, destabilizing unemployment—and doubtless many more.

We cannot afford to have these potential threats (and/or opportunities) either ignored or exaggerated for partisan or nefarious political, economic, or commercial purposes: there needs to be a national (and international?) governmental/private sector organization whose sole purpose is to foretell potentially advantageous or disadvantageous regional/global changes with a serious potential impact on our long-term general welfare. And its findings shall not be dismissed, contradicted, or ignored by federal legislators, and may form the basis for declaration of a national emergency. The American Geophysical Union is an example of a current, presumably objective, scientific organization currently making increasingly worrisome climate change projections.  Likewise, the Federal Reserve makes respected, sometimes dire, global financial projections, and the Congressional Research Service could easily take on such long-range trending.

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Amendment T - 1

Section 1.

In the basic interests of preserving the justice. tranquility, opportunities, and general welfare of our people, The United States shall establish one or more national organization(s) whose major purpose will be to project with foresight, caution, and qualification any and all regional/global trends, physical or biological, that could endanger our national future well-being and those of other peoples of our planet.

With a foundation of impeccable objectivity, such organization(s) will have representation and support from all relevant federal agencies (including scientific and intelligence), the private sector, and non-profit organizations, and should strive for assured long-term public and private sector funding. 

Long-term schedules for reports and their regular updates shall be established. The continuity of the core work will be assured by endowments, and many particular efforts funded within the relevant government or non-government organizations’ budgets, or, if necessary, by tax incentives.

All work will be overseen, coordinated, and disseminated by a presidentially-appointed board.

Section 2.

Once established, this organization will make all reasonable efforts to extend its usefulness and cooperation with similar organizations elsewhere around the world, and quite possibly become parts of a fully trusted, independent unit of the United Nations.

Section 3.

Dire warnings from such national or international organization(s) shall be sufficient basis for establishing a responsive, and if necessary, protracted National Emergency if either the Congress or the Executive Branch deems it prudent, or fails to respond appropriately.



Send us your draft or comments via tumblr, twitter, or our web site… we’re looking forward to hearing your ideas…



PART 3

Issue E: Failure to Treat the Growing Range of National Emergencies

Virtually alone on a brand new continent, and shaking off the potential “tyranny” of their faraway British hierarchy, the Founding Fathers can be forgiven for not being terribly worried about the threats of war that might constitute a national emergency warranting suspension or changes in the way the US federal government or the several states did their business. The following direct quotes from Answers.com are germane:

"There is no provision in the text of the Constitution that the president has special power to act on his or her own discretion in an emergency"….

"According to Clinton Rossiter, in his Constitutional Dictatorship (2nd ed. 1963), however, the framers seem never to have considered that public officials in some future crisis might have to go outside the regular procedures for lawmaking and enforcement established by the Constitution.”….”The view that the Constitution is equal to any emergency is set forth in The Federalist, nos. 23 and 24, among others.”

And of course, the range of “future crises” large enough to demand special actions was doubtless smaller, without threats such as: nuclear, biological, or cyber warfare; widespread US and/or global financial collapse; global communications disruption; epigenetic calamity from manmade  products; natural disasters (volcanic, meteoric, or just rising sea levels); and now the emerging threat of dysfunctional governments in an ever more interdependent socioeconomic world. Current American law acknowledges the need for special presidential executive powers under certain dire conditions, but requires Congressional re-affirmation every six months. No contingency is foreseen in which the Congress itself is the true threat to national security and/or welfare.

It seems relatively trivial to codify in the Constitution the necessity, on occasion, to grant to the President and the Executive Branch extensive Emergency Powers in crises for which a responsible Congress can provide the desired safeguards against Executive excesses.  The hooker comes in the event, no matter how unlikely, that Congress itself has become a willing partner in the crisis for partisan political gain. Who then should become the check on excesses by the Chief Executive?

Quite clearly, the state Governors need Constitutional authority to rein in a federal government either running amok—or not running at all—and thereby presenting a major threat to national welfare.  An alternative might conceivably be the Supreme Court, but its members’ grasp of rapidly unfolding threats to national welfare is certain to be less astute than those in more closely allied jobs. Their more pertinent task might be to certify the findings of some ad hoc gubernatorial panel, possibly empowered by the National Governors Association.

emergency

Amendment E - 1

The President, as Chief Executive Officer, shall be granted additional powers, as requested or declared, in times of potentially severe national emergencies. These powers shall be subject to review and reconfirmation every six months by a suitable joint House/Senate panel within the Congress or, if the Congress itself is implicit in the crisis, by a rotating panel of current State Governors, convened for this purpose by the National Governors Association. The actions of this panel shall be confirmed by the US Supreme Court, to include the dissolution of one or both houses of the current Congress and the holding of new elections as required.

http://narpac.org/reboot/3convoids.htm


Send us your draft or comments via tumblr, twitter, or our web site… we’re looking forward to hearing your ideas…

October 16, 2013

Coming to Grips with Congressional Dysfunction

Since Narpac posted its strawman “Voters’ Bill of Rights” in early September, we have focused on joining the discussion on Twitter about concerns over on-going legislative dysfunction. 100-odd tweets later, the grotesquely embarrassing problems continue. There have been several major thrusts of our commentary:

Congress’s peculiar interventions re the Syrian government’s gassing of their own people, raised obvious questions about amateurish legislative interference in the global responsibilities of this World’s primary power;

That said, Russia’s President Putin warned Americans about the presumption of global “exceptionalism”, and Narpac tended to agree. There is, in fact, plenty of evidence that the US is no longer as unique and exceptional as we might have appeared 50 years ago in the immediate wake of WWII. Surely, there is constructive competition from 33 other OECD nations who generally share our political/economic/ethical goals. Some, in fact, offer noticeably better socioeconomic success in areas ranging from household income, budgeting, and worker pay ratios, to poverty abatement, life expectancy and student prowess in mathematics. Clearly, neither our Constitution nor our government style gives us an inalienable “right” to self-proclaimed superiority.

We repeatedly point out the anomalies between real life in Congress, and the need to correct flagrant abuses. In one case, all members of Congress swear to “uphold the duties of their office” although THERE AREN’T ANY, and then swear to some lobbyist that they won’t pay for what they spend. In another, well over half of present Hill staffers have NEVER worked on “normal” budgetary authorization or appropriation legislation. But we also reiterate that Congress is probably no more dysfunctional than the distorted political system that elects it.

 We sometimes single out well-known personages for praise or criticism (e.g., Summers, Ashbrook, Reich, Gore), and lean on groups (e.g., governors, mayors, press, etc.) who are not standing up to various travesties. We have even found some recent extreme examples to redefine commonly used expressions, such as polar opposites, vicious circle, pipe dreams; irony, farce, circus, and callousness.

More fundamentally, we are seriously concerned that so many “true believers” are convinced that our Constitution was written from scratch for a democracy, when, in fact, it is a warmed-over version of earlier demands for a more libertarian republic. The difference is absolutely fundamental: republics sought to relieve the permanent domination (tyranny) of detached governments by benevolent leadership; by comparison, full democracies must balance their heady freedoms off against the substantial obligations of participatory governance. The former provides hopefully benign disciplines for supervised play in the garden. The latter, our way, requires self-control, intelligence, and acceptance of common rules for group behavior, essentially self-supervised.

We continue to bang on those who view our Constitution as some holy, sacrosanct, prehistoric document carved in stone, rather than a living guideline that should keep up with the times (and ethical norms)—that are changing at rates inconceivable 200 years ago. And we are deeply suspicious of those who hide behind its feigned “untouchability” for their own nefarious purposes. We believe our future as a nation is as threatened by clinging to the past as it is by failing to predict and prepare for our future.

Finally, as the debt limit approaches, and the government stays shut down, we raise a)the issue that the Congress is already guilty of “reckless endangerment”, and b) the option of the President declaring a state of National Emergency to mitigate the impacts of a prolonged government shutdown, and to avoid the potentially calamitous global impact of defaulting on our debt, held worldwide. Surely, if such declarations are attacked as “unconstitutional”, then the need to amend that obsolete document becomes simply beyond question. It seems somewhat ludicrous that the ONLY constitutional reference to our national debt (the last of several unrelated items in the 14th Amendment) deals only with the need to honor (not question) the validity of that debt, except for any debts incurred thru insurrection or loss of slaves! Just how relevant is that?

September 3, 2013

CREDO MOBILIZE PETITION: Upgrade our Constitution — Regularly

To: State Governors as representatives of all their citizens

Create a permanent mechanism that encourages (rather than discourages) regular upgrading of our Constitution to cope with serious current/emerging American leadership problems at all Government levels from local up.

Why is this important?

We are still operating under a constitution for a republic which focuses on protecting people’s “sacred” “freedom” and “liberty” from government “tyranny”. We must convert it to a rule book for a fully functional democracy that reflects the duties and obligations of its people (and their representatives) to be both informed and involved in their nation’s governance at all levels. Without this, America will fall behind more disciplined democracies, and eventually fall apart. See our endless tweets @NarpacDC,  or visit http://blog.narpac.org .
Use the link below to sign our Credo petition and post to facebook and twitter. You can read more and sign the petition here:


http://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/upgrade-our-constitution-regularly

September 2, 2013

Part 4 presents sixteen separate strawman amendments  for a comprehensive Voters’ Bill of Rights (#VBoR) based on the foregoing analysis. The issues here are not whether our wording passes the Bar Exam, but whether our country can survive without delineating clear boundaries for the entire election process. It is not surprising that our Founding Fathers did not foresee declining American (if not global) ethical standards, nor the impacts of technology (and avarice) on campaigning, but it will be a lot worse than surprising if we do not act to formalize the standards needed to keep a democracy functioning at a competitive global rate.  

 

9:49pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z8o7mru0SlaG
Filed under: VBoR voters' rights