Monday, April 25, 2016

The Worst Amendment

I have stated many times that I think the people that wrote our Constitution were amazingly far sighted. They were also people with strong opinions and with the help of a few compromisers like Ben Franklin, I think got it right most of the time. One testament to that is that the Constitution has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years.

If we omit: Amendments 1-10 -- the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791; Amendments 15, 19, 24 & 26 -- the voting rights amendments that are implied by the Constitution; amendments 12, 20, 22 & 25 – four amendments pertaining to the President and presidential elections; and amendments 18 & 21 – wasted amendments for prohibition and its repeal. That leaves only seven times our Constitution has been amended to change the way government affects us in over 200 years. That is phenomenal. No other constitution in the world has had greater success.

I would like to think the 16th is the worst, but I do not think so. The 16th may be the most hated, because it established the income tax. I do not like it, but I do not think it is the worst.

I think the 17th Amendment is our worst, most damaging amendment. This is the amendment that changed the way U. S Senators got into office.

Article II, section 3, clauses 1 and 2 describe the ways Senators get into office. Clause 1 says that two Senators will be appointed by the legislatures of each state for a six-year term. Clause 2 says the Senators will be divided into 3 groups so only 1/3 of the Senators are up for replacment at every two year interval.

Having Senators appointed by the individual state legislatures guaranteed the state governments some control or influence over legislation on the national level. This was a great idea and was a direct result of the proponents of state’s rights compromising with proponents of a stronger central government.

The two major problems resulted from state legislatures appointing Senators. The first was corruption. It was felt by some that people of wealth were buying Senate appointments and corrupting the process. This was probably true in a few cases. The second problem was deadlocked legislatures. Some legislatures could not agree on who to appoint to the Senate and that struggle kept legislatures from doing state business, often for entire years. I am not saying these were not serious problems, but I think they were resolvable. Instead of addressing these individual issues and solving specific problems, a choice was made to change the Constitution to elect Senators by popular vote – they threw out the baby with the bath water.

The 17th amendment left us with no one in Washington, DC to fight for states’ rights. The federal government was no longer limited to enumerated powers as the Constitution states. Does anyone think the corruption went away? Now the Congress and the President extend their powers with each passing year. Laws passed by state governments are being overturned by federally appointed judges. State legislatures are becoming less and less relevant. This is bad news.

The framers of our Constitution had it right the first time.

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