A Modest Proposal, Texas-Style
January 8, 2016 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Texas Governor Greg Abbott published a document, "Restoring the Rule of Law With States Leading the Way"[PDF], which addresses what he describes as the U.S. Constitution being "increasingly eroded with each passing year." His solution, which he dubs "The Texas Plan": nine constitutional amendments.

Short descriptions of the nine proposed amendments:

I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one
State.

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from creating federal law.

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from preempting state law.

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme
Court decision.

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court
decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.

IX. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

Currently, a majority of state governments in the U.S. are controlled by the Republican Party.
posted by Halloween Jack (194 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this the Friday news dump? It surely feels like the Friday news dump.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

Abbott, that is, not Christ. Christ would be appalled by what Abbott and his ilk want to do in his name.
posted by delfin at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


And so The Great Unraveling begins.
posted by aramaic at 12:14 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Christ would be appalled by what Abbott and his ilk want to do in his name.

Not sure what Christ has to do with Federalism.
posted by gyc at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


I guess the upside is it would totally fuck the DEA.
posted by aubilenon at 12:16 PM on January 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


Somebody's not satisfied with already having the ability to subvert democracy with 18th century Senate rules and constant abuse of Gerrymandering! Why not just give the state of Texas the power to veto everything by itself and call it a day?

Just try and show these people the proof that democrats consistently achieve better budgets and smaller deficits. I'd say you could watch their heads explode, but they're already immune to truth.
posted by Strudel at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'd say this has about a 1% chance of passing. And that's being generous.
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


If I follow this correctly, Abbott is saying that the Federal government is not following the constitution, which is to be remedied by amending the document that they're supposedly ignoring in the first place.

Makes sense to me.
posted by dr_dank at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2016 [86 favorites]


We have to destroy the constitution in order to save it.
posted by octothorpe at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2016 [25 favorites]


So, he's literally calling for a return to a Confederacy?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2016 [46 favorites]


So when 2/3 of the States overturn the individual right to bear arms, he'll be OK with that?
posted by yesster at 12:20 PM on January 8, 2016 [40 favorites]


Too crazy for Boy's Town.
Too much of a boy for Crazy Town.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [32 favorites]


Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

I think that's great. But we'd probably need some kind of way to determine what kind of powers are enumerated for the federal government, right? Maybe some kind of court? I'm just spit-balling here.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [57 favorites]


What is it with Texas governors?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:22 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court
decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law


Isn't that virtually all decisions?
posted by HighLife at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Greg Abbott: Making Rick Perry and George W. Bush look smart and reasonable.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:24 PM on January 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Go back to your room, Greg, the adults are talking.
posted by cmoj at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


This seems to be focused on devolution of substantial powers to the states. Is this a warm-up for a secession movement or something?
posted by theorique at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2016


X. Don't mess with Texas.
posted by maryr at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Not sure what Christ has to do with Federalism.

Abbott sings a song of "states' rights." Not only does this song sound somewhat familiar to Civil War buffs, but it begs the question: what do these states need these rights to do?

Oh, to ban abortion rather than just nibbling it out of viability through restrictions, to ban same-sex marriage, to bring back sodomy laws, to restrict contraception availability, to put Christian prayer back in schools, to put the Ten Commandments back on City Hall, to enable public schools to teach creationism, and many other things that serve no civic purpose other than that We're Sure That Jesus Wants It That Way.

Why can't they do all of the above? Because the Supreme Court, federal government and (whether they like it or not) the Constitution that they revere so much stand in the way. Rest assured that a new Godstitution will not contain such constraints.
posted by delfin at 12:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [76 favorites]


I was about to say “for someone who loves his country he sure does want to change vast aspects of how it works,” but I caught myself. I, too, want large governmental reforms — hell, I’d eliminate the Senate and switch to proportional representation and fix gerrymandering and a dozen other things — and I also love my country. Those are not mutually exclusive.

My new retort is that these ideas are batshit insane.

Proposing constitutional amendments is great red meat for the base, plus it's not very risky because you know it's got no chance of happening. The main point of this document is that he gets to say things like “unelected bureaucrats” multiple times.

Oddly, one of the things I'd love to change about the Constitution is that it should be easier to amend it, but there's an obvious dilemma there.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

*snort* like segregation? You saw how well that worked.
posted by Melismata at 12:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


What is it with Texas governors?

What is it with Texas governors?
or simpler:
What is it with Texas governors?
posted by enfa at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


X. Don't mess with Texas.

Take THAT, anti-littering campaign!
posted by Navelgazer at 12:29 PM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


Of course, he also says: “And thus it bears emphasis at the outset that the Constitution itself is not broken.” And then goes on to say “so here are nine constitutional amendments that will totally fix our not-broken Constitution.” (I paraphrase.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:30 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


What is it with Texas governors?

"These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty . . . these types of guys . . . they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home . . . Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road."

-Maine Governor Paul LePage, indulging his crazed racist phobias/fantasies on camera, yesterday.
posted by The Bellman at 12:31 PM on January 8, 2016 [46 favorites]


The Constitution is not broken, but he's looking to break it.
posted by maryr at 12:31 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

Which you would determine how exactly, Greg? Do you even Wickard v. Filburn?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


-Maine Governor Paul LePage

...

Are you fucking kidding me Maine
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


What is it with Texas governors?

Combination of heat, humidity, and mosquitoes?

Just my wild guess. Haven't been there in a while.
posted by freakazoid at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2016


I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

> *snort* like segregation? You saw how well that worked.

I was thinking they'd go straight for slavery, and I blame Clive Bundy for my mind jumping to that conclusion.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a Texan to the left of Sanders, I always feel the need to remind everyone that Texas is a smack-center moderate state by the numbers, but we're also gerrymandered all to fuck. Check this out (scroll down). Zoom in on Dallas and just take a gander at TX-33, then check out Houston. Yeah. That's what's the deal with Texas.
posted by cmoj at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2016 [71 favorites]


It's weird that my first thought when you try to narrow the Commerce Clause like that is Gonzales v. Raich, which I imagine is not what Abbot has in mind.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from creating federal law.


This is idiotic. There is no law-making done within the executive branch. There is however rule-making done within the confines of laws passed by Congress, and I suspect this is what the proposal refers to. If you disagree with federal rules, this is an idiotic resolution, because 1.) it prevents any administrative rule changes (e.g., "we're de-listing such-and-such endangered species, because its population has recovered") and 2.) Congress is far too gridlocked to make those changes on its own.
posted by compartment at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


A general rule of thumb in politics is if your solution to a perceived problem is a constitutional amendment (much less 9 of them) then you effectively have no solution(s). The last amendment took 202 years, 7 months and 12 days to be ratified. Don't hold your breath, Greg. Better yet, do!
posted by jim in austin at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Paul LePage is an actual idiot. I'm still not entirely over the thing last year where he insisted he'd vetoed bills that he did not, in fact, veto.

Also, a seven-vote majority to overrule enacted legislation? Like Obamacare?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maine Governor Paul LePage

A friend of mine moved to Portland a few years ago and he emailed that story to a bunch of us back-home this morning pre-emptively. It really is an amazing statement. "They're raping our white women" is one of the most incredibly old-timey racist things you can say (and which, of course, people still believe because people in aggregate are awful). And of course his PR people issued a statement this afternoon noting that his remarks weren't intended to be racist and shouldn't be read that way.

Sure.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maine Governor Paul LePage

Apparently in Maine they see crazy racist grandpa in early-stage dementia and go, "That's governor material!"
posted by leotrotsky at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from creating federal law.


Does he mean regulations? Do federal agencies create federal laws?
posted by OmieWise at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


His plan for allowing a simple majority of states to vote to overturn a Supreme Court decision is, um, interesting:
It would allow States to convene assemblies for the purpose of overturning the Supreme Court’s misinterpretations of the Constitution. In particular, the States could convene an assembly on the vote of 26 States. The States could pick their delegates to those assemblies, and the assemblies could meet as often as the States deem necessary. At the assembly, a two-thirds super-majority of state delegates would be required to overturn a Supreme Court decision. But once the super-majority requirement is met, the assemblies could overturn the Court’s decisions in whole or in part. They could overturn the Court’s decisions retroactively or prospectively. They could vitiate the precedential effect of the Court’s decisions and remand cases to the Supreme Court for further proceedings. In short, the assemblies would restore the people—rather than five unelected jurists—to the role of the truly supreme arbiter of the Constitution.
So the injustice of “five unelected jurists” deciding what the law is (in accordance with a Constitutionally-sanctioned system of checks and balances) is apparently far greater than the injustice of Wyoming getting the same number of votes as California over whether one of the Court’s decisions should stand.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


We all have ideas about ways to improve America, but if your idea could literally reintroduce slavery, it is a bad idea.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


He means regulation, which is a regular problem for people in parts of the Right that don't understand how impossible it would be for Congress to pass all the laws and regulations governing around everything as a political matter or how terrible the regulations would be for Congress deciding it wanted to regulate technical industries it definitely won't understand as a practical matter.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


(sorry, supermajority instead of simple majority, but my point stands)
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2016


-Maine Governor Paul LePage

...

Are you fucking kidding me Maine


If you want a learnable moment from my state's shame, it's that this is what you get when liberals and progressives put their egos and (frankly dull and unremarkable) personalities above working hard to make the state a better place; an easy election lost to a man who, as far as I can tell, is Master Shake.

Maine Governor Paul LePage

Apparently in Maine they see crazy racist grandpa in early-stage dementia and go, "That's governor material!"


Please don't make blanket statements about Maine. LePage won both elections because a really unimpressive liberal ran against another really unimpressive liberal in the general election and split the Democratic vote. TWICE.

This, amazingly, after something very similar happened in Canada nearby.
posted by selfnoise at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Haha, basically this is a complete admission that the Republican party is going to lose in 2016 and will likely be on the defensive for a couple of decades.

There is no way that you want a super majority in the SCOTUS is required to render a law unconstitutional unless you think that your current 5-4 majority is going to be lost. The only reason why you'd want this sort of protection in place is if you think Clinton is going to trounce the republican nominee (pro-tip she probably is). Blocking agencies from passing administrative rules is also a tacit admission that the Presidency is likely going to be semi-permanently occupied by a Democrat.

The stuff with state's rights is just trying to push control over more issues into areas where the Republicans currently have way more strength because Billionaire donors have been pumping dollars into state legislative races really strong in the last decade and organization like ALEC have invested a lot in grooming Republican legislators to blindly pass massive bills that benefit entrenched business interests at the state level.

This is basically a tacit admission that the Republicans are rapidly becoming a permanent opposition party with their regional base in the Deep South.
posted by vuron at 12:41 PM on January 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


This, amazingly, after something very similar happened in Canada nearby.

And Louisiana. And Wisconsin. And ...
posted by Melismata at 12:42 PM on January 8, 2016


Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
If only there were an existing doctrine about delegation of legislative power.

Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

Something like a clause regarding interstate commerce, perhaps. Define "activity that occurs wholly within one State."

Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
That would be a an interesting idea.

Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
Not sure how that would work.

Has this guy ever actually read the constitution? Has he spoken to anyone who has even vague knowledge of constitutional law? Does he not realize that Congress is made up of democratically-elected representatives from the states?
posted by melissasaurus at 12:43 PM on January 8, 2016 [27 favorites]


This is idiotic. There is no law-making done within the executive branch. There is however rule-making done within the confines of laws passed by Congress, and I suspect this is what the proposal refers to. If you disagree with federal rules, this is an idiotic resolution, because 1.) it prevents any administrative rule changes (e.g., "we're de-listing such-and-such endangered species, because its population has recovered") and 2.) Congress is far too gridlocked to make those changes on its own.

Even if Congress were functioning with any kind of normalcy, there is no way in God's green earth that anything would ever get done without Congress basically reconstituting the entire administrative apparatus on the legislative side. The entire country would grind to a halt.

We're talking about IRS, SEC, EPA, FDA, FCC, FAA, the Federal Reserve, the fucking Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this is so stupid I can't even.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:43 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads?... Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced an fooled by stupid little rich kids like George W. Bush?...They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are racists and hate-mongers among us - they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of theses Nazis, and I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them."
- Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear
posted by prepmonkey at 12:43 PM on January 8, 2016 [65 favorites]


Has this guy every actually read the constitution? Has he spoken to anyone who has even vague knowledge of constitutional law? Does he not realized that Congress is made up of democratically-elected representatives from the states?

And he's the former Attorney General of Texas! He's a fucking attorney!
posted by leotrotsky at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The next step is to unshackle counties from the tyranny of state rule, using the same structure. We will check your credentials at the county line, sir, and madam, you'll have to put on a more appropriate attire if you wish to come sashaying into our county. Oh, and you over there, make sure you get back over the county line by sundown.
posted by mule98J at 12:45 PM on January 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


Please don't make blanket statements about Maine. LePage won both elections because a really unimpressive liberal ran against another really unimpressive liberal in the general election and split the Democratic vote. TWICE.

Not to continue the Maine derail, but that's why we're trying to get IRV for all elections in our state now! Hopefully that works out. I think it has a really good chance of being on a ballot soon.

(Also, hi from Portland selfnoise!)
posted by mayonnaises at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2016


Q: What is the opposite of Civil Rights?
A: States' Rights.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2016 [38 favorites]


Shorter Greg Abbott:

THE PROBLEM: Congress is broken. People hate it.

THE SOLUTION: Give Congress far greater authority and far less supervision.


I'd be more charitable with these paraphrases except that he's even more flippant in this Very Serious Paper — e.g., outright mocking current and former justices for finding that the death penalty is an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


"They're raping our white women" is one of the most incredibly old-timey racist things you can say

It's also among the things Dylan Roof said as he was committing his horrific crimes....

In a lot of ways, and mostly because I live in Texas, Abbot scares me far more than Trump, Carson or Cruz. From where I am, his stupidity is not all amusing. If the ideas he's proposing here were to gain traction, he and his cronies and his allies in the legislature, government agencies, and the media would make life hell on earth for people like me and the embattled groups I am allied with.

I am a proponent of non-violence, but, damn, I sure do find myself wishing I had Valentine Michael Smith's power to make people just disappear sometimes.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


You guys are taking this too seriously.

No, not the incoherent extremism of the Texas right; that you should take seriously because they're dangerous and would happily end human civilization to stick it to anyone different from them.

But the idea that Abbott himself thinks that this is anything but meat for the loony base that got him elected. You should not take that seriously. He is a man with a hole where his soul should be, a cynical and greedy piece of shit, but I don't think he's brain-damaged.

Texas secession comes up surprisingly often here and we've hammered out all the ways that it would never happen and never work if it did. This isn't any different. If his base were not so ignorant, they would know it's nonsense, but since we've gotten to the point that science, facts and reality itself are often rejected for having too liberal a bias, there is no fear of that.
posted by emjaybee at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'd say this has about a 1% chance of passing. And that's being generous.

Try 0%.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


cmoj: As a Texan to the left of Sanders, I always feel the need to remind everyone that Texas is a smack-center moderate state by the numbers, but we're also gerrymandered all to fuck.

Also: Super PACs are a thing, which return us to the robber baron era, when Congress banned corporate contributions to federal candidates.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hunh. This aspect of the GOP strategy of capturing state houses and governorships hadn't occurred to me before. Get enough of them and you can re-write the Constitution itself.
posted by notyou at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The next step is to unshackle counties from the tyranny of state rule, using the same structure. We will check your credentials at the county line, sir, and madam, you'll have to put on a more appropriate attire if you wish to come sashaying into our county. Oh, and you over there, make sure you get back over the county line by sundown.

That doesn't go quite far enough, mule98J, based on Abbot's reasoning.

The same Constitution that created our government of laws, and not of men, was intended to preserve the States as coequal and sovereign governments because they were closest—and hence the most accountable—to the people. The States were supposed too be energetic and powerful, and in the spirit of the Constitution’s checks-and balances, State leaders were supposed to have the power and opportunity to check any attempt by federal officials to overstep their bounds.

So, sure, logically, local governments should have the power to check any actions by State officials overstepping their bounds, as they are even closer to the people. But in the end, it's the block association that reigns supreme.
posted by layceepee at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


-Maine Governor Paul LePage, indulging his crazed racist phobias/fantasies on camera, yesterday.

Maine has been described as Louisiana with snow.
posted by notsnot at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


The disgusting thing is that, while Abbot fights for "states rights" and claims that states can govern better than a far-away federal government, he has consistently denied the rights of city and county governments to pass ordinances respecting their own citizens, such as passing equal accommodation laws, safe harbor laws, laws banning fracking, etc. etc.
posted by muddgirl at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hey, Texas: Marbury v. Madison was decided in 1803, and some of you folks are still butt hurt over it. Get over it already. This is like hearing my kids complain about the unfairness of making them eat green vegetables when they were little, years (and years and YEARS) after the fact.

It doesn't even amuse me at this point. This is bait, red meat to be fed to the true believers to sustain them through The Long Season of Butt Hurt that's going to come to them this election cycle. Nothing more.
posted by mosk at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


-Maine Governor Paul LePage, indulging his crazed racist phobias/fantasies on camera, yesterday.

Maine has been described as Louisiana with snow.


Again, please refrain from generalizations about places where people live (either state), it's really shitty!
posted by selfnoise at 12:54 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


There is no law-making done within the executive branch. There is however rule-making done within the confines of laws passed by Congress

Yeah, a lot of these seem not only unworkable, but downright ignorant of how the government (Federal and State) function, if not contradictory to the Constitution as written currently. I know Texas has an outsized view of itself as separate and independent from the rest of the country. I also know that Republican views on the Federal government have gone from making it small enough to drown in a bathtub to smash it with a hammer until it stops moving. This though? It's... bafflingly thickskulled in it's idealism.

Which of course means that it is going to be become key talking point in the coming campaign season and political luddites will rally around it until these ideas become the solid planks in the GOP 2024 platform.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:54 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Texas has gone a long way towards basically being able to override home rule by cities. Basically buying off 50 state legislatures is more time/cost effective than having to exert your will over every city council especially when a City Council in say Austin or Houston is liable to do something decent (but not good for Republicans) in their city.

Nope the State is the optimal control mechanism far enough removed from direct democracy that you can still buy your way to a desired result but away from the winner takes all of having a more centralized state rather than a federal system.
posted by vuron at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


> But the idea that Abbott himself thinks that this is anything but meat for the loony base that got him elected. You should not take that seriously. He is a man with a hole where his soul should be, a cynical and greedy piece of shit, but I don't think he's brain-damaged.

First of all, I disagree — for people like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz, I find it easier to believe that they believe this shit. There's too much prior art. It's far easier to be brainwashed than to keep up track of the fake shit that you're just pretending to believe.

Secondly: even if you were right, a person who has an unbroken streak of advocating for awful things is dangerous and bad and wrong whether or not that person actually believes those things. I can't get into his head, so I can only judge him by what he proposes to do, attempts to do, and actually does.

It's true that this is meat for the base, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't believe it, and it doesn't mean that he wouldn't try to do some of this stuff if he had the power. My only comfort is that this would be impossible to pull off in the actual America that exists in real life and not just in Greg Abbott's fever dreams.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


First of all, I disagree — for people like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz, I find it easier to believe that they believe this shit. There's too much prior art. It's far easier to be brainwashed than to keep up track of the fake shit that you're just pretending to believe.

This is the thing, right? Even if all this craziness started out as self-aware propaganda, it's been going on for long enough that the people who bought into it as idealistic youths are now old enough to run for President. I suspect a lot of the original architects of this whole strategy find themselves thinking, "oh, um... oops now what"
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:00 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


On the plus side: there appears to be some evidence that this guy supports the use of the Oxford comma.
posted by OmieWise at 1:01 PM on January 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


We already did this, in 1832, but given the state of Texan textbooks, I guess it's no surprise Abbott is in the dark
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:04 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


You know, I've had a lot of arguments with people lately about why the US can't be a first-world social democracy like Finland, Norway, all of those Nordic countries: health care for everybody, a guaranteed minimum income, good nation-wide public transportation, etc. etc.

I work in software, and I know that often the real difficulties in making this working is scaling them: it's easy to make things for 100 people. It's often really hard to make it work for a million.

Lately I'm wondering if the problem here is that we're just too goddamned big. The population of all the Nordic countries combined is less than 30 million people. The US is ten times as big. Maybe our problem is that there are too many of us. It used to make sense to want all of the land and all of the people. We needed farmland and laborers to be awesome. Now we're about to have lab-grown meat, and we don't do labor any more, so fuck it.

So here, Governor Abbot, is my counter proposal: Let the South rise again. Let's let them become their own Confederacy. Give them all of the states that voted red in the last presidential election, except Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and Indiana. In return the US gives them Colorado and New Mexico. The US keeps Florida because those NY birds gotta have some place to migrate when it gets cold. And set it up so that if people who lived in the north wanted to live in the south or vice versa, we'd let them move there without any weird immigration bullshit, at least for the first 10 years or something.

Then we can build that awesome railroad across the US. We can get healthcare for all of our citizens. We can limit how many guns you get to have. It'll be like Canada, except different accents.

It'd be nice if, when we make this deal with the CSA, we could require that they allow their women to be able to get abortions, and let gay people get married, and also not bring back slavery. But I'm not holding my breath about any of those things.

And I know it seems terrible, like we'd basically let all of these people suffer, but it's already kind of happening in the country in which I live, and if this plan was enacted, we could have a better country and I wouldn't have to move.

So there you go Greg. If you're going to do this, don't be a candy-ass: go whole hog and just have the whole goddamned south secede again.
posted by nushustu at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Does anyone know where these unelected bureaucrats are coming from? Is it spontaneous generation? Maybe it's like in Minecraft--if you put a door on an office in Washington they just show up.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, some of this makes sense as actually stopping abuses of the Constitution. For example, the commerce clause is /broken/, utterly broken, and is constantly used for shit that it should not for any reasonable purpose be used, simply because it's a really big fucking hammer. Things like the drinking age being rolled into highway funding are ridiculous.

But anyone thinking that a Constitutional Amendment can get passed these days, much less nine, is smoking or selling something.

A by-blow:

1) Prevent Congress from regulating something happening only in one state - honestly this isn't even a bad plan. Congress is supposed to be making laws for the country, together, not ganging up on states it doesn't like to force them to do things differently if the state is perfectly happy that way.

2) Congress to balance its budget - not a bad idea, because Congress should be functional, but I feel even including this in a list of amendments suggests you know damn well Congress is broken.

3) and 4) Likewise, there's some legitimacy to this sort of thing too. There are a lot of major changes going on that people know they can't get through a democratic majority, so there's a lot of "I direct" effective lawmaking going on. Some of this, I note, is probably in response to Obama's executive orders to agencies.

5) This isn't even totally crazy, but would add the states as governmental entitities in as another branch of government.

6) What the fuck do you think the Supreme Court is supposed to decide on, asshole? Only undemocratically elected law?

7) Reasonable. The federal government has become a juggernaut with some weaselly tricks, but again, the process is probably too far at this point.

8) This is /eminently/ reasonable, but I'm not sure it takes a Constitutional Amendment.

9) Also eminently reasonable - if the representation of your States is crazily out of whack with State government, you have a problem - but this isn't solved through amendment either.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


(HOOTING NOISES INTENSIFY)
posted by boo_radley at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


So here, Governor Abbot, is my counter proposal: Let the South rise again. Let's let them become their own Confederacy...

I understand the frustration behind this, I really do. I even half believe it sometimes. But it completely erases minority populations and women. What exactly would they do?
posted by Countess Elena at 1:09 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


More coded, seditious speech from a governor with a long history of sedition and coded speech. He should be impeached and possibly imprisoned for treason against the United States, but as the ongoing terrorism in Oregon is showing, we make exceptions to the law for conservatives.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:09 PM on January 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


Things like the drinking age being rolled into highway funding are ridiculous.

That had nothing to do with the Commerce Clause. It was based on the spending power.
posted by jedicus at 1:10 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


So, his pig-ignorance of Constitutional law and how the Federal government works aside, he's also apparently willfully ignorant of how things worked out the last time we allowed the States to have override over the Feds -- the previous working document, the Articles of Confederation, which was abandoned and replaced with the current Constitution when the states:

destroyed interstate commerce by enacting intra-state tariffs, taxes, and travel restrictions
confounded diplomats by making it impossible for them to speak for the country
made foreign trade ineffective as each state had different laws
currency was handled by the states, badly, making a robust economy impossible
ultimately, rebellions against the government could not effectively be put down, as the states lacked the resources, and the federal government was unable to act.

Now, it may be he doesn't see an issue with all these and wonders why the states gave up such a sweet deal, but I suspect he just never did the research and wasn't paying attention in school (we covered this in elementary school, with more in-depth in high school US history classes, presumably his did as well at some point.)
posted by Blackanvil at 1:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


I hit post on that comment before I meant to. I meant to follow up by saying that, for example, Mississippi, my home state, is considered to be a swampful of idiots, preachers and sadists. Texas is so insane that it's entered the language halfway across the globe as a synonym for excess. These are not accidents of history. But why exactly should progressives concur with the judgment of the worst people that the South has to offer? Is it just not worth it any longer to stand up for endangered rights of women and minorities if there's not good Amtrak service in the state?
posted by Countess Elena at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


This country is probably heading for a split at some point in the future. We have fundamental disagreements on the very nature of reality and can no longer seem to work together. I just hope it's peaceful and the split doesn't screw people over too hard.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Congress to balance its budget - not a bad idea, because Congress should be functional

Congress is specifically empowered to borrow money. It's right there in the original Constitution: "The Congress shall have Power ... To borrow on the credit of the United States".

The idea was reinforced in the 14th Amendment, section 4: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, ... shall not be questioned."

Why do conservatives think both the framers and Lincoln-era Republicans were wrong on this issue?
posted by jedicus at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2016 [19 favorites]



So when 2/3 of the States overturn the individual right to bear arms, he'll be OK with that?


Heck, DC v. Heller was a 5-4 decision. Trite Conclusion: Abbott is against the Court striking down gun laws!

Hey NRA, Abbot wants to take your guns away!
posted by stevis23 at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


What is it with the people who elect Texas governors?
posted by klanawa at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]



So here, Governor Abbot, is my counter proposal: Let the South rise again. Let's let them become their own Confederacy. Give them all of the states that voted red in the last presidential election, except Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and Indiana. In return the US gives them Colorado and New Mexico. The US keeps Florida because those NY birds gotta have some place to migrate when it gets cold. And set it up so that if people who lived in the north wanted to live in the south or vice versa, we'd let them move there without any weird immigration bullshit, at least for the first 10 years or something.


CAN YOU FUCKING NOT. Jesus christ, are you ignoring the thing where Republican control in Texas is mediated largely by our FUCKED UP GERRYMANDERING system? Can you please not consign the rest of us to rot so you can have your ideological purity or your smug "don't have to live in red state" feelings? I posted a MeTa about this one month ago, do I need to do one again?
posted by sciatrix at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2016 [78 favorites]


Abbott sings a song of "states' rights."

Now is that sung to the tune of "Red River Valley", "Dixie", or the "Horst Wessel Lied"?


Trick question- "Red River Valley" and the "Horst Wessel Lied" can be sung to the same tune.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


You guys are taking this too seriously.

Abbott's plan is to governing what Yallqueda is to revolution. Possibly even to what arguing on metafilter is to revolution. The real question here is why doesn't Abbott go and play pretend politics on an internet forum or a facebook page like everyone else.

Oh, right. He's the Governor. Membership does have its privileges, I guess.

(The other burning question is "how often do Texans shout 'Heyyyyyyy Abbbbbottttt!!!'?)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Congress is specifically empowered to borrow money.

Sure! Congress should borrow money when it needs to, for extraordinary expenses! But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system. Or at least, it appears that way to me.
posted by corb at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Someone needs to remind these rightwing christofascist idiots that when they were elected they placed their right hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. Not the other way around.
posted by pjsky at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Racism is really the only reason I can understand for the allure of these state governments. Honestly I think that we'd be better off getting rid of all of them - they are the center of corruption, venality, bigotry and small mindedness. So it's the appeal to the small-minded and bigoted that keeps the states' rights crusade alive.

Honestly, let Texas secede and then try to operate a modern nation on a balanced budget. It will be a failed state in a year.
posted by graymouser at 1:22 PM on January 8, 2016


Some of this, I note, is probably in response to Obama's executive orders to agencies.

Obama is hardly the first president to use executive orders. Here are some numbers:

Reagan I: 213
Reagan II: 168
GHWB: 166
Clinton I: 200
Clinton II: 164
GWB I: 173
GWB II: 118
Obama I: 147
Obama II: 80 (* so far)

Obama has issued significantly fewer executive orders than other modern presidents.

The only president not to issue any executive orders was William Henry Harrison, and he died a month into his only term.
posted by jedicus at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2016 [24 favorites]


Now is that sung to the tune of "Red River Valley", "Dixie", or the "Horst Wessel Lied"?

The "Yellow Rose of Texas." Everything can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Greg Abbott has started a faction to lower crown authority in the Republic of United States.

President Barack Obama should consider granting him am honorary title to increase his opinion of his liege.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Sure! Congress should borrow money when it needs to, for extraordinary expenses! But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system

That exception is at odds with a mandatory balanced budget amendment.
posted by jedicus at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


5) This isn't even totally crazy, but would add the states as governmental entitities in as another branch of government.

9) Also eminently reasonable - if the representation of your States is crazily out of whack with State government, you have a problem - but this isn't solved through amendment either.


No, this is TOTALLY CRAZY. If you wanted to maybe somehow put this through congress, then maybe, but just based on the demographics of our country, you're giving a disportionate amount of federal power to very small states. (The same argument of why people hate the senate and why it exists in the first place).

I mean really, Alaska gets an equal vote in repealing Wade v Roe as California?
posted by mayonnaises at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


he's also apparently willfully ignorant of how things worked out the last time we allowed the States to have override over the Feds -- the previous working document, the Articles of Confederation

Abbott's certainly aware of them, given how often he cites them in the linked PDF. I'm not even sure he would disagree that they were a failure. The gist I'm getting is that he thinks the Constitution may have been a bit of an over-correction, and that what we need now is a little more of that old AoC devolvement to states. That we need to reorient towards a more "confederate" stance, you might say.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:26 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Greg Abbott has started a faction to lower crown authority in the Republic of United States.

President Barack Obama should consider granting him am honorary title to increase his opinion of his liege.


DAMN YOU I JUST KICKED CRUSADER KINGS WHY
posted by corb at 1:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sure! Congress should borrow money when it needs to, for extraordinary expenses! But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system

Well, what's usually broken about that system is that governmental income is artificially restricted to the point that borrowing is the only way to meet obligations.
posted by yesster at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Before obsessively listening to Hamilton, I had the impression that the south* started fucking around with state/federal problems like in the 19th century. Unless the musical lied to me, the south's attitude that the federal gov't is a problematic thing has been around since day one.

So they've been consistently crazy.

*Referring to state gov't officeholders, not all the many groovy people that live in the south.
posted by angrycat at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Obama has issued significantly fewer executive orders than other modern presidents.

You can prove anything with facts.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Do you even legislate Brah?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:33 PM on January 8, 2016


A Constitutional convention? What a great idea! Let's see, there's the ERA that's been sitting idle for far too long, and we should legalize drugs since multiple states have done so and y'all seem to be all about states rights, and then there's some confusion about citizenship that we can probably fix real quick...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


filthy light thief: Super PACs are a thing, which return us to the robber baron era, when Congress banned corporate contributions to federal candidates.

Continuing my earlier thought: Super PACs are amplifying the sound of extremes, and supporting candidates and causes that don't mirror the more moderate views of the general public.

Super PACs ruin everything.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:35 PM on January 8, 2016


I am disappointed that Abbott failed to mention Jade Helm, FEMA concentration camps, and the questionable legality of federal courts that fly the US flag bordered with gold fringe.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


I had the impression that the south* started fucking around with state/federal problems like in the 19th century. Unless the musical lied to me, the south's attitude that the federal gov't is a problematic thing has been around since day one.

So they've been consistently crazy.

Well, they were right, the federal government was a massive threat to their slaveowning economy from day one. It was reasonable to want to limit federal power if you wanted to protect the right to own slaves. The crazy thing was wanting to have slaves in the first place.

That's kind of still where we are. There is nothing inherently crazy about thinking the federal government is a complete broken mess. It is. A lot of things could be fixed if states had more power. But, reasonable people aren't going to tolerate stripping that power from the feds as long as the people the power is granted to instead want to use it to subjugate women and racial or religious minorities.

I don't give two shits about the constitution, I just oppose this on the grounds of, "We aren't going to let conservatives get away with being assholes." When they grow up and learn to treat all people equally, I'd be perfectly happy to resume discussions about stripping federal power.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


angrycat: Before obsessively listening to Hamilton, I had the impression that the south* started fucking around with state/federal problems like in the 19th century. Unless the musical lied to me, the south's attitude that the federal gov't is a problematic thing has been around since day one.

Nope, the musical didn't lie.
The concept of states' rights had been an old idea by 1860. The original thirteen colonies in America in the 1700s, separated from the mother country in Europe by a vast ocean, were use to making many of their own decisions and ignoring quite a few of the rules imposed on them from abroad. During the American Revolution, the founding fathers were forced to compromise with the states to ensure ratification of the Constitution and the establishment of a united country. In fact, the original Constitution banned slavery, but Virginia would not accept it; and Massachusetts would not ratify the document without a Bill of Rights.

The debate over which powers rightly belonged to the states and which to the Federal Government became heated again in the 1820s and 1830s fueled by the divisive issue of whether slavery would be allowed in the new territories forming as the nation expanded westward.
From the Civil War Trust (CivilWar.org)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maine Governor Paul LePage
The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant,” [luckless flack Peter] Steele said in a statement he emailed in response to a request to have the governor explain his comments. “What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood, too."
Looks like we were all too quick to judge LePage, whose own father was apparently an imaginary crack dealer.
posted by Iridic at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


More on State's Rights, from Encyclopedia Virginia:
Although the discourse around states' rights dates from the American Revolution (1775–1783) and the writings of Thomas Jefferson, it became critically important first during the Nullification Crisis (1828–1832), when South Carolina attempted to overrule a federally imposed tariff, and then during the Secession Crisis (1860–1861), when South Carolina and a number of other Southern states, including Virginia, seceded from the Union rather than accept the election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. president.
Bonus links for more details on the referenced events.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
This is literally what the Constitution already says. But Greg Abbott disagrees with court rulings interpreting the commerce clause, so the solution is obviously to say it again in bigger letters!

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.
This is dumb, stupid, and completely at odds with everything we know about macroeconomics. Par for the course!

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
On its face this is blatantly obvious, and also unnecessary; it's like saying we should prohibit Supreme Court justices from auditing people's taxes. What he actually wants is for executive agencies to stop following the law by promulgating and enforcing rules that Congress has specifically ordered them to promulgate and enforce.

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
See above, and add in "Gov. Greg Abbott doesn't know what the Supremacy Clause is."

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
They can already do this through a constitutional amendment. If state legislatures have found that it's doing that every time there's a Supreme Court decision Greg Abbott doesn't like, maybe there's a reason?

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
*dies of laughter*

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
Another "how dare those filthy liberals interpret the constitution differently from me! I know, we'll say we REALLY MEAN IT and then everyone will see how right I am!" amendment.

VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
Again, this is already a thing. States sue the federal government all the time in environmental law. The big climate change plan Obama released last year that Texas hates so much happened because of a Supreme Court case called Massachusetts v. EPA.

IX. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
Yeah, the Articles of Confederation worked out great!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:44 PM on January 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system.

It's really not. It's a sign that being able to mint the predominant reserve currency and reliably service the debt allows us to pull future spending into the present at very little (even negative) cost. Removing the ability of the federal government to exploit its status as a safe haven for the world's money would, in fact, break a system that works very well for both debtor and creditors.
posted by multics at 1:46 PM on January 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


I've mentioned it before in discussions like these, I'm sure. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America really does a great job of explaining why these cultural wars keep happening.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:47 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Gettin' real sick of hearing about a "balanced budget" as the end-all-be-all accomplishment for a governing body. The deficit being paid off (just a thought experiment, because this will never happen) is completely worthless if citizens are suffering without basic social services and infrastructure. My conservative family members always counter the great stuff coming out about Finland's educational system (for example) with a comment about "Well so what? Their economy is not very strong!" which--if I had to wildly guess--does not matter to the average Finnish middle-class family enjoying an excellent safety net and overall quality of life.

Quality of life is why I vote. Everything that doesn't enhance citizens' quality of life is meaningless imagination adventures, and this proposal is Exhibit A.
posted by witchen at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


Okay, Texas. You don't want federal laws? You don't have to have them. But you also lose federal benefits and protections, starting with:

(a) The U.S. government no longer recognizes your southern border
(b) Withdrawal of the entirety of the U.S. military from your soil
(c) You may no longer trade in U.S. currency.

Good luck to you.
posted by JohnFromGR at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am disappointed that Abbott failed to mention Jade Helm, FEMA concentration camps, and the questionable legality of federal courts that fly the US flag bordered with gold fringe.

And not one Constitutional amendment to prohibit WalMart from buillding secret NSA/MiB tunnels beneath their stores!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


America the superpower has morphed into DC Comics: AMERICA THE SUPERPOWER! and it's time for a reboot!
posted by srboisvert at 1:59 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "Yellow Rose of Texas." Everything can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

I like big butts and I-hiiii
Cannot, cannot lie
And all you other brothers
Cannot, cannot deny

Checks out. Continue.
posted by delfin at 2:00 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


As a Texas resident I do want to say that saying "Okay Secede Texas" isn't really helpful because it helps perpetuate this ridiculous idea that Texas has some special get out of the Union card that it can play because it was somehow sovereign before joining the US. While it's fun it pretend that Texas might have some super sekrit clause that allows us to ignore the fact that we exist in a Federal system we don't have that. Further is empowers this false belief that you can always get what you want in a democracy and if you don't like it you can take you ball and go home when that is absolutely false. There is no divorce procedures for dissolving the union and the result is sometimes liberals are going to get shit they want like Gay Marriage and sometimes Republicans are going to get what they want like the power to invalidate just about every gun law on the books.

Living in a democracy doesn't mean you always get your way and weakening the SCOTUS for instance would simply eliminate one of the few protections that are in place that prevent the tyranny of the majority. But unfortunately the people that propose ideas like this think there is some hidden silent majority that actually believes the same bullshit they do when in fact a lot of US politics is simply based upon tribal identity.
posted by vuron at 2:05 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


On deficit spending... The federal budget for 2015 was $3.8T with about $1.1T in discretionary spending, $2.45T in mandatory spending, and $229B servicing debt. (See the breakdown.) There was a deficit of $468B. (Details here.)

The majority of mandatory spending is Medicare or Social Security. These are mandatory insurance programs whose recipients have paid into them their whole lives with the expectation of receiving benefits. Cuts to them are quite literally theft, as the government would be defaulting on obligations that it has already made and which recipients have already paid for, in order to save money elsewhere. In any case, it would be illegal to cut mandatory spending without changing some very popular programs; that's why it's called mandatory.

The majority of discretionary spending is on the military. In fact, military expenditures ($598B) were higher than the deficit. This is the reality of unbalanced budgets. You could in fact balance the US budget pretty readily: the second highest military expenditure in the world is China, which spends $129.4B per year on its military. This is absurd on its face. Cut the military budget so it's only twice what China's is, and you'd be saving $339.2B. There is no reason to outspend every other country on earth in pure military expenditure by a factor of four, unless you're getting your hands in things you shouldn't be. (Of course, there's probably economic fallout from this, but that's going to happen no matter where you have the government stop spending money.)

With the military budget slashed, you'd only have $128.8B to make up, which could be done by a very modest series of cuts or minor increases in taxation, probably a mix of the two. No other drastic measures would have to be taken. Yet none of the people who go on and on about balanced budgets want to end all involvement in non-defensive wars and scale the military down dramatically, even though that's the very logical conclusion. That's because balanced budgets are a stalking horse to steal the money in the Social Security and Medicare buckets. There are a lot of people who are angling toward that, and who want to take that money from the people who've paid in their whole lives.

TLDR: Anyone who calls for a balanced budget without drastic military cuts is a thief.
posted by graymouser at 2:15 PM on January 8, 2016 [45 favorites]


I don't give two shits about the constitution, I just oppose this on the grounds of, "We aren't going to let conservatives get away with being assholes." When they grow up and learn to treat all people equally, I'd be perfectly happy to resume discussions about stripping federal power.

Yes, this isn't really about the Constitution as much as it is about power, and even though there's no chance that any of Abbott's amendments will ever amount to anything but fundraising fodder for the GOP, what his outlandish wish list communicates is how much resentment the conservative wing of US politics harbors against the people without power who are protected by the government. Make no mistake about it. The major impetus behind the libertarian and anti-government sentiment is to remove what little power the powerless have won through government. All that states rights talk for over a century was really about the legacy of slavery and civil rights. All the really powerful people want who are pushing the anti-government line is remove every impediment to creating a privileged society built for their needs only. They try to convince the people without power that government is inherently corrupt, thereby removing the last true means of challenging the powerful people who fight tooth and nail against every egalitarian measure, every recognition of human rights and the necessity of a system that can effectively challenge the forces that would rather crush the impoverished and marginalized.

Don't buy it. It's a fucking bill of goods.

A strong government can be as corrupt as any human institution, but it allows people who have no recourse and no resources to fight back. You better believe Greg Abbott, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Paul LePage, Rob Ford, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Grover Norquist, Barry Goldwater, et al, are acutely aware of this, which is why they're always trying to convince people that big government is inherently bad. What they don't mention is that it's mostly bad for them, when they find they can't do anything they want while ignoring the negative consequences for other people. Because without the government, these guys can really get down to business of remaining rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else, and utterly crushing anyone who opposes them.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:24 PM on January 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


The majority of discretionary spending is on the military. In fact, military expenditures ($598B) were higher than the deficit. This is the reality of unbalanced budgets. You could in fact balance the US budget pretty readily: the second highest military expenditure in the world is China, which spends $129.4B per year on its military. This is absurd on its face. Cut the military budget so it's only twice what China's is, and you'd be saving $339.2B. There is no reason to outspend every other country on earth in pure military expenditure by a factor of four, unless you're getting your hands in things you shouldn't be. (Of course, there's probably economic fallout from this, but that's going to happen no matter where you have the government stop spending money.)

Just think of the jobs we could straight up pay to create with that, rather than funneling it into the pockets of defense industry shareholders. The military's already our biggest subsidy- let's aim that subsidy at the masses.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


As a liberal Texan, all I can say is that I'm sorry and we're doing the best we can down here.

It's hard for me to put this into a cogent argument, but I feel as if there is a long term trend towards the general liberalization of society. There is more awareness of minority rights and discrimination, environmentalism is going ever more mainstream, multiculturalism is a thing, and so on. It's easy to find counterexamples, of course, but I feel like the trend leans noticeably liberal. When I see conservatives acting ever more extreme, ever more irrational, I feel like I'm seeing desperation fueled by fear. From a certain perspective, what I see as positive changes must look like society collapsing. Fear explains so much conservative behavior that I don't understand why it isn't discussed more often.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


After getting obsessed with Hamilton, I went and read the biography by Ron Chernow. The states rights vs federal power thing goes all the way back to the lifelong arguments between Hamilton and Jefferson - pretty much the same as in the musical but there's a lot more detail in the book (with less rapping). It was pretty eye-opening as to the source of where these disputes come from that are still going on today.

I'm reading a book about Jefferson now, and when he was president he totally went against his own small-government philosophy in order to grab the Louisiana Purchase.
posted by matildaben at 2:33 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


As a liberal Texan, all I can say is that I'm sorry and we're doing the best we can down here.


I dunno if the problem is that the national Democratic Party can't provide the funding, support, and staffing necessary to make Texas competitive or won't, but either way it needs to start yesterday and be administrated by people who understand that not getting success today, tomorrow, or in five years isn't an indictment of their efforts.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:35 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Fiscal 16' for defense is 534 billions with a base of 522 billions.
I agree with cuts (8 billion a year should be doubled) but slashing the military is not the answer.

Now congress balancing its own budget is already a law.
Wait.
posted by clavdivs at 2:35 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Or bring home most troops from Germany and Japan. They don't really need our troops, sure Germany pays some but imagine the savings with 40-50 thousand solders coming home.
posted by clavdivs at 2:41 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just got into an ugly FB argument about some of these, which may or may not have to do with my having listened to "Cabinet Battle #1" about twenty times this week.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Germany and Japan stationed troops are there to remind other countries that we have a big fucking army and we're not far away, so don't even try it, buster. Elf on the Shelf diplomacy.
posted by downtohisturtles at 2:58 PM on January 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


Regardless of the party affiliation of the author, those amendments actually sound pretty reasonable.
posted by jpe at 3:10 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, this isn't really about the Constitution as much as it is about power

Those aren't different things. The primary thing the Constitution does is allocate power.
posted by jpe at 3:11 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Or bring home most troops from Germany and Japan. They don't really need our troops, sure Germany pays some but imagine the savings with 40-50 thousand solders coming home.

So you say! MODS! MODS! I have found an agent of the Kaiser! In our very midst!
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cuts to them are quite literally theft,

Not legally. As a matter of constitutional law, there's no property right to SS benefits. So it is, quite literally, not theft.
posted by jpe at 3:14 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't a balanced budget amendment effectively default on the current debt?
posted by peeedro at 3:19 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sure! Congress should borrow money when it needs to, for extraordinary expenses! But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system. Or at least, it appears that way to me.

I don't think you appreciate how few the number of years that the US has been in surplus over its entire existence. Deficit financing is as American as apple pie.
posted by Talez at 3:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


This country is probably heading for a split at some point in the future. We have fundamental disagreements on the very nature of reality and can no longer seem to work together. I just hope it's peaceful and the split doesn't screw people over too hard.

Take a look at the "Purple America" maps. There's no such thing as a pure red-blue division, so any split would either involve huge forced population relocation, on the order of hundreds of millions of people, or massive oppression.

So basically, any split would end up incredibly violent and rancorous. And most American states have the technological base to manufacture nuclear weapons. Just in case you were getting too much sleep.
posted by happyroach at 3:21 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


lol #2 would cause a global financial crisis. good shit, mr governor
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:22 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


> [...] I always feel the need to remind everyone that Texas is a smack-center moderate state by the numbers, but we're also gerrymandered all to fuck. Check this out (scroll down). Zoom in on Dallas and just take a gander at TX-33, then check out Houston.

> Jesus christ, are you ignoring the thing where Republican control in Texas is mediated largely by our FUCKED UP GERRYMANDERING system?

In all seriousness, does anyone propose feasible solutions to this gerrymandering problem? One of the first things on the Wikipedia page under Remedies indicates "The United States is alone among major countries in that self-interested politicians govern the redistricting process."

...What? It's like you have the root of all this evil sticking out like a sore thumb, but no one seems to [be willing or able to] do anything about it.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 3:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yup, happyroach. It's scary as hell. In a lot of ways we are two completely different countries mixed right in all together. And with a shit ton of guns.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:26 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Supreme Court primarily exists to tell the government it can't do things. Weakening the courts increases the power of the state.

There's already enough petty tyranny in our lives from homeowner's associations on up. The fact that such a proposal would make tyranny slightly more decentralized is little consolation.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:30 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


...What? It's like you have the root of all this evil sticking out like a sore thumb, but no one seems to [be willing or able to] do anything about it.

See also our healthcare system.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:31 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


sciatrix: Can you please not consign the rest of us to rot so you can have your ideological purity or your smug "don't have to live in red state" feelings? I posted a MeTa about this one month ago, do I need to do one again?

I don't mean to sound too harsh, sciatrix, but you can't ask an entire web site of people to not have a slanted-yet-still-somewhat-accurate view of Texas and its politics. I am a native Texan who now no longer lives in Texas and who has a full understanding of just how hard it is to leave (with bonus "not everyone can leave" points, too).

But here's the problem: We brought these problems onto ourselves. We, the people of the Great State of Texas, voted in these folks. We didn't push back when gerrymandering was happening. We didn't support the 11 Democrats who fled to Oklahoma to try to put a halt to that practice (Texans decreased the number of Democrats in the Legislature by not voting Democrat even in "safe Democrat" gerrymandered districts). We didn't support Bill White, nor Wendy Davis, nor Tom Schieffer. We didn't even try to push for Lite Gov, who arguably has more political authority than the "real" Governor, and left candidates like Leticia Van de Putte and Linda Chavez-Thompson hanging. I phonebanked for Bill White and Wendy Davis and got to see this astounding lack of support firsthand. Some of this is the national Democratic party leaving the state high and dry, though I think that has to do with local support just not appearing. But all Gov and Lite Gov elections are statewide, so no gerrymandering applies.

We vote against tax increases and for constitutional amendments to screw up local governments and interpersonal relationships. Those are also statewide, yet Democrats/liberals don't get things to go their way.

We got the government we voted for, and I don't blame outsiders one bit for slagging on the insanity of it all. I mean, the State Board of Education, for FSM's sake.
posted by fireoyster at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Regardless of the party affiliation of the author, those amendments actually sound pretty reasonable.

(Except the balanced budget one, which is bonkers. And maybe others. I'm a frw drinks in and didn't - and won't - do more than scan them.
posted by jpe at 3:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

Here's how little these knobs know about the Constitution they're so desperate to fix -- the Constitution doesn't say "nine justices". That was Congress's call, and the next one could say that the Supreme Court has 13 justices, and suddenly seven is just a majority.
posted by Etrigan at 4:03 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from creating federal law.


They're all a steaming load -- hey, states, how do your requirements to balance your budgets work for you in an economic downturn? -- but this one in particular. Congress delegates rulemaking authority to the Executive branch as a matter of course. (Which, of course, doesn't stop NPR from quoting Republicans that Obama is some kind of tyrant.)

If you think bureaucracy is bad now, imagine if it'd take an Act of Congress to change a Federal regulation.

Sheesh.
posted by Gelatin at 4:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system.

This is a tired old conservative talking point/scare tactic which rests on the assumption that principles that apply to household finances will equally apply to governments. Which is a ridiculous assumption, but it works to throw people into a panic when you say "The government is in DEBT!!!11!!!", because on a personal finance level debt is usually bad.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


One of the first things on the Wikipedia page under Remedies indicates "The United States is alone among major countries in that self-interested politicians govern the redistricting process."

...What? It's like you have the root of all this evil sticking out like a sore thumb, but no one seems to [be willing or able to] do anything about it.
Almost everyone in a position to do something is happy with status quo – why are they going to change the system they successfully used to get elected? The only way anything seems to change if it comes under court review and the public gets lucky or if there's a massive change in who turns out to vote, which is a one-in-a-generation kind of thing.
posted by adamsc at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Constitution is broken, but this wouldn't fix it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:43 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


None of these pro-business experts-without-experience politicians know enough about business or government to realize that a government taking on debt to fund spending is like a start-up taking investment to scale up -- it's a bet on future success and growth. Unless you waste the money, but that kills companies way more readily than governments.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:58 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Worth noting that a constitutional convention is in no way a new idea on the right. It's being heavily touted by the Koch network, and Marco Rubio, as THE way to "take our country" back from the tyranny of the federal government. By destroying the federal government.

They're not really kidding around with this shit.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:08 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


every time someone someone talks ignorantly about "the south" on Metafilter, I take a page from John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln and mentally replace it with "The Slave Power." Just because the nation has buried its skeletons in one region doesn't mean people of that region, or even a third of the people in that region are in league with the powers holding back the united states.
posted by eustatic at 5:10 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Some of this is the national Democratic party leaving the state high and dry

Most.
posted by eustatic at 5:13 PM on January 8, 2016


I'm sick to death of backwards white people acting like they have any concept whatsoever of what living under "tyranny" would be like. If today's neoconfederates got the secession they wanted, the first act of that new nation would be to turn around and demand that foreign aid from the big mean DC guvmint not be interrupted.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:33 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Regardless of the party affiliation of the author, those amendments actually sound pretty reasonable.

Emphasis mine.

I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one
State.


This is the Commerce Clause + Amendment X (real Amendment, not Abbott Fan-Fic amendment.) There's a ton, ton, ton of caselaw about this, and it's CJ. Roberts' particular hobby-horse (and realistically, likely what got him nominated in the first place.) We can argue the merits of this all day long, but the final word is that this does nothing, unless the goal is to curtail not so much actions of private enterprise (which are very, very difficult to truly keep confined to one state) but discriminatory policy, which could be set by the state and de facto only exist within the state. That's much more commonly done via the courts, of course, but I think Abbott wants to cover his bases here.

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.

Piss-poor economic policy with inevitably disastrous outcomes and no historical back-up to even demonstrate an upside. The only potential upside, depending on who you are and which side your bread is buttered on, is to put unaccountable private entities, Littlefinger-style, in charge of the ashes after it all burns down. If you're Greg Abbott, that bread is buttered just perfectly for you, of course.

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from creating federal law.


Non-sensical if read as written, ludicrous if read as presumably intended.

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that
staff them—from preempting state law.


In direct conflict with the Supremacy Clause, and indicative of either a fundamental misunderstanding of how government works on Abbott's part, or just intellectual dishonesty. Administrative agencies do not create the law, they execute it under legislated law. Like with III, nonsensical as read, ludicrous as likely intended.

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme
Court decision.


Holy hell no. Now, this will be revisited again in Fan-Fic amendment IX, so let's get into it. Quoting the section of Abbott that savetheclocktower quoted above:
It would allow States to convene assemblies for the purpose of overturning the Supreme Court’s misinterpretations of the Constitution. In particular, the States could convene an assembly on the vote of 26 States. The States could pick their delegates to those assemblies, and the assemblies could meet as often as the States deem necessary. At the assembly, a two-thirds super-majority of state delegates would be required to overturn a Supreme Court decision. But once the super-majority requirement is met, the assemblies could overturn the Court’s decisions in whole or in part. They could overturn the Court’s decisions retroactively or prospectively. They could vitiate the precedential effect of the Court’s decisions and remand cases to the Supreme Court for further proceedings. In short, the assemblies would restore the people—rather than five unelected jurists—to the role of the truly supreme arbiter of the Constitution.
This is essentially a standing shadow-branch of the federal government with veto power, accountable to not really anyone and proportioned equally among the states, à la the Senate model. Well, the pre-Amendment-XVII Senate, when there was no requirement that Senators be directly elected and they could be simply chosen by the state apparatus. But why have a second shadow-senate at all when there already exists that first one as an impediment to getting legislation passed?

Glad you asked, Strawman! Congressional districts are subject to Gerrymandering. State Congressional districts are too! This means that there's a good argument to be made that Senators are actually more reflective of the will of the people right now than House members are, even after the effect of "your vote in Wyoming is worth 66.4 times what your vote is worth in California," because you can't gerrymander state lines. Because they've played this particular game much, much, much better than the dems have, the gerrymandering is locked in the GOP's favor for the foreseeable future, while their numbers have been falling nationally for the past 12 years, and the tea-party tactics have been driving away potential members. With a little push, the GOP can control 33 or 34 state governments, and use their top leadership to do what they do best as of late - getting the party to walk in lockstep.

So there you go, unchecked additional fourth branch designed specifically to be a GOP-led mechanism of obstructionism. This is mostly a tantrum against the ACA, of course, but it would be used for just about everything.

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court
decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.


Not every SCOTUS decision is about whether a law is constitutional. I don't know the numbers, but I'd wager that most of them aren't, in fact. But a lot are, and those are generally really, really important ones, and this is about knowing that the Republicans aren't going to see the White House for a while, most likely, and human beings are mortal, and Scalia and Kennedy are both getting up there, but if Roberts, Thomas and Alito can hold the ground, anything goes. Facially absurd and indefensible.

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

Hi, Greg, everybody is aware of Amendment X. This isn't Fight Club. We don't need to just repeat rules to make sure people heard you.

VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
Again, Mass v. EPA.

This is already a thing, though I suppose I wouldn't hate it if the ability to do so were super-firmly established. As written, this is meaninglessly vague, though. (side note: I love citing Mass v. EPA, because my Admin Law prof. Lisa Heinzerling was one of the attorneys on it and won it while I was in Law School. That was a fun time.)
IX. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
Everything I wrote above about Fan-Fic amendment V, but this time it's a tantrum about Obergfell v. Hodges.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:50 PM on January 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


Restore the draft. Paging General Welfare.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:55 PM on January 8, 2016


Hi, Greg, everybody is aware of Amendment X. This isn't Fight Club. We don't need to just repeat rules to make sure people heard you.

I'm not saying Greg is right but it seems like we have to continually restate the 14th amendment every single fucking generation to counter the inequality du jour.
posted by Talez at 6:00 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one
State.


NOPE

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.

NOPE

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.

NOPE

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.

what is this i don't even

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

THAT WAS A ROTTEN RULE! I DECREE NO MORE INVISIBLE SECTORS!

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

NOPE

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

EXCEPT FOR MY AMENDMENTS, ONE OF WHICH IS THAT I GET INFINITE AMENDMENTS.

OK, I quit.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:01 PM on January 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one
State.
So, you don't mind if most states ban guns?
V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme
Court decision.
The States already have this power. A two thirds majority of states is what it takes to amend the constitution.
VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court
decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
But who decides which decisions count as invalidating a democratically enacted law? Interpretation of law falls to the courts; in this case, the Supreme Court. You didn't think this through, did you.
VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
States already have the power to sue the federal government. Anyone is allowed to sue anyone for any reason.
posted by foobaz at 6:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gah, above, I mixed up Fan-Fic Amendments V and IX, so it's V that is a tantrum against Obergfell, and IX against the ACA. Etc. Etc. Dammit, I wish I'd caught that.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:30 PM on January 8, 2016


So here, Governor Abbot, is my counter proposal: Let the South rise again. Let's let them become their own Confederacy. Give them all of the states that voted red in the last presidential election,

No, godammit. There are a hell of a lot of us who live in the former confederate states who depend on the federal government to protect us from the batshit crazy motherfuckers who've kept themselves in power by gerrymandering and voter suppression.

This kind of blithe suggestion pisses me off more every time I hear it. We deserve the protections of the US constitution just as much as the rest of the country. Hell, we need it more.
posted by fogovonslack at 7:09 PM on January 8, 2016 [18 favorites]


We print out own money, but not fast enough. The deficit each year is Part of the gdp.

Specifically, the money spent (or saved) by households + the money spent (or saved) by businesses + the deficit/surplus + exports/imports = the gross domestic product.

Lowering the deficit lowers the GDP. It is a very simple equation. Silly economists. They need to really be accountants.
posted by djinn dandy at 7:15 PM on January 8, 2016


Can you please not consign the rest of us to rot so you can have your ideological purity or your smug "don't have to live in red state" feelings? I posted a MeTa about this one month ago, do I need to do one again?

I guess I'd feel different about things if I saw a few general strikes called, maybe get some of your minorities and liberals to occupy the state legislature and shut things down for a couple days, turn over a couple of police cars, that sort of thing. Because that was literally where you were 10 years ago. Unless the revolution wasn't publicized, the rest of us saw there was no fight to preserve your democracy so we assumed you didn't really want it and wrote you off. It's not fair, or easy, but you were literally called upon to get your heads smashed or get the fuck out. I have little sympathy for the oppressed Texan liberal's complicity in all this.

By the way, immigration to the Great Republic of Cascadia is largely wide open. Here when democracy is under attack, we generally show up and fuck shit up. Also, we have health care, gay marriage, and legal pot. Cost of living may be higher than you're used to but our minimum wage rocks and the views are terrific.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:20 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jesus, people in Texas and elsewhere are putting their time in and working for better things. Are we going to write them off for not rioting?
posted by Navelgazer at 8:28 PM on January 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


Ironically, I think the good people who haven't given up in Texas possess more tolerance than I do. It would (and did) make me crazy living amongst so many people with such a fundamentally different world view working against the things I work for. I was lucky to be able to move around and choose a place with a political and social climate that suited me better. I don't doubt that there are huge hearted intelligent people living under Governor Abbott, but I don't think "it's actually not so bad here" and "Because Gerrymandering!" convinces anyone outside looking in that the political situation there isn't the absolute worst perversion of democracy in the states, doesn't have horrible carry over effects on the country as a whole, and is in anyway tolerable or acceptable and that's what it feels like these defensive statements are trying to convince us. It damn well needs to change, like three governors ago. Texas has a rich cultural tradition and I am only commenting on the depths to which effective representative democracy has deteriorated and this is absolutely a fair basis to criticize what is going on, lest we all suffer the same fate.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:58 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


You could basically do all of this by just repealing the 14th Amendment.

Which some folks have been hoping to do all along.
posted by koeselitz at 11:04 PM on January 8, 2016


Navelgazer: Jesus, people in Texas and elsewhere are putting their time in and working for better things. Are we going to write them off for not rioting?

So here's the thing, I helped with politics when I lived in north Texas. I'm a native who grew up liberal and started voting the moment I could because I hoped to get to vote for somebody like Ann Richards. I even ran for city council (as an unabashed liberal) and got flattened. And I think what Slarty Bartfast—and others in this thread—are saying is that Texas liberals broke it all by ourselves. Maybe not the dedicated, hard core folks who got out and knocked on doors and phone banked and contributed and rallied, but the stay-at-home liberals who didn't bother to vote. Maybe there aren't enough of us. Maybe it's not bad enough yet. I honestly don't know. I do know that when proposition 2 ("Defense of Marriage" Constitutional amendment) passed overwhelmingly (3:1 in favor) in 2005, I saw that as the beginning of the end of hope for any liberal representation in Texas. Nothing in the years between then and when I moved away has convinced me otherwise.

Elections for Governor are not gerrymandered. Neither are Lieutenant Governor—the person who actually runs the state Senate and controls what bills come up for a vote there—Texas' two U.S. Senators, the Agricultural Commissioner, the Justices of the Texas Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals, or Comptroller, and on and on. Yet, somehow, Democrats never seem to win any of those. If we, meaning liberals, really gave that much of a damn, where is the representation to prove it? And that, along with a really good job and a spectacular view, is why my family and I decamped to the People's Republic of Seattle.

I don't agree with writing off Texas or the south at large but I definitely empathize with those who hold that view.
posted by fireoyster at 12:34 AM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Jesus christ, are you ignoring the thing where Republican control in Texas is mediated largely by our FUCKED UP GERRYMANDERING system?

Here are the 2012 presidential election results by Texas county. 57-41 for Mitt Romney.
posted by salvia at 1:21 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


But borrowing money year after year for everyday expenses is a symbol of a broken system.

This is a tired old conservative talking point/scare tactic which rests on the assumption that principles that apply to household finances will equally apply to governments.... because on a personal finance level debt is usually bad.


Except that even then, it's actually not, when you're talking about a mortgage or a student loan. Likewise, if a country wants to build a bridge with a 50-year lifespan, it's not reasonable to expect today's residents to foot the whole bill; it's more reasonable to expect taxpayers of twenty years from now to contribute, too, especially if that bridge is going to grow the economy and make that future society more able to pay.

(I know we're arguing on the same side, soundguy99; I'm not arguing with you, just trying to take your argument one step further.)
posted by salvia at 1:32 AM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I agree with cuts (8 billion a year should be doubled) but slashing the military is not the answer.

I find this response troubling. Just on the face of it, the US has the highest military expenditure in the world by a factor of 4.6. We spend more on the military than anybody ever has in the history of mankind, by a tremendous factor. There is an empire of bases in more than a hundred countries, there is a world of pork doled out to military contractors with little or no oversight. And yet politicians expect to have this bland debate about "balancing the budget" in the face of that enormous, tremendous fact. Slashing the military budget IS the answer. Double China's military expenditure would still be the largest armed force budget in the world by a factor of 2 instead of 4.6.

Pretending that there isn't a tank in the room and playing at budget principles is dishonest and immoral. The US military expenditure is absolutely insane, and at this point it does us little good. Every military adventure the US has gotten into in the past decade and a half has come snowballing back to bite us in the ass with blowback; you may have heard of its latest manifestation, Daesh or ISIS. Yet our budget hawks almost universally treat this military machine as totally sacrosanct. Even suggesting that it be reined in is almost impossible.
posted by graymouser at 3:25 AM on January 9, 2016 [23 favorites]


Someone needs to remind these rightwing christofascist idiots that when they were elected they placed their right hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. Not the other way around.

Comments like this are just straight up anti-Christian prejudice. The Bible has nothing to say about how modern democracies govern themselves, and there is no indication in Abbott's proposal that he cares about advancing particularly Christian goals. Leave us Christians out of it.

More coded, seditious speech from a governor with a long history of sedition and coded speech. He should be impeached and possibly imprisoned for treason against the United States, but as the ongoing terrorism in Oregon is showing, we make exceptions to the law for conservatives.

Labeling political disagreements, even extreme ones, as criminal treason is just as odious when liberals do it as when conservatives do it. These proposals are unworkable, wrong-headed, and dumb, but there is nothing remotely treasonous about a governor seeking to use a Constitutionally mandated process to enact new Amendments. Seeking to criminalize and punish political disputes is more disturbing than anything Abbott wants do to. Think about where that impulse will lead.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:20 AM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


TLDR: Anyone who calls for a balanced budget without drastic military cuts is a thief.

An easier solution to start with that gets most of the way there is eliminating the income ceiling for contributions to Social Security.
posted by slkinsey at 7:07 AM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why anyone believes that old saw about social security income limits. If you understand enough about how social security works to understand the income ceiling, then you ought to know that

a. Social Security is built to be actuarially neutral, so you get what you put in and increased payments by the rich would increase payouts to the rich, and

b. the only problem with Social Security is that the rest of the government owes it a lot of money.

It's much simpler to raise income taxes on that portion of the population, which is really what the SS limit increase is trying to do anyway. Or a federal progressive consumption tax, or fuck, just lower military spending.

The real question is: what are you trying to fund?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2016


Comments like this are just straight up anti-Christian prejudice. The Bible has nothing to say about how modern democracies govern themselves

The point is the swearing of the oath on what these idiots pretend they believe in, not what the book in question says about governance.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, 3.3 million Texans voted for Obama in 2012, which is more than every state except California, New York, and Florida, and is almost as many as the whole of New England. It's just that 4.5 million Texans voted for Romney (only California had more, though Florida was close).

Let's maybe not cast aspersions on the outnumbered millions of Texans for not Taking Back Their State democratically whilst being outnumbered.

With regard to effecting change without having the votes, bear in mind that Southerners pioneered this, though to enact permanent change they did need to draw attention to their plight to get help from the rest of the country in Congress.

So maybe let's not recommend abandoning millions of outnumbered people because they don't always have the votes.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


a. Social Security is built to be actuarially neutral, so you get what you put in and increased payments by the rich would increase payouts to the rich, and

Nope:
For people with lower than average earnings, the ratio of the lifetime benefits they receive from Social Security to the lifetime payroll taxes they pay for the program is higher than it is for people with higher average earnings. In that sense, the Social Security system is progressive. For people in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution, the ratio of benefits to taxes is almost three times as high as it is for those in the top fifth.
As the old adage goes, we have already established that Social Security is progressive 1, and now we're just haggling over the price.

It's true that raising or eliminating the cap on income subject to payroll taxes would, as a matter of political necessity, probably involve raising the benefit on those folks as well, but it's false to imply that if we took more from them we'd have to give all or even most of that back to them. It's just another source of funding. Which brings us to:

b. the only problem with Social Security is that the rest of the government owes it a lot of money

The government can't owe itself money, because money is fungible. The payroll taxes may have been created to be firewalled from the rest of the government budget, but that's just an accounting fiction that helps build support for the idea of taxing to pay for programs. I'd love it if Americans weren't so anti-tax that they need to be fooled into paying for the services they demand, but that's not the world we live in, and hasn't been for as long as I've been alive.

1 However, the payroll tax itself is regressive as compared to income taxes.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:27 AM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


delfin gives us "We're Sure That Jesus Wants It That Way" as the new "Christ what an asshole" for recaptioning New Yorker cartoons.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2016


The majority of mandatory spending is Medicare or Social Security. These are mandatory insurance programs whose recipients have paid into them their whole lives with the expectation of receiving benefits. Cuts to them are quite literally theft, as the government would be defaulting on obligations that it has already made and which recipients have already paid for, in order to save money elsewhere.

That breakdown is not detailed enough to show that, though. It does not differentiate, for example, between SSA and SSI, both administered by the Social Security Administration - the former being that one that people have already paid for, and that latter being free money given to people who have not necessarily paid into it. Taking from the first would be theft - taking from the second, not so much.

It's the same thing with the 'Medicare' one - which is actually labeled 'Medicare and Health'. It doesn't break down where Medicaid falls, or where health related programs that have not been paid into are.
posted by corb at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2016


It does not differentiate, for example, between SSA and SSI, both administered by the Social Security Administration - the former being that one that people have already paid for, and that latter being free money given to people who have not necessarily paid into it. Taking from the first would be theft - taking from the second, not so much.

There is a certain special moral quality that is required for someone to say that taking money from disabled people who are covered under a national insurance program wouldn't be theft. It is not a pleasant moral quality.
posted by graymouser at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


But let's be clear: changing SSI or Medicaid also requires changing the law, which is why it's still considered mandatory spending.
posted by graymouser at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, for fuck's sake. Yes, there are moral reasons why people might not want to end SSI, but if you are talking specifically about "Taking things that people pay for as theft", then it's unreasonable to lump them. If you want to talk about the necessity of preserving oranges, go with God, just don't call them apples.
posted by corb at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2016


You're both wrong by trying to label one kind of cut as theft and another kind as not. The money itself exists because the state created it, and you accepted it as payment for your labor, selling your car, or whatever. The taxes you pay on those earnings can be changed over time, and the benefits that come from those taxes can be changed as well, and your ability to influence that is through the political process. Yes, there are expectations about certain things existing in perpetuity, but those are at best vague best-effort promises that can't account for future political conditions.

So basically, either all changes in taxation and benefits are theft or none of them are, and it's a lot easier to look at it the latter way, and just consider the cuts "good" or "bad" rather than "theft" or "the natural order of the Universe as dictated by God the Founding Fathers."
posted by tonycpsu at 12:56 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, one or two of them aren't complete and utter shit. Those just have "unintended" side effects despite being fairly reasonable on their face.
posted by wierdo at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2016


I'm not sure how this turned into a Social Security finances discussion, but here goes.

An easier solution to start with that gets most of the way there is eliminating the income ceiling for contributions to Social Security.

If you're talking about "get[ting] most of the way there" with respect to balancing the overall federal budget, raising the SS payroll tax has next to no bearing on the general budget. The OASDI trust fund currently pays for itself through 2033, at which time any funding shortfall would have to start coming out of the general treasury absent any changes. Yes, SS spending makes up a huge part of "mandatory" spending, but adjusting the payroll tax would have no impact on the yearly budget except to the extent it closed the projected expiration of the trust fund.

I don't understand why anyone believes that old saw about social security income limits.

Well, it used to be the case (in 2010) that lifting the income cap on payroll taxes would close something 70% of the 75 year projected actuarial imbalance, solving a large part of the Social Security "crisis" at once. Which is why everyone knowledgeable about SS thought it was a no brainer. That's not as true currently, as the OASDI trust fund has taken a bit more of a hit since 2010, lifting the cap today to cover 90% of earning indexed to inflation would only close 20% of the projected funding gap. See: Social Security Policy Options, 2015 (Congressional Budget Office) Scroll to pages 34-36, Option 4.

a. Social Security is built to be actuarially neutral, so you get what you put in and increased payments by the rich would increase payouts to the rich,

This is not true at all given the current formula for calculating the primary insurance amount, as tony pointed out. Even completely eliminating the cap (See Option 6) would significantly improve the projected funding gap, by 40%, while accounting for dramatically increased payouts to high earners.

There is a certain special moral quality that is required for someone to say that taking money from disabled people who are covered under a national insurance program wouldn't be theft. It is not a pleasant moral quality.

SSI is not the same as SSDI or OASI. SSI is paid from general revenues, there is no "trust fund" or "insurance program" for SSI. But this:

Taking from the first would be theft - taking from the second, not so much.

Is accurate only insomuch as you're arguing that "theft" from an earned benefits insurance program is somehow less reprehensible than a deliberate policy choice to reduce or eliminate funding for old and/or disabled people with considerably less available resources than those from the first group who were fortunate or industrious enough to form a significant attachment to the work force and obtain coverage before becoming disabled or getting old.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Please don't make blanket statements about Maine. LePage won both elections because a really unimpressive liberal ran against another really unimpressive liberal in the general election and split the Democratic vote.

I don't think that the fact that a 48% minority of your neighbors are absolutely crazy loons voting for LePage should give you much comfort.
posted by JackFlash at 8:14 PM on January 9, 2016


Anyone who would "give away" Colorado to the south in their utopian fix America solution hasn't been paying sufficient attention to hyper-progressive Colorado in the last decade. Our conservative enclaves pulled some shitty shit off way back when, but fuck no, we are far more aligned with California (in many ways more speedily progressive because of our size and well positioned too) and the PNW in terms of values particularly in the Denver and Boulder area. I'm particularly touchy to the idea because I have entertained similar notions of parceling out the nation, but not with those specific groupings. It would end up being at least 5-6 nation states IMO
posted by aydeejones at 8:58 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Trump-Abbott 2016!
Let's get this party START ED! Yeehaw!!


(from the 2097 edition of "Sunken Cathedrals and Tinderbox Nations", by The Royal Academy of Antarctic Scholars: "Historians are loath to pinpoint the exact date of the precipitous decline and ruin of what we now call The Failed United States of America, but do agree that, in the words of one of our esteemed colleagues, "Things got a bit squinqty" when ...")
posted by Chitownfats at 4:48 AM on January 10, 2016


I just wanted to drop in and acknowledge my error about the SS income cap. Looking at the CBO's projections, it does seem to make a big difference, although the biggest benefits come from increasing the cap without increasing benefits, which is what I was trying to point out. (This is Option 8 here.) Removing the maximum massively increases payouts to high income earners unless you do something to change the PIA formula to prevent it.

That's because the issue of Social Security's progressiveness is largely a red herring. According to the Government Accountability Office:
"retired workers with relatively lower average career earnings receive monthly benefits that, on average, equal about half of what they made while working, while workers with relatively higher career earnings receive benefits that equal about 30 percent of prior earnings."
This is only very very mildly progressive, since of course very high earners are making much, much more than low earners in our unequal economy.

What's more, the key is that the Principle Insurance Amount formula itself was initially designed to be actuarially neutral, that is, to payout what the taxes take in over time. What we've begun to demand is that the revenues and payouts be neutral over any given year! Which is much harder to maintain because of our demographic bulges from the Baby Boomers and echo Boomers.

The government can't owe itself money, because money is fungible.

This is just false. We currently count interest on Treasury bonds issued to the Social Security trust funds as revenue, as we ought to do. That's 11% of the revenue as of 2014. And as of 2010 the trust funds have been selling those Treasury bonds to meet payout requirements by redeeming them for cash with the Treasury itself. That suggests that the government does owe itself money successfully.

The funding shortfall is never very large: it starts at something like 29% in 2030 and rises to 35% in the late 2080s, according to the CBO. For my part, I'd like to see the trust fund take on debt to meet its obligations rather than mess with taxes or benefits. This is generally poo-pooed as "doing nothing" but it's really quite simple: instead of taking SS revenue and transferring it to the general fund, we take general fund revenue and transfer it to SS. There's at least one reason to do that: every time we saw big SS trust fund increases transferred to the general fund through Treasury bonds, our government has spent the surplus revenue going to war. Social Security has paid for the DoD for a couple of decades now, why not let the DoD reciprocate? There's a reason Gore called for the SSA to "lockbox" the trust fund: we wouldn't have wasted our retirement savings on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had we done so.

Second best, it seems to me, is to maintain the "social insurance" story and raise the rates for all workers and increase the ceiling simultaneously to hit 90% of income. In part this is because I think that entitlement spending maintains its political support through a broad tax base that is nonetheless progressive: this is what we see in the Nordic countries. In part it is because I hold out hope for a universal basic income and I don't want seniors to absorb all of our social insurance capacity on their own.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


II. Require Congress to balance its budget.
This is dumb, stupid, and completely at odds with everything we know about macroeconomics. Par for the course!


I hate when people trot this nonsense out. People tend to ignore the macroeconomic stuff because it sounds like such an intuitively good idea. I have conversations and seen facebook posts about how, "A business run like the government would go out of business" and "no one could survive spending that way."

Yet they ignore the HUGE number of business that run with no profits for years (Amazon.com for one) while they burn through cash building their infrastructure, hiring people, advertising like mad, etc. Once everything is in place and the business starts growing, they start paying back their debt.

On the personal finance level, people tend to ignore their time in college and the years after when they're racking up massive debts and their spending outstrips their income by an order of magnitude or that basically everyone goes into debt to buy a house.

The difference is that when it's not worthwhile for a business to keep burning cash, they stop spending so much and put their profits into whatever will give them the greatest return. College grads benefit from that debt by earning more, sooner (at least in theory) so it makes sense to rack up a bunch of debt and then start paying it down once you have a good job.

Every time a government has a surplus, the funds get returned to the tax payers. I mean, the things the government needs to do to manage the economy are not that complicated in concept. If there is a recession, spend some money, lower taxes, and rack up some debt. When it turns around, raise taxes and pay back some debt. It just seems like that second part never happens.

It's not so different from a high-school grad loosing their job, racking up debt to go to college, and then getting an even better job and paying the debt back.
posted by VTX at 7:21 AM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Removing the maximum massively increases payouts to high income earners unless you do something to change the PIA formula to prevent it.

Right, but since removing the cap forces them to contribute much more than they are now, I have no problem giving them some of that money back. They'd still be putting in way more than they get back (yay, redistribution!) but the ratio between annual benefits and lifetime payroll taxes as shown in the graph I linked to would asymptotically approach some percentage, maybe 4% or so.

Of course, I'd much prefer to use the income tax to do all of this, but talk of raising or eliminating the cap should be part of any conversation about ways to increase revenue.

>> The government can't owe itself money, because money is fungible.

> This is just false.


By "can't owe itself money", I didn't mean that the laws of the universe don't allow it, I meant that it's the government itself that has to balance the books, and the government isn't going to break its own legs or have a cabinet official fitted with cement shoes because their agency isn't paying up.

But yes, when it makes sense for the government to trade on the excellent quality of its investment vehicles, it ought to do so, but it really doesn't make sense to talk about the fact that the rest of the government owes SS money as a problem.

There's at least one reason to do that: every time we saw big SS trust fund increases transferred to the general fund through Treasury bonds, our government has spent the surplus revenue going to war

But there's nothing about the source of the funding that made this so, what made it so have been Presidents and Congresses who wanted to go to war. They could have just as easily pulled the money for doing so from the general fund, and considering that the military / overall "security" budget is both large and sacrosanct as a jobs program for every district in the nation, I find your argument that the source of the funding has any connection to the decision to spend the money on defense very unconvincing.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:06 AM on January 10, 2016


If there is a recession, spend some money, lower taxes, and rack up some debt. When it turns around, raise taxes and pay back some debt. It just seems like that second part never happens.

This is simply not true. As this chart shows, the U.S. dutifully paid down the enormous debt from WWII right up until the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan and Bush 1 then exploded the debt with tax cuts for the rich.

Clinton reversed some of those tax cuts without a single Republican vote and once again reduced the debt, even running a surplus at the end of his term.

Then Bush 2 cut taxes for the rich again, quoting Dick Cheney "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter" and actually declaring that budget surpluses were dangerous. And of course Bush 2 included the first part of the Great Recession.

So you are partly right, but it is only true that that we run up irresponsible debt under Republican Presidents obsessed with tax cuts for the rich. Democrats have been quite responsible regarding the debt.
posted by JackFlash at 8:56 AM on January 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


They'd still be putting in way more than they get back (yay, redistribution!) but the ratio between annual benefits and lifetime payroll taxes as shown in the graph I linked to would asymptotically approach some percentage, maybe 4% or so.

I don't think that chart is really telling you what you want it to say, because this is what the CBO says: "Payable lifetime benefits relative to lifetime earnings for high earners would increase by 48 percent to 58 percent; for people born in the 1960s, that percentage increase would be greater than the percentage increase in lifetime payroll taxes relative to lifetime earnings. Low earners and people in the middle of the earnings distribution would see little change in their lifetime payroll taxes, but their payable lifetime benefits relative to lifetime earnings would increase by 16 percent to 22 percent. "

I find your argument that the source of the funding has any connection to the decision to spend the money on defense very unconvincing.

I can't prove causality, it's just a major correlation, but it's been a large part of progressive political theory for centuries. Jefferson and Hamilton argued about it. It's not SS per se; it's the uncommitted budget surplus, which the format of SS's one way pay-as-you-go-but-save-ahead has produced. We could have paid of all of our debt with the SS surplus (it was an honest fear and the Clinton administration had to commission a study to warn against it.)

I mean, you should at least acknowledge that there really is a progressive case for shrinking the federal government since it mostly kills and incarcerates black and brown people. I too want a progressive government, but the one we have isn't, really.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:05 AM on January 10, 2016


I don't think that chart is really telling you what you want it to say

The chart, as clearly indicated by the Y-axis label, measures annual benefits compared to lifetime earnings. The percentages you're speaking about are lifetime benefits to lifetime earnings. Different numerators == different percentages. My point stands -- yes, we would have to tinker with the formula, but lifting the cap means more money goes in, so it would increase revenue, even though we'd probably as a matter of political necessity have to give wealthy seniors back more of the money they put in.

I mean, you should at least acknowledge that there really is a progressive case for shrinking the federal government since it mostly kills and incarcerates black and brown people. I too want a progressive government, but the one we have isn't, really.

Christ, no, I will acknowledge no such thing, and your reasoning is nonsensical. "The government does a bad thing, therefore we should shrink it." What about we just stop doing the bad stuff and keep the size of government the same, or grow it? We're in the bottom thee or four among OECD nations in terms of revenues as a percentage of GDP . The US government needs to get larger, not smaller, and trying to starve it of funds and assuming that the military and carceral programs will be the casualties is very naive.

And incidentally, "black and brown people" is a term that MeFi PoC have asked white folks like you and me to stop using, and I think that's a good idea.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2016


does anyone propose feasible solutions to this gerrymandering problem?

independent redistricting commissions

former confederate states who depend on the federal government to protect us

Which States Rely the Most on Federal Aid?*
posted by kliuless at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2016


The money itself exists because the state created it,

Guess I should make that MMT post.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


previously! (also btw ;)
posted by kliuless at 2:36 PM on January 11, 2016




VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court
decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law

Isn't that virtually all decisions?


I think decisions like Bush v. Gore would be unaffected.
posted by klausness at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2016


« Older I've seen things you people wouldn't believe   |   "You’re a survivor now, not a victim." Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments