Saturday, August 20, 2011

Governor Perry's Dangerous Ideas for the US Constitution

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently entered the race to become the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate. Although many early reports regarding Perry have focused on trivial issues like his "Texas Swagger," some media are now beginning to give him serious scrutiny.

Today, Chris Moody, a Yahoo News blogger, analyzes seven ways that Perry wants to change the Constitution. Perry set forth these ideas in his book: Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington. He also mentioned them during interviews and while campaigning. If implemented, Perry's ideas would dramatically curtail the exercise of individual rights and liberties. They would also dramatically restrain the ability of Congress to engage in sound fiscal policy.

Perry wants to make seven changes to the Constitution:
Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.

Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.

Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.

Require the federal government to balance its budget every year.

The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.

Abortion should be made illegal throughout the country.
If You Want to Destroy Liberty -- Kill the Courts

Perry's ideas would imperil individual liberty. Particularly frightening are Perry's proposals for the Supreme Court. The Framers of the Constitution created the Supreme Court to act as a check against the other branches of the federal government -- and as a guardian against state governmental infringement of federal law. Perry would water-down the Court's important role in two ways. First, he would seek to eliminate lifetime tenure for judges. He would also seek to empower Congress to reverse Supreme Court rulings by a 2/3 vote.

Critics of judicial power often argue that the Court is antimajoritarian because federal judges have lifetime tenure. A lot of academic research has demonstrated that these fears are highly overstated. Regardless, lifetime tenure immunizes judges from retaliation by the political branches. If judges were subject to reappointment or -- even worse -- elections -- to keep their jobs, this would diminish the extent of their autonomy from political institutions.

Perry's proposal for a congressional override of Supreme Court decisions is also dangerous. Presently, Congress can reverse the Court's interpretation of statutes by a simple majority vote (it is unclear from Moody's post whether Perry knows this). The Court's rulings on the meaning of the Constitution, however, are final, unless the Court later reverses them --- or, unless "the people" amend the Constitution.

Congress can propose Constitutional amendments by a 2/3 vote, but 3/4 of the states must ratify the proposal. Perry would allow 2/3 of Congress to reverse the Court's interpretation of the Constitution without the involvement of the states. This proposal, which would make the Court vulnerable to the whim of Congress, would erode judicial autonomy that the Framers built into the Constitution.

Direct Curtailment of Individual Liberty

Several of Perry' other proposals more directly restrain individual rights. Perry, for example, favors constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-sex marriage. These are fairly standard Republican positions.

Perry, however, also favors a repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which allows for the election of US Senators by popular vote in each state. Recently, several other conservatives have advanced this proposal. The Seventeenth Amendment gives voters the right to elect Senators; previously state legislators had that power. The Seventeenth Amendment expanded the representation of the American people in Congress, and it gave voters more power to influence the actions of their representatives. Perry, like other conservatives, wants to take this power away from the people and give it back to state lawmakers. This would represent a serious erosion of individual political power.

Fiscal Nightmare

Perry's remaining proposals are fiscally unsound. First, he wants to amend the Constitution to prohibit Congress from taxing income. This proposal appeals to people who believe -- without any evidence -- that taxation has ruined the country. Perry's idea would make the notion of a functioning national government virtually impossible. A balanced budget amendment, which Perry also favors, would have a similarly disastrous impact on federal fiscal policy (see prior blog post).

Final Thoughts

I am pleased to see that some media have begun to scrutinize Perry. His Texas swagger -- whatever that is -- should not even occupy space in public discourse. It is unimportant.

Instead, the media needs to focus on Perry's ideas and proposals -- which he has detailed in a book and in numerous campaign speeches and interviews. Hopefully, Chris Moody's analysis of Perry's dangerous ideas for the Constitution will lead to even more analysis of his policy positions. This is not the time for Hee Haw journalism.


Chris Moody published the article scrutinizing Perry's views of the Constitution. This blog post has been amended to give attribution to Moody, rather than the Associated Press.


fred c said...

Very interesting that Ron Paul gets eighteen comments in a few days but the post about Rick Perry is silent for ten days. Rick's ideas, highlighted here, are pretty bizarre, like some Roland Emmerich disaster movie. Not that Ron is Mr. Normal. With weirdos like these two becoming business as usual, I wish us all luck.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Agreed -- the Paul article was linked on Huffington Post and some pro-Paul sites. Paul seems to have a ton of Internet warriors, who seem seduced by him and completely unwilling to consider his weaknesses. Sounds like Obama's Internet fans during the 2008 campaigns.

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