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News Link • Government Debt & Financing

Budget Failure Further Evidence of Decline of Representative Democracy

• Paul Levinson
The bipartisan bozos in Washington - the super-committee tasked this summer with working out a new budget by the day before Thanksgiving - are reported to be on the verge of announcing failure to reach agreement on a new budget.   This is after Congress and the President failed to reach agreement on a new budget this summer, and instead created the super-committee to come up with a budget, with a back-up of draconian cuts to major arteries of government, ranging from the military to human services., is a new budget was not agreed upon and approved by Congress.

The upshot: at a time when our and the world's economy are in serious crisis - at a time, in other words, in which government is more needed than ever -  our representative government in the United States is incapable of performing.

Part of it is their own fault.  The Senate is tied up because it has imposed upon itself a de facto requirement of 60 votes to pass controversial legislation.  Constitutional scholar Lyle Denniston quotes Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon, not on the super-committee) as noting that the Constitution "only specifies a 'supermajority' for a limited list of Senate actions.  Some of them are: ratification of treaties, conviction of a President in an impeachment trial, overriding presidential vetoes, approving constitutional amendments ..."  Nowhere does the Constitution say that 60 votes are required for difficult or controversial legislation - indeed, I would argue that, the more pressing the need for some kind of legislation, the more illogical and counterproductive it is to require 60 votes. In addition to that requirement being extra-Constitutional.

But there is a deeper factor at work here, that goes beyond our elected representatives shooting themselves in their own feet.   Representative democracy may well be floundering because we finally have the means, in the digital age, to govern ourselves, to discuss and vote upon pressing issues, directly.

If budgets were put to a direct majority up-or-down vote of the American people, surely one would soon get 50% of the vote plus one.  Surely, in other words, a new budget would be soon be adopted.

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