The 28th Amendment

Every once in a while I get an e-mail from a friend or relative that proposes a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. They propose something like this:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."
This idea seems to be closely associated with that of Term Limits. That one is basically that current voter wisdom, as demonstrated by the qualifications of political candidates who have currently been nominated or elected by them, is so overwhelmingly superior to that of any possible subsequent constituency that it should be imposed by law on all future generations, forever. I see no good reason rationally to attempt to dissuade anyone who is so out of touch with reality that he or she holds that view.

The 28th Amendment is such an incredibly bad idea that even its proponents feel the need to justify it. The justifications I've seen are the following:

Instead of dealing with these one at a time, it might be appropriate to make a few observations:

The Constitution of the United States may be the greatest achievement of mankind ever, perhaps the greatest that ever can be. Our Constitution is so good, it has been imitated by virtually every modern nation on the face of the earth. The first ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights, were not so much changes as they were additions, kind of an "Article VIII" that didn't fit conveniently into the other seven Articles. In spite of the fact that the Bill of Rights has had unforeseen consequences, it has generally turned out well.

Not so with the other Amendments. The 12th Amendment contained a serious flaw that required another Amendment, the 20th, to rectify; and an oversight that was finally resolved only by the 25th Amendment 163 years later. The 13th Amendment, with the best of intentions, created a permanently destitute subclass of citizens that has never demonstrated either the intention or, in fact, the capability to become integrated into mainstream society. The 14th Amendment created an avenue to citizenship for foreign nationals who have no other connection with the United States other than that their mothers happened to be on US soil when they gave birth. The 15th Amendment gave voting rights to citizens who hadn't a clue about what they were doing, and the 16th Amendment repudiated the Constitution's prohibition on penalizing industry and inventiveness and instead subsidized sloth and complacency. It created the "benefits" of the IRS and Income Tax.

The 18th Amendment was so bad it was repealed in its entirety by the 21st Amendment, which in turn did nothing to address the original underlying problems of manufacture, sale and abuse of addicting, debilitating drugs. The 19th Amendment gave women the same right to vote as men without requiring an equal commitment to industry, economic development, or national defense, with predictable results. The 24th Amendment guaranteed voting rights to citizens so unable to earn a living that they couldn't even pay poll tax, and the 26th Amendment gave voting rights to 1/7 of all citizen children who, as a group, are well below even the mediocre median wage-earning and educational achievement levels of other voters in every single state! Finally, the 27th Amendment failed to achieve the specific intention for which it was passed, which is the main purpose of the proposed 28th Amendment as well, to eliminate the ability of members of Congress to determine their own compensation!

How many failed Amendments for this purpose do these people think we should have, anyway?

These historical considerations demonstrate that changing the Constitution should be done with the greatest caution, and then only to meet an overwhelming need that can be met no other way. None of the "justifications" for a 28th Amendment demonstrate that a need exists, that it is overwhelming, or that it could not be met otherwise.

The 28th Amendment, as worded, would not address any of the justifications for its passage. There is no compelling evidence that it would resolve public apathy about Congress. It would leave intact existing laws regarding pay, benefits, exemptions, privileges or rights of either existing or future members of Congress or the general public. In addition, it would create, at the most fundamental level, a truly terrifying power of Congress (far in excess of what it has now) to control the most intimate details of the lives of private citizens by the simple expedient of passing legislation which would otherwise affect at most 535 Government employees who are already subject to removal or immediate recall, for any reason (or, in fact, none at all), by the people they represent.

Imagine the impact, under the proposed Amendment, of the following bill:

"No member of Congress shall be paid or accept public funds or benefits of any kind except as stipulated compensation for service for which he or she personally is or previously has been employed."
Then recognize that such a law would automatically exempt illegal aliens. Would this be a good law? Think about it!

Regardless of whether the public is apathetic about Congress or whether this constitutes a problem, the issue could be fully resolved by schools and local school boards providing more education about the workings of Congress. The Congressional Record, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3 already provide the most extensive coverage, should anyone wish to take advantage of it, of government operations of any country in the world.

Members of Congress are the director employees of the largest economic corporate entity in history, the United States of America. Compared to the volume of its business, they are compensated less than any major corporation ever. The economic benefits paid to members of Congress, like the compensation of executives of other corporations, is intended to attract the most competent people, reward them for superlative performance, protect them from hazards unique to their professional responsibilities, and insure that their interests and energies are not distracted by providing for their retirement years.

The Founding Fathers thoughtfully included in the Preamble to the Constitution the (only) six functions for which they established it: to form a more perfect Union; establish justice; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. None of these functions is served or advanced by making ordinary citizens hostages to what members of Congress might choose to accept for themselves.

Any person over the age of 25 who has been a citizen of the United States since age 18 can receive the same benefits as members of Congress, without regard to race, creed, color, gender, experience, residence, disability, previous income, veteran status, educational level, demonstrated aptitude, national origin, sexual orientation, or previous condition of servitude. All he or she has to do is get elected; it's the most equal employment opportunity plan on the planet by far. The proposed 28th Amendment, in contrast, is a conspiracy to create a constantly expanding class of automatic welfare recipients, who need do nothing at all worthwhile for the taxpayers whom they would coerce to support them.

The most compelling reason that this is a bad idea is rooted in the very concept of the rule of law. In the United States, laws are creations of The People, through their elected officials. Congress, on the other hand, is itself a creation of law and could, in theory, be modified or even abolished any time; a creation of law simply cannot be above it. To make ordinary citizens subject to all laws affecting Congress makes the creator (The People) the servant of the law, instead of the other way around. Laws are limitations of freedom. We need less of them, not more.

This proposed 28th Amendment would be the most stupid Amendment in the history of the Constitution, and that's saying a lot!

John Lindorfer