Common Sense Charter – Draft #1 – Declaration of Platform

Declaration of Common Sense Policy Objectives
  • 1.      Voter Fraud Prevention Act – The most important part of civic life in a representative democracy is the act of voting.  Both parties accuse the other of rigging the system, but who’s to blame does not matter – voter fraud is a crime that threatens our way of life and is therefore as serious as treason.  Congress should act now to enforce a national standard for voting procedure that includes freely accessible mandatory voter identification and the supervision of the ballots at each polling place by a member of the U.S. Census Bureau or state board of elections, not by party activists from within the precinct.
  • 2.      Mandatory Annual Performance Audit – Across the Federal agencies and departments, untold billions of dollars have been squandered or simply misappropriated.  All Federal departments and bureaus should submit to a once-yearly financial audit by the Internal Revenue Service requiring all such agencies to document all expenditures (except in cases where national security could be compromised from the release of classified information, which shall be presented only to those with the clearance to see and review such information).  Each department shall be required to make the case for their expenses based on tangible returns on investment and the fulfillment of the program’s stated mandate.  This information should be publicly available to foster accountability and transparency, and the IRS shall make recommendations for program closures or further review by Congress based on this information.  Congress shall determine whether those programs should be continued.
  • 3.      Reexamine the Mandate of the Federal Reserve – Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has been tasked with two often conflicting mandates.  They must control inflation and limit unemployment.  We are dubious that a government financial institution can truly control employment, and thus recommend that the Federal Reserve be required only to focus on inflation and the stability of our currency.
  • 4.      Electoral College Reform – We believe that all politics begins locally.  We therefore recommend that the President be chosen by electors – one from each congressional district and two at large electors from each state – by the popular vote in each congressional district (rather than each state), and by the state popular vote for the at large electors.  This eases the problem of local voter disenfranchisement (for those living in liberal parts of conservative states or conservative parts of liberal states), encourages a greater level of knowledge about local and state politics, and forces Presidential candidates to build truly national coalitions, rather than focusing on a handful of swing states and ignoring the rest of the country.
  • 5.      Readable Bill Act – Congress routinely passes multi-thousand-page bills that no one has read in their entirety, and many in Congress express frustration with the notion that they’re being asked to vote on something that they have not read or properly understood.  We find it inexcusable when our political leaders say that we need to pass a piece of legislation before we can find out what’s in it.  We also realize that a huge part of the waste in government spending is written into so called “riders” and in the fine print of omnibus spending bills that never even get read before being approved by Congress.  We therefore insist that all bills must be read in full before coming to a vote in either house of Congress.
  • 6.      State Veto Amendment to the Constitution – The Federal Government consists of a bicameral legislature and three branches in order to promote a system of checks and balances that ensures that the will of the people everywhere is being heeded.  However, increasing numbers of Americans (now over 70% according to both Gallup and Rasmussen) feel that the Federal Government does not represent them.  We therefore propose one additional check on the authority of the Federal government.  We hold that a supermajority of 60% of the states (by either the vote of the state legislature or a popular referendum) should have the right to veto any bill passed by Congress.
  • 7.      American Energy Reinvestment Act – We hold that America has the right to responsibly harvest its own natural resources to provide for the common wealth and security of its citizens.  Environmental stewardship is of crucial importance to our long term survival, but such stewardship must be placed in the context of the real-world costs of forestalling American energy production.  This act would approve construction and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline, open Federal lands to exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas, invest in clean coal technology and small-reactor nuclear technology, relax regulations on the implementation of nuclear power plants and end subsidies to green corporations in favor of research and development investments through the proper channels (government think tanks, the university system and scientific foundations).  Our politicians always talk about investing in future sustainable energy sources.  We agree that this is important, but we understand that public investment should be limited to developing the ideas of tomorrow as was done with Arpanet (the predecessor to the modern world wide web), nuclear fission (Manhattan Project) and computing technology (WWII era automated code-cracking).
  • 8.      Repeal and Replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – apart from our objection to the formation of a board of unelected bureaucrats who will decide what care a senior citizen can get, as well as the mandate that all of us must purchase health insurance whether we can afford it or not, and our general frustration for the byzantine nightmare of legalese that fills this 2700 page bill, we believe that healthcare reform shouldn’t be done in one sweeping law, but in a series of smaller ones.  There are many things to like about Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, but no one in the government, let alone the rest of the country, fully understands this law or can fully predict its impacts on the state of healthcare in America.  We agree that public exchanges should be offered for people who slip through the cracks in the private market.  Group buying power does in fact reduce healthcare costs for many.  We also believe that America’s college graduates should have some protection when they get out of college as most of today’s young people do not establish a steady career right away.  We even approve of the ACA’s efforts to curb excessive billing practices, but we believe there are better ways to achieve that goal than arbitrary cuts to Medicare payouts (starting with transparency in health care billing, tort reform on medical malpractice cases, and competition between public healthcare markets and private ones.  We therefore support, in principle, the Ryan/Wyden Medicare reform package, though we would go issue by issue, rather than passing a single large and difficult to read bill.
  • 9.      Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank – If you have ever worked for a large or moderate sized corporation, you are probably aware of the enormous cost of complying with Sarbanes-Oxley.  This legislation was passed shortly after thousands of people lost everything during the collapse of Enron and it came out that Enron had been falsifying records for years.  As commonly happens when America responds to something that offensive, the bill was a horrific overreaction, requiring an overbearing and rigorously standardized set of accounting practices that cost American businesses billions of dollars each year.  If you run a small business looking to expand, you have no doubt been warned not to do so rashly because the cost of becoming a larger corporation could destroy you.  And if you are currently looking for a job, there is a good chance that you are one of hundreds of thousands who can’t find work because Sarbanes-Oxley discourages small businesses from growing and bigger businesses from expanding their workforce.  There simply has to be a better way to oversee the accounting practices of companies.  Meanwhile, if you’re looking to get a new mortgage or sell your house or get a new line of credit to start a business or buy a car, there’s a good chance that you have encountered the burden placed on small lenders by Dodd-Frank.  Ironically, small lenders did not cause the fiscal crisis.  The big banks falling under the protection of this legislation (which recognizes that its own demands are unfeasible if applied on a larger scale and thus exempts the six largest lenders from the new rules) are the ones who let us down.  When your response to failure is to reward the subject who failed, you have lost your way.
  • 10.  Repeal the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act – Ever since McCain-Feingold, the manner in which campaigns have been run has become decentralized to the point where the actual candidates have little to no control over what is being said in their name.  This legislation and the aforementioned “Citizen’s United” ruling have led to elections heavy on advertising paid for by independent super-PACs.  Members of both parties have expressed frustration with this arrangement.  We believe that elections should be centrally managed and that the candidates should be free to raise money however they can, so long as the donors are American citizens.  We agree with the many who have expressed concerns about multinational corporations contributing heavily to campaigns with money at least partially obtained overseas and we therefore recommend that individuals within a corporation be allowed to contribute as much as they wish, but that the corporation itself not be allowed to finance a campaign, and hold that the same standard should apply to unions (both public and private).  A collective of people is not the same as an individual, and should not be granted the same legal standing.
  • 11.  School Choice Voucher Program – Require that all parents who cannot afford private education (as determined by means-testing) be allowed a voucher worth the amount of money, per child, that would normally be given to the public school district in which each child would be enrolled to be used to enroll that child in the school of their choice.  Require all private/parochial schools who wish to participate in the voucher program to guarantee admission to all students in need at the price of the voucher (wealthier students can be charged at any rate), and pay for the vouchers by subtracting the amount from the district’s budget.  Require all participating schools to meet basic educational standards and evaluate the qualified institutions on a regular basis.
  • 12.  Modern Military Act – Our first duty is to our national defense, and in this regard we are failing due to military wastefulness and arbitrary budget cuts that weaken our standing fleets.  Restore the defense budget to pre-sequestration levels subject to a full audit requiring all programs to find ways to intelligently cut costs by 15%.  Use the savings to invest in military infrastructure and modern equipment.
  • 13.  Central and South American Trade Agreements – America has not forged a significant new trade partnership since the creation of NAFTA.  That is contributing to our continued economic decline and to our declining influence in global geopolitics.  We must expand our free trade agreements to include the developing economies of Central and South America.  Such new arrangements would create economic opportunities here at home and stabilize parts of the western hemisphere that have been in flux even as their economies grow.  This is essential to our long term security.
  • 14.  Tax Reform and Simplification – In keeping with our desire to make government work for the people and allow the people some hope of understanding the law, we propose that the nightmarishly complicated tax code be streamlined as recommended by a panel of economists and tax law experts appointed by the Congressional Budget Office.  Recommendations for simplification of the tax code should follow a rubric of revenue neutrality (for now), bill readability (the simplest tax code possible that is revenue neutral, economically viable, and fair enough to gain bipartisan support), and the dramatic reduction in tax loopholes for corporations and investors, as well as competitiveness with international corporate and investment tax rates.
  • 15.  Balanced Budget Amendment – The second most important duty of a Federal government (besides defending life and the needs of its citizens) is maintaining a fiscally responsible and solvent budget.  Both political parties have demonstrated an unwillingness to do even this basic duty.  When we fail to balance our own budgets, creditors come calling and we lose our property and even our home.  Why shouldn’t the same standards apply to the Federal Government?  We therefore recommend the drafting of a full balanced budget amendment and will support candidates who aggressively campaign for its passage.  This amendment should allow for temporary overages for natural disasters and wartime expenses (only in the case of a formally declared war) which must be paid back promptly, and should require a budget to be passed every year by both houses of Congress with the previous budget repeating if a new one is not ratified.
  • 16.  Congressional Veto of Executive Orders – Much as the Congress is endowed with the authority to override a Presidential veto of a bill passed by the legislature if a 2/3 majority in either house can be found in favor of the override order, a similar check must be placed on Presidential recess appointments and executive orders.  As such, if a 2/3 majority of either house of Congress votes to veto an executive order or appointment; the executive order shall be null and void.  Placing some firm limit on the power of the executive branch goes a long way toward restoring our common faith in the office of the Presidency and is in keeping with the founders’ ideal of a government restrained by checks and balances.
  • 17.  Formal Definition of Life – As a part of our government’s duty to defend life, we must agree on a common definition of human life.  The Supreme Court decided this without a proper debate but we feel that such a debate is necessary to heal this long-festering divide in our electorate.  We propose an amendment to the Constitution formally defining life as beginning at conception and ending at death.  The framers did not place this definition into their Constitution because they could not conceive of a man who would believe otherwise.  We recognize that this part of our charter may be controversial to some, but on this issue, we believe it is only common sense that a line be drawn defining life that is philosophically and morally defensible.  Legislation regulating abortion could then proceed without involving the Supreme Court – said legislation should make exceptions to abortion limits for similar reasons that exceptions are made in criminal murder cases.  For example, when the life of a mother is in danger, abortion would be considered self-defense.  When a woman raped, though we would prefer she choose to spare a would-be innocent life, she is justified in making her body whole and fending off the results of her attack.
  • 18.  End the War on Drug Users – While the recreational use of certain drugs is dangerous and threatens the individual liberties of others, we do not believe that jailing junkies produces a positive outcome in this war.  In fact, we see little benefit in expending as much money and time on the drug crusade as we currently do, and even less to be gained by jailing small time users at taxpayer expense.  Offer users amnesty from prosecution in exchange for assistance tracking down distributors.  Decriminalize the use of lesser recreational drugs like ecstasy and cannabis (issue fines and community service requirements, rather than hefty jail time), but treat minors caught with such drugs the same way we treat minors drinking under age.  Throw the book at distributors only.
  • 19.  Defend Freedom of Speech and Commerce on the Internet – The web has been a safe haven of freedom for new entrepreneurs, the free press and political movements since it became widely used in the 90s.  However, this new medium is now attracting attention from governmental agencies and particularly from the United Nations.  The UN wishes to levy a global sales tax on internet transactions, for example.  We find this concept abhorrent in that in violates our national sovereignty and our individual rights.  We also resist initiatives like the recently derailed “Stop Online Piracy Act.”  Regulations, once they are introduced, are nearly impossible to restrain, and the web must remain a place for the free exchange of ideas and goods, lest we fall down a slippery slope of ever tightening international controls on what is said and done online.
  • 20.  Declare China a Currency Manipulator, Levy Tariffs – China has long held the value of their currency down and kept regulatory costs extremely low (lower than most developed nations) for certain key segments of its economy in order to make their exports globally competitive – often at great risk to human safety both for Chinese workers in sweat shops and for American citizens (see: Jiffy Peanut Butter contamination, for example).  Declare them in violation of international currency agreements and begin levying painful tariffs on Chinese goods.  Force them to be advantageous trading allies or take our money and invest it in other growing economies.
  • 21.  Legalize Gay Civil Unions, Draw Distinction between Civil Union and Marriage – The Federal government has long held that encouraging marriage is beneficial for the economy and for the upward mobility of all people.  As a result, many special privileges extend to married couples through Federal legislation.  We have, however, in recent years come to the realization that for many, marriage is a religious vocation or at least a spiritual bonding between man and woman.  The rise in homosexuality and monogamous homosexual relationships, however, is another expression of love and intimacy not recognized by many religious institutions, and the religious connotation, alongside the legal statuses attached to marriage have led to an unnecessary conflict between advocates for gay rights and religious institutions that we feel can be best resolved by recognizing gay civil unions with all legal rights conferred to marriage while drawing a distinction between legal union and marriage, now defined as a relationship consecrated by a religious institution.  Should gay couples wish to obtain a marriage, rather than a civil union, they will surely find a faith that believes such practices are licit.
  • 22. Open Our Borders to Streamlined, Monitored Legal Immigration, Offer One-Time Amnesty to Current Illegal Immigrants, Enforce Immigration Laws – Last but not least, we come to immigration.  We hold that a country has the right to know who is residing within its borders, who is coming and going, and what is the legal status of all residents.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this position.  We also believe that starting your life in a new country by not respecting the laws of that country is an act of lawlessness that should not be encouraged – the goal for new arrivals should be to fully participate in the American way of life.  And we are aware that creating an illegal immigration “magnet” – an incentive to emigrate here illegally – only encourages further lawlessness.  We therefore propose a one-time offer of amnesty to current residents who are illegal with a clear expiration date, followed by the strict enforcement of existing immigration laws (and the necessary border patrol resources and infrastructure to make that task manageable).  This avoids the ongoing magnet problem, the problem of needlessly rounding up illegal immigrants for deportation, AND the problem of ongoing illegal immigration we’re trying to solve in the first place.  At the same time, we propose to offer far fewer restrictions for legal immigration and multiple easy paths to permanent citizenship, including professional skills, full time employment for those here on temporary visas originally, college degrees or acceptance into an American university, and the passing of a basic citizenship exam.  Open the gates to anyone wishing to be an American – patrol the border to keep out anyone trying to get here illegally.

It is our fond hope that even if you don’t agree with every single item on this list, you will consider our overall arguing position as coming from a genuine desire to see progress made in solving America’s greatest challenges in a manner that allows most Americans to feel like they got a fair deal.  If you are a candidate for office, we hope you will agree to promote most or all of our positions and publicly adopt our spirit of fair-mindedness and dedication to American exceptionalism in times of crisis.

2 thoughts on “Common Sense Charter – Draft #1 – Declaration of Platform

  1. Things I would add or change:

    Education: Yes, education funds should follow the child. Just make sure we don't privilege brick and mortar institutions over homeschooling. Parents should be allowed to use their education voucher for home-based programs as well.

    As for quality control, I think we should continue to defend locally selected curricula (because national standards usually end up being both dumb and ridiculously PC once the educrats have had their say) while universalizing administration of the NAEP, an already existent test that is generally respected as an indicator of school performance.

    Marriage: You should add a line proposing that all government policies that disincentivize marriage be amended or discontinued. You also need stronger language protecting religious liberty. Even as we liberalize the definition of a civil union, the right of any religious institution to refuse to marry a couple should continue to be treated as sacrosanct. (And the same goes for adoption.)

    Health Care: The dominant notion that we should remove all the responsibility for paying for preventative care is completely bassackwards. Unless you are extremely needy, you will not go bankrupt paying for flu shots, Pap smears, etc. Our focus should instead be on protecting people from catastrophic health care costs. To that end, I propose establishing universal catastrophic insurance for all Americans. Such plans would be coupled with health savings accounts that will allow citizens to set aside pre-tax dollars for the more ordinary health care expenses. For those on the low-income end of the spectrum, meanwhile, means-tested subsidies will be offered.

    On the whole, more people need to pay for their “first dollar” medical care out of pocket. Only then will we see price transparency and innovation in the health care market. (See also: Lasik eye surgery.)


  2. Oh, and one other thing: We need to make sure that border enforcement is in place before we grant a one-time amnesty. We've made deals before that promise enforcement in exchange for amnesty, and so far, all we've gotten is the amnesty without the enforcement. We shouldn't permit the left to burn us again on this matter.


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