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A Constitutional Amendment for a Market-Based House and Senate

(photo by Phil Romans)

At present, as is obvious to just about everyone, we have an inefficient federal legislative branch with members chosen on the basis of geography and population. What is needed is a bold refashioning of government — a constitutional amendment to replace our present gridlocked mess with a far more elegant and effective system based on the proven efficiencies and priorities of The Market.

Under this proposed amendment, the bicameral structure of the legislative branch would be retained. Instead of electing 435 members of a House of Representatives based on population and 100 senators based on geography, however, The Market will do the work of selection to a new House of Corporations and the new Industrial Senate.

Consider first the House of Corporations. Instead of the vagaries of the election booth that permit obviously unsuitable men and women to be chosen as representatives, the membership in the House of Corporations will be truly merit-based: the 435 members would be the CEOs from the top 435 corporations of the Fortune 500.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House of Corporations would be balanced by the 100 members of the Industrial Senate, replacing the quaint system of 100 state-based senators with new senators selected by industrial associations. Each industry would select two senators, so as to avoid concentrating too much power in a single CEO.

Restructuring the federal legislative system along these lines would save billions, as corporations and industries would no longer have to spend so much to rent the geographic legislators for two and six year terms. The waste and inefficiencies of working through middlemen like Mitch McConnell, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, and others would be eliminated, since the corporations and industries could instead legislate things directly. Similarly, all those pesky ethics boards, lobbying restrictions, and campaign finance laws that hamper The Market from functioning freely would be eliminated, thus increasing the ability of corporations and industries to operate without restraint.

Gone would be all the wasteful spending on campaigns. Gone would be the time squandered by elected representatives and senators gallivanting around their districts and states trying to please “the people.” Gone would be the role of a fickle electorate and the manipulative media. Gone would be the bizarre spectacles of political conventions. Gone would be the amateur political spin doctors who attempt (and often fail) to shape campaigns and legislative agendas.

In their place would be proven competence, real leadership, and the kind of cutthroat, anything for a buck, corporate visionaries that made this country what it is today. Imagine the makeup of the House of Corporations (from the 2009 Fortune rankings), filled with household names like Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart Stores, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, General Motors, Ford Motor, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Valero Energy, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup, Berkshire Hathaway, International Business Machines, and McKesson. Further down the list, you come to companies like Microsoft, Walgreens, Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs Group, Toys “R” Us, General Mills, American International Group, Southwest Airlines, and last to make the cut — #435 — is SunGard Data Systems.

Isn’t this what America looks like to the rest of the world — Avon Products, Sara LeeCampbell Soup, and Coca-Cola Enterprises, rather than John Boehner, Barbara Lee, Roy Blunt, and Lynn Woolsey?

Across the Capitol would be the Industrial Senate, with two senators to represent each industry — the financial muscles of America:

Defense Mfg – air, ground, sea Energy production
Defense Mfg – other equipment Energy transmission
Defense services and support Energy Mining and Drilling
Intelligence and surveillance services Extractive industries
PhRMA Agriculture
Insurance Chemical
Hospitals and Managed Care Facilities Food production
Health Professionals Grocery and Food Sales
Accounting Restaurant & Food Service
Banking Entertainment
Finance and investing Sports
Advertising and Public Relations News media
Lawyers/Law Firms Postal/Package Delivery
Higher Education Telecommunications
Elementary & Secondary Education Residential Real Estate
Manufacturing Commercial Real Estate
Computing Residential construction
Clothing and Apparel Non-residential construction
Department stores Auto dealers
Heavy equipment manufacturing Public Employees Unions
Wine, Beer, and Spirits Manufacturing Unions
Airlines Service Industry Unions
Rail and Water Transportation Prisons
Surface transportation Lobbying
Hotels and Motels Resorts and Casinos

Careful readers will note a significant omission in the Fortune 500 and this list of industries: religion. The good folks at Fortune do not include the finances of groups such as the Latter-Day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, or the evangelical megachurches in their rankings, but their clout can hardly be ignored. Therefore, a single non-voting delegate for Religion shall be given voice in the Industrial Senate and two non-voting religious members shall be similarly seated in the House of Corporations.

Given the challenges facing our nation, from health care reform to financial reform to energy and climate change to a thousand other issues, we have no time to waste on the kind of gridlock and obstructionism that have engulfed Capitol Hill. The recent economic crisis was a wakeup call, and our country cries out for a solution based not on politics, but on The Market.

Isn’t it time for a change? After all, what’s good for the Fortune 435 is good for America.

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.