Random Thoughts: The Economy, the Constitution and Sanford

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Twenty developed and developing nations -- the G-20, they are called -- are meeting this weekend in Wasington to discuss how to deal with the current international financial boondoggle and how to avoid future disasters. Many representatives are frustrated that they must deal with George W. Bush, the outgoing president. And some of them are particularly galled that they had to listen to him lecture them Friday on the advantages of free trade and a deregulated economy. It is generally understood abroad that it was the United States -- in the grip of deregulatory ideologues like Bush and Alan Greespan -- which drove the world economy over the cliff. Hearing GWB lecturing them on sound economic policy is more than a little galling.

Several G-20 representatives have expressed the wish that President-elect Barack Obama could be at the conference, since he is the one they will be dealing with in about 10 weeks. But Obama stands by his "one president at a time" statement and will not put in an appearance at the conference.

This brings up a matter than is being seriously mentioned around Washington these days. Maybe it's time to amend the Constitution to move the date of inauguration up and shorten the lame duck terms for both President and Congress. The 20th Amendment, passed after the 1932 election, moved the presidential inauguration date from March 4 to January 20. That was done in response to the long down time between the defeat of President Herbert Hoover and the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the depth of the Great Depression. Now we have another lame duck and another global financial crisis and we have to wait 11 weeks before the new president can actually take the helm of state. It might be time to move the inauguration to the first week of December; we will be hearing talk to that effect in the coming weeks.

And while we are fixing the Constitution, let's think about giving Congress the authority to set nationwide eligibility for voting in national elections and set nationwide standards for voting technology. The Constitution gives the states the power to manage voting in their own borders, to set eligilibity and prescribe technology -- or to leave those decisions to respective counties. As a result, voting in this country is chaotic. Among other things, it resulted in the electoral disaster in Florida in 2000, which undermined the democratic and constitutional processes and gave us eight years of GWB. We can do better. We must do better. But it will take a constitutional amendment.

And did you notice that Gov. Mark Sanford was elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association? This led the Post and Courier to speculate that his moment in the national limelight might prompt the Guv to start setting his sights on a White House run in 2012. I would not be surprised. After all, I had predicted that he would run in 2008. I know he is itching. Ad with his term in Columbia ending in 2010, that is just about the time he would need to make his decision and throw his hat in the proverbial ring for 2012.

Of course, he has little to offer the nation, philosophically or intellectually. He is a rigid libertarian and free-marketer, with a keen 17th century view of the role of government in society. He has driven this state into financial crisis with his tax cuts for the rich and service cuts for everybody else. It is a scenario not entirely unlike what the national Republicans have done in Washington. It is hard to see how Sanford can dress up this bankrupt philosophy and make it palatable to majority of Americans in 2012.

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