- Amendment - Notes

The People's Amendment – Notes

© 2009-2012 Philip Bitar

The price of government is defined as annual income plus total debt because debt is committed future income.

We could exclude fees for permits, licenses, and services, complemented by the restriction that such fees must be limited to covering the respective costs. However, this source comprises less than 1% of total revenue, so it’s not worth making an exception and thereby inviting the temptation for abuse.

To find out about such fees, at the website of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — — do the following on the successive pages that will appear: click Budget in header, click Budget at LHS, click Summary Tables at bottom of main content, search for Miscellaneous Receipts. Also search for Miscellaneous Receipts via the Search field at the top of the OMB webpage, click a link for any file .../receipts.pdf, and search for Miscellaneous Receipts to find the table having the breakdown.

Gross domestic product, or GDP, will be determined by Congress through the implementation power of the amendment. The use of GDP merely allows the price ceiling to grow with the income of the economy, so measurement precision is not critical. To the extent that Congress may be able define GDP in a way that inflates its value, the people will be able to lower the ceiling by direct vote, so ultimate control rests with the people.

At the beginning of a fiscal year, since Congress won't know the GDP for the new year, Congress must estimate the GDP based on recent GDPs and on current-year data as it is obtained during the year. This will allow Congress to tentatively plan its budget for the new year while also allowing the budget to grow or shrink as needed. GDP usually grows by a few percent each year. However, in the rare event that GDP shrinks, Congress must respond accordingly, just like every business and every family must do in the face of decreasing income and borrowing power, namely, by spending less or by drawing on savings.

The need for Congress to track GDP, as it emerges, and to limit spending accordingly will establish the proper mindset for making government fiscally responsible. It will also establish the mindset that government must be wise in seeking to foster economic prosperity so that it will have money to spend. Note that approval of the amendment will motivate Congress to streamline collection of the data that is used to determine GDP.

As a fiscal year progresses, if government income is sufficiently large that it appears that it will carry the current-year income+debt above the ceiling, income should be used to pay down the debt so that the current-year income+debt will not exceed the ceiling. If there is insufficient debt to pay down, then government income should be reduced by reducing taxes. This is easily achieved by reducing income tax, which is resolved in the next year anyway.

The petition requirement includes all states, otherwise canvassing would tend to be limited to the least populous states. The role of the signature threshold is to regulate the approximate number of ceiling measures that appear on a ballot: a higher threshold will reduce the number, while a lower threshold will increase the number. Since there is no objective rationale for what the number should be, the people will have control of the threshold in order to choose the approximate number of their choice. This will also enable the people to change the threshold in order to adjust for factors that may affect the number of measures that qualify for the ballot. For example, as the petitioning procedure moves from signing petitions to online voting, this is bound to affect the number of ceiling measures that qualify for the ballot for a given threshold. But with the people in control of the threshold, the people will be able to adjust for this factor by changing the threshold.

To avoid inconsistent results for a ballot having multiple measures, a voter votes for the measures that they are in favor of, ignoring the remaining measures, but they may not vote to both raise and lower the ceiling. A majority vote is a majority of the total number of ballots. It follows that it is impossible to obtain approval for both raising and lowering the ceiling. Also, the vote per state is a bare majority, as in ratifying a constitutional amendment.

As for printing petitions, I envision a transformation of the petition process in the modern age of computers and internet. In this scenario, I envision that most citizens who wish to sign a petition will download the petition from the website of the sponsoring organization, print the petition at home, sign it, and mail it to the organization. For this reason, the amendment disallows Congress from preventing this by, say, requiring a paper size of 11 x 17, or by requiring double-sided printing, which some printers may not be able to automatically do. Eventually petition signing will be implemented via the web without the need for hardcopy, so eventually few people will sign hardcopy petitions, but the option will always remain open until the organizations that sponsor the petitions cease to accept hardcopy petitions. Until that day — if that day ever arrives — the citizens will be assured of the ability to print petitions on their own printers.

Public disclosure of petition signers is prohibited to prevent their harassment, exploitation, and identity theft. This idea came from Tim Eyman's court battle with the Washington State Secretary of State to prohibit the secretary from disclosing petition signers.

Reference citation.  Philip Bitar, "The People's Amendment: Notes", posted at, 2009-06-29, last updated 2012-12-01. Originally posted as "The Silver Bullet Amendment: Notes" at, 2009-02-17, last updated 2009-05-11.