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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Regional Government (Geocities Rescue)

Presidential scholars describe “several presidencies” corresponding to the duties that dominate the office of President of the United States. Among the main policy realms are national defense, foreign affairs, economic policy and domestic governance. National defense and foreign affairs always have priority, with the economy a close second. This leaves little time in the President’s schedule to dwell on domestic governance. Congressional authorizing and appropriations committees and the various constituencies in their issue network dominate domestic agencies. This is a continual source of frustration for White House staffers, regardless of which party is in power.

Many domestic issues also exhibit a great deal of regional variation. Conditions in New England on any given issue has nothing to do with conditions in Arizona or Colorado. National economic and regulatory policies fail to take into account conditions that vary from region to region. Often one region of the country is in recession while another is expanding. Additionally, regulatory needs vary from sector to sector, as do the attitudes of citizens in each sector. The almost annual filibuster over grazing fees and public land policy is an apt illustration of this. To deal with these problems, a more regional approach proves fruitful for both the Executive and Congress.

Agencies already possess a regional infrastructure, although this is mostly for program execution rather than for policy development. Of course, informal policy development at the regional level, in concert with the relevant congressional committee members and staff happens more often. Setting out a formal process for regional policy making takes it out of the shadows and into the light, where it is more accountable. Congress then meets in regional caucuses to oversee policy and regional vice presidents are selected to fulfill a wide variety of functions, freeing the President to concentrate on those affairs that are most important for the nation as a whole.

The current regional breakdown is based on an Executive Order from back in the Nixon Administration, with variation occurring at the departmental and sometimes the sub-departmental level. The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also have different regional boundaries. Regions can be broken down in a variety of ways. I suggest, abiding by the Constitution’s prohibition on discriminatory trade policy against any individual state, that regions be larger than the population of any state, and that they have roughly the same size congressional delegation in terms of total electoral votes. I have examined regional breakdowns ranging from four to ten regions. The breakdown with seven regions appeared the best one, as follows:

Region I - New York: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Region II - Washington: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

Region III - Atlanta: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisianna, Mississippi, Tennessee

Region IV - Dallas: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas , Utah

Region V - Chicago: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio

Region VI - San Francisco: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon

Region VII - Kansas City: Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Executive Agency and Congressional Committee Reorganization
A joint task force accomplishes the transition to regional government with membership from both the Congress and the Executive. This task force drafts reorganization plans for national and regional agencies and the committees of the national and regional caucuses of Congress. The congressional portion of these plans is enacted by resolution, while the executive reorganizations are submitted to Congress, subject to a legislative veto of disapproval. The law setting up this task force also creates regional codes for applicable parts of the U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.

Regional Caucuses
Both the Senate and the House meet in regional caucuses. In regions with fewer states, the Senate caucus meets as a committee of the whole, reviewing House caucus legislation. In other the other regions, the Senate caucus divides into committees. The House caucus elects its own Speaker. The Senate caucus elects its own President. Each caucus gives full credit to the actions of every other caucus and sustains any attempted vetoes by the President. Caucuses have the authority to amend the regional code and adjust the code of regulations for the region; enact the budget for the region, within general guidelines enacted by the national caucus; and oversee activities of regional agencies. The regional senatorial caucuses advise and consent on executive appointments, while the entire caucus consents to the initial presidential appointment of regional vice presidents and any appointment to fill a vacancy in that office.

National Caucus
A National Caucus consists of seven (7) representatives and (3) senators per region, with adjustments for population size if necessary, with partisan balance among representatives, for a total of 49 representatives and 21 senators. The National Caucus enacts regional actions on a pro forma basis, enacts the national budget resolution in aggregate terms, sets the pay of military officers and enlisted personnel, makes specific appropriations for national functions, enacts national legislation, consents to presidential and vice presidential appointments, and oversees national defense and domestic agencies. The full Congress only meets for the consideration of impeachment proceedings and their subsequent trial in the Senate, as well as for the enactment of Constitutional amendments. The Senate also meets periodically for the ratification of treaties. Note that everything I am proposing here can be enacted by statue. Because all regional actions are repeated on a pro forma basis at the national level, no constitutional amendment is necessary.

President of the United States
The duties of the President are adjusted to correspond to what actually occurs on a day-to-day basis. The most important duty is the initial appointment of regional vice presidents, and the filling of vacancies in that office. The other obvious duties are serving as the commander in chief of the armed services, the conduct of foreign affairs, space operations and intelligence operations, the appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court, Ambassadors, national military commanders and officers in national service, the approval or veto of national legislation, submission of the aggregate national budget the delivery of the State of the Union Address to the National Caucus, removal of officials from national agencies and executive clemency. Some actions are taken after consultation with the regional vice presidents, like the appointment of District and Appellate Court judges and Federal Reserve officials and the signing of regionally passed legislation. The Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security report directly to the President.

The Department of Defense is be reorganized into strategic and regional functions. Strategic functions include planning, overseas operations and theater deployments, naval sea and Marine Corps operations, special operations and strategic nuclear forces. Regional functions include the establishment of seven regional armies and air forces with associated guard and reserve components, naval shore operations and the funding of military retirement. Strategic functions are funded by the personal income surtax on high-income individuals, excise taxes, tariffs and contributions from allies (which in olden times was known as tribute). The Business Income Tax funds regional functions. Peacetime procurement costs are born by the unit using the supplies or equipment, so if an Armored Division is based in Texas, Region IV purchases its tanks and its gasoline. As you have likely guessed by now, making the regions pay for these costs makes them think twice about the pursuit of pork barrel legislation. It is likely that this step leads to the closure of bases that are no longer necessary and the right sizing of the armed services that should have occurred at the end of the Cold War.

Vice President of the United States
The official duties of the Vice President are greatly increased under regionalization. The Vice President is the lynch pin that holds the whole system together. He or she presides over a national council of regional vice presidents and the three remaining national domestic departments, nominates the secretaries of these domestic departments for presidential appointment and recommends economic and budgetary targets to the President at both the national and regional levels. The departments reporting to the Vice President are Treasury and Commerce; Civil Rights and Justice; and Science, Environment & Interior.

The Department of Treasury and Commerce performs the economic analysis activities currently being performed by the Departments of Labor and Commerce; performs international economic analysis; oversees banking, deposit insurance and federal reserve operations; manages the public debt; administers the Social Security program – including the transition to Personal Retirement Accounts; and collects income taxes on higher income individuals and heirs, as well as providing an information clearing house for Business Income Tax records (although these taxes will be collected at the regional level). After the Debt is retired and income taxes on higher income individuals sunset, the primary funding for this department is through seigniorage, federal reserve and federal deposit insurance operations.

The Department of Civil Rights and Justice safeguards the rights of citizens against abuse at all levels of government and in the workplace, and represents the government in civil and environmental regulatory matters. It also provides assistance to a commission in the Department of Science, the Environment and Interior charged with distributing excess public land to the regions, individuals and Native American nations, as appropriate. It is funded primarily be fees, fines and judgments.

The Department of Science, the Environment and the Interior manages scientific research best sponsored at the national level in the areas of health, transportation, the environment and aerospace; operates the National Park System; provides environmental enforcement of Superfund and nuclear sites and distributes or sells public lands and forests among the national government, regional governments, state governments, Indian tribes (where a valid claim can be made that treaty obligations are unmet or that terms and conditions of treaties were coerced and remedy is possible) and individuals; awards patents and register trademarks; approves drugs and provides regulatory coordination between the various regions in all regulatory matters transferred to that level. . This department is funded with licenses, fees and fines.

Regional Governments
The remainder of the Federal government is transferred to the regions. Each regional caucus sets its own tax rates, sets up its own Open Market Committee to control interest rates in cooperation with the Federal Open Market Committee, sets its own budget, regulates interstate commerce, monitors regulations, enforces federal criminal laws and establishes human service programs. The functions of the departments of Agriculture, Human Resources, Interior, Justice, Science, Treasury and certain of the independent agencies are divided between the regions. The War Reserve components of the Armed Services are divided among the regions and are funded out of each regional budget. It is expected that most of what is called wasteful spending is cut out more effectively by the regional caucuses. Spending on pork barrel projects, unneeded military bases and generous tax benefits and subsidies to favored industry are less attractive in a regional capital than in Washington.

A vice president is appointed for each region. Ideally, appointees to this office have previously served as governors, senators or general officers. Initially, the President appoints these officers. In subsequent administrations, presidential nominees select running mates in each region. The Electoral College vote for each region then selects the regional vice presidents, regardless of who wins the White House. It goes without saying that service as a regional vice president makes a person very electable for national office. Regional vice presidents recommend acts originating in regions for signature or veto; recommend federal reserve and judicial appointments to the President (who has discretion to make up his own mind; nominate regional officials for appointment subject to confirmation by regional Senate; appoint and remove lesser officers and officials; see to the execution of the regional code and issuance of regional regulations; report on the state of the region to the caucus and the President; cooperate with the President on actions of the national government; submit a budget for the region, within the totals recommended by the President and enacted by the national caucus and act as supreme commander of regional military forces unless called into national service.

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