Representative Alan Mollohan Loses in Primary

Representative Alan Mollohan

Representative Alan Mollohan

Last week Democrat Representative Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia lost in a primary defeat that indicates the anti-incumbent sentiment is alive and well. Mollohan’s loss comes soon after Utah’s Senator Bob Bennett was stricken from the November ballot in the state’s Republican state convention.

Mollohan is a 14 term veteran who hasn’t faced a serious primary fight in over a decade and was considered unbeatable. Mollohan was dogged by ethics allegations over the past few years and opposition for his vote in favor of President Obama’s health-care bill didn’t help.

Mollohan was a veteran appropriator who took pride in delivering federally financed projects to his state. But voters’ alarm over deficit spending is turning that practice into a liability. With unsustainable debt voters are not buying pork barrel projects and bailouts any more.

See if it is time for your Member of Congress to be retired by perusing The Bailout Page.

Photo Credit: The National Academy of Sciences
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Say No to Politicians who said Yes to the Bailout

Senator Bennett

Bailout Bob

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), commonly called “The Bailout”, is a program to which a majority of citizens were opposed. The total cost, as of May 2010 is $586.3 billion, allocated or promised to 836 companies and 13 programs. $79.7 billion was spent on companies for which the bailout was not intended, such as in the non-financial sector, with money going to auto companies such as GM.

There is still $319.4 billion outstanding, 59.6% of the total. See Pro Publica for the latest State of the Bailout.

I personally believe a strong message should be sent to those still in office, who voted for the bailout. An appropriate way to do this is at the ballot box in November. However, the opportunity may come sooner. When the citizens of Utah had the chance to finally tell a senator what they thought of his bailout vote, he was dumped at the state convention.

I have created a Bailout page containing a table so that citizens can see which of their representatives and senators voted for the bailout. When a politician leaves office, by choice or otherwise, I will update the table.
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Return to a Limited Government, Step 5

Alexander Hamilton

The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men ~ Alexander Hamilton

Mike Lee is challenging Bob Bennett for his senate seat. Lee’s website clearly defines his stance on a variety of issues, with the emphasis on Five Steps to a Return to Limited Government. I am discussing each of these five steps, examining them on their merits. Previously I discussed Step 1, Step 2Step 3, and Step 4.

Step 5: End the Era of the Lifetime Politician

Mike Lee’s proposal:

“The runaway growth of the federal government will continue as long as we retain a system that assures the existence of lifetime politicians. A career member of Congress inevitably will come to believe that that body has the answer to all social problems. The Constitution should be amended to limit service in each house of Congress to 12 years.

There are three parts to this proposal:

  1. The system encourages lifetime politicians.
  2. Congress thinks its has all the answers.
  3. An amendment to limit service is needed.

The system that is spoken about here is the U.S. Constitution. It is not easily amended and those that advocate an amendment to solve a problem of the day sound good to the masses. When the amendment goes nowhere then the politician can say that they tried. Advocating amendments is a safe election platform.

It is true that the president of the United States is limited to two terms. The proposed amendment here would limit a senator to two terms also. A representative would have six terms.

One negative is that the people will have one choice taken away, namely that they cannot retain a favorite politician. However, I am not convinced that that would be a big disadvantage.

Summary

My grade for this proposal is 2 out of 5 because it would be highly unlikely to come to pass. Congress would have to start the amendment process and they would have no incentive to do so.

While it sounds great to base some of your platform on passing amendments, the reality is they are highly unlikely to get passed.

What do you the people say?
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Return to a Limited Government, Step 4

John Adams

While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago ~ John Adams

Mike Lee is challenging Bob Bennett for his senate seat. Lee’s website clearly defines his stance on a variety of issues, with the emphasis on Five Steps to a Return to Limited Government. I am discussing each of these five steps, examining them on their merits. Previously I discussed Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3

Step 4: Reduce Government Regulations

Mike Lee’s proposal:

The answer to an economic downturn is not a government stimulus, but a reduction in government regulation and bureaucracy to allow the natural forces of our private enterprise system to rebound without undue interference.

There are two parts to this proposal:

  1. Do not use government stimulus in economic downturns.
  2. Reduce regulation and bureaucracy to allow private enterprise to rebound.

Stimulus

The conventional wisdom is for governments to pick up the spending when consumers retrench. This is not as wise as many want us to believe. All of this stimulus spending is creating huge deficits that in later years will be even more of a drain on the economy because of the additional interest.

Those that do have money to spend because they have little or no debt and have planned for times such as these are not likely to increase spending. And why not? Because they are spooked by the government spending! They see higher taxes and/or high inflation up ahead and so put away extra money or convert it to gold.

So the very deficit stimulus spending by government has the opposite effect on the populace most able to stimulate the economy.

Reduce Regulation

Not owning a business I know little about regulations. But if they are anything like the tax code they must indeed be onerous. Some would argue that it was lack of regulation that caused the recent economic meltdown. It seems to me that it was partly government pushing banks to loan to people who should never have received loans. And regulations that should have been enforced were not. Money was also given away too quickly to dubious bailouts.

Just by letting states manage more of their own affairs without federal interference would result is less regulation. Of course mistakes will be made but surely things cannot get any worse.

Summary

My grade for this proposal is 5 out of 5 because I never believed that the stimulus money was spent wisely. There is even TARP money left that the politicians are looking around for causes to spend it on. If it was such an emergency that this money be appropriated how come there are billions still left over a year later?

Bailouts should have been made on a case by case basis and only in a dire emergency. “Saving jobs” is not an economic emergency, although granted it is for the soon to be unemployed.

What do you the people say?

Next Time

Mike Lee’s Step 5: End the Era of the Lifetime Politician
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Return to a Limited Government, Step 3

Benjamin Franklin

Without industry and frugality, nothing will do; with them, everything ~ Benjamin Franklin

Mike Lee is challenging Bob Bennett for his senate seat. Lee’s website clearly defines his stance on a variety of issues, with the emphasis on Five Steps to a Return to Limited Government. I am discussing each of these five steps, examining them on their merits. Previously I discussed Step 1 and Step 2.

Step 3: Reform the Tax System

Mike Lee’s proposal:

With 50% of wage earners paying little or no taxes, too many voters have no ‘skin in the game’ — and no reason to question new government programs that are funded by the real taxpayers. Until we reform the tax code to give all Americans a stake in their government (through a flat tax), Congress will continue to adopt new entitlements, new bailouts, and new relief programs.

There are two parts to this proposal:

  1. All Americans should have a stake in their government.
  2. We need a flat tax.

It is not necessary to have a flat tax to adjust taxes so that more Americans pay a share of the burden of government. Taxes need to be broad based so the load is shared and those that work hard are not discouraged by having to pay a disproportionate amount to the government.

There are several ways to broaden taxes. A federal sales tax would work, as well as a reduction in tax credits. A reduction in services would also achieve the goal of having a broader load.

A Flat Tax

What we are really looking at is a leveling of the tax burden so that all can help. Which is why Mike includes a flat tax. It seems the two go together. A flat tax is a popular idea. Even I would pay no more taxes under a flat tax of 12%.

It is sad that in some quarters some cry, “Soak the rich!” The wealthy that I am familiar with worked extremely hard for their money and/or took extraordinary risks. This is something we should not discourage. Under a flat tax, a rich man still pays much more than a poor man, yet at least it has a veneer of fairness because the percentage is the same. Perhaps that is why tithing works so well, at least in some churches.

My decades of living in England taught me that eventually even the poor pay higher taxes because under the crushing weight of socialism there is not enough rich people left. When I was a teenager the concern was the “brain drain” where professionals and the wealthy were leaving England for a lower-tax America.

Summary

My grade for this proposal is 5 out of 5 because as much as possible should be done to lessen the pain of taxation for everybody. Well did Winston Churchill speak when he said that “there is no such thing as a good tax.”

What do you the people say?

Next Time

Mike Lee’s Step 4: Reduce Government Regulations
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Return to a Limited Government, Step 2

James Madison

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home ~ James Madison

Mike Lee is challenging Bob Bennett for his senate seat. Lee’s website clearly defines his stance on a variety of issues, with the emphasis on Five Steps to a Return to Limited Government. I am discussing each of these five steps, examining them on their merits. Last time was Step 1.

Step 2: Strengthen National Security, But Stop Nation-Building

Mike Lee’s proposal:

A core constitutional function of the federal government is to ‘insure domestic tranquility’ by protecting our country. We must continue to develop sophisticated, cutting-edge tools to defend our citizens from threats of terrorism. But our focus must be on rebuilding our own nation. We should not and cannot afford to continue the quest for nation-building.

There are three parts to this proposal:

  1. Insure domestic tranquility.
  2. Rebuild our own nation.
  3. Cease nation-building elsewhere.

Who can argue with the charge to “insure domestic tranquility?” In the process individual rights need to be upheld, which has not always been the case.

There are many interpretations of what “rebuilding our nation” means. Is it meant in a military sense? Or increasing employment? Perhaps strengthening the dollar? My view is that once the monetary system is functioning correctly many other problems will fade.

In ceasing nation-building it is hard to to see that as anything else but an exit from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not the normal Republican line. Recently, this has not been been the Democratic line either. In these times of huge deficits an end to the wars would save a useful sum.

Also, presidents need to be reined in a little by Congress so that no more entangling alliances are made.

Summary

I agree with step two so long as it means that the wars America is involved in are ended. Life can be made difficult for terrorists without having to occupy two countries. My grade for this proposal is 4 out of 5 because an end to overseas nation-building will benefit the U.S. in the long term.

What do you the people say?

Next Time

Mike Lee’s Step 3: Reform the Tax System
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Return to a Limited Government, Step 1

Thomas Jefferson

I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared ~ Thomas Jefferson

Mike Lee is challenging Bob Bennett for his senate seat. Lee’s website clearly defines his stance on a variety of issues, with the emphasis on Five Steps to a Return to Limited Government. In the next several days I will be discussing each of these five steps, examining them on their merits.

Step 1: End Deficit Spending

Mike Lee’s proposal:

“Deficit spending facilitates the continuing growth of the federal government. It is far too tempting to shift the cost of today’s federal expansion to future generations. Until we require Congress to operate under a balanced budget, that expansion will continue. A balanced budget amendment is essential to restoring the original, proper role of the federal overnment.”

There are two parts to this proposal:

  1. The problem: Deficit spending.
  2. The solution: A balanced budget amendment.

Growth of the federal government is not necessarily a problem, especially with a growing population. It is when the growth is funded with borrowed dollars, allowing federal intrusion into areas that should be reserved to the states, or to the people.

Balanced Budget Amendment

I am with Mike on the need for a balanced budget amendment. I would also add a presidential line-item veto, which many state governors already have.

What are the chances of enactment of a balanced budget amendment? Through the amendment process. Article V of the Constitution specifies two methods to add amendments.

  1. Two-thirds (290) of the House and two-thirds (67) of the Senate propose an amendment. Three-fourths (38) of the states ratify it.
  2. Two-thirds (34) of the states call for a constitutional convention. Three-fourths (38) of the states ratify the convention’s proposed amendments.

There is already a call for a constitutional convention in progress. In the mid 1970s a movement began for the purpose of drafting a balanced-budget amendment by Constitutional Convention. By 1983, 32 of the needed 34 state legislatures had asked Congress to call a convention.

These are the states. States marked with an (R) have since rescinded their calls.

Alabama (R)
Alaska
Arizona (R)
Arkansas
Delaware
Colorado
Florida (R)
Georgia (R)
Idaho (R)
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana (R)
Maryland
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota (R)
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
S. Carolina (R)
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah (R)
Virginia (R)
Wyoming

Some say that the rescissions are not valid and that the calls cannot be overridden. This view includes even some opposed to calls for a constitutional convention. However, this is far from settled. Although I am in favor of a constitutional convention to get a balanced budget amendment, I can see that in the end the rescissions will have to be upheld.

Summary

With popular support, the people could pressure congress to begin the amendment process, which alleviates the necessity of a risky constitutional convention. My grade for this proposal is only 3 out of 5 because the chances of ever getting a balanced budget amendment are rather slim.

What do you the people say?

Next Time

Mike Lee’s Step 2: Strengthen National Security, But Stop Nation-Building
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Paul on Politics: The Worth of Third Parties

My guest writer today is my uncle Paul.

The definition of a professional politician to me is one similar to Representative Adam Smith. Moreover, professionals are persons who deliberately chose to make a career of running for office or staying on for years by default. They will do most anything to remain in office. One trait is that professionals follow political winds without regard to ethical conduct. Another trait is they build alliances to stay in office using sophistry and giving lip service to what is right for our people and country. Our founding fathers never intended their descendents to be governed by an oligarchic political class.

Capitol domeFirst, I will acknowledge there are many politicians who defy my description of them and I can name several exceptions although none currently in office including John McCain (open to a deal), or Orrin Hatch, or most Democrats come to my mind. Naming one of the honest ones is Linda Smith who was a dedicated servant of the people. Sarah Palin may be another. I have a very low opinion of all politicians currently serving in any State, Local, or National office. Professional politicians sell their honor to large voting blocks of all kinds across the spectrum including business and unions, social services, et al, without regard to common sense, ethics, or decency. Both Republican and Democrat parties today are a corruption of their forebears’ examples. Parties and politicians connive to divvy up the fruits of our people’s hard work and the wealth that our fathers and mothers built. I am old enough to have lived in the thirties, forties, and so on. There was corruption that crept into the socio-political structure but our people were honorable and had pride.

In my view, the division began at the juncture of years, fifties, sixties and beyond. There are lots of reasons for the change but the explanation would take too long to illustrate here. For an example, one big event was the transfer of responsibility from fathers answerable for themselves and the support of their families to shifting the burden to government by virtue of government programs such as the Great Society.

How do we as citizens counteract the effects of the political class? Because we still have our individual votes, if they are not nullified by corruption at the polls, we can vote carefully. And we can use the tools available to us. For example: Use the statistical allocation inherent to choosing candidates to dilute the strength of vested interests. And, do it at the primaries by encouraging people to run for office and help them to get there. Numbers count. Don’t give your contributions to National Parties, give your contribution to your candidate, and give it to them early so they may use the money to build a campaign fund. Remember, overwhelming political funds allow the political class to buy communication outlets and it is overpowering.

However, all the money in the world cannot buy a cogent reasonable argument. Get your messaage out any way you can in letters to the editor, participation at public meetings, writing opinion pieces that move people, groups, voter’s pamphlets — in any way you can. Voter’s phamplets printed by the elections department are a good tool. The phamplets go to each registered voter in the district. Measures usually require pro and con committees to be formed to write them. Get your group or yourself on the committee. And then work for your candidate to get out the vote on election day.

Let us look at elections:

The Worth of Third Parties

Third parties always decide an election. For that matter, minor groups decide elections. The percentage difference in an election is usually quite close. Consequently, that condition causes the minimal number of voters plus one to decide the election. As a consequence so-called “swing voters” exert powerful control over the process. And they can force their issues by coercing the parties.

After the losses from the 2008 election ended in defeat, Republicans were mewling about becoming more like Democrats to win back voters to rebuild their party. They were contrite and remorseful, willing to get along. As the ruling Democrat party’s excesses multiplied, there came a populous uprising that led to Town Hall Meetings and so called “Tea Baggers.” Notably the Republican Party was forced by circumstances to follow the lead of the uprising tea-bag-populace culminating in the “Massachusetts massacre” we witnessed in January.
Republicans were wise to quietly help in the background while Scott Brown of Massachusetts carried out his plan. Brown disputed conventional wisdom to “get along” and was swept into office by Independents fortified by disgusted Democrats and Republicans. Think of the audacity, Brown ran on water boarding of terrorists as one of his issues.

Republican and Democrat parties rail against third parties becoming a political force because the parties do not like opposition to their dominance of the election process. However, it is possible for third parties to win an election despite the suppression. Witness the Ross Perot challenge of the nineties.

Statue of Freedom

Statue of Freedom. Architect of the Capitol

Perot movements arose out of the people, much like the contemporary “Tea Baggers.” on Perot’s promise to run for President if the supporters could get him on the ballot in all fifty states. On his promise, we took him up on it. Ordinary citizens across the political spectrum gathered in meetings all over the country and worked the system until Perot’s challenge was achieved. In my view Perot didn’t believe it would happen but then he had to make good. And the movement multiplied. We held conventions all over this state [Washington] gathering signatures until Perot could not be denied a place on the ballot.

Had Perot not weakened at the zenith of his popularity, he might well have won the election. I believe Perot suddenly perceived the forces he loosed and was overwhelmed by them – he crumpled. Steven Holmes of the New York Times at the time asks, “What if Mr. Perot had stayed in the race through the summer and fall instead of dropping out for months?” Talking about being President is much more fun than being one, I suppose. Being President is all consuming.

Conventional wisdom (usually easily challenged) set forth by Republicans contends Perot caused them to lose the election. There is no evidence the allegation is factual. The argument for the assertion analyzes the election as static and assumes Republicans would have gotten the Perot votes. Perot voters were sour on both parties. That is why they formed a third party. Elections are dynamic. There is no evidence that Bush the senior would have gained the Perot votes anymore than Clinton would have. It is an urban myth.

These are the numbers: Clinton 42.95%, Bush 37.4%, and Perot 18.86%. One can never know exactly which candidate would have gotten the Perot votes. As unknowns, on an even basis, statistics allot each contender a third of the total vote at the beginning. From there it becomes a contest to see who can get a part of the other contender’s allocation. As one way to estimate results, we can use a speculative analysis. One looks at the fraction of votes Clinton and Bush were sustaining. Then, multiply each one’s fraction times the Perot votes followed by adding each candidate’s portion to the their total vote.

Using that method, Clinton still wins 53.5% to Bush’s 46.5%. In today’s environment where the public disdains Republicans and Democrats — especially Republicans — Independents are fleeing from both parties. Under current circumstances Independents win easily as a third party. The question becomes; will the voter pool become tainted if Independents join the Republicans?

The Perot movement had a gargantuan effect on future conduct of the parties that led to the Gingrich Contract with America and the election of 1994.

Instead of pleading against third parties, and because of Republican’s low acceptance by Americans, Republicans ought to beg “Tea Baggers” (Individualists) to reform their party for them. Even that may not be enough for them to remain a major political force.

Unless the parties change, they have forfeited their right to govern.

Your comments are welcome.