Presidents on Government

Presidents Day

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The federal holiday honoring George Washington began in 1880 in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all of the Federal Government. It was celebrated on Washington’s birthday, February 22. In 1971 the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February and as such never falls on Washington’s actual birthday.

In the 1980s the term “Presidents Day” began its public appearance. Although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, approximately a dozen state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as “Presidents Day”, “Washington and Lincoln Day”, such as Utah, or other such designations.

Collected herein is a quote from each president about government. Do you have a favorite?

The Presidents Series

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Paul on Politics: Silly Sophistry of Consensus

Hoover Addresses Congress

President Hoover addresses joint session of Congress at bicentennial ceremony commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington.

My guest writer today is my uncle Paul.

Notion of Consensus

Today’s conventional wisdom touts consensus as the ideal for a congress or legislators to seek. However, conventional wisdom isn’t always right or wise, nor is consensus necessarily a noble goal. Consider this:

Consensus means average. Do you want our ambitions to be just average? In addition, the authors of our Constitution constructed Federal law as a system of checks and balances on government — not as a consensus building document. Our founder’s design for legislating dictated that concepts are to be brought before the separate chambers of Congress where discussion about elements described in bills occurs.

After receiving the bills, Congressional members make their most persuasive arguments for or against the bill. After all members that want to have had their say, the vote for supremacy follows. Based upon the vote, the bill is either accepted or rejected by the Congress. The agreed upon bills are referred to the President for his concurrence and signature before succeeding to become law.

No Requirement for Consensus

The foregoing is a simplification of the process but illustrates that there is no requirement for consensus at all. Attempting consensus connotes horse trading which leads to corruption. In the vernacular the products are called earmarks among other appellations.

Slavishly striving for consensus as a goal rather than good government is an aberration of Constitutional intent. Poor law deserves no confirmation. Why would a legislator agree to bad law for the sake of being recognized as one who grants concessions searching for affability, or worse — corruption? If there is merit to the bill and enough voting members are sufficiently convinced, then the bill becomes law. Otherwise the bill is rejected and good riddance. Compromise rather than rewriting the bill or rejecting it leads to bad law. Further, the collusion of legislators who engage in passing laws strictly to appropriate funds for special interests whom they are dependent upon for campaign contributions is an abomination on the noble act of making laws for a free people.

A Shoddy Rationalization for Corruption

“Bringing home the bacon” is a popular misconception about governing. What if the bacon isn’t needed and who pays for the bacon? For example, what is the public good of forcing the Armed Services to accept weapons systems because some legislator is skillful at under the table deals? Who can justify taking money from a struggling family and giving it to someone for purchasing services we don’t need? It follows the “bacon” is a shoddy rationalization for corruption. Thankfully that notion is being challenged by the Tea Parties. Moreover, our Constitution doesn’t require compromise or dirty dealing to pass laws. Law making simply requires a vote. Our Constitution is not designed to make passing laws easy. Passing bad law is supposed to be hard to do.

Experience show us that Legislators are conditioned to fear being labeled an obstructionist if they don’t compromise. My experience is that if one takes a principled stand he loses some votes and gains others. Then there is the oily legislator that refuses to take any stand fearing voters on both sides of the proposition. Where is the dignity arising from being mendacious?

Collision Between Parties

Where has consensus gotten us? Consensus got us into a national debt for one thing. After the Republican drubbing during the 2008 election, all the talk afterwards was that Republicans needed to be more like Democrats if they were to regain power — that is a false premise.

Getting along, loosely tabulated, since 1939, is what kept Republicans in the minority for thirty years. Republicans have held both houses of Congress only 14 years while Democrats count 68 years.

Best government depends upon Collision between parties. Without collision, we suffer collusion. On a collusive basis, why have parties at all? We don’t all agree about everything nor should a vibrant nation be a Johnny-one-note. Parties help us to avoid open civil warfare.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

YouCut Wants Your Spending Cut Ideas

YouCut
I came across an interesting site called YouCut. YouCut is billed as a project to change the spending culture in Washington. Here is how YouCut describes itself:

It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. America is at a crossroads and the choices we make at this critical time will determine what kind of country we want to be. To get back on the right path, Congress must start to make some choices that simply can’t be delayed any longer. While we won’t be able to solve our deficit problems overnight or with one silver bullet, we can and we must begin to replace the culture of spending that now dominates Washington with a culture of savings. Just imagine if your government was as focused on saving money as it is on spending money.

The site has just begun and only has five spending cuts at the moment to vote on. Citizens can submit their ideas for spending cuts. You don’t have to register, just give your email.

Here are the the spending cuts listed as of this morning:

  • Presidential Election Fund — $260 million in savings
  • Taxpayer Subsidized Union Activities — $600 million in savings
  • HUD Program for Doctoral Dissertations — $1 million in savings
  • New Non-Reformed Welfare Program — $2.5 billion in savings
  • Eliminate Wealthier Communities from CDBG — $2.6 billion in savings

The following are ideas I submitted to save money:

  • Leave Iraq
  • Leave Afghanistan
  • End alternative energy tax credits
  • End the child tax credit (but retain the exemption)
  • End the mortgage tax deduction

I don’t know what the savings to the country would be with my suggestions. We will see if they come up for a vote online. Apparently, each week they will take the winner of the vote and try to force a vote in congress. Representative Ander Crenshaw said:

“We are going to bring it up next week, vote on it, and force a vote as long as we can week after week after week.… So there are going to be a series of small cuts. We are going to address it one spending cut at a time. If you cannot address the little things how are you every going to cut the big things?”

Well, we shall see. If no spending cuts take place YouCut will have been a big waste of time. Perhaps it would have been useful to raise awareness and a source of a blog post. However, in the current climate I am hopeful it will help to keep voters focused on November and to vote out the big spenders.

What are your ideas to cut spending?
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Patrick Henry Caucus Supports Lawsuit Against Feds

Patrick HenryThe Patrick Henry Caucus is calling on the leaders from all States to join in the effort to file a lawsuit against the federal government in order to stop the federal health care bill. The Patrick Henry Caucus says the national health care bill is unconstitutional on two counts:

  1. The preferential treatment given Nebraska “violates principles of due process and equal protection” under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
  2. The law is “an excess of Congress’s enumerated powers inasmuch as it requires every American to acquire health insurance.”

In a The Patrick Henry Caucus on Facebook press release the Caucus wrote:

On Wednesday, December 23, 2009 The Patrick Henry Caucus adopted a unanimous position to oppose the Health Care Reform Bills, and to support a lawsuit against the federal government.

Listed below are the amendments cited. I have italicized what I think is the applicable text. Correct me if I wrong on this.

Article 1, Section 8 lists the enumerated powers (see below) which doesn’t outline any power remotely resembling health care. The general welfare clause could be used to argue for the constitutionality of health care and no doubt it will be. My question is why bother limiting what the federal government can do by enumeration if a general clause makes it all moot?

As always, I am open to discussion on this although I do believe the time for talking is over. The states must act to reign in excessive federal abuses, for we have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

Amendments 5 and 14

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

[Section 2-5 not listed]

Article I

Section 8.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
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U.S. Government Debt as a Mortgage

Hundred dollar billsToday imagine that Congress has a fit of sanity and manages to balance the budget. They do it through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The dollar strengthens and there is more money because of interest that is not needed to pay for deficits. Congress’s approval rating soars and they decide to balance the budget from now on because the voters love it and so does the economy.

But there is still the outstanding debt of trillions of dollars. Congress in a display of unparalleled common sense tackles this by treating the debt as if it was a 30 year mortgage. In my scenario (sadly imaginary) Congress is able to secure a 3% fixed interest rate for 30 years. In the table below is the schedule of payments. I have included other rates of interest in the event that you think 3% is unrealistic.

The dollar amount of the debt is obtained from Treasury Direct’s Debt to the Penny, which I have rounded to the nearest billion dollars. The date in the top right-hand corner is the day the debt reading was taken. The highlighted figures are the yearly amounts paid (the sum of 12 monthly payments), depending on the interest rate. All dollar amounts are in billions. So for example, $13,616 billion, which is $13.6 trillion, just add nine zeros like so: $13,616,000,000,000.

I have been periodically updating the debt reading. It is scary how much this debt is rising. Truly we should avoid debt as we would avoid a plague. The sooner we start paying our mortgage the better. Default is not an option. Refinance now while interest rates are low.

Money Photo Credit: Andrew Magill
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