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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Posts Tagged ‘federal spending’

A dangerous precedent

Posted by Free to Think on June 29, 2012

Today’s Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s mandated healthcare program has left me shocked and speechless. As stated by the Institute of Justice, “the Supreme Court has failed in its most basic duty,” abdicating  “its responsibility to enforce constitutional limits on government power.”

Possibly the saddest part about the willingness of Americans to relinquish their freedom and to expand our government is that it will not even achieve their intended goals. Our government has a 0% record of ever reining in the costs of anything, or ever creating a program with long-term economic sustainability.

 

Posted in curtailing freedom, Debt, Detrimental policies, Health care, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, supreme court, taxes | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We are the 53%!

Posted by Free to Think on April 18, 2012

Did you pay your income taxes this week? If so, then you’re the half of America that actually pays the cost of the federal government.

Close to half of U.S. households do not owe federal income tax.  The Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center reports that over 46 percent of households owed no federal income tax for 2011. Over a quarter of all American households (27.6%) paid no payroll taxes.

This week The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tried to clarify some “misconceptions” of these startling figures. They point out that households that aren’t paying federal taxes are still paying through the nose for sales taxes, state and local taxes. Yes, but so are the rest of us. As if it should come as a great relief to us, they state, “In 2007, before the economy turned down, 40% of households did not owe federal income tax.  This figure more closely reflects the percentage that do not owe income tax in normal economic times.”

Does that sound much more reasonable to you?

As the price of government swells, just six-tenths of Americans are expected to shoulder the cost of federal roads, entitlements, education, Medicare, the military, the salaries of every federal worker from the post office janitor to the President of the United States, billions of dollars in interest on the public debt, and every other expense of federal government. We are the 60%!

It is frightening to think that fewer and fewer American taxpayers are expected to pay for an exponentially expanding federal government. The portion of the private sector that is actually producing wealth is expected to subsidize 144 million people who aren’t contributing to federal income taxes, and then have enough money left over to pay for the goods and services that keep our economy going.

This has not historically been the case. According to the Tax Foundation, since 1950 the percentage of Americans who didn’t pay federal income taxes has risen dramatically. Until the mid-1980’s, the percentage of tax returns with zero liability averaged in the teens to low twenties, occasionally spiking to the mid-twenty percent mark. In 1986 the figure was 18.5%, where it began a steady rise ever since.

Where does the majority of out federal tax dollars come from? In the latest report by the Tax Foundation, the top 5% of taxpayers paid approximately 58.7% of federal individual income taxes. The tippy-top of the scale, the top .01% of taxpayers contributed  17.1% of the nation’s income taxes. The average income for a tax return in the top 0.1 percent was $4.4 million in 2009, while the average amount of income tax paid was $1.07 million, indicating an average effective individual income tax rate of 24.3%.

There’s been a lot of discussion about who is paying their fair share and who isn’t. But regardless of your definition of “fair,” the most fair thing of all would be for every American to be unencumbered from an excessive and wasteful federal government.

Posted in Debt, Politics, taxes | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Compulsory Contract is an Oxymoron

Posted by Free to Think on March 28, 2012

I apologize for not having an opportunity to write my own pieces lately, but I do have a backlog of excellent articles that I feel are important to share. Here is one by George Will that sums up the problem with “Universal Healthcare” well.

 
Obamacare’s contract problem
By George F. Will, Published: March 25

On Monday the Supreme Court begins three days of oral arguments concerning possible — actually, probable and various — constitutional infirmities in Obamacare. The justices have received many amicus briefs, one of which merits special attention because of the elegant scholarship and logic with which it addresses an issue that has not been as central to the debate as it should be.

Hitherto, most attention has been given to whether Congress, under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, may coerce individuals into engaging in commerce by buying health insurance. Now the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public interest law firm, has focused on this fact: The individual mandate is incompatible with centuries of contract law. This is so because a compulsory contract is an oxymoron.

The brief, the primary authors of which are the IJ’s Elizabeth Price Foley and Steve Simpson, says that Obamacare is the first time Congress has used its power to regulate commerce to produce a law “from which there is no escape.” And “coercing commercial transactions” — compelling individuals to sign contracts with insurance companies — “is antithetical to the foundational principle of mutual assent that permeated the common law of contracts at the time of the founding and continues to do so today.”

In 1799, South Carolina’s highest court held: “So cautiously does the law watch over all contracts, that it will not permit any to be binding but such as are made by persons perfectly free, and at full liberty to make or refuse such contracts. . . . Contracts to be binding must not be made under any restraint or fear of their persons, otherwise they are void.” Throughout the life of this nation it has been understood that for a contract to be valid, the parties to it must mutually assent to its terms — without duress.

In addition to duress, contracts are voidable for reasons of fraud upon, or the mistake or incapacity of, a party to the contract. This underscores the centrality of the concept of meaningful consent in contract law. To be meaningful, consent must be informed and must not be coerced. Under Obamacare, the government will compel individuals to enter into contractual relations with insurance companies under threat of penalty.

Also, the Supreme Court in Commerce Clause cases has repeatedly recognized, and Congress has never before ignored, the difference between the regulation and the coercion of commerce. And in its 10th Amendment cases (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”), the court has specifically forbidden government to compel contracts.

In 1992, the court held unconstitutional a law compelling states to “take title to” radioactive waste. The court said this would be indistinguishable from “a congressionally compelled subsidy from state governments” to those who produced the radioactive waste. Such commandeering of states is, the court held, incompatible with federalism.

The IJ argues: The 10th Amendment forbids Congress from exercising its commerce power to compel states to enter into contractual relations by effectively forcing states to “buy” radioactive waste. Hence “the power to regulate commerce does not include the power to compel a party to take title to goods or services against its will.” And if it is beyond Congress’s power to commandeer the states by compelling them to enter into contracts, it must likewise be beyond Congress’s power to commandeer individuals by requiring them to purchase insurance. Again, the 10th Amendment declares that any powers not given to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people.

Furthermore, although the Constitution permits Congress to make laws “necessary and proper” for executing its enumerated powers, such as the power to regulate interstate commerce, it cannot, IJ argues, be proper to exercise that regulatory power in ways that eviscerate “the very essence of legally binding contracts.” Under Obamacare, Congress asserted the improper power to compel commercial contracts. It did so on the spurious ground that this power is necessary to solve a problem Congress created when, by forbidding insurance companies to deny coverage to individuals because of preexisting conditions, it produced the problem of “adverse selection” — people not buying insurance until they need medical care.

The IJ correctly says that if the court were to ratify Congress’s disregard for settled contract law, Congress’s “power to compel contractual relations would have no logical stopping point.” Which is why this case is the last exit ramp on the road to unlimited government.
© The Washington Post Company

Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Health care, Intrusive government, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We Need $1.2 Trillion More

Posted by Free to Think on December 29, 2011

Treasury officials said Tuesday that the White House plans to request another $1.2 trillion in borrowing authority on Friday.

In August, Congress and the Obama administration raised the borrowing limit by $2.1 trillion. Three days after the agreement was signed into law, long-term U.S. debt was downgraded by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, an ominous warning about the level of our debt. Yet just four months later, the federal government has nearly reached its borrowing limit once again and wants more.

In November, a bipartisan panel failed to meet a deadline in which they were to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. This came as little surprise: neither party wants to budge on feeding their own special interests.

“I would love nothing more than to see Congress act so aggressively that I can’t campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress,” Obama told reporters back in October. People “don’t get a sense that folks in this town are looking out for their interests.”

Quite true, Mr. President. According to a Pew Poll, only 22 percent of Americans surveyed say they trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time,” among the lowest measure in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

However, “Do-nothing Congress” a phrase appropriated from Harry Truman, seems to be a misnomer here. Congress is doing plenty, just way too much of the wrong things. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives have passed 326 bills, and the Democratic-controlled Senate has passed 368 measures. In 2011 alone. And this is low by recent standards.

One must wonder how congressmen have time to closely read and analyze all this legislation, considering many bills are often hundreds of pages long. Apparently this left them little time to trim the budget. Though the Fed continues to print more money, Congress only narrowly avoided a government shutdown and a default on the national debt this year.

In April, Congress did manage to pass a measure cutting a meager $38.5 billion in federal spending. Even this measure was misleading however, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis revealed that only a small fraction of the cuts would take effect in the current fiscal year.

“Total nonsense,” House Speaker John Boehner said in response to criticism. “A cut is a cut.”

Isn’t there any leader out there willing to discuss meaningful,l specific, across-the-board spending cuts? Only one presidential candidate fits that bill: Ron Paul. He proposes, among other things, to impose a spending freeze on most federal departments, eliminate other departments altogether, cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, and end all foreign wars.

According to the same Pew Poll mentioned above, an increasing number, almost 1 of every 3 Americans say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

“The public,” Pew Center Director Andrew Kohut tells NPR, “wants a less activist government.”

Now if we could only find representatives who feel the same.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The government is expanding? So what?

Posted by Free to Think on November 14, 2011

Why should we be so worried? Haven’t we always had big government?

Is the government really getting that much bigger?

Is the exploding size of government the fault of Democrats or Republicans?

Why are politicians so afraid of making meaningful spending cuts?

Why is it so important that we address this problem now?

This video gives a simple, concise explanation in under 4 minutes.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who is Ron Paul?

Posted by Free to Think on November 11, 2011

My dear Common Sense followers,

Five months ago I walked away from my blog, feeling disheartened and hopeless.

The more I researched, the more evidence I found that our country is shifting at an exponential pace from its foundations. Not only have checks, balances, inalienable rights, and constitutional, limited government become things of the past, but so have public concern and the objective, watchful eye of the free press. I began to feel that expressing a critical view was simply futile.

I admit I don’t have the time or heart to continue producing the in-depth posts I have in the past. At least not consistently enough to fill a blog. But I am still reading and learning. I hope that more and more people begin to understand some of the causes of the crises that our nation is now facing. Problems are coming to a head, and one can only hope there’s a positive side to that. When things are relatively good, it’s easy to be complacent about irresponsible government spending, trampling of personal rights and unconstitutional laws.

I’d like to do my part by using this venue to pass along some pieces worth thinking about. I’ll start with the wisdom of Jon Stewart.

To me, a very pressing and troubling issue  is the media’s determination to shun Republican candidate Ron Paul, the only person running for President who has something unique to say. While our Titanic of a nation sinks, every other politician is busy declaring how they’d rearrange the deck chairs, while Paul has spelled out exactly how he’d plug up the hole.

Last week Paul came in first in the Illinois straw poll. In fact, he won 52% of the vote, more than Romney, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Bachman, Huntsman and Santorum combined. Wow, big news? Hardly. Paul’s notable victory was promptly buried by the mainstream press. Meanwhile there’s been a plethora of airtime about Herman Cain’s irrelevant personal debacles. The obvious and intentional snubbing of Ron Paul by the media was well summed up in a hilarious piece by Jon Stewart back in August.

In addition to the silence of the press on his grassroots campaign, Ron Paul’s airtime during the Republican debates have been glaringly inequitable. One blogger went to the trouble of doing the math for one of the debates and found that Paul was 8th in speaking opportunities, though at the time he was 3rd in the polls (were you aware that he was third in the polls?) Yet, as evidenced by the Illinois survey, Ron Paul’s popularity has continued to grow.

Whether or not you like Ron Paul’s message, a burning issue is why the press has gone from purveyors of the truth to outlets for their own personal agendas.

In a side note: it has been so long since I last wrote that I didn’t remember what my last post was about. It was interesting to see that it was an argument against sending American troops into Libya. I was disputing the position that the Libyan people needed us to intervene in their civil war to escape being crushed by government-backed forces.  As it turns out, the Libyan people were able to oust strongman Moammar Qaddafi in short order without the help of a U.S. ground war. This averted the deaths of American servicemen and likely saved our nation hundreds of millions of dollars. But perhaps most importantly, by limiting America’s role in another nation’s conflict there will be less potential for our enemies’ animosity: Qaddafi was killed by his own people, not by an”invading U.S. force.”

I apologize for disappearing.  I hope you’ll continue to be a loyal reader.

Posted in Debt, election, Freedom of Speech, Libya, Media bias, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why We Won’t Pick the Best Candidate Today.

Posted by Free to Think on November 2, 2010

We would all like to be proud of voting today. We would all like to vote wisely.

I don’t think that’s possible.

We’ve been warned that the future of our democracy will be shaped by whichever party we elect to office.

I disagree.

I believe that in today’s climate it’s impossible to make a truly informed decision about candidates. But I also believe it matters less where a representative stands personally on particular issues than how much they respect the Constitution and the rights of the individual.

 

Why can’t we make a well-informed decision?

We can’t point our fingers solely at the lazy voters who don’t take the time to find out more about candidates. Those of us who try to stay informed usually find that it’s nearly impossible to discover hard details about where candidates stand on issues. In a recent Hartford Courant article, columnist Rick Green explains that “voting isn’t necessarily about the issues, it’s about emotions, first impressions and whether the candidate could be a leader you want to follow.” This shouldn’t be the case. But even those who take the time to watch debates or go to candidates’ websites find them filled with fuzzy rhetoric and finger pointing at the other guy.

In today’s day and age, we shouldn’t need to take anyone’s word- each and every claim made by or about sitting politicians, candidates and their opponents can easily be documented by evidence on their website or on media websites.

While there are plenty of lobbyists protecting the interests of big business, us regular citizens don’t have a staff dedicated to keeping the government from encroaching on our liberties or our wages. Maintaining a free republic requires constant vigilance, and we as a society have not been attentive enough. The media should be the natural guardian of the people’s rights, but shallow political scandals have gotten the most readership, and most of the media seems to have little interest in digging into the hard issues of unrestrained government.

 

Why doesn’t it matter which party is in power?

Two years ago the people thought they could vote out the status quo. But their attempt at “change” amounted to deepening the existing problems of our wasteful, bloated, overreaching government. “Throw out the bums!” is a tempting solution, but it won’t help if you just replace them with other bums. Countless political candidates have paid lip service to turning things around, but nearly without fail, they end up perpetuating the system once they are in office.

I don’t really think our representatives in Washington are villains. I think the mess that we’re in has evolved from incremental exacerbation of bad practices, such as sticking earmarks into unrelated bills, and not reading bills thoroughly before passing them into law. The prevailing attitude of the legislative and executive branches has been that they’re our leaders rather than our representatives. This gives them the hubris to believe that their agenda is more important than protecting the integrity of the American government.

The thing is, when you can vote yourself money and power, it’s not too difficult to convince yourself that you’re pet project is worth taking just a few more tax dollars or curtailing some minor individual rights. When you’re a “Leader,” it’s easy to pass bills for a few more programs and a few more laws in order to create whatever utopian situation you happen to see fit. Over time, the causes our “Leaders” want to champion and the money they require to do so overshadows their role as the voice of the American principles of liberty.

We’ve lost sight of the original checks and balances in our Constitution, designed to protect the rights of the people and prevent the expansion of government’s mandates upon us. The role of our representatives is meant to be drastically limited by their constitutional responsibilities.

 

Solutions

It’s in the best interest of candidates to be deliberately vague about their intentions. There’s less for voters to disagree with when a candidate’s platform is simply filled with  hazy promises such as “helping the middle class,”  “cutting waste” and “making responsible fiscal decisions.”  This also gives politicians more leeway to vote however they wish once in office. But if we aren’t completely clear as to what they stand for, why should we voters give them our trust?

Our nation has difficult issues at hand to resolve. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we all must admit that lowering taxes, expanding programs and reducing the deficit cannot happen simultaneously. We can no longer afford our government, and the people drowning in inefficient government and bloated debt. It’s time to be frank about the hard choices that need to be made.

Republicans have campaigned on pledges to dramatically cut spending, but haven’t offered many details. Are they a better bet than Democrats? Obama has said deficit reduction will be a priority in 2011, but precisely how he intends to succeed at that while continuing to grow federal entitlement programs is pretty baffling to me.

We should be able to get specific details about each candidate’s agendas so we don’t have to guess or hope about their intentions. It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that big government requires big dollars. If you claim that you’re going to protect and grow entitlements, stimulus and services, let us know where you’re going to get the money. How much are you willing to borrow? How do you intend to pay it back? If you need to raise taxes, whose taxes will be raised and by how much? What concrete evidence are you using to back up your numbers?

But if I had a chance to ask every candidate one question, it would be this: do you believe in the constitutional limitations of American government?

You may wonder why candidates would disclose this information, when some of it is sure to alienate voters. But they’d have to do so if the public demanded it. They’d do so if hard-nosed reporters wouldn’t settle for anything less than direct answers to specific questions.

If responsible government became our priority.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Should We Heed The Tea Party?

Posted by Free to Think on October 27, 2010

Is the Tea Party the Answer?

Americans have long been trained to believe that any political group outside the established two-party system are crackpots espousing extreme positions. Some members of the “Tea Party” haven’t done much to dispel that notion. Yet on the other hand, if you think like me, many of the Tea Party messages resonate with common sense.

Endorsing the Tea Party isn’t cut and dried, since the “party” is really just a hodge-podge of groups throughout the country without a defined spokesperson or a standard platform. The Tea Party can mean different things to different people. Because of this, there are some very commendable ‘Tea Party’ candidates in the November elections, while there are others who also champion nationalist, evangelistic, or other ideas that stray from the basic Tea Party ideas of Constitutionalism.

But, the Tea Party has served a significant purpose, bringing to the forefront vital issues that had been continually swept under the rug by the establishment. As a rule, they advocate levelheaded reforms that would help make this country more fiscally sound and take inordinate power out of the hands of the few.

Opponents may cast them as radical, but as Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint states, Tea Party platforms are merely “common sense ideas of let’s don’t bankrupt our country.”

Generally these proposals include:

  • balancing the budget by matching federal expenditures with revenue (i.e. living within our means)
  • an end to raising taxes, printing and borrowing money to fuel an ever-growing federal bureaucracy
  • downsizing our government by restoring limited-government constitutionalism
  • ending the practice of wasteful earmarks, which allows Congressmen to add costly provisions for their district or pet projects to unrelated bills
  • establishing congressional term limits
  • ensuring that congressional bills are concise enough to be read and understood in full before they’re voted upon.

Will America listen?

The biggest problem with this agenda is that, obviously, the government would have a lot less money to spend. Politicians are smart enough to realize that slashing programs, even if they’re unconstitutional and unaffordable, won’t be easy. Every program, subsidy and service is relied upon by someone and, as it’s been demonstrated recently in Europe, those someones will be headed angrily to the streets if their programs are cut.

There’s no dispute that voters today are frustrated and disgruntled.  But Americans have been taught to ask for it all— big government programs and services along with low taxes and small government debt; free market prosperity along with micro-managing government regulations.  It’s easier to tell voters that you’re able to provide everything rather than admit that money and governmental jurisdiction is not limitless.

More than 43 cents of every dollar Washington spent last year was borrowed. The size and scale of today’s federal government is unprecedented: current nondefense spending (relative to GDP) is the highest level in U.S. history. In 2008 presidential candidate Barak Obama harshly criticized President Bush’s $300 billion average annual deficit. Yet Obama’s proposed budget will run a deficit averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers and the troops return home from Iraq.

Government scope is expanding out of control, and our elected representatives routinely pass massive, wasteful and unconstitutional bills without even knowing what’s in them. Whether you consider yourself a Democrat or a Republican, this is a daunting message to digest. Most Americans have enough on their personal plates to deal with, who wants to think about the tough choices we must make in the face of the exponential rise in costs of all of our federal programs?

But deal with them we must, one way or another. The Tea Party has been successful at exposing these issues, but without continued public pressure to rectify them, the Demo-Republican machine is not going to change. Why would it? Typically, politicians aren’t eager to cede their own power, cut their own budgets, or lose the ability to promise everything to everyone as often as possible.

Does it really matter which party we vote for next month?

Perhaps more importantly than who wins the upcoming elections, is the message that we should be sending to our representatives: if they don’t follow through with reform they’ll get booted from office. It’s up to the American public to keep pressure on our politicians so that the trend of corrupted practices and expanding government does not continue.

So which candidates are serious about reform? It’s difficult to tell. Perhaps the establishment’s greatest weapon is to jump on the “responsibility” bandwagon, vaguely echoing Tea Party messages without any details on exactly how they intend to go about this.

Here are headlines from some of the recent mailings I received from both Democratic and Republican candidates, including incumbents:

“Stop Wasteful Spending and Higher Taxes”

“Elect a Different Kind of Senator”

“Our Independent Voice”

“Because more of the same never fixed anything”

“It is Time for a New Beginning”

“I’ll wake up every morning to help employers hire again and to stop the reckless overspending.”

Yes, I’m sure they all sound familiar. Suddenly, everyone is claiming that they’ve seen the light and have become fiscally responsible. The Tea Party presence is definitely being felt.

Now what we need are politicians brave enough to be brutally frank, and a public willing to listen to realistic messages. There are tradeoffs we must face: if we want to pay for all the programs and services that are tending to us cradle to grave then we must be willing to relinquish most of our wages to the government. Or are we willing to rethink what we are “entitled to” from the government, and what powers the government is entitled to possess, in order to trim our government and restore the fiscal health of our nation?

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Which Political Party is Wrong?

Posted by Free to Think on September 3, 2010

I almost like this movie trailer. Please take a moment to watch it.

The new documentary “I Want Your Money” by filmmaker Ray Griggs takes a smart, entertaining look at several of the important issues that I write about in this blog. It’s pretty obvious that I’d agree with most of the movie’s conclusions regarding the dangers of runaway government spending.

Yeah, I do. But….

From what one can gather from this trailer, it appears that in Grigg’s view, we need the reincarnation of staunch Republican Ronald Reagan to rescue this nation. Hmm. In actuality, the biggest contribution of the real Ronald Reagan was demonstrating that it’s easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk.

Yes, Reagan got it right when he famously said “government is not the solution, government is the problem.” How appropriate of him to demonstrate that personally.

Sure, when taking office in 1981, Reagan was lamenting about “runaway deficits,” which were approaching $80 billion, or about 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product. He then proceeded to cut taxes without making significant cuts in major domestic programs, while swelling the defense budget, resulting in a deficit that soared to more than $200 billion, or 6 percent of GDP, in just two years. No president had ever run as high a deficit during peacetime. By the time he left office, Reagan also grew federal bureaucracy to the tune of 230,000 more government workers added to the payrolls.

The unfortunate truth is that we have, for all intents and purposes, only two political parties to choose from in this country: Big Government Right and Big Government Left. If we want to face the facts, we must admit that in the past century both have been egregious in their disregard for constitutional boundaries and fiscal responsibility.

Sadly, most often Americans don’t acknowledge this. They feel compelled to cling to party loyalty, rationalizing or turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of “their” party. They throw blame at the “other guys,” while ignoring valid criticisms of the party they support.

I wonder whether this new film will be different. A truly refreshing change would be some honest reflection about how the political system as a whole has come to fail the American people.

The Republicans of the past several decades have had their opportunities, but have typically let down advocates of fiscal prudence and limited government. Besides running up record deficits, George W. Bush claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws while in office, asserting he had the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicted with his interpretation of the Constitution.

The “change” we elected was Barack Obama, who has stated that he is “amused” by rallies of citizens who are alarmed about the rising national debt and the implications of a massively unpopular healthcare bill. His lack of concern about individual freedom is demonstrated by his newest legislation, to allow warrantless tracking of cellphone location and records. The Obama administration has argued that Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers claim that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals records to the government that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.” In other words, tracking your every move and taking note of your every conversation is not an invasion of privacy.

Where were the Republicans in office who recognized the violations of President Bush? Are there no Democrats today willing to speak out against Obama’s policies?

The threat of vast, powerful political machines was a fear of our Founding Fathers from this nation’s inception. George Washington warned against strong political parties in his farewell address. But perhaps Thomas Jefferson put it best:

“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

When politicians are forced to pander to their party brass in order to retain power and obtain the money they need to seek reelection, there is an immediate conflict of interest. They are often not voting to represent us but to fulfill obligations. Instead of having the liberty to decide issues for themselves, they become puppets toting the party line. Today we no longer vote for individuals, we vote Red or Blue, as evidenced by articles such as this.

Putting this nation back on track is not about ‘us versus them’. It’s about re-reading the Constitution and finding politicians willing to restore the checks and balances that were meant to limit the scope and power of our government. As our country faces bankruptcy, as more of our earnings are confiscated, and as we are slowly stripped of our liberties, ‘us’ and ‘them’ are in this together.

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Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Do Bad Government Policies Persist?

Posted by Free to Think on August 20, 2010

In recent blogs I used farm subsidies to illustrate the incompetency of government programs. Aid often ends up in the hands of well-off corporate farmers or suburban non-farmers rather than farmers in need. Crop prices fluctuate no more with government intervention than without. Studies have even shown that subsidies contribute to the increase of land prices, making it more difficult for farmers to start or expand a business. Meanwhile taxpayers continue to vainly invest billions of dollars.

So why do verifiably ineffective, wasteful government programs such as this persist?

Well, many of the issues discussed in this blog are complex problems that are difficult to solve. Often the hard questions I put forth don’t have simple answers.

But the question above is not one of them.

As the Heritage Foundation explains, “The most logical explanation for the persistence of farm subsidies is simple politics. Eliminating a government program is nearly impossible because recipients form interest groups that relentlessly defend their handouts. The public paying the costs is too busy going about their lives to challenge each wasteful program.”

This idea is nothing new. Milton Friedman taught us many years ago that invasive government grows because those who receive government favors have a huge incentive to fight for their preservation. But the cost of those favors is spread among the rest of society in small amounts, giving taxpayers less incentive to fight against them.

Whether the beneficiaries of government programs are corporations, unions, farmers, the unemployed or anyone other group, recipients form powerful lobby groups to advocate for their continuation. Politicians want to keep these vocal and impassioned groups satisfied.

It’s not in the best interest of politicians to cut special programs, even if it’s the appropriate thing to do legally or sensibly. Generally, a lawmaker would be more likely to lose more votes from the proponents of these programs than gain popularity because he cut aid to any particular group. And getting reelected is the name of the game.

This really isn’t a condemnation of politicians, it’s just an explanation of how the system ends up working. There haven’t been influential lobby organizations out there saying, “Hey, the money/ favors/ special privileges you’re doling out to these specific groups aren’t serving the purpose you intended/ are detrimental to the rest of society/ haven’t made a difference in the plight of these people/ are not in your jurisdiction to grant anyway.” You and I may grumble, but traditionally we haven’t headed to the street with picket signs demanding we slash federal aid to (fill in the blank).

Until now, that is. Government spending has spiraled out of control, causing a staggering national debt. Our nation has dug itself into holes so deep that extracting ourselves will be a formidable task. Intrusive government policies challenge our ability to live and work freely. People of all political persuasions are angry and are finally asking for accountability.

In April I wrote about how many days a year Americans had to work just to pay their income and property taxes. But how many days did it take for us to pay all costs imposed by the U.S. government this year, assessed to us in incremental bits through fees, licenses, permits, sales tax, etc.? An average of 231. So congratulations, after this week you’re finally free to earn money towards feeding and supporting your family.

“Cost of Government Day” fell on June 29th in 2000, but this year we don’t reach that milestone until August 19th. That’s 63.4% of national income. Does that sound reasonable to you?

Nothing will change until a meaningful part of the general population throws it’s emotional and financial support behind watchdog organizations such as Downsize DC, Reason, the Center for Fiscal Accountability, and the Cato Institute, that demand limited, transparent and Constitutional government.

“Tea Party” organizations may be controversial, but one thing they’ve accomplished well is bringing these issues to the forefront. Most of America is on the dole in one form or another, so scaling back is going to be a hard sell. Cries of discrimination will be inevitable when assistance is curtailed to any organizations or groups of individuals. But the future of our nation depends upon it.

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