Common Sense & An Open Mind

Advocating freedom of thought

  • Stay updated!

  • Quote

    "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 ‘obama’

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 »

Who is advocating a War on Medicinal Marijuana?

Posted by Free to Think on April 27, 2012

Conservatives claim they believe in economic freedom.

Liberals claim they believe in social freedom.

Yet both Republican and Democratic administrations have demonstrated their belief that a proper use of federal power and resources is to lock up medicinal marijuana providers who opened legal businesses in their state.

In 2003, California passed Senate Bill 420, legalizing cannabis for health reasons. The Medical Marijuana Program,  administered through the California Department of Public Health, requires a recommendation from a physician for the use of medicinal marijuana. The bill requires that the MMP be fully supported through application processing fees.

Back in 2008, when California was fighting against a Bush administration attempt to disable state medical marijuana laws, U.S. District Court in San Jose held that the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars federal drug laws from subverting state medical laws.

Despite this, according to the Drug Policy Alliance,  in the past few months “at least 16 landlords in California received letters stating that they are violating federal drugs laws and that state law will not protect them.”

The Obama administration also does not seem deterred by the fact that the U.S. Constitution grants the federal government no authority to override state laws on the matter of illegal substances. But the difference is that on the campaign trail and in the White House, Obama had pledged that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

Says Joe Elford, chief counsel with marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, “President Obama must answer for his contradictory policy on medical marijuana.”

If you’re tired of the duplicity from both parties regarding the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ Downsize DC gives you the opportunity to let your congressmen know: click here to help stop the hypocrisy.

Posted in constitutional rights, curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, George W. Bush, Intrusive government, Medicinal marijuana, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

The Power of the People

Posted by Free to Think on January 23, 2012

Typically my blog posts are full of doom and gloom, but this week I’m happy to comment on good news: the American public stood up for their rights and actually won.

The Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) were introduced as a way to thwart intellectual property theft and sales of counterfeit products online. But opposition from Internet-based companies and their users argued that the bill would lead to over-regulation and censorship. An excellent short video describing how these laws could curtail freedom can be seen here.

On January 18th, 13 million of us took the time to tell Congress that we wanted to protect free speech rights on the Internet. In fact, so many voters bombarded their senators and congressmen with so many protest messages that it temporarily knocked out some representatives websites.  Petition drives abounded, such as the one by Google which attracted more than 7 million participants.

The power of the Internet has given us opportunities to rally together like we never have before. And finally, Americans seized the chance. On Friday the bills, which were being fast-tracked through Congress, were indefinitely shelved.

The bills had been backed by the entertainment industry and also initially by Congress. Only 5 senators opposed the bill the week it was introduced. Then the protests began. Within a week 35 senators publicly opposed PIPA.

Ron Paul denounced SOPA from its inception, the first Republican congressman to oppose it. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were silent on the issue until after the massive public protests. Rick Santorum remained the only Republican presidential candidate to defend some form of the bills during Thursday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina.

Last week, incensed Hollywood executives cancelled Obama fundraisers when the President also sided against the legislation.

Former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd is now Chairman of MPAA, the movie studio lobby that crafted these bills. He told the New York Times that passage of PIPA and SOPA had been “considered to be a slam-dunk.” The bills were backed by over 350 large, powerful corporations and organizations. Comparing the protests to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, Mr. Dodd said he was humbled to learn that “no Washington player can safely assume that a well-wired, heavily financed legislative program is safe from a sudden burst of Web-driven populism.”

I must admit that when I went to Wikipedia last Thursday only to find it blacked out in protest, it was quite a powerful statement. A sampling of some of the best website protests can be seen here.

“It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman and SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith.

Hurray, the people made their wishes known! Yes Mr. Chairman, we’d like the government to address the problem of piracy without claiming the right to completely choke off the traffic, free speech and revenue of entire web sites without ever having to try or convict its owners of any crime. Even without these expanded powers, sites have already been wrongfully shuttered by the government.

Copyright owners do need to be able to go after piracy sites, and they already have some mechanisms at their disposal. But these industries have concocted some truly absurd statistics purporting apocalyptic damages that require draconian measures, while in fact these businesses remain very healthy.

SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form, as the bills were not killed, just postponed.

The SOPA/ PIPA protest was one of the biggest populist movements in America since the Vietnam War, engaging millions of Americans to rally against governmental policy that could substantially change the way we live. Yet there was relatively scant coverage of the movement in the major mass media. Last week, news organizations seemed to find the Italian cruise ship disaster, which killed 12 people on the other side of the globe, much more newsworthy. It should be noted that these media outlets are owned by the same corporations that sponsored these bills.

Americans have proven that the right to gather information and communicate on the web freely is very important to us. Now if only the public would get equally up in arms about the national debt and government detention laws!

Stay updated! Subscribe to Common Sense and an Open Mind!

Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Media bias, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The National Defense Authorization Act: Who’s laughing now?

Posted by Free to Think on January 2, 2012

Once again I must defer to Jon Stewart’s biting humor as he illustrates the outrageous absurdity of the pending national defense bill.  With tongue in cheek, Stewart states that he see why 7 of the senators were a bit leery to pass a bill that would nullify the fourth amendment and allow for the indefinite detainment of Americans without trial. But what about those other 93 senators who voted for the bill?

At least our level-headed President had threatened a veto. But wait a minute: it was the Obama administration that requested the indefinite detentions in the first place.

The only reason Obama has ever given for wanting to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 was a fear that the measure might infringe on his own executive branch powers.

In another segment, Jon Stewart drolly illustrates the about-face Obama has done since he reached Executive Office. Stewart offers a clip of a 2007 speech by presidential candidate Obama, rebuking the Bush administration’s policy of detaining foreigners at Guantanamo without due cause. He juxtaposes it with President Obama’s 2011 desire for “infinite power” to detain anyone, including American citizens.

Unfortunately for the American public, adjustments made by a House-Senate conference committee have sufficiently addressed White House concerns that the bill could infringe on presidential powers. In his last official act of business in 2011, last weekend President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law.

Human Rights Watch said of our Noble Peace Prize-winning leader, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.”

Another political humorist, funnyman Andy Borowitz, satirically tells us that most voters “no longer believe that the 2008 Obama and the current Obama are the same person.”

Jon Stewart and Andy Borowitz make me laugh about the things I want to cry about. I wish I were witty enough to make this situation sound humorous. But to me there’s nothing funny going on here. What’s happening is terrifying.

“This should be the biggest news going on right now — literally legalizing martial law,” says Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul.

“The founders wanted to set a high bar for the government to overcome in order to deprive an individual of life or liberty,” said Paul this week. “When the bar is low enough to include political enemies, our descent into totalitarianism is virtually assured. The Patriot Act, as bad as its violations against the Fourth Amendment were, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act continues that slip into tyranny, and in fact, accelerates it significantly.”

“The danger of the NDAA is its alarmingly vague,” Paul continued, “with undefined criteria for who can be indefinitely detained by the U.S. government without trial.”

As I will discuss in my next article, no other presidential candidate has a problem with this expansion of legislative and executive power.

As Jon Stewart advises us, we needn’t worry about losing our due process to defend ourselves all that much. “In the event that you find yourself suddenly and perhaps capaciously imprisoned under this bill” they can’t detained you forever, Stewart explains. Once the War on Terror is over “and terror surrenders, and is no longer available as a human emotion, you’ll be free to go.”

Subscribe to Common Sense and An Open Mind!

Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, National Defense Authorization Act, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , | Leave a 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 »

Things are worse in Libya because of us

Posted by Free to Think on May 2, 2011

Things are likely worse today in Libya because of us.

On March 18, President Obama ordered a U.S. airstrike to begin in Libya, declaring that it was America’s responsibility to stop the forces loyal to Col. Qaddafi from massacring the Libyan people during a civil uprising.

In announcing the attacks, President Obama said, “Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians…The United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people.”

Resolution 1973 was adopted by the UN Security Council on March 17, which required the establishment of a no-fly zone, and demanded an immediate ceasefire in Libya.

Now, there is evidence that Obama grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat. Human Rights Watch has released data revealing that Moammar Qaddafi had not been deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who were fighting against his government. The “no mercy’’ warning, of March 17, had targeted rebels only and Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.’’ Qaddafi had also offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt to avoid a fight.

A cease-fire has now been proposed by the African Union that would effectively leave Colonel Qaddafi in control of part of the country. This proposition seems to accomplish the U.S. mission of keeping civilians safe. Asked recently whether the United States could accept this plan, at first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had agreed, under the condition that the Libyan government would allow food, water, electricity and humanitarian assistance into cities it has cut off. Later she backpedaled, added that nothing could be resolved without “the departure of Qaddafi from power.”

So we have yet another interventionist war with military creep: it’s now clear that America is not involved in Libya to protect the innocent populace from slaughter. It’s to put a government we approve of in power.

The U.S. has rejected the African Union cease-fire proposal. But we must ask why it’s become America’s business to accept proposals about a Libyan civil war in the first place. Has Libya attacked or threatened us? No, they have not.

Now that the U.S. has openly declared its objective of ousting Qaddafi, we must realize that this is no peacekeeping mission. One must wonder if the use of American troops will now be necessary to accomplish our true objectives. Obama has continually denied the possibility of sending U.S. ground troops to Libya. But Army Gen. Carter Ham has told lawmakers that Moammar Qaddafi’s forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging military forces and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques. Ham says the use of an international ground force, though not the “ideal circumstance,” is a possible plan to bolster rebels fighting forces loyal to the Libyan leader.

It’s quite possible that our intervention will actually prolong this civil war, creating the very humanitarian crisis we sought to prevent. Has no one taken into account that the normal reaction when one’s country is being attacked by outside forces is to defend one’s government, as imperfect as it is?

As NATO plans to step up its attacks on the Libyan government, the American ambassador to Libya says that the current estimates of the total death toll from the violence range from 10,000 to 30,000. Would things be even worse for Libyans if we hadn’t gotten involved? No one will ever know for sure.

Aside from the effect our military action has on Libyans, does our involvement in Libya make the world a safer place for America? That seems unlikely, considering:

  • We have invited hatred from Qaddafi supporters who attest that we attacked without provocation.
  • On Sunday, a NATO airstrike killed Qaddafi’s son and three young grandchildren. The strongman’s allies will be seeking revenge not on rebels, but on the West.
  • We have even provoked the ire of the rebels we’re attempting to assist, who have blamed defeats on insufficient “help” as this civil war lingers on.
  • We have known since February that Al Qaeda members are in the rebel ranks. If Qaddafi is overthrown, it’s questionable whether the future leadership in Libya will be friendly towards the West.
  • The Arab League, which had lent support to Resolution 1973, has objected to the current bombing campaign. “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” said Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

Despite Obama’s insistence that we will have “no U.S. boots on the ground” in Libya, U.S. Marines are already deployed and waiting along the Libyan coast.

We must not allow American soldiers to die so that Obama may claim “victory” by removing Qaddafi from power. Americans need to speak out, and our representatives in Congress must halt any further U.S. involvement in Libya.

Despite Obama’s insistence that we will have “no U.S. boots on the ground” in Libya, U.S. Marines are already deployed and waiting along the Libyan coast. Will we continue to stray from our stated aim of protecting Libyan civilians and making the world safer, or will we engage and endanger American soldiers so that Obama may claim “victory” by removing Qaddafi from power?

Postscript:

I wrote this piece over the weekend, before news broke that U.S. forces had killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan early this morning.

I must add that another repercussion of our aggression in Libya is that it muddles other missions, such as eliminating known orchestrators of mass American murders.

 In announcing the assassination, it was interesting to note President Obama stressed that Americans “did not choose this fight” against al Qaeda, but rather, “it came to our shores.” I find this ironic to emphasize, considering we are also currently in the act “choosing” to bomb a Muslim nation that had threatened us in no way.

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

New administration, new wars

Posted by Free to Think on April 4, 2011

On March 17, President Obama announced that he was sending United States troops to Libya to help oust leader Moammar Gadhafi.

I was preparing an article on this subject when I discovered that Joe Biden and Barack Obama have already eloquently voiced my opinion on this new “mission.” So I will let them do the talking:

As this 2007 video shows, in the expert opinion of a group of constitutional scholars headed by ranking Senate Judiciary member and constitutional law professor Joe Biden, launching an attack against another nation without congressional approval is cause for a President’s impeachment.

But let’s ignore for a moment that this war was initiated unconstitutionally. Is it moral, justified, in the best interest of our nation?

In this powerful video, presidential candidate Barack Obama explains clearly that the U.S. should never rush into war without establishing long-term commitment, how much it would cost and what it would mean to rebuild. He questioned America’s ability to stabilize a volatile Middle Eastern country and prevent it from splintering into factions.

Ending military involvement in the Middle East was one of the focal points of Obama’s campaign. But last week President Obama said that it was America’s “responsibility” to intervene in Libya.

Though no one can condone Qaddafi’s ruthlessness, is it America’s place to invade and police foreign civil wars?  One might point out that Qaddafi doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of the world’s worst dictators. But Libya does have a lot more oil beneath it than say Zimbabwe or Burma, where we have not chosen to invade. Coincidence?

In 2007, Obama expressed concern to the Senate that meddling in Iraq would lead to greater Al Quaida recruitment. But as Chief Executive, Obama doesn’t seem worried that anger towards this latest American intervention could create more terrorists throughout the Islamic world.

America’s leaders are sending a loud, clear message that the U.S. feels it is its prerogative to initiate foreign “regime change” whenever it sees fit. This gives countries such as Iran and Syria no incentive to negotiate with the West on terrorism or nuclear arms.

Qaddafi is a brutal dictator. He is a former terrorist who has plotted against the United States. But he has more recently cooperated in counter-terrorist activities like information-sharing and halting the development of “unconventional weapons.” Now we must wonder whether Qaddafi will retaliate against America’s unprovoked attack by reverting to terrorism again.

Finally, with tens of thousands of troops spread thin in over 1,100 overseas bases and a nation on the brink of a government shutdown at home, is this endeavor the best use of American resources?

As someone famously said in 2008, “It’s time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreements that lie at the heart of someone else’s civil war. America, it’s time to start bringing our troops home.” I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mr. Obama.

Posted in Detrimental policies, Iraq, Libya, obama, Politics | 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 »