'Cause I Said So…

Missing The Point On The Gardasil Story

By now we have all heard something about the 2007 decision of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) to sign an executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas schools receiving money from the State of Texas. One of the most fair and comprehensive articles on the web about this incident has been written by Ben Howe (@Ben_Howe) at RedState.com (@RedState), Vetting Rick Perry (http://www.redstate.com/aglanon/2011/08/17/vetting-rick-perry/).

I’m not going to rehash everything in Mr. Howe’s article. What would be the point? Read it. It’s very good. Instead, I’m going to use Mr. Howe’s article as a jumping off point.

The trouble with almost all the reporting and opinion writing I’ve seen on the incident is that they all seem to miss the point of why this is important, if not necessarily fatal, when looking at the presidential candidacy of Gov. Perry. How did I get it and few others seem to? I don’t know. Maybe because I have no personal ax to grind. No, I’ll admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Gov. Perry; however, I did vote for him in every general election in which he ran. So, I can’t exactly be seen as his biggest detractor, either. So, let’s get to it.

The important thing about this incident is not the vaccine itself. Though I understand the problems many people have with vaccines, I am an advocate of necessary vaccines.

The important thing about this incident is not the mandate. Though I understand the concerns of libertarians and parents’-rights activists, many other vaccines are required to enter Texas’ state-funded schools. (However, I must say that mandated vaccinations for venereal diseases does push the envelope a bit much, and I would be opposed to it.)

The important thing about this incident is not allegations of influence peddling. Though I share the concerns of many regarding this candidate’s history of bending to corporate interests, there has been no evidence given of anything more than garden variety campaign donations and corporate lobbying involving Merck. (I don’t like the way it smells, but it’s perfectly legal.)

No, the most important thing about this incident is executive overreach by Gov. Perry.

The executive and the legislative branches have completely different duties and authorities. Governor Perry by-passed the Texas State legislature when he signed that executive order. Instead of having someone sponsor the desired legislation and letting it go through the appropriate process, he basically amended State Law by his own, independent action.

Did Gov. Perry have any right under the Texas constitution for such an act? Did Gov. Perry have any administrative authority under state law for such an act? No to both. As a matter of fact, his order was widely understood to be both constitutionally and legally dubious. Amongst the public furor arising from the order’s announcement, both houses of the state legislature passed measures denouncing Perry’s order, and not just for the publicly controversial parts. The legislature knew their authority had been commandeered by the Governor.

Now, Gov. Perry did rescind the order, after the public uproar. He did apologize for the nature of the order, the particulars concerning the vaccine and the mandate. However, he never apologized for assuming the authority to make the order in the first place. He never tried to explain why he had assumed such authority, except to say “I hate cancer”. (Well, don’t we all?)

So, why do I consider this the most egregious part of the entire affair? Circumspection.

When picking a candidate for President, we have to consider their experience. In this incident, Gov. Perry has shown a disregard for the constitutionally defined duties of his office. We are all too aware of our current President’s disregard for limits to his power, with his signing of executive orders and his appointment of “Czars”. How can we criticize President Obama’s actions, but accept out of hand similar actions done by our own candidate? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of us?

I Would Like A Real Explanation, Governor Perry

Remember when you were a kid, and you were busted for doing something you weren’t supposed to? What was the first thing you would say? It was probably “I’m sorry!” If you had a smart-alec like my Father, you would have been asked “Sorry for what you did, or sorry for getting caught?” With my Dad, you had better know the difference.

Well, guess what? I want to know why Perry apologized for his actions. Was he “sorry” because people didn’t like the policy, or was he “sorry” because he over-stepped his constitutional authority as governor? There is sure as heck a difference between the two.

In 2007,  Governor Perry’s (R-TX) issued an executive order mandating every girl going into sixth grade in a Texas public school to receive the Gardasil vaccine. He then quickly rescinded his order, when public opposition grew too great. Every explanation I’ve read was merely an attempt to justify his actions. “He was sorry for upsetting parents, but his motives were pure.” Well, I have another of my father’s favorite sayings: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

So, one more time for those riding the short bus, what is his explanation for subverting the constitution of the State of Texas? Why did he think he could pass law without the state legislature? Why couldn’t he have had a bill sponsored in the legislature? What does this tell us about his attitudes concerning executive power, before he possibly ascends to the highest office in the land?

Is he sorry because he did it, or because he got caught?

If we truly believe in the “rule of law”, are these questions really inconsequential?

Party of Squishes or Party of Conservatives

Ayn Rand had it right in Atlas Shrugged. Without the willing consent of the hosts, the parasites cannot continue to survive.

In light of the recent election, I’m waiting to see if the GOP will change direction. If they cannot do this in a serous way, then this election is only another speed-bump on Hayek’s “road to serfdom”.

I don’t only mean the GOP changing the country’s direction. No, I mean a change in the GOP’s own direction. Will it actually become the party of the “country class”, or will it continue to remain simply another party of the “ruling class”?

The GOP has been mouthing “country class” values for decades, but has (for the most part) not put these words into action. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and both Bushes, they all believed in big government. It’s not simply that they believed the existing government was too big for them to meaningfully change. No, they bought into the necessity and usefulness of big government. They may have wanted to marginally change its direction and how it operated. They may have wanted to make it less wasteful, more effective, and less costly. However, the premise underlying big government was never really questioned.

Since WWII, only two Republican presidential candidates, Goldwater and Reagan, have been true Conservatives. Can we really call the GOP the “conservative” party when only two of its last ten presidential candidates have been conservative? We can work to elect as many conservative Senators and Congressmen as possible. However, how can we expect them to behave conservatively when most GOP standard bearers are “squishy” moderates?

Many of us have worked hard for decades to elect conservative politicians to help retain those of our freedoms which remain, and to regain those freedoms which we have lost. Our only real hope is for those of us in the “country class” to once and for all take control of the Republican Party from the Establishment. Once we’ve wrested control from them, their only chance for survival within the party is to go along for ride.

Won’t we lose some of the Establishment to the Democrats? Think about it. If that’s the case, then chances are they are already voting with them a lot of the time. In many important ways they’re already gone. If they don’t agree with us most of the time, and find us to be the bigger threat, then let them be on their way. In the larger scheme of things it won’t make much of a difference. The Establishment as an actual percentage of voters is not enough to make the difference in general elections, as long as we bring in the disaffected Independents.

Are these the same Independents the MSM talks about incessantly every election cycle? No, I’m not talking about the pseudo-moderates, who are, for the most part, the least informed among us. How has it become a virtue to have no educated opinion about the elected leadership of your country? No, I would do best to not speak of these pitiful, ignorant sheep watching Oprah and The View. Instead, I’m talking about disaffected, right-of-center citizens, who feel the Republican Party haven’t spoken to or for them, or, worse, believe their votes have been taken for granted in the past.

I’ve recently been reading articles about the successive groups of new voters having come to the GOP beginning in the early 1970’s. According to the pundits, the first was Nixon’s “silent majority”. Next to appear were the “Reagan Democrats”. Then on their heels came the “Christian Right”. Each of these new groups ushered, in turn, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, the Freshman Class of ‘95, and then Bush II. The newest of these groups of voters is supposed to be the “Tea Parties”, which helped the GOP take over the House of Representatives, and most of the States’ legislatures.

The “new voter groups” theory sounds great. However, if you take more than a cursory look at it, you’ll find it to be total nonsense.

Since the death of FDR, Democrats have won seven presidential elections. Of those seven elections, only three times were they won with a majority of the popular vote. Two of these Presidents were Johnson and Carter, both of whom were unable to win re-election. The third President is the current officeholder, Barack Obama. People seem to forget that Clinton won both of his elections with only a plurality of the popular vote totals. Arguably, without Perot’s third-party candidacy, Clinton would not have even been elected the first time.

During this same period, there have been nine Republican presidential victories. Of these nine elections, only two were won with less than a majority of the popular vote. In both of these cases, the Presidents won re-election with an outright majority. These two Presidents were Nixon and G.W. Bush.

So, let us look again at this “new groups” theory. According to this theory, Republicans, who’ve had presidential election majorities most of the time, keep adding to this majority with new groups coming into the fold. I don’t know about you, but the math doesn’t add up for me.

Nixon won re-election in 1972 with 60.7% of the popular vote. That vote would have included his “silent majority”. Where were those voters in 1976 when Ford garnered only 48% of the vote? It wasn’t like Nixon was running again. Ford was untouched by the “Watergate” scandal. If a “new group” had joined the GOP, what happened to them? While the total popular vote did increase by almost 4 million, Ford received approximately 8 million fewer votes than did Nixon four years earlier.

Reagan won election with 50.8% in 1980, and then won re-election with 58.8% of the popular vote in 1984. Not only was Reagan’s ’80 vote a smaller percentage than was Nixon ’72 vote, it was also about 4 million fewer votes. So, we started with Nixon’s 60% including his “silent majority”, and then we supposedly added “Reagan Democrats” and the “Christian Right”. How do we end up back at 58%? Yes, in ’84 Reagan did receive over 7 million more votes than Nixon’s high water mark, but the popular vote had increased by almost 14 million. I thought these were “new groups”. How does this theory explain Bush only getting 53% of the vote in 1988, and his then getting 37% in 1992? Bush’s ‘88 vote was just 1.7 million more than Nixon’s ’72 vote, and his ’92 vote was even lower than Ford’s vote in ‘76, while the total popular vote had increased by almost 22 million.

Another problem with this theory is the Clinton years. Two years after Clinton’s election, the GOP took control of both Houses of Congress. Yet two years later, Clinton was able to win re-election, albeit with less than a majority of the vote. However, the GOP maintained control of Congress until after G.W. Bush’s second mid-term elections, with the exception of the Senate during the first two years of his first term (thank you, Jim Jeffords).

Now, just two years after President Obama won the presidency with 53% of the popular vote, the Republicans have again taken control of the House of Representatives with a historically large majority. Why have the American people changed their minds so dramatically in just two short years? Have the GOP, indeed, brought over a new voting block, the “Tea Parties”, consisting of voters dissatisfied with the President? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately for the pundits, the “new groups” theory rest on three assumptions. First, one has to believe that all citizens of voting age already vote. Next, one must believe all of these voters are well-informed of and have a good understanding of the American political system and political philosophy. Finally, one has to believe the default position for most voters is Democrat. However, we all know three of these things are patently not true.

We know all citizens of voting age are not registered to vote. We know less than 70% of those who are registered voted in the most recent presidential election. Anyone who has been to an American public high school knows how little is actually taught about our systems of elections, Constitutional processes, political philosophies or the histories of our political parties. We also know that both major parties have about 30% of registered voters each. So, why is the question always framed in a way that seems to assume the Democrats are the majority party? “Where are these Republican voters coming from?” Indeed?

Let us look back over the last eight congressional election cycles. During this sixteen year period, both parties have had the presidency for eight of the years. In the Senate, Democrats had control for six years, while Republicans had majorities for ten years. In the House, Democrats have had control for only four years, while the Republicans have had control for twelve of the years. The next two years will see a change to only equal years of control in the Senate. So, if we call the House, as did the Framers, that chamber of the legislative branch closest to the people, then it could be considered the tie breaker. The country is marginally more Republican than Democrat.

Let’s look at this question another way. Consistently for about twenty years, people have identified themselves in opinion polls as conservative, moderate, or liberal, by 40%, 40% and 20%, respectively. Now, the Republican Party has sold itself to be the “conservative” party, while selling the Democrats as the “liberal” party. Not that the Democrats identify themselves that way. Most Democrat politicians run away from that characterization, choosing instead to be called “progressives”, “moderates”, or by some other undefined term.

The dirty little secret is… neither of them is coming clean with the people. In reality, the Republican Party is the moderate-right party, while the Democrats are the liberal party. It’s not a matter of how they market themselves, but of who actually runs the parties and the legislation they promote. Do we judge somebody by their actions or their intent? It has to be by their actions, because there is no way to know what’s in a man’s soul.

If the GOP were actually the conservative party, then the national party leadership would be conservative, as would be its legislation agenda. They would be conservative enough to hold on to the 40% of the population who call themselves conservative, while reaching out to those moderates who are right-leaning, just enough to get slightly over one-quarter of them. Instead, it has a party leadership which promotes legislation to the moderate 40%, and then reaches out to the conservative 40% just enough to win elections. Its outreach to conservatives is done in two different but complimentary ways: promising to be more conservative, and (if that doesn’t work) fear-mongering about the Left. A truly conservative party would never do things like introduce new or expand existing government programs, offer amnesty to illegal aliens, or allow itself to become the tax collector for the welfare state.

The Democrats are different, but use similar tactics. They claim to be the party of the center, while being run by the Hard Left. They constantly market themselves to the “mushy” middle. They use ill-defined terms like “fairness” and “equality”. They are always talking about giving a “helping hand” to those “less fortunate” than ourselves. They use all the feel-good language of the day. However, they never talk about the costs, in Property and in Liberty, of all this “generosity”. The majority of their leadership comes from super-safe, ultra-liberal enclaves, which all but guarantees their re-election to office in perpetuity. They constantly push and prod the political system to advance their statist agenda, all the while talking of “moderation”, “compromise” and “bi-partisanship”. Would a truly moderate party seek to gather all power and resources into a centralized state?

So, taking a critical eye to the proposed “new groups” theory regarding Republican Party expansion over the past few decades one would have to declare it “hooey”. It begs many more questions than it offers solutions. Why the sudden surge, then quick recession, in the wake of Nixon? Why was Reagan/Bush able to have three terms, but never come close to a majority in the House? How was Clinton able to gain re-election, even after the “Gingrich Revolution”? How were Republicans able to gain and keep Congress through Clinton, then to lose it outright during Bush’s second term? How was the GOP able to regain the House, come close in the Senate, and devastate the Democrats at the state-level just two years after having “it” handed to them by Obama, Pelosi and Reid?

The “new groups” theory fails because it is based on the idea that the Republican Party itself had any involvement in its own good fortunes. It’s a great idea to sell, if you’re in the politics business. “I, too, can get you voters. Here’s the magic formula.” If that were the case, then the GOP would have gotten 60+% of the vote even after Nixon. The only control the GOP seems to have over its fate is in making the wrong decisions, often at the most inopportune moments. You see, the Republicans, through their own hubris, lose almost as many voters as they gain, over any given period of time.

The GOP gains voters at times of perceived “crisis” to these peoples’ way of life. However, the GOP can’t keep large numbers of these new voters for the long-term because they continually disappoint the new arrivals. Inevitably, a new crisis occurs and the cavalry (or its successors), composed of the productive, middle-classes, ride out to the rescue. They don’t come in rescue of the GOP, but to rescue the nation. The GOP’s short-term success is just a by-product of these good citizens’ desire to defend their families and selves from an overreaching state.

These different groups of voters coming to the GOP are not permanent additions, like water pumped into a holding-tank. These voters are more like waves crashing on a beach. It’s repeating cycles of the same water, over and over. It washes up and then pulls away, driven by the political tides and winds. They become energized, act, and then becoming dispirited and disillusioned, finally pull away. Then a new crisis occurs beginning the cycle anew. The waves don’t accumulate, though larger ones have been known to wash over the dunes and collect in pools behind them.

The “Tea Party” movement is just the most recent of these citizen waves. It is potentially the strongest of these waves in several generations. It must wash over the political leadership in Washington and undermine the dunes of centralized authority. It must not simply slip back into the sea, its energy wasted on the beach. They cannot, as in the past, just elect new people and then go back to their lives, hoping these guys will do as promised. We’ve seen what’s happened too often.

The power of Washington is intoxicating liquor, which once imbibed proves too difficult for many to resist. We need to be the ones to call their tab and send them home if they get too drunk on it. No one is more dangerous than a politician behind the wheel of government, drunk on their own power. None is safe in his path.

In addition to my “crisis wave” theory to explain sudden volte-faces in the political fortunes of Washington, I have a “general theory” of American popular politics. It’s is, “In the aggregate, most people in most states will elect the more ‘convincingly conservative’ candidate (and/or party, in the case of a nationalized legislative election), unless they have good reason to distrust their authenticity. In the absence of a perceived degree of difference, the voters will default to a contest of personalities. For the purposes of this theory ‘conservative’ is defined as a generalized belief in traditionalism, national defense and free-enterprise, not the more specific ‘Movement Conservatism’.” If you apply this theory, not as a Monday morning quarterback, using the information the average voter would have had at the time of the election, you can see why some elections went the way they did.

In ’48, Dewey was a liberal “me-too” Republican with no point of difference. In ’52 and ’56, Stevenson was a “pointy-headed intellectual” and Ike was a successful, military leader. In ’60, the platforms were nearly indistinguishable, and so it was Dick or Jack by likability. ’64, here we have an outlier because the self-styled conservative lost, but other issues at play, like assassination (exceptions prove the rule, right?). In ’68, Nixon seen as conservative to Humphrey (plus Chicago Convention didn’t help matters). In ’72, Nixon was seen as way more conservative than McGovern. In ’76, the Rockefeller Republican Ford versus professed born-again Christian, Southern Democrat Governor (in the wake of Watergate, to boot) was a no-contest. ’80, Reagan beats Carter. ’84, Reagan really beats Mondale. ’88, Reagan’s successor beats Massachusetts Governor. ’92, incumbent no longer seen as conservative loses to moderate Southern Democrat Governor (trust issues and degree of difference). In ’96, Clinton had been pulled to the right while Dole ran as a moderate (no degree of difference, default to personalities). In ’00, “soft” conservative, Southern Governor defeats moderate Southern, Senator/Vice-President (most people in most states, electoral college). In ’04, sitting war-time President beats Northeast, Democrat Senator. In ’08, moderate-sounding, well-spoken, young Senator defeats historically moderate-sounding, grouchy, old Senator (remember that MSM didn’t report any appreciably negative stories, his politics were not well examined, while McCain ran to the left giving people nothing to go on but personalities).

My theory explains sixteen of the seventeen most recent elections. Take of it what you will. It does a lot better job of analyzing these past elections than any other on I’ve heard. In examining any problem, I tend to use Occam’s razor. It just seems to cut through all the unnecessarily complicated ideas. Think about it. Look at the ’00 race objectively, most people thought of Gore as the “New Democrat” Vice-President of a popular sitting President. He spoke better. He had answers to every question. He was involved in “reinventing’ government. He was all in to the internet and the environment, when people still believed that global-warming jazz. Everything being even, he should have won that race. I think Bush actually made the race closer by his use of that “compassionate” conservative rhetoric. It lessened the degree of difference between Gore and himself. Stark contrasts show better.

In discussing these ideas with others, I keep being told that the demographic trends of the country are against us. Don’t listen to the ‘demographic’ argument. Politics is not biological. Keep this in mind. Before Buckley revitalized the Conservative movement, most of the population had been reared under Hoover, FDR and Ike with their unwavering belief in big government intervention. WFB had not yet been born the last time a conservative, Coolidge, was in the White House. Even so, the movement came back. What it took to start was one twenty-three year old man writing about his experiences at Yale.

The long-term problem has been that each wave thought they could simply elect someone and then disengage and go back to their life. This is the ‘long war’ and it must be treated as such. Every day, every election, both primary and general, must be used to reinforce our insistence that government exists for our purposes, not the other way around. Politicians must learn to do as we say or they will find themselves unemployed. If necessary, we must create wave after wave of politicians, elected and then defeated, until we finally get to those who actually follow the Constitution.

The market is a great indicator of what people want. Just as we cannot fault a manufacturer for producing a frivolous product which people want, we cannot fault the politician who does whatever it takes to get re-elected. What we can do is change the market indicators. Manufacturers make new products or change existing ones to meet consumer demands, or risk losing business to competitors. Politicians must be made to understand that the only way for them to get re-elected is to change their product, or risk another politician getting our vote.

In this case the desired product is Constitutional government. Will we ever get what we want?

The Purpose of Government to a Free People

The purpose of any government is to get things done. Its existence may not be considered legitimate. The person(s) in power may not be you. The methods used may be to your detriment. The things done may not be to your liking. Regardless, it is there to get something done. Who, what, why and how? These are answered by the type of government you live under.

The purpose of government in an authoritarian society (monarchy or oligarchy) is to do things to the “people” (subjects) at the behest of and to the benefit of the ruler(s). There are innumerable examples of such governments throughout history. The prevailing characteristic is: Either you’re “in” or you’re “out”. These tend to be very static societies, with change only coming violently from either outside by invasion or inside by revolution. Any loss of control by those in power can lead, domino-like, to the complete collapse of civil authority.

The purpose of government in a “democratic” society is to perform “collective action” with the consent of the majority. However, just because decisions are made “democratically” doesn’t necessarily make the individual any freer. If you are in the minority, you have no say in what these actions may be or in how they are achieved. In a “pure democracy” you have no rights other than those agreed to, at any given moment, by those with the most votes. History shows these societies to be short-lived due to roiling factionalism, which leaves them vulnerable to invasion due to weakness or to takeover by authoritarians offering stability.

Luckily, the Framers of our current government were students of history. They understood that the only way to be truly free was for government to protect an individual’s Life, Liberty and Property, not just from others but also from the government itself. They knew there could be too much democracy. They also knew there should not be a permanent ruling-class. The only solution was to marry those who govern to those governed, within a framework which limited the intrusive power of government. The Men who created our government had deep wells of personal experience and historical perspective from which to draw, but first they had to contend with their contemporary situation.

A little history…

The Founders may have given us a country, a Constitutional, Federal Republic, but it had a weak and ineffective government under The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Founders cannot be blamed in any way for this compact. The Articles of Confederation was a necessarily hurried creation in a time of rebellion against their colonial Master. The authors didn’t see themselves as creators of a “nation”, but as writers of a treaty, an 18th century American “NATO”. Their States were their countries, and to these States they gave their allegiance. The Articles were drafted to protect them from their mutual enemy… and, to a certain extent, to protect them from one another.

After the conclusion of hostilities with Britain, many found the Articles to be insufficient to the task of properly governing such a large nation at the federal level. Some called for amending the Articles to expand and enhance its meager powers. A convention was called and delegates were sent to Philadelphia to propose modifications to the Articles. Within short order, the delegates came to the agreement that the Articles should be set aside, and a new document created. This action being outside their assignment, the delegates agreed to continue in secret until they could present a completed document to the Congress and the States. To this end, they wrote a new contract between the States, replacing the existing federal government with an entity answerable to not only the States, which will have created it, but also to the People, from whom they believed all legitimate political authority is derived.

The new contract, our current Constitution, gave representation, in many and varied ways, to both the States and the People. Direct accountability to the People was the element absent from the Articles of Confederation. The Framers were able to justify the broadening and strengthening of federal government authority beyond those under the Articles based, in part, on direct accountability to the People. However, our Constitutional, Federal, Democratic Republic limits those areas of action within the purview of the Federal Government. All other areas are reserved to the States and to the People. To emphasize this last point the very first Congress passed an amendment, the Tenth Amendment, to the new constitution saying exactly that.

So, “collective action” is performed, as in a democracy, but this action is constrained and compartmentalized. Unlike a “pure” democracy, the political rights of the current minority are protected on par with the majority. Like an authoritarian government, a select few make law and administer the state; however, power is not absolute and position is legitimized by citizens. An individual or faction may not get always their way, but none shall be “punished” for being on the out of the current majority. Unlike in a national government such as Britain’s, our sovereignty is maintained by the People and exercised concurrently by multiple levels of government, each assigned its unique areas of responsibilities.

In the appropriate areas and at the proper levels, our governments perform those collective actions we want performed. The federal government was given great power, but its actions were to be limited in scope to primarily national defense, and commerce, both interstate and international. Within these areas it was given a wide field, but it was not to venture beyond its estate without trespassing upon the properties of another, the States. As well, the States’ governments have greater or lesser power, depending upon their own constitutions and the wishes of their Peoples, but have responsibilities separate and unique to them from the federal level of government.

[Oddly enough, it’s never commented upon that the federal Constitution establishes no qualifications as to the type of government required at the State level. Under the Constitution, no State is required to be a Constitutional, Democratic Republic. Theoretically, a State could possibly have been a Constitutional Monarchy, as long as they convened a legislative body, and sent representatives to Congress. According to the Constitution, the States set the rules by which representation is elected. So, theoretically any qualifications could have been created.]

Now, the very nature of what constitutes a legitimate government action is often debated. However, by its very definition a legitimate government action must take place, if at all, at the correct governmental level according to the divisions of powers. As well, the perceived need for an action, even in the case of an “emergency”, does not automatically legitimize it. Many argue that the proper level of government is that which is able to muster the resources needed to perform the desired action. They don’t know their history.

An observation…

At this juncture, it must be pointed out that a proper and lawful action by an American government is not that difficult to discern, if one can read the English language. The Constitution of the United States of America is written in plain language, as are each of its amendments. The delegates to the convention were learned men, but few had a formal education. So, it is not necessary to have a law degree, any post-secondary education, or a Ouija board to comprehend the meaning of the document. At most, the notes from the debates, kept by James Madison, are all one may need, though a copy of the Federalist Papers would be illuminating. Also, all State constitutions are written in English. So, I foresee no problems on that account.

If one bothered to read the writings of those involved in constructing the Constitution, one would find their plans for the federal government somewhat grander than that which preceded it. However, it was never meant to be an all-encompassing entity involved in the daily lives of its citizens. Unless one lived in the vicinity of the Capitol or a military installation, the US Postal Service (a constitutionally mandated institution) would be one’s only possible daily interaction with the federal government.

There was never to be a behemoth in DC being THE government. It was only to be a government. Your only directly elected federal official was to be your Representative. Senators were to be selected by States’ legislatures. You were not to be overly concerned with who was the President, as he was primarily the administrator of laws passed in Congress. Very few “life or death” decisions were to be made in Washington. Without direct taxation, only those involved in commerce beyond State borders were directly affected by the federal government. That is how it was supposed to be.

Your most important political interactions were to be with State officials living in your community and whose Capitol is closer to home. You would truly know those with the most direct impact on your life. They would not be some distant person seen only in TV ads or read about in the newspaper. If things functioned as constructed, one would not feel compelled to give to federal candidates or become fervently involved in federal elections. Time and energy would be spent on local and state candidates. State and local officials would be true governors and not primarily mere administrators of federal mandates and “largesse”.

There exists a fairly simple a process to determine whether a need is a legitimate government action. Answer these questions (in the exact order given): Can the “necessary” action be taken by the individual? Can the action be taken by the family? Can the action be taken by private associations (churches, public service organizations, businesses, etc.)? Can the action be taken by municipal or local governments? Can the action be taken by State government, within the constraints of its constitution? Finally, must the action be taken by the Federal government, within the constraints of its Constitution? At any point you are able to say “yes”, stop. That is the correct place for action to occur.

Some may say that is a harsh and restrictive test. They would be right. In a society where citizens are truly free, collective action must be taken only when absolutely necessary, and then only at the level closest to the individual. There are many arguable reasons for this, but the overriding rationale is Liberty. No person should make demands on another for what he is able to do for himself. Similarly, no family, locality, or State should demand of another anything it is able to provide for itself.

Once the appropriate level of government decides a lawful action requires being done, it must then determine how it will be taken and how it will be financed. All actions taken at any level of government come at a cost, and these costs are borne exclusively by the citizens. Whether taxed directly or not, no one is immune to the costs of government. Every dollar spent by a government is a dollar taken out of the private economy, whether it be borrowed or taxed. So, these actions must be performed as efficiently and economically as possible.

Practical suggestions for necessary government…

To minimize government overhead and long-term recurring costs, few government buildings and installations should be held permanently;

As government exists to perform tasks and not to provide jobs, permanent employment with its attached costs of non-salary benefits and retirement should be limited to only essential personnel;

For taxpayers to benefit from competition in costs and services, all non-essential functions should be outsourced to third-party contractors which must bid at regular intervals;

All government programs should include “sunset” provisions, which would require new, separate enabling legislation and a vote by politicians to remain in effect;

As all federal and state governments have Civil Service laws protecting employment, labor unions and collective bargaining should end for all government employees;

All federal and state lands which are not permanent parts of the parks services should be put up for sale to private entities, thereby paying down the debt, eliminating operating costs and generating tax revenues for States and localities;

To return intended powers to the States’ governments and to end the wasteful and coercive effects of the separation of tax revenue generation from government spending, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed;

To end the socially divisive and economically distorting effects of the generation of tax revenues based on the income of individuals, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed;

As federal taxes are meant to generate revenue for necessary spending and not to control behavior, it should be raised as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible which should be exclusively by a consumption tax by way of a Constitutional Amendment;

To prevent the constant growth of federal government, a Constitutional Amendment should be passed limiting spending to a fixed percent of Gross Domestic Product;

To recreate the citizen legislators envisioned by the Framers, and to end the near permanent ruling class with its focus on seniority, a Constitutional Amendment to limit the terms of Congressmen should be passed; and

To end the exchanging of blame for wasteful spending between the Executive and Legislative branches of federal government, a Constitutional Amendment giving the President a line-item veto should be passed.

The purpose of government to a free people is to secure our God-given rights to Life, Liberty and Property. Proper government does not encourage citizens to see one another as either host or parasite, as a means to further its own power. Men are only truly free when they live without fear of their government or their fellow citizens. The only way we, the American People, can regain the Liberties established, enjoyed, and fought and died for by the Founders and Framers of this nation, is to return to the original ideals they so heroically espoused. To do that we must look back to their original intent by wiping away the over two centuries of accumulated detritus that politicians and jurists have used to obscure that most beautiful document which begins “We the People of the United States of America…”

A Reply to David Frum’s “Waterloo”

Posted in Conservativism, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Republicans by kevinsoberg on April 7, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, David Frum declared Obama’s “victory” in the passage of “health care” to be the GOP’s absolute defeat. In his blog post, Waterloo (http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo), Frum blames passage of the final form of the legislation on Conservatives in the Republican Party. Frum argues that “sensible” Republicans were kept from participating in the crafting of the law by the anger of the GOP’s right-wing, with marching orders from those in the Conservative media. Further, Frum predicts federal government control of the health care industry to be irrevocable because even if the GOP gains control of Congress, it will never have enough votes or wherewithal to repeal an entitlement program, once instituted.

At the time, I was more interested in the actual passing of the “health care” bill than in what David Frum had to say about it. Yeah, I had heard he had written something that had upset some people, but what else is new, right? Like most Americans, I was too busy being upset that a temporary majority in Congress had once again taken it upon themselves to violate our Constitution and done whatever the hell they wanted to do, all in the name of, of course, the “people.” Don’t you wish these guys would stop doing things in our name, especially when they can’t get at least a bare majority to agree with them? When most of us disagree with something, it’s not “for”, it’s “to.”

Two weeks later, I’ve completed a personal post-mortem on the whole unsavory affair which included reading Frum’s Waterloo. The points he made, stated at top, are clear, concise, and well thought out, but, unfortunately, wrong. Typical for Frum, he sees things slightly out of kilter for a self-professed “conservative.” His worldview is easily explained, if you just accept that he isn’t a Conservative, at least not in the American understanding of the word.

Essentially, Frum is a Tory, a “conservative” of the English tradition. He sees conservatism as a means of balancing the unchecked expansionism of the Left. He seems to consider himself a disciple of Edmund Burke, who believed change should come through innovation, not invention. “Modernity” must come slowly, but it must come. The Tory must properly manage the ship of state and steer it out of troubled waters. The job of the Tory is to prevent the revolution. Frum doesn’t seem to understand that American Conservatism is a somewhat different philosophy.

American Conservatism is a catchall I’m using for the entire right-of-center political movement. It includes the mushy free-enterprise types, religious conservatives, libertarians, et al. The common thread through all strands of American Conservatism is the Constitution. We are all really Constutionalists. We are “conservative” because we want to conserve this document and the system of government it was supposed to codify. Yes, there are aspects of the American movement amenable to Burke, but foreign to us is that sense of statism’s inevitability.

Frum’s main point is that the Republicans’ refusal to negotiate with Obama resulted in a slightly worse law. Once again, his Tory nature led him to believe that we should slow the unstoppable. The American Conservative, the Constitutionalist, cannot accept a deal which attempts to moderate the “intolerable.” There is no “somewhat intolerable.” If we can agree to the federal government mandating a person purchase a product against their wishes, we would, in effect, say that federal power has no limit. Where would we be then?

Frum would probably consider that unrealistic, given the extra-Constitutional power already exercised by the federal government. Using that logic, any laws not enforced properly by officials would be effectively nullified. Malfeasance by officials does not change the law. Regardless of how political power is properly, or improperly, used, the U.S. federal government is limited in its scope by our Constitution. All that is necessary for the correct redistribution of power is for the people and states to reclaim it.

Once again, Frum reveals his Tory heritage. He comes from a political tradition in which all power rests with the state. There are no federal principles. There exists no written British constitution. It is just a collection of laws and precedents. All that is necessary for the complete reorganization of its structures is a simple act of Parliament. All power resides in the Sovereign, and in Britain, where once the Monarch was Sovereign, the power is in Parliament. You must remember that the British are “subjects” not “citizens.”

Frum points to examples of “conservative” backed state government health care plans to argue that it was short-sighted of Republicans to refuse to negotiate. Let me take this in two quick bites. First, in our federal system, states hold power beyond that given to the federal government. I philosophically disagree with all socialism, but unless forbidden in a state’s constitution, it’s up its citizens to make that decision. The states are the hothouses of democracy, and they are becoming choked with the overgrowth of socialism. Second, who, besides he and his backers, really considers Mitt Romney a “conservative”? Mitt’s a nice guy with some conservative positions, but do we need another Bush?

Finally, Frum predicts that the new health care laws will not be repealed. He may be right in the short-term. I cannot foresee the Republicans gaining sufficient votes to overturn a presidential veto, but we shouldn’t be deterred. As we say in the South, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” A Republican majority in the House or Senate can starve the numerous, newly created administrative agencies of the funds to enforce the new law. Agencies without funds are like weeds without sunlight or water, unsightly but dead.

Not that I think the Republicans shouldn’t face these laws head on. At every opportunity and in a myriad of forms, the Republicans should seek the direct repeal of this “intolerable.” We should be smart and not do just the easy parts, like repealing the taxes and the mandates, the entire enabling apparatus must be removed. Repealing legislation should be entered into every taxation and appropriations bill which comes before the President in the remaining two years of his term. The President should spend his remaining time in office expending what remains of his political capital on trying to “save” his signature piece of legislation.

So, Mr. Frum, I’m sorry, but your arguments, though well made, are ultimately unconvincing. We will not sell out our history, traditions, and government just to prevent a near-term loss. We will fight for our Constitution until the end, if necessary. If we cannot win this ideological battle, then all is really lost anyway.

We Had Best Be Careful

An anti-leftist, anti-big government wave of popular opinion began rolling early last year. It has been growing steadily ever since. There seem to be no signs of it slowing down. Unless there is an abrupt change in the public mood sometime during the summer the Democrats in Congress are going to get thumped, big time come November. The Democrats are in for considerable losses in the House and the Senate. These predictions are assuming Republicans are able to block so-called “Health Care Reform.”

The Democrat leadership seems determined to get its health care plan passed. It doesn’t matter to these “leaders” that the people are opposed to it, with opinion growing only more against them. The way it is looking, they can only get their plan passed by going “all in” and forcing their members to vote in favor. If that happens, particularly if they use undemocratic tactics (i.e. faux reconciliation, the “Slaughter” rule), then all bets are off. We may see a change in control of one or even both Houses of Congress before this is all said and done.

So, using the most conservative predictions of the November elections, Republicans will winnow down the Democrat majorities in both Houses to a bare minimum. What contingencies are in place for being in a close-to-parity minority? The Democrat leaders may be completely unchastened by their losses and continue pushing forward with their present agenda. Most of these leaders are from unbelievably secure districts. They have used (or entertained using) undemocratic tactics in the past to pass legislation. What will we do? How will we forward our agenda?

If the most optimistic predictions for this fall’s results are realized, the GOP will gain narrow majorities in the House and the Senate. Sure, the majority can easily move measures through the House, but passage in both chambers is necessary to go to the President. Sixty votes are required in the Senate to get a floor vote on non-budgetary legislation, and reconciliation will have to be done. Assuming Republicans are able to get legislation passed, the President must still sign it. Do you think he will have any compunction against vetoing bills which repeal his agenda items?  What’s the plan? Is anybody even working on one?

The “mainstream” media has of course been less than “fair and accurate” in its coverage of the growth in conservative/ populist opinion, the self-described “Tea Party” movement. Just get ready for the barrage of media reporting about the “Do Nothing” Congress. Big media already has a built-in statist bias. Additionally, reporters in D.C. are there to cover the news which means “action.” If nothing is moving forward, then there is no action. Something has to be reported to justify their existence. The story then becomes about what isn’t being done. It’s already been written – Young, Idealistic Leader Opposes Reactionary Forces.

We’ve lived through this before in ’95 after the Republicans took control of Congress. The big difference this time is the man in the White House. There is no denying Bill Clinton’s left-of-center pedigree; however, he was a politician in the worst sense of the word, one who’s biggest worry was being re-elected to office. Clinton could read the political winds and saw his best course was best to tack to the right. He may have fought for certain of his programs and against some of the Republicans, but he always followed the polls when push came to shove, such as eventually signing welfare reform.

We’re dealing with a completely different political animal this time. President Obama may have run as a moderate, but he has shown no signs of moderation during his time in office. As examples, where Clinton dropped health care and compromised on gays in the military, Obama has pushed forward with both in the face of growing opposition. I don’t think we can expect Obama to accept a little thing like an election as a reason to change his priorities. He will go forward with his agenda and undermine Republican initiatives at every opportunity, and the “old” media will be with him every step of the way, singing his praises.

So, the right-of-center coalition, which represents the views of the majority of Americans, goes into November and beyond knowing how the story will be played. As usual, we will be portrayed as against the poor, minorities, children, women, aged, sick, et al. We will have a President and a media opposed to everything we propose. We will have a movement whose agenda will be stymied and efforts will be impotent. We will be in the worst of possible worlds, except we will have stopped the worst of his plans.

The media will try to take advantage of one of the American people’s strangest habits, the practice of tearing down those we’ve built up, and its converse. Obama’s acolytes will begin to rehabilitate his reputation by blaming all that went wrong during his first two years on the Democrats in Congress. His fingerprints are nowhere on any of the health care legislation or anything else done in Congress. If you’ve noticed, he has assiduously distanced himself from all the machinations of Reid and Pelosi. Like Carter, and unlike Clinton, he has stood back in the White House and let all of the legislative activity and horse-trading take place on Capitol Hill.

We need to be prepared for this eventuality. We need strategies in place to counter the full court press of the pro-Obama media. Every news story must carry our message. Every Obama press event must have its opposite from us. Our leaders must be everywhere. Our take on events must be publicized. We have to get our word out.

The moderates in the Party must be steeled against the seductive influences of the media to cooperate with the Administration. They must know that any sliding into the mushy middle will result in a primary challenge from their right. Many of them will have already been replaced (Lord willing), but some will have made it through. They have only survived thus far by pulling right. They have to know there is no going back.

Once the immediate danger of further socialization of the economy is past, we will begin to lose the feelings of fear and urgency which have motivated many of those newly active in the movement. Like all those new to politics they will begin to feel frustration and anger with the slow pace of change in the direction of government. They will feel used and tricked, as have many in the past, if those they have supported fall back into the old, comfortable habits of Washington. The mistakes made by Republicans during the Bush years, whether they see it that way or not, cannot be repeated without risking an additional four years, at least, of a Democrat running the Executive branch of government.

Some of you may think I’m getting a bit ahead of where we are. What am I doing raising these kind of concerns with the elections over six months away? Then you are the exact ones to whom I am speaking. How do you propose to keep a fractious movement of populists, libertarians, conservatives, and anti-socialists together beyond this fall? Don’t you realize Obama, the Left, and fellow travelers in the media are not about to roll over even in the face of defeat? Look at their behavior now? Think it’s going to be any better in six months?

These questions and others need to be considered. Plans must be made. For over a year now, we’ve been flying by the seats of our pants. Yeah, we’ve had protests, meetings and convocations. We’ve done polling, blogging and tweeting. Beyond just winning elections, how much thought has been given to actual governance? The future is almost here. Will we be ready?