Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

Real World Graduation: Question 14

RealWorldGraduation_Question_14   <– PDF

Consider the following fictional scenario.

Congressman A received a total of $161,000 from a consortium of oil and gas companies, consisting of $118,000 in direct campaign contributions and $43,000 to his Political Action Committee (PAC). Congressman B received a total of $68,000 from a legal lobbying group that supports expansion of civil lawsuits, consisting of $53,000 in campaign contributions and an additional $15,000 in contributions to his PAC. Congressman C received a total of $258,000 from an environmental lobbying group, consisting of $204,000 in campaign contributions and $54,000 to his PAC, which is another environmental lobbying group.  Congressman D received a total of $380,000 from a group devoted to increased regulation of “conservative talk radio”, consisting of $346,000 in campaign contributions and $34,000 to his PAC. All four of these Congressmen were lawyers before they ran for Congress.

A bill came before Congress which contained the following provisions:

  1. A reduction in natural resources leasing fees, which will save oil and gas companies $24,000,000. This is the outcome desired by Congressman A’s donors.
  2. An increase in the deductibility of rent and expenses for legal offices, which will result in a $138,600,000 savings to lawyers because they will pay less in income taxes. This is the outcome desired by Congressman B’s donors.
  3. An extension of the amount of federal land to be controlled and administered by environmental groups along with a federal grant of $102,700,000 to cover administration, lobbying, education, and other costs. This is the outcome desired by Congressman C’s donors.
  4. A provision in which a portion of the advertising revenue from certain talk radio shows (totaling $47,200,000) is to be turned over to a federal agency to investigate the political ideology and financial condition of talk radio hosts. This is the outcome desired by Congressman D’s donors.

All four of the Congressmen voted for the bill. Which Congressman’s actions constitute the worst examples of bribery?

a) Congressman A, because he seeks to protect the predatory for-profit oil and gas industry, which seeks to pollute the entire earth.

b) Congressman B, because the contributions he received constitutes a conflict of interest (he was a lawyer himself before he ran for Congress).

c) Congressman C, because the amount that was given to the environmental PAC will be devoted to lobbying, part of which will be probably be donated to Congressman C next year.

d) Congressman D, because his donors seek to reduce the free speech rights of conservative talk radio hosts.

e) All of them are equal offenders, because the principle involved, trading favors or creating laws for money, is immoral and illegal, not the exact amounts of money that changed hands.

 

(See answer on p. 2 of the PDF).)

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Senator Harry Reid and Other People’s Taxes

SenHarryReidAndOtherPeoplesTaxes   <  PDF version

During the Presidential campaign of 2012, when former Governor Mitt Romney was running against President Barack “I lied, period” Obama, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), then the Majority Leader of the U. S. Senate, made a speech on the Senate floor 31 Jul 2012 in which he announced, based on confidential sources, that Romney had not paid income taxes for over ten years.  Reid said, “Let him [Romney] prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t”.

In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on 30 Mar 2015, Reid was asked about those comments and admitted that he knew they were false when he said it.  Reid’s justification to Bash was, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

This is known as “good old-fashioned Democratic hardball politics”.  But it is more than the blatant hypocrisy or more evidence of the high level of partisanship or the “anything to win is justified” attitude that is most damaging to political discourse in America.  The most damaging thing to America is that this episode is one more piece of evidence reinforcing the opinion that “all politicians are lying about everything all the time”.  The Republicans have done similar things, although not quite as blatantly. If that’s the kind of America the two main political parties want, by all means they shall have it.  But we the people better not hear any whimpering from politicians or their hacks about the public’s general lack of trust in government; or more accurately, the public’s active level of suspicion and distrust in everything said and done by any elected official.

The politicians and their hacks will have created it, lock, stock, and barrel.  And they will enjoy it.

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On the President’s Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws

PresidentsDutyToFaithfullyExecuteLaws  <– PDF version

President Barack “I lied, period” Obama recently issued an Executive Order that exempted many illegal aliens from deportation if they met certain nebulous requirements.  It is alleged by His Most High Incompetence that this order would affect only about 5 million people, but there is no reason to believe that figure in favor of any higher number.  Many have claimed that Obama’s particular Executive Order is illegal, since, by waiving a part of immigration law, he is failing to faithfully execute the laws per his oath of office as required by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.  So far, 25 states have joined in a lawsuit seeking to have the order overruled, and the next Congress has claimed it will do the same (probably by endorsing and expanding it).

But the real question is: where does a President and his Justice Department toadies get the arrogance to ignore their oaths of office?  That has already been answered by St. George Tucker, an early expositor of the Constitution [1] in a series of essays published in 1803:

Lastly; it is the duty of the president to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; and, in the words of his oath, “to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.”

The obligation of oaths upon the consciences of ambitious men has always been very slight, as the general history of mankind but too clearly evinces.  Among the Romans, indeed, they were held in great sanctity during the purer ages of the republic, but began to be disregarded as the nation approached to a state of debasement, that fitted them for slavery.  Among Christian princes, they seem only to have been calculated for the worst, instead of the best purposes: monarchs having long exercised, and seeming to claim, not less than the successors of St. Peter, a kind of dispensing power on this subject, in all cases affecting themselves.  A due sense of religion must not only be wanting in such cases, but the moral character of the man must be wholly debased, and corrupted.  Whilst these remain unsullied, in the United States, oaths may operate in support of the constitution they have adopted, but no longer.  After that period an oath of office will serve merely to designate its duties, and not to secure the faithful performance of them; or, to restrain those who are disposed to violate them.

Why does this kind of arrogance prevail?  Because the officers of the government have adopted corruption and immorality as their mode of operation: what matters to them is the political expediency of the moment without regard for what is right, wrong, or important in the long term.  It is not actually a legal matter: no court ruling will affect the basic corruption.  Left unchecked, this level of corruption will eventually cause the republic to degenerate into tyranny.  Montesquieu [2] notes:

When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils, but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.

We can only hope that the American people will be more discerning at the next presidential election.

[1] St. George Tucker, A View of the Constitution of the United States, Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, p. 282, (1999).  The original was published in 1803.

[2] Charles de Secondat, (Baron de Montesquieu), The Spirit of Laws, Book VIII, chapter 12.

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On Richard Nixon

OnRichardNixon   <– PDF version

It was 40 years ago this week (9 Aug 1974) that Republican President Richard M. “I am not a crook” Nixon resigned his office because he was discovered to be a crook.  He had willingly and knowingly covered up a burglary of the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate office building in Washington, committed by his supporters, some of whom worked in his campaign or his administration.  Nixon had waged a long internal battle to save himself from disgrace, but in the end the facts came out about his knowledge of the burglary and his abuse of power in covering it up.  We will probably never know if the burglary itself was his idea.  Many people in his own Republican party, understanding enough about history to know that honest government is always preferable to raw power, assisted in Nixon’s decline.  Nixon himself knew by then that he was about to be impeached, and would probably be removed from office, so he resigned in order to prevent a drawn-out political turmoil to the exclusion of other important issues (the Vietnam War being one of them).

So Nixon said good-bye and retired with full benefits to his mansion in San Clemente.  He was subsequently given a full pardon by his successor, President Gerald R. Ford, ostensibly to avoid seeing his old buddy have to stand trial for abuse of power and other crimes.  It was the worst mistake Ford ever made because it set the precedent by which future Presidents knew they could get away with anything.

Nixon was a crook.  He knew he was a crook, everyone else knew he was a crook, there was no means left by which he could talk his way out of it, and few in Congress or the courts were willing to tolerate any more of his corruption.  But let’s give old Tricky Dick some credit here: at least he retained some semblance of integrity such that deep down, he recognized that the American people deserved better than him.  Therefore, he did what was right by resigning.

We do not have that sentiment in politics any more.  The respective political parties have become so ideologically motivated towards the acquisition of power by any means that they will defend their crooks no matter what.  There is no limit to the crimes and abuses of power that will be tolerated so long as they expand their powers and associated privileges.  We have suffered with recent Democratic President William J. Clinton who even now cracks a smile whenever he is reminded of the massacre at Waco, the IRS targeting of his enemies, and the undermining of American elections with Chinese money (not to mention his personal victims).  Our current Democratic President, Barack H. Obama, regarded as the messiah by some of his supporters, has violated his oath of limited powers per the Constitution too many times to count, has once more encouraged and tolerated IRS abuse of his political enemies, and has implemented socialism at home and weakness abroad.

Unlike Nixon, who believed the American people deserved better, these two moral midgets believe the American people are not good enough for them.  I suspect the Republicans are no better.  So it will continue until “we the people” start demanding better, and start ignoring the slick political advertising extolling the alleged virtues of those who love power for its own sake.  In that spirit, I have three recommendations for elections:

1.  Regard every word by every candidate as being submitted to you, the citizen, as under penalty of perjury.

2.  Never vote for anyone who has committed perjury per #1.

3.  Only vote for those who have demonstrated a willingness to limit themselves to the enumerated powers granted to their offices under the appropriate local charters or state and federal constitutions.

 

 

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