The Electoral College

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 22nd, 2011

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers put Responsible, Enlightened and Disinterested People between the People and their Government

The Founding Fathers were no fans of democracy.  Election by popular vote was little more than mob rule.  It would lead to the tyranny of the majority over the minority.  And as Benjamin Franklin warned, once the people learned they could vote themselves money from the treasury, they would.

These feelings extended to the states as well.  The small states did not want to be ruled by the large states.  This is why every state had two senators in the Senate.  To offset the influence of the big states in the House of Representatives.  Where the people voted for their representatives by direct popular vote.  And to offset the influence of the new federal government, the state legislatures would elect their senators.  Giving the states a large say in federal affairs.

Knowing history as they did, this was all very purposeful.  Indirect elections.  Putting other people between the people and the power of government.  And the treasury.  The people would vote for responsible, enlightened and disinterested people to represent them.  Then these responsible, enlightened and disinterested people would make policy.  And by doing this the Founding Fathers hoped that the new republic would survive.

The Founding Fathers set up the United States as a Federation of Independent States

Blacks make up about 12% of the population.  Gay and lesbians less than 1.5%.  In a true democracy it would not be difficult for the majority to win a popular vote to make these people illegal.  As crazy as that sounds a democracy could do that.  If that was the way the mob felt at the time of the vote.  This was the kind of thing the small states worried about.  As well as the Founding Fathers.  A tyranny of the majority.  Where anything goes.  As long as the majority says so.

Interestingly, a popular vote could have freed the slaves.  Which was a concern of the southern states.  The Three-Fifth Compromise was yet another provision the Founding Fathers included in the Constitution.  To get the southern states to join the new union.  This counted 3/5 of a slave as a person to determine representation in the House of Representatives.  Which would offset the numerical superiority of free people in the northern states.  And prevent them from ruling the southern states.  Which is pretty much what happened after the Civil War.  As the freed slaves tended to vote along with their northern liberators.

The Founding Fathers set up the United States as a federation of independent states.  For before there was a United States of America there were independent states loosely associated together.  Coming together only when they needed each other such as winning their independence from Great Britain.  Even during the Revolution the states were still fiercely independent.  And getting these fiercely independent states to join together in a more perfect union required a lot of checks and balances.  A separation of powers.  And indirect elections.  Which the Founding Fathers dutifully included in the new Constitution.  It wasn’t perfect.  But it was the best such a diverse group of people and beliefs could produce.

The Seventeenth Amendment Destroyed a very Large Check on Federal Power

Of course, this leaves the presidential election.  And the Electoral College.  Which grew out of the same concerns.  Of trying to prevent the large states from ruling the small states.  The Electoral College blended together the popular vote of the House of Representatives.  And the indirect vote of the Senate.

Each state had electors who actually voted for the president.  The number of electors in each state equaled that state’s representation in Congress.  The number of representatives in the House (population-based).  And the number of senators (state-based).  The electors typically cast all of their electoral votes based on the outcome of the popular vote of their state.  Which is why sometimes presidents win elections even though they lose the national popular vote.  An outcome designed by the Founding Fathers.  To prevent a tyranny of the majority from ruling over the minority.

Some things have changed since the Founding.  We extended the right to vote to black men.  And then later to women.  Both good things.  But not all changes were good.  Such as the Seventeenth Amendment.  Perhaps the biggest change from the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Ratified in 1913, it changed the election of Senators from a vote by the state’s legislature to a popular vote like that for the House.  Destroying a very large check on federal power.  Creating a much more powerful central government by transferring power form the states to the federal government.  What the Founding Fathers tried to prevent in the original Constitution.  With their checks and balances.  Their separation of powers.  And their indirect elections.  Including the Electoral College.  Which, if eliminated, would give even more power to the federal government.  And a greater ability for the majority to rule unchecked over the minority.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #87: “In a democracy you hold the keys to the treasury. So be careful of what you ask for.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 11th, 2011

The Founding Fathers Purposely made it Difficult for the New Federal Government to Spend Money

Benjamin Franklin knew.  He knew what would happen once the people learned they held the keys to the treasury.  “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”  All the Founding Fathers knew this.  This is why they created a representative government.  They put other people between the people and the treasury.  A lot of people.  Responsible people.  People who knew better.  Or should know better.

It started with the separation of powers.  The country needed a leader.  But they didn’t want a king.  They wanted a leader with limited powers.  So they limited the president’s access to money.  The Founding Fathers gave the power of the purse to the House of Representatives.  The president could only spend the money Congress allowed the president to spend.  The president could veto spending.  But Congress could override this veto by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.  So the president can try to stop spending.  But he simply can’t spend at will.

But neither can the House.  Because the Senate has to approve any spending initiated by the House.  Before it can even get to the president.  The Founding Fathers purposely made it difficult for the new federal government to spend money.  To limit the power and breadth of the federal government.  By limiting its money.  Even after the president signs it into law.  Should any questionable spending pass both houses, and the president approves it, we can still challenge it.  By the third branch of government.  The judiciary.  Which further checks the power of federal government.  On the rare occasion when the federal government passes bad legislation.

As Originally Written in the Constitution the States’ Legislatures Voted for a States’ Senators

Back at the Founding the states were very powerful.  They were nation-states.  Joined together only by a loose and weak confederation.  And very suspect of any distant, centralized power.  Whether it be a king on the far side of the Atlantic.  Or a president on the near side.  To get the new Constitution ratified the Founding Fathers knew they had to appease the states’ concerns.  And they did that with the Senate.  The states’ house.

As they originally wrote the Constitution, we elected the members of the House of Representatives by popular vote.  But not the Senate.  The states’ legislatures voted for their states’ senators.  These state legislators who we elect by popular vote in their states.  This put even more people between the people and the treasury.  And gave the states a way to rein in a federal government that strayed too far from their Constitutional boundaries.

But that all changed with the Seventeenth Amendment (1913).  At the dawn of big, progressive government.  When great amounts of power transferred from the states.  To the growing federal government.  And the spending began.  The states’ legislatures no longer voted for states’ senators.  The people now voted for their senators.  By direct popular vote.  And got closer to the national treasury.

Growing Spending and a Declining Population Growth Rate required Higher Tax Rates and Class Warfare

The federal government grew as we removed these other people from between the people and the treasury.  Responsible people.  People who knew better.  Or should know better.  Now people were closer to the federal treasury.  And they slowly learned what Benjamin Franklin feared.  They learned that they could vote themselves money.  And did.

Responsible, limited government went out the window.  Pandering for votes was in.  Rugged individualism was descendant.  And the nanny state was ascendant.  Federal government spending grew.  Federal taxes grew.  And federal debt grew.  Because you won elections by giving people stuff.  Paid for with other people’s money.  Which was key.  You didn’t win elections by raising people’s taxes.  You won them by raising other people’s taxes.  And the way you do that is with class warfare.

In the beginning class warfare was easy.  Because the federal budget was a lot smaller than it is today.  So you didn’t need very high tax rates.  And the population base was growing.  A lot of families had closer to 10 children than the 2.3 children of today.  So having lots and lots of new taxpayers in subsequent generations would produce a steady and growing stream of federal tax revenue.  But as spending grew and the population growth rate declined, that caused revenue problems.  Requiring higher and higher tax rates.  And more and more bitter class warfare.

The General Trend of Defining ‘Rich’ Downward has Redefined the Middle Class as ‘Rich’

With the higher spending and falling revenue budget crises followed.  Which ramped up the class warfare.  Pitting the ‘rich’ against the poor and the middle class.  Of course they kept redefining ‘rich’ as they needed to raise more and more tax revenue.  First calling the superrich fat-cat industrialists and Wall Street bankers ‘rich’.  The billionaires.  Then they included the millionaires.  But when they could no longer pay for the growing cost of the federal government people earning less and less were lumped in with these super rich.  Until today it’s someone making as little as $250,000 a year.

Anyone who says these people should pay their fair share should understand the general trend of defining ‘rich’ downward.  And that line that defined ‘rich’ has moved a long way down.  Closer and closer to the middle class.  Like those earning $250,000.  Many of these people aren’t rich.  Not by a long shot.  Despite earning $250,000.  They’re small business owners.  People who risk everything to run a restaurant.  Or start a construction business.  The number one and number two type of business that fails.   Because they can’t cover their bills.  And grow their businesses.  Despite having business income of $250,000.

The problem isn’t that the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.  It’s that the government is spending too much.  In their eternal quest to buy votes.  By granting more and more government largess to the poor and middle class.  Courtesy of the rich.  Who will soon be anyone with a job.  Because of that growing federal spending.  And a declining birthrate.

Today’s Benefits are Paid by the Rich and Future Generations

As Benjamin Franklin feared this spending is threatening the health of his republic.  And governments around the world.  Because people learned that they could vote themselves money.  And politicians were only too glad to oblige.  Promising ever more.  In exchange for votes.  By providing ever more generous and growing government benefits.  Confident that they didn’t have to pay for these costs.  Instead, they could simply pass the cost of this largess to future generations.  Who don’t vote today.

So today’s benefits are in fact paid by the rich.  Who are small in numbers.  And future generations.  Who aren’t voting yet.   You see, it’s easy to provide benefits today.  That helps garner votes for today.  When the costs of these benefits will be borne by a subsequent generation.  A generation so far out into the future that they have no say today.  But over time this future generation has gotten closer and closer to the current generation.  So close that people alive today will be paying for benefits of today.  More importantly, this future generation is already voting today.  And that’s a BIG problem for a growing government.  So expect the class warfare to get uglier still.

This could herald the end of the republic.  Unless the current generation learns that they are in fact the future generation.  And that they are the new ‘rich’.  Regardless of how much they earn.  And they’ll learn this fast as they pay for everyone else.  After which they’ll see that there’s nothing left for them.  Then they’ll take notice.   And stop the insanity.  Then, and only then, will they stop voting themselves money.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #60: “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me again shame on public education.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 5th, 2011

The Founding Fathers’ Experiment in Self-Government

Benjamin Franklin said when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.  Because people tend to be greedy.  And lazy.  And they don’t understand public finance.  Especially the uneducated ones.  And there were a lot of uneducated people during our founding.  The Founding Fathers worried about this.  Because governments past have always exploited the uneducated for personal gain.  Kings and lords would give the poor some alms to make them feel good about their lives of unending toil and suffering on the feudal estates.  Should you not be lucky enough to have been born with the ‘right’ last name.  The new United States of America was going to change that.  Here it wouldn’t matter who your father was.  Here, no one would be better than you.

But only if this experiment in self-government succeeded.  So they were very careful when they wrote the Constitution.  And the type of government for the new nation would not be a democracy.  Instead, they chose a representative republic.  For the Founding Fathers all feared democracies.  Which when you come down to it is nothing more than mob rule.  If the mob is racists they’ll pass racist laws.  If the mob is sexist, they’ll pass sexist laws.  And if the mob is greedy and lazy, they’ll vote themselves money from the federal treasury.  This is the risk of democracy.  All you need is a majority.  And whatever you want is yours.  No matter how destructive it is to the country.

That’s why the Founding Fathers did NOT give us a democracy.  We have intermediaries between the mob and the actual law-making.  We call these people our representatives.  At the founding, these were the best of the best.  Well educated and/or experienced.  Men of great honor and integrity.  Imbued with a selfless sense of duty.  These men went out of their way NOT to prosper from their government service.  Really.  It’s nothing at all like today where government service is nothing more than a ticket to a fat pension and early retirement.  Back then such a thought was anathema to the Founding Fathers.  Which is very evident by the type of government they created.

Indirect Elections temper the Populist Tendencies

The Constitutional Convention was a hot, miserable, long summer in Philadelphia.  There was little agreement.  No one liked the final product much.  But most agreed it was the best that they could do.  Even then the U.S. was big.  Lots of different people trying to make the final product favor their state more than the others.  And few were in favor of giving the new central government much power.  They all feared that this new central power would consolidate its power.  And regulate the states to fiefdoms in a new kingdom.  Just like in the Old World.  So they took as many opportunities to restrict federal power.  And minimize the influence of the populist mob.

The new federal government was a limited government.  It was only to do the things the states couldn’t do well.  Maintain an army and navy.  Treat with other nations.  Those things that needed a singular national identity.  Everything else was to remain with the states.  And to make sure the states would not lose their sovereignty, the states’ legislators would choose their federal senators.  The House of Representatives would have direct elections.  Being the closest to true democracy, the House risked being influenced by the mob.  The Senate, then, would be wise and prudent to temper the populist tendencies of the House.  To keep the House from doing something stupid.  Like voting the people the treasury.  (Of course, the states lost a lot their sovereignty when we changed this by amendment to a popular vote like the House.)

The president was to be elected indirectly, too.  Like the senators.  The Founders were worried that the office of the president could be easily corrupted.  So they put great restrictions on its powers.  And made it as difficult as possible for any one group or interest to ‘cheat’ and get their man into office.  Hence the indirect election.  Again, to protect their sovereignty, this fell to the states.  State legislatures would choose electors who would then vote for president.  (With quite a few close elections, there have been calls to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a pure popular vote.  Of course, it is usually the loser in a close election who wants this change.  If the same thing happens in a subsequent close election where they win they are quite happy with the Electoral College.)

Talented People create things to trade

The reason the Founders wanted so many people between the voters and the actual law-making is to keep people from voting irresponsibly.  The federal budget is pretty big.  And people see that it is big.  They figure that because they pay taxes, there’s no reason why they can’t have stuff from the federal government.  In a true democracy, the people could vote to cut taxes and increase spending.  They could vote themselves a monthly stipend to live on and quit their jobs.  An uneducated mob can easily do this.  Who wouldn’t want to get a paycheck for doing nothing AND pay less in taxes?  It’s very attractive.  If I ran for office on such a platform a lot of people would probably vote for me.  But there’s a problem with such generosity.  You see, government can’t give money to people unless they take money from other people first.

There appears to be a popular misconception about public finance.  Many believe that government has a stash of cash that they can give out whenever they please.  And that this stash of cash has mystical power.  That it’s endless.  And when they give it away more just magically appears.  But the government has no money.  The public treasury isn’t filled with the government’s money.  It’s filled with our money.  That’s our tax dollars in there.  Or it’s borrowed money.  Borrowed money that costs interest.  Paid with our tax dollars.  Or it’s printed money.  Money created out of nothing.  Which makes our money worth less.  Which makes everything we buy more expensive.  We call this inflation.  You just can’t print money.  Because it just dilutes the purchasing power of the money already in circulation.  It’s like a bartender selling you whisky from a bottle that’s one part water and 4 parts whisky.  It not only tastes bad.  But you’ll have to pay more to get the same buzz from an honest bartender.

The reason why printing money doesn’t work?  Because it isn’t the money we want.  It’s the things that money can buy that we want.  Who sits in an empty room and enjoys looking at big piles of cash?  No one.  Take the cash out of your wallet or purse and see how long you can stare at it.  Probably not long.  Why?  Because it’s boring.  We don’t enjoy the cash.  We enjoy the things in the room we trade that cash for.  And this is key.  We trade.  We are traders.  Always have been.  And always will be.  We started out bartering for things.  You traded something you built (this is important) for something someone else built (equally important).  Talented people who created things met to trade.  And we still do this today.  The money just makes it easier to trade.  But this would not be possible if we all lived on a government stipend and nobody worked.  Because if no one worked, there would be no things to buy.  We would be sitting in an empty room staring at piles of useless money.

A Public Educational System that doesn’t Educate but Indoctrinates

The Founding Fathers understood all of this.  And they framed the Constitution accordingly.  They limited the powers of the federal government.  Minimized the amount of actual democracy/mob rule.  And minimized the amount of money in the federal treasury.  For they were capitalists.  They knew money left in the private sector stimulated local economies.  People created useful things.  Brought them to market.  And traded these useful things for other useful things.  That’s the way things were.  It’s not how they are now.  Politicians today are in politics for personal gain.  They pander to the voters.  Buy and sell favors.  Enrich themselves in the process.  And leave a swath of destruction in their wake.  And how are they able to do this?  Because the government has become more of a democracy than a representative republic.

Along the way the educational system failed.  Probably starting in the Sixties.  With the hippies in college.  Who went on to teach in the Seventies.  We spent less time on reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.  And more on American white guilt for what happened to the Native Americans and a slave economy.  We learned less about the Founding Fathers.  And more about the people they wronged.  We learned less about American culture and more about diversity and multiculturalism.  We learned less about American Exceptionalism and more about American Imperialism.  We learned less about Western Civilization and more about ‘enlightened’ oppressive socialism.  We learned less about capitalism and more about the ‘fair’ redistribution of wealth.  Let’s face it.  Kids in school didn’t have a chance.  Their teachers were no longer teaching how America got to be exceptional.  They were teaching that America was anything but exceptional.  That we were guilty of every crime and injustice you could think of.  That America needed to change.  And that they, the young, our future, could make that change happen.

So the dumbing down of America began.  For those unable to escape the indoctrination of the new public education.  And the growth of government took off.  In fact, you can say that as society became ‘less American’ they became more dependent on government.  Where once rugged individualists dominated the land their numbers are thinning.  As slick politicians lure more people by the siren song of an easy life provided by government benefits.  And these politicians find the lie easier to sell with a public educational system that doesn’t educate but indoctrinates.  In fact, it’s quite an incestuous relationship.  The politicians spend more and more money on education.  The money goes to the teachers.  The teachers belong to unions.  The teachers’ unions support and donate to Democrat candidates.  So some of that tax money spent on education goes right back to the politicians that just increased educational spending.  And the teachers, eager to keep a good thing going, teach their students to become good Democrat voters.  Instead of teaching them about the three Rs, the Founding Fathers, American culture, American Exceptionalism, Western Civilization and capitalism.  As the standardized test scores show.  And does their irresponsible voting.

A Rising Sun or a Setting Sun 

America is fast approaching a crossroads.  People have learned that they can vote themselves money.  And have.  Politicians are pandering to these people for personal gain.  Offering to spend more and more money that we just don’t have.  Bringing us closer and closer to the end of the republic. 

Ben Franklin sat through that insufferable summer in Philadelphia.  Swatted at the giant horseflies in the hall.  He was old and his time was short.  He sat quietly during much of the debates.  Often staring at the sun carved into George Washington‘s chair.  He wondered if it was a rising sun.  Or a setting sun.  He saw it as symbolic of their little experiment in self-government and the work they were doing in that hall.  Was this already the end of their noble experiment?  Or was it just the beginning?  After the delegates voted to send the new Constitution to the states for ratification he breathed a sigh of relief.  For it was a rising sun.

I guess that question is once again open to debate.

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Does Obama Know Who Kept the Slaves Enslaved?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 2nd, 2010

Your People Did Not Free the Slaves, Mr. President

From Mark Knoller, White House Correspondent, Radio, CBS News:

Obama says people are impatient but “now’s not the time to quit…it took time to free the slaves…ultimately we’ll make progress.”

We would have freed the slaves a whole lot sooner if it weren’t for people like him.  Democrats.

The Southern States and Slavery – A Packaged Deal

Democrats descend from the southern planter elite.  These slaveholders formed a small minority of the population.  But they held the majority of political power.  There was a north-south divide at the founding over slavery.  Franklin, Adams, Hamilton and Washington were against slavery.  Jefferson and Madison were for it.  Rather, they were for the southern states.  And that meant the planter elite (which they were part of).  Which was for slavery.

Slavery was a taboo subject.  You won’t find it in our founding documents.  The North wanted to abolish slavery.  But any discussion of the taboo subject and the South would walk.  So they tabled the subject.  To get the South to join the Union.  And they didn’t speak about it to keep the South in the Union.  (When I say the ‘South’, think the planter elite, the ruling minority power in the South.  This elite few had the majority of slaves.  Most southerners couldn’t afford slaves and worked their own small farms.  The yeoman farmers Jefferson would wax philosophical about.)

The majority of slaves were in the south.  They also were the majority of the southern population.  This was a sticking point at the Constitutional Convention.  The South wanted to count slaves in determining congressional representation.  But you count citizens to determine your number of representatives.  Not property.  The northerners did not get to count their cattle in determining their number of representatives.  So the South shouldn’t count their slaves.  The South, of course, disagreed.  For if they were to be a part of the Union, not simply a region ruled by the North, it was necessary to count their slaves.  And if they couldn’t?  No union.  So they compromised.  With the Three-Fifths Compromise.  They would count a slave as 3/5 a citizen.  It gave the South a greater representation in Congress than their citizenry allowed.  But it ‘balanced’ the political power between the North and the South.  And brought the southern states into the Union.

When the Democrats Did Not Like Immigration

After winning our independence, we got the Northwest Territories (the land north of the Ohio River) from the British.  The northerners got their way with this northern land.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in this territory.

Then came the Louisiana Purchase.  The North wanted to exclude slavery from all of this land.  The South didn’t.  That would tip the balance of power in favor of the North.  So they compromised.  With the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  There would be some slavery in the new territory.  But not above the bottom border of Missouri (the 36th parallel).  Except in Missouri (a slave-state).  Which they added at the same time with Maine (a free-state).  To maintained the balance of power.

But the population continued to grow in the North.  Those in the South could see the writing on the wall.  The immigration into the northern states would tip the balance of power in the House to the North.  So they focused on controlling the judiciary.  The president (who nominated).  And the Senate (which confirmed).  What they couldn’t win by popular vote they’d simply legislate from the bench.  And dirty, filthy party politics was born.  The party machine.  And the Democratic Party.

It Takes a Republican

Martin Van Buren created it.  And, at the time, he had but one goal.  To keep the issue of slavery from ever being an issue again.  Which the Democrats did until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  The North wanted to abolish slavery from the founding.  But the planter elite, then the Democrats, fought them every step of the way.  So they could maintain their power. 

But it was more than just power.  It was that elite status.  That they were superior.  It had gone beyond King Cotton.  The south had manufacturing.  Some of which was even more profitable than cotton.  But manufacturing couldn’t give you what cotton could.  An aristocratic planter elite that was so elite that it could own human life.  This was Old World aristocracy alive and well in the New World.

Anyway, all the legislation and court cases that led up to the Civil War had one thing in common.  All people trying to maintain the institution of slavery were Democrats.  The big ones, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraskan Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott ruling of 1854 were all pushed/won by Democrats.  The new Republican Party finally denied the Democrats.  A Republican president (Abraham Lincoln) made slavery a moral issue in the Civil War with his Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t free a single slave but it made it politically impossible for France or Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy or enter the war on her behalf).  Four years of war and some 600,000 dead later, the North prevailed and the Union sounded the death knell for slavery in America.  Then the Republican Congress passed and the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.  The Republicans had, finally, abolished slavery.

Ignorance or Arrogance?

The Democrats can talk about Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Well, a little.  More Democrats voted against it than did Republicans.  And a Democrat, segregationist and KKK Exalted Cyclops, Robert Byrd, filibustered for 14 hours during an 83-day Democrat filibuster.  But a lot of Democrats did vote for the Civil Rights Act.  So, yeah, they can talk about that.  But they had absolutely nothing to do with the freeing of the slaves.  They call slavery America’s original sin.  But that’s not fair.  It was only the planter elite and then the Democrat Party that practiced that sin.  And they fought hard to keep their sinful ways.

A Democrat should not invoke the struggle to end slavery to help his cause.  Especially a black Democrat.  For to do so marks the height of ignorance.  Or arrogance.

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