Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 15th, 2013

History 101

The Constitution prevented the Executive from Ruling Arbitrarily and becoming Judge, Jury and Executioner

There have been funding gaps.  And there have been government shutdowns.  But not always both.  For once upon a time the executive branch stayed open for business even when the House of Representatives did not approve their bills for payment.  But that all changed in 1980 thanks to Jimmy Carter’s attorney general.  Benjamin Civiletti.

Civiletti wrote two opinions as attorney general changing the way government spends money.  The first said the executive can’t spend any money without the House of Representatives’ approval.  A strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  His second opinion softened the first.  Giving the executive power to spend money the House of Representatives doesn’t approve of when necessary to protect life and property.  Such as funding the military.  And so grew the delineation between essential and nonessential spending.  Or what some would say essential spending and pork.

The Founding Fathers saw the damage absolute monarchies could do.  Even a constitutional monarchy with too much power.  So they separated powers.  They created three branches of government.  The executive, the legislative and the judiciary.  One branch to write the law (the legislature).  One branch to enforce the law (the executive).  And one branch to interpret questions in the law (the judiciary).  Thus preventing the executive from ruling arbitrarily and becoming judge, jury and executioner.  Like a king.

The Founding Fathers gave the Power of the Purse to the House to rein in Executive Spending

The Founding Fathers took the separation of powers further.  The House of Representatives was the people’s house.  Where the people voted in their representatives by popular vote.  But to keep a check on federal power the Senate was the states’ house (since changed by constitutional amendment, thus greatly increasing the power of the federal government over the states).  Each state in the union had an equal voice.  Thus requiring not only a majority of the people it also required a majority of the states to pass federal law.  To keep the larger urban populations from dictating policy to the lesser populated rural areas.

The Founding Fathers took the separation of powers even further.  Giving the power of the purse to the House of Representatives.  So the executive couldn’t wage costly wars.  Or expand bloated bureaucracies to reward campaign donors with patronage.  Or expand a welfare state to buy votes.  Especially since Alexander Hamilton opened Pandora’s Box with his interpretation of the necessary and proper clause.  Which expanded the scope of the federal government to include whatever it thought was necessary and proper.  Giving rise to the progressive/liberal state.  Something that would have horrified Alexander Hamilton if he were alive today to see the behemoth the federal government became.  And had he known then what would become of the federal government today he would have been a Jeffersonian.  Jefferson and Hamilton would probably still have hated each other but they would have agreed on keeping limited government limited.

Civiletti understood that the Founding Fathers meant to rein in the spending powers of the executive branch.  To meet the intent of the separation of powers they felt was essential for representative government.  A government of the people, by the people and for the people.  As Abraham Lincoln so eloquently said in the Gettysburg Address some 76 years later.  Hence his first opinion.  Which he softened with his second when it hurt his boss and the Democrat cause.  For Civiletti was a Democrat.

The Democrats want to Break the Republican Opposition and Govern Against the Intent of the Founding Fathers

Before Civiletti’s opinions there was little urgency to settle funding gaps between what the executive branch wanted and what the House would approve.  So at the end of a fiscal year the executive often continued to operate without spending authority.  Letting the durations of these funding gaps last for a week or more.  With no interruption of government services.  But after Civiletti’s opinions the government shut down nonessential services.  Which did speed up the closing of the funding gap.  For when the funding gap included a government shutdown resolving the funding gap went from a week or more to a few days.

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns

To date there have been 18 funding gaps that went unresolved into the new fiscal year.  One of which is still ongoing.  In the table you can see how much quicker the House and the executive branch resolved their differences with the threat of a government shutdown.  The exception to that being the longest shutdown during the Clinton administration.  Which ultimately led the way to welfare reform.  Which greatly dampened President Clinton’s costly liberal agenda.  And was the law of the land until President Obama used sweeping powers he does not have to roll back some of that legislation.

President Obama and the Democrats have called the House Republicans about every derogatory name in the book for dare trying to enforce the Founding Fathers’ separation of powers.  Saying that never before has a radical fringe held a gun to the head of the executive, took hostages, demanded ransom, etc.  But that’s not true.  Of the 18 funding gaps where the House of Representatives did not give the president all the money he wanted that president was a Republican 55.6% of the time.  So Republican presidents got their way fewer times than Democrat presidents.  And as far as hostage takers, the Democrats held the power of the purse 15 of those 18 funding gaps/shutdowns.  Or 83.3%.  So the president and the Democrats aren’t telling the truth when it comes to the historical record.  Who seem to be more interested in swinging public opinion to their side.  So they can break the Republican opposition.  And govern against the intent of the Founding Fathers.

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Tyranny of the One, Tyranny of the Few, Tyranny of the Many, Drone Strikes and the Rand Paul Filibuster

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 7th, 2013

Politics 101

Trusting that only Good People will Serve in Government is Sheer Folly

History has been a struggle for power.  Those who wanted it fought those who had it.  And those who had it tried to eliminate anyone who didn’t have it but wanted it.  So people have killed each other since the dawn of time for power.  Making for a rather Hobbesian existence.  “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  A quote from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.  Where he posits that only an all powerful dictator can provide a just society.  Otherwise there would be great unrest and civil wars.  Such as was going on in England at the time he wrote Leviathan.

England, though, would choose a non-Hobbesian path.  Choosing to restrict the powers of their monarch with a represented body of the people.  Parliament.  Evolving into what John Adams once called the best system of government.  A constitutional monarchy where power was balanced between the few, the many and the one.  The few, the rich, paid the taxes that the one, the king, spent.  The common people were the many.  Who had a say in what the rich and the king could do.  So everyone had a say.  And no one group, the majority, the minority or the one, could do whatever they wanted.  Which is why John Adams once thought it was the best system of government.

John Adams wanted a strong executive in the new United States.  Not a hereditary king.  But something close to the king of England.  Who would advance the new nation to greatness.  And with disinterested men of the Enlightenment serving in the new government Adams didn’t worry about any abuses of power.  For this wasn’t Great Britain.  But not everyone had Adams’ confidence in the nobility of men.  Worrying that given the chance they would try to form a new nobility.  As James Madison said in Federalist 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  And that was the problem.  Men are not angels.  And trusting that only good men would serve in government was sheer folly.  So we should form governments under the assumption that bad people would reach positions of power.  And thus limit the power of government.

Today both Houses of Congress win Elections by Appealing to Populism

So the Americans settled on a similar system.  They separated powers between a legislature, an executive and a judiciary.  Further, they separated the legislature into two bodies.  The House of Representatives.  And the Senate.  Representation in the House being apportioned by population.  The more populous a state the greater that state’s representation.  And the greater influence they had in writing law.  They chose their representatives by popular vote.  Making it truly the house of the people.

The states, though, feared a tyranny of the majority.  Where the largest states could have their way.  And force the smaller states to accept their rule.  For in a true democracy the majority could vote anything into law.  Such as the subjugation and oppression of a minority group.  Like the Nazi Party passed legislation subjugating and oppressing the Jews.  So minorities need protection from majorities.  In the United States the Senate provided a check on majority rule.  For each state had equal representation.  Each state had two senators.  And to further protect the interests of the states (and their sovereignty) the states chose their senators.  A constitutional amendment changed this later.  Which weakened the sovereignty of the states.  By making the Senate a true democracy.  Where the people could vote for the senators that promised them the most from the treasury.

Today both houses of Congress win elections by appealing to populism.  Representatives and Senators are, in general, no longer ‘disinterested men of the Enlightenment’ but pure politicians trying to buy votes.  Which is what James Madison worried about.  The people in government are not angels.  And they’re becoming less like angels as time goes on.  Proving the need of a separation of powers.  And a bicameral legislature.  To keep any one group, or person, from amassing too much power.  So there can be no tyranny of the many.  No tyranny of the few.  And no tyranny of the one.

The Obama Administration can’t use the Military to Kill Suspect Americans on U.S. Soil

Senator Rand Paul just recently completed a 13 hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate.  To delay the vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director.  Not because he had a problem with Brennan.  But because he had a problem with the Obama administration.  Specifically with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Senator Paul had asked Holder if the Obama administration could use a drone to kill an American on American soil without due process even if that person posed no imminent threat.  The attorney general gave his answer in a letter.  In which he didn’t say ‘no’.  Which bothered Senator Paul.  Because the Obama administration had killed an American or two on foreign soil without due process.  Including the son of a guy that posed an imminent threat.  While the son did not.

U.S. drone strikes have killed many terrorists overseas.  And they’ve killed a lot of innocent bystanders who had the misfortune to be in the same vicinity.  Such as being in the same coffee shop.  Basically a policy of ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’.  But you don’t hear a lot about this collateral damage.  As the Obama administration simply counts all the dead from a drone strike as being a terrorist that posed an imminent threat to U.S. security.  And the innocent son that was killed in a drone strike?  Well, he should have chosen a better father.  Or so said a member of the Obama administration.  Which is what so bothered Senator Paul.  For in the War on Terror the battlefield is worldwide.  Including the United States.  Which means given the right set of circumstances the Attorney General of the United States stated the government had the legal right to use a drone to kill an American on U.S. soil without due process.

In the United States there is a thing called the Constitution.  Which guarantees American citizens due process.  If you’re an American fighting Americans on foreign soil you have no Constitutional protections.  And can be killed by a drone strike without due process.  But if you’re on U.S. soil you have Constitutional protections.  Which means the government can’t use the military to kill suspect Americans.  No.  On U.S. soil we have police forces.  And courts.  Miranda rights.  On U.S. soil you have to convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant.  Then you have to collect evidence to present in a trial.  And then you have to convince a jury of a person’s guilt.  Then and only then can you take away a person’s freedom.  Or life.  Thus protecting all Americans from the tyranny of the one.  The tyranny of the few.  And the tyranny of the many.

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2012 Endorsements: John Adams

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 24th, 2012

2012 Election

John Adams was descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock

John Adams was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding Fathers.  He got no respect.  However deserving he was of respect.  The man was brilliant.  Well read.  Honest.  Virtuous.  But irascible.  And vain.  He knew he was right when he was right.  And was more than eager to argue with anyone that was wrong.  Which was most of the time.  Tending to make most people not love him.  A lot.  Earning him monikers like His Rotundity.  Because he was portly.  Irascible.  And not really loved.  Which bothered Adams.  For he was one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers.  But others got all the love.  Such as Thomas Jefferson.  The junior Congressman they delegated the writing of the Declaration of Independence to after Adams did all the heavy lifting in Congressional debate to lead the nation to declare their independence.  While Jefferson sat through all those heated debates silently.  For, unlike Adams, Jefferson did not like public confrontations.  He preferred stabbing people in the back through surrogates.  Or in the press.  As Adams would learn firsthand during the 1800 presidential election.

Adams was a very religious man.  His family descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock.  Who stressed filling your day with hard work and going to church.  And if you had any time left in the day you might get a little eating or sleeping in.  Adams was a farmer.  And had the hands of a working man.  But he was also a lawyer.  A very good lawyer.  Who had as much reverence for the law as he did for his religion.  So much so that he represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  After the Stamp Act (1765) things were getting a little heated in Boston.  Adams then wrote the Braintree Instructions in response to the Stamp Act.  Stating that there should be no taxation without representation.  Calling for trial by jury.  And an independent judiciary.  Things the British denied the good people in the American colonies.  But things Adams insisted that the Americans shouldn’t deny to the British soldiers who shot those Americans in Boston.  So he represented the British on trial when no one else would take the case.  And he got a jury of Bostonians to acquit all but two who they found guilty of manslaughter.

Just about every Bostonian wanted the British soldiers found guilty of murder and hung.  Bu the rule of law prevailed.  As Adams convinced  the jury that the British did not just open fire on innocent bystanders.  There was a mob harassing the British.  Throwing snowballs and chunks of ice.  And other projectiles.  Someone knocked a British soldier to the ground.  While the mob grew in size.  And in intensity.  Provoking the British to discharge their weapons.  As much as the British killing these Americans bothered Adams so did an unruly mob.  His religious teachings emphasized hard work and prayer.  Not drunkenness and mob violence.  However, Boston had always had drunken, unruly mobs.  But they didn’t always get shot by British redcoats.  So why did they this time?  Because British redcoats were quartered within the city of Boston.  This was the kindling that led to the mob action.  Which was yet another British violation of the good people of Boston.

A Strong enough Naval Force acts like an Impregnable Fortress Wall to any Hostile Power

When the British marched to Lexington and Concord to seize some weapons in 1775 and exchanged shots with the Americans a state of war existed.  The Revolutionary War had started even though their declaration of independence was another year away.  Up to this time most of the trouble with the British was in Massachusetts.  And some states wanted to leave it in Massachusetts.  Which was a problem for Massachusetts.  For they couldn’t take on the British Empire by themselves.  But if the states united together they had a chance.  Adams understood this.  So when it came time to choose a commander for the Continental Army he looked to a Virginian.  George Washington.  After they voted to declare their independence he looked at another Virginian to write the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson.  Understanding that they had to make this an American Revolution.  Not just a Massachusetts one.  For only a union of their several states could withstand the mightiest military power on the planet.  But not just any union.  One that would release all the latent energies of the several states.  A republican union.

After declaring their independence the first order of business for the states was to replace the British governing structure.  And that started with the writing of new constitutions.  To make those new state governments.  That could join in a republican union.  Something Adams had given much thought and study to.  He believed in the separation of powers between the executive, the judicial and the legislative branches.  To provide checks and balances.  And a bicameral legislature.  A lower house to represent the common people.  And an upper house to represent the rich people.  With an executive to represent the state.  Such that the interests of the many, the few and the one were all represented.  Similar to Great Britain’s two houses of Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords) and the king.  Though, of course, having versions of these that weren’t corrupt.  Thus not allowing one group of people (or person) to dictate policy to the other group of people (or person).  Thereby avoiding a pure democracy and mob rule.  A characteristic of a single-house legislature.  As France would demonstrate during their French Revolution.

After delegating the busy work of writing the Declaration of Independence to the junior member from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Adams dove into the work of building a navy.  What he liked to call ‘wooden walls’.  For a strong enough naval force acted like an impregnable fortress wall to any hostile power.  The British Empire ruled the world because the Royal Navy was the most powerful navy in the world.  She could protect her coasts.  Prevent the landing of armies.  Keep foreign warships out of canon range of her cities.  And even protect her trade routes.  In a day of competing mercantile empires dependent on their shipping lanes having a navy to protect those shipping lanes made the difference between empire and former empire.  As few picked fights with the nations with the big navies.  Adams understood this.  And he believed in it.  Peace through strength.  For a strong navy was a deterrent to aggressive nations.

If John Adams were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

But Adams was no warmonger.  During his presidency Napoleon came to power in France and was waging war across Europe.  And against American shipping.  Once again Adams fought to build up the navy.  To erect those wooden walls.  To be able to protect American shipping on the open seas as France and Great Britain returned to war.  President Washington maintained a policy of neutrality in their latest war.  Adams continued that policy.  Which infuriated the French.  And the American people.  As the French had helped the Americans win their revolution the French and the American people believed the Americans should help the French win theirs.  So the French seized American shipping.  And demanded tribute from the American ambassadors in France before beginning any peace discussions.  When news of this leaked out to the American people (known as the XYZ Affair) the public sentiment on France changed.  And soon everyone was demanding a declaration of war on France.  Adams tried one more peace commission while at the same time the growing American navy fought back against French naval aggression in an undeclared war.  The Quasi-War.  Eventually peace came.  Through strength.

Adams was pretty much everywhere in the making of the American nation.  From the Braintree Instructions to supporting George Washington to winning the debate for independence to the writing of states’ constitutions to building a republican union.  He helped build American naval power.  And he avoided war with France when just about everybody wanted war with France.  But one place he was not was in Philadelphia in 1787.  Even though his constitution writing skills were second to none he did not help draft the U.S. Constitution.  For he was busy in Holland.  Getting the first foreign power (the Netherlands) to recognize the United States following their victory in the Revolutionary War.  He negotiated a Dutch loan.  Negotiated a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dutch.  And established the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.

If Adams were alive today he probably would not be a fan of the Democrat Party.  And their constant use of class warfare.  Especially when the top 10% of earners pay about 70% of all federal income taxes.  While about 50% of the population pays no federal income taxes.  This does not represent the interests of the many, the few and the one.  The few pay the majority of tax revenue and have the least say in how that money is spent.  Taking the nation closer to a pure democracy.  And mob rule.  While at the same time the Democrats use the courts to write unpopular legislation they want but can’t pass in Congress.  Where a few judges can write law through court opinions.  A great offense to a pure jurist like Adams.  And transforming ‘the one’ into a leviathan of special interests and cronyism.  Knowing how hard it was to secure loans to pay the nation’s war debt in his day he would be appalled at the size of the annual deficits and the accumulated debt today.  And the constant refrain that the rich need to pay their fair share even though about 10% of all Americans are already paying approximately 70% of the tax bill.  The character assassination of Mitt Romney by the Obama Campaign would be too reminiscent of the abuse he suffered through in the 1800 election.  And as a firm believer in the policy of peace through strength he would not like the massive cuts in defense spending.  Which will only encourage more attacks like the one on the American embassy in Benghazi.  An obvious sign that our enemies don’t fear us.  And are not deterred by our strength.  No, if John Adams were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, Republican Government, Separation of Powers, Enumerated Powers, Federalists and anti-Federalists

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 26th, 2012

Politics 101

Funny thing about the Americans is that they just didn’t Like Paying Taxes

United we stood.  For awhile.  Until we defeated the British at Yorktown.  And negotiated the Treaty of Paris where Great Britain recognized our independence from the British Crown.  But people grew weary of the war.  On both sides of the Atlantic.  And those in the once united states (small ‘u’ and small ‘s’) were eager to retreat to their states.  And forget about the Continental Congress.  The Continental Army.  And everything to do with the confederation.  Threatening to undo everything they fought for.  Because of their sectional interests.

Shays Rebellion nearly pushed the country into anarchy.  It was the tipping point.  They had to do something.  Because if they weren’t united they would surely fall.  They owed Europe a fortune that they had no hope of repaying.  Funny thing about the Americans.  They just didn’t like paying taxes.  Making it difficult to repay their debts.  The Europeans gave them little respect.  France tried to sell them out during the peace talks to rebalance the balance of power in their favor.  Spain wanted to keep them east of the Mississippi River.  And off of the Mississippi.  Even refused them passage through the Port of New Orleans.  Britain didn’t evacuate their western forts.  The Barbary pirates were capturing American shipping in the Mediterranean and selling their crews into slavery.  And Catherine the Great of Russia wouldn’t even meet the American ambassador.  So the Americans were the Rodney Dangerfield of nations.  They got no respect.

In 1787 delegates gathered in Philadelphia.  To revise the Articles of Confederation to address these problems.  Some enthusiastically.  Some begrudgingly.  While one state refused to attend.  Rhode Island.  For they were quite happy with the way things were.  As the smallest sate in the union they had the power to kill almost any legislation that didn’t benefit Rhode Island.  For some legislation the vote had to be unanimous.  And they enjoyed charging other states tariffs for their goods unloaded in Rhode Island ports.  Things were so nice in Rhode Island that they didn’t need much taxation.  Because they had other states funding their needs.  Thanks to those tariffs.  Of course, this did little to benefit the union.  While imposing taxes on their neighbors in the union.  Sort of like taxation without representation.  Funny thing about Americans, though.  They didn’t like paying taxes.

Montesquieu said a Republican Government must Separate Power into Three Branches

Thomas Jefferson was in Europe in 1787.  John Adams, too.  But just about every other “demi-god” (as Jefferson called those at that gathering) was in Philadelphia in 1787.  America’s patriarch Benjamin Franklin.  The indispensable George Washington.  The financially savvy Alexander Hamilton.  The studious James Madison.  The Framers of the Constitution.  Highly principled men.  Well read men.  Prosperous men.  Who were familiar with world history.  And read the great enlightenment philosophers.  Like John Locke.  Who especially influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence.  With his inalienable rights.  Consent of the governed.  And property rights.

As they gathered in Philadelphia to revise the Articles it became clear that they needed something more.  A new constitution.  A stronger federal government.  With the power to tax so they could raise money.  For without money the union could not solve any of its problems.  So they set upon writing a new constitution for a new government.  A republican government of republican states.  As they began to frame this constitution they drew on the work of a French philosopher.  Charles de Montesquieu.  Who championed republican government.  The ideal government.  A government of the people who ruled at the consent of the governed.  With built-in safeguards to protect the people’s inalienable rights.  The key requirement being the separation of powers.

Montesquieu said a republican government must separate power into three branches.  The legislature, the executive and the judiciary.  A nation of laws requires a legislature to write the laws.  Because the laws must respect the inalienable rights of the people the people must elect the legislature from the general population.  So the legislature’s interests are the people’s interest.  However, if the legislature was also the executive they could easily write laws that represented their interests instead of the people.  Elevating the legislature into a dictatorship.  If the legislature was also the judiciary they could interpret law to favor their interests instead of the people.  Elevating the legislature into a dictatorship.  Likewise if the executive could write and interpret law the executive could elevate into a dictatorship.  Ditto for the judiciary if they could write the law they were interpreting.  So the separation of powers is the greatest protection the people have against a government’s oppression.

If a Power wasn’t Delegated to the New Federal Government it Remained with the States

During the Constitutional Convention they debated long and they debated hard.  The Federalists were in favor of a stronger central government.  The anti-Federalists were not.  The Federalists included those who served in the Army and the Congress.  The anti-Federalists were those who didn’t serve ‘nationally’ and favored states’ rights.  In general.  So one side wanted to increase the power of the central government while the other side wanted no central government.  For their fear was that a new federal government would consolidate power and subordinate the states to its rule.  As if the last war never happened.  And the states would still bow to a distant central power.  Only this time to one on this side of the Atlantic.

So the balance they struck was a two-house (i.e., bicameral) legislature.  A House of Representatives.  And a Senate.  The people in each state elected a number of representatives proportional to their state’s population.  So a large state had a large representation in the House.  So that house represented the will of the people.  To prevent the tyranny of the minority.  So a small privileged class couldn’t rule as they pleased.  Whereas the Senate prevented the tyranny of the majority.  By giving each state two senators.  So small states had the same say as big states.  Together they represented both the majority and the minority.  Further, states’ legislatures chose their senators (changed later by Constitutional amendment).  Providing the states a check on federal legislation.

To round things out there was an executive they called the president.  And a judiciary.  Providing the separation of powers per Montesquieu.  They further limited the central government’s powers by enumerating their powers.  The new federal government could only do what the Constitution said it could do.  Treat with foreign powers.  Coin a national currency.  Declare war.  Etc.  If a power wasn’t delegated to the new federal government it remained with the states.  To give the new federal government some power.  Including the power to tax.  While leaving most powers with the states.  Striking a compromise between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists.

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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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