Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Living Breathing Document

If I hear one more time that the Constitution is “a living, breathing document” I think I might explode. It is no more living and breathing than the houses that we live in.

Like our houses the Constitution is our base. It is the foundation of our government. It is our shelter and our refuge. And we know it well. Each door, hallway, window, and stairwell is familiar to us.

But this is not to say that our home, our shelter, our Constitution is unchangeable. The architects and artisans who constructed it knew well that we would face a world that they could not possibly know and left clear and simple instructions regarding additions and modifications.

But as time has passed we have stumbled and become confused. Our courts, which were meant to interpret laws and then compare them to the Constitution, have long since taken it upon themselves, instead, to interpret the Constitution and compare it to laws that are in question. They have begun to try and read the minds of the framers. What must James Madison have been thinking when he said this or that. This they do in spite of the fact that they have what James Madison thought written right there in front of them. So then they try to divine what James Madison would have thought and written if he had known what we know now. This is a fools game and ignores the power over our own destiny that we posses.

To modify our Constitution is not complicated, nor is it easy. It was meant to be a slow process. And little thought has been given to clarification. An amendment, a clarification: “We the people of The United States of America take this article, section, paragraph of the Constitution to mean ..........” There is no need to try and read the minds of the founders. They wrote in plain language what was in their minds. It was their house then. It’s our house now. It’s up to us to decide how many rooms we should have, or how many doors.

But it’s we that get to decide, not them. It’s not the federal executive, or the legislature or the judiciary that gets to decide what the Constitution says, or means. It was written in plain language and when, in modern day, situations arise that are not, in its several articles explicitly addressed, it is foolish to try to imagine what the framers would make of our predicament when they clearly left instructions for what to do in such cases in Article V. The Constitution was not meant to constrain us. The Constitution was meant to give us power over our own destiny.

Sadly, we have given up our power to men and women who have twisted the meaning of the words plainly written in the Constitution to suit their own ideas of what our country should be and how we should be governed, and when they could not adequately twist the words they have simply ignored them.

One day soon there may come a day when there are no longer enough people in the nation who value the gift of power and self determination that the Constitution offers over their own ease, and comfort. If that day comes we will have been witness to the demise of “the last best hope of earth”.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spending Reductions In The Tax Code

Is there anyone within the reach of these words who thinks the President is at all concerned with budget deficits? Seriously. Last year the President empanelled a “blue ribbon”, bipartisan debt commission to try to come up with ways to reduce the national debt. They presented their findings and suggestions in December and almost without comment the President promptly shelved them. In his State of The Union address, again no specific cuts although he did volunteer to freeze discretionary spending at levels that are already 20% higher than when he took office. A month later his $3.73 Trillion 2012 budget was pretty widely panned as a “punt” which doesn’t touch the entitlement programs that his own commission recognizes as the drivers of our national debt. Three swings, three misses. Whiffs, airballs, fumbles, faults, false starts. Pick a sport. Pick a failure mode.

So now Paul Ryan has introduced a proposed 2012 budget that addresses deficit spending, the $14 Trillion national debt, and the long term fiscal viability or our social “safety net” programs and of the United States itself. Why has he done that? Well, he’s done that because we’re on the threshold of a catastrophe and financially responsible people see it and are demanding that the congress do something and do something pretty quickly. You might think it would be the President’s job to lead the nation in a responsible direction, but you might find some pushback on that at 1600. But a lot of people out here in the weeds seem to think it, so the President has chosen to play along. And so in his speech the other night he proposed not a budget, but an “outline”, not of a budget, but of a plan. It’s the outline of a plan that abandons the budget that he already put forward, but it’s his “me too” entry into the fiscal responsibility sweepstakes.

I listened intently to the speech. The President said: we’re going to make spending cuts here, and we’re going to make spending cuts over there, and more spending cuts over here (and then he said it) “The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code.” I literally made that Tim Allen sound from Home Improvement. You know the one, the cave man question mark sound. ????? So lets us just take a look at this statement shall we?

It’s a fact that the IRS exists for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to collect taxes. Money flows from us to the government. It flows in one direction. (Of course, that’s total BS because 47% of all tax filers pay no federal tax at all and receive “refunds” of taxes that they didn’t pay in the first place, but that’s not what I’m getting at right here, so let’s just pretend that everyone pays their fare share.) The “tax code” does not spend. The “tax code” was designed to take, and take it does. So what can this phrase mean then: to “reduce spending in the tax code”? I’ll tell you what it means, it means to raise taxes, the President (Mr. Charisma) doesn’t have the (insert male body part or parts here) large enough to say it. “My plan is to raise taxes”. Specifically, he plans to raise taxes on the top 2% of earners who already shoulder nearly 50% of the tax burden as it is.

It’s interesting that the President chose to present his outline of a plan to an audience at George Washington University, GW being the single most expensive university in the US at $56k/year. That means that all of the people in attendance (excluding Paul Ryan who was invited for the express purpose of public insult and Vice President Biden who apparently needed some downtime) were children of privilege who will now have to explain the outline of the plan to their parents who will (if the President has his way) shoulder even more of the tax load than they already do.

Our President is now engaged in a class “kinetic action” (that’s war for those of you who haven’t been following the action in North Africa) against the most successful among us, trying to obscure the fact that the top 2% of earners already pay nearly 50% of the federal income tax booked. He is also trying to conceal the fact that the bottom 75% of tax payers only pay 14% of all income taxes paid. And on top of all of that, like a cherry on a mound of ice cream, there is his Orwellian description of a tax increase as a “spending cut in the tax code”. This man raises “doublespeak” to a new level.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Go Ahead, You're Entitled

So the other day I got into a rather bitter exchange with a social network “friend” regarding excessive government spending. It started innocently enough. She posted that she had woken to the sound of workmen installing a new water heater at her home. I made a lame attempt at an Eagles parody: The last worthless water heater that she’d have to buy. She then volunteered that she hadn’t had to buy it at all, that there had been some monies set aside in California for energy conservation upgrades and that in addition to the installation of the water heater the workmen were re-insulating her attic and weather stripping her doors and windows as well. I sat there for a moment with question marks popping up all over my face like hives thinking about how California has a $26 Billion with a B budget deficit, and I should have placed a 9 volt battery on my tongue until the urge to respond passed, but there wasn’t one handy and so I commented that the monies were likely “set aside” from businesses that were leaving California for Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada because they could no longer afford to pay taxes and fees for such things. This was a mistake.

She’d been all warm and fuzzy about her good fortune and I was raining on her parade. I tried to point out that I hadn’t meant anything personal by my comment and that I would also have a difficult time turning down “free” improvements to my house were they made available. I mentioned that it was, in my opinion, a societal failure and not a personal one. She was not appeased.

Her profanity laced tirade continued, at least I think there was profanity. There were a lot of asterisks flying about so it was hard to say for sure. At one point I was referred to as a conspiracy theorist and then was told that California hadn’t had anything to do with it anyway, that it had been part of the “stimulus package”. “Ah, yes” I said. That $847 Billion give away that friends of the president elect had written during the transition and then shoved through the congress immediately after the inauguration before anyone could look at it. This was not received well either.

Soon angry looking “likes” started to accumulate after her comments and I became afraid of a gang action and so again I tried to reassure her that I hadn’t meant to attack her personally and was told that there was a time and place for everything and that my comments met neither requirement. I responded that it was, after all a social networking site, and pointed out that there was really no other place for me to broach the subject. Also that time means little on the internet. Generally there’s some time between interactions. She seemed to calm down a little.

Subsequent discussion revealed that she’d had a hard week and when this opportunity presented itself to her it was soothing. It felt as if something good was happening for her. I can relate totally, or totally relate. Whichever. She’s really quite a wonderful woman, generally funny and charming. She supports herself working as an actor and supplements that income with writing and e-marketing. She’s managed to make a nice, but not extravagant life for herself. She works hard, as she told me, pays her taxes, and she felt entitled. And there’s the rub.

We ALL work hard. Well, most of us work hard anyway, and we all pay our taxes and so we ALL must be entitled. The problem is that it’s all a scam. We’ve all been promised much more than there is. We pay our taxes and then think we’re entitled to take that money back out, but the money isn’t there. They spent that money years ago. In most cases they spent it years before they even had it, or used it as leverage to borrow money from this program or that and then spent it. They had our cake and they ate it too.

The numbers are almost too scary to look at, and so large as to defy understanding. Our unfunded liabilities now are well over $113 Trillion. Those are promises to pay that the congress has made in our names. Over $1 Million for each tax payer. This is a separate issue from the $14 Trillion that we’ve already borrowed. These unfunded liabilities are moneys that the congress has promised that we will borrow in the future. And still they tell us that we’re entitled, that EVERYONE is entitled.

Who ARE these people and why on earth have we let them deceive us for so long? Maybe we just had a bad half century and needed to feel like something good was happening.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.