Saturday, January 4, 2014

Common Sense Lessons From History For The New Majority In America

As we have said before, we enjoy reading lots of history. Especially when it comes to the writings and musings of the people who framed our Constitution and, hence, our way of life in many ways under our constitutional democratic republican meritocracy.

One of the things we find is that there is really nothing new under the sun. In fact, the Founders left us with a plethora of underlying principles to follow that for the most part have worked for these past 234 years.

The only problem is that we have forgotten many of the good ideas that would have prevented us from getting into this current mess.

The great thing about 'ideas' and 'principles' is that they can be passed along and promoted solely by the power of the pen. Not the sword; not by coercion. These ideas and principles can be freely presented and freely accepted by citizens and when a majority of these citizens demand it, they happen.

Thomas Jefferson once said the power of the printed word through the press was the 'engine' of democratic government. Now that we have the internet, Facebook, Twitter, text and all sorts of other social media avenues to distribute and disseminate information, we can mostly bypass the traditional mainstream media which honestly does not do a good job at all of presenting all sides of the issues in a fair and honest way anyway.

So, let's do it.

Here are some very simple 'lost' principles from the Founding Days of the American Republic that, if recovered by either the current Democrat or Republican Party, can make a huge difference in how we govern ourselves into the future.

If neither party wants to adopt these basic principles as parts of their operating platform, then it will open the door to the burgeoning group of sentient registered Independents and Unaffiliated voters across the nation to band together and start supporting candidates who will not run as either Republican or Democrat but as mature adults.

Both major political parties today so closely resemble the antics of feuding kids in kindergarten that it is hard to take either of them very seriously any longer.  The history of American politics is that when the extremes on either end gain too much power, new factions break away such as the Whigs from 1830-1850 and then force the traditional parties to take stock of their situation and reform back to some center of sanity once again later.

  1. Find a means to extinguish all new debt within 30 years. (Alexander Hamilton)

    What does this mean exactly? What it means 'exactly' is that any time our elected officials want to enter into a new 'police action' or war overseas, or pass a new entitlement program, or expand any new domestic program that requires new debt, they first have to pass a new tax to pay for it so it can be 'extinguished' over a 30-year period.

    Consider this the 'Quicken Loans' approach to running our federal government. You don't have the specific revenue stream to pay the interest and retire the debt of the new initiative, you don't pass the bill authorizing it.

    Think of the spending discipline this will cast over all federal spending. A President wants to go to war in Iraq? He has to suggest and then introduce a new tax on gasoline, fast food, dividends, or capital gains that will pay for the $1 trillion in expected costs of prosecuting the war effort.

    It is one thing to just say: 'Let's go to war!' and then come to Congress every summer to ask for $250 million in new supplemental appropriations that are funded not with new taxes but with increased borrowing.  There is no restraint or governor on spending right now in place to prevent another excursion into Iraq or Afghanistan on a non-paid for basis.

    Same with new entitlements such as Obamacare or Medicare Part D passed under President Bush 43. Force our future elective officials in Congress to deal up front with the realities of the enormous open-ended costs of such high-minded ideas and offer specific tax streams to pay for the debt service and retirement.

    We believe this one simple concept, extinguishment of debt, if adopted by either current party or the soon-to-be majority of Independents, will do far more to arrest the growth of spending and accumulation of debt than anything Grover Norquist has ever done with his Tax Pledge.

    Because the Tax Pledge has been an absolute failure as a brake on federal spending and national debt build-up, hasn't it? Just look at where the level of federal spending and debt are today versus when the Tax Pledge was started in 1986!

                    Federal Spending                  Debt
    1986       $796 billion                             $1.7 trillion
    2013       $3.7 trillion                             $17 trillion+
  2. Place ALL federal programs in the discretionary or annual appropriations process. (There were no entitlements in the beginning)

    It is a total dodge by elective officials to throw up their hands in false alarm and say: 'We can't do anything about Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid because they are entitlement programs!'

    That is a complete and abject lie. It used to be when serious people were serving in Congress and the White House that almost every year, a budget reconciliation package was passed which included tax changes AND entitlement program changes.

    We know. We developed and presented close to $177 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reforms to the House Republican Budget Committee in the spring of 1993. Those were reforms that would have resulted in $177 billion in spending reductions and/or fee increases such as for Medicare Part B premiums or home health care copays and deductibles.

    No one came to take us to prison. No one came to take us to the insane asylum, although, truth be told, several members of the House Republican Budget Committee fairly blanched a sickly shade of white in their faces as these reforms were unveiled in a meeting one day.

    Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, those two bastions of perceived conservatism, led the fight against the inclusion of these reforms in the House Republican Caucus. It was a pretty embarrassing and disheartening sight to behold.

    Removing the Iron Curtain from the entitlement programs we now have in place will allow a much-needed breath of fresh air to examine every program in the federal budget and make the changes necessary to bring them into line so we don't spend every single incoming tax dollar on just 4 programs soon in the future: Social Security; Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

    Every. Single. Tax. Dollar. From every source: income, payroll, excise, corporate, capital gains, dividends and death taxes. It could happen as soon as 2020 but it certainly will happen in the next decade.
  3. 1 legislative year to pass legislation/1 year to evaluate/oversee programs

    This one is so simple and common-sense that we are surprised the Founders didn't think of it first.

    The year after the congressional elections, the odd-numbered years, will be the legislative years. Budgets will be passed; programs will be allocated money but they will be done for a biennial or 2 year period.

    In the even-numbered or congressional election years, congressional and senate committees will focus solely on administrative oversight of the programs they have authorized and appropriated in the odd-numbered years prior to then.

    Why do that?

    Have you looked at the results of many federal programs!? They never end, even if they are producing horrible or non-existent results! Ronald Reagan once said: 'The closest thing to eternal life on earth is a federal program!'

    Having a full legislative year for every congressional committee to take a look at every federal program under their jurisdiction and examine which ones to increase (cause they are working so well); which ones to cut back; and which ones to flat-out eliminate would be of enormous consequences to our fiscal health.

    (Only 1 federal program has been abolished in toto in modern memory, the Federal Helium Reserve Program...and there are efforts today to revive it because there isn't enough helium to fill balloons apparently)

    It would also restore some much-needed congressional prerogative over federal spending in a time when President Obama is usurping more and more power from the legislative branch and making some questionable constitutional separation of powers decisions regarding the implementation of Obamacare, just to cite one prime current example.
If either of the two major parties would adopt even 1 of these very simple concepts but preferably all three, they would help restore fiscal sanity to our federal government.

They would, in addition, be far more attractive to the tens of millions of people who are now fleeing for the exit gates and registering as Independents in droves, North Carolina being one of the most prominent and obvious exoduses in the nation.

And if neither party adopts them, the Independents and Unaffiliateds have the opportunity to form a new party around the nucleus of fiscal responsibility and maturity which is what most of them want first and foremost anyway.

'A little rebellion every now and then is not a bad thing' said Thomas Jefferson.

Here's the chance to do it in a peaceful way. With the power of the pen and the power of the purse.

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