Wednesday, December 20, 2017

'If Men Were Angels'---Federalist 51 For Modern Eyes and Ears

'Wonder if this American Democratic Republican
Experiment in self-governance will work?
(first published in North State Journal 12/20/17)

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. 

If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary either.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: 

You must first enable the government to control the governed; and then oblige it to control itself.”

How do we separate powers among 3 branches of our government? Each branch must have some ability to keep others in their proper place. It is a sad but honest reflection on human nature that such counterbalances are necessary to control abuses of government power.

The will of the people must be the primary control on government. However, human history shows the importance of using opposite and rival interests to frustrate the ill motives of some leaders.

To insure liberty, each branch should have a clear purpose of its own and as little influence on the selection of members of other branches as possible. Members of each branch should not be totally dependent on another branch for remuneration. If the executive or judiciary were not independent of Congress, their independence in every other function would be diminished.

Subordinate distributions of power of government should serve as a check on other departments to protect individual rights. The remedy is to divide the legislature into different branches and force competition among the branches to best govern.

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.

Strong legislative authority requires that it should be divided. The weak constitutional powers of the executive requires that it should be strengthened with veto power over the legislature.  The Senate should have the power to override a President since he may be lacking in courage or spirit or may be a tyrant.

The people should almost always select government officials. In the judiciary, however, we need highly-trained lawyers who should be selected in a way that guarantees we get the best judges possible.

There are two ways to form the United States: a single republic or a compound republic.

In a single republic, all power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government as in monarchies.

In our compound republic, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between state and federal governments, and then subdivided among distinct and separate departments. A double security arises to the rights of the people: the different state and federal governments will control each other, and at the same time, each will be controlled by itself.

A republic must guard the people against oppression by its elected leaders. It also must guard the minority interests against injustice from the majority.

If a majority is united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. Minority rights can be protected by: 1) creating a separate force outside of government to support the minority; or 2) having so many separate groups of citizens that an unjust majority will never happen.

The first method prevails in monarchies. A power independent of the government might support the rightful interests of the minor party but one day turn to support the oppressive majority party.

The United States will exemplify the federal combined republic.

Civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. The more interests and sects, the more security will abound for everyone.

If stronger factions can unite and oppress minority factions, anarchy will reign as in a state of nature.

Any government too weak to protect the rights of a minority today will be too weak to protect the rights of the majority tomorrow.

A small state on its own might one day be destroyed by its own internal factions. Without the protection offered the people of that state by their federal rights, they would be defenseless.

As the United States grows over time, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good, versus narrow sectarian or religious differences. The larger the society, the more duly capable it will be of republican self-government.

This view must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all friends of republican government'

(James Madison's Federalist 51 edited and paraphrased to some extent to match modern sensibilities and tone. 2/3rds of original language reduced to this version; roughly 50% of remaining text is original from Madison's masterpiece)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Finding $1 Trillion To 'Pay For' The Tax Bill

(first published in North State Journal 12/6/17)

Here’s a novel idea for every elected US Senator or US Congressional Representative who said they voted against the tax reform bill, in part or in whole, because it would 'explode the national debt' by $1 trillion over 10 years:

‘Pass a Bill to Reduce Federal Spending by $1 Trillion Over 10 Years!’

This includes every Democrat in the Senate and House plus Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and 13 House Republicans.

Just because a tax bill is scored as 'losing' revenue over 10 years by CBO, that doesn't mean Congress can't take steps to 'pay for' that loss of revenue by cutting spending elsewhere. 

The only people who can't vote to cut spending anywhere in the federal budget are those who love government spending to begin with. Some, except perhaps Senator Corker and the 13 House Republicans, have never voted to cut one dime from any level of spending unless is it in defense or another line item they don't like.

Federal spending is expected to be $4.1 trillion in FY 2018. There are literally 4.1 trillion ways to cut federal spending annually. The number of ways to get to $1 trillion in deficit-neutrality is literally endless.

Here are 4 substantive ways Congress can get to $1 trillion in deficit-neutrality:
  1. Raise the eligibility age for Medicare in graduated steps until it gets to 67. Saves $148 billion over 10 years.
  2. Raise the eligibility age for Social Security in two-month increments to age 70. Saves $120 billion over 10 years.
  3. 'Bend’ the benefits formula for Social Security down to the point where everyone gets the minimum poverty protection benefits and then phase-down the formula to where no benefits are paid above a certain amount- Saves over $36 billion over 10 years.
  4. Reduce employer tax exclusion for medical insurance premiums by roughly 15%. Reduces deficit by approximately $700 billion over the next decade.

There's $1 trillion in offsets needed to make this tax bill completely deficit-neutral. 

We will wait with bated breath to see if those who voted 'nay' because of their stated concern about the deficit will adopt such measures to make this tax bill not add any more to the roughly $31 trillion in national debt we are expected to have in 2027 without this tax package or any other changes. 

Our guess is they probably won't.

If anyone is dead-serious about reducing the amount of debt we are loading up on our children and grandchildren, they will support the 3 entitlement proposals above. Flattening the cost curve in Medicare and SS to under 3% annual growth would almost balance the budget by 2024 without any other spending cuts or tax increases anywhere else in the budget.

CBO estimates that a combination of these entitlement reforms could result in a lowering of future federal budget costs by anywhere from 2% to 4% of annual GDP.

4% of a projected American GDP of $40 trillion in 2040 would mean annual savings of $1.6 trillion in our federal budget.

The reality staring us in the face is that we are operating a government based on policies and  presumptions about health and longevity from 1935 and 1965. It is time to update our programs to reflect the realities of longer life expectations and technological advances in the 21st century, not the 20th century.

If we don’t, our children and grandchildren are going to be saddled with a dreadful amount of debt that many current elected politicians say they are concerned about but never do anything to prevent.

Perhaps they doth protest too much. If they really want to cure our long-term debt problem, they can pass these spending reform proposals. This week.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today