BURNET, Texas (Feb. 23) – The Lee Wrights for President campaign has launched another project to help win votes for the Libertarian Party and Libertarian candidates in 2012. The Million Vote March is an effort to achieve a historic one million votes for the Libertarian candidate for President, and to encourage people to vote for all Libertarian candidates on the ballot.
If the events in Raleigh this weekend are typical, the Occupy Wall Street movement appears just as difficult to define and characterize as the Tea Party movement. In the beginning the mainstream media ignored the first occupation in New York City, just as they did the first Tea Party protests.
Only after the movement persisted, spread, and participation grew, fueled by bloggers, texting, tweating, YouTube videos and the other techniques of the new media, did the mainstream media finally take notice.
“Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” (James Madison)
BURNET, Texas (Sept. 17) – The final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, chartered by the U.S. Congress, has concluded that at least $31 billion, and possibly $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud. They also found that not only did contractors sometimes outnumber the military personnel they were supporting, often the contractors were doing things only federal employees could legally do and oversight of their work was frequently absent or ineffective. But these were not the most disturbing findings of the commission.
Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman explained the principle of government spending this way. “When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it,” he said. He’s still careful about what he spends when he buys something for someone else, but “somewhat less what he spends it on.”
When a man uses someone’s else money to buy something for himself, he’s careful about what he buys but not so careful on how much he spends. “And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you,” Friedman concluded.
That axiom applies to any government at any level, and to all amounts of money. The problem is that the more money is involved, the more difficult it is to recognize the problem. It is somewhat easier to see this principle at work on the local level, as two recent news items illustrate.
The U.S. House of Representatives vote to censure Rep. Charles Rangel was a sham. After the members voted overwhelming, 333 to 79, for the resolution, they applauded the New York Democrat. Rangel told the House “I know in my heart I am not going to be judged by this Congress. I’ll be judged by my life in its entirety.”
The Harlem Democrat then went before the Washington DC press corps and engaged in a classic demonstration of what New Yorkers might call the “chutzpah defense. He denounced the two-year proceedings as “very, very, very, political” and claimed his actions did not rise to the level of corruption because “I did not curse out the speaker. I did not have sex with minors. I did not steal money.”
While Rangel admitted he “brought it on myself” he claimed he didn’t enrich himself and asserted the financial improprieties he was accused of were mere “bookkeeping errors.”
Apparently in Rangel’s world a Congressman who doesn’t pay his income taxes for 17 years, fails to pay taxes on rental income on a Dominican Republic villa he owns, or buys four rent-controlled apartments in New York City for well below market value and uses one as an office in violation of rent-control laws, is not subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens.
Rangel even invoked his military service during the Korean War in his plea for mercy. In Rangel’s World, it seems anyone who serves in the military, gets wounded or gets a medal is exempt from some laws.
To no one’s surprise, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, not only defended Rangel but also tried to get the censure downgraded to a reprimand. The Wilson Democrat asked the House to consider “mitigating circumstances” including Rangel’s military service and 40 years in Congress. Butterfield was the only ethics committee member to vote against censuring Rangel, and he voted against the resolution on the House floor.
Butterfield is one of several House members under investigation by the very committee he sits on suspicion of improperly retaining foreign travel per diem payments. In addition, during the 2010 campaign, his Republican opponent challenged Butterfield to return $4,000 in campaign contributions from Rangel.
Rep. Zoe Lofgreen, chair of the House ethics committee, noted that Rangel and other Democrats had promised the American people they would run the most ethical Congress in history. “We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” the California Democrat said. Another ethics committee member, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said “The credibility of the House of Representatives before the American people.”
It certainly was. And once again, the actions of the House were incredible. The only positive thing about this mock trial might be that the censure resolution itself was probably one of the few bills House members could easily read it its entirety. The one-paragraph bill reads:
Resolved, That (1) Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York be censured; (2) Representative Charles B. Rangel forthwith present himself in the well of the House for the pronouncement of censure; (3) Representative Charles B. Rangel be censured with the public reading of this resolution by the Speaker; and (4) Representative Rangel pay restitution to the appropriate taxing authorities or the U.S. Treasury for any unpaid estimated taxes outlined in Exhibit 066 on income received from his property in the Dominican Republic and provide proof of payment to the Committee.
That whooshing sound you hear coming from Washington DC is the sound of the newly elected “Tea Party” Republicans waffling on their pledges to reduce the size of government and cut spending. While the incoming Republican majority went through the motion of voting to ban earmarks, the lame duck legislators still in power aren’t bound by similar constraints.
The tax cut deal being brokered, naturally in secret and behind closed doors, will probably include enough pork grease to ease passage. Included in the compromise is a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits and subsidies for ethanol.
Democratic Rep. Brad Miller may have been right when he called the Republican earmark ban “a sound bite in search of substance.” Miller, the proud sponsor of more than $26.7 million in earmarks himself, said that one member’s pork is another member’s infrastructure project.
Rep.-elect Renee Ellmers seems to agree with Miller’s theory of pork relativity. Ellmers said she would look at each proposal closely, especially expenditures for transportation and defense which are both important issues to North Carolina. Even Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Mother Superior of Tea Party mamma grizzles, said that advocating for transportation projects in your district does not equate to an earmark.
“If it’s going to be a good expenditure of taxpayer’s money, I will go to bat for it, ” the Tea Party backed Republican said. Ellmers upset long-time Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge in a close Congressional District 2 race.
Note the use of the phrase “good expenditure of taxpayer money.” Apparently the theory of pork relativity does not take into account whether or not an expenditure is constitutional, whether or not it is for a program or activity that is within the proper role of government, or whether or not it is even necessary.
Defenders of earmarks and pork are also quick to point out that these expenditures represent only a small fraction, about one percent, of federal spending and that the money is already allocated and would be spent anyway. Again, there is no consideration of constitutionality, proper or needed.
Rep. David Price, a Democrat, said Congress would abdicate its responsibility if it gave the president power to make all spending decisions. “It’s a central congressional power, the power of the purse,” he said. Apparently Price is not as concerned about Congress abdicating its responsibility to the president or federal bureaucrats and agents in other areas, including declaring war, protecting civil liberties and coining money.
One local government official characterized his city’s lobbying for federal tax dollars as “the American way.” Kanapolis city manager Mike Legg said the city would revise it strategy and pressure federal agencies rather than Congress to steer money their way.
Legg invoked a peculiar interpretation of the First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances. “We should have the right to petition our government to bring back tax dollars for local efforts,” he said Mike Legg.