Over at Reason there is a good article from Peter Suderman titled “The IRS Targeted Conservatives Because It Could“. The whole article is worth reading. However I want to highlight a very important point Peter makes:
But I think that critiques that focus on the government’s size miss an important factor. This isn’t just a problem of bigness or smallness. It’s a problem of power.
When public servants have the power to make life difficult for narrowly defined groups of people—their political enemies, or disfavored causes, or people on the wrong side of a national discussion—they’ll end up using, and abusing, that power. It’s all but inevitable, whatever the reason. Sometimes they’ll do it because they’re out to punish their foes. Sometimes because they honestly believe it’s the fairest and most reasonable way to do their jobs. Sometimes because they’re mean and petty people. Sometimes because they think they’re making the nation a better place for all. Sometimes because they’re instructed to do so from on high. Sometimes because they’re not given enough instruction. Sometimes because they’re just plain incompetent.
It’s not that the reasons don’t matter at all. They do. But in some ways the particular reasons miss the larger point. Power will find a reason. It always does.
This is an important concept for anyone that thinks the government has gotten too large. It is the power used by government officials that stifle social and economic freedoms. There is no direct correlation between the size of the government and the amount of coercive power that same government uses upon its citizens. For example, if half of all government employees were removed from the taxpayer payroll tomorrow that would not mean the coercive power of the government had been reduced by half. Actually the opposite may be true. The coercive power of each government official or employ would have actually increased because there are fewer entities to share that power with.
Going forward those fighting for ‘small government’ must keep in mind that power must be reduced along with the size of government. In regards to the IRS scandal this lesson is very important. Freedom activists should now be fighting to reduce the overall power of the IRS, and not simply trying to ‘hold someone accountable’. Without power being removed from the IRS these same scandals will continue to happen time and time again.
Justin Amash, US Representative from Michigan’s third congressional district, has become a superstar in the liberty movement within the Republican Party. Not only does he dare speak up about issues with a libertarian bias, he actually votes as a fiscal conservative. This quite often puts him at odds with the crony-capitalist rampant within the Republican Party. However this is not the only reason people should be watching Rep. Amash’s actions. The real reason to keep an eye on this elected official that he publishes the reason for every vote casts on Facebook.
I voted no on H R 807, Full Faith and Credit Act, which effectively raises the debt ceiling by exempting certain items from its calculation. I cosponsored the original text of this bill, which required the Department of the Treasury, in the event we reached the statutory debt limit, to simply prioritize its spending and use daily revenues to pay the principal and interest due on the national debt. This type of prioritization is appropriate and would prevent a sovereign default.
The Committee on Ways and Means decided to strip out this language and replace it with a partial debt ceiling elimination bill. Under the amended bill, when the debt limit is reached, the Treasury *must* continue borrowing and increasing the national debt to pay debt service and Social Security, even though revenues are more than enough to cover these items. And this borrowing—more than $300 billion in 2013 and over $800 billion (estimated) by 2021—would be *exempt* from the debt limit. In short, this bill eliminates the debt ceiling with respect to two large (and growing) areas of the budget, and it’s the first step toward eliminating the entire debt ceiling—the most important structural restraint we have on government borrowing.
Unfortunately, House Rules prevented me from removing myself as a cosponsor of this legislation, despite my opposition to the Committee-amended version. (Cosponsors may not be changed after a bill is reported from Committee.) And my amendment to mitigate some of the problems with this bill was (inexplicably) ruled out of order by the Republican-controlled Committee on Rules.
It passed 221-207.
He then posts a followup link showing how everyone voted. The above post has a follow-up link of http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll142.xml.
The pure amount of information he has in this post is great. He explains his understanding of the bill. In this case also explained why voted no, despite the fact he was originally a co-sponsor of the bill. I would love to see the explanation of other elected officials and why they voted yes or no on it. If I had not read his comments I wouldn’t have realized how much the bill had changed from its original form.
In addition to posting his votes he will also reply to questions in regards to those votes. Here is a post about an amendment he voted yes for on HR807:
I voted yes on the Camp of MI Amendment to H R 807, Full Faith and Credit Act. Comically, the amendment prohibits any of the debt obligations that the bill requires to be issued to pay principal and interest on the debt or Social Security from being used to pay the salaries of Members of Congress. There’s nothing in the underlying bill that allows such obligations to be diverted for this use, so this part of the amendment makes no sense.
The amendment also clarifies the Department of the Treasury’s reporting requirements under the bill. The amendment passed 340-84.
When looking in the comments of this post someone asks “So… why did you vote yes then?”. Here is his reply:
The second part is good. The first part has no legal effect. That means there’s a marginal improvement to the bill.
Can you imagine? A politician actually taking time to answer questions. Especially since Justin has no idea if a person asking the question will/won’t vote for him. He simply posts every vote and answers questions (within reason) because it’s the right thing to do.
No matter how people feel about Rep. Amash’s political views they should be applauding his voting record communication. There is no doubt as to why he votes yes or no. He has done this since first elected as a state legislature years ago and continues to do so now that he is in the House of Representatives.
The only question I have now is: Why don’t more elected officials do this?
PS. I left this post with a highly rhetorical question. I understand why politicians wouldn’t want their voting records posted along with the reasoning. That’s exactly why voters should be hounding elected officials to do so!
It’s that time again, the White House is entwined in a series of scandals and attacks from opposition. This has happened during every administration in my lifetime. It doesn’t matter if its Republican or Democrat, the results are always the same. The opposing side will latch on to each little scandal, mistake, misstep, or bit of confusion. These situations allow the opposition to show how the current administration is the most corrupt evil ever!
Then the supporters of the current administration will step in. They will say things such as “but President X isn’t as bad as President Y was, that guy was really evil!”. That’s the point I get pissed off during these events. Is that really how a political party wants to be represented? Is being “not as bad as the other guy” the attributes people should strive for and count upon in leadership?
There is only one way to stop this never-ending cycle (which will continue when a Republican becomes the next President). People within each party must hold their leaders accountable for all actions! Let me repeat that: People within each party must hold their leaders accountable for all actions! The two parties do not “balance” each other like people think they do. For political leaders to truly change their ways it is up to their supporters to let it be know when something is wrong. This means uber-partisan supporters must be honest and forthcoming when their elected officials do something wrong. These very same uber-partisan supporters must also be honest with themselves. They must acknowledge their bias and try to determine if they are being blinded by their support for a cause; as opposed to supporting what they actually believe in. Then these supporters must hold their leaders accountable to their individual morals and beliefs.
Sadly I don’t see this changing within the two parties anytime soon (There are some notable exceptions on both sides, but sadly they are outliers; it is too early to call these outliers a ‘trend’). Apparently people are OK with politicians that are “not as bad as the other guy”.
Another avenue for the future is the current trend of people leaving the two big parties. Modern voters are registering as Independent and vote that way. If this happens enough we will start to see real change in politics. If nothing else it may force the two parties to reconnect with their bases.
Part of me feels I should have kept my original working title for this post: Grow some frakkin balls you partisan pansies!
Today is the federal holiday currently referred to as Presidents Day (it is actually still called Washington’s Birthday as a federal holiday). I find it odd that we provide a national holiday to celebrate the chief elected official of the federal executive branch. Actually I find it more than odd, I find it almost un-American to celebrate a position that has gone so far beyond its constitutional limits.
Ivan Eland (author of RECARVING RUSHMORE: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty) posted a good summary of the shift away from constitutional controls of the executive branch:
Virtually ignored are the shifts in power that are transforming the executive branch into a governing branch:
- Two major functions of the Congress—in approving U.S. military action and determining the federal budget—have been eroded over time.
- Since the Korean War in the early 1950s, Congress has willingly abdicated its historical constitutional role of declaring war. As a result, the president now routinely takes the country to war without the constitutionally required congressional approval.
- With the rise of a unified yearly budget for the executive branch, beginning in the 1920s, Congress began merely altering the massive document only at the margins.
- Big government in the United States is really executive government.
It will be difficult to stuff such unconstitutional executive power back into the bottle; but for the sake of the continuation of governance under a republic, it is vital.
To this I would add the almost cult-like status the Presidency has attained. Here are just a few observations I’ve made of the current administration from the last month:
- Even though the President may entertain having a drink with members of Congress, he sees no reason to actually work with them.
- President Obama signed “executive actions” to bypass the legislative process because he feels his opinion of gun control should be the “law”.
- Back in January the White House asked citizens to pledge allegiance to them (and not the United States).
- Also back in January I noted that the President does not like balance of power with Congress.
Do we really want to keep a federal holiday for a position that continuously decides to ignore constitutional limits? Somehow there has been a shift from the President being an employee of the people to the President being an almost king-like figure to rule the people. This is not only Democrat Presidents that get this special treatment. All that changed when we went from Bush II to Obama was a different name and face; the mainstream media and party members for both Presidents have blindly followed unconstitutional acts.
If Congress does not start taking power back from the President we may soon find the United States losing any freedoms protected in the original Republic. Instead the United States will head the direction of another failed big government undertaking: the USSR.