Unlimited Congressional power; An intractable problem of spending and corruption
JOHN REINIERS, More Than WordsThe Framers devised a Constitution based on federalism, with power being shared between federal and state governments. Logic dictated the need for Article 1, Section 8, (the enumeration clause) delegating a limited number of powers of the federal government, and the 10th Amendment reserving all remaining powers to "the states…or the people." (Many critics deemed the amendment to be superfluous.)
Published: February 5, 2012
Published: February 5, 2012
Enter the U.S. Supreme Court, which over the years, has created a federal legislative monster with an insatiable appetite for unlimited power. In the process, the 10th Amendment, the states and the private sector ("the people") are becoming a footnote in the history of this country.
James Q. Wilson, political scientist, former Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey supporter, who morphed into a leading conservative scholar, touched upon this tangentially when he observed, "Until recently politics was only about a few things, today, it is about nearly everything." There has been a transformation of public expectations about the scope of federal action that "has put virtually everything on Washington's agenda and nothing left off."
Power is defined by its exercise, and expands with its use. When you use it people treat you as if you have the power. Government is no exception, and progressive governments have this down to a science.
Power to them is not a means, it is an end. They cannot comprehend that the people are the source of government speaking through their Constitution. The natural tendency of any government is to expand, and progressives have elevated this to an art form, with a massive bureaucracy.
This is why Wilson observes that "politics are about nearly everything," because the public has made "every want or human difficulty" an issue of public policy. It has been engrained in the psyche of Americans since the New Deal of the 1930s, when we started losing touch with fiscal reality.
We've gone from realistic work projects of the Great Depression (before welfare), to keep people from starving, to demands by the 21st century Occupy Wall Street crowd to forgive their student loans – nearly a trillion dollars of debt – another financial disaster in the making. Since the New Deal, government has continued to seize whatever power it wants to spend or to incur public debt for grants and loans, bailing out those who made poor decisions in exchange for their votes.
I would argue that power, not money is at the root of all evil. The Congressional Budget Office tells us that the federal government spends an amount equal to 23.8 percent of the GDP ($1.3 trillion). If you add in tax breaks that counts for another $1 trillion for a total equal to approximately one-third of all the production in the U.S. Washington simply cannot manage one-third of our massive economy.
There are too many moving parts. It requires a massive bureaucracy as a support system, staffed with many extremely bright ideologues with little practical experience who want to change the rules, the country and the world before they know how everything works.
And with unlimited power, corruption is inevitable. The latest in the never-ending saga of abuse of power was revealed by Peter Schweizer, author, and Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University in Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals and Cronyism that Would Send the Rest of us to Prison.
The bigger the government the more profits to legislators, their families, friends and staffs, all of whom have turned our Congress into their personal profit center.
This scandal received considerable publicity in a segment of 60 Minutes, and precipitated legislation in Congress dubbed the "60 Minutes" bill now known as the Stop Trading of Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK).
Their unseemly profits are made by cashing in on non-public knowledge related to their legislative business.
It knows no political boundaries. The most interesting story involved Rep. Spencer Bachus (R), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who was one of 10 legislators called in to an emergency private briefing at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis by then Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Records show that Bachus promptly left that meeting and shorted the market based upon this insider information and made a bundle of money. Schweizer also revealed that Sen. John Kerry (D), active in health related legislation, was buying and selling stock in companies in the health business based upon insider information – and the list goes on – Nancy Pelosi et al.
This bi-partisan Senate bill is getting retooled in the Republican House to broaden its scope to include land deals, earmarks and lobbyists. Hedge funds hire the most lobbyists and make the most profitable trades. No wonder.
Billionaire George Soros told President Obama where to direct stimulus money, and then bought large numbers of shares in these companies. His peer, Warren Buffet, likewise gave advice to Paulson and Secretary William Geithner and promptly bought millions of dollars of shares in banks that were targeted for stimulus money. These sordid facts are simply more proof that the political class in Washington is joined at the hip with the Wall Street crowd.
This will be a scandal worth following as the hearings progress. The crooks rarely resign or go to jail, and Congress never could police itself. One can only hope they face opposition if they seek reelection.
It gets tiresome reminding readers that we are a nation of crooks at every socioeconomic level, from the ineligible food stamp recipient to the highest levels of government and the omnipotent financial sector.
It's hard to believe that President Harry Truman, once the most powerful man in the world, retired on his World War I army pension of $11,000, and had to take out a loan and sell off property in order to survive.
Out of respect for the nation's highest office, he refused to cash in by accepting paid speaking engagements. (Bill Clinton made $75 million over a decade.) Congress came to Truman's rescue in 1958 by enacting the Former Presidents Act which awarded him a pension to keep him from living in squalor.
Nowadays, powerful congressmen who have made elected office a career, become wealthy while in office – not after they retire.
Term limits, anyone?
John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.