Tag Archives: senate

Compromise, Debate, Democracy – Vanishing Concepts in Washington, D.C.

Are you following what is happening in Washington, D.C.?  Perhaps more accurately stated, have you noticed what is not happening in Washington?

Much like the convergence of relatives to a free meal, Washington is experiencing the convergence of three big items simultaneously: approving a federal budget, raising the federal debt limit and the continued funding for Obamacare.

Why am I writing about this on a Sunday morning prior to my religious practice of watching all the NFL football that I possibly can?  Well, it is because yesterday, there was a mention that the Democratic Party was going to run commercials during my beloved football games to place the entire blame of the Washington shutdown on one person, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

I am upset!  Rather than watching commercials about over-powered, gas guzzling pick-up trucks, or about blue jeans cut to a man’s torso, or an occasional spot with Danica Patrick in it, I will have my escapism interrupted by commercials by political wienies!  Don’t we get enough of this during election years?  They will no doubt be crying the blues about what is not happening in Washington because one man, John Boehner, is responsible for his senseless manner in dealing with Washington politics.

Let me inform you that researching for my blogs is more difficult than one would imagine.  Yes, there are many, many search engines available to find out anything about everything.  The problem is that oftentimes these ‘sources’, (in particular, media sources) are so biased as to be incredible.  They rely on the fact that if they say something often enough, and with enough conviction, that most people will soon believe it.  Let’s be realistic.  Many people cannot separate fact from fiction, and the media uses that to their advantage.  Put something in print or on television, and it is assumed to be true.

Back to Washington, D.C.

The latest polls indicate that only 39% of the public approve of Obamacare.  It is the most unpopular piece of legislation since Prohibition.  As people become more aware of the nuances associated with this bill, they have become more disillusioned by its purpose and content.  Its unpopularity has increased as time passes.

The Liberals are extolling in a recent poll that 59% of the public approve of the Affordable Health Care Act.  But, in a very biased way, the poll question was stated as such, “Should the federal government be shut down at the expense of Obamacare.”  Like most voters, I feel it is a travesty that the government has a shutdown occur at all.  I am not in favor of a government shutdown.  Most people do not approve of a government shutdown.  That is exactly how this question was interpreted.  There should not be a government shutdown.  This was said even though most people do not approve of Obamacare.  But because the two items were linked together in this poll question, the Liberals are flaunting that this indicates that the majority approve of Obamacare.  Not so.

What it indicates to me is that we have an inept Congress.

At the end of 2012, our federal debt exceeded our GDP for the first time in the history of the United States!  To provide comparison, during Gerald Ford’s tenure as POTUS, the federal debt was 36% of the GDP.  During the George ‘Dubya’ Bush presidency, the federal debt never exceeded 74% of the GDP.

Our federal debt now exceeds over $16.7 trillion.  Our GDP for all of 2012  was $15.8 trillion.

Here is how our current POTUS described the national debt to a group of distinguished business professionals at a Business Roundtable held on September 19, of this year.

I quote, “Now, this debt ceiling – I just want to remind people in case you haven’t been keeping up – raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy. All it does is, it says you got to pay the bill that you’ve already racked up, Congress. It’s a basic function of making sure that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved.”

You have got to be kidding me!  Obama, who has never run a lemonade stand, or any other business for that matter, is telling a group of business professionals that borrowing does not equate to debt?  That is beyond absurd!  Additionally, he patronized this group by insulting them with, “In case you haven’t been keeping up.”  I would say that the majority of the people in the room are so far ahead of the POTUS in understanding business practices that he is, in NASCAR parlance, being lapped!

Here is a simple way to test his theory about ‘borrowing not increasing debt’.  Hand out one hundred no-limit credit cards, for which you are responsible, to one hundred teenagers.  See how that works for you.  (This is what Congress is doing, but without the attachment of responsibility!)

Now let us address one more item in the President’s statement.  He referred to the bills being racked up by Congress.  Blame whoever you want, but there has not been an approved budget since our current President took office.

Can you imagine any major corporation in the United States not having a budget?  Even as a small business owner, I had a budget.  Budgets will always change, but at least it provides a framework for effectively running a business.

Most households have a budget.  If it is not a formalized budget, at least it is a budget by which most people understand that they cannot spend more than they earn.

Our government, the largest in the world, has not had an approved budget since the POTUS came into office.  It is apparent they need a super-sized set of the Quick Books program.

Are you frustrated and bewildered by the US Government shutdown?  Are you looking for someone to blame about your frustration?  Do you ever wonder why our political system has come to this juncture, resulting in the shutdown?

Here is the Grandpa T opinion as to why this is occurring in Washington.  (I need to get this done as kick-off is in 2 hours!)

I believe all of the problems can be attributed to the following:

1.  A clash of oversized egos.

2.  Too many self-interests at the expense of the public’s best interests.

3.  Lack of common sense.

4.  Leadership that relies more on blame than accomplishment.

John Boehner is, by no means, solely to blame for this mess as the Speaker of the House.  Both he and the House of Representatives have forwarded bill after bill concerning this particular government shutdown and federal budgets in the past.

What has happened to these bills?  Well, from his position as Majority Gatekeeper in the US Senate, Harry Reid (D-NV), has not presented any of these bills for vote or for debate.  Yup.  It is one of those events that is conveniently overlooked by the media.  Harry Reid has not allowed one budget bill to come before the Senate in this administration, and he has not allowed any proposed bills concerning this shutdown to reach the floor of the Senate.  I suspect this is because he is afraid some of his fellow Democrats might vote for passage.

In simple terms, the House of Representatives have proposed to fund the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, provided there are spending cuts, and Obamacare is defunded for a year.

This is unacceptable to the Democratically controlled Senate, so Reid has not allowed these proposals to hit the senate floor.  What he, and the POTUS want, is an open checkbook without restrictions (Remember the 100 no limit credit cards to teenagers?).  AND, they are going to blame John Boehner if they do not get it.  The media has once again proven to be a willing co-conspirator in the blame game.

Common Sense dictates we cannot continue government spending at its current levels.  We are now borrowing and spending money (budget) against a depreciating asset (US GDP).  This cannot continue!

Remember the Syrian crisis of two months ago when we were going to bomb and drone the Syrian regime into submission?  Did it go away?  Has the fighting ceased?  One thing is for sure.  It is no longer on page one.  One critic, during this crisis, pointed out that the Syrian crisis would profoundly affect the Obama legacy.  Legacy?  Legacy?  What Obama legacy?

I believe that the POTUS believes that his legacy is going to be the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Even he refers to it as Obamacare!  His ego and stubbornness are unwilling to allow his prized program to be suspended, even for one year.  Why?  Because next year is a mid-term election year.  The Dems could lose the Senate.

In summation, I blame the US Senate, and, in particular, Harry Reid, for the government shutdown and for our current government fiscal crisis.  Reid has assumed dictatorial powers concerning our government with his iron-fisted control of the Senate, and has done so during the entire tenure of this administration.  So who is really running this country?  I blame Obama for allowing Reid to continue stonewalling the democratic process.

Let’s get to the Fox NFL pregame show.  Danica could being coming on any minute.

The Popularity of Term Limits versus the Popularity of Ice Cream

If a “man on the street” poll was taken between the popularity of ice cream versus the popularity of term limits, you may be surprised by the results.  Let’s assume that 90% of the public enjoys and approves of ice cream.  (Yes, there are people that do not like ice cream, and I am not going to waste one second of my time painting lawn ornaments to take a poll.)  Did you realize that in our recent history, over 75% of the voting public was in favor of term limits for our elected officials?  Who knew?  But more of that later.

We all realize that without term limits we are inviting many people to obtain unlimited power with other people’s money; specifically, our money.  Also, with people “homesteading” in Congress, new and original ideas are more difficult to obtain, as they are now more firmly entrenched in their “party line.”  They get elected, they build their walls, spend way too much time and money on getting reelected, and regurgitate crappy watered-down legislation for us, the ignorant public.

So, have term limits only been a problem for our young representative democracy?

Our form of government is indeed a baby when in ancient Athens, the 500 members of the elected council were all rotated annually.  The Spartans did the same.  Of course, you can imagine that being an elected official was time consuming, and took you away from your daily chores of making a living.  You still had to tend your flocks, pick your olives, and get ready for the next invasion by those pesky Persians.

The ancient Roman Republic had a system of elected magistrates; tribunes of the plebs (think Richard Burton as Marc Antony), aediles, quaestors, praetors, and consuls, who served a single term of one year, with reelection to the same magistracy forbidden for ten years!

But our country had its proponents of term limit supporters during our infancy.  In October, 1789, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of thirteen to examine forms of government for our impending union of the states.  The proposal from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, urged term limits, or as they called it, “limitation of tenure.”  He proposed this, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress.”  This was included in the Articles of Confederation.  The fifth Article in the Articles of Confederation stated that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate (to the continental congress) for more than three years in any term of six years.

So far, so good.  But what happened?

In contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the federal constitution convention in Philadelphia omitted mandatory term limits from the second national frame of government (i.e). the U.S. Constitution of 1787 to the present.  Nonetheless, largely because of grassroots support for the principle of rotation, rapid turnover in Congress prevailed.  At the time, the public did not want a form of government that was akin to England, that being a monarchy.  George Washington set a precedent for two terms for the presidency, until FDR came along.

But our forefathers were pretty darn smart.  Many of them fought for term limits to be added to the Constitution; foremost among them being Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and George Mason.  They believed that without term limits, our country was susceptible to becoming a “most highly and dangerous oligarch”.  So even though term limits were not specifically added to our Constitution, it was not a problem in the remainder of the 18th and the 19th centuries.   That was because the fear of mistrust upon political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light.  James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, described the common view that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed.”  Holy crap, batman!  Not only did he write the Last of the Mohicans, but the guy must have had a 20-20 crystal ball!

“Homesteading” in Congress  was made possible by reelection rates that approached 100% by the end of the 20th century. This brought about a “term limits movement.”  The elections of 1990-1994 saw the adoption of term limits for state legislatures in almost every state where citizens had the power of the initiative.  In addition, 23 states limited service for their delegates to Congress.  These 23 states were bold and brash enough to correct a problem that even the ancient Athenians anticipated.

So, to change directions for a moment, let us review the current U.S. term limits. The POTUS (President of the United States) has a total of two 4-year terms.  The Senate, House of Representatives, and Vice President have no term limits.  Did you catch that?  The VP has no term limits; so we could still have Al Gore as Vice President!  How did we let that get away?  But now, here is the clincher.  The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected for life, and consequently have no term limits.  This is indeed one of the failings of our forefathers.  But let’s face it; they all lived in a time when life expectancy was about puberty times two.  I am sure they did not foresee Supreme Court Justices fossilizing while sitting on the bench.

Now let us return to the 23  magnificent states that were bold, brash and heroic enough to vote to limit the terms of members of the national government.  “So why Grandpa T”, you ask, “do we not have term limits on our senators and representatives?”  “It was passed by 23 states.”  A very good question, and here is the answer…..wait for it…..wait for it….here it comes; because those term limits were declared invalid by the only group of people without term limits: our United States Supreme Court!  Yes, the people who can serve until an air bubble or lump of cholesterol does them in ruled in May, 1995, in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.  Now does that pass the common sense test?  Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense has just hit negative numbers.

How does it feel to know that just about half the states passed legislation restricting their representation to Congress, only to have the Supreme Court do a WWF smack-down on the voters wishes.  Those Supreme Court Justices in 1995 must not have googled or wikipediaed to find out our forefathers were very much aware of the dangers of not having term limits.  As an aside, today there are 15 states that do have term limits for state-elected officials, of which I reside in one of them.  Now get this, six of the states (remember the original 23?) have since had legislatures that have nullified term limits in their respective states.  Thirty- six states do have term limits for their governors.

In 1994, a part of the Republican platform was to pass legislation setting term limits in Congress.  After winning a majority, a Republican congressman brought an amendment to the House floor putting a limit of 12 years on Senators and Representatives.  The bill got a majority, but not the 2/3 needed, as 290 votes were needed, and 227 were cast in favor.  Defeated in Congress and overridden by the Supreme Court, the federal term limit uprising was brought to a halt.

There have been discussions about limiting the terms of the Supreme Court Justices.  A very good one is to limit them to 18 years, even though they have served just over 26 years, on average, in modern times.  The thinking is that one Justice would be replaced every two years and that every president would be able to nominate two.  This makes too much common sense, and it puts Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense into red line numbers, so it will never be implemented. Besides, the general public does not care about term limits for the Supreme Court, much less how many Justices there are or who they are.

Some day, there may be another effort to legislate term limits; but it would have to be a very dynamic grass roots effort.  After all,  once you have cockroaches in your house, its damn tough to get rid of them.

I want to thank google and wikipedia for providing me information in less than 5 minutes, that would have taken me 6 hours twenty years ago.

Whew.  All this thinking and writing has given me a headache.  I think I will have a bowl of ice cream.