And impeach the president: The political and economic blog of a strict constitutionalist.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Should we pay our debts?

Should we pay our debts?

On 7/15/2011, "Real Time With Bill Maher" described the debt ceiling issue as one party -- the republicans -- saying that we should not pay our bills.

I'm aware that this is humor. But that's a little extreme. Lets look at it better.

Both parties say "Pay our bills". One party says "And, lets increase our income so we can pay future bills". The other says, "And, lets reduce our spending so we don't have future bills to pay".

The problem? Those "future bills" are things that the U.S. government has promised to pay.

Democrats want to pay all bills, both those that we've already gotten the billing invoice for, and those that we owe but have not yet gotten the paper work for. This is pretty close to Accrual accounting -- you incur a debt when it happens, regardless of when it is due or when you get the paper. The republicans, on the other hand, want to treat things as cash accounting -- if you haven't gotten the bill yet, then it isn't a debt.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spy, or Whistleblower? Can something be classified to prevent its use as evidence of wrong doing?

Spy, or Whistleblower? Can something be classified to prevent its use as evidence of wrong doing?

If a document is disclosed, in a manner that results in someone being a whistleblower, do we have laws to protect whistleblowers from suits? (As far as I know, yes).

Now, what happens if that same document is classified? Do the same whistleblower protection laws protect the whistleblower? Or is the disclouser considered a "Spy", and subject to persecution?

Should Manning be persecuted as a "Spy", for giving classified documents to a foreign national? Should the laws be reviewed -- does "foreign national" really count as a valid distinction? Is it less damaging to give documents to a U.S. person, such as a U.S. newspaper, than to a neutral person such as Assage/Wikileaks? Is any disclosure bad no matter who?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What makes for valid spending of Government funds?

What makes for valid spending of Government funds?

Why is it ok to say that government funds can go to religious organizations? Should it? Maybe it's not ok?

Why is it ok to say that government funds can go to scientific research? Should it? Maybe it's not ok?

Why is it ok to say that government funds can go to foreign countries, as humanitarian aid? Should it? Maybe it's not ok?

What permits spending of government funds? Where do you draw the lines?

These are really, _REALLY_ tough questions. Probably the hardest ones to answer. Probably the rarest ones to ask. When did you last ask this yourself?

We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

That's the bottom line. That's the statement of intent and purpose for the federal government. Authority to spend, by congress, is detailed in article one, but must fit the purposes specified in the preamble.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can faith-based groups discriminate? Should they be allowed to?

More accurately, What is a religion?

On August 14, PBS's "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" had a story about faith-based groups that get public funds, but have discriminatory hiring standards.

Apparently, the 1964 Civil Rights act actually permits faith-based groups to have discriminatory hiring. Good? Bad? Proper?

What about federal funding? Is it fair, or appropriate, for federal funding to go to groups with this type of hiring? Should the federal funding come with a "you must not take advantage of a 50 year old law with flaws"? Should that law be fixed?

Well, what does the constitution say? Amendment one is pretty clear. The federal government has no authority to say "You are a religion" and "You are not". If someone says that they are a religion, and the federal government says "No, you're not", then the government is saying what is and is not a valid religion. That's a very steep, slippery slope that has no bottom in sight.

Yes, the IRS tries to claim that Scientology isn't a religion, and isn't entitled to religious tax exemptions. The IRS is wrong. But a better question: Why do religions get a tax exemption?

Why do religions get exemptions from laws? If the first amendment prohibits the government from deciding what is and is not a religion, then anyone can claim to be a religion -- for example, a fraternity that realizes that zoning laws permit 50% more people in a building classified as a religious building deciding to call itself a religion to have a bigger membership. (That's from memory; sorry if I have a few details off, but the basics are valid. I think it was in Texas.)

Well, frankly, There should be no religious exemptions of any kind. Period.

Want to give charity organizations a tax break? Fine. Give all charities, religious or not, that break. Scientology isn't a charity, and doesn't pretend to be one. It becomes a taxable, business-oriented religion.

Want to give some kinds of organizations a hiring exemption? Ouch -- what if it's a group that believes that white males are superior to anything else, and even quotes the bible as proof? Kantankerous Kalamities Kan follow such a determination. But if you allow faith-based exempions from the law, you have to permit such organizations.

Should tax dollars go to fund charitable organizations that are faith based? The real question is, should tax dollars go to fund charitable organizations? "Faith based" should not ever enter the picture.

The real answer is simple: Federal funds should go to people; people should give as they choose to various charities. If donations to charities are income-tax deductible, fine. Let that be the -- as in only -- source of public funds to charities.  Instead of funding charities, the government should run similar programs itself.

Federal funds should go to people. That's a theme that I'll keep harping back on. Right now you have "Tax and spend", and "Don't tax, don't spend". Micro-economics teach that "Tax and redistribute" is better. Right now you have federal funds going to banks, and large companies that get federal contracts, on the theory that this will result in hiring people, and that will get federal funds to the people. That's a demonstrated failure. Federal funds needs to go directly to the people, and not indirectly through banks and companies that pay their boards/bosses big salaries and hire cheap foreign workers.

Does this mean no direct federal spending? Schools? Roads? Etc? What about the USA's bill for clean air? (Oh, that's right -- we currently don't pay for our air. No cost to just burn a ton of coal and put lots of CO2 into the air.) No. Government spending on things that are directly beneficial to society as a whole -- and that includes education, transportation, etc., and the infrastructures for those industries -- that's fine. See "Promote the general welfare" and "for ourselves and our posterity". Spending on things that help the next generation, before they have any chance to speak up, that's fine, at least as far as the preamble and overall scope of the constitution is concerned. Whether or not it satisfies Article one's list of powers of Congress? Schools almost certainly do not. Roads do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What supreme court decision do I disagree with?

What supreme court decision do I disagree with?

While watching an older recorded news program, I was reminded of a question asked of a congressional hopeful: What Supreme Court decision do you disagree with? That person didn't have an answer right then, but said that they'd have something tomorrow.

So what do I disagree with? Well, that's a bit of a toughie. I don't know the exact citation.

But somewhere, in our history, is a Supreme Court decision that says that not only are the decisions of one specific case valid for that one case, but also that the opinions of the one judge that wrote up the case are in fact just as valid in all cases.

Friday, July 29, 2011

An open letter to President Obama -- How to solve the national economy and debt limit

An open letter to President Obama:

Mr. Obama:

I am writing to talk about the debt crisis. I understand that many programs are referred to now as "Entitlements", and that this has become a bad name.

I want to give them another name: Promises to pay from the government.
And yet another name: Just compensation for a past taking.

You are a lawyer. You know that the taking of private property (including money) for the public good (including retiring older workers to make sure that newer workers have job opportunities) without just compensation is unconstitutional. The federal government has engaged in a taking, and has undertaken a promise to pay. The federal government has no authority to reduce the payment without risking lawsuits about just compensation for a forced taking (social security is an example of a forced retirement and disability insurance program). For all the talk of forcing people to engage in private insurance, consider that if the federal government cannot keep its insurance promises, why would anyone expect private insurances to keep their promises? (And look at Katrina, Louisiana, and the private insurance companies there).