That which can’t continue, doesn’t

The fiscal day of reckoning may be close at hand for the United States:

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Debt Management, the U.S. government is just five years away from the point where every new dollar it borrows from the public will go toward funding interest payments on the national debt.

That is the main takeaway from the Debt Management Office’s Fiscal Year 2019 Q1 Report, which featured the Office of Management and Budget’s latest projection of the U.S. government’s borrowing from the public…

Net interest on the national debt has become one of the fastest growing segments of federal spending. When the national debt reaches the point where all newly borrowed dollars must be used to pay this mandatory expenditure, the U.S. government will have passed the event horizon that marks the boundary of the national debt death spiral.

Cities and territories in the United States that have crossed that crisis point have either gone through bankruptcy proceedings or their equivalent, or they have implemented major fiscal reforms that reversed their fiscal deterioration, wherein the best-case scenarios, they acted to restrain the growth of their previously out-of-control spending to restore their fiscal health.

Interest on the national debt is going up quickly for two reasons.  Obviously, the government continues to spend waaaaaaaaay more than they squeeze out of the economy (us) through taxation, adding to the total amount it owes.  More importantly, however, the many record deficits recorded over the past 10 years were done so at historically low interest rates (engineered by the Federal Reserve, which in the process robbed productive citizens of some of the proceeds they would normally have earned through their savings).  Inevitably, those rates have begun to climb again.  It may seem incremental on a chart, but keep in mind that just one percent of $22 trillion is $220 billion.

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A feature, not a bug

So Congress has only passed 12 laws so far this year?  Great!  That’s still probably close to a dozen more than are necessary.

Democrats flush with a new House majority after nearly a decade in the minority are sending over a rash of bills most political watchers believe have little chance of passing the Senate, such as universal background checks for gun purchases, net neutrality, climate change, congressional ethics, expanding voter access, raising the minimum wage and more.  ((“a rash of bills,” or “a lot of rash bills?  — Jemison))

The Senate was designed to be a speed brake on ill-considered legislation (of which there appears to be a considerable amount of late). Congress should be judged by the wisdom of its output, not its quantity.  So here’s an agenda I’d offer Congress:

  1. Pass next year’s Federal Budget BEFORE the end of the current fiscal year for once
  2. Repeal the 16th Amendment, abolish the IRS and institute a national sales tax
  3. Confirm or reject whatever nominees remain before the Senate
  4. Go home and let the American people live their lives for the next year.
  5. Repeat #1, #3 and #4 annually

Who’s with me?

Our duty

The highest duty of a citizen is not to protect freedom for himself.  It is to preserve freedom for future generations.  I firmly believe the past few years have shown there are more threats to our Constitution and way of life from within our country than from without.  Those threats must be exposed and dealt with.  We owe it to our descendants.

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Thomas Paine

Paying for the sins of others

Our self-proclaimed ‘elites’ have so rigged the system that taxpayers pick up the tab for their crimes:

The federal government in recent days has been issuing settlement checks to 100 right-of-center groups wrongfully targeted for their political beliefs under the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service, according to an attorney for the firm that represented plaintiffs in NorCal v. United States.

“This is really a groundbreaking case. Hopefully it sets a precedent and will serve as a warning to government officials who further feel tempted to discriminate against U.S. citizens based on their viewpoints,” Edward Greim, attorney for Kansas City, Missouri-based Graves Garrett LLC told MacIver News Service.

About $2 million of the [$3.5 million] settlement goes to cover the legal costs of five long years of litigation. IRS attorneys attempted delay after delay, objection after objection, trying to use the very taxpayer protection statutes the plaintiffs were suing under to suppress documents.

The agency has admitted no wrongdoing in what a federal report found to be incidents of intrusive inspections of organizations seeking nonprofit status. Greim has said the seven-figure settlement suggests otherwise.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment.

Disgraced former bureaucrat Lois Lerner led the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt groups. A 2013 inspector general’s report found the IRS had singled out conservative and tea party organizations for intense scrutiny, oftentimes simply based on their conservative-sounding or tea party names. The IRS delayed for months, even years, the applications, and some groups were improperly questioned about their donors and their religious affiliations and practices.

Lerner claims she did nothing wrong. In clearing her of wrongdoing, an Obama administration Department of Justice review described Lerner as a hero. But she invoked her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to answer questions before a congressional committee. The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit took the first and only deposition of Lerner, a document that the former IRS official and her attorneys have fought to keep sealed.

Exactly how would this court settlement be a ‘warning’ to government officials?  The public face of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner, was allowed to retire with full pension and has the IRS still fighting to keep her testimony in the lawsuit secret “for her own safety.”

Former IRS executive Lois G. Lerner told a federal court last week that members of her family, including “young children,” face death threats and a real risk of physical harm if her explanation of the tea party targeting scandal becomes public.

Such legal stalling tactics by the IRS account for nearly 2/3 of the settlement cost.  Meanwhile, where does the settlement money in this case come from?  The IRS budget?  Guess who provides that.  That’s right: we, the American people do.  Nor is this an unusual event.  We still don’t know the names of Congresscritters who used taxpayer money to pay off various accusers of sexual or discriminatory improprieties.  While there was enough of a blip of outrage that Congress allegedly prohibited that practice going forward, the identities of those who previously made the payoffs are still protected.

Finally, despite mouthing such support for all the Federal employees not getting paid during the partial government shutdown, many Democrats in Congress went to Puerto Rico this weekend to party with lobbyists instead of seeking a deal with Trump.  Why is Congress still getting paid unless they’ve had the conviction to refuse their paychecks during the standoff?  They certainly haven’t done their job!  Maybe this will cause all the minions in Mordor and elsewhere to reconsider their reflexive support of the donkeys.  I’m not holding my breath, however.

The “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison, wrote in Federalist #51, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”  (Emphasis added)  When the penalties of government misconduct are transferred to the governed, what obliges those in government to control themselves?  There is a saying, often erroneously attributed to Thomas Jefferson, that “Where the people fear the government, you have tyranny.  When government fears the people, you have liberty.

Does our governing class show any signs of ‘fearing the people,’ or consequences for their actions?  Are you beginning to see why we have a Second Amendment, and why it is under such attack by these same miscreants?  Our founders were wise enough to realize Leviathan can slip the bounds of any constitutional shackles they could devise.  The Second Amendment provides a final safeguard should all else go wrong.

Sadly, if we have to avail ourselves of that safeguard, the entire country will still be paying for the sins of others.

TSA Shutdown? Yes, please

Regular readers of this blog know that I absolutely loathe the Transportation Security Administration. It’s a monstrous, unconstitutional abomination that should not exist in any society that considers itself “free.” What’s more, it is demonstratively unable to meet its primary purpose: detecting and intercepting potential threats to travelers.  Perhaps the ongoing “shutdown” of the Feral Government will give Americans — and the TSA Employees themselves — a chance to rethink how ‘essential’ this function really is:.

Nobody wants to work for an employer who holds off on cutting paychecks until a more convenient moment, and that’s just what the federal government is doing during its “shutdown”—a spectacle that almost seems crafted to demonstrate how easy it is to live without the leviathan in Washington, D.C.

Understandably, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are no more enthusiastic about working when their paychecks are delayed than is anybody else on the planet. That’s why they’ve been calling-in sick in increased numbers—some to seek temporary work elsewhere in order to pay their bills—as the more-theater-than-reality “government shutdown” drags on.

Not that there’s any point to all of that [TSA] groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that’s because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they’re certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” The Inspector General office also noted.

“Security theater” is what security expert Bruce Schneier, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, calls most of what the TSA does. They’re “measures that make us feel safer without improving security… I’ve repeatedly said that the two things that have made flying safer since 9/11 are reinforcing the cockpit doors and persuading passengers that they need to fight back. Everything beyond that isn’t worth it.”

But, isn’t this an opportunity for us all? Given that the world is a better place when TSA employees and other government minions don’t do their jobs, and some are already seeking alternative employment, what a great opportunity to shut down their agencies, shrink the government, and make everybody’s lives a little better!

If it isn’t worth it, why pay for it?

Especially when the cost is measured in civil liberty as much as it is in dollars. It’s long past time we reevaluate just how “essential” large parts of the Feral Government really are. We pay for more government than we should want, and yet get less return on those payments than we need.  As for the “shutdown,” let’s keep a little perspective:

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The depth of the swamp

A few items for your reading attention today, each of which illustrate how deeply the rot goes in our current system:

1)Just How Corrupt is the FBI?”

At least three members of the Russia probe: Robert Mueller himself, attorney Andrew Weissmann and Agent Peter Strzok all have very clear conflicts of interest in this matter and/or histories of abuse of power.  One of the latest examples:

As reported by Fox News, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok changed Director Comey’s earlier draft of the announcement that exonerated Ms. Clinton. He switched it from “grossly negligent,” which is the language in the criminal statute pertaining to the mishandling of classified material, to simply “extremely careless,” essentially getting Ms. Clinton out of criminal jeopardy. Agent Strzok also interviewed Ms. Clinton without recording the session after Mr. Comey was apparently planning to exonerate her. He was fired by Mueller presumably when Mr. Strzok’s anti-Trump emails to a fellow FBI colleague, lawyer, and lover, Lisa Page, came to his attention. Are we having fun yet? It only gets better…

2) Obama’s email involvement tanked the Clinton investigation

I noticed it when this first became public more than a year ago, but perhaps unsurprisingly very little attention has been focused on it: President Obama sent and received emails with Hillary Clinton via the insecure private server over which she demonstrably conducted classified business.  Obama did so using a pseudonym, which seems to indicate he knew this system was likely not on the up and up.

Bottom line: no conviction of Clinton and Huma Abedin for willful mishandling national security information could have been obtained without implicating the president himself.  This likely explains why the Clinton “investigation” and subsequent Russia probe were assigned to some of the most partisan members of what should be a politically neutral FBI.

3) Andrew Weissmann, as noted in some of the links above, heaped praise on then-Attorney General Sally Yates, who early in the Trump administration publicly refused to defend the administration’s new travel restrictions intended to enhance border security. (Trump rightfully fired her.)  Weissmann is now one of Robert Mueller’s senior advisors on the “Russia probe.”  (But I’m sure he’s objective…)  Additionally, it’s been learned that while the courts correctly ruled Trump had the authority to appoint the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a number of employees at said agency consider themselves “resistors,” taking the childish name “Dumbledore’s Army.”  Their intent, it seems, is to thwart the new leadership any way they can.  Were I Mick Mulvaney, I would try to identify every employee who considered themselves part of this group — and fire them immediately.

The entrenched bureaucracy is determined there will be no deep and lasting changes under Trump.  How that struggle goes will define his presidency.  The stakes? Powerline’s John Hinderaker put it best:

The most powerful branch of today’s government is the Fourth: the permanent federal bureaucracy that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. The Trump administration can best be viewed, perhaps, as a struggle to the death between American voters and the federal employees who are paid to serve them.

 

If all men are equal…

…then all bear close watching when given authority.  I say this because I see in some Trump supporters the same “man-on-a-white-horse” aspirations as Obama’s believers in the “Lightbringer” showed eight years ago.

That’s not to say there isn’t reason for optimism.  There have been some interesting aspects to this transition period, and it’s entirely possible Trump may meet or exceed some of the expectations people have for him to disrupt what has clearly become a government run by globalists with little concern for their own constituents.

But to be successful in the change many Americans voted for, they must make sure we don’t trade the cult of Obama for the cult of Trump.  In some respects, they are mirror images of each other.  Both have serious character flaws.  Both promised a lot of things in their campaigns.  Obama delivered on the “transformation” he promised, but many people now realize the changes were not in a positive direction.  We’ve yet to see how successful Trump will be in undoing his predecessor’s damage.

The bottom line, however, is this: a healthy republic does not run on the whims of any single person.  It requires the constant engagement of the citizenry… which is why it’s so hard to maintain.  As the quip goes: “most people don’t really want to be free… they just hope for a good master who takes care of them.”

These thoughts were already running through my head when I read this article:

The idea that a large, complex society enjoying English liberty could long endure without the guiding hand of a priest-king was, in 1776, radical. A few decades later, it became ordinary — Americans could not imagine living any other way. …

As American society grows less literate and the state of its moral education declines, the American people grow less able to engage their government as intellectually and morally prepared citizens. We are in the process — late in the process, I’m afraid — of reverting from citizens to subjects. Subjects are led by their emotions, mainly terror and greed…

For more than two centuries, we Americans have been working to make government subject to us rather than the other way around, to make it our instrument rather than our master. But that requires a republican culture, which is necessarily a culture of responsibility. Citizenship, which means a great deal more than showing up at the polls every two years to pull a lever for Team R or Team D, is exhausting. On the other hand, monarchy is amusing, a splendid spectacle and a wonderful form of public theater.

But the price of admission is submission.

We’ll know we’re succeeding in returning to the Founders’ vision of a limited federal government when it doesn’t matter as much who occupies the White House or Congress.  For now, though, the Executive has become quite monarchical (“I have a pen and a phone” sounds a lot like something George III would have said, had he access to either).  Congress, meanwhile, dutifully plays the roles of courtiers, many of whom have aspirations of eventually occupying the Cherry Blossom Throne themselves (HT: Vox).

I sincerely hope our people didn’t go through two centuries of hard work fighting for, debating, pushing, shoving and reforming representative government just so it could devolve back into an authoritarian regime.  Expect and hope for improvement under Trump, yes.  But let’s also redevelop that culture of responsibility that recognizes “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

That goes no matter whether Team Elephant or Team Donkey is at the levers of power.  Remember that, in the end, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The more  powerful Uncle Sam has grown, the more corrupt his institutions.

Return  power to the States and the people!