Why Do We Trust Politicians to Run Our Lives?

Why Do We Trust Politicians to Run Our Lives?

I became a journalist because I love to write.

In fact, most people tend to pursue career paths related to things that interest them if they have any choice in the matter. A person who likes to bake might become a baker. A person who likes numbers might become an accountant. A person who loves animals and biology might become a veterinarian.

So, what does a person who likes to control other people do?

Become a politician. (more…)

Stimulus Bill Lets Fed Operate in Complete Secrecy

Stimulus Bill Lets Fed Operate in Complete Secrecy

I guess we’re just supposed to have faith that Jerome Powell will do the right thing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of faith in anybody when it comes to passing out billions of dollars in cash or creating government policy.

-Mike Maharrey, TAC

Last week, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill in an effort to offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Most people have focused on the $1,200 checks to Americans and bailouts for industries hard-hit by the economic shutdown.

But the 883-page bill does a lot more than that, including empowering the central bankers at the Federal Reserve to hand out billions of dollars to their Wall Street buddies in complete secrecy.

The stimulus bill authorizes the Fed to create $454 billion out of thin air and loan it out. The provision gives the central bankers complete autonomy when it comes to deciding who gets the money.

Not more than the sum of $454,000,000,000…shall be available to make loans and loan guarantees to, and other investments in, programs or facilities established by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for the purpose of providing liquidity to the financial system….”

The money will allow the Federal Reserve to create what are known as special purpose vehicles (SPVs). An article in CounterPunch explains that an SPV was the same device used by Enron to hide its toxic debt off its balance sheet before it went belly up.

With the taxpayers’ money taking a 10 percent stake in the various Wall Street bailout programs offered by the Fed, structured as SPVs, the Fed can keep these dark pools off its balance sheet while levering them up 10-fold.”

During the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed used SPVs to buy toxic debt from Bear Stearns to facilitate its takeover by JPMorgan Chase and to prop up AIG.

In other words, they are a vehicle for federally-backed corporate bailouts.

The Federal Reserve has already established an SPV in response to the coronavirus meltdown. On March 17, the Fed announced the creation of a Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) “to support the flow of credit to households and businesses.”

The Treasury will provide $10 billion of credit protection to the Federal Reserve in connection with the CPFF from the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF). The Federal Reserve will then provide financing to the SPV under the CPFF. Its loans will be secured by all of the assets of the SPV.”

One could argue that the Fed needs the power to create establish these programs in the midst of a major financial crisis. But does it need to do so in complete secrecy?

A provision of the stimulus bill throws a big shroud over the activities of the central bank. The bill repeals the sunshine law as it relates to Federal Reserve board of governors’ meetings until the end of 2020 or when the president determines the coronavirus crisis has passed, whichever comes first.

SEC. 4009. TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE ACT RELIEF. (a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection 8 (b), notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System determines, in writing, that unusual and exigent circumstances exist, the Board may conduct meetings without regard to the requirements of section 552b of title 5, United States Code, during the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on the earlier of— (1) the date on which the national emergency concerning the novel coronavirus disease (COVID–19) outbreak declared by the President on March 13, 2020 under the National Emergencies Act (50 20 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) terminates; or (2) December 31, 2020.”

In other words, Jerome Powell doesn’t have to let you know what the Fed is doing. All he has to do is assert “exigent circumstances” and a veil of secrecy descends over the central bank.

Practically speaking, the new law effectively empowers the Fed to hand out money to whomever it pleases and nobody will ever be able to find out the whos, hows and whys.

I guess we’re just supposed to have faith that Jerome Powell will do the right thing.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of faith in anybody when it comes to passing out billions of dollars in cash or creating government policy.

This looks like a recipe for cronyism and corruption on a massive scale. Even is you accept the veracity of central bank bailouts of Wall Street, it’s difficult to understand the benefit of doing so in secret.

Whenever civil libertarians complain about government surveillance, the response is always, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” So, what is the Fed hiding? And what does it fear?

No! ‘We’ Are Not the Government

No! ‘We’ Are Not the Government

During a speech in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed, “The government is us; we are the government, you and I.” 

Most people believe this.

And it’s a bald-faced lie.

Fernandina Beach, Florida, shut down all of its public beaches this evening in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Anybody caught on the beach is subject to trespassing charges.

So, let’s boil down what’s going on into simplest terms.

Government officials closed “public” beaches. If we go on our “public” beach that “we” ostensibly own as members of “the public” we are subject to trespassing charges enforced by armed government agents.

This should end once and for all the asinine assertion that “we” are the government.

I’m not arguing about whether or not “social distancing” enforced at gunpoint is a necessary policy in light of the pandemic. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to stay at home to minimize the spread of the virus, or at least slow it down. I’m simply pointing out a fallacy that most people unthinkingly embrace. Here’s the truth: “we” are not the government. And furthermore, there is no such thing as “public property.”

These notions are nothing but collectivist claptrap that government officials throw around to justify their sociopathic behavior.

While we’re waxing poetic about democracy and the “will of the people,” government operates as an institution separate and distinct from the people it controls. I can demonstrate the absurdity of this “we are the government” mantra with a personal experience.

When I was living in Lexington, Kentucky, the city sued me over an open records request I made. I simply asked for some documents relating to police surveillance programs. In order to keep those records secret, the government sued me. If “I” am the government, why would I hide documents from myself? And why would I spend my own money to sue myself to stop me from getting documents that are rightfully mine?

Clearly, the government is acting independently and against my interests. If “we” are the government, then “we” should really stop treating “us” this way.

Charging residents with a trespassing crime if they walk onto the public beach further exposes the lie. What we call “public property” is actually government property. The government institution owns and controls it. Most of the time, the government maintains the illusion of “public ownership” by letting you access the property. Of course, even then, you must abide by the government rules. And when the poop hits the proverbial fan, the illusion of public ownership dissipates altogether. The government can ban you from its property and ultimately shoot you if you trespass.

In real life, owners cannot be charged with trespassing on property they own. They certainly can’t be shot for being there. Ownership implies the ability to control and use your property as you see fit. When it comes to public property, the hard truth is you don’t own crap. The government owns it. The government controls it. It’s not “yours” in any sense of the word.

Here’s the red pill. Take it if you dare.

The entire structure of society you’ve embraced your entire life is based on a big, fat lie.

It’s the lie of “the will of the people.”

A group can’t possess a will. Only individuals have a will. Those who assert the “will of the people” really mean the opinion of the majority of individuals within whatever arbitrarily contrived grouping they cobble together to suit their purposes. In reality, this concept of “the people” is nothing more than a political construct. Those in power, and those vying for power, use the “will of the people” to wrap their actions in moral legitimacy. But does the existence of a majority consensus within an artificially constructed group really provide any kind of moral authority?

When I was a kid, I often appealed to such popular will to justify my actions.

“But mom! Everybody’s doing it!”

Without fail, she would reply, “If everybody was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?”

Those immersed in the political process seem to have forgotten the lesson my mother sought to teach.  The existence of a majority opinion doesn’t make it morally or ethically right. It merely makes it popular.

When push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter anyway. Will of the people or not, when the government decides to do something, it gets done, whether the majority approves or not. Eighty percent of the people in Nassau County could oppose closing the beaches. It wouldn’t matter. The beaches will be closed.

And do you know why the beaches will be closed?

Because government agents have guns and they’re willing to use them.

Think Deficits Are Bad Now? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

Think Deficits Are Bad Now? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

The Trump administration has been operating with a crisis-like fiscal policy for nearly four years. Now it looks like America’s hurtling toward a genuine economic crisis. What’s next?

The U.S. appears to be heading for economic lockdown as the impact of the coronavirus grows. Ever the Keynesian, President Trump has promised fiscal stimulus to offset the economic impacts. The actual plan remains unclear, but the Trump administration has floated a reduction in payroll taxes, along with bailouts and loan guarantees for struggling industries. While the details are murky, one thing is certain — it will cost billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, the US government is already living far above its means. The Trump administration recorded another massive budget deficit of $235 billion in February, according to the latest Treasury Department report.

The February deficit was up about $1 billion year-on-year. That may not seem significant, but it follows on the heels of a $32.6 billion deficit in January. The U.S. government ran a surplus in January 2018.

February’s shortfall brings the FY2020 budget deficit to $625 billion. That compares with $544 billion at this point in FY2019.

The deficit trajectory was clearly upward, even before adding billions in spending for coronavirus relief.

Spending continues to be the culprit. Government revenues were up 12 percent year-on-year last month, but spending also rose 5 percent compared to February 2019 and was up a whopping 22 percent in January. So far in this fiscal year, the federal government has spent just a hair under $2 trillion.

Trillion – with a “T”.

The U.S. government was on track for a $1 trillion deficit this fiscal year, even before coronavirus. That’s the kind of budget deficits one would expect to see during a major economic downturn. The federal government has only run deficits over $1 trillion in four fiscal years, all during the Great Recession. The U.S. was on that path before the recent coronavirus economic upheaval even while Trump called “the greatest economy in the history of America.”

And now it looks like the U.S. is on the cusp of a legitimate economic crisis.

That raises a question with only ugly answers: if deficits are this bad now, what is it going to look like when coronavirus spending starts to come through the pipeline? As Peter Schiff said in a recent podcast, “They’re talking about loan guarantees for everybody. How is the government that’s the world’s biggest debtor going to guarantee anybody else’s debt?”

This raises another question: how will the growing deficits impact the bond markets?

There are only two ways to get the money for all this spending – tax it or borrow it. Trump is talking tax cuts, so that leaves borrowing. That means the Treasury Department will need to sell billions of dollars in bonds.

But there are already cracks int he bond market.

Investors poured into U.S Treasuries as a safe-haven as the coronavirus crisis grew. Interest rates plunged, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury dipping to record lows below 0.5 percent. At some point, the demand for bonds will ebb, but the supply certainly won’t. In fact, the supply will increase as the Treasury issues new bonds to pay for the new spending.

Then what?

In fact, the bond bubble may have already popped with Trump’s promise of government stimulus. This could foreshadow rising interest rates – a nightmare for a government trying to run on borrowed money.

The existence of a crisis doesn’t change fundamental economics. The national debt is still a problem. It still has to be paid back. And government debt still retards economic growth.

And by the way, all of the proposed sending and bailouts to deal with the ‘crisis’ are still unconstitutional – just like they were when Obama did it.

Reprinted from The Tenth Amendment Center.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Which Hamilton Are You Talking About?

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Which Hamilton Are You Talking About?

We often hear people referred to as “Hamiltonians.” But that term always makes me wonder, which Hamilton do you mean?

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a class at the West Virginia University School of Law. The subject was the constitutionality of federal marijuana prohibition.

As I told the class, this is an open and shut case. It’s clearly unconstitutional. If you doubt me, ask yourself why alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment.

The simple fact is there is no delegated power for the feds to regulate marijuana within the borders of a state.

But over the years, federal courts have reinterpreted various clauses in the Constitution to “authorize” the federal government to do all kinds of things it was never intended to do. As Justice Clarence Thomas said in his dissent in the Raich medical marijuana case, if the federal government can regulate six plants in a woman’s back yard, the federal government has “no meaningful limits.”

And that’s where we are today  – at least according to federal judges and politicians.

As the professor of the class I spoke to put it, this is the Hamiltonian legacy.

During the class, she divided the students up between “Hamiltonians and Madisonians” for a debate. I couldn’t help but interject and ask, “Which Hamilton are you talking about?”

During the ratifying debates, Hamilton was every bit as Madisonian and Madison. He sold the Constitution as a document that gave the federal government only a few limited powers just like all the other supporters of the document. In fact, I use quite a few Hamilton quotes in my book Constitution – Owner’s Manual to explain the limited scope of various constitutional clauses.

But once the Constitution was ratified, he did a complete 180. He became an apologist for a national, centralized government with sweeping federal power – a vision of government that the ratifying conventions would have resoundingly rejected. This is precisely why Hamilton had to make limited government arguments during ratification. It was the only way the Constitution would have ever been adopted.

Consider the general welfare clause. Opponents of the Constitution worried that this phrase would open the door for the federal government to wield almost unlimited power. But in Federalist #83, Hamilton argued that their worry was misplaced because the general welfare clause was strictly limited to the enumerated powers that followed and was not a grant of general authority.

“This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.”

But just seven years after the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton reversed course and argued for an expansive reading of the clause in his Report on Manufactures.

The National Legislature has express authority “To lay and Collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the Common defence and general welfare” with no other qualifications than that “all duties, imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United states, that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to numbers ascertained by a census or enumeration taken on the principles prescribed in the Constitution, and that “no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.” These three qualifications excepted, the power to raise money is plenary, and indefinite; and the objects to which it may be appropriated are no less comprehensive, than the payment of the public debts and the providing for the common defence and “general Welfare.” The terms “general Welfare” were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou’d have been restricted within narrower limits than the “General Welfare” and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.

It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper.

According to post-ratification Hamilton, the term “general welfare” did imply a “general authority” after the pre-ratification Hamilton emphatically rejected this reading.

Hamilton made a similar flip-flop on the necessary and proper clause. In Federalist 33, He asserted that the necessary and proper clause (along with the supremacy clause) merely stated a truism and gave no additional power to the federal government.

It may be affirmed with perfect confidence that the constitutional operation of the intended government would be precisely the same, if these clauses were entirely obliterated, as if they were repeated in every article. They are only declaratory of a truth which would have resulted by necessary and unavoidable implication from the very act of constituting a federal government, and vesting it with certain specified powers. [Emphasis added]

Hamilton went on to explain that the act of delegating a power logically implies the authority to “pass all laws NECESSARY and PROPER for the execution of that power,” but it doesn’t authorize the exercise of any additional powers. Hamilton wrote, “If there is any thing exceptionable, it must be sought for in the specific powers upon which this general declaration is predicated. The declaration itself, though it may be chargeable with tautology or redundancy, is at least perfectly harmless.” [Emphasis added]

But again, Hamiton changed his tune just a few years later and claimed the necessary and proper clause gave Congress the authority to charter a national bank, a power nowhere delegated to Congress by the Constitution.

In fact, during the Philadelphia Convention, James Madison proposed a provision “to grant charters of incorporation where the interest of the U. S. might require & the legislative provisions of individual States may be incompetent.” It was voted down 8-3.

Without an explicit constitutional authorization to charter corporations, Hamilton turned to the “perfectly harmless” necessary and proper clause to justify his bank. He rested his argument on the existence of “implied powers,” writing, “It is not denied that there are implied well as express powers, and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter.”

Of course, this very notion contradicts his ratification-era argument that Congress was limited to its enumerated powers. He went on to argue that Congress is authorized to create a corporation because this implied power is necessary and proper.

“It is conceded that implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally with express ones. Then it follows, that as a power of erecting a corporation may as well be implied as any other thing, it may as well be employed as an instrument or mean of carrying into execution any of the specified powers, as any other instrument or mean whatever. The only question must be in this, as in every other case, whether the mean to be employed or in this instance, the corporation to be erected, has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the government.”

Hamilton drove his point home insisting the word necessary doesn’t literally mean “necessary,” but can simply mean needful, requisite, or even just incidental, useful, or conducive.

By Hamilton’s definition, the word necessary becomes so expansive as to include virtually anything the government wants to do. This was precisely the construction the anti-federalists objected to during the ratification debates leading Hamilton to accuse them of “exaggerated colors of misrepresentation as the pernicious engines by which their local governments were to be destroyed and their liberties exterminated.”

These two examples demonstrate how Hamilton drastically shifted from the limited federal power perspective taken by all of the supporters of the Constitution during the ratification process to a nationalist pushing for virtually unlimited federal authority. He did a classic bait-and-switch. Hamilton was a duplicitous bastard (literally a bastard.) And we should give his post-ratification pontification about the Constitution no credence.

What he said during ratification – now that matters. Because it was on that basis that the people agreed to approve the Constitution. As Thomas Jefferson said, “On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Libertarians Have to Cope With the Real World

Libertarians Have to Cope With the Real World

Imagine you’re starving to death in a desert and you happened across a man who has a loaf of bread. He takes pity on you and offers you a slice. But you refuse it and go on your way because he won’t give you the whole loaf.

That would be pretty dumb, wouldn’t it?

But this is exactly how a lot of libertarians approach political activism. They reject small steps forward that would make us a little bit freer because it’s not complete liberty.

I’ll give you an example.

Last week, the Kentucky House passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. Activists have been pushing toward this for years. But a big chunk of the Facebook comments I saw were libertarians crapping on the bill. Here’s just one of dozens of comments I read.

“So can I grow it? Can I smoke it? Do I need the state to grant me permission, on any level, to use it? Smells like more garbage legislation with built in victimless crime laws. Oh wait, the entire thing is victimless crime. Y’all see this as a win?”

Yes. Yes I do.

As somebody who used to live in Kentucky, used CBD capsules containing a small amount of THC, and worried about going to jail, I would definitely see legalized medical marijuana as a win . Even with the restrictions on growing and smoking. Even with the taxes. Even with the government regulation.

Why? Because I could have my little marijuana-derived CBD pills (that have zero psychotropic effect) without having to worry about armed government thugs locking me in a cage or taking my car.

I get it. Legalized marijuana in Kentucky would not be “liberty.” There would stlll be government control. Of course, it would be a lot better if the government stopped regulating marijuana completely. But call me crazy, I still view a change in the law that means fewer people getting locked in cages because of a plant “a win.”

Far too many libertarians let ideological purity get in the way of their common sense. As Murray Rothbard wrote:

“Libertarians must come to realize that parroting ultimate principles is not enough for coping with the real world.”

We live in a real world with real governments. Posting on Facebook isn’t going to change that. Your memes aren’t going to make you any more free. And turning down a slice of bread because you want a whole loaf will just leave you hungry.

As much as I wish it would happen, government isn’t going to disappear from the face of the earth any time soon. So, shouldn’t we push forward any measure will mitigate some of the intrusion of government in our lives?

William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent abolitionist when abolishing slavery was still a radical and unpopular position, even in the North. He believed slavery should end immediately, and he constantly said so. Garrison wasn’t concerned about winning a popularity contest or convincing people he was properly mainstream. He unapologetically wore a badge of radicalism. He unwaveringly pursued the ideal.

But Garrison was also a political pragmatist. He didn’t reject steps toward emancipation just because they didn’t bring about complete and immediate emancipation. Read carefully what he wrote.

“Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will, alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend.”

I’m not suggesting we should jettison our radical philosophy of liberty. But I am suggesting that we should take a slice of bread when we can get one. And then another. And then another.

Eventually, we’ll have the whole loaf.

I’ve watched this play out in over 10 years of cannabis activism. Do you realize that every state that has legalized adult-use marijuana started with legalizing medical? And crappy medical program always expend over time. Just last year, five states loosened up restrictions on their existing medical marijuana programs. And several states with legal recreational marijuana passed laws that will encourage the cannabis market to expand in the future.

In other words, if Kentucky can get a medical marijuana program established – however limited – it will almost certainly expand over time.

So, you have a couple of choices. You can sit on the sidelines and throw rocks at the people actually doing the work. Or you can get out from behind your keyboard and do something that will bring about just a little more liberty.

Debilitating Pessimism

Why do so many libertarians spend so much time complaining and running down every effort to advance liberty? I think it oftentimes stems from a sense of hopelessness. I think a lot of people in the so-called liberty movement suffer from what Rothbard called “debilitating pessimism.”

That’s quite an indictment. But you know what? It’s true.

Pessimism is debilitating. It motivates us to do — well — nothing. It even leads some people to tear down the efforts of others. Here’s the thing; no matter how small the odds are of winning are even if you do something, I can guarantee you this — if you do nothing, you’ll get nothing.

My point is that if you believe in something – if you are convinced something is right and true – you have to fight for it. Even if the odds seem insurmountable. Even when you’re tired. Even when the crowd tells you you’re wasting your time. Because you never know when something is going to tip that scale and kick off an avalanche of change.

Rothbard was right. We have to cast off the needless pessimism and keep up the good fight for liberty.

Rothbard offers us some sage advice.

“For the libertarian, the main task of the present epoch is to cast off his needless and debilitating pessimism, to set his sights on long-run victory and to set about the road to its attainment.”

Another Massive Budget Deficit to Start 2020

Another Massive Budget Deficit to Start 2020

The Trump administration posted another massive budget deficit to start out calendar-year 2020.

According to the latest data released by the U.S. Treasury Department, Uncle Sam spent $32.6 billion more than it took in last month. That compares with an $8.7 billion surplus in January 2019. Analysts had projected an $11.5 billion shortfall in January.

That brings the total deficit in FY2020 to $389.2 billion. So far, the deficit in fiscal 2020 is about $79 billion bigger than it was at this point in FY2019, a 25 percent gain.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget shortfall will hit $1.02 trillion in FY 2020 and rise into the foreseeable future.  The CBO warns that the ballooning national debt poses a “significant risk” to the economy and financial system.

Overspending continues to drive the ever-widening deficits. The federal government took in $372 billion in January. That was a 10 percent increase in revenue compared with January 2019. But spending was up $405 billion. That represents a 22 percent increase year-on-year.

Through just the first four months of FY2020, Trump and company have already spent nearly $1.5 trillion.

These are the kind of budget deficits one would expect to see during a major economic downturn. The federal government has only run deficits over $1 trillion in four fiscal years, all during the Great Recession. We’re approaching that number today, despite having what Trump keeps calling “the greatest economy in the history of America.”

Generally, during economic expansions, government spending on social programs shrinks and tax revenues climb with increased economic activity. Revenues have increased over the last year, even with the Republican tax cuts, but they haven’t kept pace with the increase in government spending.

President Trump didn’t even mention the growing national debt during his State of the Union address. As Peter Schiff noted in a tweet, “During his 90-minute #SOTU address President Trump did not urge Congress to cut one dime of government spending, or eliminate one government agency or department, even as the national debt is soaring by record amounts during an economy he claims is booming.”

Much has been made in cuts to social programs in Trump’s proposed 2021 budget. But there are spending increases in other areas and the overall spending plan comes in at $4.8 trillion compared to $4.4 trillion in actual outlays during FY2019.

Republicans argue that economic growth will ultimately fix the national debt. The Trump plan claims to balance the budget in 15 years. But this scenario depends on 3 percent GDP growth every year and no recession. Last year, GDP growth was 2.3 percent.

The CBO warns that the growing “debt would dampen economic output over time.”

In fact, studies have shown that GDP growth decreases by an average of about 30 percent when government debt exceeds 90% of an economy. Total U.S. debt already stands at around 106.9 percent of GDP. Ever since the US national debt exceeded 90 percent of GDP in 2010, inflation-adjusted average GDP growth has been 33 percent below the average from 1960–2009, a period that included eight recessions.

Europe’s spending binge serves as a prime example of the impact of debt on economic growth.

The reality is America’s fiscal condition is circling the drain. The bottom line is that the spending trajectory is unsustainable. If the U.S. government is running $1 trillion deficits now, what will the country’s financial situation look like when the next recession hits?

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Support Grows for West Virginia Bill to Block Unconstitutional National Guard Deployments

Support Grows for West Virginia Bill to Block Unconstitutional National Guard Deployments

Rep. Adam Schiff’s Constitutional Malfeasance

Rep. Adam Schiff’s Constitutional Malfeasance

I have to be honest. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to the kabuki theater better know as the Trump impeachment proceedings.

Mainly because I don’t care.

And it doesn’t really matter.

I mean seriously, there is virtually zero chance that the Senate will actually remove Donald Trump from office. We all know this. So, the Senate trial is really nothing more than a carefully orchestrated stage show.

And even if by some weird swirl in the political winds Trump gets removed from office, we end up with President Pence. I can’t quite picture this as an upgrade.

Pence is pretty much Trump minus the personality. Or any personality. We’d get the same foreign policy. We’d get the same domestic policy. But we wouldn’t get the amusing tweets.

So, anyway, I haven’t really been plugged into the whole impeachment thing. But I did accidentally catch part of Rep. Adam Schiff’s opening statement. And it was literally an accident. I was doing cardio at the gym and it was on every TV. Avoiding it was like trying to keep from getting the flu in the city health department waiting room. I had headphones on, but I kept getting sucked into the closed captioning. It was like a train wreck. I couldn’t look away.

Schiff’s monologue appeared to mostly consist of your typical political blah, blah, blah. Long on bluster, short on substance. Trump did bad stuff. He’s bad. Legal mumbo-jumbo. Ukraine. Rule of law. Trump’s bad. God bless America!

But one thing grabbed my attention simply because it annoyed the fire out of me. Schiff talked about the Constitution. I even saw him reference the Philadelphia Convention and the “intent of the framers.” He was apparently trying to justify the impeachment on constitutional grounds.

Here’s why this little part of his skit dug deep under my skin.

Adam Schiff doesn’t give two sh!ts about the Constitution.

In fact, he doesn’t even give one sh!t about the Constitution. He committed an atrocious act of constitutional malfeasance. He trotted it out to serve as a prop in his political theater. And when it was over, I’m 100 percent certain he crumpled it up and tossed his copy of America’s founding document in a heap in the back of his closet under his soiled underwear and sweaty socks.

That’s where he keeps it during most workdays. He sure as heck doesn’t drag it out and wave it around when he’s chairing the House Intelligence Committee and authorizing the NSA to peek at all the nudie photos on your computer.

While we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you another dirty little secret about Adam Schiff.

He doesn’t know anything about the Constitution.

I can say this with absolute certainty. How do I know? Because he’s a Harvard-educated lawyer. Lawyers by-and-large don’t know anything about the Constitution. And putting “Harvard-educated” in front of “lawyer” doesn’t change this fact.

But Mike, you ask. How can this be? If he went to law school, he must know a lot about constitutional law!

Well, that may well be. But go back and read what I wrote. I never said he doesn’t know constitutional law. I said he doesn’t know anything about the Constitution. There’s a big difference. Constitutional law is all about what a bunch of politically connected lawyers in black dresses employed by the Supreme Court said about the Constitution. That mostly has little to nothing to do with what the Constitution as ratified means.

Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice. If you want to understand the Constitution, never talk to a lawyer.

Ever.

Talk to somebody who has actually studied the ratifying debates. (Or you could just read my book.)

Here’s the problem. The Constitution has been bastardized by a bunch of politicians with law degrees who throw some impressive-sounding credentials at you to convince you that they know more than you do. Then they trot out a bunch of dubious legal theories and judicial precedents to justify trampling your liberties and individual autonomy. These megalomaniacs could justify killing puppies and do it with a straight face. Sadder still, the half of the American population that identifies with the party proposing puppycide would enthusiastically cheer it on.

Believe me when I say this; this autocratic brood of sociopaths doesn’t care about “founding principles,” or “constitutional fidelity” or “the rule of law.”

One thing drives them — power.

So how do we stop them?

The first step is to stop gracing them with the mantel of legitimacy. Learn about the Constitution as ratified and when they drag it out on stage, call them on it. Reveal their hypocrisy. Unmask their ignorance.

When people start to realize that these people are no better than the ambulance-chasing lawyers on TV, maybe they’ll stop listening to them.

Schiff caricature by DonkeyHotey.

Trump Administration Runs Obamaesque Budget Deficit Over $1 Trillion in 2019

Trump Administration Runs Obamaesque Budget Deficit Over $1 Trillion in 2019

The Trump administration ran an Obamaesque budget deficit of over $1 trillion in the 2019 calendar year.

It was the first budget deficit over $1 trillion in any calendar year since 2012.

The budget shortfall from January through December totaled $1.02 trillion, according to the latest report issued by the Treasury Department. That was a 17.1 percent increase over the 2018 deficit, which was a 28.2 percent increase over 2017.

The budget deficit for fiscal 2019 (October 2018-September 2019) came in just under $1 trillion at $984 billion. That represented 4.7 percent of GDP, the highest percentage since 2012. It was the fourth consecutive year in which the deficit increased as a percentage of GDP. The debt-to-GDP ratio is estimated to have increased a hefty 26 percent over last year.

The CBO estimates the budget deficit for fiscal 2020 will eclipse $1 trillion.

These are the kind of budget deficits one would expect to see during a major economic downturn. The federal government has only run deficits over $1 trillion in four fiscal years, all during the Great Recession. We’re approaching that number today, despite having what Trump keeps calling “the greatest economy in the history of America.”

Generally, during economic expansions, government spending on social programs shrinks and tax revenues climb with increased economic activity. Revenues have increased over the last year, but they haven’t kept pace with the increase in government spending.

The spending didn’t slow in the first quarter of fiscal 2020. Through the first three months of the current fiscal year, the deficit ballooned to $356.6 billion. That’s an 11.8 percent increase from a year ago. In just three months, Uncle Sam blew through $1.16 trillion. Spending through the first three months of FY2020 is up 6.5 percent over the spending through the first three months of fiscal 2019.

Meanwhile, the national debt has climbed to $23.2 trillion.

To put that into perspective, last February, the national debt topped $22 trillion. When President Trump took office in January 2017, the debt was at $19.95 trillion. That represented a $2.06 trillion increase in the debt in just over two years. The borrowing pace continues to accelerate. The Treasury borrowed $800 billion in just two months late last summer. (If you’re wondering how the debt can grow by a larger number than the annual deficit, economist Mark Brandly explains here.)

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to deal with the skyrocketing national debt. In fact, he said he could take care of it “fairly quickly.” But the president hasn’t even played lip-service to reining in spending, instead, calling for more outlays for the military and championing paid parental leave for government employees.

Trump supporters have mostly offered up excuses, shifting the blame for the ballooning national debt to “Democrats in Congress.” This ignores the fact that 2019 spending was approved the previous year when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. They also minimize the White House’s role in the budgeting process. In fact, the president has significant power and input in that process

While Congress does ultimately pass spending bills, the president must sign them before they become law. He doesn’t have to sign bills that have spending he doesn’t want. If reining in debt and deficits was a priority, Trump would have vetoed these bills and insisted on spending cuts. Instead, he called for more spending, particularly for the military.

Republicans will argue that increased defense spending is necessary for “national security.” But unsustainable budget deficits pose a significant threat to national security, especially considering China ranks as one of the biggest buyers of U.S. debt.

The executive branch also plays an integral role in the budgeting process. Executive branch departments submit spending requests that Congress uses to set spending levels. The president has complete control over how much money various departments request.

Finally, the president’s near-complete silence on deficits and debt indicates that it’s not a priority. Trump didn’t even mention the national debt during the last State of the Union address.

Congress does in fact bear a great deal of responsibility for Uncle Sam’s fiscal malfeasance, but so does the president. His supporters need to quit making excuses, hold his feet to the fire and insist that he deal with the debt.

The spending trajectory is unsustainable. If we are running $1 trillion deficits now, what will the country’s financial situation look like when the next recession hits? Congress and the president can continue to kick the can down the road, but they are about to run out of pavement.

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

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