Earning my presidential vote: role of government

In the final of my issues segments, I get to the most important one to me: how the President understands and addresses the role of government. I’m just going to dispense with the bullet point this time: government must be limited and conducted in accordance with the Constitution. To do otherwise is an abomination and diminishes our standing as a nation – unfortunately, we have endured this status for (depending on the perspective of the observer) anywhere from the last eight years to the last hundred. (Some even trace it back to the War Between the States or even the Marbury v. Madison decision.)

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the tenth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is fourteen points, which is the highest individual total.

So let’s see what the people have to say, shall we? I’m going to warn you: this is the longest part because a lot of elements fell into this category.

Castle: No one wants to limit government because it doesn’t fit the goals of the establishment, which is why there’s little coverage of his campaign.

“Who wants to have limits set on what you can do if you can be emperor of the world? Power corrupts. The Founders knew that. It’s human nature to want more and more power, which the Founders understood very well. The people of the United States have permitted their government to exercise almost absolute power, and that’s a mistake. The system the Founders gave us is not self-policing; the people have to do that, through their representatives. And we seem to have pretty much forgotten that.”

Would end the Federal Reserve and return nation to the gold standard.

“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Private property rights are under assault in communities and rural areas across the nation as state and federal authorities move to enforce new planning development programs, particularly under the labels of Sustainable Development or Local Visioning.

Local elected representatives are being overshadowed by the establishment of non-elected boards, councils, planning commissions and regional governments. These non-elected organizations are taking government further away from the people as they are unseen and unapproachable. While totally unaccountable to the people, they enforce policy that affects property rights, tax rates, etc.

Across the nation communities are being pressured by federal agencies to accept grants for local sustainable projects that affect property rights and destroy local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I would withdraw the federal government from such international, sovereignty destroying legislation. I would stop the federal government from manipulating local communities with handouts, and begin the process of handing control of their lives and property back to the local people.”

“I would end the Federal Reserve’s control of the United States’ monetary system by repealing the Federal Reserve Act. Interest rates would no longer be tampered with, as lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.

I would remind the banks that there would no longer be a Federal Reserve to lend to them in an emergency so if a bank gets in trouble, it’s on its own.

Then I would let the American people know that they are now free to use whatever currency they want. The dollar would again be exchangeable for a fixed quantity of gold and the U.S. Treasury would now accept any major currency, including bitcoin, in payment of taxes. As a result, the country would return to a traditional and sensible money system so people could decide for themselves what kind of money they wanted to use. They could save it, spend it, or put any price they wanted on it if they wanted to lend it out.”

Respects people who favor term limits, but disagrees.

War on Drugs has been a “terrible disaster.” (Facebook) “Tell me something today that has created more crime than the War on Drugs.” It’s time to declare peace. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” internet radio show)

Hedges: Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“The role the federal government should be to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law, that we don’t retreat back to the times when only white, male, land owners were allowed to participate in government.

The states should be allowed to make their own regulations about a lot of things. Now, if there is a spillover two adjacent states, such as air pollution from coal-burning power plants, or alcohol sales adjacent to Indian reservations, then the interstate compacts or national courts need to resolve these conflicts. But, the states can experiment with 50 different solutions to various problems and maybe a few of those experiments will work and be a guide for everyone, while a mandatory national policy has just one chance of getting it right.”

Voodoo economics from Democrats and Republicans – deficit spending. Alarmed by “sustainable level of deficits.”

Key issue: who is in charge, states or D.C.? “Today we have 50 sovereign, independent states that are united under the Constitution. States need to step up, since states created federal government.” (Bayes)

Supreme Court and President cannot make law, Court members who do so should be impeached. (Bayes)

“The Constitution mandates that Congress shall have the sole power to coin money and to regulate its value. We will abolish the Federal Reserve System, establishing in its place a government-owned National Bank. Predatory lending activities and punitive rates of interest will be banned. We will encourage the formation of state banks where qualified entrepreneurs can borrow money for investment in job-creating enterprises at minimal interest.” (party platform)

Party favors balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hoefling: We seek to restore the intended balance between the three separate branches of our government, and to strictly limit government to the Enumerated Powers granted and expressed by the will of the people of the United States in our Constitution.

All existing functions of the Executive branch that are outside of those Enumerated Powers must be eliminated.

All spending and regulation by the Legislative branch that lies outside the Enumerated Powers must cease.

Judges who attempt to legislate from the bench, or who abandon the clear principles of our Constitution, must be checked if liberty and justice are to prevail in our society once again.

We demand a return to adherence to the provisions of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We also call for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Its enactment greatly reduced the power of our state legislatures and state governments – which are much closer to the people – and damaged our system of federalism. (party platform)

“Just as ‘good fences make for good neighbors,’ good government is mainly about knowing where the legitimate boundaries are, and having the courage to defend those borders forcefully. This is true in terms of the defense of our territory, our security, and our national sovereignty, but it also applies to the sworn duty of all of those in government to equally protect the God-given, unalienable rights of each individual person, from their creation onward, their sacred obligation to stay well within the enumerated powers of our constitutions, and of the role legitimate government must play in balancing the competing rights and interests of the people, in order to establish justice.” (personal website)

Johnson: No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.

By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security.

Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up.

It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget.

Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.

Under a republican form of government, representatives should be accountable to all people, not institutional forces like lobbyists, special interests, and partisan gamesmanship. Yet today, politicians are often unable to do their job because they are incentivized to do what it takes to get re-elected, not to do what is right for the American people. This doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make for bad representation.

This is why we adopted the 22nd Amendment in 1947, to limit the number of terms a President can hold office to two terms. We did this because we recognized that a President should focus on representing the people instead of playing politics.

Yet today, we have a perpetual election cycle that incentivizes politicians to speak along carefully crafted campaign talking points, constantly ask special interests for campaign donations, and rely on their political party campaign machines for election support. And we wonder why we have such extreme partisanship in Washington?

Can a Republican support gay marriage? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

Can a Democrat vote for a tax cut? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

And that is where we are at today. Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy.

As the spending continues unchecked. As the wars continue. And as Government keeps taking away more freedoms, the dangerous dedication that politicians have to getting re-elected keeps representatives from doing the job they were elected to do in the first place.

That’s why Gary Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. And that’s why Governor Bill Weld served as national co-chairman of U.S. Term Limits.

Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson and Bill Weld did as governors, and that’s what all our representatives should do too.

Our founding fathers established the 4th Amendment, for example, to prevent the government from snooping into our private lives without a warrant.

Yet today, we have a national government that spies on private communications, monitors your financial transactions, photographs your license plates, and even will track everything you do at a public library — all without warrants or due process of law.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld want to get the government out of your life. Out of your cell phone. Out of your bedroom. And back into the business of protecting your freedoms, not restricting them.

End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.

The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization.

And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys.

More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors.

These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve.

Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are committed to meaningful criminal justice reform. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin is a constitutional conservative who will reverse the unaccountable expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local government. He will restore the constitutional system of checks and balances, which designates Congress—not the president, the courts, or the bureaucracy—as the only body capable of making laws. Evan will appoint judges committed to upholding the Constitution as originally written and understood, instead of imposing their social agendas or legislating from the bench. These reforms will help to ensure that our country continues to have government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

In defiance of the Constitution, President Obama has relied on executive action to force through controversial proposals that failed to win support in Congress. When Congress refused to pass the immigration reforms that Obama wanted, he issued a de facto amnesty that would cover as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. When Obama failed to persuade Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, Obama had the EPA issue a Clean Power Plan that would achieve his goals. Federal courts eventually blocked both Obama’s amnesty and the Clean Power Plan.

Even when Congress does what Obama wants, he has taken new powers for himself that go far beyond legal limits. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”), the president repeatedly made substantial changes to the program without congressional authorization. He suspended requirements, issued waivers, and even appropriated federal dollars without permission from Congress.

Under Obama, independent agencies have also begun to exceed the bounds of their authority. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sought to block Boeing from operating an aircraft plant in South Carolina, not because Boeing broke any laws, but because South Carolina laws are less favorable to unions.

The volume of regulation has also increased substantially under Obama. As of mid-2016, the Obama administration has issued 600 major regulations, defined as those with a cost of at least $100 million each. The total cost of these regulations is $743 billion and they will require 194 million hours of paperwork to implement. In his remaining months in office, Obama may issue another 50 major regulations with a cost of $70 billion.

For constitutional conservatives, neither of the leading candidates in this election provides much hope for a return to limited government and an effective system of checks and balances.

Evan McMullin believes in the wisdom of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for state governments and for individuals all the powers that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to the federal government. The framers of the Constitution understood that what works best for Massachusetts might not work as well for Virginia. In addition, a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.

By embracing a one-size-fits-all approach, numerous federal programs have become far more burdensome and less efficient than they ought to be. Even though Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, a thicket of federal regulations stands in the way of state-led innovation. While the federal government should encourage high standards for public education, Washington’s heavy-handed promotion of Common Core has set back the cause of reforming education.

As president, Evan would support House Joint Resolution 100, a proposed constitutional amendment for the re-empowerment of the states. This amendment would enable a two-thirds majority of the states to repeal any Executive Order, regulation, or administrative ruling issued by the executive branch.

Evan would also oppose new regulations unless there is a clear definition of the problem to be solved and compelling evidence that the cost of regulations would be less than their benefits. Evan also supports the REINS Act, which would require up or down votes by Congress on the most significant regulations that the executive branch introduces each year.

In addition, Evan would sharply reduce the number of unfunded mandates, which compel state governments to shoulder the cost of implementing federal regulations. He would also oppose legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act that delegates unlimited lawmaking powers to federal agencies.

Finally, Evan will appoint exceptionally qualified judges with a proven record of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written. While the world today is much different than it was 1789, the Constitution embodies timeless principles that remain the foundation of limited government.

Today, after decades of federal expansion and executive overreach, there is a need to return to these foundational principles. Only Evan is committed to restoring our Founders’ vision and rebalancing our government to put power back in the hands of the people.

Our national debt stands at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, an increase of $9 trillion since President Obama took office. This reckless growth represents not just a threat to our prosperity, but also to our national security. Out-of-control spending on entitlements is the most important reason for the national debt’s staggering growth. The annual cost of entitlements is now $2.3 trillion per year, which amounts to 60 cents out of every dollar spent by the federal government.

Evan McMullin believes that the only way to preserve Social Security and Medicare is to enact reforms that make these essential programs more efficient while fighting pervasive fraud and abuse.

While preserving Medicare and Social Security is an important objective in its own right, entitlement reform is also necessary to ensure that the federal government can afford other priorities, including scientific research, infrastructure repair, and national defense. An important side effect of uncontrollable spending on entitlements is the lack of funding for every other government program. Fifty years ago, entitlements consumed 26 percent of federal spending; today, they consume 60 percent. Over that same period, defense spending has fallen from 43 to 15 percent of the federal budget.

The strength of our nation depends at least as much on a robust economy as it does on our armed forces, however. Without funding for scientific research and infrastructure repairs, the economy suffers. Furthermore, a sharp increase in our debt raises the likelihood of an economic meltdown as bad or worse than the one we endured in 2008. Under President Obama, our debt has risen from 39 to 77 percent of our country’s annual income, which economists call Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This percentage will keep on growing until we elect a president who understands the simple truth that you can’t keep spending money you never had.

There is an urgent need to restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect, especially African-American communities. Over the past 20 years, police departments have played an indispensable role in bringing down crime rates across the nation. To preserve these gains, we must ensure respect for every citizen’s right to fair and equitable treatment under the law. The time has also come to reform our courts and prisons, so that we rely less on incarceration, which can break apart both families and communities.

Improved training and community outreach can help to prevent the kind of encounters that have escalated into violence. When police officers patrol the same community year after year, they have the opportunity to build relationships with local residents. Trust is built as police engage with members of the community in positive settings—such as schools, parks, and public forums—not just when confronting potential lawbreakers.

Additional training in communication skills and de-escalation strategies can help police officers to prevent conflict even when confronting potential lawbreakers. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice is an important resource for local police departments that can provide advice, best practices, and resources for new initiatives.

Evan believes that ‘stop and frisk’ policies are a form of unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore inconsistent with our Fourth Amendment rights. He also believes strongly that body cameras help to bring transparency to encounters with the police. Camera footage can help to ensure accountability for officers who behave recklessly, while verifying that responsible officers followed all appropriate procedures. Police departments must ensure that these cameras are in good working order and have a clear and enforceable policy for when the cameras must be on.

Violent felons should remain in prison for as long as necessary to prevent them from causing additional harm. However, the American justice system has resorted to incarceration for a wide range of low-risk, non-violent offenders, leading us to have the highest incarceration rate in the world—four to five times higher than England, which is second. We could save tens of billions of dollars per year by making greater use of alternatives to prison as well as emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Evan believes that responsible sentencing reform is the first step toward lower incarceration rates. First, far too many crimes have become federal offenses, particularly routine drug crimes. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia lamented this trend. Second, judges should have greater discretion rather than having their hands tied by mandatory minimum sentences, which worsen racial and income-based sentencing disparities. Third, judges should be empowered to enroll offenders in diversion programs that emphasize community service, treatment for addiction, and other approaches to rehabilitation. Already, Texas and other states have implemented similar reforms without compromising public safety.

The size and cost of the federal prison system have grown by leaps and bounds, a trend that will only continue without reform. Since 1980, the number of federal prison inmates has grown from 20,000 to more than 200,000. The cost per prisoner rose 50 percent, from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, between 2000-2010. Prison costs now take up one quarter of the Department of Justice’s budget, and the proportion is rising. If this approach prevented crime, it might be worth it. However, experience shows that the relationship between building prisons and reducing crime is unclear. For example, the state of New York lowered incarceration rates by 24% from 1994-2012 while leading the nation in progress against crime.

To maximize effectiveness, sentencing reform should be paired with new programs to reduce recidivism and set non-violent offenders on a path to reintegration. A study by the Pew Center found that more than 40 percent of state prisoners return to jail within three years. To prevent crime as well as further incarceration, prisons should expand job training and educational programs that can help released prisoners find work. Outside of prison, there are too many barriers to employment for those who have served their sentences. Low-risk offenders should not face a blanket denial for all professional licenses or certifications. People who have paid their debt to society must have a pathway back.

The biggest beneficiaries of all these changes will be families and communities. Today, about 1 in 30 children has a parent behind bars, a four-fold increase since 1985. For African-American children, the figure is closer to 1 in 10. The children of inmates often struggle in school, have higher teen pregnancy rates, earn less as adults, and are more likely to commit crimes and wind up in prison themselves. Evan McMullin believes in responsible reforms that will break the cycle of poverty and give these children the opportunities in life they deserve while preventing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. (campaign website)

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I liked a lot of what Darrell Castle had to say. I must say that this campaign has really opened my eyes to the effect of the duopoly we languish under, as neither major-party candidate is liked by a lot of the people, but those in charge of the media and the establishment seem to prefer them – so they won. Imagine a true debate with all the candidates who have campaigns sufficient to win 270 electoral votes – the two dominant parties would have a conniption when they saw the polls afterward.

To be honest, I’m not really up on the economic effects of the gold standard but it makes some sense to have our legal tender pegged to something of value rather than our credit, which has to be shot with $20 trillion in debt and climbing. He also refers to an issue that I haven’t heard a lot about, which falls under the banner of the UN’s Agenda 21. In a battle between so-called “sustainable development” and private property rights, I will come down on the side of the latter and so will Castle. He’s also correct in his assessment on the War on Drugs. Perhaps the only thing I disagree with him on is term limits, but overall I think Castle gets it pretty well. 11.5 points.

The Prohibition Party and Jim Hedges has been a mixed bag all along, as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of SCOTUS term limits since those judges are appointed; however, I could see an age restriction as several states already have. On the other hand, he is correct regarding the idea of the state governments being able to make their own way and being able to judge success.

But I observed in the few minutes I had to listen to Hedges’ VP candidate that Bill Bayes should have been the top of the ticket, as he appears to represent the more right-wing side of the Prohibition Party. He made the good points about states creating the federal government in the first place. Finally, I like the BBA but am cold to the idea of a National Bank. 6 points.

Tom Hoefling makes a solid case for himself regarding what government should and should not do, although it doesn’t go into the specifics I would prefer. And that could be a problem going forward since we went from a series of chief executives who completely understood how government was supposed to work to a next generation that thought they understood but also thought they needed to modernize a timeless concept. Ten generations later the concept is completely lost except when it is convenient for political reasons. News flash: you cannot pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you want to enforce. If you don’t enforce all, you enforce nothing.

And a bonus point for calling for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was a mistake that blots our Constitution. Maryland should also have a Senate based on pre-Seventeenth Amendment concepts, with each county legislature appointing two Senators to represent them (meaning 48 instead of 47.) 12 points.

It’s interesting that Gary Johnson takes the most libertarian point he has and leads with it. In order to submit a balanced budget, Johnson would have to take out roughly $600 billion, or about 1/6 of it. I have no doubt he could do it, but the problems he has with this approach are a) Congress actually does the appropriation, and b) they are elected in the pay-for-play system Johnson rails against so his budget will be DOA (like Reagan’s were.) He would have to secure the bully pulpit to explain to America the advantages of smaller government.

Unlike Castle (or many Libertarians) Johnson is for term limits, which is the correct stance in this day and age. He also opposes the War on Drugs.

But I do question his admonition about the government being in the bedroom, which is derisive shorthand for having traditional, religious-based opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What two adults do in the privacy of that room is none of their business, but claiming rights that don’t exist as a byproduct of that relationship is a problem.

I would expect the Libertarians to do well in this category, but they could have done better. 10 points.

In practically every case, Evan McMullin has written the longest description of how he would reform government. But there is little in the way of suggesting how he would reduce it. Indeed, appointing judges steeped in original intent would help, as would a renewed emphasis on the Tenth Amendment and state’s rights – although he doesn’t advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, nor is he willing to jettison the entitlement programs that would best serve to rightsize government.

It’s also worth noting much of his treatise regards criminal justice reform and police-community relations where it should be local authorities taking the mantle, not the federal government and their penchant for micromanagement. All in all, he is sort of the Beltway-type Republican that seeks a more efficient big government rather than limited government. 6 points.

We have just about reached the end. Tomorrow will bring intangibles that apply to the various candidates and my final decision.

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  1. […] have just two more categories to go. Tonight I will discuss the role of government and tomorrow will be the intangibles and final […]

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