Thursday, November 29, 2007

Williams' "The Greatest Generation"

Walter E. Williams is quickly becoming one of my favorite syndicated columnists. His articles frequently appear in The Oakland Press. The first to catch my attention was Congressional Constitutional Contempt, promoting Arizona Congressman John Shadegg's Enumerated Powers Act (HR 1359).
"Simply put, if enacted, the Enumerated Powers Act would require Congress to specify the basis of authority in the U.S. Constitution for the enactment of laws and other congressional actions."
Williams is concerned the federal government is taking more and more power from the states--in terms of both legislation and taxes. He writes:
Just a few of the numerous statements by our founders demonstrate that their vision and the vision of Shadegg's Enumerated Powers Act are one and the same. James Madison, in explaining the Constitution in Federalist Paper No. 45, said, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce."

Regarding the "general welfare" clause so often used as a justification for bigger government, Thomas Jefferson said, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." James Madison said, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions."
Basically, he's saying the amount of money that can be spent to "promote the general welfare" is unlimited. Anything can be justified under broad definitions of promoting "the general welfare." The Enumerated Powers Act would require each act of Congress (both houses) to justify their constitutional authority to grow federal government beyond its limited powers defined by The Constitution.

Continuing the theme of limited federal government Williams' latest article,
The Greatest Generation, discusses how much our federal government has grown just since WWII.
Let's look at what else that generation contributed that might qualify them for the generation that laid the foundation for the greatest betrayal of our nation's core founding principle: limited federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers.

When the greatest generation was born, federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was 2.5 percent. As they are now dying off, federal spending is 20 percent of GDP and that doesn't include government meddling. If the grandparents of the greatest generation were asked to describe their contacts or relationship with the federal government, after a puzzled look, straining their recollection faculties, they might answer, "I used to chat with the mailman once in a while."

Today, there is little any American can do without some form of federal control, whether it's how much water we can use to flush a toilet, what kind of car we drive or how we prepare for retirement. Congress manages our lives in ways unimaginable to our ancestors through agencies created by the greatest generation, such as Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Social Security Administration and a host of alphabet agencies such as EPA, DOL, BLM, CDC and DOT.
In short, our federal government's spending is eight times (8x) what it was when our grand parents were born. The federal government has not grown proportional to its population, its population's income, its imports or its exports. And most of that growth and intrusion comes in the name of "promoting the general welfare."

Williams is asking how can a government's power remain limited if they're using an unlimited definition to justify greater taxing, spending, and dilution of state's powers?

I think that's an important question worth asking and if passed, HR1539 might begin answering it.

Both articles are linked to on the right-hand side of this page under "Recommended Reading." Other of his articles are available at Creator's Syndicate,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Speech, the wheel, and now fire -- what will become of mankind?

If you're already reeling at my use of the word, "mankind," congratulations. You're a soldier in the Army of Political Correctness and are working to control speech.

Global warming hysteria is working to control what people drive.

Now San Francisco is considering a ban on fireplaces.

So speech is being controlled, automobiles increasingly regulated, and now fire places. Of mankind's greatest achievements I'm pretty sure language, the wheel, and fire are among our top three. What kind if psychological condition might explain that? Is it some kind of inferiority complex, guilt, or masochism?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mayor of what?

My perspective on democracy has changed significantly since campaigning for mayor. Before I was fairly cynical of elected officials. Now I can let you in on a secret -- elected officials can be just as cynical of voters.

While campaigning door-to-door my usual salutation was something like, "Hello, my name is Thomas Gagné. I'm running for mayor." After visiting as many homes as I had I was prepared for most responses. But the one that always left me speechless was, "Mayor of what?"

It's important to know the only reason I stopped at most homes is because they'd voted in any of the last three elections. For the record, those would be;
  • 2006's which reelected Governor Granholm, swept many democrats into state and national offices, and approved both the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and Ferndale's Human Rights Ordinance,
  • 2005's when our mayor's salary was increased to $8,142 and Councilpersons Galloway and Gumbleton ran unopposed, and
  • 2004's which reelected President Bush.
Think about that for a minute. With just days to go before the election and with nearly 1000 yard signs throughout Ferndale's neighborhoods from eight local candidates, articles and advertisements in local papers, letters-to-the-editor, literature drops, mailings, cable broadcasts of two candidate forums, web sites, electronic mail, and TV news coverage there were people who had voted in the past and were likely to vote again that hadn't made the connection between themselves and their city's mayor.

How many other residents do you think haven't connected their local officials to their property taxes, property values, sidewalk replacement assessments, public safety budgets, ordinance enforcement, or public schools?

True, city officials don't have direct control over school systems, but they can cooperate with them at least as aggressively as they do nearby cities to share services. The performance of our schools and their students is for many citizens more important than bike lanes on Hilton and because of its impact on home values, school performance should be one of our city council's highest priorities.

So in the "What did I learn" department I can attest to discovering politics is a two-way street. Given the responses at doors of "I'm not interested," "We don't want any," "I don't vote," "I'm voting for the incumbent," (there wasn't one) and my favorite, "Mayor of what?" it's understandable that most political discussion, regardless which medium, has been reduced to sound bites and attack ads just to get voters' attention.

If we don't want Detroit's economic and political morass to become our own, voters--all of them--need to get more involved, become better informed, pay closer attention, and talk with their friends and neighbors about the issues affecting them. Turning out the vote is everyone's responsibility--not just candidates and their pandering, political parties and their attack ads, lobbyists and their sound bites.

Perhaps if we do that then when I'm campaigning next, rather than "Mayor of what?" I'll get, "We're glad you showed up. We have questions for you."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Endorsements, contributions, and Sammy Two-fingers

(Too) many politicians make a big deal of their endorsements and lists of contributors. Before running for office something always bothered me about politicians so willing to seek the endorsements of special interest groups then prostitute those endorsements on their campaign literature as though they were the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval.

I always thought it better to elect a candidate because I thought they were the right person for the job, not because someone else thought they were right. I don't know what their motivations are, I don't know if they're trying to guard something, I don't know if endorsements were horse-traded or coerced, and recently I've discovered not all endorsements are true.

So what does it say about a candidate for whom seeking and publicizing endorsements is a cornerstone of their campaign? What does it say about a candidate when for a non-partisan position they keep parading their partisan colors?

I rarely think those candidates are trying to appeal to me, which is why I've not found them appealing. That is why I'm not big on endorsements.

What have I learned about political contributions?

The most important lesson came several weeks ago when I learned not to bother looking for local business' support. Many of my luncheon meetings reminded me a scene from a mobster movie.
Sammy Two-fingers reached across the table and pinched Tommy's cheek. Not letting go he pulled Tommy close to him so only he could hear.

"Tommy, I like you. You're a good kid and you'll do great things for the city. But if Glitter wins and finds out we backed you.. well.. it's.. it's.. nothing personal. It's business."

Two-fingers let go of Tommy and smiled as they both sat back into the booth.

"So I can count on you for my re-election?"

I would never have thought such a concern was justified until last Sunday when my opponent made
much ado about nothing concerning our finance statement then accused a supporter of being a shill at a council meeting a few weeks back. The first shot, it turns out, was self-inflicted.

Suddenly it made sense. It is business. It's the business of dirty politics. But that shouldn't be a local business Ferndale should endorse or encourage. Maybe that's the experience my opponent thinks I'm missing.

That's the kind of experience Ferndale can do without.