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Showing posts with label fiscal responsibility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiscal responsibility. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just Say No To Big Government

From the Campaign for Liberty
By Jack Hunter

Frustrated with Gov. Mark Sanford's refusal to accept $700 million in federal stimulus dollars and his opposition to the state budget, S.C. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell addressed the governor in an open letter this month, writing, "Time and again, you have failed to address problems in a constructive manner and proactively work with the Legislature to find solutions."

Noting Sanford's constant opposition to the Republican-dominated state legislature, McConnell added, "While the attacks you have launched may have been intended to build your national image as a reformer, in the final analysis, the work of a true reformer is measured not by words or TV ads or by press releases, but by what he or she has been able to accomplish."

McConnell has a point. But it's also nearly impossible to accomplish anything when there's only one reformer.

There are two types of "conservative" Republicans. The first type believes that government is broken, but simply needs Republicans to better manage it, while the other believes we need to actually reduce government. The first type can enjoy long careers by peppering their continuing support for the status quo with conservative-sounding language. The second type tends to make fewer friends because their career-long language consists of telling Democrats, Republicans, and even their constituents one word: "No."

Texas Congressman Ron Paul earned the name "Dr. No" in the House of Representatives for opposing most legislation brought to the floor. During his tenure in Congress, Sanford joined Paul in saying "no" more than any other congressman. Would America have been better served if Paul and Sanford tried to work more with the rest of the legislature to help bring us to our current state? Or might we have been better off if there were more leaders willing to consistently say "no" to more laws, more spending, and more government in general?

Consider the example of New Mexico's own "Dr. No," former Republican Gov. Gary "Veto" Johnson, who earned his nickname for vetoing 750 bills from 1995 to 2003, more than all the vetoes of the other 49 governors combined. Johnson also cut the growth of his state's government in half, privatized half of the state's prisons, reduced state employees by 1,000, oversaw the longest period without a tax increase in the state's history, and left office with a budget surplus. No doubt, New Mexico leaders wanted to spend as much money as South Carolina's legislature or any other state government. But Johnson constantly said "no," and was able to do some good.

The bloated budget and massive debt that continues to plague the state of South Carolina is a microcosm of the bloated budget and massive debt that continues to plague the entire United States. Everyone from across the political spectrum will generally agree that such reckless behavior is a problem and we cannot go on forever conducting business as usual. Yet when any leader dares to reverse course by saying "no," such leaders will invariably find themselves being attacked for daring to obstruct business as usual. The same state legislature that created our current economic woes are the same leaders who are now saying Sanford is the problem, as if a more cooperative gubernatorial extension of themselves would be preferable and somehow produce different, better results.

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the new president hung a portrait in the White House of his hero, President Calvin Coolidge. Author Ivan Eland described Coolidge as a president who believed the United States had too many laws. He once said, "We would be better off if we didn't have anymore ... The greatest duty and opportunity of government is not to embark on any new ventures." But as it was in his own time, Coolidge's conservative philosophy remains unpopular today, where "good" or "great" leaders are always defined as those who expand the power of government to accomplish certain goals. The opposite is also true, and it was for this reason that Time magazine once felt compelled to declare Sanford one of America's "worst governors" for his habit of constantly opposing government.

I'm often criticized for bashing Republicans, but I do so because it's hard to take most of them seriously. Any Republican who talks about "fiscal responsibility," yet spends as much as any Democrat, whether at the national or state level, is completely worthless. Unfortunately, this description fits the bulk of the Republican Party. Most Republicans aren't the least bit serious about their conservative rhetoric.

And as America continues to spiral downward the longer spending goes upward, the few, serious conservatives willing to say "no" to government will always get the loudest "yes" from me.

The "Southern Avenger" Jack Hunter is a conservative commentator (WTMA 1250 AM talk radio) and columnist (Charleston City Paper) living in Charleston, South Carolina. See his blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not Yours To Give

By Davy Crockett

This story by and about Davy Crockett is taken from The Life of Colonel David Crockett, compiled by Edward S. Ellis (Philadelphia; Porter & Coates, 1884).

0ne day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker-I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering t
here be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was a
ttracted by a great light over in Georgetown . It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could he done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.

"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather

"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and__”

“Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.'

"This was a sockdolager . . . I begged him to tell me what was t
he matter."

'Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest, but an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be
worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'

'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.'

'No, Colonel, there's no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown . Is that true?' '

"Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing
Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.'

'It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can he entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he
. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution. "

'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.'

"I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

"'Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head in
to the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'

"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men -- men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased -- a debt which could not be paid by money -- and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them
responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."