Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Czar-ist Wednesday

Here at Constitutional Guardian
we have initiated a weekly feature: Czar-ist Wednesday. The purpose is to examine the ever increasing and ever elusive list of Obama's Czar's who serve at the pleasure of the President without the requirement of public scrutiny.

The Czar's differ from the President's Cabinet, Secretary's and under-Secretary's in that they are not required to be publicly vetted nor are they subject to Congressional review.

The difficulty is, due to the lack of accountability in the system it is impossible to get a complete list of the czar's, their actual responsibilities or their salaries. We know next to nothing about this burgeoning bureaucracy in the Executive branch--at last count 32 Czars and growing.

What we do know is this. Transparency is necessary to the maintenance of a representative government such as ours. We have a right and, some would argue, a responsibility to know and understand how our money is being spent and who is spending it. Let's assume each and every Czar is competent and effective there is still enormous potential for redundancy--double effort to coordinate policy and increased costs--not to mention chain-of-command questions. In the State Department alone there are four Czars who have been appointed by the President to pursue specific policies that were previously handled by the Secretary of State and under-Secretary's.

For example, the Afghanistan Czar, Richard Holbrooke, reports to (but was not appointed by) Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. The Central Region Czar, Dennis Ross is listed as a Special Assistant to the President and reports to (but was not appointed by) the National Security Adviser, General James L. Jones. The Guantanamo Closure Czar, Daniel Fried reports to (but was not appointed by) Hillary Clinton. The Mideast Peace Czar, George Mitchell, reports to (but was not appointed by) Hillary Clinton. The Sudan Czar, J. Scott Gration, reports to (but was not appointed by) Hillary Clinton.

With all the fog surrounding the Czars and their backgrounds, their salaries and their responsibilities, it seems prudent to ask...why Czars? Why now?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Provocative" or Downright Aggression?

Do you mean to tell me the President didn't know Iran had the capability to launch short-range missiles when he announced we were scrapping our plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic? Ironic or unfortunate we made the announcement on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland?

"Provocative" as our State Department said or downright aggression when Iran tested their short-range missiles yesterday on Yom Kippur?

Embarrassing or deplorable that our President announced the same day the missiles were being launched that he would jaunt off to Copenhagen to make a personal plea to the Olympic committee for the 2016 Olympics to be held in Chicago?

Shameful or simply frightening that our commander in Afghanistan...the one hand-picked by the President for the job and confirmed by the Senate has spoken to him only once in 70 days while he waits for the 40,000 troops he requested? (Even the media is outraged by the way,

Meanwhile in the very Chicago Obama claims as his home, rival gangs have been fighting for a month at Fenger High School killing an innocent 16 year old honor student last Thursday. Many Fenger High School students don't want to go school at all. They are afraid.

Coincidence or just really bad timing for the president's Olympic plans and his proposal that we move to a year round school curriculum?

Vice President, Joe Biden told us during the campaign that this President would be tested:

"Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's going to need stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially; it's not going to be apparent that we're right." (Biden, New York Post)

Well, Joe, I finally agree with you. He is being tested. Our troops are at risk. Young men and women who have sacrificed to serve their country, to serve us, are being ignored by an Administration that insists on ramming through a health care bill 56% of Americans don't want, giving speeches to anyone that will listen, appearing on the late night shows, every Sunday morning news show, presiding over the UN General Assembly and now--another first--flying to Copenhagen to make a personal plea for the Olympics...Meanwhile our commander in Afghanistan waits for the troops he requires, our unemployment rate (the one that wouldn't rise above 8% if the President's stimulus bill was passed in February) is now almost 10%, growth is stalled, the dollar continues in free fall and free speech is on the retreat.

Yep Joe your words are prophetic. It is most definitely not apparent Obama is right. Or even paying attention for that matter.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kennedy Tax Cuts and Prosperity--Part II

Nancy Tengler

Here's one for you. In 1894which prominent newspaper opposed the imposition of an income tax describing it as "...a vicious, inequitable unpopular, impolitic and socialist act?" Hmmm. Another hint: In 1909 they wrote that taxing income would get the government in the habit of "helping themselves to the property of others" a habit they feared would not be easily cured. (From The End of Prosperity, Laffer, Moore and Tanous (49).) Give up?
The New York Times published those comments as the question of initiating an income tax (direct taxation to the Founders) was being considered. As we know, the tax was eventually allowed through the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. And as we have already discussed, it didn't take long--approximately 50 years--for the tax to balloon to a top marginal tax rate of 91%. So that we're clear, that means that Americans in the top marginal tax bracket paid the government 91% of every incremental dollar they made. In other words they gave the government 91 cents and kept 9 cents.
Enter Kennedy. 1963. The Economics Club of America. " rates are too high today, and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates."
Most notably, he proposed the top rate be reduced from 91 to 70 percent.
The issue was debated for months, eventually passed and the economy grew robustly in '64, '65 and '66. The employment picture improved as well to the fullest employment in decades.
There is a lesson for today's politicians in Kennedy's example. Cutting taxes is not partisan. It is sound economic policy. Allowing American's to make the decisions of how to spend the money they have earned is the essence of liberty as outlined by our Founders. They knew what the New York Times knew and what Kennedy understood in his core: When you free capital to be invested by those who earned it, the economy will flourish. Companies will grow and hire, incomes will rise and revenues will grow.
"An economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or enough profits." John F. Kennedy, Democrat.
Congress, President Obama please take a look at our history. Cutting taxes is good for Americans. It's time to return to your roots.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Random Rants--The Constitution

Hey friends, I don't want to sound like a broken record but...
The Constitution as written is our guarantee of liberty. Each time it is compromised or ignored or voided we lose a corresponding amount of our freedoms. To protect ourselves from the slow and subtle disfigurement of what our Constitution promises, we need to know what it says. And what it doesn't say. We need to read it, cherish it, guard it. If our elected officials won't--then we need to protect the Constitution from their tinkering and meddling and downright erosion of its promises. Our Founders understood this. They experienced tyranny. They fought a war against tyranny.
During "emergencies" those in power have argued for new programs, additional oversight--in short: the confiscation of a little liberty here, some freedoms there. Madison argued against this very thing in Federalist 20:
"Tyranny has perhaps oftener grown out of the assumptions of power, called for, on pressing exigencies..."
In other words, we should not allow crises--whether real or manufactured--to dictate changes to our Constitution. It is our greatest guarantee of liberty and the most durable and successful governing document the world has known. We must not allow it to be compromised.
"Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred." James Madison

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time for a quick history lesson

On May 21, 1936 Hitler gave a speech declaring that "Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria or to conclude an Anschluss." To prove his sincerity, Hitler signed a pact with the Austrian government in July of the same year. By March of 1938, Hitler occupied Austria the pact not worth the paper it was written on, Hitler's word worth even less.

Next was Czechoslovakia. Mind you, Hitler had "no evil intentions towards Czechoslovakia." Yet by May 28, 1938 Hitler ordered military action against Czechoslovakia sure that neither France or Britain would come to their aid. He was right. Though Neville Chamberlain--the Appeaser--did travel to Munich to meet with Hitler to dissuade him of his plan, he left diluded. I quote: In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word." Depite the fact that Hitler had yet to keep his word, Chamberlain was satisfied he would just this once.

Shortly after, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and Britain acquiesced.

One week ago (see my September 17th post--Did I miss something?) the Obama Administration announced they were scrapping plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The reason? "Iran's long-range nuclear missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated." ( ) Later that day the UN's nuclear watchdog issued a report debunking that view. Today, just a week later, we are accusing Iran of building a covert uranium-enrichment facility. Yikes. (

Relax. Apparently we knew about the facility, have known about the plant for years. It's just that we didn't know the Iranian's were using it. Oops. But, don't worry because we are outraged. So was Chamberlain until he looked into the belly of the beast and had the impression Hitler was a man of his word. Applying rational thought to irrational people has never succeeded. Underestimating them has cost the lives of our soldiers, cut short the hope of hundreds of thousands of American lives over the years.

How about this? How about we assume that Iran's intention for their nuclear program is not for civilian use and how about we assume they intend to turn it toward Israel and then ? Who knows? How about we re-start the building of the defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic? And finally, how about we stop providing a stage for leaders like Ahmadinejad and Ghaddafi and start defending our allies?

I spent a month studying in Prague this summer. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, they have enjoyed twenty years of freedom and liberty. They are just getting started. They could use our help.

Appeasing Hitler allowed him to build his army and weapons and gather land while the world watched. Let's listen to old man history. It seems like he is about to repeat himself.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kennedy--Tax Cut Champion-Part I

Nancy Tengler

Like an old man, history has a tendency to repeat itself. Let's hope it does again. Soon.

Especially when it comes to taxes.

Our Founder’s fretted over taxes. They rebelled against them. They fought over them, debated them and eventually wrote a Constitution that all but ignored them. In short, taxes worried them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 10: "The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets."

Madison’s concern over the temptation to misappropriate the property of the few by the many was based on a sound and comprehensive reading of history and furthered through the actual experience of the colonists at the hands of British Parliament.

Central to everything that the Founders believed, the core principles that influenced the architecture of our government, was the overriding certainty that man cannot be trusted with power. Lord Acton, the British historian and moralist who wrote in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” captured the essence of the assumption that guided the authors of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers over 100 years before. The Framer’s were suspicious of power, knew that it would corrupt the most noble mind and they further believed the tendency toward corruption was most profound when it involved power over the property of others. This made the issue of direct taxation problematic.

The Founders in their collective wisdom placed the emphasis on indirect taxation as the source of revenue. This would provide a reliable source of income without the potential pitfalls of the majority re-appropriating the property of the minority.

That is until the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. It didn't take long (about 50 years) for the marginal tax rate to rise to 91% . And that's where Kennedy came in.

Tomorrow--the Kennedy tax cuts and prosperity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starve the Beast

A few weeks ago, I received a flyer from a colleague with the encouragement to distribute it to my college students. The flyer was being passed out on the San Francisco State campus, the email explained and we should feel free to distribute on our campus as well.
Curious, I read the flyer.

On the cover was a picture of Dracula with the title: "There's a Vampire Sucking the Lifelood out of Public Education, Health and Social Services in California." I thought it was a joke, a pardody perhaps. I read on.
The flyer asked: "Why Is This Happening Now?" And went on to explain. It's not the fault of the professor who has no room in the class you need. It's not that California has been "on a spending spree"--spending increases only reflect population growth and inflation. (The dogmatic inaccuracy of that statement took my breath away. ) It's not mothers on welfare or home health aides "taking advantage of the system" to quote Gov. Schwartzenegger's scapegoating remarks. (Context please.) It's not even the current economic downturn. (Really? What happens to tax revenues when unemployment rises? The current rate in California is over 12%--the highest in recent memory.)

The flyer goes on to say the problem is increased spending on prisons which is gallantly and conveniently illustrated by an official looking chart showing prison spending increasing 126% from 1984-2004 with no sourcing data for context. The flyer makes a variety of outrageously innacurate statements meant to foment opposition to the rich, oil companies and Proposition 13 (more on that in a minute) without supporting any of the claims with facts OR bothering to mention that the legislature in California has been led by the Democratic majority for much if not all of the time period cited. (Exact dates to come--still waiting for the government office to open at 9:30 a.m., the one that knows the answer to that question.)
Proposition 13 is once again under attack. When I was in Prague studying this summer my professor (who makes his home in Iowa) told me Proposition 13 was the source of all our problems in California. Repeal it, start paying property taxes and all will be well he told me. When I told him we DO pay property taxes to the tune of 1.25% with an annual inflation increase built in, he was befuddled. He asked me if I was sure? Yes, professor, I am sure.
I lived through Proposition 13. I saw average people lose their homes. People like my mom and your mom, my family and yours. Average people who tally up their income each month and spend according to what they earn. Unlike the government that simply spends. My money and yours. Never enough.
It's time to starve the beast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Depends on What the Meaning of "Is" Is

Not to be melodramatic, but I remember thinking at the time of Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony that leadership standards had just been permanently revised, downward. No matter how hard I try, I can't imagine Washington or Lincoln or Truman or Reagan looking into the camera and declaring with a straight face: depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
So here we are 11 years later, a new president and the standard just sunk again. President Obama appeared on five Sunday news shows yesterday and there were plenty of noteworthy moments (watch the interchange between Obama and Stephanopoulos on the definition of the word "tax"--apparently presidents' can not only question the meaning of words they can re-define them) but the moment that made me boiling mad was Obama's answer to a single question about Acorn.
I won't take the time to recount the many problems with Acorn from voter registration fraud to the current pimp scandal, you can read James Taranto's article in the WSJournal
for a recap of the latest.
But the comment that made me MAD?
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the funding for ACORN?
OBAMA: You know, if — frankly, it’s not really something I’ve followed closely. I didn’t even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Both the Senate and the House have voted to cut it off.
OBAMA: You know, what I know is, is that what I saw on that video was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not committing to — to cut off the federal funding?
OBAMA: George, this is not the biggest issue facing the country. It’s not something I’m paying a lot of attention to.
With $8.5 billion in "stimulus" funds headed to Acorn I'd like to know who is paying attention. I want to know where the follow-up question was. I want to know why no one is asking the tough questions. Would we accept that answer from a corporate executive? We know Obama was once the head of Project Vote--an Acorn affiliate. We know he was at one point legal counsel for the organization. We know his campaign hired Acorn and paid them $800,000. OK. Problematic to be sure. Our media should be looking into those ties just as we have with past presidents, just as we did with Bill Clinton's intern problem. But more importantly, they should be asking the routine, follow up questions.
I'ts not something I'm paying a lot of attention to.
Really? Why not?

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." James Madison

In Federalist #10, James Madison continues the discussion of factions he begins in Federalist #9: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection. (Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote and published the Federalist Papers on behalf of the new Constitution from 1787-1788.)

The Founders were well aware that liberty is a catalyst to the faction flame. Rather than abolish liberty in an effort to extinguish factions, they argued that the establishment of a republic would mitigate factions, essentially through the dilution of factious causes. We can debate this--though the argument has essentially held up for over 200 years--another day. Today I want to focus on Madison's greatest concern: .."the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property."

The Founders understood that by allowing the majority faction (those with modest property) to regulate and/or tax the minority faction (those with greater property) would "...trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets."

Witness California:

Yet, we are bankrupt and continue to hear the rumblings on every front that we, the citizens of California, need to pay more. Always more. Of course, we will soon be hearing this on the national level, too. We cannot continue to spend at the rate proposed without soon hearing our leaders say as former Govenor Gray Davis did before his recall election in 2003--it's not that we spent too much money, it is just that we didn't have enough revenue.

The Founders' solution to this was to establish a balance of power that would be renewed by the citizenry every two years in the House, every six in the Senate and every four in the Executive branch.

Their reason? "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Random Rants--a Friday afternoon feature

From my (forever) upcoming book: The Power to Destroy.
In FY 2008, the U.S. Congress pushed through $17.2 billion in pork attached to 12 appropriations bills. There were many moments to cherish but we will consider just one here--certainly not the biggest earmark but one of the most interesting.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a nineteen term representative, asked for and got $1,950,000 for a library and archives at the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at The City College of New York. In other words Congressman Rangel received $1.95 million dollars of my money and yours to finance a little library named for himself at a college in his district. He was challenged in his request by a mere two term republican from California, John Campbell who said, “You don’t agree with me or see any problem with us, as members, sending taxpayer funds in the creation of things named after ourselves while we’re still here?” Rangel did not. He responded, “I would have a problem if you did it, because I don’t think that you’ve been around long enough that having your name on something to inspire a building like this in a school.” Huh?
Consider now Davy Crockett's speech on the floor of the House during his first term.
Congress was considering a $10,000 relief bill to aid the widow of a naval officer. The bill was expected to pass unanimously. Crockett stood in stern opposition to the bill and said the following:

We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not attempt 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 to appropriate a dollar of the public money.

The bill was defeated and according to legend Davy Crockett contributed a substantial amount of money (though reputed to be one of the poorest members of Congress) to a private fund for the widow but was not joined by a majority of his colleagues in doing so. It seems that his contemporaries were willing to be more generous with their constituent’s money than they were with their own. Happily the citizenry was served and the widow was served by Crockett’s measured speech and accurate read of the Constitution.
Are you listening Charlie?


Thursday, the Obama Administration released a statement saying it would scrap the missile shield defense system to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic. The system's planned purpose? To defend against long-range Iranian missiles aimed at Europe (see yesterday's post: "Did I Miss Something?").
The reason for the change in US policy is due to the Administration's belief that Iran's nuclear capabilities are not as far along as previously thought. Ironically, hours after the announcement, the UN's nuclear watchdog (International Atomic Energy Agency) released a report debunking that view.
In an ABC interview also aired yesterday Ahmadinejad refused to rule out an Iran nuclear bomb.
Bad timing huh?
You can read the details in Arthur Bright's article on the Christian Science Monitor's website.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Did I miss something?

Excuse me members of Congress, shouldn't we be talking about national security for just a moment or two?

Between the chatter about health care reform--what it is and what it isn't--and Cap and Trade and Gitmo and Acorn and Joe Wilson shouldn't we, shouldn't someone, be talking about national security?

North Korea's nuclear sabre rattling and Iran's determination to see Israel (and, don't kid yourself, we're next) blasted off the planet are very real threats. Just a few short months ago, we were told Iran was close to having a nuclear option--whatever "close" means. And today the Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration will scrap plans to build a missile defensive system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The reason? "Iran's long-range nuclear missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated."

I don't know about you, but the fact that Iran HAS a long-range nuclear missile program is enough for me. Let's not stop building missile defense systems, let's build them faster so we will be ready if and when the time comes. This seems a much more sensible us of Congress' time than, say, debating the merits of a soda pop tax.

But then, that's just me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Constitution

The United States Constitution

On September 17th, 1787 the Constitution was signed and sent to Congress. Though we don't celebrate it, the 17th was commemorated as Constitution Day. Let's celebrate it by remembering our founding document.
If you need to refresh your memory on the Constitution, why not order a copy from the Heritage Foundation? Go to the link on this blog or In the top right tool bar is a link to their book store where you can order a Pocket Constitution. While you're there check ourtMatthew Spaulding's book, The Founders' Almanac. Sign up for their Morning Bell email. I have been a subscriber for years and find the content superior to just about everything else I read.
And, after you re-read the Constitution, you may want to send it to your representative in Congress. Perhaps he/she needs to refresh their memory, too.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. Thomas Jefferson

Morality and the Purpose of Government

Nancy Pelosi said today that passing health care reform is a "moral obligation." On April 22nd of this year she said "...we have a moral obligation to pass this planet on to future generations intact..." ( ) and on July 9th when speaking on the American Clean Energy and Security Act she described the issue as a "moral" one ( ).

That's a lot of "morality," folks.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for morality. I like morality. I even would go so far as to say we need to raise the collective moral consciousness. But is this the purpose of government? When our politicians invoke "morality" to pass energy or security or health care bills I pause. I chuckle.

The irony is just too, rich.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Check this out

For those who want more than an estimate of the 9/12 Tea Party marchers, check out Charlie Martin's article on

Critical Thinking

In the college course I teach, I encourage my students to read critically. Question the narrative when the facts don't support the claims. So when the mainstream media tells us (if and when they talk about it at all) that the Tea Party Express taxpayer march on Washington was in the tens of thousands and we see the picture at right we should question the claims.

I was in Annapolis this weekend at Navy Parents weekend and we met many people who marched on Saturday. To a person they reported that the event organizers and the Capitol Police estimated the attendance as closer to 2 million participants. Tens of thousands or 2 million? Heck, let's split the difference and call it one million.

On August 28, 1963 approximately 200,000 peopled joined the March on Washington to listen as Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Saturday, if the Capitol Police are to be believed, 1.9-2.5 million people marched on Washington to protest not merely tax policy or health care reform but a government that continues to ignore the founding principles of our country and yet the media and that government's response has been radio silence.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Wise and Frugal Government

"A wise and frugal government...shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own purusits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801