by David A. Woodbury
Soon after World War II, Congress began trying to solve all your problems for you. Up until then, if you had a problem, (if you were around then), you understood that you had a responsibility to solve it, and government understood its role to assure that you had the same chance as anyone else at doing so.
Your air was dirty, your rivers were dirty, your roads were narrow and slow, and lots of people were living in poverty, as poverty was defined in 1950 or so.
There were rich people, of course, who had nice homes and nice cars and owned businesses and such. You envied these people a little, but the very fact that they existed was evidence that you were free to work at creating your own wealth. You could aspire to be like them, and it was up to you to discover a way to join them.
Then Congress grew serious about solving your problems. First they had to identify your problems, especially the ones you didn’t know you had. (Current government philosophy: If it ain’t broke, fix it until it is — from a bumper sticker.)
Now, I have a question. Who is better off after 60-70 years of all this federal problem-solving? Is the air cleaner, and the water? (Or did we just shift all manufacturing to countries where the once-clean air and water are now dirtier than before, when they were merely agrarian societies?) Is there less fraud in finance? (Or has the switch in 1972 from the gold standard to make-believe money and the credit standard merely created new ways of committing fraud?) Is the workplace really safer? (Or has the majority of the risk been transferred to those countries where workplace standards are lower?) Are our kids better-educated? (Or have they merely taken control of the culture and set the learning standards themselves?) Are there fewer people living in poverty? (That’s a big one. When a young adult who shows up for a medical appointment, charging it to Medicaid, is thumbing a cell phone with unlimited texting, has a half-finished tattoo collection, drives a brightly-accessorized new car, sports tinted hair, $150 shoes, a pop-icon cigarette lighter, and is sipping from a super-sized plastic cup, while the medical receptionist checking him in at $9 an hour has relinquished her cell phone so she can pay for her own medical insurance, the poverty line is upside down.)
This is problem-solving according to the do-gooders YOU have sent to Washington, or refused to remove from Washington, for four score years or more. If Congress hasn’t truly been solving problems, then why aren’t YOU doing something about it?
Undergraduates in any college political science programs must eventually take a constitutional law course. Invariably they learn the adage: The President proposes; Congress disposes. If Congress wants to solve real problems, it can. But to do so means behaving in a way that Congress — the current 538 of them — can’t bring themselves to do.
Here is my list of problems they won’t solve.
The only thing that passes for free enterprise in America any more is a yard sale. Manufacturing within our borders is illegal. It’s not proscribed in an outright statute, but any enterprise that attempts to manufacture something must submit to such a gauntlet of government permitting, insurance-buying, scrutiny at every step of a process, and such a reporting and record-keeping burden, that the primary effort of a business is not manufacturing but accounting for what it does and proving that it hasn’t done what it hasn’t done such as violating non-discrimination regs or purchasing raw material from an unapproved source. (I used to be a manager in a hospital. If we didn’t have any patient complaints during a period of a month, we were required to prove it.)
Our kids can’t read, write, and cipher as well as they could before there was a department of education.
There isn’t enough money. Even though they have poured dollars into the economy in incomprehensible amounts (trillions, whatever those are*), those dollars are not real and they do not comprise wealth. There is probably not enough wealth in the country any more to balance the dollars in circulation.
Here is a list of problems that Congress has solved.
1. There wasn’t enough federal control over baseball. Now Congress convenes hearings to manage baseball.
2. The lawyers in Congress solidified their priesthood in two ways: first by cultivating a massive, invasive, tumorous fourth branch of government (the unelected, unconstitutional regulatory branch) and transferring law-making authority to it, thereby exponentially increasing the body of incomprehensible law; and second by leveraging votes on legislation in exchange for hiding bills in the pages of other bills so that the hidden bills avoid scrutiny on their merits.
3. The accountants in Congress solidified their priesthood in two ways: first by feeding the gargantuan, uncaged monster called the IRS that then dreams up terms such as “constructive receipt”; and second by creating a massive, unfunded federal “reserve” (funded by pretend money).
4. It is too messy and time-consuming for a representative to propose a bill in the House of Representatives and expect the House to debate it on its merits and vote on it. Congress has solved this problem. Nothing comes up for a vote on its own. Committees filter bills, but favored members of Congress can hope that something will emerge from committee that resembles their original proposal, at least in the way a 5-year-old’s scribble of a house resembles an architectural drawing, and hope that a parody of the original proposal will later be rolled into a “comprehensive” and highly-compromised bill. Funding for their proposal will be overestimated and eventually rolled into a Consolidated Ommibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
5. More specifically, members of Congress no longer write the laws that they vote on, which no one can read, and which no one can understand even if they try, as exposed in the famous Pelosi quote of 2010 that “we have to pass the bill [Obamacare] so that you can find out what is in it.” Congress mostly engages in the scandalous practice of enacting “enabling legislation”. Instead of writing the laws to clean up the air, they declare: There shall be clean air! This enables the executive branch, overseer of the regulatory branch, to actually write regulations, which have the power of law. But what if part of the regulation is over-reaching (what reg isn’t, but never mind that)? If part of the regulation needs to be repealed or rewritten, (prove that you had no complaints) that change has to be rolled into some other unrelated bill (requiring that voters present identification in order to vote), and if Congress can’t pull together the votes to pass that, then the bad regulation stands the way the regulatory branch wrote it and Congress can’t fix the law that it is supposedly responsible for.
6. Many times in the past half-century an act of Congress has been called a lawyers’ and accountants’ full-employment act, which is self-explanatory. All the regulations enabled by Congress, by abrogating that responsibility to the regulatory branch, are promulgated to assure that only a high priesthood of lawyers and accountants can interpret them. Woe even to the retiree who tries to file her own income tax whose only income is from Social Security.
That Congress has come this far from protecting your freedom should frighten you. What am I doing about it? I have written this, so that you may understand what you never before suspected.
*In an early episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett comes into the house and announces that “Mr. Drysdale says they’re going to pay me in some new kinda dollars.” Grannie says, “There ain’t no new kinda dollars.” Jed turns to his nephew and says, “What’d he call them, Jethro?” “Milli-yun dollars,” Jethro replies.