What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

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Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

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Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

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The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

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Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

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5 Baffling Examples of Government Waste

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Last week an astonishing story came out of Canada.  Apparently, the City of Toronto had stated that it would cost the taxpayers of Ontario $65,000 to build some stairs in a city park. In an act of sensibility and reason, a retired mechanic decided he could probably build that same set of stairs at a cheaper rate, so he got to work, completing the project for a mere $550 dollars.  For some reason this pissed off the city of Toronto, who decided to waste taxpayer dollars and tear down the handyman’s stairs.

It’s astonishing how many examples there are of the government wasting taxpayer dollars. If one city is willing to spend $65,000 to build something one guy did over a weekend, presumably with a six pack of Molson, for under $600, what else are they wasting our money on?

$100 Million Dollars In Unused Airline Tickets

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Between 1997 and 2003 a federal audit revealed that the Department of Defense spent in excess of $100 million dollars on airline tickets that were never used. That’s 270,000 unused airline tickets.  Between 2001 and 2002 the audit revealed that the Pentagon purchased the same ticket twice in an astonishing 27,000 instances. But perhaps the worst part about this waste is that these tickets were fully refundable.  

The Department of Defense and the Pentagon fall under “military spending.” Still think we can’t afford to reduce military spending?

$29 Million Dollars Worth of Construction Equipment Lost in Afghanistan

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I’ll never forget when my friend Abe returned from serving his second tour in Iraq in 2009. Sitting outside on a patio outside of a bar in Iowa he lit up a cigarette, and before taking his first puff he was already laughing. Confused, we asked him what was so funny, and with a smile on his face he started telling us how odd it was to be able to smoke outside of a bar. He went on to tell us that how in the military he was only allowed to smoke in certain areas; often times shacks that he and his unit would have to build. He told us one story of how when he was in Afghanistan the closest smoke shack was about a mile away. Disappointed, he and some men from his unit decided to obtain material to build one closer to where they spent most of their day. He went on to describe how he had no idea how much, or even what material was needed, so while he and his unit were filling out the paperwork they would guess at what was needed.  The requisition was approved, and when the material arrived they realized they had way too much material, and after the shack was built they sort of abandoned the surplus and forgot about it.  

Since 2001, the government has spent nearly $4 TRILLION dollars on wars in the Middle East.  We often hear from Republicans in Congress that the taxpayer dollars being spent in Afghanistan, and throughout the region are in an effort to make the region safe, and therefore to keep America safe.  But as my friend Abe pointed out, a lot of it is bullshit.

In his annual “Festivus” report, Senator Rand Paul highlighted how in 2016 taxpayers spent $29 million dollars on lost cranes and bulldozers in Afghanistan.

 

Pentagon Spends $43 Million on One Gas Station in Afghanistan

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In October of 2015, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction published an alarming report.  Apparently taxpayers had spent $43 million dollars to build a single compressed natural gas station in Sheberghan Afghanistan. The purpose of the gas station, according to the report, was to highlight the commercial viability of using compressed natural gas to fuel vehicles in the region. John Sopko, who commissioned the report, had previously built a similar gas station in Pakistan for $500,000, meaning this particular station cost 140 times more.

The report highlights more than $30 million in overhead, and, according to Sopko;

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide and explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome.”

The average American is responsible for making sure that they can provide for themselves and their families, we are expected to act responsibly. But like that trust fund kid paying for his whole crew to go on spring break with him, the government doesn’t care about cost because they’re paying with someone else’s money.

 

$48,500 to Study the Smoking Habits of Russians

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Russians like to do many things; drink vodka, watch hockey, hack our elections, and smoke tobacco.  In fact Russians really like their tobacco; 60% of Russian men, and 25% of Russian woman regularly indulge in tobacco products.  

In April of 2015 the U.S. National Institutes of Health gave a grad student nearly $50,000 to study the habits of tobacco use in Russia over the last 130 years.

I think I join the vast majority of Americans when I say, “who cares?”

$9.6 Billion a Year on the 

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Formed as part of the “New Deal” by FDR in 1935, the “Rural Utilities Service Program” was designed to bring electricity to farms across the country, which may have been a good idea at the time.  That year only 11% of this America’s farms had electricity.  Today, however, the program is a giant, inefficient boondoggle, and eliminating the program would save taxpayers close to $10 billion dollars in the first year. What they’ve been doing lately is spending an estimated $5,500 per resident to give a rural town in Arkansas with a population of 122 people internet access.

While the program obviously has noble intentions, the private sector could, and would step up to fill this void. Google, and other tech giants love to invest in bringing infrastructure to more potential clients. But why would they invest in infrastructure when the government already does.  When the government cuts spending in one area there is usually a large public outcry, then the void gets filled by private enterprise.
There are literally hundreds of examples of how the government wastes our money on a daily basis, yet progressives constantly want to add more government programs. Lets return that money to the people, let us decide what is and is not worthwhile.