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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Government Can Destroy Your Property Value, Supreme Court Rules

 

One of the core principles of libertarian thought is the concept of “private property.” Libertarians, and Classical Liberals; like John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson all believed in an individual’s right to own property.  Last week, in a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that bureaucrats don’t have to compensate property owners for imposed regulations that destroy the value of your property.  

The Murr family contends that regulations prevent them from selling their land on the St. Croix River.

At issue were two islands along the St. Croix River in Troy, Wisconsin.  The petitioner, Donna Murr, tried to sell one of the islands she owned in 2004, only to be blocked by local, state, and federal ordinances enacted under the “Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1976.” In writing the court’s majority opinion, Justice Kennedy outlined the regulations preventing the sale.

 

“Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the river was designated, by 1972, for federal protection. §3(a)(6), 82 Stat. 908, 16 U. S. C. §1274(a)(6) (designating Upper St. Croix River); Lower Saint Croix River Act of 1972, §2, 86 Stat. 1174, 16 U. S. C. §1274(a)(9) (adding Lower St. Croix River). The law required the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota to develop “a management and development program” for the river area. 41 Fed. Reg. 26237 (1976). In compliance, Wisconsin authorized the State Department of Natural Resources to promulgate rules limiting development in order to “guarantee the protection of the wild, scenic and recreational qualities of the river for present and future generations.” Wis. Stat. §30.27(l) (1973). “

 

“For the area where petitioners’ property is located, the Wisconsin rules prevent the use of lots as separate building sites unless they have at least one acre of land suitable for development. Wis. Admin. Code §§ NR 118.04(4), 118.03(27), 118.06(1)(a)(2)(a), 118.06(1)(b) (2017). A grandfather clause relaxes this restriction for substandard lots which were “in separate ownership from abutting lands” on January 1, 1976, the effective date of the regulation. § NR 118.08(4)(a)(1). The clause permits the use of qualifying lots as separate building sites. The rules also include a merger provision, however, which provides that adjacent lots under common ownership may not be “sold or developed as separate lots” if they do not meet the size requirement. § NR 118.08(4)(a)(2). The Wisconsin rules require localities to adopt parallel provisions, see § NR 118.02(3), so the St. Croix County zoning ordinance contains identical restrictions, see St. Croix County, Wis., Ordinance §17.36I.4.a (2005). The Wisconsin rules also authorize the local zoning authority to grant variances from the regulations where enforcement would create “unnecessary hardship.” § NR 118.09(4)(b); St. Croix County Ordinance §17.09.232. “

The two adjacent islands are both 1.25 acres, one of them has a small cabin and a dock, which the Murr family had intended to keep, the other island was completely vacant.  Since the “Wild and Scenic River Act” forced states to impose regulations protecting the river, the Murr’s two islands were required to be regulated as one piece of property, as opposed to each island being considered its own individual piece of property. This means that the Murr’s cannot sell just one island. Upon realizing this, the Murr family approached St. Croix County seeking compensation.  

They were right in seeking compensation, the fifth amendment has a provision in it called “The Takings Clause” which states:

“private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Chief Justice Roberts worries about the effect Murr v. Wisconsin will have on property rights going forward.

The Murr’s contend that the imposed regulations have effectively “taken” their private property for “public use.” Therefore they approached St. Croix County requesting that they be compensated $400,000, which is what the property had been appraised at, for their trouble. The county responded with an offer of $40,000, which the Murr’s contend is not “just compensation.”

In his scathing dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts fears that the ruling could have a negative effect on property rights going forward.

“Put simply, today’s decision knocks the definition of ‘private property’ loose from its foundation on stable state law rules.”

His dissent centers around the how the majority’s decision adds a layer of uncertainty to private property rights, alluding to the fact that last week’s opinion may give the government more leeway in taking private property in the future.