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05 October 2012

Pondering the Debate (Part 2)

So, yesterday, I started looking at the debate. A couple of my friends on Facebook asked me to do more with it, so I'll see what I can do. It's kind of fun to look at what the candidates say and compare it to the Constitution. Due to limited time for this project, I'm taking them both at face value. I know that there are fact-checking articles out there. I'm only looking at them and comparing what they claim with my best understanding of the Constitution and original Founding Principle. But it's not the sort of comparison that I see happening anywhere else, so hopefully it's useful to someone besides just me.

So here I am, continuing from page three.

Romney: Middle-income families are being crushed. And so the question is how to get them going again. And I've described it. It's energy and trade, the right kind of training programs, balancing our budget and helping small business. Those are the — the cornerstones of my plan. But the president mentioned a couple of other ideas I'll just note. First, education. I agree: Education is key, particularly the future of our economy. But our training programs right now, we've got 47 of them, housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies. Overhead is overwhelming. We've got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to get in the training they need for jobs that will really help them. 

OK. Much of this I looked at near the end of part one. Last night, I wasn't very happy with Mr. Romney's comments about education, because federal involvement is unconstitutional. However, if by "we've got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers" he's talking about a plan for removing education from the federal level and returning control to the states, then he's talking stuff that I like to hear! To really do this, all federal funding would have to be done away with, in order to do away with the "strings" that always come with money. (Obviously, that would need to be done over a period of time to avoid chaos.) That would be right in line with the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

One thing I'm noticing about the debate is that the time limits don't allow the sort of elaboration that would really make the answers to these questions meaningful. You see that here. I am cautiously optimistic about Mr. Romney's comments here. They could mean that he intends to follow the Constitution. But they don't have to mean that, and our politicians have been betraying the people for a very, very long time. So long that neither they nor the people generally think a thing of it. The wording here is vague. There is value in seeing what the candidates say in the moment, but it's not the sort of format that allows for a complete answer that could be really scrutinized.

Romney: The third area, energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies.
Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I'm president, I'll double them, and also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I'll bring that pipeline in from Canada.
And, by the way, I like coal. I'm going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it's getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.

Again, this speaks to over-reach, or at the very least, over-stating the power that the President legitimately has. Certainly, he can propose these ideas to Congress, and certainly he can reign in, downsize, and (hopefully) begin to disband unconstitutional agencies such as the EPA, but there are limits to what a single man can do. Even the President of the United States. And that is by design.

Thomas Jefferson: "In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

Romney: And finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I'm not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the — the revenues going to the government. My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.
But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I — and to do that, that also means I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans. So any — any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.

Again, all tax code arises in the House of Representatives. The president usually sends a proposal, which is permitted under Article II Section 3, but the House chooses if they are going to use some, all, or none of it. To say "I will" or "I won't" relies heavily on the Congress actually accepting his proposals, and, to my way of thinking, implies that he plans to use the veto power if they don't do what he asks. This is within his rights; the veto is authorized in Article I Section 7:

Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill. (Emphasis added)

So the president does have the power to do what he says he plans to do... sort of. It takes a good deal of intestinal fortitude to face the political storm that would come from vetoing a budget bill, particularly at the point we are at, where we haven't had a budget for so long. Does Mr. Romney have that fortitude of character? I don't know.

 Obama: Well, I think — let's talk about taxes, because I think it's instructive. Now, four years ago, when I stood on this stage, I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that's exactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle-class families by about $3,600.

OK, I know I said I was focusing on the Constitution, but the BS Alarm is going absolutely nuts over this one. It's Obamacare that's the problem. Either Obamacare is, as the Supreme Court ruled, the biggest tax hike in history, or it's unconstitutional on its face and should have been struck down. (After all, the Supreme Court is filled by fallible men, and also able to make mistakes and misjudgements in their rulings - that's why they periodically overturn previous decisions.) I personally believe that it's unconstitutional on its face, but for Mr. Obama to keep it as the crowning achievement of his presidency he has to keep all of it, including its status as a tax hike. He can't have it both ways, even though he wants to. Doesn't work. As long as he keeps Obamacare, he raised taxes on middle class families and every one else too. Claiming otherwise is dishonest, and dishonesty is NOT a good character trait in one who hopes to be the president. Not that it's an unusual trait in politicians; but it an undesirable one. We need men of virtue in our nation. We need them among the people at large, and we need the best of them as our leaders.

John Adams: "The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty."

Alright. I'd hoped to keep things more even between the two of them, but it's not turned out that way in this section. Hopefully Mr. Obama will say something about his own plans soon, rather than just commenting on Mr. Romney's stuff. But I've noticed that he doesn't like to say much about his plans, so we shall see.

And now, my kids need lunch.

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