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05 October 2012

Pondering the Debate (Part 1)

So, the presidential candidates had a big debate, and now I'm trying to look at it. There's a lot going on right now: books that need to be organized, kids that need to be taught and fed, church stuff that needs to get done. Sleep. I like sleep. But, politics need to have at least a little time too, least we loose freedoms. So I'm looking at the debate.

 Here's the transcript that I'm using. I like to look at the printed words because they're less distracting; it's easier to look at them coolly and logically, and I try to avoid getting caught up in the emotionalism of it all, or falling into the trap of spending time thinking too much about who looks more "presidential" or other things of that nature that really don't matter at all. What I want to know is this: how do the candidates' words measure up against the Constitution? What might the Founders say about the positions that our current candidates are taking? That's my issue. That's what I vote on. I want the Constitution, and freedom.

So. First question, from the 2nd page of the transcript:

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let's start the economy, segment one, and let's begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?

Already, I'm feeling a little frustrated. Jobs are not the president's responsibility. His duties are clearly laid out in Article II of the Constitution, and they include:
  • being Commander in Chief of the Military.
  • with the advice and consent of the Senate, he makes treaties, nominates ambassadors & other public officials, judges
  • fills vacancies in the Senate
  • periodically informs Congress as to the state of the Union
  • recommends laws for Congress's consideration
  • in extraordinary cases he may convene one or both houses of Congress, and if they can't agree upon adjournment, he makes that decision
  • receives ambassadors and other public ministers
  • takes care that laws are faithfully executed
  • commissions officers for the United States.
 I'm just not feeling the whole President-as-job-creator thing. Maybe it could come under recommending laws to Congress. Maybe. But then Congress would still have to get its collective act together and actually pass the thing. There's tons more to it that just "The President says so." But, in general, I feel like we ascribe too much power to the Presidency. He's just one guy. He's not supposed to be an all-powerful leader capable of fixing all our nation's ills. Our government is deliberately limited because to give a single man that kind of power to build also gives him the power to destroy, and that was something that the Founders were acutely aware of and cautious to avoid.

But, let's look at the responses anyhow. Maybe one of them said something useful.

Obama: You know, four years ago we went through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of jobs were lost, the auto industry was on the brink of collapse. The financial system had frozen up.
And because of the resilience and the determination of the American people, we've begun to fight our way back. Over the last 30 months, we've seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. The auto industry has come roaring back. And housing has begun to rise.
But we all know that we've still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not where we've been, but where we're going.

OK. I'm not feeling the "recovery." Color me skeptical. Everything is more expensive than it was 4 years ago. And my husband is still at the same crappy job with a crappy boss... because the folks who want to hire are either not paying a wage we can afford to live on, or they won't consider him because we don't already live in the area the job is in.Talking about the financial crisis in the past tense seems unduly optimistic.

Obama: Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we'll be better off. I've got a different view.

Silly boy. Let the Mr. Romney state his own position. Don't waste your time on what he thinks before he's even had a chance to tell us. Tell me about what you are going to do.  (Though your synopsis of his plan sounds pretty good to me.)

Obama: I think we've got to invest in education and training. I think it's important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we're helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we're saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.

Federal involvement in education is wholly unconstitutional. It's a states' matter. If the states want to do that, let them. But until and unless we make an Amendment to the Constitution, we should remember the wisdom of George Washington:

Washington: The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government. (From his Farewell Address, emphasis mine)

What Mr. Obama proposes, if carried out at the federal level where his authority lies, is unconstitutional. Yes, the Department of Education is well established and has been with us for a generation. No, it is not authorized by the Constitution. And claims to change the tax code to "help small businesses" are hardly credible when one looks at the tremendous expenses incurred by business under the "Affordable" Health Care Act. (I prefer to call it Obamacare myself, because calling it "Affordable" Health Care is so blatantly untrue.) Biggest "tax hike" in American history. Really, the way that Mr. Obama has run up the nation's credit cards is appalling, and steals any credibility from lip-service to bringing down the deficit.

Romney: This is obviously a very tender topic. I've had the occasion over the last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, "I've been out of work since May. Can you help me?"
Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms, and said, "Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He's lost his most recent job. And we've now just lost our home. Can you help us?"

Yeah. Ascribing god-like powers to the presidency, the power to reach out and change our lives, to fix everything... it bothers me. Americans need to stop this. Stop looking to others to fix our problems and rediscover the independence that our forefathers are famous for. This stuff isn't the president's job. It's our job. It's our job to do for ourselves, and our job to help our neighbor when they are in need.

Here's Romney's plan. (I'm on page 3 now.)

Romney: And the answer is, yes, we can help, but it's going to take a different path, not the one we've been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That's not what I'm going to do. My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America, crack down on China, if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We're a far way from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget. Number five, champion small business. It's small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last four years, small- business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

1. Energy independent. I think this is a good idea. I suppose this would fall into the recommending laws for Congress's consideration department. If I was him, I'd couch it in those sorts of terms. Saying it's something that he's "going to do" is risky, because he's over-promising if he plans to stay inside the confines of his Constitutional authority. The President executes laws; Congress makes them.

2. Trade. This actually is relevant to the presidency, through treaties. But again, he needs Congress to make anything happen.

3. Education. Federal involvement is unconstitutional, regardless of who is advocating it.

4. The budget. That originates in the House, but the President usually submits a proposed budget, which is his prerogative under the recommending laws in Article II Section 3. A balanced budget would be nice, but it's going to be a tough sell. There is somebody who thinks that every program is critical, and my feeling on the situation is that Congress is going to feel like it's a threat to their power to do the sorts of cuts that we really need to get anywhere with the budget. Meaningful change is going to be uncomfortable. Unpleasant. Perhaps even downright nasty, and Americans will have to tighten their belts in ways that they don't want to do. I don't know that he can do this one, because I don't think that Americans have the will to do what is necessary at this point.

5. Champion small businesses. This is incredibly vague. Yes, he's got business experience, yes, it's small business that make up the majority of our nation's workforce, yes they're struggling. Just what, exactly does he propose to do about it? Can't make a call on this one, because he doesn't really say anything of substance here.

And, it being 1am, I think that's all that I can do for one night. So far, both candidates have some serious problems with adhering to the Constitution. Mr. Obama is still in many ways the Congressman that habitually voted "present." The stuff he talked about doing here is either unconstitutional or not credible. As for Mr. Romney, I'd hoped he'd do better. I'd hoped that he'd be closer to the Constitution. I know. Radical idea. Constitutional Originalism. What a crazy idea.

I'm going to sleep.

If you're not sleepy you can keep reading: Part 2


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