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Entitlements

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The definition of entitlement from the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) “to give somebody the right to have or to do something” [emphasis mine].  Merriam-Webster defines it as “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also: funds supporting or distributed by such a program” [again, emphasis mine].

What truly are entitlements as the term applies to our daily lives?  According to A Glossary of Political Economy Terms by Paul M. Johnson of the Department of Political Science, Auburn University – the most important examples of entitlement programs at the federal level in the United States would include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, most Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and agricultural price support programs. Based on the definition above, the activities should not be called entitlements.

I would though argue that benefits such as Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans should not be included at all.  These programs were earned through employment – as are any such programs in the private sector.  Although programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are paid for by the eventual receiver of the benefit they are unconstitutional activities of the Federal Government.

Oft cited as justification for Entitlement programs is the “general Welfare of the United States” parts of the United States Constitution.  The Constitution contains two references to “the General Welfare”, one occurring in the Preamble and the other in the Taxing and Spending Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court has held the mention of the clause in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution “has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments.”  This leaves the Taxing and Spending Clause which reads, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”.  However, while the “general Welfare” has been, and I agree should be, interpreted as many things, it says nothing of redistribution of wealth programs – exactly what these so called entitlements are.

Per the official Social Security website: “The constitutional issue about the taxing power had deep roots running all the way back to the founders and to a dispute between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Although both Hamilton and Madison were Federalists who believed in a strong federal government, they disagreed over the interpretation of the Constitution’s permission for the government to levy taxes and spend money to ‘provide for the general welfare.’ Hamilton thought this meant that government could levy new taxes and undertake new spending if doing so improved the general welfare in a broad sense. Madison thought the federal government could only expend money for purposes specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  The Madisonian view, also shared by Thomas Jefferson [an Anti-Federalist], came in time to be known as the strict construction doctrine while the Hamiltonian view is called the doctrine of implied powers.”  Obviously I completely agree with Madison and Jefferson.  When you throw the 10th Amendment into the mix it makes little sense for the general welfare to be interpreted as Hamilton did.  IF, as he suggests, “government could levy new taxes and undertake new spending if doing so improved the general welfare in a broad sense”, thereby opening the door to those “implied powers”, it could basically do whatever it wanted.  It would operate with complete impunity.  Can you say $16T debt?  Can you say 10th Amendment disregarded?  Keep in mind, the 10th Amendment not only covers the States but “we the people” as well.  Considering it is not only our rights being ignored but our money used to pay for these programs, it may be something with which you should concern yourself.  Just a thougth…

According to Paul M. Johnson, “The existence of entitlement programs is mainly significant from a political economy standpoint because of the very difficult problems they create for Congress’s efforts to control the exact size of the budget deficit or surplus through the annual appropriations process.”  As well, “Since the middle 1980s, entitlement programs have accounted for more than half of all federal spending. Taken together with such other almost uncontrollable (in the short run, that is) expenses as interest payments on the national debt and the payment obligations arising from long-term contracts already entered into by the government in past years, entitlement programs leave Congress with no more than about 25% of the annual budget to be scrutinized for possible cutbacks through the regular appropriations process.”  This of course presupposes that you can’t touch such programs.  I have a revelation!  How about we get rid of these programs?  How about if people “need” assistance we leave it to the States (should any individual State choose to have such programs), private charity or family/friends.  Wow, what a concept.  I cannot take credit for it though.  It was around for thousands of years prior to our Entitlement programs being implemented.

Bottom line:  this is a pure and simple redistribution of wealth which boils down to legalized (and unconstitutional) theft.  They are taking money from one to give to another.  The first receives no compensation or benefit from the “transaction”.  As well, per the Merriam-Webster definition of “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group”, one can hardly argue that it is providing “for the … general Welfare of the United States”.  These programs are providing for specific groups of people that fit specific criteria.
That is NOT the general welfare of our country directly or indirectly!  For those that doubt, we will take a look at the Broken Window Theory at a future date.

I went through the Constitution (again!) to look for rationale above and beyond that normally claimed to support these programs.  I found none.  However, what I DID find were violations of MY rights (and yours).  Since those that come up with these ideas seem bent on interpreting the Constitution in any way they see fit, I am going to throw out these arguments as I see them (two can play at that game).

Taking my money to pay for unearned entitlements for others, and, in fact, specific groups such as the poor and farmers, violates my 4th Amendment rights.  That is, it violates my right to “be secure in [my] … effects, against unreasonable … seizures…”  In this case, taking my money to give to someone else is in effect seizing my “effects” (no pun intended).  It is unreasonable since I receive no benefit from the seizure and have no say in either how much is taken or to whom it is given.  In fact, I actually become less secure in my person and house since I have less money with which to secure family and myself.  In a similar vein, this would also violate my 5th Amendment rights.  These being “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”  In this case we are not even talking about “private property be[ing] taken for public use”.  The money (property) they are taking from me is designated for specific groups, not to be used for the public.  Due process of law means “a fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. Also, a constitutional guarantee that a law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.”  This specifically applies to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” (i.e., ME!) and, while specified in the 5th Amendment this applies to States as well per the 14th.

I am also going to claim my 8th Amendment rights have been violated.  My claim in this is that since this amendment does not claim to be specific to criminals (as may be presumed by its wording), it is applicable to every citizen.  Therefore, this theft of my funds is an “…excessive fines imposed…” which results in “…cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”.  I am being unduly punished by having my money taken, again with no benefit to me, and reducing my standard of living.

Additionally I am claiming a violation of my 10th Amendment rights.  This of course is the amendment that ensures “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.”  I am “the people”.  While I might agree that many of these programs could be enacted and implemented at the State level (should the people of that State so choose and it is done so in a manner so as not to violate my 14th Amendment rights), until then, and as long as it is the Federal government doing it, I am being denied my constitutional rights.  I have all those rights not enumerated in Article I, Section 8.

I am finally claiming my 13th Amendment rights are violated.  As I’m sure you will recall, this amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  I am claiming that this theft of my funds amounts to involuntary servitude.  I work and do not receive the entire benefit of my labor.  The time I must work to earn that which is taken to redistribute is involuntary servitude.  I have committed no crime.  Why am I being punished?

On the other hand, since we technically live in a Representative Democracy, we may as well just scrap the Constitution (Articles I and II excepted since in order to be a Representative Democracy, you need representatives) and let our duly elected representatives (Congress and the President) enact any laws they wish.  If we don’t like it, we just elect new ones and have them change it.  Based on the treatment of the Constitution over the last 50-60 years (to a more limited extent even longer), we are effectively doing this anyway.  Why not save the money being paid to the Judicial Branch and just scrap it?  No Constitution, no need to interpret it, no need for a Supreme Court (and all the support structure that goes with it).  Per the United States Courts website, “the Judiciary as a whole would receive $6.76 billion” in fiscal year 2012.  More for those Entitlement programs!

You may claim these arguments are silly, unrealistic or just plain ridiculous.  However, keep in mind, when we look at an application of our Constitution based on moving standards vice the original intent of the drafters and common sense, we can eventually make it say virtually anything we want.  Did I say “virtually”?  hmmmmmm

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Will we be ready for our next conflict?

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Failure to maintain air dominance has historically been measured in deaths. ~Adam J. Hebert (Editor in Chief, Journal of the Air Force Association)

I would suggest this goes likewise for land and sea.

Just a thought for those less inclined to support advancements in our military capability based on the idea that we are already ahead of potential adversaries or that it would be preparing for yesterday’s war.

I would assert that while the first may be accurate, said adversaries are not resting on their current capability.

Considering the second, it is wise we consider ANY kind of potential conflict and not be so arrogant as to think we can (or will) foresee the next enemy or equipment/tactics thereof.

Resting on our laurels is deadly (literally).

The solution to the U.S. illegal alien and immigration problem

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Not the completely detailed solution, but a pretty darn good draft/outline of major actions to accomplish.  Fleshing out the details and implementation of this outline will no doubt solve both the short-term and long-term problem.  Until, of course, everyone wants to get their pet issue/concern into the mix.  Kind of like a “clean” bill in Congress being hijacked with all the addendums, amendments, riders and/or earmarks.  Bottom line:  in order for this to work, the outline below must be followed as written.  Details are necessary but modifications to the major points will render the solution null and void allowing the problem to continue in perpetuity.  Regardless, now that I have solved the problem, whether it is implemented or not, I will be able to sleep at night knowing the solution is available.

>  I’ve read and heard from time-to-time that we need to modify the U.S. immigration policy and there very well may be a necessity to do so.  However, I am not completely convinced and this overall topic is for another time.  However, since many suggest current immigration policy is “wrong” and therefore provides rationale for the interlopers’ unlawful activity, the basics of our current policy are listed here for your consideration [from a summary by the American Immigration Council]:

  • Provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members.
  • Based upon three principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, and protecting refugees
  • [I will mention US citizenship below so let me give you the current US policy on that.]  “In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship, an individual must have had LPR status (a green card) for at least 5 years (or 3 years if he obtained his green card through a U.S. citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA). There are other exceptions for members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war or declared hostilities. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be at least 18 years old, demonstrate continuous residency, demonstrate “good moral character,” pass English and U.S. history and civics exams, and pay an application fee.” [American Immigration Council]

>  With that policy in mind, let us begin with the borders.  We have completely bastardized the concept of national security as applies to illegal entry.  So the first indispensable item on the agenda is obviously stopping the influx of illegal aliens into the country.  We have got to stop looking at illegal entry as a social issue.  Our immigration policy deals with that (see above).  This is an issue of national sovereignty.  Regardless of their rationale for entering the country, they are doing it unlawfully.  Build a “wall”.  I don’t care if it is physical, electronic, human or a combination thereof (although I’d recommend the combination).  We do not need Border Patrol or other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies to protect the U.S. borders (although there is a necessary, but limited, role for law enforcement).  We have a military to deal with interlopers – use it.  To the full extent of its capability if necessary.  The military exists to secure this country.  Defending it from illegal entry is as important in the long run as defending it from immediate and obvious enemy combatants.  Although, sometimes they are the same thing.  We deploy our military overseas to protect the homeland of others as well as to stop the spread of “evil” to keep it from our shores.  It is no less necessary to do so at our own borders.  Yes, yes, yes.  Many (most) are coming here to make a better life and are not combatants or intending to perpetrate any ill will against us.  And I really do sympathize.  Nevertheless, we should differentiate these individuals through proper/legal immigration procedures.  Not in the middle of the desert as they try to sneak in.

Now don’t get me wrong.  My expectation here is NOT to have the U.S. military just killing anyone coming across the border.  As mentioned, there is a role for law enforcement here.  However, I contend that a larger, more capable force on the border would go much further to deter, detect and halt entry than does our current arrangement.  The specific Rules Of Engagement would have to be worked out in detail (and I would be happy to sit on that council!).

>  While securing the border and considering modification of US immigration policy to whatever extent, the following guidelines should be used for those already here.  To begin with, all those here illegally will be required to register with the DHS.  U.S. citizens essentially have birth certificates to document their “entry” and status.  Look at this as the equivalent.  They would also be required to have an international “background check” performed.  An implication being that if you do not register and are later found out, regardless of anything below, you and any dependents will be immediately deported.  From there:

  • If you are already here illegally but otherwise a “good person” (i.e., you have no criminal record in the US or any foreign country, are a contributing member of society and have a means of support for yourself and any dependents), you may stay.  However, you may NEVER become a U.S. citizen nor be permitted to participate in those actions/opportunities rightly reserved to citizenship (i.e., voting in Federal elections).  Should you wish to become a U.S. citizen, you must return to your country of origin and come to the U.S. legally via following appropriate procedures.  While you are here under illegal circumstance of arrival, you will of course have to participate in paying taxes and will be afforded the same considerations as any other resident alien.  I realize some would suggest this creates, in a sense, a situation of “taxation without representation” but this is by YOUR choice.  If you want to vote for someone to represent you, come to this country legally.  That said, you will still be provided serves for your taxes.  You will still be accepting use of roads, military/police/fire protection and many other services.  If at any time you become a problem at any level of our society (from numerous misdemeanors (say three strikes you’re out) to committing a felony (singular)) you will be required to leave the U.S.

I realize this may seem like a pardon to some and I fully understand that.  This is not my first choice of solutions.  But I believe this is the best balance between a complete pardon for all (again!) and an attempt (and most likely failure) to deport all those here illegally.

  • If you are here illegally and not being a good person, you AND your dependents, whether born in the U.S. or not (see below), will be required to leave the U.S.  This would include (but not be reserved exclusively to) not only those that have committed crimes while in the U.S. but those that have committed crimes in their home country (or anywhere else for that matter).  We don’t welcome alien criminals (other than a onetime exception, obviously from the previous bullet, those whose sole crime is having entered the U.S. illegally).  Any dependent you may have that is under the age of 21 when you, and they, are deported may apply for entry under appropriate immigration policy when they are of legal age (specifically – 21). If they are 21 or older and have an application for citizenship in process, they may remain if they choose until such time as their application is adjudicated.
  • If you were born here of parents who are here illegally, you are not a citizen.  Sorry.  I fully understand you are not complicit in the unlawful activity preceding your birth.  However, we all “suffer” consequences in one form or another of those that came before us.   If you and your parents are being good people, you may stay.  It was not your fault your parents broke the rules and entered this country illegally.  You must register regardless of age and you may apply to become a U.S. citizen upon reaching your 21st birthday by following the appropriate procedures to do so.  However, if after your 14th birthday and prior to gaining U.S. citizenship you are found to have participated in felonious activity, you will be deported to the country of origin of your parents.  This would take place immediately following your 18th birthday (to ensure you are of legal age to vouch for yourself), or immediately if you are already of age, and is regardless of the citizenship status of your parents.

>  The final plank would deal with why people go to such lengths, put their lives and the lives of their loved ones in peril and break our laws just to get here in the first place.  Problems at home maybe?  I will provide some thoughts on this topic at a future date.

>  This should solve the problem.  I am well aware that the Socialists in our country would not be happy about this.  Contrary to popular belief, they have no actual desire solve a problem or provide assistance anyway.  Most of their “solutions” are still in search of a problem.  Their real objective is power.  To obtain and maintain that power they need votes.  They cannot get votes from non-citizens.  They therefore need immigrants as citizens dependent upon their socialist programs to vote for them.  Allowing anyone to vote regardless of their immigration status definitely benefits them.  So this MAY help solve two problems.  First is the problem of future illegal immigration and what to do with those already here.  The second is to help limit or break the hold Socialism currently has on this country.

>  This solution would benefit us in other ways as well.  A few examples:

  • Help reduce the federal deficit by “legalizing” and taxing the income of illegal immigrants thereby providing more tax revenue.
  • Reducing Federal expenditures on social programs since fewer people will be taken advantage of by employers holding the illegality of their status over their heads.  The employers will be forced to provide better wages and benefits instead of hiding the employment of these people under the table and making them no better than indentured servants.
  • Killing two birds with one stone by providing combined operations and training for our military right here at home.
  • I’m no expert on drug trafficking but I suspect having a full time military presence on the border would help with the interdiction of drugs coming across our borders.  I highly doubt a complete solution but every bit would help.
  • Reduce Federal expenditures by reducing the number of, and therefore expenses for, law enforcement agencies.  The US Customs and Border Protection as law enforcement in the form of border security would be significantly reduced.  Since we are paying for the military and its training anyway, that is a wash.

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…