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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…

We the People have lost control

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The majority of those voting in the last two U.S. elections voted for Socialism.  I’m not sure many of them understand that, but they did.  I AM sure the officials for whom they voted are well aware of it (see my post of 12/23/12).  I do not want to specifically dwell on this issue.  However, I do want to mention of few consequences thereof.  I think from the standpoint of the average citizen that voted for this government, they will find many of the consequences unintentional.  I know many of these people and am dumbfounded that they could actually cast their vote the way they did.   While on the surface they can reconcile their underlying beliefs with what they were being told.  I am dumbfounded however because these are otherwise intelligence people that refused to look any deeper than the political rhetoric, the stump speeches, the sound bites.  I am dumbfounded because of the overwhelming data that demonstrates over extended periods of time in countless different circumstances and situations that none of what they were being told works.  Two of the most pressing topics of the day are ObamaCare and gun control.

I’m not exactly sure how birth control became a medical issue.  It is not a disease to be cured.  It is not an injury to be repaired.   In many forms of birth control you are putting chemicals into your body but you do so also with aspirin or any other over the counter remedy.  However, in those cases you ARE actually attempting to cure, or prevent, some disease or injury.   So why again is birth control a medical issue?  In the past, from a “societal view”, it really hasn’t mattered.  However, in the new Socialist state in which we live, it does.  It does because the government has decided that employers must pay for it.  I can hear many of you now.  Why does THAT matter?  It matters because, although we continue to ignore it, the Constitution is still the law of the land.  The 1st Amendment to said Constitution explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”  So what has THAT got to do with birth control?  It just so happens that some people are opposed to birth control on religious grounds.  So, contrary to popular belief, those privately owned companies that do not believe they should pay for their employee’s birth control are not just doing so on religious principal.  They are doing so on Constitutional grounds.  This is the type of thing our Founding Fathers fought against.  Not just against a government that tells you what religion you must practice (such as belonging to the Church of England in pre-Revolutionary days), but a government that tells you what you are allowed to practice and what you are not.  A government that tells you that unless it is practiced inside four walls designated a religious building, it is not religion.  Your religious beliefs are not a concern of the government.  Control is.

I saw a poster the other day that said, “We don’t blame cars for drunk drivers, why do we blame guns for violent criminals?”  I would add that we don’t blame the alcohol either.  I find it a darn good question.  What I find dumbfounding (apparently my word of the day), is that so many people don’t get it.  In More Guns, Less Crime John Lott demonstrated the inverse correlation between guns and crime.  In doing so demonstrated yet again that gun control does not work.  He demonstrated in fact, the exact opposite.  As an aside, Mr. Lott is an economist quite familiar with how to do honest statistical analysis.  Not being a gun enthusiast himself, he originally planned to prove exactly the opposite of what his results showed.  However, unlike so many that manipulate either the question or the answer in order to achieve their going in supposition, Mr. Lott let the honesty of the results speak for themselves.  Of course, many blame neighboring cities, states, countries, etc for such statistics.  They claim that we must get rid of ALL guns and control them getting into the country.  Hmmmmm…  Let’s ask England and Australia how that is working for them.  Both island nations.  You can’t get better control of your borders than that.  Both saw a marked increase in violent crime as access to firearms became more and more restricted.  Not just crime but crime in which individuals were more directly involved.  What do I mean by that?  In England, prior to guns being outlawed home break-ins were mostly limited to vacant houses.  The robbers were of course concerned with discovery and confrontation if someone was home.  This is problematic if the person at home had a means of defense.  Since that means of defense (firearms) was removed from the home (first restricted to the shooting range/club and then altogether), burglars have little to be concerned about as relates to their safety.  They are now going after homes whether someone is there or not.  Now the citizens of England not only have the crime of burglary but assault.  You need now not fear only the loss of possessions, but the lost of limb or even life.   Australia’s “experiment” proved the same.  Has either country admitted its failed policies?   Oh NO!  We can’t have that.  The fact that their subjects (specifically chosen term) are in far more danger now than ever is not a concern of theirs.

What has all this got to do with us?  We are yet again on the trajectory of more restrictive gun control.  The fact that the Clinton Gun Ban was a failure and we actually have far fewer “gun” crimes now than under that failed policy is beside the point.  The problem they argue is the same as what those in other countries pushed.  It didn’t go far enough.  That these other countries have gone to complete bans and finding exactly what John Lott found (in this case, less gun means more crime – while not the title, also covered in his book) is ignored.  We are now again pushing for another “assault rifle” (aka, black, menacing looking rifle) ban.  In addition, the latest FBI data (2011) shows more murder victims in the U.S. by blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc) than all types of rifle combined (496 vs 323).  I could cite reams of data demonstrating the absurdity of blaming the weapon instead of the user.  But this is what will always continue to baffle me – the complete denial of data demonstrating anything that disagrees with their view.  Your safety is not a concern of the government.  Control is.

Let us set aside the “moral” aspect of birth control and the logical aspect of gun control for a moment.  The question with which we are left amounts to control.  Society is a “contract” in which man bands together for collective benefit.  In such a situation, control is to some extent necessary.  Of this there is no doubt.  Because of this, there becomes a delicate balance between individual and group requirements. Using the example of traffic management makes it quite easy to see such a balance.  Traffic lights and stop signs are used to control vehicles at intersections.  We acknowledge that in order to have an ordered society we may have to come to a brief stop at a stop sign or sit at a stop light for a few minutes even if another vehicle is nowhere to be seen.  I would suggest both evidence and logic would demonstrate this is an acceptable price to pay to ensure a level of safety while driving.  I would also suggest that if individuals choose not to practice birth control or own a gun, this is an acceptable price to pay to live in a mutually beneficial society.  However, when government, against all logic and honest data, decides to take our money to pay for something for another individual that we find objectionable or that we are not allowed a specific tool we find necessary, both with no regard for our Constitutional rights, it is probably time to question into what we have gotten ourselves.  We the People have lost our Constitution.  We the People have lost control.

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