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A Citizen’s Guide to Fixing The Federal Government

The majority of Americans have lost faith in and distrust the federal government. Currently, just 19% of Americans say they can trust the government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past half-century.

What can citizens do to fix the federal government?

fixing federal government guide book coverJohn H. Ramsey has published “A Citizen’s Common Sense Guide For Fixing The Federal Government.” Ramsey presents the problems but more importantly offers common sense solutions to fix what is broken in Washington, D.C. Ramsey lists the most important problems facing the American people as:

  • 70,000 pages of tax code
  • Rampant Deficit Spending
  • 175,000 pages of regulations, many which are not authorized by law
  • Mismanaged Social Security and Medicare Funds
  • Improper Accounting that masks America’s true liabilities

Ramsey offers the following solutions implemented by “We The People”:

  • Tax Only to fund Government with no social engineering
  • Deficit Spending only in national emergencies
  • Tie regulations to law with fair Administrative Courts
  • Repay Social Security and Medicare. Manage as trust funds.
  • Use generally accepted accounting for government

Ramsey proposes a Constitutional Amendment to reign in the federal government.

Most Americans will agree with Ramsey’s analysis and his solutions for fixing the federal government. Some may not agree with his solutions. Creating a new amendment to the Constitution is fraught with dangers. Ramsey’s Constitutional amendment verbiage would be subject to the whims of Congress, those who are the root cause of the problem.

To the naysayers Ramsey responds:

I think there is enough impetus that a Constitutional Convention is probably going to happen. Our task therefore is to influence the outcome. Clearly, Congress may meddle but they cannot stop it.

My goal is to help to adopt an Omnibus Amendment to The U.S. Constitution requiring that our Federal Government:

Tax only to fund Government, with no social engineering. This could be accomplished either with a flat tax based on income or a Fair Tax on consumption. The key is to eliminate 73,000 pages of exceptions, deductions, and attempted social influences that have nothing to do with funding the government.

Deficit spend only in national emergencies; pay down existing debt. You didn’t comment on this but it is crucial that we enact an amendment that stops runaway deficit spending.

Tie regulations tightly to law with fair and impartial Administrative Courts. This provision would tie regulations more closely to the underlying laws which authorize them and would enable the courts to throw out regulations that exceed the specific authorization in law. Furthermore, currently Administrative Courts are the only recourse for citizens wishing to challenge particular regulations, but such Administrative Courts are staffed entirely by government employees who almost always rule in favor of the government. They are not independent and impartial which my Constitutional Amendment would require.

Repay money misappropriated from Social Security and Medicare and manage them independently as trust funds. Repayment of amounts “borrowed” from these funds would reduce the federal deficit by about $2.8 trillion, almost 15% of the total.

Use generally accepted accounting for the federal government. This requirement is simple but not easy, but it is essential because we simply do not know the extent of federal liabilities because they are accounted for improperly and inconsistently, and so much of the exposure is “off the balance sheet”.

There are other efforts being proposed to fix the broken federal government from eliminating the Sixteenth Amendment as proposed under the Fair Tax (H.R.25), to an Article V Convention and a Constitutional convention to impose term limits on the U.S. Congress recently approved by the Florida legislature.

All of these efforts are dramatic bottom up efforts and each has as its goal to fix an increasingly out of control federal government (legislative, administrative and judicial).

The American people have had enough of top down solutions, they hunger for a bottom up approach.

In that light, Mr. Ramsey’s is one of those solutions worthy of a closer look.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pitfalls to Abbott’s Call for Convention of States

Florida: Groupthink on the Sarasota County School Board

school board compositI am always fascinated by how politicians, once elected, don’t do what they promised in order to get elected. Rather they become part of “the system”. They become influenced by bureaucrats, forget they represent their constituents and pass laws, rules, and regulations which harm their very constituents. They in effect become group thinkers.

Groupthink is an oxymoron. You see it is not about thinking, rather it is about the group (collective). Wikipedia has this definition of Groupthink:

A psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

The Sarasota County School Board members, with one exception, suffers from groupthink. Because of this it has resulted in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcomes. One example is the misuse of tax dollars.

YourObserver.com staff in an op-ed stated:

It has been a month and a half, but many of you still will remember the cyclone that whirled about the Sarasota County School Board over its selection of a construction manager for the Suncoast Technical College’s North Port campus.

At the recommendation of Superintendent Lori White, the board voted 4-1 to bypass its selection committee and go with Willis Smith Construction.

The lone “no” vote came from Bridget Ziegler, the rookie board member who was elected last November.

The day after the vote, Ziegler, age 32, posted her rationale and comments on her Facebook page (see box).

Whoa.

At the April 21 School Board meeting, Ziegler’s fellow board members delivered to Ziegler what easily can be called a smackdown, chastising her for seven minutes for speaking out and not following the other members’ board protocol.

Talk about taking Ziegler to the woodshed. “Hey, missy, you need to learn a thing or two before you go spouting off.” That’s the way it comes across.

Among the disturbing comments came from board member Jane Goodwin: “I just hope in the future you’ll … consider that you have a loyalty to this board and … we represent the Sarasota County School Board …”

So what we have on the Sarasota County School Board is one thinker, Bridgette Ziegler, and four followers. The issue is that the Sarasota County School Board selected a vendor whose bid was $4.5 million higher than the lowest qualified vendor. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Shelby Web reported, “The board voted 4-1 to follow Superintendent Lori White’s advice to hire Willis A. Smith instead of A.D. Morgan Corp., which had said it could do the job for about $4.5 million less.”

Does this not appear to be a dysfunctional decision? Aren’t the board members supposed to be good stewards of the people’s property (tax dollars)?

Why do we see politicians at every level become group thinkers? 

Perhaps Frédéric Bastiat’s  who penned the seminal work The Law said it best. He pointed out that the relationship between the rulers and the ruled becomes distorted, and a sense of systemic injustice pervades the culture. Bastiat observed this in horror in his time, and it’s a good description of what happened at the Sarasota County School Board:

The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

The collective must silence those who think – namely Bridgette Ziegler. However, I do not believe Ms. Ziegler will be silenced.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Artsy Magazine.

Some Basic Economic Truths

During the summer of 1985 my oldest son, Mark, decided to leave his job as a chemistry teacher in a Silver Spring, Maryland, Catholic Boy’s High School to complete his Master’s thesis and his Doctoral work in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.  With little money to finance the move, he was looking for ways to transport his wife; his five-year-old stepson, Chris; and his four month old infant son, David, from Washington, D.C. to Norman, Oklahoma.

Having recently retired from my job with a major oil company in suburban Philadelphia, I offered to help with the move.  So, on the appointed day I drove to Silver Spring and loaded every cubic foot of my trunk and my rear seat with some of their belongings.  As we headed west on Interstate 70, my son took the lead in a borrowed Mercury station wagon, with every cubic foot filled to capacity; my daughter-in-law followed close behind in their worn-out old Toyota, the baby strapped into a car seat beside her; and I brought up the rear with five-year-old Chris riding “shotgun” in the passenger seat beside me.

The trip across the country was not up to my usual standard for cross-country driving.  Since the Interstate highway from Indianapolis to St. Louis was completed, but unposted, I had always taken that to mean that they wanted me to use my own discretion.  As a result, I was accustomed to driving the 1.030 miles from Philadelphia to St. Louis in just under fifteen hours.  But on our trip in August 1985, from the D.C. area to St. Louis, it was drive two hours, nurse the baby, drive two hours, nurse the baby, and on and on.  Then, after a night’s rest in St. Louis we set out again the next morning for the last leg of our trip from St. Louis to central Oklahoma.

As we had lunch in a roadside restaurant in Joplin, Missouri, I remarked that we were just a few miles north of Camp Crowder, Missouri, where I spent the first week of my U.S. Army military career, and that I’d like to revisit the place sometime just to see if it was the same as it was in the summer of 1953.

That was the last word on the subject until we crossed the Missouri/Oklahoma state line fifteen or twenty minutes later.  It was then that young Chris said, “Grandpa, tell me about some of your war wounds.”

Not wanting to go into detail on how I was machine-gunned by a group of South Koreans in a “friendly fire” incident during basic training, I decided to tell him some stories about wounds I received when I was a boy, just a few years older than he.  So I proceeded to describe a long ugly scar I have on my right knee that I received when I was just ten or eleven years old.  When I had described the scar, Chris said, “Grandpa, how did you get that wound?”

I said, “Well, as I recall, my friends and I were at the local ballpark in my hometown, crawling around under the bleachers, when I knelt on a broken soda bottle.”  To which he replied, “What were you doing crawling around under the bleachers?”

I said, “We were looking for small change, nickels and dimes that people had inadvertently dropped while watching a softball game.”

“Why were you looking for nickels and dimes?” he asked.

To which I replied, “We wanted to buy some sodas.”

He thought for a moment, a puzzled look on his face.  Then he said, “Grandpa, you can’t buy a soda for five or ten cents.  Sodas cost sixty cents.”

Not when I was your age,” I replied.  “When I was your age we could by a soda for five cents.”

That came as a big surprise to him.  He said, “How did that happen, Grandpa?”

I said, “The Democrats did it.”

“The Democrats did it?  Why did they do that?”

Thinking I’d impart a bit of economics wisdom, I said, “Well, the Democrats discovered many years ago that if they passed a law taking money away from people who have jobs and who work for a living, and give it to people who don’t have jobs or who don’t want to work, the people who get the free money will always vote for them on election day.  That helps to create what we call inflation and that’s why a soda costs a lot more than five cents today.”

This was obviously a new concept for him and I could almost hear the wheels turning in the seat beside me.  Finally, he said, “Grandpa, could the Democrats pass a law that would make candy free?”

I replied, “Sure they could.  But think about it… if the Democrats made a law saying that candy would be free, how long do you think the people who make candy would continue to make it?”

New concept; I could hear the wheels turning again.  Then he said, “Grandpa, am I a Democrat?”

I said, “Well, it’s too early to tell.  We’ll have to wait a few years to find out.”

Then he asked, “Grandpa, could the Democrats make a law that some candy would cost money and some would be free?”

I replied, “Yes Chris, the Democrats could make some candy free and others that would cost money.  But are you asking whether the Democrats could make a law saying that the kind of candy you like would be free and all the rest would cost money?”

A big smile crossed his face.  He nodded his head and said, “Yeah!”

I said, “You’re a Democrat.”

I’m happy to report that my step-grandson has turned out just fine, in spite of his Democratic leanings as a five-year-old.  He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Economics and is now a successful executive with a major Oklahoma City bank.  But now, thirty years later, there is evidence that many who were as ignorant of basic economic principles as my grandson was at age five, are still burdened by the same economic illiteracy.

The proof of what I say can be found in the television commercials of a company called Lear Capital, Inc.  In their most recent TV ads they tout the current low price of silver, showing a two dimensional graph in which the abscissa, or x-axis, represents time, and the ordinate, or y-axis, represents the fluctuations in the price of silver.  If one were to believe the graph, the market price of silver during a significant time period represented on the graph dipped to less than the price of production.  In fact, that claim is made quite clearly in the Lear Capital voice-over.

When I saw the ad I couldn’t help but be reminded of my grandson’s attitude toward the candy market when he was just five years old.  The fact that a precious metals marketing firm would continue spending big bucks attempting to convince television viewers that mining companies are continuing to mine silver when the market price is less than the cost of production, is proof that there are some adults out there in TV land who still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

When I posed the hypothetical question to my grandson thirty years ago, asking him how long he thought candy manufacturers would continue to make candy if there was no profit in doing so, it never occurred to me that, some thirty years later, silver miners might be doing just that.

However, there is some empirical evidence that there are fewer consumers who might fall for that advertising scheme than we might think.  Another Lear TV ad that has run on a daily basis for many months proclaims that the first one-hundred callers to their 800 number will receive up to $500 worth of free silver… just for calling their number.  If, in fact, callers to that 800 number are actually given silver coinage, they could be given a silver ten-cent piece, just for their taking the time to listen to a sales pitch, and the marketer could still claim truth in advertising by hanging their hats on the words “up to.”

Nevertheless, it is frightening to think that Madison Avenue advertising firms have such a low opinion about the economic smarts of the American people that they would air such an insulting advertisement.  My step-grandson has discovered some important economic truths.  Apparently, some in the corporate world and on Madison Avenue have not.