November 12, 2009

Thomas Jefferson was the first president to speak in sound bites. For someone still lionized as the founder of the Democratic Party, many of them have a surprisingly libertarian ring.

One of the most famous, and currently most relevant is: "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those willing to work and give to those who would not."

That must have seemed very clear to Jefferson. The government had no means to take from those who worked (the income tax was unconstitutional until 1916), and those unwilling to work had no expectation of aid. There was not enough cumulative wealth available for social programs even to be an issue.

Fast-forward 200 years, and the wealth of an industrialized world has opened possibilities and changed expectations. Government can now take money from producers of wealth and distribute it not only to the poor, the ill and the unemployed, but also to other, more favored producers; those with the best lobbyists and most powerful representatives. In many instances, the most important thing is not how the money is spent, but that it is spent.

Legislators have not been slow to realize that the heart of their power lies in the distribution of this money. Money buys votes. That is why so many people hate Congress but love their own legislators. Voters are only too happy to accept largesse from Washington, apparently without realizing that the same pattern holds across the country, as their tax dollars are spewed from Hawaii to Maine.

Dollars are allocated within committees by seniority, often in the form of extraneous earmarks or simply ridiculously bloated line items, at the behest of entrenched legislators, all for the purpose of remaining entrenched.

This is what Jefferson meant when he said, "Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and in slow operations, perverted it to tyranny." Jefferson and the other founders thought they had solved this problem by creating a republic, and a Congress in which elected representatives with differing ideas could reason their way to acceptable solutions to the nation's issues.

They were wrong, but it is hard to fault them. After all, they were inventing a new form of government, and they did pretty well. Where they failed was in making the naïve assumption that future generations of representatives would continue to have the same perspective they did: that of citizen-legislators who would serve a term or two, then happily head home. How could they possibly foresee the coming expansion of size, population, wealth and conflicting interests?

The reason they placed the power to originate spending exclusively in the House of Representatives was because they thought that body would be most sensitive to the electorate's views on spending, which, at that time, implied a fear and dislike of federal expansion. They did not anticipate that individuals would want to spend a lifetime in power, buying votes with public money, though Jefferson recognized the possibility: "Whenever a man cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct."

Had they been prescient, they surely would have taken measures to prevent such self-perpetuation; after all, their entire purpose, the purpose of the American Revolution itself, was to limit the power of central government.

How? I think at least one possible answer is obvious: term limits. It would be much harder, if not impossible, to create entrenched, wasteful special interests if the players changed frequently.

The best way to accomplish this would be through a Constitutional amendment. Good luck. Either Congress itself or the state legislatures would have to initiate this process. Neither of these things will ever happen, for obvious reasons.

The plan proposed on this website may not be perfect, but it is possible. We must do what we can to bring Congress under some kind of control by its constituents. Further, we must educate ourselves about the waste and corruption created and encouraged by our present electoral practices so that the benefit of limited terms is understood.

Jefferson also famously said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Surely it can be done at the ballot box instead.

The Democrats, since Lyndon Johnson, have become Jefferson's worst nightmare!  They are now the party of handouts and dependency.  From a misunderstanding of civil rights (via Food Stamps, Welfare and Medicaid) to "Hate Crimes" legislation and preferential treatment, they have bred not one but now two generations of people who have given over to the government their freedoms and their individuality for the sake of the handout.

Theirs is the party that special interest groups train their followers to vote for when elections are held.  Ask any member of the NAACP, or the average labor union member if they would ever vote for a person with an "R" after their name and you will quickly hear a "NO" proceeded by one or several adjectives not fit for publication.  These and other special interests are dependent on the big "D." This is not Jefferson's party!

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.