Congress


By: Brian Sikma

You’d think that with all the extra, overtime effort at bashing banks and businesses there would be some pay off for Democrats in Congress. Apparently, that is not the case. Released today, Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll shows Congress ranked dead-last in the list of institutions people have confidence in.  A mere 11% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as a body. Standing well above Congress in the confidence rankings are banks and businesses. Yes, this is after the BP oil fiasco started, after the Wall Street financial crisis, and during a period of very high unemployment.

Business and the private sector are not always right.  Left to themselves, human beings in any area will always tend towards failure. But those who argue that government is always the antidote to whatever wrongs are present in the private sector fundamentally overlook the fact that government is comprised of individuals, and government can  more frequently afford to abdicate its responsibility than any private sector enterprise. Take the BP oil spill for example. BP did violate important and absolutely necessary safety regulations in the day-to-day operation of its Deepwater Horizon rig. But government, when responding to the crisis, compounded an already severe problem by bungling the response, turning down legitimate offers for help from international vessels, and imposing unecessary red tape right at a time when decisive action was necessary.

Government can and must keep the private sector accountable by serving as an impartial enforcer of laws and regulations designed to mandate honesty and transparency. But when government inserts itself into the very operation of a bank or business, and unilaterally limits the ability of business owners, investors, and stockholders to make decisions that will put millions of Americans to work and generate wealth in our economy, it crosses an important boundary. Without government we could not have prosperity, with too much government we will never have prosperity; today we are facing the problem of too much, not too little, government. Members of Congress might see their collective confidence rating rise if they decided to err on the side of liberty while generally regarding government power with mistrust, instead of vice versa.

As most Americans focus their thoughts on family, friends and the nearing Christmas holiday, the U.S. Senate is in the final stage of debating and passing President Obama’s healthcare reform bill. On Monday, December 21st at 1:00am in the morning, the Senate voted to close debate and prepare for a vote on the final passage of an expansive and expensive government takeover of our nation’s healthcare system. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has scheduled the final vote for tomorrow morning, Christmas Eve.

Throughout the writing and debating of this bill the normal legislative process was marred by heavy-handed, Chicago-style tactics. Senators have been bribed with legislative favors and berated into supporting a proposal that will align our nation’s healthcare system with the very worst of policies found in Western Europe and Canada. A few weeks ago Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) was given a special $300 million earmark for her state in exchange for her support of the bill. Recently, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) secured millions of dollars in permanent subsidies for his state’s share of the new Medicaid entitlement mandates contained in the legislation. The fact that such dishonorable and despicable tactics had to be used illustrates the stakes involved and the utter lack of credible policy that this bill contains.

According to a Rasmussen poll, 56% of Americans oppose the current healthcare reform proposal, and there are good reasons to oppose it. Here is a list of some key facts about the bill:

-Over 10 years the real cost of the bill is $2.5 trillion.
-Individuals will be required to pay a special tax if they choose to not go over to the government-managed system.
-Unemployed workers will find it harder to get a job because of new regulations mandating that employers provide a minimum amount of health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
-Abortions will be subsidized by taxpayers.
-Medical supplies and equipment will be taxed to help foot the cost of the bill.
-Trillions of dollars in taxpayer money could be used to bailout the new government-sponsored insurance programs if they fail.
-Millions of Americans will lose their current health insurance despite promises from
President Obama that this will not happen.

At its root, this battle over healthcare is about far more than a series of reforms to the present system. This is a battle over freedom and over whether or not the American people are willing to concede their rights and responsibilities to a government that provides everything in exchange for the control of everything. Government takeover of healthcare would be a giant leap towards fiscal ruin and the eradication core freedoms.

The soft paternalism of government offers only certain mediocrity and not the vigorous excellence that comes through freedom. Other nations have gone down this path to socialism and the abject failures of their experiments stand as a stark counterpoint to the platitudes of hope uttered by Washington insiders. The time to act is now, and the deadline for action is mid-morning of Christmas Eve. The contact information for senators may be found on the official Senate website: www.senate.gov.

By: Brian Sikma

Buried deep within the verbosity of the 1,990 page healthcare reform bill meandering to passage in the Democrat controlled Congress on Capitol Hill, is a significant provision that will cost the American people billions of dollars more in bailouts.  The recipients of this bailout will be unions such as the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees Internal Union.  These unions are struggling to sustain the insurance plans they have provided for retired union members.  By seeking to make the federal government the backstop for any insurance insolvency they face, the unions are refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones responsible for the situation they now find themselves in. 

Other provisions in the bill give unions standing to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on healthcare matters and participate in some policy-making processes.  As programs are developed and contracts awarded as part of the massive reshaping of the nation’s healthcare system, it will be very hard for non-union organizations and businesses to effectively compete and win the new contracts.  If these unions cannot responsibly manage their own insurance programs, nothing makes them qualified to assist in a nationalized health insurance effort. 

Writing in the Huston Chronicle, a Texas-based attorney and healthcare expert has effectively sounded the alarm to the wide array of dangers posed by these relatively unknown and obscure provisions.

By: Brian Sikma

A few weeks ago the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement and Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  It is expected that the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will consider this proposed hate crimes legislation later this week.  This is not the first time that the House has passed a hate crimes bill, and this is not the first time the Senate has considered legislation designed to establish an unequal system of justice.  What is happening for the first time is the consideration of this legislation with a liberal Democrat majority in the House and Senate and a liberal President in the White House.

Although the political circumstances surrounding this latest attempt to classify thoughts as a crime are not favorable to those who believe in freedom, this does not mean that we should fail to take action.  If we establish a national hate crimes law it will be a direct assault not only on the principle of federalism and the traditional boundaries of criminal law, but it will also be an all-out charge against religious liberty.

Those who commit violent crimes should be punished regardless of their motive and regardless of the identity of their victim.  Contrary to what many advocates of hate crimes legislation wish you to perceive, not a single criminal is escaping the consequences of his crime because of the lack of a hate crimes statute.  Those who oppose hate crimes legislation do so on the grounds that everyone deserves to be equally protected from violent criminals.  When government seeks to use the criminal justice system to right supposed social wrongs, the outcome is far from what real justice should be.  You cannot have appropriate justice in the unequal application of justice.

In addition to the fact that this legislation is unnecessary from a criminal law perspective, it is also unnecessary because it constituents a very real threat against religious liberty.  In states where hate crimes laws exist, they have been used to threaten, intimidate, and silence those who seek to speak out about their beliefs on sexual morality.  Men and women of faith, and particularly Christians, have been silenced under the guise of preventing crime because voicing their deeply held beliefs would lead, so the reasoning goes, to violent crimes being committed against those who are living in a lifestyle that is contrary to those beliefs.

The first amendment of our Constitution partly declares in profound and yet simple terms “Congress shall make no law…preventing the free exercise [of religion].”  This entire amendment is focused on protecting the free exchange of ideas and the pursuit of those ideas free from any government coercion or limitation.  Expressing one’s view about moral issues has never, and should never, be limited because of the demands of political correctness.

Among the nations of the world our country stands as the greatest bastion of religious liberty.  This is not an accident of chance, it is the product of an arduous and vigorous debate that took place during our founding.  It was realized then that religion is not something that government can force men and women to adhere to or abstain from.  Religion and all that goes with it is a product of man’s personal belief in God.  Requiring some to recant their beliefs or keep silent as to their views because others consider them unpopular is not the legitimate role of the government.

If we fail to act today to respectfully and persuasively make the case to our elected officials that hate crimes legislation is not only unnecessary but also runs counter to the freedoms that we have embraced, we can expect to see a more intense assault take place on our values in the future.  Regardless of how your Senators may have voted on this issue in the past, they need to hear from you again.  Please take time to contact them and urge them to Oppose H.R. 1913.  Hate crimes legislation represents an unacceptable shift in the focus of criminal law and it poses a direct threat to religious liberty.

To learn more about the threat posed by hate crimes legislation, watch the below video of Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) speaking about this type of legislation on the floor of the U.S. House:

By: Brian Sikma

President Obama and House and Senate Democrats have joined forces with the environmental lobby to promote a “cap and trade” plan for dealing with global climate change. Under a cap and trade plan the government would sell carbon credits to businesses and the money raised by those sales (where the customer has no other option to turn towards outside of simply closing up shop) goes towards carbon reducing programs and policies. Companies that cannot buy enough credits will-if they intend to keep up production-need to invest in expensive new technology designed to reduce carbon emissions.

The creation and implementation of these carbon reducing measures is not just about saving the environment but is, according to Democrats, about jobs. Indeed, this plan is about jobs. I will cost the American economy jobs, increase unemployment, and drive up the cost of products and services that Americans use every single day. With cap and trade, while the net amount of carbon emissions will decrease, so will the number of good American jobs. Without a specific tie between carbon emissions and global warming being scientifically proven and without a meaningful cost/benefit analysis showing that it is better to impose an entire new class of taxes than to allow the current situation to exist, cap and trade legislation is not a good idea.

The problem of cap and trade was addressed by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) earlier this week on the House floor. In the key line he declared “The Democrat plan actually caps growth and trades jobs. The truth is, this cap and trade legislation is essentially an economic declaration of war on the Midwest by liberals in Washington, D.C., and it must be opposed.”

See the video below for Rep. Pence’s entire remarks:

Pres. Obama and Sen. Bayh

Pres. Obama and Sen. Bayh

By: Brian Sikma

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (D) has long been perceived as a moderate Democrat with conservative fiscal leanings.  His opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal on March 4 helped reinforce this perception.  Titled “Deficits and Fiscal Credibility“, the op-ed made an excellent case for why President Obama should refuse to sign the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that takes care of unfinished spending business from last year.

Critics of the omnibus spending bill have pointed out that it grows the budgets of various government agencies and departments by about 8% and includes nearly 9,000 special interest “earmark” projects.  At a time when American families and businesses are trimming their budgets to reflect the realities of the economic downturn, the federal government should not be expanding the budgets of various agencies and embarking on the fulfillment of a 9,000 item goodie list that bails out special interests and leaves Americans holding an empty bag.

Some may say it took a certain level of political courage for Senator Bayh to urge his fellow Senators to vote against a bill heavily supported by his Party’s leadership in the House and the President of his own party.  The issuing of a direct challenge to the president to live up to the hope filled promises of the campaign trail by vetoing the bill was certainly a welcome development, but a closer look at Senator Bayh’s record and recent history illustrates a problem not with the message, but with the messenger.

As Senator Bayh argues for credibility in Washington on fiscal matters and the deficit, his record in the days leading up to the op-ed’s publication illustrates a deficit of credibility on his part.  Just 19 days before issuing his call for fiscal discipline, Senator Bayh voted in favor of H.R. 1, the President’s $790 billion economic stimulus plan.  The real cost of the plan runs well over $1 trillion by the time you add in the interest that will accrue from the new debt that will have to be issued to cover the spending spree.

Voting in favor of a $790 billion stimulus bill that is not timely, targeted, or temporary, (to paraphrase the advice of one the President’s own economic advisors) is not an exercise in fiscal discipline.  Nor is it an exercise in political courage for Senator Bayh to carefully dust off his conservative credentials just before a potentially heated re-election campaign in 2010.

To eliminate this credibility deficit, Senator Bayh and lawmakers like him who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk need to begin acting on their stated principles and not just talking about them.  Voting for bailouts and stimulus bills and then turning around to seize the high ground against a spending package with misplaced priorities is not what constituents need.   The American people deserve to be served by leaders who understand that wasteful government spending is always bad, no matter how distant or how close the next election may be.

Small Town Parade

Small Town Parade

By: Brian Sikma

When the economy slows down it is appropriate for the government to take action to help solve the problem. Doing nothing is not the right response, just as doing the wrong thing is not the right response. The stimulus bill advanced by President Obama and crafted in a partisan fashion by Democrat leaders in Congress, is not the stimulus plan that we need. We need an economic policy that promotes job creation and rewards work and saving, not an economic policy that bails out irresponsible companies, discourages efficient work, and penalizes success.

Any attempt to help the economy must focus on helping the American people. That may sound self-evident to those of us here in the heartland of America, but it is a lesson that needs to be learned by our leaders in Washington. The proposed $825 billion stimulus bill contains massive amounts of new government spending that will not help Hoosiers rebuild their economy and move forward. The reason is because government spending spent on government priorities and directed towards projects that are supported by those who believe in a bigger and more complex government, will not meet the needs that we face.

The “stimulus” bill contains $600 million for new cars for government employees, $50 million for artistic endeavors, $400 million for climate change research, billions of dollars to remodel and redecorate government offices, and even a provision spending $200 million for new sod on the National Mall. It also doubles the size of the Department of Education and increases that agency’s involvement in our every day lives.

The passage of the stimulus bill would boost the size of our national debt to 95% of our country’s annual gross domestic product. This stimulus plan is supposed to cure an ailing economy, but it is on track to be worse than the ailment itself.

Instead of spending the money of hardworking Americans on frivolous and unnecessary projects, and forcing them to either pay higher taxes or further bury their children and grandchildren under a mountain of excessive national debt, Congress and the President should embrace an alternative plan. By focusing on tax cuts that lower our nation’s record high tax on employers, allow more individuals to keep their hard earned money, and that reward savings and investment, Washington can help the American people lift themselves out of an economic mess caused by government mismanagement.

The American economy is strong enough to sustain this slowdown, and the American people are resilient enough to weather this storm. If government is to help and not hinder the recovery, it should focus on a solution that benefits the American people, not a solution that benefits bureaucrats in Washington.

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