Archive for November, 2013

How To Deal With a Faithless State Lawmaker: The Hudak Recall

Posted by on Nov 27 2013 | Civil Rights, congress, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, elections, guns, Politics, Second Amendment, TABOR

Advocates of freedom and constitutional rights won a victory today when Senator Evie Hudak resigned to avoid being recalled.

For years, people have asked me, “When a Member of Congress repeatedly violates his or her oath of office, what can we do?” Because Congressmen can’t be impeached (and their colleagues rarely expel them), my answer always has been, “You have no alternative but oppose him or her in the next election.”

But for Colorado elected officials, we do have an alternative: recall. And after long failure to use that tool, the voters finally have deployed it—three times this year.

Recall elections work because in recall elections, unlike general elections, issues aren’t “bundled” together in inseparable packages. You vote on one office, and on the record of one politician. Of course, the political class doesn’t like that: They like it when government is involved in so many matters and election campaigns are so muddled that you don’t really have a clear “yes” or “no” vote: So you just re-elect the person whose name you know—the incumbent.

But a recall, like a voter initiative, offers the electorate a much more focused choice. It’s democracy at its finest.

In some other states, the political class (sometimes through the courts) have gelded the recall process by requiring adequate “cause” for a recall. In those states, whether there is “cause” is decided by (guess who?) the politicians or judges. In light of what has happened this year, look for an effort to limit recall in Colorado, too. If they do try to limit recall, just remember: In a republic, lawmakers are the agents of the people, and the only judges of whether an agent has been faithful are those who hired him.

In the case of Evie Hudak, the signs were that a majority of her district believed she had been faithless: Contrary to her oath of office and contrary to her employers’ instructions (as set forth in the state and federal Constitutions), she had attacked our right to keep and bear arms. Because of this, she deserved to be gone, just as much as if she had attacked our right of free speech or our state constitutional right to vote on tax increases.

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John F. Kennedy, RIP

Posted by on Nov 25 2013 | Uncategorized

History tends to correct the errors of contemporaneous perceptions, and on the 50th anniversary of his assassination there were far fewer mentions than in prior years about President Kennedy’s “greatness.”

I was coming of age when President Kennedy was shot, and well remember the shock, first in my high school study hall and next in Spanish class. But by the time of the tragedy I already knew too much about his administration, and in subsequent decades other Americans and I were to learn much more that we really did not want to know.

A useful corrective to Kennedy hagiography is the section on his administration in Paul Johnson’s History of the American People. (Caveat: Johnson sometimes makes factual errors as a historian, but not on this topic.) Johnson ranks Kennedy among the worst Presidents, somewhat below President Warren Harding in his revisionist view. But let Mr. Johnson speak for his eloquent self. I’ll review what I already knew at age 15 and also some of what we all have learned since.

Neither I nor anyone else except the admiring Washington press corps knew that this President was in some ways a modern-day Emperor Commodus—a handsome young man of promise who wasted enormous amounts of irreplaceable time on adulterous affairs rather than attending to his official responsibilities. Nor was he particularly discrete about whom he bedded: Years later, the nation was shocked to learn that he had been sharing a mistress with a Mafia don. All this was fun for him, of course, but one wonders what the nation gained—or rather lost—from it.

Being from a medical family, I already was aware that Kennedy was promoting enormous new federal involvement in the American health care system, and that he was far understating the actual cost. Sydney Natelson (1911-2007), my father, was a physician and a close observer of national politics. He noted that Kennedy’s Medicare proposal was partly duplicative of existing state programs, but was structured in a way that would undermine the traditional doctor/patient relationship and turn independent physicians into bureaucrats. My father also predicted it would raise the deficit. No one, except maybe the Kennedy aides who knew the real numbers, understood that Medicare also would help render health care unaffordable for the middle class, and eventually threaten the nation with bankruptcy.

Kennedy is remembered for the “Kennedy round” of income tax cuts, a Keynesian exercise designed as “stimulus,” and later pointed to as a model by Republicans as well. Its flaws were that without spending reductions, the tax cuts added to the deficit and any stimulus effect soon expired, being replaced with inflation and/or renewed sluggishness. Kennedy’s Harvard boys (unlike Obama’s Harvard boys and girls) understood that lower tax rates encourage enterprise, but they thought government spending does also. Actually, government spending ultimately discourages enterprise by inefficient use of valuable resources, creating incentives not to be productive, and feeding the corps of regulators and dependents that weaken the private sector.

In foreign affairs, Kennedy cultivated an image of toughness, but the record was otherwise. During his 1960 campaign, he argued that the Eisenhower administration had allowed the U.S. to lag behind the USSR in missiles (the “missile gap”). This turned out to be fiction. While President, Kennedy authorized a coup d’etat against the elected president of South Vietnam, thereby eliminating the only leader with a hope of handling the Communist Viet Cong. The result was a much wider war and much deeper American involvement.

Then there was Cuba: In 1961, over the objections of advisors such as Commander of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke, Kennedy deserted at the Bay of Pigs an army of Cuban freedom fighters the U.S. had trained and delivered. The year after the ensuing massacre, Kennedy’s administration repeatedly denied reliable reports that the Soviets were placing inter-continental ballistic missiles in Cuba. Kennedy changed his mind a few days before the mid-term congressional elections, a timing that helped contain Democrat losses. In a dramatic address (which I remember watching), Kennedy outlined a plan to force those missiles out. This confrontation took us to the edge of World War III, but the ultimate outcome was a fizzle. In exchange for unverified removal of the missiles, Kennedy made a series of unpublicized concessions to the Soviets. Among them: The U.S. was to remove missiles from NATO ally Turkey, and Castro was to remain in power indefinitely. Castro thereby was left in place to promote international discord for another 40 years; and the Cuban people even now remain locked in the prison he constructed.

Then there were the widespread wiretapping and other civil liberties violations, Kennedy’s relative inability to deal with Congress, and so forth.

In recent days, there has been some speculation about what might have happened if Kennedy had lived. These speculations take for granted that he would have won a second term. But this is an inadmissible assumption: Just before his death, Kennedy’s re-election was far from assured. It could have been forestalled completely by one or two more missteps of the kind he had already made.

A more interesting topic for speculation is what might have happened if the votes had been counted honestly in Kennedy’s first election—and if Vice-President Nixon had been as persistent in demanding a recount in 1960 as Vice-President Gore was to be in 2000. There have been widespread claims of theft in several closely-contested American presidential contests (1824, 1876, 2000). The election of 1960, however, was the most likely to have been stolen. The vote counting in both Illinois and Texas was deeply compromised (this is no longer a matter of dispute), and the switch of both states’ electoral votes would have prevented Kennedy from becoming President.

Richard Nixon was then less jaded than he later became, and although young, was older than Kennedy and a good deal more diligent and experienced. His presidency could hardly have been worse than Kennedy’s, and might have been a good deal better. At least we might not today be at the edge of fiscal ruin.

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What Made Tuesday’s Election Victories Possible

Posted by on Nov 08 2013 | education, elections, Taxes

Alright. Here’s my terrible analogy. Really, I don’t think it’s all that good, so please let me know if the point gets across.

Have you ever seen a house being built? They get the framing up, and then it looks like everything just stalls. I mean there’s like no progress, but you still see guys just milling around. And then one day, out of seemingly nowhere, the drywall goes up, and you think, “Wow, look at all that progress; it all happened overnight!”

Well, Tuesday night’s amazing election victories might seem like that, too. Amendment 66 went down to defeat by a 2 to 1 vote, and school reformers won in Dougco, Jeffco, and Loveland school boards. Wow, all that happened overnight!

What you might not have seen at the house being built were all the small and crucial tasks that MUST be completed before the drywall goes up — electricians running wires, plumbers laying pipe, HVAC guys bending sheet metal for vents, and so on. From a distance, you don’t really see any of that work,but you sure notice when the walls go up. It looks like big movement.

Conservatives, especially in Colorado, lose and lose and lose because they keep trying to put up the walls before doing the prep work first. That prep work takes years, it’s hard, it’s often boring, and it takes resources.

We at the Independence Institute are in the business of doing that political prep work. And I think folks just might be starting to get it. Without the coalition building, detailed policy work, investigative news reporting, community organizing, and educational efforts that we do, victory simply is not possible.

Take for example the story of Douglas County School District. This district, the third largest school district in the state, was the first in the nation to implement a voucher program on its own and basically de-certified its union among many other great reforms. And on Tuesday, despite a massive influx of national union money to defeat the reform candidates, Douglas County residents gave them a “thumbs up” and re-elected them.

The prep work you might not have seen started over six years ago when our education policy stars, Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow, started working with school board members in the minority. In 2009, we worked with the new candidates before they were elected and then continued to provide assistance as they carefully crafted and implemented their reforms. Starting a year ago, we brought in community organizers and implemented a door-to-door, face-to-face educational campaign to educate the voters in Douglas County, so they could better understand the impact of these powerful reforms. When the battle to re-elect these reformers came, the prep work was done.

Well before Governor Hickenlooper launched his campaign to raise Colorado income taxes by 27% with Amendment 66, we had already been working on our “Kids Are First” educational campaign. The goal was to show that throwing even more money into a failed system was helping unions and monopolies, not children. We advocated raising expectations, not taxes.

But it was the years of work before that, building relationships and coalitions, investigating the phone conversations between the Guv and Michael Bloomberg, detailing how to get a billion dollars more out of our state budget without a tax increase with our “Citizen’s Budget,” and building a network of freedom fighters around the state that made the difference. The prep work took years. The loss of Amendment 66 was a formality.

For those who invest in and are part of our long, slow, methodical political prep work, well, I just can’t thank you enough. You made Tuesday’s victories possible.

Now back to more prep work…

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