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Know Your America – The 16th Amendment

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-08-09 22:28:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

norbertatwork2by Norbert Sluzewski
Editor
NakedLiberty.com
August 9, 2009

In the late 18th century a truly unprecedented series of events were occurring on the American continent. A juxtaposition of historical events never aligned as then, presented a unique opportunity for the young American colonies to embark on a new social experiment never heretofore tried on the scale of a nation. The circumstances were unique and the time was right to seed the experiment. And never was the chance of its success greater than at that time.

The young American colonies were determined to create a nation out of the principles which brought their citizens to this continent in the first place. These principles included fundamental rights in which the colonists believed so strongly that they left their ancestral homes, families and countries to support and ultimately defend. Foremost among these rights was the right that citizens should determine the makeup of their government and that no government should place its needs ahead of those of the citizens’.

Most of the colonists were adamantly opposed to a central form of government. Their experiences, after all, vividly recollected the injustice and excesses of the governments which they fled. So afraid were they of recreating another monarchy or oligarchy, that most would choose anarchy over any form of central government. As a result the colonist’s first attempt to create a form of governance was a weak alliance of states codified in the Articles of Confederation, the final draft of which became the de-facto constitution in 1777 (finally ratified in 1781). The Articles placed all governing power in the hands of the individual states, with only specific and very limited provisions delegated to the Confederation. These included, among others, the right to wage wars, negotiate treaties and resolve territorial disputes.

 

The shortcomings of the Articles (lack of central taxing authority, inequalities between the influence of large and small states, etc.) were soon exposed and an effort to create a federated type of central government was undertaken.

A remarkable group of statesmen (the Federalists) emerged to lay the foundation of this new government structure, one which would preserve the authority of the states, while giving enough power to the central core so that it could effectively act as a national government. These principles were assembled into a document which on June 21, 1788 was signed to become the US Constitution.

But what was most remarkable about the Constitution’s structure was that it created no single source of power. With the distribution of authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, this distributed structure of checks and balances recognized an inherent human flaw that:

If given the opportunity to avail himself of excesses,
man inevitably will.

Even the most benevolent monarchy or dictatorship eventually succumbs to this flaw. The Founders uniquely understood this and sought to establish a Republic in which no single man, group, state or other entity could dominate or unduly influence the direction of the nation.

The Constitution survived and remained largely unchanged into the first decade of the 20th century. During this time the American experiment had grown to become hugely successful and the United States of America became the most prosperous nation in the world, envied for the liberty and freedom that its citizens enjoyed. The Federation survived every test of its Founding Principles. Amendments to the Constitution throughout this period were carefully crafted to not upset these Principles. That is, until the 16th Amendment in 1913, which established the central government’s right to tax the income of citizens (previously this right was reserved to the states).

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

While until then various taxes were levied in support of specific government initiatives (e.g. the Revenue Act of 1861 levied a 3% tax on high-wealth citizens to fund the Civil War), these would be repealed upon completion of the initiative. The 16th Amendment for the first time institutionalized the government’s right to collect income taxes. The rate was innocently set at 1% of incomes above $3,000 and 6% surcharge for incomes above $500K.

The federal income tax quickly became eye candy for politicians looking for funding to support their favorite programs. And the government as a whole saw it as a cash machine from which funding for social programs, wars, and other initiates could be secured. To no surprise, by 1918, five years after the 16th Amendment was ratified, the top income tax rate skyrocketed to 77%. During his presidency Franklin D. Roosevelt even tried (but failed) to impose a 100% rate on incomes above $25,000 to fund the war effort. Through the 1960’s the marginal tax bracket stayed at 90% and it wasn’t until the administration of Ronald Reagan which reduced the top rates to 28%.

To no surprise to any free market capitalist, history shows that the performance of the stock markets, the rate of employment, size of the GDP and other measures of national prosperity all positively and directly correlate to the rate of taxation. The wealth of America, its prestige around the world, our ability to extend the experiment in liberty which our Founders blessed us with, all has been affected, and in fact jeopardized by the enactment of the 16th Amendment. I will write about other reforms (e.g. immigration), which have also had significant detrimental impact, in an upcoming new article.

The enactment of the 16th Amendment significantly changed the character of the American experiment. It took a big bite out of the forbidden fruit that is influence over wealth distribution. One of our founding freedoms — that the fruits of our labor should be ours to enjoy and dispense with according to our own conscience and convictions — has been trampled on without recourse and consideration. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental liberties we as Americans have enjoyed and expect it to have been protected by the very Constitution which the 16th Amendment has trampled.

Some argue that the Constitution is an “ancient” document written by men of times long passed; that progress necessitates changes, and that we should no more look to our Constitution for answers as we would to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for ways to build our skyscrapers. To those I say, give me something better to replace it with. Give me a different anchor to which we can moor our society. And let not that anchor float with the current, but let it stand firm and withstand the storms of progress and uncertainty that is by definition the future. While you ponder this, ponder also where do you get the audacity to think that you have the wisdom and motivation to frame this new society you think you want. While your motivation is political survival, each of our Founding Fathers risked his life and limb to give to us their wisdom and experience.

Until you show me this new anchor, I’ll stick to my Constitution – thank you very much.

And remember also that only a fool accepts change for its novelty.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Norbert Sluzewski is a columnist and editor of NakedLiberty.com
He lives in Connecticut

Article may be reprinted with attribution.


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On the Health Care System We Aspire To

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-24 12:22:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Today I got a call from my Mom. She and my Dad both live in the city I was born in – Warsaw, Poland. They are both elderly and live off of a government pension akin to the US social security system. The reason she called was to let me know of an excruciating pain she has recently been suffering from, resulting from a progressively degenerative neurological condition in her wrist. As all Poles are, she is entitled to free medical care in government health care facilities under the country’s universal health care insurance program. Trying to get help for her condition, she has visited with several general practitioners covered under her free plan, all of whom admit she needs to see a specialist. The last one finally crafted a referral for her and she is now scheduled to see a neurologist … in three months. Ouch !

Her options now include continuing to suffer the intolerable pain for the next 3 months or pay out of pocket to see a private specialist. The fee for a consultation with a neurologist in private practice exceeds two months of her pension income, but under the circumstances she will have to do just that. The costs of any resulting treatments, if not covered under the government health care plan, may have a devastating financial effect on her and my dad’s retirement lifestyle.

My parents could have opted to purchase private health care insurance coverage which provides access to services in private hospitals and clinics with the most skilled specialists but, because the government program is so dominant and pervasive, the cost of the private alternative is beyond the reach of most middle-class Poles. As a result, it is accessible to only the most affluent (or motivated by dire circumstances and lacking other options) individuals.

Interestingly enough, in many European countries the Polish medical system as a whole is actually touted as one of the better and when compared with the British system in particular, it receives accolades for efficiency and quality of care. What is underscored is the diminishing role of the public plan option and the progressively increasing percentage of services being offered under private insurance. The availability and increasing popularity of the private health care option is viewed with envy. A good summary of these changes in the Polish medical system can be found in this article from CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). With this shift, as more competition is introduced in the private sector and the dominance of the government program is lessened (or eliminated), my mom might yet one day be able to afford a private insurance plan and access to the highly skilled medical professionals in Poland, heretofore not accessible to her under her existing plan and her present means.

But in the US exactly the opposite direction is being proposed. There can be very little doubt, and certainly countless examples of dysfunctional government programs across Europe and other countries serve as an example, that a private health care system necessarily offers superior services at a competitive price. As I have written in a prior Naked Liberty article on the Dangers of Comparative Effectiveness, instead of experimenting with proven failed systems, the US should adopt targeted approaches to improving those parts of our current system which offer opportunities for improvement, such as for example the implementation of a national electronic medical records system and tax incentives to support wellness and health awareness.

What’s being proposed is like trading in your comfortable and dependable SUV for a Yugo just because you happened to have gotten a flat tire. Let’s fix the tire and get on with our lives without any more government intervening in it.

* * * * *

Quotation of the Day:

“We should manage our fortunes as we do our health – enjoy it when good, be patient when it is bad, and never apply violent remedies except in an extreme necessity.“

Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

* * * * *

We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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The Lobbyist Does Not Speak the Peoples’ Voice

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-07-23 21:55:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Constitution lays the foundation for a relationship between the people and their government. This relationship is, to a significant degree, founded on the trust that each citizen places with their elected representatives. These representatives, whether local, regional or national, by being elected to their posts, accept the responsibility of supporting their constituents’ ideals, goals and principles. They become servants of the people, an extension of their individual voices in the collective government they comprise.

There is a game we used to play as kids called “echo,” where each player would whisper something in their neighbor’s ear, who in turn would whisper what they thought they heard to their neighbor, and so on. Inevitably, a humorous concoction of snippets of the original sentence would emerge at the end of the line. A completely innocent game of listening and interpretation, with each player having only one objective – to relay the message with as much accuracy as possible. Even with only three players – a source, middle and recipient – very rarely would the recipient receive the original message intact.

Now let’s inject an agenda into the game. How would the outcome be affected if the middle player was induced by the school bully to distort the message and to influence the recipient’s apprehension of the original message’s content? Surely meaning would be lost. In the innocence of the game, one might even ascribe humor to the outcome. But what if the stakes were higher, much higher?

In the dynamics of communications between the people and their government, a highly biased and results-motivated middle man agent is injected. He is called The Lobbyist and he enters directly into the path of the people’s voice. His intentions are indeed highly motivated. His agenda has nothing to do with accurately communicating the people’s voice. His intentions are in fact highly distortive to the communications process.

Most sources attribute the birth of the Lobbyist to the administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant would often walk to lobby of the Willard Hotel not far from the White House to enjoy his favorite cigars. His routine was quickly picked up by politicians who would find this time a perfect opportunity to solicit him with special requests for support of various matters. The term “lobbyist” emerged from these interactions.

Political lobbying has historically been regarded as an “unclean” activity, shunned away from by most politicians who otherwise prided themselves on the purity of their intentions and reputation. This attitude changed dramatically in the 1980’s as political lobbying became more and more lucrative (and thereby corrupted), and professional lobbying firms sprouted all across the political landscape, backed by large enterprises and their financial sponsorship of various causes. According to a Washington Post article, “The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.”

In the first 2 weeks in office President Obama nominated 17 professional lobbyists to several key advisory positions in his administration. These included Eric Holder as attorney general, Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, and fourteen others. Notwithstanding his campaign promise to keep his administration clean of ex-lobbyists, he continues to follow, with perhaps even more vigor than his predecessors, the practice of surrounding himself with influence-peddling bureaucrats. As HotAir.com points out, the president has conspicuously offered himself “For Sale” to all interested (and willing to pay-to-play) interest groups, and his actions since then, including the scandalous deal with the UAW in connection with the GM bailout, are a testament to the fact that he is indeed a player.

Are all lobby activities necessarily bad? Don’t lobbyists sometimes also represent the people’s interest on important issues? Doesn’t the NRA, for example, do good work on behalf of citizens concerned about protecting the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution (our right to keep and bear arms)? What about the lobbies that work to protect the rights of the underprivileged, to protect our borders, to promote education?

Inasmuch as many such lobby organizations may be motivated by righteous ideals, the institution of the lobby system is by its own formulation corrupt. When influence is bought with currency, if not directly into a politician’s pocket, then through the barter of monetize-able influences, good intentions are quickly polluted by commercial transactions and ethical compromises. The lobbyist necessarily becomes the undesirable relay agent a political game of Echo, placing himself in line of the people’s communication path with their government.

In a government “of the People, by the People and for the People” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) there is no place for a translator of the people’s voice in government. Our elected representatives are our channel of communication. With the rise in the influence of the lobbyist, it seems we’ve empowered a commercially incentivized third party to interpret our voice. And while our elected representatives have become too lazy to directly listen to our needs and calls for action, the lobbyist-translated messages do not reflect our original interests, meaning and intent.

There is increasing peril in allowing our representative form of government to continue to be warped by the influences that a financially motivated and ethically tainted system of lobby influences has on our relationship with our government. While attempts to reform the present system by imposing registration requirements, disclosing contributions and other transparency measures are a good first start (see Ethics and Lobbying Reform Act of 2006 and Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2007, they fall far short of tangibly reducing the influence the lobby industry has on the activities of our government and re-connecting the people back to their elected representatives.

If our elected officials want our respect, trust and vote, then engage with us in a real and direct dialog without the middle man. Playing “echo” was fun when we were kids. Now let’s grow up and take responsibility for having a serious, adult conversation.

Mr. Government Representative – please look me straight in the eyes, listen to me and tell me what you stand for. You might be surprised to find out that I might actually believe you.


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The Anatomy of a Revolution – The Slogan

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-08-16 22:27:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

norbertatwork2
August 16, 2009

Some revolutions are eruptive. They gestate over a relatively short period of time, from the conception of an idea, a goal, a promise or an objective, they quickly transform from intellectual concept into mass action. The shorter the gestation period, the more violent the eruption.  These are usually bloody revolutions, executed with the kind of force that dramatically changes the landscape of a society, a nation, or in the most extreme cases, the world.  From a historical perspective, the Soviet revolution of 1917, while initially having a somewhat limited national objective (the abolishment of the tsar and the Russian monarchy), few would argue its final impact as being anything less than global. These types of revolutions are remarkably akin to a volcano – while the underlying pressure may have been building up over a long time, its explosion to the surface has an unmistakable identity, objective and effect.

And then there are the subtle revolutions, which instead of erupting, creep into existence. They are spoken about with subdued voices, introduced into circles of conversation without the participants even being aware that the revolution is in fact the topic of conversation.  These revolutions quietly introduce new words into the vocabulary, ones which once had a different meaning, but are now transformed to inject new ideals and thoughts, and a call-to-action tension. They may be silent at their birth and through most of their progressing stages of maturity, but their outcome can be just as wide-spread and impacting as their more violent cousin.

These are the revolutions which, once they progress to an advanced stage, create a rude awakening in a society with a “how did we allow this to happen” reaction.

For the revolutionary, language is his most powerful arsenal. And within language, the slogan is his most effective weapon.

The revolutionary has honed the slogan to be his most potent instrument. He uses it to inject his philosophy into the dialog. He uses it to introduce new meaning sympathetic to his agenda into the language. And ultimately, once society has been “softened up” with acceptance of the new terms of the conversation, he uses it to polarize society, creating an “us” and “them” division between his supporters and opponents.

In the early stages, subtle revolutions are almost always fought with slogans. Conversations are generally not welcome since they create a platform for a dialog where the revolutionary’s philosophy can be debated and usually defeated. However, ideology slogans are weapons to which there are few countermeasures.

An astute citizen will spot ideology slogans easily. Depending on the level of societal “softening” to the revolutionary’s agenda, they are either transparent and direct in their presentation of the ideology (“All Power to the Soviets” – a Bolshevik slogan used in the eve of the October revolution) or quite subtle and non-committal (“Change we can believe in – Slogan used by the Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign).

Slogans usually comprise very few words, so as to appeal to all levels of literacy and intellect. The power (and at the same time treachery) which slogans present lie in their simplicity and clever obfuscation of the real objective which they promote.

Below are a few more prominent slogans used at different stages of the respective revolutions. I urge the reader to ponder the words of each and determine the level of subtlety or directness  and from it derive the stage of advancement of each revolution from which these slogans are taken:

Arbeit Mach Frei” – Used by Nazi Germany in 1933-45, posted over the main gates at a number of Nazi concentration camps. In English, the slogan means “work shall set you free”.

“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (“One people, one country, one leader”) — Nazi Germany.

Every Man a King – Introduced in February 1934, the wealth and income redistributionist platform slogan used by Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

“Hasta la victoria siempre” (“There’s always a victory to be achieved”) – a Che Guevara-associated Communist slogan

Yes We Can – 2008 U.S. presidential campaign slogan of Barack Obama.

With the recent elections, we have unintentionally given a platform and a new spark to a revolution that has been going on in the United States for the last eight decades. It is of the subtle, slow and long-lasting kind, and is one that is no longer in its early stages, as president Obama is building on the momentum of many of his predecessors to abandon the principles of our founding and replace them with alien programs and platforms which have lead many a nation to the brink of collapse, and in some cases extinction (e.g. the U.S.S.R.).  And the slogans which accompany this stage of the revolution (or statist counter-revolution, as would probably be a more suitable term) are beginning to lose their subtlety. With “Yes we Can” Obama abandons any pretension of ambiguity and instead expresses a bold new horizon of socialist opportunity. There is no more indecision expressed in this slogan.

But if we understand the dynamics of the statist’s actions and his true intentions beyond the cleverly worded slogans, we arm ourselves with the necessary weapons to fight back in this war of ideologies.  When exposed, most Americans will see the statist’s intentions as opposite to their own core beliefs. As the recent highly animated town halls on the subject of socialized health care can attest to, an educated electorate, armed with facts and information, can engage the statist in the kind of conversation he is most uncomfortable in having – one of truth and historical experiences.

Below I leave the reader with a few artifacts of both past and present. Next time you see a colorful highway billboard on your way to work, a placard in the subway or backdrop on your local evening news, imagine it being replaced by one of these graphic slogans. What emotions does this evoke? More importantly, how does your intellect and value system react to these images?

Albanian communist poster

“Victory of Socialism over Capitalism” — still adorns many billboards in Albania

Soviet communist-poster

“Country and Party – Together and One”

Chinese Communist Party Sign

“Long live the Chinese Communist Party”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Is Meritocracy Dead in America?

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-29 20:46:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It was a beautiful day on Long Island today, as my daughter fussed over her cap and gown, getting ready for her high school graduation. The rite of passage that is the graduation ceremony was to be the highlight of our day, the last ritual before going away to college and beginning her new academic and social life away from home and the heretofore familiar surroundings. As most fathers are at this stage, I am very proud of her and her achievements to date and am confident she will do great in college.

As we arrived at the school athletic fields where the ceremony was to take place for the over 600 graduating seniors, the school principal and various dignitaries from the board of education were all lined up to fulfill their respective roles in the process. Among them the familiar face of Charles (Chuck) Schumer, the senior senator from New York was to give the commencement speech.

Opening the ceremony, the senator started with his speech, and I was surprised to hear the exact same one I heard 2 years ago at my older daughter’s graduation. Thinking this to be a bit odd and frankly somewhat lazy, I paid little attention to the drone of “how I became a senator” until the speech’s concluding remarks. The culminating point of the speech was Schumer’s self-aggrandizing statement of having successfully sponsored a new $2,500 tax credit program for middle-class families. Under the program, which will run for 2 years, families will be entitled to claim a $2,500 tax credit per each student enrolled in college, provided that their income meets certain maximum threshold provisions, which he stated would be capped at $200,000.

“For each of you earning less than $200,000, you will now be able to afford to send your children to college,” said the senator. “For those of you making $200,000 and above – well, God bless you.” The audience reacted with an energetic applause to this not so subtle example of class warfare rhetoric.

Setting aside the inaccuracy of the qualifying income limit (according to our research, when combined with the HOPE credit and other tax laws, the qualifying income limit may in fact be $60K for single and $120K for families), the principle notion of government sponsorship of college education based on financial need as opposed to merit should be of some concern.

By targeting the nation’s financial resources on programs which aid less affluent prospective students, we have fundamentally abandoned any notions of meritocracy and replaced them with a need-based social construct. While clearly a popular position among most Americans since it is portrayed as a caring gesture of the government (who would object to receiving a seemingly free gift or in this case benefit, i.e. the proverbial something for nothing?), we should examine its consequences, as in most cases many of them end up being unintended and in the greater context, undesirable.

Should the affluence level of the student’s family be the driving measure in the allocation of government subsidies for the student to attend college?

We are conditioned to answer this question in the affirmative, since in our politically correct dialect the less affluent are part of an affirmative action class. It is therefore our societal obligation, we are taught, to provide access to our nation’s financial resources on a preferred basis to those who are most in need of them, without regard to their individual contribution or their ability to make best use of such resources.

To what degree do we value fairness in the distribution of government financial aid for college education, or does the principle of equality trump all others?

As modern day Americans we don’t seem to place much value on fairness in the manner in which government serves its people. I’ve written on the distinction between equality and fairness in the June 13, 2000 article “Let’s not Confuse Equality and Fairness”. The article exposes our progressively degenerating definition of equality from what was our Founding Fathers’ original intent (equality of opportunity and not that of outcome) to the present socio-marxist interpretation of “… to each according to his needs.” In the long run, the dogmatic adherence to equality according to one’s need necessarily must lead to a polarization of the society and, instead of creating the intended harmony between income classes, it creates an increasingly greater rift between them. Meritocracy has to be, to a dominant extent, interwoven into the decision process in order for a society to survive and thrive.

Since we are now competing for minds in a global economy, how do we rank in their midst?

Since we’ve conceded that the optimal distribution of resources to produce the most effective outcome (only achievable through a merit based allocation) is not the goal, we therefore accept mediocrity as a satisfactory outcome. This, beyond any other force, is likely to have the most far reaching impact on the quality of citizens our education system produces over the long run. Comparing our policies with those of China, India and most European countries, where college entry is earned primarily through exceptional performance, the divergence in the intellectual quality of their college graduates as compared with those coming out of US schools is already becoming more apparent.

Many who would not consider themselves to be affluent, have historically not been able to qualify for any meaningful financial aid precisely because of their tax dollars being dispersed according to an equality formula that has very little, if anything to do with the benefit that the dollars spent will produce. In the case of my daughter, who graduated high school in the top 5% of her class of over 600, her acceptance into a number of very good schools was not matched with any meaningful financial contribution from the government. We ended up making a reasonable compromise, but I have not yet come up with a good way of explaining to her why her excellent performance and exceptional efforts were not recognized by the government of a country of which she will once be a leader.

* * * * *

Quotation of the Day:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

* * * * *

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