Months before the 2012 U.S. election, President Barack Obama chose not to do any work to avoid the “fiscal cliff”. He couched his election strategy on winning a single constituency: those who pay no federal income taxes. President Obama and his election team made no secret of the fact that they intended to pursue, to the greatest extent possible, the votes of those on the welfare rolls, the food stamp recipients, the college students, and any others who receive benefits from the federal government, while at the same time, receive those “benefits” without any obligation to pay federal income taxes. I simply call Obama’s voters, who helped him to victory, the “Earned Income Tax Credit Constituency”. Now while this strategy propelled President Obama to victory in November, it did not win his party control of the U.S. House of Representatives, nor result in any significant political shift in Congress. Consequently, if the “fiscal cliff” was to be avoided, President Obama needed to sit down with congressional Republicans as quickly as possible following the election, if there was to be a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff”. Instead of trying to seek a deal, President Obama spent the past six weeks congratulating himself and his allies on the election win; and now he calls the “fiscal cliff” a “crisis”. Yet, as of late yesterday, the White House says that, “it has no plans to offer new proposals to avoid the fiscal cliff”.
Now let’s look at the numbers behind President Obama’s winning coalition, in terms of their contribution to the U.S. Treasury. According to the non partisan Tax Policy Center, in 2011, 46.4% of all Americans paid no federal income taxes. Additionally, of those approximately 76 million Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 42%, or approximately 31.9 million Americans, had a “negative liability”; which means that not only did they not pay federal income taxes, they received a “tax refund” on the payment of nothing in federal income taxes. In the 2012 election, President Obama won 63% of the votes from all voters who earned less than $30,000 in annual income, and 57% of all voters who earned less than $50,000 in annual income. 60% of voters ages 18-24, who made up 11% of all voters nationwide, voted for President Obama.
64% of all voters who voted for President Obama have never received a high school diploma, which means that they are far more likely to wind up being completely dependent on government sources for their living expenses. A 1990 study from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy arrived at this conclusion: A poorly educated single mother with no recent work experience has a better than fifty-fifty chance of becoming poor, and once poor, she has only about one chance in eight of escaping poverty within a year. If she happens to be African-American, she has only one chance in 40 of leaving poverty, once she is poor. This means that once a single mother enters the welfare system, her odds of remaining there until her eligibility ends is a virtual certainty.
Ever since late Spring of 2012, President Obama and congressional Democrats have attempted to change the way that tax legislation is introduced. However, there has been one very large obstacle in the way of Obama and the Democrats that neither has been able to overcome: Since the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans have been in control of this process, after winning the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution contains no ambiguities in the language that was used to decide how monies were to be obtained for the U.S. Treasury through taxation. Here is what the Constitution has to say on the matter, in Article 1, Section 7, Clause 1:
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
The reason that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 chose to have the elected representatives in the U.S. House determine tax policy for the U.S., as opposed to allowing the appointed members of the Senate, or the President, or any other combination of the three make those decisions, is that the framers of the U.S. Constitution had already lived several years under, and fought a war against, a government where one person made tax policy for our citizens. While this was perfect for those who attended the first Constitutional Convention, for some reason, the Senate Majority Leader, and President Obama, want us to think that while that was a good idea back over two centuries ago, now that we have a fiscal crisis, we must throw out this section of the U.S. Constitution because it “cramps their style”.
I have watched over the past few months at how Obama and congressional Democrats have sought to create the false impression that the U.S. Senate somehow actually has the authority to introduce legislation to levy taxes on the American people. They have sought to try to create public support for their attempt to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, without a constitutional convention, by convincing those who have not received a high school diploma that constitutional restrictions against the introduction of tax legislation by the Senate are “wrong”, and that they should be ignored for the sake of political expediency, all in order to avoid the dreaded “fiscal cliff”. This methodology is both disturbing, and at the same time extremely concerning, for those who believe that the U.S. Constitution is the most significant reason why the United States has managed to become a beacon of hope for millions who have sought its protections since this nation was founded. President Obama is playing a very dangerous game with not only the U.S. Constitution, but the U.S. economy, all in the hope of being able to keep federal tax dollars flowing from those who paid them into the U.S. Treasury, to those who send no money to the federal government.
Now I never imagined that I would find myself turning to a Canadian musical act to attempt to make a point regarding this redistribution of wealth here in the United States, but drummer Neil Peart of the musical act “Rush” made that point for me decades ago, in the chorus of a song titled “Something for Nothing”, when he penned these words:
You don’t get something for nothing
You can’t have freedom for free
You won’t get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be
His point is simple: there is no such thing as something for nothing, or freedom without sacrifice. Yet, the voters who represent President Obama’s margin of victory in the 2012 election are primarily a group of people who have been receiving benefits from tax dollars paid by others, while at the same time contributing no federal income taxes to the U.S. government; hence they have been getting something for nothing; and for some of them, they have been getting something for nothing for most of their lives from the rest of us. At some point in time, the U.S. government was no longer going to be able to continue offering more and more handouts to more and more people on the backs of a smaller percentage of individuals who have continued to pay income taxes. Now that we have reached this point here in America, what is President Obama’s plan to deal with it? As the White House press office stated, as of yesterday, it has “no new plans”.
What this really says is that President Obama is prepared to throw all Americans “under the bus” for the sake of trying to keep and expand a welfare state in America that has not been “paid for” by those who benefit from it. It is quite easy to propose programs for your constituents that they will never have to bear the financial burden for, and then try to change the way these programs are paid for through fundamentally changing the way that revenues are raised for the U.S. government, and to that end, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have said, through their statements and actions, “the constitution be damned, we intend for things to be done our way, no matter what we have to do to achieve it”.
I spent many hours trying to find an appropriate comparison for this attempt at a constitutional rewrite by simply ignoring the constitution, and I could only come up with one close comparison: Domitian, also known as Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus (Born October 24, 51 AD, Died September 18, 96 AD), the 11th Emperor of the Roman Empire. Let’s take a closer look at Domitian’s governing style, and you can on your own compare these facts to your personal impression of President Obama’s governing style:
- Domitian was a micro-manager who believed that it was his place to oversee even the most minute details of the lives of ordinary Romans, and it was his micro-management of the economy that was his fiscal legacy.
- When income to the Roman treasury failed to cover the necessary costs of the Empire, Domitian began seizing property, increasing tax rates, devaluing the currency, and imposing arbitrary tax collection policies.
- Domitian would claim a military victory after a battle resulting in a Roman loss. Even when the Romans were forced to move forces from the northern areas of Britain to the southern border areas, Domitian used propaganda to mask the reality of events on the ground.
- Domitian spent much of his rule away from Rome.
- Finally, Domitian was essentially an autocrat who did not trust the aristocracy, executed Senators, and finally, ensured that the Roman Senate was relegated to having no legitimate role in the governance of the Roman Empire.
The most important difference between President Obama and Domitian is that while Domitian had the ability to consolidate power and declare himself Emperor, eliminate the authority of the Roman Senate, and declare himself “censor perpetuus”, censor for life, with a general supervision of conduct and morality, President Obama is still restricted, at least for now, in the way that he manages the United States by the U.S. Constitution. While this is a fact, it has not prevented Obama from attempting to convince the American public that the U.S. House of Representatives has no right to prevent him from doing as he wishes to do so with tax policy in the United States. And it is on this count that both the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Harry Reid, and President Obama, have both made an incredible mistake in their understanding of the U.S. Constitution, and have overplayed their hand with the American people.
Everything that President Obama, Senator Reid, and the Democrats might say about the “fiscal cliff” must be filtered through the prism that is Article 1, Section 7, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says that all bills that involve taxing U.S. citizens must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yesterday, Senator Reid spoke very passionately on the floor of the U.S. Senate, as he sought to place blame for the current predicament in Washington, D.C. solely upon Republicans, and taking no responsibility for the current situation whatsoever at the same time. Consider these remarks from Senator Reid, followed by my personal commentary on them:
Now, the president campaigned on raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year. The Bush era tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. Obama was elected with a surplus of about three million votes. He won the election. He campaigned on this issue.
That’s true, the President did campaign on taxing wealthier people. He did win the presidency. He did campaign on the issue, and the Bush era tax cuts will expire at the end of 2012. However, President Obama does not decide tax policy in the United States. It is the U.S. House of Representatives which is the sole political entity in the United States to decide how much in taxes that Americans must pay; not the President.
That’s why I was encouraged by the remarks made by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday which clearly defined the wall that Senator Reid and President Obama cannot scale in the fiscal cliff debate. The most important were these:
Democrats have had an entire year to put forward a balanced bipartisan proposal and, if they had something to fit the bill, I’m sure the majority leader would have been able to deliver the votes the president would have needed to pass it here in the Senate and we wouldn’t be in this mess.
But here we are, once again, at the end of the year staring at a crisis we should have dealt with literally months ago. Make no mistake, the only reason Democrats have been trying to deflect attention on to me and my colleagues over the past few weeks is they don’t have a plan of their own that could get bipartisan support.
The so-called Senate bill that the majority leader keeps referring to passed with only Democratic votes and, despite his repeated calls for the House to pass it, he knows as well as I do that he himself is the reason it can’t happen. The paperwork never left the Senate, so there’s nothing for the House to vote on.
As I pointed out before we took that vote back on July 25th, the Democratic bill is, quote, “a revenue measure that didn’t originate in the House, so it’s got no chance whatsoever of becoming law,” end quote. That’s what I said back on July 25th.
The only reason we ever allowed that vote on that proposal, as I said at that time, was that we knew it didn’t pass constitutional muster. If the Democrats were really serious, they would proceed to a revenue bill that originated in the House, as the Constitution requires and as I called on them to do again last week.
To repeat, the so-called Senate bill is nothing more than a glorified sense of the Senate resolution. So let’s put that convenient talking point aside from here on out.
Last night, I told the president we’d be happy to look at whatever he proposes, but the truth is we’re coming up against a hard deadline here and, as I said, this is a conversation we should have had months ago.
And Republicans aren’t about to write a blank check or anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff. That wouldn’t be fair to the American people.
That having been said, we will see what the president has to propose. Members on both sides of the aisle will review it, and then we will decide how best to proceed.
Hopefully, there’s still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly, wholly preventable economic crisis.
The simple fact is that since the beginning of 2012, and through today, 361 days later, the Democrats in Congress have not proposed any tax or spending bill that contained a single significant change in U.S. policies towards those who, as of today, currently have no federal income tax obligation. Now that we are four days from the “fiscal cliff”, the president’s response is to offer “no new proposals”. In order to keep the Democratic Party in the position that it enjoys today, the President cannot turn his back on those who elected him: the uneducated, and those who do not contribute to the cost of running a federal government whose costs have increased under the president’s stewardship. So now we are left with answering an important question:
Is our government to be a government that operates for the benefit of those that contribute financially to it’s continued operation, or not?
The argument that Senator Reid and the President are making, as of this moment, is that those who pay federal income taxes are “out of line” for demanding that those who do not contribute to the U.S. Treasury to begin to do so, or conversely, to find themselves without the majority of the “benefits” that they have received from President Obama’s administration over the course of the past four years. Both the Senate Majority Leader and the President have overplayed their hand, because the time to resolve our financial issues, including a federal budget where a large percentage is funded by debt instruments, is today; not at a future point in time when the Democrats “might” return control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned that the United States will reach the $16.4 trillion dollar debt ceiling on December 31, 2012, just three days from today. But is pursuing a fiscal policy in which the only way for the United States to move “forward”, according to President Obama, is to continue to pay for whatever social spending that the President wishes to sustain, to the detriment of the 53.7% percent of U.S. taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill, and to not reduce any part of the federal government’s budget, except for defense spending, while making up the difference with even more federal red ink, the only way for the U.S. to proceed? Absolutely not. Personally, I believe that President Obama has turned his back on the economic policies that allowed the last Democratic president prior to Obama, former president William Jefferson Clinton, to balance the federal budget. If this is the reality on the ground, then it simply means that President Obama never had any intention of balancing the federal budget from the day he took office on January 20, 2009, and has no intention of even making a small step in that direction either now, or at any time in the future. It also means that the president is willing to sacrifice the approximately two million Americans who will lose federal unemployment benefits as of tomorrow, as well as hundreds of thousands of local civil servants who will lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts at the state and local level, all to support the cradle to grave welfare state for the Democratic party’s main constituencies.
The President called representatives of Congress to meet with him today at the White House, but why? Why on earth would the President invite congressional Republicans to the White House now at the 11th hour, knowing that he is not willing to concede even one dollar in social spending? Because, the President believes that “public pressure” is going to cause Republicans to cave and to continue to give him what he wants, without the President or the Democrats having to feel any political pain or fallout from having to accept reductions in “entitlements”, welfare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, or reductions in federal government funded handouts like the “Earned Income Tax Credit”, or the “Additional Child Tax Credit”.
This is the most important aspect of the “fiscal cliff” debate that makes the comparison between Obama and Domitian more and more accurate as each day passes. Domitian actually believed that he could act without consideration for those who did not share his views. In the end, this was a false belief, as Domitian was murdered by members of his own royal court. While it is unlikely that Democrats will be plotting murder against President Obama for failing to operate within reason, and for refusing to accept some reductions in social spending in exchange for keeping the majority of these programs operational, what is most likely to occur is that the 93% of black voters who voted for President Obama will soon find themselves without the social programs that the President championed while he was campaigning in their neighborhoods.
Food Stamps? Might be soon to be a thing of the past. Federal unemployment benefits? Those are most likely not to return. Medicaid expansion? Not likely to happen at this late date. Finally, to the most sacred of all Democratic programs, Social Security and Medicare, if the President does not get realistic, and very quickly do so, these programs will be stripped of their extras and be reduced to shadows of their original intent. If the things that I mentioned in this paragraph come to pass, what is the likelihood that Democrats will ever return to control both houses of Congress and the presidency? That possibility might not present itself for another generation.
President Obama is attempting to frame his positions without taking into consideration his political opponents, or the current makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives. While in the short term, this may benefit his current political base, it could also destroy the Democrats fragile coalition permanently. He is also doing so without consideration for the 47.8% of Americans who did not vote for him in the 2012 election. Instead of reaching across the aisle, as former President Clinton had urged him to do during the presidential debates, Obama has chosen to ignore calls for bipartisanship, and cooperation. In this regard, the President believes that by simply ignoring those who disagree with him, that he can bypass them at the same time. While this might work with the electorate, it will not work with the U.S. House of Representatives. For so long as our U.S. Constitution is still the law of the land, no President of the United States can ignore the will of the U.S. House, and remain an effective leader. Either Obama will respect the fact that he and Senator Reid do not have the ability to solely determine what tax policy will be in the United States, or they will suffer the consequences of “voluntary ignorance” of the facts on the ground.
If President Obama had taken any important facts from the outcome of the congressional elections in 2012, the most important was the fact that after the election was over, Republicans remained in firm control of the House, where all tax policy is established for the U.S. government. For all of Harry Reid’s huffing and puffing on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, the fact remains that Senator Reid finds it preferable to encourage House members to cast votes in an unconstitutional fashion, placing those who cast such votes in a position of violating their oaths of office, and then castigating them because they won’t violate their oaths of office. Senator Reid’s diatribe yesterday was a truly sickening display, reminiscent of a child who has had their favorite toy taken away from them and been told that they are to return to their room by a loving, and caring parent. The truth of this matter, in regards to Senator Reid, is that his colleagues in the House, on the Democratic side, have put their party’s politics ahead of those who are going to wind up without food stamps, welfare, SSI, unemployment benefits, a place to live, or any of a number of Democratic party crafted government handouts. If any of these people, who eventually lose their homes and are left fending for themselves without “Uncle Obama” to bail them out, wind up committing suicide, or committing violent acts or other crimes against other family members or complete strangers, all as a result of the Democratic party’s unwillingness to bargain honestly, and in good faith, their victims will have but one party to look to blame: The Democratic party, not the Republican party.
While Democrats believe that they can get through these negotiations unscathed, I don’t believe that they will have anticipated how quickly that U.S. citizens will be quick to anger, and to revolt. While I do not anticipate an all-out civil war as a result of these negotiations ongoing, or at any time in the immediate future, I do believe that the ultimate outcome for Democrats generally is that they could stand to lose far more than they ever expected, as a result of their insistence on demanding all tax increases and no spending reductions as their singular method to resolve the “fiscal cliff” issue to their political benefit.