Follow Jefferson and Reagan

There are a lot of people who talk about Jefferson and Jefferson’s philosophy, who don’t have the slightest idea about his vision. His vision of an extended agrarian Republic, comprised mostly of independent yeomen, seems as close and familiar today as the nearest galaxy. Something similar might be said concerning Ronald Reagan, and I suppose it is inevitable that great men and presidents will be misinterpreted or rendered in politically convenient ways. I have personally heard Ronald Reagan on many occasions extol the virtues, as well as the constitutional imperative, of States rights. Yet the most aggressive nationalist and big government advocates now use Ronald Reagan as their patron saint—to endorse big government spending and imperial design! As if the context of Cold War and stagflation and political opposition were identical today. Of course they are not, and it takes some horse sense (in this case, understanding intent and sharing his vision) to enable us to move forward on what Reagan began—or indeed, on what Jefferson accomplished in very different historical context.

Simply stated, Ronald Reagan started to roll back the welfare state and to reassert the sovereignty of States in their proper constitutional orbit. He challenged a century of modern liberalism—from Reconstruction to Progressivism to World Wars, topped off by the New Deal and Great Society. Reagan’s message resonated with the people, because he clearly articulated the vision he—and we—shared with the Founders. His understanding of original intent led him to seek a paring back of the federal government and the restoration of real federalism—the vertical balance of power based on countervailing responsibility in the Constitution, between the States and the Federal Government.

In his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson declared, “Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power.” According to professor of law and history David N. Mayer, Jefferson’s strong conviction was that the Constitution had “fixed the limits” of political power. In Jefferson’s view, cumulative accretion of power to the levels wielded by the federal government today was not allowed, at least not without radical amendment of the Constitution. The essence of Jefferson’s theory can be found in his remark, that “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” In his day, Jefferson depended on the strong reaction of an informed voting public, to roll back excesses in areas of foreign policy and economy that ultra-Federalists had steered through all three branches of government. Today the dirty little secret, known to pollsters and political hacks, is that there’s hardly an informed voting public around that isn’t lethargic. Even if we argue that apathy is less since the economic conditions worsened after 2008, few Americans are knowledgeable about political issues or even about their own government institutions. Skillful politicians and powerful media interests use polls to play upon the public and to lay the groundwork for so-called direct democracy—“mobocracy,” according to Matthew Robinson in his book about media’s political impact.

What’s happening now is the exact opposite of deliberative democracy. The “eternal vigilance” of the people has come up lacking. Laziness perhaps has enabled our process to become corrupted. So much so, that according to Richard Reeb, Jr., a political science and philosophy professor in California, we have essentially bypassed “limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and [the] economic and religious diversity that made popular government possible for the first time in human history.” Jefferson moved power back to the States, and he also successfully acquired land that outran (for a time) the consolidation of power and centralizing tendency in Washington. Reagan strove for something akin to Jefferson, albeit without a Louisiana Purchase. Reagan gave us the opportunity to take back our rightful Constitutional portion of power, by ending the Cold War and by empowering us economically through tax cuts and decreased regulation. Although he changed political assumptions and gave us a fighting chance, we are not winning in the wake of Reagan the way republicans won in the wake of Jefferson. Today there is a black hole in the American political universe, and Washington threatens to crush us. Tyranny, however well intentioned, must end. States must begin to insist upon their Constitutional prerogative, if we should ever hope to restore the Union. We are no less patriotic or American for saying this, no less committed to the people’s freedom and the Founder’s vision, nor “rebels” for saying we shall ‘pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor’ to achieve this end.

My Thanksgiving Prayer

That first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 saw about 50 Mayflower Pilgrims and 100 native Indians come together for a celebration feast consisting of a variety of homegrown vegetables–including corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas–along with wild turkey and venison. The precise date is not known, but it is believed to have taken place in late October or early November. Historians record that the Massachusetts weather was crisp, but not cold–and the fall foliage dazzled America’s newcomers with a cornucopia of color.

These Pilgrims were mostly “Separatists,” who had left Europe to seek a land of liberty, where men could be free to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience–not according to the demands of a State church or an oppressive government. They made their intentions and motivations clear when they signed America’s first covenant, a document called The Mayflower Compact:

“We whose names are under-written . . . Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith . . .”

This undertaking had prompted them to leave their homes, livelihoods, families, friends, and way of life, and make a dangerous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Many became ill and some did not survive to see the New World. But they all believed that they were doing God’s will and that He would honor their faith. And He certainly did.

Although the original Pilgrims had a few confrontations with the American Indians–some were even violent–for the most part, the Indians were friendly and accommodating. They taught the Pilgrims what crops to grow and how best to grow them. They helped them understand American agriculture and the ways of the wild game endemic to that part of North America. And by the time they held their first Thanksgiving banquet, the relationship between those original Pilgrims and Massasoit and his small tribe of Indians was one of genuine trust and friendship.

God had, indeed, smiled upon the small band of Pilgrims. They had survived a long, treacherous journey across the ocean, had written the immortal Mayflower Compact, had built their homes and communities, had established a civil body-politic, had successfully planted and harvested enough food to keep them through the winter, and had established peaceful relations with the native Indians.

The Pilgrim Thanksgiving may have been the first such celebration, but it was far from the last.

Not long after becoming America’s first (and greatest) President, George Washington issued our country’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789. In the proclamation, Washington wrote:

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor . . .

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

Presidents ever since have likewise issued proclamations of thanksgiving exhorting the American people to humbly acknowledge the protection and blessing of Heaven upon our land. It is particularly appropriate that they would do this. After all, we Americans–of all people–have sufficient reason to give corporate thanks to Almighty God, as our Christian forebears founded this land for the express purpose of seeking religious liberty.

The history of the world’s nations is largely the story of one despot being replaced with another. Throughout the annals of human history, the story of human government is that of the rise and fall of one empire after another; one king or potentate after another; one dictatorship being replaced with another dictatorship; one form of monarchy being replaced with another form of monarchy. Some were kinder than others. Some were benevolent. Some were harsh. And some were downright cruel. But until July 4, 1776, there was no such thing as a nation founded on self-government, federalism, and religious liberty.

For the first time in world history, Christian people were granted a land of blessing and hope. In the human sense, America became to Christians what Canaan was to Old Testament Israel. In America, believers could live at peace with both their society and their government. They no longer had to choose between obeying their God and obeying their king. In America, there was no king but King Jesus. In America, men could truly render unto God that which was God’s, as Caesar did not demand for himself that which was God’s alone. (In fact, in America, we have no Caesar.) Men no longer had to violate their conscience in order to stay out of jail. Believers were no longer required to worship at the altar of the State or the State Church. In America, men could live free.

I repeat: if anyone has a reason to give corporate thanksgiving unto God, it is the people of the United States.

The common attitudes being displayed by many Christians–along with their spiritual leaders and pastors–today, however, would seem largely out of place by America’s founders. Apathy, indifference, and lethargy seem to rule the day. I constantly hear things like: “God hasn’t called me to get involved in politics,” or “I am only called to preach the Gospel,” or “Maybe we need to go into persecution,” or “It’s not my responsibility to fight for liberty.” All of which expose their personal cowardice and utter contempt for the sacrifices rendered by their brave ancestors–sacrifices that procured the very blessings of liberty that they now hoggishly wallow in without appreciation or afterthought. And now, when faced with the imminent threat of the loss of the very liberties that they have taken for granted, they glibly reject any personal responsibility to maintain said liberties for their posterity–and pharisaically excuse their miserable conduct with pious-sounding clichés. They even have the wicked audacity to attempt to use the Scripture as an unholy closet in which they might hide–the same Scripture that their forefathers claimed as an illuminating beacon that was used to conquer the darkness of oppression.I pray that this Thanksgiving season may be a time of both rejoicing and reflection, as well as a time of feasting and fellowship. But may it also be a time of rededication and renewal and a time of determination and decision. And I pray that we will each give our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength to the restoration of the principles of liberty upon which our republic was built. Let us renew the Spirit of ’76 in America once more. In the face of whatever danger and challenge that may oppose us, I pray that we will be the ones that will rise up to reclaim the blessings of liberty for our children and our children’s children. So help us, Almighty God!

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© 2011 Chuck Baldwin – All Rights Reserved

Stop Wasting Time; Balance the Budget

It is time for conservatives in Congress to cease wasting time on a balanced budget constitutional amendment and focus on a specific plan to end the deficit through spending cuts.

A balanced budget amendment is a waste of time because it would fail to produce a balanced budget. It cannot be effectively enforced.

Enforcement would have to be the responsibility of Congress, the president or the federal courts. Congress will certainly not enforce such an amendment because it already has the power to balance the budget but has refused to do so.

An amendment would not change the basic political equation, which is that voters welcome government benefits while refusing to accept the taxes required to pay for those benefits. This guarantees that Congress would respond to a balanced budget amendment by seizing upon any loophole to evade it, and the amendments always include one or more such loopholes.

Most amendments allow Congress to continue deficit spending during a war, even an undeclared war. The amendments also allow Congress, by the vote of a supermajority, to suspend the balanced budget requirement whenever Congress wishes to do so. The political realities would make it much easier to obtain a three-fifths or two-thirds vote to “temporarily” continue spending than a majority to make painful and unpopular spending cuts.

Handing enforcement power to the president would be no more effective and would introduce dangerous side effects. The president would feel the same political constraints as Congress and would be unwilling to risk unpopularity for himself and his party.

However, giving him the power to make unilateral decisions on spending cuts would enormously increase the president’s influence over Congress. He would be able to threaten Members with the loss of spending considered vital for their state or district, forcing them into line when administration bills come up for a vote.

Our nation would suffer from the worst of both worlds as the president made small spending cuts to punish his political enemies while refusing to balance the budget.

Turning the matter over to the courts might be the worst solution of all. Federal judges have no expertise in deciding budget priorities and cannot be expected to make wise decisions. Furthermore, the courts normally move much too slowly. By the time the case had gone from the district court through the appeals court to a final decision by the Supreme Court, the fiscal year would already be over.

Allowing the matter to go directly to the Supreme Court would speed up the procedure, but how long would it take for the justices to review the federal budget, whose listing of programs in the annually published appendix is more than 1,000 pages long? Would the Supreme Court have time to take up any other cases while it debated the relative value of military bases, border control, medical research, housing subsidies, Social Security and education?

The Supreme Court would also be handicapped by the necessity of having at least five of the nine justices agree on a single budget balancing plan. It is entirely possible that they would find themselves deadlocked (much like Congress) and unable to unite behind any single approach.

Congress should also realize that a balanced budget amendment, even if it passed Congress, would have no chance of ratification by 38 states. The states have allowed themselves to become heavily dependent on federal handouts. They understand that a balanced federal budget will sharply reduce those handouts, forcing them to make painful decisions to cut services or raise taxes. They will refuse to place themselves in such political danger.

The amendments do include one useful feature, a requirement that the president submit a balanced budget each year. That requirement can and should be enacted as legislation immediately. Even if Congress has no intention of balancing the budget in the near future (and it is abundantly clear that most Members of Congress have no such intention), beginning each year’s budget process from a point of balance would promote just the debate that America needs. Congress would be compelled to discuss what should be added to the president’s budget and why it is so important that it justifies deficit spending.

This type of debate over national priorities is what has been missing, with both sides making long-term projections that provide little in the way of specifics. We need to cut more than $1 trillion of spending, and we should immediately begin an honest discussion about which $1 trillion in the budget is least important.

Howard Phillips is chairman of the Conservative Caucus.

Stop State and Federal Charades: Elect True Leaders for Montana

I have lived in Montana for over a year and have practiced law here for about the same time. I have handled various medical marijuana cases and have become familiar with the legal and political scenario regarding state and federal laws on medical marijuana.

During this time I have seen a most disturbing sign of our political condition, and it confirms what I have expressed for the past several years concerning state sovereignty verses federal usurpation.

Montana Medical Marijuana Laws

In 2004 the citizens of Montana overwhelmingly passed an initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana. (Please, if you oppose legalizing marijuana, do not let the subject fog a clear understanding of the point of this article–personal views on morality is not the issue.)

Since then, the State legislature has essentially repealed that law and replaced it with another medical marijuana plan. Regardless of which marijuana law, the lawful use of marijuana for medical use remains.

Conflict with Federal Drug Laws

This state law is, of course, in violation of federal laws that outlaw all possession, manufacturing, growing, and use of marijuana. So, how does this conflict play out in the federal union of the United States? And what do the state and federal governments’ actions regarding the same reveal about this union’s condition?

Federal Prosecutions in Montana

Since early 2011, the federal government has initiated raids and prosecutions against Montana citizens for alleged violation of federal drug laws—in spite of Montana’s laws.

Federal agents focused their attacks on those who were doing business openly—using store front, public advertisement, incorporated registration, etc. This is significant given that the Feds claim they investigated these matters for “years”—it is comparable to investigating Wal-Mart for selling products made in China. Makes you wonder how proficient they are in tax-dollar use.

Federal “Conspiracy” Charges Against Citizens

Word has spread in Montana that the federal government considers certain people as conspiring to violate federal law where those people have only relationships with marijuana users and providers.
For example, a general contractor who builds a greenhouse for a provider; a landlord who rents a grow building to a grower; a person who supplies manufacturing materials; a doctor who prescribes marijuana to a patient; an attorney who drafts legal documents for a marijuana incorporation—all are subject to federal prosecution as “conspirators.”

In fact, one such contractor has been federally charged, and I know of an attorney who has been made a “generous” plea offer of over 100 years in federal prison. What an outrage!

If you study and understand the fundamental concepts regarding state sovereignty and federalism, this situation should burn coals in your gut. But it is worse than the obvious issues of inviolable separation of state from federal usurpation.

Who Are the “Conspirators” to the Feds?

Get a good grasp of this picture: the legislators of Montana pass a law permitting the medical use of marijuana, and similarly, for 7 years, never repeal the marijuana law the people directly passed; the executive branch of Montana signs the same into law; the executive’s administrations regulate and provide for the legal methods of using and distributing marijuana in the State; the Montana Supreme Court has recognized marijuana as a prescription drug; the Secretary of State certifies corporations who openly operate medical marijuana business.

In short, those in the marijuana business are working as legitimately under State law as a local barber shop—not to mention, the State is receiving taxes from this industry and has supplied payroll, covered overhead, and built infrastructure with these taxes. During these economic times, this is not a small matter.

Yet, the Federal government prosecutes Montana’s citizens who comply with a law the state government passed, permitted, executed, and administered on their behalf. The Feds do not attack the power of the State directly by prosecuting State officials. Rather the Feds attack Montana’s citizens, thereby ruining the lives of those without sufficient power, money, and force of government to protect the State’s sovereignty recognized in the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

How convenient for shaping the issue of federal authority. Were the Feds to focus their criminal prosecutions on State officials, the issues would look quite difficult. The Feds avoid this scene. I guess the public mind has not been completely indoctrinated to that level—yet.

Apply Federal Authority Equally—What Would Result?

Here is the question:

if it is lawful for the federal government to arrest Montana citizens who are complying with State law for violating federal law (including those who “conspire” to help users or providers with this unlawful use of marijuana), then would it not also be for them to prosecute state officials who instigated the conspiracy to begin with by putting into place the law so people could benefit from it?

If the answer is, yes; then we do not live in a federal union composed of sovereign states—we live in a national system with the States being nothing but counties to the one-nation, AMERICAN STATE.

If the answer is, no; then what power does the federal government have to arrest a state citizen in complying with a state law?

And what is to be said about the sovereignty of the States and the federal union it created where state government does nothing to protect its own sovereignty?

“State” Officials Are Really Federal (Sub)Agents

It is contemptible that the government of the State of Montana would pretend to care about the sovereignty of the people of Montana by passing a law on their behalf only to hide behind their official status while the federal government bulldozes its way into this state to arrest any Montanan it says is breaking federal law.

Given the way the federal government treats the citizens of the States and the State’s land, the question must be asked: what good are States anyway? Why do we even have States where this kind of action takes place supposedly pursuant to the U.S. Constitution? It would seemingly be much better were we to get rid of the pretense and the litigation arguing the point.

However, seeing that this exact type of constitution was proposed at the 1787 constitutional convention but rejected indicates that the system being implemented today is not constitutional after all.

All the while, State officials sit in their fancy government chairs in a beautiful, big State house, pass state laws, pull the rug over their eyes to the federal government’s intrusion of the State’s sovereignty, and somehow think they are representing the State of Montana.

Sovereignty un-asserted and unprotected is no sovereignty at all. Even the Federalist authors—the “liberals” of their day—admitted this about our federal system.

Will Montana (and Other States) Elect a Real State Leader in 2012?

The States are reaching a tipping point. Either the States are going to be crushed under the weight of the federal government, or (some) will successfully reclaim sovereignty that has been lost for over 150 years. The real question is: what will be the catalyst to cause the tip?

There is hardly any room, if any, left for (federal) courts to determine issues of political power and the sovereignty of the people. This can only be decided by the people—the source of political power.

Montana needs a governor to stand up for the sovereignty of the people of Montana—a governor who will not hide behind his executive position but will assert his position to protect our sovereignty and independence—who will uphold the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I hope the people of Montana will recognize the vital importance of this issue. It is not about Republican or Democrat; conservative or liberal; red, blue, or green. It is about liberty and a republican and federal form of government.

Those who snuff at this fundamental concept only reveal their priorities and misunderstanding of American constitutional law and political philosophy; their credibility to influence these kinds of decisions should be seen as meritless and elementary.

For you Montanans who see this importance, I hope you will cut through politicians’ rhetoric as they campaign for office in 2012 (for indeed, most, if not all, of the republicans are going to say something about State rights but will do nothing in practice to assert it). Find the candidate who will be a true leader and stand for the rights of the State of Montana. It is their duty.

The only way you can preserve your freedom in the State of Montana is to elect a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general who will support and defend our constitutions in reality, not in charade only.

© 2011 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD – All Rights Reserved