Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of the Union's Laundry List

I didn't watch President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last night. Haven't read the transcript either, and don't plan to. Didn't take in either of the responses by Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, either. For the record, and in interests of full disclosure, if Mitt Romney had won the presidency last November, I probably wouldn't have watched regardless. What's the point? Was the "state of the union" really given last night, or did we just get another litany of governmental expansion wishes and executive lecture to the Congress and assembled others?

As Ed Morrissey wrote this morning at Hot Air ("The laundry list event"):
No, the problem with this and nearly every SOTU is that it reads like Congress is Santa Claus, the President is the greedy kid, and all the rest of us are the elves in the workshop.  Almost without exception for every President in memory, the SOTU is a dressed-up version of a campaign platform filled with “I wants” and “you’d better bring mes,”  interrupted only by mindless applause and standing ovations for the most mundane of rhetoric.  That didn’t start with Obama (we should only have been so lucky!) and it won’t end with him either.  The result is a themeless, pointless, and unmemorable ramble through the arcane fighting points of the day, and no coherence whatsoever other than “gimme.”
Seriously, if I wanted to watch things running around in circles, being preened, and soaking up adoring applause as politicians are so apt to do - rather than actually accomplishing anything - there was a much better option for that last night! (Actually, I watched the Monday part of that off the DVR, last night will be watched tonight).

Back last September on the day President Obama addressed the United Nations, I wrote up the speech I'd give were I the President of the United States standing before that body. So, in that spirit, here's the address given by a hypothetical President Allan Bourdius, newly elected last November, on February 12, 2013 to a joint session of Congress.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

It is well that our Constitution spells out in Article II, Section 3 that "[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient" as a duty of the President because when I'm done with this speech, the Congress might not invite me back otherwise.

Today, the state of our union is troubled. It hangs on a precipice.

Right there, gasps have gone out across our great land and from political pundits throughout our news media, for when was the last time a President of the United States said anything in a state of the union address besides, "The state of our union strong, but oh, by the way, here's a laundry list of programs we need to make us stronger!"?

Our union is on the precipice not because of our citizens, our families, our businesses, our individuality, or even changes in our culture. Those things, indeed, are very strong. We as Americans are the people who have innovated more, produced more, enriched more, and benefited humanity more than any other culture and society in human history.

Someone once said to me that American government started going downhill with the advent of air conditioning, because that's when it became comfortable for legislators to remain in Washington, DC for an extra six months a year. I'm reasonably certain bureaucrats spend more time in cool offices than warm, humid ones as well.

No, my fellow Americans, we are on the precipice because of the several hundreds present here in the chamber of the House of Representatives from our three branches of government - legislative, executive, and judiciary - who by virtue of their offices embody the federal leviathan as it has evolved since our Constitutional republic began its governing work on March 4, 1789.

The threat to the strength of our union comes from all three:

From our Congress, who has a hard time understanding when that when the Constitution says things like "shall make no law" or "shall not be infringed" it's a rule not a guideline, or that the concept of omnibus legislative power to enact legislation as Congress shall will is belied by the enumerated powers contained in the Constitution, as explicitly expanded by multiple amendments;

From our executive departments and agencies, who in the last ninety days alone, have promulgated 5,895 new regulatory impositions on our society and today execute, maintain, and expand a Code of Federal Regulations that spans well over 163,000 pages and 226 volumes;

From our judiciary, who from time to time has ruled in logic-defying twisted-ness, such as that not engaging in interstate commerce is, in fact, engaging in interstate commerce and that a financial imposition on citizens can simultaneously be a tax and not be a tax in the same ruling.

Nor is this a phenomenon limited to the members of one political party or another. Imagine a mirror in front of each and every one of you: there's the problem. 

All of the federal government is culpable: from a legislature that hasn't produced a budget for almost four years in violation of the law, to an executive branch who gets appallingly little value out of the dollars they spend, to a judiciary who treats appellate law as if it's legislation or executive action. 

Whatever strength we have in our union is in spite of actions taken here in Washington, DC, not because of it.

Our republic was framed "to form a more perfect union", not establish utopia. Utopia is impossible. We'll never get there. It's time to stop trying to impose it via the federal government.

The first person recognized by Congress as an honorary citizen of the United States, nearly fifty years ago on April 9, 1963, Sir Winston Churchill, is said to have commented on the nation that bore his mother:
Americans can be counted on do to the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.
When the net legislative output of the Congress was codified in 1925 as the United States Code, it was printed in one volume. Today, it's over thirty.

We've exhausted enough possibilities, and the American people are exhausted by their government's actions and inactions. Don't believe it? Look at Congress' own approval ratings. Pick up the mirror, each and every one of you, and each and every employee of the federal government regardless of branch should do the same.

We have made the federal government complex when it should be simple.

Here is my simple legislative agenda for the Congress: stop.

Here is my simple regulatory order for all executive departments: don't.

Our government is not our society. Every man, woman, and child in America going about their daily lives in their homes, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, and churches are society, regardless of what we decide to do here in the nation's capital.

The American people deserve so much better than what their federal government has tried to give them. We have failed to trust them. We have supplanted government's will and desires for their own. We have ignored some of the very words upon which this great nation was founded:
He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.
The federal government is going to go on a diet and eat less out of society.

The federal government will no longer measure its success by the actions it takes, or programs it establishes, or by the size of its spending.

We all are asking the wrong core question in our governmental processes and debate, and have been for decades. We ask, "What is the best way for government to act?" when we should be asking, "Should government be involved at all?"

Federal government action should be the last resort, not the first response, to every real or perceived societal ill.

We have a divided Congress. In some ways, this is a good thing. A government not doing more because of gridlock is preferable to a government doing more, and doing it badly.

Many commentators and politicians have highlighted the inability of the House and Senate being able to compromise on legislation. The will or agenda of either of the dominant political parties holds primacy over the concerns of the people. That's a problem. Here's a simple way that you, the Congress, can figure out if your legislation is actually among the people's priorities and interests. Just ask yourself:

"Did the bill pass both houses of Congress with a margin able to override a Presidential veto? If not, we might just be executing our will and not that of all our constituents as a whole."

I'm not making a promise or a threat, but be advised: I'm not afraid to use the veto pen.

Do not send me a bill that purportedly is for defense, but is loaded down with unrelated spending for non-defense items.

Do not send me a bill on immigration reform that includes provisions wholly unrelated to immigration.

Do not send me a bill that drives the United States deeper in debt by trillions immediately, but only cuts spending piecemeal over the next decade or longer.

Focus, ladies and gentlemen. Keep legislation succinct, and we'll do the same on the executive rule and regulation-making side. Every one page of new government action probably produces at least one unintended consequence. Do not send me a bill that I can't read in ten days, excepting Sundays. I won't sign legislation I haven't had the chance to finish reading, nor will I allow it to go automatically into force as law.

Forget about putting marketing gloss on bloated, "comprehensive" bills referred to by catchy acronyms, backronyms, or titles. Wit is not a substitute for substance to both PATRIOTs and DREAMers alike. If you have to market it, or give it a catchy name, chances are it's something government should be doing less of, not more.

It probably comes as a shock to most in this chamber, but life in America will, in fact, go on if Congress ceases passing more and more legislation to insert the government into more and more aspects of life.

It probably comes as a shock to most bureaucrats that life in America will, in fact, go on without their bureaucracies dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" if they stopped doing it for more and more things. 

Life will even continue if the federal government involves itself in less than it already is, both legislatively and administratively.

The state of our union will be stronger if we take a scalpel to certain aspects of our federal government, and a wrecking ball to others.

The state of our union will be stronger if Americans have confidence in their federal government. We've tried government doing more, and that hasn't worked. It's time to do the reverse.

The federal government must choose:

Will it put people first, not by continued grouping into protected classes and carving out exceptions or special grants, but by removing as many burdens imposed upon all of them as possible?

Will it stop substituting its own desires for those of the people?

The choice must be made: are you for the people, or are you for the government? 

My fellow Americans, I have made that choice. I choose the people. I hope and pray those here in the chamber of the House of Representatives tonight assembled have the courage to do the same.

Thank you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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