Posts tagged ‘Congress’

01/14/2013

Need “Borrowing” Not “Debt” Ceiling

The “Debt Ceiling” is once again being debated in Congress, but it shouldn’t be, since we have no choice, but to pay the financial obligations we already have. Defaulting on our loans is not a realistic or responsible option as it would do nothing but lower our credit rating and trigger negative global responses.

The debate should instead occur much earlier whenever Congress borrows money.  If we are going to have a “ceiling,” it should be as to the amount we borrow. Whenever right-wing politicians vote for another war, or a new weapons system, without raising taxes to pay for them, they should first be required to raise a “Borrowing Ceiling.” This is where the issue might make a difference, since borrowing is not a necessity.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the power “to borrow money” is specifically delegated to the Congress (Art. I, Sec. 8). Congress must approve of any measure that causes borrowing. It is not a power assigned to the Executive. The President does not write the budget. The House must stop blaming the President for spending and they must face their constitutional duty to control it.

Right-wing politicians, who control the House, where all budget bills originate, are famous for supporting all sorts of wasteful military spending, without raising taxes, but once they authorize spending, it’s a waste of time to debate the issue of paying for the military toys previously purchased with a credit card.

It’s time for the Republican House to act like adults, take responsibility, and significantly cut the Defense Budget, or raise taxes to pay for the military spending they previously supported.

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04/08/2012

Give Washington DC Congressional Vote

Although Congress gave the residents of Washington DC the right to vote in Presidential Primaries in 1955, and the 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, allows them to vote for President, the problem now is they still have no Senator, or voting member in the House, and do not enjoy the same degree of U.S. Citizenship available to other Americans in the 50 states.

Washington DC came into being, because Art I, Sec. 8 (17) of the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to create a seat for the federal government, which was to be no more than 10 square miles. Virginia and Maryland each donated land for the federal city in 1791, but Virginia took their 31 square miles back in 1847, and what remains is the part that came from Maryland.

One solution is to simply deed the District of Columbia back to Maryland, so those living in the capital can participate in state politics, be represented by U.S. Senators, and be able to select House members, whose standing would be no different than any other.

Another approach is for the District to remain a federal enclave, but to amend the Constitution by granting to the occupants of Washington DC the right to fully participate in Maryland politics, as if the seat of the government was still a part of Maryland.

There is really no good reason for continuing to deny the residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote for U.S. Senators and House members and it is time to make them full and complete U.S. Citizens.

09/22/2011

Palestine: Shot Down By Israeli Lobby

Although an independent Palestinian State should be recognized, it is not going to happen, because the U.S. has veto power in the United Nations, and the Israeli Lobby controls American foreign policy, as outlined in the book: The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), by John Mearsheimer and Stephan Walt.

Palestine, 95% Arab in 1893, had been occupied by Palestinians for 1,300 continuous years. After WWI, European Jews started migrating to Palestine, and eventually created a state by removing Palestinians. The UN partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish areas in 1947, triggering a Civil War (1947-48), followed by an Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). Jewish forces drove 700,000 Palestinians out at that time, and barred them from returning.

Under President Eisenhower, U.S. foreign policy took a middle course in the 1950s, as Israeli requests to buy military equipment were denied. In the Suez War (1956), Israel was persuaded to return to their borders, when the U.S. threatened to cut off aid.

A major shift in U.S. foreign policy occurred after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when the U.S. first started favoring Israel. In 1967, another 100,000 to 250,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, as Israel started occupying the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. 3.8 million Palestinians fell under Israeli rule. Although the Israeli Army withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it became a virtual prison, as the Jewish state controls their air, sea, and land access.

Israel came under worldwide criticism for their brutal behavior in the occupied territories. Although Congress legally barred Israel from using U.S. aid to build settlements, new roads and villages were constructed in Palestine, as Israel erected a Wall through it.

The issue now is whether Israel and the U.S. will finally recognize a Palestinian State, along the pre-1967 borders? The short answer is no. The reason is the Israeli Lobby controls the U.S. Congress.

The Lobby first of all shapes public discourse in the U.S. media. They help sympathetic journalists get jobs, and make sure Israel is portrayed favorably. The mainstream media is biased in favor of Israel. They permit no Arab view, or open discussions as to Israel.

The Lobby effectively determines who will mount successful campaigns for Congress, by funneling money to their campaigns through a network of 75 organizations, and no less than 51 pro-Israeli Political Action Committees (PACs). PAC money is essential, since elections are expensive. Money rolls in to those with the pro-Israel label. Candidates must state an unconditional support for Israel to receive funds. They receive in-depth briefings on Israel, are told what words to use, and what opinions to give.

The Lobby punishes politicians who do not support their agenda. No aspiring candidate publically criticizes Israel. Democrats and Republicans alike fear the Lobby. Congress does what they want, as they keep track of voting. Office holders who do not agree are defeated. Those who wish to reduce Israeli aid are called anti-Israel. Jimmy Carter, who did more for Israeli than any other President, said it is political suicide to even mildly criticize Israel. Carter’s book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, critical of Israel, received full page attacks. It happened to Carter; no one is safe.

The Lobby influences who receives appointed jobs. People critical of Israel do not get foreign policy positions. They make sure Israel is not attacked on Capitol Hill. No critic of Israel is ever heard in Committee. Arab viewpoints are banned.

The Lobby tries to convince Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are the same. They claim their fight against terrorism is our fight. They want Israel to be treated like a 51st state. They force Congress to pass resolutions favorable to Israel. One said: “the U.S. and Israel are now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism.” It passed in the House 352-21 and the Senate 94-2. When votes are taken to reaffirm support for Israel, almost all members of Congress vote as the Lobby directs.

The Lobby sees to it Israel receives billions in economic aid annually, even though they are not poor. They have been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since 1976. They receive lump sum transfers, and do not have to account for how they spend it. Israeli bonds receive favorable treatment under U.S. law.

The Lobby maintains Israel’s dominant military power in the Mideast. The U.S. 6th Fleet is used for the benefit of Israel. Israel receives access to U.S. reconnaissance and intelligence. They receive tanks, planes, and other military hardware. The Lobby favors a hawkish unilateral exercise of U.S. power. They want to maintain a U.S. presence in the Mideast, in places like Iraq. They want large numbers of U.S.  troops permanently stationed there.

The Lobby controls the U.S. veto power in the United Nations. Between 1972 and 2006, the U.S. vetoed 42 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel.

The Lobby does not want an independent Palestinian state, as they prefer occupation to peace. Anyone favoring a Palestinian state is denounced for betraying Israel. Israel indefinitely removed the idea of a Palestinian state from their agenda.

But change is possible: 1) Those who understand the history of Palestine must educate Americans; 2) The U.S. must establish public financing of federal elections to remove money from the system; 3) The U.S. must deal with the Palestinian issue, because terrorism is related to American support for Israel; 4) Israel must be treated like any other country; 5) If they refuse to settle the Palestinian issue, U.S. economic and military aid must be cut; 6) Israel must dismantle their settlements, end the occupation in the Palestinian territories, and create a Palestinian state.

07/14/2011

Debt Ceiling Plan is Unconstitutional

Since the federal government continues to spend more than it is receives in taxes, there is a serious U.S. Budget shortfall, which can only be corrected by raising taxes or by increasing the Debt Ceiling so more money can be borrowed.

Since the Republicans, who control the House, are refusing to raise any taxes, the only solution is to increase the Debt Ceiling. But they are promising not to do that either. They simply will not acknowledge that the wars President Bush started have cost the country vast sums of money, which must be paid through taxes.

Not wishing to accept responsibility for their irresponsible acts, Sen. Republican leader Mitch McConnell came up with a Debt Ceiling plan that would get the Republicans off the hook by allowing them to blame President Obama for the entire fiscal mess. Their plan is to delegate the ability to raise the Debt Ceiling to the President, so when the Debt Ceiling is raised, as it must be, the right-wingers will be able to blame it all on President Obama.

The plan is Karl Rove politics at its best. Unfortunately, the idea is unconstitutional. If the Republicans would read the U.S. Constitution, they would learn the power “to borrow money” is specifically delegated to the Congress (Art. I, Sec. 8). It is not a power assigned to the Executive. The Congress must approve of any measure to raise the debt. Any attempt to throw the hot potato to the President would violate the Constitution.

President Obama should veto any bill that attempts to shift from the Congress to the Executive the authority to raise taxes, or the power to borrow money. The debt ceiling hot potato must remain in the House, until they act like adults, take responsibility, and either significantly cut defense spending, or raise taxes to pay for the wars their party supported. Its time the House Republicans got serious about what must be done to avoid a national crisis.

06/03/2011

U.S. Budget: A Congressional Duty

A leading Republican member of the House was complaining on TV that President Obama had not submitted a budget, but his criticism was disingenuous, since he knew or should have known the Constitution delegates to Congress, not the President, the duty to introduce and pass a budget.

The Constitution expressly places legislative powers in the House and Senate (Art I, Sec. 1). It says all revenue bills must start in the House of Representatives (Art I, Sec 7). The job of balancing the budget is clearly a Congressional job. They are the ones that have the power to lay and collect taxes, pay debts, and borrow and coin money. (Art I, Sec. 8). They have the power to raise revenue through the income tax (Amend 16). They alone also have the power to control spending, as money may not be taken from the Treasury, except by appropriation made by law (Art I, Sec 9).

Under the Constitution, the presidential role is simply to approve or disapprove bills passed by the House and Senate. (Art I, Sec 7). If the President vetoes a bill, it can be overridden by two-thirds majority in Congress. (Art I, Sec 7). The President gives information on the State of the Union, and may only recommend legislative measures, at that time. (Art II, Sec. 3) The primary job of the President however is not to write laws; it is to see that they are faithfully executed (Art. II, Sec 3).

The recent Republican Budget, ushered through the House by Paul Ryan, privatizes Medicare, as we know it. It is a bill the vast majority of Americans clearly oppose. The Republicans should go back to the drawing board and should come up with an entirely new budget, instead of criticizing President Obama.

But it is unlikely this Republican-dominated House will ever do that, or produce a balanced budget that makes any sense, because this group is hopelessly fixated on only the spending side of the equation, to the exclusion of revenues. My fear is nothing will happen until the next election, and only if this class of Republicans is run out of town on a rail. Only if a majority of Democrats is allowed to write a budget supported by the people, will we finally see one that is fair and balanced.