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  • A Republican House Must Still Honor its Commitment to America

A Republican House Must Still Honor its Commitment to America

William L. Kovacs

November 2022

A Republican House Must Still Honor its Commitment to America

Dear Republicans, the talking heads and the pollsters were very wrong about the definite red wave. But it looks like you will win control of the House of Representatives. It will be a trying time since the loudest voices will seek retribution against Democrats through much-needed investigations. Undertake a few very well-structured investigations to expose the corruption in the Biden administration, but, please do not forget your Commitment to America. Some of it can be accomplished with control of only the House. Republicans promised to right the ship of state. You will be doing this for the country, not to satisfy primal urges of revenge.

As part of your Commitment to America, you pledged to “Curb wasteful government spending that is raising the price of groceries, gas, cars, and housing and growing our national debt.” A similar promise was made by the Republicans in its1994 Contract with America. The national debt in January 1994 was $4.4 trillion. The national debt in 2022 is almost $31 trillion. Most concerning, Republican administrations increased the national debt during that period by $14.05 trillion, about 53.6% of its increase. Democrats increased the national debt by $12.15 trillion, about 46.4% of the additional debt in that period.

Worst still, 97% of our national debt has increased dramatically since the end of the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the last president to preside over a national debt of less than a trillion dollars. In those forty years, the Republicans added $17.46 trillion to the national debt (59%), and the Democrats added $12.15 trillion (41%). It is imperative that the national debt matter to Republicans when they have the power to do something about it. Pontificating about it on cable television is not sufficient.

Interest payments on the national debt over the next 30 years are estimated to exceed $66 trillion. Each taxpayer’s share of the national debt today is $245,191. The average personal income in the U.S. is $63,211. If Americans are concerned with inflation, wait until they get the bill for the national debt. The national debt will become so burdensome to future generations that it will undermine democracy. If the federal government taxed current citizens the amounts needed to pay for today’s government, a tax revolt would topple the government.

Lockport How did the government put us in this position?

The framework of our Constitution has few guardrails for the type of government formed by our elected leaders. Today’s federal government combination of capitalist, socialist, oligarchy, kakistocracy, and woke cult. Moreover, the federal government can tax us as much as it needs to satisfy its wants. From 1932 to 1981, the marginal tax rate in the U.S. ranged between 63% – 91%.

Since it is unlikely, we will pay off the national debt in our lifetimes, our federal government and every American must recognize, we are living on the future productivity of those who have no say in creating our debt. The national debt is unjust to those who will have to pay tomorrow for our spending today.

whence What can House Republicans do today without control of the presidency?

Our Constitution reads, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.

For Congress to spend more of the taxpayer’s money, it must appropriate new money by enacting a law that requires the approval of both Houses of Congress and a Presidential signature. To spend no money, however, one House of Congress merely needs to do nothing. No provision in the Constitution gives anyone the power to force Congress to spend money. Moreover, Congress is the only government institution controlling the nation’s purse. The House of Representatives can shut the purse.

A few simple ideas for a Republican House to cut almost one trillion dollars from the budget by Just Saying “No.”

Do not fund unauthorized laws. Almost a half-trillion in savings can be achieved by following congressional rules prohibiting the funding of laws that are not authorized. All Congress needs to do is refuse to fund unauthorized laws.

The Congressional Budget Office annually issues a report on “Expired and Expiring Authorizations of Appropriations” for the Fiscal Year. While CBO prepares this report according to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the report is to assist lawmakers in complying with House rules by identifying unauthorized laws that should not be funded. Its 2022 report identifies 1,118 authorizations of appropriations that expired before the beginning of FY 2022 and an additional 111 that will expire during FY 2022.

CBO estimates Congress appropriated $461 billion in 2022 to fund unauthorized laws. Moreover, CBO identifies each committee of Congress that has failed to authorize laws under its jurisdiction and the amount of money appropriated to fund these unauthorized statutes. Forty-four percent of the unauthorized laws being funded expired over a decade ago. If Congress is unwilling to review these laws and reauthorize them, that lack of interest alone should be sufficient to let them expire.

Reduce agency budgets for refusing to provide Congress with the information requested. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee federal agencies. Many times, however, federal agencies refuse to provide Congress with the information requested. Usually, Congress, especially the party in opposition to the Executive, must live with the refusal until a president from its party occupies the White House. Then matters are reversed. One mechanism for addressing this issue would be for the House of Representatives to reduce the agency’s appropriations by some percentage each time an agency fails to provide the information requested.

Use spending power as bargaining power. Since Congress cannot be compelled to spend money on any activity, it needs to leverage this power to ensure the Executive implements the policies Congress enacted. From day one the Biden administration refused to protect the southern border of the United States. The border is open to all comers, no matter how much the Republicans complain. By being in charge of the House, however, Republicans have solid leverage to negotiate with the administration by withholding money for programs Biden deems essential.

The leverage should be the Department of Education (“DOE”) since it is owned and operated by Biden’s most significant political supporters, the teachers’ unions. The DOE is a perpetual pay-off to the teachers’ unions. The teachers’ unions donated $43 million to liberal groups in the 2020 election cycle.

By controlling DOE, teachers’ unions foster the teaching of Critical Race Theory, impose mask mandates, and torture children’s minds by telling them they are born racists. The mere possibility of the teachers’ unions losing this power will likely persuade Democrats to accept the reality that building the border wall and enforcing immigration laws is a cheap price to pay to keep DOE.

If Biden concedes, the House Republicans will get the border wall and immigration enforcement. If Biden refuses to negotiate, the Republicans get to eliminate the agency they have wanted to eliminate since 1980, when it was created.

Require all federal agencies to implement GAO’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”) or suffer budget cuts. Congress mandates GAO to perform a GAAP analysis of federal spending and assets and provide recommendations to ensure the financial reporting by the agency is transparent and consistent. One specific GAO recommendation is for all agencies to address the government-wide improper payments, estimated to be $175 billion. A Republican House should refuse to fund agencies failing to implement this recommendation.

By implementing these four recommendations, Republicans can reduce the budget by over $850 billion. Only time will tell if Republicans mean what they promise in their Commitment to America. Republicans’ this is your “put up or shut up” moment.

William L. Kovacs, author of Reform the Kakistocracy, winner of the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change, and former senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This article was first published in The Thinking Conservative.

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  • In Need of a Federal Ban on Gifts to Friends of Congress

In Need of a Federal Ban on Gifts to Friends of Congress

William L. Kovacs

September 2022

In Need of a Federal Ban on Gifts to Friends of Congress

Since the beginning of the republic, there has been a debate over the scope of Congress’s power to spend our money and then tax us to generate more money to spend. James Madison argued Congress could only spend on the items enumerated in the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton argued the Constitution’s Spending clause is independent of the enumerated powers, thus allowing Congress to tax and spend as it deems necessary. The only limitations – spending must be for the general welfare and Congress cannot use taxation as a pretext to indirectly control states.

Continuing to debate the limits of Congressional spending is a waste of time. The Supreme Court has made it clear that Congress can spend on whatever it wants as long as it promotes the general welfare. Only Congress can make that determination.

Such a broad interpretation of Congress’ ability to tax and spend has resulted in a massive expansion of government and a $30 plus trillion national debt that will likely place our posterity in involuntary servitude to the federal government. Most troubling is that the general welfare has morphed from building the canals, bridges, and highways to make the U.S. an economic superpower into trillions of dollars of gifts to special interests and friends. These gifts to private entities come in the form of grants, tax credits, loan forgiveness, and paycheck protection plans.

A few examples of the cost of congressional gift giving.

$600 billion in student loan forgiveness based on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act of 2003, which forgave $10,000 – $20,000 of student loan debt for approximately 15 million students.

$ 721 billion in grants to states as a bribe to manage federal programs enacted outside the constitutional authority of Congress to legislate.

Forgiving tens of billions of dollars of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans made to organizations controlled by the elite rich such as Paul Pelosi (husband of the Speaker of the House); Khloe Kardashian, Tom Brady and Reese Witherspoon, Forbes Media, Ruth Chris Steakhouse, The Washington Times, and more than a few members of Congress.

$16 billion in farm aid to offset losses suffered by farmers on tariffs imposed on products sold to  China. The top 10% of farmers receive 70% of the subsidies.

The $330 billion prescription drug industry was granted $64 billion in federal research funding.

Flood insurance subsidies are given to insure high-end housing in flood-prone areas. This insurance program is potentially liable for $1.3 trillion in flood claims while only collecting $3.5 billion in annual premiums. The program has $25 billion in losses that taxpayers will have to pay.

Most recently, through the falsely named “Inflation Reduction Act,” Congress authorized $370 in new tax credits for corporations and individuals if they acquire green energy products or build green energy facilities. The tax credits are to boost corporate sales of electric vehicles, the installation of rooftop solar panels, the development of solar power systems, heat pumps, water heaters, space heating, electric stoves, circuit breaker boxes, additional home insulation, and exterior windows, to name a few beneficiaries. This is in addition to federal regulations imposing energy efficiency requirements on at least sixty products and $577 billion in tax credits and grants for green energy projects since 2004.

A week before the passage of the IRA, Congress authorized $280 billion to incentivize the semiconductor industry to build plants in the U.S. and invest in the new research.  The semiconductor industry is a $573 billion industry that is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2029 due to high demand for its products.

While there is almost no limit to Congress making gifts to its supporters, historical precedents prohibited state governments from giving gifts to private entities. In the mid-1800s, many municipalities and states used public funds to purchase stock in the railroads being built across the continent. Many of these governments lost or were swindled out of large amounts of taxpayer money. To prevent this type of financial loss in the future, forty-five states enacted constitutional limitations preventing gifts to private entities. The limits placed on gifts to private parties came to be called “gift clauses.”

The general gift clause prohibited state and local governments from giving or loaning public funds to private corporations or associations or for private undertakings. The sole purpose of these gift clauses was to prohibit the gifting of public money for nonpublic purposes. Initially, these provisions stopped government speculation with taxpayer money and the gifting of public money to private entities.

Over time, however, the courts began to legislate exceptions to the prohibitions for what they construed as a “public purpose,” a purpose similar to the federal Constitution’s general welfare clause.  Courts simply found legal the gift of public funds to a private entity if the gift would somehow result in a public benefit. The courts further expanded the definition of “public benefit” to include almost anything the legislature believes is a public benefit. Such gifts can be seen in almost every type of government project, from parking lots to sports facilities, corporate rent subsidies, to outright gifts to attract business to a state or locality.

At the federal level, gifts are deemed legal to private parties for almost anything Congress wants to finance, incentivize, or throw money at. Taxpayer money just flows, and the courts find it legal since the appropriations prove that the legislature viewed the gift to private parties to be for a public purpose.

With a $30 trillion-plus national debt, citizens need to demand the enactment of a federal gift clause to limit how Congress spends our money. And while few believe that Congress will ever enact a prohibition on gifts to friends and interest groups, citizens need to demand every person running for Congress to take the following pledge:

I pledge that, as a member of Congress, I will not vote to give, grant, or loan public funds or to extend the credit of the public to any private corporation, association, or private undertaking.

By asking every candidate for Congress to take this pledge, citizens will easily distinguish between candidates seeking to protect the public’s money and those seeking personal gain.

William L. Kovacs has served as senior vice-president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, chief counsel to a congressional committee, and a partner in law D.C. law firms, and his book Reform the Kakistocracy is the winner of the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change. His second book, The Left’s Little Red Book on Forming a New Green Republic is a collection of quotes from the Left on how to control society by eliminating capitalism, people, and truth.

 

 

 

 

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  • Spending Power is Bargaining Power: No Wall, No Dept Ed

Spending Power is Bargaining Power: No Wall, No Dept Ed

William L. Kovacs

June 2022

Spending Power is Bargaining Power: No Wall, No Dept Ed

While Joe Biden has a long plagiarism record, he at least steals good lines. For the release of his FY 2023 budget, he attributed to his father a phrase borrowed from James Frick (first director of development for the University of Notre Dame), “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Actual words of wisdom related to congressional spending power and Biden’s refusal to build a border wall or enforce immigration laws.

Biden knows what he values. Its time for Congress to respond with its own set of values. If Republicans take control of at least the House of Representatives, they should inform the president; that if he does not build the border wall and enforce immigration laws, it will not fund the Department of Education (“Dept. Ed”). While these issues are unrelated, combining them into one negotiation is legal, workable, and requires little effort by a Republican House.

The ability of Congress to place limits on an out-of-control federal government and a president that refuses to execute the laws of the land rests on how it uses the “spending power” granted by the Constitution. Congress, including Republican Congresses, have used this power to spend and spend more for a century. Today Congress is confronted by a spendthrift President that has intentionally opened the Southern Border of the U.S. to millions of illegals, including drug smugglers, sex traffickers, and terrorists. This deliberately reckless decision harms citizens, overwhelms small cities, and costs taxpayers billions. Courts have ordered Biden to enforce immigration laws, but his administration continues to implement its values.

Implied in congressional spending power is the power not to spend. With a $30 trillion national debt, Congress can no longer ignore its real power not to spend. Congress only debates the level of spending, never the fact that it does not have to appropriate any money for any program, for any reason. If one House of Congress refuses to spend money, that one Chamber can control the size and shape of government. More importantly, if the Executive acts unreasonably, one House of Congress can control the Executive by refusing to spend on the Executive branch’s priorities.

If Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives in 2023, they could impeach Biden, but a conviction is unlikely. They could try to pass a more restrictive immigration law, but they will not have the votes to override his veto. Republicans could continue whining on cable TV, which feeds their egos but little else. A more forceful alternative is to find creative ways to use its spending power.

Under the Origination and Spending Clauses of the Constitution, only Congress has the power to raise revenue and spend money. No power in the United States can make Congress appropriate money that it does not want to spend. While it takes both houses of Congress and the president to enact a new law or spend money, spending no money is different. If one House of Congress refuses to spend money, there is no authorized money to spend.

Why the Dept. Ed?

The Dept. Ed should be the center of the negotiations since it is owned and operated by Biden’s most significant political supporters, the teachers’ unions. The teachers’ unions donated $43 million to liberal groups in the 2020 election cycle.

The Dept. Ed is a perpetual pay-off to the teachers’ unions. Congress can use this sacred cow as a bargaining tool. The Dept. Ed is the platform that allows the teachers’ unions to foster the teaching of Critical Race Theory, impose mask mandates, and torture children’s minds by telling them they are born racists. The mere possibility of the teachers’ unions losing this power will likely persuade Democrats to accept the reality that building the border wall and enforcing immigration laws is a cheap price to pay to keep the Dept. Ed.

Using such leverage requires Congress to engage in high-level negotiations. If Biden concedes, the Republicans get the border wall and immigration enforcement. If Biden refuses to negotiate, the Republicans get to eliminate the agency they had wanted to eliminate since1980 when it was created.

Other than spending several trillion dollars to expand the educational bureaucracy, studies and test results establish the Dept. Ed has made little or no impact on education.

The  Dept. Ed administers educational assistance,  collects educational data, and enforces privacy and civil rights laws like destroying Title IX for women’s sports. Of the 15 cabinet-level agencies in the federal government, its $ 96 billion discretionary budget is the third largest of all departments, only behind Defense and Health and Human Services.

The Dept. Ed has not, in any manner, enhanced education in its 42 years of operation:

  1. The Programme for International Student Assessment (“PISA”) found that among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 18th in science.
  2. The same PISA study found that U.S. millennials in the workforce were tied for last on mathematics and problem-solving tests among the millennials in all the industrial countries tested.
  3. A National Assessment of Educational Progress study found that after 40 years of assistance, there has been no improvement in high school math and reading.
  4. A comparison of SAT scores from 1972 to 2021 illustrates that math scores remained flat, 509 in 1972 and 508 in 2016. The SAT was redesigned in 2017; unfortunately, the scores remained flat even on the redesigned test.
  5. On the reading portion of the SAT, test scores dropped from 530 in 1972 to 494 in 2016.
  6. The National Assessment of Education Progress (“NAEP”) analyzed the number of twelfth-grade students’ performances in science for 2009, 2015, and 2019. There was no change in achievement levels. The average science score of 150 for twelfth-grade students in 2019 was not significantly different compared to 2015 or 2009.

 

While it is unlikely Congress would ever voluntarily abolish this failed agency, it does have an opportunity to use it as a bargaining chip to have a border wall constructed finally and immigration laws enforced.