Congress: Hand Wringing vs. Resolving Problems


Congress has already demonstrated that it is incapable of resolving any complex issue. The Democrats, succumbing to the guile of former President Barack Obama, gave us Obamacare which has, as predicted, virtually destroyed healthcare coverage for the middle class. While the Republicans, preferring big talk to bold action, have failed to deliver on their seven year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. And years of currying favor (by Democrats and Republicans alike) with Washington’s powerful lobby has resulted in a tax code that is so complex that taxpayers cannot even rely on the advice of agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in preparing their returns – that is not an exaggeration; that is an admonition from the IRS itself:

“It is unfortunately all too common for government manuals, handbooks, and in-house publications to contain statements that were not meant or are not wholly reliable. If they go counter to governing statutes and regulations of the highest or higher dignity, e.g. regulations published in the Federal Register, they do not bind the government, and persons relying on them do so at their peril.” (Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. United States)

So bad is the tax code that Congress long ago abandoned the purpose of the tax code – to raise the necessary revenue to fund the legitimate purposes of government – in favor of social engineering and picking the winners and losers in what should be a competitive marketplace.

While Obamacare and tax reform simmer on the back burner never to be resolved by this Congress, the political elites and mainstream media have instead engaged in collective hand wringing over problems that most third graders could solve while running to recess. Here are three such problems and their simple solutions:

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This is a program initiated by executive order under Mr. Obama which, in essence, gave children who arrived with their parents as illegal immigrants a form of amnesty which is reviewable every two years. The program clearly exceeds the constitutional authority of the President and is subject to a threatened lawsuit by several states attorneys general. The program will expire of its own volition in June of 2018. President Donald Trump has threatened to revoke Mr. Obama’s executive order and end the program. Republicans who had complained bitterly about Mr. Obama’s executive order establishing the program are now horrified that Mr. Trump may give them their wish.

While the President lacks authority to unilaterally adopt, alter or repeal the law, Congress can. If DACA is good policy then Congress should act to adopt, alter or reject it. Mr. Trump should simply announce that because Mr. Obama clearly exceeded his authority in creating DACA, that he has ordered it terminated with a delayed effective date six months hence. If Congress cannot act within that time – and odds are that it cannot – the program will disappear. (Frankly, I would give Congress thirty days but it has proven that it cannot even find the restrooms in that time let alone do something productive.)

Initial Funding for Hurricane Harvey Relief. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, southeast Texas and western Louisiana find themselves devastated, first by the winds and then by massive and sustained rains which have caused widespread flooding. The price tag for recovery is simply impossible to calculate at this time. However, those on the ground can, apparently, calculate the cost of immediate and temporary aid – between $7 and $8 Billion. Mr. Trump, in collaboration with Texas governor Greg Abbot – the person actually responsible for implementing the rebuilding program – have agreed on that figure as a “down payment” to address immediate needs. Mr. Trump has pledged to deliver that money from current discretionary spending available to the President.

However, while Mr. Trump has the authority to spend that money, he does not have the actual funds to spend. Technically, the federal government ran out of authority to borrow additional funds to pay bills back in March of this year and has, since then been using accounting tricks and moving funds from various programs to other programs in order to pay its current bills. Pending before Congress is authorization to increase the debt ceiling to enable additional borrowing. The reason that it is “pending” is that members of Congress see it as an opportunity to make pointless speeches bemoaning the national debt while doing nothing about it and then to attempt to hang a myriad of unrelated subjects on its passage. Mr. Trump and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin have asked that Congress to raise the debt ceiling while including a provision authorizing the funds for the Harvey recovery but to otherwise deliver a “clean” bill – no extraneous matters. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, has demanded substantial and substantive measures be attached to the authorization bill.

The result is that a critical need is being held hostage by a larger and unrelated philosophical debate. In this instance both sides are wrong. To assist the Hurricane Harvey relief, an increase in the debt ceiling of $7-$8 Billion (sufficient to fund the initial commitment) should be authorized and the remainder of the debate about raising the debt ceiling should be left to proceed without impacting the critically needed commitment to assist those impacted by the hurricane.

Nuclear North Korea. Last weekend, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that had been miniaturized so that it could be fitted into the ballistic missiles that it had successfully tested weeks before. The world, including the United States, reacted predictably with uniform condemnation and nothing else. For over three decades, former President Barack Obama and his predecessors succumbed to the appeasement monkeys who dominate the State Department as well as other foreign governments. Mr. Obama’s fault may be greater than all the rest before him because it appears that he actively buried intelligence reports that would have informed the public about the significant progress that North Korea made in its nuclear weapons program during Mr. Obama’s tenure. (History will not be kind to Mr. Obama and somewhere along the line, historians will begin to assert that Mr. Obama was guilty of treason by deception.)

Uniformly, the hand wringers are blowing hot air as they assert that a nuclear-armed North Korea is unacceptable. Sorry folks, decades of appeasement have led us to this. That ship has sailed. North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them – deliver them to the heartland of America and with each passing day their guidance technology will provide greater accuracy. Not only does North Korea possess nuclear weapons they have deployed such a potent array of conventional weapons on the border with South Korea that any offensive move against them will result in the destruction of Seoul along with hundreds of thousands of South Korea’s citizens.

All of the “really smart people” who have led us to this intolerable situation agree that non-military responses – basically economic sanctions – can only work if China actively and aggressively participates – which they have not to date. Why would they? The “paper tiger” presented by the appeasement monkeys at the State Department exacts no penalty for failure to participate. The business lobby in Washington ensures that the sanctions for non-participation are small and generally not enforced because any strong measures will result in economic and financial difficulties for those American and international companies doing business with China. (If you have ever wondered why the application of economic sanctions are so slow and gradual it is precisely because American and European businesses do not want to disrupt trade with whatever rogue regimes is targeted.)  Somewhere in the slogan “America First” should be American security first, even at the cost of international business profits.

So what do you do? If the bully has checked your aggressive alternatives, you switch do impenetrable defensive alternatives. In this case it means a sufficient build up of conventional arms to ensure that any invasion by North Korea of South Korea will be repelled with sufficient reserves to roll in to Pyongyang, crush the regime and destroy their armaments. In this case it also means that sufficient nuclear weapons be programmed for North Korea so that it becomes an ash heap should it attempt to use its own nuclear weapons. And finally, you incentivize China to co-operate by opening discussions with Japan and South Korea to supply nuclear weapons to them. The idea of a nuclear Japan and a nuclear South Korea will instantly bring China to the table and will result in them forcing a regime change in North Korea. Kim Jung Un may be crazy but he is not so crazy that he will risk nuclear annihilation – after all, what advantage is there to running a nuclear power if there is no there left.

But none of this makes any difference to political elites – or for that matter the mainstream media. They would much prefer worrying about Melania Trump’s footwear than solving real problems.