Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 8, 2013

Some important issues deserving attention as the new year begins

By JAMES H. "SMOKEY" SHOTT
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— With the country facing the $16.4 trillion debt limit in two months — which works out to about $52,000 per man, woman and child — and with the government spending about a third more than it collects every year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that President Barack Obama should invoke the Constitution to raise the debt ceiling on his own, circumventing Congress. “I would do it, in a second, but I’m not the president of the United States,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

She believes the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that the validity of U.S. public debts “shall not be questioned,” gives Mr. Obama all the authority he needs to raise the ceiling.

That’s just what the country needs: the biggest spending president in the history of the nation by far — with trillion-dollar-plus deficits every year of his presidency — having the ability to unilaterally increase the amount of money the country borrows whenever he wants to.

Barack Obama is an irresponsible spendthrift who has shown no capacity for fiscal matters, and therefore needs a mechanism, like Congressional intervention, to keep him from bankrupting the country. Congress must not allow him to invoke the 14th Amendment.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is quoted as having said something like “never let a good crisis go to waste,” and anti-gun zealots have thus initiated new efforts to ban scary looking so-called “assault weapons,” or even repeal the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prevent future mass murders like the Newtown, Conn. school incident in which 26 people were murdered by what most people understand was a crazed individual.

Other Americans are justifiably concerned about such violence and also support those measures. But those prescriptions miss the point: The factor responsible for this horrible incident was the state of mind of the murderer, not guns or the Second Amendment. What we must focus on are mental health issues, our dramatically devolved culture, and providing better school security.

The founders, who had just put their lives on the line to gain independence, understood that Americans must be guaranteed the right to defend themselves with weapons equal to those that may be used against them. Some states felt so strongly that certain rights, like the right to bear arms, needed to be explicitly guaranteed that they would not ratify the Constitution without the Bill of Rights being included.

If measures such as those that are being advocated were in force in the 1770s, we would be singing “God Save The Queen” as our national anthem.

One of the reasons our country is in such horrible condition at this time is that some of our elected representatives have been in office for decades, during which time their perspective has most often changed for the worse. Long tenure in office is contrary to the concept of citizen leaders who serve their country for a short time, and then return to civilian life, as it was early in our history. This same problem exists for presidents as well as lawmakers.

Even if we have someone a majority of Americans regard as a good president in office, removing the ban restricting his or her tenure to eight years opens the door to eventually having a “president for life” which is not so different from being ruled by a king. That didn’t work out so well prior to 1776, and there are examples throughout history where people stayed too long in office to their country’s detriment.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times, and his policies extended the Great Depression by several years and deepened its effects, increasing the suffering of the people who elected him. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act was unconstitutional, he attempted to overcome the court’s opposition by increasing the number of Justices, and doing so by adding appointees favorable to his policies.

His behavior prompted the proposal for and the adoption of the 22nd Amendment, which is one of the best things resulting from FDR’s presidency.

Eight years is enough for a president to hold office. Leave the 22nd Amendment alone.

As 2013 begins the country still languishes in non-recovery from the 2008 recession. President Barack Obama gave a New Year’s gift to returning members of Congress, federal workers and Vice President Joe Biden by signing an executive order ending a years-long pay freeze.

Federal employees are already paid more than their private sector counterparts. “The federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector, after accounting for certain observable characteristics of workers,” the Congressional Budget Office reported.

Government employees at all levels exist to serve the public. They should not be treated less well than private sector workers, but sometimes when circumstances warrant, they must make sacrifices, like everyone else has to do. And considering the nation’s critical fiscal condition alluded to above, any additional non-essential spending is plain foolish.

The House of Representatives has voted to rescind Mr. Obama’s executive order.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.