(Revised October 7, 1999)
By: Leon Felkins
Written: October 4, 1999
Most of you will not need any convincing that they do lie and will wonder why it is worthy of further discussion. While that may be true for some of you, there must be others that are taken in by their deceptions for how else can we account for the almost total obsession of many citizens and nearly all of the press with every utterance of a politician or government official? Why is there still an obsession by much of the public with our two major parties when almost every one of their pronouncements are boloney?
Apparently many citizens still believe that persons in the government and/or politics sometime lie but can still be believed most of the time. That belief has absolutely no foundation which is what I hope to show in this article. Others will say, "So what we know they don't always tell the truth, but it doesn't seriously impact our lives." I hope to show here that their duplicity does have serious consequences for all of us now and will even more so in the future.
In this essay I will provide a summary of some of the major ways politicians and government bureaucrats deceive us. Since the scope of the types of deceit is very broad, I can only hit the high spots. But in every case, I will provide references to further material, online if I know about it.
There are many ways in which the government interacts with our personal lives. I will attempt to list some of the more important interactions and to show that there is a consistent pattern of duplicity in every one of them.
Let us start with the most serious issue of all, the concept that the politicians are our representatives.
Didn't happen. And in 1913, we gave up on the idea that an "elite" core of individuals could somehow be selected by a group of "non-elite" state legislatures (elected by popular vote!), and so changed the Constitution (17th Amendment) to require that Senators also be elected by popular vote of the citizenry.
So, then, we have a "representative republic", right? Hmm. . . I just don't see a whole lot of representin' goin' on. If you do, why don't you try to arrange to personally talk to your representative and then show me how. Good luck. The reality is that they are motivated by lobbyists and other special interests that are generous with the pocket book and not you and me, who are not so generous. Some organizations have done the research to verify what actually is going on with our representatives. An excellent source is the "opensecrets.org" site at http://www.opensecrets.org/home/index.asp where you will find that there are now over 20,000 registered lobbyists and that they spent over 1.4 billion dollars last year (1998)! Apparently that is how representation really works.
When you add to that situation the impact of the press, the impact of campaign contributions particularly the enormous spending in the elections it should be evident that you, the citizen, have no practical input in determining how this country is run. You have been deceived if you think so.
Let us now turn to the Legislative process itself where we will find you guessed it further deception.
Many bills are modified at the last minute and not read by the legislators in their final form. Not having the time to always read the bills, legislators like the rest of us may rely on the bill title and summary information. For this reason, and to deceive the press, bills are often given names that don't quite match the content.
Well, let us take a look at the actual bill (no small task, I can assure you the bill is about 800 thousand characters long!).
Generally tightens the screws on individuals less than 18, such as prohibiting certain lenient actions that might be taken by judges, setting sentencing requirements, etc. Congress further takes on the role of the judge.
Now we are getting to the heart of this bill: Spending Money! This section authorizes $100 million per year in grants to be dumped into designated areas.
The Citizens Against Government Wasted group (CAGW) has an excellent web site in which they document this aspect of political duplicity in considerable detail. The site is at http://www.govt-waste.org/. Be sure to check out the latest Congressional Pig Book (http://www.cagw.org/publications/pigbook/). You will never enjoy a pork chop again!
Since the politicians are so fond of creating laws, surely they would want to set a good example by obeying them, right? Well no laws are for the citizens.
We hear stories that our military is interdicting planes and ships at sea (possibly even blowing them away) on the basis that they may be drug runners. How is the law prohibiting this avoided? I quote from Sam Smith (http://prorev.com/mil.htm): "the Navy is prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in domestic law enforcement, so the Coast Guard gets around this by hoisting a Coast Guard flag on any naval vessel it wants to use. The ship thereupon becomes a Coast Guard vessel for the sole purpose of circumventing the law." (I understand that the Navy ships also have at least one Coast Guard officer aboard to actually make any arrests).
Possibly the most incredible piece of government subterfuge is the "legal fiction" they work under to confiscate private property. In the 1970s and 80s, Congress passed a series of laws allowing the easy confiscation of private property based on the concept that an inanimate object could commit a crime and therefore be arrested. By doing this, they were able to get around the Constitutional prohibition of taking property and the guarantee of due process. (Further reading on government confiscation can be found at my "Forfeiture Reform" resource page, http://perspicuity.net/forfeiture/forf-vol.html.)
A related subterfuge is the way the government gets around the prohibition of "double jeopardy". The Founding Fathers surely had no idea how their simple, but maybe too general, words would someday be twisted into this tortuous logic. Did you realize that if you are tried for some heinous crime by a state and win your case, you may then have to go through yet another trial for the same alleged offense but it will not legally be "double jeopardy"? Yep, if the federal government wishes to try you they may and they do all the time. It is not double jeopardy if it is tried by two different jurisdictions. A notorious example is Timothy McVeigh who may be tried by both the federal and the state government (Oklahoma). Too bad he only has one life to give.
It gets worse. You can also be tried for the same alleged crime in criminal court and in civil court as OJ Simpson will quickly tell you. Now that makes 4 possible trials for one infraction! Not bad for a Constitutional republic that specifically outlaws double jeopardy.
A good example, discussed elsewhere in this article, is how much does the government spend for its employees? Since the shadow labor force (contract employees) is nearly 10 times the actual count of civil servants (see the excellent book by Paul C. Light, The True Size of Government, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, 1999) but are not clearly identified in the budget, no one can precisely determining how much they cost or how many there are.
And every government agency has a propensity to delve into fields that properly belong to another government agency. For example, the Army is funding Breast Cancer Research (see http://cdmrp.army.mil/). In the budget, is this classified as military or health?
The Navy funds research in genetics (http://www.aic.nrl.navy.mil/galist/). The ATF is fighting church fires (http://www.atf.treas.gov/pub/arsonrpt2.htm). And while the DEA would seem to be the honcho for the drug war, the FBI, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the military, all have to have a piece of the action.
Simple, you make the taxing and the funding very remote from each other. That makes it quite easy to trick people into thinking that government services are free.
For a moment imagine that there was no federal involvement. In that case, we in the community would have to take a hard look at our budget to see if we really could afford putting all those computers in the police cars and maybe just letting private enterprise take care of the water. We might decide we just couldn't afford it.
Now consider the modern way of doing it. Instead of paying taxes locally for these things, we pay our taxes to a national fund. Then when we need something we just get grants from the federal or state government (which receives block grants from the feds). By doing it this way, there is no discernible connection between the taxes and the grants. That is, the grants really are, for all practical purposes, free because whether we partake or not, we will still pay the taxes. And along that line of thinking, we might as well get all we can since it will not cost us any more!
A brilliant piece of subterfuges by our politicians!
Let us look at the basics for a moment. Unlike a large corporation, there is little or no incentive for a government agency to want to reduce its expenditures. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is normal for a bureaucrat to want to see his little organization grow. And there is never enough money. The pressure is always towards a larger operation and larger budget. But most importantly, the salaries and grade level that the burreaucrat receives (and his staff) is proportional to his budget to a considerable degree.
Now in a large heirarchical organization, starting at the bottom with some peon managing peanut quotas for a county in Georgia and going up the chart a hundred levels or so to the President, where do you find anyone who does not have these incentives to grow? You don't.
So what constrains the growth? The appropriations that are contained in the budget.
Do not miss the point here for it is very important:
It is not need that determines spending but it is the allotment of funds.So, we now consider how the funds are alloted. Basically, in government, the budget is built from top down rather than from bottom up as it would typically be in private industry. Congress and the president set the funds for the major agencies and programs. Within those agencies and programs, the allotment is divied up based on various factors, but need is way down on the list of priorities.
The truth is budget for each of these thousands and thousands of agencies are determined by looking at last year's budget and adding a percentage. What percentage? That is an interesting question. I beleive it to be a trade off between the bureacrats' desire for growth and the public's opposing desire for constraint. See my discussion at http://perspicuity.net/paradox/vagueness.html for further explantion.
So, in spite of all the antics we see the government go through (which costs us billions, by the way) establishing the budget, it is all a charade. The budget is really determined by a natural growth factor just like the growth of an annoying weed in your garden. The government spends with amazing regularity about 20% of the GDP. See my charts at http://perspicuity.net/civics/gov-acct.html. Why 20%? Well, that also happens to be the income they receive as a percentage of the GDP plus a little bit.
An obvious conclusion: if you want to control government spending, take away their ability to borrow and quit sending them money!
Nevertheless, the government used this opportunity to set a lot of rules on automobiles and spent billions on a lot of goofy energy schemes. As of this date, no new energy schemes has become noticeably successful, and we hardly ever whine about the air pollution anymore.
To see just how far the government has moved in the public spying area, read the report on the "Echelon" project at http://fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/echelon.html, wherein it explains how the government is now monitoring virtually every phone call, fax transmission and email made anywhere in the world! This was all made possible by the public's apathy and and unconcern about the government spending billions of dollars every year without any auditing.
And one other thing: the reduction in the civil servants that Mr. Gore takes credit for, came mostly in the lower GS levels according to Paul Light's book, The True Size of Government. It is what one would expect. The lower working levels are easier to dislodge from the government jobs. They were also easier to replace with contract workers.
"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
But, what about the claim that we are "representative republic"? How can I do my job as a good citizen if I don't know what they do, how much money they spend, or how I can do anything about it? Well, it's even worse. Most of your representatives know nothing about them either! Only a few select congresscritters are supposedly on the inside of what is going on. I wonder if even that is true.
I have a friend who works for the CIA. Well, actually he works for a contractor that is under contract to the CIA now that he has retired from working as a civil servant. I asked him how we citizens could find out what they are doing. He said, "You can't". I said how can we be assured that you are doing the right thing. He said, "You will just have to trust us".
Hmm. Do you know any normal, out in the open, government agencies that you would dare to trust without any supervision (or with for that matter!)? Knowing what you do about government agencies that operate in the clear, can you imagine the waste and corruption going on in those that have no watch dogs? Scary.
Is it really necessary in these times for these agencies that are estimated to spend 30 billion or more per year, to operate without normal controls?
Many still believe that we have a functional representative republic, pointing out that we still have elections and our voice is still heard. Not if politicians lie to get elected.
First off, we should remember that any representation we have is through the politicians we elect and not through the laws themselves for with the exceptions of a few states we are not given the opportunity to directly vote on the laws. We can only vote on the politician who will enact the laws not the laws themselves. The conclusion is that we can only impact the selection of laws if the messengers we elect deliver the message they said they would. There is ample evidence that they cannot be counted on to do that. Then that nullifies the claim that the voting process instantiates the process of representation.
The prosecuting attorney offers you "2 to 5 years" depending how the judge may feel on the day of the sentencing. If you insist on going to trial, he says you will get 15 years. Evidence indicates that he is most likely right (the prosecution wins 80% or more of the cases). You say you are not guilty. This has hardly anything to do with what sentence you will receive. The prosecutor says he has a paid informant that has nailed you (or possibly the guy next door, we can never be sure). No, you will not be allowed to confront this accuser you will not even be told who he is.Choosing to have a trial has other costs. Due to the heavy backlog of consensual crimes, that is drugs, prostitution, etc., it may be three years before your trial comes to be. Unless you can make what may be a substantial bail, you may be cooling your feelings about injustice sitting in the local jail.
The choice is yours. As for as guilt is concerned, that was established when you were arrested. The rest is just procedure.
And if you're broke, the Constitution guarantees counsel. But it didn't say how much or of what quality. You may get 10 minutes in which he or she will advise you to accept the plea bargain. Don't argue. They don't have time for it. Hundreds more are waiting in line for this "free" counsel.
For further reading on this subject, I strongly recommend Law and Disorder: Criminal Justice in America, by Bruce Jackson, 1984, University of Illinois Press.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.Then why, when we recently had an old auto repair garage burn down here in the small town I live in, were BATF agents all over the place the next day? Why was there reportedly 54 different enforcement agencies at the Atlanta bombing of a couple of years back? Why didn't the local sheriff handle the problems at Waco and Ruby Ridge?
Well, it seems there is an interpretation of the Constitution the "Commerce Clause" that says it is the Federal government's business if the activity involved interstate commerce. So what exactly is "interstate commerce"?
To give you an idea of what the government means by it, I will quote from the DOJ document, "Federal Money Laundering Cases", January, 1999:
Hopefully this makes clear what the government considers to be interstate commerce and why the 10th Amendment is no longer functional.
One of the difficulties of determining the truth about military spending is that the accounting by our government is always extremely fuzzy. For example, what exactly is "military spending"? Does it include spending by NASA? (Why not, much of their research benefits the military). Does it include the billions in grants/studies to educational institutions and think tanks?. Does it include the interest on the military part of our debt? Does it include our foreign aid? Well, an attempt has been made to determine a more accurate picture of the total military spending, documented at Center for Defence Information (http://www.cdi.org/issues/realtota.html). They say the real costs are approximately double what is actually reported. I suspect that they have underestimated it!
How does U.S. spending compare to the rest of the world? According to the report, "Post-Cold War US Military Expenditure in the Context of World Spending Trends" (http://www.comw.org/pda/bmemo10.htm), the U.S. spending as a percentage of total world spending has increased from 28% in 1986 to 34% in 1994 while the spending of the "Potential Threat States", has declined from 42% in 1986 to 20% in 1994. Something funny is going on here! (Specific spending for every country of the world is provided at the "U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA)" site. Also there are some graphs, showing trends, at the ACDA archive site).
Nevertheless, you say, the trend is downward in U.S. spending and the charts show that our spending has dropped a whopping 21% since 1986 (see http://www.comw.org/pda/bmemo10.htm). But we're comparing to the peak of the famous Reagan military build up, the greatest peace time spending spree the country has ever known! A more honest comparison would be to compare to the years prior to Reagan.
Several excellent sources of information on regulation are on the web. Take a look at Cato at http://www.cato.org/index.html, the Independent Institute at http://www.independent.org/, and especially the Institute for Justice at http://www.ij.org/index.shtml. I am particularly impressed by the Institute for Justice because it actually brings law suits against government regulatory agencies that are stifling free enterprise (see http://www.ij.org/cases/index.html).
What can be done about it? Well, the first thing is to be wary, as I just suggested. As far as somehow bringing the politicians and government employees to salvation and convincing them that they really out to be honest with us don't hold your breath. They have time and money far more than the rest of us and they will use those resources to fight every effort to make them be honest. It would be of tremendous help if the public could somehow pull itself out of its apathy.
But I must make a clarification in case I have mislead you into thinking that these people are somehow more disingenuous and devious than the rest. Maybe some are, but for the most part, I doubt it. It is the system that makes them so. I would encourage you to learn more about why this is by studying the theory of "Public Choice" (I have an introductory page on this subject at my site, http://perspicuity.net/sd/pub-choice.html). Basically, Public Choice can explain the motivation of politicians and "public servants" in just two words: self interest. In view of that, I suspect that many of us would act the same way if we were in their shoes.
But the best advice for dealing with this problem is summed up in the simple quote (author unknown):
"Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason."