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January 15, 2010

My sister, Mary, diehard conservative like myself, sends me chain emails – some of them funny, many of them political. She used to send them to everybody in the family, but some of the liberals in the family complained and she was persuaded to restrain herself.

(Yes, my family has liberals in it. We suspect genetic damage from PBB in the Michigan milk supply during the 1970’s… fortunately, I was an orange juice drinker.)

As a conservative who reads Daily Kos and subscribes to the Huffington Post, I cannot understand people who object to an opposing viewpoint landing in their inbox, but hey, different strokes for different folks. My thought process goes like this: any email that doesn’t try to sell me Viagra or promise to transform my organ into a two-foot pillar of concrete is okay. (What am I gonna do with that extra inch for crying out loud?)

If I don’t feel like reading something I know how to delete it, and in the interest of tolerance and good relations I am willing to teach ignorant liberals the process.

Recently, Mary forwarded an email under the subject line used as the title of this column. You might have seen this particular email because it’s been circulating for so many years it started life as a regular old-fashioned chain letter… you know, those things that used to be printed on paper, slipped into an envelope, and needed a stamp.

Apparently, my sister liked this email so much she abandoned restraint and sent it to the liberals in the family, too, and what do you know? One of them read it and responded. Who says we don’t have political dialogue in this country?

Because the ensuing exchange is illustrative of our nation’s political viewpoints and divisions, and because the man who responded is an intelligent and thoughtful liberal (if that’s possible), and a man I like personally (which encourages me toward politeness, a direction in which some people contend I need encouragement), I’ve decided to post the exchange in its entirety here.

The chain email is black italics, Mary is blue, the liberal is red, the liberal’s wife is – crap, what’s another leftwing color? – let’s make her green, and I will be the black bold print… because it’s my website, dammit.

How would you respond to my brother-in-law on his comments below? Thx, mary

If you don't mind, I'd like to respond in a column on my website. It's an interesting discussion.



I am sending this to virtually everybody on my e-mail list and that includes conservatives, liberals, and everybody in between. Even though we disagree on a number of issues, I count all of you as friends. My friend and neighbor wants to promote a "Congressional Reform Act of 2010". It would contain eight provisions, all of which would probably be strongly endorsed by those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I know many of you will say, "this is impossible". Let me remind you, Congress has the lowest approval of any entity in Government, now is the time when Americans will join together to reform Congress - the entity that represents us.

We need to get a Senator to introduce this bill in the US Senate and a Representative to introduce a similar bill in the US House. These people will become American heroes...

Thanks, A Fellow American

It must of been a fire spittin Happy New Year. I've never seen you two [my sister & her husband] so politically interested in what goes on in the realm of politics. So I forwarded this message to [her husband], as he is the Political Science major along with reads just about every paper, book, article on the subject. So here is his response. This response is not to invite an argument, only to be enlightened to what is and what isn't.

See my comments in red for each point.

Basically all these ideas are nothing new. Seen them all before.

They always crop up when the Republicans are not in power.

These ideas will lead to the very wealthy being the only folks to be elected to office.

The way to fix Congress is to have a limit on the length of campaigns and how money is raised and spent.

No more than 60 days. Publicly financed campaigns. Set amount of money for everyone to spend. No more no less. No contributions to their campaigns from themselves or any other source.

Finally, we have no one to blame but ourselves because this country has one of the lowest turnout for elections of any country in the free world.

You have to admire the way liberals casually talk about creating an Orwellian police state as though they are discussing tomorrow’s weather, with utter disregard for the nightmare they propose and the lessons of the 20th century about totalitarianism.

“Limit the length of campaigns” means tell people what they can say and when they can say it. Does that sound like something we want in a free country?

“Set amount of money for everyone to spend” means cement the incumbents in office permanently because of their built-in advantage in name recognition and because their news conferences and their announcements and their travel and their mailings are considered “constituent services,” not “campaign expenses.”

“No contributions to their campaigns from themselves or any other source” means I can’t build myself a sandwich sign from lumber I buy at Home Depot and tell my fellow citizens why I am running for office or why my buddy is running for office. Again, does that sound like a free country?

Harry Reid is running for reelection this year and about two months ago we started seeing and hearing Harry Reid forty times each day announcing new pork for Nevada. That’s not technically considered campaigning, so he can do as much of that as he wants no matter how draconian the campaign laws become. What chance does a challenger have if his public exposure is limited while Reid’s is not?

Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

The founding fathers said nothing about citizen legislators or term limits. As a matter of fact the majority of them were wealthy folks themselves and could well afford to spend time in Congress or drawing up our Constitution. This is complicated stuff. With term limits there will be zero expertise from elected officials in managing our government. Do you want government bureaucrats [to have] the only expertise in government affairs?

The founding fathers said nothing about citizen legislators? Is he kidding? Not only did they write term limits (three years) into our first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, and use them extensively at the state level, they had a huge debate about whether to include them in the Constitution. The lack of term limits in the Constitution was one of the main reasons opponents objected to its passage by the states – the other of course being the lack of a bill of rights.

Furthermore, “citizen legislators” was an idea so ingrained in the American psyche that for over a century American voters automatically replaced congressmen after a term or two, and presidents refused to run for a third term until the middle of the 20th century when FDR got so full of himself that he refused to leave gracefully. (What else do you expect from a leftie?)

Plain and simple, for most of our nation’s history it was considered unseemly for a man to stay in Washington, D.C., too long, and if he didn’t leave on his own the voters would boot him.

The debate about putting term limits in the Constitution lined up Alexander Hamilton (opposed to term limits) against Thomas Jefferson (in favor of term limits). It’s dangerous to align founding fathers with the modern Democrat or Republican parties because the issues and times are so different, but Hamilton was an elitist proponent of strong central government and higher taxes which makes him the original liberal Democrat in my opinion. He was so elitist that people accused him of being a monarchist, which historians dismissed as exaggeration until 1920 when a letter was discovered which proved that he shared state secrets with the British government during treaty negotiations, a clear act of treason.

The fascinating aspect of this debate is not so much that Hamilton won, but that the repercussions have been exactly as Jefferson described: an overly-muscular and unresponsive central government imposing oppressively high taxes.

In Hamilton’s defense, I suspect he would be appalled at the level of incompetence coupled with the level of incumbency currently seen in Washington, and appalled at the financial irresponsibility shown by congress. He’s probably rolling over in his grave and following Jefferson around heaven apologizing.

No Tenure / No Pension:

The only tenure they have now is getting reelected by we the people.

I don't have a problem with folks getting a pension for the work they do. Otherwise only the very wealthy will serve our nation.

It’s not a question of congresscritters getting a pension – the issue is outrageously high pensions being paid for by taxpayers.

When researching the numbers, you have to be careful. Congress loves to quote “average” pension amounts which seem reasonable. What they fail to mention is that those averages include lots of people who spent small fractions of their working lives in congress. Comparing congressional pensions to private sector pensions is comparing apples to oranges, because a retired congressman receiving a $35,000 annual pension probably only worked 8 years for that pension, whereas people in the private sector work thirty or forty years for their pensions.

The true story is revealed when you look at what a long-time incumbent like Robert “KKK” Byrd will get. He’ll receive about $140,000/year in federal pension, plus his social security, plus whatever he tucked away tax-free in his federal “thrift savings plan” (probably in the millions), plus he is allowed to spend whatever surplus exists in his campaign fund (within specific legal strictures). Pretty slick deal for a “public servant.”

Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security:

It is a myth that Congress does not participate in Social Security. Read the following.

I thought you might find [this] article from interesting.

It’s true, congress participates in social security, but calling the claim a “myth” is unfair because this chain letter has been circulating for so many years the facts have changed.

Social security was enacted in 1935. Congress did not participate until 1984… and they only did so then because of mounting public outcry.

Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans.

All Americans do not purchase their own retirement plan. Good pension plans are disappearing and more and more folks are relying on Social Security. The only fault I have of Congress in this matter is that they should pass a law requiring all employers to contribute to an employee’s pension plan. I don't have a problem with folks getting a pension for the work they do. Otherwise only the very wealthy will serve our nation.

We wouldn’t need pensions of any kind, and every American could retire in outstanding shape if the money sent to Washington, D.C., for “social security” was actually invested in our own names instead of dumped into the cesspool of the general fund where leftwing politicians can use it for their various and sundry social experiments.

If an American working man making $50,000/year could put his social security taxes into normal Wall Street investments like he can with an IRA, he’d retire as a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, when President Bush proposed exactly that solution for the bankrupt social security system, liberal politicians in Washington screamed bloody murder. They’re addicted to the power that comes from having all those taxes to spend on pork.

Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

I don't have a problem with this.

Me neither.

Congress looses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

I don't have a problem with folks having a decent health care plan. The plan Congress participates in is an excellent plan and should be made available to everyone and paid for through a broad based national tax such as a VAT (Value Added Tax) Health care is not a privilege it is a right every citizen should enjoy.

Once again, admire the way liberals can propose draconian infringements of individual freedom like it’s no big deal. The total tax burden in this country already surpasses one third of our gross domestic product and comprises so many different taxes that nobody really has a handle on the whole picture… and that’s just the monetary burden not including the various inefficiencies, restrictions, stupidities, and irritations which come with having a giant bureaucracy sitting atop the economy like an engorged leech.

The last thing we need is another clever tax invented by clever socialists to fund another monstrous bureaucracy.

As for health care being a “right,” that’s simply absurd. It’s not a right. It’s not even one of the five necessities of life, which happen to be air, water, food, regular sex, and a big screen TV.

Liberals always twist the right to buy something into the “right” to have somebody else pay for it. In a free country the former is real. The latter is not.

Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people.

I don't have a problem with this. Which laws are we referring to here that Congress does not abide by?

Just about every law that congress passes they exempt themselves from it. Many of these exemptions subsequently become rallying points for angry citizens whereupon the exemptions are reluctantly revoked, but the list of exemptions over the years includes minimum wage laws, equal opportunity laws, affirmative action laws, insider trading laws, Labor Relations Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Equal Pay Act, occupational safety and health laws (OSHA), building codes, lobbyist rules, freedom of information laws (FOIA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the aforementioned Social Security Act, and the upcoming health insurance legislation which Republicans have tried in vain to apply to congress but Democrats have refused.

In Federalist Paper No. 57 James Madison explained why congress would never exempt themselves from the laws they pass for the rest of us, saying “they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny.”

Seems Madison was a trifle optimistic.

All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

What contracts are we referring to here?

I think this refers to the fact that so many ex-congressmen immediately become lobbyists and/or government contractors where they make even more money screwing us anonymously than they did screwing us publicly as legislators, although I can’t be sure that’s what was meant. It’s what I would have meant.

The perfect example is Tom Daschle who is helping the Obama administration craft Obamacare, while earning huge fees and perks – some of which he failed to pay income taxes on – as a lobbyist for various healthcare clients. Daschle was precluded by law from working as a lobbyist for one year after leaving congress, but he navigated around that traffic cone by simply refusing to register as a lobbyist. After the year passed, he never did get around to registering.

“Hey, I’m not a lobbyist, I’m just a guy who hangs around Washington, buys a few drinks once in a while, and gives advice.”

Daschle is the perfect example of of a long-term (26 years in congress) incumbent. He was bum-rushed out of office for ethical lapses and bum-rushed out of being in Obama’s cabinet because he didn’t pay his income taxes, but he’s still making millions as a D.C. lobbyist while advising the White House about healthcare legislation.

Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

From Reno, Nevada, USA

February 2, 2010 - J.P., thank you so very much for selecting this as one of your issues... extremely educational to see your complete research when you respond to the responses from my progressive in-laws. I hope they also enjoyed reading the facts from history. Thank you so much. - Mary, Ohio

January 19, 2010 - I too send a lot of conservative e-mails along to my mailing list. Only had one complaint so far. His complaint seems to be that he's already made up his mind that nObama is the King of America and I am confusing him with facts. Don't you hate it when that happens? I continue to send the e-mails to him and have invited him to send me his liberal e-mails. Seems there aren't any. Have you noticed that the libs continue to support these people but the refuse to put it into writing? Can't say I blame them. - Thom, Los Angeles

January 15, 2010 - A family member added me to you mailing list, and I wanted to say 'Thank you' for all you do! I love to read your articles and all of the great info on your site. I am conservative that shares all of your values and beliefs. My wife and I are both Engineers with Master's Degrees, and have both been downsized after our jobs went to China and India, and we have lost everything. We had 6 figure jobs, and now we can't even get a job taping boxes together for $6/hr. Our worries now are how we will feed our kids tomorrow. Things are really bad here. Perhaps you might use your influence to get our politicians to pull their heads out of their butts and quit allowing all of the outsourcing to China and India. Anyways, love what you are doing, and thanks for being a great American! Best to you in your new home of Reno. I've spent time there on ski vacations and the Sierra's are a beautiful place. You are lucky to be there. God Bless! - Todd L., Michigan

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