Would you, anonymous stranger, complain if I were to paint the inside of my house a bright green with pink spots? Of course not, because you’d have no business dictating to me how I can or can’t paint my own place. It’s not your place, nor is it your responsibility to dictate what I do. On the other hand, my landlord could certainly complain, keep my security deposit, or demand that I repaint the walls their original color. He has the right to do this because it is his house. Since he has ownership and its associated responsibility, he can dictate exactly what I can and cannot do to the house. But you have no say because it is not your house and not your responsibility.

Is this clear enough? Apparently, not to Congress.

The current brouhaha in Congress comes over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department. Congress has its collective panties in a bunch because it could be *drum roll* politically motivated. *gasp* The horror!

Lawmakers requested the documents as part of an investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. While it is unclear whether the documents will answer Congress’s questions, they show that the White House and other administration officials were more closely involved in the dismissals, and at a much earlier date, than they have previously acknowledged.

Seven U.S. attorneys were fired on Dec. 7, and another was fired months earlier, with little explanation from the Justice Department….

When Congress asked the Justice Department to fork over documents to justify the firings, the Justice Department should have responded with, “Mind your own business, Congress.” The Justice Department is overseen by the Executive Branch, and its hirings and firings are an internal matter. The title of the above report is “Attorney firings had genesis in White House.” And my response is–yeah; so? The U.S. attorneys work under the auspices of the Chief Executive, not the Legislature, so firings are handled by the Executive Branch. Frankly, the President could have fired any of these people on a whim, if he chose.

Would the White House be justified in asking Speaker Pelosi to explain the firing of someone on her staff? Absolutely not! The Executive Branch has nothing to do with Speaker Pelosi’s staffing issues, and Speaker Pelosi and the rest of Congress should butt out of the private staffing issues of the Executive Branch.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post has expressed his barely contained glee at the subpoenas by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) regarding the firing of the U.S. attorneys. Sanchez asked, “Are these people being removed for doing their job and for doing it too well?” The question is left hanging. Obviously there is something evil going on–or so Kane would have you believe. But his own blog entry has the key quote:

“Today’s hearing was political grandstanding. Every U.S. attorney serves at the pleasure of the president and they know this beforehand. Most of the U.S. attorneys in question served 4 years or longer. Republicans are not going to provide votes for political subpoenas,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the top Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, in a statement.

They serve “at the pleasure of the President,” says Rep. Smith. This sounds very much like “at will” employment. Every job I have had in my professional career to date has been at-will employment. This meant I could be fired for any reason or no reason, and with no prior warning. It also meant I could leave my job for any reason or no reason, and with no prior warning.

So some U.S. attorneys were fired. Big whoop-de-friggin’-doo. Even if these people were fired at the personal request of Pres. Bush, it would still be a non-story. The attorneys worked for him, and he had every right to fire them if he chose to do so, regardless of what meddlesome Democrats in Congress and liberals in the media might say. They have no more say in this event than you have in choosing a paint color for my house.

UPDATE (3/13/2007 2:37:14 PM): Attorney General Alberto Gonzales acknowledges mistakes, successfully pouring oil on the Democrat fire.

“Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information — incomplete information was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress,” Gonzales said. “I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress, it is accurate and it is complete. And I very dismayed that that may not have occurred here.”

If the Justice Department had told the Congress to butt out of internal affairs, this wouldn’t be the ginned-up scandal it is today.

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” – First Amendment

You’d think that with language as clear as that, Congress would not meddle with freedom of speech, but you’d be wrong. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is planning on resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine of decades past. In a nutshell, the Fairness Doctrine says that radio stations can’t host one political side without giving equal time to the other. That’s only fair, don’t you agree? We don’t want our media to become too lopsided, do we?

Regardless of how you wrap this idea up in nice platitudes, the fact remains that the Fairness Doctrine is Congress making laws restricting and abridging the freedom of speech. If a radio station wants to play all-conservative or all-liberal shows 24/7, that decision should be up to the owners of the station, not Congress.

Besides, why should we grant Congress any say in the playlists of radio stations? Is there any indication the Fairness Doctrine worked before? The Fairness Doctrine caused radio stations to languish during the ’70s and early ’80s. Two things fueled the resurgence of AM radio: the removal of the restrictive Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and the subsequent ascendancy of the Rush Limbaugh show made possible by the vanished Fairness Doctrine. (Whether you like Rush or hate him, he did usher in a new public interest in the talk radio format.) But with the near-complete dominance of talk radio by conservative shows, it is no wonder that the newly-elected Democrat Congress is drooling over the prospect of reanimating the corpse of the old Fairness Doctrine.

You won’t hear Democrats admit openly that they want to oppress conservative talk radio, although that is their goal. Instead you will hear them talk about how unfair it is that only one side of the political spectrum is represented on mostly-conservative talk radio. Liberal talk shows have not met much success in the free marketplace, so Democrats want to try to level the playing field by shackling conservative shows. Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers, call your office.

It’s only fair to follow three hours of the conservative Rush Limbaugh show with three hours of the liberal Randi Rhodes show, right? Well, it depends on what your definition of “equal” is. To be really equal, the three hours of any conservative show with a ten-point market share must be followed by thirty hours of any liberal show with a one-point market share. 3 x 10 = 30 x 1, right?  So everyone is happy and everything is fair in the topsy-turvy world of Democrats. Well, except the listeners, the hosts, and the radio station owners who are getting shafted.

Feel free to send Rep. Kucinich a note reminding him that the First Amendment phrase “Congress shall make no law” applies to him and to the Fairness Doctrine. I am.

I heard a snippet tonight of Glenn Beck‘s reaction to Democrats taking over Congress, and I think he has raised a very interesting point. People are saying that the switch in power was all because of the fighting in Iraq, and the Democrats are talking about cutting and running from there. Not that you’ll hear many say exactly that. They’ll talk about strategic redeployment or focusing our actions elsewhere, but it all amounts to their wanting to yank the military out of Iraq. But since they are announcing their desire to pull out, there is one question that the Democrats are not asking themselves:

What will be the reaction of the terrorists when they hear the Democrats want to pull out of Iraq?

Do you think they will throw up their hands in despair and give up fighting? Or will this news stiffen their resolve to hang on just a little bit longer? I’ll let you think that over.

So Congressman Peter DeFazio wrote to me, but it’s not really that big of a deal. He didn’t write to me as much as he just took advantage of his free franking privileges to blast info out to the residents of his congressional district. And since he’s a freakin’ liberal, I wasn’t all that surprised to read some of the things he stands for. I’m going to focus on the first part of his short treatise on gas prices. The bolded text is his.

Out of Control Gas Prices Require Immediate Action

Gas prices are headed over $3 a gallon, and the administration has failed to offer an effective solution. Last year, Exxon Mobil reported the highest corporate profits in history–over $36 billion. That’s nearly $100 million a day. The company paid its CEO a $400 million retirement benefit. Fifty refineries have been closed in the past 15 years due to oil company mergers. And now the companies use refinery capacity as an excuse to drive up prices. OPEC continues to violate international trade agreements by colluding to restrict supply and drive up prices.

In response, I support legislation to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies, take legal action against OPEC and other market manipulators, increase fuel efficiency standards, put a moratorium on oil industry mergers, and make gouging consumers a federal crime. I also support bipartisan legislation, H.R. 4409, to require a reduction of 2.5 million barrels a day in U.S. oil consumption within ten years. To reach this goal, the bill expands federal research into alternative fuels, provides incentives for American automakers to speed commercialization of more efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, provides farmers with support to grow crops for use as fuel, and increases tax incentives for consumers who purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.

Oh, where to start? I think the actual title is worth commenting on. It is obvious Rep. DeFazio thinks that prices should be controlled. But understanding the nature of the market means recognizing that prices are a function of supply and demand. Inasmuch as there are price controls, they come at the hands of a meddling government. So, are gas prices out of control? No, the current price of gas is a natural reaction to elevated oil costs, increased demands for gas as the summer vacation time arrives, and artificial limitations on supply thanks to government meddling.

“[T]he administration has failed to offer an effective solution.” But it’s not the administration’s responsibility to jump into the market. An effective reaction to the rise in oil prices is to increase the oil supply, and Congress could do this by allowing drilling in ANWR and off-shore. But Democrats in Congress, including Rep. DeFazio, have chosen to block that effective solution.

“Last year, Exxon Mobil reported the highest corporate profits in history–over $36 billion. That’s nearly $100 million a day. The company paid its CEO a $400 million retirement benefit.” This is just a blatant attempt to capitalize on people’s natural jealousy of others’ wealth. Is Exxon Mobil stealing people’s money? Not at all. Is there something wrong with how much money the company earned? Well, it’s obviously wrong in the eyes of Rep. DeFazio. But Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog does a good job of debunking this meme. I’ve posted below a great image from Meyer’s website that shows the comparison of profit margins for oil companies with other industries.

profit margins

You can see from the graphic that oil companies have a smaller overall profit margin than many other companies. Banks are making almost 20 cents from every dollar they process. Since they make almost 2.5 times the profit of oil companies, why are we not hearing people bemoaning Big Banks rather than whining about Big Oil? I believe the answer is that Big Oil makes a great scapegoat, and liberals and the media (but I repeat myself) enjoy beating up on Big Oil.

In the second paragraph, Rep. DeFazio puts forward his plans to destroy continue meddling with the oil industry. “I support legislation to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies, take legal action against OPEC and other market manipulators, increase fuel efficiency standards, put a moratorium on oil industry mergers, and make gouging consumers a federal crime.” This is a regular smorgasbord of liberal ideas. I am glad the oil industry has made lots of money recently. This means they have money to search for and develop more sources of oil, eventually driving the price down. If the government steps in and takes away their profits, they are taking away the incentive for the oil companies to compete in the market. If the government took away any income you made above $50,000, how hard would you work once you had earned that much money? Human nature is such that people stop working when there is no reward, and taxing away windfall profits is the government’s way of taking the reward from a company that was in the right place at the right time.

But it’s the idea of the government making “price gouging” a felony that really bites me. My last article discussed price gouging. As long as no one is holding a gun to my head, then I am entering into a voluntary transaction with the store owner. How can there be gouging? “But people are taking advantage of a situation to make money!” Well, duh! The story of John Shepperson is a perfect example of the clash between free markets and government:

Shepperson and his family live in Kentucky. They watched news reports about Katrina and learned that people desperately needed things.

Shepperson thought he could help and make some money, too, so he bought 19 generators. He and his family then rented a U-Haul and drove 600 miles to an area of Mississippi that was left without power in the wake of the hurricane.

He offered to sell his generators for twice what he had paid for them, and people were eager to buy. Police confiscated his generators, though, and Shepperson was jailed for four days for price-gouging. His generators are still in police custody.

Who was forcing the people to buy the generators? If you said “nobody,” then march to the head of the class. Shepperson saw a need, a chance for profit, and he rushed to fill that need. That is the beauty of the free market — there are no board meetings or government bureaucrats sitting around deciding how materials and services will be allocated that day. Instead, the invisible hand of the free market inspired Shepperson to rush needed items to the area. But did you notice how the anti-gouging laws “helped” the people? The law was written with the well-intentioned goal of protecting the people, but the result was that the government deprived the people of the very goods that they were ready and willing to buy. Consequently, nobody benefitted from the generators that now sit unused in police custody in Mississippi. Quinn’s First Law in action again: “Liberalism always generates the exact opposite of its stated intent.”

And who exactly will define what gouging is? Why, the very same government that takes away generators from the people in the name of protecting them will be the entity that defines price gouging nationwide.

There is no way I could ever vote for Rep. Peter DeFazio. It’s clear from his mail that he just doesn’t grasp the nature of the free market, and that’s the wrong person to have in Washington D.C., messing with our economy.

OK, it may take a bit to set the groundwork for this one, so bear with me.

First, what do we often call “The Law of the Land?” That is our Constitution. That is the rule book under which we as a nation operate. (Or should operate, but that’s another story.) Could the President announce that he doesn’t need the advice and consent of the Senate to appoint judges to the Supreme Court? Well, he could, but doing so would be unconstitutional because Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution says he must, and you can’t change the Constitution without an amendment, treaty, or constitutional convention.

Could Congress tell the Supreme Court that it does not have the power of judicial review? While it’s true that judicial review is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it has been recognized as an implied right and responsibility of the Supreme Court. Restricting the Supreme Court from exercising judicial review would be changing the court’s acknowledged constitutional powers, and you can’t do that without an amendment, treaty, or constitutional convention.

Are we on the same page now? Good. It’s time to look at something akin to judicial review, in that it is not expressly stated in the Constitution but has been recognized as a right and responsibility of the President. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 states that nothing contained in it or the earlier 1934 Communications Act

shall limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities. Nor shall anything … be deemed to limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the United States against the overthrow of the Government by force or other unlawful means, or against any other clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government.”

Having previously recognized this existing Presidential right in 1968, Congress essentially yelled, “Hey! Look over there!” while it drafted the 1978 law establishing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly known as FISA. By passing the 1978 law, Congress took away a right and responsibility of the President that it had recognized only ten years before. And you can’t do that without an amendment, treaty, or constitutional convention.

So this whole brouhaha about wiretapping al-Qaeda members who make calls to the U.S. or the gathering of call data is not a horrendous invasion of people’s privacy. It is the President exercising his responsibility to “protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power.” But don’t expect to hear many Democrats acknowledge that.

My aunt emailed me this week asking about a article posted on MoveOn.org. I normally avoid anything done by MoveOn.org, but I agree with their stance on Network Neutrality. Basically, there is a move in Congress to grant phone and cable companies the ability to treat their network traffic differently based on how well they like the people sending the data. Popular Mechanics sums up the plan in these words:

Whether you’re a casual Internet user, or an always-on, hardcore Web junkie, this concerns you. It’s time to have a talk about “network neutrality.” It’s been a subject of a lively debate in the blogosphere, and it’s percolating into the news media. Network neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs, the telephone and cable companies that deliver the internet to you fresh daily) should keep all content—from tiny personal blogs to giant corporate sites—equally accessible: I.E., the way it is now.

Enter Congress, which is currently considering legislation—the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006—that may change the Internet from the wide-open, egalitarian universe of free-flowing information that it is now, to a place where the guy with the biggest bucks has the loudest voice. If passed, it would allow phone and cable companies to charge content providers (websites) for the privilege of driving along the ISPs stretch of the info super highway (usually the last mile right before content ends up on your screen). If content companies can’t pay the fees, they end up in the slow lane — and you get to wait and wait and wait. Or maybe you won’t get to use those sites at all.

Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution grants Congress the authority to “fix the Standard of Weights and Measures,” and Congress is exercising that responsibility when they establish any set of industry standards, like making sure that a pound of butter is the same as a pound of nails. Because of the gulf of technology between the 21st Century and the Founding Fathers, I doubt they would know the difference between an internet or an inner-tube. But I think the Founding Fathers could recognize that Congress would be overstepping its responsibility if they specified that the butter manufacturing industry could use a 15-ounce pound while forcing the nail makers to use a 16-ounce pound measurement. A standard is exactly that: standard and uniform for all who use it. And the Internet’s TCP/IP protocol is a standard that makes no distinction over who has paid more to the phone or cable companies, or coughed up sufficient contributions to members of Congress. I can understand the urge Congress has to meddle, but they should keep their fumbling hands off the Internet.

There are many sites that are championing the fight to keep the Internet neutral as far as prioritizing the data it carries. I like Save The Internet the best of the half-dozen I’ve visited. From their FAQ section comes these chilling examples of how companies have already violated Network Neutrality.

Isn’t the threat to Net Neutrality just hypothetical?

No. So far, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. But numerous examples show that without network neutrality requirements, Internet service providers will discriminate against content and competing services they don’t like.

  • In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.
  • In 2005, Canada’s telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute.
  • Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers in order to “enhance” competing Internet telephone services.
  • In April, Time Warner’s AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com — an advocacy campaign opposing the company’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.

This type of censorship will become the norm unless we act now. Given the chance, these gatekeepers will consistently put their own interests before the public good.

The MoveOn.org site is not bad, but they are failing to understand one critical truth about Congress: sending an email message to your Representative, your Senators, and the President is never as effective as typing up a letter on good paper. So don’t email Washington D.C. — write to them. You can look up your Representative with your Zip Code at House.gov, and your two Senators at Senate.gov. President Bush can be reached at the following address:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

So get cracking.

There is an old movie cliché where someone stands up in the middle of a town meeting and bellows, “There oughtta be a law!” My friend, Fen, Libertarian-leaning lady that she is, has a favorite phrase: “Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it needs to be a law.” Brushing and flossing after every meal is a very good idea. But this doesn’t mean the government needs to pass the Dental Hygiene Act.

Yet not everyone believes as Fen does. Don’t think so? Some people thought it would be a good idea for Americans to use only 1.6 gallons of water with each flush. Did they communicate their idea to the commode makers, buy commercial time, or create radio spots to explain the benefits of using less water? Of course not! Their idea was so good that the government had to mandate the manufacture of all new toilets to conform to their specifications. This scenario has occurred time and time again.

I have harped before (and again and again) on the Constitutional responsibilities granted to the Congress, and by extension, to the whole federal government. Article 1, Section 8 should be engraved in three-foot-high letters in the House and Senate halls. This section of the Constitution should be the first page of every proposed law, with the part(s) that grant Congress the authority to make that legislation highlighted in red. What a great idea! There oughtta be a law! Well, no, my Libertarian leanings recognize that just because it is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that there should be a law. Let me modify Fen’s statement a bit more: “Just because it is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that the government should be involved.” Which brings me to the main point of this article–stem cell research.

Stem cells are special cells that can become any type of cell in the body. Your skin cells are different from your muscle cells, and they are both different from your brain cells. If they divide, they divide into more skin and muscle and brain cells. They cannot, for instance, suddenly shift into blood cells. Stem cells are blanks that can become any type of cell. You can think of them as the basic building blocks of the body. At the critical moment when a human egg is fertilized and starts to divide into two cells, then four, eight and sixteen, it is hard to see any difference between these first cells. After a short time, the cells of the growing embryo begin to differentiate; some are destined to become skin, muscle, or brain cells. It is this early stage of development that has drawn the attention of scientists and, more recently, politicians.

In the last Democrat weekly radio address, Senator and presidential aspirant John Kerry took President Bush to task for not doing more to fund stem cell research. The CNN article summing up his address says Senator Kerry is “pledging to lift a partial ban President Bush put on the research three years ago.” On his political website, Senator Kerry has the following text: “John Kerry And John Edwards Support Lifting The Ban On Stem Cell Research.” But here’s the dirty little secret that isn’t mentioned much by the media–there is no ban on stem cell research. Senator Kerry said, “We are a land of discovery, a place where innovators and optimists are free to dream and explore.” And he is right! In this country, innovators and optimists are completely free to dream about and explore stem cell research, and no one will stop them, regardless of what the media and the Democrats would have you believe. There are no laws against private stem cell research–it is completely open to private organizations and companies.

The problem is that some people think stem cell research is such a good idea that the government should be involved. Read “involved” as “paying for it.” After all, curing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, rabies, scabies, and babies is worth every dime of taxpayer money, right? Okay, so we don’t want to cure babies–but babies are actually part of the stem cell debate. Scientists harvest stem cells primarily from the unborn. Senator Kerry believes, as do I, that life begins at conception, but he is calling for the government to step in with money to increase the research on stem cells. Harvesting stem cells from the unborn and from viable embryos makes them unviable–in other words, each harvest ends a potential life. Is it right to be opposed to the destruction of life? If you hold the opinion that life begins at the moment of conception, as Senator Kerry does, then scientists are committing murder as they harvest these cells–unnecessary murder, in fact, since scientists have recently found stem cells in the bodies of grown adults.

If adult stem cells continue to perform as well as they have in early research, there is no need to destroy the unborn. And if we aren’t murdering the next generation, then there is no moral reason to oppose government research into stem cells. After all, Democrats like John Kerry and John Edwards and Republicans like Nancy Reagan support funding stem cell research with government money. And when I say “government money,” I mean “your tax dollars and mine.” But again, just because something is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that the government should be involved. And if the government pays the bills, then the government can call the shots. That’s pretty involved.

I am completely in favor of scientific research, both practical and theoretical. But I do not see the need for government to spend a dime of tax money on research. Please find for me the part in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution that grants Congress the authority to fund stem cell research. While you are doing that, I think I’ll spend some quality time on my low-flush toilet–the one forced on every American because some eco-freak shouted, “There oughtta be a law!”

The 108th Congress convenes today, and once it starts up our pocketbooks are no longer safe from federal filching of funds. Already President Bush has presided over a federal budget growth of over 7% for the last two years. Republican president or not, this growth is causing fiscal conservatives to see red. Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility? Every time the government votes to pay more for a program, it is declaring open season on our wallets. Government doesn’t produce wealth; it can only tax and take the money from the people who do produce wealth in the country. And what does the government spend our taxed money on? Frivolous things that the government has absolutely no right to spend money on!

The Constitution is clear about what Congress can do. Article I, Section 8 outlines exactly what the duties of Congress are. If it ain’t in this list, Congress can’t do it. But that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from doing it anyway. Look carefully at Section 8 and tell me where Congress received the authority to spend money on the arts, Social Security, prescription drugs, Medicaid, Medicare, and the myriad other programs where our taxes are spent.

Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The federal government would not have the gut-busting budget of today, over 2 trillion dollars, if Congress had restrained itself to the duties outlined in the Constitution. But it should be pretty obvious that Congress has no intention of following the Constitution. You know it. I know it. The American people know it. Well, Americans may not know it – or if we do, we’re apathetic to care. After all, isn’t it time for American Idol?

In addition to the federal legislature convening today, the various state legislatures are starting up this week, too. If you think your pocketbook is looking threadbare from federal pilfering, then get ready for the states to get their share of your money. When I lived in Washington, I was glad to see that there wasn’t a state income tax, but the state still got its money out of me in the form of numerous taxes and fees. One way or another, government will vacuum your cash.

What are we to do? First, we need to pay attention to what the government is doing, both local, state, and federal. And when we notice they are doing things they shouldn’t, we need to become loud and boisterous in our complaints. A general distrust of government is healthy — it keeps them on their toes and their hands out of the cookie jar. On the ride home today, I heard a paranoid talk-show host wonder if the government was actually bussing the homeless out of Washington D.C. down south where it is warmer, or something else. (Insert your own paranoid pause here!) If I could have called in, I would have yelled, “Soylent green is made of people!”

Be concerned, but don’t be paranoid.