By Karen Kwiatkowski
On Dec. 9, I thanked 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte for leading a hearing on constitutional restraints on the e xecutive office. This hearing gained national attention. The hearing was appropriate and needed. Sadly, no hearings of this sort were held during the eight years of George W. Bush, when they would also have been appropriate and needed.
Unfortunately, congressional interest in all things constitutional is just a sideshow. Certainly, when the president ignores the legislature and makes his own laws through regulation and by command, we the people should be concerned. It shouldn't be political: both parties have had many presidents who behaved unconstitutionally and lawlessly. Starting wars on false pretext, then lying about it, little things like that have been going on for quite a while.
But it wasn't two weeks after I thanked my congressman for honoring the Constitution that he voted for a two-year tax and spend budget that continues to expand the military's overseas activities, fund fat cat defense and intelligence contractors, and grow the National Security Agency machine.
The domestic welfare state made out as well as the offensive side, with no major cuts being made in any programs. In fact -- this so-called two-year "budget" is not a budget at all -- just a can-kicking process that is precisely the opposite of what our country needs, at least if it is concerned about going bankrupt. Instead of being concerned about the unaffordable cost of too much government, we have bipartisan support for not dealing with the growing gap between government spending/borrowing and revenue. The federal debt of $17 trillion? Federal unfunded future liabilities of over $230 trillion? Ain't nobody got time for that!
Sure, there are some cost of living adjustment cuts for veterans, increases in tricare charges, new fees and taxes for the little guys. Three days of "deliberation" on the can-kicking budget bill before the vote were certainly not enough. Thankfully, for the record, a lot of Democrats and Republicans, who clearly love this country, voted against this "budget" deal. Goodlatte was not among them.
As a followup to the"budget," Goodlatte also joined Democrats and Republicans in supporting the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act -- defining a record Pentagon budget of $607 billion, including increased funding for the NSA, even as the American people are becoming ever more interested in exactly what the NSA does with its budget and its technical capabilities. Instead, the National Defense Authorization Act establishes a new "Conflict Records Research Center" that compiles a digital research database from captured records from all over the world, including presumably, the very questionable records the NSA is scooping up daily from all kinds of people, like the average Google, Verizon, Yahoo or AOL customer, and people who publicly complain about things like the NDAA.
Like the so-called budget bill, the latest NDAA was rapidly pushed through with little possibility of discovery or discussion. Goodlatte was able to amend the NDAA, requiring the federal government to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that a U.S. citizen apprehended in America by military or military-supported forces is actually an unprivileged enemy combatant, without automatic presumption that the government's evidence is accurate and authentic.
Huh? You'd think that if the feds were going to apprehend and hold a U.S. citizen for being an enemy combatant that they'd have accurate and authentic information. Of course, if you thought that, you haven't been paying much attention to your government for the past 100 years. Anyone heard of Brandon Raub?
It occurs to me that the Constitution isn't the problem. The president isn't the problem -- or it's always the same problem, depending on your perspective. No, the problem is a Congress that plays games all year long, partying and trading favors with special interests, with no idea of its constitutional responsibility or its duty to we the people.
I think a majority of voters care deeply about fiscal insolvency, getting rid of government waste, ending needless wars abroad, and doing something about collapsing infrastructure and economic safety nets at home. We care about our children's future, America's future. Beyond being "thanked," and re-elected, what do our congressmen care about?
Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, a farmer, a part time professor, and a liberty-minded conservative. She writes from the southwestern edge of Shenandoah County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org