Friday, January 30, 2015

More for Alabama small business

The below ELECTION INTEGRITY discussion is copied and pasted from the website of the American Sustainable Business Council.

Please read the discussion. Then please also read these blog entries: (i) For BCA small business members; (ii) Small business and money in politics; (iii) More on Congress failing small business; and (iv) Letter to Birmingham Business Journal.

Then ask yourself how well you think the Business Council of Alabama, the Birmingham Business Alliance, and other local chambers of commerce in Alabama are speaking on this topic for you.

Thank you.


Election Integrity
Our democratic system of government can only succeed when elections are open and fair, all citizens can fully participate, and special interests are not allowed to corrupt the system or exert undue influence.
All economic activity exists within a marketplace that is itself defined by laws enacted through the democratic process. If the institutions of democracy are not healthy, the structures of our markets cannot be healthy and our economy will suffer. We see this in other nations where concentration of power leads to pervasive corruption and self-dealing across the economy. This stifles innovation, inhibits entrepreneurship, and causes extremes of wealth and poverty that destabilize society.
The greatest menace to election integrity in America today is how easily unlimited money, cloaked in secrecy, is brought into that system. Unlimited, secret money buys votes in elections, influences votes by legislators once they are elected, and disables the regulatory process by dangling irresistible job offers and consulting contracts in front of officials charged with regulating vital economic activity.
ASBC is committed to building the institutions of a sustainable economy, which depend on policies that foster responsive, open, and democratic government. We work to reverse the undue influence of money in our governing institutions. To achieve these goals we must:
  • Staunch the torrent of money into politics unleashed by the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.
  • Create more transparency to reveal who is pouring money into politics and where that money is going.
  • Prevent corporations from seeking business or favorable judgments from the parts of government in which they are investing
  • Actively promote voter registration on a non-partisan basis, through the workplace and other venues.
  • Prohibit undemocratic rules and voter registration practices that restrict Americans’ rights to participate freely and fully in elections.
  • Block the regulatory revolving door that makes it easy to corrupt and co-opt officials who hold important regulatory positions.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Conservatives and Citizens United

A Case for Reform

Conservatives should take a principled stand against Citizens United.

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the court heard arguments on campaign finance. The Supreme Court is tackling a challenge to limits on contributions by the biggest individual donors to political campaigns. The case being argued at the high court Tuesday is a test of the Roberts court's readiness to take its most aggressive swipe at campaign finance laws since its Citizens United decision in 2010 took the lid off independent spending by corporations and labor unions.
What would the founders think?
Conservatives can take a principled stand against the undue influence of money in elections. In the late 1990s, the Stuart Family Foundation, where I serve as executive director, took such a stand. At that time the soft-money loophole was corrupting Congress and undermining public faith in the integrity of elections. The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act), which passed with considerable Republican support, helped to restore this faith. But five years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which permitted corporations and outside groups to spend unlimited sums in elections, another package of reforms is urgently needed.
Currently, few conservative thinkers support reform, yet without conservative support nothing further can be achieved. What might be done to shape a new consensus?
Contemporary American conservatism exhibits a welcome re-engagement with the political philosophy of the American founding. Conservatives are rightly convinced that neglect of founding principles accounts for many of the country’s present difficulties. This has a direct bearing upon conservatives' attitudes towards federal regulation of political spending. They will reject any law that does not seem consonant with our original constitutional thought or which seems motivated merely by the passions of the day.
Accordingly, if they are to consider the merits of reform, conservatives must be encouraged to reassess their position in light of those same founding principles. There are at least three ways this might be done.
The first is an appeal to conservative suspicion of concentrated power. As James Madison noted in the Federalist No. 10, "Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests of the people." Conservatives are prone to emphasize Madison’s concern with majority abuse of private rights.  Madison, however, saw in republican government a threat both to private right and to the public good. Without contending factions, he maintained, both are likely to be abused. In the logic of Madison’s Federalist No. 10, Citizens United has arguably given one particular type of faction disproportionate power over the outcome of federal elections. 
Unfettered and undisclosed corporate spending also threatens limited government by opening the door to rent-seeking and cronyism. Politically connected companies create business for themselves with taxpayer money and tilt the markets in their favor. This in turn enables the problem-solving, expansionist vision of government that Republicans are so determined to roll back. 
Second, conservatives must be confronted with the reality of corruption. No system of campaign finance precludes corruption. But some systems are better than others, and the evidence will soon mount that runaway spending from individuals and corporations will increase quid pro quo corruption in Congress, just as the soft-money loophole demonstrably did. We send our lawmakers to Washington to represent their constituencies in deliberation, not to execute the pre-scripted errands of a few wealthy contributors.
Third, conservatives must be reminded of their past support for disclosure of the sources of political contributions – a principle upheld by the Roberts court and widely affirmed, until quite recently, by most Republicans, even by many who opposed the McCain-Feingold Act. Without disclosure, it is not possible for voters to decide for themselves whether a given candidate has merely done the bidding of the particular interests that filled the campaign war chest. Moreover, conservative commentators claim that corporate spending in campaigns after Citizens United will be checked by fear of alienating customers. That restraint can only operate if corporate contributions are disclosed.
In short, the task is to remind conservatives that their own political convictions – including their reverence for the philosophy of the founding – commend reform.
If conservatives continue to insist that unlimited, undisclosed contributions from corporations and individuals pose no threat to the integrity of government, sooner or later they will be embarrassed by the reality of corruption. Rather than seeming principled, they will appear hidebound at best, or at worst complicit. This would be a great loss because renewed interest in our founding political philosophy is one of the best hopes we have of restoring public trust in government. 

    Saturday, January 24, 2015

    For BCA small business members

    This is to expand communications I have made to the Birmingham Business Alliance and its small business members.

    I solicit Business Council of Alabama small business members to read the following entries in this blog:

    Small business and money in politics;

    More on Congress failing small business; and

    Letter to Birmingham Business Journal.

    Thank you.

    Friday, January 23, 2015

    Campaign finance reform advances in AL

    In Auburn, there has been been created an organization Take Back Our Republic  . The contact information is: Address: 246 East Glenn Avenue, Auburn, AL 36830; Phone: 334-329-7258; Email:

    The organization states its mission regarding campaign finance reform in the following way

    The conversation/argument regarding campaign finance reform isn’t a new one;
    * * * *
    Fast forward nearly 150 years and we’re still discussing the same issues—now we simply have more and bigger players and much larger numbers.
    * * * *
    [t]his collective group of political junkies is looking to change things from the outside in. In other words, we concede that we may never change those who want to buy political favor (special interests, big corporate bullies and unions), instead, we are hell-bent on changing the manner in which we select and elect politicians whose votes are not for sale.
    In a fit of rage/disgust, we’ve devised a plan to equalize the election process—to engage the tax-paying citizens who now are not only disenfranchised but disgusted with the entire political process—including elections, politicians and all things that advance the cause of corruption and lack of transparency within our government. Our intentions are simple—to take back the government of the people from the stronghold of big business and union influence and create a fair and more simplified manner in which to participate in the election process, thus becoming invested and active in a political process that has been bought and sold to special interests.  [Go to the Take Back Our Republic website for complete information.]

    I have been working in the Birmingham area on the campaign finance reform issue for several years. This has received scant attention.

    The formation of Take Back Our Republic in Auburn shows that the cause of campaign finance reform is advancing in Alabama.

    Thursday, January 22, 2015

    Auburn, AL steps out!

    In Auburn, there has been been organized Take Back Our Republic.
    Contact info:
    Address: 246 East Glenn Avenue, Auburn, AL 36830
    Phone: 334-329-7258 | Email:

    Here's what they say about themselves:

    The conversation/argument regarding campaign finance reform isn’t a new one; in fact, the first of nearly a dozen laws created to define the legality of campaign finance, was devised and passed in 1867—The Naval Appropriations Bill, which would disallow officers and government employees from soliciting contributions from shipyard employees. Since then, every decade has presented its new and improved version of legislation that would expose and make illegal the loopholes that were born of the last ineffective law.

    The process of buying and selling votes was so elementary, that during the presidential election of 1872, voters-for-hire were required to use carbon paper to record their vote in order to be paid by their candidate.

    Fast forward nearly 150 years and we’re still discussing the same issues—now we simply have more and bigger players and much larger numbers.

    In sharp contrast of other do-gooders with a new and improved idea to do things better, this collective group of political junkies is looking to change things from the outside in. In other words, we concede that we may never change those who want to buy political favor (special interests, big corporate bullies and unions), instead, we are hell-bent on changing the manner in which we select and elect politicians whose votes are not for sale.

    In a fit of rage/disgust, we’ve devised a plan to equalize the election process—to engage the tax-paying citizens who now are not only disenfranchised but disgusted with the entire political process—including elections, politicians and all things that advance the cause of corruption and lack of transparency within our government. Our intentions are simple—to take back the government of the people from the stronghold of big business and union influence and create a fair and more simplified manner in which to participate in the election process, thus becoming invested and active in a political process that has been bought and sold to special interests.

    Take Back Our Republic believes that individual participation in the American political system is the best way to preserve and strengthen our liberty. We engage in research, education, and advocacy about returning political power to individuals and ending the system of escalating campaign contributions by corporations, labor unions and special interests that fuels government spending. We believe politicians should be responsible to the people and not to self-serving moneyed interest who seek government subsidies and special treatment at a significant cost to taxpayers.

    As with any successful team, each member of Take Back brings to the table a different, though equally impressive background in politics that unifies their desire to change the process in which our country funds campaigns. Collectively, in grass roots efforts, they have knocked on thousands of doors of everyday Americans across this country and asked for their vote in order to meet or beat the polling numbers. They have advised candidates and legislators alike, from how to win an election to crafting local zoning issues to coalition efforts for Presidential campaigns and been elected to office. They've fought against intrusive regulations, raised money to fight opposing money, and more recently, found themselves watching more Americans decide to stay at home on Election Day simply because of a systemic disdain for American politics. But as vast as their personal experiences may be on paper, they all vehemently agree that the system is inherently flawed and needs to be changed in order to reverse the damage that is slowly stealing our Republic.

    Executive Director
    Phone: 334-329-7258

    The oldest of 9 children growing up in a 3 bedroom house in inner city Richmond, VA, John Pudner learned at a young age the importance of timing, negotiating and diplomacy. More importantly, he learned how to live on a shoe-string budget. Those early life lessons helped put him on the national political scene when in the 2014 primaries, he jump-started the campaign of Dave Brat, who would ultimately unseat U.S. Majority Leader Eric Cantor in one of the most unprecedented upsets in political history. Later in the general election of the same year, he would help defeat a 32-year incumbent state senator in Alabama’s general election. He managed campaigns for almost three decades. His now-famous strategy of outsmarting instead of outspending the opposition was born out of a hobby of extrapolating statistical data on sports teams. With an affinity for numbers and grassroots initiatives, John became known as the go-to-guy to help upstart candidates that didn’t have the financial backing needed to play in the political sandbox. During his career, he won 3 out of every 4 races in which he was involved. But through all his successes, John Pudner saw firsthand the influence of money on politics—the manipulation of the system and the loopholes that didn’t favor a transparent election— one in which only select major corporate donors and union bosses were the true winners. With a desire to now recreate the system instead of circumventing it, John Pudner will lead this team of ex-political wonks to help change the very industry in which they once thrived.

    Director of Marketing
    Phone: 334-329-7258

    A highly successful marketing executive who left her small town in south Alabama to catch the world by its tail, Melinda McClendon helped market and advertise some of the largest companies in the world; Domino’s Pizza, Nutri System, Macy’s, and Movie Gallery, Inc., before eating her words and moving back to her hometown 20 years later to marry and raise 4 children. A graduate of Auburn University, McClendon specialized in multi-unit marketing and product launches throughout her career.

    The parent of a special needs child and a breast cancer survivor, McClendon quickly became an advocate which, ultimately led to a recent short career in politics. An appointed local City Commissioner and an elected County Commissioner, McClendon saw first-hand the ineffectiveness of many elected officials. She ran for the Alabama Senate to unseat a 4-term Independent Senator who spent two years during her last term in court defending herself against a federal indictment for corruption. Because the incumbent was financed by the state’s powerful teachers union, McClendon was outspent 2-to-1. Trailing by 30 points in the early polls, McClendon lost the election by fewer than 700 votes, but not without leaving her supporters her commitment to help make changes to the unfair political process.

    McClendon refuses to sit on the sidelines and watch her vote become invalid.

    Director of Major Gifts & Grasstops Recruitment
    Phone (334) 329-7258

    Cathy Nugent has been a trailblazer in the world of politics for more than 25 years. She played an integral role as a member of the Advance Team for President George H.W. Bush from 1989-1992, responsible for coordinating hotel and motorcade schedules, site prep and press for all domestic and international travel—which is where she mastered the art of resource management so early in her career. As the result of her tenure in the White House, she has built a solid and varied contact list that continues to support the endeavors of her and her clients.

    In addition to serving on the Boards of Directors for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series, the Kansas Library System and the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Center, she works tirelessly building grasstops coalitions to educate the public on critical issues for clients in various markets. Of the nearly 1,000 causes she has championed in her career, none pull at her personal heartstrings more than issues that relate to women, minorities and education.

    Cathy's entire career has been built on a foundation of bettering her community and her country, however she’s cognizant, and discouraged, that the $2 billion spent on the Obama-Romney election was four times the combined amount spent to re-elect both Presidents Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush. She’s prepared to spin her rolodex to find like-minded friends who, too, want to take back our Republic.

    Director of Development
    Phone (334) 329-7258

    A true Jersey boy, this fundraising phenom sharpened his baby teeth on newly minted silver dollars. During his years at Auburn University, he worked on his first State Senate campaign before leaving campus for the real world. The fundraising techniques he used to secure that race ultimately became known as some of the most prolific in the state. His new-found reputation took him to campaigns and organizations in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Virginia and now back to Alabama. His most recent success story, and perhaps his legacy, is spearheading fundraising efforts for little-known college professor, Dave Brat of Virginia, who went on to unseat House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary.

    The New Jersey native has developed a strong national network and unmatched strategies that will make a profound impact on the effort to bring true reform to our nation’s questionable election system. Rubino brings a young, though solid, successful track record to the team that will ensure the development for Take Back’s efforts don’t go unnoticed. His incredible work ethic coupled with his inability to accept losing as an option, will advance the cause and help take back what is rightfully ours.

    Director of Operations
    Phone (334) 329-7258

    Don’t let Justin’s unassuming southern accent fool you. This Alabama native has an incredible, innate ability to recruit, organize and motivate a mega-team of disjointed volunteers into a fine-oiled machine. His experience as a YMCA Youth Director developed and honed his communication skills enough to ultimately plan and execute more than 40,000 door knocks and thousands more phone calls for candidates like Alabama State Senator Dr. Larry Stutts and Alabama House Commerce Committee Chair, Jack Williams.

    Justin’s departure from the “Y” led him straight into the political arena to direct large grassroots initiatives for campaigns in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s proven to be a natural networker and extremely successful grassroots operative for several winning campaigns. Most notably the 2014 general election as he helped unseat a 32 year incumbent Alabama Senate member with a no-name gynecologist candidate who’d never served in office before..

    Justin will be an incredible addition to the Take Back team as he orchestrates and manages the day to day operations that will prove to be the oil in this engine.

    Executive Assistant
    Phone (334) 329-7258

    An avid sports fan, Erin Sweeney left her home state of Virginia to attend Auburn University, much to the chagrin of her family. Not knowing a soul in the deep South, Erin was naturally drawn to her “comfort zone” and began working in marketing and promotions for the university’s very successful Athletic Department. Upon graduation, and with the world at her finger tips, she decided the next best sport, politics, would be her new venue.

    Erin ultimately returned to Virginia to work for two of the most tenacious campaigners and best fundraisers, Rob Bell and Barbara Comstock. She spent every waking hour knocking on doors and making phone calls for Comstock’s ultimate Congressional win in Northern Virginia. Through this process, Erin grew to appreciate every hard-earned $25 and $50 contribution that came in from constituents to fuel the fight. She promises to carry that reminder with her as she begins her career with Take Back and joins in the fight to take back our Republic, one small donor check at a time.

    Erin’s confident that she made the right decision to forgo a career in Virginia politics in order to work with this winning team.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Dysfunctional Congress, or no?

    The State of the Union address has been delivered. Below are responses of Senator Sessions, Senator Shelby, and Representative Sewell. [I will post response of Representative Palmer when I can find it.]

    Do the SOTU address and these responses help you in deciding whether we will have a dysfunctional Congress for another two years?

    AL lawmakers respond to State of the Union address

    Posted: Jan 20, 2015 9:32 PM CSTUpdated: Jan 20, 2015 9:33 PM CST
    By Staff

    From Senator Jeff Sessions:

    “Tonight President Obama stayed the course of tax, spend, borrow, regulate, and add to the debt. This policy has hammered working families, whose average inflation-adjusted income has fallen a stunning $4,200 since 2009. Labor force participation for both men and women between 25–54 has been steadily falling since the President took office, while 12 million people have left the workforce entirely.
    On immigration, the President remains wedded to a lawless policy that serves only the interest of an international elite while reducing jobs and benefits for everyday Americans. All net employment gains since the recession in 2007 have gone to foreign workers, and yet the President has violated federal law in order to provide work permits to 5 million illegal immigrants—allowing them to take any of the few good jobs that exist. In effect, the President delivered an address tonight to a Congress whose authority he does not recognize and to a public whose votes he has nullified with an imperial edict. Congress must use every tool at its disposal to stop this unlawful edict, end the immigration lawlessness, and reverse our slide towards congressional irrelevance.”

    From Senator Richard Shelby:

    “Tonight's address from President Obama was once again heavy on rhetoric and light on real solutions for families and businesses across the nation. Voters sent a strong message in November that they are dissatisfied with the growing role of government in their lives, yet the President failed to discuss his plans to work with Republicans in Congress on addressing these important concerns.

    “The President's address tonight did not include plans to rescind his decision to circumvent Congress and unilaterally grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. It failed to outline a way to provide the American people with relief from the destructive impacts of Obamacare. We also did not hear about his plans to enact policies that will reenergize the private sector and encourage job growth or to work with Republicans on common sense ideas to boost our nation's energy independence such as allowing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    “I believe that Alabamians – and all Americans – deserve better than more of the same failed tax and spend policies from this Administration. That is why I urge President Obama to join us in supporting policies that get Washington out of the way and create economic conditions to give the American people an opportunity to succeed.”

    January 21, 2015

    Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) released the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Address:

    Our nation’s greatness rests firmly on the pledge that all Americans have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams. Tonight, President Obama proposed turning that pledge into a promise.

    The President unveiled his vision to strengthen the working and middle classes by making homeownership more affordable, advocating for paid family leave, and ensuring a college education is more accessible for qualified students.

    Our economy has grown tremendously since the depths of the financial crisis. The President reminded us that businesses have created 11 million new jobs and that the unemployment rate has fallen.

    We have come far, but that does not mean our work is done. Far too many Americans are still struggling, and we need a comprehensive strategy that adequately addresses their needs.

    The President also acknowledged that one of our most fundamental rights – the right to vote – has been ‘denied for too many,’ and referenced the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

    As a daughter of Selma – and as the Congresswoman who represents Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery – I know that the injustices protesters suffered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday have not been fully vindicated.

    My special guest for the President’s address was 103-year-old voting rights matriarch Amelia Boynton Robinson. Ms. Boynton Robinson was one of those courageous Foot Soldiers who dared to challenge an unfair and unjust system that kept African Americans from exercising their constitutionally protected right to vote.

    I am pleased that she had a chance to meet the President tonight, and we look forward to welcoming him to Selma for the 50th commemoration of the historic Selma to Montgomery march.

    Letter to Birmingham Business Journal

    Birmingham Business Journal
    2140 11th Avenue S., Suite 205
    Birmingham, AL 35205

    Dear Sir,

    I am continuing to write in follow up to my July 18, 2014 email to you, which email can be found online here.

    In that email, I quoted your editorial "Congressional Inaction Could Derail Recovery" from the "Viewpoint" page in the Business Journal's June 20, 2014 issue (page 19). In the editorial, you said, among other things:

    Even the ongoing recovery is threatened by the fierce political divide that has taken hold in our nation....
    As has often been the case lately, the primary culprit is Congress . . ..
    The petty disputes in Washington must stop. Business leaders need to take an active role by supporting candidates who won't fall into the red vs. blue and Democrat vs. Republican debates.

    That was six months ago. 

    I am interested in what the Business Journal's thinking is currently, 

    The 2014 elections have come and gone, and the Republicans have taken over the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. 

    Have the concerns you expressed in June evaporated? Are you in a "wait and see" mode to determine whether you should continue to have your concerns?

    I am continuing my campaign that Congress is broken and cannot do its job properly for the American people. My contention is that the broken condition is connected to our system of campaign finance. (If you have not read it, you should read Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig's short book Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress And How To End It.)

    I have no information about whether the Birmingham Business Alliance has given any consideration to my communications to them (including most recently this November 26, 2014 email and this January 9, 2015 letter).

    Congressman Palmer remains steadfastly silent to my knowledge. 

    He has choices of things he could say, such as "there is nothing wrong with our system of campaign finance that warrants my attention and there is nothing my constituents should concern themselves about" or "there are things which call for my attentions as the Representative of the 6th district, and here is what I am urging (Congressman Palmer is supporting term limits I believe, and he could say, for example, that action about term limits is all that is needed)".

    But Congressman Palmer won't say anything, to my knowledge.

    Retired Congressman Bachus spent twenty years in Washington, and one would think he would have some informed views on this matter. I have no idea whether retired Congressman Bachus is willing to share his thoughts with the Business Journal, but you could ask him.

    In all events, I am interested in what the Birmingham Business Journal thinks.

    Thank you.

    Rob Shattuck

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    Case study, second installment

    Last Tuesday, I started this Case study of political leadership failure.  Below is an email I received from Democrats. I project that our political leadership in Washington will fail us on this. What do you think? What does Congressman Palmer think? You could ask him. (He hasn't answered anything I've asked him, so there is no point in my asking him.)

    Sent: 1/18/2015 5:01:13 P.M. Central Standard Time
    Subj: SIGN: protect Social Security 


    The GOP's first priority of the new Congress is clear -- they want to cut Social Security.

    We have to fight back. They backtracked on promises to create jobs, and instead, decided to gut a program that millions of people rely on. Don’t allow them to destroy all that we have worked so hard for.

    So many of you have already stood up, and we're so thankful for that. But now, will you demand that they leave Social Security alone by adding your name here?

    Boehner and his allies said they'd be focused on job creation, but if that was true, they wouldn't make attacking Social Security their first priority. It's plain old dirty politics -- and it only hurts the most vulnerable working Americans. We won't stand for it, and we need your help to stop them, Robert.

    Add your name here to demand that the GOP stop their senseless attacks on Social Security.

    Thanks for helping us hold the GOP accountable.

    Stop the Tea Party

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Case study of political leadership failure

    Yesterday, The Hill published this article "Dems warn of Social Security cuts".

    Dems warn of Social Security cuts

    By Alexander Bolton - 01/12/15 11:59 AM EST
    Democrats are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to repudiate a rules change by House Republicans that could cut Social Security disability payments by 20 percent.
    House Republicans last week included language in their new rules for the 114th Congress making it more difficult to allocate payroll tax revenues to replenish the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, which is due to run out of money in 2016.
    Democrats are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to repudiate a rules change by House Republicans that could cut Social Security disability payments by 20 percent.
    House Republicans last week included language in their new rules for the 114th Congress making it more difficult to allocate payroll tax revenues to replenish the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, which is due to run out of money in 2016.
    “We are deeply concerned that the rule change in the House will impact millions of Social Security beneficiaries,” Democratic leaders and liberals wrote in a letter sent Monday to McConnell.
    They warned that nearly 11 million Americans could see their benefits cut if Congress does not take action in the next two years.
    “House Republicans acted according to their extreme ideology and put these benefits at risk by adopting a legislative rule change that creates a point of order against simple bipartisan technical corrections,” they wrote.
    They noted that Congress has reallocated taxes between the Social Security retirement and trust funds 11 times in the past.
    It last did so in 1994 without facing any significant opposition from Democrats or Republicans.
    The trust funds were rebalanced four times under President Reagan, the Democrats noted.
    “It is cynical to try and pit retirees and beneficiaries with disabilities against each other, as the House Republican rule change attempts to do,” they wrote.
    Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Finance Committee ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (Ore.) signed the letter.
    Other signatories included Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), a liberal independent weighing a presidential bid.
    “Holding hostage the Social Security benefits of any American, particularly those of the 9 million Americans with disabilities who are at risk in the coming years, is an untenable proposition,” they wrote. “It only increases the chances of yet another unnecessary manufactured crisis, akin to shutting down the government or threatening the full faith and credit of the United States.”

    [case study to be continued]

    Friday, January 9, 2015

    More on Congress failing small business

    Mr. Victor Brown
    Vice President, Minority Business and Small Business Development
    Birmingham Business Alliance
    Birmingham, AL

    Dear Mr. Brown,

    I am writing in follow up to my November 26th email to you, which email I posted at this link: Small business and money in politics.

    I wish to call to the attention of the small business community the Wall Street Journal op/ed piece on December 26th  entitled "How Congress Bribes States to Give Up Power", by former United States Senator James Buckley.

    This op/ed piece is reproduced below and deserves a full read by you. The op/ed piece says a lot about what I think is wrong with Congress and with our Federal government which Congress oversees.

    Here are some questions that I think the op/ed piece should raise for your small business constituents:

    First, what does the op/ed piece signify about the kind of environment that Congress creates for the conduct of small business in the United States.

    I would particularly ask your small business constituents to think about how impaired and diverted Congress is in doing a "decent" job in what it legislates, such impairment and diversion resulting from lawmakers being dedicated to serving whatever will get and keep campaign contributions flowing to them that are needed for the lawmakers to win elections and stay in office.

    Many donors get rewarded by the lawmakers for the campaign contributions the donors make, but at what cost and consequence for everyone else?

    The op/ed piece does an excellent job of describing some of the cost and consequence.

    After your small business constituents make their own determinations about that, those who agree things are wrong with Congress and the Federal government which Congress oversees, should next ask, "Can anything be done about this?"

    On this question, note particularly the op/ed piece's reference to "the newly elected members of Congress becom[ing] contaminated by the prevailing congressional culture," and the warning:
    Congressional freshmen should be warned, however, that if they accept this suggestion [for reform] they will be fiercely opposed by their senior colleagues who have found the creation and exploitation of lucrative grants-in-aid programs the surest way to scratch their constituents’ backs (think “entitlements”) and ensure their re-election.
    Would you care to apply the preceding to Alabama 6th Congressional district's freshman Congressman Gary Palmer?

    I have been applying the same for months to Mr. Palmer, and it has not been a pretty picture. See, e.g., what I said in July about Why Gary Palmer will be ineffective.

    In short, on the question of "can anything be done about this," your small business constituents could be well justified in concluding, "no, we are stuck with a Congress that is a failure for us."

    I hope you will pass this letter along to your small business constituents. I expect to be communicating with some of them directly about this.

    Thank you very much.

    Rob Shattuck

    How Congress Bribes States to Give Up Power

    It’s time to end the more than 1,100 grants-in-aid programs that spend one-sixth of the federal budget.

    Before the newly elected members of Congress become contaminated by the prevailing congressional culture, they should consider a reform that would achieve a broader range of benefits than any other they might embrace: dismantling the more than 1,100 grants-in-aid programs that spend one-sixth of the federal budget on matters that are the exclusive business of state and local governments.
    Congressional freshmen should be warned, however, that if they accept this suggestion they will be fiercely opposed by their senior colleagues who have found the creation and exploitation of lucrative grants-in-aid programs the surest way to scratch their constituents’ backs (think “entitlements”) and ensure their re-election. But that should add zest to the enterprise.
    Those programs, which provide funding for Medicaid as well as everything from road and bridge construction to rural housing, job training and fighting childhood obesity—now touch virtually every activity in which state and local governments are engaged. Their direct cost has grown, according to the federal budget, to an estimated $640.8 billion in 2015 from $24.1 billion in 1970.
    Their indirect costs, however, go far beyond those numbers both in terms of dollars wasted and the profound distortions they have brought about in how we govern ourselves. Because the grants come with detailed federal directives, they deprive state and local officials of the flexibility to meet their own responsibilities in the most effective ways, and undermine their citizens’ ability to ensure that their taxes will be used to meet their priorities rather than those of distant federal regulators. The irony is that the money the states and local governments receive from Washington is derived either from federal taxes paid by residents of the states or from the sale of bonds that their children will have to redeem.
    Congress finds the authority to enact those programs in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution’s general-welfare clause in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis (1937). More recently, in the court’s 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Congress may use federal funds to “induce the States to adopt policies that the Federal Government itself could not impose,” so long as participation by the states is voluntary. To put it another way, Congress is licensed to dabble in areas in which it is forbidden to act, which it does by bribing the states to adopt Congress’s approaches to problems that are the states’ exclusive responsibility.
    It is impossible, in this article, to detail all the costs imposed by those programs, but here are some of the most egregious ones: They add layers of federal and state administrative expenses to the cost of the subsidized projects; distort state priorities by offering lucrative grants for purposes of often trivial importance; and undermine accountability because state officials bound by federal regulations can’t be held responsible for the costs and failures of the projects they administer.
    Finally, and of prime importance, those programs have subverted the Constitution’s federalism, its division of federal and state responsibilities, that was intended to prevent a concentration of power in a central government that could threaten individual liberties.
    The states are free to decline to participate in the programs, but that has proved very hard to do. Money from Washington is still regarded as “free,” and state officials are delighted to accept grants, strings and all, rather than raise the extra money that would be required to pay the full cost of the projects they freely undertake with federal subsidies. What makes declining grants particularly difficult is the fact that if a state does not participate in a program, its share of the money—derived in whole or part from its own taxpayers—will go elsewhere.
    There is only one way to resolve the problems that have resulted from Congress’s addiction to grants-in-aid programs, and that is to terminate all of them. They must all go because none is free of the added costs described above. If any exception is made, members of Congress will be encouraged to launch a new wave of grants on the assurance that theirs will be exempt from the problems and costs that have plagued the existing ones, and it would take another generation to prove them wrong.
    Yet because federal transfers now constitute about 30% of the states’ revenues, Congress cannot cut off the funds overnight. Therefore, it should terminate the programs by converting all the grants the states and localities are currently relying on into single, no-strings-attached block grants, one for each state, that would be phased out over six years. That would allow Congress and the states the time to adjust their respective tax codes to accommodate the successive reductions in the federal transfers.
    If the newcomers to Congress embrace the reform, the timing could not be more propitious. Recent stories concerning the incompetence, and worse, at the IRS, the Veterans Health Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies have undermined the myth that Washington necessarily knows best. Once Americans have learned the true cost of those programs, they will know they have everything to gain from their termination both as citizens and taxpayers.
    Mr. Buckley is a retired federal appellate judge and a former U.S. senator. He is the author of “Saving Congress From Itself” (Encounter Books, 2014).

    Thursday, January 1, 2015

    Where's Congressman Bachus' exit interview?

    In last year's Republican primary race in the Alabama 6th Congressional district, I asked retiring Congressman Bachus whether the voters and the candidates should be concerned about a broken and dysfunctional Congress.

    Congressman Bachus wrote me back to the effect that it was his policy, in connection with a primary campaign, to leave to the candidates discussion of the questions I was asking. See Representative Bachus' response.

    I thought Congressman Bachus (and others in the Alabama legislative delegation in Washington) were likely the best informed to provide helpful answers to my questions.

    Regrettably, none of the 6th Congressional district candidates were willing to discuss my questions for the benefit of the voters, and now Representative-elect Palmer continues unwilling to discuss my questions for the benefit of his constituents to be. See Just answer the question, Gary Palmer.

    What does retiring Congressman Bachus think now? He has served for twenty years as the Representative for the 6th Congressional district. Does he not owe it to the voters to say something to them about whether or not he thinks Congress is broken and dysfunctional,  and, if he does, to offer his suggestions and recommendations for what the voters should do about the situation?