Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Modest Proposal for Interposition

So, the Tea Party Congress is seated and the “revolution” is underway. After voting to repeal Obamacare, a largely symbolic gesture that has no hope of passing in the Senate or overturning a presidential veto, the new Congress has outlined its plan to attack the federal deficit. The result: A proposal to cut $100 billion in “non-defense discretionary spending.” While that may sound like a lot of money to someone who hasn’t taken a gander at the federal budget in about 50 years, it amounts to a little under seven percent of this year’s deficit.

That’s right. Seven percent of the deficit, not the budget. In other words, the tea parties, the stormy town hall meetings, the supposed “mandate from the people” to cut the size and scope of the federal government will result in the government spending $1,380 billion more than it collects in taxes this year instead of $1,480 billion more. Worse yet, the same people who “stormed the Bastille” and threw the former bums out will defend this proposal with half-hearted panaceas like “you have to start somewhere.”

However, if history has taught us anything, it is that this isn’t “just the beginning,” with more substantial cuts to follow. This will be the high water mark as far as reduction in government spending is concerned. We should expect that by the time that this proposal goes through the process of back room deals and compromises with special interest-motivated committee members, that the $100 billion number will be reduced by at least half, perhaps more. They may even end up increasing federal spending. Would anyone honestly be surprised?

It has been obvious for at least a century that “throwing the bums out” doesn’t make a lick of difference in the behavior of our elected officials. Now we know that staging protests, waving signs, raising a ruckus at town hall meetings, and then throwing the bums out doesn’t make a difference either. Clearly, it is time to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The nullification movement has been decried by the left as right wing extremism at its most dangerous, despite the fact that it was conceived and introduced by Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party. However, I have a proposal that I believe both conservative and liberal Americans would find very reasonable. There is a way to use the idea of state interposition to force the Congress to at least listen to its constituents. Let’s put the idea of interposition together with another of Jefferson’s ideas, drafted by him in a resolution of the Continental Congress in 1775 in response to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal.

“That this privilege of giving or of withholding our monies is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative, which if left altogether without our control may be excercised to our great oppression; and all history shews how efficacious is its intercession for redress of greivances and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.”

Let me be clear. As opposed as I am to all taxation, I am not suggesting that one dollar be cut from the existing tax schedule for 2011. What I am suggesting is that the people exercise their right to withhold their taxes until the Congress does what the people have clearly mandated them to do – balance the budget. A seven percent cut in the deficit just isn’t enough and we are running out of time. We can argue later about the role of government and the wars in the Middle East and Social Security and the rest. Right now we have to take away this Congress’ ability to borrow any more money or we’re going to be in the same boat as Greece.

I am not calling upon people to exercise civil disobedience or rebel. The stakes are high in either of those endeavors and we have other options. I am calling upon people to utilize their state legislatures to support them in withholding their taxes until a balanced budget is passed by Congress. As much as I’d personally like to see them withhold their tax money permanently, they would then release the funds to the federal government.

This would be accomplished in the same way as several other recent nullification/interposition efforts. The state legislatures would pass a law indicating that no person or business in their state could be prosecuted or fined by the federal government for failing to file an income tax return or failing to pay their quarterly payroll tax deposits, so long as said filings and payments were made within sixty days of the Congress passing a balanced federal budget. For those who still trust the people less than they do the government, a stipulation could be added that the funds go into escrow and be audited by the states, if necessary.

This would accomplish two things. First, it would reestablish exactly who works for who in this relationship. Obviously, elections have failed to do that. More importantly, it would work. The blind fear that would grip our legislators when they realize that the party is really over would at least scare them sober enough to balance what would still be an over $2 trillion budget. While it wouldn’t solve our long-term problems, that truly would be a start.

Bloated governments are imploding all over the world and ours is poised to do likewise for all of the same reasons. Now that we have seen what “extremism” really looks like in Greece, Egypt, and Tunisia, this proposal should strike any rational person as reasonable and moderate. We do not need a rebellion or violence to balance the federal budget - just a little adult supervision.

Check out Tom Mullen’s hit book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


© Thomas Mullen 2011


Tom Mullen said...

Hello friends,

I've had numerous e-mail replies to this article - I wish you would post your comments here on the blog, as it would allow all to read them instead of just me (many of you are better writers than I am!).

One consistent theme is that the federal governmnet would not respect the right articulated by Jefferson, and that it was futile for any individual to try to assert it.

This misses the point of nullification or interposition. The individual is not standing against the government here. The state legislatures are passing a law that prohibits enforcement of the federal law within their respective states. Therefore, regardless of whether the federal government agreed, they would be prohibited from arresting people for failing to file or pay quarterly taxes.

If the federal government ignored the state law and sent their officers or marshalls to arrest the non-payer, then those officers or marshalls would themselves be subject to arrest and prosectution is state court.

I do not believe that this would lead to bloodshed, as some have suggested. If you draw upon your own experiences with law enforcement officers, one thing that they do not tend to do is shoot at each other. Were a confrontation to occur between state law enforcement and federal law enforcement, I believe that they would refrain from violence against each other and look to the courts to settle the issue.

In my experience, the absolute submission to established heirarchy trumps any individual beliefs about justice or equity among the people who populate these groups.

Lynne said...

The County Sheriffs in each state are constitutional officers (elected by the people) and are the highest law enforcement officers in their counties. They have the right to stop federal agents from entering into their counties to arrest one of his citizens. He has the right to refuse the request from the feds to jail a citizen. I learned this from a book written by a former Sheriff, Richard Mack called "County Sheriff, America's Last Hope."


I'll pass your article to my State Reps (I'm in MA.....yeah, stop laughing!) and anyone else I can think of: tea party groups, etc.

Thank you for your article. I think you are right.

Jim Getten said...

Many states are discussing similar strategies to get their message to DC. If your state has legislators and governors (like Chris Christie)with the courage to take control of the situation, it might work. In the end, WE The People are the key to whether this type of rebellion would work. Many of those we have put in office, both state and federal, have no backbone for this type of action.

liberranter said...

The state legislatures would pass a law indicating that no person or business in their state could be prosecuted or fined by the federal government for failing to file an income tax return or failing to pay their quarterly payroll tax deposits, so long as said filings and payments were made within sixty days of the Congress passing a balanced federal budget.

I see one very significant obstacle to the success of this idea, and that is the fact that many of the states, as a result of their own fiscal recklessness, have become so dependent on Washington for handouts to supplement their own budgets that any such move would be tantamount to cutting their own fiscal throats. There's no question that none of these handouts are in any way constitutional, but there's also no question that few, if any of the residents of the various states or the politicos who "represent" them in the various state capitols give a damn about constitutionality anyway. This really cuts to the heart of the whole interposition discussion, and, by extension, the issue of nullification. Simply stated, most states want it both ways: they want to be able to tell the federal government to go pack sand when Rome-on-the-Potomac issues an edict not to their liking, but they also want to be able to demand their extra-constitutional welfare handouts from same, usually under the flawed social security-esque logic of "we're only demanding back from Washington what we've paid out to it."

Ultimately, it gains liberty lovers living in the various states nothing to rid themselves of Washington only to have to put up with the same irresponsible behavior from local kleptoligarchs, who are just as difficult to dislodge or reform as their federal counterparts. We need to also understand that many, if not most state and local politicians aspire to NATIONAL office and see their local and state offices as mere stepping stones to that end. Unless or until state and local politicians in large numbers truly start to focus their concern on their own communities, in accordance with both the U.S. and applicable state constitutions, nothing will change.

MBLiberty said...

"Adult supervision." I like it.

I think Congress is like our son at college. We gave him a credit card for books and food ONLY. But now he's using it for beer. He even invites us to the parties sometimes. "Adult supervision" requires that we (1) cut off the credit card and (2) quit drinking the beer.