Texas Straight Talk, 20 December 1996
Offices will provide service to all parts of district
Mobile office will increase contact with congressional staff

     It is hard to believe that, after more than eighteen months “on the campaign trail,” the swearing in ceremony is so close at hand. I look forward to serving the people of our district in the US House of Representative and hope to be as accessible as possible. In many ways, that is what this monthly column is going to be all about.
     This column will be offered not only to this newspaper, but also over the World Wide Web and through fax and e-mail . Each month this column will address various pieces of legislation and issues facing the Congress. To access the congressional web site, for now use the address http://www.tgn.net/RonPaul/. That address will change in the coming months.
     But this month I want to take the opportunity to update the district on the status of the Congressional Offices around the district.
     First, we will maintain the current offices for the interim. Those are located in San Marcos, Victoria and Brazoria County. As we settle in, the Victoria office will remain open, but the Brazoria County office will move to a site closer to Surfside. Of course, a presence will be maintained in San Marcos.
     These district offices will be able to process all inquiries and problems, whether regarding issue positions, dealings with federal agencies, problems processing benefits claims, military academy applications, or any of the multitude of other issues in working with and through the federal government.
     An innovative change, though, will come from the use of a “mobile” office. This office–a modified RV–will travel the district on a set schedule, opening for business at the smaller, more remote sections of the district to give individuals greater direct contact with the congressional staff than ever before. The mobile office will be able to process all the questions and inquiries the traditional offices handle, including helping people secure their Social Security and Veterans’ benefits. Watch your paper for more details.
     Of course, our Washington office will always be available for legislative and issues-oriented questions. That number–after January 3, 1997–will be (202) 225-2831.
     I and my staff are looking forward to working with each of you in your federal government. If at any time you have questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to mail us at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC, 20515.
     I truly appreciate the honor you have given me, and the trust you have placed in me as your elected representative in the Congress.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 January 1997
Fiscal Responsibility
Balance the budget, but don’t raise taxes or cook the books

     February of 1997 may well go down in history as one of the most important months in the history of the 20th Century. Important because it is very likely that both Houses of the Congress of the United States will pass an amendment to the Constitution, which is significant unto itself; but this particular amendment could have an impact which reaches far into the future.
     The amendment? One to require that all budgets of the United States government be balanced. On the face of it, balancing the budget is a laudable goal. In fact, a balanced budget with the elimination of our debt is one of the steps needed to ensure a sound, stable and growing economy for the 21st Century.
     But we must be very careful, for it is critically important that the Balanced Budget Amendment the Congress passes contains strict provisions which prohibit tax increases to accomplish the stated goal.
     Why? Consider this proposition. We could this year balance the budget very easily. Very easily, that is, if one does not mind paying double their current tax levy. And that is exactly what is required to balance our out-of-control spending. Can you afford that? I don’t believe most of us can.
     Our elected officials in the House, Senate and White House have shown absolutely no hesitancy in the past hundred years to increasing taxes for almost any reason. It is difficult to believe that these same bodies would not raise taxes under a Balanced Budget Amendment without a strict Constitutionally-enforced requirement to hold them back.
     And the worst part is that without the prohibition against tax increases, the big-spenders would be able to say, in all honesty, that it was not they who are raising taxes, but the Constitution!
     Our Founding Father, and former president, Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “eternal vigilance” is the price we must pay for living in a free society. I believe he was speaking not only of watching for encroachments on our civil liberties, but our economic freedom as well. It is therefore imperative that we not allow the “hype” of amending the constitution to prevent us from addressing the very real concern that balancing the budget could come with an expanding tax rate that would place the nails in our nation’s economic coffin.
     The other concern which must be carefully addressed is preventing the Congress from simply taking items “off budget.” Already expenses like Social Security and Medicare are not stated as part of the National Debt. And it is a very easy process for the Congress to just begin moving more and more items off the budget, sidestepping a “balanced budget amendment” and causing the debt to increase. (Even without a balanced budget amendment, this practice should be abolished immediately.)
     I am committed to doing everything possible to balance the budget and cut taxes. The truth of the matter is that we will only balance the budget when we address the level of spending which takes place at the federal level. The US budget is ripe with targets for cuts which would hurt no one (except, of course, those who get rich and powerful from the big government programs). If the politicians in both parties were serious about balancing the budget–without cooking the books or increasing our taxes–they could do so right now by making cuts in the unconstitutional programs they continue to fund year after year. The only way to get our fiscal house in order is for Congress to exercise its responsibility and begin making the relatively simple choices about which programs are necessary for running our constitutional government, and which simply have no business operating at the federal level.
     Of course, we want this amendment to take place immediately, not in some pie-in-the-sky future year, when none of the current elected officials will likely be around to actually implement the changes.
     When the roll is called for House votes on the Balanced Budget Amendment, you can expect “Paul of Texas” to vote “yes” if the measure is a responsible one: achieving the necessary goal of balancing the budget by cutting wasteful, big-government programs, not by using shady accounting techniques… or by taking more hard-earned money from our pockets and our children’s future.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 February 1997
Trust funds are being robbed, hundreds of billions at stake
With highway funds and Social Security at stake, even a simple
Balanced Budget Amendment could hurt

     Several years ago my house was broken into, vandalized and burglarized. It was a horrible experience, knowing that someone had entered my family’s home and taken those things of ours which had value to us. And then, when the criminal was caught, it was even worse because we found out he broke into homes to steal items to support his drug habit. Our valuables were not only stolen, but stolen to support a vile habit.
     While my family and I got over the incident, both emotionally and financially, we as a nation are going though a very similar experience. In Washington the politicians are now riffling through our belongings, stealing from us, and then using the ill-gotten gains for less than honorable purposes. Listen; you can hear another bag being stuffed with your money.
     But first some background.
     A number of years ago it was decided that establishing trust funds was a good way to earmark money for specific projects. These trust accounts would be paid into by those who use the particular service or project. For example, when a pilot fills up his plane with fuel, the tax on the fuel goes into a special trust fund. Under the law, money from the fund goes only for projects dealing with airport issues–like new runways, control towers, and radar systems. The same holds true for the canal systems, the highways, and, of course, Social Security.
     Of course, what the law states, and what really happens are two different things. And that is how the thief has gotten in the door and begun robbing us.
     Some politicians realized that there is a lot of money sitting in those accounts–more than hundreds of billions of dollars, in fact. And the same politicians realized the federal deficit was growing by even larger sums of money thanks to unconstitutional spending at home, nation-building abroad, corporate welfare for big political donors, and pork projects.
     So they started taking the money from the trust funds and replaced them with what are essentially “IOUs” from the government. Now, this is referred to as using the funds to “contribute” to the “retirement of the debt.” That’s a lot like the thief saying he was stealing my wife’s belongings so she could “contribute” to his filthy habit.
     Of course, the even bigger crime is that the deficit is not being lowered and the debt is not being retired. It’s like you or me running up our credit card bill in order to pay off a loan. There’s no debt reduction, just a shell-game with taxpayer funds.
     Take the Highway Trust Fund. Last year the fund brought in close to $26 billion from gas taxes (except for President Clinton’s 4.3 cent tax increase of 1993, which goes to the general fund–a whole different discussion). The trust fund spent almost $24 billion on highway-building and related projects. The remainder? Well, according to the bean counters, it was “invested” in Treasury notes, which are now held as an “asset.” What does that really mean? It means $2 billion, which could have been used to build the new I-69 or some other highway project, went instead to “cut the federal debt.”
     The situation with the Social Security and Disability Insurance fund is even worse because the number of dollars is even larger. Close to a half-a-trillion dollars has been taken from the trust fund. Yet the politicians talk about cutting benefits.
     Recently, with all the talk of a Balanced Budget Amendment, President Clinton has been edging toward a plan to take Social Security, and possibly other programs, “off-budget.” He says he wants Social Security completely off-budget to protect the funds. A ridiculous claim! By allowing the president to off-budget Social Security or anything else, we will see those funds–and indeed our nation–quickly forced into insolvency as the money is used for more and more “non-trust” uses. It is simply unconscionable to allow the president, or a gang of big-spenders in Congress, to take items “off-budget” to artificially lower the publicized cost of government, or hide ill-advised financial fiascoes. And undoubtedly lead to more and more problems in the trust funds fulfilling their missions.
     Restoring the integrity of the trust system is of critical importance, especially if Congress passes a weak Balanced Budget Amendment. Billions of dollars are being diverted from their intended purposes (and a weak BBA could make it even worse). So when we hear that a local airport cannot get all the runways fixed this year, or when we’re told a new highway project is still sitting on the drawing board, or we have to worry about whether senior citizens’ Social Security checks will be secure, remember it is the federal government that is robbing our trust funds to pay for big-spending habits.
     It must be a top priority for this new Congress to restore the integrity of the trust system and end the practice of robbing these funds.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 March 1997
The Worst Day of the Year

     Everyone is just a little apprehensive; tense, irritable. Sleepless nights have passed and everyone is well aware of what is lurking around the proverbial corner of the calendar.
     It’s not the end of the world (though it sometimes seems that way) and it’s not a natural disaster (though sometimes the results are similar). No, what is lurking around the corner is Tax Day. April 15 is a day Americans have grown to fear. Fear because it means complicated forms, a loss of money, and the very real possibility that somewhere an IRS agent may audit every aspect of someone’s life.
     It is a very sad comment on the size of our government that we now tax and regulate (which is another form of taxation) so much that the average American now works through early July just to pay their levy. Stated a different way, the average worker spends more than half of every work day working for the government. That is unreasonable. For it means that you must work until shortly after lunch time before any money you earn actually goes to the well-being of yourself and your family.
     The Founding Fathers did not have this current state of taxation in mind when the high taxes of England drove them to rebellion and the creation of our nation.
     Right now there is little talk of doing much to cut taxes. The politicians here in Washington just don’t want to use the “political capital” to address the issue. Sure, there is a lot of talk about tinkering around the edges–and if it helps people in even a small way, I am supportive–but there is little resolve to address the real problems.
     Government has expanded far beyond the size outlined in our Constitution, and has taken on powers (which necessitate spending) without authorization. Until we address the role of government, until we can calmly address the question of “Should the federal government do the things it is now doing?”, we will never be able to adequately address the issue of taxation.
     Debates over how we collect taxes–whether by a “flat tax” or a national sales tax–are interesting, but often tend to cloud the real issue. The real debate should be over the question, “Why is government this big and spending this much money?”
     While I do not believe this debate will come soon and without major economic problems prompting it, I am not content to simply moan about the problem. I have signed on to several pieces of legislation which will, if passed, make a significant difference in the lives of everyone who pays taxes.
     The first piece of legislation is the Family Preservation Act. This legislation will repeal the Estate and Gift Taxes, which I refer to as “death taxes.” These taxes are the most despicable, for the laws assume that after you have worked hard all your life, prepared for your family’s future, that when you die the government has first claim to everything you own. Not only do they tax your productivity while you are alive, they tax your accumulated “after-tax” wealth once you have died, thereby punishing your spouse and children–it is as if the government owns your life, and has a fundamental right to all you have accomplished. The hardest people hit by these taxes are not the rich, but rather the middle-class Americans who own farms and ranches right here in the 14th District.
     A second piece of legislation I will be supporting is the Capital Gains Reduction Act. Right now, the profit someone may make off of selling a house, trading stocks or other activities, is taxed at 28 percent or higher. This bill would cut that rate in half. Again, the people hurt most by the capital gains tax are not the wealthy, but the middle and low income families. When a parent has provided for their child’s future by investing for college, it is immoral that the government should be able to step in and take almost a third. The taxes paid on those gains could have paid for an extra semester, or more.
     A third piece of legislation I am going to be supporting may not at first glance appear to be related to tax reduction, but in fact it is intimately tied to the issue. The legislation is called the “Enumerated Powers Act,” which will require that every bill brought before the Congress must contain the exact section of the Constitution which allows for that measure’s existence. If a bill fails to include that citation, the bill will not be considered. The importance is this: If we followed the Constitution in the legislation presented, taxes would be only a fraction of their current level. By requiring that every bill brought before the Congress specifically cite the Constitution, it will at least force Members of Congress to consider exactly what it is they are doing. Right now, very few ever think about what gives them the power to regulate, spend and tax.
     As April 15 grows near, I hope that everyone looks very closely at how much money they pay to the government–either by a check written at midnight on April 14th, or taken quietly from their paycheck each week–and then consider this question: Could the money be better used by you than the ways in which the government will use it?
     The economist Adam Smith once wrote that, “The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would… assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”
     It is my contention that you are smarter than all the politicians, especially where your life and money are concerned. Right now, the best thing government can do is cut your taxes, get out of the way, and applaud as you succeed in life and prepare for your family’s future.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 April 1997
Fear of IRS misplaced, real problem is the system

     Imagine that you have taken a position contrary to the official dictates of the government in your nation. Instead of simply facing criticism from opposing political sides, you find your life turned upside-down; every aspect of your life is closely scrutinized. Without warning, your life savings are seized, your personal, private records divulged far and wide. Suddenly, how willing are you to continue holding your views?
     It sounds almost like a slice of life from the dictatorships of the world’s past or in the modern third world.
     Or is it?
     For many years the fearful power of the Internal Revenue Service has been used in just that fashion against Americans.
     It’s unfortunate enough that IRS employees–unfairly perhaps the most hated individuals in the nation–by the virtue of their jobs have to enforce tax policies which run contrary to our nation’s notion of freedom, but what is worse is that these individuals have many times been used to carry out far less appropriate agendas for elected officials and federal bureaucrats.
     This tactic has been used by Republicans and Democrats alike; neither are without the sin. We know that Richard Nixon often used the IRS–or at least the threat of the IRS–to silence groups opposed to his re-election efforts.
     In recently released White House recordings, former President Nixon made it abundantly clear that he wanted the IRS to be cracking down on groups (like “the Jews,” he said) and individuals who were contributing to the Democrats. It has recently been revealed that Mr. Nixon was planning on having the IRS investigate every member of Congress because “it worries the (expletive) out of the thieves… It really does. Even if a person isn’t a thief…”
     Likewise, it is becoming increasingly clear that President Clinton’s White House has engaged in similar tactics.
     Diverse groups, ranging from small churches in Texas to the NRA, are reporting that the threat of the IRS has been held over their heads unless they repent of their often conservative views.
     The hypocrisy is palatable: Vice President Al Gore can go to a Buddhist Temple and hold a fundraiser without an official eye being batted. President Clinton regularly invited speaks at churches, and Jesse Jackson actually makes political fundraising speeches from pulpits, yet the IRS takes no action. The unions spend millions of dollars–without any opposition–promoting liberals and bashing conservatives.
     Yet conservative groups and churches have lately come under intense scrutiny by the IRS. All of them are groups which tend to hold views opposite those of the President, Vice President and the Democrats.
     But again, this has nothing to do with partisanship. If anything, the power of the IRS has been fairly well used and abused by members of both political parties.
     While looking at the countless number of cases of the IRS being used as a political tool of administrations past and present may be interesting and even instructive, we should instead be focusing on what has allowed these cases to occur.
     The problem is not with the IRS agents themselves, but with the policies behind the Internal Revenue Service.
     First, under the state of the law, the IRS is a tool of the Executive Branch, the presidency. The IRS must follow–almost without question–the orders of the executive.
     Second, the Internal Revenue Code is bulky, confusing and downright unintelligible: an individual of the absolute best intentions can violate major sections of the code without realizing it. The code itself makes it likely we all have violated something–we just haven’t been caught. And that is preciously what keeps so many people up late into the night worrying about–what they may have unknowingly done, and what the results may be.
     Third, under the administrative law which governs the IRS and all other federal agencies, a person found to be violating the code must prove themselves innocent, a concept which runs contrary to our judicial system in virtually every other area of law. This has the real effect of forcing individuals to passively submit to the agency’s decrees not because the individual believes they did anything wrong, but simply because they do not have the resources to prove their innocence.
     Taken individually, all three are bad. But when added together, the IRS becomes a recipe for disaster. Or worse.
     The answer is not to simply revise the code, or to make the IRS more independent, or to have an added layer of judicial review, the answer is to fundamentally change the way we collect taxes in this nation. The nonsensical body of law which governs the IRS is too far removed from sanity to be saved. And the graduated income tax system is neither fair, economically sound, moral nor useful.
     In my mind, the jury is still out on whether a flat tax or a national sales tax is the absolute best way to go (my main goal is for lower taxes, across-the-board), but both will go a long way toward eliminating the politically powerful weapon known as the IRS.
     We need not only a simpler, fairer system to eliminate the second problem I described, but also a smaller, more inexpensive agency responsible for collecting the taxes to solve the first. Finally, by making Congress directly responsible for the levy and collection of taxes–as constitutionally prescribed–the third problem vanishes by placing legal questions squarely in the hands of the legitimate federal court system. And best of all, Congressmen–the direct representatives of the people–become more accountable.
     There is no reason why we must fear the IRS. But in fact, there is no real reason to even have an IRS.
     Like so many of the problems we see in our nation today, the heavy political hand of the IRS being used against individuals is not ultimately traceable to the employees of the federal government, but to the elected officials who have allowed unconstitutional principles and practices to take hold in our country. It is only when we restore the integrity of the Constitution, and follow the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, that we will see these problems corrected.
     To paraphrase Mr. Nixon, the system treats us all like thieves, even though we aren’t.
     There is no reason why we must fear the IRS. But there are plenty of reasons why we should end the IRS.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 June 1997
The China Syndrome: Let’s not be hasty with a prescription

     As a physician I know that what might at first seem to be a cure for a particular ailment is really sometimes not a cure at all. In fact, going with a gut reaction to prescribe a cure can do more harm than the original problem.
     The same is true for matters of state. The initial reaction to a problem in society, or the world, will leads us to make a conclusion about a course of action. Unfortunately, that first reaction can be wrong, even though guided with the best of intentions.
     We have such a case before us now. It is the dilemma of whether or not China should be granted the same trade relationship granted to almost every other nation of the world, a status misleadingly referred to as “Most Favored Nations,” or, MFN. We all know the charges: the Chinese government violates basic human rights of its citizens, it is hostile towards Christianity, and its system of government runs contrary to our most fundamental beliefs.
     The initial reaction of our collective national psyche is to oppose MFN, to be tough, and say, “No way, no special deals for China.” But is it the best solution?
     To clear up a misconception, MFN is not a “special” status. In fact, MFN for a country simply means we will trade with that nation with no extraordinary barriers to their entering our marketplace. Free trade is not something to be lightly dismissed. And MFN is nothing more than an attempt, albeit imperfect, at free trade.
     Eliminating MFN status for China does not hurt the Chinese government. But it does hurt Americans in two ways. First, by imposing what is essentially a tax on our people. It is a tax because it is the American consumer who will pay higher prices on goods which come from China due to US policy. That means higher prices on many items, but not just items which come directly from China. If the tariffs on Chinese goods increases, people will be forced to find replacement products. As the demand for those products increase, so will those prices.
     The second way it hurts Americans is the reciprocal barriers China will inevitably create. It will be almost impossible for our farmers and businessmen to sell their products there, which is why nearly every farmer and every agricultural group I have heard from supports MFN.
     But the critics of MFN for China do not address the free-trade aspect of the debate, or the very real cost eliminating MFN will have on the American people. Instead, they focus on the real facts that the basic rights of people the rights we as Americans declare come from God are often violated by China. And for that I defer to those who are “on the ground” in China: the missionaries.
     According to Father Robert Sirico, a Paulist priest who recently discussed this topic on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page, the Americans actually in China working to help the Chinese people are scared of what ending MFN might do to their efforts and the people to whom they minister. After all, ending MFN will not bring about the freedoms we hope China may confer on its people, nor will ending MFN mean more religious freedom or fewer human rights violations. In fact, those working in China to bring about positive change fear only the worst if MFN is withdrawn.
     “As commercial networks develop, Chinese business people are able to travel freely, and Chinese believers have more disposable income with which to support evangelistic endeavors,” Sirico writes. Even worse, the missionaries have been reporting that “such action would endanger their status there, and possibly lead China to revoke their visas. It would severely limit opportunities to bring in… religious materials. These missionaries understand that commercial relations are a wonderfully liberating force that allow not only mutually beneficial trade but also cultural and religious exchanges.”
     And so the critical question remains: MFN, or no MFN? Ideologically, revoking MFN is a step in the wrong direction, a step away from free trade. It is equally clear that revoking MFN is harmful to our people, and harmful to the Chinese. The ones to suffer will be the very individuals we seek to help, not the powerful elite in Beijing.
     I have long held that governments do not solve problems, and government actions often creates more problems than existed previously. It’s people who are able to bring about good change in this world, it’s people who solve problems. China is indeed a problem: for us and its people. But it is a problem we can only resolve by changing the hearts of the Chinese leaders.
     And whether we like it our not, the way we can do that is through trade with China.
     By rushing quickly for the pills of government-enforced sanctions, we may have the best of intentions to cure China of her evil leadership. But unfortunately, those pills will only harm the patient. We must swallow our pride and admit that perhaps the best remedy is not the first solution.
     It is only through the open dialogue of individuals that China will ever be convinced it is wrong. By closing the door now, when we have the opportunity to allow to grow the seeds of change which have been so firmly planted in China, we will be damning that nation’s people to a return to their darker days.
     We will lose the patient if we act hastily, and that cannot be option. It’s never an option when I have a patient on the operating table, and it cannot be an option when dealing with China.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 July 1997
Parents must have control of education

     An American statesman once said that the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next. And thanks to the federal take-over of education, that’s a thought which should scare us all.
     After all, the federal government has so invaded our classrooms, that daily our children are constantly bombarded with the message that everything good flows from the federal government, and that no one but the federal government has the ability to put right problems in our culture and world. On any given day, the federal government has more influence on the education of the average child than that child’s parents.
     An important note should be made that the fault for the lowering standards and worsening conditions in our public schools does not rest with our teachers. In fact the contrary, I am convinced our educational system would be even further in the hole were it not for the valiant efforts of our school teachers bucking the ridiculous trends and still trying to teach their students. But there is only so much they can do as the pressures mount from Washington for schools to conform to the models developed by federal bureaucrats and university professors who have never taught in a classroom.
     The scary thing is that this will only get worse as the federal government creates more funding schemes to convince cash-strapped local school districts to give in and implement the latest plans of the Washington-based education bureaucrats, the so-called “educrats.”
     As long as we accept the notion that the federal government has some sort of “right” to control education, we will never see this trend reversed. But the good news is, more and more people are awakening to the horrible things which have occurred since the federal government began taking over our schools. Recently, more than 54 percent of the people of the 14th District of Texas, responding to a survey my office conducted, said they wanted to see the federal Department of Education completely abolished. The people of the 14th District–and people from around the nation–are sick of programs like the president’s “Goals 2000,” which are more about social and political correctness than education; they are tired of seeing classrooms turned into vehicle for social engineering, instead of as a place for reading and math.
     There is absolutely no authority over education given to the federal government by the Constitution, none whatsoever. Everything we see the federal government doing in education is outside the bounds set by the Constitution; not, of course, that many people any longer feel bound by the restrictions set forth in the highest law of the land.
     So the real challenge for us is determining how to rescue our school kids from the clutches of the federal education bureaucrats.
     Even though many people across the nation are tired of what they see the federal government doing in education, there are too many entrenched congressmen, senators and federal employees who are unwilling to eliminate this unconstitutional waste of tax dollars. Therefore it is unlikely we see the Department of Education abolished, as it needs to be, any time soon, nor will we see the myriad of education-related federal rules and regulations discarded.
     I am confident that day will come, for history has shown us that big, centralized government systems always collapse. But until that days arrives we cannot sacrifice our children. In order to ensure our children and grandchildren are receiving the education they need, parents must be able to consider options for their kids other than, or in addition to, the government schools. But realistically, tutoring sessions, home schooling and private schools are options far out of reach for many people, simply because of the cost.
     As such I am proud to be sponsoring legislation which will give parents an unprecedented amount of control (in recent history) over their child’s education. The legislation is called the Family Education Freedom Act, HR 1816.
     This bill will provide up to $3,000 in tax credits per child, per year, for every American family. Parents will be eligible for the tax credit whether their kids are in public schools, private schools, church schools, or are home schooled. The tax credit can apply toward items such as after-school tutoring, purchasing a computer and educational software, tuition and the cost of books and materials, and almost anything else which the parents believe will enhance their child’s education.
     I am absolutely convinced that the key to an educationally prosperous nation is found not in a federal government program, but in the right of parents–consulting with teachers and local administrators–to effectively utilize their moral responsibility for their children. By so doing, we will foster a philosophy of independence, self-reliance, and local responsibility; a philosophy which will permeate our classrooms and our government.
     And that is a philosophy of which we are in desperate need not just for the next generation, but also today.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 August 1997
Line-Item Veto violates separation of powers, threatens America’s constitutional form of government

     While Congress is not in session for the month of August, important business does continue in Washington. Even though I’m in Texas for the month, I am intrigued by an historic event of the past week: Bill Clinton became the first US President to wield the line-item veto–a power which I believe is a major stain on the legacy of the so-called conservative revolution of the 104th Congress, two years ago.
     The Constitution makes it very clear how the legislative process is to work if we are following the law of the land. Of course, the Constitution is the law of the land, or at least it is supposed to be. According to Article 1, Section 7, of the Constitution, “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives... every bill which shall have passed the House of Representative[s] and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President... if he approve[s], he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections...”
     According to the Constitution, the president must review legislation brought to him as an all-or-nothing deal. He is not free to create or change legislation passed through the two Houses of Congress. Under the Constitution, if the president doesn’t like a portion of legislation, he may freely veto the entire measure and then work to convince Members of Congress to remove or change the portion he finds objectionable. This is completely constitutional.
     But under the Constitution-circumventing power given the executive branch by Congress two years ago, a president can (at least according to legislative edict) strike single lines or portions of legislation and set the revised law into effect without the consent of Congress. If two-thirds of Congress does not object–and it is almost impossible to imagine finding two-thirds of the Congressional members who agree on anything of substance–the president’s version of the law stands. This line-item veto process is the kind of absolute power our founders sought to escape, not embrace.
     The direction this newly-created power takes us is 180-degrees off course; it is completely misguided and only further undermines the Constitution. The line-item veto consolidates too much power in the hands of the President, giving him excessive legislative power. The Constitution makes it clear that the president is only allowed to approve or disapprove entire pieces of legislation. The line-item veto opens the door for a president to do much more.
     The line-item veto gives the president a whole new way to pressure members of congress and senators. It gives the president the opportunity to lobby for his particular piece of legislation with the threat that if the member does not vote for what he wants, the president will line-item veto something important to that member.
     On April 15 of this year, I addressed the House of Representatives to oppose the line-item veto. As I told my colleagues, I was pleased to have been able to serve in Congress for four terms in the ’70s and early 80s. During that time I was lobbied on a few occasions by presidents regarded as much more conservative than the current holder of that office.
     The only time either of these presidents ever called me was when asking me to vote for more spending or taxation. Never have I experienced or heard of a president actually calling Congressmen and asking them to vote for less spending or less taxation. So I see the line-item veto as something a president can actually use to enhance or increase spending, not to reduce spending. Increasing spending and taxation was not, the stated intent behind passing the law in the first place, in fact, it was the opposite.
     Fortunately for our nation, I do not expect this issue to simply fade into the arsenal of power held by the president. One court challenge has only recently ended, with the people who brought the suit being told they had no case simply because the line-item veto had not yet be used, so no one had been injured and in need of judicial redress. The Constitution requires that an actual case or controversy exist prior to judicial consideration. This constitutional requirement will, however, be met and I will be quite surprised if those negatively affected by the president’s use of the line item veto do not challenge the process as unconstitutional.
     Sadly, though, regardless of what the courts end up saying, the mere granting of this power has shaken our constitutional heritage of separated powers. The separation of powers in our nation is the hallmark of our form of government, and one attempt by the founders to safeguard individual liberty. The Constitution, and the arrangement of power in federal government, was designed deliberately and specifically and we must respect it, or risk jeopardizing the very foundations of our nation.
     Congress acted improperly during the 104th Congress when giving this power to the presidency. Under the Constitution, it is Congress which has the responsibility to craft legislation, not this president, not a Republican president, not any president. Like the creation of administrative agencies, it is a means by which members of Congress have chosen to evade their responsibility as lawmakers and created scapegoats for the seemingly never-ending growth of liberty-oppressive government.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 August 1997
Paul’s legislation focuses on individual liberty

     Congress has not been in session during the month of August and I have absolutely enjoyed being able to spend so much time in Texas. I’ve been pleased to discuss not only what Congress as a whole has been doing but also what I specifically am working on. I have introduced eight pieces of legislation, and am cosponsoring 87 others.
     This week I will describe two of the measures I have introduced, both of which have a direct impact on the lives of us all.
     The first is HR 2029, the Selective Service Registration Privacy Act. Put succinctly, this legislation will prohibit Clinton’s Americorps program from using any Selective Service Administration resources, including draft registration information. Current law requires 18-year-old males to register with Selective Service.
     Americorps is a program which should have never come into existence, it is simply an unconstitutional government expenditure. The Americorps program has absolutely no constitutional basis, no rational economic basis, and no pragmatic basis; it is simply another program aimed at making more people dependent on government largess, at the expense of the hard-working taxpayers.
     But what we have today is not nearly as bad as what the president and his friends have indicated they hope it will become. First, the president has proposed the “Service to America Initiative’ which would allow Americorps to use Selective Service resources to promote his brand of federally subsidized, so-called ‘volunteerism’ in Americorps. To use Selective Service, ostensibly a program designed to enhance our national security, as a means to bolster President Clinton’s liberal, failing Americorps is completely ridiculous. And it sets a dangerous precedent.
     Letting Americorps get its foot in the door of the Selective Service system now is troubling by what it could portend for the future. I absolutely do not want my grandsons to be drafted into Americorps’ “national volunteer service” and be sent to distribute needles in some drug-infested urban area, or be forced to pick-up trash in the national parks, but that is exactly where this could lead; and what the social liberals want. Already the president and his cronies have warped the meaning of the word “volunteer” by instigating this program, and we see school districts around the nation requiring volunteerism or public service as a condition of graduation It is not at all unlikely that this same social-planning crew will try to mandate that all kids ‘volunteer’ with Americorps.
     HR 2029 has been sent to my committee, the Education and Workforce Committee, as well as the National Security Committee.
     While we are waiting on an opportunity to stop Americorps, we can not allow this new “back door” attempt to strengthen it to slip by us. If we do not stop these two programs from merging, I believe our attempt to end Americorps will become more and more difficult as time wears on.
     The second piece of legislation I will discuss this week is HR 1121, the Financial Freedom Act. This legislation will directly affect every American who does business with a credit union or a bank. Over the years banks and credit unions have rightly perceived that they are disparately burdened by federal regulations and taxation, and have seen any relief for their ‘competitors’ as harmful to their own business.
     However, the answer is not to increase the level of regulation or taxes on one or the other, but to instead lower the taxes and regulations on both. My legislation helps both ends of the industry by cutting government regulation and taxes on each type of institution.
     For the banks, HR 1121 ends the Community Reinvestment Act and lowers federal taxes; for the credit unions, the common and multiple membership bonds are expanded.
     But the biggest winner is the consumer, who benefits either way: with fewer regulations and lower taxes consumers will see savings in their banking costs, while the needed flexibility for credit unions will give individuals greater choices in their financial dealings as competition between institutions increases.
     The Financial Freedom Act is a step in the right direction, the direction of cutting taxes and regulations to the benefit of all Americans, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or how they manage their finances. And while cutting taxes and regulations is always the morally and constitutionally correct position to take, this legislation has the added effect of being a direct, financially positive benefit to every American.
     The role of government is to protect life and liberty from initiations of force or fraud. By preventing government from drafting our children into a system of social engineering, and by reducing the unconstitutional barriers to financial freedom, these two pieces of legislation take a step in the direction our nation must head; the direction of individual liberty.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 September 1997
Constitution must always be considered

     Congress was in recess the entire month of August, but is returning to session this week to tackle two pieces of legislation, including an amendment I am introducing.
     The first bill to be considered will be the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for 1998. Congress began work on this measure back in July, but tabled it until now to avoid some partisan wrangling. This measure includes funding for such unconstitutional programs as overseas corporate welfare for big US corporations, funding for Bosnia activities, the UN’s so-called peace-keeping missions in Sinai and Cyprus, and a wide variety of direct foreign aide packages. I introduced an amendment in July, which was voted down, to abolish some of the corporate welfare included in the measure. That amendment alone would have saved taxpayers more than $700 million dollars.
     The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act also includes funding of so-called family planning and international population control activities, both of which are, in reality, back-door methods of using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions worldwide. More than $385 million of US taxpayers’ money is being spent on these programs.
     It is in response to this portion of the “Foreign Ops” Act that I am introducing an amendment to be voted on this week to zero-out all taxpayer funding for international family planning activities, population control activities, and, of course, abortion services.
     In the first place, there is no constitutional basis for the federal government to take money from the taxpayer and then transfer it overseas, and there is certainly no basis–constitutional or moral–for spending taxpayers’ money in foreign countries to pay for the wholesale slaughter of children.
     The second piece of legislation to be considered this week will be the 1998 appropriations bill for the Labor Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. These departments, and their related agencies, are entirely unconstitutional, have been completely ineffective, and when one looks at their stated goals they are in fact destructive. This appropriations act will spend at least $80 billion to continue funding these departments, and the systematic attack on the constitutional principles their existence represents.
     For example, included in this appropriation is $32 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $4 billion over last year. We need to abolish the Department of Education, not increase it’s budget. As the federal government has taken over education, we have seen academic achievement plummet and our schools become a mockery of scholarship. The Department of Education has been a favorite tool of those seeking a big-government agenda, and they are constantly working to tighten their grip on the minds of our children by forcing more and more programs on local schools, such as Goals 2000.
     My basic opposition to these appropriations, though, has really little to do with how the money is being spent. It’s almost useless to criticize how the federal government is spending the money, for that is not the real issue. For example, when we only criticize how the federal government spends money on education, we are tacitly agreeing to the philosophy of federalizing education. Instead, we need to focus on the fact that the federal government, under the enumerated powers outlined in the Constitution, has no authority at all to be involved in education.
     The real issue we need to address is whether or not the federal government has the authority to do the things it does. Under our Constitution–the law of the land–it is very clearly stated what the federal government can and cannot do. So on these appropriation measures the question really isn’t one of supporting or not supporting the multitude of ostensibly “good things” they entail. The issue is whether or not we are going to follow the law, the Constitution.
     I swore an oath to uphold and follow the Constitution. It’s an oath I take seriously because when a congressman violates the Constitution and spends money on programs not authorized, a great deal of harm is done. In the first place, harm is done directly to the individual taxpayer because the fruit of his labor is wrongly taken from him. Second, harm is done by the way the money is spent, almost always violating the rights of states and the liberties of people. Finally, harm is done to our society as we hypocritically throw to the wind the notion that Congress is bound by any law. How can Congress expect individuals to follow the laws created on Capitol Hill, when Congress doesn’t follow the law as embodied in the Constitution?
     The real challenge before Congress as we come out of this August recess is not to be found in the specifics of each piece of legislation, but rather by addressing the issues before the nation in the light of the Constitution.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 September 1997
Congress to tackle Education budget this week

     Congress is back in session, having met last week and all this week, as well. For at least the next month Congress will be taking up the various appropriations measures, which are the individual pieces of legislation funding the various aspects of the federal government.
     My amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act finally came to the House floor for debate and a vote last week. My amendment would have ended the federal government’s use of our tax dollars to subsidize overseas abortions and “population control” programs, including related family planning services. Nowhere in the Constitution is Congress authorized to take your money and spend it in such a manner, whether here or abroad.
     I was pleased that 146 of my fellow congressmen voted for the constitutionally and morally correct position, but our side of the issue did not have enough to win. But I’m not discouraged because we were able to change the debate and make people think about whether they wanted to vote for morality, constitutional government and less spending, or for more big spending on unconstitutional programs. Maybe next time we will have more support.
     Unfortunately, the House then overwhelmingly voted to pass the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. I voted against the measure not only because it includes the funding for population control, family planning and abortions, but also because this act called for spending more money on the so-called “peace-keeping” missions around the world. I cannot in good conscience vote to put the lives of our troops in very real danger for purposes that have nothing to do with our national defense. It’s time to end our involvement in these activities and protect and support our troops, not open them up to more and more hostility and danger for no good reason.
     This week the Congress will continue debate on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act. This is perhaps, next to foreign aid, one of the easiest appropriation to vote against this “budget season.” This appropriation has absolutely no legitimate basis. None. It pumps more and more money into the tired liberal mantra of “national education standards” which have done exactly what the liberals wanted: standardized education. Unfortunately, it has standardized education down. Since the federal government and the advocates of anti-constitutional education programs began creeping into the scholastic picture, we have seen all measures of academic achievement drop.
     According to the Constitution–and common sense–education is not something for which the federal government should involve itself. Only parents know what’s best for their child’s educational needs, not federal bureaucrats. The teachers and school boards in the cities and towns of the 14th District know the standards appropriate for their students, not congress, the president and educational bureaucrats’ unions. The way for the federal government to help improve education in our country, is to get out of the way. Those who advocate more federal involvement in education have failed our children, and failed miserably.
     Additionally, the Labor and Education Appropriations Act is easy to vote against because of it’s inclusion of continued spending for what is commonly called “Title X.” This section of the bill includes the funding for the availability of birth control devices , sex education and “services” to minors in our public schools. A large portion of the money appropriated in this act actually goes to the pro-abortion advocacy organization Planned Parenthood.
     Regardless of what one thinks about abortion, sex education or even the distribution of birth control devices to children, the real issue is that the Constitution simply does not allow Congress to spend tax dollars in this way. If we are serious about wanting to balance the budget, cut taxes and restore personal liberty, Congress does not need to pass new laws, new taxes or new spending.
     Balancing the budget, cutting taxes and restoring personal liberty is easy: Congress just needs to follow the Constitution.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 September 1997
If someone accepts federal cash, then they must follow rules taxpayers set and deserve

     Last week, Congress met and debated the Labor-Health-Education Appropriations legislation. That debate will continue through this week.
     During debate last week an amendment was offered to prohibit the use of federal funds to perform abortions or offer various contraceptive devices to minors, if parents are not notified. The real debate on this point is not one of the rights of children versus the rights of parents, or even the question of whether federal money being spent this way–which constitutionality it obviously should not. The real debate is to what extent strings may be attached to federal funds. If the government is going to fund an unconstitutional program which should not exist anyway, then at the very least Congress should add sensible requirements for the sake of accountability. Doctors and nurses cannot even give out even an aspirin to a child without parental consent, mainly for fear of liability. And the government should do no less. If parents want their children to have ready access to birth control devices, then the parents should pay for it. But if the government is going to force us, the taxpayers, to subsidize these programs, then at the very least we should have a reasonable expectation that we–as taxpayers–are not going to be held accountable for any problems which may result from a child being given unlimited, uncontrolled access to various items paid for by the government. At the same time, it is unreasonable to expect parents to assume liability for complications resulting from actions over which they are no allowed no control.
     Unfortunately, the amendment was narrowly defeated.
     This past week also gave me the opportunity to testify about my education legislation, HR 1816. This bill gives parents the ability to take tax credits for up to $3,000 per year per child for education and education related expenses. This legislation has the benefit of imposing no cost to the taxpayers, and contains no federal “strings.” It simply means people get to keep their own money, and spend it on the educational needs appropriate to their own child, rather than sending that money off to Washington bureaucrats and their failed, one-size-fits-all approach to government.
     This week, I will be introducing two very important pieces of legislation. There has been a lot of talk around Washington and the nation about reforming our system of campaigning. Unfortunately a lot of this talk has centered around violating the Constitution, and especially the first amendment.
     The two items I will be introducing on Tuesday embrace rather than disgrace the first amendment. The first is called the Voter Freedom Act of 1997. It will prohibit states from erecting excessive ballot access barriers to candidates for federal office. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to control federal elections, and I firmly believe that the more voices participating, the more likely it is that the entrenched, out-of-touch, Washington establishment will be swept to the side.
     Another part of this vital process is opening the debates. So the second piece of legislation I am putting forward is the Debate Freedom Act of 1997. As you probably know, candidates for president can chose to accept federal funds if they meet certain private-fundraising criteria. I believe it is completely unconstitutional for taxpayers to be forced to subsidize any candidates, and especially those with whom they disagree; but if the candidates are going to get our money, then I propose we be able to set some ground-rules to get a better range of debate on the issues. My legislation simply requires that if a candidate accepts the federal funding for his or her election, then that candidate can only participate in debates to which all candidates who qualify for federal funding–whether they take it or not–are invited to participate. This doesn’t force anyone to take taxpayer money, nor does it force them to give it up. If someone doesn’t like the strings that come with taking our money, then they don’t have to take it. But if a candidate does take the taxpayers’ money, then the candidate will either have to participate in debates open to everyone who qualifies, or be forced to give up their federal funding.
     In many ways, the bottom-line is this: if a person or group is going to voluntarily take the taxpayers’ money, then the recipient–whether a candidate running for president or a clinic handing out condoms–is going to have to be accountable and play by the rules the taxpayers set and deserve.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 September 1997
Out-of-touch Congress needs to abolish IRS, not increase it

     The headlines around the nation last week served to further indicate the extent to which the Congress is truly out-of-touch with the people.
     In addition to passing the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act, the Congress voted to pass the Treasury and Postal Operations Appropriations Act. This bill appropriated $1.3 billion more than the respective appropriation for the most recent fiscal year. In addition to funding the IRS at $7.6 billion, (that’s an 8% increase over last year’s funding), the bill also included 97 million dollars for the Treasury Department’s “Violent Crime Reduction Programs” despite the fact that criminal law enforcement is a matter reserved to state and local governments by the ninth and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Needless to say, this is a bill I opposed for constitutional reasons. Additionally, I want the IRS eliminated, not given more taxpayer money with which to further harass taxpayers.
     It wasn’t, however, the IRS budget increase which caught the fancy of newspaper editors and American citizens. Rather, it was the failure by Congress to follow its recent trend of invalidating its automatic cost-of-living pay-raise increase of 2.3 percent.
     Under reforms passed by Congress in 1989, Congress was automatically given a cost-of-living adjustment, at a rate ½ of one percent below all other federal employees. Every year since 1989, Congress has voted to disallow its COLA pay increase. This year, the leadership of both parties evidently decided Congress should get this pay raise so the appropriation came to the House floor for a vote under a rule forbidding an amendment to stop the “automatic” increase could be offered. This situation further strengthened my justifications for voting against the entire measure in the first place. Congressmen currently are paid $133,600 annually with a massive, lucrative taxpayer funded pension program, in which I do not participate.
     Unfortunately for the taxpayer, many members of Congress evidently believed the IRS was deserving of even more of your money and the House passed this appropriations bill. The bill will also be considered by the Senate where there is some opposition to the de facto pay raise.
     Sadly, though, there seems to be no real opposition in the Senate to increasing the IRS budget. There is a lot of talk about IRS reform, yet Congress increases its budget while the media diverts our attention. Unfortunately we are not on the verge of true IRS reform.
     This week Congress will be considering several pieces of legislation, including HR 901, a measure I have co-sponsored. Entitled “The American Land Sovereignty Protection Act,” HR 901 takes a laudable step toward reaffirmation of the constitutional tenet that only Congress has the authority to make rules and regulations regarding federally-owned land, and not the powerful independent agencies. And now we even have to be concerned about the international government bodies like the UN.
     The federal government has no authority to erode United States sovereignty. According to the Constitution, all sovereignty, all authority, other than those delegated in the carefully delineated enumerated powers, remains vested with the people, not the federal government, and certainly not with the United Nations.
     A lot of politicians in Washington worry about the public’s perception of their performance. The politicians need to realize that only by cutting agencies like the IRS, not giving themselves sneaky pay raises, and actually passing constitutional legislation, will the public ever do more than shake their heads in disgust at the day-to-day operations of Congress.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 September 1997
Corporate welfare must be stopped; troops in Bosnia unconstitutional
Congress continues to ignore Constitution in the appropriations process

     Last week Congress continued to consider the various appropriations bills to fund the agencies and departments of the federal government.
     Included in the bills considered by the House last week was the conference report on the Defense Department appropriation for the coming year. In addition to spending more than $5 billion more than the last fiscal year, this budget continues funding for the UN mission in Bosnia. Sure, the appropriation bill contained a sentence or two asking, in a very soft way, that our troops be pulled out by mid-1998–but even this weak request provides loopholes so that the president may continue US involvement in the UN Bosnia operation. We’ve been hearing promises of extracting our troops “in six months” for two years now, and yet American soldiers are still in the middle of a dangerous conflict in which we do not have a legitimate basis for intervening.
     It’s almost criminal that we’re spreading thin our troops around the globe, putting them dangerously in harms’ way, for no national security reasons. Our nation is made weaker by letting the UN commandeer our troops. We need to get our troops back under our command, withdraw them from these regional conflicts, and concentrate on protecting our borders and not policing the world.
     Also this past week there was an amendment to the State Department appropriation which would have cut $54 million from the payment to the United Nations, because the UN owes the US for non-reimbursed expenses. While the big government advocates won, the measure did receive 165 votes.
     I’ve started to think that if I cannot have my way and see the UN go the way of the dinosaur, then I think we need to see the UN funded completely by the voluntary contributions of individuals. And ironically, it was Ted Turner who, having made his fortunes in broadcasting, led the way this week by committing $1 billion to the anti-capitalism UN. If the UN must exist, then at the very least the American public shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the organization which is diametrically opposed to US interests at every turn.
     This week the Congress has a full plate, including legislation re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im. The Ex-Im is one of the mechanisms by which politicians are able to use your tax money to subsidize the actions of big, multinational corporations. Besides being unconstitutional, the Ex-Im Bank runs contrary to free market economics. It is unreasonable that taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill for funding risky ventures by big business. The Ex-Im Bank is the welfare engine for corporate America, paid for on the backs of the American taxpayer. The supporters of Ex-Im readily admit taxpayers have subsidized more than $100 billion of big-business deals in this decade alone.
     Under existing law, if the Ex-Im Bank is not re-authorized by midnight, September 30, it will vanish. If it is re-authorized, we’ll have to continue putting up with the corporate welfare of Ex-Im until 2001. Rest assured I will be voting “no.”
     It’s time we stopped corporate welfare, and while my position is not very popular on Capitol Hill, I have been committed for many, many years to leading the charge against this immoral fraud, and I will continue to do so.
     Whether the issue is subsidizing the socialists at the United Nations and their stupid wars, or covering the tail of corporate America, the US Congress needs to stop using your federal tax money on programs and activities–no matter how well intentioned or how long they have been in effect–which are not authorized by the Constitution. Just as sending our troops to fight in the undeclared wars of the UN is unconstitutional, so is forcing you to work hard to pay taxes that go to pad the pockets of corporate America as they ships jobs overseas.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 October 1997
US shouldn’t cast stones with Religious Persecution

     For a long time I have advocated getting rid of the Export-Import Bank. It is unconstitutional for the federal government, using your money, to be subsidizing the risky business ventures of corporations. And often, these ventures involve giving large sums of money and aid to oppressive foreign governments, like China.
     So I suppose I could say I have good news and bad news this week. The good news is, the Ex-Im Bank no longer exists. The bad news is, Congress just changed its name–but the unconstitutional functions remain, despite the fact the bank is now technically out of “authorization.” According to the legislation which created the corporate welfare mechanism we know as the Ex-Im Bank, the organization had to be re-authorized by midnight, September 30. But because of partisan wrangling over who is the bigger violator of campaign finance laws, the re-authorizing legislation was not considered. So while Congress will likely vote the bank back into official existence this week, for at least a couple days we are technically without Ex-Im.
     The Congress did vote, as an amendment to the Export-Import re-authorization, to rename the organization the “United States Export Bank,” or USEX. Subsidizing big corporations is unconstitutional and violative of the laws of free-market economics, no matter what Congress calls the mechanism. Those who are addicted to corporate welfare have no need to worry; USEX will be doing the same thing as Ex-Im.
     For several weeks there has been a lot of talk about a piece of legislation entitled the “Freedom from Religious Persecution Act.” And while it is not yet coming to the floor for a vote, it is worthy of discussion at this time as some are referring to this legislation as a panacea to the problems faced by Christians and others living under totalitarian regimes. On its face, the legislation is innocuous enough; after all, who can be against stopping religious persecution? After reading the legislation as it is being proposed, I cannot help but wonder who is persecuting whom. This legislation calls for a whole new bureaucracy to be created at the White House, giving the president broad new powers to determine what is and is not persecution, and to impose sanctions against those countries he finds offending.
     The legislation cites for its justification not the Constitution, but various international agreements. It then authorizes the president to take action, without the approval of Congress, against countries he thinks are violating rights to religious freedom.
     In addition, the legislation prohibits federal agencies and U.S. persons from exporting goods to citizens within countries whose governments either engage in or tolerate “religious persecution.” There is great concern from many in the religious community that these kinds of restrictions would prohibit American missionaries from taking Bibles and humanitarian items into those named countries–the opposite of what needs to occur if we seriously want to see positive changes in the nations persecuting their citizens for religious reasons. Several issues arising from this proposed legislation warrant discussion and debate, including constitutional authority and the morality of rights “swapping.”
     Religious persecution in any form is reprehensible, but especially when it takes on a violent face. It was for this reason our Founding Fathers insisted upon a Bill of Rights which prohibited our federal government from interfering with religious exercise by persons within the United States. The Constitution, however, does not provide the federal government the authority to police the world at taxpayer expense.
     Neither, of course, does the Constitution allow us to subsidize foreign governments through such taxpayer-supported entities as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, OPIC, Ex-Im/USEX or any number of other vehicles through which the U.S. Congress sends foreign aid to a large number of countries (including those who engage in religious persecution). It is time we stopped both policing the world, and funding the totalitarian thugs of planet.
     As to the effectiveness of trade sanctions reforming human rights records, the trade embargo imposed on Cuba for the past thirty years serves as a good example of the lack of the effectiveness of such a policy. According to Father Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest who recently discussed this topic in the Wall Street Journal, American missionaries operating in offending countries actual favor economic relationships over isolation, and see engagement as the policy most likely to bring about positive change.
     While basic human rights must include free religious exercise, those rights must also include the right to associate with others. To prohibit individuals from the U.S. from meeting and trading with the individual citizens of foreign countries–in the name of “protecting” human rights–is inconsistent with the goal we all hope to achieve. It is only by changing the hearts of those nations’ leaders that religious persecution will end. And it is only by allowing our missionaries and businessmen unfettered access to those countries that we will see those leaders influenced for the better.
     Perhaps the most important flaw to this legislation is the basic presumption that the US government should be meddling in the affairs of other governments. Under our Constitution, we as individuals have the right, and I would argue even a moral obligation, to right wrongs in the world around us;, but our government, under the Constitution, has no such authority. What if England had had a law like this in place in 1993 during the Waco debacle? How would we as Americans have reacted when the British government banned all our goods from being sold in the United kingdom because of the actions of our federal government against a religious minority? We would have been outraged. Can we expect less from anyone else? I think we should be very careful about casting stones.
     It is ironic that the same federal government which killed innocent children at Waco for their parents “odd” religious beliefs, now proclaims itself ready to judge the world’s nations on their religious tolerance.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 October 1997
FDA bill was no reform
Proves that while faces, parties change, Congress stays the same

     A lot of people ask me if I believe Congress has overcome the late-night, no-warning legislative maneuverings which for so long characterized both the House and the Senate. I would really like to say it has, but events of the past week prove otherwise.
     Out of nowhere last week came the stealth “Prescription Drug User Fee Re-authorization and Drug Regulatory Modernization Act.” This bill was passed not only without opportunity for responsible debate, but even without a recorded vote.
     According to its supporters, this FDA-strengthening bill was more than three years in the making–a so-called compromise between industry, the Clinton Administration, and a bipartisan coalition in Congress, we are told. Yet, despite the fact the legislation encompassed 177 pages of text, making broad changes to an administrative agency and its powers, the House leadership did not see fit to warn Members of Congress that this bill was coming to the House Floor for a vote.
     When I decided to try to draw attention to the broad-sweeping nature of the bill–and the process by which it had come up for consideration–I was told by the bill’s proponents that “there is no time available to speak about the bill.” Instead, Congress and C-SPAN viewers were treated to a “love-fest” during which each of the bill’s drafters and advocates commended one another for doing a fine job of bestowing on the American citizenry yet one more blow to liberty in favor of corporatism and internationalism.
     When a 177-page bill comes to floor with practically nothing more than one-hour notice, one can very safely assume that buried not-to-deeply in those pages are oppressive, freedom-depriving regulations about to be forced upon the citizens. And sure enough, this measure was no different.
     This now-passed FDA bill requires that the US, through various international agreements, “harmonize regulation . . . and seek appropriate reciprocal arrangements” with foreign regulatory agencies. Opponents of this harmonization language correctly argue this “internationalizing” is very likely to limit the availability of food supplements by requiring prescriptions for dispensation as is the case in certain parts of Europe. Now remember, much of what the FDA does is already an unconstitutional usurpation of states rights, now this measure allows foreign governments to usurp the rights of American consumers.
     Perhaps with such “harmonization,” we will not only have a federal war on drugs, but a federal war on riboflavin, folic acid, and bee pollen. Soon, all Americans will be safe because we will have a federal police force dedicated to ending the use of alfalfa!
     Food supplement availability may be the least of concerns among those who still revere states’ rights and acknowledge the continued existence of the tenth amendment, but one section of the legislation, “prohibits states and subdivisions from regulating food, drugs, or cosmetics . . .” The bill permits the FDA to set national standards for cosmetics but it does permit states to issue warning labels and take defective products of the shelves.
     To the dismay of medical privacy advocates, the bill goes so far as to authorize the FDA to track patients who use certain medical devices for up to 36 months, and even to conduct post-market surveillance of these patients. Just think, a formerly overweight patient may be followed by an FDA agent to make sure they don’t regain the weight a few years later.
     The bill also limits the speech of manufacturers who claim health benefits on their product labels without the “approval” of a “scientific agency of the federal government.” Where in the Constitution is the federal government authorized to do this? Nowhere. And remember, it has been the federal government which has conducted bizarre experiments on the health of men and women in this century, but now they are going to be the ones approving medical procedures? The bill makes provisions for such “Scientific Advisory Panels,” saying they are to be made up of “persons who are qualified by training and experience… and who, to the extent feasible, possess skill in the use of, or experience in, the development, manufacture, or utilization of… drugs or biological products.” In English, this means the politically well-connected corporations which contribute to the campaigns of lawmakers will be able to fill these a panels with their corporate cheerleaders. They will be able to stifle competing innovative new products brought forward by less-politically-connected inventors; all done in the name of the federal government protecting the people.
     A bill making major changes to the Food and Drug Administration, and with such serious implications for individual liberties and for states’ ability to effectuate their constitutionally-ordained police powers, warrants something more than the stealth procedure by which this regulatory “bomb” was been brought to the house floor.
     Unfortunately, the names and faces of the leadership may have changed in Congress, but there is no reason to think the way Congress operates has really changed at all. Until we have Members of Congress dedicated to preserving liberty and following the Constitution, we can expect more of these shenanigans to occur.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 October 1997
Gun Control? Disarm The Bureaucrats!
Proves that while faces, parties change, Congress stays the same

     A cursory reading of the Constitution makes it clear that there was never meant to be a federal police force. The Constitution, the highest law of the land, explicitly defines the role of federal government and correctly reserves the authority, power and responsibility for police activities to local government. Why? Because it is at that level where potential abuses can be minimized by a watchful citizenry.
     Even an “FBI” style of federal agency, limited only to being a resource for investigations, was not accepted until this century. Yet today, fueled by the federal government’s misdirected and misapplied war on drugs, the hysteria surrounding radical environmentalism, and the aggressive dictates of the nanny state, we have witnessed the massive buildup of a virtual army of armed regulators prowling the states. This buildup is the direct result of the sacrifice of individual responsibility and the concept of local control by many Americans.
     The enforcement of the interventionist, welfare-warfare state requires a growing army of thriving bureaucrats. With special interests demanding favors, federal office-holders can only meet those demands by abusing the rights of those who produce wealth and cherish liberty. The resentment of those being abused is then directed at the government agents who come to collect, even though those agents are merely the front-men for the special interests and their elected puppets. As resentment toward these agents increases and becomes more hostile, the natural consequence has been for the bureaucrats–the intruders upon liberty–to arm themselves as protection against the angry victims of government abuse.
     Thanks to a recent article by Joseph Farah, director of the Western Journalism Center of Sacramento, CA, the surge in the number of armed federal bureaucrats has been brought to our attention. Farah points out that in 1996 alone, at least 2,439 new federal agents were authorized to carry firearms. This brings the total up to nearly 60,000. Farah points out that these increases were not only in agencies like the FBI, but include the EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
     According to Farah, even the Bureau of Land Management wants to be armed. Farah logically asks, “When will the (National Endowment for the Arts) have its armed art cops?” This is a dangerous, and ironic, trend. Ironic in that the proliferation of guns for bureaucrats is being so firmly–though admittedly stealthily–pushed by the same antigun politicians who publicly work to disarm every law-abiding American citizen in the name of safety. Which begs the question, “Safety for whom?”
     On one level I agree whole-heartily with the anti-gun activists. We desperately need gun control: we need to control the bureaucrats, disarm them, and then abolish their agencies. There is no constitutional basis for the EPA, and certainly no constitutional reason for allowing EPA agents to pack pistols as they declare every inch of your property a protected “wetland.”
     Force and intimidation are the preferred tools of tyrants, though not just intimidation with government guns. The threat of imprisonment and fear of harassment by government agents strikes terror into the hearts of millions of Americans. Four days after Paula Jones refused a settlement in her celebrated suit against the president, she received notice that she and her husband would be audited for their 1995 taxes. Since 1994 is the current “year” for which the IRS is conducting audits of returns, the government claim that the action is unrelated to the suit is suspect, to say the least.
     Even if it is coincidental, do not try to convince the American people. Most Americans, justifiably cynical and untrusting toward the federal government, know the evidence exists that since the 1970’s both Republican and Democratic administrations have not hesitated to intimidate their political enemies with IRS audits and regulatory harassment. Though the average IRS agent does not carry a gun, the threat of incarceration and seizure of property is backed up by many guns. All government power is ultimately gun power, and serves the interests of those who despise or do not comprehend the principles of liberty.
     I tend to agree with Charlton Heston, who recently said that the Constitution’s Second Amendment is the most important. Without the ability to protect themselves and their property, discussion of any other rights is only so much talk.
     A gun in the hand of a law-abiding citizen serves as a very real, very important deterrent to an arrogant and aggressive government. Guns in the hands of the bureaucrats do the opposite. The founders of this country fully understood this fact, it’s a shame our generation has ignored it
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 October 1997
By Any Other Name, A Tax Is Still A Tax

     Taxes took the forefront last week on Capitol Hill, as Congress again voted to increase them, while I introduced legislation to cut taxes and signed a pledge to abolish the IRS.
     A short time watching Congress makes it clear that the favorite scam on Capitol Hill is “bait-and-switch.” Last week, they baited America with meager education reform, and switched it out with a tax increase.
     For a long time I have supported getting the federal government completely out of the education system. Not only is there no constitutional role for the federal government in our schools, but we have very clear evidence that the federal government has decimated and crippled our system of academics.
     I prefer to let parents have the control in deciding what education options are best for their kids. I introduced HR1816, which will let moms and dads claim up to $3,000 per year per child in tax credits to pay for their kids education and education-related expenses.
     While my legislation is still working its way through the committee process, I signed on as an original cosponsor to a bill to let parents create special education savings accounts with tax-free interest. While this legislation was not as strong as I would have liked, I favor anything that gives parents more control over education.
     But in the process of bringing the bill to the floor, the House leadership altered the legislation, adding language which, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, will increase taxes by more than a billion dollars over the next two years. The bill increases taxes by overturning a taxpayer-friendly tax court ruling on how businesses are taxed on pay-outs for employee vacation time. In short, the employer pays more taxes, the employee gets less money, and we all pay the cost in the prices at the cash register.
     When I found out about this scam, I immediately took to the House floor to decry the measure and the process. When I finished speaking, another congressman, without blinking, proclaimed that this was “not a tax increase” but rather an increase in “government revenue.” Calling a tax increase a method of increasing government revenue may be soothing to the politicians, but it does nothing to help the taxpayer who shoulder the burden no matter what it is called. To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, a tax, by any other name, still costs the taxpayers their living.
     Sadly, the revised measure passed, and while there might be a few people who benefit from the barely-positive portion of the bill, Congress managed to raise taxes by over a billion dollars over the next two years. And that will hurt us all.
     While Congress was voting to increase taxes, I took it upon myself to draft and introduce legislation to repeal the Clinton tax increase on Social Security benefits. Back in 1993, President Clinton and his willing allies in Congress increased the taxes senior citizens pay on Social Security benefits. Republicans correctly balked and even made repealing this measure a popular part of their 1994 Contract with America. But the repeal never got off the ground.
     So now, some four years after saddling seniors with this oppressive tax, I introduced the Social Security Beneficiaries Tax Reduction Act. My legislation very simply repeals the Clinton tax increase. The Clinton is bad in many ways, but especially when you realize that they force us to pay into the Social Security system, which the politicians mismanage, they dictate to us when we can retire and utilize those funds, and finally they tax those very benefits. It is essentially taxation on our taxes.
     But I’m not content to stop there. I want to give all Americans big tax relief by cutting taxes significantly and across-the-board. I signed a pledge this past week to vote to abolish the IRS and the income tax. Abolishing the IRS and income tax must be immediate priorities, and I am committed to slaying these two beasts. Our people and our economy need not only a much lower level of taxation, but a lower level of government spending. If we only abolish the income tax and do nothing to cut government spending, in the long run nothing will have been gained.
     While I pledge to vote to abolish the IRS and income tax at the first opportunity, I also pledge that at every step along the way, with every vote I cast, to cut government spending.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 November 1997
IRS reform is big news, but “fast-track” bill attacks the Constitution

     When Congress convenes this week, two items are sure to get a lot of attention. One represents a further blow to our constitutional government, while the second is a token, symbolic wave at the IRS.
     I strongly oppose HR 2621, the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Authorities Act, also known as “fast-track.” Constitutionally, treaties are the responsibility of the President to negotiate and the Senate to ratify by a two-thirds majority. During the constitutionally proscribed process, the Senate can make changes to sections it finds offensive or improper. As such, the role of the House of Representatives in the treaty process should be a relatively meager one. They try to get around this by claiming that these “agreements” are somehow different from constitutionally described treaties; but that is only so much fast-talk. In practice, a treaty and these agreements are the same thing.
     Under “fast-track,” the president still negotiates measures with foreign governments, then, if he has declared it necessary for trade, the agreement goes before the entire Congress, both the House and Senate. However, there are strict limits on debate–and therefore opposition–and there is no opportunity for Congress to make any changes. Further, this legislation forces the trade agreements to be placed as the highest priority on Congress’ schedule.
     Fast-track is the process by which our nation was saddled with the harmful North American Free Trade Agreement. I favor the notion of removing trade barriers, and the quickening of the process by which these barriers can be eradicated. But free trade does not require massive NAFTA-like documents which impose extensive government regulatory burdens upon citizens of signatory countries. Free trade agreements should be far less complex, bilateral, and not require formation of international bodies for their enforcement.
     The second piece of legislation which is going to be making headlines this week will be HR 2292, the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act.
     I think there are few issues more important than ridding our nation of the income tax and the IRS. The basic premise of the income tax is that government has first claim on everything we as individuals do, a complete contradiction to our national heritage. From that premise comes the IRS, which has been publicly unveiled as perhaps the most oppressive agency operating in our government today. The IRS can seize people’s homes, bank accounts and property, all under mere suspicion or wrong-doing, without proof. Using the complex intricacies of the tax code, the IRS can justify penalizing anyone, for anything, for it is almost impossible for anyone to be in complete and total compliance with the endless laws and bureaucratic rules.
     And so when someone comes forward with a proposal to reform and restructure the IRS, attention must be paid. I’m hopeful this legislation will be more than just symbolism, the people want real change.
     Last week a high school junior from Fayetteville, located in the center of my district, was in Washington for a youth conference. He stopped by the office and we had the opportunity to visit about his plans and questions. At one point I asked him what he thought the biggest concerns were in the minds of his parents. Without hesitation, or even a moment of thought, he responded with a single word: taxes.
     He went on to explain that even he, as a 16-year-old working at a summer job, had come to see taxes as one of the biggest problems Americans face. He said that while he was making about $6 an hour working in a machinist shop, he would be horrified when he got his paycheck and saw that more than a hundred dollars would be removed each week to pay for the multitude of federal taxes.
     When I told him that most people work half the year just to pay taxes, he wasn’t even phased. He had seen what the politicians in Washington refuse to see: government is taking too much of our money.
     Until Congress addresses the problem of how much money they are taking from us–and therefore addressing how much money the federal government is spending–any tinkering with the structure of the IRS, or adjustments to the way taxes are collected, are just window-dressing.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 November 1997
Communist China shouldn’t be financed by US
Congress takes steps towards implementing Paul’s China policy

     Each year the people of the United States write a check to subsidize China, one of the most brutal, anti-American regimes in the world. It has been in vogue of late for everyone in Washington, it seems, to eagerly denounce the egregious abuses of the Chinese people at the hands of the communist dictators. Yet no one in our federal government has been willing to take China on in any meaningful way.
     Very few people realize that China is one of the biggest beneficiaries of American subsidization. Thanks to the largess of the Congress and the President, China enjoys subsidized trade and the flow of US taxpayers cash into Beijing’s coffers.
     I was pleased to introduce a piece of legislation several months ago which would have ended the $4 billion subsidy our nation quietly gives China through the US government’s Export-Import Bank. The bank underwrites the purchases of goods and services by the Chinese government and others around the world. Unfortunately, only 37 Republicans and three Democrats supported my measure. Apparently, the Congress just wasn’t willing to take that big of a step in ending US support of the Communist reign of terror.
     But this past week, Congress took a few, very small, baby-steps in the direction I have long advocated.
     Of the numerous measures which came before the House of Representatives late in the week, perhaps the best was one discussed and voted upon Thursday night. While it was not as strong as the measure I introduced, by passing overwhelmingly, it signals a changing attitude in Congress. Simply, the measure calls on the United States’ representatives on the World Bank and other international governmental bodies to begin voting against giving China loans and subsidies. At present, China receives more than $4 billion from those organizations, which are themselves financed heavily by the United States.
     There is no constitutional authority for the United States to make loans to any country, and certainly no basis for giving away the hard-earned cash of Americans to communist leaders who brutalize their women and children with forced abortions, and persecute Christians for their faith.
     In reality, there is very little the federal government can do about the conditions in China. Under our Constitution, the federal government simply does not have the authority to go in and point a gun at the Chinese leaders, and force them to respect the principles of liberty. It just doesn’t work that way. I tend to believe that by Americans engaging the Chinese people, opening personal dialogues, and by seeking to change the hearts of the people of China, we will soon see that regime collapse. The laws of economics dictates that a communist system cannot stand for long. But in the same way, I firmly believe, there is a higher law which dictates that when people are exposed to the principles of liberty, they will not for long allow themselves to a shackled to an oppressive government.
     So while the Constitution does not allow the federal government to send America’s sons into battle over the living conditions in China, there is also no constitutional basis for sending our tax dollars over to support the very dictatorship we rightly despise.
     The measure passed by the House of Representatives last week is a small step toward denying the Beijing communists access to the easy money which has propped up their country for last several decades. It’s just a step, but we had to start somewhere.
     
     And, who knows, maybe next year–when I will again have the opportunity to introduce my amendment to end US subsidy of China–we will see more Members of Congress willing to stop handing the monster of Asia a $4 billion check. Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 17 November 1997
Congress has finished for the year, but fast-track is not dead
Serious debate on presidential power derided, principle of free-trade weakened

     An American wit once said that every man’s life or property is in danger when Congress is in session. If that’s true, then America is safe at least until the end of January because Congress finished its legislative business for the year last week. But all is not closed on the issue of trade.
     Besides the closure of the session, last week also saw the process known as “fast-track” derailed as it was pulled from consideration even though leaders on both sides of the political aisle–from the president and speaker of the House on down–claimed fast-track is the most important, “bi-partisan” legislation of 1997. But is fast-track dead? Hardly.
     This 25-year-old process is ingrained in the political process and will not soon disappear. The imperial presidency is alive and well as Congress continues the process of ceding power to the executive branch through such processes as the Line Item Veto, administrative law, the War Powers Act, executive orders and trade negotiations. As Congress–and especially the House–reneges on its responsibilities under the concept of separation of powers, the people suffer by loosing their most important conduit to the federal government.
     Members of Congress opposed Fast-Track for various reasons: some sensible, some less so. Serious proponents of fast-track claimed their support came from a dedication to free trade. Less serious supporters were swayed by political deals, threats and even pressure from financial supporters. This process is nothing new, but record offers were made to persuade Members of Congress to change their vote and support the fast-track authority–regardless of party affiliation. Making up the bulk of opposition to the authority were congressmen supporting the unions and the protectionists, really concerned only about their particular niches.
     And then there were the laissez-faire capitalists, proponents of individual liberty and low-tariffs, positions held by a scant few. We opposed the fast-track authority for what it is: an unconstitutional shift of power designed to promote managed trade to benefit the politically connected. But the arguments of principled free-traders were cavalierly dismissed by the supporters of fast-track; thoughtful opposition is not allowed when it comes to violating the Constitution.
     In fact, those offering reasonable arguments against fast-track were often ridiculed by proponents as “hiding behind the Constitution.” Discussions of concern about damage to American sovereignty were labeled as “nutty” and derided as being tinged with “black helicopter” fever. So much for serious debate on public policy!
     There are two points of interest worth noting. First, most members of the pro-fast-track movement have, in the past promoted ceding war-making authority to the UN, used taxpayer-money to bail-out big corporations, and sent ever-increasing sums of your money overseas in foreign aid to dictators. With all that, is it any wonder there has been a populist backlash, led by the very different likes of Ralph Nadar and Pat Buchanan?
     Second, the fast-track backers claimed to be the defenders of free-trade, yet they have no history of ever promoting free market economics and sound money. Instead they prefer to manage a welfare state and use the mechanisms of the Export-Import Bank, the World Bank, foreign aid, and the federal reserve system to benefit their corporate friends.
     So why the sudden rhetoric of free-trade to prop-up fast-track? Could it be that fast-track, the process which gave us NAFTA, has, in reality, nothing to do with free trade? Could it be that the real protectionists–the protectors of the big corporations–have realized that fast-track serves their interests by promoting a managed trade system that benefits the existing players at the expense of upstart competitors? Certainly. The ready willingness to grant exemptions to various industries and commodities during the negotiations suggests less than a principled effort to promote free and unhampered trade.
     Fast-track is the solution to a non-existent problem. There is no reason why free trade–if that is really the desired goal–cannot be accomplished without existing structure. Agreements can be easily drawn up between nations in a simple, efficient fashion–with Congress’ full participation. Low tariffs and free trade with any country can be accomplished with an agreement less than one page in length, it’s only when protections for various industries, bonuses for certain corporations, are added in fine print that the agreements turn into novels.
     The whole debate over fast-track, slow-track and trade barriers completely ignores a very simple reality: countries that impose high tariffs on the people suffer much more so than the countries hoping to export products to them.
     The fast-track deliberation has had the effect, either by design or by consequence, to obscure the real need and processes for freedom in trade. While it is fortunate that for the many, varied reasons, fast-track was placed on the political shelf for the season, the set-back to those who would limit trade is only temporary. Expect them, and their rhetoric, to be back in full-force when Congress resumes legislative activity in 1998.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 November 1997
Neutrality and dialogue, not intervention, will secure peace
US foreign policy is senseless, derived from propaganda and ignores fact

     In recent weeks we have seen politicians and media personalities begin to beat the drums of war. While the overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein would undoubtedly be a positive event for that nation and the world, those who have fervently called for American involvement and intervention have misunderstood the problems and ignored the costs.
     Most fundamentally, U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq is flawed; it totally ignores history, and reflects a lack of understanding of long-time justifiable Arab distrust of the West. The Middle East has been savaged and ruled by outsiders for a thousand years, and U.N. quick-fixes will only aggravate the understandable resentment of those seen as foreign infidels by the Arabs.
     Regardless of how we may judge the merits of each war or occupation over the past 1000 years, the Arab mind is deeply influenced by the history of Roman, European, and now American meddling. Even the current borders between Middle Eastern countries have been imposed and enforced by outsiders without regard to the history of the region. This is not to argue who is right or who is wrong in each dispute but to emphasize the long-standing nature of the conflicts in the region that prevents a solution coming from the West. Arabs see U.N. policy as U.S. policy, and believe it to be anti-Arab, something that U.S. bombs only re-enforce.
     There is no direct national security interests for us to be in Iraq. We are not the policeman of the world, we can’t afford it, and our interventionist efforts usually backfire. Our policy in this region has been designed more to promote the United Nations than to deal with any threat to our national security. Control of the region’s huge oil reserves is a much more important factor than U.S. security.
     The cost of such an involvement is very high, and dependent on the immoral use of force. It is argued that the Persian Gulf War was a “cheap” war because less than 200 American military personnel lost their lives. But I argue that even if only one life is needlessly lost, the cost is too high. The billions of dollars spent obviously is a major cost to the American taxpayer. And with an estimated 35,000 military personnel suffering from the Gulf War Syndrome, a final price has yet to be determined. And horribly, the “price” innocent Iraqi civilians pay is seemingly of no concern to our policy makers.
     During the 60-day Persian Gulf War, more bombs were dropped on Iraq than all the bombs dropped on Germany in World War II. Yet instability remains and hatred of America increases. Many years of experience should demonstrate that further hostilities toward Iraq benefits Hussein as his people rally more strongly around him with each increase in sanctions.
     Current American policy has fractured the weak alliance that was bought in the Persian Gulf War: Russia, France, China, Egypt and others have urged that no military force be used at all.
     According to a recent Associated Press news story, Kuwait’s leaders and citizens are opposed to US interference with Iraq; remember, this is the same nation we went to war for after Iraq invaded them six years ago. If the people most vulnerable to Iraqi aggression are not anxious to see military might used against Hussein, they are sending a strong message to us about the wisdom of using force at this time.
     A popular conservative talk show host has suggested that the solution to the dilemma might be an alliance with Iran, for the purpose of destroying Iraq. This reflects the senselessness of foreign policy in the region. In the early 1980’s, when Iraq was using poison gases against Iran, we were Iraq’s allies. In essence, we subsidized the very weapons we now want to kill Hussein for possessing.
     Our foreign policy is without sense or reason. We subsidize China to the tune of many billions of dollars, although their record on human rights is every bit as bad as Iraq. Not only that, but China probably represents the greatest threat to world peace of all the countries in the world. Further, we are currently bailing-out Indonesia, although it too, violates the civil liberties of their own people. The U.S. criticizes Iraq for the treatment of the Kurds; yet Turkey’s policy is the same and we reward them with more American dollars. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have hardly been champions of civil liberties for minority religious groups or women, and yet we sacrificed American lives for them. The determining factor in all this seems to be who’s controlling the oil. Human rights issues and provoked threats from Hussein seem to be nothing more than propaganda tools for the politicians.
     The main goal of American policy appears to be to kill Hussein. If there was a clear understanding of this region, one would realize that this would probably lead to more chaos, more hatred toward America, and most likely cause a greater threat of terrorism here in the United States.
     Policy toward Iraq is based on the special interests of powerful financial and oil interests. It is not designed to protect U.S. national security. It is instead a threat to our security because it may lead to war and loss of American lives, increase terrorism and certainly an additional expense for the US taxpayer. The hyped rhetoric coming from Washington which describes Hussein as the only evil monster with which we must deal in the world is a poor substitute for wise counsel.
     A policy designed to protect American security and promote neutrality and friendship with all nations would go a long way toward removing the serious threat to peace in the Middle East.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 December 1997
Congress ’97: more taxes, more spending, more big-government
New budget is the biggest ever for federal government spending

     With Congress’ 1997 legislative year behind us, I sat down to compile a list of the achievements of this Congress. The results were not encouraging.
     Perhaps a front-page article in the Washington Post from last week best sums up why I see the Republican Revolution has turned out to be one consisting more of style than substance.
     When I last served in Congress, more than 10 years ago, it was as a member of the Republican minority. Back then we spoke passionately about cutting taxes and ending the federal stranglehold on our schools, economy and property. When I was re-elected to the House in November 1996, I looked forward to serving in a House controlled by the party which has at least paid lip service to the important issues of cutting taxes and limiting the size of the federal government to those areas outlined by the Constitution.
     Like many Americans, of course, I have been disappointed by politicians who can talk the tax-cutting talk, but who walk the big-government walk. Perhaps a little too optimistically, I hoped 1997 would be different. I actually looked forward to being able to report to the people of the 14th District that Congress has finally come around to doing what the American people have wanted for a long time: cutting taxes, cutting spending, cutting the size of government.
     But what mark has this Republican Congress of 1997 left on history? The answer was to be found very early on, just after the new Congress convened in January. The very first “domestic” action made by Congress was to raise taxes. Over the opposition of only a handful of us, Congress voted to increase taxes on the sales of airline tickets.
     If it had stopped there, maybe it would not have been so bad. But at every turn, this Congress has voted, directly or indirectly, to increase taxes. Of course, it was often sold–if mentioned at all–as “revenue generation” for government, or, as “closing a loophole.” But the bottom line is this: Americans are going to be paying more taxes this year than last year, to finance a bigger government with more unconstitutional programs.
     Has this Congress, in 1997–three years after the so-called “Conservative revolution”–done anything to cut the spending and cut the number of unconstitutional agencies? No, not a one. Perhaps it would not have been so bad if Congress only had moved to stop the growth of these agencies, if it was not going to all-out abolish them. But this Congress has increased the funding for almost all of the federal boondoggles; the pornographic National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of (mis)Education, and the bureaucrats at the EPA, all saw budget increases.
     Even worse, Congress gave more money to the IRS–the most corrupt and hated of the federal agencies–than that organization has ever received. Americans say they want to get rid of the IRS, but the Republican Congress has given the IRS money to do more of their same old tricks. In fact, the Congress gave the IRS more than $700 million over last year! Sure, there have been some gentle slaps at the agency with legislation, but nothing extraordinary.
     If that were not bad enough, Congress has seen fit to not just escalate the funding of already-existing unconstitutional programs, but to actually add new agencies and programs which serve to benefit special interests at the expense of hard-working Americans.
     Last week, the left-leaning Washington Post ran a front-page story headlined “Budget Pact’s 1st Bottom Line: A Surge in Domestic Spending.” The story details, in glowing terms, how this new budget is “the largest amount of overall government spending ever.” Ever! And remember, this was the supposed “conservative” Republican budget. The spending items brought forward by the Republican leadership and approved by the House–over my objections–was more than what even the president had asked.
     But for as discouraging as 1997 was for those of us who seek to cut taxes, cut spending and cut the unconstitutional programs, there is still reason for some optimism. We should be optimistic because for the first time in many, many years, at least the rhetoric is on our side. Even the statists, those who love government intervention, are couching their big-government ideology in quasi-constitutional phraseology.
     While having a bunch of politicians talking about cutting taxes is not the same thing as actually having that money in your wallet, it is a sign that politicians are getting the message that the American public is tired of high taxes, big spending and intervention in matters outside the federal government’s constitutional jurisdiction.
     In this battle over federal priorities, those of us fighting on the side of constitutional government, individual liberty and free markets must not give up. The fact that the 1998 budget is bigger than any before it should spur us not into retreat, but more resolutely into action. Now is not the time for us raise our hands in surrender to the big-government advocates who mouth the rhetoric of our beliefs, but rather for us to speak more forcefully, work harder, for lower spending.
     History will unfortunately record that 1997 was the year Congress passed the biggest-spending budget ever. But if we work hard and wisely, then perhaps 1998 will be recorded as the first time in history the level of federal taxes and spending actually began to shrink.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 December 1997
Taxes and regulations will never lead to prosperity
“Command economy” stifling liberty, freedoms of American heritage

     We do not live in a free society, all the puffy rhetoric aside. In fact, it is accurate to say that we live in what economists correctly call a “command society.” But all is not lost, and there is reason for hope.
     In a free society, social and economic problems are solved through voluntary and free market solutions. Compassion is real and charity honest in a free society, where no one is compelled to assist another.
     But today, whether the problem is food for the poor, homes for the homeless, or medical care for the sick, our society endlessly calls upon government to redistribute resources contrary to the needs of the market and producers of prosperity. In fact, in government’s rush to distribute welfare, there is a total disregard for the conditions required to produce the wealth. So as they rob resources to pay for these supposedly humanitarian concerns, the government “do-gooders” not only harm those who work and save for their own families, the government hurts all of society by violating the tenets of a moral, free nation; finally, it rubs salt in the wound by crippling the very system needed to produce more wealth.
      Further, in this misdirected humanitarianism, great harm is done to the very people who are supposed to be helped by the government welfare: the direct recipients, who become trapped in a perpetual degrading dependency, and the working poor, who bear the greatest burden of taxes and inflation. In a command society, the government continuously says, “do this,” “do that,” and we must obey–“Or else,” hangs the threat.
      We are endlessly compelled to be licensed for all that we do, so as to provide government more funding for our trouble. Rules and regulations are all around us, from morning to night, cradle to grave. Government taxes life, taxes death, taxes success and taxes savings. We suffer from double and triple taxation.
      We run into government regulations, rules and paperwork everywhere we go. We cannot walk, talk, pray, or own a gun without a government sanction and permit, payable at the check-out window. We cannot drive a car without bells and buzzers and horns and belts and bags, all serving as a reminder that Big Brother is watching, just waiting for one misstep. Meanwhile, the rapists and murderers go unpunished. We are intimidated by political correctness to the point that innocent humor is a crime, and the law is laughable.
      Our businesses are subject to invasion at will by government bureaucracy without warning, to save us from ourselves, while destroying our freedoms. As the bureaucracy thrives, the command society expands.
      I see no evidence, sadly, of a reversal of this trend. We continue to tinker with the bureaucracy and talk of the benefits of block grants, yet we never are allowed to discuss in polite society the philosophic and moral principles which permit the command society to exist. In order for a command society to exist, individuals must concede to government the completely arbitrary use of force to mold personal behavior. For a command society to operate, the government’s threat and use of force–economic or physical–is essential.
      All decisions and systems of government have a distinct moral base. When we grant government the right to be charitable for us, we also grant government the right to force us to be charitable when we otherwise would not. And the use of force to compel an act of charity is, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, “sinful and tyrannical.”
      The command society is the epitome of sin and tyranny, though in our age it often hides behind the mask of compassion. We must not be fooled by the masks, and we must commit ourselves to work for freedom and liberty. In a command society, all are beaten to the lowest denominator, while in a free society all have the opportunity to soar. It is only in a free society in which the hungry are fed, the homeless housed and the illiterate educated. And it is only in a free society in which the creative are rewarded, the producers encouraged and the industrious promoted.
      Without a change in our philosophic and moral approach to government, we will find that all the adjustments, tinkering, reinventing and revamping of the “command society” will not and cannot bring us freedom. It would be easy to fall into pessimism and think all hope is lost for the nation, but that is not the case. While the politicians in Washington, DC, have accepted the “command society” point of view, the people have not. As I travel the 14th District, I am encouraged that the people are not being fooled. And as the Washington politicians start to hear the voices of those calling for liberty, there will be changes!
      After all, just as no man achieves political freedom after being forced into slavery, no nation can tax and regulate its people into prosperity and liberty. Eventually, the arguments for liberty and freedom will carry the day.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 December 1997
Kyoto treaty disregards science for a radical anti-American agenda
Environmentalism has become refuge for those opposing liberty and American goals

     In blatant disregard for the sovereignty of the United States, the well-being of American families, and even reasonable science, the Clinton administration last week sounded the trumpet blast of victory in signing on with an international treaty dealing with environmental issues.
     In Kyoto, Japan, delegates from more than 150 nations gathered to set new, international guidelines for reducing the so-called “greenhouse” gases. As one might imagine, the villain in the eyes of the participants were the “greedy Americans,” and as such we will bear the brunt of the treaty’s wrath, while communist China and the world’s other oppressive regimes can pollute all they want. Those on the radical environmental fringe, who organized this conference, have been using questionable “science” to raise the fear that some environmental collapse is just around the corner unless immediate, radical action is taken.
     We’ve only been able to accurately study the levels of atmospheric gases for some 25 years. To definitively claim today’s weather patterns are the result of naturally-occurring cycles, or part of a long chain of natural events, or something man alone is creating, is unsound simply because more data is needed. In the respectable scientific community, there is considerable debate over how to interpret the global climate data. Therefore, urgings for radical action based on claims that the earth is about to boil are wrong-headed. In fact, all available evidence points to the contrary, that the temperatures are getting cooler, on average.
     To be fair, many in the environmental movement are honestly concerned about man’s impact on our land, air and water, and are sincere in wanting only to do what is right. At a basic level, we all should be concerned about those things. But sadly many in the movement are more guided by a complete, unabashed hatred of free-markets, capitalism and the American way of life, as well as a complete disregard for the well-being of their fellow man.
     Using the shrill scare-line of impending natural disaster, the world’s opponents to liberty have become the world’s radical environmentalists… And the leaders of the international environmental movement. So while science is at best uncertain about “evidence” for eminent global environmental disaster, the radical fringe has not let facts stand in their way. And so we have the Kyoto treaty as a result; after all, no political leader wants to be seen as “anti-clean air,” no matter what the science says about the provability of the environmentalists’ claims.
     Under the terms of this treaty, the US would be required to make big cuts in emissions over the next 15 years, while Communist China–the world’s biggest polluter–is not required to do a thing, nor are the hundreds of other polluting Third-World nations.
     This treaty will wreck havoc on the US economy if it becomes law. This will force many industries to close their doors here and move to China (or a similar nation) to escape the new regulations, throwing thousands of Americans out of work. Further, limiting the use of coal, gas and related sources will increase energy prices not only for businesses, but the individual consumer as well. So not only will many families be tossed into unemployment lines by these environmental radicals, but many more people will face a reduced standard of living just to heat their homes.
     Also suffering under this treaty will be the sovereignty of the US and the agriculture industry. Under the still-sketchy terms of the treaty, the US will cede some control over the day-to-day policy and regulations of the American rice growers and cattle ranchers to United Nations bureaucrats. Why rice and cattle? Because rice paddies and livestock produce methane gas, which the radical environmentalists claim will destroy the planet. I hope this is not lost on anyone; the biggest threat to the planet apparently are not man-made chemicals, but rice and cows.
     Further, under terms of the treaty, military action would have to be significantly curtailed. While I am a staunch opponent of policing the world, it is unreasonable that the US government would be prevented from moving troops because of the terms of an “environmental” treaty. Of course, the treaty does exempt military maneuvers which are officially sanctioned by the UN high command.
     Perhaps the bottom-line of this treaty is not that polluting is bad, or that we are facing a massive environmental threat. The bottom-line, apparently, is that Americans are bad, and that the notions of free-markets, individual liberty and capitalism are a threat to the radical agenda of the international liberal-left. The treaty makes it clear that anyone can pollute, as long as they are an oppressive regime, a communist dictatorship, or have the approval of the international bureaucrats, though perhaps that is redundant.
     Providing for a clean environment is a noble and laudable goal, but this treaty is not about protecting natural resources. This treaty is bad science, bad economics and bad domestic policy. This treaty is nothing more than anti-Americanism masquerading as environmentalism, and it must be stopped.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 December 1997
Congress must bring American troops home
President pledges indefinite Bosnian involvement, despite reason and Constitution

     While many Americans are observing Christmas this week, our troops in Bosnia found out last week that the present they are getting from the President is an indefinite stay in that war-torn region. Of course, taxpayers get to partake in the present; after all, we are footing the over-$7 billion bill.
     What makes this latest announcement by the president unique is that he is finally coming clean with what many, including myself, have viewed as his real objective: to keep troops in Bosnia indefinitely, despite the constitutional and moral reasons against any involvement whatsoever.
     For hundreds of years the Serbs and Croats have been fighting, trying to get the upper hand on the other. When the Communists took over the region more than 50 years ago, an artificial peace was set in place; a “peace” brought on by the heavy hand of tyranny. When the communist regime crumbled, the old enemies were allowed to once again take aim at each other, which they did with a horrific zeal.
     It was in November 1995 when President Clinton ordered US troops into the region to police it and force everyone to get along. While there was, correctly, strong opposition to this foreign imperialism in the Congress and among the people, the President moved forward, promising that at the most, the troops would remain twelve months, and not a day longer, he promised. But in a sober address, he told the American people a few months later that the troops would need to remain in place until mid-1997, and no longer.
     Like so many of his other promises, though, the promise to bring our troops back was conveniently forgotten 10 days after winning re-election in 1996. He announced the troops would have to remain in place until June 1998, more than eighteen months longer than he originally, categorically, promised.
     The mission in Bosnia has been an unqualified failure by any standard save one. If the goal is to weaken domestic defense and inspire anti-American sentiment abroad by spreading US troops around the globe in pointless missions with high risk, then the goal has been reached. But if the goal was to bring peace, it has obviously not occurred. The hatred lives on, and skirmishes are part of daily life for the people in that region.
     If the goal was to reign in the bad-guys, that has not happened simply because in a conflict hundreds of years old, there really is no way to say who is and is not “wrong” by any standard that has meaning. The Serbian leaders have committed atrocities, as have the Croatians. Can we dictate who is morally superior?
     If the goal in the region has been to promote an image of helpful-Americans to all sides, then we have failed even at that. By aligning ourselves with the Muslim/Croatian alliance, we have alienated the Serbs. Using our standard of justice, we have arrested Serbian “war criminals,” but yet almost ignored the Croatians. How can the US claim to be “keeping the peace” when our troops have been used to take-over the television and radio stations which were pro-Serb?
     US intervention is only heightening animosities between the sides, a far cry from the stated “mission.”
     This week the President declared he would keep the troops in Bosnia until there is a firm foundation for a lasting peace and no more violence. Talk about arrogance! How exactly will we do this? By force? Perhaps, for there is really no other way. But is that the proper role for our troops? Absolutely not.
     This president, like so many of his predecessors, has engaged in reckless foreign adventurism with a complete disregard for the Constitution, the philosophy which founded this nation and the security of our nation. Our founding fathers opposed imperialism in all its forms, and rejected the notion of “foreign entanglements” except when the US was directly threatened.
     To counter the threat of foreign policy being dictated by special interests, the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, power to engage our nation in war. Only after a congressional declaration of war is the president authorized to place troops in battle. Yet presidents of the later half of this century have felt no need to follow the Constitution as they have sent our troops into senseless battles without congressional approval; remember Vietnam?
     Yet Congress refuses to act in opposition, for fear of being labeled the politically-deadly “anti-troop.” Sadly, it is anything but “anti-troop” to want our soldiers out of harms way when the situation does not involve us. In fact, those who put our troops in the line of fire for the sake of modern imperialism are the ones who are “anti-troop.” They are the ones who are getting our soldiers injured, maimed and killed. By removing our troops from the situation–or, better yet, not putting them there in the first place–we are protecting their lives.
     Perhaps more importantly, we could better protect the security of our nation by bringing our soldiers home. With thousands of troops in Bosnia and other “hot-spots” of civil unrest around the world, our borders are less secure, our defense less than ideal.
     Now the ball is squarely in the court of Congress, with the question being a simple one: Will we allow the President to permanently place US troops in harms way in a region where no US interests or security is threatened for the sake of playing the role of global cops? When Congress returns to session in January, we will doubtless have the opportunity to cut funding for this latest maneuver by the president. Until now Congress has merely acquiesced and let the president continue placing our soldiers in a perilous, ridiculous situation. But the time has come for Congress to act. We must reign in the president and bring our troops home before the situation deteriorates.
     American involvement in Bosnia is a dangerous policy, which defies both logic and the Constitution. Our president may be eager for a war record, but getting it at the expense of endless involvement in Bosnia is a price which must not be borne by our soldiers’ blood, or the taxpayers’ money. The time has come to end this presidential charade, to call his bluff, and prove that this Congress is pro-troop and pro-Constitution.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 December 1997
President opts to use taxpayer fund to bailout wealthy investors
Latest move done without congressional approval, gives Korea a free ride

     Using the old reliable excuse that it was in the interest of “national security,” President Clinton last week opted to obligate the money of the American taxpayers to bailout the troubled South Korean economy and the legions of wealthy investors who had made a mistake in sinking their cash into a bad market.
     Just a few weeks ago, the president and the Secretary of the Treasury announced that no taxpayer cash would go to the bailout, except as a last resort. Backing off from another promise, though, the Clinton Administration announced on Christmas Eve that it would go ahead and send almost $2 billion from the Treasury’s Emergency Stabilization Fund.
     This kind of frivolous use of taxpayers’ money is a sham. Under our Constitution, this fund should not exist in the first place, given the Article 1, Section 7, powers and restrictions on raising and spending money. Brought online by the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s, the fund was set-up to stabilize a volatile US dollar, not prop-up foreign currencies and markets. So even if this fund were constitutional–which it clearly is not–to use the money to cover the bad investments of Wall Street bankers and save the hides of Korean government officials is against the premise under which the fund was established.
     Further, the same section of the Constitution requires that Congress allocate taxpayer funds for expenditure, not the President, the Secretary of the Treasury or the Prime Minister of South Korea.
     But the stage was set for this kind of bail-out funding several years ago, during the so-called “Mexican Peso Crises.” Then, the US raided the Stabilization fund to pay-off another bad set of investments in a risky foreign economy. At least then the US was given collateral for the loan in the form of oil production revenues.
     This latest bail-out loan, however, is being given to the Korean government without so much as a cheap used car as collateral. If you or I tried going to the local bank and asked for a $1.7 billion loan without so much as presenting a trinket for collateral, we’d be laughed out the door.
     Apparently, though, if you are a nation with a bad credit problem and a history of making stupid economic decisions, you can come to Uncle Sam and get the cash without any question. Or, as apparently in this case, not even any real requirement to change your mode of behavior.
     Of course, Mexico and South Korea do have something special which makes their case easier for the politically minded controllers of the taxpayer purse-strings. Both countries had a lot of American investors wanting to cash in on lucrative deals abroad with the possibility of big payoffs. Of course, as anyone who invests knows, the bigger the potential payoff, the bigger the risk. But many investors today are eager to embrace the philosophy of free-market economics when it comes to making money and keeping their profits, but at the first sign of those investments going sour, they want the government to socialize their losses at the expense of the taxpayers.
     And since these investors have also heavily “invested” in American politics, it is easy for the politicians to use your money to help them out. After all, it is very easy to be generous with other people’s money.
     This bailout policy flies in the face of sound economics, of constitutional principles, and even old-fashioned common sense. But even worse, this policy immorally exposes the taxpayers to a tremendous risk. If Korea doesn’t pay back the cash, then the only way for the government to make up the shortfall is to come knocking on your door again and reaching further into your pocket. After all, neither this president nor a majority of the Congress has any desire to cut spending to cover their improper uses of your money.
     And while $1.7 billion may not seem like a lot to the quasi-socialist nations like Korea, it represents a significant amount of money to most Americans. By giving away almost $2 billion to a foreign government at a time when we face a continually growing national debt, proposals to cut benefits to senior citizens and veterans, and an tax rate of over 50 percent, it seems our national security and well-being is weakened by this maneuver, not mystically increased as the president would have us all believe.
     But then, worrying about real national security, the risk to the taxpayers, and the viability of our own economy, is something upon which most politicians prefer not to dwell.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. He may be contacted at his office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington DC 20515, or on the Internet (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 5 January 1998
1998 is a new chance to change government for better
Paul vows to continue working to push his popular legislation

     For many people, the dawning of a new year represents fresh opportunities. As I recently sat down to examine last year and explore the possibilities for 1998, I knew that there was only one resolution I could make in good conscience.
     Having already been blessed with a wonderful, expanding family of children and grandchildren, a beautiful wife of more than 40 years, and good health, I knew my resolution for 1998 should focus on the office with which I have been entrusted by the people of the 14th District of Texas. My focus in Congress for 1998 will be on providing an alternative to the Washington status quo, and remaining true to my Oath of Office. That Oath was administered a year ago this week and stated:
     “I, Ron Paul, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
     This Oath clearly that as a Member of Congress, I can only do those things outlined in the Constitution. And so I must “bear true allegiance” to the law of the land, and support only the special interest of constitutional government and individual liberty, not the failed ideologies of big-government, command economics and central control.
     But it is not enough–either by my Oath of Office before God, or my conscience as your employee–that I simply speak against those opposing our form government and values. Instead, I must work actively to introduce those values into the national debate and into the law books. As such, I will be spending a great deal of time arguing on behalf of passage for the legislation I have introduced.
     All too often the failed ideology of the past has been focused on taking power from people and giving it in ever growing portions to the government bureaucrats. I propose a different route, with legislation such as HR 1816, the Family Education Freedom Act. This measure would allow parents to take tax credits of up to $3,000 per child per year, so they can provide for their child’s education, whether that be in a public, private, church or home school environment. The future of education is found not in some form of government control, but in parental empowerment. While I will be fighting to end the stranglehold the federal government has on our schools, I have brought forward this legislation to make sure parents have the chance to provide for their kids now.
     And legislation like HR 2868, the Consumer Health Free Speech Act. This legislation would allow individuals the opportunity to decide for themselves what to believe about dietary supplements, health foods and herbs. Scientific research in nutrition over the past few years had demonstrated how various foods and other dietary supplements are safe and effective in preventing or mitigating diseases. Currently, however, disclosure of these well-documented statements triggers extensive regulation by the FDA, which is based more on protecting the interests of big pharmaceutical companies than sound science and good health. As a physician, I want to make sure individuals can examine the truthful claims of all sides about the positive and negative benefits of products sold over-the-counter in grocery and health food stores.
     I will also continue my work in promoting the popular HR 1146, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act. This measure represents a step toward halting the cessation of power from the federal government to international bodies such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, by withdrawing the US from the UN. Under our Constitution, the federal government–including the President, the Congress and the courts–is not allowed to give away power and responsibility to these bodies, simply because the power is not theirs to give: Only the people have the power in our nation. Under the auspices of these international bodies, American boys have died in battle not for American interests, or in wars declared by Congress as the Constitution requires. With each of these senseless deaths–from Korea and Vietnam to Haiti and Bosnia–our national security is inherently and irreparably weakened.
     In all, I am pleased to be sponsoring more than a dozen pieces of legislation, each designed to promote the interests of individual empowerment, constitutional government and much lower taxation. Further, I will be working hard for the more than 100 pieces of legislation I have cosponsored, all of which reflect the deeply-held morals, views and attitudes of the people of the 14th District, and our Founding Fathers.
     With 1998 comes a fresh opportunity to work for the future, to work for a society which respects the principles of limited government, individual responsibility and economic liberty. With this new year we have a new opportunity to usher in a future for ourselves and our children which is brighter than any previous generation has imagined.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 January 1998
Emotion should never dictate policy
When liberty is sacrificed for safety, both are lost

     This past week our nation lost a decent man, in the death of Representative Sonny Bono in a snow skiing accident. By now, everyone has heard the eulogies of Mr. Bono, to which I can only add that I am very appreciative for even the brief time I had to know him.
     Despite the sorrow, we must be cautious with how we proceed. Already there is grumbling of groups wanting the government to step in and regulate snow skiing, to prevent further tragedies. Those desires are fueled by the fact that this was the second celebrity death on skis in as many weeks, the first being the death of Michael Kennedy.
     But tragedies, and the emotions which surround them, should never dictate public policy. To allow emotion to overwhelm reason, to allow sorrow to trump reasonableness, is dangerous and can only lead to bag legislation.
     Accidents happen and cannot be foreseen. That is, perhaps, the single most true statement one can make. By the very definition of an accident, it is an unforeseen, undesired incident in an otherwise routine activity. It is incumbent upon us to take precautions against accidents, whether it is driving a motor vehicle, working around the house, riding a bicycle or skiing. But how does the government “outlaw” accidents, which is what some obviously propose Congress do when they ask for legislation to “stop” accidents from happening.
     The only way to completely prevent an accident from occurring during a particular activity is to cease the activity, or to make participation in the activity so onerous, so burdensome, that the activity might as well have been banned.
     In the emotion of the moment, people often say and do reckless things. For the individual, that can have deep ramifications. But when it is a single individual acting unreasonably in the throws of emotion in the face of sorrow, then the consequences are borne by only that person and his family. But when the government behaves recklessly in response to a tragedy, the consequences can be felt by everyone. This is especially true when politicians get in on the act.
     We can think back no further than July of 1996, when a plane carrying several hundred people suddenly and mysteriously crashed off the coast of Long Island. Within days, Congress had passed emergency legislation calling for costly new security measures, including a controversial “screening” method which calls for airlines to arbitrarily detain passengers just because the person meets certain criteria which border on racist and xenophobic.
     The politicians got to feel warm inside because they had responded to a tragedy. But now, there are complaints from airline passengers as they wait in longer lines. And, of course, the real tragedy is that not a single security measure could have prevented the explosion of that plane. It was an accident.
     Benjamin Franklin once addressed this issue by saying that anyone who would “give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” As we grieve an accidental death, we must make sure that in our sorrow we do not create a larger tragedy by allowing government to improperly take on powers and responsibilities it should not have, or to unnecessarily expand those that it does.
     When the government does this great harm is inevitably done in the name of “protecting” people. The scariest words in modern lexicon are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Government cannot protect us from accidents any more than it can tax us into prosperity.
     Our Constitution purposefully specifies the manner in which laws can take effect, to minimize the threat of rule by emotion of the moment. But then, our Constitution also specifically limits the powers the federal government, yet that has not stopped our federal leaders from passing laws which have no constitutional base.
     As our nation grieves the loss of a man of considerable and varied talent, let us not rush to remember him in a way which discounts the rule of law, which dishonors the notions of individual responsibility, and which ignores our system of government. It’s easy to look for a quick fix from government. But it is also very dangerous.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 January 1998
Government prescription for health is bad medicine

     No one thing is perhaps more important to the individual than their health. Our health affects literally every aspect of our lives; whether it is our jobs, our families or our recreational pursuits, our level of basic health is a determining factor in what we can and cannot do.
     But oddly, our health is perhaps the one aspect of our life over which we often have the least amount of say; a fact which should be troubling to us all, but particularly to those of us concerned about encroachments on liberty.
     As a physician, I often recommend to my patients that they never just pursue any one plan for fitness and nutrition; intelligent study, moderation and variety are, indeed, the spice of life and health. But there is an unfortunate trend toward restricting the access people have to factual information about alternatives to commonly accepted nutritional programs.
     In fact, there is a move to have the federal government regulate vitamins and minerals, to the extent that it is possible an individual could be required to have a prescription before purchasing Vitamin C. Or, if the producers of bananas continue to state, correctly I believe, that that fruit is among the healthiest things we can eat, the federal government will begin to regulate bananas as drugs. Sound crazy? Yes, it is. Once again, it is a case of the people inside the Washington beltway assuming they know better how to care for us than we do ourselves.
     Of course, it is done in the name of protecting people from… whatever; pick the horror of the day. But it undermines the basic, commonsense notion that people have a greater stake in providing for their own health and well-being than some bureaucrat living a thousand miles away. It also points to the ever growing disconnect between corporate concerns for the bottomline, and the desires of the individual.
     I will never make the case against the great scientific and technological advances we have made in fighting cancer and the ravages of age. But those methods are not always the most effective in a particular circumstance, and there is a great deal of scientific proof–growing daily–that following various regimes of nutrition and exercise actually cure some diseases and prevent others. I have a friend who specializes in chemical and radiation therapy for cancer patients, but recently he began using one day a week of practice to study and work with nutritional supplements to those therapies. While he is quick to point out his experience is not conclusive and that every patient’s case is different, he has been surprised at how many of his patients respond as well or better with the added nutritional therapies as others do in the course of more widely accepted, conventional treatments.
     We should not be surprised that the government would want to control this area which is so basic to our very lives. It is just one more example of government control. But unlike so many other areas where government regulation amounts to economic restrictions and time inconveniences, this growing trend can have serious and immediate repercussions in people’s lives.
     As the population gets older, and people seek ways to cut costs, they will want to look more closely at the benefits of healthy living and nutritional balance. But those who make their living from people using the expensive “mainstream” programs are not excited about that; after all, if someone can achieve good health simply by fortifying their diet with some commonly available vitamins, minerals and herbs, the pharmaceutical companies lose out. So aligning themselves with government, these corporations are trying to shore-up their profits by actually supporting new regulatory burdens in the hopes it keeps new ideas and philosophies out of the public market, prohibiting consumers from getting information on alternative health programs.
     It is for this reason I have introduced HR 2868, the Consumer Health Free Speech Act. This legislation will allow consumers to get factual information about the health benefits of natural foods, vitamins and herbs without the sellers of those natural products suffering costly regulatory burdens. Individual consumers should be allowed to weigh for themselves, preferably in consultation with the doctor of their choice, what is best for their particular situation. But for as reasonable as this may sound, and for as much in line with our national heritage of individual liberty it may be, this legislation run exactly contrary to the current direction of regulatory dictates.
     As individuals begin to consider ways to live healthier lives to be productive longer, it is imperative that they are able to provide for themselves and their families in the ways which best suit them. And if we have learned anything about federal involvement in just about everything–from education to crime to the environment–we know Washington is the last place we should be looking. Moreover, recent FDA reforms also challenge our national sovereignty by attempting to “harmonize” US regulations with the restrictive policies of other nation’s. Fortunately we were able to remove the application of harmonization language to dietary supplements but we still have a long way to go to achieve health freedom.
     Decisions about nutrition and treatment for living a healthy life need to be made in the home and in the examining room, not in Washington, DC, or in a pharmaceutical company’s board room.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 January 1998
Abortion and National Sovereignty: No Compromises

     On January 22, the United States observed the 25th Anniversary of the most controversial decision of the Supreme Court this century, the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. But the issue is more complex than simply abortion; it has become a part of almost every policy decision in our federal government. And most especially in realm of foreign relations.
     Recently, there have been attempts to tie the bare-minimum pro-life “Mexico City” Policy to the issues of funding for the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. But those attempts are now coming back to haunt those of us who believe in both the sanctity of human life and the inviolability of US sovereignty. I expect that very early in this second session of the 105th Congress, which begins Tuesday, January 27, we will see a “grand deal” struck which will see liberals “back down” from their opposition to a revised Mexico City Policy in exchange for conservative members voting to support funding of the United Nations and IMF.
     The Mexico City Policy was drafted in the Reagan years as an attempt to put some limitations on US foreign aide being used for abortions overseas. While I believe that those who put this policy forward were well-motivated, I believe that time has shown this policy to have little real effect. I have continued to vote for this policy when it came up as a stand alone issue in this Congress because it is a bare minimum requirement, although, as I say, I consider it ineffective in stopping tax money from funding abortions.
     I believe that the only real answer to the concerns of sovereignty, property rights, constitutionality and pro-life philosophy is for the United States to totally de-fund any foreign aide for international “family planning” programs. I introduced a resolution to that effect in 1997 and we received 154 votes in support of cutting off this unconstitutional funding program.
     In fact, the deficiencies of the Mexico City Policy are such that the pro-family conservative group Concerned Women for America has withdrawn its support for the Mexico City Policy all together. This, in part, due to the fact that while the policy prohibits funding of some abortions, it does not prohibit funding of all abortions, and creates large loopholes.
     Meanwhile, the United Nations and IMF are two international organizations which frequently act in a manner contrary to the sovereignty interests of the United States. As such, I have sponsored legislation to get the United States out of both of these organizations.
     Currently, the most pressing battle is to stop the US from paying phony “back dues” which we supposedly “owe” this organization. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett put forward a bill to stop any payment of this phony UN debt and I proudly cosponsored Mr. Bartlett’s legislation. I expect that these funding issues will be rushed to the forefront by Congressional Leaders within the next several weeks.
     We were able to put the breaks to the funding of the false UN debt and the IMF at the end of the last session of Congress by linking these items with the Mexico City Policy. For political reasons President Clinton has steadfastly refused to sign any legislation which contains any anti-abortion language at all.
     This linkage presented us with a short term tactical victory but its long term costs are now becoming quite apparent. In linking these two issues together an opportunity for a “deal” has become apparent, a deal which will harm the sovereignty of our nation and weaken the pro-life cause.
     The plan which is now being discussed has the Republican Congress voting to approve both new IMF funding and the payment of the phony UN debt, with the President agreeing to watered-down Mexico City language. This is no bargain at all. Obviously, the Mexico City policy is riddled with holes in the first place. Moreover, it is morally repugnant to undermine our nation’s integrity by trading votes in this fashion
     Worse still, it now appears that conservative congressmen are willing to water the Mexico City policy down still further in order to get President Clinton to sign legislation which shouldn’t exist in the first place. Thus we have Congressional leadership again backing down from President Clinton, giving in to his demand for unrestricted public funding of abortion even while compromising America’s sovereignty by providing further taxpayer funds to organizations such as IMF and the United Nations.
     Fortunately many conservative pro-life and pro-sovereignty groups are making it known that they do not support this so-called “compromise.” I will vocally oppose any effort to pay even one more penny of US taxpayer dollars to the United Nations or IMF. Although I believe that this “grand deal” has already been struck between the leadership of Congress and the White House I believe it is incumbent upon men and women of conscience to contact their representatives and speak out against this scheme.
     To date we who support the cause of life have compromised too much; it is time to stand firm. It is unconstitutional and immoral to use taxpayer dollars to fund even one abortion, whether it is foreign or domestic. And it is unconscionable that elected officials of the United States would consider using unborn children in foreign lands as pawns in a game that further undermines the best interests of the United States.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 February 1998
Bombing Iraq lacks support, common sense and constitutional base

     It appears the Clinton Administration is now ready to bomb Iraq.
     The stated reason, of course, is to force UN inspectors into every inch of Iraqi territory to rule out the existence of any weapons of mass destruction: an impossible and implausible task. While some will try to claim that the President’s personal problems may influence this decision (which should not be completely discounted), the real problem is the flawed foreign policy which underlies all our activities abroad.
     Why is Iraq a greater threat to U.S. security than China, North Korea, Russia or Iran? They all posses weapons of mass destruction, and at least three are hostile to American policies. It makes no sense that a petty dictator without weapons is the target of hostilities while big dictators with massive armaments are the recipients of US aid.
     There was a time in our history that bombing foreign countries was considered an act of war, done only with a declaration by the Congress. War is something to be feared, and thoughts of which should never be entertained lightly. It is for this reason that our Constitution specifically states that declarations of war, the initial commitment of military personal in armed situations, is to be made only by Congress.
     Today, tragically, decisions to place our troops in harm’s way are done at the whim of the presidents, though often at the urging of some congressional leaders without a vote of the entire Congress. As repugnant as it may be to our sensibilities, the UN Security Council and the leaders of our “ally” countries often have more say in whether or not our troops go to battle than the elected representative constitutionally charged with this decision.
     Trying to appease the military industrial complex and appear tough for campaign ads, many congressmen will make strong public statements goading the president to battle, going so far as to draft meaningless resolutions supporting bombings and military action. But they refuse to claim their proper constitutional role and take responsibility for sending America’s youth to die in the sands of a foreign desert.
     Poll after poll shows Americans are not anxious for war, and few constituents I meet offer any advice other than that we get out of the situation before it gets bloody. But even internationally the President is getting little support, in fact a lot of resistance, from our allies for his aggressive talk. Indeed, it is surprising to find that our allies in the Middle East, who are most likely to suffer if Hussein indeed develops weapons of mass destruction, are the least inclined to go to war.
     Several years ago we fought a war for the people of Kuwait after Hussein invaded their land. Today, the Kuwaitis are opposed to seeing US troops destabilize the region with war.
     A Kuwaiti professor was quoted in a pro-government Kuwaiti newspaper as saying, “The U.S. frightens us with Saddam to make us buy weapons and sign contracts with American companies,” thus ensuring a market for American arms manufacturers and United States’ continued military presence in the Middle East.
     And a Kuwaiti legislator was quoted as saying, “The use of force has ended up strengthening the Iraqi regime rather than weakening it.”
     Other Kuwaitis have even suggested that the U.S. really wants Hussein in power to make sure his weak neighbors fear him and are forced to depend on the United States for survival. Not a bad theory when we remember that the US supported Hussein as recently as nine years ago, and had until then for a decade supplied him with money and weapons, turning a blind eye to his policies and aggression.
     Sadly, our policy in the Middle East has served to strengthen the hand of Hussein and unify the Islamic Fundamentalists against the United States. Hussein is now anxious for the bombs to hit so he can further stir hatred and blame toward America for the pain he has inflicted on his people. Indeed, at every turn in this “crises,” Hussein has gone before his people and blamed the US for their problems. And the Iraqi people believe it.
     So no we are faced with the possibility of going to war, alone, for… what reason? To protect a region which says publicly that it does not need to be protected? Even now the groundwork is being laid for a war as senseless as the one in Vietnam, in Somalia and in Bosnia.
     I, too, worry about a biological or nuclear threat. But I see our cities at a much greater risk because of our aggressive, hostile policies, than if we were friends with all, enjoying economic relationships and open dialogue. The way we usually get dragged into a war is by some unpredictable incident, where innocent Americans are killed after our government placed them in harm’s way and the enemy took the bait. Once hostilities begin, debating the policy which created the mess is off limits; the thinking goes that everybody must support the troops by blindly and dumbly supporting irrational and irresponsible policies.
     But the best way to support our troops is to have a policy that avoids unnecessary confrontation and bloodshed. A pro-American constitutional policy of nonintervention would go a long way toward guaranteeing maximum liberty and protection of life and property for all Americans.
     Unfortunately, we cannot expect such common sense to prevail in the current political climate.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 February 1998
National testing averted, but education woes still unresolved
Washington is big part of the academic problem, not the solution

     As I cast my vote for a measure to stop the Clinton Administration from instituting national testing, I did so with a degree of reluctance. Not because I like national testing, but because the measure–like so many introduced in Washington–had less to do with principle than with politics.
     If we are to be a nation which follows the law, the federal government has absolutely no role in education. In fact, the federal government is completely excluded from having a role in education under our nation’s highest law. Our Constitution clearly defines what the federal government can and cannot do, reserving all powers and authorities not specifically discussed in the document to the state and local governments, and to the people.
     Since the federal government began interfering in education, we have seen a dramatic decrease in our nation’s level of academic excellence. Not because our teachers are worse, or because our students are dumber, but because the policies which affect the classroom make no sense. Our teachers have become mired in the muck of federal regulations which hamstring everyone involved in education. For example, in order to qualify for the taxpayer-funded lunch program for lower-income students, schools must accept a variety of rules and regulations. These rules have nothing to do with food preparation and everything to do with inflicting strange ideas and methods on our kids.
     Further, the federal stranglehold on education has all but removed parents from being active participants in their child’s education. Not because the parents want it that way, or because the teachers want it that way, but because East Coast college professors, who have more degree than experience in the elementary classroom, see parental involvement as an obstacle and impediment to their political power and agenda.
     In fact, federal involvement in education is less about any real desires to educate kids as it is about ensuring a power-base for the Washington politicians. Decisions that affect our teachers and students are made on the basis of promoting the interests and securing the livelihood of bureaucrats, rather than sound science and years of hands-on experience.
     That the federal government would want to now implement a nationwide test is hardly surprising. Such testing would only complete the big-government advocates real agenda of striping all power and authority from the parents, local school boards and teachers. With everything riding on the performance on these tests, teachers would be required to instruct their students not in the areas most important to them and to their future, but rather teach “to the test.”
     Even worse, “teaching a test” leads to a far inferior education, for the simple reason that uniformity of process and results requires sacrifice and compromise to the exclusion of all else, including excellence.
     So when legislation came up to prevent the Clinton Administration from implementing these national tests, I was ready to cast a vote for the Constitution and for American education. But as the process advanced it became abundantly clear that the real motivation of those pushing the legislation had less to do with a philosophic opposition to the federal stranglehold on education and testing, but rather a partisan desire to oppose a test created by this president. The legislation which passed Congress prevents a president from arbitrarily instituting a national standards test. The president can get a national test if he really wants one, he just has to get the approval of Congress first.
     There is no doubt that American schools are facing hard times. But the solutions to the problems are found not in Washington, but in the home and local schools. In fact, not only is Washington not part of the solution to our academic malaise, it is the root of the problem. While we averted adding to the problem in the near future, the best thing we can do in the long-run for our schools and our children is to follow the Constitution and get the federal government out of the equation.
     Sadly, the entrenched advocates of unconstitutional big-government have little reason to fear losing their power anytime soon: the attitude in Washington, DC, is still firmly against local control and parental power, regardless of the rhetoric.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 February 1998
US must not trample Constitution to attack Iraq

     It has been the accepted political notion in this half-century that war is a Presidential matter in which Congress may not meddle, and certainly never offer dissent.
     Yet no place in the Constitution do we find a presidential fiat power to conduct war. To the contrary, we find strict prohibitions placed on the President when it comes to dealing with foreign nations. The Constitution is clear: No war may be fought without a specific declaration by the Congress.
     The president has been beating the drums of war, and many congressional leaders have been goading him along. However, there has been no serious discussion of the Congress claiming its constitutional role in these matters.
     One example speaks loudly. As the legislative week came to close on Thursday, February 12, the Congress was told the day would conclude early. The final debate was heard in early afternoon and congressmen began to leave town. But I and my staff noticed something was up. Sure enough, a few minutes after 4 pm, we inquired and learned that the House Leadership, Democrats and Republicans, were taking the floor to show uniform and complete support for any decision the president may make–and especially for sending our troops to battle. I managed to get time to oppose this one-sided maneuver, and as I took up the time, other Members of Congress of both parties who still happened to be around, came to the floor in a rush, ready to make the case I was making: That full debate was constitutionally mandated, and that Congress, not the president, should commit our troops to battle.
     Earlier that day, I introduced HR 3208, in an effort to protect US troops from unnecessary exposure to harm and to stop President Clinton from initiating the use of force in the Persian Gulf. As a former Air Force flight surgeon, I am committed to supporting troops and believe the only way to completely support soldiers is to not put them in harms way except to defend our nation. Of course, those banging for war say they want everyone to support the troops by sending them into battle: a contradiction, at best.
     There is absolutely no moral or constitutional reason to go to war with Iraq at this time. To go to war to enforce the dictates of the United Nations, or to play the part of ‘policemen of the world,’ opposes the sensibilities of all who seek to follow the Constitution. I refuse to participate in action which would possibly expose even one soldier to risk when there is absolutely no immediate threat to the US.
     Even worse, the President and others promoting this war are arguing for military objectives which are vague and, according to experts, completely unrealistic. The basic flaw in our foreign policy since World War II has been a lack of objectives, mainly because none of the wars have been to protect our nation. Our troops went into battle for political or industrial purposes, rather than to achieve military victory in the face of a real threat. As a result, we saw years of war in Korea and Vietnam drag on, costing thousands of lives with no real success.
     Why does the American soldier and taxpayer have to bear the burden of enforcing UN dictates? It is simply immoral for the US to enter into a war which has no objectives other than to kill people with whom we disagree for the sake of looking tough on the world stage. The only moral war is a defensive war to preserve our national security.
     But while the politicians are talking about sending our troops to battle, the American people are becoming more concerned with the unforeseen, or, rather, undiscussed, consequences. Up to now, no one has been able to show that Iraq has either the ability or the intentions to attack the United States. Foolish actions against that nation will only make it more likely that American citizens and cities could be targeted for terrorist or military attacks. In fact, Saddam Hussein is hoping to provoke the very actions now being contemplated on Capitol Hill. By attacking the Republic of Iraq, and killing Iraqi nationals with our bombs, Hussein will have the political leverage to gain even more support, and the imperative from his people and supporters to strike back from the position of an underdog. Further, there is discussion of possible anti-West alliances being forged in the Middle East which actions against Iraq could further provoke.
     Finally, before committing our troops to this action and opening our people and cities to the possibility of retaliatory attack, we must focus on the consistency of our priorities. According to February 12 stories by the Reuters News Service, from 1985 to 1989 the United States and England provided Hussein with biological weapons–the very weapons we now want to kill Hussein for possessing, according to American and British intelligence documents.
     Further, we know that at least 20 nations are developing weapons of mass destruction, and there are numerous nations that already possess them. Does that mean we must attack them all, for fear of their possible use?
     According to the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. My legislation prohibits Defense Department funds from being used for offensive actions against Iraq without Congress legally declaring a war.
     It is a sad indictment of our government that it takes legislation is required to force the President and the Congress to follow the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, especially when dealing with issues of life and death for our troops and our people.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. He can be contacted at his office, 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515, or via the Internet (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 23 February 1998
Fighting for liberty takes place in Washington and in the district
Constituents demand less taxes, less regulation, and more liberty

     Four offices with full-time staffs working ten hour-days is all the proof I need that Americans have far too much federal government on their backs.
     Our Founding Fathers would be shocked if they knew how often Americans have to deal with the various bureaus and agencies of the government based in the federal city. In fact, when they framed our national government, there were no such things as agencies or bureaus, and certainly no plans for legions of bureaucrats who spread out and harass the people for such things as whether they have the lid on their typewriter correction fluid screwed on tightly, or they are growing too much or too little of a particular crop, or making sure they are teaching kids about sex in kindergarten. It was simply unimaginable to the people who founded our nation that we would inherit a land as regulated and as taxed as the one we face in these closing days of this century.
     But the fact that as a representative I have to maintain four offices–at the expense of the taxpayers–to handle nothing but helping constituents deal with the federal government is proof that the unimaginable is reality.
     Whether its OSHA agents banging on the counters of small business owners, or EPA enforcers inspecting the dirt of the farmer, or the IRS threatening single mothers and retired veterans, the American people have constant contact with federal agencies. There are some in our nation who like the current arrangement, and even believe the federal government should take on even bigger roles in our lives and business. Often the excuse for these ever expanding roles for the federal government is that we need to help people, or that some wrong can be put right only by some collectivist activity.
     Nothing could be more wrong.
     The American people need and want, they demand, less government, not more. The American people want fewer bureaucrats breathing down their necks, not more. The American people want to keep more of what they earn, not less. The American people want the federal government to get out of their wallets, off their land, out of their schools, and out of the way. As I travel the district I hear people telling me they are tired of the imperious attitude of politicians who dare to say they are coming in to “partner” with farmers and small businessmen through new programs, bigger agencies and, of course, more taxes. But when politicians and federal bureaucrats talk about “partnering,” it becomes a one-sided relationship with the government calling the shots and taking the rewards, while the farmer and small businessman get stuck with the work and the costs.
     Daily my offices in the district are flooded with calls from people who have reached their wit’s end in dealing with the vast myriad of agencies and bureaucrats, running in to the brick walls erected by the advocates of government intervention. To date the staff has been very successful. I think of the gentleman in the southern part of the district who recently attended a town hall meeting and told me how the IRS had been hounding his family for years over perceived mistakes. He had reached the end of his rope when he came to our attention, but my staff–using the bully position of the congressional office–was able to fight the red tape and the bureaucrats. His voice was strained as he told me that without my staff’s intervention, he and his wife “would have been kicked out of our house and living under a bridge.” His story is too commonplace for this statement to have been an emotional exaggeration. Daily we see similar situations with people of all backgrounds from all over the district.
     But there are those who either refuse to acknowledge the suffering brought on by the failed ideology of government intervention, or they think it is justifiable. And they want more of it. Just this past year, in the midst of the major hearings on abuses by the Internal Revenue Service, that Gestapo of American life, Congress sneaked in over $700 million dollar budget increase for the IRS. I caught wind of the increase and voted against it. We need less of the IRS, much less.
     Of course, those whose political ideology supports massive government will try to use the vote against me. And that is as it should be: the last thing I want is to make big government advocates happy.
     The people of the 14th District of Texas, indeed the people of the United States, are tired of people harassed by federal agents who are enforcing unconstitutional regulations promulgated by an unfair tax burden. I’m proud to be fighting the foes of constitutional government and liberty. But I’m even more pleased that so many people are part of the fight. History has shown that big governments collapse under their own weight, and that those who favor government intervention scurry to insignificance in the light of liberty.
     The federal government is far too big, and as I fight it on the ideological level in Washington, my staff and I are willing and eager to join you in fighting it on the ground.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. He can be contacted at his office, 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515, or via the Internet (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 2 March 1998
Never sacrifice liberty for campaign reform
Freedom and democracy should be enhanced by campaign reform

     ‘Reform’ is a word used rather carelessly in Washington, DC; a buzz-word used to give legitimacy to action, any action, regardless of its impact on our society. More damage has been done to our nation under the auspices of ‘reform’ than any other excuse.
     Despite the rhetoric, the proposed “campaign finance reforms” have little to do with liberty, freedom and democracy, and much to do with narrowing the choices available to the American people and limiting their ability to participate in the free exchange of ideas. And above all else, these “reforms” are designed to preserve the status quo and protect those in power. To maintain their authority, many in Congress are willing to limit the choices of Americans and trample First Amendment rights.
     I recently asked to come before the House Oversight Committee to discuss campaign finance reform as part of a panel. Congressman after congressman presented their ideas to restrict the American people and limit participation in the political process. They offered proposals requiring that the American taxpayer bear the burden of funding the campaigns of all federal candidates (of course, not all candidates would be federally funded, it was quickly added, only those who are deemed “viable” by the government).
     The problem, according to these congressmen, is the big-money interests trying to influence the outcomes of elections. But none wanted to address the root of the problem, of why groups are willing to spend so much money trying to affect an election. Groups do so because of the overwhelming power the federal government has over every aspect of life.
     Extensive power–the ability to confer financial and legislative favors–is now concentrated in the hands of relatively few lawmakers. If we remove that power, we remove the incentive to influence how the power is wielded. I wouldn’t mind getting the big PAC money, but it doesn’t come my way because I’m not considered a “good investment” for those seeking handouts or special attention at taxpayer expense; they know I just won’t go along. Big money flows to non-ideological candidates who have no problem tinkering with the markets to give advantages–or disadvantages–as they wish.
     The only meritorious reform is legislation to strike down barriers which serve to quash opposition to the big-government political factions. For this reason, under authority of Article I, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution relating to the “Times, Places and Manner” of holding federal elections, I have introduced HR 2477, the Voter Freedom Act, and HR 2478, the Debate Freedom Act. Rather than trampling individual rights, these bills actually enhance fundamental liberties and expand the exchange of ideas. These bills embrace, rather than disgrace, the First Amendment.
     The Voter Freedom Act prohibits states from erecting excessive ballot access barriers to candidates for federal office, while the Debate Freedom Act prohibits recipients of taxpayer-funded campaign matching funds from participating in debates to which everyone qualifying for such funds are not invited.
     If corporations conspired to lock their competitors out of economic markets the way Republicans and Democrats have locked competitors out of the political market, CEOs would be prosecuted under anti-trust laws. And the many of us are correctly calling for more parental choice in education, to improve academics. But Republicans and Democrats defend the status quo -protection racket by claiming we must limit the number of candidates down to avoid “voter confusion.” So while the American people can sort out the myriad of choices available to them for foods, entertainment, banks, schools and doctors, politicians seem to think voters are not smart enough to decide between more than two candidates (especially as there is often no substantive difference between candidates of the two major parties).
     That 90 million Americans of voting age refused to vote in the 1996 election indicates that a high number of Americans have little faith in the federal government, or at least the ability of either party to represent them. Over 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as neither Democrats or Republicans, and they demand their views be represented. It is unconscionable to continue to exclude from debates candidates who represent the views of 40% of the people, especially as the current system of financing forces taxpayers to subsidize presidential candidates with whom they disagree.
     As this issue remains in the forefront, there will be the opportunity to make major changes. The changes we make will affect the electoral process, which will affect the government which taxes and regulates so much in our nation. If we choose poorly, people will become more disinterested and the special interests will gain even more power. But if we choose wisely, we will present to the future a system more democratic and responsive to the notions of liberty so cherished by the American people.
     Choice and competition are good in our lives, imperative for a healthy economy, and an absolute necessity in free elections.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. He can be contacted at his office, 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515, or via the Internet (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 9 March 1998
Block grants are not the answer
While rhetorically popular, they fail to address real problem

     Block grants have become a popular rhetorical device, holding out the promise of restoring local control to lessen the Federal bureaucracy.
     Recent legislation marking the first major change to public housing since the Depression, did not cut spending, but actually increased funding paid for with federal taxes, even while holding out that the block grant system was devolving power to the States. A token effort similar to this was made in the early 1970s under Nixon called “revenue-sharing.” It did not work and was dropped.
     This new method will not work either. Whether the bureaucrats are in Washington or in the state capitols, it will not change the dynamics of public housing. Public ownership, whether managed locally or federally, cannot replace the benefits of private ownership.
     Further, the block grant method of allocating funds does not eliminate the need to first collect the revenues nationally and politically distribute the funds to the various state entities. Collection and distribution which has nothing to do with the reality and everything to do with redistributing wealth to the benefit of politicians and special interests. Wealthy states, like Texas, will never get their money back, even if every program is block granted.
     And of course, strings will always be attached, no matter how many safeguards are written into the block-grant law. The process of devolution is an adjustment in management and does not deal with the philosophic question of whether or not the federal government–or even the state governments, for that matter–ought to be involved in providing housing.
     The high hopes that this process will alter the course of the welfare state will, I am sure, be dashed after many more years of failures and dollars spent.
     There is essentially no serious consideration in Washington for abolishing agencies, let alone whole departments. If funding for the obscene, wasteful and wholly-unconstitutional NEA cannot be cut, which agency of government could we expect to be?
     The devolution approach is not the first choice of proponents of big government, but it is acceptable to them. Why? The calls for more spending are usually satisfied as the supposed advocates for smaller government agree to more money so as to get the symbolic block grants passed into law. In the end, all the politicians, in spite of the rhetoric, are content, because they can sing both sing pleasant tunes to their special-interests. But the taxpayer loses because the money is still taken, at ever increasing rates, from their wallets.
     Devolution is said to be a return to States Rights, since it is inferred that management of the program will be decentralized. This is a new 1990s definition of the original concept of States Rights and will prove not to be an adequate substitute.
     At the same time these token efforts were made in welfare, education and human resources reform, Congress gave the federal government massive new influence over adoption and juvenile crime, education and medicine. Block grants to States for specific purposes after collecting the revenues at the Federal level is foreign to the concept that once was understood as States rights.
     This process, even if temporarily beneficial, will do nothing to challenge the underlying principle and shortcomings of the welfare State. Time is against the advocates of big-government, but unfortunately, in the meantime it is also against the wallets and well-being of the taxpayers.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 March 1998
US should stop meddling in foreign wars
Faulty foreign policy often puts US in bad situations

     Last week it was Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis. This week’s devil is Slobodon Milosevic and the Serbs. Next week, who knows? Kim Jong Il and the North Koreans? Next year, who will it be, the Ayatollah and the Iranians?
     Every week we must find a foreign infidel to slay; and, of course, keep the military-industrial complex humming. It is telling that while Congress cannot find a way to make serious tax cuts or reforms to the IRS, reduce spending or erase the bureaucratic red tape, our national leaders can daily find new hot-spots around the world send our military and our money.
     Last week U.S. Special Envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard, while visiting Belgrade, praised Milosevic for his cooperation in Bosnia and called the separatists in Kosova “without question a terrorist group.” So how should we expect a national government to treat its terrorists? Likewise, our Secretary of State in 1991 gave a signal to Milosevic by saying, `All Yugoslavia should remain a monolithic state.’ What followed was to be expected: Serb oppression of the Croats and the Muslims.
     All our wise counsel so freely given to so many in this region fails to recognize that the country of Yugoslavia was an artificial country created by the Soviet masters, just as the borders of most Middle Eastern countries were concocted by the British and U.N. resolutions.
     The centuries old ethnic rivalries inherent in this region, and aggravated by persistent Western influence as far back as the Crusades, will never be resolved by arbitrary threats and use of force from the United States or the United Nations. All that is being accomplished is to further alienate the factions, festering hate and pushing the region into a war of which we need no part.
     Planning any military involvement in Kosova is senseless. Our security is not threatened, and no one has the foggiest notion of whether Kofi Annan or Bill Clinton is in charge of our foreign policy. The two certainly do not speak in unison on Iraq.
     But we cannot maintain two loyalties, one to a world government under the United Nations and the other to U.S. sovereignty protected by an American Congress. If we try, only chaos can result and we are moving rapidly in that direction.
     Instead of bringing our troops home from Bosnia, as many Members of Congress have expressed an interest in doing, over the President’s objection, we are rapidly preparing for sending more troops into Kosova. This obsession with worldwide military occupation by U.S. troops is occurring at the very time our troops lack adequate training and preparation.
     This is not a result of too little money by a misdirected role for our military, a role that contradicts the policy of neutrality, friendship, trade and nonintervention in the affairs of other nations. The question we should ask is: are we entitled to, wealthy enough, or even wise enough to assume the role of world policemen and protector of the world’s natural resources?
     Under the Constitution, there is no such authority. Under rules of morality, we have no authority to force others to behave as we believe they should, and force American citizens to pay for it not only with dollars, but with life and limb as well. And by the rules of common sense, the role of world policemen is a dangerous game and not worth playing.
     Acting as an honest broker, the U.S. may help bring warring factions to the peace table, but never with threats of war or bribes paid for by the American taxpayers. We should stop sending money and weapons to all factions. Too often our support finds its way into the hands of both warring factions and we never know how long it will be for our friends and allies of today to become our enemy and targets of tomorrow.
     Concern for American security is a proper and necessary function of the U.S. Congress. The current policy, and one pursued for decades, threatens our security, drains our wallets, and worst of all, threatens the lives of young Americans to stand tall for Americans’ defense, but not for Kofi Annan and the United Nations.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 23 March 1998
Security of the people’s liberty at risk
Recent vote suggests elected official more interested in politics than morality

     It’s not often that Members of Congress have the opportunity to take a vote which clearly states the intent of the Congress to either follow or not follow the Constitution. A vote which is not tethered to pork-barrel spending, special-interest giveaways or political land mines. Such a vote came up last week.
     Of course, when one sees the results of such a vote–when it finally comes around–it is enough to make a decent American blush, and then get very angry at the immorality of our elected officials.
     Casting votes on the basis of constitutionality is not about a political ideology, it is about basic morality. The moral choice is between following the rule of law or the whims of man. The rule of law gives us liberty, freedom and civilized society, while the whims of man gives us holocausts, confiscatory economic policies and pointless wars.
     Sadly, though, our representatives and senators, and our presidents, seem intent on following something other than the rule of law. They hide behind pragmatism, behind political expediency, behind the claim to be doing the “will of the people.” But the rule of law is about doing what is right and moral, not about what the mob–even if it is a mob of one with the government guns behind it–might desire at the moment.
     Of course, the law–the Constitution–is inconvenient for those who want to use taxpayer dollars to expand their pet causes or political ambitions. The politics of unconstitutionality knows no partisan boundaries in Washington, which accounts for the continuing upward trend of taxes, regulations, spending and, of course, pork.
     And so last week there came before Congress legislation stating that Congress and Congress alone has the power to declare war and commit troops into situations of hostility–as defined and clearly stated in the Constitution. It further stated that if troops are to remain in Bosnia, then Congress should take a vote declaring a state of war. Absent a declaration of war, according to this legislation if it had passed, the troops should be home in 60 days.
     This was a vote on whether or not this Congress, was going to vote in support of what the Constitution specifically mandates on the issue of military action and commit of American troops to hostile environments. No policies would change, just a statement of principle upholding the Constitution.
     The Constitution is very clear on this and every other subject. The Constitution, the highest law of the land, defines what the federal government, and the three branches of the federal government, can and cannot do. Everything else, according to the law, the Constitution, is “reserved” to the states and the people.
     At the core, every vote is a constitutional vote. US Representative and, later, Texas Alamo hero David Crockett, once quoted a constituent, saying, “The Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions… The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution… It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.”
     Sadly, 225 Members of Congress chose to ignore the Constitution and forfeit their constitutional-required role in foreign affairs. They had the opportunity to vote in accordance with the most basic, most clearly defined section of the Constitution to which they pledged an oath to uphold, and yet 225 of the 435 representatives chose to not follow the rule of law, but to allow the whims of man to prevail.
     When Congress so clearly votes against the Constitution a dangerous precedent is indeed set, and as Mr. Crockett warned, nothing is safe from the grasp of the politicians.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 30 March 1998
Methods employed by Congress as bad as the legislation
Major bills pass with no recorded vote to protect the perpetrators

     Often, the methods by which Congress operates is as bad as the legislation it passes. Take, for example, last week, when the $14 billion Foreign Affairs appropriations bill was unfortunately passed without a recorded vote. This legislation was the result of work by a conference committee of congressmen and senators to resolve the difference between legislation passed by the two Houses of Congress.
     For weeks arms have been twisted on Capitol Hill because the votes simply were not available to pass the legislation: there was plenty to offend everyone, but especially those of us concerned about the Constitution, national sovereignty and the dignity of life.
     With very little warning, however, the legislation came up on the House floor, and the measure was allowed to pass on a “voice vote,” without a record of who supported or opposed it. This surprised some of us who wanted to be on-record against this monstrosity, and it pleased many who preferred not to be recorded on this crucial issue. There were many in Congress–and in Washington–who wanted this measure passed into law, but did not want to be held accountable, on the record, for actually supporting it when the extent of damage it causes is later revealed.
     What was in the legislation? It contained nearly a billion dollars for the controversial “back-dues” which the United Nations claims we owe them, and which many of us believe is false. Further, it forgave the very real debt the UN owes our nation for the subsidization of various UN military actions around the world.
     Further, it was argued by some conservative “right-to-life” advocates that the legislation was worth passing–despite so many flaws and shortcomings–because it contained anti-abortion language purported to be “stronger than ever” and would finally be codified. Unfortunately, the reality is that the meager “abortion” language was weaker than ever before with a convenient, gaping loophole to allow the president to continue taxpayer-funding of countries and groups that actually perform and promote abortion: this is language which is now to be codified. That’s no pro-life victory; in fact, one could barely describe it as a compromise.
     The way Washington works is as if everything is merely a game; a game of who has power, and a game of once one posses any degree of power to hold on it by trying to fool as many people as possible. And the passage of this legislation is only one more move in this “game.” Sadly, sincere groups were willingly played like a fiddle, in the hopes that by supporting what is actually very bad legislation, they would have the honor of being “Washington insiders.” But it is that very “insider” status which breeds the distrust of the American people, who have to foot the bill for this dangerous game. And it is a process which unfortunately only adds to the cynicism many Americans already hold for the US Congress.
     The events surrounding the passage of the Foreign Affairs appropriations should not make any of in Congress proud, for it certainly shames America. The process, as well as the legislation, stinks.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 April 1998
Congressional action weakens national defense
America’s taxpayers, airports sacrificed for “world cop” policy

     Last week Congress passed more legislation which weakens our national defense and further funds the unconstitutional, fiscally irresponsible and dangerous practice of policing the world. And it was all done at the expense of America’s airports and public housing.
     The legislation was HR 3579, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. When I learned that this legislation continued the “police the world” programs, I submitted amendments to the Rules Committee to defund those aspects of the legislation. Unfortunately, the Rules Committee sidetracked the amendments, preventing them from getting a full floor vote.
     One of the truly positive aspects of HR 3579 was Section 3002, stating that “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available for the conduct of offensive operations by United States Armed Forces against Iraq for the purpose of obtaining compliance by Iraq with United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to inspection and destruction of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq unless such operations are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act.” This language is virtually identical to HR 3208, a bill I introduced in February of this year to require Congressional consent prior to any offensive attack by the United States on the Republic of Iraq.
     As a former Air Force flight surgeon, I am committed to supporting troops and believe the only way to completely support soldiers is to not put them in harms way except to defend our nation. Of course, those drumming for war say they want everyone to support the troops by sending them into battle: a contradiction, at best.
     Unfortunately, Congress has refused to acknowledge anytime recently that the proper and constitutional role of the U.S. military is to provide for the national defense and not the security of all foreign entities against attacks by all other foreign entities. It was for this reason that I submitted amendments to defund the military appropriations in this so-called Emergency Appropriations Act. The proper amount of appropriations for unjustifiable United States peacekeeping missions around the world is zero. Instead, this bill rescinds funding from domestic programs such as airport maintenance and safety programs, to be spent on our “police-the-world” program.
     While I am not overly excited about the federal government dictating the priorities of airport construction and modernization, at least it is tax money being spent here, to the benefit of the taxpayers, rather than elsewhere in the world with our troops being exposed to risk..
     It has become the accepted political notion in this century that war is a Presidential matter in which Congress may not meddle, and certainly never offer dissenting views. Yet, in the Constitution we find strict prohibitions placed on the President when it comes to dealing with foreign nations. The Constitution is clear: No war may be fought without a specific declaration by the Congress.
     There is absolutely no moral or constitutional reason to go to war with Iraq or further intervene in Bosnia at this time. To go to war to enforce the dictates of the United Nations, or to play the part of ‘policemen of the world,’ offends the sensibilities of all who seek to follow the Constitution. I refuse to participate in (or fund) an action which would possibly expose even one soldier to risk when there is absolutely no immediate threat to the territory of the United States.
     So as Congress robs from America’s taxpayers and airports, I suppose we can all rest secure, knowing that our troops are being scattered around the world, placed in the way of needless harm.
     Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t rest so secure.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 13 April 1998
Proposed tobacco deal undermines personal responsibility
In a free society, individuals must bear the cost of their choices

     An easy target these days is the tobacco industry; it is under attack by nearly everyone.
     It is true they profit from selling a dangerous product, but so do the manufacturers of automobile, airplane, guns, plastic bags and compressed oxygen, as well as food producers, drug companies and coffee farmers. It is indisputable fact that anything can be dangerous when used incorrectly or excessively. Even oxygen, the very gas which gives us life, can be deadly when used incorrectly.
     Tobacco company executives have come to symbolize much of what is wrong with corporate America and our corrupt system of special interests, favoritism, and interventionism. For decades, big tobacco lobbied for, and gladly accepted, subsidies, while anyone with a grain of common sense knew smoking was a bad habit that adversely affected some people’s health.
     But there were specific gains to be realized from the charade that surrounded tobacco sales. Pretending that smoking was a benign habit made it easier to collect benefits from the nonsmoking taxpayers. And the alternative, arguing for personal responsibility for risk, has hardly been in vogue for the last several decades.
     Over the past 50-plus years, responsibility for risk has slowly shifted from the individual to the nanny-state. And the tobacco industry has been a willing accomplice to this betrayal of individual responsibility, in the name of getting taxpayer subsidies. The reality is that big tobacco put the welcome mat out for big government, and now they are having to face the music.
     Fundamentally, though, the question is this: who has responsibility for our well-being? Who should make decisions regarding risk-taking and personal habits, the Government or the individual?
     During the Clinton health care debate, tobacco and nearly every other industry took the easy way out. They conceded that it was government’s responsibility to provide care for everyone; which means, of course, that it is the obligation of the government to force one person to pay for the treatment of the bad habits of another.
     When the free market works, medical insurance premiums adjust to reflect the cost of habits like smoking, sky diving, overeating, and medical preconditions. When Government pays, the concept of insurance goes out the window and everybody gets everything paid for, regardless of their behavior. This, of course, explains why people in socialized nations, like England, continue to smoke in increasing numbers. Socializing the cost of the consequences increases participation in risky behavior.
     Persons who have harmed their health by smoking have learned they can coerce those with good health into paying for the consequence of their bad habit. In fact, many who harm themselves through their lifestyles, not just a single bad habit, believe they have a right to be taken care of by someone else. This includes not only those who smoke, but those who drink excessively, or perform sexual acts which increase their chance of acquiring AIDS or hepatitis, or who refuse a proper diet to treat diabetes or heart conditions. To the extent one can lower the cost of a risky habit by having someone else pay for it, the less likely one is to worry about consequences.
     It is this abdication of personal responsibility that drives contradictory drug laws; we say a particular drug is illegal, which inspires the use of dirty needles, and then serves to further the spread AIDS and hepatitis. In the name of compassion, the government then forces non-users to pay for free needles so the addicts can keep using their illegal drugs. Nothing could be more bizarre.
     Not once have we heard a tobacco industry leader defend his right to sell a risky product, without fraud or coercion, to an informed consumer. In a free society, the user must be held responsible–absent fraud–for the risk he assumes, not the seller of any given product.
     Yes, the leaders of the tobacco industry deserve sharp criticism. Once precedent is set in this matter, it will be only a matter of time before the manufacturers of automobiles will be liable for all accidents, even if the drivers are speeding and intoxicated. Chocolate addicts will sue Hershey Candies, while people with high cholesterol can bankrupt cattle ranchers. The whole notion is absurd.
     The proposed tobacco deal does great harm because it further undermines the principle of individual responsibility. Undermining this principle not only drives up the costs of medical treatment and the products involved, it actually encourages dangerous behavior. After all, the typical response to future generations will be, `If I’m unfortunate and become ill or injured engaging in a particular activity, the seller or the Government will be made to take care of me.’
     If this attitude toward consumer risk and personal responsibility is not changed, the chances for a free market and prosperous society will dissipate like so much cigarette smoke blown by a breeze.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 April 1998
Giving power to parents is truly pro-education
Federal ‘solutions’ are biggest obstacles to academic achievement

     Everyone, it seems, wants to wear the “pro-education” label, yet the direction of academics in our nation is dreadfully off course.
     The ever-growing Department of Education–for whose existence there is no constitutional, economic, moral or rational justification–continues to promote a “one-size fits all” mode of education as it imposes more and more rules and regulations on our local schools which further removes parents and teachers from deciding what is best for the children, while giving more authority to bureaucrats in Washington.
     Of course, everyone now uses the token rhetoric of “local control.” However, when one examines the specifics of the plans being proposed–if such specifics are available–one has to wonder if the politicians think “local” refers to either Capitol Hill, or, at best, mandates coming down from the federal government to be implemented locally.
     But when it comes to “control” in education, rarely are parents, the truly responsible party given any thought or credence. In fact, parents are often seen as an inconvenience or obstacle to “education” by many in the edu-cracy. A dangerous attitude, at best.
     The reality, though, is that parents–not “well-meaning” politicians–know what options are best for their kids’ education. Unfortunately, America has been saddled with a tax system which limits the ability of parents to pursue the academic options best suited for their children’s individual situations. With combined taxes taking almost 50 percent of the average family’s income, there is little left over for low- and middle-class parents to even consider other educational opportunities.
     I have sponsored one piece of legislation, and cosponsored a second, which addresses this issue. My legislation would allow parents to take up to $3,000 a year per child in tax credits for their educational expenses, such as private, church and home school settings, as well as tutors, books and similar necessities. The credit applies even if the kids are in public schools. The other legislation is similar to Individual Retirement Accounts, but are for educational purposes. Parents would be allowed to set aside money in special savings accounts, the interest on which would not be taxed unless the money is used for non-educational purposes.
     By making sure parents get to keep more of their own money, they will be able to provide in the ways best suited for their children and their children’s specifics needs and abilities.
     But even when we see education programs working well, the federal government still manages to find ways to endanger them. A prime example is agricultural education programs, such as those run through the 4-H and Future Farmers of America. When a young person enters those programs, wanting to gain hands-on experience and education in raising livestock, a part of that process involves “shows” and auctions. The proceeds from such shows and auctions are the money the kids use to participate in Ag programs the following years, or provide money for college.
     Does the federal government stand back and applaud these young people bettering themselves academically, learning a skill and preparing for the future? No, Uncle Sam steps in and taxes the cash, meaning the kids lose precious money for school (making them more dependent on government aid) or the ability to participate in such programs the next year.
     To combat this, I have introduced the Agriculture Education Freedom Act, which will exempt from taxes the income a youth receives while participating in these programs.
     The more we can do to free people from the chains of government programs and mandates, and allow them to provide for themselves, the better off our society will be. But more importantly, as we free the resources of parents to provide for their children–and allow children to participate in programs that prepare them for adulthood–the higher we will see academic achievement reach.
     Beware the government program labeled “pro-education.” The only truly pro-education approach is to get the federal government out of education, and allow parents to provide for their own children.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 April 1998
No such thing as a free (government) needle

     Free needles, like free lunches, do not exist. Needles cost something–and there are some who believe taxpayers should foot the bill.
     After all, the advocates of government-funded “needle exchange” programs say, the pennies each needle costs to distribute to drug users is small change relative to the costs of health care for those druggies who become infected with AIDS, hepatitis, or any other communicable disease.
     As a physician, I can say with no uncertainty that it is far better for a person to use a sterile needle rather than a dirty one. Of course, it is also medically much better for someone to avoid putting harmful or addictive substances into their blood stream, or engage in risky sexual behavior.
     I can also say, without a doubt, that the policy of distributing needles at taxpayer expense is both dangerous and immoral.
     The argument for needle distribution is, of course, a very caring and pragmatic one. The proponents of needle distribution programs point–correctly–to the fact that using a clean needle will prevent the transfer of contagious disease and, therefore, the future health care costs to government will be reduced.
     While factually this argument is true, it rests upon a huge but false premise.
     Those making the relative cost argument in favor of these programs assume that the taxpayer has some obligation to pay one or both rather than neither. Unfortunately, this will be the focus of the debate. It is much easier politically to lambaste the “drug user” as opposed to the federal health care beneficiary, despite the fact that if one accepts the premise that the federal government has a duty to provide health care, the provision of needles is the fiscally logical choice.
     Implicit in this assumption is the notion that the government should compel you, the non-user, to pay for the habit as well as the consequences of drug use. And while I would not stop you from using your own private funds to provide sterile needles to those in your community, it would be immoral for the government to use government force to compel someone to pay for this program.
     Of course, this socialistic approach to sharing health care costs is completely at odds with a society which values freedom. There is a casual disregard for risks when an individual knows they will not have to bear the costs associated with the consequences of their actions. Therefore, they respond to this incentive and pursue activities–bad habits, sexual behavior, and on–with riskier consequences than they otherwise would.
     This is the socialist’s dream. As government assumes the responsibility of paying the costs associated with irresponsible behavior, the more legitimately government can justify its involvement in dictating the behavior. As economist Ludwig von Mises argued, intervention begets more intervention. The only choice is individualism or collectivism because some collectivism always leads to more collectivism, and eventually pure collectivism.
     It is unrealistic to expect those who favor government (read “taxpayers”) footing the bill for medical costs not to expect the government to then regulate everything a person does which might affect their health. Case in point, the tobacco settlement, and even the helmet and seat-belt laws.
     There is a final argument against the distribution of needles at taxpayer expense, and it is an argument which goes more towards the consistency of the entire situation as it relates to the Constitution. Under our current laws, use and possession of particular substances is illegal. Yet needle exchanges would provide services to assist people in breaking the law. This is ridiculous. Our government has become so big, and has stepped so completely outside the limited, enumerated powers outlined in the Constitution, that contradictions such as these are the practical result.
     When we allow the federal government to do things it is not constitutionally authorized to do, when we endorse the concept of federal intervention in what is constitutionally state and local matters, we are bound to see government tripping over itself to use its over-reaching powers in ways to satisfy everyone. Again, case in point, the subsidization of both tobacco interests and cancer research.
     We must be extremely wary when people advocate the use of governmental force in the name of “free” provision for some. It always costs the taxpayers in the end. We should be even more cautious when the government proposes a way to “help” others, because, invariably, the help not only subsidizes negative behavior or results, but, at the same time, becomes the justification for more intervention.
     Such is the nature of collectivism.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 May 1998
Liberty must be our goal
Liberty Amendment abolishes income and death taxes

     May is an important month. This is the time of year when the average American stops working to pay their federal taxes.
     Around the latter half of the month, the average American marks “Freedom from Federal Tax Day,” which does not mean any of us are yet working for ourselves. Far from it. In fact, once we stop working to pay off our federal taxes, we start working to pay for the cost of federal regulations and state and local taxes. It is not until early July that the people of the 14th District of Texas begin working for themselves.
     That is disgraceful, which is why I wanted to come to Congress in the first place. For someone to work six months out of the year only to pay the tax-bill is ridiculous. Think about what you get for your money: EPA agents to grab your land if they think there are endangered weeds on it, OSHA inspectors to shut down your business for “improper” labeling of liquid paper, and IRS inspectors to seize your bank accounts if you use the wrong color of ink on the tax form.
     For some, the issue is merely “how do we collect the taxes?” and proceed to debate the merits of a flat tax, a sales tax, a modified graduated tax, and on. But rarely is the real issue discussed by the Washington-insider policy-makers. The real issue is this: Why does government need so much of our money?
     The answer is not complex; government wants money because it wants power; politicians want your money so they can make decisions that benefit them politically and force you to do what they want, being molded into their images. And so government grows. And grows. As they take more of our money, the more we are forced to rely on them, and the more money they “need” to “provide.” It’s a hideous cycle.
     Despite what they regard as an inconvenience of the Constitution, the federal government continues to usurp more and more power and privileges which are more correctly left to the individual and the states.
     Make no doubts about it, the income tax is horrible, aggressive and must go. At the same time, we must end the appetite the government has for the fruits of your labor. To this end I have introduced House Joint Resolution 116, an amendment to the Constitution, called the Liberty Amendment. The Liberty Amendment has a long history, dating back almost 40 years, with more than a dozen supporters in Congress of its various forms, including several current members.
     The Liberty Amendment, if ratified, will repeal the 16th Amendment, which authorized the income tax.
     But the Liberty Amendment would do more. It would also prohibit the federal government from taxing estates and gifts, and at the same time require that the federal government withdraw itself, within three years of enactment, from all activities not specified as an enumerated power of the federal government.
     It is true that liberty is not free, nor is it easy. But tyranny–even varying degrees of it–is much more difficult, and much more expensive. The time has come to rein in the federal government, put it on a crash diet, and let the people keep their money and their liberty.
     Perhaps we will celebrate freedom from federal tax day in January, and “Cost of Government” day in February. It may not happen soon, but we must have a goal.
     Our founding fathers agreed that liberty was a worthwhile goal. So should we.


Texas Straight Talk, 11 May 1998
Is it freedom from religious persecution?
Proposed legislation doesn’t pass constitutional, economic or moral muster

     In the name of making the world safe from religious persecution, Congress will consider legislation which the politicians hope will make the planet safe for religion around the globe, at the American taxpayer’s expense. The legislation is the “Freedom From Religious Persecution Act of 1997.”
     The “Freedom From Religious Persecution Act of 1997” proposes that a new office be created within the Clinton Administration, with the stated purpose to “provide for the imposition of economic sanctions against countries engaged in a pattern of religious persecution.” Numerous issues arising from this proposed legislation warrant elaboration, discussion, and debate: constitutional authority, effectiveness of trade sanctions, rights “swapping,” and the practicality of such an approach.
     Religious persecution is a reprehensible form of force when committed by anyone. However reprehensible, though, the Constitution does not allow the federal government to police the world at taxpayer expense. The Constitution’s framers argued for friendly commercial dealings with all nations and entangling alliances with none. Today, the opposite seems to be the order of the day. Of course, “friendly commercial dealings” was never intended to include the subsidization of foreign governments–including those engaged in zealous religious persecution–at taxpayer-expense.
     Constitutional considerations temporarily set aside, it would be commendable if the legislation could at least be justified based upon some proven or demonstrated effectiveness of trade sanctions. The effectiveness of trade sanctions for reforming human rights records is, at best, unscientific and empirically unjustified. Harsh economic sanctions against Cuba for more than thirty years have done nothing to alter that nation’s record on human rights or political bent.
     While the right to free religious exercise absent interference from the state is an important right, it is not the only right. Any list of individual rights must also include the right to enter into voluntary exchanges with others. Removing trade barriers benefit consumers who can purchase goods more cheaply than previously available from those who have a comparative advantage in the respective good. Those individuals who choose, for moral or religious reasons, not to trade with citizens of particular foreign jurisdictions are, of course, not threatened by removing barriers for those who, for whatever reasons, choose to do so. Further, the right of United States citizens to travel freely, at their own expense, is also infringed upon by the portion of the bills limiting the availability of commercial flights.
     One provision of the bill attempts to provide the President a kind of “Ultra-Fast-Track” authority to enter into multilateral international sanctions and legislative functions contrary to constitutionally-mandated processes. The Constitution, of course, requires treaties to be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate and reserves legislative powers to the Congress. In recent history, Presidents have avoided the two-thirds Senate majority hurdle by semantically re-labeling Treaties as agreements and passing some of them by with narrower margins of approval through both houses of Congress.
     Obliterating religious persecution around the world is a noble and, I believe, well-intended pursuit. However, circumventing the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as choosing an economically-unproven means of doing so, is never an advisable method.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 May 1998
Federalization of crime contrary to Constitution

     Last week, Congress moved our nation closer to a national police state by further expanding the already-unconstitutional litany of federal crimes.
     Of course, it is much easier to ride the popular wave of federalizing every misdeed, than to uphold a Constitutional Oath which prescribes protection from what is perhaps the worst evil imaginable: totalitarianism.
     What Member of Congress, especially in an election year, wants to be portrayed as soft on crime or deadbeat parents, irrespective of the transgressions against individual liberties and a trampling of our Constitution?
     The federal government was designed to be limited in power. In fact, there is a strict enumeration of the spheres in which Congress is allowed to act. For every other issue, only the state governments or the people, in their private market actions, enjoy constitutionally protected right to those powers. The tenth amendment is brutally clear: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
     But rather than abide by our constitutional limits, Congress recently passed two pieces of legislation–neither containing a shred of constitutional authority–which, of course, were “non-controversial” despite moving us further from the notion of a limited government. One piece of legislation pledged that the Congress will “pass legislation that provides the weapons and tools necessary to protect our children and our communities from the dangers of drug addiction and violence.” Setting aside for the moment the practicality of federal prohibition laws, an experiment which failed miserably with alcohol in the 1920s, the threshold question must be: “under what authority do we act?” Whether any governmental entity should be protecting individuals from themselves and their own stupidity is certainly debatable; whether the federal government is constitutionally empowered to do so is not. Being stupid or brilliant to one’s sole disadvantage or advantage, respectively, is exactly what liberty is all about.
     The second legislative fiasco was the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998. This bill expands federal criminal law by imposing more sanctions on those who fail to meet child support obligations imposed by individual states. Further, the bills shifts some burden of proof from the federal government to the accused, a radical departure from the American notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” Even worse, this legislation seems to reintroduce the notion of federal “debtor prisons,” a vestige of the past best left in the past.
     Perhaps more dangerous than either of these items individually is what they represent collectively: a move towards a federal police force. Constitutionally, there are only three federal crimes: treason against the United States, piracy on the high seas, and counterfeiting. Despite the various pleas for federal correction of societal wrongs, a national police force is neither prudent nor constitutional.
     The argument is that states are less effective than a centralized federal government in dealing with individuals who flee one state for another to avoid prosecution. The Constitution preserves the integrity of states, and provides the means for them to exact penalties from those who violate their laws, and the Constitution provides for the return of fugitives from one state to another. There is, of course, an inconvenience imposed upon states in working with one another, rather than relying on a national police force. But there is a greater cost to individual liberty from a centralized police power.
     There is a simple, sound reason to maintain a system of smaller, independent jurisdictions–it is called competition and, yes, governments must, for the sake of the liberty of the citizenry, be allowed to compete.
     When small governments becomes too oppressive, citizens can vote with their feet, moving to a “competing” jurisdiction. If, for example, one state has a high income tax which the residents feel is inappropriate, they can move to Texas (as many have done) to keep more of their earnings. But as government becomes more centralized, it becomes more difficult to vote with one’s feet. There must be ample opportunity for citizen mobility: to proper governments and away from those which tend to be oppressive. Centralization of criminal law makes such mobility less and less practical.
     And the federalization of every problem takes us further and further from the Constitution, and liberty.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 May 1998
Asian economic crisis result of suppressed liberty
Answer is fundamental change, not status quo quick fixes

     Along with the Berlin Wall, the communist system came crashing down in 1989. But in the same year, the Japanese “economic miracle” of the 1970’s and the 1980’s, with its `guaranteed’ safeguards, turned out to be a lot more vulnerable than any investor wanted to believe. The possibility of what is happening in Asia spreading next to Europe, and then to America, should not be summarily dismissed.
     The root of the problem is found in the flawed premise upon which economic systems around the world have been based for the last century. For us to escape the economic malaise being experienced in Asia, we must address those fundamental problems not look for quick-fixes.
     Belief that an artificial boom, brought about by a “central bank” credit creation, can last forever is equivalent to finding the fountain of youth. Wealth cannot be created out of thin air, and new money and credit, although it can on the short-run give an illusion of wealth, is actually destructive to prosperity on the long-run.
     The crisis in Indonesia is the predictable consequence of decades of monetary inflation. Timing, severity, and duration of the correction, is unpredictable. These depend on political perceptions, the day’s realities, subsequent economic policies, and the citizenry’s reaction to the escalating events. The issue of trust in the future and concerns for personal liberties greatly influences the outcome, as well. Even a false trust, or an ill-founded sense of security from an authoritarian leader, can alter the immediate consequences of economic malaise, but it cannot prevent the inevitable collapse, as is occurring slowly in the more peaceful Japan and rapidly and violently in Indonesia.
     But what we cannot lose sight of is that the Indonesian economic bubble was caused by a flawed monetary policy which led to all the other problems. Monetary inflation is the mother of all “crony capitalism.”
     One important characteristic of an economic correction, after a period of inflation is its unpredictable nature because reactions of the individuals concerned influence both political and economic events. Therefore, it’s virtually impossible to predict how and when the bubble will burst–though burst it must. Likewise, the duration of a collapse is not scientifically ascertainable.
     “Crony capitalism” was not the cause of Indonesia’s trouble; inflationism and political corruption are the culprits, for they allow ‘crony capitalism’ to exist. In fact, there is nothing “capitalistic” (in a free market sense) about crony capitalism–it is simply a mild form of fascism.
     Any serious economic crisis eventually generates political turmoil, especially if political dissent has been held in check by force for any significant period of time. It should be no surprise to see blood in the streets of Jakarta. But instead of these circumstances leading to freedom, many are inviting marshal law for the purpose of restoring stability–with all the dangers that go with increased restrictions on liberty. Sadly, errors in economic thinking often prompts demands for more government programs to `take care’ of the rapidly growing number of poor.
     Further, international efforts to prop-up an ailing economy after the financial bubble has popped prolongs the agony and increases the severity of the correction. Restoration of free markets, including the establishment of a sound monetary policy, has not yet been considered though those are the only real solutions. The people of Indonesia and the rest of the world should prepare for the worst as this crisis spreads.
     For the United States, the most important thing Congress can do is recognize that further taxing American workers to finance a bail-out is the worst policy of all for us to pursue.
     The philosophy of the free market holds the solution to the exploding East Asian crisis, yet few are willing to consider the philosophy of liberty.
     Concern for liberty is not a subject associated with economic crisis and is in fact an ongoing casualty of past and current policy. A greater concern for the philosophy of liberty–whether it is the “personal liberty” of the individual or freedom in the marketplace–is required if a positive outcome is to be expected from the Indonesian crisis.
     Let’s hope we can get our priorities straight.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 June 1998
Constituent service is most important function
For many individuals, congressional services directly affect their lives

     No other responsibility of a congressman so directly affects the lives of the average person as that of “constituent service.” Constituent services take on a wide variety of forms and this column is devoted to describing some of those activities and opportunities.
     Perhaps the single most important is that of handling “casework.” Put simply, casework is when I, or one of my staff acting in my behalf, intervenes directly on behalf of a constituent or group of constituents before a federal agency, board or commission.
     This is sometimes involves making a phone call, perhaps asking that the Veterans Administration send the proper forms to the widow of a veteran, or writing a letter, for example, asking for a delay of improper hearings before an IRS administrative court. But some casework can also involve having myself or a staff member make appearances at hearings, such as when I recently sent my Chief of Staff to Maryland to speak against the closing of a weather station in the district, which is an important issue to a great many people in the 14th District.
     Generally, casework involving constituents dealing with federal agencies is handled out of one of my three district offices, in Victoria (512-576-1231), Freeport (409-230-0000) or San Marcos (512-396-1400). The offices will accept collect calls.
     But the three traditional offices are not the only means by which constituents can have access to my congressional staff, such as my Mobile Office. This office, a specially converted blue van, travels to the rural parts of the district, offering congressional services to people who might not be able to travel (for health or work reasons) to one of the three traditional offices, but want to meet with someone in person. The Mobile Office’s schedule is published in local papers, and is parked in visible places in the community, with constituents actually meeting with my staff in the office itself. The Mobile Office can be contacted at (512) 753-5553.
     Further, my staff and I are available to come to schools or community groups to discuss topics ranging from the current events going in Washington to the process by which laws are made.
     Constituent services are not limited to solely to the geographic confines of the 14th District.
     Constituents of the 14th District can contact my Washington office (202-225-2831) and request that US flags be flown over the Capitol to commemorate special occasions or events (there is a nominal cost involved).
     And for constituents visiting Washington, DC, there are even more services available. Perhaps the most popular are special VIP tours of the Capitol by my staff; constituents can be taken onto the Floor of the House and Senate when Congress is not in session, as well into other parts of the Capitol not generally accessible to the public. Further, with enough notice, my staff can obtain special passes for constituents to tour the White House, the FBI Headquarters and even the Treasury’s printing operations. All of these tours are offered at no cost to the constituent.
     Finally, there are two important information services available to constituents of the 14th District. The first is my toll-free Legislative Update line. By calling (888) 322-1414, you can hear an update on legislation before Congress as well as information on items of general interest and debate. The second information service is my official congressional web site (www.house.gov/paul/). At this site visitors can find an archive of all my speeches, press releases and even the text of legislation I have sponsored, as well as leave electronic messages for me.
     I am most pleased with the high level of constituent service my office has been able to provide, and my staff and I are always willing to take suggestions for further improvements.
     No other responsibility of the congressional office is as important, or as rewarding, as the opportunity to assist constituents–whether dealing with federal agencies, providing commemorative flags, or making a trip to Washington more memorable.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 8 June 1998
Religious freedom found in following Constitution
Simply meddling with Bill of Rights will not correct problems

     There is no doubt hostility exists–and is growing–against people of religious convictions, especially against those who consider themselves “conservative” or “fundamentalist.” The hostility and discrimination is pervasive and routinely expressed in our courts.
     And despite the claims of those who attack religious values, these actions are not motivated by a defense of constitutional liberty.
     The politically correct religion of our nation has become Secular Humanism; although equivalent to a religion, it is incorrectly passed off by our courts and schools as being neutral with respect to spiritual beliefs and is often used to fill the void by forced exclusion of other beliefs.
     This is indeed a problem deserving our close, careful, thoughtful attention. So it was with great sadness recently as I saw the debate unfold for a constitutional amendment which made claims of protecting religious freedoms, yet went sadly awry. While an original cosponsor of the Religious Freedom Amendment, I was forced to vote against it because of changes made in recent weeks. The measure did not pass the House.
     Our basic problem is not a lack of constitutional direction regarding the right of Americans to freely practice their religious beliefs; for the First Amendment is very clear. In reality, the problem has been that our courts are filled with judges who have no understanding, appreciation, or concern for the original intent of our Founding Fathers, or for the constitutional Doctrine of Enumerated Powers, or of property rights. And as long as this disgraceful condition exists, any new amendment to the Constitution will only be similarly abused. How can we expect judges, or even Members of Congress, to follow new constitutional amendments when they do not now follow anything currently existing in the Constitution?
     Those who supported the amendment correctly argue that the rapidly growing government has tried to replace the church, and actually encourages discrimination and hostility against people of faith. An argument which I believe to be absolutely true. However, the proper solution should be to shrink the size of the federal government–not further enlarge the federal government or impose upon states rules by which they must manage their school districts and property.
     Unfortunately, the final version of the so-called Religious Freedom Amendment further enabled the federal government to do more mischief by expanding their powers.
     The proposed amendment encouraged a government solution to the problem by allowing the federal government and federal courts to instruct states and local school districts on the use of their property–in direct contrast to the original intent of Constitutional framers to protect against a strong central government and in support of state and local government.
     Further, and perhaps worst of all, the amendment would have forbade state and local governments from denying benefits to religious organizations. This would have had the chilling effect of forcing people to subsidize almost any bizarre practice or ritual B or at least the advancement of that activity–which its practitioners could claim to be part of a religious exercise. Thomas Jefferson once said that to “compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
     The only solution is to shrink the government and raise a new generation of judges and congressmen who understand the constitutional principles of original intent, enumerated powers, and property rights. If we do this, our existing First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression will be protected more strongly than any effort at federal meddling.
     Until our judges and our Congress embraces the Constitution, and willingly follows it, new Constitutional amendments will do little to help and will almost certainly make things worse by weakening the already-existing bill of rights.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 June 1998
Campaign reform should encourage choice
Current debate focuses on limiting freedom and liberty

     Echoing through the halls of the House of Representatives right now is perhaps one of the most important debates of the decades. So important because it goes to the heart of the First Amendment and, indeed, our very form of government.
     The debate, of course, is over a package of legislation referred to as “campaign finance reform.” There is a correct recognition of a serious problem in our nation: the undue influence of “big money” special interests attempting to buy–or at least rent–politicians.
     Unfortunately, the vast majority of the legislation being considered takes exactly the wrong course of action. Many of the politicians assume that restricting the right of people to be involved in the political process can cure what is wrong with the system. Limiting freedom, however, is not the answer, for the problem is not that we have too much freedom, but that government has too much power.
     The real origin of the campaign finance problem is the expanded role of the federal government. The simple truth is that people are willing to spend a lot of money to influence the outcome of elections because the federal government has so much power. With that in mind, it is obvious that the proper solution to the issue is to greatly reduce the role of government. By drastically reducing the power lawmakers maintain over virtually every aspect of citizen’s lives, the influence enjoyed by campaign contributors, lobbyists and political action committees would quickly dissipate.
     We are fooling ourselves if we think that real reform will ever take place, given the narrowness of the current range of ideological debate. After all, in Washington it is often political pragmatism, not devotion to principle, which guides the decisions of people of both parties. And they have found it is not only easier to blame those who donate to campaigns for the problem with the system, but it also allows them to keep all the power they have amassed.
     The rights of eligible citizens to seek office, volunteer for the campaigns of the candidates they like, vote for candidates of their choice, and even the right to create and develop new political parties, are fundamental to a free society. But more and more, people find the choice of candidates from the two major parties to be akin to choosing between the lesser of two evils, and feel increasingly unrepresented in the democratic process, not knowing that there may well be candidates out there who more closely match their own political philosophy.
     I have introduced two pieces of legislation which will be included in the debate on this issue. My legislation, rather than disgracing our First Amendment rights, embraces them by enhancing electoral free speech.
     The Debate Freedom Act of 1997 expands the opportunity for political debate and discourse by requiring recipients of federal matching campaign funds (currently available only for Presidential and Vice Presidential campaigns) to agree in writing not to participate in debates to which every other candidate for that office whom either qualifies for federal funds or is on the ballot in a minimum of 40 states, are not invited. If the candidate violates the agreement, they lose the federal matching funds.
     A lack of differing views in the debates is not the only problem; there is also a lack of choice at the ballot box.
     Undue restrictions on access to the ballot impair the ability of citizens to exercise their rights, and has a direct and damaging effect on citizens’ participation in the electoral process. Many states unduly restrict access to the ballot by means of such devices as excessive petition signature requirements, insufficient petitioning periods, unconstitutionally early petition filing deadlines, petition signature distribution criteria, and limitations on eligibility to circulate and sign petitions.
     The Voter Freedom Act will establish fair and uniform standards regulating access to the ballot by eligible citizens who desire to seek election to Federal office and political parties, bodies, and groups which desire to take part in elections for Federal office; and to maximize the participation of eligible citizens in elections for Federal office.
     Congress has strict constitutional authority to regulate, protect and promote the exercise of the voting rights, as well as set the specifications on how federal elections are to be conducted.
     It would be ironic if in our zeal to promote freedom and correct what is wrong with our system of campaigns and elections, we instituted new laws and regulations that trample our most precious rights. The answer to our electoral problems is found not in restricting freedom or limiting access, but rather in following the Constitution and allowing maximum individual liberty.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 June 1998
Trade, not aid or isolation, should be US foreign policy
Experience shows that embargoes only hurt Americans, help dictators

     Even actions taken with the best-motivated of intentions can go astray, and what seems politically pragmatic can often have dire, unintended economic consequences.
     Nowhere is that more evident than in our nation’s trade policy. All who embrace the philosophy of liberty and have a love for freedom have a strong desire for others to break free from the shackles of oppressive regimes. And while we want to see dictators and tyrants fall, we hate to see innocents injured by our action–or our inaction.
     There has been a growing recognition that oppressive sanctions do not work, that engagement is the best policy, as it allows the people living under oppressive regimes to see the fruits of freedom and develop meaningful relationships with outsiders.
     But there has been an entire level of victims to our nation’s policy of economic sanctions who have been completely ignored: Americans.
     Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s publication, Farm Bureau News, did a remarkable job of highlighting how trade sanctions on foreign countries actually do a great deal of damage to Americans without effectively changing the status quo in the country we are ostensibly trying to “help.”
     Illinois Farm Bureau president Ron Warfield is quoted as saying that he and the Farm Bureau “strongly opposes all artificial trade constraints such as embargoes or sanctions except in the case of armed conflicts. We believe that opening trade systems around the world and engagement through trade are the most effective means of reaching international economic stability.”
     He is entirely correct. If we cut off contact with people in oppressive regimes, two things happen. First, they are not exposed to different ideas and beliefs, leaving only the nonsense being touted by their government. And second, it allows a carte blanche power for the oppressive government to blame any problems in his country (real or imagined) on Americans, rather than his own failed programs and ideology.
     In fact, as we have seen with embargoes on Iraq and Cuba, the dictator grows stronger when there are heavy sanctions, not weaker. But in our country, those sanctions are devastating. Mr. Warfield told a congressional panel recently that when the United States placed an embargo on US grain against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, $2.3 billion was lost in farm exports.
     Again quoting Mr. Warfield from the American Farm Bureau publication, “The United States, as the leader in world trade, has an unprecedented opportunity to promote its values throughout the world by peaceful engagement through trade. Reaching out through engagement and trade, not withdrawing behind embargoes, is the best way to achieve positive change–not by denying ourselves access to the markets and creating opportunities for our competitors.”
     And that is a position supported by many in the Christian community as well. Father Paul Sirico, a Catholic priest, has written in the Wall Street Journal that sanctions hurt only the people we are trying to help, not the leaders of evil governments.
     And there is another dynamic in place as we look toward engagement rather than isolation, and that is the issue of aid. For years the American taxpayer has been forced to subsidize hundreds of governments around the world, including those of some of the most vicious dictators in history, in the name of either “promoting human rights” in that country, or in the interest of “national security.” Often times, tax dollars are being used to prop up these dictators, while at the same time trade sanctions prevent US farmers and small businessmen from selling their products in that market.
     So while the farmer or small businessman is losing money by being forbidden to enter a potentially lucrative market, he is being taxed at higher rates to pay for subsidies to those same foreign governments.
     A more sensible–constitutionally, morally and economically–alternative to our current foreign policy is one of engagement by individuals in trade, and an end to the imperious system of foreign aid. Unless a nation represents a clear and present danger to our national security, we should allow, even encourage, our best ambassadors–who are our businessmen, our farmers, our ranchers–to engage in mutually beneficial trade with people of all nations and regions. As goods are traded, so are ideas. And just as American products are the finest in the world, so too is the philosophy of liberty.
     Of course, this policy still leaves open the chance for Americans of conscience to boycott products made in other nations, or to choose not to do business with Americans who enter into trade with countries of which they disapprove.
     Our nation should adopt a policy of free and open trade, not immoral and forced aid, in our relations with foreign countries, to the benefit of their people and ours.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 June 1998
After 222 years liberty must still be our goal
Americans must be vigilant, vocal in demanding freedom

     Liberty, freedom, self-determination. It was 222 years ago this week that a handful of colonists stood and demanded that these rights, inalienable be virtue of being endowed by the Creator, be recognized by the imperial Crown of England.
     A bloody conflict ensued. But it is not the date that peace was declared and our nation organized which we recognize as pivotal to our history. No, the day we celebrate was the day our forefathers boldly proclaimed to the world that liberty was their goal, a desire for a life to be spent in pursuit of individual freedom.
     Those who signed the Declaration of Independence envisioned a nation rising on this continent which was based on the Rule of Law and respected, unequivocally, the rights of the individual to live their lives free from oppression. To a degree perhaps unimaginable to that band of radical idealists, their vision has come to pass over these two centuries.
     To a degree.
     Each age has had its problems in the United States. The nineteenth century held slavery. The twentieth, the growth of socialism and its sister, fascism.
     But rather than focus on where we have failed, our gaze should rest on the ideal. The freedoms we enjoy today are the direct result of the commitment of men and women who refused to compromise their ideals. Certainly they failed at times, even compromised when they should have stayed the course, the problems and deficiencies we see in society is proof that no one is perfect, and that we fall short of our ideal. But we mustn’t be deterred from striving for the goal, for liberty.
     It has been said that when one reaches for the highest of goals, he may not reach his destination but he will come far closer than the man who set his sights on a much lower standard. Our standard must be freedom and liberty. Unequivocally, and without compromise.
     There can absolutely be no compromises between liberty and oppression, for one is the anti-thesis of the other. If we claim to strive for individual liberty, yet we agree to compromise with the forces of oppression, the loser will always be liberty, and the winner oppression. A little oppression is morally the same as the complete absence of liberty.
     It is appropriate that this week be not only the observation of the Declaration of Independence, but also the time of year we as individuals–on average–become free of the cost of government.
     For more than half of the year the average American toils not for his family, for his needs, or for his future. No, for the first six months of the year, the average American works to pay the cost of federal, state and local taxes and regulations. Imagine that, between January 1 and sometime around July 4, we were working to pay for government, not feed our kids, pay the rent or save for retirement. We were paying for government.
     That is unconscionable. Our Founding Fathers would no doubt be embarrassed at our squandering of their vision. After all, they revolted at a comparable tax rate in the single digits or less. And yet we willingly suffer an effective tax rate of 50%, and much more in many cases.
     We are not slaves, but many feel as if they are indentured servants to government. And by and large it has happened with our willing consent. We have allowed ourselves to compromise sacred liberty for temporary promises of security or false prosperity.
     But it does not have to be so. We can reclaim our heritage of freedom, not with a gun but with our voice. We can reject the creep of statism, and encourage the blessings of liberty for our land. It will require work, and it will require commitment, and it will require a willingness to stand firm for our beliefs, refusing to compromise with those who would continue to push for more taxes, more spending and more government solutions.
     It can be done.
     Liberty, freedom and self-determination. Those goals are as worthy of our attention today as they were 222 years ago in a hot convention hall in Philadelphia. And just as a devotion to those goals brought forth this great nation then, so can a renewed adherence to those principles move our nation to heights never before achieved.
     Our Founding Fathers felt those principles were worth their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.” Do we?
     For the sake of our future, I must believe that the answer is yes.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 July 1998
Respect for property rights necessary for freedom
Often Congress’ laws are not about environment, but power and control

     It is the most basic of all our rights. In a society which has the proper focus, many of the problems we face today become non-issues. Over the last half-century, there has been a declared war on these most fundamental of rights: property rights.
     Some try to make this an issue of simply pro-property rights versus pro-environmentalism. In reality, the issue is much, much deeper. In fact, how we look at property rights is a most basic foundation of our liberty.
     When one has a proper respect for property rights, environmental concerns go away. In a society that respects the property of others, it is cause for legal action if someone pollutes your land, or the water coming across your property, or the air which floats above it. With a proper respect for private property, people can and should be allowed to do whatever they would like with their land–barring any restrictions they agreed to when they purchased the land–up until the point that their actions physically affect their neighbors.
     So while a land owner may choose to build a big factory on his land, he must be very careful to ensure that no harm comes to adjacent property owners, or he will face the unmitigated wrath of those neighbors. In the past, big businesses often colluded with government to allow them to pollute their neighbors land, leaving the adjacent owners with devalued property and no recourse.
     But the issue is so much more broad than simply concerns over the protection of the environment. Much has been done in the name of “environmentalism” which in reality has little to do with clean air and water, and everything to do with power and control.
     For the degree of freedom we enjoy on our own property–whether it is a thousand-acre farm or a single-family dwelling lot in a town or city–is a strong measure of the liberty in a society.
     Our respect for private property goes to the root of our other freedoms: freedom of speech, of religion, to own weapons, to gather peaceably, and on. Much is made that one should not “yell fire in a crowded theater.” And while that is true in a moral sense, it is equally true that the property owner should have the right to disallow people from saying or doing anything in their theater, or even being there in the first place. But today the government dictates not only how we can use the land, but in many cases forces us to allow others to use our property in ways to which we object.
     Freedom only exists where there is complete respect for rights of property ownership. When we go to another person’s land, or home, or business, we should expect to be bound by their rules of conduct. And they should be free to protect their property and family as they see fit.
     Increasingly, though, the government is usurping our property rights, in one fashion or another. It is fair to say that we are in a sense losing true property ownership. In many cases, the government prevents us from doing with our property what we would like, essentially making the land worthless. Yet government still manages to tax us at rates which rival rent for the pleasure of being forbidden from using the land. Some of the laws are ostensibly “environmental” in nature, others reflect a desire for “fairness,” while still others make claims of simply being “good for everyone.” While these laws may be good for the big-government bureaucrats, they are bad for almost everyone else. In fact, these laws amount to regulatory takings, which are prohibited by our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
     Perhaps the most egregious assault occurs, though, at the death of a property owner. Instead of being able to leave the family estate to his heirs, the owner’s survivors must instead sit down with the government and negotiate how to divide up the property. The family farm is an endangered species, not for a lack of profitability or interest, but because the taxes assessed by government at our death forces the family to sell off land just to pay the levy.
     Our freedoms and liberties are only as secure as our property rights. This was the underlying assumption of our Founding Fathers, and a foundation we are in danger of cracking. Without a firm respect for property ownership, all our other rights are only so much talk.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 July 1998
Paul legislation will stop national ID card
Current law requires national ID before getting job, medical care, in 2000

     
     Just prior to my being elected to Congress, a piece of legislation was passed which was intended to stem the tide of illegal aliens coming into our nation. While the goals were laudable, even the best of legislative intentions can produce results which are reprehensible.
     Such is the case with an obscure section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This section authorizes the federal Department of Transportation to establish national requirements for birth certificates and drivers’ licenses. The provision, a small part of a major piece of legislation passed at the end of the 104th Congress, represents an unprecedented power grab by the federal government and a threat to the liberties of every American, for it would essentially transform state drivers’ licenses into national ID cards.
     Under the current state of the law, the citizens of states which have drivers’ licenses that do not conform to the federal standards by October 1, 2000, will find themselves essentially stripped of their ability to participate in life as we know it. On that date, Americans will not be able to get a job, open a bank account, apply for Social Security or Medicare, exercise their Second Amendment rights, or even take an airplane flight, unless they can produce a state-issued ID that conforms to the federal specifications. Further, under the terms of the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum health-care law, Americans may be forced to present this federally-approved drivers’ license before consulting a physician for medical treatment!
     This situation is decidedly un-American, contrary to our heritage of individual liberty and states’ rights. The federal government has no constitutional authority to require Americans to present any form of identification before engaging in any private transaction, such as opening a bank account, seeking employment, or especially seeing a doctor.
     The establishment of a “national” drivers’ license and birth certificate makes a mockery of the 10th amendment and the principles of federalism. While no state is “forced” to accept the federal standards, is it unlikely they will refuse to comply when such action would mean none of their residents could get a job, receive Social Security, leave the state by plane, or have access to medical care. So rather than imposing a direct mandate on the states, the federal government is blackmailing them into complying with federal dictates.
     It is for this reason that I am introducing the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act, with Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia as a cosponsor. As the law stands now, the government is in a position to inappropriately monitor the movements and transactions of every citizen. History shows that when government gains the power to monitor the actions of the people, it eventually uses that power to impose totalitarian controls on the populace.
     What would the founders of this country say if they knew the limited federal government they bequeathed to future generations would have grown to such a size that it claims power to demand all Americans obtain a federally-approved ID before getting a job? They would no doubt be disappointed.
     But if the disapproval of the founders is not sufficient to cause Congress to repeal the requirements, then perhaps the reaction of the American people when they discover that they must produce a federally-approved ID in order to open a bank account or see the doctor will turn the tide. Already congressional offices are being flooded with complaints about the movement toward a national ID card; imagine the public’s surprise when they realize that not only is a national ID movement underway, but will be a reality by October 1, 2000.
     Despite pleas for federal correction of societal wrongs, a national ID, followed surely by a national police force, is neither prudent nor constitutional. While it is easy to give in to the rhetoric of “protecting” children or some other defenseless group, we must be cautious that in a rush to provide protection in the short-term, we do not do permanent damage to our national heritage of liberty.
     As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security.
     Where our security and liberty is concerned, we must remain constantly vigilant and uncompromisingly devoted.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 July 1998
Integrity of Social Security Number must be maintained
Issues of individual privacy, rights should not be so quickly dismissed

     Everywhere we turn, someone is asking for our Social Security Number: at the airport, the drivers’ license office, the store, everywhere, it seems. Yet the Social Security number was created solely as an accounting number in administering the Social Security system, and was never intended to be a universal identifier.
     In recent years, though, the Social Security Number has become just that, and unless the use of the number is restored to its original purpose, it will soon become a national identification number by which the federal government can easily keep track of all vital information regarding American citizens.
     While I am proud to be the author of the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act, which would stop a national identification card from taking effect, we need to be aware that those wanting to give government power to track us from cradle to grave already have the Social Security Number as their tool of choice. It is for this reason that several months ago I introduced the Privacy Protection Act, H.R. 3261.
     Anyone who doubts that we are well on the way to using the Social Security number as an universal identifier need only look back to 1996. In that year, two major pieces of legislation passed leading this nation down the path toward the National ID. The first was the welfare reform bill, which forces business to report the Social Security number of every new employee to the federal government so it may be recorded in a national database. The second was the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which required that the Department of Transportation implement “standards” for state drivers’ licenses that must be followed or the citizens be punished.
     Perhaps the most disturbing abuses of the Social Security number is the Congressionally-authorized rule forcing parents to get a Social Security number for their newborn children in order to claim them as a dependent. Mr. Speaker, forcing parents to register their newborn children with the state is more like something out of the nightmare of George Orwell than the dreams of a free Republic that inspired the nation’s founders.
     This is not an isolated incident; in fact, since the creation of the Social Security number in 1934, there have been almost 40 congressionally-authorized uses of the Social Security number as an identification number for non-Social Security programs! Abuse of the Social Security system also occurs at the state level. In many states–thanks to federal law–one cannot get a driver’s license, apply for a job, or even receive a birth certificate for one’s child, without presenting their Social Security number to a government official, and just a couple months ago weeks ago 210 of my colleagues voted to allow States to require citizens to show their Social Security number in order to vote. Since the Social Security number is part of a federal program created by Congress, it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure it is not used to violate the privacy of America’s citizens.
     I am proud to be the author of the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act to stop a national ID system from taking place, but we should not be fooled into thinking that the coming National ID is the only threat to our privacy. For America already has a de facto national identification number in the Social Security Number, which comes close to providing the federal government with the ability to track all citizens from cradle to grave.
     The Social Security Number was created to administer the social security system, and nothing else. We must restore the integrity of the system by restoring the integrity of the accounts. That will only occur when we reign in the use of the account numbers and secure the privacy of the people. This is the purpose of the Privacy Protection Act.
     We must stop a national ID for many reasons, both moral and constitutional, and we need to stop it in all its forms. The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act addresses the specific issue of a looming National ID, while the Privacy Protection Act addresses the broader issue which has been creeping up on us for many years.
     The drafters of the Constitution would be horrified if they knew that the federal government would one day have the ability to create a national ID system and demand that every newborn baby be assigned a number by the federal government. One wonders if the Founders would have fought for liberty if they knew how that precious right would be eroded by their political descendants.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 July 1998
Right to work must be free of coercion
Most Americans say union membership should be voluntary

     Most Americans would accept the notion that individuals should be free to work for whom they want, and that individuals should be free to hire whom they want, without having an third party telling them otherwise.
     Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States, thanks to the federal government. Under federal law, Congress has prevented employees from finding a job on their own, and then holding the job by their own merit. Instead, federal law has allowed labor unions to step in and dictate to both employers and employees everything including who can be hired, the terms of the contracts, the availability of promotions, and even the conditions that someone can be fired.
     This is unconscionable. So much so, in fact, that polls report 80 percent of the American people believe these laws need to be changed. I’m one of those 80 percent who see the current state of the law as antithetical to a free society, and for that reason I am proud to be a cosponsor of the National Right to Work Act, H.R. 59.
     The National Right to Work Act simply repeals sections of federal law giving union officials the power to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Compulsory unionism violates employers’ and employees’ constitutional rights of freedom of contract and association. Further, Congress has no constitutional authority to force employees to pay union dues to a labor union as a condition of getting or keeping a job. Perhaps more importantly, though, Congress does not have the moral authority to grant a private third party the right to interfere in the employment agreements between two free people.
     Unions should be allowed to exist, as long as they are voluntary agreements between the people involved. In fact, we don’t need more regulations on the unions or the employers or the employees. In fact, we need fewer regulations on the kinds of employment agreements people can reach, and allow people to choose whom they wish as their representative, if they so choose.
     Unions can serve a beneficial service to employees and even employers. But never should unions have the benefit of the government force giving them power; that is intolerable.
     After all, no single organization can be expected to “speak” for everyone. This is why there is so much controversy over the political spending of the unions. The union leadership, for many years, has grown “out of step” with many of its members. Yet thanks to the government, members have no choice but to continue paying dues, which are then used to promote causes they oppose.
     A far better system is one of voluntary union membership. If a worker feels the union can represent them and they agree with the politics (or do not care), they are free to join the union. Likewise, an employee can choose to not join a union at all. In fact, a great market could open up, where several unions could exist, giving employees a choice of which union will best represent their interests with the dues they pay.
     But at every stage the agreements should be voluntary. Employees should be free to join or not join, and employers should be free to bargain with the unions, or not. The free market will sort out the details. The free and open market, not the heavy, restrictive hand of the government, will determine the best employment atmosphere, allowing for maximum freedom for the employees and the employers.
     Americans must have a right to work–and hire–as best suits their needs. A government bureaucrat cannot mandate the conditions, and no single organization can do everything. As always, the principle of liberty and freedom will provide the maximum number of opportunities and options.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 August 1998
Washington ‘solutions’ to voter frustration are dangerous
Debate must instead focus on limited government and liberty

     Last week Congress began debate on what is referred to in Washington, DC, as “campaign reform.” I find it amazing they can call what was proposed “reform” with a straight face. In reality, most of what was put forward has little to do with the real problem.
     Most of the talk about campaign reform has been empty rhetoric, designed to seem worthwhile in a television sound bite, but not much else. For all the talk, the legislation being tossed about amounts to little more than protection of incumbents and the status quo.
     The politicians in Washington talk about the need to “reform” fundraising laws by reducing the ability of Americans to participate in the system, giving those in power more power, and those on the outside less of a voice. As those on the outside have correctly pointed out that the system is corrupt, the response from Washington has been to claim that money is root of the problem, and to ignore the regulations that obstruct competition in the process.
     But that is not the way I see it. The problem is power–i.e., too much of it in the hands of too few people. The problem with our system of elections is not that we have too few rules, regulations, agencies and commissions governing our lives–we have too many.
     Yet those in Washington see that the way to deal with the criticism is to create more red-tape and more restrictions on the way citizens participate in the political process. And therefore more frustrations.
     Consider this: Only 80 percent of the eligible citizens register to vote. Of this, 22 percent register as something other than a Democrat or Republican. Doing a little math demonstrates that of the total population of the eligible voters in the United States, more than 40 percent of the people are either an independent or “third party” voter, or they are simply so frustrated or annoyed with the system they no longer participate. That 40 percent block is far larger than the Democrats or the Republicans (around 30 percent larger).
     This means 40 percent of the people effectively have no representation in the political process.
     And the politicians in Washington are doing everything they can to make that number grow. With every new law, regulation, restriction, and set of bureaucracies, and with every new tax and fee, people are throwing their hands up in the air, mad that they feel their voice is not heard, and that they cannot make a difference.
     And so those in Washington answer the frustration by creating new levels of frustration by further restricting the abilities of the pro-lifers and pro-abortionists, the unions and the right-to-workers, the fascists and the libertarians, the socialists and the capitalists, from being heard. Lawmakers say they abhor a monopoly in the marketplace, yet they entertain laws to ensure their duopoly power grows.
     Our system of elections will not dramatically change until our politicians attitude towards government is changed. As long as government has so much power over so much over lives, there will be people wanting to buy influence and create ways to keep others from doing the same. If our federal government did only those things authorized by the Constitution, there would be very little incentive for powerful “special interests” to try to influence congressmen.
     While it is easy for the politicians in Washington to try and blame our problems on too much freedom, the real problem is that our government has drifted from protecting liberty to managing a nanny state. Increasing the size of government and its influence over elections cannot help; defending and enhancing personal liberty can.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 August 1998
MSAs best option for better health care
Americans should have greater say over medical treatment

     As a physician, I am painfully aware of the shortcomings of our medical system. But few are as dangerous as the rush towards managed care.
     Managed care is dangerous because it all but removes the two most important people from the decision-making process for medical care: the patient and the doctor. The managed care system is one which no one seems to want, yet no one can avoid.
     With health-care costs rising at ever-increasing rates, many of us feel we have no choice but to surrender to “the system.” The costs are rising for many reasons, most notably, of course, is government meddling in medicine in the first place, followed closely by frivolous lawsuits.
     But there is a better way, a way which has been gaining attention and even a growing degree of political respectability; the better way is the medical savings account, otherwise known as MSAs.
     MSAs are a terrific tool because they allows the individual to save money–tax-free–for use in paying routine medical costs. As consumers are able to set aside cash for their routine, or even emergency, medical expenses, they are able to increase control of their care. With their own cash to spend the way they like with whom they like, the patient is no longer held back by the cost concerns of a managed care organization.
     The MSA will help keep down the costs associated with routine medical care simply because the physicians and hospitals will now have an incentive to offer the best service at the best price. And as the patient is able to negotiate with the doctor, better arrangements best suited for that patient can be made.
     For most people, an MSA will not take care of all their lifetime medical-care expenses, and for that catastrophic health insurance policies can be purchased. But for routine medical expenses, MSAs can help everyone.
     But MSAs are still not a reality. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the Patient Protection Act; while an otherwise bad piece of legislation, it did move us closer to universally available tax-free MSAs. Essentially, the legislation removed restrictive caps on the MSAs and changed our tax laws so that either an employer or an employee could contribute to the accounts. Further, under current law, a person can only contribute one-twelfth of their annual allowable MSA total in a given month. The recently-passed legislation allows for single-time annual contributions.
     It is important to note that while the House has passed this legislation–with all its many faults–the Senate has not, and there is some indication that the president will veto it.
     If we are serious about reforming our system of health care, the key must be allowing for more choices and more freedom, not further restricting patients and doctors. The MSA is tool whose time has come.
     Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).


Texas Straight Talk, 17 August 1998
Deceptive economic euphoria
So-called ‘good times’ must end

     Congressional leaders are squabbling like never before; not over how to cut spending, reduce government and balance the budget, but over how to spend the so-called $1 trillion budget surplus expected over the next ten years.
     An interesting concept indeed! The national debt is rising at the rate of over $150 billion per year and our leaders never-the-less are euphoric over huge budget “surpluses” for “as far as the eye can see.” This has to be one of the craziest debates of all recorded economic history. I’m sure similar deceptions in budgetary history have been known but never to the extent of this $1 trillion “windfall.”
     It is true many Americans believe this nonsense and feel giddy about the prospects of sharing in a perpetual wealth machine. Of course, not much good can be expected to come from such accounting chicanery, but the debate is not all bad. Tax cuts are being considered as a way of “spending” some of the money coming in from–what else!–excessive tax revenues. But the myth prevails that allowing an individual to keep their earnings is recorded as a cost to government, and that is a concept which must be rejected.
     The debate over how to manage all this extra cash never includes any discussion about reducing the size and scope of government; while plenty of energy is spent on promoting new welfare and warfare spending.
     Is anyone asking serious questions about what is going on and how long will the good times roll? A few, but they are not inside the Capitol Building. Outside the beltway, it’s a different story. Many people I talk to are outright skeptical, or just don’t believe the propaganda, and many don’t even listen to the nonsense coming from our political leaders. They are struggling to pay their bills, believe taxes are way too high, that business and personal regulations are too numerous and overbearing, that inflation is alive and social security is broken. And this in spite of being at the peak of a grand economic “recovery” with the markets in the world awash in paper dollars and paper profits.
     It does not go unnoticed by people outside the Washington, DC, that the cost of living continues to rise despite the government’s rosey reports. Personal bankruptcies are at a record high level, and the 18% interest on consumer debt is a lot different from interest earned on savings accounts.
     But among members of Congress and their staffs, there is unrestrained euphoria. Sadly, it has more to do with politics than reality.
     First, we’re not doing as well as claimed and most Americans know it. Second, we’re doing well because we benefit, as all countries do for a limited periods of time, from central bank credit creation–i.e., free money flowing into the banking system keeping interest rates artificially low. A $5.6 trillion debt and growing allows government expenditures to continue despite the nonsense about a balanced budget all the Washington pundits are bragging about.
     But most importantly, our trade deficit, and the willingness of foreigners and foreign central banks to take our inflated dollars and hold them gives us a free ride for now and for as long as they see fit to accept our greatest export: our inflation and debt.
     But all good things must end when they are built on a fiction. A fiction is precisely what fiat money is–the economic equivalent of the philosopher’s stone, which was hoped to turn lead into gold.
     That it must end points to the bigger problem of dealing with an economic crises when it hits. There is no way to know when such a crises will come–but the laws of economics are as unyielding as those of physics. A crises will come, but how we will deal with it is the most important question of all, simply because our response will determine how future generations of Americans live. Will they have more or less liberty? More or less prosperity? More or less peace?
     The solution is not complex if we as a nation reject the notion that the role of government is to use coercive powers to promote welfare and warfare, and instead accept the principle that the role of government is to protect liberty. Only under that system will the euphoria of the politicians be justified.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 August 1998
Wagging imperialism as bad as the Dog
Inconsistent foreign policy is part of the problem

     Many Americans believe President Clinton’s bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan was nothing more than a scene from the recent movie “Wag the Dog.” I have been asked by the media if I agreed. My answer has been simple: I really don’t know.
     But then, I’m not sure if even Bill Clinton himself knows. I’m certain it would be easy for him to subconsciously rationalize anything that distracts us from the Monica Lewinsky affair.
     However, there is a much more important issue at stake, and that is an inconsistent and dangerous foreign policy that we have for years followed in the Middle East.
     The natural tendency for all Americans is to want to quickly retaliate against anyone who would dare try to kill American citizens. And that is, of course, understandable. But if this in reality makes things much worse and doesn’t come close to punishing those responsible, then it may well be a serious mistake on our part.
     A few facts to remember:
     First, prior to the terrorist attacks on Tanzania and Kenya, two prominent Arabic newspapers, printed in London, reported that an extremist Islamic Jihad vowed revenge against the United States for capturing three Islamic fundamentalists who were promoting Albanian separatism in Kosovo. Why we did this should prompt a serious discussion regarding our policy in that region.
     Next, Osama bin Laden and his Afghan religious supporters were American allies throughout the 1980s and received our money and training and were heralded as the Afghan “Freedom Fighters.” Even then, bin Laden let it be known that his people resented all imperialism, whether from the Soviets or the United States.
     Finally, the region’s Muslims see America as the imperialist invader. They have deeply held religious beliefs, and in their desire for national sovereignty many see America as a threatening menace. America’s presence in the Middle East, most flagrantly demonstrated with troops and bases in Saudi Arabia, is something many Muslims see as defiling their holy land. Many Muslims–and this is what makes an extremist like bin Laden so popular–see American policy as identical to Israel’s policy; an affront to them that is rarely understood by most Americans.
     Far too often, the bombing of declared (or concocted) enemies, whether it’s the North Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Sudanese, the Albanians, or the Afghans, produces precisely the opposite effect to what is sought. It kills innocent people, creates more hatred toward America, unifies and stimulates the growth of the extremist Islamic movement and makes them more determined than ever to strike back with their weapon of choice–terror.
     The excuse for the U.S. to strike back, given by the President, was to “protect U.S. sovereignty” and to “spread democracy” throughout the world. Prior to last week, though, how many Americans were lying awake at night worrying about an attack by the Sudanese, let alone from our old friends the Freedom Fighters of Afghanistan? Until last week, not one American in 10 million had ever heard of this week’s “Hitler”–Osama bin Laden.
     Our current policy in the Middle East is indeed a threat to our security, for it puts more Americans in increased danger. Protecting our so-called interests, i.e., controlling Arab oil, is not worth the danger of giving the Islamic extremist the ammunition and the incentive to unite an entire region–a region which quite possibly has access to nuclear weapons–against all American citizens around the world.
     “Wag the Dog” or not, “wagging” a foreign policy flawed from the start is indeed a great danger to our national security, and we should soon start talking seriously about a policy designed for truly preserving American interests–freedom and prosperity here at home. Let us soon end the on-going Persian Gulf War. It is not winnable.
     Let us hear no more of our “obligation” to spread democracy around the world in the name of preserving our national security. We’re not doing a very good job of respecting individual liberty or the Rule of Law here at home, and it is unlikely we can simply bully others into our mode of thinking.
     When liberty is perfectly protected here at home, others throughout the world will emulate us and our message will spread without the need for imperialism, the threat of terrorism or the dangers of retaliatory bombing.


Texas Straight Talk, 31 August 1998
Taxpayer cash flowing again to non-citizens
Popular causes often used to hide unconstitutional spending programs

     For years American citizens had complained to Congress about the policy of providing welfare and other benefits to non-citizens, so it was with great ceremony in 1996 that Congress passed the Welfare Reform Act. Among other things, this measure repealed the nonsensical programs giving taxpayer cash to non-citizens.
     Public support for the provision was so strong, even President Clinton had to bow to the pressure and sign the legislation into law. What we in the public missed was what had to be a big wink between Congress and the president, as both crossed their fingers knowing the arrangement was temporary.
     In fact, the law had barely taken effect when Congress this year took up legislation, the Agriculture Appropriations for 1999, which had buried in it a return to the old policy of handing out cash to aliens.
     What does an ostensibly agriculture-related measure have to do with giving handouts to aliens? Nothing, of course, except it is a way to make it harder for those who oppose giving taxpayer cash to any non-citizen with their hand out to vote against the legislation. Especially in an election year.
     In fact, when the books are examined closely, one finds that the benefits aliens receive under this new legislation–and the precedent set by its passage–are far bigger than any positives for American farmers and ranchers. As a note, the Agriculture Appropriations process has long been the hiding place for the failed social programs loved by liberals; some estimates show that as much as 65-70 percent of the spending is on non-ag-related programs.
     The paying of benefits to non-citizens is offensive and reckless for many reasons. Most notably because it literally robs money from two groups of people: the people who paid into the system through taxes and are now expecting to get something for their trouble, and the people who are currently paying into the system (through taxes) and must bear a higher burden.
     The agreement we each make with the government when we pay taxes is that we are getting something in return: defense, infrastructure, and so on. In our age of welfarism, we also expect benefits from the government if we fall sick or unemployed.
     But when those who did not pay into the system get benefits, two things happen. First, the resources available to pay benefits (tax dollars) are spread even thinner. This means that those who paid into the system (especially our senior citizens, and even our veterans) must get a lower return on their taxes and labor, in the form of reduced benefits.
     Second, because of the nature of our system, those aggrieved by the spreading-thin of benefits from the pool they created with their taxes will rightly complain. The only option available to Congress–in their warped sense–is to increase taxes on those currently working and paying taxes so that all the beneficiaries get 100 percent of what they were expecting.
     But these programs of giving away Americans’ tax dollars to non-citizens is not limited to welfare programs at home. We see it also with the subsidization of foreign corporations and foreign nationals through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other organizations. Of course, supporters of these welfare programs like to claim that they “help” America’s small businessmen and farmers, but the proof simply doesn’t exist. In fact, much like the recent “farm legislation,” the pay-out to the foreign nationals and corporations is much larger than the small bones thrown to our people as a form of sick appeasement, to keep them paying into, and believing in, the system of redistribution.
     Why do politicians feel the need to send your tax dollars to non-citizens? First, almost by definition, non-citizens are ethnic minorities, thereby giving politicians the opportunity to show they ‘care“ about that particular ethnic group. Second, when the non-citizens reside here, it creates yet another dependent class for when they become citizens; if they get a government check from the moment they cross the border, it is likely they will continue to vote for those willing to provide ever more generous government checks. Third, for those outside the US, often wealthy individuals with ties to US corporations, it creates sources for campaign donations, or provides ways to ensure corporate donors here get lucrative deals overseas, reimbursing the industrialists’ donations with tax money.
     It is important to always look at the details of the legislation hidden behind the popular names and slogans. It is even more important to follow the money. Americans are tired of being forced to pay benefits to non-citizens, while politicians hide behind platitudes, polls and feel-good policies.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 September 1998
‘High crimes and misdemeanors’
Hearings must be held for sake of nation

     “Impeach the president!” and “Clinton must resign!” are phrases which were once relegated to the back rooms of–to borrow a phrase from the First Lady–a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Today, those statements are being boldly proclaimed in public by many, even by those who otherwise have strongly supported this president.
     Unfortunately, those calls are only now being made after our nation’s president has admitted to living a life more akin to an afternoon soap opera than the traditional values which so many in our nation hold dear. While there is a great deal of significance to the fact that the president has admitted to lying under oath in a judicial proceeding, I have not considered–nor do I now–this “scandal” worthy of the attention it has received in the light of so much else before us.
     It might be more pressing if this were the only impropriety involving President Clinton; lying under oath, tampering with witnesses and the litany of related crimes alleged, are certainly worthy of trial under our system of government.
     But allegations of bribery, treason and oppression of rights are far more serious.
     Almost a year ago, long before our national obsession with the Bill-said/Monica-said affair began, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and I cosponsored legislation called an “Inquiry into Impeachment,” House Resolution 304.
     I did so because credible allegations have been raised that this president has abused the power of his office, domestically and abroad.
     Discussions of a powerful man using influence in an attempt to secure employment for his much-younger mistress, while disgraceful and shameful, pale in comparison to the abuse of power in accessing hundreds of confidential files on private citizens and political opponents. It is disturbing that under this president’s watch, at least 900 files from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, detailing the intimate details uncovered for security background checks, were found to have been illegally transferred to the White House.
     If this president used his powerful position to illegally secure information regarding political detractors, then this president must be impeached.
     The situation would be bad enough if the allegations were limited to internal, domestic politics. But even more frightening allegations exist.
     Far more pressing than the results of DNA tests on a cocktail dress are investigations into whether this president allowed highly-classified missile technology to be transferred to the communist Chinese government in exchange for campaign donations. The allegations and accompanying evidence are compelling, if not yet complete, to indicate that this has indeed been the case. Let us be clear about this: the government of China is not our ally, and in fact has nuclear missiles aimed at our cities. While we are “at peace,” we should be mindful that China is a foreign government with a system diametrically opposed to our own.
     If this president not only broke the law by accepting donations from a potentially hostile foreign government, but proceeded to trade our nation’s military secrets as a “quid pro quo,” then this president must be impeached.
     For far too long, Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility to independent prosecutors. This Congress should begin proceedings to hear the facts behind these allegations, as the Inquiry legislation would require.
     Congress must move forward now to secure the integrity of our system of justice, protect the liberties of our people, and to ensure our national security. But Congress must move forward with hearings for the sake of this president and the office he holds. If this president has done nothing meriting impeachment, public hearings will vindicate him and the sordid allegations–and purveyors of the falsehoods–will be revealed.
     If, however, the allegations bear the weight of the evidence, then the man entrusted with the highest office in our land must be impeached. Should this be the case, it will be a difficult time for our nation, but it is far worse to allow transgressions against our sovereignty and liberty to go unpunished.
     Impeach the president? For the sake of our nation, let us hold hearings and weigh the evidence; the allegations are simply too compelling.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 September 1998
Inconsistency must be addressed
Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for drug dealers

     It is simply a fact that even in the best of circumstances and situations, our federal bureaucracies and regulations are maddeningly complex, and it is also a fact that all too often that complexity breeds inconsistency or worse.
     In perhaps no situation is that more apparent than our policies regarding narcotics trafficking and use, and federal housing.
     As a physician, I know all too well the wretched effects which reckless use of narcotic and mind-altering substances can have on people. I have seen the helpless children born to alcohol- and drug-addicted parents. And I have even witnessed the destruction of families in my community at the hands of those using these substances.
     For many years now, our federal government has waged a war on drug use. This “war” has been both figurative and literal. And yet at the same time, American taxpayers are forced to subsidize the very drug dealers and users who we are also trying to eliminate.
     When the federal government began the “housing” programs, it was with the intention of providing adequate shelter to low-income families. Today, federal housing projects are among the most dangerous sections of a town, and are rapidly becoming little more than shelters for scurrilous behavior.
     In fact, there are rules in place that make it almost impossible to oust those convicted of felonies involving drugs. Some argue that it isn’t “nice” to evict these law-scoffs. Others suggest that we just need to spend more money to make the projects nicer, in the hopes that a new coat of paint will convince the druggies to change their ways.
     The sad reality is that, in this case, taxpayers are the unwilling enablers of drug sellers and users. By refusing to evict those who break our laws, the federal government forces you and your family to literally subsidize the very lives of those engaging in illegal activity.
     This must change. And so this past week I introduced legislation (HR4551) in the House of Representatives–mirroring similar provisions introduced in the Senate by Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri–that would prohibit anyone from living in federal housing who has been convicted of drug charges.
     There will invariably be those who oppose this legislation, for many reasons. But they will ignore one important fact: this is the taxpayers’ property. As the landlords, we taxpayers have the right to set forth restrictions on who can and cannot live in the buildings we are being forced to pay for.
     And one thing is clear: those who would violate our communities’ laws should not expect to be subsidized by federal tax dollars. No matter what some bleeding hearts may say, public housing is a privilege provided by the taxpayers, not a right.
     While the American people are willing to offer a hand to those in need, no American should be forced to subsidize those who promote, produce or use illicit substances.


Texas Straight Talk, 21 September 1998
The problem is the currency
World-wide crisis points to need for sound policies

     A financial crisis is griping the world. It may yet prove to be the worst in all of history, but the source of the problem is not a mystery. It is a currency induced crisis.
     Although taxes, spending, regulatory policies, and special interest cronyism compounds the problems, all nations of the world operate with a fiat monetary system and it has allowed the financial bubble to develop. Easy credit and artificially low interest rates starts a chain reaction that by its very nature guarantees a future correction. The later bad consequences of inflating a currency are certain, no matter how beneficial the earlier ones may seem.
     Beneficiaries of easy credit demand the policy continue. Creating money and credit out of thin air is perfect counterfeiting, legal and appearing helpful to all. It accommodates deficit spending on extravagant welfare programs and unwarranted international militarism. It seems everyone likes it until the artificial nature of the financial bubble becomes apparent, as it is now.
     The current crisis signals an end of an era and it does not bode well for anyone.
     The near anarchy in Russia, the food riots in Indonesia, and the growing recession in Japan are signs of conditions spreading across the globe. And unfortunately, there is no sign that correct policy will soon be instituted–anywhere.
     Markets inevitably devalue currencies that have been inflated by the monetary authorities. The degree depends on the amount of previous monetary inflation and political perceptions but, on the short run, countries frequently accelerate the devaluation in a competitive fashion in an effort to compete with their trading partners.
     Our concerns in the Congress should be for the dollar. We should not use dollars to prop up other currencies or economies, as bail-outs compound the problems and encourage others to mismanage their economies while expecting more cash from Uncle Sam. But most importantly, it actually undermines the value of the dollar.
     Foreign Central Banks for years have been willing holders of our dollars, helping to finance our big-spending ways, by buying more dollars than our own central bank. Foreign central banks, however, have begun dumping American dollars, and as this accelerates, pressure will increase on our economy.
     What can we expect from our Federal Reserve? Just as difficult as it is for an addict to cut back on drugs, economic planners refuse to cut back the credit creation to which they have become addicted. Long life may be dependent on sound medical advice and drug abstinence, but feeling good on the short run drives the addict. Likewise, an economy feels good by perpetuating for as long as possible the easy credit that brought good times, while the long life of the currency, the economy and the political system gets little concern.
     Let there be no doubt about it. The good times came with generous credit creation and low interest rates and the Fed will yield to the politicians’ pressure to continue the process. Turning off the money spigot, and allowing the market to work will never be seriously considered.
     But eventually, the markets will rule. Credit creation may lower rates for a time, but when confidence is undermined, an inflation premium will emerge and rates will rise regardless.
     It’s time to consider the fundamentals underlying our financial and economic system. The welfare state is unsustainable, as are our world-wide commitments to bail out everyone and to intervene in every fight.
     A limited government designed to protect liberty and provide a national offense is one that could easily be managed with minimal taxes, but it would also require that we follow the advise of the Founders who explicitly admonished us not “to emit bills of credit” that is, paper money and use only silver and gold as legal tender. We need to lay plans for our future because we are rapidly approaching a time of crisis and chaos.
     We surely do not want to leave the solution to presidential executive orders.
     Congress has an explicit responsibility in the area of money and finance and we must assume this responsibility. Manipulating the money supply with the pretense of helping ourselves is unacceptable and destructive. Before our economy is lost, we should work diligently to restore soundness to our monetary policy.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 September 1998
For sake of Rule of Law, Congress must proceed
Only Clinton’s resignation should stop impeachment hearings

     Despite partisan rancor and political positioning, no American should rejoice in the events which now grip our nation. In fact, this is indeed a solemn time for our country.
     But at the same time, it is an opportunity–regardless of position, persuasion or party–for we as a nation to reassert that we are a nation built upon the Rule of Law, and not the whims of men. That all people are held to the same standards under the law, and that laws and correct procedures are followed.
     The president stands accused of several things, and what is on the forefront of public attention is the charge of perjury and obstruction of justice before a federal grand jury in regards to a civil case involving sexual harassment.
     Under our Constitution, the House of Representatives is charged with investigating allegations against a sitting president or judge. While some may talk about whether or not an offense is “impeachable,” that is only so much political rhetoric. The Constitution only specifies that Congress can impeach a president for “high crimes” and “misdemeanors,” but the definitions of those words are left to Congress to determine–anything a sufficient number of Members of Congress find offensive can be cause for impeachment.
     In recent weeks I have been asked many times what the timetable might be for impeachment. We now have a tentative outline.
     Currently, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives is looking into the report issued by the Office of the Independent Prosecutor on charges that the president lied under oath.
     According to Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), his committee will receive a full briefing on the evidence on October 1st or 2nd. Over the next three days, the full committee will debate the evidence. On either October 5 or 6, the committee will consider a resolution to begin an impeachment hearing.
     The resolution would then go before the entire House for a vote within three days.
     A simple majority of the House of Representatives is all that will be required to initiate impeachment hearings. Those hearings could begin immediately, or be held until early November, after the elections.
     A big question will be whether or not the impeachment hearings will be limited solely to allegations that the president lied under oath, or if it will also include other charges. Those involve potentially treasonous activities in transferring advanced missile technology to the communist Chinese in exchange for campaign donations, as well as violations of peoples rights in the abuse of more than 1,000 confidential FBI files for partisan purposes. (By comparison, a man went to prison in the early 1970s for misuse of one FBI file.)
     While one should never discount the importance of lying under oath, I am saddened that some congressional leaders have recently suggested hearings will not include these other, far more serious, allegations. Crimes against our Constitution must not be set aside for details of sexual escapades. I hope that after $40 million being spent on investigating these more serious charges of crimes against the Constitution, that the entirety of the hearings are not simply restricted to this matter of perjury.
     Under our Constitution, in accordance with the Rule of Law, the hearings must be held as long as the allegations remain and the president is in office. Since the allegations are not going to go away, the only constitutionally and morally correct way for hearings to be stopped would be for the president to resign if he has indeed committed these crimes; knowledge certainly the president possesses.
     Some claim this situation creates a “constitutional crisis” and an “embarrassment.” A crisis will develop only if we, as a nation, reject the Rule of Law, and embarrassment will result only if we forego constitutional hearings.
     It is in times of stress that the quality of metal is tested. The same is true for a nation.
     


Texas Straight Talk, 5 October 1998
Tax measure includes version of Paul legislation
Parents should be able to provide for education without penalty

     With the passage of new tax legislation last week, Congress is proposing that the American people be able to keep more of what they earn by providing more than $80 billion in tax cuts over the next five years.
     While $80 billion is nothing to sneeze at, it should have been a lot more, and a lot deeper, but this is a very positive first step.
     One such positive detail is that parents, under this legislation if it becomes law, will see the prepaid, tax-deductible tuition programs expanded to include private institutions. This means a parent can save for their kids education by contributing to a future-tuition payment account up to $5,000 per year, which can then be deducted from their gross tax income.
     This is a version of legislation that my colleague Kay Granger of Fort Worth and I introduced last year. Our bill was called the Higher Education Affordability and Availability Act, HR 2847.
     The bottom line is that parents should be allowed to provide for their children’s educational needs without suffering a tax burden, and in the manner they see fit.
     America’s biggest education-related problem is not what often grabs the headlines, they are symptoms. It’s not crime in the schools, not large classrooms, not a lack of books. The biggest problem is a basic lack of choice. Today, the average Texas family simply cannot choose what particular setting is best for their child. There are simply too many obstacles; the greatest of which is cost.
     Last year I brought forward the Family Education Freedom Act, HR 1816, to address this issue. My legislation would allow parents to take up to $3,000 per year off their tax bill to pay for any of the education-related expenses of their children. The money could be used for private or religious school tuition, books, computers, field trips–anything which is part of the educational needs of a child, whether in elementary school or college.
     Government must stop limiting the choices available to parents, and instead work to free parents of the taxes and regulations which keep them providing for their children in the ways best suited for their family.
     The House of Representatives took a step in the right direction in the passage of the new tax-cut package, but we cannot stop there; more must be done. Our kids are counting on us.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 October 1998
Tax measure provides income averaging
Farmers, ranchers get strong, common-sense tool

     Agriculture, by its very nature, is cyclical. To say that there are “good years” and “bad years” in agriculture is almost a redundancy; it is merely a fact of life. A fact which until very recently was generally understood by the public, but actually used against farmers by the government’s tax collectors.
     For people engaged in most other forms of commerce, a person’s income and wealth can be measured based on a single year. Not so for agriculture.
     Just as the actual processes of agriculture demands a long-term view, so too does understanding the income and wealth of those engaged in the business. The “really good” years cancel out the “really” bad, as the “good” do with the “bad,” finally resulting in an average.
     Those of us who have grown up in or been otherwise involved with agriculture, understand that income and wealth are viewed in the long-term, over a period of years, not simply on the basis of a single harvest. A good year only corrects the books for a bad year.
     But our federal government has seen fit to use the facts of agricultural life against farmers to get a few more dollars of revenue. This occurs by taxing agriculture at the extremely high-income rates in the good years because on paper the farmer made a lot of money. They leave out of the equation that the previous year may have been a disaster because of drought, flood, market fluctuations or other problems, resulting in perhaps literally no income for the farmer and his family.
     A much more sensible method of taxation for those in agriculture is one which would view the appropriate level of taxation the way farming as a whole is viewed: in the long-term.
     I have been a strong, long-time proponent of “income averaging.” This fairer process allows those in agriculture to be taxed at a rate based on an average of several years. Several years ago, income averaging was introduced into our tax system and has been greatly beneficial to agriculture. Unfortunately, that tool was set to expire at the end of 2000.
     I was pleased, however, to work on and vote for the recent $80 billion tax-cut plan. This plan does many things, but one of its best provisions is that it extends income averaging permanently. This is an unequivocal victory for those in agriculture.
     While Congress and the federal government cannot control the weather, they can ensure that hard working Americans are not unfairly punished under our tax law because the nature of their business is so tied with nature’s cycles.
     Government should exist not to tie the hands and feet of those working to improve their lives, but to allow people to engage unhindered in the “pursuit of happiness.”


Texas Straight Talk, 19 October 1998
Economic crisis looms
Proper steps should be taken to correct situation now

     Although many countries are now suffering more than the United States, in time, I am afraid our problems will become much greater.
     A world-wide system of fiat money is the root of the crisis. The post-World War II Bretton Woods gold-exchange system was seriously flawed, and free market economists from the start predicted its demise. Twenty-seven years later, on August 15, 1971, it ended with a bang ushering in the turbulent and commodity-driven inflation of the 1970s.
     Now, after another twenty-seven years, we are seeing the end of the post-Bretton Woods floating rate system with another bang as the financial asset inflation of the 1980s and 1990s collapses. A new system is now required.
     Just as the Bretton Woods system was never repaired due to its flaws, so too will it be impossible to rebuild the floating rate system of the past twenty-seven years. The sooner we admit to its total failure, the better.
     We must understand the serious flaw in the current system that is playing havoc with world markets. When license is given to central banks to inflate a currency, they eventually do so. Money can be inflated for only so long until serious problems arise.
     That is what we are witnessing today. The world-wide fragile financial system is now collapsing, and tragically the only cry is for more credit inflation because the cause of our dilemma is not understood. An attempt at credit stimulation with interest rates below one percent, is doing nothing for Japan’s economy and for a good reason: It is the wrong treatment for the wrong diagnosis.
     If the problem was merely that there were not enough money, then money creation alone could make us all millionaires and no one would have to work. But increasing the money supply does not increase wealth. Only work and savings do that. The deception comes because, for a while for the lucky few, benefits are received when governments inflate the currency and pass it out for political reasons.
     But in time the free ride comes to an end. Even the beneficiaries suffer the inevitable consequences of a philosophy that teaches wealth comes from money creation and that central banks are acceptable central economic planners–even in countries such as the United States where many pay lip service to free markets and free trade.
     The tragedy in the end is far more damaging to the innocent than any benefit that was supposed to be delivered to the people as a whole. There is no justifiable trade-off. The costs far exceed the benefits.
     A program to prevent this from happening is necessary.
     First, the Federal Reserve should be denied the power to fix interest rates and buy government debt. It should not be a central economic planner through manipulation of money and credit.
     Second, Congress should legalize the Constitutional principle that gold and silver be legal tender by prohibiting sales and capital gains taxes from being placed on all American legal tender coins.
     Third, we must abandon the tradition of bailing out bad debtors, foreign and domestic. No International Monetary Fund and related institution funding to prop up bankrupt countries, and no Federal Reserve-orchestrated bailouts such as Long Term Capital Management LP. Liquidation of bad debt and investments must be permitted.
     Fourth, policies must conform to free markets and free trade. Taxes, as well as government spending, should be lowered. Regulations should be greatly reduced, and all voluntary economic transactions in hiring practices should be permitted. No control on wages and prices should be imposed.
     Following a policy of this sort could quickly restore growth and stability to any failing economy and soften the blow for all those about to experience the connections that have been put in place by previous years of mischief, mismanagement and monetary inflation.
     Nothing but a free market, sound money approach to our economics can guarantee personal liberty or offer greater potential for fiscal rewards.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 October 1998
The Ominous Budget Deal
Measure lets foreign inspectors into US facilities, keeps troops in Bosnia

     More than 8,000 pages of small print governmentese make up the Omnibus spending package recently approved by the US Congress, over the objections of myself and numerous other conservatives from Texas and around the country. The devilish details hidden in the package will remain obscured for weeks or months, until Americans have the chance to scour through the pages.
     But one thing is clear, the omnibus package has ominous implications for those Americans concerned about our national security.
     Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this package is the implementation of the international Chemical Weapons Convention. Under the terms of this convention, and approved in the omnibus package, the US must now open our weapons manufacturing and military storage sites to international inspectors.
     For the first time, United Nations inspectors will be allowed to operate on US soil as if we were a rogue nation threatening international stability. That we are allowing foreign governments and inspectors to dictate how we protect ourselves is unconscionable.
     While most people would agree that the use of so-called “chemical weapons” is deplorable, we also do not like the thought of ever having to use force. Unfortunately, just as the use of force in self-defense is required and we must never limit the right of Americans to protect themselves, so should we as a nation jealously defend our right to use any means necessary to safeguard ourselves from potential adversaries.
     At the same time this omnibus package was allowing foreign inspectors on to American soil, it provided more than $225 million to keep American soldiers stuck in the middle of the Bosnian conflict. While many of us in Congress want to see our troops brought home from the president’s little police action, this legislative monstrosity continues funding this relic of Vietnam-style interventionism.
     Of course, that $225 million is only a drop in the foreign spending bucket, with approaching $50 billion of taxpayer cash being sent overseas.
     One of the most egregious expenditures is $17.9 billion for the International Monetary Fund. Conservatives have battled for the past year to stop more money from going to this corrupt organization that props-up the failed economies of two-bit dictators the world-over.
     It just isn’t a good trade-off: sending our troops to fight winless wars which have no impact on our security while funneling tax dollars to organizations which operate in direct conflict with US values, so at the same time foreign inspectors can come here to weaken our defense.
     While there are many possible explanations about how these heinous line-items entered the omnibus budget, the way they stayed was the sheer size of the document.
     If the devil is indeed in the details, then we should all prepare for what else is still buried in the lines of ink.
     The omnibus is an ominous package, indeed.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 November 1998
Middle East peace: déjà vu all over again
Latest plan sets dangerous precedence with US intervention

     Not a year goes by, it seems, without yet another end being announced to the centuries old conflict in the Middle East.
     In the late 1970s, two men won the Noble Prize for securing a lasting peace in the region. Of course, the ink was barely dry on the deal before hostilities began anew. How many times since have we seen Muslim and Israeli leaders solemnly shaking hands in front of US president, with all sides proclaiming that a new age has come? Almost too many to count.
     But what is the point in counting them? They have all resulted in the same thing: more violence. Often the peace-talks and signing ceremonies last longer than the actual cease-fires.
     So these last weeks have been less than riveting as our president (one cynically might insert the phrase “diverting attention from his domestic problems”) met in yet another round of tense negotiations with the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian chairman. While all three were “cautiously optimistic” in their comments to the press, the people in the Middle East–on both sides–were disgusted. One Israeli Member of Parliament has drafted a measure for a “no confidence” vote in the Prime Minister, the kiss of political death in their system, while people violently demonstrated in the streets.
     The negotiations, and their product, became much more interesting as the details have been released. ‘Interesting’ may not be the right word; perhaps ‘scary’ works better.
     Once again the United States is acting out of its league in trying to induce Israel to trade their security for an almost certain temporary peace, while attempting to persuade Palestinians to accept only a fraction of what they want. While past meddling has resulted mostly in US commitments to sending more tax dollars as aid to both sides, this time the costs may be much greater. Costly in lives, costly in national security, and costly in precedence.
     One aspect of the recently brokered deal calls for the US Central Intelligence Agency to monitor both sides for compliance with the no-hostilities clauses. This raises numerous concerns, not the least of which is simply the mechanics of our CIA doing such a thing. How are they to make sure no one is harboring ill will in their hearts?
     This president acted far outside his bounds in agreeing to such a thing. After all, even if one can make the specious constitutional argument about the appropriateness for a civilian intelligence agency as opposed to a fully military version, it is impossible to justify using such an agency to monitor the good will between two other countries.
     Worse, though, is the possibility of the US being blamed for future problems because of our “monitoring.” If a terrorist bomb explodes, many will ask, why wasn’t the US doing its job? Worse, if a terrorist bomb planted by one group or the other is stopped by the US, what will keep that side from making their next target US citizens abroad? Or at home?
     We are then faced with an ever-increasing national security risk of protecting citizens abroad and at home from terrorists who blame us for interfering in their holy wars and causes.
     This latest peace deal is most damaging in the precedence it sets. The top demand of the Israelis was that the US must release convicted American spy Jonathon Pollard to their custody or face the prospect of that country walking out. Pollard was a US Navy intelligence officer who, in the mid-1980s, began selling US secrets to Israel. He was sent to jail for life for his treason, but the Israeli government wants him freed.
     During the Cold War the US would release Iron Curtain spies in exchange for Americans or our allies. At least in the Cold War there was a direct US interest at stake. Not now; our nation is being told that if we do not release to his controllers a man who sold-out our country, then Israel would rather stay at war with the Palestinians.
     How’s that for international blackmail? If the president does not agree to release this treacherous spy, then we get blamed for the peace process falling apart.
     Of course, if history is our guide, blaming the US will be simply an exercise in window dressing. The problems in the Middle East are not political ones, and therefore cannot be solved by American politicians and their soundbite platitudes. To think a deal signed by these three men will have any meaningfully positive effect is naïve.
     There are many reasons to believe that peace will never reign in the land of the Jordan River while both sides lay claim to the region. One thing is certain, however, the United States cannot stick its nose into that mess without expecting to get punched from both sides.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 November 1998
Privacy tops agenda
Restoration of rights should lead in 106th Congress

     With the 1998 election completed and there being several weeks before the start of the 106th Congress, this is a prime opportunity to examine what will be my legislative priorities for the coming session. To paraphrase a conservative activist of the 1960s, a priority should be erasing the bad laws, not creating new ones.
     Perhaps the most pressing issue before our nation is that of personal privacy. The last several years have seen a dramatic rise–though certainly not discussed by the press or in politically polite company–in attempts by the government to claim greater privileges in violating the privacy of American citizens.
     For a Republican Member of Congress like me, it would perhaps be more comforting to claim that these incidents were all being perpetrated by the “liberal Democrats.” While accusing the Republicans of violating his privacy, President Clinton’s Administration has indeed been at the front of the charge to increase the government’s ability to pry into our personal affairs and monitor our movements, he has had many willing allies in the so-called “conservative” camp.
     From a national database containing the private medical history of every American to a national identification card and granting broad new authorities to the FBI in wiretapping, many on both sides of the political aisle have been working to erode our tradition of privacy.
     This past year saw several minor victories for those of us wanting to turn-back this trend toward a more intrusive government. We succeeded in forestalling implementation of the national medical database and the national ID for one calendar year.
     Under the guise of “preventing fraud,” the medical database would require that every aspect of an individual’s medical history be linked together and easily accessible to government officials and researchers. And what is accessible to government officials and researchers for “good” purposes is also accessible to computer hackers. Suddenly companies would pay for “illegal” information on your medical history, to determine the risk you pose to their benefits package. Or, a political opponent brings up an embarrassing tidbit from your medical past. Or ... the possibilities are endless, including the likelihood that patients will stop confiding in their doctors if it is possible that those remarks could be transcribed into a computer database. Of course, the ultimate solution is to exclude government from its unconstitutional role as a health care provider.
     A national ID poses no less serious a threat. Under the 1996 legislation authorizing the creation of this new monstrosity, no American can travel by air between the states or internationally without a national ID card after October 1, 2000. Further, doctors will be required to see the ID before offering care, and no one will be allowed to receive federal benefits without their card.
     A fundamental question that must be addressed is this: why does the government need to know our every move? Without fail, the answer is always “fighting crime.” But at what point does the “fighting” of crime become itself a crime?
     We were unsuccessful in stopping the Administration from implementing “roaming wiretaps.” It has been the case up until now that the FBI or other agency can only tap those phone lines that are approved by a court once probable cause has been shown. While some (including myself) believe that the courts have been too liberal in allowing taps, at least there has been a passing acknowledgement that violating privacy, even of someone suspected of engaging in criminal activity, is not a trivial matter. Now, however, these agencies want the power to tap any phone a suspected criminal may use.
     How would this work? If someone you know is suspected by the government of doing something criminal, and that friend comes over for dinner, the FBI wants the authority to tap your line without a court order–just in case the criminal uses your phone.
     How long would the tap be in place? What if they heard something they would not otherwise hear (say, you and your brother-in-law in another state making a casual $1 bet on a college football game)?
     Benjamin Franklin once wrote that those who give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security. The application of this quote to the privacy issue is unmistakable. We have become so consumed as a nation with “fighting crime” that many are willing to give up their liberties, those precious gifts of our creator secured by the blood of soldiers, to secure the illusion of eliminating criminal behavior.
     Criminal law enforcement, of course, is reserved to the state and local governments by the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.
     We as a nation must jealously guard our constitutional rights and American heritage of liberty. To assume we can at the same time be a nation of liberty and have a government which monitors our every move and word is foolishly inconsistent.
     The restoration and protection of personal privacy is, and will remain, a key issue for 1999, for the 106th Congress, and for our nation.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 November 1998
Wrong debate in House ‘leadership’ race
Focus is on personality and form, rather than ideological substance

     Is leadership important? Of course it is, but current contests for House leadership positions won’t make much difference for our nation.
     The narrow margin between Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives will wreck havoc for whoever ends up in charge. However, the frustration and gridlock may not be all that bad for those of us who want to slow the growth of the federal government.
     The most-often-made claim of leadership candidates is that, if elected, they can best balance the demands of the competing special interest groups.
     One candidate, in seeking my vote for a leadership position, explained that he was more “telegenic” and could therefore better portray “the party” to the American public on TV. Another said he should be elected because he could, in a legislative sense “make the train run on time.”
     But are “on-time trains” such a good thing if they carry off more of our money and freedoms while delivering more regulations? It may be that our leaders should demand that we stop the trains entirely. In the last four years, very little legislation has actually been championed to shrink the size and scope of the federal government. A change of leadership probably will not significantly change this record.
     Too often the leadership debate is only over which version of government intervention we want. Those seeking high office often pay lip service to “less government,” but their voting records rarely show a consistent opposition to big government. So the debates are more over form than substance–TV performance, getting the growing budget passed on time, satisfying the multitude of demands from the countless groups that have come to believe they are entitled to taxpayer largesse.
     The clashes are over big-government details: the welfare poor versus the welfare rich; a foreign policy of propping up right-wing dictators versus left-wing dictators; a war on poverty or a war on drugs; “protecting” the environment or bailing out the IMF. But in the Halls of Congress, little said and less is done about getting the government out of our lives, out of our wallets and off our land.
     In 1994 the American people expressed a desire for leaders who push for less government. The lackadaisical effort, poor results and perceived sell-outs of the last four years have disillusioned those voters. So in 1998, voters were demoralized to the point of simply boycotting the polls, adding to the post-WWII trend of an understandable apathy.
     Both parties, unfortunately, endorse the use of government force to police the world, to redistribute wealth domestically and internationally, and to manipulate money and credit. Both allow government to invade our privacy as a trade-off for the government financing of education, medical care, and housing, arguing such invasion is necessary to run the system efficiently, and prevent waste and fraud. In the name of “public safety,” neither party resists the federal government’s takeover of local law enforcement.
     The leadership debate generated by Speaker Gingrich’s departure has been an exciting event for the inside-the-beltway crowd, but did not generate the true debate over philosophical leadership that will determine the course of our nation for years to come.
     The contest is not about choosing between big or small government, but merely endorsing the one version of Republican big government over another that can “best compete” with a Democrat version of big government. We should expect continued clashes over whose ox is getting gored and whose friends are receiving benefits, but not over questions of the appropriateness of government goring any ox or rewarding/harming political bedfellows.
     We should all hope for the day when choosing leaders means choosing between those who endorse big government and those who pursue the form of government prescribed by the Constitution.
     Eventually, we will need to be led away from the interventionist philosophy that so many leaders of the twentieth century have thrust upon us. The current jockeying for positions of power in Washington, while politically fascinating, will unfortunately not significantly change the direction of our country.


Texas Straight Talk, 23 November 1998
Schizophrenic foreign policy leads to problems
Saber rattling covers serious flaws in approach to other nations

     Sabers are again being rattled by the Clinton Administration, with thousands of troops dispatched to a remote corner of the world to implement a United Nations policy which very few of the “Nations” support, and none are willing to bankroll. Who is the bad guy of the week?
     That trusty villain Saddam Hussein. Remember him? Trained by our government, supported with our tax dollars, encouraged by our leaders. He became the global miscreant after he–a thug, no doubt–invaded another country of thuggish status. But the country he invaded was run by thugs with whom we had a closer relationship than he, so Saddam’s Iraq became the new target of hatred and scorn–and misuse of American military might.
     Our relationship with the Republic of Iraq over the last two decades is a case study in all that is wrong with our national foreign policy. We prop-up immoral dictators, making them our friends and allies at the whim of one administration in keeping with the political correctness of the day, only to completely reverse our course a few years later for no logical reasons. When an individual behaves that way, clinicians refer to it as schizophrenia.
     We must either be engaged in a purely schizophrenic foreign policy, or we must admit to there being such a thing as “good thugs versus bad thugs.” Or, we have to say our policies are driven by the commercial interests of big business (to “protect” the availability of foreign oil, in the case of Iraq). It is hard to decide which of the three could be worse.
     In the end, though, it is our soldiers who bear the brunt of the policy, for they are used to clean up of the messes our vacillating positions create. The United States created Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, so when he became what he was created to become, we destroy him, but in the process put at risk the lives of soldiers and Americans abroad.
     But the use of the military is a great way to divert attention from our foreign policy failures. For when our kids go off to battle, no one dare oppose the action, for that is seen as opposing them. The blood of our nation’s youth, all too often, is spilt as if it can wipe away the policy sins of the Congress and the President.
     Of course, the decision to send troops out to mope up our mistakes is never presented in such a fashion. Instead we talk about needing to make the world safe. Exactly how and from what is obscured. For since we are often then ones who create these villians (such as Hussein) in the first place, perhaps the best way to make the world safe for the US to re-examine its basic foreign policy. In medicine, a doctor can either treat the symptom or the cause.
     Hussein and his ilk are in so many ways the symptoms of the disease of 20th Century imperialism.
     The only constitutional–and therefore legal–use of our military is in the direct protection of US sovereignty. While we expend billions of dollars and countless lives to (unsuccessfully) oust third-rate dictators who have absolutely no ability to threaten our nation on the basis that they might attain “weapons to mass destruction,” we all but ignore real threats (such as the Chinese, North Koreans, military renegades in Russia, Syria, Pakistan, and others).
     We must make radical changes in our approach to foreign policy. (1) Trade and engagement encourage not only peace, but allows individuals currently living under despots to have intimate contact with free peoples, showing them a better way exists. (2) Understanding the history of a region prevents us from trying to step in and determine “winners” and “losers” by settling “peace” among peoples who have been waging war since before Columbus sailed the seas. And, (3) ending the give-away of tax dollars to various countries is not only more responsible for our people, but less likely to antagonize nations as they compare who is and is not on the American dole for how much. George Washington encouraged our nation to be friends with all and enemies with none.
     While we cannot control what attitudes of nations have toward the United States and her people, we can mitigate hostilities by not giving those nations more reasons to despise us.
     Sadly, though, until we engage in a more constructive foreign policy, we can expect the hear the rattling of sabers each time a president needs to divert attention from whatever problems, or the United States wants to wipe under the rug the interventionist mess created by our schizophrenia.


Texas Straight Talk, 30 November 1998
Privacy Busters: Big Bank is watching
New FDIC regs require banks to violate customers privacy

     “Big Bank is watching.” That’s the message the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Internal Revenue Service and an endless stream of federal government agencies are sending under proposed new regulations expected to be implemented within the next year.
     This massive new program–euphemistically called “Know Your Customer”–would convert our nation’s banks into wholly owned subsidiaries of the government-wide movement to invade every aspect of Americans’ privacy.
     The end-effect of the new regulations will be that law-abiding American citizens will be spending more of their time trying to prove themselves innocent of unnamed crimes before federal agents. For example, an individual decides to sell his car through a classified ad in the newspaper, and quickly finds a buyer, who hands over the cash. Now, our happy car-seller is still shopping around for the vehicle he wants, so he wisely deposits the large cash into his account. Unfortunately, that simple act could trigger an alarm within the bank’s computers, alerting to the fact that this customer never makes such large deposits. The bank will be required to notify a host of federal agencies, which will likely dispatch agents to question the man, assuming he must be a drug dealer, arms smuggler or terrorist.
     Sound loony? It is. But that is precisely what will be imposed on banks if these new regulations take effect.
     Under these regulations, banks will be required to first create a profile of all new and current customers. The profile will include such information as their credit history and other standard financial reviews, but will be expanded to include the customer’s deposit and withdrawal habits. This information will be gathered over the first few months of the account’s creation. After that, any account activity that deviates from the profile will be considered suspicious behavior.
     Not only will “unusual” deposits into your account trigger suspicion, but so too might large cash withdrawals. Let us return to our friend selling the car. Instead of selling his car, though, let us say he saved $100 each month for two years, so that he could by his teenage daughter a used car. On the teen’s birthday, so Dad goes heads off to by a vehicle, first stopping at the bank to withdraw the $2,400 he had carefully saved. Again, such an action would likely put this man in the position of having to defend himself against charges of buying drugs, laundering money, tax evasion or some other crime.
     The government regulators defend the new rules, saying that such measures are needed to “combat illicit activities.”
     But at the expense of law-abiding citizen’s privacy? And with the resources of private institutions? While such egregious violations of individual rights are common in totalitarian regimes (Hitler’s National Socialists elevated such abuses to a perverse art), they cannot be tolerated in a free society. The regulators say these new banking rules are required under existing banking laws. If that is the case, I will gladly relieve them of that burden by introducing, at the beginning of the 106th Congress in January, legislation to repeal those laws. Somehow, though, I imagine such action will not stop them, only slow them down.
     That an innocent man may be presumed guilty lest he prove himself otherwise is a concept embraced more and more by our government regulators and lawmakers, though in absolute conflict with our national legal tradition.
     Despite the warm and fuzzy name, the federal regulators are not interested in the banks “getting to know their customers.” Their only interest is in monitoring and controlling every aspect of life, so they can create the illusion of phantom crimes, and therefore justify their existence. With complex laws and unimaginably obscure regulations, the cards are stacked against everyone, ensuring that at any moment, the IRS or other agency can nail anyone for something.
     In a society founded in freedom and liberty, individuals must be allowed to engage in life without fear of their actions being monitored and misinterpreted by zealous government agents. Sadly, that is not the burgeoning legacy of the 20th Century. Big government, big banks, big… everything is watching and waiting.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 December 1998
Free speech is good medicine

     
Nanny State mentality must be rejected
     Free speech is the essence of our society. Without the ability to freely speak one’s mind and make claims of the correctness of one’s perspective, no other freedom is secure.
     In a society based upon the premise of liberty, free speech is restrained by free minds. Individuals are able to discern the important from the whimsical, the rational from the ludicrous. Under the precepts of liberty, while one is allowed to make their claims freely, no one is compelled to provide a forum or even listen.
     While much lip service is paid to this belief in respect to political dialogue, there is a trend to limit free speech in our medicinal dialogue.
     In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration has quietly begun limiting the speech rights of Americans. For as disturbing as this may be from an ideological perspective, it portends ominous possibilities for people’s very lives.
     Under the guise of “protecting” consumers, the FDA is moving to prevent sellers of natural vitamins and similar products from making claims of potential benefits. Even if one could constitutionally justify the FDA’s ability to limit free speech in the name of “protection,” it is clear that such restrictions only serve to harm consumers.
     This harm comes from limiting the information which consumers have before them. It foolish to think that any one doctor is aware of everything on the market which can help a patient maintain their good health, or recover from illness more rapidly. As a physician, I have always preferred working with an informed patient. They would sometimes be aware of new treatments, medicines or advances that I may have not yet studied. Sometimes that information would lead to new treatment for that patient, other times not, but the more information and choices available to the patient, the better.
     It is also foolish to think that the motives of the FDA are as pure as some would have us believe. As an entity run by politicians, the FDA is susceptible to the same political shenanigans as other government agencies. Friends of politicians get preferential treatment in military construction, tax-code revisions and highway projects.
     In the same way, the large pharmaceutical companies are also big campaign donors to both parties. Their goal? Not highway projects, but FDA rules designed to ensure they maintain large profits and keep upstart companies out. Even though reliable scientific data indicates a particular naturally occurring substance can safely be of benefit to some consumers, there is little incentive for the large companies to manufacture those because the profit margin is so narrow, especially compared to that of synthetic drugs.
     Opposition to the FDA’s unilateral control of our nation’s medicinal drug market is seen as heretical to the concept of government-knows-best.
     Even assigning the most innocent of motives to the FDA’s designs on free speech and commerce is disturbing, for it reflects the ever-growing Nanny State mentality of Washington, DC. Lawmakers and bureaucrats are convinced that they are smarter, better informed and care more about all Americans than do those Americans themselves.
     After all, goes the pro-FDA reasoning, how can consumers be protected from dangerous products by anyone but the government? Given how often the FDA grants approval then later revokes their endorsement after the item is found unsafe, the better question might be how to protect consumers from FDA-approved products.
     Should a manufacturer produce an unsafe product–whether it is a vehicle or a drug–then injured consumers can take their grievance to civil court for redress. And if false claims are made in an attempt to get sales, the charge of fraud can be levied by those aggrieved.
     Most Americans look for the seal of approval from the AAA, Good Housekeeping, U.L., Better Business Bureau and multitude of other private sources when shopping for goods and services.
     To think the conscientious American cannot also examine the claims of vitamin manufacturers and make informed decisions for personal use in consultation with her physician, family, friends and others is recklessly condescending.
     The growing Nanny State assumes Americans are mindless sheep in need of the omnipotent wisdom of the government in every aspect of their lives. In reality, what America need is less government and more individual responsibility.
     Project FREEDOM.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 December 1998
Medical costs can be cut with freedom
Allowing consumers access to MSAs will improve health care

     An often-made claim is that it is expensive to be sick in America.
     That may be true, though no more so than any of the more socialist systems in the world perceived as “inexpensive” by those desiring similar government programs here. In those nations, the cost is hidden in individual tax-rates in excess of fifty percent, so the extremely high costs for care are still being paid by the patient, they just don’t write the check to the doctor, they write it to the tax collector.
     The reality is that for Americans major expense is not in major illnesses (insurance bears most of the brunt in typical cases), but in routine care.
     For many years, the federal government has taken an ever-expanding role in our nation’s medical care through regulatory and legislative activism. Of course, to oppose federal involvement is to be “anti-health care” or “anti-patient.” Never mind that routine health care is arguably less efficient and less accessible than in our recent past, with sick people receiving worse care at higher costs.
     What the politicians and their bureaucrats refuse to acknowledge is that the cost of routine health care is spiraling out of control precisely because of the federal involvement.
     Most obviously, there is the direct government meddling. Bureaucrats, under authority granted to them by years of irresponsible congressional action, now dictate how medical care is to be offered, in what timetables, quantities and situations. Of course, these directives have nothing to do with the realities of medicine or even the demands of the market, but are simply political directives issued for soundbite effectiveness. While sounding nice, these regulations increase costs by forcing the medical provider to expend greater resources to meet the regulations.
     Resources once devoted to assisting patients with their needs must be diverted to meeting bureaucratic regulations. Federal regulations imposed on state governments regarding medical care delivery, or on insurance providers, or employers, or directly on doctors and hospitals, all eventually come back to the consumer in the form of higher checkout costs.
     To deal with the ever-rising costs, consumers feel forced to relinquish more control to insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). At the same time, doctors are forced into the systems so that the burden of regulatory paperwork can be lifted from them.
     The insurers and HMOs only make matters worse by further restricting the consumer’s choices and limiting the services a physician in their group can offer. The incentive to cut costs is lost, as physicians (now working essentially as low-level employees) seek to make as much as they can in the new corporate environment, will charge the maximum the HMOs allow.
     Consumer complaints about insurers and HMOs compel politicians to write new laws and more regulations to curry voter favor. More regulations breed more costs, limiting more choices, causing more anguish, and the cycle continues.
     There are several ways to break the cycle. The most obvious solution is to pull the plug on federal intervention. That, however, is tantamount to political suicide. Who wants to be depicted as wanting to stop “good” regulations and laws, and “hurt” patients?
     A more viable solution is to let the consumer and his doctors pull themselves out of the system, by means of medical savings accounts. While this does not solve the entire problem, it provides a larger degree of freedom for those who desire it.
     Under an MSA system, a consumer could save pre-tax dollars in a special account. Those dollars would be used to pay for health care expenses, with the patient negotiating directly with the physician of their choice for the care they choose without regard to HMO rules or a bureaucrat’s decision. The incentive for the physician is getting paid in cash as the service is rendered, rather than waiting months for an HMO or insurance provider’s billing cycle.
     With the cash for the MSAs coming from pre-tax dollars, most Americans could afford deposits that would cover routine expenses families’ experience in a year. To cover larger expenses, major-medical insurance policies are readily available and fairly inexpensive.
     Medical care will always be expensive, regardless of the system. The real question is how much freedom will a patient have in determining the care they receive. It is only when the patient controls the purse strings of his own money that he will have that freedom.
     Project FREEDOM.


Texas Straight Talk, 21 December 1998
Unconstitutional wars gravest of crimes
Congress must reclaim from president power to declare war

     No proposition is more serious than placing in harms’ way the lives of our nation’s soldiers. Wars are instituted by governments, but it is the youth that pay the ultimate price.
     It is for this reason that the Constitution speaks clearly about where the power for engaging troops in battle must rest. In Article 1, Section 8, the Constitution gives the power to “declare war, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water” solely to the House of Representatives. The reason for this is clear; the House is the branch of the federal government closest to the people, standing for election the most often, and therefore the most accountable.
     When our young men in uniform were sent into battle last week by the president (regardless of whether for honorable or dishonorable reasons), it was in direct contradiction to the United States Constitution, in keeping with the history of the past half-century.
     Despite the thousands of Americans who have died in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and other locales, there has not been a declared war since World War II. Each of those actions occurred without the constitutional requirement of a declaration of war. In reality many of our nation’s young men died in the pitch of battle and war, but in the coldness of the law, they fell–depending on the case–in “police actions,” “peacekeeping missions” or “support operations,” with the authority usually coming from the United Nations, rather than the US Congress.
     In what should be regarded as the gravest of all crimes, these citizens were sent to their deaths unconstitutionally. And, it should be noted, for actions we lost. We lost those wars simply because they were not matters of urgency in protecting our national security, but political battles waged to appease one interest group or another. Without the full resolve of Congress and a declaration of war to protect our security, our military must deal with such vague politically correct objectives as “reducing the ability” of a foreign leader to potentially do something. How does one define a “reduced ability,” let alone bring such an objective to fruition?
     It is commonly, but incorrectly, assumed that a president has the authority to send troops into battle, though under our Constitution, the highest law of the land, he does not.
     Sadly, though, Congress has abdicated–unconstitutionally–its solemn responsibility in this matter. Members of Congress are eager to let presidents drop bombs on foreign nations for many reasons, though the underlying one is that it relieves them of personal responsibility while giving each a sense of strength and power.
     An attempt was made to rectify this situation in the early 1970s, with the introduction of the War Powers Act, following the Korea and Vietnam fiascoes. The legislation originally would have moved us closer to the Constitution. What passed, however, has made things far worse in the intervening 25 years. Now the law allows presidents to send troops into any battle, anywhere, for any reason, without Congress having any chance to voice even opposition until long after lives have been endangered.
     Under the War Powers Act, a president can send troops into battle to honor a UN request or to divert attention from personal problems.
     Often, of course, the military industrial complex and their allies in Congress push for meaningless resolutions supporting the action, even if the action is objectively wrong. Remember, these are not war declarations, but resolutions rubber stamping presidential actions. The rhetoric used, then , is that one must vote for these resolutions to “support the troops.”
     Never addressed, of course, is the absurdity of how one can “support” soldiers by sending them into unconstitutional battles where they will die for causes other than protecting our security interests.
     Most recently, the Congress interrupted the important impeachment debate to pass a two-part resolution. The first half simply offered support for our troops, and was unobjectionable. The second half, though, encouraged the president, praised his unconstitutional actions, and recommended that he engage in further unconstitutional actions by trying to topple the leadership of Iraq and replace it with what would amount to a US taxpayer supported puppet regime. Of course, voting against the second part is depicted as the fans of unconstitutional war as opposing our troops. Nevertheless, I voted against the resolution because I cannot sanction abuses of our Constitution.
     Congress should support the troops by taking them out of senseless danger, not encouraging a soon-to-be impeached president to risk further the lives of enlisted men.
     The gravest crime against our Constitution is the one never addressed: the senseless slaughter of our soldiers, our best and brightest. Perhaps one day Congress will reclaim its constitutionally mandated power of sole authority over matters of war. Until then, more young men will die senseless deaths.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 December 1998
Embargoes most destructive at home
Reckless government tool simply does not work

     Few government policies are as destructive to our economy as the “embargo.”
     While such action has the sound of strong, punitive action, it is in reality a failed principle that the experience of the last four decades has proven doesn’t work. Conversely, economic engagement is perhaps the single most effective tool in tearing down dictatorships and spreading the message of liberty.
     For this discussion, though, it is important to make sure all the terms are understood. An embargo is a policy by which the president decides that US producers cannot sell their goods to the people of another country, in an attempt to punish those people’s leaders. Economic engagement, on the other hand, is allowing Americans to sell their products where they wish, to whom they wish.
     It is important to note that economic engagement is not the same thing as foreign aid. Foreign aid, which should be abolished immediately, involves the US government taking Americans’ tax dollars to prop-up other nations.
     In the brief history of this reckless tool, not a single embargo has actually worked, though some will fruitlessly try to claim the case of South Africa as a victory. The embargoed nations still exist, with the hated leaders firmly in power. It is for several reasons that embargoes do not accomplish the tasks for which they are levied.
     First, embargoes only hurt the innocent of a targeted country. While it may be difficult for the leader of an embargoed nation to get a box of American-grown rice, he will get it one way or the other. For the poor peasant in the remote section of his country, however, the food will be unavailable.
     It is difficult to understand how denying access to food, medicine and other products to individuals actually benefit them. Embargo advocates will claim that denying people access to our products somehow creates opposition to the despised leader. The reality, though, is that the people’s hostilities are more firmly directed at America.
     Father Robert Sirico, a Paulist priest, has written in the Wall Street Journal that trade relations “strengthen people’s loyalties to each other and weaken government power.” To imagine that we can somehow spread the message of liberty to an oppressed nation by denying them access to our people and the bounty of our prosperity is contorted at best.
     One need look no further than Cuba. For more than thirty years we have embargoed the country in an attempt to drive Fidel Castro from power. At last check, he was as powerful as ever. Or we can look at the Soviet Union, a nation we allowed our producers to engage economically. Of course, the Soviet Union has collapsed.
     Second, embargoes greatly harm our people. As the American agricultural industry continues to develop new technology that reduces the cost of operation and increases the yield, it becomes more important for farmers and ranchers to find markets outside the United States to sell their goods so they can make ends meet. By preventing our farmers and ranchers from competing in the world market, we deny them very profitable opportunities.
     Third, embargoes are more often levied for political points, rather than sound policy. In times of war, it is perhaps reasonable to expect government to prevent Americans from selling goods to our declared enemies. But in a time of peace, it is difficult to imagine the benefits to our people, or others, of an embargo. There was no consistency in having had economic relations with the Soviet Union, a nation that pointed nuclear missiles at our shores for decades, while refusing to allow American pharmaceutical companies to sell life-saving drugs to the people in Cuba, a poor island country with no weapons that could endanger us.
     If the policy of embargoes is to continue, then Congress should have final oversight of implementation and duration. But that is a big “if.”
     Government meddling is always destructive to the free market; people will inevitably make wiser decisions about how to spend their money, with whom, and when, than politicians in Washington. Embargoes simply do not accomplish the ends advocates claim to desire, and are extremely harmful to the well being of Americans.
     Like no other form of government meddling, embargoes are destructive and should be ended without delay.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 January 1999
Federal government needs to step out of education
Parents, students, teachers need more choices, fewer restrictions

     No single issue motivates elected officials like education. Addressing the educational woes of our nation is a task both political parties loudly claim as theirs, each claiming to hold the “best” solution.
     Sadly, though, the solutions often presented are nothing more than different sides of the same big-government coin. President Clinton says he wants to fund a hundred-thousand new teachers for the classrooms, though the specifics of the program mean billions of dollars with more federal control and more bureaucrats, but not many teachers.
     A lot of Republicans want to collect more federal taxes and then disperse the funds in form of grants to the states. But that involves more federal bureaucracy costing millions and giving us more bureaucrats to administer the grants.
     For twenty years, our nation’s schools have been in decline, but not because our kids are less intelligent or our teachers less capable. The problem has been the people running the programs; not the principals or superintendents, but the federal regulations that trickle down through various levels of various bureaucracies.
     Operating through existing grant programs and the so-called “free lunch” initiatives, the federal government has a stifling stranglehold on education that plays to the lowest common denominators.
     What’s needed to release this trend toward mediocrity is not more federal spending and programs, but rather less federal intervention and more real parental control. No one should oppose making sure kids get the best education possible. Of course, the vested interests in public education programs are the first to oppose parental choice, because any given parent might choose an option other than the government schools.
     Different problems exist in different places and that is precisely why centralized education policies do not work. The reality is that the challenges and problems faced by one locale is not an issue in another. The answer is not to deny this reality, but rather to aggressively promote an honest solution. In a word, that solution is defederalization. The federal government should reduce the federal tax burden so that states and localities, working closely with parents, can best provide for their own educational needs.
     I will continue to support initiatives that let parents keep their money and decide how best to educate their kids. One such initiative is my Family Education Freedom Act. This legislation would allow parents to take up to $3,000 per year per child for education-related expenses such as tutoring, field trips, computers, tuition and books, and would be equally accessible and useful for parents who place their children in public, private or home school settings.
     Another useful tool for parents is the Education Savings Account. This would allow parents to place pre-tax dollars in designated accounts to spend on their children’s education.
     Allowing parents the financial freedom to choose between more choices can be only beneficial.
     A very real concern in education is that while there a great number of people who would make fine teachers, they are unwilling to enter the field because the salary is simply not competitive with what they can make in other professions.
     With the seating of the new Congress, I plan on introducing legislation that would give significant tax breaks to classroom teachers of both public and private schools. Simply cutting federal taxes can amount to a significant increase in take-home pay and would go a long way in making the profession more attractive to a perspective teacher.
     If we are serious about wanting to improve the system of education in our nation, we should be willing–for the sake of our children’s future–to stop doing those things which simply do not work. Experience has proven that federal intervention in education doesn’t work.
     Parents know best the educational needs of their children. It’s time for the federal government to get out of the way.


Texas Straight Talk, 11 January 1999
Protecting integrity of Social Security

      Legislation protects fund from political abuse
     There has been much rhetoric in recent months about “saving Social Security”; empty rhetoric. Politicians have taken up those three words as a mantra, hoping a constant repetition of those words will draw America’s attention from the corrupt use of system funds, which continue to be abused by Washington.
     Almost immediately after being sworn in as a Member of the 106th Congress on January 6, 1999, I introduced the Social Security Preservation Act, legislation to provide real protection of the trust fund. This legislation is identical to a bill 94 other Members and I cosponsored during the last Congress.
     Regardless of what one thinks of the public policy that gives us Social Security, there is no denying that the funds of the program have been mismanaged and abused by the government. At every paycheck, Americans see a portion of their pay reduced by taxes taken specifically for the Social Security Trust Fund. The understanding, of course, is that the taxes are held in trust for that worker’s retirement years. And because every American is issued a “Social Security” account number, the perception is further bolstered that the taxes are held in reserve for that specific person in an individual account.
     This was intended to be more than a matter of perception. The law enacting the Social Security system and trust fund envisioned as much.
     Reality, however, is much different.
     The Social Security Trust Fund has for decades become a slush fund for the big-government programs of Congress and the President. In fact, close to a half-a-trillion dollars have been taken from the trust fund over the year.
     In recent years, President Clinton and Congress have claimed to produce a balanced budget. This balancing act has only come as a result of numerous accounting shenanigans, including taking money out of the Social Security Trust Fund.
     The trust fund has little actual money in it; it instead holds IOUs from the federal government, promising to eventually–someday, maybe–pay back the fund.
     It must be a top priority for this new Congress to restore the integrity of the Social Security trust system. The Social Security Preservation Act will do this by making it illegal for the government to use the trust funds for any purpose except administering the Social Security system.
     Restoring the integrity of the trust system is of critical importance. Billions of dollars are being diverted from their intended purposes, yet many in Washington chant the “save Social Security” mantra while taking more and more out of the fund. So when we hear that Congress might change the Social Security retirement age, or increase the Social Security tax, or we worry whether senior citizens’ Social Security checks will be secure, remember it is the federal government that is robbing our trust funds to pay for big-spending habits.
     It’s time for political rhetoric to turn into realist policy. Quick passage of the Social Security Preservation Act must be a top priority of the new Congress.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 January 1999
Stopping the Surveillance State
New legislation halts privacy invasions

     It was once commonly held that an external force was the greatest threat to the liberty of American citizens. Reality has proven that the greatest threat comes from within, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the growing surveillance state.
     To challenge this, I recently introduced The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act of 1999 (H.R. 220), legislation forbidding the federal government from establishing national ID cards or establishing any identifiers for the purpose of monitoring, overseeing, or regulating the private transactions between American citizens.
     Perhaps the most important section of the legislation is the prohibition against using the Social Security number as an identifier. For all intents and purposes, the Social Security number is now a national ID. The use of the Social Security number has become so widespread that most Americans must produce a Social Security number to get a fishing license, and members of Congress must show their Social Security number in order to vote on the House floor.
     One of the more disturbing abuses of the Social Security number is the rule forcing parents to get a Social Security number for their newborn children in order to claim them as dependents. Forcing parents to register their children with the government is more in line with the nightmares of George Orwell than the dreams of a free republic that inspired the nation’s founders.
     Another section of the bill will stop schemes such as the attempt to assign every American a “unique health identifier.” This identifier would logically lead to a national database containing the detailed medical history of all Americans. As a practicing OB/GYN for more than 30 years, I know well the importance of preserving the sanctity and private nature of the physician-patient relationship. Oftentimes, effective treatment depends on the patient placing absolute trust in the doctor not to discuss with anyone her health problems. What will happen to that trust when patients know that all information given to their doctor must be placed in a government accessible database?
     Some claim the federal government needs these powers to prevent criminal activity or to “protect” us from fraud committed against government health care agencies. Of course, monitoring the movements of every American to catch those few involved in illegal activity is a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure without warrants. The federal government does not have the right to treat Americans as criminals by spying on their relationships with doctors, employers and bankers. Likewise, since the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to operate health care agencies, the threat of fraud would evaporate with the end of these programs.
     Many in Congress sincerely suggest that citizens’ privacy could be protected through legislation restricting access to personal information, but the fact is that legislative “privacy protections” are inadequate. Recent history demonstrates that federal laws have not stopped unscrupulous officials from accessing supposedly protected information. Did laws stop the continuous violation of privacy by the IRS, or the FBI abuses by the Clinton and Nixon administrations? The Clinton Administration has even endorsed allowing law enforcement officials’ access to health care information, in complete disregard of the Fifth Amendment.
     The federal government lacks the constitutional authority to force citizens to adopt a universal identifier for health care, employment, or any other reason, and therefore doomed to failure is anything short of repealing laws that violate personal privacy.
     While most members of Congress are not persuaded by the moral and constitutional reasons for embracing the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act , they will consider the overwhelming opposition of the American people toward the government’s prying eyes. My office has been inundated with calls from around my district, state and, indeed, the nation, encouraging my efforts to thwart these attacks on our privacy. On the other hand, I have yet to meet a taxpayer who wants the government to further erode their privacy.
     Clearly, the American people want Congress to stop invading their privacy. Congress risks provoking a voter backlash if we fail to halt the growth of the surveillance state. National IDs and massive government databases are incompatible with a limited, constitutional government.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 January 1999
A New Pandora’s Box
Government invest in market must be opposed

     resident Clinton raised a number of bad ideas last week in his State of the Union address. His theme for the evening was “more,” as in more government intrusion, more government spending, more taxes and more violations of the Constitution.
     Perhaps the worst of his propositions is the proposal to allow the federal government to invest in the stock market. Under the Clinton plan, a quarter of the Social Security funds would be invested in the stock market.
     This is an unreasonable proposal for several reasons; it fails the critical tests of constitutionality, rational economics, and pragmatic planning.
     As it is, Social Security is approaching bankruptcy and doesn’t have any cash to invest. For decades congresses and presidents have raided the fund to bolster big-government programs. The president’s shady investment plan hinges on investing cash that simply isn’t there.
     The president and congress have for several years been bragging about great budget surpluses, and, of course, the outlandish claim that the budget is balanced. The federal debt is continuing to rise, by more than $100 billion a year. It is impossible for the budget to be truly balanced while debt continues to rise unless the president has different understanding of the meaning of the word “balanced” than most Americans.
     Constitutionally, there is simply no provision for allowing the federal government to become a “part owner” in private companies.
     One does not set money on a table at Wall Street, leave it there, then come back a few days later to collect the loot and call it investment. When one invests, they are becoming a part owner in the company or companies. With ownership comes the benefit of sharing in the profits, the risk of sharing in losses, and, perhaps most importantly, responsibility in making decisions.
     It is that last component which is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the president’s plan. Are we to assume that the government will invest billions of dollars in stocks, and yet not want to have a voice in the way the companies operate? That would deny the way our government operates. Look at education; the federal government, unconstitutionally, subsidizes approximately eight percent of the public education budget. Yet the strings attached to that small percentage gives the federal government near-absolute control in one way or another over nearly every aspect of the operations in individual school districts.
     Under the president’s plan, government will become a very loud part-owner of thousands of companies. And because government will want to ensure a return on its investments (which is fundamentally impossible), one shudders at the potential rules and regulations that would be imposed on the marketplace in general, and those companies specifically.
     This president firmly believes government knows best–in everything. While he would deny individual Americans the right to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes to savings and investment programs of their choosing, this president would dump billions into the stock market so he and his cronies can effectively nationalize our economy, while using the proceeds to pay for more needless government programs.
     While Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and I are often at odds on issues of monetary policy, he perhaps best described the president’s plan. “Let me just say it’s not so much a trade-off of benefits versus costs. I’m frankly just hard-pressed to find any benefits there are in doing it.”
     Such plans not only bode wretched possibilities for the nation and economy in general, but are also harmful to the individual. Mr. Greenspan has pointed out, correctly, that some state government’s already have pension plans for their employees, and that these accounts have an average return two percent or worse than privately run accounts.
     Government investment in the stock market is a path that must not be taken, and a Pandora’s Box that should never be opened. The results could be unimaginably dangerous for the nation, and simply unprofitable for the individual.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 February 1999
Orwellian rules face major opposition
Paul legislation will restore financial privacy

     It has turned into a case of government agencies against everyone else.
     More than 14,000 people–average American consumers, bankers, and civil-liberties advocates–have written federal agencies in opposition to the gross violation of privacy known by the Orwellian title “Know Your Customer.” This response is even more remarkable when one realizes that the usual number generated by these agencies’ rules is less than a hundred.
     
     Almost three months ago I first reported on the proposed regulations brought forward by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and other regulatory agencies. These regs would turn bank tellers from reluctant information-gathers to unwilling investigators for the federal government’s ongoing War-on-Everything–which obviously includes the privacy of ordinary Americans.
     Under the existing Nixon-era Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions already must report large transactions to the government. Under these new rules, not only would the banks have to collect the raw data on transactions like a low-level spy but will now be required to serve as the government’s front-line investigators. Investigating who and what? Everyone, and everything financial. Forget the Fourth Amendment, forget the notion of innocent until proven guilty, and forget search warrants; these regulations assume everyone is as guilty as Al Capone.
     The rules require banks to create profiles on its customers’ accounts, and when a customer steps outside that profile, he or she must be reported to the federal government for “suspicious” activity. In addition, the banks will have to track the source of the deposits and, again, report that information to the government. A bank teller would have to report as “suspicious” the 20-year-old, minority single mother who makes an “out-of-profile” $500 cash deposit. That the cash was the gift from a family member, and not funds earned illicitly, would be an inconvenient fact she may never have the opportunity to present. Under current drug-forfeiture laws, her account could be seized, and assets forfeited, without her ever being charged with–let alone tried for–any crime.
     Not only does this represent a toppling of our legal heritage and a dangerous philosophic shift, but it is also a ridiculously heavy burden to place on financial institutions.
     The many bankers who have contacted my office have said they are not sure which is worse: the heavy toll this will take on our precious liberties, or the high cost these rules will mean for the institutions and passed on to customers.
     Understandably, American consumers aren’t thrilled either. Once again the federal government is creating yet another file on them; it is creating fresh opportunity for an over-eager bureaucrat to make a mistake and destroy an innocent person’s life.
     To combat this, I will be introducing three pieces of legislation. The first is the “Know Your Customer Sunset Act,” which will immediately stop these rules from going into effect. The second is the “ Bank Secrecy Sunset Act,” which will force Congress to either rewrite the poorly written, abused Nixon-era program, or devolve that power to the states. The third is the “ FinCEN Public Accountability Act.” This legislation will require that agencies let Americans see their own “financial history” files created under current rules, much like what is required of the FBI and credit bureau reporting agencies.
     Congressmen are signing on these measures due in large part to the growing chorus of Americans who are saying, to paraphrase our founding fathers’ cry, “don’t tread on my privacy rights!” Dozens of organizations, ranging from banking and technology groups to conservative family-values coalitions to the liberal ACLU, are joining in the fight to oppose these regulations.
     As a member of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, this important threat to our financial privacy will be a top priority for me.
     They may call their rules “Know Your Customer,” but they read a lot more like “Spy on Your Neighbor.” If we act quickly and properly, we have the chance to stop them.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 February 1999
A right to network TV?
Free market offers best option for viewers

     Who has the “right” to view television programming? It may seem a trivial question, but it indeed strikes at a core issue for the free-market system.
     For the last several weeks, congressional offices have been flooded with calls from rural satellite TV customers. These Americans are upset because their satellite service providers have informed them that, absent actions by Congress, they will lose access to certain network television stations and programming.
     Some satellite service providers have written their customers to suggest that this is “unfair” and that they have “as much right as anyone” to see network television irrespective of where they live.
     This, of course, begs the question as to whether or not one has a right to more than can be secured by voluntary exchange in the marketplace, or if the federal government should assume the role of deciding who gets what property in what amount and at whose expense.
     Most recently, in an attempt to protect the property rights of network program creators and affiliate local stations, a federal court in Florida properly granted an injunction to prevent the satellite service industry from making certain programming available to its customers. This is programming for which the satellite service providers had not secured from the program creator-owners the right to rebroadcast.
     The root cause of this problem, of course, is that we have a so-called marketplace fraught with interventionism at every level. Cable companies have historically been granted franchises of monopoly privilege at the local level. Government has previously intervened to invalidate “exclusive dealings” contracts between private parties, namely cable service providers and program creators, and have most recently assumed the role of price setter.
     The Library of Congress, if you can imagine, has been delegated the power to determine prices at which program suppliers must make their programs available to cable and satellite programming service providers. Government’s attempt to set the just price for satellite programming outside the market mechanism is inherently impossible. This has resulted in competition among service providers for government privilege rather than consumer-benefits inherent to the genuine free market. Currently, however, federal regulation does leave satellite programming service providers free to bypass the governmental royalty distribution scheme and negotiate directly with owners of programming for program rights.
     It is within the constitutionally enumerated powers of Congress 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.” However, operating a clearinghouse for the subsequent transfer of such property rights in the name of setting a just price or “instilling competition” via “central planning” seems not to be an economically prudent nor justifiable action under this enumerated power. This process is one best reserved to the competitive marketplace.
     Helpfully, network programs will not be terminated prior to March 1, 1999, and waivers may be available from the local network affiliate for those who cannot receive a signal even when using an over-the-air antenna. Moreover, technology is now available by which viewers will be able to view network programs via satellite as presented by their nearest network affiliate. This market-generated technology will remove a major stumbling block to negotiations that should currently be taking place between network program owners and satellite service providers.
     I will continue to consistently oppose all governmental barriers to the free functioning of markets–markets, which if allowed to function, will maximize viewer choices at the most reasonable costs.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 February 1999
Stopping the President’s New Little war
Clinton would use troops to support ‘Butcher of the Balkans’

     A common practice since World War II has been the presidential commitment of our troops to battle without congressional approval, despite constitutional requirement to the contrary. Continuing in this dubious tradition, President Clinton recently announced he would be sending American troops, under NATO command, into strife-ridden Kosovo.
     Three years ago, the President sent troops into Bosnia, promising they would be home in six months. The years have passed, more than $20 billion has been spent, and our soldiers are still there. Very few seriously ask anymore when these troops will be coming home–or even what it is they are supposed to be accomplishing.
     Last week I introduced House Resolution 647 to stop the president from involving us in Kosovo without first obtaining congressional approval. The measure immediately received more than a dozen cosponsors.
     Congress must restate its constitutional obligation to supervise the engagement of troops in hostile situations. Our Founding Fathers gave Congress the authority to determine what wars should be fought, as Congress is most directly responsible to the people.
     We spend less and less money every year on our own defense while spending more and more policing the world. It would be better to spend on national defense projects the money now being wasted in Bosnia, Iraq and other locales around the world. Moreover, our nation would be undeniably stronger by not having our soldiers killed in pointless “police” actions.
     The issue is one of responsibility. As the history of the last half-century has shown, once troops are sent into a foreign war, it is very difficult to bring them home. Without a pressing national security threat and declaration of war, there are no clear objectives, and, hence, no way to measure when a job is finished.
     The fact previous administrations were unchallenged in scattering troops around the world was not due to legitimately granted power, but rather abdication by Congress of responsibility to supervise out-of-control spending and reckless warring.
     It is remarkable that the president is planning to send troops to Kosovo, a section of Serbia. The Serbia leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is the last of the hard-line communists still ruling a former Soviet Bloc nation. For his well-documented reign of terror, Milosevic has rightfully earned the title “Butcher of the Balkans.” Despite all this, the president is sending our troops to Kosovo to keep independence-minded people under the ruthless hand of Milosevic.
     One task to be assigned our troops will be the disarming of the Kosovo Liberation Army. While supporting Milosevic is hardly rational, it makes even less sense to take actions that will serve only to pit Kosovars against Americans.
     How ironic that at the dawn of this century Americans were viewed as the champions of liberty, yet in its closing days we will be using our might to support a communist butcher.
     Adding to the recklessness of the mission is the near-certainty that our troops will serve under the direct command of a foreign military leader, someone not answerable to Congress or our laws.
     Troops in Kosovo will not serve the interests of the United States, nor further our national security. In fact, national security will be jeopardized as our presence in the region only increases the likelihood of needless involvement in an all-out war. Even Pentagon officials have been critical of a Kosovo operation because troops are already spread so thinly around the world, there are no defined objectives, and the resources could be better utilized.
     According to the US Constitution and American tradition, it is not a prerogative of the president to send troops around the world to fight the battles that do not concern us.
     Congress must re-exert its constitutional authority and stop presidents from sending troops into harm’s way. Most immediately, Congress must stop President Clinton’s new little war in the Balkans.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 February 1999
The Big Lie
Budget surplus is a fiction

     By simple repetition, a lie can become accepted as truth. It is a function of human nature that if enough people hear something often enough, reality takes a back seat to the lie.
     “The Budget Surplus.” For months “it” has been the mantra of everyone in Washington, DC. “The Budget Surplus.” Everyone from the President to the Speaker of the House to TV pundits has spoken about “it” in glowingly terms. “The Budget Surplus.” And there has certainly been no shortage of ideas in how to spend “it.”
     Too bad the “surplus” is a fairy tale.
     The budget surplus is a shameful sham; it is the product of the wishful thinking and convoluted pseudo-math that is the federal budget process. There is no budget surplus. In fact, not only is there no surplus, but the national debt is actually continuing to increase. It will be increasing this year, and next year, and the next year, and on.
     The “surplus” claim is derived, at its most basic level, from the fact that there are technically more “revenues” coming into the federal government coffers than expenditures. That “fact,” however, overlooks several important factors. Most pressing of those is that there is no actual money in the federal trust funds. Those funds–Social Security, highway, airport, etc.–have been (and continue to be) robbed by the politicians and replaced with government IOUs. The money from the funds has gone to pay for liberal social programs and foreign military adventurism. The “surplus” difference between the revenues and expenditures includes the continued theft from the trust funds.
     The debt will increase unless serious changes are made; changes that have nothing to do with creating more government programs and further political shenanigans.
     A real solution to our budget malaise is putting the federal government on a diet. It’s time for the unconstitutional programs of the past to simply go away; the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the pointless, deadly, expensive foreign wars.
     The time has also come for honesty in accounting. The government taxes every American at 15 percent for Social Security, using the fiction that the cash is waiting in a trust fund for retirement to placate us. We must restore the integrity of the trust funds by stopping the politicians from being able to take the money in the first place. I have introduced the Social Security Preservation Act, HR 219, to do just that.
     If these trust funds are to exist, then they must be held securely, their integrity ensured by law.
     To the extent that the politicians are able to rob from the trust funds is the extent to which they are going to continue to lie about state of our government’s fiscal soundness, and continue the reckless spending that has been the hallmark of the 20th Century.
     Integrity is a critical-need in our government; integrity for our trust funds and integrity in budgeting. But most importantly, we need to find integrity in our leaders. For men and women and principle will not lie, cheat and steal.
     For too long Washington politicians have been stealing from the trust funds, cheating the budget process, and propagating lies to cover their tracks. Integrity is truly a critical need.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 March 1999
Phase-in of tax cuts make code more complex
Americans deserve deep, across-the-board tax cuts now

     As Americans begin the arduous task of preparing their tax returns for 1998, it is important to keep in mind several important changes to the tax code that could significantly affect how much they owe the government–or how much the government needs to refund.
     While even the smallest tax cuts should be welcomed, the changes going into place reflect the basic problem Americans have with our current system: it is too complicated. The tax code is just getting more complicated; more forms and more time without significant tax cuts for significant numbers of people.
     The first measure is the Child Tax Credit. For 1998 returns, parents can claim $400 per child under the age of 17. Next year, that number will be $500 per child. The credit applies to single filers with adjusted gross incomes less than $75,000 and joint filers with incomes less than $110,000.
     Another important change is the threshold for exemption from the estate, or Death, taxes. The current exemption is up to $625,000. At this time next year, that exemption will have increased to $650,00. By 2006, without a change in the law, the exemption will be $1,000,000.
     Small business owners will have two important changes to their deductions. The first is a deduction in health insurance premiums. This year, small businesses can deduct $45% of the premiums. Next year, for tax year 1999, that deduction will be 60% of the cost. Within four years, the deduction is expected to be 100%.
     Come next year, small businesses will also be able to deduct up to $19,000 in expenses for tangible personal property that is purchased for use in the conduct of a trade or business. The deduction is up from the $18,500 that can be claimed on 1998’s tax year. By 2003, the deduction will increase to $25,000 in 2003 and thereafter.
     Other changes taking effect this year are those regarding dealings with the IRS. Prior to January 19 of this year, the IRS was able to seize a “principle residence” without due process and judicial approval. Now, that practice is forbidden. In addition, taxpayers will be able to recover the “reasonable” costs they incur–such as attorney fees–when the IRS takes a position against a taxpayer that is not “substantially justified.”
     For the 1999 tax year, senior citizens should be aware of an increase in earning limits. Americans between the ages of 65 and 69 will be able to earn up to $15,500 without losing Social Security benefits, up $1,000 from the 1998 tax year. That limit is expected to increase to $30,000 in 2002.
     While there are some minor tax cuts, there are also some increases, most notably in Social Security, which many Americans will have felt in their first paycheck of 1999. Last year. the payroll tax was 12.4 percent levied on the first $68,400 of income. Beginning Jan. 1, that amount is levied on the first $72,600 of earnings. This raises taxes by $490 for approximately 9 million taxpayers.
     In almost every case of “tax cuts,” the reductions are minimal. Americans are still burdened by too many taxes and regulations (which are merely hidden taxes). While initiatives that allow even a few people to save even a few dollars should not be scoffed at, Congress needs to get serious about making deep, across-the-board tax cuts.
     Americans should not be content with letting Congress make only small tax cuts targeted to small groups. If there is to be more than rhetorical lip-service paid to the phrase “doing the business of the people,” then Congress should act immediately to scrap the Internal Revenue Service, scrap the current tax code, and replace it with something much simpler.
     And with rates much, much lower.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 March 1999
Victory should be call to action
Complacency must be avoided if liberty to reign

     Americans may lay claim to a minor victory in the battle for liberty, if not the war. Last week, the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services unanimously passed a revised version of an amendment I introduced to stop the proposed “Know Your Customer” regulations.
     But this amendment is tacked onto a broader bill that is not assured of passage in the House, nor the Senate, nor receiving the signature of the president. While the message sent to the regulators bent on implementing these regulations is a victory, there remains much work to be done.
     These proposed regulations, which I have written about for almost a year, would virtually eliminate any vestiges of privacy remaining in our financial system. In addition to subverting the Constitution’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections, these regulations would–if enacted–wreak havoc on our system of finance. Banks would be required to monitor every transaction of its customers, create detailed profiles based on that monitoring, and then notify federal agencies any time a customer deviated–even slightly–from that profile. All the records would be accessible at any time to the federal government.
     More than 140,000 people wrote in opposition to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve and the other agencies promulgating these regulations. Those same agencies–with no small degree of bewilderment–recorded less than 100 comments in support of the massive privacy grab.
     Even law enforcement professionals are unimpressed with the regulations. The Law Enforcement Alliance of America–one of the largest organizations of police officers–supported my work, stating it is “opposed to any federal directive that would require banks to implement profiling systems.”
     The LEAA statement goes on to read that, “Such intrusive measures will also infringe the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens while detracting from meaningful debate and discussion of measures that would improve law enforcement’s crime-fighting ability.”
     The real problem is not the specifics of this particular set of regulations, but the entire process that allows these regulations in the first place. Unfortunately, though, there are some in Congress who irrationally believe one can violate the Constitution’s strict prohibition against federal crime laws, support a multitude of big-government programs like the failed “war on drugs,” yet still respect individual privacy. The logical fallacy of such a belief would be almost laughable, were it not so dangerous and irresponsible.
     Dangerous because those Members of Congress will now–having witnessed a minor victory–forget about the importance of this issue and move on to the next cause du jour. These members of Congress are content only to place inconvenient speed bumps in the way of regulators bent on undermining our form of government.
     I believe, however, we need to take these powers out of the hands of the regulators altogether. Government agencies should not have the power to draft an entire industry into their service, nor should they be allowed to unilaterally declare as criminal the behavior of every American citizen.
     This is why I will not relent in my crusade to reign in these unconstitutional agencies, which operate often in direct opposition to our form of government and tradition of liberty.
     A minor victory in the battle for liberty should inspire us not to drift into dull complacency, but to press on with renewed vigor toward the goal before us. If we are to find true success, it will come when we devote ourselves not to political expediency, but to the full implementation of the principles of liberty.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 March 1999
Contentious debate produces rubber-stamp of Kosovo
If children of congress, president, were placed on frontlines, policies would be different

     Pandemonium reigned on the floor of the US House of Representatives as members debated the contentious issue of President Clinton’s intention to place US troops in the middle of the Kosovo civil war.
     President Clinton is planning on sending thousands of soldiers into harms’ way for an unspecified amount of time to achieve unspecified goals and without a single shred of evidence that this internal conflict affects US interests or the safety of American citizens. The American public is outraged, military leaders says this deployment will further erode readiness, and yet Congress cannot muster the courage to tell this president “no.”
     The problem, of course, is that for far too long Members of Congress have endorsed the unconstitutional principle of complete presidential prerogative in military affairs. It is Congress, not the president, which is empowered to declare war. For years, though, Congress has allowed presidents–Republican and Democrat–to recklessly scatter our troops around the world to play the ill-conceived role of international policemen.
     In this current debate, liberal Democrats cannot oppose military action in Kosovo (despite their better instincts to avoid wars) because to do so would reflect badly on a president of their party. Meanwhile, the conservative Republicans (who are finally coming around to a sensible understanding of proper defense policy) must endure charges of hypocrisy if they now oppose missions similar to those rubber-stamped under Republican administrations.
     In an effort to appease the new federal religion of bipartisanship (I prefer non-partisanship), Republicans agreed to introduce a measure offering complete support to the president and any decision he may make regarding troops in Kosovo. Oddly, though, the measure had no binding legal effect, though it erroneously claimed to “authorize” such actions–so much for even the notion of congressional oversight! Some Republicans–including myself–tried unsuccessfully to change the measure so that it would forbid, not approve, the use of troops.
     As the pitch of the arguments rose to partisan rancor, it became abundantly clear that nothing good would occur when the House took its vote.
     A House Concurrent Resolution has no binding legal authority, and is a tool used to make a public comment, but not create or alter federal law. That a non-binding resolution received barely a majority of the votes should be a clear signal to this president not to proceed as he has planned; but that is not likely to happen.
     The winners, as always, are those who seek war and hold our Constitution and principles of non-interventionism in disdain. The losers, of course, are the soldiers who must endure yet another endless deployment that risks their safety and lives, as well as the taxpayers who will now foot the bill for yet another exercise in foreign adventurism.
     During a speech on the House floor, and in conversations with like-minded colleagues, I have suggested that perhaps Presidents and Members of Congress would be less eager to intervene in every little war if their kids–their sons, daughter, grandchildren and family–were to be sent immediately to the frontlines of the conflict.
     As a Vietnam era veteran I could not help but notice that many of those calling for war on the floor of the house had no record of military service in their own biographies. Indeed many of them were the very same people who protested against the war in Vietnam.
     Some of those calling for war did have a military background, but I was especially glad to see heroes like former prisoner of war Sam Johnson and Randall “Duke (‘Top Gun’)” Cunningham, voting along with me to oppose this action. In fact, if only those congressmen who have truly seen combat had been allowed to vote, I dare say the outcome would have been greatly different.
     It’s easy for Congresses and Presidents to be “generous” with other people’s money. It’s apparently just as easy for them to fight international injustice with other people’s children.
     For those of us who cast our votes on the House floor, the pandemonium is merely inconvenient. For the men and women who must now carry out yet another mission of our horrendous foreign policy, the results are far more serious, if not deadly.
     Addressing a different subject, though the underlying principles are the same, I quote Thomas Jefferson: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”


Texas Straight Talk, 22 March 1999
Free trade rhetoric often obscures agenda
“Fair,” protected and subsidized trade harms consumer, economy

     Forces of protectionism won a victory recently; a victory over the American consumer and the principle of free trade. Of course, as with so many issues in Washington, DC, it is almost impossible to understand who are the free-traders, fair-traders and protectionists without a scorecard; and even then, of course, none of those words actually mean anything in debates on the House floor.
     Claiming to be watching out for the interests of everyone, Congress passed legislation that reduces the ability of Americans to purchase steel from foreign producers. The only interests being served, though, are the labor unions.
     Proponents of the legislation claimed foreign companies were “dumping” steel on our market. The word “dumping” is used to conjure up images of foreigners sneaking across the border under cover of darkness and selling low-quality steel in back alleys. Reality is far different from rhetoric; Americans are buying the foreign steel because it is a better value.
     So rather than re-examine the market (which is unwilling to pay the high-prices brought on by government regulations and union-imposed wages), the advocates of big government and forced unionism demand that Congress close down what remains of the free market.
     The true free market is a threat to entrenched interests and lazy minds. The free market rewards those who are willing to work hard, produce that which people demand, and at a price they are willing to pay.
     It is no longer politically fashionable to ask for “protection” from foreign competition. Instead, they demand that supreme “virtue” of American politics: fairness.
     “Fair trade!” has become the rallying cry. Sadly, though, there is little “fair” about these policies, and even less about their outcome. This “fairness” means gouging consumers for higher prices using the force of government to protect the rackets of organizations unwilling to work within the system of voluntary exchange.
     This “fairness” extends to other arenas. Take, for example, the situation with Cuba. For three decades national policy has forbade trade with Cuba, on the grounds that we are trying to force Castro from power. To date, that policy has not only been unsuccessful, it has backfired. But, in the name of “fairness” and “security,” Cuba’s poor do not have access to American inexpensive food and medicine.
     I have introduced HR1181, which will allow Americans to enter the Cuban market, but prevents federal tax dollars from being used to subsidize the Castro regime.
     For while many in Washington call themselves “free-traders,” but there is nothing free about their agendas. The so-called “free-trader” in Congress is often one who believes in subsidizing trade; that is, using taxpayer dollars to prop-up foreign governments on the condition that those governments then use the money to purchase goods from certain American companies (which in turn lobby for “protections,” creating a vicious cycle).
     The others who misuse the “free-trade” label are the managed trade proponents. These are the ones responsible for empowering the international regulatory bureaucracies of NAFTA, GATT and the World Trade Organization, all of which have as much in common with free trade as protectionism does.
     In the end, it is the American taxpayer that foots the bill. The cost comes in higher prices, higher taxes, or both.
     True free trade involves neither protectionism nor subsidization. Free trade recognizes that market forces, not government regulations or spending packages, will best allocate resources; even across political borders.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 March 1999
Burning bridges
Attacks on Kosovo unjustified, shameful

     This is not a proud moment for America, as the United States military has been used to invade a sovereign nation that threatened neither our security, nor even the borders of our allies or friends.
     Yet, for an Administration enthralled with the notion of a paternalistic government that cares for everyone, everywhere, all the time, President Clinton’s actions in Serbia should not be surprising. Just as this president believes he and his government can best order the lives of each American citizen (he recently said that Americans shouldn’t be given a tax cut because they would not spend the money as wisely as he and his administration would), he is confident that he can solve the problems of the world. His track record suggests otherwise; despite the fanfare and speeches, there is still violence raging from the Middle East to Ireland–all great “successes” for this president.
     For as bad as the violence is toward the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, our ability to police and stop all ethnic fighting around the world is quite limited, and the efforts are quite simply not permitted under constitutional law. We do not even pretend to solve the problems of sub-Saharan Africa, Tibet, East Timor, Kurdistan, and many other places around the world where the violence is endless and just as tragic.
     Most importantly, though is the simple fact that meddling in the internal affairs of a nation involved in civil war is quite dangerous. Both sides believe themselves to be correct, and neither side will appreciate the other side receiving assistance.
     If anything, our involvement threatens to escalate the situation. No successful military action has ever–or likely will ever–involve only air power; ground troops must be involved. While a stealth jet will likely always escape the “primitive” weapons of the Serbs, a bullet aimed at a soldier can be very primitive, yet just as effective as the most modern of firearms.
     Some argue the US is needed to stop the spread of war. Our presence will do the opposite. Peaceful and cooperative relations with Russia, a long-desired goal, are now greatly threatened. Our bombings are likely to provoke the Russians into now becoming a much more active ally of Serbia.
     Our determination to be involved in the dangerous civil war may well prompt a stronger Greek alliance with their friends in Serbia, further splitting NATO and offending the Turks, who are naturally inclined to be sympathetic to the Albanian Muslims.
     Contrary to his campaign slogan, President Clinton’s actions are burning bridges to the 21st Century. The tragedy is that it will be our soldiers–our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters–who are trapped by these senseless actions, and it will be the innocent women and children of Serbia who will bear the brunt of the bombings.
     Sympathy and compassion for the suffering and voluntary support for the oppressed is commendable, even honorable. But as history shows, ethnic peace is not achieved by outside forces committing acts of war to pick and choose sides in fighting that dates back hundreds of years.
     The use of force and acts of war can only spread the misery and suffering, weaken our defenses, and undermine our national sovereignty.
     This is not a proud time for the United States.


Texas Straight Talk, 5 April 1999
Playing with matches in the powder keg
US in dangerous situation with demoralized, poorly equipped military

     A weakened nation left with a dwindling supply of weapons while facing an increasingly tense situation with troops held hostage and military morale at an all-time low, as war-mongering civilian leaders are eager to spill more blood. Not a description of Iraq or Serbia, but of the US as we enter the second quarter of 1999.
     While downplayed by the media and the Clinton Administration, anonymous sources have revealed in news leaks that the United States is dangerously low on satellite-guided cruise and the Tomahawk missiles–two indispensable mainstays of our air power. Yet these weapons are being expended like candy–with apparently the same effect–in Serbia.
     At the same time, this week, we learned that Russia is moving ships into Balkan Sea. While publicly remaining neutral on the US/NATO attacks on the sovereign nation of Serbia, the Russians have been traditional allies of the Serbs. Massive anti-American demonstrations in Moscow cannot long go unnoticed by the Russian politicians, whose government is, at best, tenuously held together.
     Finally, Americans awoke to the troubling news that three American soldiers were captured by Serbian forces and paraded on state television. Their capture reflects the basic problem with our foreign policy. These men were in Macedonia as NATO troops with a UN “peace-keeping” mission that ended in February. The reason they were still in the region–and specifically near the Serbian border–is unclear.
     What is clear is that no one seems to know what to do with them; they are not–regardless of the media’s sensationalist headlines–“prisoners of war,” for there is simply no declared war. Are they prisoners of peace? Are they trespassers? Under whose legal jurisdiction do they fall? It was not lost on American troops that the Administration and NATO leaders were nonplussed by the capture.
     Of course, what is also not lost on our military is that this Administration does not really worry about things like military morale. After all, the Air Force is trying to wage this mission with a record low number of pilots, diminishing weapons and resorting to cannibalizing pilot-less aircraft for spare parts. The other branches are likewise seeing fewer recruits. And it is no wonder! Why would any young person choose military service–or to stay in the military–when it may require being captured by hostile forces, in the most untenable of situations, while performing missions that have no relation to our national security under the command of foreign leaders?
     The Administration’s track record on military engagement is disastrous, even if one accepts their interventionist philosophy. Not a single foreign entanglement of this Administration has achieved a single one of its goals. Yet far be it for this Administration to learn from past mistakes and put a more sensible foreign policy in place.
     With our troops spread so thinly and so poorly, one must wonder if this Administration is living in a fantasy world. For it is only in the world of fantasies where a hero can successfully face dozens of foes armed only with a butter knife. Yet the American people are not sure if we can even claim the title of hero in this situation, for rarely does a “hero” pick a fight. And one who picks a gun fight with a butter knife is more aptly described as foolish.
     To say the situation facing America is bleak would be optimistic. Dangerous would more correctly reflect reality.
     We have been told that this region is a powder keg. Sadly, this Administration is poised with a lit match, inches from the barrel. Save a miracle, it is sure to explode in our faces.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 April 1999
Get to know your banker
Free-market economics can stop privacy invasion

     When government regulators recently announced they were pulling the plug–for now, at least–on plans to strip away the financial privacy of all Americans, one can imagine they did so with a knowing smirk on their face.
     A smirk because they knew what most Americans do not: most big banks already have “Know Your Customer” programs in place. The regulations by that name, proposed last December, would require banks to keep records on the spending and savings habits of every client, with any deviation at all being reported to the IRS, FBI, DEA and other government agencies as being “suspicious.” Those agencies, in turn, would be able to freeze accounts and seize assets–essentially destroying a person’s life–without there ever being a court order or proof of criminal wrongdoing.
     The reality, though, is that many banks succumbed a long time ago and adopted these rules very quietly and “voluntarily.” That is to say, they started doing these things before it was required because they assumed the agencies would get the regulations. Imagine the surprise when these banks (not to mention the regulators) found that a quarter-million people sent protests to the agencies, demanding the rules be pulled. I led a groundswell movement in Congress to stop them, and the “Know Your Customer” program was ‘pulled from the shelf.’
     Officially, anyway.
     The financial regulatory agencies have for some time “recommended” that banks have “Know Your Customer” procedures in place. Those “recommendations,” while not required, are often perceived as an unspoken threat of the federal regulators. Banks rely on the regulators to give them a clean bill of health, or face shut down. One person I know in the industry said it is well understood that if a bank doesn’t follow the “recommendations,” then the agencies will make sure they find some mistake, somewhere, no matter how small, and earn them heavy fines. In other words: do what we want and bank examiners will go easy. Many banks have given in, though some have not.
     The problem for both the big banks and the regulators, though, is the free market. Not every bank is participating in this privacy grab. But you can bet you won’t see anyone advertise that they share every detail of your life with any federal agent who walks in the door. As a consumer, though, you do have a right to know what records your bank keeps on you, what is being done with them, and how they are being used.
     I would suggest that anyone concerned about financial privacy send a letter to their bank, asking those questions and requesting a response in writing. If the bank does have these programs which are not required, the customer should demand that such files not be kept. If the bank gets enough pressure from their customers, they will change their policies–after all, what good is volunteering to assist the government in invading privacy if their customers leave in favor of other institutions that will not?
     While it is impossible for a customer to know exactly what kind of financial records are now maintained about him, it is possible to find out what records the bank is making and what is being done with them. I have introduced legislation, HR 517, the FinCEN Public Accountability Act, which would give Americans access to their files.
     Until then, Americans should use the free market to get to know their banker, and protect their own privacy.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 April 1999
Rein-in the President
Lack of congressional diligence has brought problems

     If Congress had been diligent, this president would not have been able to launch an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, putting the lives of our soldiers on the line while straining our relations with numerous foreign powers.
     Congress was not diligent these last several months, ignoring legislation I put forward at the beginning of this term to prevent any action in Kosovo. My legislation, HR 647, would prohibit the use of any Department of Defense funds from being used to bomb Yugoslavia without an Act of Congress authorizing such action.
     Congress has been less than diligent for much longer than three months. In fact, it’s been decades.
     The US Constitution gives only Congress the authority to declare war. Presidents and their spin-doctors can talk all they want about “police actions” and “peace-keeping operations,” but any one with common sense knows that when one country’s government drops bombs on another sovereign nation, it is an act of war. Sadly, though, Congress has–over the last fifty years–ceded its war-making power to the executive branch. Today it is commonly, though erroneously, believed by a majority of Americans that presidents can send troops to war without even getting input from Congress.
     The reason for this is the War Powers Resolution of 1973. This legislation gives presidents broad authority to commit troops and military resources for up to 60 days without congressional oversight.
     In keeping with this legislation, last week my colleague, Rep. Tom Campbell of California, introduced two pieces of legislation. The House must consider both measures, under law, within two months of introduction.
     The first measure is a declaration of war against Yugoslavia. While Mr. Campbell says he will vote against the measure, he wants to force our fellow Members of Congress to take a stand one way or the other–something no Congress has had to do with respect to war since December of 1941.
     I will vote against the war declaration.
     Mr. Campbell’s second piece of legislation is in keeping with the War Powers Act. If passed, it would require the complete withdrawal of US troops from the conflict.
     This is a measure of which I am not only a (n original cosponsor), but will, of course, support. If Congress wants to show our troops we support them, then we need to get them out of this sickening mess before it is too late.
     Just as importantly, if members of this Congress wants to demonstrate to the American taxpayer they are responsible to our obligations under the Constitution, they will end this president’s militaristic adventurism. It is time for presidents to understand that they are not above the law and that they are not kings who can arbitrarily decide to send troops to battle.
     Further, the taxpayers deserve to get more for their hard-earned dollars. The White House claims this unconstitutional action in Kosovo will carry a price tag of at least $4 billion, none of which was appropriated. So much for the president’s desire to “save Social Security.” This little war of the president’s is being paid for by the Social Security funds. It is currently being said in Washington that an emergency supplemental appropriations bill with offset to pay for this war is “not politically viable.”
     In addition, while our troops are being ineffectively spread around the world, the borders of the United States are left largely unprotected. We deserve better.
     It is ironic that a president who once wrote that he “loathed” the military, has engaged our nation in a situation that is potentially more dangerous than Vietnam. It is time Congress not only reins in this president, but the presidency itself.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 April 1999
‘Must-Carry’ must be dropped
Consumer choices limited by regulations, monopolies

     It cannot be stated too often that we do not enjoy a free marketplace in the United States. In fact, the market is fraught with government intervention at every level. Nothing, it seems, can long escape a politician or bureaucrat eager to shape the world in their image of “fairness.”
     Few other aspects of the market are as visible as television, and it is among the most regulated of industries. Of the many almost-insane rules and regulations which exist for the industry, one is perhaps the most ridiculous of all.
     Called “must-carry,” the rule requires cable companies to carry on their wires all the channels broadcast in the area that they operate. What this means is cable subscribers are forced to pay for these channels, even if they do not want them.
     Almost worst, though, is the way the regulation limits consumer choice. To understand how must-carry limits choice, one must first understand how cable television works. The company receives the broadcaster’s transmission, which it feeds into the cable. A television at the end of the line “tunes in” as it would an antenna. While technology is improving, there is a limited amount of space–or bandwidth–on the cable. For every channel transmitted down the wire, that is space another channel cannot use.
     So while a consumer may not care in the least about the local “all-reruns” broadcast channel, and would prefer the “fish-tank” network, the cable provider might not have the space to pipe it in. Either way, the consumer finds himself paying for a channel he simply does not want, and the cable company must waste bandwidth to provide something customers cannot stand.
     Of course, one must not rush to paint local cable companies as the victim. Cable companies have historically been granted franchises of monopoly privilege. When one gets in bed with government, one must expect the diseases it spreads.
     Most recently the disease of government intervention has come in the role of price setter. The Library of Congress, strangely, has been delegated the power to determine prices at which program suppliers must make their product available to cable and satellite service providers.
     So now not only will the government tell the service provider which programs to carry, but at what price to pay for the opportunity.
     The biggest loser, of course, remains the consumer. All of these questions (which channels to carry, how much the channels and carried programs are worth) are best answered by free market, not some bureaucrat working in Washington.
     Up until now must-carry rules have applied only to cable. Now, in a misguided effort to “level the playing field,” rather than repeal the excessive regulation on cable service providers Congress will consider legislation to force “must-carry” regulation upon satellite providers. Of course, leave it to government to want more regulations, higher costs and less freedom for consumers
     This is why I have introduced the Television Consumer Freedom Act, which will repeals various rules and regulations which interfere with consumers ability to avail themselves of desired television programming.
     To best serve consumers, and to more fully embrace the philosophy of the free market, Congress should act to remove the restrictive regulations placed on the services cable companies can provide, as well as the barriers that exist giving those companies monopolistic power. As technology expands, we must ensure outmoded notions like government intervention in the market goes the way of the black-and-white set and rabbit-ear antennas.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 May 1999
The war that isn’t a war
Cracks forming in unconstitutional wall of war policy

     Congress has sent a strong, clear message opposing the president’s unconstitutional war in the Balkans. At the same time, Congress has also sent a strong, clear message supporting the president’s unconstitutional war in the Balkans.
     If this seems something akin to the clinical definition of schizophrenia, perhaps that is because no other word as aptly describes US foreign policy and constitutional debate. To the casual observer, “Kosovo day” on the House floor had to appear to be chaotic, but I think it was chaotic for a precise reason. The House was, in essence, trying to operate within a flawed unconstitutional process which has been going on for more than 50 years–not just with this President, but every President since World War II. We have in the Congress permitted our Presidents too much leeway in waging war.
     Some of us tried to restore the constitutional responsibility of the House of Representatives to wage war. Some will argue it was done sloppily, but considering the alternative of doing nothing, this was much better.
     Nevertheless these votes were very important. One of the most significant, if
     not the most significant: was the vote to declare war on Yugoslavia.
     But that was an easy vote. The House overwhelmingly voted not to go to war, a sentiment with which I have long been in complete agreement. Why should we go to war against a country that has not aggressed against us?
     The chaos and inconsistency, though, came with the other votes. I think there are too many congressmen who have enjoyed the fact that they have delivered the responsibility to the President. They do not want war, but they want war. They do not want a legal war, they want an illegal war. They do not want a war to win; they want a war that is a half of a war. They want the President to do the dirty work, and they certainly do not want Congress to stand up and decide one way or the other.
     So it is not surprising that within just a couple of hours, the Congress voted:
     
  • To oppose a ground war;
  • To oppose the ongoing air war;
  • To not declare an official state of war;
  • To keep the troops in the Balkans, presumably doing exactly what I am uncertain.

     So while Congress has now stood up to the president in opposing his air war and ground war, Congress has likewise voted against withdrawal of the troops!
     The people of the United States know this war simply does not make sense. If the people of this country were frightened, if they felt like they were being attacked, if they felt like their liberties were threatened, the vote would have been much different.
     What is not different, unfortunately, is the 50-years of constitutional “role reversal.” Constitutionally, it is the role of Congress to declare war and for the president to subsequently implement the action. Now, presidents can declare war whenever and wherever they want, and Congress is all but powerless to stop him.
     But the recent votes demonstrate a crack is forming in the unconstitutional wall that has been erected around our foreign policy. This should seen for what it is: an encouraging sign that changes are possible. It is now incumbent upon Congress and the American people to exploit that crack and restore constitutional principles to our dealings with foreign nations and, most especially, matters of war.
     It is significant that the House has finally chosen not to rubber stamp an illegal, unconstitutional and immoral war. The American people know that the only moral war is a war that is fought in self-defense.
     While not the best outcome, it is also significant that this president is now left to fight an immoral war, that is now officially not a war. And he is left to fight it without the unquestioning support of Congress.
     It is some consolation that out of the recent legislative chaos and psychosis, it has been highlighted for the American people the wisdom of the Founding Father’s provisions for war, and the malaise certain to result when the Constitution is abandoned.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 May 1999
Parents, teachers need freedom
Federal bureaucracy blamed for low-scores, violence

     While cliche, it is nonetheless true that our children represent the future of our nation. And to ensure our nation’s future remains bright, everything involving our children requires the utmost attention, most especially education.
     All too often, though, parents find that instead of the educational bureaucracy existing to support them in training their children for the future, obstacles are placed in the way.
     But it is a mistake for us to blame our kids’ teachers for those obstacles. Indeed, the lion share of the blame should be placed at the feet of congresses, presidents and federal bureaucrats who for more than thirty years have improperly intervened in local educational issues. As the federal government has stepped into education, we have seen test scores decline, public confidence in education plummet, and incidents of violence on school grounds escalate.
     In fact, classroom teachers are often as much victims of bureaucratic meddling as are parents and students. For not only do many in the current administration distrust parents with raising kids, they do not trust teachers to “do the right thing.”
     The insanity of the federal government’s imposition of nonsensical rules and regulations is demonstrated by a recent incident in Virginia, just five miles from Capitol Hill. As reported recently in the Washington Times, it seems six students brought a weapon to school. Teachers learned of this and quickly moved to deal with the kids. All six were to be expelled, but one managed to avoid any punishment whatsoever. Why was the potentially dangerous student left in the student population? Under federal law, school officials were prohibited from expelling him because he is a “learning disabled” student. His “disability”? A “weakness in written language skills.”
     The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) severely limits teachers and local administrators from taking rational, sensible actions to provide a safe environment for students.
     Of course, IDEA is only one of the many ways in which federal tentacles have entwined themselves into the very fabric of our local schools, despite the fact our Constitution does not allow any federal involvement in education.
     The dream of federal education bureaucrats for three decades has been the takeover of school curriculum decisions, either directly by deciding on textbooks, or slightly less directly by mandating a “national standards” student test. Fortunately, such designs have been curtailed by more sensible minds. However, the Clinton Administration is now poised to make an end-run around such prohibitions by pursuing a “national certification” test for teachers.
     If teachers are taught to the test, they will teach what they have learned, goes the thinking, thus implementing a de facto national curriculum.
     To combat this, I introduced HR 1706; this legislation will prohibit a national teacher certification test. In addition, it will prohibit the federal government from “punishing” states and local districts for refusing to go along with federal dictates.
     Certification of teachers may make sense, but that is a decision that should be made by parents, local schools and the state governments.
     A common complaint among parents and educators is that the relatively low pay of teachers makes it hard to keep good people in the system. To that end I have introduced HR 937, the Teacher Tax Cut Act, which would give elementary and secondary school teachers a $1,000 annual tax credit.
     In addition, to ensure parents can provide for their children’s specific educational needs, I have introduced HR 935, the Family Education Freedom Act, to give parents a $3,000 per child per year education tax credit.
     If we are serious about providing for the best education for our nation’s children, it is incumbent on Congress to recognize that thirty years of federal meddling in education has failed. Parents, teachers and local administrators do not need more rules, regulations and taxes; they need more freedom and accountability.


Texas Straight Talk, 17 May 1999
Going from bad to worse–Federal intrusion in civil actions detrimental to all

     When dealing with the federal government, one thing is certain: if a bad situation can be made worse, Congress will typically find a way to do so.
     As a physician, I have long abhorred the outrageous abuse of our legal system by unscrupulous attorneys filing frivolous lawsuits. We all know well the infamous spilt coffee case, and there are dozens more.
     For as bad as those are, however, the federal government is now going to step in and make things worse. Much worse.
     Currently, liability and contract law is handled exclusively by the states. If someone is harmed (physically or economically) as a result of the action or inaction of another, they may seek recourse in state courts. It has rightly fallen to the states to determine how best to procedurally balance the rightful reparation for plaintiffs with the need to allow for reasonableness in the judgments against defendants.
     Now, though, Congress is stepping in to federalize contract and liability law. The process began in earnest just recently as the House took up legislation to limit the liability of corporations and government resulting from potential “y2k” computer glitch problems. While the government has worked hard to downplay the potential problems with “y2k,” the House has dashed madly forward with this legislation to shield businesses against lawsuits resulting from their failing to adequately resolve their own “y2k” problems.
     While one might initially think this sounds like a good idea, it does not take long to understand why it is not. First, this is federal meddling in an area of law not given it under our Constitution or legal tradition.
     Second, as experience has shown, federal “solutions” tend to dumb down a process, rather than encourage excellence. One need look only at that state of our schools to see the most practical example of that premise. In the arena of law, one can examine the results of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which took abortion law out of the purview of the states and gave it to the federal courts.
     Finally, and perhaps most persuasively, is the argument from personal interest. Say your local power company has known (like the rest of us) for some three or more years of the potential problems arising from the date-reading conflict in computers, yet did nothing or very little to correct the problem. Come the stroke of midnight leading into January 1, if power goes out at home it becomes an inconvenience, as for a hospital or business. But if the company was truly incompetent, and the outage lasts into days, or weeks, as they try to manage the situation, the outage becomes costly, disastrous and potentially dangerous. Hospital generators last only so long, small businesses can stand to be closed for only a short period, and children desperately need a warm house.
     At that point, you and your fellow consumers of the government-granted monopoly power company will want to be compensated for your losses. But, alas, the federal government will have protected you from yourself. You might get something, but not nearly what you deserve for the company’s inaction.
     But do not think this is a limited instance. Rather, some are clamoring for the federal government to intervene in all civil suits such as those against gun manufacturers. Soon, as with the issues of abortion and education, the minor intrusion of the federal government in contract and tort law will soon amount to a complete take-over of matters constitutionally left to the states.
     While I strongly condemn frivolous lawsuits, it is hard to support frivolous disregard for our Constitution and system of law. I trust the voters of the several states, and their legislators and governors, to best address these situations.
     Leave it to Congress to make something bad, even worse.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 May 1999
Post Office stamps out privacy
More is loony at the post office than just cartoon stamps

     Assaults on privacy are rampant. No sooner have we been successful in stopping four agencies from implementing Orwellian invasions into the financial records of every American citizen, but now the US Post Office has moved to severely limit privacy and restrict trade.
     A Postal Service regulation has been finalized that tramples the privacy of the approximately two million Americans who rent mailboxes from commercial mail receiving agencies.
     Under this regulation, any American currently renting, or planning to rent, a commercial mailbox must provide the commercial agency with personal information, including two forms of identification: one must display a photograph of the renter, and the other include a “serial number...traceable to the bearer.” Of course, that number will generally be today’s de facto national ID–the Social Security Number.
     The Postal Service now requires that the commercial agency send the information to the Post Office, which in turn will maintain the information in a database. Further, the regulations would require the commercial agencies to maintain photocopies of the forms of identification presented by the box renter.
     It should not escape notice that the Postal Service, under the Privacy Act of 1974, is prohibited from doing this itself. How ironic, and outrageous, that the Post office is mandating a private business do what Congress has explicitly forbidden the Post Office from doing.
     Because the federal government has granted a monopoly on first-class mail delivery to the Postal Service, Americans cannot receive mail without dealing with them. Therefore, this regulation presents Americans who wish to receive mail at a commercial mail receiving agency with a choice: either surrender your right to privacy, or surrender your right to receive legal mail in the manner you prefer.
     The post office likes this database because it will give them a 100-percent, no-error list of people who have opted against using a Postal Service PO Box and related services. Thus the Postal Service could mail advertisements to these people explaining, perhaps, how their privacy would not be invaded if they used a government box.
     This regulation, ironically, was issued at a time when the Post Office is getting into an increasing number of enterprises not directly related to the delivery of mail. So while the Postal Service is willing to use its monopoly on first-class mail to compete with the private sector, it is at the same time working to make life more difficult for its competitors in the field of mail delivery.
     Of course, this regulation also raises the operating cost on the Post Office’s private competitors for private mailbox services. Some who have examined this bill estimate it could impose costs as high as $1 billion on these small businesses during the initial six-month compliance period. The long-term cost of this rule is incalculable, but will no doubt force some of these businesses into bankruptcy.
     During the rule’s comment period, more than 8,000 people spoke against, and only ten in favor of it. But to those supporting the rule, all is justified because they claim it is necessary to crack down on criminal activities. First, the federal role in crime, even if committed in “interstate commerce,” is a limited one. More importantly, just because someone may use a mailbox to commit a crime does not give the government the right to treat every user of a commercial mailbox as a criminal.
     I have introduced House Joint Resolution 55, the Mailbox Privacy Protection Act, hoping that it will be considered under the expedited procedures to overturn onerous regulations as established in the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996. Congress cannot hide and blame these actions on the bureaucracy.
     This latest assault on privacy must be reversed. Congress must not allow the Post Office to force American citizens to divulge, as the price for receiving mail, personal information for inclusion in massive databases. Given this rule, and the recent series of postage stamps and paraphernalia, one can only conclude that the US Postal Service has gone loony.


Texas Straight Talk, 31 May 1999
China is only winner in scandals
Lack of constitutional governance causes security breaches

     After months of delay, the American people have finally been treated to the 900-page Cox Report, which outlines some twenty years of breaches of security, bureaucratic foul-ups and, most recently, cover-ups. No one should be proud.
     What has come out is not necessarily new–so much has been dribbled out in leaks to the press that no one could claim to really be surprised–but the report is nothing if not shocking in what it reveals about the state of our national security.
     Our national defense is not even for sale, it is simply available for the taking–all comers welcome.
     One of the more troubling revelations is that the Justice Department refused wiretaps on the phone of a suspected Chinese spy. It is ironic because the Clinton Administration has long supported policies that would allow government agents to pry into all our financial records, computer usage and, yes, even tap our phones, without so much as a court order. So while the President and his appointees want an unlimited ability to spy on law-abiding citizens, they refuse to do much to protect our secrets from the communist Chinese.
     Perhaps the single largest non-surprise surrounding the report has been revelations that the President lied about his knowledge of the Chinese espionage. What is troubling, of course, is that even if one can justify publicly lying about possible espionage, it is impossible to excuse his not taking action to remedy the situation.
     The Cox Report makes it clear the Chinese have been stealing our most sensitive weapons secrets for two decades–spanning four Administrations representing both major parties. But the first president to be made aware of the problems is the current occupant of the Oval Office. And his response? To do nothing, of course
     But if it were merely a case of doing nothing, that would be one thing. But this Administration and its allies in the military industrial complex have–it is alleged–actively aided the Chinese. First there was the Commerce Department allowing China to buy high-tech computers, contrary to established policy. Then, private companies–very friendly to Clinton–have transferred further technology.
     This is hardly surprising, of course, for at the same time this was occurring, Chinese money was filling the Democratic Party’s 1996 campaign war chest.
     That the Administration considers as the highest of priorities to kill innocent civilians and spend billions fighting in Yugoslavia’s civil war, which does not involve us or even a region of strategic significance, while ignoring what is arguably the greatest breach of national security in our history, probably should not surprise any of us. This is just one more example of our 40-year-old schizophrenic foreign policy.
     Almost two years ago, long before Monica Lewinsky and the national soap opera begun, several Members and I introduced an Inquiry into Impeachment because of the then-materializing allegations involving these serious breaches of national security, among other similar charges. Of course, this Congress–and indeed much of the nation–was disinterested in pursuing such an investigation, apparently because it is far less ribald than the obsession with sex, though arguably more dangerous.
     Congress has an obligation to safeguard our nation from foreign powers. The Constitution clearly defines protection of national security as one of the very few actual powers of the federal government.
     But as congress’ and presidents have rushed to pursue the unconstitutional, we have neglected the constitutional.
     This president has again proven himself to be many things, though certainly not a man of his word. And many Members of Congress have been asleep at the wheel.
     The Cox Report should stand as an accusatory testament not only to the inexcusable behavior of this Administration, but of elected officials over the last forty years who have pursued political expediency over constitutional governance.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 June 1999
Free trade makes sense
Congress must resist raising taxes, limiting freedom

     Once again the contentious debate over trade with China is before the Congress, but this time with the added twist of allegations of spying.
     And, once again, those opposed to free trade will join forces with those favoring taxpayer subsidization of foreign countries to mangle the English language and thoroughly confuse the issue.
     In the parlance of Washington bureaucrats and politicians, as well as most special interest groups, words used in debate take on a quality similar to Orwellian double-speak. As in his classic “1984,” the “Ministry of Love” was actually the department of war, today’s debates use words and phrases in ways diametrically opposed to reality.
     For instance, if someone says they are for “free trade,” one must look carefully what they really mean, for the classic (and common sense) definition does not apply.
     All to often in Washington, free trade is used when one really means “subsidized trade,” or, tax dollars being funneled to foreign governments to buy American products. Similarly, the phrase can mean to use tax dollars to bail-out American firms for risky overseas ventures, or managed trade by the World Trade Organization to serve powerful special interests.
     On the other hand, those of us who oppose using the taxes of American citizens to prop-up foreign governments or American corporations are derisively called “isolationists.” There are indeed some people who are isolationists. They call themselves “fair traders,” though. Exactly what this means is open to debate. All too often it involves letting the government determine what is and is not “fair” in the private trading between individuals who live in different countries.
     Sadly, these definitions all hinge on the assumption that there are essentially only two options: tax dollars being used to subsidize corporations/foreign governments, or no trade whatsoever without the rubber stamp of government bureaucrats and special interest groups.
     The bottom-line of both options, of course, is higher taxes for Americans. Higher taxes to finance the subsidies, or higher taxes on incoming products (and make no mistake, a tariff is a tax, paid by the American consumer).
     There is another way. Free trade and free markets are, without a doubt, the best guarantor of peace. But this requires something all too few in Washington want: less government intervention.
     It is indisputable that individuals know better how to provide for their families than government. It is also indisputable that a company is better equipped to know what its market will tolerate than a bureaucrat in Washington. In this way, a person is able to determine what goods best meet their individual needs, weighing numerous factors in their decision. But when government intervenes, it no longer becomes possible for an individual to provide for their family and business in the most expedient fashion. This is the antithesis of liberty.
     Both the “fair traders” and the “subsidizers” now have a fantastic phantom upon which to justify their higher taxes and greater regulations: the Chinese spy scandal. This is a phantom for there is simply no connection between the spying and true free trade. In fact, it was the policy of subsidization and trade regulation, as well as generally lax security, which allowed the illegal transfers of technology. But to blame free trade, and then penalize average Americans, for the spying is the height of dishonesty.
     If we are to end trade with all nations which spy on us, or upon whom we spy, then we will quickly find far fewer products available at the supermarket, and much higher prices on everything.
     The correct solution to this seeming quagmire is one which few in (or for that matter, outside) Washington will promote. The US government should immediately end all taxpayer subsidization of China, including funds funneled through the Export-Import Bank and the World Bank. Congress should immediately require that when the government enters into contracts with companies to develop and manufacture goods critical to our national security, those companies agree to do no business with China.
     Never, though, should Congress raise taxes or limit the ability of individual Americans to engage in honest trade with foreign manufacturers. While the market may demand–through boycotts and similar activities–that trade cease, that should be left entirely to the market, not bureaucrats in Washington.
     Free trade, not isolationism or subsidization, is the most moral of instruments between men. Engagement, not irrational fear or political paybacks, is the best force for bringing change to China and our relations with its people.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 June 1999
Tragedy begets tragedy
Violence in schools doesn’t justify violence against liberty

     Tragedy begets tragedy, and rarely is this more clear than when politicians take it upon themselves to legislatively address heartbreaking situations with feel-good reactions.
     Americans have been rightly shocked by recent violent incidents in public schools. While most Americans have used these tragedies as an opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of morality and individual responsibility, some have seized upon these senseless incidents as a way to further political agendas.
     We must recognize an important historical point. There are more restrictions on the sale, ownership and use of firearms today than at any time in history. Just fifty years ago, anyone could purchase weapons from most store catalogues for home delivery by US Mail. And yet fifty years ago we did not have school shootings. In fact, the number of incidents involving at-school violence with firearms has increased as the number of federal laws and regulations have increased.
     It should also be noted that in each “sensational” case, the violence has occurred in government-run schools where the virtues of gun control and federal law enforcement are extolled daily. This is at a time when increasing numbers of people, and especially those of (some might say) the “pro-gun” political persuasion, are choosing private or home schools. Yet we do not hear of kids slaughtering 12 peers and a teacher at a church school.
     However, one must never allow reality to interfere with the goals of big government advocates. The choir of statists has been singing the hymn of more federal regulations, laws, and control. Some, like Sara Brady and fellow traveler Bill Clinton, unabashedly call for the ban of handguns, or at least the federal registration of all gun owners. This, despite the fact no such law would have saved a single young life. Again, reality is not an issue.
     Lest anyone incorrectly assume assaults on our Constitution are limited to Democrats striking the Second Amendment, there is an equally strong move from some congressional Republicans to wipe away the First Amendment.
     Very soon, Congress will take up HR 1501, the Consequences for Juvenile Offenders Act. The measure not only continues the federalization of law enforcement, it undermines the Bill of Rights. While our founding fathers wisely left the enforcement of crime to local and state leaders, federal legislators assume they are wiser not only than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, but everyone not in DC.
     People who are ordinarily our allies in the defense of liberty have been mislead into supporting HR1501 and amendments that turn federalism and the Constitution on its head. These conservatives are promoting several new “gun control” measures, such as mandatory trigger locks, expanding the background checks, and more.
     One measure would require every music store to provide, free of charge, the lyrics to any song upon the demand of a parent. While perhaps a good service for a store to provide on its own, to mandate this from Washington is nothing short of immoral, and an unfunded mandate of the highest order. It is also an infringement on the rights of the free-market musician. After all, he profits by the sale of his music–lyrics and all. For as revolting as his “art” may be, it remains true that never is a second wrong justified by a first.
     Still another provision would ban the sale of “violent” or “sexual” materials (including movies, books, sculptures, games, etc.) to young persons. But how does one reconcile such action with the freedom of press and religion? With difficulty, since “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” though perhaps states could. One might easily imagine a parent taking umbrage at their child being allowed to purchase such scandalous materials as those found in Genesis 19, Joshua 6 or the Samuels. What might prevent a federal judge from banning the sale of Bibles to youth at local bookstores? Or classic literature, such as the “Iliad” or “Hamlet”? All in the name of limiting violent images, right? Chipping away at the First Amendment, in a misguided attempt to protect children by usurping parental responsibility with new federal laws and bureaucracies, is nothing short of dangerous.
     In rushing to “do something,” even good people are tempted to promote a very bad idea, presenting Americans with a false choice: give up the precious liberties of Bill of Rights and cede greater power to the federal government, or face more youth violence. Reality, of course, demonstrates something very different.
     As Benjamin Franklin once said, anyone who would “give up essential liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security.”


Texas Straight Talk, 21 June 1999
Let liberty ring loudly
All of Constitution, not just sections, must be defended

     A quiet sound rustled through the halls of Congress last week; it was that of the Constitution being casually tossed aside.
     Usually, half of the Congress is quite capable and anxious to defend the First Amendment, and that is good. The First Amendment states plainly that “Congress shall make no laws” to limit free speech, the press, the practice of religion, or the ability of Americans to assemble in protest of their government.
     The other half of the Congress, on average, is quite capable and anxious to defend the Second Amendment, and that is good. After all, our founding fathers envisioned a well-armed populace as the ultimate check on government tyranny. If some future legislators and presidents had designs on limiting our divinely endowed liberties, our founders believed the Second would hold such impulses in check.
     That modern groups have picked pieces of the Constitution to hold in such high regard, while so casually dismissing the other, is rather strange. Of course, it is no stranger than the two groups joining forces to undermine both the First and Second amendments. I always find this odd, for I would have assumed each Member took seriously his solemn oath to defend the entirety of the Constitution and its underlying principles; not just when convenient, but always.
     Some claim, in the vernacular of political-speak, that it is “marginalizing” for an elected official to hold strongly to the tenets of our Constitution. If it is a political sin to consistently defend free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure, then perhaps we need more political sinners and fewer political saints.
     But there is so much more to our Constitution, and the principles of our republican form of government, that have been so widely abused, ignored and all but erased by both Democrats and Republicans in their zeal to grab political power.
     As recently as the middle of this century, crime control was considered a local matter. For good reason: it is the way the Constitution is designed, and the way it should be. Yet every day Congress writes more criminal laws, taking more authority from our state and local governments, and moving closer to a national police state.
     Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist has warned, “The trend to federalize crimes that traditionally have been handled in State courts threatens to change entirely the nature of our Federal system.”
     Before Congress passes more laws, and before individuals demand that Washington solve every problem, we should first seriously consider a simple question: “Does the Constitution allow the federal government to do this?” The question should never be, “Can I use this to get elected?”, nor, “Is it easier to send the problem to Washington?”, and certainly not, “Will it make people feel better if Congress does this?”
     Pundits of late wonder why there seems to be a growing embrace of lawlessness, especially in the culture of youth. One must look no further than the example set by politicians and their adult constituents: ignoring the Constitution for the better part of this century, politicians pass laws in contradiction to the supreme law in attempts to further their careers by appeasing special-interest groups. The message has been clearly received by many young people: don’t let the law get in the way of what you want.
     For the sake of the future of our Republic, it is important that we are not just consistent, but correctly consistent. We must defend not just the sections of the Constitution we find popular, we must defend the entire Constitution. Most importantly, we must jealously guard the philosophy of freedom upon which it is based. If we do, the sound we will hear is that of liberty once again loudly ringing across our land.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 June 1999
Flag Amendment is a reckless solution
Loyalty must be to constitutional principles, not symbol of it

     Loyalty and conviction are admirable traits, but when misplaced both can lead to serious problems.
     More than a decade ago, an obnoxious man in Dallas decided to perform an ugly act: the desecration of an American flag in public. His action violated a little-known state law prohibiting desecration of the flag. He was tried in state court and found guilty.
     As always seems to be the case, though, the federal government intervened. After winding through the federal system, the Supreme Court–in direct contradiction to the Constitution’s 10th Amendment–finally ruled against the state law.
     Since then Congress has twice tried to overturn more than 213 years of history and legal tradition by making flag desecration a federal crime. Just as surely as the Court was wrong in its disregard for the Tenth Amendment by improperly assigning the restrictions of the First Amendment to the states, so are attempts to federally restrict the odious (and very rare) practice of Americans desecrating the flag.
     After all, the First Amendment clearly states that it is Congress that may “make no laws” and is prohibited from “abridging” the freedom of speech and expression. While some may not like it, under our Constitution state governments are free to restrict speech, expression, the press and even religious activities. The states are restrained, in our federal system, by their own constitutions and electorate.
     This system has served us well for more than two centuries. After all, our founding fathers correctly recognized that the federal government should be severely limited, and especially in matters of expression. They revolted against a government that prevented them from voicing their politically unpopular views regarding taxation, liberty and property rights. As a result, the founders wanted to ensure that a future monolithic federal government would not exist, and that no federal government of the United States would ever be able to restrict what government officials might find obnoxious, unpopular or unpatriotic. After all, the great patriots of our nation–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin–were all considered disloyal pests by the British government.
     Too often in this debate, the issue of patriotism is misplaced. This is well addressed by Keith Kruel, an Army veteran and a past national commander of the American Legion. He has said that, “Our nation was not founded on devotion to symbolic idols, but on principles, beliefs and ideals expressed in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. American veterans who have protected our banner in battle have not done so to protect a ‘golden calf.’ …A patriot cannot be created by legislation.”
     Our nation would be far better served that if instead of loyalty to an object–what Mr. Kruel calls the “golden calf”–we had more Members of Congress who were loyal to the Constitution and principles of liberty. If more people demonstrated a strong conviction to the Tenth Amendment, rather than creating even more federal powers, this issue would be far better handled.
     For more than two centuries, it was the states that correctly handled the issue of flag desecration in a manner consistent with the principle of federalism. When the federal courts improperly intervened, many people understandably sought a solution to a very emotional issue. But the proposed solution to enlarge the federal government and tread down the path of restricting unpopular political expression, is incorrect, and even frightening.
     The correct solution is to reassert the 10th Amendment. The states should be unshackled from unconstitutional federal restrictions.
     As a proud Air Force veteran, my stomach turns when I think of those who defile our flag. But I grow even more nauseous, though, at the thought of those who would defile our precious constitutional traditions and liberties.
     Loyalty to individual liberty, combined with a conviction to uphold the Constitution, is the best of what our flag can represent.


Texas Straight Talk, 5 July 1999
A new declaration: more liberty, fewer taxes
Americans work past Independence Day to pay cost of government

     On the fourth day of July, in 1776, a small group of men, representing 13 colonies in the far-off Americas, boldly told the most powerful nation on earth, that they were free.
     They declared, in radical terms both then and now, that “all men are created equal” and are endowed with certain “inalienable rights,” rights that government cannot take away for government does not grant them.
     In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers sought to demonstrate to the world that the “…history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having the direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states…” In the list, we find the basic philosophy for our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
     One point of consternation to our founding fathers was that the king had been “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.” Such a statement led different people in recent years to wonder, “Americans revolted over taxation without representation; how do they like it with representation?”
     Indeed, one has to wonder how Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would react to the current state of affairs. After all, they felt shackled with a total tax rate that, in modern terms, amounts to single-digits rates. Today, the average American will pay more than 50 percent of their income in direct and indirect taxes.
     In fact, most Texans will not start working for themselves for another week. Texans, like most Americans work from January until early July just to pay their federal income tax, states and local taxes, and the calculated cost of regulation. Almost no one in America has yet begun going to work to pay for food, clothing, shelter or their children’s education. It was just on June 22 that Americans stopped working to pay for the federal government. The next several weeks will pay the costs of state and local government.
     It is often easy to simply blame faceless bureaucrats and politicians for our current state of affairs, and they do bear much of the blame. But a decent share rests with those of us who expect Washington, DC, to solve every problem under the sun. If the public demanded that Congress abide by the Constitution, pass only constitutional authorizations and spending while opposing the rest, politicians would be more responsive.
     All too often, though, politicians get the message that their constituents do indeed want unconstitutional spending cut and bloated government put on a diet–just not in their community or for their particular pet project. This leads to the famous compromises; compromises that sound fine when a politician stands on the stump at election time, but lose luster when the bill comes due on Tax Day.
     Now is the time for Congress to pass the American Values Tax Savings Act of 1999, of which I am a cosponsor. This legislation will eliminate the marriage penalty tax, the death tax, the alternative minimum tax, reduce the capital gains tax, and increase the pre-tax contribution levels for IRAs. This measure would provide almost $800 billion in tax relief by 2009 if passed this year.
     Our basic problem is not that we are over-taxed, out-spent or under-represented, it is that we have lost sight of a simple premise that guided the actions of our founding fathers. That premise? The government that governs least is the government that governs best.
     When we cut the size of government, our taxes will fall. When we reduce the power of the federal bureaucracy, the cost of government will plummet. And when we firmly fix our eyes, undistracted, on the principles of liberty, Americans will truly be free.
     That ours is the freest land on the earth, that we enjoy a higher level of liberty than people anywhere, should never distract us from demanding more freedom and more liberty. This should be our declaration.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 July 1999
Campaign reform misses target
Americans could expect higher taxes, fewer choices

     Like a bad penny, campaign finance reform is again being pushed as the panacea to the problems in America. And make no doubt about it, there are very serious problems emanating from Washington, DC, which can be traced to the people who hold public office.
     The mistake, though, is in thinking the problem can be fixed simply by putting more restrictions on the average American. These so-called reformers hardly offer a solution. The real problem can be traced past the office holders because government has too much influence over our economy and lives, creating tremendous incentive to protect one’s self by “investing” in politicians.
     There is a tremendous incentive for every special interest group to influence government. Every individual, bank or corporation that does business with government invests plenty in influencing government. Corporate lobbyists spend over $100 million per month trying to influence Congress, while taxpayers’ dollars are used by bureaucrats in efforts to convince Congress to protect their “empires.” Government has tremendous influence over the economy and financial markets through interest rate controls, contracts, regulations, loans and grants. Corporations and individuals alike are forced to participate in an out-of-control system essentially as a matter of self-defense.
     Those pushing finance reform argue the fault rests only with those who are trying to influence government; never is fault assigned, of course, to those congressmen who create the environment that pressures the system to generate abuse. Members of Congress thereby avoid assuming responsibility for their own acts and instead blame those who exert pressure on Congress through the political process, despite the fact that political participation is among the most basic of rights bestowed on all Americans.
     All will agree that it is shameful for an elected official to capitulate to well-funded special interest groups. Unwilling to act ethically on their own, politicians will clamor for a system that diminishes the need to persuade individuals and groups to donate money to their campaigns. Instead of persuasion, they endorse coercing taxpayers to finance campaigns. This only changes the special interest groups that control government policy. Instead of voluntary groups making their own decisions with their own money, politicians and bureaucrats dictate how political campaigns will be financed and run.
     Politicians and bureaucrats will gain great influence over elections, while Americans will be forced to subsidize politicians with whose ideology the taxpayer may vehemently disagree. Clearly incumbents will greatly benefit by more controls over campaign spending, a benefit to which the reformers will never admit. Other winners will be the media, the wealthy and those with celebrity statues.
     The losers include independent and third party candidates, as well as those who believe it is immoral to force people to finance their campaigns.
     The biggest “loser,” however, will be our American tradition of political expression, and the taxpayers that get stuck with bigger tax bills and fewer liberties.
     More regulation of political activism through control of private money, instead of addressing the root problem of an overly-influential government, only drives the money further underground, and thereby giving select groups a strong advantage over the honest candidate who seeks to ethically work for smaller, constitutional government.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 July 1999
Lavish pay and benefits have no merit
Pay raises for “public servants” generate more cynicism

     Apparently the American people are so satisfied with increasing taxes and spending, continued abuse of civil liberties and ongoing unconstitutional programs, that they are willing to give Congress a four-percent pay raise and double the pay of the president.
     Don’t remember having been so generous? Don’t worry, Congress is being generous, again, with your money–it’s really quite easy.
     Never mind that as of May 7, 1992, with ratification of the 27th Amendment, Congress is specifically prevented by the Constitution from increasing pay without there being an election between the legislation passing and the raise going into effect.
     Industrious congressmen have found a semantic loophole; the four-percent pay raise isn’t a pay raise at all, but merely a “cost of living adjustment.” A couple hundred dollars might constitute a COLA, but thousands is a pay-raise.
     As the cynicism of Americans for their government grows, some congressmen will cast a vote for a big pay raise while expressing shock at the public mistrust.
     A pay raise might be in order if Congress were doing its job. If taxes were on the way, if the doors to unconstitutional agencies and programs were being closed, perhaps a pay raise would be in order. Perhaps, but not likely. After all, that would mean Congress was simply doing its job, not doing anything extraordinary.
     And then there is the doubling of the president’s pay. It must be understood that this new presidential pay scale does not go into effect until the current occupant of the office departs in 2001. Currently, the president receives $200,000 in pay, but congressional action would see his pay top $400,000. The argument in support of such a lavish pay check goes like this: the president is the leader of the free world, and as such should be paid on par with the heads of large corporations. The argument continues that without the incentive of higher pay, we might not be getting the best and brightest. (Of course, there is no CEO of a corporation on the planet that has a $5.6 trillion debt.)
     It is obvious we have not had the best these last several years, but that is not a function of pay. In fact, the pay of a president is really the least of his benefits–regardless of amount. After all, taxpayers foot the bill for the First Family’s room and board, a legion of personal servants, a fleet of cars, planes, boats and helicopters. Not to mention nearly unlimited free vacations and the power to command almost any position, speaking fee or posting after their presidency ends. Finally, presidents get paid a healthy pension from the moment they leave office, not to mention a lifetime of taxpayer-funded staff, security and offices.
     The problem with the presidency, the Congress, and everyone in between has not been a lack of pay and perks, but an overabundance. Let’s face it: serving in Congress, and living in the White House, can be pretty good deals. In fact, for many people, these deals are so good they do not want to leave–ever. There is tremendous incentive to stay: the power is the bait, the pay, perks and control are the hook.
     The most effective term limits would be not a number of years, but a reduction in pay and benefits. I refuse the congressional pension because it is immoral that I could stay in office for only a few years, yet qualify for a lucrative pension the taxpayers must fund for the remainder of my days.
     Our founding fathers wisely saw service in elected government as a temporary function, not a lifetime pursuit. They valued the citizen-legislator, who saw himself as a public servant while still making a living in the private sector.
     Today, though, those who labor in the private sector are viewed as pariahs, while congressmen increase the tax levy to further lavish “public servants” with generous pay and benefits. What surprises me is not that so many Americans are cynical of their elected officials, but that there are any who are not.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 July 1999
Reducing the tax reduction
Taxpayers need a real break from cost of government

     I have often been accused of having never met a tax cut that I didn’t like. I am guilty as charged.
     The American public is, quite simply, over-taxed. More than half the income of the average American goes to paying the cost of government. Americans pay more for their government than they do the combined cost of food, clothing, shelter, entertainment and education.
     Taxpayers need a break. Perhaps the most disgusting and philosophically disgusting idea is that tax cuts “cost” the government. This misguided notion comes from defenders of a statist mindset, who believe that all things–ranging from the most common of items to the first fruits of our labor to our very lives–are owned by the government.
     The reality, of course, is that government does not have any money except what it takes from the taxpayer.
     Unfortunately, for far too many years Members of Congress from both parties have come to view the public purse not as a sacred trust but rather a trough from which they can take all they want, whenever they want.
     And so it was with great anticipation that I heard of a plan that would provide almost a billion dollars in tax cuts. This package would eliminate or significantly reduce such odious taxes as the marriage penalty and the death tax.
     But as I have grown to expect in Washington, the hype fell short of the delivered package. When I did cast my vote in support of the plan–for it does offer the possibility of lower taxes–the excitement had worn off.
     Instead of standing firm, congressional leadership bowed to statist pressure and made significant changes to the package. The income tax reduction was itself reduced. The marriage tax stays on the books for another year. The capital gains and death taxes are only slightly reduced. And the income tax reductions hinge on there being no increases in interest outlays for total US federal government debt. Given this provision, the tax cut is very unlikely.
     Even under this “historic” tax-cut plan, Americans will still work more than half the year to pay the cost of government. Further, most of the tax cuts are only fully realized ten years from now. While some talk about benefits years down the fiscal road, Congress can only draft budgets for a single year; what is passed in one fiscal year can be erased in the next. And as one might imagine, the tax cuts for this fiscal year are puny.
     Until we root out the notion that all things originate with government; until we banish the idea that government is somehow bearing a burden by not taking so much money from society’s producers; until the time comes, we will never see truly historic tax reform.
     The American public clamors for tax relief. I have never had a constituent or taxpayer ask me to vote to raise their taxes; in fact, I am hard-pressed to recall a meeting with taxpayers in which they did not, in some fashion or other, demand that Congress move expeditiously to reduce the burden.
     Members of Congress, and indeed politicians in general, are nothing if not pragmatic. Because they have never truly seen the effect of taking a truly firm stand in favor of cutting taxes, they do not want to risk seeing it when an election might be at stake. What they do know is that pork-barrel projects get them campaign donations to fund their coffers, and favorable newspaper editorials to drive their public relations.
     And pork costs money. And money comes from taxes. And taxes come from the sweat of the American people.
     I have never met a tax cut I wouldn’t support, even a small tax cut. I look forward, though, to the day when I can vote for a tax cut that is neither a rhetorical device nor a watered-down compromise. Instead, I hope one days we will witness a truly historic tax cut that ensures the American people will keep more of what they earn than what they hand over to the tax man.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 August 1999
Restricting the Executive Orders
Constitutional vision of separated powers necessary for liberty

     One of the chief complaints of the American colonists against King George was that he had usurped powers that were not rightfully his, and then used those powers to the disadvantage of the people.
     In the ensuing years, those revolutionaries created a federal government that was not only strictly limited, but also strictly divided among three co-equal branches, each with unique and limited powers and each with a coequal duty to uphold and sustain the Constitution of the United States. Under a truly constitutional approach to our government, every branch has the ability to check the abuses of power by the others.
     But this system of “checks” has grown drastically out of balance, if indeed it ever truly was in balance. But the errors of the past, whether distant or recent, should not be reason to leave the future shackled to reckless policies grown from disdainful philosophies.
     The most glaring example of our out-of-balance system is the power of the president to create laws through the use of the “Executive Order.” Our system grants all legislative power to the legislative branch, while Chief Executive exists to “faithfully execute” those laws.
     While there is a role for Executive Orders so that the president may execute his authorities and direct his employees, for far too many years the illegitimate uses have overshadowed the legitimate. Presidents have issued Executive Orders that take on the force of law.
     It is a mistake, though, to place all blame with a single president in particular, or the office in general, for abuse of this power. After all, presidents have had many willing accomplices in Congress. A great number of congressmen and senators quietly appreciate the assumed presidential authority to create and enact legislation because it allows them to see their goal accomplished without having to assume a politically risky position.
     With the “power” of the Executive Order, presidents can commit our troops to undeclared wars, destroy industries or make unprecedented social-policy changes. And they remain unaccountable because often these actions occur behind the door of the Oval Office, are distributed without notice, and then executed in stealth.
     I have introduced legislation, along with Rep. Jack Metcalf of Washington, that would bring our federal system into proper balance. The Separation of Powers Restoration Act (HR2655) prohibits a presidential order from having the effect of law by restricting the scope of the directives. In addition, it repeals the 1973 War Powers Act, which–despite the constitutional prohibition–granted broad war-making authority to the Office of the President. Further, the legislation suspends all of the “national emergencies” which have been declared since 1976, when Congress last canceled them. Still on the books are “emergencies” relating to Iraq and the Soviet bloc. These emergency declarations give presidents great authority, even if the situation no longer presents a threat to our national security.
     Finally, and perhaps most significantly, my legislation grants legal standing to individual Members of Congress and Senators, state officials and, of course, private citizens who believe a president’s Executive Order has overstepped constitutional bounds and negatively impacted them, their rights, their property or their business.
     That powers have been usurped is undeniable, and that our system is out of balance is evident to the most casual of observers. We have the opportunity to more perfectly balance our system and restrict potential abuses.
     While kings may have the right to promulgate laws simply by decree, it is Rule of Law which is king in our form of government. By clearly defining the lines of power, while restricting the ability of a single person to arbitrarily impose law, we will further secure the blessings of liberty upon our nation.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 August 1999
Legalized theft
Corporate, international welfare steals from the working

     “Don’t steal,” reads one of my favorite bumper stickers. “The government doesn’t like the competition!”
     The word “steal” might be a little strong, but not by much when one considers the actions of Congress, and especially votes taken this last week on the Foreign Operations Appropriations budget. This budget contains billions of dollars; nearly all of which are not just unconstitutional, but downright crazy.
     Many people rightly criticize the growing welfare state as it relates to individuals getting handouts, assistance and other benefits from the government. But the more expensive, and rarely discussed, problem is when government provides handouts, assistance and lucrative benefits to wealthy, multinational corporations.
     If an individual takes the money from your wallet to purchase something for himself, it is rightfully considered unlawful. Regardless of the excuse, no matter how good an item he is buying, the thief is still guilty of theft. But when a congressman does the same thing on behalf of a special interest group, it is called the law of the land.
     If a businessman comes to a rational person and says, “I want to expand into a new territory, but the downside is that it is an area that is fraught with civil unrest, is economically unsound, the workforce is untrained and we probably won’t make a profit.” The prudent investor would obviously not take the risk.
     But under our current system, that same businessman can make his move with the knowledge that the taxpayers of the United States will bail him out. This bailout comes from several different mechanisms, like the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. This absurdity that passes for policy is made all the more disgusting when one recognizes that working families, struggling to make ends meet, are being held liable for business decisions that the wealthiest of private investors would likely not cover.
     Worse still is that if this risky investment finally has some measure of success, the taxpayer gets no benefit despite the exposure to liability; thus the costs are socialized while the profits are internalized. Of course, grateful recipients of the largess generously fill the campaign coffers of those who vote for these gross subsidies.
     Several years ago I first proposed we stop this nonsense for it is simply unconscionable that Texas’ family farmers are getting taxed to provide cover for multinational corporations’ stupid decisions. Only a couple of my colleagues risked the wrath of the corporate interests back then. The first week in August, however, saw several dozen Members of Congress join me in protesting this egregious policy. Unfortunately, the bipartisan, pro-largess caucus still carried the day. However, I did notice that fewer Members of Congress seem as eager to defend corporate welfare.
     These days, of course, the rhetoric of bailing out the corporations is made with allusions to “free trade”; a laughable proposition that could not be further from reality.
     Several weeks ago we engaged in the annual debate over the level of free trade our citizens could have with China. I always take the position that one should have free markets and allow Americans to trade with whomever they please, but at the same time taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize foreign governments. The crowd I cannot understand is the one that argues against free trade yet supports subsidizing China and other brutal regimes around the world. That is the other half of what we do with OPIC, the Export-Import Bank and other international managed-trade organizations. By propping up the corporations that move to China, not only are we subsidizing bad business decisions, but also using tax dollars to shore up China’s economy without their having to feel the pressure of the free market to change their ways.
     The defenders of corporate and international welfare would have us believe that taxpayers get some benefit from seeing their hard-earned dollars go to the boardroom of Boeing or the butchers of Beijing. How one benefits from being exposed to economic risk, or by shipping cash to those with whom one vehemently disapproves, is difficult to imagine.
     The economics, however, are not. The taxpayer loses all the way around.
     When common thieves steal from us to get what they desire, they at least have the courtesy not to try to convince us it is for our benefit, nor return annually to do so.
     Perhaps government also does not like to be outclassed.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 August 1999
A flood of bills of rights
Pols hide power-grab agendas behind images of liberty

     There are few weapons in the battle over culture as devious as the misappropriation of words and phrases. In the kind of twisted logic only an Orwellian character could truly appreciate, liberty means slavery, freedom becomes dependence, and volunteerism is compulsion.
     The latest in this trend among the politically savvy is the use of the adjective phrase “Bill of Rights.” Every imaginable cause or group has seen a “Bill of Rights” proposed to support it these days: children, patients, airline travelers and so on.
     Obviously the phrase is meant to stir patriotic emotions, legitimizing whatever the legislative agenda might be by word association.
     Without fail, these new “Bill of Rights” programs are not just cute ploys to garner attention, they strike at the core of what is wrong with the way so many in Congress go about their business. One has to raise the question: What’s wrong with the existing Bill of Rights, those original Ten Amendments to the Constitution, that a new one must be created to assuage every group, complaint or situation?
     The answer is simple. The problem with the Bill of Rights is that it restricts the power of the federal government while ensuring maximum liberty for the individual. This is a problem for those who see government as the panacea to every ill, the protector of all that is good. While the Bill of Rights limits government, liberates the market and empowers the individual, these initiatives inevitably anoint government with greater power, restrict the rights of the individual and shackle the market.
     We should be suspicious when it is declared we need a new “Bill of Rights.” If Congress were interested in protecting the rights of individuals (whether as taxpayers, patients or travelers), then it should adhere to the principles so clearly defined in the original Bill of Rights.
     Perhaps, though, that is the problem; the idea that principles should guide our actions is anathema to many. Or, more likely, it is that many in elected office reject the principles of individual liberty and limited government, believing instead that government knows best.
     If over the last fifty years we would have had more respect for the Bill of Rights, property rights, voluntary contracts, state jurisdiction and free markets, we would not have the mess we’re facing today in medical care and a host of other issues.
     Economic principles determine efficiency of markets, even the medical market; but not our emotional experiences. As a physician, I know that the most efficient manner to deliver medical services, as it is with goods and other services, is determined by the degree to which the market is allowed to operate.
     Contrary to the claims of advocates for increased government regulation of health care, the problems we face do not represent market failure, but rather the failure of government policies that have destroyed the health-care market. While it appears on the surface that the interest of the patient is in conflict with the insurance companies and the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), in a free market this cannot happen. But when one side is given a legislative advantage in an artificial system, as with managed care, merely making an effort to balance government dictated advantages between patients and HMOs is impossible. The differences cannot be reconciled by more government mandates; because we are trying to patch an unworkable system, the impasse in Congress over this–or any such issue–should not be a surprise.
     And make no doubt about it: the veritable avalanche of “Bill of Rights” packages before Congress represent more mandates, more government control and fewer liberties for everyone. That they mask their agendas with the phrases of liberty is both deceitful and comforting. Deceitful for obvious reasons; comforting because it reflects an understanding that–despite our many problems–Americans remain rightly suspicious of government power and desirous of liberty.


Texas Straight Talk, 23 August 1999
Draft not needed for protection of liberty
Selective Service should be eliminated, funds to Veterans Administration

     When a federal agency admits that it could stand to cut a program, everyone should take notice. Especially when the program carries a $25 million price tag that could be better spent caring for our veterans.
     In 1994 a Department of Defense document was released saying that the time had come to end the inefficient Selective Service draft registration system. In fact, the report stated draft registration could be stopped “with no effect on military mobilization requirements, little effect on the time it would take to mobilize, and no measurable effect on military recruitment.”
     From the military’s perspective, the reasons are straightforward: the world of the 1990s is very different from that of previous generations. This is a world in which even the most low-ranking of soldiers are more likely to use specialized computers than magnetic compasses even in the field. As a result, the skills needed by modern soldiers cannot be taught in a six-week boot camp before being shipped to the front.
     In fact, any crisis that might warrant a draft most likely will not have a front, as was demonstrated in the recent action against Yugoslavia. Pilots flying high-tech planes dropped bombs on targets selected with the aid of orbiting satellites and directed by computer technicians thousands of miles distant.
     While some romanticize the notion of a draft, it is simply inconsistent with the realities of today’s military.
     But a draft is also inconsistent with something far less temporal: the philosophy of liberty. Our founding fathers saw the notion of standing armies–and indeed the potential for them–as inconsistent with liberty. In fact, King George is criticized in the Declaration of Independence for maintaining such armies and programs.
     The draft is foreign to the precepts of liberty. If there is ever a threat to our national survival, people will serve if they believe liberty is worth saving; droves of men rushed to volunteer for service after Japan attacked in 1941. The burden rests on those in elected office to ensure our free society remains one in which the people are willing to fight, even to death, for its continuation. In our Constitution, the founding fathers provided for this mechanism by ensuring all would be free to be armed so that they may rise up in defense of liberty.
     The existence of the mechanisms for a draft reveals a great deal about our state of affairs. It reveals first the belief of many in our government that they are unwilling to maintain a system which the people desire to protect. They cynically suggest that people would not defend their own liberty in the face of a clear and present threat, and so the government-as-patriarch must decide what is best for them.
     More importantly, it reveals the basic philosophy of our leadership: that all things belong first to the government. After all, taxes are withheld from workers before their paycheck is even cut. This means government gets the first fruits of our labor–not our God or family. The existence of a draft registration makes it clear that government has first dibs on the life of every man.
     Our nation does have a problem with recruitment and retention–reasons often cited for keeping the draft registration. Countless surveys, though, have found these problems come not from a lack of patriotism, but because more and more Americans are frustrated with our foreign policy and the increasing number of “police actions” that put soldiers in harm’s way without a national interest at stake.
     Working with me on this critical issue has been the chairman of the Veterans Administration appropriations subcommittee, Jim Walsh (R-NY), as well as William Clay (D, Missouri), Jack Metcalf (R, Washington) and Gary Ackerman (D, New York). Language has been placed in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget to place the Selective Service system in deep standby, end the registration, and transfer the annual $25 million to the Veterans Administration. The VA is one of the most inadequately funded agencies, and this infusion of cash would make a real difference to thousands of veterans. Conversely, our national readiness would not be affected in the least by the change.
     The time has come for the United States to stop looking backward at the tactics of the past, and instead focus on the needs of a modern military and a society oriented toward liberty, while providing for those who have valiantly served our nation.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 September 1999
The smoking gun
Waco revelations show true face of federal police

     For years the Clinton Administration, with their willing allies in Congress and the mainstream press, have parroted the line that federal law enforcement officials did nothing wrong in the Branch Davidian stand-off at Waco. Anyone who questioned the government’s official position was relegated to being either a far-right extremist, a militia kook, or a follower of the undeniably peculiar David Koresh.
     It was just weeks after coming to Congress in 1997, while on a national television program, that I was asked about the then-four-year-old case. I responded with the position that the evidence was overwhelmingly strong that everything was not as bureaucrats in the Clinton Administration claimed. I cited recent polling data that indicated that most Americans simply did not trust the government, and that a goodly number feared the increasingly commonplace occurrence of federal agents taking violent action against American citizens.
     Almost immediately the defenders of big government, the administration and the war on civil liberties launched into wild hysterics. I had committed the unpardonable sin of believing the facts rather than the government spin, which attempted to justify the murder of innocent children and untried, uncharged adults
     The Attorney General and her minions in Congress maintained that the conflagration had been a rash act of mass suicide, ignoring that just hours before the raid those same people had requested their phone lines be reconnected. They also ignored the infrared evidence that government agents, as the fire was raging on one side of the house, were entering the home through the back, and that tanks were injecting gases banned under international treaties.
     Now, though, even the most blind followers of the administration and its policies are left stunned with revelations that high-ranking FBI officials and others lied to Congress, hid evidence, broke the law and knowingly subverted justice.
     According to press reports, the recently uncovered evidence has a clear recording of one FBI agent casually asking for permission to use highly flammable explosive devices against citizens of the United States just hours before the inferno began. The permission was, likewise, casually granted.
     These people certainly held peculiar religious beliefs. They may have even been very odd in their habits and mores. But they were citizens of the United Sates. Not terrorists or child molesters–despite early claims by the FBI, repudiated by the Waco child protective services offices. They were not drug dealers–a lie told to justify the use of deadly military force; no drug manufacturing equipment was ever found or seriously believed to exist.
     Worse still for defenders of statism is a growing recognition that our founding fathers were right when they prohibited the federal government from being involved in law enforcement. In Waco, America has seen the face of the growing federal police state, with its heavy emphasis on brute force, military machinery and deadly tactics.
     With the veneer being stripped from the myth of federal law enforcement, Americans are beginning to realize that it is both unconstitutional and untenable. One cannot have a legion of heavily armed bureaucrats with unlimited jurisdiction, the might of the military at their call, and no accountability, yet expect they will respect civil liberties.
     In Waco, we find the answer to a question that is far more troubling than as to why certain tactics were used, methods employed or even the sequence of events leading to all those deaths. The answer we find is to the question, “Why did this happen at all?”
     “Because we could,” we are told.
     With that cavalier attitude so prevalent in federal law enforcement, it is hardly surprising that even greater numbers of Americans now do not trust their government.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 September 1999
Regulating gridiron prayer
Communities, not feds, should have control

     With the start of high school football season in the 14th Congressional District, many of my constituents are upset by the fact that a long-held tradition has been taken from them by the federal courts.
     This tradition, of course, is a simple, non-proselytizing prayer said shortly before the kick-off.
     Many of the people who attend the games and who are now aghast at this federal intrusion have called my office seeking information. They are upset–and rightly so–that the utterance of a simple prayer can be prohibited, despite lip service paid to “freedom of speech.” After all, they argue, doesn’t the US Constitution’s First Amendment strictly prohibit the federal government from interfering in the “free exercise” of religious beliefs?
     Of course it does. For much of our history, we had a more proper understanding of the correct balances in regards to the Constitution. After all, the First Amendment begins with a very important phrase, “Congress shall make no laws….” This phrase was always understood to mean that while the federal government could not create federal laws restricting religion, or use federal monies to give preference to one religious order over another, it specifically does not apply to the state and local governments. In other words, under a correct reading of the Constitution, a state or local government can allow–or prohibit–religious expression in public places.
     Yet the Constitution is also very clear in prohibiting the federal government from being involved in a lot of activities, including education. Under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, any power not specifically granted to the federal government is reserved to the states and people. Oddly, education is one such power.
     And what power it is.
     The ability to influence young minds is a tremendous power and awesome responsibility. Our founding fathers correctly denied the federal government this power. They wisely recognized that the people given charge with influencing the education of children should be those who are closest to the children–parents, the community and the state.
     Yet today we have casually accepted the notion of federal involvement in education, despite plummeting test sores and increasing violence–both of which coincide with the increase in federal intrusion. As federal involvement has increased, so has the quality of education and safety declined. In fact, the Princeton Review–the organization that oversees the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)–said the current generation of high school seniors is less educated than their parents. A most disturbing trend.
     What the Princeton Review did not mention, though, is even more significant. The most striking difference in education between these two generations has been that the parents of today’s teens went through schools that had little or no federal government oversight, while their children’s are replete with it.
     Because so few have been willing to criticize the increasing reach into the classroom by Washington, DC, bureaucrats, it is in many ways disingenuous to criticize this latest move. If one is willing to let the federal government dictate education policy in the classroom, social policy in the cafeteria, then intervention at the gridiron should be unsurprising.
     Until we expel the federal government from our schools, we can only expect them to continue to bully their desires onto the students and community, despite firmly held local beliefs and traditions.
     But because Texans take their high school football–and everything associated with it–very seriously, perhaps the federal government has finally pushed too far. Hopefully, federal bureaucrats will be soon find themselves as unwelcome in Texas schools as they have attempted to make God.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 September 1999
Punishing accidents, ignoring murder Punishing accidents, ignoring murder
Violence to Unborn Children Act gives abortionists’ a license to kill

     Leave it to a zealous Congress to sweep away time-honored criminal law in an attempt to make a political constituency happy while actively ignoring the real issue.
     The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to approve the “Violence to Unborn Children.” At its surface, this legislation has some appeal, despite the fact it unconstitutionally creates yet another federal crime. It is important to recall that the Constitution only allows three federal crimes: treason, counterfeiting and piracy.
     Setting aside those constitutional questions–which Congress should never do, but regularly does–it would seem to finally offer some recognition, at the federal level, that the child in the womb is indeed a human being worthy of protection. Backers of the bill say that it will offer legal protection to the fetus from those who attack it; that is, unless the attacker happens to be an abortionist or the mother. That’s the part of the bill being kept quiet.
     This legislation, which is expected to come to House floor for a vote in a matter of weeks, specifically excludes from its jurisdiction violence done to an unborn child by an abortionist. The legislation states that nothing it should be “construed to permit the prosecution … of any person for conduct relating to an abortion.”
     At the same time, though, the legislation requires that anyone else be charged with murder in federal court, even if their actions were accidental or there was no intent to kill. The notion of “intent” has been a basis for our criminal law for centuries. Someone who unintentionally causes harm or death must still bear some responsibility, but the law has always recognized a difference between willful and accidental action. Not under this legislation.
     It is certainly the case that a person who harms or causes the death of an unborn child should suffer the consequences, but in this legislation the application is artificial and arbitrary. It is okay for one person to kill a baby if they have the letters “M.D.” after their name, but not if they were in a fight with the expectant mother?
     The willful, premeditated taking of human life will go unpunished under this legislation, while an accidental death will face severe prosecution.
     This legislation ignores the millions of children murdered every year at the hand of an abortionist, while exposing to extreme legal jeopardy the relatively small number of individuals who accidentally cause a death.
     Of course, there is another class of individuals who can kill with impunity under this legislation, and that is the mother carrying the child. The bill states that charges cannot be brought against “any woman with respect to her unborn child.”
     As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist for the past thirty years, I can safely assert that a higher percentage of children are put at harm in the womb by the negligence and even willful action of their mother than by an outsider. If this legislation were to be equally applied, the woman who smokes, drinks, does drugs, or engages in strenuous physical activity while pregnant should be just as liable for prosecution as a stranger who accidentally kills an unborn child when mugging a woman he doesn’t know to be pregnant.
     But of course, passing laws that actually recognize the full rights of the unborn as a human being is not the intention; that, after all, would require a commitment to principle, rather than politics. Instead, this legislation further enlarges the jurisdiction of the federal government by using an emotionally charged issue as justification, without actually addressing the most pressing concerns.
     If passed, politicians will rest easy knowing they have passed a feel-good measure to placate a key constituency, while those concerned with the issue believe a battle has been won. Meanwhile 5,000 babies a day will continue to die at the hands of abortionists, safe in the knowledge federal law now explicitly excuses them from their actions.
     And as but a side note to legal history, yet another blow will have been struck against the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the philosophy of federalism.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 September 1999
‘Say no to high taxes and spending’
Arrogance kills modest tax cuts for farmers, all taxpayers

     Apparently the president believes the American people do not pay enough in taxes. This, of course, is contrary to what I hear from my constituents.
     The president would have us believe the small businessman in Victoria is simply a statistical aberration, that his daily worries about paying ever-increasing taxes is a sign of his greed. The single mom in Hays County may have trouble making ends meet, but the president assures us it is not related to the large chunk of her paycheck gobbled up by withholding taxes.
     The young couple in Aransas County, according to the president, must have been mistaken when they told me they were paying more in taxes as married people, than when single. Meanwhile, the president ignores the farmer in Waller County who is worried that when he dies his family will have to sell off most of their land to pay the death taxes.
     In fact, my constituents are over-taxed, as is every American taxpayer. Half the income of every American goes to pay the cost of government, yet the president does not wish to permit taxpayers keep just slightly more to help make ends meet.
     It is ironic that the administration and their many parrots around the nation claim to support the family farm. Yet in their assault on tax cuts in general, and this measure in specific, they have done great harm to the small, family farms which are hallmarks of my rural district. In vetoing this tax cut, the president and his allies have done irreparable harm to the cause of family farms.
     Not only would this package have taken a step toward ridding our nation of the immoral death taxes, but also provided major reforms farmers especially needed. Those reforms included the creation of Farm and Ranch Risk Management (FARRM) Accounts, which would have allowed farmers to set aside pre-tax dollars to save for a bad year. Apparently this administration wants America’s farmers to remain dependent on politicians, rather than be able to provide for themselves.
     While death taxes hit farmers perhaps the hardest of anyone, every American should be upset that this president wants to keep these in place. The death tax assumes everything you have belongs to the government. When you die, supporters of the death-tax claim, those things you have built with after-tax income, belong to the government rather than your heirs.
     Of course, the president has not been coy about his position on tax cuts. Just a couple months ago he said the federal government could give a tax cut and “trust that you spend it correctly,” but he trusts the politicians in DC to be wiser with your money.
     Often, the opponents of tax cuts hide their agenda by creating the false dichotomy of pitting tax cuts against Social Security. Social Security is in trouble not because of tax cuts, but because politicians have raided the fund to pay for their big spending programs.
     No word better describes the problem in getting even a modest tax cut in place for taxpayers across the land than the five-letter, one-syllable word “spend.” Whether it’s congressmen or presidents, bureaucrats or special interests, everyone with a hand in crafting the federal budget is committed to spending as much of your money as they can to fund pet projects and secure power bases.
     They will continue to get away with it until Americans say they have had enough. While the process is illogical, the taxes we pay are a direct reflection of the spending priorities in Washington. The budget drafters determine what they want to spend, then tax you accordingly, suggesting that you are getting some benefit from their wisdom.
     The only way we will have our tax burden significantly reduced is for federal spending to be decreased. This president and his cronies–regardless of party affiliation–are committed to spending as much of your money as they can.
     “Just say no to high taxes and high spending,” that’s what my constituents tell me when I go home every weekend. It’s time the White House and all of Congress got that message loud and clear.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 October 1999
Confused priorities
President vetoes tax cuts to spend more overseas

     Just two weeks ago the president vetoed a modest tax-cut provision that would have been most helpful to small business owners, farmers and middle-income Americans. In vetoing the measure, the president said it was simply too large a tax cut, that the government couldn’t afford to “give-up” that money. This week we found out what he wanted done with that money: spend it, but not in America.
     Of course, the first fallacy is in suggesting that a tax cut is cost. When someone criticizes a tax cut as “costing too much,” they are revealing a basic belief in the tenets of socialism, where all wealth is created by, and belongs to, the government. A tax cut is allowing a productive individual to keep his own money; it does not cost anyone anything. In fact, the only “costs” in the tax system are the taxes levied on individuals.
     The tax package included what was a minor proposal that would have been a great benefit to people in agriculture. The measure would have allowed farmers and ranchers to set aside pre-tax income in special savings accounts to use in bad years. Such accounts would have granted agriculture the ability to extricate itself from the whims of Washington bureaucrats and politicians.
     When the president vetoed the tax package, he killed farmers’ hopes for this much-needed tool. Apparently he instead wants that money to be spent propping up foreign dictatorships and subsidizing our competitors.
     This past week, the president was threatening to veto the $12.6 billion foreign aid bill proposed by the House and Senate. Not, of course, because it was too much, but not nearly as much as he wanted.
     This measure is actually another increase in spending for items that are both unconstitutional and immoral. The Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to tax Americans so that foreign governments can be subsidized. Even if one could find such a power in the Constitution, it still should not be exercised, as it is reprehensible that a single working mother should struggle to make ends meet while being involuntarily taxed to subsidize the newest government in an unstable region.
     These programs assisted in the rise of leaders as Saddam Hussein, Carlos Salinas, Gen Augusto Pinochet and Osma bin Laden.
     In addition, the president wants even more of Americans’ money to spent in so-called “peacekeeping” operations, like those in Somalia and Bosnia, which recklessly place American soldiers in harms’ way for reasons other than national defense.
     But worse, the president’s idea of foreign aid would use American dollars to actually subsidize the foreign competition of American farmers. The president announced Wednesday he wants to cancel competing countries’ debt to the United States–amounting to a $3.5 billion loss for the taxpayers–from loans we made through government operations, such as the Export-Import Bank. Further, his administration is participating in a $27 billion debt forgiveness initiative by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, of which U.S. taxpayers are principle stakeholders.
     It is unconscionable that while our president refuses to allow Americans to keep just slightly more of what they earn, he is committed to spending billions of American dollars overseas. While there is no constitutional justification for these ill-conceived foreign expenditures, the reasons–constitutional and moral–abound for ensuring Americans keep what they earn.
     Debates over spending and taxes reveal much about who we are as individuals and as a nation. Sadly, spending by the government remains out of control and taxes are too high. And that our priorities are sorely out of line is demonstrated by the fact that our president and his allies would subsidize abortions in distant lands with taxes generated by the sweat of farmers, rather than allow Americans to provide for themselves and their families.


Texas Straight Talk, 11 October 1999
Dangerous to our health
Congressional remedies like medicine from the Dark Ages

     If Congress practiced medicine, they’d be using leaches on their patients and offering bullets for amputee candidates to bite before hacking off irreparable limbs.
     Of course, this past week one would have thought the US House–composed primarily of lawyers–was instead a convention of the American Medical Association, with Members of Congress attempting to legislatively practice medicine. Yet what was completely ignored in the debate was that this was a clear case of malpractice.
     No one disputes the diagnosis: American health care is in lousy shape. As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I find the pervasiveness of managed care troubling, if not reckless.
     What made last week’s congressional action the equivalent of medical malpractice was that the people operating on the “patient” were the same ones responsible for injury. American health care became what it is today not as a result of too little government intervention, but rather too much. Contrary to the claims of many advocates of increased government regulation of health care, the problems with the health care system do not represent market failure. Rather, they represent the failure of government policies that have destroyed the health care market.
     To think that by creating a new level of government bureaucracy–which all the plans did–will magically solve the problems is analogous to assuming a wolf can guard the sheep without disastrous consequences ensuing.
     No one can take a back seat to me regarding the disdain I hold for the HMO’s role in managed care. This entire unnecessary level of corporatism that rakes off profits and undermines care is a creature of government interference in health care dating to the 1970s. These non-market institutions could have only gained control over medical care through collusion between organized medicine, politicians, and the profiteers, in an effort to provide universal health care.
     But the government intervention in health care pre-dates the 1974 Employee Retriement Income Security Act (ERISA), with Congress granting tax benefits to employers for providing health care, while not allowing similar incentives for individuals. As such, government removed the market incentive for health insurance companies to cater to the actual health-care consumer. As a greater amount of government and corporate money has been used to pay medical bills, the costs have artificially risen out of the range of most individuals.
     Only true competition assures that the consumer gets the best deal at the best price possible by putting pressure on the providers. Once one side is given a legislative advantage in an artificial system, as it is in managed care, trying to balance government-dictated advantages between patient and HMOs is impossible. The differences cannot be reconciled by more government mandates, which will only make the problem worse.
     Patients are better served by having options and choices, not new federal bureaucracies and limitations on legal remedies. Such choices and options will arrive only when we unravel the HMO web rooted in old laws, and then change the tax code to allow Americans to fully deduct all healthcare costs from their taxes, similar to what is already allowed for employers.
     While neither the current system, nor the mess produced by the House vote last week, constitutes traditional socialism, it is rather something almost worse: corporatism. As government bureaucracy continues to give preferences and protections to HMOs and trial lawyers, it will be the patients who lose, despite the glowing rhetoric from the special interests in Washington, DC. Patients will pay ever rising prices and receive declining care while doctors continue to leave the profession in droves.
     If Congress is going to continue to meddle in medicine, then perhaps we should require new Members to take the Hippocratic Oath. But given their resistance to upholding the Constitution, it’s doubtful they would pay much attention. Sadly, we can expect Congress to continue to apply leaches to our wallets and amputate whatever good remains in American health care.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 October 1999
Best medicine is liberty
Government “reform” means high costs, less service

     Few people will argue there is nothing wrong with the status of health care in the United States. In fact, the sentiments against the status quo are almost unanimous: the system is broken.
     Yet there are many whose ideas to fix the system will actually make the situation worse for everyone, and especially those who can least afford more costly social experiments. As a physician with more than 30 years of private practice, I have too often found that the very people most hurt by “reforms” in health care are the same ones politicians and pundits claimed they were going to help.
     The current legislative drive regarding health care is no exception.
     The more government has been involved, the greater the costs and distortions. Initially there was little resistance to the federal meddling, since payments were generous and services were rarely restricted. Doctors liked being paid adequately for services that in the past were done at discount or for free, while the patients saw they were getting great access without discernable costs. The nation’s medical bill grew as the incentive for patients to economize eroded.
     But while Americans may have deep pockets for the tax man to pull from and the bureaucrat to regulate, those pockets are neither bottomless nor overflowing. In recent years, the increasing tax-bite has become noticeable as the costs of the regulations have become more burdensome.
     Yet rather than reverse the trend and liberate patients, physicians and the health care market, many in Congress would make the situation worse by adding new regulations and new fees, while eroding services and limiting choices.
     Among the most egregious of these new regulations are “must provide” regulations on health insurance providers. These new regs translate into higher costs for the consumer as insurance companies become forced to provide coverage for services they have no desire to cover precisely because they are too costly. While the knee-jerk reaction might be to say, “That’s great, they should pay for…” whatever. But such a reaction means limiting the choices of consumers, because insurance companies will either increase rates to cover the new costs, or deny coverage altogether.
     A non-smoking, non-drinking single mother may not wish to pay premiums to cover the costs of an alcoholic man’s addiction treatments, but new regulations could require just that. No longer will that single mom have the option to pay the lower insurance rates. Suddenly, she has no real choice; she must pay the higher rates or be without coverage.
     Worse, yet, she may have no choice at all, as new regulations price her, or her insurer, out of the health insurance market with no alternative.
     This is precisely what has happened over the last three decades. More and more people, from the lowest economic classes, have been methodically pushed from the system by the cost of greater regulation. The increased number of uninsured then becomes the rallying cry for more government action, which raises costs again…. A vicious cycle, benefiting no one.
     The most important thing Congress can do is to stop practicing medicine and allow market forces to operate by allowing Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) for everyone. Patient motivation to save and shop would be a major force in reducing cost, as physicians would once again negotiate fees with patients. MSAs would help satisfy the American’s people’s desire to control their own health care and provide incentives for consumers to take more responsibility for their care. MSAs will also allow those consumers to do business with insurance provider of their choice, who will cover the needs and procedures for which that family is willing and able to pay.
     The American people deserve more than the status quo, and better than quasi-socialized medicine. The experience of the last thirty-plus years is clear: even in health care, liberty is the best medicine.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 October 1999
In search of a cause
Meaningless, politically correct legislation fails to help Americans

     Members of the United States Congress are often like crusaders in need of a cause. When a cause is not readily available, or those that are do not meet well-established standards of political correctness, congressmen are willing to create one to suit their needs.
     Such was the case last week when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives–which has yet to pass a meaningful tax cut, reduce the number of regulations endured by small businesses and farmers, or even slow the growth of federal spending–passed legislation purporting to end the “depiction of animal cruelty.” Of course, animal cruelty is a serious issue, and one that speaks volumes about the morality of an individual and culture.
     According to the sponsors of the legislation, there is a rampant problem of animals being videotaped while dying cruel, unspeakable deaths. These videotapes are then allegedly sold to people with a penchant for watching such a repulsive activity. The legislation–which passed the House–would make it illegal, the Congress was told, to possess such a video if the intent of the maker was to appeal to such an odd fetish.
     And while it is difficult to risk being seen as “insensitive” to animal cruelty, it must be said: this is a complete sham. All 50 States have laws against violence and cruelty to animals, which is more than adequate to deal with any alleged acts of cruelty. But even worse, this bill was so poorly written, it opens a Pandora’s box, or, if one will pardon the pun, it is a can of worms.
     For instance, the Section 1, Part A, of the legislation states that a penalty of five years in jail will be assigned to “whoever knowingly possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate commerce.” How do you prove intention? This is purely subjective, not the narrowly written law as supporters claimed in the zeal to pass something that would make them appear sensitive to the plight of Hollywood stars also need of a cause.
     But doesn’t Congress have more serious, more pressing, issues to address? America’s educational system continues its downward spiral, our economy is staggering, the trust funds continue to be raided, and our taxes continue to rise. But rather than address issues that require principled votes and a devotion to liberty, Congress seems only interested in providing politically correct, feel-good legislation.
     But one wonders how long America will feel good about ridiculous initiatives such as this “animal cruelty” bill. I have seen some pretty violent ads on television of killing cockroaches, could these be endangered? I am not a very good fisherman nor a hunter, but I have been a few times. From a certain perspective, it is a violent thing to see a kingfish pulled from the sea, hooked by the mouth, thrown on the deck and left to suffocate; and yet this can be seen on a variety of fishing shows each week on television. Backers of the legislation say these shows will not be affected: how do we know for sure? There are hunting films on television in which animals are brutally shot or trapped. Maybe people are delighting in looking at the cruelty or the killing of animals on television even though they are sporting or fishing shows. Do we close those down?
     If Congress were eager to address the issue of “cruelty,” then perhaps the ongoing trampling of the Constitution would be a good place to start. There certainly is a market for people eager to watch our liberties trashed. Or, if Congress is so concerned about brutality, why not finally address the brutal assault on privacy experienced daily by American citizens?
     But those are real problems affecting many Americans, so the likelihood of Congress taking them seriously is abysmally small. Perhaps next week Congress will consider legislation to shield our borders from space invasion. Or maybe we will consider legislation to protect the dragon from over-eager slayers.
     We can be most certain, however, that when ready to address a cause, Congress can be counted upon to create one–no matter how meaningless, unreasonable, or potentially disastrous, it might be.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 November 1999
History Repeats Itself, So Let’s Repeat History
A Real Solution to Executive Order Abuses

     This week I testified at a subcommittee hearing regarding my legislation, HR 2655, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. One of the chief complaints of the American colonists against King George was that he usurped powers that were not rightfully his, and then used those powers to the disadvantage of the people. As a limit on governmental power, Constitutional framers vested Federal powers in three coequal branches of government, each with unique and limited powers and each with a coequal duty to uphold and sustain the Constitution of the United States.
     There’s an old saying that history often repeats itself, and so it has done concerning recent abuses of power by the executive branch. I believe this is a most serious matter threatening the very structural foundation of freedom established by this nation’s founders. James Madison, quoting Montesquieu in the Federalist Papers No. 47, stated, “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.”
     In an effort to resurrect the ingenuity of our founders, I have introduced HR 2655. This act restores the constitutional separation of powers by returning law-making power to Congress ALONE. First, it terminates all existing states of national emergency and removes the executive branch power to declare national emergencies, restoring that power to Congress. It also restricts executive orders by denying to them force of law except as provided for by Congress. Executive orders issued must cite the specific Constitutional provision or Statutory authority… if not, the effect of law is denied. Finally, it repeals the 1973 War Powers Resolution which, despite the constitutional prohibition, granted broad war-making authority to the Office of President.
     It is, of course, a mistake to place all blame with any single president or the presidency itself for abuse of power. After all, presidents have had many willing accomplices in Congress. A great number of congressmen and senators quietly appreciate the assumed presidential authority to create and enact legislation because it allows them to see their goals accomplished without having to assume political responsibility. Still, this administration seems bent on using this vehicle to usurp Congressional authority.
     Most recently, the November 1st, 1999, issue of U.S. News & World Report states that “Clinton plans a series of executive orders and changes to federal rules that he can sign into law without first getting the ok from GOP naysayers. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was quoted as saying, “There’s a pretty wide sweep of things we’re looking to do, and we’re going to be very aggressive pursuing it.”
     And, while there is a role for executive orders so that the president may faithfully execute laws passed by Congress, execute those powers specifically granted in Article II and, in so doing, direct executive branch employees, for far too many years, the illegitimate uses have overshadowed the legitimate. Presidents have issued executive orders that have mistakenly taken on the semblance of law. Kings may have the right to decree law, but Rule of Law is king in this country. By clearly defining the lines of power, my bill seeks to further secure the blessings of liberty upon our nation.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 November 1999
Time to Change Priorities
Ending involvement in NATO would provide tax cut opportunity and boost health care, education

     Soon, the Congressional Leadership is expected to reach a so-called “compromise” with President Clinton on spending issues, and then exit for the year. But, this week Congress took up many frivolous “suspension bills.” We’re now in that stage when stacks of bad legislation get enacted as Congress lingers before adjourning for the year.
     Unfortunately, in this week’s legislative package was a bill expressing support for continued US involvement in NATO. Although simply a “sense of Congress resolution,” the fact that only 133 Representatives voted “no” says so much about the problem we face today.
     Members of Congress and the Administration have been unable to reach a consensus on critical issues like truly protecting the integrity of our trust funds such as Social Security. Moreover, Congress has been unable, particularly in light of the strong opposition from the President and Democrats in Congress, to reach agreement on cutting the taxes of all Americans.
     So many of our current problems can be remedied by returning to the American public the needed resources to allow you to make the choices that will improve education and health care. And, through tax cuts, we can address problems of basic fairness. For example, it is simply immoral when a person dies that the first concern facing his or her descendants is how to handle an IRS agent breathing down their necks looking to collect Uncle Sam’s share of the estate.
     But, instead of working to end the estate tax, or keep our promises with Social Security, or insuring patient choice through medical savings accounts, we waste our time on low priority items. And, instead of looking to our nation’s future, like giving parents a true choice in education by providing them with a battery of education-related tax credits, we have two thirds in Congress voting to support continued and expanded participation in a cold war relic.
     I have never been in favor of the foreign aid giveaway that is NATO. Frankly, the entanglement in European affairs so central to this organization runs completely contrary to the ideas of our nation’s founders. These brave men understood that freedom cannot survive within the confines of a centralized state. How much worse then is the fate of American liberty when the arms of government are so extended that they reach, not simply to every nook and cranny of our own nation, but also to cover much of the globe as well?
     What we must do is return our government to its rightful and constitutional functions, and the best way to begin that process is to end involvement in multilateral organizations that extend our commitments far and wide. We have no business making commitments to foreign governments while we are breaking trust with our own nation’s senior citizens, military veterans, and taxpayers in general.
     Institutions like NATO are among the very worst of the global bureaucracies that always seem to continue to exist in search of a problem. The Soviet Union is no longer a force in the world, still NATO goes on, in search of a mission. And worse still, rather than finding problems to solve, it rather ends up creating new problems. This year, the NATO alliance conducted its first offensive war, involving itself in the internal affairs of a nation that neither attacked nor threatened any member of NATO. This, of course, violated the NATO treaty. As long as we continue to delegate matters of foreign affairs to our President and international bureaucrats worldwide, these problems will continue, and indeed worsen.
     As is so often the case, process is linked with policy. Until we relearn the lessons of the founders, and understand the need to decentralize government, we’ll continue to spend untold amounts on bombs, weapons and maintaining troops overseas. Only when we prioritize commitments to our own people will we begin the process of repairing our education and health care systems, and keeping our commitments to America’s seniors and taxpayers.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 November 1999
Budget Standoff Continues
But Certainly Not for Lack of Money

     Congress adjourned Wednesday but only temporarily as they will return Tuesday, November 16th in an attempt to complete the appropriations process. The target adjournment date was more than two weeks earlier on October 29th but due to presidential vetoes of five appropriations bills, the taxpayer-funded budget juggernaut rumbles onward. Spending levels do not appear to be at issue. In fact, the massive Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill authorized nearly twice as much spending as the last Democratic Congress in 1994. It, in fact, would spend $103.6 Billion dollars, which is $10.3 Billion dollars more than last year’s appropriation. This is a figure that is, in fact, $1.2 Billion dollars more than Clinton requested in his proposed budget. What is at issue here is clearly not total spending but spending not directed to projects favored by the executive branch. It seems the President has found yet another way to legislate–by Veto and threat of government shutdown.
The Constitution, of course, requires all appropriation bills to originate in the House, but when the Interior appropriations bill prohibited funding for implementation of the unratified Kyoto treaty and Clinton’s Land Legacy Initiative government land grab at a taxpayer cost of $579 million, that bill was vetoed. Never mind that the infamous National Endowment for the Arts was funded at nearly double the level at which the Administration requested.
The Commerce Justice State Judiciary appropriations Act was sent to the President with an 11% increase over just last fiscal year (and we are told the era of big government is over). This bill’s failure to dictate to the President’s liking how state and local governments conduct law enforcement activity was the reason, in part, for this veto. Never mind that the Constitution’s enumerated powers clause and tenth amendment leave this matter entirely up to the States.
But this year’s budget process has brought us many other wonders, also. For example, the Defense Appropriations bill provides $1.7 Billion to fund this year’s unconstitutional war in Iraq and Bosnia and $460 million dollars of military aid to the former Soviet Union. The VA/ HUD Appropriations Bill funded the Environmental Protection Agency at a record $7.6 Billion, 5% more than the Administration’s request. The Environmental Protection Agency has now grown to more than 18,000 employees.
An across the board 1% spending cut to offset these spending increases?? In Washington, seemingly unthinkable. A tax cut bill to slowly phase out the federal inheritance tax, eliminate the marriage penalty tax, and make IRA retirement accounts more flexible and tax-friendly?? Vetoed.
The five remaining appropriations bills may be rolled into one omnibus bill for which a “yes” vote will fund $1 billion in un-owed back dues to the United Nations and dictate to state and local school boards how many teachers to hire, much to the delight of the National Education Association and teachers unions.
In light of Congressional appropriations of more and more expenditures and the Administration’s use of legislation and micro-management by veto threat, it seems that almost everyone in Washington has somehow forgotten that the era of big government is supposed to be over.

Texas Straight Talk, 22 November 1999
This Year’s Successes
Not so few as you might imagine

     As Congress adjourns for the year, now is an appropriate time to consider what we achieved in this session. This year we were able to achieve a number of successes in some of the areas upon which I put considerable focus.
     Early this year we focused much attention on defeating the proposed “Know Your Customer” federal banking regulation. This regulation proposed by the Federal Reserve and others would have given banks a broad mandate to spy on their customers and report any unusual transactions.
     We were successful in shedding much light on the threat presented by this regulation, and after some 250,000 citizens complaints were lodged during the official “comment period,” the regulation was withdrawn. This is not the final word on this issue, however, as I have introduced legislation to repeal the so-called “Bank Secrecy Act” under which this regulation was proposed. As long as this legislation remains in force we will not be free from these egregious acts of bank regulators.
     One other area in which we found some legislative success deals with the plan for a National Identification Card. A 1996 bill required states to conform their issuance of driver’s licenses to federal standards. Because the mandate would essentially be put into effect next year, this was our last chance to derail this heinous policy.
     Fortunately, within this year’s transportation appropriations bill we were indeed successful in stopping this plan dead in its tracks. With the help of Senator Shelby, Congressman Frank Wolf and others, we repealed the mandate and ended the National Identification Card.
     I also introduced HR 1812 this year, to end the needless and inefficient policy of draft registration. The Department of Defense issued a report pointing out why this program is a waste of money and simply makes no sense in light of current personnel requirements consistent with modern warfare. Moreover, my concern is with the threat to personal freedom evidenced by compulsory registration with the federal government.
     The basis of my bill was included in the committee report issued by Chairman Walsh’s appropriations sub-committee, and when it came to a vote on the House Floor we were able to win with a convincing majority. Two-hundred thirty two Members of Congress voted to support my position. Unfortunately, the funds for the program were reinserted in the bill by the Senate and signed into law by the President. However, considering that when I first returned to Congress a couple of years ago we saw this agency attempting to grow and take on new responsibilities, it is no small victory that we won a vote on the House floor this year to actually eliminate the agency.
     Another key victory we have had is dealing with the US Postal Service regulation that would allow further invasions of the privacy of Commercial Mail Receiving agencies and their many customers. Since I proposed HJR 55, the post office has backed off its original position and redrafted its regulations to make them less onerous. However, we will continue to fight on this front until this regulation is totally repealed.
     On each of these items, intimately linked with personal freedom from federal government intervention, we were successful in moving the ball forward in this session of Congress. Next year, I will continue to be very active on these issues, as well as working to achieve success in bringing about our vision of a limited federal government in a number of other key policy areas.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 November 1999
Taking the Next Step
Building on This Year’s Victories

     This year I introduced a number of bills designed to address key concerns facing our country. With Congress now in recess I want to take this opportunity to share information with you regarding some of the bills I have introduced and the problems they seek to address.
     Last week I mentioned the success we had with our efforts to derail the proposed “Know Your Customer” regulation and to end the national identification card scheme, as well as our efforts to curtail the activities of runaway agencies like the US Postal Service and the Selective Service Agency.
     In each of these areas I introduced legislation, and to follow up on our victories in the National Identification Card and “Know Your Customer” battles, I now have bills, pending in committee, which would take the next step on these two topics. My bill to restrict usage of the Social Security number is the next logical step in our battle against federal identifiers. And, my bill to repeal the Bank Secrecy Act would protect us from further attempts at regulations like “Know Your Customer.”
     I have once again introduced legislation to end US involvement in the United Nations. As this international bureaucracy continues to threaten American sovereignty and the individual liberty of American citizens, as well as demanding more and more funding from American taxpayers, it is obvious that our continued involvement is at best a drain on resources and at worst a direct contradiction of the principles the founding fathers so clearly understood when they fought to establish our Republic.
     During this year I also introduced bills to protect the Second Amendment rights of all Americans. Our founding fathers understood that the right to keep and bear arms was the bedrock upon which all other rights were rested, a sort of insurance plan against an intrusive and abusive federal police state, my legislation would restore our Republic to those founding principles in this crucial policy area as well.
     I have also introduced the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. Again, based on reestablishing our Republic along the lines understood by our founding fathers, this bill is aimed at stopping Presidential usurpation of the constitutionally enumerated legislative powers. Through the vehicle of the executive order, various Presidents have encroached upon Congressional powers. Sadly, this has often occurred with the benign neglect, or even support of our legislative branch. This bill, which rapidly received a hearing in a key sub-committee of the House Judiciary committee, will continue to be a focal point for my activity in the next session of Congress. And, hopefully, it will continue to attract interest from a multitude of media outlets, as well as support from freedom loving Americans across our nation.
     In addition to these important pieces of legislation I have introduced a number of bills designed to cut taxes on American families. Next week, I will spend more time outlining the importance of that body of legislation. Moreover, my first bill introduced this Congress was the “Social Security Preservation Act,” designed to take all Social Security receipts out of the hands of the politicians and put them into a separate interest bearing account that could only be used for the purposes which those funds were taken from the taxpayers, namely the provision of public pensions through the Social Security system. This is something that everybody now claims, at least rhetorically, to support, yet still we see Social Security dollars being used to finance welfare and pork barrel spending as well as foreign aid and overseas deployment of troops in Kosovo, the Middle East and elsewhere.
     As the next session of Congress begins in early January, I will be working to get these important legislative initiatives through the committee process and to the House Floor. This will be a key part of my work in the year 2000.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 December 1999
Floor Votes Reviewed An Outline of 1999 Paul Amendments

     During the recently concluded session of Congress, I was able to get floor votes on a number of amendments that I proposed. The first amendment I introduced was to HR 1658, a bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, aimed at overhauling the nation’s civil asset forfeiture laws.
     This body of law exemplifies much of what is wrong with current legislation. First, these laws were never considered to be the domain of the federal government when our founding fathers crafted our constitution. This approach also considers property an “agent of crime” rather than the person who is actually engaged in an offense, thus making people who have no involvement in criminal activity, subject to loss of property. Finally, these laws resemble a repeal of the idea that individuals are “innocent until proven guilty.” Civil asset forfeiture allows for the confiscation of property, prior even to any conviction, and this is the issue my amendment specifically addressed. Although my amendment did not become part of the final bill, I was pleased that we were able to assist Chairman Hyde. While his bill did not become law, and while it is far from a proper repeal of this entire body of law, the fact that Chairman Hyde succeeded in getting his bill passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives is an important first step in the right direction.
     Another amendment I introduced dealt with funding for the United Nations. Similar to an amendment I put forward in the last Congress that would have ended US participation in that international bureaucracy, this year my amendment garnered 74 votes in the House. This was a significant increase over the 54 vote total we achieved in the 105th Congress. Obviously, although we are not yet close to convincing the majority we need to enact this policy into law, we continue to build support and to see support in advancing this idea.
     In a fashion similar to that which I took in the 105th Congress, I introduced an amendment to stop all funding for so-called overseas family planning. This money is not only another form of foreign aid, it is also used to advocate the anti-life agenda of the most radical pro-abortion groups. Unfortunately, we lost ground on this issue in this Congress. This year we received 145 votes in favor of my amendment, whereas last Congress we had the support of 147 members.
     My final amendment voted upon this year involved ending the further funding of agencies such as the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or “OPIC.” These agencies take our hard earned tax dollars and send them, in the form of grants and subsidized loans, to companies doing business in other nations. This massive corporate welfare scheme is often portrayed as having some benefit to US citizens, but let’s face it–only the very wealthy and very influential corporate and Wall Street interests truly benefit from such financial shenanigans.
     Of course, this amendment always draws the wrath of the rich and powerful insider crowd. However, we were able to get 58 votes in support of our amendment this year, again a significant improvement over the 40 votes we garnered for a similar amendment that I introduced in the 105th Congress.
     I will continue to work to get votes on the floor when these opportunities present themselves according to the rules of the House. It is my intention to continue to focus my amendments on addressing issues of importance to the American people and particularly to cut wasteful Washington spending. And, of course, I will continue to keep attention on this overseas spending which drains our nation’s resources and impoverishes taxpayers in this country.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 December 1999
International Protectionism
Cause for Protest

     We all saw the recent demonstrations at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle. Although many of those who were protesting were indeed rallying against what they see as the evils of free trade and capitalist markets, the real problem when it comes to the World Trade Organization is not free trade. The WTO is the furthest thing from free trade. Instead, it is an egregious attack upon our national sovereignty, and this is the reason why we must vigorously oppose it. No nation can maintain its sovereignty if it surrenders its authority to an international collective. And, since sovereignty is linked inextricably to freedom, our very notion of American liberty is at stake in this issue.
     Let’s face it, free trade means trade without interference from governmental or quasi-governmental agencies. The WTO is a quasi-governmental agency and hence it is not accurate to describe it as a vehicle of free trade. Let’s call a spade a spade. The WTO is nothing other than a vehicle for managed trade whereby the politically connected, campaign contributors and fat cats get the benefits of exercising their position as a preferred group. Preferred that is, by the Washington and international political and bureaucratic establishments.
     As a representative of the people of the 14th district of Texas and a member of the United States Congress, sworn to uphold the Constitution of this country, it is not my business to tell other countries whether or not they should be in the WTO. They can toss their own sovereignty out the window if that is the choice they make. Thus, I cannot tell China or Britain or anybody else that they should not join the WTO. That is not my constitutional role. I can, however, say that the United States of America ought to withdraw its membership and funding from the WTO immediately.
     If we had a true understanding of the idea of sovereignty, and of free trade, I believe we would make the right decision immediately. Thus, on this issue, our primary objective must be education.
     We need to better explain that the founding fathers believed that tariffs were meant to raise revenues, not to erect trade barriers. American colonists even before the War for Independence understood the difference. One only need read John Dickenson’s Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer to discover this.
     When our founding fathers drafted the constitution, they placed the Treaty making authority with the President and the Senate but the authority to regulate commerce with the House. The effect of this is obvious. The founders left us with a system that made no room for agreements regarding international trade. Hence, our nation was to be governed not by protection but rather by market principles. Trade barriers were not to be erected, period.
     A revenue tariff was to be a major contributor to the U.S. treasury, but only to fund the limited and constitutionally authorized responsibilities of the federal government, thus the tariff would be low. The colonists and founders clearly recognized that tariffs are taxes on American consumers, they are not truly taxes on foreign companies. This realization was made obvious by the British government’s regulation of trade with the colonies, but it is a realization that has apparently been lost by today’s protectionists. Simply, protectionists seem to fail even to realize that raising the tariff is a tax hike on the American people.
     While condemning the violence, we should celebrate the idea that political debate in this nation has turned some attention, if only briefly, to the WTO. Now we must take this opportunity and, in fact, never cease to explain the true problems created by this entity. Namely, that it is an assault on sovereignty and an affront to freedom. When we make that case more successfully, we will be able to move the politicians toward getting us out of the WTO.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 December 1999
Cosponsored Bills
106th Congress, 1st Session

     This past year I cosponsored 200 bills in Congress. This means that I have given my name support to legislative initiatives introduced by another member of Congress. As might be expected, nearly half of those bills deal in one way or another with reducing the tax burden faced by Americans. I cosponsored Congressman Kasich’s bill to cut taxes across the board for all Americans, as well as dozens of bills calling for tax relief for educational purposes. Other bills target tax relief to American seniors and for all Americans who are seeking to improve their health care choices.
     Some of the bills I have cosponsored deal with topics on which I have already introduced legislation. These include measures dealing with second amendment rights protection, restriction of funding to the United Nations and “Sense of Congress resolutions” regarding executive orders and privacy issues. Often times, I cosponsor a bill that is not necessarily drafted in such a fashion that I believe will really get at the heart of the problem it is intended to address. Nonetheless, I decide to cosponsor such measures, as long as they take steps in the right direction. Additionally, if the issue is something that I see as significant to maintaining our liberty and restoring our Republic, I will also craft a bill that I think more directly addresses the central problem. In this way, I can lend support to other Members who are moving in the right direction while also advocating a more specific, and often times more significant, remedy to the problem.
     Four bills that I cosponsored this year have actually passed through the House. Two of them were “Sense of Congress” resolutions. One of these expressed the opinion that no federal funds should go to the sacrilegious displays at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the other one stated that prayers and invocations at public school sporting events ought to be considered constitutional. This latter issue has been very important in Texas where a federal court ruled that prayer before a school football game was unconstitutional. The founding fathers would turn over in their graves if they knew that the constitution they gave us was interpreted by liberal judges as prohibiting a prayer at a local high school. This travesty must not stand, and the real solution, of course, is for the federal courts to keep their noses out of the business of local school districts.
     I also cosponsored a bill offered by Roy Blunt from Missouri that delayed even more new federal regulations from going into affect. This bill dealt with ergonomics guidelines, and it passed the House in July.
     Also, I cosponsored Don Young’s American Land Sovereignty Preservation Act, which passed the House earlier this year. This bill would give Congress say in the designation of natural and historic sites. The President has taken onto himself the designation of such sites.
     One bill I cosponsored that did gain support from many in the House, but did not pass the body, was the Tax Limitation Amendment, which would have required a super-majority for any future tax increase. Unfortunately, the amendment was not able to get the 2/3 vote necessary to move it forward.
     Next year I will continue to look for worthy bills to cosponsor even as I work, through signing and coordinating Dear Colleague letters and by otherwise working with key Members of Congress, to help move the bills I cosponsored this year through the process and hopefully on to passage.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 December 1999
Overall Review
The First Session of the 106th Congress

     As we prepare to look forward to the next session of Congress, it is instructive to look back also. Over the past few weeks I have mentioned legislation I introduced and the successes enjoyed this year. Also, recalled the various bills I have cosponsored and some of the issues I was able to bring to the House floor for a vote by the entire Congress.
     Today, I want to focus on a more general overview of the last session of Congress before looking ahead next week to our plans for the new year. This last session of Congress was truly a mixed bag, but it is certain that we have not been able to reverse the trend toward bigger and more intrusive federal government.
     Federal spending increased last year. New federal programs were started and the national debt continues to soar. In spite of the fact that we hear so much talk about budget surpluses, our federal monetary and fiscal policies continue to push our nation dangerously close to the edge of a very steep cliff. Once we hit the edge, we are headed for a deep economic downturn.
     Unfortunately, the leadership of my own party has not been successful in attempts to curtail the President’s plans for an ever-expanding federal leviathan. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office is constantly pointing out how they are appropriating more money even than the President asks for in his budget requests. This is a sad state of affairs.
     Nonetheless, our voice is being heard. On issues such as education, health care and personal privacy, we have begun to see the coming together of broad based coalitions that want only to see the federal government out of the day-to-day lives of the American people. While we do not yet have a majority in Congress, often because certain Republicans from the northeast tend to be every bit as liberal as House Democrats, there is a change afoot in the nation. The American people are largely waking up to the fact that further federal intrusion is not the answer.
     Last year we won some victories, small though they may be, because the people spoke. People contacted their Members of Congress and US Senators, often saying, “Enough is enough! It is time for a change!” I know this because I hear from my colleagues who tell me that they have received calls and letters, e-mail s and faxes. They tell me their constituents agree with our perspective and our agenda. Namely, my colleagues here know that there is a growing movement to get the federal government off the backs and out of the pocketbooks of the American people. Ideas like medical savings accounts, education tax credits and others are gaining momentum.
     Still, we have a long way to go. As US participation in this year’s aggressive and treaty-violating NATO war in Kosovo proves, many in positions of leadership believe it is Washington’s role to control not only every nook and cranny of our own country, but also to police every street corner in the world.
     Our founding fathers had a clear vision when they left us a Republic at the end of the 18th century. And now, it is incumbent upon all Americans that we remember the lesson they taught over 200 years ago. Namely, the greatest gift we can give to the American people this new year is their very birthright, the gift of freedom. And, in order to do that it is imperative that we restore our government to the constitutional republic of limited federal powers it was designed to be. History has taught and retaught one clear lesson: namely, that it is impossible to reconcile a free citizenry with a concentrated and centralized government.
     That we will once again see a rebirth of the spirit of our founders is my wish and prayer for our nation in this most holy of holiday seasons. Merry Christmas.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 January 2000
The Year Ahead
Looking towards the 2nd Session of the 106th Congress

     Looking toward next year, I am not convinced that we will see a major change in the direction of our country. In fact, I am convinced we will see a budget passed again this year that spends more money than ever, that continues to increase the national debt, and that will allow only minimal tax relief, if tax relief is included at all.
     Still, I believe there are many important areas on which our work must continue to be focused. Much of our work now is educational, aimed at continuing to shed light where our government has gotten off the course intended by our founding fathers, and convincing our fellow citizens of the need to consider these issues anew. This is necessary to restore our Republic to its former greatness.
     One thing on which I will certainly not relent is the issue of tax reduction. In the current climate, with government revenue growing, taking a higher percentage of our people’s earnings than at any time in our history, and with the President claiming “surpluses as far as the eye can see,” we must press forward and show both the moral imperative, and the plain economic sense, of returning to the American people the hard-earned fruits of their labor.
     As I said, I am not expecting we will pass major tax cuts this year, but I certainly intend to fight to see that we do. And, as I have always held that any small tax reduction is better than no reduction at all, I will continue to support any legislation that cuts taxes.
     This coming year I will also continue to focus considerable attention on issues of personal privacy. Right now, my staff is studying ways to draft a privacy amendment to our constitution. Generally, I am not a big fan of constitutional amendments, especially since the federal government now ignores so much of the existing constitution.
     Still, with the federal judges and liberals working to define privacy in a way that our founding fathers would have never intended, and with leftists using so-called privacy legislation to further expand the ever-growing weed that is our federal government, I am convinced the time has come for us to outline, in a clear, concise and constitutional manner, the true definition of privacy rights as our founding fathers would have understood them.
     Of course, the only way we are going to truly achieve long term success is by strictly limiting the activities of the federal government. Real tax reduction will come only when Americans are prepared to accept significant spending cuts, and that, in turn, depends upon our understanding the limited constitutional role our citizens imposed upon the federal government.
     I am convinced that the best way for us to reestablish a limited federal government is by restoring the spirit of our founding fathers. These brave men well understood that concentration and centralization of power leads to tyranny and despotism. For this reason we must do two things. First, we must recall that our nation was founded on the principle that the government that governs closest to home is the government best equipped to deal with social ills. That means powers of state and local governments must once again be given their proper respect. Next, we must make certain to restore the proper separation of powers in Washington. The 535 voting Members of both Houses of Congress must reassert their authority as opposed to that of the nine men and women who sit in black robes, or a Presidency that increasingly displays its arrogance by usurping power. By reestablishing this division of powers, we can once again check intrusive government action. This is the agenda I will continue to advocate in the upcoming session of Congress.
     I wish you the very best in the upcoming year.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 January 2000
The New Year
Y2K Expectations

     The New Year arrived calmly and peacefully. With all the hype regarding Y2K, most Americans anticipated some degree of chaos either from failed computers or a terrorist attack. Now that the New Year produced no startling news, most Americans will probably react in the opposite direction; complacency.
     The media blames Y2K scaremongers and alarmists for the concern for a computer-driven crisis. But for several months, official government announcements urging citizens to prepare for Y2K with extra cash and extra home provisions played a part in the fear that some Americans felt. These warnings for the most part were sincere, but there was obviously some ignorance by most of the “experts” on what would really happen.
     Private computers were corrected beyond expectations, because many people did not understand or underestimated the free market’s ability to adjust. The final word has not yet been heard on government computers. It may be that weeks or even months may be required to find out where the real glitches are. Most government checks, scheduled for early January, were processed in December, which may have only delayed the problems if they still exist. Evidence that the IRS computers have been corrected to adjust for calculating interest and penalties are yet to come.
     It is even possible that “infected” computers may gradually interfere with corrected computers. Only time will tell if we still have any significant problems. I’m certain that if indeed we get by with minimal computer disruptions, the credit will go to the private programmers and non-government entities that knew it was in their best interest to appropriately deal with the problem.
     But government bureaucrats never miss a chance to emphasize their importance. If indeed, the problem was not severe as it appears, it’s interesting to note the high visibility in the past months of Y2K Czar, John Koskinen. He now seeks credit for saving the country from chaos. The government Information Coordination Center headed up by Koskinen and his consultants is already looking for another dragon to slay. They are now working to make the Center permanent for the purpose of monitoring any possible technological crisis in the future. The experts at the Center believe the World Wide Web needs closer monitoring. Koskinen concerns are: “information security, whether it’s from viruses, hackers, cyber-terrorists, or others, and our ability to share information is critical.”
     This type of government surveillance bothers me and could be the vehicle for getting the government “leg” in the door to gain more control over the Internet. The Internet tax is a big issue and won’t go away. When government bureaucrats talk of security, they mean theirs–not ours. And I’m sure that “national security interests” will always be used as an excuse for government to have more control over the Internet. Other arguments that will be used will include the need to assist federal law enforcement efforts in fighting drugs, tax dodgers, dead-beat dads, pornography, and child molesters, etc.
     Not long ago, realizing Congress was moving to permit the use of encryption and the sale of encryption technology overseas voluntarily, Clinton said he would accomplish this through a directive. It sounded good, but as is the case with all presidential directives and executive orders, we must remain skeptical. Now some experts are saying that the President’s move to permit these sales of encryption technology may have actually made the problem worse.
     The question the American people must answer is how much liberty they are willing to sacrifice in order to allow the federal government to pursue goals that were once the domain of state and local law enforcement agencies.


Texas Straight Talk, 17 January 2000
Greenspan Nominated to a Fourth Term
How Long Can “Business as Usual” Last?

     President Clinton’s nomination of Alan Greenspan to a fourth term as Federal Reserve Board Chairman has been met with nearly unanimous praise. From Congressional leaders to Wall Street gurus, the announcement brought a sigh of relief that good times will continue. The only reservation I noticed was written by economist Mark Weisbrot, who worried that Greenspan might not inflate the currency fast enough. Otherwise, everyone seemed delighted with the nomination.
     Essentially, no one in Washington, on Wall Street, or in the financial media challenges the inflationary policy of the Fed, believing that the favorable status quo will continue indefinitely as long as the money wizard stays in charge. In good times it’s easy to forget severe recessions and commodity price inflation. Today, just about everyone endorses the New Era in prosperity that technology and Alan Greenspan have delivered to us. Inflation, as defined by a rising CPI, has been declared dead.
     But one thing ignored is the fact that a fiat monetary system is incompatible with a free market economy. Instead of depending on production and savings for capital, today’s economy depends on new “capital” coming from the Fed’s credit machine. When credit is created out of thin air for investment purposes and interest rates are driven artificially low, mal-investment results. This monetary inflation, of which we have had plenty, has already set the stage for the next recession.
     Many are delighted that Greenspan will stay in charge, believing he can prevent an economic turndown with proper monetary management. Sorry, but it’s too late. The distortions are already in place, and because the most recent economic cycle has lasted longer than usual, it means there’s been more credit creation and distortion than usual. Therefore a bigger downturn will result. The only policy available to the Fed today is to further inflate the currency in an attempt to delay the inevitable correction.
     Greenspan has already supervised one serious recession in the early 1990s. No matter how astute a chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is, it’s impossible to avoid recessions when managing a fiat monetary system. Alan Greenspan has been quite generous when it comes to creating new money. Since 1987 when Greenspan took over, high-powered money, as measured by the monetary base, has increased by 138%. This has resulted in an increase of nearly $3 trillion of bank deposits as measured by M3. This new money creation keeps interest rates lower than they otherwise would be, making the banks and Wall Street happy. It also pleases the spendthrift politicians who during Greenspan’s term have increased the national debt by $3 trillion. Almost the entire increase in the national debt since 1987 has been monetized or paid for by Greenspan printing new money.
     Of course, any of us would “thrive” if we could increase our wealth at that rate with borrowing and counterfeiting–but for us it’s illegal. For now, foreigners’ willingness to soak up our inflated dollars, while selling us goods at discount, makes us feel wealthier. But that will eventually end with higher interest rates, a weak dollar and CPI type price inflation. When this takes place, any increase in Federal Reserve credit will only accelerate the painful correction.
     Every time the market in the past three years threatened to bring on a correction, Chairman Greenspan rushed to the rescue–to the delight of everyone in Washington and New York–with a massive influx of new money and lower rates. In 1997 the excuse was the Asian crisis; in 1998 it was the failure of Long Term Capital Management; and in 1999 it was the potential Y2K crisis. In the past 3 months, bank credit has increased at a greater than 30% annual rate. Greenspan, in this past quarter, may have talked about “tight money” and even raised overnight rates, but he was quite active inflating the currency.
     It’s true that this inflationary policy does alleviate the immediate financial crisis. But it does so by further inflating the financial bubble. It delays the correction but makes the situation ever more dangerous for all Americans. There will be a price to pay. Borrowing and creating credit out of thin air will never prove to be the way to permanent prosperity. When it comes to money there are no “New Eras”. Economic law will prevail. The law of supply and demand applies to money as well as goods and services.
     The Federal Reserve will always want to avert a collapse of the stock market, just as it did publicly with Long Term Capital Management. But it can only do that for a limited period of time. The markets will eventually rule. They always do.
     Likewise, the world central banks have for years sold and loaned gold to keep the gold price artificially low. A rise in gold price is a vote of no confidence in paper. And it’s in the interest of all central banks to keep this from happening. Their credibility is at stake. But we must remember through the 50s and the 60s, gold was “fixed” at $35 an ounce and in the 70s the markets overruled the powerful Fed and the US Treasury and vetoed this price.
     Alan Greenspan was at one time a free market adherent and gold standard advocate. Read what he had to say about the Federal Reserve Board policy of the 1920s and the subsequent depression. The experts in the 20s had also declared a New Era economic growth without price inflation resulting from technological advances and wise monetary management. Greenspan explains: “The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market, triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Federal Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late. By 1929 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a constant demoralizing of business confidence.” (Gold and Economic Freedom, 1966)
     Maybe Alan Greenspan has been at the Fed too long. It seems he now believes in his own greatness. He should read his own analysis, decline the nomination, and hope the next chairman gets blamed for the correction already built into the system.
     This is not to say that anyone else can do any better than the current chairman in the coming years. Central planning, whether it’s in the monetary system or in the economy itself, just doesn’t work. The debate should not be over who is best at managing the economy, determining the money supply and knowing the proper interest rates. It should be over whether or not we should have a monetary system that requires its manager to know things he cannot know. Instead of arguing over whether and when interest rates should go up or down, we should debate whether or not market interest rates and commodity money is superior to fiat money in preventing price inflation, recessions and painful periods of unemployment.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 January 2000
Parental Control, not Federal Mandates, Key to Education Reform
Ron Paul fights to cut taxes on parents, reduce mandates on teachers

     A recent Investor’s Business Daily story told of parents across the nation who have become so frustrated with their lack of control over their children’s education that they are taking school administrators to court! For example, parents in Plano, Texas are challenging the school district’s intention to use textbooks relying on “connected math.” These parents want their children taught traditional math, not the education establishment’s latest fad. In a similar case, a mother in Fort Zumwalt, Missouri is suing the school district for not offering her autistic son the education program that she believes will enable him to reach his full potential.
     These suits are the result of the increasing centralization of education which has given federal bureaucrats more control while reducing the ability of parents to control their children’s education. Unfortunately, these lawsuits will not further parental control. Instead, they will empower judges to seize more control over schools. If we truly want to reform the system, we need to return control over the education dollar to parents, teachers and local school districts. However, each time we are given a new education proposal from Washington, it involves another layer of bureaucracy, and that has proven harmful to education.
     Despite the abundant evidence of the failure of centralized education, Vice President Al Gore recently introduced a new proposal that would give Washington bureaucrats an additional $115 billion to place new regulations on local schools. A key element to the plan is that no school district could receive federal funds unless they had a plan in place to test teachers.
     Federally mandating teacher testing would inevitably lead to national testing as Washington-based politicians and bureaucrats would demand that state and local governments conform to their national specifications. National testing means a national curriculum. Since teacher education will revolve around preparing teachers to pass the national test, new teachers will base their lesson plans on what they need to know in order to pass the Education Department-approved test.
     In order to stop the Federal Government from seizing complete control over the teaching profession, last year I introduced legislation, HR 1706, which prohibits such national testing and certification. The bill passed the House of Representatives in July, but has yet to be voted on in the Senate. Last month, along with 14 of my colleagues, I sent a letter to Senate Education Committee Chairman James Jeffords (R-VT) asking that the ban on national testing be included in the Senate version of the legislation.
     In addition to fighting the nationalization of the teaching profession, I am working to give control of the education dollar back to parents through my Family Education Freedom Act (HR 935). This bill would give parents a $3,000 per year tax credit for each child’s education related expenses. Unlike Mr. Gore’s proposal, my bill would allow parents the maximum amount of freedom in determining how to educate their children. It would also be free of guidelines and restrictions that only dilute the actual number of dollars spent directly on a child.
     My bill would allow the parents in Plano to chose schools with appropriate textbooks and free the Missouri mother to make sure her autistic son gets the type of education that best suits his needs. In fact, the Family Education Freedom Act will especially benefit the parents of children with disabilities because it gives them the freedom to use more of their own resources to meet their child’s unique educational needs.
     Congress has no constitutional authority to control local education. Thirty years of centralized education have produced nothing but failure and frustrated parents. The bottom line is that politicians are holding our children’s education hostage in Washington for political purposes, and with plans like that offered by Mr. Gore, they are also taking authority away from locally elected school boards and putting it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. I will continue to use my position on the Education Committee to fight to improve education by giving dollars and authority back to parents, teachers and local school districts.


Texas Straight Talk, 31 January 2000
Relations with Russia
It’s Time to End US Interventionism

     The past month saw many interesting developments in Russia, and they have provided us with just cause for immediate concern. Of course the biggest Y2K event was the resignation of Boris Yeltsin.
     Shortly after his replacement Vladimir Putin came to power, a very somber event occurred. Namely, the Kremlin granted him more power to use nuclear weapons. The first reason given for this change in policy was that the expansion of NATO had caused the Russians to see a threat drawing closer to them which had not been previously perceived. The second reason–the war in Yugoslavia had made it apparent that there is now a NATO precedent for launching an attack into a country that had not itself attacked any NATO member.
     When the Clinton Administration and others were busy slapping each other on the backs with congratulations for what they saw as a “job well done” in Yugoslavia, I was warning that this act would have dangerous consequences that could not be foreseen at the time.
     I regret to report how accurate that warning turned out to be. Russia is not happy with its attempts at transition to a more westernized economy and culture. The Russian people are looking for somebody to blame, and they are seeking out their old enemies as scapegoats.
     The Russian bear has never stopped being a ferocious one, and our own policy, which is analogous to continually poking, prodding and otherwise “climbing into the cage” with that bear, is not and has not been in our own best interests. Through the IMF, the World Bank and other such entities we have continued to provide foreign aid to the bear. In doing this we are in essence feeding a very unfriendly entity.
     Our US leaders have told us how we need to continue subsidizing the bear because that is the way, so they say, to keep the Russians “on our side.” The latest moves indicate that Russia will pursue what is in her national interests regardless of any US subsidies they may receive. Thus, when we subsidize foreign countries, we subsidize their national interests–interests that are, more or less frequently, bound to be inimical to our own.
     Another so-called “surprise” move of Mr. Yeltsin’s successor was that he cut a deal with communist party members of the legislature, the Russian Duma. This seems to be a surprise only to those naive enough to believe that we could befriend a potentially hostile nation by sending lots of taxpayer money to it. The reason that the communists continue to be players on the Russian scene should be obvious. First of all, the indoctrination of Marxist ideology that nation underwent for nearly a century cannot be expected to disappear overnight, or even in a decade. Indeed it is likely to be many generations before Marxism is repudiated in the mind of the typical Russian citizen. Moreover, in the short run, the communists are a valuable ally to any Russian politician who is looking to maintain and increase his power base. The communists are traditionally hostile toward the United States, and since America makes a good scapegoat for any Russian leader, it is only natural that the current Russian boss would seek an alliance with the communists.
     Also, it has long been a tactic of those in power that they will find outside scapegoats when internal problems persist. In the current instance the fact that Russia has had a terrible war with Chechnya has made it expedient for Russian leaders to begin to focus energy toward vilifying America.
     The best way for us to break this vicious cycle seems most clear to me. We ought to recommit ourselves to a foreign policy that seeks our national interest. The components of such a policy involve a strong national defense and a policy of non-intervention abroad. That means that we should end these failed attempts to win people to our cause by giving them foreign aid payments.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 February 2000
Medical Privacy Threatened
Deadline for Halting Dangerous Regulations Quickly Approaching

     An unconstitutional and dangerous rulemaking procedure by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is underway and greatly threatens the health care privacy and freedom of Americans. The deadline for concerned citizens to submit comments to HHS is February 17.
     On November 3rd, 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published proposed medical privacy regulations in the Federal Register. Protecting medical privacy is a noble goal; however, the federal government is not constitutionally authorized to mandate a uniform standard of privacy protections for every citizen. Rather, individuals and those with whom they entrust their health care information should determine the question of who should have access to a person’s medical records. Real threats to privacy come primarily from governments that have historically compelled individuals to provide information, often in exchange for some government benefit.
     The HHS regulation would severely reduce individuals’ control over their medical records. The regulation, when finalized, will deny, as a matter of federal law, individuals’ ability to contract with providers or payors to establish limitations on who should have access to their medical records. Instead, every American will be forced to accept the privacy standard decided upon by Washington-based bureaucrats and politicians, and it is not a good one.
     The regulations also give the federal government power to punish those who violate these standards. Thus, in a remarkable example of government paternalism, individuals are forced to rely on the good graces of government bureaucrats for protection of their medical privacy. These so-called “privacy protection” regulations not only strip individuals of any ability to determine for themselves how best to protect their medical privacy, they also create a privileged class of people with a federally-guaranteed right to see an individual’s medical records without the individual’s consent. For example, medical researchers may access people’s private medical records even if individuals do not want this.
     Forcing individuals and providers to reveal medical records without their consent also runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. After all, people do have a legitimate property interest in their private records; therefore, restrictions on individuals’ ability to control the dissemination of their private information represent a massive taking. The takings clause is designed to prevent this type of sacrifice of individual property rights for the “greater good.”
     Allowing law enforcement officials to access a private person’s medical records without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The requirement that law enforcement officials obtain a warrant from a judge before searching private documents is one of the fundamental protections against abuse of the government’s power to seize an individual’s “papers.”
     Finally, I object to the fact that these proposed regulations “permit” health care providers (already beholden to government by funding) to give medical records to the government for inclusion in a federal health care data system. Such a system would contain all citizens’ personal health care information. History shows that when the government collects this type of personal information, the inevitable result is the abuse of citizens’ privacy and liberty by unscrupulous government officials. The only fail-safe privacy protection is for the government not to collect and store this type of personal information.
     Before implementing these rules, HHS must consider what will happen to the trust between patients and physicians when patients know that any and all information given their doctor may be placed in a government database, seen by medical researchers, or handed over to government agents without a warrant. For more information on how to submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services, feel free to contact my congressional staff by email at rep.paul@mail.house.gov. Please use the words “HHS Regs” in the subject line, and make sure to include your email address in your message. You may also contact my office by phone at 202-225-2831.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 February 2000
Keeping Promises about Social Security
Votes Speak Louder Than Words

     On occasion I hear comments like “you just don’t vote with the majority enough.” Some cannot understand it when I vote with a small group of people or by myself. But when I talk to people in my district and tell them how I feel about a particular issue, I believe that I owe it to them to vote in Washington in a fashion that is consistent with what I tell them. If I give my word to the people, I believe I must then vote the way I tell them that I will. This is what I must do even when it means that my votes will not be popular with politicians in Washington, even with some in my own political party.
     Recently in national politics, we have heard some claim to tell people the truth “no matter what.” For me, that has always been my policy. If I tell you what I will do, that is exactly what I will do.
     That is why I was heartened when recently, the independent, nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation praised me as one of only seven members of the House of Representatives who voted not to spend one penny of the Social Security trust fund on other government programs last year. Right now nearly every politician is claiming to have saved Social Security, but according to this independent group, only seven Members Congress actually voted that way last year. Yes, this is exactly why I can sometimes vote with only a handful of others, because I pledged to not spend Social Security trust fund dollars on other programs. While many people in Washington say they agree, this non-partisan organization says only a handful really vote that way.
     By the way, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) is a 300,000 member, nationwide organization. And this NTU study shows that politicians developed tricks to hide the fact that they spent money from American senior’s retirement accounts.
     In recent years, President Clinton and Congress have claimed to produce a balanced budget, but this has only come as a result of taking money out of the Social Security trust fund. I believe that no funds should be spent out of the Social Security trust fund except to pay pensions to beneficiaries. My top priority this Congress is to protect senior’s retirements. That is why the first bill I introduced this term was HR 219, the Social Security Preservation Act. This bill will make it illegal for politicians and bureaucrats in Washington to continuing dipping into the trust funds.
     Each year the President and Congress take the money Americans pay into Social Security and use it for purposes other than paying pensions. Simply, they are stealing from our senior citizens. The Social Security Preservation Act will restore Americans’ faith in their retirement. It should be illegal for the government to use the trust fund for any purpose except administering the Social Security system.
     According to NTU Director of Congressional Analysis Jeff Dircksen, these seven Members are a rare example of Congressmen who have established a voting record of protecting the Social Security system, as opposed to dipping into it to pay for pork-barrel projects and other spending increases.
     “Washington quickly adapted to the era of budget surpluses. The longer the surpluses stay in Washington, the greater the chance they will be spent,” Dircksen said. “Taxpayers would be much better off if more members of Congress would vote like these seven. It’s good to see someone taking a stand for the taxpayers and for their constituents.”
     I thank Mr. Dircksen and the NTU for their sentiments, and I wholeheartedly agree that it is high time the entire Congress took a real stand. I have offered a bill, HR 219, which will allow them to do just that–take a stand by joining us in saying “hands off Social Security” and also in doing something about it.


Texas Straight Talk, 21 February 2000
Repeal Earnings Limitation
Stop Penalizing Seniors for Working

     During a time when an increasing number of senior citizens are able to enjoy productive lives well past retirement age and businesses are in desperate need of experienced workers, it makes no sense to punish seniors for working. Yet the federal government does just that through Social Security “earnings limitations.” Earnings limitations deduct a portion of seniors’ monthly Social Security check should they continue to work and earn income above an arbitrary government-set limit. By providing a disincentive for seniors to remain in the workplace, this restriction damages the economy and punishes individuals for seeking gainful employment. It is simply un-American that the federal government would punish someone for continuing to contribute to the economy by reducing benefits that person has already paid for and been promised by Congress.
     Eliminating the earnings penalty is one of my top priorities for this year. That is why I was an original cosponsor of Rep. Sam Johnson’s legislation to repeal the earnings limitation for Social Security beneficiaries (HR 5). Fortunately, the Congressional leadership has promised to schedule a vote on repealing the earnings limitation and President Clinton has promised to sign it, so I am hopeful we may get rid of this penalty on hard-working seniors.
     When the government takes money every month from people’s paychecks for the Social Security Trust Fund, it promises retirees that the money will be there for them when they retire. The government should keep that promise and not reduce benefits simply because a senior chooses to work.
     Furthermore, by providing a disincentive to remaining in the workforce, the earnings limitation deprives the American economy of the benefits of senior citizens who wish to continue working but are discouraged from doing so by fear of losing part of their Social Security benefits. The federal government should not discourage any citizen from seeking or holding productive employment.
     The underlying issue of the earning limitation goes back to the fact that money from the trust fund is being spent for things other than paying pensions to beneficiaries. This is why the first bill I introduced in the 106th Congress was the Social Security Preservation Act (HR 219), which forbids Congress from spending Social Security funds on anything other than paying Social Security pensions.
     Stopping the raid on the Social Security trust fund would also make it easier for me to realize one of my other priorities, ending the absurd tax placed on Social Security beneficiaries. Since Social Security benefits are paid for from tax dollars, taxing these benefits is yet another means of “double taxation.” This is why I am cosponsoring legislation to end the tax on Social Security benefits. Tax reduction for seniors is also a major plank in my Pharmaceutical Freedom Act (HR 3636) which provides senior citizens with a tax credit to help them cover the costs of prescription medicines. It is long past time that Congress chooses between raiding the Social Security trust fund and helping seniors afford prescription medicines.
     I will continue to promote legislation designed to protect the Social Security trust fund from big-spending politicians and eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits. Of course, I will also continue to fight to repeal the earnings limitation and ensure that senior citizens will have the option of continuing to work after retirement age without being penalized by an overly burdensome federal government.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 February 2000
Sound Money Needed More Than Ever
Greenspan Admits Fed Flaw in Testimony

     I have got to hand it to Alan Greenspan. Testifying last week before the House Banking Committee, he sounded so authoritative that my colleague Mel Watt from North Carolina said that he could not even understand the things Greenspan says. Mr. Watt attributed his lack of understanding not to some deficiency in Greenspan’s communicative capabilities but rather to Watts’ self-professed lack of understanding. Yes, it does seem that Greenspan can convince many, including some here in Congress, that up is down and vice versa.
     For my part, I was intrigued by an admission that Greenspan made to my direct questions put to him. After I pressed him for an explanation of what he considered the best tool to measure the money supply, Greenspan plainly admitted that he was at a loss for picking out what such a measure might be. When I suggested that it must be difficult to manage something you cannot even define, he not only agreed with me but said it was (and this is Mr. Greenspan’s word) “impossible” to manage something you could not define.
     This is in fact an obvious truth but at the same time a startling admission from our nation’s leading maker of monetary policy. Of course, one thing of which Greenspan is quite aware due to his familiarity with the economics of sound money, is the fact that the creation of units of monetary exchange out of thin air will lead to a recession.
     In addition to Greenspan’s admission regarding the difficulty of a centrally managed money supply there is a darker problem to which he is far less likely to own up. That is the fact that centrally planned monetary policy is open to political pressures as well. For years Chairman Greenspan had been concerned about the over-expansion of the money supply, dating back at least to his “irrational exuberance” statements. So why did Greenspan not begin the monetary tightening that he now counsels at a much earlier period?
     Well, perhaps the best way to answer the question is to consider when the Fed did indeed take the first step on the path of its current policy direction toward raising the Fed funds rate. If you’ll recall, it was at the very first Fed meeting after President Clinton’s impeachment trial had been wrapped up in the US Senate.
     So, as the President faced a stiff challenge that could threaten the very existence of his Presidency, Mr. Greenspan kept the money flowing and the good times rolling, even as he was speaking the rhetoric of increased concern for the economy. Now if anybody is surprised that the future of our US economy would be subjected to political manipulation to assist a troubled President you ought not to be. Indeed it is the history of the Fed to be responsive to certain political needs of, and pressures from, the political power brokers who have influence over the appointment and confirmation of Fed board members, including the Fed chair. Nobody who has seriously considered Fed action in light of election-year politics and troubled political leaders could argue with a straight face that the one does not directly affect the other.
     The bottom line is that Greenspan’s admission suggests that, even without the negative affects of political considerations, a fiat monetary policy is doomed to fail. When we add to the mix the all-too-human tendency of central planners responding to political pressure, as Greenspan and the fed money making machine clearly did throughout the impeachment process, what we have is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, Greenspan’s admission points anew to the fact that a big mess is coming. But fortunately for those who are listening, it also presents proof-positive that the best way to avoid such calamities in the future is to reset our monetary policy on a firm and sound basis.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 March 2000
How Americans are Subsidizing Organized Crime in Russia
Next We Will Be Sending the FBI Abroad to Fight that Crime

     Organized crime in Russia is a well-known problem. One of the arguments used for not sending IMF funds to Russia was the pervasive corruption throughout their government. As quickly as the funds were appropriated, they were laundered through New York banks and off to a numbered Swiss account–probably with very little actually ever passing through to Moscow. But the proponents of aid won’t give up; our tax dollars, they argue, are vital for the successful transition from totalitarianism to democracy. What is generally forgotten is that the process of taking funds from someone who earned them is every bit as morally reprehensible as the corruption that results when sent hither and yon around the world.
     Unfortunately, the moral, constitutional, and practical arguments against foreign aid in general, and assistance to Russia in particular, have almost no adherents in Washington. For this reason the problem goes from bad to worse.
     The FBI, having been well trained at Waco and Ruby Ridge, has expressed deep concern about Russian organized crime. Our FBI agents have traversed the globe in recent years looking for dragons to slay, but up until now they worked out of hotel rooms and US Embassies trying not to stumble over host countries’ police and our CIA agents.
     This is now going to change. The FBI is opening its first overseas office. The plan is to open an office in Budapest, Hungary, since it’s believed this is a haven to Russian mob leaders stealing our foreign aid money. Chief of the FBI’s Organized Crime Division, Thomas Fuentes, brags that this office “will develop and operate criminal informants,” to gather intelligence, something he says the FBI has never done before in this manner.
     If our government and political leaders had any “intelligence” this plan would be squelched. It can lead to no good and in all probability will backfire. What do we do if the FBI office is bombed and Americans are killed? We have no business there, and this is a dangerous precedent to set.
     Even if the current Hungarian government has given our justice department the go-ahead to open this office, we can be certain some Hungarian citizens will strongly resent it. Those who believe in Hungarian sovereignty will respond with hatred toward Americans just as is happening on a daily basis in Iraq over our routine bombing of that country and the stoning of our troops stationed in Kosovo.
     Our FBI agents will carry guns and be permitted to make arrests. The Hungarian government will have no say about the employees who work in the office. Can one imagine what the reaction would be in the United States if a foreign country wanted to do the same thing here? The FBI is anxious to make this mission a success because they want to set up similar offices in the Baltic States, Nigeria, and South Africa. This is a foolhardy adventure and a recipe for disaster. The procedures for sharing information and coordinating police activities in dealing with international criminals has been used for a long time, but this bold move is sure to offend many. And when some accident occurs it will lead to an unnecessary international crisis.
     We don’t need to police the world in the military sense, and surely we should not invade other countries with active FBI offices usurping other countries’ sovereignty. If we’re worried about how US taxpayers’ dollars are misused in foreign aid, there is a much simpler solution–stop sending the money overseas.
     Unfortunately, this bold move of an overseas FBI office will go unnoticed in Washington DC, and the politicians will not address the subject until a major crisis erupts. A constitutional approach to government would preclude this type of international adventurism. The president should have never ordered this project. And Congress, if it cared and assumed its responsibilities, would quickly de-fund it. The quicker the better.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 March 2000
The Big Lie
NATO’s Campaign of Deception in Kosovo

     Citizens of a free country ought to expect they won’t be burdened with the kind of propaganda barrage that has come to be associated with Nazi “interior ministers” such as Josef Goebbles or Soviet “media spokesmen” like Vladimir Posner. However, the more information that comes out about the NATO war in Kosovo, the more evident is the fact that NATO made an apparent “policy decision” to lie about Serbian atrocities. It seems the western democracies “stole a page from the play books” of their former totalitarian adversaries in Germany and the Soviet Union.
     Writing recently in Liberty Magazine, David Ramsey Steele points out that in Kosovo we were told before the bombings that there was mass genocide occurring, the figure of “100,000 or more” was tossed around even though there was no evidence to back-up this claim. One media pundit suggested the number would be a quarter-of-a-million dead. NATO even gave a name to this “campaign of mass genocide,” it was dubbed “Operation Horseshoe” but, as Steele says, the factual basis for the existence of such a genocide is spurious at best. In fact, Steele likens it to the Bryce report that reported falsified claims of genocide in Belgium in World War I.
     Later after the NATO bombs began dropping, the official NATO claim was dropped to around 10,000 as it became clear no mass graves or killing fields even existed. The actual number of people found in the reported mass-graves totals slightly more than 2,000, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands that we were told originally. The loss of 2,000 lives is a great tragedy, but there are more Americans than that killed domestically every year and it hardly warrants the kind of violent response we saw in Kosovo. In fact, Mr. Steele states that Kosovo was safer than any major U.S. city prior to the NATO bombing. Moreover, as Steele shows, it is hardly evident that each of those bodies was killed as a result of a campaign of genocide.
     Finally, Steele points out that the stories about Kosovo came not only from NATO officers but also from officials of the United Nations as well as from our own government. However, a few sources closely followed developments and seemed to get the story about right. Pablo Ordaz of El Pais magazine, Audrey Gillan of the London Review of Books and even two members of an inspection team sent to Kosovo for the purpose of investigating purported mass graves all challenged the stories of the propaganda machine.
     Steele also shows that while we were told of ethnic cleansing and Kosovars who were being forced from their homes, the truth of the matter is they were being forced from their homes because of the danger and destruction being caused by NATO bombing in the region. If anything, this so-called ethnic cleansing appears as a direct result of NATO action. In fact, as Steele states, now that NATO and the KLA have control of Kosovo there have been widespread reports that the people we were supposedly protecting, the Kosovars, are now engaged in a murdering spree against the Serbians.
     Instead of hearing the truth from our leadership, we were fed emotional tales of mass killing that were entirely blown out of proportion in order to justify force and violence in the region.
     The sad trail of lies in Kosovo merely reinforces two facts. The first is that our republic depends upon a press that will question the claims of our leaders instead of just accepting them. The second is that Congress has shirked both its Constitutional responsibility to declare war before U.S. troops are sent into battle and its oversight responsibility to closely monitor the administration in its carrying out of foreign policy.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 March 2000
The World Trade Organization
Barrier to Free Trade

     The economic argument for free trade should be no more complex than the moral argument. Tariffs are taxes that penalize those who buy foreign goods. If taxes are low on imported goods, consumers benefit by being able to buy at the best price, thus saving money to buy additional goods and raise their standard of living. The competition stimulates domestic efforts and hopefully serves as an incentive to get onerous taxes and regulations reduced.
     If one truly believes in free trade, one never argues a need for reciprocity or bureaucratic management of trade. If free trade is truly beneficial, as so many claim, unilateral free trade is an end in itself and requires neither treaties nor international management by politicians and bureaucrats. A country should promote free trade in its own self-interest–never for the benefit of someone else.
     Those not completely convinced of the benefits of free trade acknowledge a “cost” of lower tariffs for which they demand compensation and fair management. Thus, we have the creation of the WTO. By endorsing the concept of managed world trade through the World Trade Organization, proponents acknowledge that they actually believe in order for free trade to be an economic positive, it requires compensation or a “deal.”
     Congressional approval for the WTO came in the lame duck special session in 1994 shortly after Republicans won the House and before the new Members were sworn in. Although it was actually a treaty that brought the WTO into existence it was called an “agreement” thus avoiding the required two-thirds votes in the Senate. A simple majority of both Houses would be enough to put the US in the WTO.
     Belonging to the WTO undermines national sovereignty. An encouraging sign is that those on the left, who frequently champion international causes, are becoming more aware of the shortcomings of organizations like the World Trade Organization when it undermines domestic laws, such as those protecting health, workers, environment, and consumers. The argument that membership in the World Trade Organization does not undermine national sovereignty is not supported by the facts. The CRS report on the World Trade Organization (August 25, 1999) is explicit in its explanation: “As a member of the WTO, the United States does commit to act in accordance with the rules of the multi-lateral body. It is legally obligated to insure national laws do not conflict with WTO rules.”
     The most blatant example of the World Trade Organization undermining US sovereignty was the recent ruling rejecting US tax breaks to US companies doing business overseas. The European Union charged that the Foreign Sales Corporation program established in 1984 is now an “illegal subsidy,” and the WTO appellate panel supported this position. Despite the fact that the US unfairly taxes corporations for profits earned overseas, unlike our foreign competitors, this program was meant to compensate to some degree for this unfairness built into our tax code. Nevertheless the WTO, in a ridiculous ruling, claimed that allowing a company to keep more of its own money through lower taxes is a “subsidy”–something given at the behest of government.
     This example clearly demonstrates that membership in the World Trade Organization is in conflict with our Constitution, undermining our legal system and our sovereignty. The message is clear. For us to be a responsible member of the WTO we must follow the rules, and, if we do, Congress must capitulate and raise taxes on our corporations by repealing the Foreign Sales Corporation program. As was explained by the CRS, members are “legally obligated to insure national laws do not conflict with World Trade Organization rules.”
     I have introduced HJR 90 to protect US Sovereignty, and true free trade, by withdrawing our membership from the World Trade Organization. If you are not a resident of the 14th district of Texas and would like to know where your representative stands on this issue, I encourage you to call his or her office and ask them.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 March 2000
Answering the Middle Class Squeeze
Central Planning is the Problem, Not the Solution

     We hear a lot about how great our economy is doing. Heading the cheerleading squad are people like Vice President Gore and others who want to be re-elected.
     If things are so good why do these worshippers of the so-called “new economy” press for items such as raises in the federal minimum wage? Recently the House voted to increase the government-mandated wage rate. This occurred as a result of much prodding by the Clinton-Gore administration.
     But is raising the minimum wage a real answer? Of course not! People at the lower end of the wage scale are certainly being hit by increased costs of living. Look, for example, at the recent upsurge in the price of fuel. Will a wage increase solve that problem?
     Consider also that recent Producer Price Index figures show costs jumping at their highest rate in about nine years. Those figures indicate that our interventionist economic policy may soon bring about a recession.
     Of course it is true that the people who get hurt most in tough times are the middle class, particularly those at the lower end of the wage scale. But as a physician I know that I must diagnose an illness before I can treat a patient.
     In the current instance the diagnoses indicates that the squeeze of the middle class is caused not by low wages, but rather by increased costs resulting from central planning. And the key pillars of our current central-planning regime can be found in tax and monetary policies.
     The fact that government creates money out of thin air must be addressed, because it is the entire reason why costs of living increase and standards of living decline. In a market economy prices tend to gently fall as a result of the increased efficiencies brought about by competition. If the average person paid half as much for his or her home and half as much for his or her car, would we not be better off than we are with these paltry government-mandated wage increases?
     Again, there is only one reason why prices are rising instead of falling. Because the government, through its credit-creation mechanism, is engaged in a sort of price controls, it is in fact following a policy that eventuates in price inflation as well as recession. Plus, this credit creation is at the heart of recent instability in the markets, thus threatening retirement security.
     Add to these price controls a federal minimum wage, and our policy now resembles full out wage-and-price controls. Indeed, those who may celebrate the recent wage hike should remember that the same principle that permits the federal government to set higher wages is the very principle which has been used in the past, and will likely again be used in the future, to cap wages. Federal wage-setting power assumes the government has authority to set a maximum wage, as well as a minimum. Richard Nixon did it, and another President may well attempt this in the future if he is charged with creating run-away inflation.
     I also mentioned taxes, and I’d like to briefly look at that as well. Our tax burden is at its highest peacetime levels. This means wage earners are being squeezed by the cost of government as well as the cost of living. Had Congress not stopped the Clinton-Gore tax on BTU’s, (which they called an economic stimulus package), fuel prices would be significantly higher than they are right now. This points to why government is not the answer.
     Increases in costs of living are a real problem, especially for those at the lower end of the wage scale. Those costs will continue to rise if we allow central planning to continue, but the solution to central planning is freedom, not grant further control over wages to government.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 April 2000
Electoral Follies
Paul Says Gore’s Plan is Hypocritical, Would Ruin Free Elections

     This week, Vice President Gore announced his plan to establish a new government-controlled endowment that would fund candidates who seek positions in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. It was only a matter of time before those who had been seeking to restrict free elections would propose a total government takeover of campaigns. Vice President Gore has done just that.
     I have long advocated sweeping changes that would open up elections here. I have suggested that federal spending limits be abolished, and that presidential debates be opened. I have also worked for years to make ballot access easier to attain. The problem with elections is not that there is too much money involved, but rather that choices are restricted by government policies crafted by incumbents who want to be protected from competition.
     I believe in competition, in the economic marketplace, and in the marketplace of ideas also. For political purposes, the marketplace is an election and that marketplace ought to be free from federal interference and government restrictions. Our founding fathers gave no power over political campaigns to any federal bureaucracy. Indeed, they would have recoiled at the very notion. But in the current “anything goes” Clinton-Gore administration there is no barrier against what will be proposed by those who seek to maintain political power.
     Let’s face it, even the liberal national media openly reported that Gore was primarily trying to defend himself against his own past. That is, he proposed these so-called reforms as an attempt to make folks forget about his fundraising at Buddhist Temples and from telephones inside the White House.
     In trying to conjure up what he calls, “a controlling legal authority,” Gore has proposed not campaign finance reforms, but rather campaign restrictions. Forgetting for the moment that it would take an awful lot of trips to the Buddhist Temple to raise the $7.1 billion dollars that Gore seeks for this endowment, let me just address how this money would be spent.
     First, we must realize that a new board would be empowered to govern this endowment. The board would undoubtedly be populated by political patronage appointees, but aside from that we should ask where in the U.S. Constitution the federal government is given authority to provide for such a board. The short answer is that no such authority exists, and only tinkering with our Constitution at the expense of the bill of rights can in fact create it. Moreover, this money would almost certainly be apportioned among certain favored political parties. Would so-called minor party candidates be funded? Would incumbents receive more of this taxpayer funding than challengers? Would candidates be funded in primaries? Who would decide all of these things?
     With those kinds of questions outstanding we can be certain of one thing, whatever the final details, some candidates would certainly be treated differently than others. It is an obvious breech of equal protection to suggest that only Democrats and Republicans would get funded. On the other hand, do we really want our taxpayer dollars going to fund candidates of, say, the Socialist and Communist parties? Perhaps the Vice President feels that funding the Socialist Party is fine with him. Based on his voting record in Congress, that would not surprise me.
     Vice President Gore’s proposal can only be marked down as a cynical and hypocritical attack on the very idea of free elections. Rather than trying to protect his own political backside by attempting to restrict free campaigns, Vice President Gore should use the authority of his office to impress upon the Attorney General the need for a full investigation into the laws that were violated in the 1996 campaign. Instead of proposing new laws and new bureaucracies, the Vice President and his ilk should simply come into compliance with the existing laws for which they claim such strong support.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 April 2000
Classroom Excellence Depends on Quality Teachers
Reform Packages Gaining Momentum

     Over these past few years I have focused a lot of attention on education related issues. As a Member of the Education Committee in the House of Representatives, I am pleased to be in the forefront of changing our education system, working to give more control to parents and local educators.
     The most important local educator is the classroom teacher. With that said, it should be obvious that recruiting and training top rate teaching professionals is a necessity for our local schools to be successful in educating the next generation.
     The federal government cannot and should not be responsible for assuring that the best teachers control classrooms. However we certainly can change federal policy to make it easier for local schools to get the best teachers possible. Last week Governor Bush announced a battery of education proposals that I, as a member of the Education Committee, will likely have to review.
     At first glance, many components of recent education proposals look quite similar to some of the things I have been working on these last few years. For example, the idea of teacher training has been very important to me. Together with my friends at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, I have been deeply involved in advocating improved teacher training. Southwest Texas has been a leader in finding innovative ways to prepare teachers to educate the next generation, and I was pleased to be able to assist the University’s acting President, Bob Gratz, to have the opportunity to address teacher training issues before a House committee this week.
     The best way to ensure that our nation’s teachers receive the training they need is to rely on the ideas of people at the state and local levels, like the folks at Southwest Texas. DC-based bureaucrats and politicians merely impose a one-size-fits-all model of teacher training on the nation.
     Another portion of Governor Bush’s plan involves removing federal regulations that hamstring teachers’ ability to maintain discipline, a proposal similar to legislation I supported in the Education Committee this past week. I have fought an often-lonely battle to stop these federal regulations from being continued, so I am pleased to see others stepping up to end them.
     The federal government has stood in the way of true teacher authority for far too long. By imposing regulations making it difficult for teachers and school districts to remove violent and unruly children, Washington has put handcuffs on teachers at great expense to local public education.
     When it comes to recruiting teachers, I have introduced legislation to provide teachers with a $1,000 tax credit. I have suggested that we should not only undertake this program in order to improve teacher take-home pay but also to help reimburse teachers for the out-of-pocket expenses they incur.
     In fact, I am hopeful that, with these issues now being placed “front and center” on the national agenda we will be able to move forward on them during this Congress. The idea of relying on recruiting and training great teachers as the means to educational success is mere common sense. And, the notion that we will best accomplish this by making it worth while for top candidates to enter these positions by increasing their take home pay and by providing them with the type of positive work environment that can best be assured by making the teacher responsible for the classroom, is exactly what is needed to reform education in this country.
     These reforms, together with education-related tax credits that will give parents and students true power over school systems, will result in a real education revolution. During the weeks and months ahead I will continue working to get Washington out of the way of these common sense reforms, because in shrinking the power that politicians and bureaucrats have over education, we are undertaking the most important policy initiatives we can put forward for future generations.


Texas Straight Talk, 17 April 2000
Time To Get Serious With Big Government
International Institutions Must Be Curtailed

     This week protesters came to Washington, DC, to make known their opposition to the policies of international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Many of these people were also present at the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization.
     I have two general problems with these protests. The first is that the violence and lawlessness to which such demonstrations often degenerate simply goes overboard and is just plain wrong. In short, it tends to do more harm to the causes they espouse than any benefit those causes may receive from the publicity generated.
     My other criticism is that these groups really tend to focus on minor side issues and never really address the principle upon which their argument depends. In short, the problem with the alphabet-soup of international financial organizations is not the policy of the current group administering these programs. Rather, the real issue is that these organizations threaten the very idea of self-government and self-determination. We do not need to change the policies these institutions are following. We need to shut down the entire international monetary apparatus and end the international welfare state.
     The World Bank and IMF are not merely a significant drain on U.S. taxpayers and a threat to self-government. They also use the leverage that they purchase with our tax dollars, as a means to force less developed countries to take on new and harmful fiscal, monetary and economic regulations. This serves to leave these countries further impoverished.
     There is no real way to effectively change these policies. The very nature of the current international regime will always ensure that bad policy will flow from these institutions because they have essentially been captured by those who have an interest in maintaining and expanding the international debt and credit machine. The only way to stop these policies is to end the agencies.
     Similarly, I met in my office with representatives of organized labor this week. They are concerned about international trade issues. As I explained to them, the basis of their problem is not trade but managed trade and the fact that America subsidizes their competitors. They are very open to this argument but are convinced they should continue to tinker around the edges at present, fighting trade status for this or that country, one battle at a time.
     My approach is to end the World Trade Organization. Although there is considerable sympathy for this approach, the groups and people who express their agreement seem content to work on minor side issues. Or, they refuse to work together with others who they distrust. This latter concern was suggested to me when I spoke to a coalition of the leaders of top conservative groups in Washington about the WTO this week.
     The big problem is that, as people continue to fight battles on the edges, and work exclusively with those people with whom they have long-term ties. Our nation’s sovereignty continues to be eroded by internationalists who have no gumption about the niceties of what organizations they need to work with in order to advance their agenda, much less any concern about those who are injured as a result of their successful promotion of that agenda. Those of us who realize that these international organizations are the crux of the problem must begin immediately to focus our attention on the central issue, namely putting these institutions out of business. We must also understand that to be effective we need to have large coalition of people dedicated to peaceful and lawful methods who will work together to combat the considerable interests stacked up against us.
     Only when we fight the correct battle, using the correct tactics, will we see progress made in dealing a blow to these freedom-threatening institutions and the woeful policy proscriptions they so often promote.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 April 2000
Constitutional Rights Threatened
Firearms Under Increasing Attack

     The constitutional rights of all Americans continue to be threatened. Unfortunately, this election year has shades of past years when the President and the anti-gun lobby were able to neutralize many key gun rights advocates and back-down the congressional leadership.
     I agree with our founding fathers and others who assert that the right to keep and bear arms is a key cornerstone right that acts as an insurance policy for all other liberties. The problem is that this right is being eroded at the edges, and attempts to compromise have left us in a position where the basic principle has been nearly erased.
     The arguments of those who oppose gun rights make no sense at all. New gun laws have gone on the book just about every decade over the last century, and at the same time gun related crime incidents have increased. In fact, in places where gun laws are most strict, gun crime and violence is most rampant.
     One only need ask the question, “Would you feel safer in New York City or Washington, DC, where guns are prohibited, or in rural Texas where there is a concealed carry law or in Vermont which has no gun regulations?” Facts do indeed tend to show that an armed society is indeed a polite society.
     In fact, Doctor John Lott, a Ph.D. law professor at Yale University, has completed impressive studies that show, in his words, “more guns equal less crime.” Certainly it is true that gun laws have never had any measurably positive impact on crime. In fact, in countries that have recently undergone gun confiscations, violent crime rates have skyrocketed. It is simply common sense to suggest that a murderer or felon is not going to be deterred by the fact that in the commission of such a crime he or she will also have to violate a gun control law.
     Gun control laws do nothing to reduce crime. That is why they are so insidious. Those who push these laws either have to be completely ignorant of this fact, or they must be motivated by some other agenda. It stands to reason that the latter option is the more truthful.
     The reason that gun control advocates will never run out of new proposals is precisely because they realize full well that gun control cannot limit crime. Thus, they will always be back with what they call “just one more reasonable little regulation.” We should not be arguing for further enforcement of existing gun laws. Instead we should be putting these laws on trial.
     It has been said that the very definition of insanity is to continue using the same means while expecting a different result. The means of controlling crime by controlling guns is a dismal failure. The idea that we should continue this policy is absurd. We should ask the gun control advocates why it is that the gun control act, the automatic weapon ban and the Brady bill have not proven to be the panacea they promised when proposing these bills.
     I oppose gun laws on constitutional grounds, but I often wonder why those who say they want to be reasonable do not ask the gun grabbers straight away for some evidence that their approach works. Or, why they do not demand evidence that a new proposal will bear the promised results of cutting crime. Without some measurement of the effects of gun laws how can anybody tell if they have been successful? The administration simply trumps up its statistics after-the-fact.
     Actually, I realize why the gun grabbers are never called onto the carpet in such a way. Simply, those who refuse to stand up for constitutional rights like to say they are compromising, but the fact is they are cowering. It is one thing to be a coward with one’s own life, but it is entirely immoral to run in fear when it comes to defending the constitutional rights we are sworn to uphold.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 May 2000
The Cost of War
After the Bombs Stop the True Impact Becomes Obvious

     The Clinton-Gore Administration talks incessantly about certain issues. Protecting the environment, improving health care, helping children and those at the lower end of the wage scale are mantras they repeat over and over again.
     The administration likes to argue that these issues are not constrained by national boundaries. They say such global issues call for global solutions, for which they usually propose global agencies such as the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization. They say these problems are global, so America must send billions of dollars in taxpayer funding to other countries to help them with their environmental, economic, and health-related problems.
     A recent report by German Television’s “Deutsche World,” in its English Language edition, shows that, like on so many occasions, the administration says one thing but does the exact opposite.
     The current case involves what we might term the fallout from Mr. Clinton’s war in Kosovo. But, don’t expect the lap-dogging U.S. media to report on it anytime soon. Deutsche World’s feature on the anniversary of the commencement of the hostilities shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the effects of war last for generations after the bombing ends.
     Germany is, of course, a NATO member, so this is hardly a report biased toward Serbia. This report showed that, on all of these issues on which the administration rails, this NATO bombing campaign was a disaster.
     As a physician I am most concerned with public health, so let’s begin there. Because of repeated bombings targeted against chemical factories, NATO has turned Serbia into a sort of toxic soup. The soil is laced with toxins. Because of embargoes, the locals must largely eat locally grown food, and it is contaminated. People fear that feeding their children is akin to poisoning them. Medical personnel point out that the most certain effect of the bombings will be an increase in cancer rates, not just now but literally for generations to come.
     And what about the environmental impact? Well, along with the poisoned soil there is poisoned air, and poisoned water. The famous Danube is now a toxic stream. Fish have been poisoned and killed, and the water is so chemically contaminated that a ban on eating fish from the river is now in effect.
     Finally, we need to ask who bears the brunt of all these environmental and health risks? Again, it is primarily the young people who have a poisoned nation and a poisoned food supply with which they must deal, as well as the factory workers and fishermen who are now out of work with dim prospects for the future.
     All of the environmental and health care legislation the administration pushes, saying they want a healthier and cleaner world, will not have even one-tenth of the impact that this NATO bombing campaign had. The true environmental and health policy legacy of the Clinton-Gore administration is the toxic spoils of Serbia.
     You may ask, how does this impact me? Well, first let’s not forget that these bombs were primarily funded using U.S. taxpayer funds, money that could have been used to help bolster the Social Security trust fund or meet the so-called “pay-go” requirements of tax cut legislation. In fact, we are continuing to shell out funds for this policy. Just a few weeks ago I put forward an amendment to cut of funds for further operations in Kosovo and new adventures involving the US military in Colombia, but it was defeated.
     The bottom line is this, Americans continue paying a price for the NATO war on Kosovo, and I expect that the price will continue to be paid. At some point, we will almost certainly be asked to pay to clean-up Clinton’s mess in Serbia with a new foreign aid package. Plus, we can expect future generations of Serbs to be bent on getting even with the westerners who they hold responsible for inflicting these long-term pains upon their nation and its populace.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 May 2000
Government Snoops Threaten Privacy
Time To Put Chains on the Feds, Not Give Them More Power

     Let’s say you broke your arm and the doctor gave you a cast on the wrong arm. If you broke your leg one week later, would you go back to the same doctor to have your leg set?
     When I see President Clinton suggesting he is going to protect the privacy rights of Americans I start to feel like the fella in the example just cited. Do I really trust Bill Clinton, or any U.S. President, to protect my privacy? Would the founding fathers accept the notion that the federal government is supposed to protect our privacy? Did they authorize that in the constitution?
     Bill Clinton has been a terrible custodian of the public records with which he has been entrusted. He has allowed secrets to slip into the hands of the communist Chinese, but that is not all. This President has been found in violation of the Privacy Act by a federal court. Moreover, we all know the sad story of “filegate,” when the White House improperly obtained private FBI files.
     Now President Clinton says he wants to protect your privacy. Has he had a change of heart? Is he now prepared to take steps to make sure the federal government will no longer engage in the kinds of activities it has undertaken on his watch? Hardly!
     Whenever this President talks about privacy protection he always means giving the federal government more power. What he wishes to restrict are private sector actions involving companies selling names or information. Certainly we should not be subject to the sale of our private information against our will. But there are existing methods to prevent such a thing from happening. Through the freedom to contract and the power of state laws such activities can be curtailed.
     When it comes to our privacy rights however, we need to understand the idea from the view of those who ensconced our rights in a constitution. Our founding fathers understood privacy rights are held by individuals and ought not to be violated by the federal government. Mr. Clinton’s attempts are to turn the thoughts of the founders upside down. He would have us believe that privacy rights are protected by federal intervention into the information economy. Nothing could be further from the truth and nothing could be more contrary to the ideas of liberty.
     If we really want to advance privacy we need to make sure our federal government has fewer records rather than giving it more power to create more lists and police more communications in the name of privacy protection. Let’s look at the issue of identity theft as an example. What few realize is that the single greatest contributing factor to identity theft is the government-mandated Social Security number. Successful identity-thieves routinely rely on the Social Security number as the “key” to unlock the records of their victims. Just as the burglar uses a crow bar to open windows, the chief tool of the identity thief is the Social Security number.
     If President Clinton were truly concerned with this invasion of privacy he would spend less time making speeches attacking the private sector, or proclaiming that he is tough on crime, and he would join with me in working to pass HR 220, restricting use of the Social Security number. We have essentially allowed that number to become a unique identifier for all sorts of purposes outside of those originally intended, and that is the problem my legislation seeks to address.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 May 2000
Helping Cancer Patients and the Terminally Ill is a Moral Imperative
Compassion Requires Allowing People To Use Their Resources to Fight These Diseases

     Last weekend President Clinton issued an appeal to lay aside partisan differences in order that we may address critical health care related issues. I hope the President will take his own advice and work to pass legislation that I recently introduced. However, in all honesty, I expect that we will once again see this issue dragged down by those who would rather score political points than address very real problems.
     When workers are stricken with a grave illness, they need the love and support of their family and friends as well as the best health care they can get. As a doctor who has specialized in women’s health issues for decades, and as a member of Congress, I know how truly critical it is that cancer patients as well as those who suffer from terminal illnesses have the resources available to them to combat these illnesses.
     That is why I have introduced sweeping legislation aimed at assisting the terminally ill, and those stricken with cancer, to meet the financial burdens of health care costs resulting from their illnesses. The Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act (HR 4265), would exempt all persons diagnosed with terminal illness, or any form of cancer, from the employee portion of payroll taxes for as long as they continue to suffer from the illness or have significant costs resulting therefrom.
     This bill would allow such individuals to keep their resources for those purposes without adversely affecting their ability to collect benefits. Rather than forcing people who are in such dire situations to continue paying taxes for a retirement they may never live to see, we need to free up resources for them now, without any penalty accruing to them if they can beat these terrible diseases. I have spoken with patients who have suffered from these illnesses, which put such a terrible strain on them and their loved ones. Even when they have health care coverage (and many do not), they still incur all kinds of costs ranging from transportation to and from care centers and certain prescription drugs which may not be fully covered, to hiring sitters to watch their children while they receive treatment. The list is nearly endless. In the legislation I introduced, if the disease goes into remission and all related costs are paid, the employee would again resume paying the payroll tax. This is a conservative program designed to reduce the tax burden of those fighting these dreaded illnesses. We need to offer compassion to those who suffer, but we also owe it to them to stop taking away the resources which can help people beat breast cancer, AIDS or other terrible health problems.
     I am hopeful that people who are truly interested in improving health care for the terminally ill and others with cancer will join me in supporting and advancing this legislation. Rather than focusing on making political points or representing the needs of special interests, this is a piece of common sense health care legislation that would serve the interests of those who are suffering.
     When I first announced this legislation to constituents a few weeks back I was so pleased when one person immediately responded with a note to my office saying how he was a cancer survivor and thought that this was a plan that would “greatly assist” those suffering from such diseases.
     In the weeks and months ahead I will be promoting this legislation with my constituents, here in the House of Representatives and elsewhere. If you live outside of the 14th District of Texas and want to know how your representative stands on this important legislation you should call or write to his or her Washington office.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 May 2000
Privacy Takes Center Stage

     A few weeks back I wrote about my efforts to advance privacy legislation. This issue has taken front and center stage over the past couple of weeks, so I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the activities undertaken these past weeks.
     Last week the Ways and Means Committee held hearings regarding use of the Social Security number. The fact that the Social Security number has become a unique identifier has strongly contributed to the efforts of those who invade the privacy rights of citizens. From government snoops at the IRS to identity-thieves, those who would invade privacy have found the Social Security number to be a key weapon to allow them to commit their criminal actions.
     This week the Government Reform and Oversight Committee met to consider potential solutions to privacy problems. Featured in this legislative hearing was my bill, HR 220. As I had done the week before, I was called to testify before the government reform committee. In so doing, I again stressed the importance of ending the use of the Social Security number as a unique identifier.
     When Social Security was put into place a couple of very clear promises were made to the American people. One of the promises made was that the funds going into the Social Security trust fund would not be used to run the laundry list of government programs and the alphabet soup listing of government agencies. What we were told is that those dollars would be used only to run a public pension system.
     The other thing we were told was that the Social Security number would not become a form of national identifier, and that the use of the number would be limited to purposes essential to the management of the public pension program. The government misled us on both counts.
     Ever since Vietnam, the government has been sucking dollars out of the Social Security trust fund to pay for government programs, including foreign adventurism. Whenever we vote to spend more money in Bosnia or Kosovo or Colombia, we are tapping funds that could be used to repay the Social Security trust fund for years of unrelated expenses. This spending must stop.
     And, for years we have seen the Social Security number more and more closely resemble a national ID number. It was just a few years ago when the IRS started demanding the number be used for all dependants on our annual tax filings. In this information age we have seen an explosion in the uses of the Social Security number and a closer link between the number and individuals owing to the fact that the information society depends upon relational data bases for all sorts of things.
     Right now Congress is considering two very different solutions to the privacy problems that have arisen as the result of these extraneous uses of the Social Security number. My solution remains to strictly limit the government. This Congress I introduced two bills the very first day we met. HR 219 stops the government from using Social Security monies for other government programs and HR 220 stops the use of the Social Security number as a unique identifier.
     It will probably not surprise anybody to learn that there are a number of people in Congress who are actually suggesting that the best way to protect privacy is to make the government bigger and stronger. These people argue that the government should further regulate the information economy in an attempt to advance privacy. Any person familiar with the concept of negative and positive rights, and any student of history, will immediately realize the follies of trying to secure privacy rights by increasing government authority.
     Right now we can celebrate that this very important issue is being discussed, but we need to be cautious because it is very possible that in the name of privacy, bad legislation will pass.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 May 2000
China Bill Is Not Free Trade
New Government Programs Approved By House

     This week changes to the bill on trade relations with China meant that I had to vote against the legislation. I have consistently voted for normal trade relations with China, but here we have a situation where the House leadership gave in to the liberal Democrat demand for more government. I could not support that.
     Also, consider the process in which these changes were made. For months we have been talking about PNTR, and I said I would support normal trade relations. The first version of the bill was put forward by the sub-committee chaired by my good friend Phil Crane, a strong advocate of free markets and free trade. After seeing HR 4444, I was able to again voice strong support for PNTR. However, we wound up in a last minute situation where the President was unable to convince his own party to support him. A backroom deal was cut aimed at winning votes from liberal Democrats. I will not support this method of operation.
     At the beginning of the week the PNTR bill was clean, totaling three pages in length. By the time we voted on the issue, the bill had grown to sixty-six pages. This simply illustrates the problem.
     The people who elected us have criticized this Congress. Time and again I have heard it said that we are not doing the job we have been elected to do. We have given in to President Clinton and the liberal minority in the House. Enough is enough. These last minute changes left us a PNTR bill that created a new government commission and put taxpayers on the line for millions in so-called “technical aid” to Communist China. Apparently the administration believed left-wing members of Congress could be convinced to vote for freer trade and freer markets just so long as we give more foreign aid to our Communist Chinese adversaries.
     Managed trade features of the legislation also disappointed me. It is tiresome to hear over and over about free trade from the very people who are trying to cut off free trade. For example, this last minute language included so called anti-surge protections. How in the world can any serious person suggest this is free trade? The changes made to appease the liberals made this bill the very opposite of what it had been purported to be. As so often happens with large bills in Washington, PNTR became a vehicle for big government, managed trade, foreign aid giveaways and the creation of new government commissions. I could have supported a clean bill that simply meant lower tariffs, but this bill, and the means by which these changes were brought about, cried out for rejection of the legislation and the entire process.
     Another example that shows what happened to the contents of this so called free trade bill is seen in the provision putting American taxpayers on the hook for nearly $100 million dollars in new spending for radio broadcasts aimed not just at China but other Asian countries. So much for our commitment not to spend Social Security surpluses on other government programs.
     In the days and weeks ahead we will consider HJR 90. This is legislation that I introduced to remove the United States from the World Trade Organization, or WTO. Just as this PNTR bill ended up as a vehicle for foreign aid giveaways and managed trade, the WTO is an egregious attack on U.S. sovereignty and a colossal attempt at managed trade, all pursued in the name of free trade.
     Free trade is about free markets, which means limiting government interference in the marketplace. We face high hurdles for the philosophy of less government in the foreseeable future because the Congressional trade debate is now limited to the voices of outright protectionists and those who, in the name of free trade, promote a regime of managed trade which threatens the sovereignty upon which our fundamental liberties will always depend.


Texas Straight Talk, 5 June 2000
CARA: Environmental Protection or Destruction?

     When the House of Representatives recently passed the “Conservation and Reinvestment Act”, better known as CARA, it took a big step in the wrong direction. This legislation allows the federal government to get further involved in the real estate business by owning more property.
     I believe the federal government should be selling off many of its real property holdings. Efficient land use, as well as constitutional government, would suggest the federal government already owns far too much real property.
     Still, some of the most radical environmentalists remain convinced that the only way to protect green space is for government, particularly the federal government, to own more and more land. This is an ironic point of view, because countries that have had the most government regulation of property, such as the former Soviet bloc nations, have had the absolute worst records of environmental quality.
     In the CARA legislation, some non-tax revenues, such as those from oil drilling leases, would be used to mitigate problems resulting from the drilling. However, areas without any such damages were still expressly earmarked for pork-barrel spending projects.
     These funds are being separately dedicated and taken off budget so Congress will not have to do annual appropriations with them. This scheme is bad for two reasons. First, it allows the Executive Branch to have powers that are Constitutionally directed to Congress. So this bill not only diminishes private property, it also erodes the Constitutional separation of powers. Furthermore, this off-budget scheme will not amount to anything approaching a true trust fund. Time and again, we have seen government raid trust funds to pay for spending measures for which those funds were never intended. The most glaring example of this is the raiding of the Social Security trust fund. However, highway funds, airport funds and others are also regularly raided to pay for foreign aid giveaways and other pork.
     CARA not only necessitates the creation of a trust fund to engage in activities which are not authorized by the Constitution, it also promises to have a negative impact on property rights in general and on the environment Congress is claiming to protect. If we are truly interested in providing better land management and environmental stewardship, we should get the federal government out of the land management business. As the recent uncontrolled burns of Los Alamos show, there is literally no end to the possible ways the federal government can mismanage environmentally sensitive lands.
     I have introduced legislation to take a project in my district out of federal hands and place it with agencies in Texas. Of course, the executive branch has stalled it every step of the way. When the federal government begins to micro-manage affairs that belong at the state and local levels, it is nearly impossible to stop. Unfortunately, this CARA bill will give federal agencies much more control over real property. Once people see the folly of this bill, it will be too late because the federal bureaucracy will be in control. Now I can only hope that my colleagues in the Senate will stop this terrible legislation from becoming law.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 June 2000
Repeal of Un-American “Death Tax” Passes House

     On Friday, the House of Representatives cast a historic vote and repealed the immoral estate tax, better known as the “death tax.” Of all the outrageous taxes Americans are forced to pay each year, the death tax is the most outrageous of them all. It amounts to government confiscation of American citizens’ property when they die, instead of allowing them to pass a legacy on to their families.
     The death tax confiscates anywhere from 37%-55% of a person’s estate when he or she dies. That is not only the highest tax rate in the tax code. It is also double taxation, a tax on already taxed items. People pay federal, state, and local taxes out of their paychecks for their entire lives. What estate is built then gets taxed at their death, and their family is forced to pay the federal government again.
     The death tax was originally created as a temporary tax for the purpose of raising funds for war-related events. It was first enacted in 1797 to pay for the creation of the navy. After the goal was met, it was repealed in 1802. This happened several more times to pay for the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, but was repealed when the conflicts were over. However, in 1916, the death tax became a permanent fixture in the tax code, and it has been a thorn in the side of hard-working Americans ever since.
     The entire concept of the death tax is not only destructive to families, but is also extremely harmful to the economy. It gives people less incentive to save and more incentive to spend because of the relatively high rate at which estates are taxed. Thus, it results in a disincentive to parents to leave their children a family business, family farm or their savings. A recent study from George Mason University found that within eight years of eliminating the death tax, the gross domestic product would be $80 billion larger than expected, resulting in 250,000 new jobs.
     There are some who argue the government would lose too much revenue if the death tax were repealed. First, I object to the notion that money collected from the death tax is, in fact, the government’s money to lose. The money belongs to American citizens who worked hard to earn it. And another thing that jumps out at me is the inefficiency of government with regard to collecting this tax. Three years ago, the death tax raised $20 billion in government revenue. However, the cost to government of actually collecting the money, combined with the cost of compliance, amounts to $12 billion. That means the $20 billion collected by the IRS actually required a $32 drain on the economy. On the other hand, repealing the tax would cost the government $20 billion, but it would inject $32 billion into the economy.
     In a word, the death tax is simply un-American. People should not be punished for working hard their entire lives, creating jobs and wealth for others, and then trying to leave some of it so their children can have better lives. I applaud the members of the House who had the courage to cast the historic vote today to repeal the death tax. Now, I call on the members of the Senate and the President to support this legislation. The time has come to create a government that is supportive, not oppressive to the small business owner and the family farmer. If we put our faith in the American people, instead of the government, we will increase individual savings, promote job creation and, most importantly, support the family structure.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 June 2000
A Big Win for Medical Privacy in Congress

      On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment I proposed to an appropriations bill that will prohibit the federal government from imposing a “uniform standard health identifier” on the American people. This legislation will give Americans the peace of mind that comes from knowing that every detail of their lives is not being filed away. It restores and protects the fundamental privacy and due process rights that are the foundation of our system of government.
     As a doctor, I know how crucial it is to insure people’s privacy when speaking to their physicians. Unless Congress permanently forbids the development of a medical ID, Americans may not be able to talk to their doctors about matters that are of an utmost private nature without fear of having this information accessed by government agencies! As an OB/GYN with more than 30 years experience in private practice, I know better than most the importance of preserving the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. What happens to that trust when patients know any and all information given to their doctor will be placed in a database accessible by anyone who knows the patient’s ‘unique personal identifier?
     Some members of Congress will claim that the federal government needs the power to monitor Americans in order to allow the government to operate more efficiently. I would remind my colleagues that, in a constitutional republic, the people are never asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the job of government officials a little bit easier. We are here to protect the freedom of the American people, not to make privacy invasion more efficient.
     Millions of Americans are outraged over the increasing trend toward national ID cards, especially in light of the fact that the Social Security card has become mandatory in order to do business. In reality, the Social Security number has been transformed from an administrative device used to administer the Social Security program into a de facto national ID number. Today, most Americans cannot get a job, get married, open a bank account, or even get a fishing license without their Social Security numbers. Congress has been all too eager to expand the use of the Social Security number as a uniform identifier. This anger towards Washington would increase exponentially if Americans were informed that their doctors would not treat them until they produce their national health IDs.
     No private organization has the power to abuse personal liberty on a massive scale as can the federal government. After all, consumers have the right to refuse to do business with any private entity that asks for a Social Security number, whereas citizens cannot lawfully refuse to deal with many government agencies. Furthermore, most of the major invasions of privacy, from the abuse of IRS files to the abuse of the FBI by administrations of both parties, have occurred by government agents. I can only imagine the havoc they could wreak if they were allowed to access an individual’s medical records.
     I am very pleased that my amendment to the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill passed the House. American citizens have the right to be free from the prying eyes of government bureaucrats. It is the only way to guarantee that medical IDs do not become a reality. By listening to the American people, we have terminated the uniform standard health identifier. This is a great victory for privacy rights. We have finally taken a stand against federal bureaucrats invading our privacy and recording every detail of our lives.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 June 2000
EPA Regulations Threaten Texas

     On Wednesday of this week, I voted in enthusiastic support of an amendment to an appropriations bill prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using any taxpayer funds to designate certain areas as “ozone nonattainment areas.” The amendment, which was introduced by Representatives Linder and Collins of Georgia, is needed to prevent the EPA from acting without regard to federal court decisions. Without Congressional action, counties in the 14th district of Texas (and many areas across America) could be designated as “non-attainment” areas, with dire consequences. Affected areas face the very serious loss of federal highway funds, as well as restrictions on local industries, changes to land use regulations, and reformulated gasoline requirements. The people of Texas do not need federal regulators determining our air standards, and this vote represents another step in my ongoing fight against unconstitutional and unbridled federal agencies.
     The EPA, with typical bureaucratic arrogance, has acted without congressional authorization in creating its own standards for air quality. It created National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), rating counties for compliance. These standards have been challenged successfully by industry groups and three States in federal Court. The D.C. District Court of Appeals found that the EPA acted without congressional authorization when it created and applied its air standards. Because the standards were “arbitrary” and not based on “intelligible principles”, the actions of the agency amount to sheer, unbridled policy judgments-expressions of bureaucratic willfulness rather than application of policies articulated in the Clean Air Act. This sound decision by the Court supported constitutional principles, as all legislative powers are assigned to Congress only.
     Not surprisingly, the EPA has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Truly troubling, however, is the agency’s refusal to comply with the standing Court of Appeals decision while its appeal is carried out. The EPA brazenly has decided to continue designating “non-attainment” areas despite the Court’s clear finding of the unconstitutionality of its actions. The Linder/Collins amendment was necessary to legislatively prevent the EPA from further unconstitutional actions.
     The people of the 14th District are directly affected by EPA actions. Areas in Brazoria and Victoria counties face possible “non-attainment” designation and the resulting loss of transportation funds. Local governments and agriculture face another key battle with the EPA over “non-point source” pollution standards, which could force farmers to obtain federal permits and have “waste management plans” approved by regulators. The threat to the local economy is obvious, as the costs of complying with onerous regulations will send business and jobs elsewhere. While air and water quality standards are a legitimate concern, the state of Texas should make its own decisions without oversight from Washington.
     I previously have stated in this column that there is no constitutional authority for the creation of the EPA. I view Wednesday’s vote as a victory in our fight against unconstitutional, unaccountable federal agencies. We must continue to work against EPA overreaching in the 14th District of Texas and across the nation.


Texas Straight Talk, 3 July 2000
True Free Trade Benefits Texas Farmers

     Tuesday evening, House lawmakers reached a compromise agreement that will permit U.S. exports of food and medicine to Cuba for the first time in nearly 40 years. This partial repeal of the trade embargo was proposed by Representative George Nethercutt of Washington State,who has joined me in working to open trade with Cuba. The agreement allows U.S. businesses to sell food or medicine to Cuba, while prohibiting the federal government from financing or otherwise subsidizing such sales. The agreement also prohibits the President from imposing further restrictions on food or medicine sales to other countries without congressional approval. I applaud this compromise as a good step in the direction of true free trade–it allows more trade, while prohibiting government subsidization of trade.
     The usual politics have accompanied the agreement. The provisions have been added and removed from two different appropriations bills. The President opposes the agreement, as it threatens his “authority” to assess trade sanctions against countries at will. Of course, he has no such authority, as the power to regulate foreign trade is expressly delegated to Congress in the Constitution. Currently, House leaders plan to take the Nethercutt agreement into conference with the Senate on an agricultural bill. My hope is that free trade principles and restrictions on unconstitutional executive orders remain intact.
     Unfortunately, as details of the final arrangement emerge, it becomes obvious that one significant hurdle remains in place. By keeping in place prohibitions on private financing, the compromise, while being a good first step, does not go far enough. Under the current agreement, farmers seeking to extend credit to Cuban buyers cannot do so through a U.S. bank. Our farmers should not have to seek financing from foreign banks. This hurdle may limit the practical benefits of the repeal of the embargo.
     Still, farmers in the 14th District would benefit from access to this new market (as well as access to four other countries named in the agreement). Trade advisory groups estimate that U.S. exports of food to Cuba alone could amount to $400 million within five years. The American Farm Bureau estimates that the aggregate market for agricultural commodities to all five countries amounts to $7 billion. Rather than punishing our farmers with sanctions, we should be eliminating barriers so that they can export agricultural products to these countries. Sanctions simply benefit our export competitors, who have increased their sales in markets closed to American businesses. Over one-third of U.S. agricultural production is exported, so farmers suffer disproportionately when trade restrictions are imposed.
     Nevertheless, the Nethercutt agreement is beneficial, but not perfect. I introduced a more comprehensive bill in March 1999 (H.R. 1181). My bill would have removed trade restrictions with Cuba completely, so that all types of U.S. products could be exported. In addition, my bill prohibited any federal assistance or taxpayer subsidies to Cuba. Also, I would allow American banks to finance sales to Cuba (or any other nation), so that Texas farmers would not have to seek financing from foreign banks. My bill would have created true free trade with Cuba, with no restrictions and no subsidies by the federal government. Still, the current agreement represents an endorsement of many of the principles contained in my bill, and I support it accordingly.
     I have always supported true free trade not simply because it makes economic sense for Texas agriculture, but also because it is a critical component of private property rights and human freedom. “Sanctions,” closing foreign markets, really are penalties on Texas farmers who export much of what they produce. Such sanctions ought never be permitted merely by executive order. We have a long way to go in reforming agricultural policy and ending embargoes which hurt our farmers, but this agreement is an important first step and a victory for Texas farmers. I will continue the battle to get HR 1181 passed so that we might realize the full benefits of free trade with Cuba.


Texas Straight Talk, 10 July 2000
Last-Minute Supplemental Spending is Dangerous and Unnecessary
“Emergency” Spending Bill is Pork-Barrel Politics

     Recently, House members approved a fiscal year 2001 Military Construction appropriations bill that also contained an emergency supplemental spending package for fiscal year 2000. The bill provides a total of $20 billion in new federal spending, $11.2 billion of which is supplemental spending for fiscal year 2000. I voted against this massive new spending. Congress should be required to adhere to its existing fiscal year budget, just as families and businesses must operate within their own budgets.
     The supplemental spending bill is dangerous, wasteful and unnecessary. Every year Congress decides midway through its fiscal year that it didn’t budget enough money, so it creates an “emergency” to justify new spending. This year the “emergency” requires that we spend more on the failed drug war and more on sending our troops overseas. The big spenders in Congress made certain the supplemental bill was packaged with a Military Construction bill, which insured its passage during eleventh-hour voting. Congress already spends far too much money, and this additional $11 billion in spending cannot be justified.
     Worse yet, much of the spending contained in the supplemental bill goes overseas. Several South American countries, including Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador receive a total of $1.3 billion taxpayer dollars. Colombia alone receives approximately half a billion dollars for costly helicopters and U.S. training of its police and military forces in “counternarcotics” activities. I find this a particularly dangerous and expensive proposition. Our nation should not be spending billions of dollars and sending 60 military helicopters to the Colombian Army and National Police to escalate our failed drug war. We risk another Nicaragua when we meddle in the internal politics and military activities of a foreign nation. Sending expensive helicopters to Colombia is the worst kind of pork-barrel politics–helicopters are ineffective weapons of war, as we have seen in Vietnam and Somalia. The American people are tired of paying their tax dollars to fund expensive toys for foreign governments. Taxpayers should demand that Congress demonstrate the national interest served before it sends billions to foreign nations.
     I also oppose the $2 billion in spending authorized for the ongoing Kosovo military action. I consistently have decried our involvement in UN “peacekeeping” missions, which really are acts of war requiring congressional approval. Moreover, our national sovereignty is threatened when we place our troops under UN command. We don’t need to spend more money on Kosovo or any other foreign war the UN deems deserving. Time and time again we have seen the disastrous consequences of meddling in wars which do not involve our national interests. We should get our troops out of Kosovo and stop trying to police the world. UN “peacekeeping” in Kosovo doesn’t work, and we should not be spending billions of dollars in “emergency” funds perpetuating our involvement. The American people are tired of sending our troops abroad under UN command to interfere in conflicts unrelated to our national interest.
     This bill contains the kind of massive foreign aid spending and political maneuvering that people in my district have had enough of. Farmers in Texas struggling with drought conditions have every reason to oppose our sending $25 million to Mozambique for disaster relief, as called for in the bill. U.S. taxpayers have every reason to oppose billions in new spending for fiscal year 2000 simply because Congress seems incapable of adhering to its budget. We cannot throw our tax dollars at every global problem, and we should not let special interests and back room deals dictate our appropriations process.


Texas Straight Talk, 17 July 2000
High Taxes Cause High Gas Prices
Gas Tax Relief Will Benefit Consumers Immediately

     Consumers throughout the 14th district of Texas and Americans everywhere have felt the impact of higher gasoline prices during the past year. In response, our government officials have offered up the usual “solution”: greater regulation of the oil industry. Administration officials have ordered an FTC antitrust probe, while vote-seeking politicians have condemned the oil industry and called for an investigation into collusion and price gouging. The truth is that costly federal taxes and regulations largely are to blame for high fuel prices, not convenient scapegoats like OPEC and the oil companies. I co-sponsored legislation in March that would immediately address the real problem: exorbitant gas taxes.
     The obvious way to reduce the price that consumers pay for gasoline is to reduce fuel taxes. Federal taxes account for nearly 20 cents per gallon of gasoline sold. State and local taxes bring the total to 42 cents per gallon. Thus, while the cost of crude oil is roughly 70 cents per gallon (based on the current cost of $30 per barrel for OPEC crude oil), the “cost of politicians” is 42 cents! In fact, over 43 different taxes are imposed on the production and distribution of gasoline by various levels of government. The pre-tax price of a gallon of gasoline barely has changed in the last decade, hovering around 88 cents throughout the 1990s. The real increase has been in various taxes: in 1990 consumers spent only 27 cents per gallon in taxes (as opposed to 42 cents today). At the same time, EPA regulations (such as those requiring new reformulated gasoline) add significantly to the cost of fuel production. Analysts estimate consumers would save a whopping $67 billion in one year if gas taxes were eliminated. Clearly, we need to end the smokescreen and stop blaming oil companies for high prices that have been caused almost entirely by huge increases in fuel taxes.
     The call by administration politicians for an investigation of high gas prices is particularly inconsistent, because the current administration routinely has supported energy taxes and EPA regulations which directly increase the price we all pay at the pump. Of course, politicians love to respond to pressure that they “do something” about high gas prices, regardless of the hypocrisy involved. Unfortunately, they never do the right thing by eliminating or reducing the taxes that cause high gas prices to begin with.
     Fortunately some of my colleagues in Congress agree, and have joined me in co-sponsoring legislation that reduces or places a moratorium on federal gas taxes. H.R. 3844, which I co-sponsored back in March, calls for a total repeal of federal gas tax increases imposed in 1993. H.R. 4111, which I also co-sponsored in March, mandates a six-month suspension of federal gas taxes while maintaining the repeal of the 1993 tax increases. A new bill I support, H.R. 4776, suspends federal gas taxes through March 2001, and requires the Secretary of Energy to report on the economic feasibility of maintaining the reformulated gas mandate imposed by the Clean Air Act. All of these bills would provide immediate relief to consumers at the pump, especially during summer months when many families drive long distances on vacation. Beneficial effects would be felt throughout the economy, as retail costs are directly affected by fuel costs borne by the trucking and air freight industries in shipping retail goods.
     Of course, eliminating gas taxes will not eliminate all fluctuations in gas prices. Some fluctuation occurs as the normal result of supply and demand forces in the market. Americans can take partial responsibility for their gas bills by driving fuel-efficient automobiles. Also, we should be willing to explore new domestic oil sources to reduce our need to buy oil abroad. However, politicians should be held accountable for true cause of high gas prices: massive increases in federal gas taxes.


Texas Straight Talk, 24 July 2000
Lower Taxes Encourage Saving for Retirement
Legislation Will Allow Increased Contributions to Tax Deductible IRAs and Tax-Deferred Pensions

     This week the House of Representatives voted to support H.R. 1102, the “Comprehensive Retirement Security and Pension Reform” bill. The bill increases the deductible amounts individuals may contribute to their IRAs, while also increasing tax-deferred amounts that may be contributed to 401(k) pension plans. While I certainly supported the bill based on its tax relief, I also applaud the underlying principle of encouraging private retirement saving by allowing individuals to keep more of their paychecks. American taxpayers know that the best way for them to save for their retirement is to invest their pre-tax dollars in private pensions and retirement accounts. Taxpayers, rather than the federal government, should be the stewards of their own hard-earned retirement savings.
     Taken together, the contribution increases contained in H.R. 1102 represent a positive step in the right direction. Specifically, H.R. 1102 raises deductible IRA contribution amounts from the current $2,000 to $5,000 over the next three years. This raise was badly needed, as the $2,000 limit has been in place since 1981. Beginning in 2004, the $5,000 IRA contribution limit will be indexed to inflation in $500 increments. Similarly, contributions to 401(k) and like pension plans are raised from the current $10,000 to $15,000 over the next five years. In 2005, further increases will be indexed to inflation in $500 increments. These raises will reduce the tax bills of millions of Americans who always contribute the maximum amount allowed to their IRAs and pensions.
     The bill contains other worthy provisions. “Pension portability” is enhanced, making it easier for employees who change jobs more often in today’s economy to move their pension savings to another type of plan. This is accomplished by relaxing the “roll-over” rules, which dictate the time in which individuals may make a tax-free transfer of their pension when they start a new job. Americans over 50 also benefit from the “catch-up” provisions contained in the bill. Individuals 50 and over may contribute $5,000 to their IRAs immediately beginning in 2001, in addition to the amount that they would otherwise be allowed to contribute. Thus, by 2003 such an individual could contribute a total of $10,000 to an IRA. This larger deduction will allow older taxpayers to quickly expand their retirement savings, at a time when many people are concerned that they may not have saved enough to support themselves when they stop working.
     I have introduced legislation that would have provided faster pension and IRA tax relief. In 1999 I introduced H.R. 802, a bill which would have immediately raised the annual deductible IRA contribution amount to $5,000, without the gradual increments of the current bill. I also co-sponsored bills in 1999 which would have allowed a tax credit for contributions to IRAs and broadened penalty-free withdrawals from IRAs. Still, H.R. 1102 does provide real tax cuts for American taxpayers. Individuals will be able to reduce their income tax bills immediately with an increased IRA contribution deduction, while putting more of their paychecks into tax-deferred pensions.
     Our tax laws generally discourage private saving. H.R. 1102, like my pension reform proposals, focuses on increasing saving by increasing the tax deductions and tax deferrals available to individuals. We can encourage retirement saving simply by allowing employees to put more of their paychecks into IRAs and pension funds, instead of sending taxes to the federal government. More than ever, Americans know that their own private retirement savings will be critical to their standard of living during their later years.


Texas Straight Talk, 31 July 2000
The Disturbing Trend Toward Federal Police

     The House of Representatives recently approved a massive appropriations bill that will fund various Treasury Department agencies at record spending levels. The bill appropriates nearly 30 billion dollars, an increase over last year’s already huge Treasury budget. More disturbing, however, is the whopping 23% increase in funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) contained in the Treasury bill.
     ATF gets more than $730 million dollars for fiscal year 2001, an increase of $166 million over its 2000 budget. Why the increase? The administration wants the agency to hire 600 new federal police officers to enforce ever-expanding gun laws. Never mind the obvious failures of gun control legislation and the clear Second Amendment prohibition against such laws. The politicians in Washington are determined to slowly abolish gun rights, and they are determined to use federal police to accomplish the task.
     The American public gradually has become aware of the disturbing trend toward federal policing of our nation. Many Americans do not support ATF, especially after the disastrous events at Waco. I was widely attacked in the media and by members of Congress for questioning the government’s actions at Waco, and for merely suggesting that many Americans were concerned by the possibility of federal agents taking violent action against American citizens. Now we have Congress spending more money to increase the budget for ATF, despite its highly questionable actions and the resulting public mistrust of the agency.
     It is important to recognize that our federal constitution lists only three federal crimes, namely counterfeiting, treason, and piracy on the high seas. The founding fathers never envisioned a federal police force, knowing that such a force would trample on the right of each state to enact and enforce its own criminal laws. Hence there is no provision for the creation of a general federal police force in the enumeration of congressional powers. Furthermore, the 10th amendment explicitly reserves the general police power to the states individually. Washington politicians, however, have no interest in constitutional limitations when they seek to expand and consolidate their power by federalizing whole areas of criminal activity. They have consistently expanded federal criminal laws, particularly in the areas of drugs and firearms. The result of this expansion is the inevitable call for more federal police to enforce the new laws. We are told we need more ATF agents to monitor firearms, and more DEA agents to wage the “war on drugs.” Congress is not concerned with its lack of constitutional authority to create, much less expand a national police force.
     Washington politicians have successfully used recent excessive-force allegations against local police to further their goals. It is convenient to portray local police as violent or racist, and therefore in need of federal oversight and restraint. The question, however, is whether we should trust a federal police force more than we trust our own local authorities. I believe there is a growing recognition that our founding fathers were correct when they prohibited federal government involvement in law enforcement. In Waco, Americans had a vivid example of the impact of the growing police state. With the veneer being stripped from the myth of federal law enforcement, our citizens are beginning to realize that it is both unconstitutional and untenable.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 August 2000
Long and Short Term Solutions to the Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs

     As a physician, I know how vitally important prescription medications are to senior citizens in Texas and across the nation. Many seniors in my district are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, which can cost hundreds of dollars or more each month. Seniors on a fixed income often face the dilemma of foregoing other necessities so they can pay for medicines. Older Americans who once relied on Social Security and Medicare to provide funds for their health care now find themselves spending more and more out-of-pocket to cover deductibles and quickly rising drug costs. It is simply not right that we continue to tax Social Security benefits at a time when so many seniors are struggling to pay for needed medicines.
     Congress recently has considered different ways to help seniors struggling to pay their prescription drug bills. Unfortunately, nearly every proposal that comes out of Washington involves a new federal program that continues taxing Social Security benefits and misusing the Social Security trust fund, or attempts to lower costs through price-fixing measures which will result in rationing of drugs. Other proposals create government subsidies to insurance or pharmaceutical companies. These plans take control of health care away from the individual and place it in the hands of bureaucrats.
     This is why I introduced the “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act” (HR 3636). This legislation ensures that millions of Americans, including seniors, will have access to affordable prescription drugs. My bill makes pharmaceuticals more affordable to seniors by reducing government imposed cost increases and providing seniors a prescription drug tax credit.
     The first provision of the “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act” provides senior citizens a tax credit off the top of their taxable income equal to 80% of their prescription drug costs. The tax credit is intended to supplement efforts to reform and strengthen Medicare by ensuring seniors have the ability to use Medicare funds to purchase prescription drugs. I am a strong supporter of strengthening the Medicare system to allow for more choice and consumer control.
     My bill also removes needless government barriers to the availability of pharmaceuticals. The key to controlling drug costs is to promote competition, with choices for consumers. However, FDA regulations make it nearly impossible for American consumers to obtain many medicines they need. My bill places the burden on the FDA to demonstrate why an individual should not be permitted to choose prescription drugs for personal use, thereby freeing American consumers to enjoy the benefits of price competition.
     Similarly, the Act protects pharmacies from being strangled by federal regulations. More options increase competition, making pharmaceuticals more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans. My legislation protects these pharmacies from needless federal regulations that only serve to increase drug prices and deprive seniors of another means for obtaining medications.
     The “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act” provides a long-term, permanent solution to the rising cost of prescription drugs. I also have announced a new program called “Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs,” which addresses the immediate concerns of seniors in my district. Although it is not widely known, drug companies have programs that offer prescription drugs free of charge to individuals who cannot afford them. My “Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs” effort increases awareness of these programs and helps seniors complete paperwork necessary to participate. There are several success stories where people have received their prescriptions free through this program. I decided to make this a district-wide effort, so my office will begin conducting workshops at area senior centers. We will work to help as many seniors as possible find free or affordable prescription drugs.
     I believe the combination of the “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act” and my new “Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drug” program will give seniors the short-term relief they need as well as a long-term solution to the serious problem of astronomical prescription drug prices. I am proud to lead the effort in Congress by working to ensure affordable prescription drugs.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 August 2000
Right to Privacy Too Often Overlooked

     From time to time, some of my colleagues in the House of Representatives claim that the federal government needs the power to monitor Americans so it can operate more efficiently. While I do not doubt their good intentions, I would remind them that in the United States, the people should never be asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the job of government a little easier. The government is here to protect the freedom of the American people, not to invade their privacy in the name of efficient government.
     With that in mind, I have introduced two key pieces of legislation aimed at curtailing governmental privacy invasions. The first is the “Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act” (HR 220). This bill forbids federal or state governments from using your Social Security number for purposes not directly related to administering the Social Security system. When Social Security was introduced, the American people were told that their number would never become a form of national identifier. In fact, until the 1970’s all Social Security cards stated on the back that the card was not an ID card. Unfortunately, cards issued today do not contain that same phrase, and Congress has been all too eager to expand the use of Social Security numbers.
     For example, in 1998 over 200 members of Congress voted to allow states to force citizens to produce a Social Security number before they could exercise their right to vote. Also, day-to-day private business dealings are becoming increasingly difficult without a Social Security number. You cannot open a bank account, get married, or even obtain a fishing license without disclosing your Social Security number. My bill will restore privacy to Americans who currently are being abused by overreaching government.
     The other piece of legislation I have introduced is the “Census Privacy Act” (HR 4085). This bill will prohibit the Census Bureau from collecting any information from citizens except for their name, address and the number of people per residence. That is all Congress needs for a head count of the population in order to re-draw congressional districts every ten years as is required by the Constitution.
     I introduced this legislation after scores of calls to my office during the recent census process from constituents who thought the long forms were too intrusive. There is no reason why the federal government needs to know how much money you make or how many bathrooms you have in your home. This information is personal and private, and I am committed to restoring to Americans the peace of mind that comes from knowing that every detail of their lives is not being recorded.
     On a more positive note, privacy advocates scored a major victory this summer when the House passed an amendment I proposed to an appropriations bill that will prohibit the federal government from imposing a uniform standard health identifier on the American people. As a doctor, I know how important it is to insure patient confidentiality, and I am very pleased my colleagues supported the amendment. It is the only way to guarantee that national medical ID’s do not become a reality.
     The other major privacy victory recently was when the federal government withdrew proposed Know Your Customer regulations which would have forced banks to report practically every customer transaction to the government. I was proud to lead the effort on the Banking Committee to stop this invasion of privacy with my “Bank Secrecy Sunset Act” (HR 518), would have overturned any such regulations. Fortunately, the proposal was withdrawn before the legislation was needed, but I believe this will be an ongoing battle. Those advocating more intrusion by the government will continue their legislative efforts, and we must stand ready to face that constant threat.


Texas Straight Talk, 21 August 2000
Help for Those with Terminal Illnesses

     This year we have heard proposals by various people in Washington advocating more government control over our health care system. These proposals almost invariably call for more tax dollars to be sent to Washington, so bureaucrats can make decisions about your medical care rather than having you choose. The approach is almost always the same–send your money to Washington, where bureaucrats decide what to do with your dollars. I advocate a different approach, however. I believe my constituents (and all Americans) should keep more of their own paychecks, leaving them with greater money and choices when addressing their own health care concerns.
     As a physician, I am especially concerned with those who face terrible terminal illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and heart disease. Patients facing terminal illnesses need all of their financial resources available to them to fight their disease and pay their medical bills. Yet we continue to impose payroll taxes on citizens with terminal illnesses to fund a retirement they may never live to see.
     Accordingly, I have introduced the “Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act” (H.R. 4265). This legislation would exempt all persons diagnosed with terminal illnesses (or any form of cancer) from the employee portion of payroll taxes for as long as they continue to suffer with their illness or incur significant health care costs resulting from the illness. Compassion and common sense require that we adopt a policy that stops taking needed resources away from those suffering from terrible health problems. This legislation is a realistic approach to helping people pay for quality health care when they need it most.
     An important provision of the “Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act” ensures that the exemption from payroll taxes provided by the Act does not adversely affect a qualifying individual’s ability to collect benefits in the future. Individuals facing terminal illnesses need more of their own resources available to them to pay medical bills, but they should not be penalized if they survive their condition. Once their disease goes into remission and all related costs are paid, the individual resumes paying the payroll tax.
     Similarly, I have introduced legislation designed to provide needed resources to parents struggling to pay for their terminally ill or disabled children’s medical bills. The “Family Health Tax Cut Act” (H.R. 4799) allows families to deduct a portion of their health care expenses for dependent children. Specifically, the Act provides parents caring for a child with a disability, cancer, terminal illness, or other condition requiring specialized medical care with a tax credit of up to $3,000. Our tax laws permit businesses to deduct employee health care costs from their income taxes; surely families should be permitted the same deduction to free up more of their financial resources to pay for the medical bills of their seriously ill children. The deduction is especially critical to low-income families, many of whom do not have health insurance provided by their employers.
     Both of these bills allow individuals who are suffering to keep more of their resources, rather than sending needed dollars to Washington. In my medical practice, I have spoken to patients suffering from terminal illnesses. Even when they have health coverage (and many do not), their disease puts a tremendous financial strain on them and their loved ones. The list of expenses they incur is nearly endless, ranging from transportation to care centers and hiring babysitters to watch their children to paying out-of-pocket costs for expensive drugs which are not fully covered. Family and friends can offer compassion and support, but Congress owes it to terminally ill persons to stop taking away the resources they need to fight cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and other terrible health problems. My hope is that citizens in my district (and my fellow legislators) who are truly interested in helping those with terminal illnesses will join me and support my legislation.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 August 2000
Reforming Social Security to Protect Present and Future Senior Citizens

     Social Security reform is a critical issue for all Americans. Some seniors in my district depend on their Social Security benefits for all or much of their monthly income. These seniors paid payroll taxes throughout their working lives to fund the Social Security system. Their monthly benefits do not represent an entitlement payment, but rather a return of their own tax dollars paid over a lifetime of work. Our seniors certainly deserve to know that their needed retirement funds are secure.
     Unfortunately, Washington politicians have not hesitated to spend Social Security funds for other purposes over the years. It is important to remember that the system originally was designed as a forced retirement savings program. Social Security monies were to be set aside in a separate trust fund used only for the payment of benefits. Revenue-hungry politicians, however, have needed to pay for more and more government programs over the past decades. The result is that the Social Security trust fund has been violated: Social Security “surpluses” have been spent on a myriad of federal programs. When the government spends Social Security funds elsewhere, it must rely on new payroll taxes to meet its current Social Security obligations. This means those payroll taxes are never set aside at all, but rather used to pay current benefits. The resulting conflict between generations is the inevitable result of the shameful and reckless policy of spending Social Security trust funds for purposes other than the payment of benefits.
     The first step we must take to reform Social Security is to protect the trust fund from big-spending politicians. I introduced H.R. 219, the “Social Security Preservation Act,” for this very purpose. The Act states that all monies raised by the Social Security payroll tax will be spent solely on pension payments to beneficiaries. Any excess funds will be invested in interest-bearing certificates of deposit in order to allow the trust fund to grow, and to keep the trust fund from being used for other purposes. I am proud that the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union reported that I was one of only seven members of the House of Representatives who voted not to spend one penny of the Social Security trust fund for other programs last year. My legislation will finally make it illegal for politicians and bureaucrats in Washington to continue dipping into trust funds. Simply put, these politicians are stealing from our senior citizens.
     The second reform we must make is to stop taxing Social Security benefits. Seniors already have paid income and payroll taxes throughout their working lives. Social Security benefits are financed by tax dollars, so any tax imposed on benefits is simply another form of double taxation. Furthermore, “taxing” benefits is merely an accounting trick, which allows Congress to reduce benefits without honestly announcing its intentions. Prior to 1984, Social Security benefits were exempt from federal income taxes. In 1993, the current administration successfully passed legislation allowing up to 85% of benefits to be taxed (up from 50%). I introduced legislation to repeal this increase in 1997, and earlier this year I voted for the “Social Security Benefits Tax Relief Act” to repeal the increase, which was successful in the House. More importantly, I cosponsored H.R. 761, which would eliminate all taxes on Social Security benefits. I intend to continue my efforts to convince my colleagues and the administration to end this very unfair tax.
     Other positive reforms have support in Congress. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation I cosponsored ending the earnings limitation on seniors. This legislation was needed to encourage our seniors to seek productive employment without suffering the loss of Social Security benefits. Overwhelming public support for the change prompted the President to sign the bill into law. These reforms are needed to protect not only today’s senior citizens, but also today’s younger working people who deserve a solvent Social Security system.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 September 2000
Local Control is the Key to Education Reform

     Education reform is of critical importance in America today. Over the past decades, we have witnessed two undeniable trends in our education system. First, the role of the federal government has steadily increased. Second, the quality of our nation’s public schools has steadily decreased. These unfortunate developments compel me (and millions of parents across the country) to question our approach, to ask hard questions about the obvious failure of many public schools to provide children with a quality education. Why, given 70 years of ever-increasing federal spending, has government failed to create the wonderful public school system promised us by Great Society politicians? Why do we spend far more per student today than in the past, with far worse results? Why, despite the increases in federal spending, are public school teachers still underpaid (with the brightest young people refusing to enter the profession)? Finally, why have we allowed the federal government to consistently expand its control over our local school systems?
     These questions all point to an inescapable conclusion: the federal government is not the answer. The key to fixing our education system is to reduce the role of the federal government and expand local and parental control of schools. Funding decisions increasingly have been controlled by bureaucrats in Washington, causing public and even some private schools to follow the dictates of these federal “educrats” to an ever-greater degree to preserve their funding. As a result, curricula, teacher standards, textbook selection, and discipline policies have been crafted in Washington. Rigorous classes in basics such as mathematics, grammar, science, Western civilization, and history have been reduced or eliminated, while politically favored subjects have been forced upon students. Religious observation and prayer, although widely practiced and supported by the majority of Americans, have been forbidden to students under perverse interpretations of the First amendment by federal courts. Worst of all, the values and concerns of local parents have been ignored.
     Last year I introduced legislation designed to return control of local schools to parents. The “Family Education Freedom Act” (H.R. 935) would empower millions of lower-income and middle class families to improve their local schools or choose a private school for their children. This is accomplished by allowing parents a tax credit of up to $3,000 per child for expenses incurred in sending their children to a public, private, parochial, or other religious school. The credit also is available to parents who home-school their children.
     The $3,000 tax credit will make better education affordable to parents who would choose to send their children to a private school, but cannot because of the enormous tax burden imposed by Washington. Also, parents who wish to send their children to local public schools may use their credit dollars to finance the purchase of educational tools or fund extracurricular programs.
     I also introduced the “Education Improvement Tax Cut Act” (H.R. 936) in an effort to give parents more control over improving their local schools. The Act allows individuals to claim a tax credit of up to $3,000 per year for cash or other donations to a school or scholarship program. This approach encourages parents to spend money to improve the school their child attends, rather than pay more in federal taxes to support distant education programs that reflect only the values and priorities of Congress and the federal bureaucracy.
     When it comes to education policy, one size does not fit all. I want to give parents the freedom to choose the best option for their kids, without federal oversight. American families agree with me, as polls show that over 70% of them support education tax credits! True education reform requires that we return control of schools to parents and local school districts.


Texas Straight Talk, 11 September 2000
The Danger of Military Foreign Aid to Colombia

     The President recently visited Colombia, touting a 1.3 billion-dollar military aid package for the South American region. The big spenders in Congress authorized the package by passing an “emergency supplemental” spending bill earlier this summer during eleventh-hour voting. The spending package, termed “Plan Colombia,” authorizes nearly half a billion dollars for Colombia alone. Not surprisingly, the administration used convenient “war on drugs” rhetoric to convince Congress and the American people that this massive spending on foreign military interdiction was justified. The President promised that America would never be dragged into Colombia’s civil war, yet virtually all of the aid dollars were spent on weapons of war and military training.
     Specifically, Colombia received 60 high-tech military helicoptors, along with hundreds of millions for training its police and military forces in “counternarcotics” activities. Clearly, this amounts to an escalation of the dangerous situation in Colombia. Time and time again we have witnessed the inevitable results of spending U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund internal conflicts in foreign nations. Apparently the current administration has not learned the lessons of Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, or Kosovo. When we meddle in the politics (and warfare) of a foreign nation, we risk an open-ended conflict that costs billions and risks the lives of our soldiers. Obviously, U.S. military personnel will be needed to fly (and train others to fly) our modern helicopters. U.S. soldiers will train the Colombian army and national police. Despite the “war on drugs” justification, the truth is that the distinction between fighting drugs and waging war in Colombia is murky at best. We will send more money, more weapons, and more soldiers to Colombia, yet what will we receive in return? Do we really want to place our sons and daughters in harm’s way so that we can influence another country’s internal politics? What national interest is served by our involvement in this conflict?
     In recent months, we have seen increased killing in Colombia relating to its upcoming elections. As the U.S. steps up its drug interdiction, some drug cartels simply have begun to move their capital elsewhere, including Miami, according to newspaper reports. In the U.S., certain special interest groups such as helicopter manufacturers and big oil companies (who want protection for their oil interests in the region) have been supporting the administration through their lobbyists.
     Fortunately, however, many Americans agree that military aid for Colombia is a bad idea. “Plan Colombia” has received harsh criticism from members of Congress, while various human rights activists have condemned the President’s visit. Normally, the government of a country must meet certain humanitarian standards to qualify for U.S. foreign aid. Although Colombia does not meet such standards, the administration and Congress chose to waive the requirements on “national security” grounds. As Robert White, former ambassador to El Salvador, stated: “There is a very great danger that this kind of thing can increase little by little, and all of a sudden you will be in far more deeply than you ever wished to be. This could aggravate and prolong the three-decade old Colombian civil war.”
     The American people do not support our actions in Colombia. Polls have shown that approximately 70% of Americans do not support defending foreign countries if U.S. soldiers are put in jeopardy. Our primary concern in military affairs should be maintaining a strong national defense and protecting our national security interests. Our actions in Colombia have nothing to with our national defense, and they undermine our national security by creating resentment from factions we do not support. We must remember that money spent in Colombia necessarily reduces spending on a variety of more important issues. We should build up our military, providing our soldiers with better salaries, housing, and medical care. Similarly, foreign aid dollars could be spent on education, Social Security, or Medicare. My constituents do not support our dangerous and expensive involvement in Colombia, and I intend to continue working to eliminate wasteful foreign aid in our next budget.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 September 2000
Congress Must Work for Seniors

     Last week, I received an award for my support of “senior friendly” legislation in this Congress from the 60 Plus Association, a non-partisan group that focuses on issues important to seniors. While I am pleased to have earned this distinction, it is important to recognize the tremendous amount of work yet to be done in Congress for older Americans.
     Seniors represent the fastest growing demographic group in our nation. More Americans are living longer, often for several decades after retirement. While many enjoy good health and financial security during their later years, millions have limited means. These seniors survived the Depression, fought World War II, and created the prosperity and freedom we enjoy today. Congress needs to honor our nation’s commitments to them.
     First, Congress needs to protect the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. Our seniors funded Social Security and Medicare throughout their working lives, and they deserve to know that their funds will be spent only to pay benefits. Unfortunately, revenue-hungry politicians have not hesitated to raid the Trust Funds to pay for pork-barrel projects. Last year alone, Congress took $21 billion from Medicare to fund other programs. Accordingly, I supported the “Social Security and Medicare Safe Deposit Box Act” earlier this year, which mandates that additional revenues from the two programs can be used only for benefits payments. I also introduced the “Social Security Preservation Act” during this Congress. The Act mandates that Social Security funds can be used only to pay benefits, making it illegal to use them for any other purpose. Congress and the administration must support both these bills so Americans can have faith that their retirement funds are secure.
     Next, Congress must work to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Many seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, are unable to afford the expensive medications they need every month. Unfortunately, nearly every proposal coming out of Washington attempts to lower drug costs through price-fixing (which inevitably leads to rationing of drugs), or through subsidies to insurance or pharmaceutical companies. My legislation, the “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act,” makes prescription drugs more affordable by providing seniors with a tax credit for drug expenses so they can spend their resources on needed medications. Also, my legislation eliminates needless government regulations and barriers to competition which drive up drug prices. Congress must remove bureaucratic regulations that prevent America’s seniors from enjoying lower prices available from Internet and foreign pharmacies. The key to lowering drug prices is to create a true, competitive free market for prescription drugs. Additionally, my legislation returns control of health care dollars to our seniors and their doctors, rather than federal bureaucrats.
     Finally, Congress must pass real tax relief for seniors. Earlier this year, I supported the successful repeal of the Social Security earnings limitation, which frees older Americans to continue to work without endangering their eligibility for benefits. We should go a step further, however, and stop taxing older Americans’ income. I voted to repeal the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits. More importantly I have introduced legislation to end Social Security taxes altogether. We never taxed Social Security benefits before 1984. Why are we taking taxes out of a widow’s monthly $600 benefits check now? Such double taxation is unconscionable, especially considering that many seniors rely on Social Security to provide all or most of their monthly income.
     Finally, Congress must support seniors by eliminating the death tax. Although this tax accounts for only a tiny portion of federal revenues (about 1.5%), it has a devastating impact on many seniors and their families. When Congress ends the death tax, seniors no longer will worry about losing their farms, small businesses, and savings to the government.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 September 2000
Spending, Tax Cuts, or Debt Reduction?
The Surplus Belongs to the Taxpayers

     Last week I voted to support the “Debt Relief Lockbox Reconciliation Act,” legislation designed to insure that any 2001 Social Security and Medicare surpluses are not spent on unrelated federal programs. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Social Security and Medicare programs will have a combined surplus of approximately $198 billion in the coming year. Until Congress passes tax reform legislation that returns any surplus dollars to taxpayers, I will support efforts to prevent revenue-hungry politician and bureaucrats from spending your retirement and health care surplus dollars on pork-barrel projects.
     This “lockbox” bill underscores the rise of a very important debate on Capitol Hill regarding our nation’s “budget surplus.” It is important to understand the budget process when we consider the rhetoric from Washington and the national media. While many politicians seek to take credit for the seemingly rosy outlook for the federal budget, it is easy for the public to be misled regarding the true nature of the surplus.
     First and foremost, we cannot forget that our nation remains nearly $6 trillion in debt. This debt is the result of one very simple but enormous problem: over the years, Congress has spent more than the Treasury has collected in taxes. Note that Congress, rather than any particular administration, is responsible for creating this debt. Congress alone determines how much is spent when it passes appropriations bills each year. When Congress spends more than it has, it must (like any family or business) borrow money. Eventually we all pay for this fiscal irresponsibility, as more and more of the government’s annual budget is spent on interest payments. Even worse, this debt has caused the Federal Reserve to authorize the printing of more and more money during past decades, creating price inflation and making your dollars worth less.
     Accordingly, any surplus that exists must be understood as a surplus for the current budget year only. Politicians and the media have termed these funds a “budget surplus” or “government surplus.” These terms are widely accepted, and the self-congratulatory debate in Congress centers around what the government ought to do with the money. The truth, however, is that these funds represent a tax surplus. The federal government did not create a surplus, nor did the congressional budget process create a surplus. No politician created the surplus. You created the surplus with your tax dollars. It is your money! I urge you not to permit Washington politicians to claim any credit for overcharging you on April 15th.
     Obviously, taxpayers should decide what is done with any surplus funds. Rest assured many in Congress are eager to spend the surplus on a variety of wasteful federal programs. This is a golden opportunity for Congress, because it can go on a spending spree without raising taxes! I supported the “lockbox” legislation because it prevents any spending of surplus dollars, instead requiring that funds be applied to debt reduction (I also have introduced legislation that prevents non-surplus Social Security and Medicare trust funds from being spent on unrelated programs). Reduction of the national debt certainly is preferable to new spending. My preference, however, would be to return any surplus directly to taxpayers. American families are taxed far too much now, and they never should be required to overfund the government. A surplus refund check would be a step in the right direction. The most important point, however, is that Congress should not be permitted to find new ways to spend your surplus dollars.
     The key to true budget reform is very simple: Congress must drastically reduce spending. A fiscally responsible federal government that adhered to limits set forth in the Constitution could easily operate on a dramatically smaller budget. Our government operated on a mere fraction of its current budget even when we were fighting the Korean War! Despite what you hear this fall, debt reduction and tax relief are not mutually exclusive. Government is far too large, and it performs far too many unconstitutional functions. A constitutionally proper limited government could function without debt and with much lower taxes.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 October 2000
“Privatization” of Social Security Poses Risks
Federal Government Should Not Play the Stock Market with Your Retirement Funds

     I recently voted to support Social Security “Lockbox” legislation designed to safeguard that program’s trust fund. The legislation was needed to protect both surplus and non-surplus Social Security funds from being spent on unrelated programs by revenue-hungry politicians.
     Social Security, when instituted in the 1930’s, represented a promise by the federal government to working Americans. In exchange for their participation in a retirement savings program (via payroll taxes), Americans would be guaranteed monthly payments when they retired. 65 years later, when the majority of America’s families own stocks or mutual funds, it is easy for some to forget that many retired Americans continue to rely on a monthly Social Security check for all or most of their income. These Americans funded the system throughout their working lives, and they deserve to know that their retirement funds are secure–after all, it’s their money. I believe Congress must work to insure that the federal government meets its promise to our seniors.
     Concerns over the future solvency of Social Security have prompted proposals for “privatizing” the system. Many proposals include plans to allow the federal government to put tax dollars into certain approved stock market investments.
     I certainly support policies that encourage individuals to invest for their retirement. I believe Congress should lower taxes, allowing workers to keep more of their paychecks to invest. I also support legislation increasing the amounts individuals may put into tax-deductible or tax-deferred IRA, 401(k), and similar pension plans. Furthermore, I have cosponsored legislation that would end the terrible income tax on Social Security benefits.
     However, I believe government-managed investment of Social Security funds poses undue risks for our nation’s seniors. Although the stock market has done well in recent years, market investments never are completely safe (especially with the Federal Reserve’s risky inflationary policies). Our nation’s seniors could lose their benefits if the U.S. stock market (or markets worldwide) experience a severe downturn. Remember that Social Security payments were promised to our seniors, and they paid for them during their working lives. Congress cannot risk breaking the Social Security promise, because it cannot risk the well being of millions of our nation’s seniors.
     Furthermore, government involvement in the private stock market would have dangerous consequences. Who would decide what stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investment vehicles were approved? Which politicians would you trust to create an investment portfolio with your taxes? The federal government has proven itself incapable of good money management, and permitting politicians and bureaucrats to make investment decisions would result in unscrupulous lobbying for venture capital. Large campaign contributors and private interests of every conceivable type would seek to have their favored investments approved by the government. In a free market, an underperforming or troubled company suffers a decrease in its stock price, forcing it either to improve or lose value. Wary investors hesitate to buy its stock after the price falls. If the company successfully lobbied Congress, however, it would enjoy a large investment of your tax dollars. This investment would cause an artificial increase in its stock price, deceiving private investors and unfairly harming the company’s honest competition. Government-managed investment of tax dollars in the private market is a recipe for corruption and fiscal irresponsibility.
     Such “privatization” of Social Security would not really be private at all. Private companies would become a “partner” of sorts with the government. Individuals still would not truly own their invested Social Security funds. Payroll taxes likely would be raised to make up for dollars taken out of the Social Security trust fund. Political favoritism, rather than market efficiency, would determine what investments were made. Worst of all, our nation’s seniors would be threatened with the loss of the benefits they already paid for.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 October 2000
Drug Re-Importation Will Lower Prescription Drug Costs
Free-Market Approach Benefits American Consumers

     This week, members of a joint House and Senate committee reached an agreement on proposed legislation which would allow the re-importation of prescription drugs into the U.S. The proposal, part of a fiscal year 2000 appropriations bill scheduled for a House vote next week, faces some opposition from both Congress and the administration. However, I believe widespread public concern over the high cost of prescription drugs will convince lawmakers and the President to support this needed reform.
     Many widely used drugs made by American companies sell for far less in Europe, Canada, and Mexico. Undoubtedly you have seen news reports featuring seniors taking bus trips across the Mexican or Canadian borders to buy their needed drugs. As a physician and member of Congress, this greatly disturbs me. U.S. citizens never should be forced to leave their own country simply to obtain affordable prescription drugs.
     Drug re-importation legislation will help reverse this unfortunate situation. The proposed measure allows U.S. citizens, pharmacies, and drug wholesalers to re-import prescription drugs manufactured in the U.S. This legislation is badly needed to allow our citizens to benefit from worldwide price competition. Clearly, when we permit Americans to import drugs, the result is increased competition and lower drug prices.
     Legislation I introduced earlier this year would go farther in creating beneficial price competition for pharmaceuticals. The “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act” (H.R. 3636) eliminates needless FDA regulations which prevent Americans from buying low-cost drugs from foreign and Internet pharmacies. The Act also provides seniors with a tax credit of up to 80% of their prescription drug expenditures. My approach applies free-market principles to the problem: drugs become more affordable when we encourage price competition and provide tax relief to offset drug expenses. The free-market approach lets you and your doctor choose the prescription drugs that are appropriate for you.
     Unfortunately, many prescription drug proposals coming out of Washington take a different approach and put drug decisions in the hands of federal bureaucrats. We are told that massive new federal expenditures are the answer to the drug cost problem. More taxes must be sent to all-knowing federal health bureaucrats, who will decide what drugs you need. Of course, proponents of the governmental approach won’t tell you that they want to lower drug costs through price-fixing schemes (which inevitably lead to the rationing of drugs) or through subsidies to insurance and pharmaceutical companies (which stifle price competition). Furthermore, bureaucrats won’t admit that the current regulatory regime is a major cause of high drug prices. They just want to expand it and limit your choices in the process.
     The administration’s plan would grant the FDA new investigative powers to monitor online drug sales. The administration also wants to impose massive penalties on non-complying online pharmacies and increase the FDA budget for the hiring of more online snoops. As usual, the government’s approach to the problem is more government; in this case increased FDA regulations to bring all online pharmacies under federal control (even those which comply with existing state laws). Of course, contrary to conventional wisdom, the FDA is not an independent agency working to “protect” you. Instead, government regulators have worked hand-in-glove with powerful pharmaceutical industry interests for more than a century. Is it any wonder that the FDA and its lobbyist-influenced regulations have done nothing but drive up the price of prescription drugs?
     The proposed crackdown on online pharmacies simply serves the existing entrenched pharmaceutical interests at the expense of price competition. As a result, you and I end up paying more for our prescriptions. However, the re-importation agreement reached this week encourages me that others in Congress are beginning to favor the free-market approach. Undoubtedly many are responding to polls showing that a large majority of Americans support drug re-importation. I applaud my colleagues who support the measure, and I plan to use this momentum to seek passage of the “Pharmaceutical Freedom Act.” Congress must allow all Americans to benefit from worldwide price competition for prescription drugs.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 October 2000
Real Tax Reform Still Needed for Texas Families

     Earlier this week I received a “Tax Fighter Award” from the nonpartisan National Tax Limitation Committee, based on my pro-taxpayer voting record during the 106th Congress. While I was pleased to receive the award, I realize the tax burden facing Texas families remains far too high. This Congress has proven itself unwilling to make real reforms to our overly complex and burdensome tax system.
     Washington politicians love to champion the “budget surplus,” as though government created an economic windfall. The truth is quite different. The surplus simply represents an overpayment of your tax dollars. Of course once the government has your money, it characterizes any tax cutting proposals as “costing too much.” “We can’t afford to spend the surplus,” politicians tell us. This is nonsense, and I urge taxpayers in my district to reject the ludicrous notion that tax reduction will harm the economy. The economy suffers when government takes money from your paycheck that you otherwise would spend, save, or invest. Taxes never create prosperity. Private-sector innovation and productivity are the engines that drive our economy, regardless of what politicians tell us.
     Tax reduction is my first priority as your Congressman. The reality is that most working Americans lose about half of their incomes to federal, state, and local taxes. “Tax Freedom Day” (representing the portion of the year you work just to pay taxes) for the majority of Americans is around June 1st. Imagine all of your hard work this year between January and June going to the government! Clearly, the status quo is not acceptable. Texas families cannot continue to work more and more simply to keep pace with their tax bill.
     The income tax is the most burdensome of all taxes. Rates are far too high, and the forms are ridiculously complex. The IRS remains an uncontrolled bureaucracy of terror. Public opposition to the current structure has created support for flat tax and national sales tax proposals. My proposal is known as the “Liberty Amendment” (H.J.R 116). This bill would repeal the 16th Amendment, which created the income tax in 1913. It is important to remember that the U.S. government operated for more than 130 years without an income tax. Government revenues were generated by simple excise taxes. It is time to return to a simple, fair method of funding the federal government.
     We also must eliminate the very harmful estate tax, and end the terrible practice of imposing a tax on families when a loved one dies. This tax penalizes thrift and savings, denying Americans the right to pass their property to their children. Despite the Washington rhetoric, the estate tax does not apply only to the rich. In fact, it forces the sale of many small family businesses when heirs cannot pay the estate tax bill. Worst of all, the estate tax is imposed on savings and capital that already have been taxed. The estate tax simply takes money away from families and puts it in the hands of the government. There is no moral or economic justification for estate taxes, and I co-sponsored legislation and voted twice to repeal the tax.
     Taxes on Social Security benefits also must be abolished. I supported a bill earlier this year which successfully repealed a 1993 tax increase on benefits, and my own bill (H.R. 761) would go farther and eliminate all taxes on Social Security benefits (remember, prior to 1984 benefits were exempt from federal income taxes). Our seniors paid taxes throughout their working lives to fund the Social Security system, and it is immoral to tax them again on their benefits. Why are we taxing a widow’s $700 monthly benefits check? We must repeal this unfair tax so that our seniors receive all of their hard-earned benefits.
     Various other taxes also must be eliminated. Capital gains taxes are terribly counterproductive, punishing those who save and invest. Payroll taxes impose a tremendous compliance burden on businesses, especially smaller entrepreneurs who cannot hire an accounting department. Federal gas taxes should be slashed to provide taxpayers relief at the pump. Most importantly, federal spending must be dramatically reduced so that all Americans can go back to working for themselves instead of working to pay their taxes.


Texas Straight Talk, 23 October 2000
Government Poses the Greatest Threat to our Privacy
The Social Security Number has Become a National ID

     Several years ago, a constituent of mine was victimized by an unscrupulous insurance company employee. Unknown to my constituent at the time, the thief obtained her Social Security number and stole her identity. The thief applied for credit cards, took out loans, and wrote bad checks, all using her name. Her credit rating was ruined, and she found herself unable to get a job in her chosen field of law enforcement because felonies committed by the thief showed up on background checks. After years of fighting with credit agencies, state authorities, and the Social Security administration, she still has not completely cleared her name.
     Unfortunately, identity theft is a growing trend in America. While we must blame and adequately punish the criminals involved, we also must demand that Congress do more to maintain the confidentiality of Social Security numbers (which is the key to identity theft).
     First and foremost, we must end the massive abuse of Social Security numbers by the government. The widespread proliferation of uses (and misuses) of the number is well known to all of us. One cannot open a bank account, get a job, get married, or even obtain a simple library card without disclosing one’s number. Even worse, the IRS uses Social Security numbers as a taxpayer ID, and IRS regulations even force parents to get numbers for newborns to qualify for the dependency deduction. Increasingly, we are tracked from cradle to grave by our Social Security number, which now undeniably acts as a national ID. Every American should be alarmed by this terrible loss of privacy caused by a government that seeks to number and track its citizens.
     Concerns about personal privacy are not new. When the Social Security program began in the 1930s, people objected to the idea of being assigned a number that could be widely used as an identifier. Franklin Roosevelt spoke to those concerns, promising Americans that only they and the Social Security administration would ever know their number. Sadly, 65 years later we see how utterly this promise has been broken. The mission of Congress should be to reverse this dangerous trend and restore privacy before America truly becomes a “surveillance society.”
     I introduced the “Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act” (H.R.220) to immediately bring an end to governmental abuse of our Social Security numbers. This legislation simply prohibits the federal or state governments from using your Social Security number for any purpose not directly related to the Social Security administration. Quite simply, your number is your private business, and this legislation is badly needed to restore promised confidentiality. The IRS should not know your private number, and certainly your local motor vehicles department has no business asking for it.
     Similarly, I cosponsored the “Social Security Number Confidentiality Act” (H.R.3218), which forces the Treasury department to prevent numbers from being viewed through window envelopes used for benefits checks. H.R. 3218 passed by a unanimous vote in the House last week, which encourages me that citizens are voicing their privacy concerns to their Representatives.
     The administration and federal bureaucrats will continue to look for ways to increase government monitoring of citizens. Recently, the administration proposed and fought to enact legislation creating a “uniform standard health identifier,” clearly as part of a larger plan to create a national medical system. As a physician and privacy advocate, I know how dangerous a federal medical ID would be. The sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship would be destroyed if the patient knew his or her medical problems would be entered into a federal database. The government has no business knowing your medical history. Virtually all Americans agree with me, because public support for my opposition to the medical ID proposal was overwhelming. Ultimately, the medical ID plan was eliminated by my amendment to a larger bill.
     The federal government should keep its promise and restrict its use of Social Security numbers. Above all, it should restore the confidentiality of your private number, so that we might prevent identity theft crimes in the future. In the meantime, next time the government asks for your Social Security number, question the request and voice your objection.


Texas Straight Talk, 30 October 2000
U.S. Congress Bows to WTO Mandate
Our National Sovereignty is Violated

     An extraordinary event occurred this week in Washington during the final days of the 106th Congress, an event that did not receive comment in either the media or the halls of Congress, save for my office. This event had been termed “unthinkable” only a few months earlier. It occurred despite clear constitutional prohibitions and at the expense of our precious national sovereignty. For the first time in the history of our country, Congress voted to change our domestic laws because an international body told us to do so. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has begun to dictate American laws.
     More specifically, Congress voted to change our tax laws relating to Foreign Sales Corporations (FSCs), solely because the WTO appellate panel deemed that our FSC tax rules constituted a “subsidy”–the EU contingent in the WTO had brought a complaint to the panel. Our FSC rules simply allow U.S. corporations to exempt a small portion of income earned abroad from taxes. No “subsidy” is involved; no tax dollars are given to FSCs. Moreover, most EU countries do not tax their corporations on any income earned abroad. Still, the appellate panel agreed with the EU and gave the U.S an October 1st deadline to change our tax laws.
     I have opposed our membership in the WTO throughout my tenure in Congress. I strongly support true free trade, which occurs in the absence of government tariffs. The WTO, however, represents the worst form of government-managed trade.
     More importantly, however, our involvement in the WTO threatens national sovereignty. The Constitution clearly vests the power to regulate trade solely with Congress, and Congress cannot cede with mandates in areas such as environmental protections, worker rights, and trade policy. Congress either blindly or willfully chose to ignore this very serious constitutional conflict when it voted in favor of WTO membership. However, a Congressional Research Service report was quite clear about the consequences of our membership: “As a member of the WTO, the United States does commit to act in accordance with the rules of the multi-lateral body. It is legally obligated to insure that national laws do not conflict with WTO rules,” (emphasis added).
     Earlier this year I sought to address this terrible threat to our sovereignty by introducing a resolution withdrawing us from the WTO. I explained my concerns in a brief to the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, pointing out the unconstitutionality of our involvement. I warned that the WTO could begin dictating our environmental, labor, and tax laws. These arguments were met with hostility and condescension. Subcommittee members stated that we need the WTO to avoid “trade wars,” and that the U.S. Congress would never change our domestic laws to satisfy the WTO. “Unthinkable” was how one member put it. Judging by this week’s vote, the “unthinkable” has become reality.
     We should never change our national laws at the behest of any international organization. Congress simply has ceded its legislative authority to the WTO, and it is shameful that this action likely will go unnoticed by the American people. If we want to help American businesses, we should simply stop taxing their foreign income. The FSC measure will not appease the Europeans; the EU already has indicated that the changes are unsatisfactory to them. We stand on the brink of a retaliatory trade war with the EU, even though we were told that the WTO was needed to avoid such conflicts. So the WTO has given us the worst of all worlds.
     Rest assured that the WTO assault on American sovereignty will not end here. What will happen when the Europeans object to another area of our tax laws? Will we change the way we tax individuals also? Perhaps the Europeans will object to our relatively liberal immigration laws, because they resent losing their talented citizens to America. Whatever the issue, the threat remains the same. Americans who care about sovereignty have every reason to be outraged.


Texas Straight Talk, 6 November 2000
The Appropriations Process Poses a Risk to American Taxpayers

     Congress has nearly completed the controversial appropriations process for fiscal year 2001. The 13 appropriations bills that will be passed this year represent “discretionary” spending, which funds thousands of federal programs and agencies. By contrast, permanent law, funding Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the national debt sets “mandatory” spending. The appropriations process is critically important to taxpayers, because Congress is deciding how to spend YOUR money. As usual, the discretionary portion of the 2001 federal budget contains a staggering amount of special-interest pork. Spending levels for federal programs, foreign aid, and wasteful agencies have been increasing steadily throughout the 1990s. Unfortunately, this Congress has not demonstrated a willingness to change its reckless spending habits. Recent partisan posturing aside, taxpayers once again will pay for record amounts of needless federal spending.
     The 2001 budget submitted by the President calls for federal spending approaching 2 trillion dollars. Requested discretionary spending amounts to approximately 630 billion dollars. These figures obviously are very high, but the greatest outrage is that Congress is prepared to authorize spending above the levels requested by the President! The emerging year-end appropriations bills contain $35 to $45 billion in extra discretionary spending. In other words, American taxpayers would have been better off if Congress simply had rubber-stamped the President’s proposed budget! Congress has not only surrendered to the President’s demands, it has rewarded him with tens of billions in funding beyond his requests. Remember, this is the same President who told America that we could not “afford” to eliminate the marriage tax penalty or the estate tax.
     Taxpayers should know that Congress passed a budget resolution earlier this year that limited 2001 discretionary spending to $600 billion (H. Con. Res. 290). Furthermore, when Congress passed the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, it authorized only $541 billion for 2001. These commitments simply have been abandoned in the spending frenzy spurred by the rosy “surplus” projections touted by both parties. Congress should be mindful that continued spending increases will quickly devour any one-year tax surplus, and that debt reduction should take precedent over any new spending.
     Some statistics help put congressional spending habits in perspective. In the past three years alone, discretionary spending has increased by almost 16%. In those same three years, spending for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has grown by nearly 30 percent. In just two years, spending for the department of Agriculture has increased by a whopping 47 percent! These discouraging trends reflect the longstanding obstacle to real budget reform: year-end pork spending for special interests to protect congressional seats.
     A terrible example of pork-barrel spending is evident in the 2001 Military Construction appropriations bill. Several South American countries receive more than 1.3 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase helicopters and other military hardware to help them fight the “drug war.” While this spending certainly is objectionable to any American opposed to foreign aid and meddling in foreign affairs, the truth is American companies that provide the helicopters directly benefit from the spending. The rhetoric in Congress about fighting drugs obscures the true goal of satisfying special interests. This represents exactly the type of unjustifiable spending that must be eliminated from the discretionary budget.
     Taxpayers must demand fiscal accountability from Congress. Many members talk about fiscal conservatism, but the reckless year-end spending spree demonstrates a willingness to squander taxpayer dollars. Congress is now rushing headlong into authorizing unprecedented spending levels for 2001. Once again, taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill.


Texas Straight Talk, 13 November 2000
The Electoral College Serves to Protect Liberty and Statehood

     As this column is written, America still does not know the final results of the 2000 presidential election. After a long and bitter campaign fight, neither party is ready to accept defeat gracefully. The margin of victory for either candidate will be exceedingly narrow, and challenges to the validity of the results surely will follow. Both campaigns may bring legal actions which could take months to resolve. Should Governor Bush prevail despite having lost the popular vote, we may see proposals in Congress to eliminate the electoral college. Angry calls to obey “the will of the people” will be heard in Washington and the popular media. The pundits will argue that it is not fair to deny the presidency to the man who received the most total votes. After all, to do so would be “undemocratic.”
     This argument ignores the fundamental nature of our constitutional system. The Founding Fathers sought to create a loose confederacy of states, joined together by a federal government with very little power. They created a constitutionally limited republic, not a direct democracy. They did so to protect fundamental liberties against the whims of the masses. The electoral college likewise was created in the Constitution to guard against majority tyranny in federal elections. The President was to be elected by the states rather than the citizenry as a whole, with votes apportioned to states according to their representation in Congress. The will of the people was to be tempered by the wisdom of the electoral college.
     By contrast, election of the President by pure popular vote totals would damage statehood. Populated areas on both coasts would have increasing influence on national elections, to the detriment of less populated southern and western states. A candidate receiving a large percentage of the popular vote in California and New York could win a national election with very little support in dozens of other states! A popular vote system simply would intensify the populist pandering which already dominates national campaigns.
     Not surprisingly, calls to abolish the electoral college system are heard most loudly among the liberal/collectivist elites concentrated largely on the two coasts. Liberals favor a very strong centralized federal government, and have contempt for the concept of states’ rights. They believe the federal government is omnipotent, and that individual states should not have the power to challenge directives sent down from Washington. Their real goal is the abolition of statehood, because strong states represent a threat to their centralized collectivist agenda. The electoral college system threatens liberals because it allows states to elect the President, and in many states the majority of voters still believe in limited government and the Constitution. Citizens in southern and western states in particular tend to value individual liberty, property rights, gun rights, and religious freedom, values which are abhorrent to the collectivist elites. The collectivists care about centralized power, not democracy. Their efforts to discredit the electoral college system are an attempt to limit the voting power of pro-liberty states.
     With the presidential election still undecided, America is at an historic crossroads. Neither candidate will enjoy a public mandate or the usual honeymoon period in the White House. The partisan rancor is likely to increase in Congress. The already narrow Republican majority in the House has diminished, while the Senate may well be evenly divided between the parties. A lame duck congressional session is scheduled to complete the unfinished appropriations bills for 2001, which could not be finalized in the poisoned atmosphere before the elections. Relations between Congressional Republicans and the administration have deteriorated in the aftermath of presidential vetoes of hard fought legislation. This divisiveness underscores the larger issue facing the nation in the electoral college debate, which is the conflict between collectivism and freedom. Perhaps the uncertainty of the recent elections will cause Americans to rethink the role of the federal government in their lives.


Texas Straight Talk, 20 November 2000
Our Foolish War in the Middle East

     The West has been at war with the Muslim world for over a thousand years. Following the British lead from the first half of this century, the United States has attempted to dominate the Middle East since World War II. The U.S. government has not hesitated to use its military might in the region, justifying its actions by claiming a right and need to protect “our” oil.
     The result of our actions has been a growing resentment of America, for obvious reasons. Sadly, our policies make our soldiers across the globe more vulnerable. No one should be surprised by the terrible USS Cole tragedy. If the administration understood the history of the region, it would see the total folly of anchoring a war vessel in an enemy port. This lack of understanding of Middle Eastern history and religion, combined with our policy of aggression and empire building, has led to a dangerous interventionist attitude.
     It is clear that we are not in the Middle East for national security reasons, but rather to protect powerful commercial interests. This assures we protect oil supplies for the West, and provides us with an excuse to keep the military industrial complex active.
     To put this in a proper perspective, consider how Americans, especially Texans, would feel if the Gulf of Mexico were patrolled by warships of a foreign power. What if that same power proceeded to build air bases in Texas and Florida with our government’s complicity to protect “their” oil? Imagine the rightful anger this would spark among most Americans! This anger would be directed at both the foreign occupiers of our territorial waters, and our own government for permitting it. Yet this is exactly what has been happening in the Persian Gulf region. For religious, historic, and sovereignty reasons, the Muslim people harbor great resentment toward us.
     The USS Cole disaster was needless and preventable. The loss of this vessel and the tragic deaths of 17 Americans were a direct consequence of an interventionist policy. This policy has led to a lack of military readiness by spreading our forces too thin, increasing the danger to all Americans and our servicemen in that region in particular. It’s positively amazing we do not have the ability to protect a $1 billion dollar vessel from a rubber raft, despite our $300 billion military budget. Our sentries on duty had rifles without bullets, and were prohibited from firing on any enemy targets. This policy is absurd if not insane. It is obvious that our navy lacks the military intelligence to warn and prevent such an event. It is incapable even of investigating the incident, since the FBI was brought in to try to figure out what happened. This further intrusion will only serve to increase the resentment of the people of Yemen and the Middle East toward all Americans.
     Our policy in the Middle East cannot possibly be successful. It’s obvious there will be an inevitable conflict between our support for the moderate Arabs–which antagonizes the Islamic fundamentalists in the region–and our special treatment for Israel. It is clear that powerful financial interests in this country want to use our military force to protect their commercial and oil interests in the region, while at the same time there always will be powerful U.S. political support for the State of Israel. The two sides never will be reconciled by our attempt to support both.
     Our many failures in the last fifty years should prompt us to reassess our entire foreign policy of interventionism. We must end our efforts to police the world. Our failures in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, and the Middle East, and our failures yet come to in Bosnia and Kosovo should alert all Americans to this great danger. Instead we continue to expand our military adventurism into more sovereign nations (this time it’s the 30-year civil conflict in Columbia). Congress and the administration must understand that the greatest threat to our national security is our own bad policy.


Texas Straight Talk, 27 November 2000
The Conflict between Collectivism and Liberty is Reflected in the Presidential Election

     The controversial presidential election remains unresolved this week, now that the Florida Supreme Court has decided to permit ongoing recounts of votes. The U.S. Supreme Court may well serve as the ultimate arbiter in this controversy. Regardless of the outcome, the popular vote totals for the two candidates will be remarkably close. The contentiousness of the post-election legal wrangling is certain to damage the political credibility of the winner. Even in the popular media, some have begun to question the legitimacy of the incoming administration, citing the deep divisions that seem to exist among voters. Ultimately, of course, the legitimacy of any president or government must be derived from the consent of the governed.
     To an extent, America is indeed politically divided. Most Americans accept one of two general political philosophies. Individualists value liberty above all, and hence believe in individual responsibility, capitalism, limited government, and the Constitution. Collectivists, on the other hand, value “equality” above all, and view government as a benign force charged with redistributing wealth and managing our lives. While these two conflicting outlooks certainly do not define the major political parties, they are adhered to by many members of those parties.
     Unfortunately, the collectivist approach has been gaining ground in American politics and government throughout this century. This is happening even as the obvious failures of collectivism (Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, for example) litter the history books. Ludwig VonMises, the great 20th century economist, predicted decades before the fall of the Soviet system that socialism was unworkable and would collapse upon itself. American policy-makers apparently have decided to ignore this warning as it relates to our own nation.
     As with communism and socialism, the interventionist-welfare system increasingly endorsed by our politicians and popular media is unworkable. Even before the current election fiasco, signs of an impasse within our system have been evident. Inevitably, a system which decides almost everything through pure democracy will sharply alienate two groups: the producers, and the recipients of the goods distributed by the popularly elected Congress.
     The resulting division between American voters is the direct result of Washington’s increasingly collectivist policies. Instead of moving toward a market economy and less dependency on the federal government in the midst of this so-called “prosperity,”each side in Washington continues to clamor for more of the taxpayer loot. The pretended goal of the economic planners has been economic fairness through redistribution of wealth. The real goal always has been an increasingly collectivist system which gives the federal government more and more power over our lives.
     The goal of liberty has long been forgotten. An impasse was destined to come, and already signs of a fundamental conflict are evident. The presidential election in many ways demonstrates both an economic and political reality. The political stalemate mirrors the stalemate that is developing in the economy. Both eventually will cause deep division and hardship. The real problem–preserving the free market and private property rights–will worsen if ignored. The only solution offered by Washington will be more government intervention, increased spending, increased monetary inflation, more debt, and increased military interventionism throughout the world.
     The financial markets now are nervously watching the impasse reached in the presidential election. Many commentators claim the most recent drop in the market is a consequence of the uncertainty surrounding the election. Although it would be a mistake to dismiss completely the influence of the election as a factor in the economy, it must be made clear that the markets and the economy are driven by something much more basic. We know that the markets have been off significantly for the past several months, and this drop was not related in any way to the presidential election. However, confidence is an important factor in the way markets work, and certainly the confusion in the Presidential election does not convey confidence in American markets to investors.
     Whatever the outcome of the presidential election, the question facing America will remain the same. We must choose between liberty and collectivism. If we continue to choose collectivism, we must expect the inevitable political and economic crises which will result.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 December 2000
Activist Courts Threaten Our Liberty
The Judicial Coup Began Decades Ago

     The presidential election controversy not surprisingly reached the Florida Supreme Court, which rendered a verdict stunningly at odds with Florida law. Of course both camps in the dispute are guilty of exhibiting a “win at all costs mentality”, using teams of lawyers to piously argue against the “injustices”they have suffered. Both are interested only in the final outcome, despite their shameless references to the Constitution and the “rule of law.” Even in this atmosphere, however, most Americans still expected the Court to issue an impartial decision based on a rational interpretation of Florida law. It appears, however, that the Court simply ignored the plain language of state voting laws (and the Constitution) and imposed its political will on the people of Florida and the nation as a whole. The decision perhaps is not surprising, however, in light of the trend toward activist courts in our country.
     Judicial activism, once decried in politics and the field of law, happens when judges choose to create an outcome rather than follow the laws enacted by the legislature. The legal world once criticized such judges for being “results oriented,” which meant they were not doing their job. Most judges used to take pride in zealously maintaining a proper judicial temperament, never allowing personal or political feelings to influence a decision. In short, judges once simply interpreted and applied the law to effect the intentions of the legislature.
     Today, however, judges at every level increasingly engage in shaping the law to meet their particular political and social agendas. Liberal/collectivist interests especially have found a sympathetic audience among our federal judges, who have been willing accomplices in crafting liberal legislation and overriding properly enacted state law. Perhaps the most egregious example of judicial legislation is the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which created a federal constitutional “right” to abortion out of thin air. While the collectivist agenda is advanced, activist courts have refused to uphold economic due process rights and property rights. The result is a legal landscape where all manner of fabricated social rights are upheld (e.g. entitlements), while true constitutional rights (e.g. gun ownership, religious freedom) are trampled.
     The real victim, of course, is the Constitution and our liberty. The Founding Fathers created three coequal branches of government so that federal power never could grow unchecked. Their goal was to safeguard liberty. The judiciary was charged with preserving liberty by overturning laws which violated the Constitution; otherwise its role was to effectuate the intent of Congress. Over the past century, however, the unconstitutional notion of judicial supremacy has emerged in American politics. We have come to view courts as omnipotent superlegislatures which can substitute their wisdom rather than follow the law.
     The Florida decision at least brings attention to the unfortunate activist trend; hopefully more Americans will give thought to the proper role of our courts as a result of the presidential election. Liberty cannot be preserved unless each branch of government stays within the confines of its constitutionally authorized powers. The separation of powers created in our Constitution is not an antiquated notion or a rhetorical theory, but rather a critical doctrine which is needed today more than ever.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 December 2000
A Republic, Not a Democracy

     Throughout the presidential election controversy, we have been bombarded with references to our sacred “democracy.” Television and radio shows have been inundated with politicians worried about the “will of the people” being thwarted by the courts. Solemn warnings have been issued concerning the legitimacy of the presidency and the effects on our “democratic system” if the eventual winner did not receive the most popular votes. “I’m really in love with our democracy,” one presidential candidate gushed to a reporter. Apparently, the United States at some point become a stealth democracy at the behest of news directors and politicians.
     The problem, of course, is that our country is not a democracy. Our nation was founded as a constitutionally limited republic, as any grammar school child knew just a few decades ago (remember the Pledge of Allegiance: “and to the Republic for which it stands”...?). The Founding Fathers were concerned with liberty, not democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. On the contrary, Article IV, section 4 of the Constitution is quite clear: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican Form of Government (emphasis added). The emphasis on democracy in our modern political discourse has no historical or constitutional basis.
     In fact, the Constitution is replete with undemocratic mechanisms. The electoral college is an obvious example. Small states are represented in national elections with greater electoral power than their populations would warrant in a purely democratic system. Similarly, sparsely populated Wyoming has the same number of senators as heavily populated New York. The result is not democratic, but the Founders knew that smaller states had to be protected against overreaching federal power. The Bill of Rights provides individuals with similar protections against the majority. The First Amendment, for example, is utterly undemocratic. It was designed to protect unpopular speech against democratic fervor. Would the same politicians so enamored with democracy be willing to give up freedom of speech if the majority chose to do so?
     Our Founders instituted a republican system to protect individual rights and property rights from tyranny, regardless of whether the tyrant was a king, a monarchy, a congress, or an unelected mob. They believed that a representative government, restrained by the Bill of Rights and divided into three power sharing branches, would balance the competing interests of the population. They also knew that unbridled democracy would lead to the same kind of tyranny suffered by the colonies under King George. In other words, the Founders had no illusions about democracy. Democracy represented unlimited rule by an omnipotent majority, while a constitutionally limited republic was seen as the best system to preserve liberty. Inalienable individual liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights would be threatened by the “excesses of democracy.”
     Last week I introduced a resolution in Congress which reaffirms our nation’s republican form of government. H.Con Res 443 serves as a response to recent calls for the abolition of the electoral college. The collectivist liberals want popular national elections (rather than the electoral college system) because they know their constituencies are concentrated in certain heavily populated states. They want to nullify the voting power of the smaller, pro-liberty states. Supporters of my resolution in Congress can send a strong message that every state still matters, and that liberty is more important than shifting majority sentiment.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 December 2000
The Bush Administration Must Honor its Commitment to Smaller Government
Promised Tax Reform Should be a Priority

     Texas Governor George W. Bush officially became our president-elect last week, following a series of legal challenges to the exceedingly close certified election results. The election seems to have exposed a deep political division in the country: support for the two candidates is decidedly even, mirroring the 50-50 party split in the Senate and an almost evenly divided Congress. The highly criticized 5-4 final Supreme Court decision shows how equally divided the nation really is.
     With the election finally decided, the media and the Washington pundits have decided that the key to success for the new administration in the aftermath of such a close election is “reaching out across party lines.” Partisanship, we are told, must give way to bipartisan agreement so that the nation may begin to “heal itself.” Of course there is some merit to this argument; certainly Americans are prepared for a unifying presence in the White House. The political rhetoric of this election year, which was more about power than ideology, will not be missed in the coming months. America clearly is eager to forget about politics and enjoy the holidays.
     Still, it is important to understand that the calls for “bipartisanship” really are nothing less than political threats aimed at president-elect Bush. Mainstream media and collectivist politicians want to create an atmosphere where adherence to principles and ideology is mischaracterized as mean-spirited or divisive. In other words, they are warning Bush not to pursue a conservative, limited government agenda. The not-so-subtle threat is that the administration will face a political firestorm unless it continues Clinton era policies, which are incorrectly presented as “bipartisan.” For example, one prominent Senator recently called on Bush to insure passage of a “patient’s bill of rights,” which he insisted was mandated by widespread bipartisan support. This is nonsense, of course; most Americans rightfully oppose the terrible trend toward a government controlled health care system. Yet we are led to believe that Bush must accept and even endorse such proposals to expand the government’s role in medicine in order to demonstrate “bipartisan cooperation.”
     Similarly, president-elect Bush will be advised to drop more “controversial” aspects of his campaign agenda, especially tax relief. However, history shows that voters remember when campaign promises are abandoned. Bush must not allow the post-election atmosphere to soften his commitment to tax relief, which the overwhelming majority of Americans really do support.
     Specifically, he must honor his pledge to end the estate tax and eliminate the marriage tax penalty. It is far more important, politically and morally, for Bush to keep his campaign promises than it is for him to appease his opponents in Congress. He should be prepared to ignore the chorus of voices, including some Republicans, urging him to abandon tax cuts. Tax relief is the primary reason why many Americans vote Republican. Bush knows this, but the pressure to surrender will become intense. Abandoning tax cuts may make the president-elect more popular with the liberal establishment, but it also would offend his conservative base.
     Finally, it should be noted that many Democrats have indicated a willingness to support a tax cut package. Bush should remind everyone of these promises. Liberals and the media will attempt to characterize tax cuts as “too expensive” or a threat to the “surplus.” The new administration must promote spending reductions as the key to fiscally responsible government. Government spending has reached mind-boggling levels; sane reductions easily could allow for tax relief without deficit spending by Congress.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 December 2000
The Blessings of Liberty at Christmas

     As a strong believer in liberty and constitutionally limited government, I often find myself opposing Congress and the administration on a wide variety of legislative and policy matters. The fight to preserve and restore liberty seems endless, and it is tempting for liberty-minded Americans to feel overwhelmed by the battle. Oftentimes the outlook from Washington appears bleak; new threats to freedom arise constantly. Yet while freedom indeed requires eternal vigilance, we also must remember to take time to reflect upon and celebrate our great fortune as American citizens. The Christmas holiday provides us an opportunity to turn our attention away from the political landscape, and focus on our families and loved ones. It is very important that we appreciate the blessings of liberty we all enjoy as Americans, blessings which are easy to overlook when we are caught up in our daily lives. Our freedom is our greatest national treasure and resource. Countless thousands have died protecting it in wars; countless others have risked everything to reach American soil. As you celebrate the holidays with your families, I urge you to celebrate our freedoms as well.
     America is the only nation truly conceived in liberty. The Founding Fathers, weary of oppression and taxation by a faraway king, made the heroic decision to secede and stake a claim to their own nation. They sought to disavow centuries of tribal warring, medieval feudalism, and collectivist rule by tyrants of every stripe. For the first time in human history they created a governmental system where the state existed to serve the individual, rather than vice versa. It is impossible to overstate how radical this notion was at the time (and still is today). They created the first society where individual human happiness was held up as an ideal. The limited state established by the Constitution was charged with fostering that happiness by protecting property rights and preventing aggression. The courage of our Founders, clearly demonstrated in the resulting secessionist war with England, was fueled by their unquenchable desire to be free. Their daring set the stage for the emergence of the America we enjoy today.
     225 years later, our undeniable status as the greatest nation on earth is due to our origins as a free society. America is a place of unequaled prosperity. Our capitalist economic system, which is the only system compatible with freedom, creates affluence far beyond that of any other country. Capitalism provides the incentive for tremendous individual achievement, which benefits society as a whole. Americans of all economic classes enjoy a better standard of living and greater opportunities than the inhabitants of any other nation.
     Innovations in medical science, particularly preventative and emergency care, allow us to lead happier and healthier lives than ever before. These innovations, combined with improvements in diet, have vastly increased our average life expectancy. New drugs permit us to eradicate or lessen the severity of a multitude of diseases. Young Americans today can look forward to leading far longer and more comfortable lives than their parents and grandparents.
     The American information technology industry continues to lead the world. Our software and internet companies dominate the worldwide marketplace (not coincidentally, high tech is our least regulated industry). Talented individuals in technological fields have come to the U.S. from around the globe, increasing our competitive advantage. The technological boom of the past decade, and the resulting rise in technology markets, was largely an American phenomenon. America is poised to continue to lead the world in information technology in the new century, to the benefit of all Americans.
     Liberty is the cornerstone upon which the greatness of America is based. Our prosperity and status as a world leader surely will continue if we strive to foster liberty at home. The challenges before us are great, but we must never forget to appreciate the wonderful liberty we enjoy every day.


Texas Straight Talk, 1 January 2001
A Legislative Agenda for 2001

     The year 2001 has arrived, bringing an end to the period termed by historians as the “American century.” The continued preeminence of America as a world power in the new millennium is not guaranteed. The actions of the new 107th Congress will play an important role in setting the tone for the new decade. The incoming Bush administration has the opportunity to advocate sweeping changes in Washington, rather than simply embracing the political status quo with a new cast of political players.
     Spending reform should be the foremost priority for the new Congress. The fiscal year 2001 budget is bloated with billions of dollars in unnecessary and counterproductive spending. The Clinton administration successfully pushed through spending increases far beyond those of the previous year. Several federal agencies and bureaucracies received even more in funding than originally requested in the Clinton budget. Dangerous foreign aid spending also grew, sending more of your tax dollars overseas and intensifying conflicts in trouble spots like Colombia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Despite rosy predictions about the federal “surplus,” the truth is that Congress cannot continue to increase spending each year and expect tax revenues to keep pace. Deficit spending and tax increases will be the inevitable consequences. No reasonable person can argue that our current $2 trillion budget does not contain huge amounts of special interest spending that can and should be cut by Congress. Government spending not only affects our fiscal health as a nation; it also determines the size and scope of government power over our lives. Congress must show the resolve needed to challenge business as usual in Washington and dramatically cut spending.
     Tax relief remains critical to our future prosperity. The Clinton administration was able to thwart legislation that would have ended the estate tax and the marriage tax penalty, despite bipartisan support for both measures. The new Congress should act quickly to reintroduce such legislation in the wake of endorsements by president-elect Bush. No person should be taxed simply because he saved throughout his lifetime to have something to pass on to heirs, nor should anyone pay higher taxes because of their marital status.
     Congress also must address education reform in 2001. The answer is not more government spending on more failed federal programs. Federal involvement in education must be limited, returning control over schools to parents and local education boards. Federal tax dollars must be returned to parents through tax credits and deductions for tuition and other education-related expenses. No longer can we ask parents to send so much of their paychecks to Washington while their local schools deteriorate. Education standards in this country were much higher when local school boards controlled their own curricula, teacher standards, and discipline. Congress should understand this and focus on legislation which returns control and tax dollars back to parents, teachers, and local administrators. The era of micromanagement of our schools by federal education bureaucrats must end if we are to stop the decline in education standards.
     Health care also will be a defining issue for Congress this year. Again, the answer to concerns about health care costs and quality is not a massive federal program. Schemes for “free” national health care will only result in shortages of drugs and doctors, waiting lists for procedures, and rationing of treatments and pharmaceuticals. Our emphasis should be on restoring market incentives to the health care and pharmaceutical industries. Our current FDA system reduces incentives for the development of new drugs and restricts competition for existing drugs, which results in the very high drug prices borne by consumers. Congress should undo the regulatory burdens that drive prices up, while providing tax credits and deductions for health care and prescription drug costs.
     2001 undoubtedly will be a pivotal year in Washington. The incoming administration and Congress can choose between expanding the size and role of the federal government, with increased spending and taxes as a result, or acknowledging that government is not the solution to every issue.


Texas Straight Talk, 8 January 2001
International Criminal Court is the Latest U.N. Outrage

     The Clinton administration, working overtime during the eleventh hour to consolidate its pitiful “legacy,” has taken another step toward imposing global government on U.S. citizens. On New Year’s Eve, only hours before a United Nations midnight deadline, the President ordered a U.S. ambassador to sign the 1998 U.N. Rome treaty. This treaty purports to establish a worldwide U.N. criminal court, demonstrating the brazen willingness of global-government proponents to move forward with their plans. Once created, the international court will give the U.N. the mechanism it needs to enforce its global “laws” against American citizens. The legal apparatus represents the logical next step for ever-expanding U.N. power: first the phony “international laws” were created, and now a court system is needed to give teeth to the laws. International prisons in Geneva or Brussels cannot be far behind. All Americans concerned with our sovereignty as a nation should be very alarmed by this latest development. In fact, U.N. expert Henry Lamb recently stated that Clinton’s endorsement of this treaty “may be the most egregious act of his entire tenure.”
     The proposed court will be made up of 18 “judges,” elected by an Assembly of member nations ratifying the Rome treaty. Should the U.S. Senate ultimately ratify the treaty, America will have only one vote among hundreds of nations vying to decide which global visionaries will be anointed to judge us (perhaps Kofi Annon? Bill Clinton??). The court will claim international jurisdiction over “crimes against humanity” and the “crime of aggression.” The Assembly, of course, is left to define such crimes and aggression. Undoubtedly, leftist political correctness, socialist economic philosophy, and environmentalist falsehoods will decide the definition of a crime with the new court. It clearly is no stretch to predict that the court will attempt to continually expand its jurisdiction in both the civil and criminal realms. 20 years hence, will we see U.S. corporations dragged before the court to answer for “environmental crimes?” Or will U.S. soldiers be prosecuted for their actions in wartime? What about rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the Constitution, such as due process, jury trials, the right against self-incrimination, and the prohibition against unreasonable searches?
     The clear conflict between American life under our Constitution and life under a U.N. world government is intensifying. Although the Rome treaty perhaps is unlikely to be ratified by the Senate, the creation of the international tribunal undoubtedly will move forward regardless of our participation. Once the court is in place, there is every reason to believe it will attempt to assert its jurisdiction over all nations, even those that have not ratified the Rome treaty. The U.N. never has hesitated to exert its authority, militarily or otherwise, over non-member nations; surely the international court will follow suit. Remember, precedents set by the U.N. 40 and 50 years ago, such as engaging in “peacekeeping” wars across the globe, were controversial at the time. Today those precedents have become commonplace U.N. practice, despite the objections of many Americans.
     The Clinton administration has set a terrible new precedent. Even if the Rome treaty ultimately is not ratified by the U.S., Clinton’s signing it further demonstrates our acquiescence to the global-government planners. Many Americans, rightfully concerned by this trend, have begun to question our participation in the U.N. They have begun to question the influence of global elites. The Clinton administration has used secrecy, stealth, and misinformation to thwart the will of the majority of Americans, who still wish to live in a free sovereign nation. In response, I will reintroduce the American Sovereignty Restoration Act in the new 107th Congress. This bill will end U.S. taxpayer support of the U.N., remove the organization from U.S. soil, and guarantee that no U.S. soldier ever serves under U.N. command. I urge all Americans opposed to world government to ask their Representatives to support my bill, while also asking their Senators to vote against ratification of the U.N. Rome treaty.


Texas Straight Talk, 15 January 2001
Turn Out the Lights
Government Takeover of the Electricity Industry Threatened in California

     In a scene more reminiscent of Soviet Russia or Maoist China than America, central government bureaucrats, economic planners, regulators, and regional government officials met behind closed doors last week in Washington. The purpose of their meeting? To discuss a wholesale government takeover of California’s electricity industry.
     As frightening as this development may be to Americans who believe in free markets, it was not unexpected. California has faced severe energy shortages for more than a year. Residents and businesses in the state have seen dramatic increases in their monthly electric bills, with some paying 200% more than a year ago. Shortages and blackouts are threatened. In response to this crisis, California Governor Gray Davis has become an increasingly vocal proponent of an outright socialist energy system for the nation’s largest state. He decided (not surprisingly) to go to the Feds for help, resulting in the meeting with Energy secretary Bill Richardson and Treasury secretary Larry Summers, among others.
     California’s woes are due in part to its tremendous population growth over the past decade. The influx of residents and businesses, particularly energy-intensive tech businesses, has greatly increased demand for electricity. The problem is that the California government has not allowed the construction of new power plants, in large part because of “environmentalists,” citizens groups, and regulators hostile to property rights. The blatantly obvious result of high demand coupled with artificially low supply must be: high prices. Had the free market been allowed to operate, profit-seeking utility companies would have built new power plants to meet the demand and the situation would be very different today.
     Governor Davis, seemingly oblivious to the real problem (his own government), has accused California’s electricity companies of “price gouging,” and called for stricter price controls. He even threatened (chillingly) to seize the assets of utility companies if they do not lower prices. Ultimately, he wants a new state agency to control the entire industry and even build new power plants if necessary! (new plants apparently are OK if the government builds them). Davis exhibits the classic bureaucratic cycle: first the government creates the crisis, which is blamed on the free market, and then more government is justified to fix the crisis.
     Price controls will never work, because the laws of economics cannot be fooled. Price controls always result in shortages, because no rational business wants to produce something to sell at below-market rates. The California utility companies, which already are forced to sell to consumers at state-mandated prices, cannot do so forever. Their costs have increased dramatically; if they cannot raise prices they will be bankrupt. Utility companies outside the state simply refuse to sell to California because they can sell their power for a higher price elsewhere. This is why Governor Davis sought the meeting with Energy secretary Richardson. He wants the Feds to force utility companies in other states to sell energy to California. Unfortunately for Davis and Richardson, there are no laws (yet) forcing companies to stay in business forever while the government destroys them.
     To politicians like Davis, only the government can save us. Like most politicians, he apparently accepts the myth that some goods and services are too vital to be left to the free market. However, it is precisely because energy is so vital that the government should not interfere in the electricity market. The operation of the market does not create a utopia, but it clearly would have prevented the California crisis. When the price rises in a free market, consumers simply use less energy (which supposedly is the goal of the “environmentalists”). When growth creates greater demand in a free market, the supply of energy increases to meet that demand. These simple principles, which are obvious to anyone studying basic economics, should be clear to the likes of Davis and Richardson. The likely explanation is that their true goal is the expansion of government power, without regard to the well-being of the people of California.


Texas Straight Talk, 22 January 2001
The Ashcroft Controversy Exposes Disdain for Conservative Principles

     The Senate conducted hearings this week concerning the nomination of John Ashcroft for the position of Attorney General in the Bush administration. As anticipated, the debate has been rancorous and bitterly partisan. The longstanding practice by the Senate of generally approving cabinet nominees, thus allowing a new President the spoils of his victory, has eroded almost completely in the past two decades. The old standard for Senate approval simply was competence for the job, without regard to a nominee’s personal politics. Mr. Ashcroft clearly is competent and very highly qualified for the job of Attorney General. In the new era, however, his political views are the primary focus of his opponents. Certain Senators, special interest groups, and the media have made it quite clear: the left will attack and characterize as unfit for high public office anyone who adheres to conservative principles. Their true goal is to create a precedent for the automatic disqualification of future cabinet nominees who disagree with their view of the proper role of the federal government. “Will he enforce all the laws?” they intone endlessly. What they really are asking is: “Will he question our efforts to continually expand the size and scope of the federal government?”
     The real question for Mr. Ashcroft or any federal official is simple: will you abide by your oath to uphold the Constitution? The rhetoric from the Senate and the media leads the public to believe the Attorney General has a duty to Congress directly, that he must enforce any law passed by Congress without regard to the Constitution or legal precedents. In truth, however, the Attorney General is counsel for the American people, not Congress or the President. He is sworn to uphold the highest law in the land, the Constitution. Under no circumstances may he enforce a law that clearly contravenes the Constitution, regardless of whether Congress or the President demands it. Would we expect Mr. Ashcroft to enforce a law passed by Congress today suspending First Amendment assembly and speech rights at this weekend’s inauguration? Of course not. The possibility of an independent-minded conservative Attorney General threatens the left, however, because they want a federal administration which will rubber stamp the laws they support, many of which are unconstitutional.
     The code word used by the left to attack Ashcroft’s personal politics is extreme, which is repeated like a drumbeat until it is embedded in the minds of the public. We are told his views on abortion are extreme because he “opposes a women’s right to choose,” despite the utter lack of any such right in the Constitution, and despite the agreement of millions of Americans with Mr. Ashcroft. We are told he is extreme because he opposes some gun control laws, despite the obvious unconstitutionally of all gun control laws. We are told his support for the death penalty is extreme, although millions of Americans and the Supreme Court disagree. Worst of all, the left has gotten away with using “extreme” as a code word for “racist.” The exceedingly thin “evidence” given for the racism allegation is that Ashcroft once voted against the nomination of a federal judge who happened to be black. Never mind that more than 50 other Senators voted with Ashcroft; the left is all to eager to assure us that the only conceivable rationale is that Ashcroft is a racist. This type of smearing, aided and abetted by a complicit media, is at the heart of the left’s efforts to demonize conservatives who dare oppose their unconstitutional agenda.
     The left will continue to attack those who adhere to a belief in limited constitutional government, in an attempt to redefine “mainstream” politics in America. The pattern is simple: the left continually moves its agenda to the left, fooling America that the center must move with them. Americans like John Ashcroft may be the victims of this unfortunate trend.


Texas Straight Talk, 29 January 2001
Education Freedom Legislation Will Provide Meaningful Reform

     One of my main goals in the 107th Congress is to return control over our children’s education to parents and teachers in Texas and across America. Unfortunately, as the federal government continues to increase its influence over education, the role of parents and teachers becomes more and more limited. Over the last 30 years, this increased federal control has proven harmful to education standards while wasting taxpayer dollars.
     I believe that parents and teachers can better educate our children than federal education bureaucrats and politicians. With that in mind, this week I will introduce my “Education Freedom Package.” This education package consists of three bills designed to increase parental control over their children’s education, increase teacher pay, and provide incentives for individuals to make contributions to local schools.
     The centerpiece of my education package is the “Family Education Freedom Act.” This measure will give parents a $3,000 per-child per-year tax credit. The credit can apply to tuition, tutors, books, computers, and other related educational needs. It also applies equally to parents who choose to educate their children in public, private, or home settings. This tax cut is more effective than current voucher plans, which leave the door open to increased government influence on teacher standards and school curricula. Also, the tax credit takes no funding away from public schools.
     The second measure is the “Education Improvement Tax Cut,” legislation allowing individuals to claim up to $3,000 per year in tax credits for cash or “in-kind” donations to schools and scholarship programs. The goal is to encourage people to set up scholarship funds for disadvantaged youth, and also become more involved with their local schools.
     Finally, I will introduce the “Teacher Tax Cut Act.” This measure grants all teachers a $1,000 tax credit, effectively raising their salary by $1,000 annually without increasing local or federal education spending. Last year, new teachers made an average of $10,000 less than other college graduates. With teachers often ranking at the bottom tier of professional pay, the federal government must recognize that teaching our youth is an honorable and important profession. Many others in Congress agree that teachers deserve this tax credit: the “Teacher Tax Cut Act” already has received bipartisan support from Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-North Carolina), Rep. Dan Miller (R-Florida), Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), Rep. Richard Baker (R-Louisiana), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland).
     Each time we are presented with a new education proposal from Washington, it involves another layer of harmful federal bureaucracy. No big-government spending program can or will solve our nation’s education problems. One-size-fits-all programs simply do not work. I want to give parents the freedom to choose the best options for their children. I want teachers to know that their services are valuable to our nation without making them subservient to federal bureaucrats. And I want to encourage local residents to get involved with their local schools through educational programs and scholarship funds.
     My agenda of returning control over education dollars to the American people is the best way to strengthen public education. These bills represent a common sense, pro-family approach that says “no” to more federal involvement in local education and “yes” to more parental and teacher involvement. I thank my colleagues for cosponsoring these important pieces of legislation, and I call on every member of Congress to support meaningful education reform which once again will make American education the envy of the world.


Texas Straight Talk, 5 February 2001
Faith-Based Initiative Plan Poses Risks to Religious Organizations

     An ABC news special entitled Mr. Stossel goes to Washington aired last weekend, documenting waste and inefficiency in government. In one particularly poignant example, the show profiled a woman who started a food kitchen to deliver hot meals to needy families in her small town. She operated with a small budget, using donations of food and money. Area families considered her a godsend, as she often provided the only complete meal they had each day. The success of her efforts, however, was quickly diminished when the federal government began investigating her operation. Because she received some federal funds, she was required to comply with numerous regulations. The stove she used did not have a hood, which federal regulations mandate. Her only choice was to buy a new stove, at prohibitive cost, or stop using her stove altogether. The government refused to make an exception for her, and now she runs a smaller kitchen which delivers only cold bag lunches. Of course, the ultimate victim of the government’s shortsighted policy is the local families who once enjoyed hot meals. This example does not represent an isolated case, but rather is typical of the way government regulations harm our citizens.
     The ABC expose aired just days before President Bush announced his plan to allow private charities and religious organizations a greater role in delivering social services currently provided mostly by the federal government. He certainly is correct in his assertion that private groups do a better job of running food banks, day care centers, drug treatment centers, and other social programs. I applaud his desire to transfer funds away from government agencies and into the private sector. I certainly disagree with critics who misunderstand the First amendment and view the President’s proposal as a sinister endorsement of religion. Bush especially should be credited for offering an alternative to the status quo, because federal agencies simply do a terrible job of providing social services.
     The proposal has risks, however. First, the federal welfare state simply may expand in size and scope. Congress seemingly is incapable of reducing spending, instead adding billions to the budget every year. This excessive spending may expand to fund private organizations in addition to current funding for federal agencies. I doubt seriously that savings created by the substitution of efficient private organizations for inefficient federal agencies will ever be reflected in the federal budget. The more likely scenario is that government spending will grow more than ever.
     Second, religious organizations risk the sanctity of their faith when they involve themselves with government. The government will have to decide what religious organizations qualify for federal funds, which puts it in the untenable position of deciding which faiths are legitimate. Would the pro-abortion Health and Human Services department ever surrender funds to a strongly pro-life Catholic charity? Would American taxpayers support funding for an organization viewed by many as a cult, if it ran an efficient soup kitchen? These uncomfortable questions suggest that some faiths would be tempted to change their message to win favor with the government. The liberal collectivists have the argument against the President’s proposal all wrong: the danger is not that government will be influenced by religion, but rather that religion will be influenced by government.
     The better approach is to abide by constitutional strictures and get the federal government completely out of the business of providing social services. Private charities and religious organizations will flourish in this country if we simply get government out of the way. First and foremost, we must exempt such organizations from regulations which constantly thwart their efforts. Second, we must endorse the proposal by President Bush to allow all Americans a deduction for charitable contributions, regardless of whether they itemize deductions or not. The majority of taxpayers apply the standard deduction, and they should enjoy a tax benefit for giving to charity even in small amounts. We should allow a 100% deduction for all contributions, regardless of whether to a standard charity, a charitable foundation or trust, or a religious organization. Finally, we must massively reduce government spending, so that income taxes can be lowered drastically. Americans are charitable by nature, but they rightfully resent losing nearly half their incomes to various levels of government. American charities would see huge increases in their budgets for providing social services if taxes were reduced to sane levels.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 February 2001
“Buy American,” Unless...

     Members of Congress often encourage us to “buy American” during their speeches on the House floor. Some members regularly place a “buy American” clause in various trade-related bills, seeking to protect domestic jobs by encouraging the purchase of American goods. Ironically, however, many of these same legislators vote to prohibit American companies from gaining access to new markets overseas. They do so by supporting our senseless embargo policies, which simply help our foreign trading competitors at the expense of American companies.
     Of course most politicians claim that they support free trade. Intuitively, most Americans understand that access to foreign markets provides significant benefits to US citizens and American-based corporations. However, we continue to pursue a policy of denying or restricting domestic companies from selling to Cuba, Iraq, Iran, China, and other countries. This inconsistency is especially evident when we consider “export financing,” which really is foreign aid designed to help other countries buy American goods. Most Washington politicians support the practice of export financing, arguing that access to foreign markets benefits American companies, and not just foreign consumers. However, the opposite argument is made with regard to our embargo policies. Suddenly, increased trade with countries some want to label as unworthy only benefits sinister foreign consumers, and not domestic producers. This nonsensical position is maintained by many in government who favor government-managed trade which benefits certain chosen special interests.
     Conflicting and inconsistent views on trade policy result largely from a lack of understanding of basic economic principles. Free trade is not a zero-sum game where some countries benefit and others inevitably suffer. On the contrary, true free trade by definition benefits both parties. Free trade is the process of free people engaging in market activity without government interference such as tariffs or managed-trade agreements. In a true free market, individuals and companies do business voluntarily, which means they believe they will be better off as a result of a transaction. Tariffs, taxes, and duties upset the balance, because governments add costs to the calculation which make doing business less attractive. Similarly, so-called managed trade agreements like WTO favor certain business interests and trading nations over others, which reduces the mutual benefit inherent in true free trade.
     The ultimate result of our embargo policies is obvious: when our government prevents American companies from selling their goods abroad, it creates an economic hardship for those companies and their employees. Similarly, when the government prevents American consumers from buying the goods or services they want from certain countries, it simply diminishes the living standards of those Americans. Washington intervention in international trade only benefits certain special interests for a short time. In the long run, the vast majority of American citizens and businesses would benefit from unfettered access to all foreign markets. An example is the relatively unregulated software industry, where American companies absolutely dominate the global marketplace. Americans don’t need help competing, but they do need a government which does not hinder their access to foreign markets. By following the current policy of government-managed trade and special interest favoritism, Congress is harming the constituents it was elected to represent. The sooner we adopt policies which promote free exchange with all nations, the better off our nation and its people will be.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 February 2001
Tax Cuts Benefit All Americans

     Last week, several prominent members of Congress held a press conference outside the Capitol to criticize President Bush’s new tax proposal. The usual class warfare rhetoric was marshaled against the President, even though his plan proposes an exceedingly modest tax cut. The tired arguments against tax relief, even in the face of growing single-year tax surpluses, are not only wrong but also inherently deceitful. We’ve heard it all before: tax cuts favor the rich, who ought to pay more so the government can save us with wonderful federal programs. This emotionalist approach should have zero credibility with an informed public, particularly in light of decades of evidence that the economic benefits of lower taxes help far more Americans than any government “benevolence.”
     Beyond the deceit, however, is the unmistakable Washington mentality so clearly exhibited by the assembled politicians. One Member told the audience with a straight face that the Bush proposal needed further study to “see who gets what.” In the surreal world of Congress, your income presumptively belongs to the government, which decides what members of society deserve federal largesse. Any income you get to keep is generously “given” to you by the federal government. Tax cut proposals are studied to determine the “cost” to government, and opposition is rallied with the cry “we can’t afford it.” Perversely, this mentality is touted by politicians who claim that tax cuts are fiscally irresponsible. They endlessly repeat the lie that Reagan-era tax cuts caused deficits, when in truth it was the inability of Congress to control spending which ballooned our national debt. In fact, 1980s tax cuts increased federal revenues, because economic output expands when government takes less. To hear big spending, pro-tax politicians claim they represent fiscal responsibility strains the limits of believability.
     The factual rebuttals to the pro-tax argument seem to receive little play in the popular media. The class baiters are wrong when they claim our tax laws favor wealthy Americans. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as high-income taxpayers pay the vast majority of taxes collected in this country. In fact, Americans making over $100,000 annually represent only 6.6% of the population, yet they pay more than 55% of all income taxes! Americans making less than $50,000 annually, who make up 75% of the population, pay only 17% of all income taxes. These figures cannot be challenged by the pro-tax politicians, as they come directly from IRS reports. Our progressive tax rate structure insures that more affluent Americans pay a disproportionate amount of income taxes, yet politicians and the media continue to get way with insinuations that the sinister rich somehow don’t pay their fair share.
     Also, the class argument that average Americans do not benefit from tax cuts cannot be supported by facts. The Bush proposal, though far too modest in my view, is very straightforward. A key feature of the plan simplifies and lowers all marginal rates. Every taxpayer, regardless of income, will pay taxes at a lower rate than before under the plan. An American with a modest income might save $1,000 on his yearly tax bill, which could mean more to him than a million dollars would to a very wealthy taxpayer. This benefit is ignored in Washington and in the popular press. The focus, as always, is on overhyped disparities in wealth. The assumption is that government, rather than individual achievement in the marketplace, should determine who becomes wealthy.
     With more Americans involved in the stock market, however, the politics of envy may fail to attract the average voter. Collectivist politicians forget that the American dream of becoming wealthy is alive and well. They seek to encourage resentment of the wealthy, when in truth most Americans admire successful people. They forget that upward mobility, the chance to start from humble beginnings and achieve wealth and position, is virtually impossible in high-tax socialist societies. Most of all, however, the pro-tax politicians forget that your money belongs to you. As a society, we should not forget their dishonesty when we go to the polls.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 February 2001
IRS Church Seizure is a Tragedy for Religious Liberty

     February 13th marked a sad day for religious liberty in America, as the federal government took the unprecedented step of seizing a church to satisfy an alleged tax debt. Armed federal marshals forcibly removed parishioners and clergy from the Indianapolis Baptist Temple (IBT), bringing an end to years of legal challenges that ended with the Supreme Court refusing to hear an IBT appeal.
     Amazingly, the tax dispute arose not over a failure to pay income taxes per se, but rather over the failure of the IBT to follow tax withholding rules. The tax code forces all employers, including churches, to act as collection agents for the IRS by presumptively withholding a portion of every employee’s paycheck for federal taxes. The IBT steadfastly has refused to withhold taxes from its employees, arguing that religious beliefs prevent it from acting as an agent for a secular government agency. Two important facts have been largely overlooked in the ensuing controversy. First, the IBT (unlike most churches) also refused tax benefits available to it through registration as a tax-exempt religious organization. Second, more than 60 present and former IBT employees successfully passed IRS audits, meaning they paid in full taxes the IBT had not withheld. So the heart of the dispute really was about IBT’s principled refusal to do the government’s bidding. The real motivation behind the IRS seizure was not to satisfy a tax bill, but rather to set an example for any other churches that might dare to question their obligation to act as tax collectors.
     The IBT tragedy is about religious liberty, not taxes. Churches should not be required to pay or withhold taxes any more than they should be given tax dollars from the government. The First amendment grants churches the absolute right to freely exercise their religious beliefs without interference from government. When tax laws force churches to act as collection agents for the IRS, this precious right is lost. The income tax represents the ultimate entanglement between churches and the government. When churches file income tax returns, the government becomes intimately familiar with their activities. Only those faiths deemed valid by IRS bureaucrats are rewarded with partial tax-exempt status. This entanglement chills true religious expression, because churches may alter their message to quell criticisms of government and avoid audits. When the government has the power to tax churches, it ultimately has the power to control them.
     The state-loving media scarcely mentioned the IBT story, with brief articles predictably portraying the church as a fringe organization that avoided its taxes. This follows an established pattern of characterizing religious conservatives who protest the federal government as dangerous extremists, implicitly associated with militias and racists. Imagine the national media coverage, and resulting public outrage, if a minority church was seized over a refusal to pay taxes. Protestors supporting left-wing causes like abortion, affirmative action, environmentalism, feminism, AIDS, and animal rights consistently are shown as courageous martyrs fighting for principle against an unfeeling society and government. Conservative protestors, however, are shown as sinister bigots who selfishly refuse to follow benign laws and politically correct social rules.
     The IBT story has resounded with many Americans, however. A strong undercurrent of dissent has manifested itself below the mainstream media radar, on radio talk shows and websites. My office has received hundreds of angry letters, emails, and phone calls denouncing the government’s actions. People of all faiths understand that the threat to religious liberty affects all Americans. No society can remain free if it lacks strong institutions to challenge an overreaching government.


Texas Straight Talk, 5 March 2001
Spy Scandal Reveals Deeper Problems with Federal Police Agencies

     The recent FBI spy scandal continues to make national headlines, particularly given FBI director Louis Freeh’s statement that the damage done to U.S. intelligence was “exceptionally grave.” While it’s certainly tragic that a veteran FBI agent allegedly sold high-level secrets to the Russians for years, the greater tragedy is our government’s continued intervention in the domestic affairs of virtually every nation on earth. Corrupted spies simply are an inevitable by-product of our own government’s relentless quest to police the world.
     The fundamental question has been ignored by the press. The real issue ought to be simple: Why is a domestic law enforcement agency involved in international espionage at all? In other words, why was the accused FBI agent spying on foreign nations in the first place? Surely the CIA and the Department of Defense are charged with that task. Since the ostensible mission of the FBI is to police crime here in the U.S., how on earth would an FBI agent obtain information that was so valuable to the Russians?
     The answer, of course, is that federal police agencies like the FBI, DEA, and BATF have enormously expanded their jurisdictions. Director Freeh has opened FBI offices around the world in recent years; presumably his agents are involving themselves not only with international crime and terrorism, but also with wholly domestic crime in foreign countries. This deployment of hundreds of agents abroad should trouble any American concerned with the sanctity of national sovereignty. Our government hardly can expect other nations to respect our right to manage our domestic affairs when we meddle so aggressively in theirs.
     It is important to understand that the Constitution contains no express authorization for federal police agencies. Article I section 8 sets out the only federal crimes, namely counterfeiting, piracy, and treason. The Founders intended all other criminal matters to be policed by the states themselves, not by federal agencies. The unconstitutional federalization of purely state criminal matters has enabled the FBI and other federal police agencies to operate far beyond constitutional limits. Apparently the FBI now considers foreign espionage part of its mission, which mirrors the unfortunate expansion of unconstitutional foreign aid and global interventionism by Congress.
     Just as Congress abandoned the Constitution to create the domestic welfare state, so too has Congress sacrificed constitutional principles to advance the global warfare state. The use of domestic agencies to engage in international espionage demonstrates clearly the mentality of our federal politicians and bureaucrats. To them federal power is limitless, to be used without regard to constitutional restrictions. The media plays along by focusing on the lurid details of the accused agent’s activities, rather than the larger constitutional issues. In short, we should expect the federal government to continue intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. We are likely to see more spy scandals. The current news will be forgotten quickly, but similar abuses inevitably will result from our arrogant and misguided foreign policy.
     Washington politicians may not question the wisdom of using domestic federal agents to spy on our neighbors, but many Americans understand the dangers posed by having FBI agents advance an interventionist foreign policy and globalist agenda. Perhaps this latest scandal will cause some of our policy makers to reassess the proper role of our domestic police agencies and the proper approach for our foreign policy.


Texas Straight Talk, 12 March 2001
Bush Tax Plan Only One Piece of the Tax Cut Puzzle

     This week, I cast a vote in favor of President Bush’s tax cut proposal which passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. After eight years of an administration set on reckless spending increases with no regard for the hard-working taxpayer, it is refreshing to see the new President pushing for tax relief. The President’s tax plan is very straightforward. It reduces all tax rates, so everyone paying taxes will see some benefit from the plan.
     Those opposing the tax cut said that it would “cost the government too much” and hurt the economy. The truth of the matter is that the economy is hurt when the government takes money out of the paychecks of private citizens that they would otherwise spend, save or invest. The government has never created anything, much less economic prosperity. The government can only take from one and give to another.
     Only the private sector can create growth, a lesson that the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington would be wise to learn. The average American pays about 1/2 of their income in federal, state and local taxes every year. This is a clear and present danger to the liberty of the individual. We need to free people from the chains of over-taxation and allow them to go back to work for themselves instead of the government. The Bush tax plan is a step in the right direction, but we must do more to put money back into an individual’s paycheck.
     Along with reducing tax rates, we must rid ourselves of the estate tax and end the terrible practice of imposing a tax on families when a loved one dies. This tax penalizes thrift and savings, denying Americans the right to pass their property to their children. It forces the sale of many small family businesses when heirs cannot pay the estate tax bill. The estate tax simply takes money away from families and puts it in the hands of the government. There is no moral or economic justification for estate taxes and they must be eliminated.
     The capital gains tax is another onerous tax that must be removed. Like the estate tax, the capital gains tax punishes individuals for saving and investing wisely for themselves and their families. The capital gains tax was once thought of as a tax on the rich. However, with more and more Americans investing in the stock market and relying on IRA’s and 401K’s to fund their retirements, there is growing opposition to this burdensome tax that actually discourages individuals from being self-sufficient.
     Of course, the ultimate goal is the entire elimination of the federal income tax. Regardless of the rate reductions in the Bush plan, the IRS remains an uncontrolled bureaucracy. People have become so disillusioned by its current structure that support for a flat tax or a national sales tax has finally gained momentum. It is important to remember that the federal government operated for more than 130 years without an income tax. It is time to return to a simple, fair method of funding the federal government. An elimination of the income tax, however, would require a drastic reduction of spending in Washington. A responsible federal government that obeyed the limits placed on it by the Constitution could easily operate on a much smaller budget.
     Yes, it is true–I have never met a tax cut I didn’t like. The American people are over-taxed. The average person pays more to their government than they do for the combined cost of food, clothing, shelter, entertainment and education in a year. The Bush tax plan is a step in the right direction, but we must continue to chip away at the tax system that threatens the freedoms and liberties of hard-working people in Texas and all over America.


Texas Straight Talk, 19 March 2001
Economic Woes and the Federal Reserve

     Last week was tumultuous for worldwide stock markets, some of which ended the week at their lowest levels in years. Our own Dow-Jones and NASDAQ market indices both suffered heavy losses, while the Japanese Nikkei index fell to its lowest level since 1985! Nervous investors scrambled to sell even blue-chip holdings, especially after news that projected 2001 earnings would be lower than expected for many companies.
     The market downturn is not surprising. An economic slowdown began in 2000, accelerating in the last quarter of the year. All indications suggest the U.S. economy is headed for a further slowdown in economic growth, if not an outright recession. Already we have seen thousands of job cuts, and not only in the market-sensitive high tech sector. Economic output, as measured by the gross domestic product, dropped every quarter in 2000.
     Amazingly, some in Washington and the popular media want to blame President Bush and his administration for our current economic predicament. Never mind that growth began slowing fully one year before he took office. Apparently, certain politicians believe that the President is causing a recession merely by talking about the economic data. One prominent Congressman fretted that “we’ve been talking ourselves into this. Now it’s happening.” In other words, Mr. Bush is “talking down the economy,” making a recession more likely simply by discussing reality.
     Such thinking should be dismissed as absurd. Economic recessions are not the result of a gloomy national state of mind; if so, we could create economic prosperity simply by positive thinking. Yet basic education in economics is so badly lacking in America that many will accept this preposterous idea. The same ignorance of economic principles is behind the fallacy that capitalism is to blame for recessions, that a free market system causes an inevitable cycle of booms and busts. In reality, it is government intervention in the economy, particularly in the areas of money supply and interest rates, which creates the precarious financial bubbles that cause economic recessions.
     The Federal Reserve did two things to artificially expand the economy over the last decade. First, it relentlessly lowered interest rates whenever growth slowed. Interest rates should be set by the free market, with the availability of capital (i.e. savings) determining the cost of borrowing money. In a healthy market economy, more saving equals lower interest rates. When savings rates are low, capital dries up and the cost of borrowing increases. When interest rates are set by the market, individuals and businesses make good spending decisions, because they pay an accurate interest rate for their debts. However, when the Fed set rates artificially low, the cost of borrowing becomes cheap. Individuals incur greater amounts of debt (evidenced by the record number of personal bankruptcies), while businesses overextend themselves and grow without real gains in productivity. The bubble bursts quickly once the credit dries up and the bills cannot be paid.
     Second, the Fed also steadily increased the monetary supply throughout the 1990s by printing money. Recent Fed numbers show yearly increases of nearly 15% in the M2 money supply. Since 1996, the Fed has poured more than $100 billion in new dollars into the U.S. economy. These new dollars may make Americans feel richer, but the net result of monetary inflation has to be the devaluation of savings and purchasing power. Prices seemed stable over the last decade, but many types of inflation were not reported as such. An obvious example is stock prices, where companies making little or no profit often sold shares at ridiculous price/earnings ratios. Housing and energy prices also rose dramatically, and wholesale price inflation is an increasing threat. So while monetary inflation creates a sense of prosperity in the short run, long-term it simply makes your dollars worth less.
     Only six months ago, market pundits were still proclaiming a new era of unending prosperity. They claimed that the fundamentals no longer mattered, that technology would save us from any more bear markets. Technology is wonderful, but it cannot save us from our own misguided monetary policies. Until we stop permitting the Fed to manipulate the economy, real prosperity will elude us. The Fed received credit for the boom times of the 1990s, yet its policies are responsible for the market correction and economic recession we are experiencing today.


Texas Straight Talk, 26 March 2001
The Fight for Medical Privacy Continues in Washington

     Medical privacy advocates enjoyed a victory last week when the Supreme Court ruled that a government hospital in South Carolina violated the constitutional rights of pregnant women by testing them for drugs without their consent. The hospital ostensibly began the testing program because of concerns about increasing cocaine use by pregnant patients, but if the hospital was concerned only with patient and fetus health, why were test results turned over to law enforcement? Several women were arrested and put in jail because of the tests, with their newborns presumably taken away to become wards of the state. Not surprisingly, the rationale for this terrible violation of doctor-patient confidentiality was the drug war. The real tragedy of this case is that it may cause pregnant women to conceal illegal drug use from their doctors out of fear of arrest. How many babies will be misdiagnosed or go untreated because their mothers no longer have any medical privacy?
     Fortunately, the Supreme Court upheld the Fourth amendment in ruling against the hospital. The drug war has been used for too long as an excuse for unconstitutional actions by government. The Fourth and Fifth amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and compelled testimony routinely are ignored by legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and especially federal agencies. As a result, all Americans have suffered the loss of liberties guaranteed to them in the Bill of Rights.
     As a physician, I cannot imagine providing my patients’ medical records to police as evidence for a criminal prosecution. Like most doctors, I adhere to a strict policy of maintaining patient confidentiality. Medical privacy has existed for centuries between doctors and patients, without government interference. However, the drug war has provided the ever-growing federal government with new justifications to invade your once-private medical history.
     Unfortunately, the drug war is not the only threat to your medical privacy. Medical privacy also is under assault by Washington health bureaucrats. The federal government wants greater access to your private medical records than ever before. On April 14, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is scheduled to implement invasive new medical rules written during the Clinton administration. The proposed rules require doctors and other health care providers to give patient records to the federal government for very broadly defined purposes and without patient consent. The rules grant law enforcement access to patient records without a search warrant. Patients will have only limited knowledge of who sees their records, and individuals will not be able to sue health care providers or the government for breaches of privacy. Ultimately, your medical history will be readily available to any government agency that wishes to create a national medical database.
     The dangers posed by these regulations are obvious. Patients will hesitate to disclose information to their doctors if they fear such information will end up in a federal database. Doctors will be unable to provide effective care when patients conceal sensitive medical problems, such as drug and alcohol addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and psychiatric problems. The HHS rules threaten to turn doctors into government agents, who are required to divulge information which ultimately could be used against their patients by federal agencies, law enforcement, and health insurers.
     I recently introduced legislation to halt implementation of the new HHS rules. The federal government has no business knowing your private medical history. Don’t believe the bureaucrats who tell us they have innocent reasons for wanting our medical records. The truth is that the federal government wants to eliminate your medical privacy, just as it has eliminated so many of your liberties.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 April 2001
Uncontrolled Spending Threatens Our Liberty

     Last week Congress began its annual budget debate. As usual, big-spending members from both parties took every opportunity to lobby for huge increases in their pet programs. I’m always amazed by the arrogance with which Congress proposes to spend taxpayer funds, but this year is even worse because of the tax overcharge (also known as the “surplus”). The overcharge presents Congress with an obvious opportunity to significantly cut taxes, but the spending frenzy threatens to swallow the tax relief debate. The big spenders are doing their best to confuse America into believing that the government cannot “afford” to cut taxes. In truth, they simply don’t want Congress to face even the slightest spending constraints.
     The tax cut debate is wholly separate from the budget debate. I promised the voters in my district that I would uphold the Constitution and fight to make the federal government smaller. This promise compels me to vote for all tax cuts and against all spending increases. My voting record in Congress shows that I consistently vote to reduce the size of government.
     I certainly support President Bush’s tax cut initiatives, and I will vote (or have voted) for each plank in his tax cut plan. Lowering marginal rates, eliminating the marriage penalty, abolishing the death tax–these are worthy goals for any administration. I also applaud the President for living up to his campaign promises by making these tax cuts a priority. Congress already approved marginal rate reductions and elimination of the marriage penalty; estate tax repeal legislation likely will reach the House floor in April. At this rate the President may enact his tax cut proposals by the end of the year, which would be a great accomplishment for a new administration. Certainly my own legislation would reduce taxes more drastically, but I always support any tax cut proposals as a step in the right direction. Voters in my district know that I am committed to reducing the size of the federal government, and tax reduction is an important step in returning the federal government to its proper constitutional role.
     However, the single greatest threat to our liberty in America is uncontrolled spending by Congress. Americans need to understand the stark reality behind the often boring and confusing budget rhetoric: Congress will spend nearly $2 trillion in 2002. This amount represents almost 11% more than Congress will spend in 2001. This massive spending funds an unbelievable number of federal departments, agencies, programs, and personnel. Most Americans understand that the federal government is far too large, yet most of their representatives in Congress continue to vote for spending increases every year. As a result, the same unconstitutional agencies grow, the same counterproductive programs are perpetuated, and the same military adventurism expands around the globe. In short, this spending insures that the federal government has more and more power over our lives, power never dreamed of nor intended by the authors of our Constitution. The more Congress spends, the less liberty we have.
     I particularly object to proposals to add billions to the federal Education department budget. Every year Congress spends more on education, yet our public schools continue to decline. Now Congress wants to expand the education budget by about 11%, meaning taxpayers will spend nearly $50 billion next year on more failed federal education programs. Those dollars should remain at the local level, where parents and teachers make better decisions than federal education bureaucrats.
     We hear Congress talk about smaller government, but the size of the federal budget increases each year. Huge amounts of federal spending could be eliminated if Congress adhered to the limited enumerated powers listed in the Constitution. I plan to continue my efforts during the summer appropriations process to fight for needed cuts in the bloated federal budget.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 April 2001
“Campaign Finance Reform” Serves Entrenched Interests in Washington

     Last week the Senate narrowly passed the highly publicized McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. I certainly understand that many Americans are tired of the corruption in Washington, where special interest lobbies pursue their agendas at the expense (literally) of the nation’s taxpayers. Everyone knows that politicians use federal spending to reward lobbies, certain constituencies, and favored individuals. However, we must recognize that the McCain bill places restrictions only on individuals, not politicians. Politicians will continue to tax and spend, meaning they will continue to punish some productive Americans while rewarding others with federal largesse. The same vested special interests will not go away, and the same influence peddling will happen every day on Capitol Hill. The reason is very simple: when the federal government redistributes trillions of dollars from some Americans to others, countless special interests inevitably will fight for the money. The rise in corruption in Washington simply mirrors the rise in federal spending. The problem is not with campaigns, but rather with the steady shift from a relatively limited federal government to a virtually socialist system intent on huge redistributions of wealth.
     We cannot forget that the Constitution grants Congress only limited enumerated powers, and no authority to regulate campaigns is provided. In fact, Article II expressly authorizes the regulation of elections, so the omission of any mention of campaigns is glaring. Questions have been raised about the constitutionality of campaign finance legislation based on the First amendment, but few seem to realize that Congress clearly lacks the constitutional power to enact such legislation.
     Constitutional questions aside, the McCain bill simply will help entrenched powers retain their stranglehold on Washington. Incumbent politicians benefit when challengers cannot spend the amounts needed to unseat them. Name recognition and incumbency are huge advantages in politics. Because contributions by individuals are limited, a challenger must find hundreds or thousands of donors to support a campaign. The incumbent can rely on a much larger base of people. This presents a tremendous obstacle for virtually any challenger candidate who lacks name recognition and elite social contacts. As a result, ordinary Americans rarely bother to run for office. Perversely, very rich Americans are more likely to enter politics because of federal limits on individual donors. Their private wealth frees them from the hard work of raising $1,000 from thousands of individuals. When the challenger spends as much as the incumbent, re-election rates are much lower. So wealthy candidates match the incumbent’s spending and often succeed in winning.
     The liberal mainstream media also benefit from campaign finance restrictions. When lobbies and individuals are limited in what they can give to campaigns and political parties, they instead will spend money on advertisements during election seasons. Media outlets relish the prospect of increased ad revenue. Although the McCain bill places restrictions just prior to elections on issue ads, which only implicitly support one party or candidate, the media know they will sell even more ads before the restriction period starts. Since the issue ad restrictions raise First amendment questions, the media also know that the Supreme Court likely will forbid such restrictions as unconstitutional. The end result is that mainstream media organizations will have more money and influence than ever before. The media will impact the outcomes of elections even more than they do today.
     Grass roots organizations and third-party candidates especially suffer when contributions are limited. Such groups are prohibited from raising needed seed money from sympathetic wealthy donors interested in funding a new political movement. Millions of voters might be attracted to a third party, but they lose interest when their candidate garners very little publicity or is not on the ballot. It is virtually impossible for grass roots campaigns and new parties to match the established parties $1,000 at a time.
     We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. Campaign finance laws will not make politicians more ethical, but they will make it harder for average Americans to influence Washington.


Texas Straight Talk, 16 April 2001
Tax Day–A National Nightmare

     The one issue that generates more complaints to my office than any other is the income tax. Everyone has an opinion about taxes. For most people, their income tax return represents their most meaningful interaction with the federal government. Every April, Americans confess to the IRS their actions of the past year in excruciating detail. It’s an annual ritual guaranteed to elicit strong feelings of disgust. Thanks to the deception of withholding taxes, April is the only time each year when most people realize how much money they really send the federal government.
     What do Americans have to say about the income tax? First and foremost, they think federal tax laws are far too complex. They are tired of the incomprehensible rules, schedules, and forms which take hours to complete. They believe income taxes should be much simpler and fairer. They know that deductions are created for purely political reasons, without regard to common sense or clarity. They resent the arbitrary power the IRS has over their lives, especially when it is so difficult to calculate one’s tax liability. Of course they also think taxes are too high, that government wastes taxpayer dollars with excessive and unwise spending. Some favor a flat tax, while others support a national sales tax. Some simply want deductions simplified. In short, Americans want reform. They want a new system of revenue collection, one that is simple and provides accountability. They want to know where the dollars are going.
     Yet tax reform was not a key issue in the 2000 elections. Why no push for a massive overhaul of the tax system? Why trim the edges of the tax code, when so many Americans want the whole system thrown out? Given the tremendous amount of popular support for real reform, why is Congress not clamoring for radical changes?
     The short answer, painful as it may be, is that Congress and the American people do not share the same goals. The real enemy of tax reform is the spending culture in Washington. Let me repeat: we will never have tax reform in this country until Congress changes its spending habits. The reform rhetoric, regardless of which party it comes from, never changes the reality that federal spending grows every year. Congress spent $1.7 trillion in the last Clinton budget; the new budget proposes to spend $2 trillion. The same unconstitutional agencies are funded, the same unwise programs are perpetuated, but at higher levels than last year. The previous budget serves merely as a baseline; the only question in any given year is how much spending will increase. Once created, no spending program is ever eliminated. The cycle goes on and on, with different administrations and different people in Congress.
     It is useless to discuss tax reform without spending reform. Who wants a 40% flat tax? Who wants a national sales tax if it adds 50% to the retail price of everything we buy? In other words, why change the tax structure if spending stays the same? Once we accept that Congress needs $2 trillion from us, the only question is how it will be collected. The current answer is the labyrinthine tax code, which pits taxpayers against each other in a political scramble to make sure the other guy pays. The truth is that Congress does not need $2 trillion, and it is obscene that such a sum is even considered. When the federal government is held to its proper constitutionally limited functions, tax reform will take care of itself.
     Other oppressive tax regimes have met their demise in the past, and I fear our government may be as arrogant and wasteful as any in history. Perhaps America is ready to reclaim the proud tax-fighting heritage of our Founding Fathers. I suggest the 2002 ballot box as the first battlefield. Those who support higher taxes and spending deserve to be the first political casualties.


Texas Straight Talk, 23 April 2001
Spy Plane Incident Shows a Need for New Policies

     The recent incident involving our spy plane in China is not without precedent. In fact, the U.S. has flown spy missions in the region for 50 years. 16 Americans died in 1956 when their Navy reconnaissance plane crashed into the China Sea under remarkably similar circumstances. When told of the tragedy, then-President Dwight Eisenhower remarked that “We seem to be conducting something that we cannot control very well. If planes were flying 20 to 50 miles from our shores we would be very likely to shoot them down if they came in closer, whether through error or not.” Eisenhower knew that if the situation was reversed, the U.S. would have reacted even more forcefully than the Chinese. He understood that our spy flights provoked military conflict. To understand this, simply imagine the outcry for a military response today if Chinese spy planes were flying off the gulf Coast of Texas. When our intelligence gathering actually weakens national security by provoking conflict, we must rethink our policies. It is time to accept that the risk of starting a war with China outweighs the marginal benefits obtained from flying spy missions off its coasts.
     Thankfully, our airmen and women were returned safely. I applaud President Bush for his sober approach to the crisis. Certainly he felt strong pressure from both the media and many in his own administration to take military action against the Chinese. Yet he remained focused on the safe return of the crew, which had to be his first priority. I commend him for not further risking their lives to bolster his own political stature.
     Still, it is difficult to understand the policy that put the crew in harm’s way. Militarily we seem to regard China as an enemy, as evidenced by our need to spy on it. We also sell arms to its enemies, particularly Taiwan. Despite Chinese warnings that such arms sales would be viewed as an act of hostility, the Pentagon appears ready to go forward with plans to sell Taiwan very advanced weapons systems. These weapons include submarines, Apache attack helicopters, and 4 destroyer ships fitted with state of the art Aegis missile-hunting radar systems. Equipping Taiwan with such sophisticated weapons can only mean that the U.S. intends to use it as a frontline military player against China. Taiwan is perhaps a mere pawn in our foreign policy, but to China it is a hostile breakaway nation. We must understand that the Chinese view our military support for Taiwan in the same way we once viewed Soviet arming of Cuba.
     The irony is that we also subsidize the Chinese government and people through the United Nations and our own Export-Import Bank. Americans should be very concerned when their tax dollars are sent to the same regime portrayed as an enemy by our own government. We should not subsidize trade or provide foreign aid to any country, and it is folly to believe those dollars will not be used against us. We just witnessed a terrible example of the danger of foreign aid: the Chinese fighter threatening the lives of our crew carried Israeli missiles built with American aid dollars. Perhaps this incident will make more Americans aware of the perils of arming both our “friends” and our enemies.“
     The best route to a lasting peace with China is true free trade, meaning trade without government barriers, subsidies, or multinational bodies like the WTO. Mao’s China, closed from trade with the world, would have had little incentive to return our captured crew, and every incentive to use them as hostages. Today’s China, while still authoritarian, depends on America to buy billions in goods. The Chinese government thus faced political and economic pressure to settle the dispute peacefully, rather than alienate millions of American consumers. Politics aside, few countries want to go to war with their customers or their suppliers.


Texas Straight Talk, 30 April 2001
Respect for Life begins with Respect for the Constitutional Rule of Law

     As a pro-life obstetrician-gynecologist, I am steadfastly opposed to abortion. I strongly believe that a fetus is a human life, and that a fetus deserves the same legal protections afforded to all Americans. I also believe that the Roe v. Wade decision will prove to be the most flawed Supreme Court ruling of the 20th century. There is no real or imagined “right to abortion” in the Constitution under any serious interpretation of that document. The Supreme Court simply created a nonexistent constitutional right out of thin air to serve the political agenda of the justices.
     Thirty years later, the pro-life fight goes on. Well-intentioned pro-life advocates supported a bill in Congress last week called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, believing it represented a step toward restoring respect for unborn life. Unfortunately, the bill does not accord any human or legal status to fetuses, but rather creates a new federal penalty for harming the mother of a fetus. The reasoning is deeply flawed: if there is to be a greater penalty for harming a pregnant woman than an ordinary woman, it must be based on the harm to the unborn child. In other words, the enhanced penalty must be for the second offense to the second human life. Yet the legislation evades this fundamental truth by refusing to recognize the fetus as a human person. So the Act is seriously flawed and will not engender new respect for unborn life.
     Worse yet, the Act serves to legitimize and further entrench the Roe v. Wade decision. Like Roe, the Act federalizes law which the Constitution properly leaves to the states. Constitutionally, virtually all crimes are state matters. The only true federal crimes are those listed in Article I (treason, piracy, and counterfeiting); all other crimes are left to the jurisdiction of the states under the 10th Amendment. Yet Congress finds it much easier to federalize every human evil rather than uphold the Constitution and respect states’ rights. Impassioned pro-life Americans might want a federal criminal law protecting fetuses, but in truth the federal government is more likely to pass laws favoring abortion rather than outlawing it. Once we allow federal control over abortion, we lose the opportunity for states to enact pro-life legislation. Numerous states already have laws that punish the act of murder against a fetus. Our focus should be on overturning Roe and getting the federal government completely out of the business of regulating state matters. All abortion foes must understand that the real battle should be fought at the state level, where grassroots respect for life can influence state legislatures.
     The tragic irony is that the proposed legislation specifically protects abortionists from prosecution for harming a pregnant mother and her unborn child. An attacker with no knowledge of a woman’s pregnancy receives a greater penalty for his deed, while the abortionist with full knowledge of his actions is not charged. So much for increasing respect for life.
     Political expediency is never an excuse for ignoring the Constitution. The Supreme Court did so in Roe v. Wade, with tragic consequences. The states are now unable to enact laws to protect the weakest, smallest, and most innocent human lives. A society that does not respect life cannot be expected to respect liberty. Our goal must be to restore respect for the Constitution and states’ rights. Only then can states properly restore respect for unborn life by criminalizing the act of abortion.


Texas Straight Talk, 7 May 2001
The Case Against the Income Tax

     Could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of its history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker’s paycheck. In the late 1800s, when Congress first attempted to impose an income tax, the notion of taxing a citizen’s hard work was considered radical! Public outcry ensued; more importantly, the Supreme Court ruled the income tax unconstitutional. Only with passage of the 16th Amendment did Congress gain the ability to tax the productive endeavors of its citizens.
     Yet don’t we need an income tax to fund the important functions of the federal government? You may be surprised to know that the income tax accounts for only approximately one-third of federal revenue. Only 10 years ago, the federal budget was roughly one-third less than it is today. Surely we could find ways to cut spending back to 1990 levels, especially when the Treasury has single year tax surpluses for the past several years. So perhaps the idea of an America without an income tax is not so radical after all.
     The harmful effects of the income tax are obvious. First and foremost, it has enabled government to expand far beyond its proper constitutional limits, regulating virtually every aspect of our lives. It has given government a claim on our lives and work, destroying our privacy in the process. It takes billions of dollars out of the legitimate private economy, with most Americans giving more than a third of everything they make to the federal government. This economic drain destroys jobs and penalizes productive behavior. The ridiculous complexity of the tax laws makes compliance a nightmare for both individuals and businesses. All things considered, our Founders would be dismayed by the income tax mess and the tragic loss of liberty which results.
     America without an income tax would be far more prosperous and far more free, but we must be prepared to fight to regain the liberty we have lost incrementally over the past century. I recently introduced “The Liberty Amendment,” legislation which would repeal the 16th Amendment and effectively abolish the income tax. I truly believe that real tax reform, reform that so many frustrated Americans desperately want, requires bold legislation that challenges the Washington mind set. Congress talks about reform, but the current tax debate really involves nothing of substance. Both parties are content to continue tinkering with the edges of the tax code to please various special interests. The Liberty Amendment is an attempt to eliminate the system altogether, forcing Congress to find a simple and fair way to collect limited federal revenues. Most of all, the Liberty Amendment is an initiative aimed at reducing the size and scope of the federal government.
     Is it impossible to end the income tax? I don’t believe so. In fact, I believe a serious groundswell movement of disaffected taxpayers is growing in this country. Millions of Americans are fed up with the current tax system, and they will bring pressure on Congress. Some sidestep Congress completely, bringing legal challenges questioning the validity of the tax code and the 16th Amendment itself. Ultimately, the Liberty Amendment could serve as a flashpoint for these millions of voices.


Texas Straight Talk, 14 May 2001
The Deepening United Nations Quagmire

     The United States recently was humiliated when the UN Economic and Social Council voted by secret ballot to remove us from the UN Human Rights Commission. Ironically, the U.S. was instrumental in establishing the commission; Eleanor Roosevelt was a founding chairman in 1946. Apparently, our fellow member states no longer consider America qualified to judge human rights violations, although brutal regimes like Sudan and Cuba remain on the commission. The U.S. also was voted off a UN counter-narcotics commission, raising questions about how other countries view our self-appointed status as the global drug policeman.
     The Congressional response to these most recent expressions of anti-American sentiment took the form of amendments to a State Department spending bill. One amendment, which passed in the House with my support, requires reinstatement of the US on the Human Rights commission before Congress pays part of nearly one billion dollars in back dues “owed” to the UN. I certainly support any measure that suspends or delays payments to the UN–I don’t want one more penny of taxpayer funds going to the global bureaucrats who hold such disdain for America. Unfortunately, the measure is largely symbolic, as it is unlikely to survive in the Senate.
     I proposed two substantive amendments to the State Department bill, both of which were rejected without debate and without a vote. One would have eliminated US funding for UN “peacekeeping” missions; the other would have eliminated US funding for worldwide abortion and family planning. These proposals were ignored because Congress does not want to address the real issue of whether we should continue to participate in an organization that serves no national interest and threatens our national sovereignty.
     A sovereign nation cannot wage war at the behest of an international body, and our Constitution expressly reserves warmaking authority to Congress. This most serious power cannot be delegated, as no treaty can supersede the legislative function of Congress. Regardless of the Orwellian doublespeak, UN “peacekeeping actions” are indeed wars. The UN sends our young soldiers to fight under its command in wars that don’t involve us. It uses our young soldiers to fight for causes deemed legitimate by international bureaucrats. It escalates deadly conflicts in places like Kosovo and Somalia by inevitably favoring one warring faction over another. More than anything, the UN violates our sovereignty by using our military might in undeclared, unconstitutional wars. My amendment could have eliminated UN war funding and restored proper command over our armed forces. Yet Congress refuses to recognize the problem and end our participation in UN military adventurism.
     Undeclared wars are only one of many threats to our sovereignty posed by the UN. The recently proposed International Criminal Court seeks to subject U.S. citizens to the jurisdiction of an unconstitutional world tribunal. Our soldiers are especially at risk, as wartime actions later could be prosecuted as “crimes of aggression” or “crimes against humanity.” One amendment to the State Department bill makes a weak attempt to protect soldiers from prosecution, but the validity of the tribunal itself is not challenged. What about rights guaranteed to American citizens under the Constitution, such as due process, jury trials, the right against self-incrimination, and the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures? The conflict between our national laws and a global court is clear. I introduced legislation earlier this year that would rescind U.S. approval of the ICC treaty (signed by a Clinton administration official), yet again Congress sidesteps the issue rather than address the central question of whether the Constitution permits American citizens to be brought before an international court.
     The UN unquestionably intends to exert more and more control over both our foreign and domestic policy. The UN wants to tax us, involve us in wars, determine our labor, environmental, and gun policies, and subject us to the jurisdiction of its courts. We cannot ignore this threat to our national sovereignty any longer. Congress must be held accountable whenever it unconstitutionally cedes more of its authority and our freedom to global bureaucrats.


Texas Straight Talk, 21 May 2001
Don’t Blame the Free Market for Energy Shortages

     Political pressure is mounting in Washington as gas prices rise and the California electricity shortage worsens. The national media and politicians from both parties have irresponsibly characterized the situation as an energy “crisis,”thereby generating public support for further unconstitutional and unwise federal intervention in energy markets. Washington appears to have accepted full responsibility for the California problem; hence the one-sided debate centers around a supposed need for a national energy policy. The obvious implication is that the federal government must play nanny to California or any other state which finds itself facing shortages caused by its own bad policies. Never mind that California caused its own problems by restricting supply and freezing energy prices while the population skyrocketed. The real danger is that the federal government may repeat California’s mistakes on a national level, subjecting the rest of the nation to similar shortages. The true crisis facing us is not a physical shortage of energy, but rather the looming threat that socialist economic planning will replace market mechanisms and cause unnecessary shortages.
     The worst idea coming out of Washington (with support even from some supposedly free market politicians) is that the federal government should impose price controls on energy companies that sell to California. The politically favored term is “price caps,” which sounds less authoritarian. The premise is that greedy energy companies charge California too much, so the federal government should set “reasonable” limits on wholesale prices. The accusation of price gouging is never questioned: no one considers the costs involved in producing excess capacity to sell to California. Why should electric companies sell their power at below-market rates? Is it their responsibility to correct the mistakes of California politicians? Why do we presume the federal government has any authority or credibility to determine prices and profits?
     The answer is obvious to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of basic economics: price controls always cause shortages. When government sets a price too low, supply drops. The simplicity of this is apparent to anyone who examines a supply and demand chart, and history consistently proves the folly of centralized government price planning. Producers of energy (or any other good) make less when they are forced to sell at below-market prices. This is exactly what happened in California. Expect energy companies simply to stop selling to California if new federal price controls are imposed. It’s discouraging that basic economic fallacies are still used to justify terribly harmful government practices.
     By contrast, the market price mechanism works to insure that everyone has electricity. In a free market, increased demand naturally causes prices to rise. Two things then happen: people conserve, and supply increases. If California had not chosen to regulate the energy market, new plants would have been built to meet the needs of the growing population. Californians still would have seen price increases, but they would have had a strong economic incentive to conserve energy. Over time, new energy providers seeking to profit from the demand and price increases would have gradually increased supply and driven prices down. Instead, California capped prices and restricted supply. This summer’s blackouts will be the direct result of this exceedingly misguided policy.
     Free markets work. Government, not markets or deregulation, causes the economic woes we face today. Free markets insure that supply and demand are evenly matched, preventing shortages. Contrary to the claims of environmentalists, free markets always promote conservation by increasing the price of precious resources as they become scarcer. Advocates of socialist central planning in Washington may claim to have the solutions to energy shortages, but in truth market forces cannot be ignored any more than the laws of physics. Americans who want to continue to enjoy uninterrupted energy supplies should oppose any federal regulation of energy markets.


Texas Straight Talk, 28 May 2001
The Federal Education Morass

     After more than 40 years of massive federal education spending, the inescapable conclusion is that federal control is failing. By any objective standards, our public schools are worse than ever. Policies regarding curricula and discipline, once set by local teachers and principals working closely with parents, are now established in Washington.
     Politically correct sensitivity training substitutes for rigorous coursework in liberal arts or practical vocations. Children learn phony self-esteem, rather than the importance of productive achievement. Teachers are prohibited from maintaining discipline. As a result, our high school graduates enter adulthood less educated and less prepared for responsibility than previous generations. Obviously, ever-increasing federal control over our schools has failed the nation’s children and lowered educational standards.
     Yet while the need for new policies in Washington has never been greater, the approach unfortunately remains the same: more federal spending and more federal control. Last week Congress passed legislation that massively increases funding for failed Education department programs. Although the bill was widely hailed as bipartisan, the truth is that it contained mostly liberal measures promoted by Democratic members of Congress. Key Republican provisions such as school vouchers and unconditional flexibility for local school districts were not included. Regardless of the party stamp, the bill clearly represents a big-spending, big government plan that will only serve to further entrench the wasteful federal education monopoly.
     The bill increases the Education department budget by a whopping 22 percent–more than even the liberals had hoped. The $9.2 billion increase brings the total department budget to more than $50 billion. No one mentions the high tax rates we all pay to finance this spending. We must remember that every dollar parents send to Washington is a dollar they don’t have to spend directly on their children’s education. Most education tax dollars sent to Washington fund the federal bureaucracy; far less than half of each dollar is ever returned to local schools. More importantly, federal school dollars come with strings attached. The more money we give to education bureaucrats, the more power they have to dictate how local schools are run. When federal spending increases, local schools are forced to do whatever it takes to get their share, even if this means adopting one size fits all policies mandated in Washington. In other words, federal money is used as a club to force schools to surrender more and more of their decision making authority to Washington.
     I believe that parents and teachers know what is best for their schools at the local level. The key to reforming public education in America is returning local control back to our public schools. I have introduced three education tax credit bills which keep more tax dollars and more decision making power at the local level. The first provides parents with a $3,000 per child credit for educational expenses, including tuition, books, computers, and tutors. The second allows parents or individuals to claim up to $3,000 in tax credits for cash or in-kind donations to schools and scholarship programs. The third bill grants all teachers a $1,000 tax credit, effectively raising their salaries without spending tax dollars. All three of these measures share the same goal of insuring that parents, rather than federal education bureaucrats, decide how their children are educated.
     Congress never seems to learn that Washington does not know what is best for kids. While both parties claim to stand for education, their bureaucratic approach should no longer be tolerated by American education consumers. American parents will spend generously on their children’s education, but Congress must be willing to lower tax burdens and ease the federal stranglehold on education that has destroyed our public schools.


Texas Straight Talk, 4 June 2001
Religious Liberty Thwarted by the Supreme Court

     Last week, a divided Supreme Court declined to hear a potentially landmark case that has tremendous significance to religious believers in this country. The small town of Elkhart, Indiana, has a granite stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments in front of a city building. Predictably, the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the city seeking to have the decades-old stone removed. City officials fought the case in federal court, but lost at the appellate level. Although Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas disagreed, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case and let the ruling stand. The fate of the stone now lies with a lower federal judge, who undoubtedly will order it removed despite the wishes of Elkhart city officials and local residents. Ironically, the same Ten Commandments deemed so objectionable by the ACLU are depicted in the very Supreme Court building where the decision not to consider the Elkhart case was made! How tragic that our courts have accepted the myth that religious beliefs cannot be represented in any public setting, even when religious symbolism adorns courthouses across the country.
     The First amendment (or any other constitutional provision) must be strictly construed to reflect the intent of the Founding Fathers. The language is clear–Congress simply is prohibited from passing laws establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. There certainly is no mention of any “separation of church and state”, although Supreme Court jurisprudence over the decades constantly asserts this mystical doctrine. Sadly, the application of this faulty doctrine by judges and lawmakers consistently results in violations of the free exercise clause. Rulings and laws separating citizens from their religious beliefs in all public settings simply restrict religious practices. Our Founders clearly never intended an America where citizens nonsensically are forced to disregard their deeply held beliefs in public life. The religious freedom required by the Constitution should not end the moment one enters a school, courtroom, or city hall.
     Moreover, there is ample evidence that most of our Founders were deeply religious men who never imagined a rigid separation between religious beliefs and governance. Indeed, our national documents, symbols, currency, and buildings are replete with religious symbolism. Our national motto, “In God We Trust,” is an obvious example. These symbols are entirely inconsistent with the religion-free government supposedly mandated by the First amendment.
     The Supreme Court also has ignored the obvious point that the amendment applies only to Congress, and not to the states. This means that while the federal government cannot pass laws restricting religion or use federal funds to give preference to one religion over another, state and local governments retain the right under the 10th Amendment to set their own policies regarding religious expression. The Elkhart case is a classic example of the courts ignoring this fundamental distinction between federal and local action. Bluntly, the use of Elkhart city government property is none of the federal government’s business. Yet respect for state rights and enumerated powers, not to mention the property rights of the citizens of Elkhart, is nonexistent in our federal courts. The unchallenged assumption is that the federal courts have jurisdiction over all religious matters.
     The sad result of this misinterpretation of the Constitution is a legal and political landscape which is unnecessarily hostile to religion. Popular culture and media mirror this hostility in their inaccurate and unflattering portrayals of religious conservatives and fundamentalists. The message is always the same: conservatives want to force their religious beliefs upon society. The truth is that secular humanists have forced their beliefs upon a largely religious nation. In schools, in government, and in the courts, secular values dominate. Secularism, wrongly characterized as neutral toward religious faith, has become the default philosophy for our society. The Supreme Court, by refusing to consider the Elkhart case, has furthered the cause of those who wish to see religion eliminated from American life.


Texas Straight Talk, 11 June 2001
The Bush Tax Cut

     Last week President Bush signed into law the tax cut bill that ultimately emerged as a compromise between competing political interests in the House and Senate. I voted for and fully support the tax reductions contained in the bill, and I appreciate the President’s efforts in making tax relief the first priority in his new administration. However, I am disappointed that Congress was unable to pass far more significant and immediate tax relief. Unfortunately, big spenders from both parties worked hard to characterize the tax cut as a “gift” from government to American taxpayers, as though the money belongs to Congress! These pro-tax politicians believe every penny of the bloated $2 trillion federal budget is essential to their beloved pork programs, hence they always argue that “we” cannot afford a tax cut. Millions of American families, however, certainly can afford a tax cut that leaves more money in their paychecks. So while the final bill passed last week represents a political compromise, I believe there is broad public support outside Washington for much larger tax reductions. Congress should not allow the wasteful spenders to prevent passage of further needed tax cut legislation over the coming months.
     My office has received numerous phone calls and letters asking questions about the specifics of the tax law changes, so a summary of the major provisions may be helpful.
     Individual income tax rates will be reduced slightly over the next five years. The new rate structure eventually will be 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%. These rate reductions are very important and should be much larger. Despite the dishonest rhetoric about the benefits of the tax bill going only to the rich, the truth is that high rates for the wealthiest taxpayers leave those individuals with less money to spend and invest. The tax surplus (the result of overtaxing) makes the current economic slowdown much worse, because billions of potential investment dollars are tied up in Treasury coffers. Marginal rate reductions are needed to spur investment and economic activity, but the new rates should have been made retroactive to immediately jump-start our nation’s struggling businesses.
     The marriage tax penalty is reduced over the next decade by ultimately increasing the standard deduction for married couples to twice the deduction for individuals. Similarly, the size of the 15% bracket for married couples is increased to twice the size of the same bracket for singles. On a very positive note, the child credit will be increased over the next 10 years from its present $500 to $1000. This increase will allow American parents to keep more money to spend on their own families.
     Long overdue pension and IRA reform finally has become law. The paltry $2000 IRA contribution increases incrementally to $5,000 by 2008, when it then is indexed for inflation each year. Likewise, the contribution limit for 401(k) and similar pension plans increases from the current $10,500 to $15,000. Americans over 50 are permitted to make larger “catch-up” contributions to both IRAs and 401(k)s. While I certainly believe individuals should be able to deduct unlimited amounts invested in retirement plans, it’s encouraging that Congress finally raised the contribution amounts established decades ago.
     The destructive estate tax gradually will be phased out over the coming decade. The amount an individual may own at death without being subject to the tax increases to $1 million in 2002, $1.5 million in 2004, and $2 million in 2006, while the outrageous top rate of 55% decreases gradually to 45% over the same period. After 2010, the estate tax will be fully repealed. Although I co-sponsored a bill to end the estate tax immediately, retroactive to January 2001, I am pleased that Congress finally is moving toward ending this most counterproductive and immoral tax.
     Finally, most Americans who paid taxes in 2000 will receive advance payment refunds intended to give them the benefit of the new brackets had they been in place for 2001. Individuals will receive up to $300; married couples filing jointly will receive up to $600. This refund is not taxable income for federal tax purposes, although some states will apply their own taxes. Thankfully, Texas has no state income tax! With a return to constitutional government, Texans and all Americans could enjoy life without federal income taxes as well.


Texas Straight Talk, 18 June 2001
Medical Privacy Threatened by Federal Health Bureaucrats

     The vast majority of Americans want and expect their medical records to be kept strictly confidential. Recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose giving government the power to create a national health database or issue health ID numbers. People instinctively understand that federal databases and ID numbers only serve to destroy personal privacy by making it easier for both government and the private sector to access their private medical history. Yet federal bureaucrats at the department of Health and Human Services, with the help of Congress, have succeeded in implementing regulations which place every American’s medical records in the hands of the government. Worst of all, they have done so while claiming to protect our privacy! Only in Washington can so-called “medical privacy” regulations actually authorize such blatant invasions of privacy by the government.
     The most dangerous aspect of the new regulations is the implementation of a national medical record database. All health care providers, including private physicians, insurance companies, and HMOs, will be forced to use a standard data format for patient records. Once standardized information is entered into a networked government database, it will be virtually impossible to prevent widespread dissemination of that information. If the federal government really seeks to protect medical privacy, why it is so eager to have its citizens’ medical records easily available in one centralized database? The truth is that a centralized database will make it far easier for both government agencies and private companies to access your health records.
     HHS officials have sought to reassure the public that the new rules require patient consent before physicians may release medical information. Unfortunately, however, the consent protection has very limited effect. First, your physician likely will refuse to treat you if you decline consent to share your records. This is almost certain to happen, because heavy fines (and even jail sentences!) will be imposed on physicians who don’t exactly follow the new regulations. Furthermore, there are very broad exceptions to the consent rule for ill-defined categories such as “oversight of the health care system,” “public health,” “law enforcement activities,” “judicial and administrative proceedings,” and “national defense and security.” These exceptions give the government almost unlimited justifications to access your private records not only without your consent, but also without your knowledge. The law enforcement exception is particularly troubling, because the 4th Amendment clearly prohibits warrantless searches of medical records by government officials. So while on the surface the new rules may seem to give patients some control, the reality is that the consent protection is largely meaningless.
     We should remember that private physicians have maintained patient privacy for centuries without government involvement, relying instead on personal conviction, the Hippocratic Oath, and professional standards. Patients once knew without question that anything they told their doctor would remain confidential. However, the physician/patient relationship is certain to change for the worse when control over patient records is transferred from medical professionals to government agencies. When patients know that their sensitive medical information will be turned over to government agencies or placed in a national database, they inevitably will be less open and honest when seeking medical care. Patients with drug and alcohol problems, mental illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, or other stigmatized health concerns will be especially reluctant to seek treatment. The inevitable result will be a decline in the standard of care delivered by doctors and an increase in health care costs.
     As a physician, I have vigorously opposed the new HHS rules since they first were proposed by the Clinton administration. I introduced legislation earlier this year to prevent their implementation, but unfortunately the deadline for Congress to act on my bill expired last week. However, the fight is not lost, as the rules do not become legally enforceable until 2003. Congress still has time to pass new legislation which prohibits the federal government from gathering your private medical information. I urge every American concerned with medical privacy and quality health care to join me in the fight to keep government out of our medical records.


Texas Straight Talk, 25 June 2001
End Trade Sanctions that Hurt Texas Farmers

     Last week the Texas state legislature adopted a resolution calling for an end to U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba. Lawmakers emphasized the failure of sanctions to remove Castro from power, and the unwillingness of other nations to respect the embargo. One Representative stated: “We have a lot of rice and agricultural products, as well as high-tech products, that would be much cheaper for Cuba to purchase from Texas. All that could come through the ports of Houston and Corpus Christi.” I wholeheartedly support this resolution, and I have introduced similar federal legislation in past years to lift all trade, travel, and telecommunications restrictions with Cuba. I only wish Congress understood the simple wisdom expressed in Austin, so that we could end the harmful and ineffective trade sanctions that serve no national purpose.
     I oppose economic sanctions for two very simple reasons. First, they don’t work as effective foreign policy. Time after time, from Cuba to China to Iraq, we have failed to unseat despotic leaders by refusing to trade with the people of those nations. If anything, the anti-American sentiment aroused by sanctions often strengthens the popularity of such leaders, who use America as a convenient scapegoat to divert attention from their own tyranny. History clearly shows that free and open trade does far more to liberalize oppressive governments than trade wars. Economic freedom and political freedom are inextricably linked–when people get a taste of goods and information from abroad, they are less likely to tolerate a closed society at home. So while sanctions may serve our patriotic fervor, they mostly harm innocent citizens and do nothing to displace the governments we claim as enemies.
     Second, sanctions simply hurt American industries, particularly agriculture. Every market we close to our nation’s farmers is a market exploited by foreign farmers. China, Russia, the middle east, North Korea, and Cuba all represent huge markets for our farm products, yet many in Congress favor current or proposed trade restrictions that prevent our farmers from selling to the billions of people in these areas. The department of Agriculture estimates that Iraq alone represents a $1 billion market for American farm goods. Given our status as one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, why would we ever choose to restrict our exports? The only beneficiaries of our sanctions policies are our foreign competitors.
     Still, support for sanctions continues in Congress. The House International Relations committee last week considered legislation that will extend existing economic sanctions against Iran and Libya for another 5 years. While I certainly oppose this legislation, I did agree with the President that we should at least limit the time period to 2 years, so that Congress could reassess the policy sooner. I introduced an amendment to this effect, but the majority of committee members voted to continue “punishing” Iran and Libya for 5 years; presumably some members would agree to maintain sanctions indefinitely. Interestingly, the bill focuses on preventing oil exploration and development in the region, even when new sources of oil are sorely needed to reduce prices at the pump for American consumers.
     I certainly understand the emotional feelings many Americans have toward nations such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Cuba. Yet we must not let our emotions overwhelm our judgment in foreign policy matters, because ultimately human lives are at stake. For example, 10 years of trade sanctions against Iraq, not to mention aggressive air patrols and even bombings, have not ended Saddam Hussein’s rule. If anything, the political situation has worsened, while the threat to Kuwait remains. The sanctions have, however, created suffering due to critical shortages of food and medicine among the mostly poor inhabitants of Iraq. So while the economic benefits of trade are an important argument against sanctions, we must also consider the humanitarian argument. Our sanctions policies undermine America’s position as a humane nation, bolstering the common criticism that we are a bully with no respect for people outside our borders. Economic common sense, self-interested foreign policy goals, and humanitarian ideals all point to the same conclusion: Congress should work to end economic sanctions against all nations immediately.


Texas Straight Talk, 2 July 2001
“Patients Bill of Rights” or Federal Takeover of Medicine?

     For decades, the U.S. healthcare system was the envy of the entire world. America had the finest doctors and hospitals, patients enjoyed high quality, affordable medical care, and thousands of privately-funded charities provided health services for the poor. Doctors focused on treating patients, without the red tape and threat of lawsuits that plague the profession today. Most Americans once paid cash for basic services, and had insurance only for major illnesses and accidents. This meant both doctors and patients had an incentive to keep costs down, as the patient was directly responsible for payment, rather than a third-party insurance company or government program. Not coincidentally, there was far less government involvement in medicine during this time. Somehow, however, the clear connection between government involvement in medicine and the decline in our once-proud healthcare system has been lost in the current debate.
     Today most Americans obtain health care either through an HMO or similar managed-care organization, or through government Medicare and Medicaid. Since it is very hard to make actuarial estimates for routine health care, HMOs charge most members a similar monthly premium. Because HMOs always want to minimize their costs, they often deny payment for various drugs, treatments, and procedures. Similarly, Medicare does not have unlimited funds, so it generally covers only a portion of any costs. The result of this system is that doctors and patients cannot simply decide what treatment is appropriate; instead, they constantly find themselves being second-guessed by HMO accountants and government bureaucrats. When a third party is paying the bills and malpractice lawsuits loom, doctors have every incentive to maximize costs and order all possible tests and treatments. At the same time, patients suffer when legitimate needed treatment is denied. HMOs have become a corporate, bureaucratic middleman in the healthcare system, driving up costs while undeniably degrading the quality of our medical care.
     So what should we do about the HMO mess? Before we call for government action, we should recognize that the federal government has virtually mandated HMOs on the American people First, the tax code excludes health insurance from taxation when purchased by an employer, but not when purchased by an individual. Second, the HMO Act of 1973 forced all but the smallest employers to offer HMOs to their employees. So while many in Congress are happy to criticize HMOs today, the public never hears how the present system was imposed upon the American people by federal law. In fact, one very prominent Senator now attacking managed care is on record in the 1970s lauding HMOs as “effective and efficient mechanisms for delivering health care of the highest quality.” As usual, government intervention in the private market has caused unintended consequences, but Washington blames only the HMOs themselves–not the laws that created them.
     Not surprisingly, the loudest voices on Capitol Hill now calling for a so-called “patients bill of rights” don’t want to abolish the HMO mandate. Instead, more government is proposed to fix the problem. Congress wants to micromanage the system, deciding what treatments and drugs should be paid for by health insurers. Congress also wants to create new rules allowing lawsuits against employers when the HMO refuses treatment to an employee! Surely the trial lawyers will support the new laws, but Americans certainly should understand that more federal involvement will only increase the cost of health insurance for everyone. Undoubtedly, lower-paid workers will find themselves completely uninsured when their premiums increase beyond affordable levels. The truth is that any new legislation will only serve to increase government involvement in our health care system, to the detriment of us all. Without question, the true goal of some in Congress is to create a socialized medicine system. It’s politically expedient to slap a “patients rights” label on legislation which simply leads us closer to a complete government takeover of medicine.
     We can hardly blame the market for our current healthcare woes. As with all goods and services, medical care is best delivered by the free market, with competition and patient responsibility keeping costs down. Government has neither the constitutional authority nor the wisdom to determine appropriate contract terms between individuals and health insurers. Congress needs to abolish the HMO mandate and allow favorable tax treatment for individuals paying for health care directly. Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), which are tax-deductible and tax-exempt accounts used to pay medical expenses, should be made available to all Americans. When patients spend their own money for health care, they have a direct incentive to negotiate lower costs with their doctor. When government controls health care, all cost incentives are lost. No “patients bill of rights” will help us when the money runs out.


Texas Straight Talk, 9 July 2001
UN War Crimes Tribunal Cannot Create Peace

     Former Yugoslav President Milosevic appeared last week before the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands, despite his insistence th