Here we go America

Not even two full weeks into the new year, and Congress is already going for the throat.  Figuratively and maybe even literally on down the road.

From Reuters:

Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill in the House of Representatives that touched on nearly every step U.S. agencies take in creating and applying new rules, continuing their blitz to radically reform “abusive” federal regulation of areas from the environment to the workplace.

In a 238-183 vote, the House passed the “Regulatory Accountability Act,” which combined eight bills aimed at changing how the vast government bureaucracy runs. Only five Democrats voted for it.

The legislation would give President-elect Donald Trump tools “to wipe out abusive regulation,” said Bob Goodlatte, the Judiciary Committee chairman who is among the many House leaders calling for lighter regulation and saying the costs to comply with federal rules are too high.

Republicans say there is little accountability for regulations that apply to almost every aspect of American life because they are created by appointed officials and not elected representatives. Federal agencies operate either independently or under the president’s authority.

The crux of their argument, based on that last paragraph above is that there is no accountability for regulations because they’re not created by elected representatives.  If we don’t have enough with the incoming Ego-In-Chief already, now Congressional Republicans feel that things are not kosher unless they write it.  This is the same dysfunctional Congress that probably couldn’t pass legislation to get themselves out of a burning building.  There’s one major flaw in their thinking however.

The Constitution is filled with checks and balances along with separation of powers.  The power to legislate is delegated to Congress, and they’ve been quite adamant about that power with the numerous lawsuits filed against President Obama over his two terms.  That same Constitution also delegates the power to enforce laws to the Executive Branch, the very same branch filled with those appointed officials who are currently responsible for writing out those regulations.

You see, Republicans gripe about regulations to the point where most people don’t have a clue as to what a regulation is.  All we hear is how they cost businesses so much and they’re overburdensome.  We never hear Republicans actually explain how regulations come about and what their purposes are.  For those who don’t already know, here’s a quick rundown.  My apologies to those who already know this.

Legislation begins in Congress as bills.  The bills get voted on by both houses of Congress.  If they pass both houses, those bills then go to the president to either be signed or vetoed.  If the president signs the bill, then it becomes law.  The laws that are passed and signed are then codified and placed into the U.S. Code.  According to the definition at Wikipedia, “The Code of Laws of the United States of America[1] (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, or U.S.C.) is the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States.”  The U.S. Code currently consists of 52 titles, and each title is broken down by subject matter.

Now, once that statute is published, the agency(s) responsible for enforcing that law have to come up with a set of rules to enforce the law that Congress passed and the president signed.  Take a wild guess at what those rules are called?  They’re called regulations.  Those regulations, once approved, end up in the Code of Federal Regulations which is often abbreviated as CFR.  The CFR is contained in 50 titles, and just like the U.S. Code, those titles are broken down by subject matter.

I don’t know of a single person who has read the entire U.S. Code or CFR, so there may indeed be unnecessary entries in both compilations.  That said, I don’t think a Congress that has sued the outgoing president for overreach has a leg to stand on when trying to claim they should have more say in regulations.  If you’re that concerned about the costs of regulations, then pay more attention to the legislation that you write.  Instead of allowing ALEC or other outside groups or lobbyists write legislation, go back to doing your own job that you get paid $174,000 a year to do.  It’s not like Congress has passed much legislation in recent years anyway, so there’s not a whole lot of writing to be done.

I don’t see any good intentions behind this.  If Republicans want to deregulate everything, then write legislation to rescind the laws in place and get your president to sign it.  If there’s no law on the books, then the agency(s) don’t need regulations to enforce them.  It’s a win-win situation for Republicans.  I seriously doubt they’ll go that route because that would actually shine the light on what the ultimate goal appears to be, which is to make things easier for their financial backers to make more money.  That’s always the prevailing argument about how businesses are hampered by regulations, so it would make sense that the goal is to get businesses to making more money.

Quit lying to people and just be honest about what your intentions are.  We’ve already seen that many in the voting public don’t give a rat’s ass about what politicians do.  A party has campaigned for years on ending the ACA, and people who voted them into office are now acting surprised that they’re ending the ACA.  Words don’t describe the abject despair I feel when I read story after story about this.  Part of me wants to call people stupid, but I honestly think people are more swayed by personality than what the people are actually saying.  Trump proved that by winning this election after all he’s said.

This year is only beginning, and it’s Year One of our four year journey through Trumpland.  I hope things such as this doesn’t put us back to having flammable rivers and air you can slice with a knife.  I still refuse to be the crier of doom, but the blocks appear to be falling into place for some of the more frightening predictions to have a chance of coming to pass.  God help us all.

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It’s already June

I’ve been M.I.A. for a while.  Things got a bit busy, and I had to make adjustments in my time to ensure the important things got taken care of.  Something, I kinda wish politicians would do.

We’re coming up on a few important Supreme Court decisions that will have ramifications for the near term and quite possibly long-term direction of this country.  Decisions on the PPACA and same-sex marriage will produce cheering and jeering depending on which camp you belong in (if you have a camp).  No matter what the outcome though, the reverberations will be felt by all.

With same-sex marriage, the issue isn’t just marriage as most try to paint it.  It’s not even just a religious issue.  It boils down to probate law and issues involved there as well.  When a man and woman marry, their joint property gets settled by probate in the case one dies.  If a same-sex couple spends an entire lifetime together, their property rights mean absolutely nothing if one partner dies without the legal acknowledgment of their union.  Call it whatever you wish, but the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t have a clause or asterisk that gives an exception to exclude people who happen to love someone of the same-sex.  I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I’m leaning towards thinking that the right for same-sex couples will be affirmed by the court.

On to the PPACA, otherwise known as Obamacare (I really loathe that term).

At question is the subsidies for insurance purchases made in the exchanges operated by the federal government in the states that opted to not set them up.  I kinda see both sides to this case.  On one hand, the states didn’t actually set up or operate the exchanges, so the law as written would suggest the subsidies are illegal.  From the opposite side, the federal government is operating the exchanges, but they are still state exchanges which could mean the subsidies are legit.

Part of me wants to see the subsidies struck down.  Since the law was passed, Republicans have done anything and everything they can to stymie or upturn the law.  If the subsidies are struck down now, it would be the result of active attacks by Republicans and conservatives, and it would be their responsibility to fix the system as they control both houses of Congress.  At the same time, the only people who would be affected right off would be the residents in the Republican led states that filed or joined suit.  Then, Republicans would have to go to their own constituents that voted them in and explain to them why they had to screw up their insurance coverage, and it would be a major screw up.  There would need to be something done immediately to rectify the chaos, and there’s no onus for the Dems to work with Republicans to fix it.  I see it as Wile E. Coyote catching the Road Runner and then not having a clue what to do next.

My realist side would prefer to see the subsidies upheld to put the fight to destroy this law to bed forever.  Instead of trying to destroy it, I’d prefer the same effort be used at straightening it out so that it’s functional and practical.  You would think that in one of the richest countries in the world, we would be able to provide basic preventative care for every citizen here.  In my view, there should be no question about that.  Beyond basic preventative care is a different topic and is up for debate.

Whatever the decisions made by the Supreme Court, there’s going to be winners and losers.  I guess we’ll have to wait to see who they are.

House panel votes to sue Obama

From Business Insider:

The House Rules Committee vote was 7 in favor, 4 against. All the Republicans voted for it; all the Democrats voted against it. It brings the resolution closer to full House vote, expected next week before Congress adjourns for a five-week summer recess.

“The president has repeated encroached on Congress’s power to write the laws,” said Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX). “Laws are not a mere list of suggestions from which a president can pick and choose.”

The lawsuit is aimed at the president’s unilateral decision to delay some deadlines under Obamacare. Although House Republicans said they intend to target the employer mandate delay, they’ve broadened the language in the legislation to give them room to legally challenge other tweaks to the law. The new language also leaves room for them to determine what remedy to seek.

If I understand this correctly, the GOP wants to sue Obama for delaying the very law they’ve spent 50 plus votes trying to get rid of.  Either this is some serious eleventh dimension chess, or our elected officials have officially graduated beyond “stuck on stupid”.

I don’t recall either party acting with such jackassery when Medicare Part D had its disastrous roll out and implementation was delayed time and time again to help straighten out the issues.  If the GOP is supposed to be so concerned with our fiscal health, why in the hell are they wasting taxpayer money with such an obvious political stunt?  Many people with experience in legal proceedings have basically said that a snowball has a better chance of surviving hell compared to the chances of this lawsuit.

It seems as though many in Congress fail to remember that implementation of laws is a direct responsibility of the Executive Branch.  Delaying implementation is not changing a law unless that delay is a permanent delay.  You would think that, as much as the GOP hates this law, they would be ecstatic at Obama delaying it as much as possible.  The delays give them more time to hold frivolous votes to repeal.  I guess the GOP has forgotten about the old saying to never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Taxation without Representation

The 113th Congress is setting all kinds of records.  They’re going down in history as the “Do Nothing” Congress.  To date, they have passed a whopping 108 bills since gaveling into session in January 2013 with 73 of them coming last year.  Considering their salary is around $175,000 per year, they’re looking at earning approximately $3,240.00 for each bill passed so far if they don’t pass anything else.  Since we’re about to head into their recess and then election, there doesn’t seem like much opportunity to pass anything else this year.  Now, I don’t know about many other jobs, but where else can you make that kind of money and purposefully do as little work as possible?  We’re being taxed to pay for this, so where is our representation that we’re being charged for?

We hold elections every two years to send people to Washington DC to represent us and govern this country effectively.  Given the lack of actual governance, I find it amazing that we haven’t collapsed into a heaping pile of unrest and violence.  Instead, we’re witnessing what truly makes America the great country that it is.  The economy is trying to improve.  Jobs are increasing, even though they were lower paying jobs in the beginning of the recovery.  If Americans are like me, they’re about ready to get rid of as much of this particular congress as they can and start anew next year.

For all the whining about Obama being an imperial president, Congress appears to be the primary cause.  Obama can’t enforce laws if there are none written.  Even with this lawsuit that Boehner’s talking, he’s suing Obama for “changing” the law governing the PPACA.  While such a lawsuit could be easily won by the Obama Administration by simply showing that US Code has not changed since the bill was signed into law, I think this points at a deeper issue with Congress that people are aware of but are not capable of acting upon.  We see the utter foolishness going on in DC, but we still keep sending the same people there and being disappointed with the results we get.  This Congress hit a record low approval rate of 7% recently, but historically, Congress has an 85% reelection success rate.

Here’s the easy way to settle things once and for all.  Congress needs to put on their big boy pants and do their jobs.  If it’s something you want, then legislate that.  If it’s something you don’t want, then legislate that.  The whole notion of compromise being weakness needs to be taken out back and shot with that 7% approval rating.  Common sense would dictate that you would change your way of doing things when 9 out of 10 people don’t like what you’re doing.  Then again, this is politicians we’re talking about.  Obama, on the other hand, needs to grow a backbone and quit waiting for the GOP to do what they’re never going to do.  They are not going to willingly compromise, no matter how much you give them.  If they’re going to sue you, then give them something worth suing over.  You’re a previous constitutional law professor, so extend that EO power just to the breaking point and force them to actually act like adults and govern accordingly.  Otherwise, the 114th Congress is going to break the records set by this one, and America really doesn’t need that.

Why politicians need to stay out of health care

With the Hobby Lobby case being argued at the Supreme Court, birth control pills have once again become media fodder.  I don’t understand they position that Hobby Lobby’s trying to argue as the primary purpose of your employer is to pay you for the labor you perform on their behalf.  I don’t ever recall any employer trying to dictate exactly what you could or could not do with your benefits.  They were usually negotiated as a package deal of some kind, not some kind of a la carte menu for prescriptions, procedures, and acceptable offices to visit.

Prior to the debate and passage of the PPACA, this crap wasn’t even an issue.  Hobby Lobby offered medical coverage that included prescription birth control pills, and not a single member of the ownership’s family even made a sigh about covering such a thing.  Now,in conjunction with the incessant drumbeat of opposing the current president, it’s suddenly an infringement on a person’s religious beliefs for a totally unaffiliated company to provide prescription medication coverage that includes birth control pills for women.

From my point of view, the entire argument reeks of downright stupidity and unwillingness for people to educate themselves.  Thanks to people like Rush Limbaugh, many Americans seem to have the opinion that taking birth control pills is a gateway to becoming a raging nymphomaniac.  In actuality, birth control pills are nothing more than doses of female hormones estrogen and progestin, and are a form of hormone therapy.  While they are primarily prescribed to prevent pregnancy, there are many other uses for those same pills. 

One easy way out of this is to get rid of employer sponsored insurance altogether.  Then, nobody has to make up some imaginary idea that a corporation is a person and has a religious belief that can be expressed.  A religious corporation is a Church or some other church/religious related entity.  Hobby Lobby is a craft store, and unfortunately scrap booking is not a religion.

An even better way is quit letting politicians get their claws into areas they don’t need to be involved with.  It seems as though everything that politicians touch turns to crap.  The perfect example is our educational system.  The same public school system that educated NASA engineers is basically dysfunctional because of the injection of politics where there should be none.  Everything in this country does not need to be political nor do they need intervention by politicians.  If politicians had not made the idea of birth control pills such a major issue, this post would not exist.