By Ryan S. Walters
My most recent article in MCD focused on what I consider the backbone of true conservatism – a strict construction of the Constitution. After decades of continuous usurpation, our Constitution now barely resembles its former self. In fact, it really has become a virtually meaningless dead letter, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Supreme Court, as well as other interested parties in Washington.
Usually it’s liberal Democrats who seek to strip the original meaning of the Constitution bare but Republicans are nearly as guilty, especially those in the GOP establishment. Exhibit A: Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion on Obamacare.
But it’s not just the opinions of the Supreme Court, or the unintelligible ranting of one of the many socialists in Congress. False understandings of the Constitution can be found on the opinion pages of our local newspapers as well.
Reading Sid Salter’s most recent column, I found a most interesting statement on the Constitution. We all know Salter is a big Thad supporter and has not shied away from defending Cochran’s earmarking prowess as being a positive good for the economy.
But on the Constitution, Salter, like other liberals, be they Democrats or Republicans, has no clue, whether intentional or otherwise. The offending sentence of his column, which really does not fit within the context of his piece, reads: “Cochran read the part of the Constitution that balanced the power of the U.S. president to direct spending with that of Congress to do the very same thing.”
Aside from his extraordinary mangled verbage, and the not-so-subtle shot at Chris McDaniel, it occurred to me, once I untangled the meaning of Salter’s words, what he was trying to say: Cochran has read the Constitution and understands it better than the rest of us. On spending, Ole Thad knows his stuff so don’t question his wisdom.
Yet, the truth is, both men apparently have no idea what’s in the Constitution, particularly when Salter fails to reference any specific constitutional clause to support his hypothesis.
So let me clear up the confusion: The President does not have anything to do with spending, at least not constitutionally-speaking. There is nothing in Article 2 of the Constitution that gives the President the power “to direct spending with that of Congress.” He can either sign a congressionally approved bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or he can veto it. That’s it. He can certainly send a bill to Congress for its consideration, but Congress is under no constitutional obligation to approve it.
The appropriations process, per the Constitution, is completely in the hands of Congress, the representatives of the people and the states, and for good reason. In fact, all bills that raise revenue must originate with the House of Representatives, which means that Obamacare, a bill that raises revenue but originated in the Senate, is unconstitutional, for that reason if nothing else. Someone please remind Chief Justice Roberts of that, please. Come to think of it, why hasn’t Salter or Cochran brought this up?
Let me also school Sid Salter on the constitutional process for budgetary appropriations, for I’m not sure they teach the Constitution, or its history, in journalism school.
Before the administration of Warren G. Harding, Congress received the spending requests of the various executive departments, and then wrote out a budget based on those requests as well as the available money in the treasury. This system began in 1789 and lasted until the 1920s. It worked very well, so much so that we actually balanced our books nearly every year, ran surpluses much of the time, and had a very small national debt, except in cases of war or depression, although after such calamities we worked to pay off the nearly acquired debt with this process.
In 1921, Congress passed the Budget and Accounting Act, which created the Bureau of the Budget (the forerunner of the OMB) and transferred the responsibility of the federal budget to the White House. This was not a smart move; it was quite a dumb one actually. Although surpluses pervaded during the thrifty Harding-Coolidge years from 1920 until 1930, the federal budget has been in the red far more than in the black since 1930. I believe this is a major reason why.
Today our fiscal problems are enormous. We have a national debt of $18 trillion and unfunded mandates of over $100 trillion. When we stuck to what the Founders gave us, we prospered. When we started listening to liberal Democrats and ignorant, pseudo-conservative Republicans, and transformed our system, we ran off the tracks.
His constitutional ignorance aside, Salter’s column continued with his consistent effort to mislead voters by condemning Chris McDaniel’s conservative challenge to Thad Cochran.
He writes that “the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign in Mississippi was the target of ‘AstroTurf’ groups and super PACs (political action committees) on an unprecedented scale. State voters experienced the handiwork of such high-sounding groups as Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks — groups that funneled some whopping sums of PAC money into attack ads against primarily incumbent Republicans. In Mississippi, outside spending has to date accounted for $11.7 million of what has become a $19.7 million campaign.”
In noting this, Salter reminds us that there’s “a lot of money to be made in making folks afraid of something and then convincing them that someone’s to blame for it.”
This is as good an example of Freud’s psychological projection as I have ever seen. Conveniently Salter never mentions the Barbour-backed Super PACs and the funding of true “AstroTurf” groups that leveled unforgivable race-baiting attacks against Senator McDaniel. These disgusting and vile ads were designed to make the state’s black population afraid of Chris McDaniel, a radical “Tea Partier” who would take away their government benefits and put them on the street.
He also fails to mention that opposition groups spent over $15 million to defeat McDaniel and the conservative movement. Yet McDaniel still managed to win 60 percent of REPUBLICAN votes. Note to Sid: “AstroTurf” movements don’t get 60 percent of the vote. In serious political circles, we call that the base.
Salter also, unsurprisingly, came to the defense of Thad Cochran once again:
“In what was forecast as his final campaign after a long and distinguished career, six-term incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran saw opponents characterize his 40-year record of reliable right-of-center conservatism redefined by his GOP challenger as four decades of support for liberal causes and for wild-eyed and irresponsible spending. Cochran’s actual record clearly doesn’t support that allegation in the least, but with an ‘AstroTurf’ group armada attacking on an unprecedented scale in Mississippi politics that record’s reality was obscured into another perception.”
Excuse me? Cochran’s “reliable right-of-center conservatism”? Cochran’s record was “obscured”? Apparently, Salter wants us to believe that the King of Pork is really a fiscal hawk. But, once again, no serious study of Cochran’s record can come to that conclusion.
The truth is Chris McDaniel was right in casting Thad Cochran as a liberal Republican. In fact, Thad Cochran is the most liberal Southern Republican in the US Senate, only slightly to the right of Susan Collins of Maine, who probably votes with the Democrats as much as with the Republicans, if not more so. Cochran does support “liberal causes,” like Common Core and amnesty, and “wild-eyed and irresponsible spending.”
Despite Sid Salter’s efforts to mislead voters and rewrite history, Thad Cochran’s fiscal record, and his revolting primary campaign, is as clear as can be, and it’s not one for which Mississippians can be proud.