Australia Leads the Way; America Should Follow
By JBS President John F. McManus
Three years ago, the Australian government led by Prime Minster Julia Gillard bowed to the questionable claims of environmentalists and imposed a carbon tax on large companies. Any company releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere was required to fork over a hefty penalty per ton of emissions. However, on July 17, 2014, the Australian Senate followed the lead already taken by the nation’s House and approved a measure repealing this onerous tax.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who succeeded Gillard in 2014, saluted the legislature’s wisdom. He had campaigned for the office on a pledge to do away with the assault on carbon dioxide emissions. Repeating what he stated in his campaign, he called the now-cancelled measure a “useless destructive tax, which damaged jobs, which hurt families’ cost of living, and which didn’t actually help the environment.” As expected, opponents of the repeal insisted that doing away with the carbon tax would adversely impede efforts to address climate change, the new label for what was formerly known as global warming.
Only a few weeks earlier here in the United States, President Obama endorsed a plan created by the Environmental Protection Agency to have states devise plans to reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power plants. Approximately 40 percent of the electric power generated in the U.S. comes from burning coal. If the EPA’s regulations are imposed, the effect on energy production nationwide will be enormous, and the loss of jobs by coal miners and others in coal-producing areas will be catastrophic. So, too, will jobs be lost when the cost of energy formerly generated by coal skyrockets.
Addressing the EPA plan, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) stated, “The Obama administration must think our country … can operate on windmills.” Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said of the EPA’s targeting of carbon dioxide emissions stated: “Never before has the federal government forced an industry to do something that is technologically impossible.” He added: “If these regulations go into effect, American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar, and economic uncertainty will grow.”
The great bugaboo targeted by environmentalists and the EPA, of course, is carbon dioxide. No one doubts that burning coal to produce energy puts the substance into the atmosphere. But when pressed to address the scientific fact that carbon dioxide is absolutely essential for plant growth and therefore a definite good, the fright peddlers seek to change the subject into claims about rising sea levels, droughts, and severe weather outbreaks – all supposedly resulting from human activity and carbon dioxide.
Australia has shown the way. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is correct about the effects of the carbon tax in his country. The same effects would be seen here. But proponents of a similarly destructive measure would have the U. S. impose its own counterproductive tax on carbon dioxide emissions. U.S. leaders don’t like to admit that anything can be learned from some other country. But if enough Americans merely inform our officials what Australian officials have just done, the damage a carbon tax and the related war on coal can be avoided.
An Enemy of the U.S. Constitution Passes
By JBS President John F. McManus
After a career that saw him teaching at Williams College in Massachusetts for 40 years, Professor James MacGregor Burns entered into eternity on July 15, 2014. Widely heralded as a champion of numerous left-wing causes he never abandoned, he authored 20 books and influenced many thousands of students. Friends and admirers have always lauded his works, especially his biographies of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Edward Kennedy. For what he wrote about FDR, including a slight slap on the President’s wrist for not tying our nation more tightly to the USSR during WWII, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. In 1958, he won the Democratic Party nomination for a seat in the U.S. House for the First Congressional District in Massachusetts, but was soundly defeated in the Fall election.
A life-long advocate of restructuring the U.S. Constitution to steer more power to the Executive Branch, Burns issued a 1984 work entitled “The Power to Lead: The Crisis of the American Presidency.” In it, he urged a rewrite of portions of the Constitution during the forthcoming bi-centennial celebrations of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the 1789 ratification of a new Constitution, and the 1791 addition of the Bill of Rights to the new “law of the land.”
Obituaries characterizing Burns as a forward-looking thinker mentioned his “The Power to Lead” but failed to call attention to its truly controversial (revolutionary?) plans for America. It was in this book that Burns wrote of his disdain for the American system of limited government, preferring instead creation of an imperial presidency vested with greatly enhanced powers. He wrote:
Let us face reality. The framers [of the Constitution] have simply been too shrewd for us. They have outwitted us. They designed separate institution [branches] that cannot be unified by mechanical linkages, frail bridges, tinkering. If we are to “turn the founders upside down” – to put together what they put asunder – we must directly confront the constitutional structure they erected.
With his several proposals for restructuring the Constitution already well-known, Burns was nevertheless named co-chairman of Project ’87 calling for “appraisal of this unique document” during the period surrounding its 200th anniversary. Later, a Committee on the Constitutional System (CCS) containing 15 members of its board who held membership in the Council on Foreign Relations (out of a total of 41) relied on Burns’ suggestions for reconstructing the Constitution. Many of the CCS bigwigs even promoted the idea of a constitutional convention.
Somewhat of a realist, Burns later suggested that the constitutional changes he advocated might possibly be enacted “following a stupendous national crisis and political failure.” Later Democratic allies have similarly pointed to opportunities to enact change during a real or contrived “crisis” that could befall our nation.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, and continuing to this day, threats to the Constitution posed by Burns and others, whether radical amendments or a complete overhaul via a constitutional convention, have been successfully blocked by the efforts of The John Birch Society, its affiliated magazine The New American, and several allies. While the plans of James MacGregor Burns weren’t enacted, the fight to preserve the Constitution continues.
Forbes Calls for Defunding the IRS: A Better Solution Exists
by JBS President John F. McManus
Another of the many scandals coming out of Washington deals with heavy abuse of power by the IRS. In years gone by, IRS threats against American citizens were employed by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Steve Forbes states in Forbes magazine that the previous illegal use of the IRS to target political enemies amounted to small potatoes compared to what has occurred since 2010. The Editor-in-Chief of the magazine that bears his name says that the Obama administration has used the tax-collecting agency to wage a mini-war against “ordinary citizens who have spontaneously come together in countless organizations to fight the current administration’s egregious policies and threats to liberty.” He’s absolutely correct.
As a result, Forbes calls for defunding of the IRS with the only reason for its continued existence being “a handful of clerks to process refunds.” He doesn’t say what government agency would be left to collect legitimate “taxes, duties, imposts and excises” as noted in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Obviously, there has to be a collector of properly levied taxation.
But Forbes is certainly correct in pointing to illegitimate power possessed by the IRS. Over many years, countless Americans have refused to be involved in organizations – or even to speak out as an individual – to oppose harmful government programs and policies. Many Americans won’t openly admit their fear of being audited by IRS snoops should they speak out or send donations to groups the administration doesn’t like. But doing so should be an unquestioned right of anyone. This effect of the IRS is why this agency’s overriding power is more useful for the federal government as a “people controller” than as a revenue collector. In other words, the IRS has all but cancelled for many the First Amendment’s guarantee that raising one’s voice or financing some group is a God-given right. No law has been passed to abrogate everyone’s right to oppose government programs and policies. But none is needed so long as a threat from the IRS continues to hover over anyone who might otherwise be involved in opposing a multiplicity of government’s outrageous activities.
Yes, the IRS is government’s hammer to be used against virtually anyone or any group. A reining in of this power is absolutely necessary. Let us suggest, however, that the best way to accomplish this goal is repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, the personal income tax. Then, no American could be cowed into silence because of fear of being audited. Then, many more Americans would be willing to fight against their own government’s many threats to liberty.
Steve Forbes is right to point to IRS abuses. But there’s a better way of removing its power. If more Americans could be made aware that canceling unconstitutional federal agencies would result in paring down the government to 20 percent its size and 20 percent its cost, then the Sixteenth Amendment could be repealed and America would again be the land of the free.
Nullification of Oppressive Federal Laws is Catching On
by JBS President John F. McManus
Earlier in 2014, the Kansas state legislature enacted a law stating that some federal gun control regulations would not be obeyed in Kansas. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder immediately notified Governor Sam Brownback that this new state law was unconstitutional. He cited Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, specifically its “Supremacy Clause,” to support his stand.
As is customary among federal officials, Holder relied on only a portion of this clause, the part stating that laws of the United States “shall be the supreme law of the land” binding all the states. But a more complete look at this clause shows that federal laws are legitimate only if “made in pursuance thereof” of the Constitution. In other words, if a federal law is not in keeping with, or exceeds, the powers granted in the Constitution, it can rightly be declared illegitimate and not obeyed.
Though not employing the word, Kansas actually issued a decree of nullification regarding the pertinent gun control regulations issued by the federal government. Is nullification of a federal law permissible? Thomas Jefferson thought so. In the 1798 Kentucky Resolutions he penned to help the Kentuckians gain statehood, he wrote:
That a nullification, by those sovereignties [states] of all unauthorized acts done under the color of that instrument [the Constitution] is a rightful remedy.
After he served as President, James Madison offered his view about a state’s power to nullify a federal law in 1834:
… nullification of a law can … belong rightfully to a single state as one of the parties of the Constitution; the state not ceasing to avow its adherence to the Constitution.
Though Attorney General Holder expressed his objection to the Kansas law, he hasn’t taken any action. But the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a private organization, has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn what Kansas has done. In keeping with the Holder view, this anti-gun ownership group is relying on only a portion of the Supremacy Clause while ignoring the requirement that a federal law must be “in pursuance thereof” of the Constitution.
The actual Kansas law being challenged calls for prosecution of any law enforcement official (federal, state or even local) who seeks to enforce federal regulations over firearms made, sold and owned in Kansas. Attorney General Holder will surely watch this case from the sidelines. But so too will millions of Americans who value the private ownership of weapons, a right protected by the Second Amendment.
A related matter may become an issue in this case. It is who shall determine the meaning of constitutional clauses. America has long relied on a belief that the federal judiciary alone has the power to state what any portion of the Constitution actually means. But nowhere in the document itself can any such attitude be found. Leaving such an important matter to the federal judiciary has resulted in judicial mischief.
State nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and regulations is based on the recognition that sovereign states created the national government and delegated to that government only those few powers enumerated in the Constitution. It would surely be helpful for the cause of liberty for this intent to be reinforced along with acceptance of a state’s right to nullify a bad federal law. We can hope that the Brady Campaign’s suit against Kansas will lead to a reaffirmation of state power and a diminution of federal overreach. Like Eric Holder, we shall be watching this very important case.
Learn more about nullification by reading Thomas E Woods Jr.’s book, “Nullification”.
Cashless Society Results in Less Liberty
By JBS President John F. McManus
A truly important aspect of the use of money has been lost or forgotten in the age of credit cards, checking accounts, and other methods of conducting commerce. It is that when one uses unmarked cash for buying and selling, the transaction cannot be traced. The buyer and seller remain anonymous. They are free from peering eyes and snooping agencies, especially those possessed by snooping governments.
The reality is that anonymity in the use of money is an important part of freedom. If you can’t buy or sell what you want without having to reveal who you are or why you are buying or selling, you have been forced to lose your anonymity. Others who might not have your best interests in mind know what you are doing.
Today’s worldwide trend is toward creation of a “cashless society” where all transactions would be accomplished electronically. This would create a record of all monetary transactions that ought to be no one else’s business. Governments and others with access to such records would then know a great deal about everyone’s business, a rather scary consequence being promoted in the name of efficiency. Use of checking accounts, credit and debit cards, etc., should be everyone’s choice, but not the only choice.
As might be expected, the United Nations is one of the chief promoters of doing away with cash. Two of its agencies, the World Food Program and the United Nations Development Program have expressed support for the idea. What this amounts to, of course, is an obvious step toward eventual knowledge of everyone’s previously anonymous conduct of personal affairs. In addition, world planners are backing a program that would have micro-chips placed in everyone’s body to serve as an ID, but also to function as a credit/debit card.
While being promoted in the names of efficiency and safety, the trend toward a cashless society brings to mind George Orwell’s tyrannical Big Brother. He would surely champion the idea.
Lessig’s Real Goal: Change the Entire Constitution
by JBS President John F. McManus
Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has been beating the drums for a Constitution Convention for many years. In 1993, the Texas Law Review published his article “Fidelity in Translation” in which he boldly stated “…it is time to rewrite our Constitution.” More recently, he formed the group known as “Call a Convention.” He also participated prominently at a Conference on the Constitutional Convention held at Harvard in September 2011.
Reformers who want a Con-Con will point to the ballooning national debt, congressional gridlock, too many firearms in the hands of too many Americans, and more. Lessig’s new crusade for change, however, targets the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the door for corporations to finance election campaigns. He doesn’t like the idea. His current proposal for overturning this decision includes merely amending the Constitution. But the Constitution isn’t at fault. The problems facing America stem from weak and even revolutionary members of Congress who don’t abide by their oath to stand firmly with the Constitution they have sworn a solemn oath to defend.
And the American people have either forgotten or never knew a simply stated summary of American success. It is: “Our nation became great not because of what government did, but because of what government was prevented from doing by the limitations on power contained in the Constitution.” It is the turning away from those limitations that plagues our nation today. If the Constitution were adhered to, there would be no foreign aid, no war without a formal declaration by Congress, no Federal Reserve, no federal departments of education, housing, health, transportation, and more. The federal government would shrink to 20 percent its size and 20 percent its cost.
Professor Lessig’s newest crusade starts with his launching of a super Political Action Committee called Mayday PAC. He intends to raise $12 million for it to insure victory for five like-minded candidates for Congress, men or women who will work to change the way election campaigns are funded. He is, therefore, willing to use the Supreme Court’s opening for corporate financing of elections to overturn that very decision.
Once he succeeds with five new members of Congress, he expects to raise more money to finance more candidates willing to carry out his plan. These new voices in Congress will then support his interim desire expressed by Lessig himself: “A constitutional amendment is Mayday PAC’s ultimate goal.” But as he has clearly indicated in the past, he wants the entire Constitution changed, not just an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. His Mayday PAC will be used to cast doubt on the worth of the entire Constitution.
As has been evident in other efforts to tinker with, even destroy the Constitution, Lessig has enlisted the help of prominent Republicans and a bunch of technocrats. The five-member board he has assembled to run Mayday PAC includes Mark McKinnon who held key positions in both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns and in Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential race.
As noted above, Professor Lessig isn’t concerned only about campaign financing. His long-range goal includes cancelling the Constitution in favor of a completely new law of the land. Based on what he has stated in the past, it would not contain the limitations appearing in the 1787 document that have won praise from many world leaders and are the key to America’s enviable success and freedom. Helping fellow Americans to know what this man has in mind is the way to defeat his proposals.
The JBS has opposed calls for a modern-day Constitutional Convention for decades and seeks to work through Congress for Constitutional amendments rather than through the state legislatures to amend the U.S. Constitution. Many view a con-con as a quick way to pass amendments they think will stop the big-government juggernaut. Why would politicians suddenly start following an amended Constitution after ignoring and violating the Constitution for so long? The remedy so desperately needed to return our country to good government is to enforce the Constitution, not amend it.
The Lawless United Nations
by JBS President John F. McManus
The United Nations Charter contains an important limitation on the power of the world body in its Article 2, paragraph 7. There we find, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the jurisdiction of any state….” The Senate promptly approved the Charter in 1945 and the U.S. became one of the first members of the world body.
Pro-UN authors Leland M. Goodrich and Edvard Hambro wrote in their 1949 book, Charter of the United Nations: Commentary and Documents, that the paragraph we have noted constitutes “the most substantial limitation” on the UN’s power in the entire document. In 1966, U.S. diplomat James J. Wadsworth, another champion of the UN, pointed to the same limitation in his The Glass House: The United Nations in Action. He wrote: “It is a foregone conclusion that had this provision been omitted from the Charter, literally dozens of prospective members in 1945 would have balked at ratification – certainly the United States would have been among them.”
But the UN regularly ignores Article 2, Paragraph 7 and grasps every opportunity to add to its ominously growing clout.
Acting on a complaint filed by the Council of Canadians, the UN has been asked to rule that the shutting off of water to many Detroit domiciles constitutes a denial of a fundamental human right. Because of thousands of unpaid water bills, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department did indeed shut off the water to 3,025 houses (many of which are unoccupied) after receiving no response to its April notices that a shut-off would be initiated because of non-payment. The threat was sent to 44,273 residences and resulted in remittances of $400,000. In other words, a huge number of the scofflaws paid up.
Water and Sewage Department official Bill Johnson noted that the threat to shut off the water had to be made. He said, “The water bill isn’t the first bill people pay, it’s the last one – after the credit card, after the cell phone, after the [TV] cable.” But he knows that people who do pay their bill for water “are picking up the cost for people who aren’t paying.” And he complained that people who make outrageous claims about Detroit’s water situation never come up with any plan enabling is to “supply the best drinking water in the world for free.”
Canadian Maude Barlow, the chair of the liberal Council of Canadians, crossed into the U.S. to visit Detroit and, in her 92-page report sent to the UN, she maintained that shutting off the water was a grave injustice. She knew that the world body’s General Assembly had officially named clean drinking water a human right in 2010. What ever happened to the oft-praised good relations existing between our nation and our northern neighbor? Who gave a Canadian the right to protest what happens in the U.S.? Even more, what about the UN Charter’s limitations on such meddling by the world body?
Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on water rights, hasn’t yet commented on the Detroit situation. But, in 2012, she sent a fiery letter to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson scorching the city’s leaders with claims that its homeless population didn’t have access to sanitation and clean water.
Beyond Detroit’s water and sewage problems, and even beyond the unfriendly meddling by a liberal Canadian, the most important issue here is UN lawlessness. If it won’t be limited by its own Charter, how is anyone going to stop its march toward total control of the planet? The sane recourse, even for Canada, is to withdraw from the United Nations, the sooner the better.
Get US out! of the United Nations has been the signature campaign of The John Birch Society for over 50 years. The global power elites view the UN as their main vehicle for establishing, step by step, a socialistic global government controlled by themselves. Now, more than ever, we need to get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US.