No Sunlight on the Omnibus

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by Ron Paul

One Christmas tradition Congress could do without is the broken process of passing the annual Omnibus Spending Bill, which we recently did right before the holiday recess. Every December Congress fights and argues over spending and never seems to be able to pass the necessary appropriations until the very last minute. There is panic and threats of government shut downs and reduction in essential services. And they always threaten the essential services, as if there is no waste they could possibly eliminate instead.

This past December, right on cue the administration warned about dire civilian defense department layoffs if the money didn’t come soon. And so at the very last minute the Omnibus was rushed through in a whirlwind, just in time to save the day. Members of Congress had less than 24 hours to read the nearly 3,500 page bill before a vote was taken. The bill was supposedly much too important to waste time reading it. I feel differently. I feel the important bills are the ones we should take especial care to closely examine. However, we are led to believe that if the Omnibus bill failed, horrible things would have happened.

But the situation is a setup that ensures our government spending balloons every year just as the elites and special interests dictate. The vast majority of Members of Congress don’t actually know what the money is being spent on until after passage and by then it is too late. To address this flawed and corruptible process I have proposed a very simple change called the Sunlight Rule, which mandates that bills be presented to Congress and staff for review in their final form no less than 10 days before they come to the floor for a vote. This would allow the representatives of the American people time to read the bills before having to make a decision on them. Every now and then you hear criticisms of congressmen and women for not reading the bills.

That is a problem, however in cases like the Omnibus spending bills, a few hours is not nearly enough time to comb through and evaluate the hundreds of pages they contain. The rules do not currently specify any amount of time that must be allotted for Congress to read or deliberate any legislation before a vote. That needs to change. Congress should read the bills. But to do that requires an appropriate amount of time. More appropriately phrased, Congress should be ALLOWED to read the bills. And no member of Congress should, in good conscience, vote affirmatively on a bill they haven’t fully analyzed. I am hoping that in the New Year more of my colleagues will resolve to take a stand for honesty and due diligence in representing the people of this country and that we can enact the Sunlight Rule. With it, we will be a wiser, more open Congress and our decisions in Washington will be more deliberative and fully informed as they ought to be.

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On the Omnibus Spending Bill

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by Ron Paul

This week Congress finished work on its final spending package for the year. This “Omnibus” bill contains many of the spending bills that did not get passed throughout the year. Last minute changes made by the Senate mean President Bush is likely to sign the legislation into law. What this bill means is lots more of Washington spending your money. And, with a year of talking and fighting about earmarks, we did not see a significant change in that area either.

Especially disconcerting is the overseas spending. Let me point to just one example. In that portion of the bill for military construction, there were nearly one billion dollars in earmarks for spending overseas. Again, this is just in the portion for military construction projects. One dozen foreign countries will benefit from this taxpayer sponsored largess. Equally bad, we are building these new military facilities overseas while we continue to close our military bases here at home designed to defend the United States. During the most recent round of base closures, I introduced legislation that would halt base closures here in the United States while our men and women are engaged in combat missions in the Middle East.

How odd is it that while this legislation failed to pass, we are now earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars for bases in countries such as Bahrain and Qatar? Our policy is gone awry, is costing us billions here, and billions there, totaling trillions of dollars when added up. Yet the last key piece of legislation passed by Congress this year does absolutely nothing to even begin to address this problem. In fact, as I have suggested here, it only exaggerates the problem. If this is Washington’s idea of the spirit of Christmas and charity then it is a sick joke. This holiday season we should be more concerned about the less fortunate here in our own country. People are facing the possibility of losing their homes because of a mortgage crisis brought on by inflation, businesses are being pushed into bankruptcy by a burdensome regulatory state, and the tax code makes it hard for many people to afford basics like medical care, gasoline, and educational expenses for their children.

America is a generous country, at this time of year that is more visible than ever. But, in this case, charity truly must start at home. We need to stop these overseas earmarks and put those dollars to work here in this country. We need to dredge our own ports and river mouths. We need to build bridges in America instead of constructing multi-billion dollar facilities abroad. And, most importantly, we need to allow people to keep their own resources so they can afford life’s necessities, as well as the ability to support the charities of their own choosing. In the true spirit of Christmas charity Washington should have given back to hardworking taxpayers their own earnings. Despite the recent actions of Congress, I do hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and safe travels.

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The Importance of Fiscal Responsibility

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by Ron Paul

As the year draws to a close, the battle over spending in Washington is heating up. The Democrats want to expand government healthcare, while the President has vetoed the second attempt to expand SCHIP. The latest version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program would have expanded the entitlement program and raised taxes, just as the earlier version did and the President showed fiscal restraint with his veto. Reducing our entitlement programs here at home is not against saving the children, as the rhetoric goes, it is about saving the country’s economy.

The fact is we have huge trade imbalances, massive deficits, and a $9 trillion national debt, which balloons to $60 trillion if unfunded future liabilities in social security and other promises we have made to Americans are included. We are at a crucial point in history right now. We must think very carefully about our next moves. There is coming a time, if we continue on this path, when all that our tax dollars and government revenues will be able to do is pay interest on the mountain of debt we have compiled in the past few decades. That will mean no government programs or services of any kind will be funded, yet future generations of Americans will still struggle under a crushing tax burden with nothing to show for it.

That is why fiscal restraint and common sense with the budget are so vitally important in government. The difference now is that our printing presses at the Federal Reserve are getting worn out as we have expanded our money supply to the breaking point with yet another rate cut this week. As the dollar falls, it is losing its reserve currency status as many countries are shifting to the Euro or the Chinese yuan or other currencies. The more that trend continues, the weaker we become on the world stage. Those foreign governments and entities that enabled us to spend so much for so long are wearing thin and cutting us off. The truth is our enemies won’t need a nuclear weapon to harm us if we keep spending phantom dollars at the current rate.

In fact, they won’t need to do anything but sit back and watch as we spend ourselves into oblivion. Historically, empires fail because they run out of money, or more accurately, run out of the ability to spend or inflate. Unfortunately, that is exactly the direction we are headed. We need to control spending, immediately, before it is too late. I applaud the President for his veto of the SCHIP expansion bill. It is a step in the right direction. But it is just one small step. What our economy needs right now is to go full gallop away from the tax and spend policies that have gotten us into this mess.

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Bombed if you do…

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by Ron Paul

The latest National Intelligence Estimate has been greeted by a mixture of relief and alarm. As I have been saying all along, Iran indeed poses no quantifiable imminent nuclear threat to us or her neighbors. It is with much alarm, however, that we see the administration continue to ratchet up the war rhetoric as if nothing has changed. Indeed nothing has changed from the administration’s perspective, as they have had this latest intelligence report for some time. Only this week has it been made known to the public. They want it both ways with Iran. On the one hand, they discredit the report entirely, despite it being one of the most comprehensive intelligence reports on the subject, with over 1,000 source notes in the document. On the other hand, when discrediting it fails, they claim that the timing of the abandonment of the weapons program, just as we were invading Iraq, means our pressure must have worked, so we must keep it up with a new round of even tougher sanctions. Russia and China are not buying this, apparently, and again we are finding ourselves on a lonely tenuous platform on the world stage.

The truth is Iran is being asked to do the logically impossible feat of proving a negative. They are being presumed guilty until proven innocent because there is no evidence with which to indict them. There is still no evidence that Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ever violated the treaty’s terms – and the terms clearly state that Iran is allowed to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful, civilian energy needs. The United States cannot unilaterally change the terms of the treaty, and it is unfair and unwise diplomatically to impose sanctions for no legitimate reason. Are we to think that Iran hasn’t noticed the duplicitous treatment being received by so-called nuclear threats around the globe? If they have been paying attention, and I think they have, they would see that if countries do have a nuclear weapon, they tend to be left alone, or possibly get a subsidy, but if they do not gain such a weapon then we threaten them.

Why wouldn’t they want to pursue a nuclear weapon if that is our current foreign policy? The fact remains, there is no evidence they actually have one, or could have one any time soon, even if they immediately resumed a weapons program. Our badly misguided foreign policy has already driven this country’s economy to the brink of bankruptcy with one war based on misinformation. It is unthinkable that despite lack of any evidence of a threat, some are still charging headstrong into yet another war in the Middle East when what we ought to be doing is coming home from Iraq, coming home from Korea, coming home from Germany and defending our own soil. We do not need to be interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and waging war when honest trade, friendship, and diplomacy are the true paths to peace and prosperity.

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On Illegal Immigration and Border Security

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by Ron Paul

Illegal immigration is on the forefront of many Americans’ minds lately and with good reason. The Center for Immigration Studies has recently reported that our immigrant population is now 37 million, up from 27 million in 1997. 1 in 3 of these immigrants are here illegally. We have a problem that has exploded in the last 10 years with no appreciable change in border security since September 11 when we were supposed to take a hard look at the problem. We have security issues at home and our resources are running thin. Our education system is stretched, and immigration accounts for virtually all the national increase in public school enrollment in the last 2 decades. There is a worker present in 78% of immigrant households using at least one major welfare program, according to the same study. It’s no surprise then that often times these immigrants can afford to work for lower wages.

They are subsidized by our government to do so. Right now we are subsidizing a lot of illegal immigration with our robust social programs and it is an outrage that instead of coming to the United States as a land of opportunity, many come for the security guaranteed by government forced transfer payments through our welfare system. I have opposed giving federal assistance to illegal immigrants and have introduced legislation that ends this practice. In the last major House-passed immigration bill I attempted to introduce an amendment that would make illegal immigrants ineligible for any federal assistance. Unfortunately, that amendment was ruled “not relevant” to immigration reform. I believe it is very relevant to taxpayers, however, who are being taken advantage of through the welfare system. Illegal immigrants should never be eligible for public schooling, social security checks, welfare checks, free healthcare, food stamps, or any other form government assistance. The anchor baby phenomenon has also been very problematic. Simply being born on US soil to illegal immigrant parents should not trigger automatic citizenship.

This encourages many dangerous behaviors and there are many unintended consequences as a result of this blanket policy. I am against amnesty and I have introduced an amendment to the Constitution (H.J. Res 46) which will end this form of amnesty. I have also supported the strengthening our border and increasing the number of border patrol agents. It is an outrage that our best trained border guards are sent to Iraq instead of guarding our borders. For national security, we need to give more attention to our own border which is being illegally breached every day, and yet the government shirks one of its few constitutionally mandated duties, namely to defend this country. Citizens lose twice with our current insecure border situation – we don’t have the protection we should have, and then taxpayers have to deal with the fallout in the form of overstretched public resources and loss of jobs. The anger is understandable when it comes to illegal immigration and the problems with our borders. I will continue to fight in Congress for more effective ways to address these issues in keeping with the Constitutional mandate to protect America .

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