Jason Chaffetz

After a week of recess, Congress is back in session today. Today also marks the first day Congress is back in session without Jason Chaffetz. Mr. Chaffetz resigned earlier this year. Why he resigned is the real story.

It wasn’t a scandal, as too often it is when a member of Congress fails to finish his or her term. No, the reason for the resignation: money.

Mr. Chaffetz has come forward with details of a practice of which much of the American public is undoubtedly unaware. As is evidently the practice in both parties, if a Congressman desires to hold a leadership position or a committee chairmanship, he or she must commit to earning a certain dollar amount, a significant amount, of campaign contributions for his or her party.

Granted, the money isn’t coming from the Congressperson’s own pocket, but this could be reasonably interpreted as having the same ethical effect of a pay to play scheme. It prices those who should be leading our Congress – and it is OUR Congress – out of the leadership market. The ones who should be in charge in Washington are those who place a greater emphasis on solving legislative problems than financing future elections so they can stay in power.

I’ve previously written in this space about the need for Congressional term limits. This is exactly why term limits are needed.

Additionally, this practice raises two questions:

Who is making the decision to require this practice? Who is pulling the strings? Why doesn’t Congress prohibit this practice?

Because it’s about retaining power first and working for the taxpayers second.

And that’s backwards.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Voter ID Laws

Voter identification laws have been controversial for some time now. Courts have struck down voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina claiming the purpose behind such laws is to intentionally discriminate.

Generally speaking, those on the Left oppose such laws by claiming they are racist and aimed at voter disenfranchisement.

Generally speaking, laws requiring photo proof of identification prior to being allowed to vote are supported by the Right because of fears of voter fraud.

Is either side correct?

Because the term “hack the election” is such a hot topic right now, mostly in regard to Russia, let’s look at the facts about whether it’s possible for either of our political parties to cheat in our electoral process.

As far as the Left is concerned, there are
a plethora of places where photo ID is required in every day life by people of all races and income levels: opening a bank account; applying for food stamps, welfare, medicaid, social security, unemployment, employment; renting a car, buying a car, airplane travel, getting married, buying a gun, renting a hotel room, getting a hunting license or getting a fishing license. And yet, we don’t hear accusations of discrimination in these instances, do we?

What about the Right’s fears?

This week, a man named Andrew Spieles admitted to signing up eighteen dead people to vote. While eighteen is not a large number, it’s still wrong, and it’s proof that this sort of thing is taking place.

In Virginia, according to the Washington times, an audit conducted by a voter integrity group found 1,852 illegal immigrants voted in Virginia elections over a decade. Again, not a huge number but more proof illegal voting is occurring. And if it’s happening in Virginia, it’s likely happening elsewhere, too.

In fact, it seems that is exactly the case. A study, also reported in the Washington Times extrapolated a nationwide figure based on known data and estimated 5.8 million illegals may have voted in the 2008 election.

Confidence in the electoral process is paramount to remaining a free nation. There absolutely must be a focus on truth, fairness, and integrity by both political parties. A peaceful transition of power depends on it.

The idea that it is racist to require proof of identification prior to casting a ballot is ludicrous to me. In my opinion, not only should you have to show proof at your polling place that you are who you say you are, you should also be required to show proof that you are a legal citizen of the country.

Anything less is a disservice to the law abiding citizens of the United States.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Supreme Court on Church and State

The United States Supreme Court released several decisions today, one of which received considerable attention.

In a win for religious liberty, the court ruled that a Christian school, Trinity Lutheran, cannot be denied materials from the State of Missouri based solely on the fact that it is a religious institution, adding clarity to the meaning of the term “Separation of Church and State”.

A few quotations from the 7-2 ruling, written by Chief Justice Roberts:

“The State in this case expressly requires Trinity Lutheran to renounce its religious character in order to participate in an otherwise generally available public benefit program, for which it is fully qualified.”

“…the Department offers nothing more than Missouri’s policy preference for skating as far as possible from religious establishment concerns.”

“As we said when considering Missouri’s same policy preference on a prior occasion, ‘the state interest asserted here–in achieving greater separation of church and State than is already ensured under the Establishment Clause of the Federal Constitution–is limited by the Free Exercise Clause.'”

“The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

It is refreshing to see an opinion from the Supreme Court that appears to support the intent of the authors of our Constitution in this matter. After all, and as previously noted in this space, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” originated in a Thomas Jefferson letter. Jefferson then, as President, authorized the use of federal tax dollars to support Christian missionaries.

Therefore, with that information in mind, how can the Court justify the following statements from the dissenting opinion?

“This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government–that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.”

While the majority opinion focused on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the two member dissenting opinion took issue with the Establishment Clause:

“The Establishment Clause does not allow Missouri to grant the Church’s funding request because the Church uses the Learning Center, including its playground, in conjunction with its religious mission. The Court’s silence on this front signals either its misunderstanding of the facts of this case or a startling departure from our precedents.”

And:

“Within its walls, worshippers gather to practice and reaffirm their faith. And from its base, the faithful reach out to those not yet convinced of the group’s beliefs. When a government funds a house of worship, it underwrites this religious exercise.”

And yet, President Jefferson evidently did not see this as a violation of the Establishment Clause. After all, in the context of his letter to the Baptists in Danbury, the intent of the Establishment Clause is to keep the government from “establishing” a State religion or denomination or becoming involved in the decisions of the Church. At issue in this case is whether Missouri’s strict view of the Establishment Clause is justification for its violation of the Free Exercise Clause.

The clarity on this, presented today by the Supreme Court, is very much needed and long overdue.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Election Security

Peaceful transition of power is a unique signature of a democratic republic. A fundamental aspect to this peaceful transition is public confidence in the security of the election process. This is now under attack.

After months of rumors, a report today in the Washington Post claims proof that not only did Russia attempt to influence the outcome of last year’s election through nefarious, electronic means, but it was ordered directly by Vladimir Putin himself.

The Post’s report also claims President Obama was aware of the hacking attempt prior to the election and kept it secret. President Trump’s spokesperson said this week that she doesn’t know if President Trump thinks Russia attempted to influence the election. This raises several questions.

What does “hacking the election” even mean to the average American? Most states moved to electronic voting systems after the confusion during the 2000 election recount process over hanging chads, voter intent, and what does or does not count as a vote on a paper ballot. Are these electronic systems susceptible to hacking?

Two things are needed today: First, open communication from our nation’s leadership regarding what is factually known about what happened, and secondly, we need a voting process that can be audited in a way such that Americans are confident in the voting process.

The ability to audit is fundamental to providing confidence to the world that America’s elections are honest and accurate. Any doubt whatsoever as to this puts the nation on a slippery slope with the potential to affect America’s standing in the world and our President’s ability to lead.

Do we need some form of a paper backup of the process so that each precinct can verify its electronic totals are accurate? Maybe we do. That’s for our leaders to decide.

Both sides should want this.

Democrats have been screaming for six months about election hacking being partially to blame for their loss despite a lack of evidence so far that any vote totals were altered. If the Left truly believes Clinton would have won were it not for Russia, they should want a secure process to ensure they win next time.

Republicans, on the other hand, should want to move forward with election security because solving the problem will take away a distracting issue political opponents are using against President Trump and refocus the country on the President’s agenda.

Yet the question remains, why are we not taking steps to protect our voting data and restore confidence in our longstanding tradition of peaceful and fair elections?

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

The Cause of Truth

“A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

Does this sound like us?

These are the words of Alexander Hamilton as written in Federalist Paper No. 1. Mr. Hamilton is speaking of the Constitution and the divisiveness the arguments for and against its adoption might bring.

Heated political discourse is not new to this country. We’re living in a time of great political division, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not something to be worried about, but it is necessary to affirm a few key principles.

The utmost being that our founding documents, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, should guide our discussions. Our policy discussions should occur within this framework.

The second being that when possible, we look for and adhere to our founders’ intent when disagreements arise over legislative details. A great source for this are the Federalist Papers.

Hamilton writes: “My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth.”

If our arguments are offered in a spirit that won’t disgrace the cause of truth, we have nothing to fear.

That’s my goal in this space: daily fact based analysis of the day’s happenings. Others may be louder or more bitter. We should focus on truth, civility, and persuasion.

This is the greatest country on the planet, this great experiment in self governance. Be proud to be an American.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Is the Bible Hate Speech?

A scary, but unsurprising, event took place last week of which all Christians should be aware.

It happened at the Senate confirmation hearing for Deputy OMB Director Russell Vought, who had earlier authored a paper defending Wheaton College, a Christian school, for firing a professor who misstated Christian doctrine, saying she believed Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

At the confirmation hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Vought on this paper, but not so much about Vought’s opinion, but Biblical doctrine. You see, in the paper, Vought quotes John 3:18.

“Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Vought writes, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his son, and they stand condemned.”

Sanders asked, “Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews, do they stand condemned, too?…In your judgement, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

Sanders has already stated he will vote no on Vought’s nomination.

This is serious, and here is why.

In the words of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man shall come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Christianity holds you must believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, sent to Earth and born of a virgin to die for your sins. He lived a sinless life which he gave up willingly for you on the cross and rose again three days later. This is how you get to heaven. You don’t work for it. You just receive it through belief. It’s a free gift because of God’s love for you.

We also believe we are called to love one another. The Bible teaches to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

This country was founded by Christians who believed these very things.

But based on Senator Sanders line of questioning, no Christians should be qualified to serve in government because of these very beliefs.

This is wrong and contrary to our founding. It’s a hijacking of the country.

We’re headed down a path that will ultimately lead to the Bible itself being regarded as intolerant hate speech.

I pray we never get there.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Comey Testimony

What do you do when you make an error? In business, what is the ethical thing to do? You admit your mistake and move on.

Yesterday, in this space, I said two things in particular: President Trump’s issues are self-inflicted, and President Trump doesn’t understand the nuances of how government works.

Today, Paul Ryan echoed this: “The president is new at this. He’s new to government. And so he probably wasn’t steeped into the long going protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses.”

But why are we where we are today?
It’s because Trump can’t admit a mistake. A cover up or a lie comes more natural to him than admitting inexperience.

Is this the attitude we want in our leader?

Former FBI Director Comey’s testimony today shed light on several things. We learned he did, in fact, inform President Trump he was not under investigation by the FBI. We learned then Attorney General Loretta Lynch instructed Comey to publicly downplay the fact that Hillary Clinton was under investigation by the FBI. We learned that there seems to be less to the Russia-collusion and obstruction of justice theories than the Left has been telling us.

Take this exchange for instance regarding the President’s comments to Comey about the Mike Flynn investigation.

Senator Jim Risch: “Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice, for that matter of any other criminal offense,  where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?”

Director Comey: “I don’t as I sit here.”

But why, then, has it come to this?

We’re at this point because President Trump has been unable to admit he is experiencing a learning curve. So instead, he tweets about mysterious tapes of his Comey conversations. He puts down Comey in an NBC interview and admits to firing Comey to put an end to the Russia investigation.

We learned today these excuses and misdirections led Mr. Comey to leak his notes and memos about his conversations with the President that ultimately resulted in today’s testimony.

So instead of discussing healthcare, infrastructure, or tax reform this week, we’re here listening to Mr. Comey. Frankly, the President has not been honest with the American people. Today taught us there is a difference between incompetence and obstruction.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Presidential Communications

Ask anyone who has managed a business about the importance of communication. President Trump ran for office citing his business experience as his qualification, yet the struggles his administration has faced these past few weeks have originated with an inability to effectively communicate.

What’s been done, as opposed to what’s been said, has been widely praised by the conservative community: excellent cabinet selections, a conservative justice confirmed to the Supreme Count, repeal of the Clean Power Plan, Stream Protection Rule and Waters of the U.S. regulation as well as withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. President Trump has also signed executive orders aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on the private sector and shrinking the size of the federal government.

All great things.

And then he tweets.

The struggles President Trump has faced at this point in his Presidency have been almost entirely self inflicted. Sure, the media hates him. They hate all Republican presidents. But President Trump has given them so-called scandal after scandal because of his own words.

On too many occasions, the President’s verbal or typed statements conflict with the message his Administration is sending out. No organization can function efficiently or even effectively like this. Such strange happenings for a self proclaimed business success. It’s revealing a lack of leadership skills.

Ultimately, though, what is becoming clear is that President Trump is unfamiliar with the nuances of the functions of government. Former FBI Director Comey’s opening statement for tomorrow’s hearing, released today, indicates this. It also seems the President is too preoccupied with the Russia investigation to focus on anything else.

This is a problem.

Yesterday, President Trump tweeted: “The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.”

Yet, this is a symptom of his problem. The President is forever running for office and not yet serving in office. He has to work within the system to accomplish his legislative agenda. He hasn’t yet learned to do this.

President Reagan went over the heads of Congress, directly to the American people on select occasions with speeches from the Oval Office when it was needed to accomplish a legislative goal.

President Trump isn’t tweeting to persuade Congress of anything. He is tweeting to bypass the media, but his “unfiltered” messages lack the persuasiveness needed to advance his agenda.

A President’s words are far reaching and must be deliberate. His words should be vetted by his team for clarity and purpose. This isn’t happening.

President Trump’s communications are the source of his problems, and more problems are the last thing this Administration needs.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

 

Government Efficiency

The United States federal government is an enormous bureaucracy, and the common analogy is that a big ship is slow to turn.  To extend the analogy, the ship isn’t going to turn itself.  As Ronald Reagan famously said, “The first rule of the bureaucracy is to protect the bureaucracy.”

What does a department head do with leftover money at the end of a fiscal year? He spends it! On whatever. Not doing so might result in a budget cut next year.  Nobody, save the taxpayer, wants that.

Here are a few numbers regarding the federal budget you might find interesting. In fact, all American voters should be familiar with them.

In 2016, there were 18 regulations issued by the executive branch for every law passed by Congress and signed by the President.

Regulatory compliance costs American businesses $1.9 trillion annually. That’s $1.9 trillion of a $19 trillion GDP or 10%.  We all know who ultimately pays this cost, and its not the businesses.  Undoubtedly, these regulatory compliance costs of doing business are past along to customers and are reflected in the prices customers pay products and services.

It cost the federal government $63 billion to administer this regulatory state. This is $63 billion of a $4 trillion annual budget or about 1.5%. We know who pays this, too: the taxpayer.

And then there is government waste.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported the IRS paid out $3.4 billion in 2015 to individuals not legally authorized to work in the United States.

Social Security improper payments are estimated to be about $3 billion per year.

According to GAO report, “the amount of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) paid in error is substantial, totaling about $2.2 billion in 2009.”  The error rate of SNAP payments has reportedly improved in recent years.

Overall, and according to GAO reports, government wide improper payment estimates totaled $105 billion in 2013, $125 billion in 2014, $136 billion in 2015, and $144 billion in 2016.

We’re headed the wrong direction, aren’t we?

Regarding revenue, the net tax gap, defined as the difference between what the government is owed and what it never receives, is $406 billion. The voluntary tax payment compliance rate is 81.7%.  

(This is a reason, by the way, we should replace the income tax with some form of a national sales tax. We would broaden the tax base to include those who currently do not pay and decrease the tax gap.)

So how do these numbers affect  the 126 million American households? Let’s do the math.

$406 billion of the annual tax gap + $144 billion of annual overpayments = $550 billion 

$550 billion / 126 million = $4,365 per household per year.

That’s significant.

Here is another way to look at it: “(Social Security) benefits would need to be cut by about $150 billion per year to make the program solvent.”

Or you can look at it this way: The current deficit of the United States budget is $585 billion.

The bottom line is this: The most important improvements the Trump Administration can make for the sake of the American economy are regulatory reform, the elimination of improper payments, and tax reform aimed at eliminating the net tax gap.

These changes need to be a top priority and should come before any other domestic agenda items, including tax cuts. Efficient operation of the federal government is a primary responsibility of the executive branch.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG