Another Perspective

Budget Deal Sparks Revolt

The Mount Vernon Assembly's emphatic No!

By 12.13.13

UPI
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The Ryan-Murray Budget Deal. The Mount Vernon Assembly. On the surface, one issue has nothing to do with the other. In reality? They are tied together, the very existence of the first — and the stunning lack of credibility of Speaker John Boehner — explaining the reason for the second.

The budget deal, announced Tuesday night with much fanfare by House GOP Budget Chair Paul Ryan and his Senate Democrat counterpart Patty Murray, was instantly panned by conservative groups and, among others, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. Rush said that the House GOP was “so frightened of being blamed for another shutdown that they gave up parts of the sequester, which had been a hard line on spending.” Hannity said the deal was a perfect example of why Boehner should be removed as Speaker. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote a piece for Newsmax that blistered the deal as follows:

You could tell how bad a deal it was when no one could describe it honestly.

The budget deal has tax increases that can't be called tax increases or no Republican could vote for them, so they are simply described in misleading language. But if you fly, you will pay a higher tax no matter what the politicians call it.

The sequester is broken, and spending will go up.

Because no Republican can vote for spending increases, there had to be offsetting out-year cuts. Of course, the immediate spending increases will be real and the out-year cuts will never happen.

It is sad that no one can tell the truth in plain language. The real disappointment isn't just that the budget deal is so bad that it can't be honestly described. The real disappointment is the lack of imagination and lack of new thinking and creativity.

Ryan did his best, venturing on to Levin’s show to defend his handiwork as well as taking to Greta Van Susteren’s Fox show in person.

The Wall Street Journal wrote up Ryan’s deal this way:

The best that can be said about the House-Senate budget deal announced late Tuesday is that it includes no tax increases, no new incentives for not working, and some modest entitlement reforms. Oh, and it will avoid another shutdown fiasco, assuming enough Republicans refuse to attempt suicide a second time.

The worst part of the two-year deal is that it breaks the 2011 Budget Control Act's discretionary spending caps for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The deal breaks the caps by some $63 billion over the two years and then re-establishes the caps starting in 2016 where they are in current law at $1.016 trillion. Half of the increase will go to defense and half to the domestic accounts prized by Democrats.

***

Breaking the caps is a victory for Senate Democrats and House Republican Appropriators like Oklahoma's Tom Cole, who will get more money to spend and will dodge another continuing resolution that doesn't allow them to set spending priorities. It would be nice to think they'll spend the money on such useful purposes as cancer or Alzheimer's research at the National Institutes of Health. But they will also get to dole out pork. The deal means overall federal spending will not decline in 2014 as it has the last two years.

The attacks by one conservative group after another on the budget deal brought this angry response (video here) from the GOP Speaker John Boehner, who snorted among other things that the attacks were “ridiculous,” Boehner oblivious to the damage he was doing to his own credibility.

Meanwhile?

Meanwhile over the weekend as the Ryan-Murray negotiations were reaching their climax with the national media panting outside the door, another meeting of potentially explosive significance was taking place on the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate a few miles down the Potomac. Virtually unnoticed.

As described here at Red Millenial. Reporter Garrett Humbertson’s story began with the following headline, and bold print for emphasis in Humbertson’s reporting supplied by me:

State Legislators discuss Convention of States at Mount Vernon Assembly

Approval ratings for Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are all at record lows, reflecting the public’s dissatisfaction with a runaway federal government. Many are concerned about Washington D.C.’s culture of corruption, entitlement programs on the path to bankruptcy, and a complicated tax code and bureaucracy which stifle both economic growth and liberty.

With this in mind, nearly one hundred state legislators from 32 different states gathered at George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, on Saturday. They met to discuss the possibility of a Convention of the States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution, as described in Article V of the United States Constitution.

Fed up with the federal government’s overreach, state legislators say that such a convention would meet for the purpose of crafting constitutional amendments to curb the federal government’s abuses. Amendments that are being mentioned include Congressional term limits as well as limits on federal taxation and spending.

In other words, what these state legislators were about was finally grabbing the reins from the out-of-control federal government that the Ryan-Murray budget deal has come to symbolize.

The Mount Vernon Assembly, organized by Indiana state Sen. David Long and Wisconsin Rep. Chris Kapenga is, of course, is a direct outgrowth of this year’s bestselling book by talk radio host, constitutional lawyer and ex-Reagan aide Mark Levin. That would be The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.  

Wrote Mark’s publisher of the book, again with bold highlights supplied by me:

For a century, the Statists have steadfastly constructed a federal Leviathan, distorting and evading our constitutional system in pursuit of an all-powerful, ubiquitous central government. The result is an ongoing and growing assault on individual liberty, state sovereignty, and the social compact. Levin argues that if we cherish our American heritage, it is time to embrace a constitutional revival.

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and the delegates to each state’s ratification convention foresaw a time when—despite their best efforts to forestall it—the Federal government might breach the Constitution’s limits and begin oppressing the people. Agencies such as the IRS and EPA and programs such as Obamacare demonstrate that the Framers’ fear was prescient. Therefore, the Framers provided two methods for amending the Constitution. The second was intended for our current circumstances—empowering the states to bypass Congress and call a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Levin argues that we, the people, can avoid a perilous outcome by seeking recourse, using the method called for in the Constitution itself.

The Framers adopted ten constitutional amendments, called the Bill of Rights, that would preserve individual rights and state authority. Levin lays forth eleven specific prescriptions for restoring our founding principles, ones that are consistent with the Framers’ design. His proposals—such as term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices and limits on federal taxing and spending—are pure common sense, ideas shared by many. They draw on the wisdom of the Founding Fathers—including James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and numerous lesser-known but crucially important men—in their content and in the method for applying them to the current state of the nation.

Now is the time for the American people to take the first step toward reclaiming what belongs to them. The task is daunting, but it is imperative if we are to be truly free.

Mark himself wrote this, again with bold print for emphasis mine:

I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite-that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan. This is not doomsaying or fearmongering but an acknowledgement of fact. The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to mangle and undo the social compact. To disclaim the Statists’ campaign and aims is to imprudently ignore the inventions and schemes hatched and promoted openly by their philosophers, experts, and academics, and the coercive application of their designs on the citizenry by a delusional governing elite. Their handiwork is omnipresent, for all to see — a centralized and consolidated government with a ubiquitous network of laws and rules actively suppressing individual initiative, self-interest, and success in the name of the greater good and on behalf of the larger community. Nearly all will be emasculated by it, including the inattentive, ambivalent, and disbelieving.

Now.

The Ryan-Murray budget deal is nothing if not the funding blueprint for “a centralized and consolidated government with a ubiquitous network of laws and rules actively suppressing individual initiative, self-interest, and success in the name of the greater good and on behalf of the larger community.”

Congressman Ryan, whom we like here, has said of the deal that “We've got to find a way to make divided government work” and that it doesn’t “violate a core principle.” Ryan seems oblivious to the notion that the entire deal says to other conservatives that the House Republican leadership is blissfully unaware that the very phrase “make divided government work” is synonymous with the furtherance of what Levin correctly calls a “post-constitutional America.” That one section after another in this budget deal is nothing more than a quest for a liberal utopia that does not and cannot exist.

Hence the importance of the Mount Vernon Assembly. Where discussions have now begun by state legislators on how to go about reining in Ryan and his House and Senate colleagues by among other things passing Constitutional amendments establishing term limits for Members of Congress, restoring the role of states in electing United States Senators, limiting taxing and spending, and giving States the authority to check Congress. Among other things.

There is more to come, with the Mount Vernon Assembly already planning a second meeting for next year.

But the real irony here is that someone as smart as Paul Ryan thinks he is “making divided government work” — at the same time the Mount Vernon Assembly has taken up Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendments precisely because they believe budget deals like the one Ryan constructed are a pluperfect example of a post-constitutional America that not only doesn’t work but is heading the nation over the financial cliff.

There is more to come here, much more.

The train that is the Mount Vernon Assembly has left the station, with no turning back.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.