To the editor:
Let’s face it. America is broke, and Washington is broken. The U.S. Congress no longer legislates. That job has been outsourced to the fourth branch of government, the so-called “deep state,” the unelected bureaucrats that make up the administrative state.
According to the Federal Register, there are 438 agencies operating in the federal government. They are composed of 2.7 million employees, and you did not vote for any of them. They make rules and regulations that carry the power of law, including fines, penalties and in some instances prison sentences. They also spend your tax dollars, all of it and more. These are nameless, faceless bureaucrats.
Why should you care about this fourth branch of government? Because they are a busy bunch. In 2016 our Congress passed and the president signed into law 214 bills. That same year, the administrative state, the unelected folks working at these federal departments, agencies and commissions, issued 3,853 rules and regulations that carry the power of law.
That is 18 rules for every law passed.
These rules come with a price tag, both in terms of money spent by government and in terms of making it harder for the little guy, the citizen and small businessman (aka “the Middle Class”) to make a buck, save a buck, get a job, buy a home, pursue their own American dream.
And in 2023 there is no evidence of “fiscal responsibility.” That notion is old news, history, a joke. Congress is supposed to use “the power of the purse” to negotiate deals and promote the best interest of “We the people.”
They have the power to shut down the government, if necessary, but they are not using it. Now they use the “power” of the printing press, the omnibus bill, the blank check and the empty promise of fiscal responsibility to get reelected. That is what Congress is all about today: getting reelected.
Is this working? No, our current national debt is $31.4 trillion and growing fast. In 2021 the gross domestic product of the U.S. was $23.3 trillion. By the way, a trillion is a million million.
We pay interest on this debt but have not touched the principal in forever. Interest rates on that debt are going up. This is a recipe for disaster. The last time we paid off the national debt was 1835.
Are we addressing the issue at hand? In a word, no. Revenues received by the federal government in 2021 were $4 trillion, of which $2 trillion was from individual income taxes. The federal government spent $6.8 trillion for the fiscal year 2021. Does that number include interest on the debt? I am afraid to ask.
In other words, we are broke, and our federal government is “fiscally irresponsible.” We are feeling some pain now, especially at the pump and the grocery store, but our kids and grandkids are the ones that will be paying dearly for this irresponsible behavior.
Does the Iowa Legislature have a constitutional duty and responsibility to act? To take action to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit its power and jurisdiction? Is there something they can do legislatively to address these problems? And if so, should they take action, now this year? Do they have a responsibility to the people of Iowa?
I would argue that this is their primary responsibility: Taking steps to require fiscal responsibility and requiring that a budget be submitted and approved every year, and if no budget is submitted and approved, mandatory spending cuts across the board. And not just a budget, a balanced budget.
Then a reasonable flat tax, say 15%, with no backdoor taxes, no national sales tax, no wealth tax, no death tax, no value added tax. History has shown that lower taxes result in greater tax revenues, not to mention a better standard of living for citizens.
Calvin Coolidge did it. Jack Kennedy did it. Ronald Reagan did it. Donald Trump did it, lowered taxes and increased tax revenues. Shouldn’t that be something our elected officials irrespective of party support?
Regarding the fourth branch of government, the unelected bureaucrats that make up the administrative state. The 438 agencies referred to earlier. What if Congress was required to review every agency every third year and make an up or down vote as to whether that agency is necessary? Look at the books. Ask some questions. Do some due diligence.
For an example of how this might work, look no further than what our Gov. Kim Reynolds is currently doing here in Iowa. Under Gov. Reynolds and a law passed this year, Iowa’s cabinet-level government agencies will shrink from 37 to 16.
My guess is if Congress had to review and approve an average of 146 agencies every year, half of these agencies would be retired. And along with that a significant pruning of the federal budget would occur.
Will Congress act and make these changes on their own? Not likely. To make these changes permanent would need to be done through Constitutional amendment. How do we amend the Constitution again? And who has the power and responsibility to do so?
Another problem we have is presidential executive orders. At the Faith and Freedom event here in Des Moines a week ago, one of the presidential hopefuls mentioned he would “reverse and revoke all of Biden’s executive orders within the first 100 days if elected president.”
Great idea. The problem with that modus operandi is the other side uses it too. Biden “reversed and revoked” President Trump’s executive orders day one. I would expect this to happen every time there is a party change in the White House from now until the end of time or the end of the republic.
Two significant Trump executive orders President Biden “reversed and revoked” come to mind. Orders involving energy independence and the southern border.
Energy independence and fossil fuels are fundamental for a thriving middle class. Affordable, abundant, domestic, clean fossil fuels contribute to a better standard of living for all Americans and allow the opportunity of upward mobility for all. And upwardly mobile people lead to a cleaner environment.
A secure border is fundamental for the Constitutional rights of citizens. Just like good fences make good neighbors, a secure border allows for a stable civil society and citizenship. An unsecured and open border leads to many problems: fentanyl and other illegal drugs, human trafficking, nefarious characters from terrorist countries coming in unchecked.
These all occur when you have no border in place. Today we have no southern border to speak of. It is wide open.
Does the Iowa Legislature have a constitutional duty and responsibility to act? To require Congress to vote up down to make these executive actions law within 100 days or they expire and sunset, thus letting bad executive actions expire and making those that have merit permanent?
Is there something the Iowa Legislature can do legislatively to address these problems? Removing unaccountable unelected administrators, the so-called “experts” from the legislative process and diminishing long-term impact of executive actions that compose most of the legislation that is happening today. Should the Iowa Legislature act? Do they have that responsibility to the people of Iowa?
I believe we can all agree. The answer is: yes. But to make these changes permanent, this would need to be done through constitutional amendment. Article V of the U.S. Constitution defines how and who can pass amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Congress or state legislatures can propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution by two-thirds vote. And these amendments become part of the U.S. Constitution when ratified by three-fourths of the states.
If Congress does not act, and they never will, it is up to the state legislatures. That means at least 34 states would need to pass legislation to call for a convention to propose amendments. And those amendments would need to be ratified by the legislatures of 38 states.
That is a high bar. Not likely anything radical could pass that would impact God-given rights, but likely this would result in the federal government being put back into its box, thus restoring government of the people, by the people and for the people, the way our founders intended.
The last problem to address is politicians that stay in Washington too long and represent their own self-interest and not that of their constituents. This will require term limits. Without going into detail about the dismal approval rating for the U.S. Congress (20%) or the personal wealth being amassed by many “public servants” that serve in Washington for decades (Nancy Pelosi’s personal wealth of $135 million), we need to understand the real problem at hand.
Under the management of the senators and congressmen that have been there for decades, the government keeps getting larger and the rights of the individual keep getting smaller. And all the issues listed above are being ignored or getting worse. Our founders would call this “taxation without representation.”
Does the Iowa Legislature have a constitutional duty and responsibility to act? You know the answer by now.
So how might the Iowa Legislature take action? By allowing a floor vote on Article V Convention of States in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. This past session it died in committee in both houses. Did not get to a floor vote.
Part of this is because there are fear mongers out there concerned about a “runaway convention.” Concerned amending the constitution will result in our individual rights being taken away. But they do not understand that our individual rights do not come from government. They come from God.
The U.S. Constitution does not give us rights. The sole purpose of government is to preserve those natural rights with which we are born. The U.S. Constitution limits the government’s ability to take our rights away. And right now, that is exactly what the government is being weaponized to do.
There are many big names that support an Article V convention: President Donald Trump; Gov. Ron DeSantis; Presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy; Sen. Ted Cruz; Conservative media stars such as the late Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Mark Levin, Steve Deace, Dan Bongino, Ben Shapiro and Sean Hannity, to name a few.
So what can you do to help make this happen? Email your state representatives, both in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate, and please “cc” leadership: House Speaker Pat Grassley, House Speaker Pro Tempore John H. Wills and House Majority Leader Steve Windschitl and Senate President Amy Sinclair, Senate President Pro Tempore Brad Zahn and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.
They need to hear from you, their constituents.
Please remember to be very respectful. These are all great people. Step one is getting this to a floor vote. Then it needs to pass both the House and the Senate. There are 19 states so far that have passed Article V bills. Iowa will make it 20. Iowa has been a leader in so many other things in the past couple of years. It only seems proper that we lead on saving the republic.
The clock is ticking, it is not too late for the Iowa Legislature to act.
Please act now. We the people of the free state of Iowa are counting on you!
Scott W. Bates
West Des Moines
Scott W. Bates is co-chairperson of the Dallas County Republican Party.