Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Join us for a special two part interview with Professor Kevin Gutzman as he discusses everything from Obamacare to Hurricanse Sandy relief. Part two will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy!
Mike: Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline. My friend, and many of yours, Professor Kevin Gutzman, author of James Madison and the Making of America, autographed copies of which you will find at the Founders Tradin’ Post. Kevin, Happy New Year to you, sir, how are you?
Kevin Gutzman: And to you, Mike, very well.
Mike: If I were to say to you quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat, you would know what that meant, wouldn’t you?
Gutzman: Yeah, sure.
Mike: Is that what we’re currently engaged in? Is that what we’re doing to us?
Gutzman: I think that’s giving us too much credit. I think it’s just stupid behavior. It’s not crazy behavior. Or you could say it’s demagogic behavior. I think my impression of most of the people you’re talking about is they’re just not too bright or they’re not very well informed.
Mike: One of the things I wanted to ask you about, and there are several, is a question that keeps being asked of me: Hey, Mike, why don’t you ask your doctor friend how it is that if all bills for raising revenue must originate in the house, how can the fiscal cliff bill, which raises revenue, how could it originate in the United States Senate?
Gutzman: Well, as in the case of the ObamaCare tax plan, as Roberts has taught us to regard it, what happened here was the bill in the House was sent to the Senate. The Senate stripped it of all contents, added its own bill in the form of amendments, and then it was agreed to by the House. In form, this complied with the Constitutional requirement. Of course, in spirit it ignored it completely. That’s about the best we’ve learned to expect, right? We don’t expect form and spirit to be adhered to. You’re right. This is not the way things are supposed to work.
Mike: The reason that that prohibition or condition is put in the federal constitution is so that members of the House, which have to stand for reelection every two years, would have their fingerprints on any raising of revenue, right?
Gutzman: The idea was there was going to be a significant difference between the kinds of people who would be in the Senate and their concerns and the kind of people who would be in the House. Since the people in the Senate were supposedly going to be breathing more rarified air and they were going to be concerned with more diplomatic kinds of questions, since they were the ones involved in treaty ratification and confirming presidential appointments and so on, it made sense, the framers thought, to have the House where the representatives were going to be more amenable to the people’s concerns due to their short terms and due to their much smaller electoral districts, be the people who originated spending bills. Of course, this was very similar to not only the system they had at Britain at the time where the House of Commons was responsible for initiating all spending and taxing measures, but also to the systems in the states in which, for example, in Virginia the upper house, the senate, could only vote yea or nay on spending bills. They couldn’t amend them.
Mike: To answer your question, those of you that have asked, basically the Senate rigged a method in which they could have some form of constitutional compliance in order to get the purported fiscal cliff bill through and get it back into the House. So, as Kevin said, in the spirit of the law they certainly defied it, but to the letter of it they did not. That brings us to Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University. You read his piece in the New York Times about it’s time to let the Constitution go or time to stop paying attention to it. Seidman’s case is we have too many people that are granting the Constitution too much import in our current affairs. I read that and had to chuckle. Where are these people that are all bowing down before this archaic document and obeying it to the letter as it was originally intended? Do you know where they are?
Gutzman: I think they’re in the professor’s imagination. I’m sure he doesn’t sense that they really exist either. An interesting consequence of doing what he’s saying we ought to do is that it would remove all justification for judicial review. The only justification for the American invention of a power in judges to invalidate statutes is that supposedly the Constitution has precedence when it comes to cases in which the Constitution and the statute are in conflict. If the Constitution is not said to have precedence over statutes, there would be no justification at all for judges to have this supervisory power over our legislatures, state or federal.
My guess is when the professor says he wishes people would stop so slavishly obeying the Constitution, what he really means is he wants people, especially in the judiciary, to have free reign to invalidate statutes on whatever ground they like. This is, of course, typical attitude of law professors and lawyers, judges, people in elite media and so on concerning the way that people in federal office in particular ought to behave. Actually, I dealt with it in some detail in my book Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution. I have lamented it for a long time.
My point is that the way the constitutional system works right now is a great scam. These people, Seidman and judges like him, pretend that they’re obeying the Constitution, or at least they say they are, even as they also repeat the arguments he made in that editorial and just ignore it. Why do people continue to allow the judges and congressmen and so on to invoke the Constitution when we all know they’re ignoring it? To me, it was an amazing editorial because, as I said, clearly anybody who’s in the profession he’s in knows full well that the federal government we have today has virtually nothing to do with the Constitution.
Mike: Professor Kevin Gutzman, author of James Madison and the Making of America and the aforementioned Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution is on the Dude Maker Hotline with us. You live in the vicinity of where Hurricane Sandy just went through. You’re not that close to it, but you’re close enough to it geographically speaking to have probably been affected by the storms a little bit.
Gutzman: Actually, it knocked my power out for days. It was a quite notable event here in Connecticut, too.
Mike: Why isn’t your governor in line with his handout for hurricane relief funds like the governor of the rich State of New York and the governor of the even richer State of New Jersey?
Gutzman: That’s a very good question. My guess is that he’s just doing it less publicly. Recently the census bureau released data from the years 2010 to 2012 about the trends in American democracy. What they found was that there are four states whose populations were declining: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois. What do these four states all have in common? You might say they’re all cold. That’s true but they’re not the coldest. What they have in common, of course, is they are all the über-taxing states. Connecticut and New Jersey lead the way nationally in having high state taxes. New York is right behind. As we know, Illinois is just hemorrhaging money, unfunded obligations and so on. The governor here in Connecticut responded to current economic downturn when he first took office last year by instantly imposing a new tax increase. It’s entirely consistent with his character that he’d be begging the federal government to go borrow some money from China to spend on the latest boondoggles in Connecticut. I’m sure he is privately.
Mike: I’m sure he is. By the way, the Ferris wheel I was talking about yesterday is in New Jersey. That is part of the $9 billion or $60 billion or whatever it is that the governors of New York and New Jersey are asking for. Kevin, one of the other things I talk about often on the show, and you and I have had private conversations about, often there are days where you will send to me your copy of the Heritage Foundation’s “Morning Bell.” We all know that Senator James DeMint of South Carolina stepped down from his elected seat in the United States Senate in the last month of last year to assume the chairmanship of the Heritage Foundation. There are many that told me, [mocking] “Come on, Mike, you’re not seeing the long picture here. DeMint is going to be good. He’s a [r]epublican. He’s going to work all kinds of wonders over there at Heritage.”
Well, working wonders at Heritage as a public benefit requires a couple of other steps that we would have to grant. One of them is that we have to have these quasi-public or private institutions monitor what it is that our government does so it can report back to us and help us manage it. That’s one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is what do they actually advocate? As you pointed out in the first edition of the “Morning Bell” that was sent out by Heritage in 2013, they were advocating for spending decreases, but, as you pointed out, they were not advocating for any spending decreases in what?
Gutzman: Well, what’s their favorite cause? Of course, it’s military spending. They’re complaining that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupting the country. In my mind, this is leaving out another matter for which the federal government has borrowed billions of dollars in the last decade to make feckless wars around the world and to have 28,000 troops on Okinawa and an army in Germany, continue to defend South Korea from its benighted, impoverished, very weak northern neighbor, continue to provide the full cost of defense in Japan which is perfectly capable of defending itself.
Inertia is the policy when it comes to foreign policy of the Heritage Foundation. I have to deduce that this probably has something to do with the source of funding for the Heritage Foundation. My guess is that people who have a lot of money in defense industries are the major donors. We don’t know that, but that would be my anticipated result of any public audit of Heritage’s books. How can it be that they keep saying we ought to throw grandma out in the street but we’ll never cut a nickel of money we’re spending to subsidize Germany, even though Germany is in far better a financial situation than we are. As far as I can tell looking at a map, it doesn’t currently face any significant military threat at all. This is what Heritage does all the time. You can’t parody the Heritage position because it’s impossible to exaggerate.
Mike: At the end of the day, what we basically have is a web of consortiums and enterprises, you could call them think tanks, media conglomerates, whatever you want. They’re all in this together. They basically agitate and advocate for their favorite form of spending, whether it’s MSNBC which advocates for the welfare state and all that goes alone with it, whether it’s Fox News which advocates for the opposite, whether it’s the Center for American Progress run by John Podesta which advocates what MSNBC does, or whether it’s Heritage which is friends with Fox News. What you basically have here is a giant lobbying arm that is almost NGO. It’s not quite to the point of non-governmental organizations, but they’re almost there. They basically exist to see to it that the state remains the size that it is but the spoils of it are divvied up amongst their friends. Am I being too hard on them or is that more accurate than I know?
Gutzman: I think that’s a perfect description of what’s going on. Earlier you were talking about Senator DeMint. When he was in the Senate, I did often endorse the things he was saying. Like Heritage, he had a blind spot of never seeing a proposed military expenditure that he didn’t like. Of course, in that he represented his constituents in the Republican Party of South Carolina. You remember them. They’re the ones who booed Ron Paul for reciting the Golden Rule. These are supposed Evangelicals who hate Jesus, as I read it. I didn’t want to be understood a couple minutes ago as meaning that I don’t think we should have cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. I certainly think those should be changed instantly.
Mike: Kevin, hold that thought for just a moment.
End Mike Church Show Transcript