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21 July 2017

Dear Friends and Patriots,

          Yes, I’m fully aware Jeff Sessions has nothing at all to do with health care legislation or the budget.  But, he’s much in the news today and so is the effort to repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA), or whatever it is Congress is actually trying to do.  So, I thought to share some observations on those topics today, disparate as they might be.

          Jeff Sessions seems to be in a rather sticky situation, doesn’t he?  If you listened to the President’s words in his interview with the New York Times you’d swear President Trump had already decided to give Jeff the old “heave-ho!”  But, maybe that’s not exactly what’s going on.  Jeff says he’s staying on.  He’s got important work to do and says he loves his job, loves the DOJ, and has no plans to leave it.  Of course, all appointed officials serve “at the pleasure” of whoever appoints them, and it does seem as if President Trump is dis-pleasured.  All it really takes to end Sessions’ service in the administration is a phone call from Chief of Staff Priebus telling him he needs to pack up and move back to Mobile.  But, it would appear no such call has been made.  And, no Tweet saying, “Jeff, you’re FIRED!” has been sent by President Trump.  Isn’t that sort of odd?  What are we to make of this turn of events?

          After thinking about it for a day I decided President Trump is mentally and physically exhausted.  Heck, the guy is over 70 and he runs rings around me.  How can he not be tired?  My thought is fatigue led to him paying a visit to the New York Times.  If he was completely clear-headed he’d never go near the place.  I’m sure that visit put his staff in a state of apoplexy.  What was he thinking?  We’ll have to figure out later on if there was a strategy there somewhere or if it was just an episode of mental confusion that led him through the “Grey Lady’s” doors.  I certainly hope whatever it was never visits him again.  Even I know not to go into enemy territory without a lot of my army along.  But, he did what he did, and he said what he said.  Jeff himself doesn’t seem to take it too personally.  In fact, he seems a bit cheerful about the whole thing.  Maybe there’s a joke being played on someone; a joke that Jeff’s in on and the rest of us aren’t.   The ways of Donald Trump can be strange indeed.

          Meanwhile, it does appear Trump was making a statement that he needs Jeff’s help on dealing with the “Russia thing” and isn’t keen on Jeff standing on the sidelines.  Trump evidently doesn’t think Jeff’s recusal was either a smart or necessary thing.  On this one point I agree.  The media was painting Jeff as an official campaign advisor who might be culpable if there was some kind of nefarious goings-on that involved Russia.  For some reason Jeff yielded to that logic and instead of standing fast and duking it out on points, he evidently thought he’d spare the President a distraction, so he recused.  I don’t think I’d have done it, and do think Jeff can un-recuse himself at any time and get away with it. 

Word to Jeff – you gotta dance with the one who brung you.  Trump brought you, Jeff.  I recommend you get yourself out on the dance floor and show the man some of your fancy steps.  I know you aren’t timid.  Don’t let the media paint you that way.

Meanwhile, Jeff made another statement that gives me great pause.  It involves the policy of civil confiscation.  You know what that is – when the police take property from someone they arrest and . . . keep it.   DOJ likes to refer to the policy as civil asset forfeiture, but confiscation is the more appropriate term.

DOJ has a partnership program with local law enforcement agencies that allow locals to keep 80% of the value of any property seized in an investigation of certain crimes.  The feds created the program to get at the huge accumulations of wealth and property held by major drug criminals and members of organized crime families.  Since logic holds that the majority of money and property held by big criminals is ill-gotten gain, and if not confiscated would essentially continue to reward criminals, the policy has some sense to it.  Sessions made a strong statement supporting the policy, calling it a major tool in the crime-fighter’s arsenal. 

Be that as it may, the practice is completely unconstitutional.  It often violates the Fourth Amendment requirement to have a properly issued warrant before anything can be seized from a citizen.  The intent of the Fourth Amendment is to ensure a legal consideration of probable cause has been made prior to invading the property or privacy of any individual.  The further intent is that any property or evidence seized under a warrant would be limited to things material to proving a crime has been committed, or by whom.  It also often violates the Fifth Amendment right of due process.  If a police agency confiscates property, but subsequently the suspect is found innocent at trial, does the person get all their property back?  Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.  In cases where they don’t, a major crime has been committed against them; at least two violations of basic constitutional rights.  Do you think “the system” cares?  I don’t.

Under the DOJ civil confiscation program most seizures are likely justifiable and most of the property seized is ill-gotten, but not always and not all.  Even if it was, do you think any of the property seized finds its way back to any rightful claimant?  It happens, but I find it difficult to believe many police agencies take much time trying to figure out where most of the swag comes from.  If the seizure is cash, forget it.  Whoever “donated” that money just lost out.   I’ve read many accounts of police stopping and searching cars on interstate highways, then seizing and impounding the car on grounds of “suspicion” of the commitment of a felony.  In one case a man arrested had several thousand dollars in cash in his car.  The police refused to listen to the man’s account of why he had the cash and they took all his money and impounded his car.  The man was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, even though he was originally stopped for a broken tail lamp.  I don’t know how you spell “abuse” but cases like that one truly reek of it.  So, why am I bringing all this up in a discussion of Jeff Session?  I’ll tell you.

DOJ can justify their civil confiscation program all they want, and any way they want and I’ll still not like it.  The government has two basic functions it’s supposed to perform:  protection of the lives of the citizens and protection of their property.  The practice of civil confiscation not only violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections and rights, it abandons that second basic function.   If a government can take property from you at will you are nothing more than a vassal living in a tyrannical state.

If the Attorney General wants to make this policy palatable for people like me he needs to start talking about enforcement and oversight measures that will ensure average people can’t be targeted by unscrupulous officials and stripped of their rights and property.  He needs to talk about DOJ efforts to ensure all such seizures, even at the local level, are immediately reviewed by a federal magistrate who can determine if the actions were taken in strict accordance to the law.  He needs to be able to assure the citizens their rights and property are his primary concern and he’ll work doubly hard to stop any abuses found and prosecute those who abuse.  But, I have heard no such assurances.  Until Attorney General Sessions is “sensitized” to the nature of citizen complaints and unease I suspect his continuation of the policy of civil confiscation will not result in any favorable polls.  It’s a pity, too.  Jeff Sessions is one of my heroes.  I don’t want him to fail.  He needs to do a far better sales job on this program than he has to date.  Otherwise, most people who understand it will consider it a continuation of the Obama administration’s own abuse.

I’ll leave the subject of Jeff Sessions now.  I don’t want to beat on him.  Like I said, he’s one of my heroes.  I want to help him succeed in any way I can.

Now, on to health care and what’s going on in Washington today.

Without building a chronology of events in the House and Senate I hope you’ll allow me to state things are off the rails with regard to health care and our government.  Totally off the rails, too.

First off – where in the Constitution does it say the government can or should intercede in any aspect of health care?  Please don’t cite the “general welfare” clause to me.  That’s the biggest anti-Constitution scam ever created, and is the source of far, far too much grief already.  The answer is – no, there’s nothing there.  It was only when Justice Roberts forced Obama’s Solicitor General to agree the ACA is a tax law that the entire unholy mess gained even a veneer of constitutional legality.  Congress can levy taxes, but there’s no legal basis now or ever for the federal government to tell you to buy anything at all or to dictate what any insurance product has to look like.  But, because we’ve had the Congresses we’ve had and because we’ve had the Supreme Courts we’ve had, the ACA was rammed down our throats to choke on.

          Ever since the ACA was passed and signed into law Republicans have vowed to repeal it.  Once both the House and Senate were in Republican hands Congress passed over 50 REPEAL bills and sent them to President Obama to sign.  Of course he didn’t sign any of them and when they were returned to Congress Republicans never could get enough votes to override his veto.  So, for years now Republicans have gone home and told their constituents they would REPEAL, even though they knew there was no chance of it happening.  Then a funny thing happened.  The voters ensured the Republican Party had their majority in Congress, then capped those victories by voting in Donald Trump to give Republicans ownership of the entire government. 

          One would think a celebration would be in order and an ACA repeal bill would be the first order of business.  But the House stalled for a while, then another curious thing happened.  All that talk of REPEAL changed to REPEAL & REPLACE.  Where’d that come from?  There had been talk of keeping a few things about Obamacare that seemed popular, like ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions.  But, where exactly did that REPLACE notion come from.  I don’t remember it, and I never heard it was part of any of the 50+ bills that made it to President Obama’s desk.  So, what’s up?  And, while we’re at it, who came up with the story that a new health care law was tied directly to a tax reform bill?  What’s that about?

          If you followed the news closely you understand a curious thing.  Republicans seemed to be all-too lined up on the idea of retaining almost all the taxes Obamacare had in it.  Why in the world would Republicans do such a thing?  That’s where the idea of tax reform ties in.

          You can forget about actual tax reform.  That ain’t happening, my friends.  We’ll see a tweak or two in the rates and brackets, and maybe, just maybe, a slight reduction in the corporate rate (the mechanism used to double-tax us all on our consumption), but not much more.   If we’re lucky some of those truly bizarre deductions that only a very small number of people can take may get eliminated.   Something major has to change to alter my prediction.  Wait and see if I’m right.  Actual reform requires actual reformers to happen.  People, we’re talking about Congress, aren’t we?  Let’s be real.

          We have two other realities in play that must be considered at this point – debt and deficit.  To reduce debt we have to eliminate deficits.  We all know that.  But, how do we do that when we’re considering health care legislation that may actually increase the deficit in the long run, which of course increases debt?  How indeed!  And how do we get tax cuts out of all this?  Isn’t this more like Bush’s Voodoo Economics than not?  This is where Congress is log-jammed.

          If Congress repeals Obamacare it repeals a huge revenue stream.  Less money comes into the treasury.  If they then do any income tax cuts, again, less money comes in.  Those two facts tell us both debt and deficit will go up if Congress doesn’t do something different.  So, what to do?

          The only sure way to erase deficits and balance our budget is for the federal government to stop doing things.  If they stop Obamacare the tax revenue stream will cease.  On the other hand the bureaucracy that was created to run Obamacare can be dismantled, creating a savings offset.  Is it enough?  Maybe.  Who knows?  I don’t think so.  We need to stop doing much more than Obamacare.  But, it’s a start.

          But, that’s not what’s going on.  Congress does want some kind of health care legislation, and they want to keep as many taxes as they can in the new bill.  Why?  Because those taxes will be used to offset any tax reductions that might show up in a future tax reform bill.  You see the shell game now?  They’re still trying to take from one pocket and put it in the other, meanwhile telling us they’re working for us and doing some really great stuff.

          Why would anyone willingly want to be a member of Congress?  I’m beginning to think there’s some kind of insanity there.  We, the people, are getting set up once again.  Bet on it.

In Liberty,