Saturday, April 11, 2009

How Long Should Legislation Remain Law


Yesterday's parody of President Obama's determination to circumvent existing immigration laws got me to thinking about our legislative process and the laws that remain on the books forever. A mildly humorous comment posted indicated that we all had to obey bad laws rather than listen to liberals. That's really not the point... even if there was some ironic truth to that. The real point is that our laws take on a "holy" aura simply because sometime, someone got a group of some others to vote his way on an issue.

Let's take the issue of immigration since our president seems to believe that the laws are simply unfair. Sometime, someone got some others to consider the impact of unrestricted access to our country on our communities, states and national interests. They agreed to various restrictions that favored the national and ethnic origins of the people who were already settled over the national and ethnic origins not significantly represented. Was that fair and reasonable? Maybe; maybe not. Regardless of the "fairness," the result was a dynamic nation that quickly rose to the top of the pecking order among nations.

Like-minded people with similar aspirations and a "tough love" approach to anyone who wanted to join the club: bring some skills or knowledge of value and learn and adapt to our ways. The Germans did it. The Italians did it. The Irish did it. The Polish did it. They privately kept their heritage and publicly embraced the American heritage. A melting pot, perhaps; but more of a big pot of stew where there were different flavors and identifiable ingredients while an enhanced overall flavor.

Somewhere along the way, it became politically correct to say those laws did not work and that process of assimilation was bad... evil. People from all over the world were allowed into the country and the original restrictive quotas were changed, but that was not sufficient. The laws discriminated against Mexicans who didn't want to go through the process. Because they could simply walk across an undefended border, the laws were obviously not meant to apply to them. They should simply be able to take up residence, maybe work and maybe not, and have all of the rights and privileges of any other citizen... they were de facto citizens who were entitled to the support and resources of the communities in which they found places to live.

As a result of successfully ignoring U.S. immigration laws and processes, 12 million... maybe more... illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America are now receiving support from our president to ignore their ignoring. We certainly can't hold them accountable for the fact that they ignored our laws and processes some time ago and punish them now. Let's change the law ex post facto. Unlike evidence which is not allowed if obtained illegally... fruit of the poisoned tree... the children of illegal aliens who happen to be born in the U.S. become citizens and then form the basis for keeping their parents in the U.S. ... at least that's the theory.

Depending on who happens to be in power, it appears that laws will either be enforced or circumvented or ignored.

I have a better idea. Let's create sunsets for our laws. This is obviously not an original idea. But it does have merits. Consider this:
  • Unfunded programs - implemented upon funding or rescinded after 2 years if not funded [including unfunded "mandates"]
  • Funded programs - 4 years and must be specifically funded, not funded by diversion of funds collected for other purposes
  • Commerce legislation - 15 years
  • Criminal legislation - 25 years
  • Treaties - 30 years maximum
  • National security legislation - 30 years
At the end of each appropriate time limit, current legislators would be called upon to renew the legislation or ignore it and allow the law to expire.

The effect would be two-fold:
  1. Elimination of unnecessary or inappropriate laws
  2. Minimizing time spent on passing new unnecessary and inappropriate laws
The maximum time for laws to be in effect would not preclude legislation to repeal any laws.

This would create automatic reviews of all major programs, policies, and agencies to determine whether they should continue and in what form. This would also force legislators to put their names to any legislation they want to continue and would render Supreme Court decisions regarding any specific laws moot if the laws were not renewed.

For example, if the present immigration laws and policies were passed in 1980, then under the national security limitation those laws and policies would have to be renewed in 2010. Public debate and an official vote to either continue as before, radically change, or eliminate all laws pertaining to controlling access to the United States would occur. Disregarding current laws would not be an option. Ex post facto changes and applications to persons in violation of existing laws would not be an option.

The only specific, unchanging legal document would be the Constitution/Bill of Rights/Amendments. Legislation would be tested against those documents.

So, whether you are for immigration reform or tax reform, sunset requirements should please you. Perhaps it is time for a Constitutional Amendment.


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)