Are You Serious?

Alert to the reader: brace yourself; this is one of those “wow, where do you even start?”columns.

Returning from a recent trip, I prepared myself to wade through the mound of mail that had sat patiently awaiting our return. It was the usual, of course; one or two items of personally-written mail, the odd magazine or three, a couple of catalogs, seventy or eighty solicitations for “no-fee, low introductory rate” credit cards, and the like. And then there it was, nestled amongst the File 13 fodder, a mailing from our dear Senator, Arlen Specter. He was inviting me to a meeting to be held the first week of July in Hermitage (I’ll be unavailable; it’s a shame I can’t go!). He’s set aside a full hour of time to meet with us, his constituents, and included in the invite was this sentence (a la Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up): “It is important for me to know what you believe are the most pressing issues facing our state and nation and how the federal government can solve them.”

I’ll pause while you attend to your gastronomic attack.

Here’s how I’d respond to the honorable Senator (feel free to take my place and paraphrase my words if you feel the urge to attend the Senator’s meeting):

“Mr. Specter, thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about the pressing issues which face this nation. Candidly though, sir, I retain no confidence that the federal government can do anything to solve such problems. In fact, going a step further, Mr. Specter, most of the pressing problems facing this nation are beyond both the logical and Constitutional reach of the federal government, and a fair number of such have been exacerbated by the plethora of bureaucratic do-gooders for whom no issue is too trivial for the federal government to stick its nose into. Frankly, your words terrify us, Mr. Specter, for we have learned by painful experience time and again that the scariest sentence in the English language is “we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”

“At the same time, the federal government is doing a fairly shoddy job of its most legitimate roles, those of protecting the citizens of the republic and providing for the equitable execution of justice via the court system. Let’s take the courts first. Beginning at the highest level, our Supreme Court, there exists a systematic disregard for the Constitution by which we ostensibly are to be operating. The Tenth Amendment, for instance, isn’t worth in practice the weight of paper it takes to print it. This amendment, of course, details the fact that those powers not expressly spelled out in the Constitution are reserved for the states. The federal government runs roughshod over the sovereignty of the individual states to make their own decisions. If indeed there are problems that government can help solve, and I suppose that there might be a few such which exist, then surely the states are better equipped, in most instances, to deal with these than the massive federal bureaucracy. Judges and justices throughout the system regularly usurp to themselves powers that are not given them by the Constitution; if you really want to help, Mr. Specter, you’d initiate impeachment proceedings for, say, six of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court on the grounds of dereliction of duty. That’d make a nice start.

“I haven’t even mentioned the miscarriages of justice that take place with regularity because our court system is broken as well. People who commit serious crimes are given light sentences and/or released on parole far too early. Those with money to buy the best lawyers often are able to purchase their own form of “justice”. Conversely, some of our “get tough on crime” legislation bypasses common sense and has the effect of creating career criminals out of people who might otherwise be rehabilitated. The recidivism rate in our prisons is sky-high, and could be cut significantly if measures such as those being enacted by such groups as Prison Fellowship were to be implemented on the grand scale. The maintenance of a fair and impartial system of justice is a very legitimate function of government, and yet this is not being done well.

“The other thing that the federal government does with the most legitimacy is the protection of human life. Can we honestly say that a good job is being done in this arena? Yes, our military is strong; our young men and women in uniform are the finest in the world. And yet, in the light of 9/11, we have learned that we have been derelict in our duty to protect the homeland. Recent revelations were embarrassing as we learned of the turf wars and lack of communication between our FBI and CIA. It will always be an open question as to whether the tragedy of 9/11 could have been prevented, but it has become painfully obvious that there are some high-ups in these and other government agencies whose top concern was something other than the protection of our people. Border security? Since 9/11, half a million illegal immigrants have crossed our borders, most coming from Mexico. With borders leaking like a sieve, what confidence do we have that we are safe from terrorists in our midst?

“Not to mention, Mr. Specter, that the true measure of a society can be found in how it treats the most vulnerable. Thanks to you and many others in Congress, the unborn child in the womb is accorded less protection than snail darters and spotted owls. Now, you lack the courage to prohibit the grotesque cloning of human life, justifying this on the basis that life produced thusly will be used–and then discarded–in the name of curing disease. We cannot apparently count on you, Mr. Specter, to even safeguard the uniqueness of human life, but rather you join an apparent majority in the Senate in this willingness to enter a “brave new world”.

“What you do find time to do, in the federal government, is to confiscate the money of hard-working Americans for any number of wasteful, pork barrel projects. What you do seem intent on doing is pandering to special interest groups for the sake of re-election. You seem to think that the federal government has a role to play in just about every facet of human existence, and you seem intent on trying to help us even when we’d be far better off if for the most part you just left us alone.

“So you come asking us what America’s greatest problems are, and what the federal government can do to fix them? Mr. Specter, may we ask, with all due respect, are you serious?”

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