United in Opposition

Last week a poll revealed that 75% of the American people are dissatisfied with the U.S. Congress, and that’s one of the lowest figures for Congressional popularity in some time, if ever.  On the surface, one might conclude that, to improve its standing, all Congress has to do is to reverse course.  Alas, that would result in close to the same figures, I suspect.

Why?  Because, if you’ve been reading about all the Congressional shenanigans, you know that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Republican senators aren’t happy with the Democrat-controlled Senate or the President, and the Democrat-controlled Senate and Democratic representatives are close to furious with the Republican-controlled House. 

For all these ideological differences, there’s one absolute similarity between both sides in Congress.  Neither they, nor their supporters, really want to deal with the facts of the situation they face.  In reality, if they did, most of them feel they’d soon be voted out of office.  Both sides are wrong, and neither side can afford to admit it… or to compromise.

Everyone agrees in principle that the U.S. government can’t keep spending more than we collect in various tax revenues.  What they’re vigorously opposed on is where to make up the difference, either through spending cuts or increasing revenues.

We can’t keep increasing the amount the federal government spends on health care unless we increase taxes, and if we cut federal health care expenditures to avoid raising taxes, the cuts will be so deep that the poor, the lower middle class and working classes will suffer when they reach retirement age, if not before. The same problem exists in dealing with Social Security – unless future retirement ages are increased, but that will likely result in effective benefit cuts because, for a variety of reasons, many older workers retire before they’re eligible for full benefits.

There are other funding sources, of course, but one or another entrenched interest opposes them, and thus, so do the legislators beholden to those interests.  We’ve all seen the disasters, for example, created by the speculation in all sorts of financial transactions.  So what about a federal tax on securities and stock market transactions?  Not just on capital gains, but on the transaction itself, paid not by the investor but by the entity handling the trade.  Do you really think Goldman-Sachs would let Congress anywhere near that? Most agriculture subsidies go to corporate farmers?  Do we really need them?  Especially when the ethanol tax credit raises food prices?  Just try to cut those subsidies and revenue losses.

Over forty percent of all Americans pay no federal income taxes.  Just see what happens if any legislator suggests that they should.  What about getting rid of mortgage interest payment deductions for second homes?  Not first homes, but second homes, vacation homes, etc.?  Why should taxpayers get a tax deduction for a vacation home?  Suggest this, and the realtors and the bankers will be after any Congressman who does.

The list of possible fixes is long, and many of them would indeed work, but one thing is clear.  Everyone knows the system needs fixing, and no one wants to pay for it.  Each interest wants someone else to pay for it, and because that’s so, Congress can’t come up with a solution… and everyone’s mad at Congress, because each representative and Senator is indeed representing the interests of those who either elected them or contributed the funds that elected them.  But, for all the talk about reaching a solution, woe betide any representative who thinks about compromising with the other side.

Just ask former Senator Bob Bennett what a single vote toward a compromise does to a senator’s career.

15 thoughts on “United in Opposition”

  1. Frank says:

    Choices. It’s all about choices. The ones we make. The ones we don’t make. The hard ones. Choices.

    I find it ironic that at the very cores of our “freedom” is the fact that we have choices, we can make choices, that someone/some other entity doesn’t make the choices for us. Yet, when it comes down to it, when the choices are no longer easy, which candy to eat, which movie to see, when we find ourselves with less resources than our wants and needs cost…and, possibly, than just our needs cost, we yell at each other.

    We have a representative form of democratic government. Due to logistics, abilities, maybe just lack of interest, we elect representatives to make choices for us, and we just choose them. It gives us a convenient scapegoat to yell at when things don’t go our way. We collect on “sides” that we gives names like “democrat,” “republican,” “conservative,” and “liberal.” Then, we can collectively yell at the “other guys” with “our team.”

    I wonder, if we all individually wrote down what we were willing to pay for, out of our pockets, with our taxes if we pay them, or with the resources we have, no matter how little that might be; I wonder how dissimilar those lists would be. I don’t know how many lists would have farm subsidies on them. I wonder how many lists would have invasion of Mid-Eastern countries on them.

    I’ve never been one for the over-simplified “solutions” proposed in sound bites, however, things have gotten out of whack enough that two of these solutions are beginning to sound pretty good: absolute term limits (say two 4 year terms in any office at any level), and a “fair tax” in lieu of the complex mess we have seemed to create (say a 7% sales tax on everything at point of consumption). Oh, and one other thing, i.e., I would attempt to make the party and/or ideological labels go out of vogue.

    I don’t see these as necessarily “right” or “the best of all possible worlds,” however; it seems they might help a bad situation get a little better.

    Anyhow, it might give us a choice.

  2. Bob Howard says:

    I forget who said it but, more or less, the greatest strength and at the same time the greatest weakness of democracy is that we get the government we deserve. We’ve become an entitlement society–everyone is in favor of cutting the budget, except when it comes to some program we actually like. And we mostly don’t really know what we want, as with the health care debate. In virtually every poll I’ve seen, a strong majority is in favor of almost every individual provision when asked specifically about it, but when asked if they favor the plan in general, most say no.

    Taxes are now so distorted by lobbyist-driven special provisions no one can make any sense of the overall package. We have almost the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world (topped only by Japan), yet the actual leve of corporate taxes paid is almost at the bottom, with many very successful companies paying nothing. As you observed, most ag support goes to big-business farming interests, not the proverbial family farmer. Where I live, in Florida, we have so many special interest tax breaks one can hardly count them–yacht dealers, ostrich feed…mind boggling indeed.

    The President’s bi-partisan commission came up with about the best approach possible at this point, but it has absolutely no chance of seeing any action. We’ll continue down this path, I’m afraid, until we have passed the point of no return and will have to claw our way back out of another true depression.

    Heinlein’s heroes in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress put it best–“there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Their new government, despite that so-appropriate saying, went on of course to establish a government no doubt little better than what preceeded it. No one has the courage to make the stand and fight for what’s right. I’m ready for a politician who’s willing to say, “I’m going to vote for what’s right for this country, even if it means I get voted out after one term.” Fat chance.

  3. Richard Hamilton says:

    I’m willing to pay for securing the borders, and destroying foreign enemies abroad, although the latter would be cheaper if we remembered Washington’s advice about avoiding foreign entanglements a little more often. Maybe for NASA, if they weren’t such extravagant fumblers much of the time. And some of the research that only government would do, although with some mechanism for cost recovery when something turns out to have useful applications.

    A few other things may also be necessary, although I bet a lot of them could be privatized.

    Benefits and entitlements though…I don’t want them, I don’t expect them to be solvent when it comes time for me to collect, and I don’t want to pay for them. I want them phased out, with just enough grandfathering that those who have been _lied_to_ all these years about how a pyramid scheme will take care of them can have time to adapt to reality for a change.

    Anyone who can’t meet their own needs via personal effort and foresight, family, friends, and private charity (which I have no problem supporting generously), is someone we’re clearly not willing to take care of. Let’s just admit that, and stop expecting the false magic of a free lunch via the incredibly inefficient, unrealistic, often deceitful, and not just tax but _freedom_ confiscating mechanism of government.

    I don’t happen to think corporations should be taxed at all, provided their profits go back to their investors. Tax the investors instead. And go with a flat or modified flat tax, simple, no loopholes or lobbyists, everybody (except maybe those below the poverty level) pays something. Eliminate the entire departments of HUD, Education, most of Energy, much of HHS, Agriculture, some of Interior, etc. Return the whole concept of “regulating” interstate commerce to something that mainly means keeping the states from obstructing it. Replace a few of the functions with “honest broker” neutral coordinating forums that would develop boilerplate prototype legislation for reasonable uniformity (i.e. with some, but limited variations) in state legislation and standards…at about 0.1% of the cost or less! If their output is any good, it would start to be adopted. If not, at least it’s not much money down the drain.

    I would love to see some federal office-holders removed for violating their oath of office to uphold the Constitution, in particular the Tenth Amendment. If we would just elect enough folks willing to do that sort of house-cleaning, we could get things under control. Alas, we’re such entitlement addicts that I doubt very much such a vision will come to pass. But incremental progress in that direction just _might_ be possible.

  4. Joe says:

    I’d like to see the Federal Government split up into a set of independent non-profit entities. This would prevent funds to be “borrowed” from other departments, such as social security.

    If our representatives get money from corporations, I’d like them to be referred to as the Congressman from Lockheed Martin (or whatever). Then people can decide whether or not to vote for them again.

    I’d like each tax payer to choose where his taxes go. Mine would not go to foreign wars or bankers, but would go to “entitlements”, research, NASA, regulation of corporations, police and foreign aid. Richard’s could go to blowing up foreigners and preventing them from entering the country, if that’s what he really wants.

    Capitalist systems without regulations ensure the successful will dominate. For instance if you can sell your widget cheaper than the competition, you win more market share, which increases profits which can be reinvested into making even cheaper widgets. That success feedback loop ensures only one player will be left. A variation on this is anti-competitive behavior (whereby two corporations fix prices and effectively function as a single entity — i.e. only one player is left). Only the enforcement of antitrust and anti-cartel regulations prevent this from occurring.

    Should all power be concentrated into a single corporation, this corporation would concentrate so much power that the government and democracy would become irrelevant… the resulting system would lack resilience and would eventually collapse.

    In fact, it seems that the most dynamic times in history were when there were many smaller entities competing to out do each other. The current decline in US innovation and competitivety seems to match the growth in inequality and the consolidation of most industries into a few players.

    As to whether corporations should be taxed is not obvious. They aren’t being taxed right now. Creative accounting means they “lose” enough money in depreciation, or whatever, to avoid paying taxes. Many corporations have large bank balances (Apple’s is at $65 billion) which are not being used to create jobs, but are used for speculation. As a rich person you can leave your money in your corporation, and then borrow against it for your daily needs (thereby avoiding tax but living the high life). This type of tax avoidance scheme would disappear if corporations were taxed.

    1. Richard Hamilton says:

      The alternative to dominance by the successful is dominance by the power-hungry with the non-successful as cannon fodder.

      Success is at least open to all with the will and talent to pursue it.

      1. Joe says:

        Richard, your statement is incorrect.

        Consider the game of Monopoly. We play it. Then someone wins. Then we start over from scratch. The person who won doesn’t get to play the next game with all his winnings… because it would be boring.

        The same idea has been used in societies that practice potlatch. It also was applied by Japanese technology corporations when they were competing with the US to gain dominance of the electronics industry. They would go away, compete like hell and then after 5 years share all their research. Rinse, and repeat. Guess what, your TV, your VCR, your music set were most likely made by Japanese. Their components still are to a large extent.

        Secondly, success is not open to all with the will and talent. Indeed social mobility in the US is declining, and is currently below many European countries (eg Norway and Sweden) — something that might also shock Europeans. The reason is simple. Just as in the game of Monopoly, success is not determined only by talent, but also by the resources you have. It’s much easier to do well if you start with money, connections, factories, education, than it is to just start off with “talent” or “will”.

        1. Richard Hamilton says:

          Consider that regulation and redistribution and also limit competition and mobility.

          When the scope of regulations is sufficient, the regulated and regulator will end up conspiring together to prevent additional competition. The crowding out of cane sugar by the corn lobby (ADM especially) and their dubiously healthy high fructose corn syrup is just one example. GE, whose CEO is one of the President’s economic advisors, is another: profitable, pays no taxes, got bailouts they didn’t need, lobbies for legislation to shape the market to their ends, etc.

          There may be some room for anti-trust laws. But that’s a bogeyman right now; those that are closest to monopolies are usually those that are already heavily regulated, and they use their lobbying of the regulators to make sure that they _keep_ their near monopolies. Reducing regulation to a minimum would make it possible to disentangle the regulated from the regulators, and ease the burden of entering the market as a new competitor.

          What government _could_ do is something that would hold business and government alike to a higher standard, namely require greater transparency. Take health care: if enough information were available, and uniform reporting standards existed, one could shop for price vs success rate vs difficulty of cases (which can drive down success rate without reflecting on competence). Government could require that, without redistribution or price controls, and allow the marketplace to encourage efficiency. Caps on punitive damages, or pain and suffering awards, might also help reduce the insane cost of malpractice insurance; on the other hand, a doctor or institution that repeatedly makes mistakes that should have been able to have been avoided should be unable to get insurance at all, or even have their credentials revoked…little of which requires _federal_ intervention. It _does_ require that legislatures stop acting as lawyer guaranteed employment programs, which is tough, since most legislators tend to be lawyers. One needs a few to embed an understanding of what law can and cannot do, but we need to be electing a lot more non-lawyers, so that other perspectives also play a part.

          Redistribution _discourages_ mobility, by rewarding unproductive activity, by rapidly increasing the tax burden on modest increases in income, etc. Moreover, having 50% of the populace untaxed (by income taxes, anyway) means they’re quite willing to vote themselves more handouts, because they’re not paying for them.

          Although I think it would be no more unfair than what we have now, I’m _not_ arguing for 100.00% laissez-faire, just a move part of the way back (if we were ever there) towards it. I wouldn’t have a problem with partial assistance for adult education for the sake of self-improvement and a better job, for those working as they were able, paying what they could, and keeping their grades up. But I want a commitment by those receiving any sort of assistance to make the most of it, to get off of it as soon as possible, and perhaps even to repay it as they’re able. Absent that, or for any sort of assistance not subject to that principle, I want those in need abandoned to _private_ assistance, or deprivation.

          Governments cannot compel justice, nor guarantee outcomes, nor exercise compassion. All they can do is consistently enforce a limited set of laws and regulation. Compassion is strictly the domain of individuals, acting individually or in voluntary private cooperation, and justice is usually self-deceit or political pandering, since everyone has their own view of what is just.

          1. Joe says:

            @Richard, I think the corruption you are mentioning between regulator and regulated is indeed a hard problem… requiring a keen media, much transparency as you suggest and a general intolerance towards shady deals. However I don’t believe one can “solve it” by ignoring it.

            Russia under Yeltsin was an example of 100% laissez faire. Rife with assassinations, and protection money. Not somewhere most sane people would want to do business… and the state of their economy would show this more clearly if they didn’t have massive oil revenues to hide the rot with.

            Redistribution does not always discourage mobility. Take for instance the difference between Latin America and the US. In both cases Europeans came and took the land. In the US, 100 acres were given to each person, after they had paid their passage. Many poor Europeans came, worked hard and created the richest economy in the world. In Latin America, the land was only distributed to the first conquerors. This led to immensely rich land holders and many very poor peasants. Only now is any Latin American country having an impact on the world stage (and that after some redistribution), namely Brasil.

            On the other hand, it is true that handouts lead to more unemployment. There are entire communities in the UK where no-one has worked for 3 generations. Unemployment benefits there have had a negative effect.

            This is what I find so irritating about the whole political debate in the US. We debate “less or more” of whatever solution, not what kind of solution we want. We’re talking about whether to sail East or West on the sea when the real treasure is below. The role of Government is to tend a system of human behaviors (laws, economic flows, education, research, immigration/war, pollution) to maximize the long term well-being of its citizens. The question of how to do that should be based on studying what worked and what didn’t and why rationally, rather than because it fits into a soundbite.

            Thus I find morality or “justice” to be a very poor guide as to what the law should be. Take for instance abortion. If you ban abortion, in country after country the result has been more deaths. Yugoslavia was a particularly egregious example. To increase their population they banned abortions for all women under 45. However people were aborting because they knew they could not support more children. So more women died from illegal poorly administered abortions. And many children ended up chained to beds in overwhelmed orphanages, unable to talk even in their teens. Obviously there are other solutions — that women are encouraged to carry their child to birth and that it is adopted by a family who disagrees with abortion or wants a child. But such a solution does not require any legislation based on morality. It simply requires people to take responsibility for their convictions and set up such a system rather than ramming it down other people’s throats.

    2. Richard Hamilton says:

      @Joe: you can give money to foreign aid right now if you like; it’s called private charity. I’m not opposed to that, heck, I’ve done that. I’m not opposed to foreigners that don’t get in our way either (you might note that I don’t disagree that we may have too often and with too little forethought employed the military option), nor to orderly and lawful immigration where it’s clearly in our interests. Those who will only do low end work though (not that any productive work isn’t respectable, but there’s some work that doesn’t take a heck of a lot of qualifications, and gets paid a lot less accordingly), especially if they don’t seek to improve themselves or their children to learn English and pursue higher education, it may be in our interest to have here as temporary workers, but it’s not in our interest to have as a permanent underclass. Nor is it in our interest to have even geniuses flooding in at a rate of hundreds of thousands per year. We’ve got enough population, probably had enough back when it was only 200 million.

      “entitlements” whose support was funded on a purely voluntary basis already exist – it’s called private charity. The government merely competes with that, and far less effectively, because it has bureaucratic more than personal contact with the recipients, and tends to encourage dependency rather than enabling alternatives.

      “regulation of corporations” though (and I agree some _minimum_ is necessary, but probably much less than you’d want, and to much less ambitious ends), paying for that doesn’t just affect those who pay for it, but also affects everyone who invests in, works for, or does business with those corporations. When those regulations are excessive, _none_ of those groups benefit; when they’re insufficient, at most one of those groups benefits. Moreover, when regulations are excessive, a corrupt relationship between regulator and regulated is encouraged, not to mention that having a volume of law and regulation far larger than can be consistently enforced explains far more of the lapses, selective enforcement, favoritism, etc, than any _lack_ of regulation would explain. We’d do far better to simply demand transparency and compliance with contracts, and then prioritize within any other objectives of regulation to only have that scope of regulation authorized that could be consistently enforced.

      Taxes? If government were reduced enough (like by privatizing all the entitlements, over time, not all at once, since people _were_ lied to about the viability of pyramid schemes), then a flat tax on individuals and corporations alike could be low enough to not kill competitiveness.

      I’m in Maryland, which has a whole lot less corporate headquarters than neighboring Delaware. Why? Maryland tax and other policies drive business out, and then the idiot libs that run the state want to spend _more_ to subsidize every class of whiners that comes along (at least every one they think will vote for them). Keep the business, keep the tax base. Even if the business pays _no_ taxes, their employees and suppliers’ employees do, and wouldn’t if they didn’t have jobs. That’s just as true whether the employees in question work in factories or are accountants, HR, and other paper-pushers back at headquarters.

      1. Joe says:

        @Richard, my point is that if voters could individually decide on what their taxes are spent, we’d have a very different allocation of funds. You seem to be advocating that I pay for military adventures you believe in but I don’t, and also that I give additional money to things I care about. Just as I should not force you to pay for entitlement programs you dislike, you should not force me to pay for things I dislike.

        I don’t believe corporations will agree to any regulatory _minimum_. Indeed it would be illegal since all corporate officers have to maximize those profits by law, and this would cut into their profits.

        I do however believe there is some level of regulation which will maximize economic resilience, overall benefit to society, and even long term profits. Currently a CEO can find it to his benefit to run his company into the ground to satisfy short term Wall Street interests, and his bonus. This is not in the interests of his employees, or even the country. I.e. while I agree 5 year economic plans don’t work, I also don’t believe the “invisible hand of the market” works… even if we dispensed with the notion of too big to fails.

        Determining the correct level of regulation is difficult. I would not trust politicians with it since they are corruptible and believe in dogmas, whereas in reality the economy is a dynamic system, constantly changing, for which there is no static magical formula to determine optimal behavior. Rather like riding a horse, one has to constantly adjust one’s position. That is also why I would not trust most of our economists who seem to espouse views rather than suggesting hypotheses and trying to prove them or disprove them. (which is why economics is not a science, even if they invent mathematical formulas).

        Entitlements only became a pyramid scheme when the birthrate fell. This was predictable, but had all the gains in productivity not been redistributed to CEOs, there might well be plenty enough money.

        Finally don’t forget there is a big world out there. There’s a reverse brain drain going on right now. The causes of this country’s wealth (technological advantage, good education, good upward mobility, values of freedom and hard work, and attracting the best and brightest) are being eroded. All those foreign geniuses who you’re happy to get rid of will be competing against US products and will be winning unless we turn this ship around.

        Think of this: Instead of spending money on blowing up Iraqis and Afghans we could have send 10 missions to Mars and have claimed a stake to a whole planet. Talk about a new frontier, and a missed opportunity… But instead we wasted all that money, unless we plan to become the next Vikings, pillaging to survive.

  5. David Sims says:

    I recommend a five-step solution.

    1. Repeal the 14th Amendment, or else declare that it never was lawfully enacted and therefore void ab initio.

    2. Abolish the Federal Reserve and charge its owners with treason and theft retroactive to 1913. Since treason is a capital crime, the perpetrators shall be put to death.

    3. Legislatively repudiate the public debt and all private debt which is in favor of banks, whether foreign or domestic.

    4. Distribute the nuclear arsenal of the United States among the states and place them in the custody of the state governments.

    5. Disband the United States of America as a political entity. All military personnel who had been serving in the US Armed Forces will revert to the service of the state in which he is a citizen.

    1. Grant Edmunds says:

      Wow. Why exactly, do you think that course of action would help anything? I certainly don’t see the good in your proposal.

    2. Richard Hamilton says:

      I can never decide whether I’m libertarian or conservative. But I can’t see much sense in your list by any standard.

      1. The 14th Amendment isn’t a problem; what’s a problem is how it and others were used to stomp on the states not just over attempts to disenfranchise minorities, but on just about anything else where the federal government chose to do so. But I don’t see that anywhere in the words of the 14th Amendment; it follows only by practice and by having been enabled by some Supreme Court decisions.

      2. Abolish the Federal Reserve? Maybe. The rest of this point is simply unspeakable though. The libertarian in me strongly resists giving anyone that much power, even for the sake of removing those who would themselves pursue and abuse power. It utterly flies in the face of due process…_particularly_ when treating people as groups rather than individuals, or on the basis of laws that did not exist when the conduct occurred. From Article I, Section 9: “No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.” I’m all for getting rid of parasitic and manipulative conduct, and enjoy occasional fiction where the bad guys get wiped out right down to the last of their heirs and domestic animals. But I’m pretty sure that the reality of such wholesale tactics is that those who would employ them against those you oppose would sooner or later employ them against you, too.

      3. This too is not reasonable. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. That means there’s consequences of repudiating debt, probably worse consequences than those that follow from paying it off.

      4 and 5. A break-up like the former Yugoslavia, but across an entire continent, and with each of the pieces armed with nukes. Sounds like a pretty good plan for eradicating the human species, but not for anything else. Not to mention that since the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, it’s better to have them in less sets of hands than more. I’m all for 2nd Amendment (to the tune of a private individual being entitled to be at least as well armed as an individual soldier), but some things just shouldn’t be spread around. Besides, we really do need a federal government, just one that’s much leaner, cheaper, and less intrusive.

      If most people were nearly perfect, deeply committed to being involved, and would remain involved even if things went well enough that it was easy to take a lot for granted, then practically any plan, including much of yours except for the punishment in your #2, would work just about as well as almost any other. But that’s a whole lot of “if’s” we know aren’t true. The most that’s reasonable to say is that more people than not will be decent if challenged by circumstances to return to principles rather than slouch into indifference. Extreme plans, whether authoritarian or near anarchist, abandon the checks and balances needed to deal with a large enough number of ambitious and unscrupulous people, and a much larger number of uninvolved and mediocre ones enabling them.

      On the other hand, I repudiate those who regard as extreme a return to a much smaller and less intrusive federal government, that honors the 10th Amendment in leaving unenumerated powers to the states or the people. That’s not extreme, it’s simply dismantling some of the garbage that’s come to clog the proper working of the checks and balances.

      Guaranteed outcomes are just another form of tyranny.

    3. Joe says:

      Why do you not like the 14th amendment?

      Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

      Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

      Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

      Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

      Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

      1. Joe says:

        (The above for David Sims)

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