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By John F. Di Leo –

Reflections on government procurement and the Buy American Act

President Donald Trump traveled to southeast Wisconsin to make a speech and issue a proclamation: that he would require that – on the big government spending projects of his administration – everything had better be Made in America.

Hopefully, no one will quarrel with the intent.

A country should be proud of its manufacturing sector, and if tax dollars are to be spent at all, the preference ought to be that they be spent giving business to their own companies, employing their own people, utilizing their own local resources.  It’s important not only for the economy, but for national security as well.  Such an intention is good and honorable.

But we all know what the road to Hell is paved with, don’t we?

The Residency Rule

Before we analyze this rule, let’s spend a moment contemplating a rule with which we’re all familiar: the residency rule that many cities have in place for their employees.

Lots of cities decree that if you want to be a policeman, fireman, school teacher, or other city employee, you have to live in the city that issues your paycheck. The theory is, this keeps fine, upstanding citizens in the neighborhoods (especially important if the city is suffering a loss of fleeing taxpayers), and it keeps rents and home values up for everyone.  Granted, it limits the hiring pool a bit, but the bigger the city, the more manageable that should be. In theory.

So it is that many cities have specific neighborhoods, like Chicago’s northwest side and Milwaukee’s southwest side, for example, that become well-known for being particularly safe because they’re chock full of policemen. Fine, as far as it goes, right?

Until the property taxes, or crime levels, or school system collapses of such a city reach the point at which it becomes unwise to raise children there, or even becomes unaffordable or unsafe to remain at all.  A city may lose good employees when this rule drives them out, to search for other jobs that allow freedom of residency.  But perhaps, sometimes, the cities decide it’s worth the tradeoff.  It’s their choice, after all; that’s what home rule is all about.

And so the cities write rules to manage their residency rule, to deal with a grace period upon time of hiring, or to deal with marriages between city employees and suburbanites, or to deal with employees who own multiple properties, like a couple of small apartment buildings in different towns as their chosen investment method.

The questions get thorny: what if a new employee can’t sell his suburban house within the 30, or 60, or 90 days of his grace period?  Surely we can’t make him sell at a loss just because it’s a slow housing market.  Or what if his child is a junior in a suburban high school; surely we won’t make our new teacher, policeman, or fireman move his kid to a new school at a time like that, just to satisfy this rule, will we?

There are dozens of such questions, and each city writes their rules, and builds in provisions for exceptions.  Every city may handle it differently, and that’s their right.

We all recognize the value in the original goal of a local residency requirement, but we also see the complexity that it causes.  The devil is in the details.

The Buy American Act

Now, in this context, we can address the national issue of a “Buy American” rule.

For the exact same reasons – all good reasons – that cities have residency requirements, nations may want a rule that tax dollars are spent on their own taxpayers.

We want a thriving economy.  We want a strong business sector, full employment, profitable manufacturers.

Because of the scale involved in the national government’s purchases, federal spending can be a huge portion of the GDP.  It shouldn’t be, of course – government is much too big already – but to the extent that we’re stuck with it, it makes sense to at least direct those purchases of asphalt and concrete, steel beams and armaments, toward businesses that keep the most Americans employed.

This is the goal that President Trump reinforced this week, and it’s nothing new; the first major Buy American Act dates all the way back to 1933, and was signed by outgoing President Hoover for the incoming Roosevelt Administration to enforce. There have been plenty of permutations of this well-intentioned concept since.

The Complexity of Manufacturing

As we’ve seen, even a rule as simple as a local residency rule can become complicated in application, as different cities have different levels of affordable real estate for renters, homeowners, parents, and investors.  Cities need to carve out both permanent exceptions and individual waivers all the time, or risk missing out on desirable employees, while mindful of the fact that too many exceptions will infuriate their existing employees who live with the same rule.

By the same token, when the national government attempts a Buy American provision, therefore, it encounters plenty of problems that it likely never anticipated, because so few people in government know anything about the world of manufacturing.

Let’s start by assuming that we do manufacture this kind of product in the United States, so domestic sourcing is at least an option.  What is that product made of?  Is it a single item, such as an injection-molded article of plastic or a cast iron product poured in a foundry?

Or is it a complex manufactured product, like a huge water pump to keep a highway underpass clear during rainstorms, or a whole electrical power station for an airport or army base? Such products have Bills of Material – a manufactured product’s “recipe,” if you will – listing hundreds, or even thousands, of materials.  Cast or molded parts, wire and cable, nuts and bolts, sheet steel and brass rods, dials and controls.

No single company manufactures all those parts, so a manufacturer sources them from vendors all over the world.  Perhaps wire and cable made in the USA, nuts and bolts made in South Korea, dials made in Germany, cast steel parts made in the USA, molded plastic parts made in Mexico, gaskets made in China… the possibilities are endless.

If we require the finished product to be made here, that’s an accomplishment.  That does indeed satisfy the first goal of spending money on American companies that put Americans to work.  But then there is always an effort to go further, to the next tier of production, and manage those purchased raw materials and components as well.

When the government implements a Buy American rule, it first has to decide how far down to go in this supply chain.  In recent years, the choices have run the gamut from final manufacture all the way to requirements of 100% American content, right down to the rawest of raw materials.

Imagine requiring, for example, that a steel part be not only formed here, but made of steel that was alloyed here, of iron, chromium and carbon that were pulled out of the earth and processed here too.  Sound easy?  Well, not so much.  We have plenty of iron in the USA, but chromium just can’t be practically sourced here; most of it comes from South Africa, Turkey, India or FSU sources like Russia and Kazakhstan.  So at a certain point, it becomes impossible to mandate domestic sourcing… and that “certain point” varies by product, by material, by industry.

So at some spot in the sourcing process, we have to stop trying to control it.  We just have to.  We don’t make lots of nuts and bolts in the USA anymore; we’d like to, but we just don’t.    And we make lots of wire and cable here, but maybe not the exact kind that the power station contractor or the pump manufacturer needs for this particular finished product.  So we have to allow them some flexibility in sourcing, if we want our finished product to work.

But all these industries – yes, all of them – have lobbyists in Washington, lobbyists (and unions and reporters and donors and businessmen) who will point out that making the bridge or power station or water pump here is nice, but we really need to create jobs for the American steel industry too, and the American fastener industry, and the American wire and cable industry, and the American electrical controller industry…

Every administration, and even more so, every individual agency issuing government contracts, has to make this decision:  Where to draw the line? Where to give up and realize that the goal of making every single government dollar create an American job is just impossible?

Complexity and Practicality

These rules add complexity to the government contracting process, and also often-unmanageable complexity for the contractors and their subcontractors.  The myriad vendors on these government projects have different skill levels, and the farther back you go from the primary contractor, the less the others upstream may understand just what their commitment actually is.

In addition to making a great product at the right price, delivering it on time at the right place, they now have to meet rules of content origin that vary from contract to contract, but that always bear the exact same title: a “Buy American clause.”

What good is a commitment that means something different in every bid, especially when the contractor offering the project for bidding probably doesn’t understand the commitment himself?

If the vendor can’t meet a requirement because the part isn’t made here at all, he can seek a waiver, of course… but seeking, proving, and obtaining such waivers are an added cost, adding to the cost of the project… and if a vendor knows he’ll need such waivers, he may drop out entirely, costing the bid some potentially good vendors.

In most of the government projects authorized in the 2009 ARRA, for example, simple US origin was required – meaning that the product had to be manufactured here, but they didn’t dig deeper into the materials therein.  The following year, the government revised it, and most 2010 contracts from the 2009 ARRA had an almost impossible 100% US content requirement, extending right into raw materials.

This made compliance difficult for many products, and accomplishment often impossible, which meant more products having the total waiver: when it becomes impossible to meet a Buy American clause, you just give up and fill the order with a foreign product.

Foreign products have no requirement for US content at all, so once you have a waiver on the origin of the “master” finished product, it gets made in Canada or Mexico or Europe instead, and no Americans are hired at all.   This overly-ambitious version of a Buy American clause is truly the textbook example of the old saying, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

So, here is our quandary: Should the government impose a Buy American clause, if it’s so difficult?

Of course we should.  But it’s time to standardize it, and make it reasonable.  If the Trump administration wants to ensure that its projects employ lots of Americans, it needs to abandon the overly-ambitious clauses of the past, and apply a reasonable requirement, based on those used by the Ex-Im Bank or NAFTA in determining US origin.

We can require US manufacture, and set a percentage of minimum US spend on the manufacturer’s purchased materials, such as “50% or 75% must be US-manufactured parts as well. “  Something along those lines.

But we need to put an end to these promises that “Every product will be made of US steel!” that the lobbyists and unionists insist upon. Such pie-in-the-sky promises create more work for lawyers, bean-counters and foreigners than they do for American workers.

Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based Customs broker, writer, and actor.  A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been a recovering politician for twenty years.

Is Sean Hannity Next On The Murdoch Brothers’ Hit List?

A New York Times reporter suggested Thursday that conservative TV host Sean Hannity could be the next Fox News host to be pressured to leave the network, after Bill O’Reilly’s stunning departure in the wake of sexual harassment claims.

The Washington Examiner reports,

On MSNBC, Times reporter Jeremy Peters noted a 2010 report about Fox that included a quote that said some within the Murdoch family were unhappy with the way the network was being run. Rupert Murdoch and his two sons are the top executives of the corporation that owns Fox.

“I think you have to look at somebody like Sean Hannity,” Peters said, “and question whether or not his almost propaganda-like attitude and programming every night is going to be acceptable in the minds of the family which is clearly trying to shift the network in another direction.”

Hannity is widely viewed as President Trump’s biggest champion in TV news, and rarely has anything critical to say about the White House. He is also now the longest running host in Fox’s prime-time lineup now that O’Reilly was ousted this week.

Before O’Reilly’s departure, Roger Ailes was forced to leave his perch as Fox’s long-running CEO last summer after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

The fallout and reorganizing of Fox is reportedly being led by Lachlan and James Murdoch, who are said to be attempting a repositioning of the highest-rated cable news channel, well known for its conservative bent.

George Soros’ MEDIA MATTERS Orchestrated O’Reilly Smear Campaign According To Leaked Email

Fox News has removed their ratings king – Bill O’Reilly – E-mail shows that MEDIA MATTERS was behind smear campaign.

Wednesday, Glenn Beck tweeted out a screenshot of an email from the Bonner Group. The Bonner Group is a leftist fundraising Super PAC for Hillary Clinton under the employ of George Soros’ Media Matters.

From The Gateway Pundit

The email reads:

“For years Bill O’Reilly has been one of the worst purveyors of misinformation on Fox News. A serial misinformer, pushing many of the most extreme, sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic conservative theories on TV . . . Thanks to Media Matters, O’Reilly and Fox News are being held accountable.”

VIDEO of Andrew Breitbart calling out Soros (Language Warning)

Rush Limbaugh: Bill O’Reilly Departure Was Not ‘Natural’, It Was A ‘Campaign

Thursday on his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh called Bill O’Reilly’s departure from the Fox News Channel a “campaign,” and not a “natural” event.

Limbaugh pointed to the origin of the story, which was first published in The New York Times and how it may have something to do with an internal struggle of “corporate intrigue” within Fox News.

From Breitbart

Partial transcript as follows:

Why do The New York Times break the story? Out of the blue, they want to do a story on O’Reilly and Fox with whatever number of payouts to women. Where’d this come from? Nothing just comes out of the ether folks. They are not sitting there over at the New York Times waiting for ideas to pop into their head and then one second some reporter, ‘You know what I think I’m going to do a story on what a sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly is.’ That is not how it happens.

The reason that it starts in The New York Times is important is because the second aspect is the corporate intrigue that I mentioned that is also behind this. It is — I don’t work there so there is no quicksand —but there is a battle for power going on there between sons of Rupert Murdoch and Rupert. And they are not conservatives my friends. In fact, they are — what is the generation before millennials? X? Their friends are all liberal, their wives. One of their wives works for the Clinton Global Initiative. One of the wives when this New York Times story, ‘You can’t keep the man on the air you just can’t this is embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to us, it’s embarrassing to dad company. You can’t do this.’ And the fact that the story ran on The New York Times was such a profound shock, sadness, and embarrassment that they felt that had to do something. That is why the fact that is started on The New York Times is crucial. There is two reason it is important. The Times is not just appearing out of nothing out of the ether.

Here’s the timeline, story New York Times. How long did it take before you started hearing about massive advertiser defections, just a day, right? You think that was natural? No, this was a campaign, folks. That’s why this is so frustrating to me, even after all this time, these campaigns are not immediately spotted for what they are. Therefore, people are not able to deal with them. And this one should have been expected given what’s been going on the last two years there. Tey should have been ready for this. But see the bottom line is they were.

Fox is not going to be the way it is for long. There is a massive –shakeup coming, and it is generational. It is generational and political. It is like anything else, nothing ever is constantly the same, there is change everywhere. But it has been amazingly easy to sit from a distance and watch this, it’s amazing how easy it appears, at least to me, that this massive and rapid transformation is occurring.



Fox News Has Decided Bill O’Reilly Has to Go

  The Murdochs have decided Bill O’Reilly’s 21-year run at Fox News will come to an end. According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24. Now the big questions are how the exit will look and who will replace him.

Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network. The board of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.

Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say. The other main issue on the table is money. O’Reilly recently signed a new multiyear contract worth more than $20 million per year. When Roger Ailes left Fox News last summer, the Murdochs paid out $40 million, the remainder of his contract.

According to sources, Fox News wants the transition to be seamless. Executives are currently debating possible replacement hosts. Names that have been discussed include Eric Bolling, Dana Perino, and Tucker Carlson, who would move from his successful 9 p.m. slot and create a need for a new host at that time. One source said Sean Hannity is happy at 10 p.m. and would not want to move. Network executives are hopingto have the new host in place by Monday.

The Murdochs’ decision to dump O’Reilly shocked many Fox News staffers I’ve spoken to in recent days. Late last week, the feeling inside the company was that Rupert Murdoch would prevail over his son James, who lobbied to jettison the embattled host. It’s still unclear exactly how the tide turned. According to one source, Lachlan Murdoch’s wife helped convince her husband that O’Reilly needed to go, which moved Lachlan into James’s corner. The source added that senior executives at other divisions within the Murdoch empire have complained that if O’Reilly’s allegations had happened to anyone else at their companies, that person would be gone already.

Spokespersons for 21st Century Fox and Fox News did not respond to requests for comment, nor did O’Reilly’s agent, Carole Cooper.

New Report Suggests Bill O’Reilly May Not Return To Fox News

Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly announced Tuesday that he was going on vacation. According to a report by New York Magazine, some 21st Century Fox executives don’t want him back.

Four anonymous sources spoke to the magazine and each claimed O’Reilly’s days at Fox are numbered.

While Fox News Co-President Bill Shine has reportedly campaigned to keep O’Reilly, the Murdoch family who runs the network is divided.

“It’s up to the family,” one source told the magazine.

The report says 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wants O’Reilly gone, but his father Rupert and his older brother Lachlan — the company’s executive co-chairmen — disagree.

A similar dynamic played out last year when news of former Chairman Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment surfaced. Then, just like now, James called for his immediate release while Rupert did what he could to keep Ailes on board.

Lawyers from the firm hired last year to investigate Ailes have been brought back and are conducting a thorough investigation into O’Reilly’s history.

Michael Wolff, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, said the controversy surrounding the future of O’Reilly is indicative of a divide within the Murdoch family for how to run the highly profitable news channel.

“Last July, after Gretchen Carlson sued … 21st Century Fox and Roger Ailes, the then-head of Fox News Channel, for sexual harassment, Rupert Murdoch told his sons, both Ailes enemies, that paying off Carlson without a fight would mean more lawsuits,” Wolff wrote. “Easy-money settlements always bring more claims. James and Lachlan Murdoch, however, were eager to get rid of their nemesis, and the most direct way to do that was to accept Carlson’s claims after a quickie investigation and then use a big payoff — $20 million — to end the dispute and calm the storm.”

Now, in the wake of the April 1 New York Times report detailing how O’Reilly, with the support of 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million over 15 years to five different women who accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, Wolf says Rupert Murdoch is blaming his sons for opening the door to additional claims.

“It’s a particular sort of irony that Fox, which, to the delight of its audience, built itself on rejecting liberal assumptions, might now be brought down by such a signature liberal assumption: Where there are charges of sexual harassment, there is sexual harassment,” Wolff wrote.

O’Reilly announced Tuesday night that he would be taking a vacation until April 24, saying the time off had been planned since October.

But the announcement also coincides with the decision by 60 companies to pull their advertising spots on The O’Reilly Factor,which has been the most-watched show on cable news for more than a decade.

Total paid advertising time on his program fell from an average of more than 14 minutes per show during March to fewer than five minutes on Friday’s program.


Many Americans are of the belief that the longer politicians are in Washington, the more susceptible to corruption they become. Today’s notably aged Democrats certainly have a way of lending credibility to that notion.

Allen B West reports,

And though corruption knows no particular age, race or creed, there’s one group of Washington insiders who seem to pop up on the malfeasance radar with somewhat stunning regularity — the Congressional Black Caucus.

From Charlies Rangel (D-NY) being found guilty of eleven ethics violations to shamed former-Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) being indicted, pleading guilty to 22 federal counts and facing a potential sentence of 357 years to Alcee Hastings (D-FL) (a formerly impeached federal judge) busted for misusing public funds to pay his girlfriend $2.5 million, CBC members are no strangers to the ethics microscope as they seem to be perpetually the subjects of investigations.

Now it’s Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) turn. Again. Waters, whose incessant tweets and tirades about Donald Trump have become a thing of internet legend, was named “one of the most corrupt members of Congress” by the non-partisan group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) for a virtually endless string of accusations and/or violations. Waters made the CREW list in 2005, 2006, 2009 and appears poised to keep the roll alive in 2017.

The Washington Free Beacon is reportingthat Waters has used public funds to pay her daughter, Karen Waters, over $600,000 since 2006:

In 2010 Waters was brought up on three counts of ethics violations by the House Ethics committee for her Congressional advocation on behalf of a bank in which she had a financial interest. Well, actually not her, but her husband…somehow that’d different. From The Hill:

“The House ethics committee on Monday outlined its charges against Rep. Maxine Waters, who is accused of helping a bank in which her husband owned stock secure federal bailout funds.

The committee charged the 10-term California Democrat with three counts of violating House rules and the federal ethics code in connection with her effort to arrange a 2008 meeting between Treasury officials and representatives with OneUnited bank.

The panel said Waters, who sits on the Financial Services Committee, broke a House rule requiring members to behave in a way that reflects “creditably” on the chamber. The committee said that by trying to assist OneUnited, she stood to benefit directly, because her husband owned a sizable amount of stock that would have been “worthless” if the bank failed.”

This swamp cannot possibly be drained quickly enough.

NOW WE KNOW! CIA Director John Brennan Targeted General Flynn and Sean Hannity For Surveillance

Yesterday, we reported on a breaking story by GotNews that Sean Hannity and Blackwater founder, Erik Prince were also spied on and unmasked by the Obama administration.

GotNews has just revealed that it was Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan who was targeting them and other Trump supporters for surveillance.

From The Gateway Pundit

Via GotNews:

Barack Obama‘s CIA Director John O. Brennan targeted Trump supporters for enhanced surveillance, intelligence sources confirm to GotNews’ Charles C. Johnson.

The surveillance took place between Trump’s election on November 8 and the inauguration in January, according to White House and House intelligence sources.

The focus was on General Mike Flynn, billionaire Erik Prince, and Fox News host Sean Hannity — all of whom had close ties to Trump before and after the November election and had helped the future president with managing his new diplomatic responsibilities.

Hannity was targeted because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange, say our intelligence sources. Hannity was reportedly unmasked by Susan Rice at Brennan’s behest thanks to his close relationship with Trump and Julian Assange.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a former CIA covert asset, has long criticized the CIA’s bloat and incompetence, including the Brennan-run CIA drone program’s failure to properly target terrorists rather than Afghan civilians. Prince has repeatedly called for restructuring the CIA and argued against Brennan’s tenure.

GotNews’ Chuck Johnson went on to explain the feuding history of Brennan and General Flynn…

The motivations for Brennan’s dislike of Flynn date back years. The two had publicly feuded during Flynn’s time as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Flynn was producing intel documents that showed how the supposed Syrian moderates were actually assets of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Brennan also brought in disgraced Syria analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy to brief the CIA. O’Bagy was outed by this reporter for manufacturing her credentials and for being paid by the Syrian rebels. O’Bagy worked for the defense industry funded Institute for the Study of War, a neocon think tank headed by the Kagans, a controversial family which advised David Petraeus. Petraeus was brought down. Intel sources I’ve spoken to believe Brennan was behind his ousting.

JUST IN: China STUNS World, Issues Shocking Military Threat To North Korea

On most days, China is considered one of a limited number of countries around the world who are considered friendly with North Korea.

But mysteriously, just day after President Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the communist country just flipped the script on their unruly neighbors to the south. This could get ugly, quick.

The Daily Caller reports:

If North Korea crosses Beijing’s “bottom line,” China may bomb its neighbor.

China warns the North’s nuclear activities must not jeopardize northeastern China. If North Korea negatively impacts China with its illicit nuclear activities, the latter will respond with force, a Global Times editorial published on the news service for the Chinese military stressed.

“China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs, that is, the security and stability of northeast China,” the report stated. “If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back … By that time, it is not an issue of discussion whether China acquiesces in the US’ blows, but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch attacks [on] DPRK nuclear facilities on its own.”

The northeastern provinces of Liaoning and Jilin border North Korea. Together with Heilongjiang Province, the three provinces make up the Shenyang Military Region.

“We all know that the DPRK’s sixth nuclear test is imminent, and various parties, especially China, are generally worried about this,” the editorial commented.


By John F. Di Leo – 

In the first week of April, 2017, a nostalgic nation watched as one of the grand old institutions crumbled into dust: the Senate filibuster was removed from the toolbox for presidential appointments.

Many on both sides of the aisle shed a tear or two as the US Senate lost one of its most famous and romantic tools; until the Democrats overplayed their hand on the Gorsuch nomination, a single Senator could hold up a presidential appointee with a filibuster.  No more.

Before you shed any more tears, though, dear Gentle Reader, please consider who had long been empowered with this tool.  Have you thought about asking whether or not these Senators deserved it in the first place?

I believe that a great deal of our political trouble today is caused by a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of our government – not just in what the government is for, but in how the Constitution designed it to function … how much thought the Framers put into its careful  design.

They were frustrated by the failures of the Articles of Confederation, and recognized that no mere amendment would do; we needed a new Constitution to obtain public support, and to both set up a national government and simultaneously rein it in, to both provide for the prosperity and security of the American people and to fully protect our liberties.  A difficult task.

Read the notes taken at the convention, by Robert Yates, James Madison and others – or read the fascinating books about it, such as David O Stewart’s “The Summer of 1787” – and consider the contributions of Madison, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, Rufus King, and in particular, General Washington, whom the delegates’ elected as their presiding officer.

The Founding Fathers – and most specifically the Framers (the men who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787) – understood that a national government is a necessary evil, and wanted that government to be successful, and effective, in its proper functions.

But they also knew that a national government would want to expand… that both elected officials and bureaucratic appointees would try to expand their influence – for good, of course, always for good – and they knew that each such expansion would pose a greater threat to the people’s freedom.

So today, in studying our government and its perks and rules, we need to recognize how the people in the national government were meant to be selected, and recognize that it was a very deliberate selection process.  The Framers didn’t just throw the dice and say “okay, we’ll pick the Senate this way and the House that way.” It was deliberate.

One house of the legislature would be known as the people’s house.  In a nation quite intentionally designed without referenda, this would be the closest thing to “democracy” the new system would allow.  The House of Representatives would be picked directly by the voters, every two years, so there would always be a representation in our nation’s capitol of the public’s most recent will.

By contrast, the executive – the President – would be selected by an “Electoral College” – a group of wise people, perhaps statesmen, perhaps just local worthies, elected by the voters.  Through the Electoral College, the public could appoint thoughtful people who could be trusted to choose well.  Their sole duty would be their vote for President, so they would presumably give it everything they had.  Again, this is close to democracy, but not directly; the public chooses middlemen to gather and deliberate on their behalf.  The Framers were certain that people make more intelligent decisions when deliberating in a group than when simply walking into a voting booth, checking a box, and departing.

Finally, we have the US Senate.  The public would not select them at all.

The way the Framers set up our country, this was up to the states; each state government had two seats to fill in the US Senate, and it was up to them how the state legislatures select them.  Perhaps the governor would submit names for consideration? Perhaps the state house would send several nominations to the state senate for a final run-off? Their choice.

Why?  To empower the state governments … in Washington.

Many of the Framers rightly worried that eliminating the Articles of Confederation would leave the state governments powerless in the new nation’s capital.  Some for noble reasons, others jealous for power, most wanted to ensure that the state governments – not just the people in those states, but their experienced, thoughtful representatives – still had the power to rein in the new national government if it ever went too far.

Most of the Framers therefore knew that the Senate was the most important piece of this process, the lynchpin of the whole deal, specifically because the Senate was chosen by the state governments.

These US Senators would jealously guard the rights of the people and the states, because they would understand, better than anyone else, that any expansion of the national government in Washington would – by definition – be an incursion upon the state authority and individual freedoms that the Senators are there to protect.

The Guard Towers

Please think of the federal government in Washington DC as a prison complex, and of the Constitution as the wall surrounding that prison.  The Constitution has limits – each body can do this, and only this… each body is limited in what it’s allowed to tax, to regulate, to attempt… and anything outside these limits is forbidden to those within the government.  It’s a wall ten or twenty feet high, with barbed wire on top.

All the people inside this prison complex – both the elected officials and the bureaucrats – would naturally want to break through that wall and expand their powers, right? Of course they would.

Every newly created agency, every new law, every new program that the regulators enforce, is going to be an expansion beyond that original wall, enlarging the national government, enlarging the scope of Washington DC.   You can picture sections of wall being opened up, all the time, pushing it out 20 feet to the north, then 50 feet to the southwest, then another 100 feet to the east… as the inmates constantly and naturally try to expand their areas of influence.

And that’s what the Framers were worried about.  They pictured this tiny national capital city, to be designed so cleverly by Pierre Charles L’Enfant a few years later, gradually expanding until it became the massive leviathan that they so terribly feared.  They didn’t want to risk their handiwork enabling the very monster of an encroaching government that they’d just fought a revolution against!

So now we come to the U.S. Senate.

Remember, the voters directly sent Congressmen to the nation’s capital to do stuff for them, or to get stuff for them, stuff that might lead to enlarging the government, breaking through the walls that the Constitution had erected.  Similarly, they sent a President there after a huge national election, hoping that he would do stuff for them, and get stuff for them, as well.  Hopefully – from the perspective of this “small d” democratic population, the House and President will work together to make sure it happens, and the gravy train flows smoothly!

Where do the Senators fit in this picture? They’re the prison guards, sharpshooters in teams of two per state, posted very indirectly by the American people through their state governments, in the guard towers all along the prison wall.   First thirteen, then fifteen, then on and on until we now have fifty such guard towers encircling the nation’s capital.

The job of the U.S. Senate is to constantly be on the lookout for bad appointments to the judiciary, and for bad laws being proposed in the House, and bad new agencies or regulations being proposed by the newspapers or the lobbyists, bad cabinet secretaries being proposed by the President.

The U.S. Senate is there to watch out for anyone or anything that would enlarge the scope of the national government beyond its proper, constitutional scale.

The job of the U.S. Senate is to stand at the ready, with binoculars and night vision goggles, rifles cocked and ready at their sides, and watch for such encroachments… and then to stop them.

The Constitution gave the Senate several tools for this task – the impeachment process, the “advise and consent” process, the legislative process, etc.

The Senate’s job is to identify encroachments, and stop them.

So to return to our prison metaphor, the Senators are the guards, very carefully selected and posted by the 50 states in these guard towers metaphorically surrounding Washington DC.  They were given wonderful tools – the impeachment process, the security of six-year terms, the filibuster, and so many more – to use in the service of this one goal: keeping the leviathan at bay.

Their job was to watch closely, and whenever they see anyone trying to break out of these Constitutional limits and expand the walls – trying to expand the power of the national government – the Senators were supposed to shoot them down.

And it worked pretty darned well, for over 120 years, too.

The Errors of (and leading up to) 1913

Unfortunately, some of the states never fully understood this process – never fully understood how carefully and thoughtfully the Framers had been looking out for their interests.  So by the late 1800s, some of the states had a reputation for chicanery in their selection of Senators, and some others were giving in to the populist effort to let the public have control of this house too… and finally, in 1913, the 17th amendment was passed, mandating direct election of US Senators.

This one colossal error removed the state governments’ one and only institutional check on the federal government, essentially just turning the Senators into stuffier, more powerful, just-as-democratic Congressmen, but with six-year-terms.

In other words, the prison guards now serve the prisoners… unite with the prisoners… join the prisoners at the feast.

They’re on the same side as the people they were supposed to be guarding us from.

Now that it’s all changed, do today’s Senators really still deserve all the perks and tools that the Senators had when they served their state governments in their original cause?

Well, if you ever wondered why the walls have all collapsed and the federal government can now rule the entire country, with nothing holding them back… now you know.

Many accuse the Constitution of failing, because the national government is now enormous, but that’s not fair.  When the Constitution was in place, from 1788 through 1913, it did a pretty good job of keeping the national government small, by using the self-interest of the state governments as a wonderfully, brilliantly effective permanent check on the federal government.

Until 1913, when we ratified the 17th amendment, and the states totally destroyed the country.

The lesson of the day is to never allow the inmates to appoint the guards on the prison walls.

Our current socialist, omnipresent national government isn’t the fault of the Constitution at all, it’s the fault of the conscious destruction of the Constitution’s brilliant plan in 1913.

Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo