“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thomas Jefferson's Stimulus Bill

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much our federal government has strayed from its roots.

Founded as the second compact between 13 successfully rebellious colonies, the Constitutions enshrined a limited cooperative agreement among those original states at a time when everyone realized that the states were, well, "states" in their own rights. That is, sovereign political entities which ceded some of their taxing and domestic, and pretty much all foreign affairs and military powers, to a federal government which existed at their joint consent.

During Jefferson's term of office, the prelude to the War of 1812, also occasionally known as "The Second American Revolution," was in full swing. British naval vessels impressed American seamen born in Britain. Jefferson, a Francophile, wouldn't abandon the French, but wouldn't declare war on the British, either.

His solution?

The embargo. Being possessed with no particular head or sense for commerce and business, Jefferson closed US ports to trade with both England and France, thus destroying New England's economy for several years during the century's first decade.

I vividly recall my grade school history book's period cartoon illustrating angry Boston seamen carrying signs saying, "O Grab Me!," a clever punctuation of the embargo's palindrome. They were so enraged with Jefferson's action that they'd rather risk impressment by the British than suffer certain economic failure at the hands of Jefferson's ineptitude.

Still, during the period of Jefferson's awful foreign policy blunder, 1807-1809, there was no stimulus bill.

Nobody in Congress, to my knowledge, authored a relief bill to pay idled merchant seamen or merchants affected by the economic downturn in the nation's seafaring regions.

Jefferson isn't famous for a speech imploring Congress to authorize a massive debt issue in order to allow Treasury to pay unemployed New Englanders and others hurt by the senseless Embargo Act. Because he didn't make one.

The founding fathers would be absolutely incredulous to see today's federal government simply run the money presses faster and borrow more money in financial markets to pay the unemployed. I would not be surprised if they would consider such action as grounds for a suit involving the unlawful exercise of federal power.

Funding a shooting war is one thing.

Borrowing just to pay for pork barrel make-work projects and fund yet another in a series of unemployment benefits bills is quite another. And unjustifiable in any era.

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