Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rebel without a Cause

Patriots’ Day was celebrated this week in Massachusetts. It wasn’t another parade for the Superbowl champs, it’s a holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. Each year there is a reenactment of the battles including mounted re-enactors who retrace the midnight rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes. The biggest part of the celebration is the Boston Marathon which has been run every Patriots’ Day since 1897 (to mark the then-recently established holiday linking the Athenian and American struggles for liberty since marathons were named after the Greek Battle of Marathon. The thirteen colonies rebelled against King George, ultimately establishing the new nation with a new way of doing business. It’s served the country well for nearly 240 years.

Not everybody agrees. 41% of the population have confidence in government according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, published annually from one of the leading research and communications firms in the world. More interestingly in 19 of the 27 countries studied there is more distrust than trust. The annual survey shows that media isn't believed and that search engines are now the most trusted way for the general population to get its news and that family and friends are more reliable than traditional reporting. (A subject for a whole other blog!)

The popular thinking is that the U.S. political system is broken. Realclearpolitics has a combination of surveys which show that 71% disapprove of Congress. Regardless of which party has a majority, Congress has been ineffective at passing significant legislation. Pundits have used the lack of laws being passed as the determining factor of whether Congress has done its job or not. While it’s an important metric, it forgets that the Founders set up the system as Representative government  (where people are elected to office to represent a group of people). It’s not direct democracy where individuals vote on every issue directly.

As of October 2014 Gallup polling found that 43% of Americans identified as Democrats and 39% as Republicans, when party "leaners" were included; those figures changed to 41% Democratic and 42% Republican after the November 2014 elections. The 114th Congress currently has 56% Republicans in the House and 54% in the Senate with Democrats representing 43% of the House and 44% of the Senate. In other words: Congress pretty accurately reflects the people it represents.

After the 2014 mid-term elections I wrote a blog that showed after including eligible voters into the calculation, just 13% of the population was actually determining who would be elected. When a majority of voices are silent – either by their own choice or defacto by onerous voting procedures – then the disconnect that exists today can occur. An overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of the job its government is doing, yet consistently re-elects those leaders at a rate in excess of 90%. This occurs because a huge majority of people do not participate in the process, but do have an opinion. So comparing voting results with polling results is comparing apples and oranges (or Republicans and Democrats). By opting out of the established process of voicing one’s opinion, this silent majority are rebels without a cause.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Which type of person are you? The one who filed their taxes in January, got the refund by President’s Day and remind everybody of how nice it is to have it done? Or the one who scrambles in the days before April 15 to get everything together and hit “send” just in the nick of time? Perhaps you’re the one who knows that October 15 is the final, final date when all extensions expire and aim to file by then. I’m a bit of a hybrid, filing my and my family’s returns usually in the February / March time frame. Even utilizing software and being organized, the process is laborious, intrusive and confusing. And that’s what makes this the most wonderful time of the year!

Tax Time is when Americans of all stripes most directly interact with the government. 136,887,000 returns were filed in 2014 with 86% being done so electronically. According to a 2012 Fox News poll 79% of Americans support requiring everyone to pay something in taxes. In 2014 USA Today reported an AP poll that found 58% of Americans describe the filing of taxes as easy and only 38% say it’s hard. When broken down by economic group those making $100,000 or more had a higher percentage who found it difficult – 45%. The U.S. tax code started with 400 pages in 1913 and a century later in 2013 was 73,954 pages. According to the IRS 90% of taxpayers use a tax professional or software to complete their return.

Tax Day for LGBT Americans is particularly challenging. APReports that for those people who live in states that do not recognize their marriage that the couples have to complete 5 tax returns – one federal as married, one federal for each person as a template to then file one each at the state level for each person. Divvying up costs and deductions is not only a complicated mathematical process, it’s emotionally disruptive to have to divide your married life up because your state doesn’t recognize your relationship.

The U.S. tax code includes a “marriage penalty.” In the progressive rates that are the basis of the U.S. tax philosophy and code, the more one earns, the more one pays in taxes. So if two people come together and file jointly, their incomes are combined and they move into a higher bracket. The code also includes many incentives and deductions to encourage (or discourage) certain behavior. Politicians want Americans to buy houses (borrowing money, paying interest, etc.) so there is a large financial benefit for home ownership. Buy too many houses though – and have them as vacation getaways or rental properties and that is discouraged with limitations on deductions and even increased rates.

The priorities of encouraging or discouraging behavior of the citizenry have been a core function of the tax code and the primary argument that the political parties have. One wants to raise taxes on one group of people and redistribute it to others while another wants to reduced taxes to one group of people and redistribute it to others. It’s in this area where the divisive political discourse has festered for most of the past several decades. 1986 was the last time the code was “reformed.”

Election Day is held on the first Tuesday in November under a 1792 Federal law. The reasons included issues of the completion of the harvest and before the harsh winter weather allowing for most who needed to travel to vote to do so. Most of the considerations for choosing early November no longer apply, but it’s unlikely that Election Day will change.

Tax Day hasn’t always been April 15.This date became effective in 1955 Tech Times reports why: “"According to an IRS spokesman, the move 'spread out the peak workload,' but there's another explanation. Turns out that as the income tax applied to more of the middle class, the government had to issue more refunds. 'Pushing the deadline back gives the government more time to hold on to the money,' says Ed McCaffery, a University of Southern California law professor and tax guru."

No matter when Tax Day falls, how government spends taxes is one of the most contentious issues of our time and politicians have been unable (or unwilling) to find compromises. Perhaps the easiest way to see how Americans really feel about paying and filing taxes would be to move Tax Day to the first Monday in November. The day before Election Day. This Most Wonderful Time of the Year would be more so when electoral decisions would be directly related to the one thing that nearly Americans do to interact with the Government they elect. And let’s make it easy: let’s have the Presidential, Congressional and Senatorial candidates be the last question of the tax software before hitting “submit”?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Do Unto Others

Holy Week is exhausting! Emotionally and spiritually it’s a very intense journey. Physically there are a lot of services that require stamina (up and down, up and down). Easter morning arrives amidst the Alleluia’s – as much for religious reasons as in gratitude that the week is done! Other faiths have different services at different times of the year that are of importance to them and have their own challenges. People who do not believe have other paths. The freedom to worship – or not – how one chooses is a bedrock principal in the United States. I am a person of faith who happens to be gay and who also passionately believes in the libertarian principals of individual rights. These aren’t contradictory. They’re consistent.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” begins the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Not only is freedom of religion first out of the gate, it is the first and second item covered in the document establishing the nation, underscoring the level of importance the issue was to the founders.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a 1993 United States federal law that "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected that was passed a Democratic House and Senate and was signed by President Clinton. The Act states that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” In 1997 RFRA was found to be unconstitutional if applied to states. As a result states (now 30) passed their own versions of the bills.

Indiana’s version of the bill included similar language (“governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion…”) as in the federal version. The big differentiation, however, is that their bill takes advantage of the 2014 “Hobby Lobby” decision and defines a "person" to include any individual, organization, or company/business – either for-profit or not-for-profit.

The shorthand narrative that took over the media during Holy Week was that businesses in Indiana were given the legal right to decline service to anybody based on their religious beliefs. The law technically didn’t permit that, rather allowed businesses to use their religious beliefs as a defense in case there was ever a court action. LGBT concerns were immediately validated when a local Pizza shop answered “no” to a hypothetical question about whether they would cater a gay wedding. This was cat nip to a hungry media that thrives on “what if’s.” When does one’s right to believe that gay marriage is bad infringe on one’s right to marry whom one loves? When one is in business.

Business owners agree when they choose to open their doors to abide by certain standards and rules in exchange for the right to benefit from commerce. Local, state and federal rules govern a wide array of operations of businesses – everything from fire code to making sure that the workplace is safe and insuring all get equal service. If you don’t like the exchange of abiding by society’s/government rules in order to sell your service or product, don’t open the business.

A core principle in American trade practice, governed by a variety of laws, is that businesses can’t discriminate against customers. Owners have the right to “refuse service” provided that reason doesn’t fall into a list of discriminatory reasons. That list is different by city and by state making the issue more complicated. In general: A person who has imbibed alcohol to the point of excess can be refused service. Likewise a minor can’t be served because government and society say you have to be of a certain age. A person of a particular look, ethnicity, background, etc. could not be refused service for who they are or what they believe.

America is home to a wide range of religions. There are the “mainstream” denominations, but there are many others less well known that are classified as exempt by the IRS for religious purposes.

  • ·      The Church of Scientology is one of them. The Church uses the practice of “audits” for its members to “re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects. … Another controversial belief held by Scientologists is that the practice of psychiatry is destructive and abusive and must be abolished.”
  • ·    Mormons for many years were anti-caffeine – so much so that coffee and Coke weren’t available in areas where there were large populations of Mormons. The Church clarified its policy in 2012.
  • ·     Wiccan’s draw upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and often includes the ritual practice of magic.

There are websites that list “weirdest” religious beliefs. What’s “weird” to one is the truth to another. Taken in bits and pieces or out of context, any religion will have its oddities and eccentricities. (He gets up and walked out of a cave after dying?) So long as one’s belief’s do not infringe on the rights of another, or harm another – the core of libertarianism – people are welcome to pray to whomever or whatever they so desire.

If an individual doesn’t like another person for who they are, that’s their individual right and choice. It’s what makes America great – the right to differ. Too often the right to differ is being censored thanks to political correctness and group think conformity – something I’ve blogged about previously and will again no doubt.  The differentiating factor is what happens when there is a polar opposite belief. Now it’s complicated because the Supreme Courts has declared that a business is now considered a person. When the person takes action as a company they are not expressing a personal opinion, but instead are taking an action that hurts another and creates an unfair and unequal environment. When Government permits that – either by court ruling or legislation, the right to differ is no longer an individual issue, it’s enshrined into law and practice.

There is no way to legislate common sense or common decency. Politicians have been trying for centuries…and failing. The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is based on the idea that people should treat each other well. In my religious tradition “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” comes from Matthew 7:12 in The Bible. The same concept exists in most religions including the three mentioned above: Scientologists, Mormons and Wiccans. Treating others as you want to be treated is missing in a system that gives the power and authority of individuality to a corporate entity. It's impossible to due unto others then the other is an entity and not a person.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Announcing an Announcement

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is scheduled to open in theatres in December 2015. Its sequel, Episode VIII will open May 26, 2017 and its sequel will open in May of 2018. The announcement of these dates is not really intended for the movie going public to make a notation in their calendars, but as a stake in the ground for the other movie studios. Disney plans to “own” that weekend with the big release, so the others should just plan around it. The competition may then “counter” program with a romantic comedy or something else for audiences to choose from or just wait a week or two for their opportunity. It’s not unlike the other big industry town, Washington. In politics those running for office take it one step further: announcing their intention to announce.

At the end of March 2015, 22 months before the inauguration of the 45th President Senator Ted Cruz is the only declared candidate for the office.  Another dozen or more from various parties are considering or announcing that they’re considering or announcing that their announcing their consideration to run for the highest office in the land. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about as important and consequential as the Star Wars movie opening in 2018.

On February 27, 2015, 23 months before the inauguration and with no announced candidates, Equality California (the nation’s second largest LGBT membership organization) became the first LGBT organization to endorse Hillary Clinton for President.  Never mind that Sec. Clinton has not announced her intention to run – in fact repeatedly stating that she had nothing to say on the matter. Never mind that there might be any other candidates to challenge any eventual campaign. It’s a pretty safe assumption her hat's in the ring, but, technically she’s not in the race.

Executive Director Rick Zbur said in the press release: “We’re enthusiastic about her candidacy because she has the best record of accomplishment on LGBT issues of any potential candidate. Equality California is ready for Hillary!” It’s an interesting assertion given that there are no actual candidates to measure Sec. Clinton against and her legislative endeavors are, at best, limited.

In terms of her record – she gave a powerful speech on International Human Rights Day at the United Nations in Geneva in 2011 that “went viral.” Sec. Clinton said: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” It was a powerful and important sentiment and words matter.

In terms of accomplishments, however, there are few. The Clinton administration devised Don’t Ask Don’t Tell which codified discrimination into federal law that took over 20 years to abolish and was tremendously damaging to tens of thousands of LGBT lives. In its 1996 re-election campaign the Clinton administration conjured up, endorsed and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act that has taken nearly two decades to dismantle, with the Supreme Court still working on the issue. The “religious freedom law” that Indiana (and 30 other states) use as a template to justify discrimination against LGBT people was conceived of and signed into law by President Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton, so the troika of anti-gay actions that he took as President (and has never apologized for) is not her burden to bear. Just as Jeb Bush should not bear the responsibility of the decisions of his brother George W. or his father George HW – each potential candidate are their own person. Their relationship to others policies is a fair thing to ask about, however, especially as they try to take credit for the accomplishments of those same people.

In June 2014 Sec. Clinton was “testy” during an exchange about any ‘evolution’ that she has had on Marriage Equality. The reporter reasonably asked about how and why she went from being opposed to Marriage Equality to supporting it – all of which has been in the public record during her long public life. Sec. Clinton forcefully challenged the premise of the question, never denying the facts nor answering the question.

This is the best that the LGBT community can do? Endorsing an individual who has no record of accomplishment on LGBT issues and isn’t even announced as a candidate? Not even waiting to see if another person rises up more forcefully supporting the cause? In the end Hillary Clinton may well run and win the nomination and may well be the leader on the issues – but doesn’t it make sense to actually wait and see who’s running first? Shame on Equality California – and organization that has had a record of leadership in the past but now seems to be seeking headlines and access over servicing its community. I hereby announce my intention to no longer support EqCA.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


My grandfather was an insurance guy. He married his secretary, my grandmother and they moved around a lot on behalf of one of the insurance behemoths. My own foray into insurance was as a third grader selling policies to my parents friends for their pets. We stumbled across one of my “invoices” a few years back where I wrote a cover note congratulating this person on insuring their cat with me – because cats had 9 lives so I’d never have to pay out.  March 23, 2015 marked the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act – dubbed ObamaCare. It’s an act that has almost as many lives as the cats I used to insure.

Some 60 times since the Act was signed into law (which works out to an average of once a month) Congress has voted some sort of repeal. In their FY16 budget proposal the defunding of the program is proposed again. The Act has survived.

The Supreme Court took up a case and, against most people’s expectation, ruled in the Acts favor. Another case is pending and a ruling is expected in several months which will determine the viability of the key funding part of the Act.

Who is most responsible for ObamaCare? Mitt Romney. Not because most of the provisions of the Act replicate his health plan instituted in Massachusetts where he was Governor. In May 2007 in his quest for the Presidency Romney co-opted the name Obama’s opponents were using by saying: “If the Democrats do it, it will be socialized medicine; it'll be government-managed care. It'll be what's known as Hillarycare or Barack Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it.” To this day most people who oppose the program do so because they think the government runs it. The narrative around FY16's budget is not having government run your healthcare. 

The Affordable Care Act is an insurance program. It’s not a healthcare program. A healthcare program is Medicare or Medicaid which allows patients to see medical professionals. The ACA/ObamaCare requires people to get insurance or pay a fine. The idea is if people have insurance then they would have more likely access to seeing medical professionals. There’s a lot of pro’s and con’s to the concept – but that’s what the law is. It’s not socialized medicine.

The number of uninsured has dropped from 18% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014. Stocks for Healthcare companies were up 52% in 2013. For that same year Forbes reports that profits in the industry remain high and constant. The cost of healthcare jumped after the Act’s passage but has remained a steady 17.9% of the GDP for several years though the inflation rate of medical costs has plummeted to 3.9% - nearly half what it was prior to the Act.

Those statistics support the idea that the stated goals for the Act – to provide people with insurance, stabilize costs and keep the private insurance market competitive – all seem to be on track. The funding mechanism to support the cost of the program hasn't kicked in. Still, there’s a lot of vitriol about the Act even though it’s performing as intended. I remain opposed to it.

Healthcare is one issue where I deviate from the Libertarian philosophical ideals I usually favor. Conceptually I agree that having a competitive market without government regulations and interference should produce a vibrant, effective and low-cost model for healthcare. The United States will never be able to go back and re-establish that model…so it’s a nice idea that’s not practical. The hybrid that exists today is just terrible. It may be incrementally better than what preceded it by providing access for more people – but it’s still an industry driven by something other than its core purpose – which is providing for healthy human beings.

Let’s get the insurance companies out of the day-to-day business of healthcare. Medicare for All. Fund the program through continued payroll deductions for employees and employers with no caps. Establish core services that the system covers. There will always need to be limitations of services. That’s where insurance companies can find a new niche market. For the person who wants a cosmetic or non medically necessary procedure – insurance companies can build financing models around that.

Most industrialized countries other than the U.S. have a single payer system because they recognize that keeping their citizens healthy isn’t a business, it’s a right. Only in the U.S. – whether under the Affordable Care Act or not – is your health, well being and care determined by your ability to pay. That’s ObamaScare – a chilling view of how to care of its people. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015


I’m the anti-hoarder. There are not a lot of physical things that I’ve held on to. Earlier this year, in fact, I purged nearly two-thirds of my belongings that I had in storage. Live without stuff for three or four years and all of a sudden it’s really clear about what you want to keep and what you don’t! When it comes to my digital life, however, I’m the opposite. I have every email I’ve ever written or received (sans junk) since 1996. They’re filed by subject, by year – and I go so far as to make sure that every time there’s a major upgrade to Outlook that the old emails are readable. I guess this means I will never hold public office.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee for 2016 has been under fire for not just using a private email account and server – but for taking weeks to speak publicly about why. (And when she finally did she did so from the United Nations - choosing to address the issue on land that technically isn't in the U.S.?!?) President Obama claims he learned of Mrs. Clinton's practice “when everybody else did.” The President of the United States never emailed with his Secretary of State? There are reports that he corresponded with the Secretary of State and it makes sense that he would. I would hope that the Commander in Chief and the country's chief diplomat would actually be in regular dialogue, which today would include email. I certainly look at the “from” line on emails I receive – and while the reason I do so is to see the name it’s natural that you just note the account, especially when you correspond with somebody regularly. It’s rather difficult to believe that not one person in the Executive Branch or the State Department knew that Mrs. Clinton wasn’t using a government sanctioned account. Nobody saw it wasn’t a .gov address?

Secretary Clinton did call on the State Department to release the emails – after they are scrubbed and checked. It’s an interesting tactic since the emails were on a personal server and not government, so she could just release them herself. From a diplomatic perspective everything shouldn't be released, but from a political point of view they should. Secretary Clinton has now advocated both the release of information and the screening of that same information. Sounds and feels an awful lot like the Nixon White House reviewing the tapes before letting anybody hear them. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has a biting story on the likeness of Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon. POTUS Radio had a devastating compilation of sound bites inter-spliced together of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Nixon – both speaking about how THEY would determine what was appropriate for the public to hear. After Watergate the country demanded openness.

This week (3/16/15) is the 10th Anniversary of Sunshine Week -  a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. To kick off the week the White House unilaterally removed the Freedom Of Information Request regulation that had governed the Executive Branch for 30 years. – Now the White House no longer has to comply with any requests from the press or from the public for information.  The decision to eliminate the rule follows six years legal challenges that the administration pursued – all the while stonewalling and not fulfilling the requests of the public.

Fear not, the Administration didn’t ignore the spirit of transparency or let Sunshine Week pass unnoticed. The Department of Justice held an event (on the same day as the White House announcement) which awarded President Obama and Attorney General Holder with awards for fulfilling the campaign promise to have the “most transparent” Presidency in history. This is not an Onion news report or a Jon Stewart skewer – it’s the arrogance of an administration that cares little for openness.  No mention was made at the 40-minute ceremony of the DoJ’s attempt to criminalize journalistic practices and threatening to jail reporters as enemies of the state for doing their job.

It’s not just a national issue – it’s local too. In Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has made a practice of keepinginformation secret.  Most recently he ruled that the names of five police officers who were arrested for driving drunk could be kept secret. To celebrate Sunshine week – in an unprecedented move the three newspapers that cover greater Boston (The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and the Patriot Ledger) all ran their own editorials on the same day condemning Galvin and the lack of access to public records.

In my lifetime the world has shrunk and the quantity of information available to each of us on a palm sized device has been stunning. It’s a wide open world that has fueled economic growth, revolutions in distant lands and a rapid change in social mores and behavior. Government is way behind…will they catch up and become more open and transparent? I’m e-dubious.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Times a wastin’

During this Lent I’m participating with the program from the brothers at St. John the Evangelist Monastery in Cambridge where I’m a regular attendee. The programs focus for these forty days is time – what it is, how it exists, its relevance to our spiritual lives, etc. It’s always a fascinating and accessible program, and this year perfectly apt for my life. I’ve just passed my 30th physical month in the position I'm in but have put in 39 months of work time in. It's an average of 60 hours a week - and even though I meticulously track it all I’m not actually complaining. Much of the effort I’m putting in is for projects and schemes that have been of my own making. Time is precious to me so when I see things that I think are an inefficient use of it or just silly I often remark “they have too much time on their hands.” That remark is easily applied to the people during the holidays who seem to be able to decorate their houses, throw parties and do all the things that I can’t imagine accomplishing. I’m equally incredulous whenever I see something that the government or a political body does that indicates that they have too much time on their hands.

47 Republican Senators wrote a letter  3/9/15  that Democrats have called incendiary and potentially treasonous. In it the GOP describes how international treaties are processed under the U.S. system of government. Nothing in the letter is inaccurate, though it’s embarrassing to see the arrogance of letter which purports to “teach” those provincial Iranians about how law is made under the U.S. Constitution. I imagine they actually know the U.S. system pretty well. The letter does, however, appear to violate the 1799 Logan Act

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Congress has sued the President. (See my blog about it.) While improbable, it might be an interesting (and amusing) comeuppance in this schoolyard that is Washington politics if the Obama Administration seeks to fine or imprison the 47. It'd certainly be a great romp for the media.

The 113th Congress was one of the least “productive” in history - with 57 laws passed out of 6,366 introduced, the lowest since 1947. Fewer laws tend to mean fewer things for people to have to conform to and fewer regulations to tie up the economy – so for those smaller government advocates like myself, fewer laws has an upside. I’m not an anarchist, though, and there are certain things that must be legislated – such as the annual Federal budget.

According to the U.S. Constitution it is up to Congress to pass and authorize the budget for the United States. The process usually starts in May and 12 appropriations bills need to be submitted, negotiated and ultimately passed and signed into law prior to the start of the fiscal year. The last bill for the current fiscal year (Oct 1, 2014 to Sept 30, 2015) was passed in February 2015 – 4 months into the budget year under the threats of shutting down Homeland Security. This is not unusual.

Wikipeda reports: “Between fiscal year 1977 and fiscal year 2015, Congress only passed all twelve regular appropriations bills on time in four years - fiscal years 1977, 1989, 1995, and 1997.” More appalling that than is that 2012 is the only year of the Obama Administration that a Continuing Resolution wasn’t required to fund the government at a set level while budgetary issues were negotiated. 

Once an agency is funded through the budget, under federal law each must pass an audit so that the entire federal budget can be audited. It’s never happened. Ever. The Huffington Post reports from the last audit report: “The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations," the agency said. "As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable. The federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies. The federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements." This statement is from the GAO - a government agency. What would happen if any major corporation in America got that report from their auditors? 

The DOD represents $799.1 billion that can’t be audited, and the Dept. of Homeland security has $48.7 billion that can’t be reported on.  There is no reason to believe that 2013 or 2014 will be any different. Who has the legal responsibility to have oversight on these departments? CongressApparently Congress doesn’t have enough time to do this, but is on its eighth investigation of Benghazi and has repealed Obamacare 58 times (as of 3/2015). And 47 senators have time to take on negotiating a nuclear treaty with Iran.

The meddling into foreign policy is inappropriate until such time as a treaty (or whatever it becomes) comes to the body for discussion and approval. Most remarkable is that they have enough time on their hands to get 47 signatures - not stamps, not typed names but actual signatures - on a letter that will have NO impact whatsoever on the negotiations while they and their Democratic colleagues jointly abdicate their fiduciary responsibility in passing a budget and then making sure that the money isn’t squandered. It’s stupefying that 97% of Congress was re-elected and 91% of the Senate. The American voter is to blame – and times a wastin to change things up.