Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tenure Corrupts

 Lamar Alexander has had a partially distinguished political career and now at age 73 will run in 2014 for his third 6-year term as U.S. Senator from Tennessee.

As most of our posters, Alexander has spent nearly all of his years in politics, starting as his high school class president.  He earned his law degree in 1956 and then clerked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1967 he became legislative assistant for Senator Howard Baker then returned to Tennessee as campaign manager for Winfield Dunn running for Governor. After that campaign he joined a law firm in Nashville. When Dunn was term-limited out Alexander ran but lost the race to Roy a former congressman. He next returned to Washington to again work for Howard Baker who was then the Senate Minority Leader. Gov. Blanton didn't run again – he had some scandal issues - and Alexander ran for governor and won taking office in 1979. He won a second term and was term-limited out in 1987.  

By all accounts he was a good governor. One accomplishment was to attract Japanese auto makers to the State.  Another was his “Better Schools” program that stressed math, science and computer education. The plan called for income supplements for top teachers but it was watered down by the teachers unions. After a period in Australia with his family, he came back to become president of the University of Tennessee from 1988-91. He was selected in 1991 by president Bush to become Secretary of Education until 1994.  So far, so good.

How do politicians who spend their lives on government payrolls get to be very, very rich?  Former Department of Education employee and writer Lisa Schiffren writes, "[Alexander’s] fortune is founded on sweetheart deals not available to the general public, and on a series of cozy sinecures provided by local businessmen. Such deals are not illegal..." In 1987, Alexander helped found Bright Horizons Family Solutions now the nation's largest provider of work site day care. While businessman Jack C. Massey spent $2 million on this enterprise, Alexander co-founded the company with only $5,000 of stock which increased in value to $800,000, a 15,900 percent return within four years. In 2005 he reported on his U.S. Senate disclosure form that the stock was then worth between $1 and $5 million.  Also in 1987, he a wrote a never-cashed investment check for $10,000 to Christopher Whittle for shares in Whittle Communications that increased in value to $330,000. In 1991, Alexander bought a house for $570,000 and sold it to Whittle for $977,500. Alexander's wife made $133,000 profit from her $8,900 investment in a company created to privatize prisons.  [This early history was taken from Wikipedia] 

Alexander ran for president twice but didn't get very far, complaining that the system was stymied by the media and big money. Then, he ran for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Fred Thompson which he won with media recognition and a big money advantage over his conservative opponent. Of course.

As with all Posters, Alexander has been a serious contributor to the $17 trillion--and growing--debt being piled on our children and grandchildren. He recently voted for the Senate “farm bill” costing $955 billion, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. It funded 48 million people on food stamps plus providing subsidies for wealthy large agribusinesses that pay the pols, usually through lobbyists, to vote for their benefits. It’s politely called crony capitalism.  He also votes to increase the debt ceiling – if you keep voting for increased spending while stifling the economy with counter-productive regulations, high taxes and limitations on drilling our own oil, then the economy can’t grow to generate revenues to cover the spending.  Career pols continue to calculate that by the time the debt hits as in Greece, they’ll be gone. It seems to be their policy to spend now for what they want/need now for reelection and stiff the coming generations.

He voted for a tax on internet sales, even purchases from companies not located in the municipality, county or state.  What possible justification exists for a state to tax an out-of-state entity that has no presence in that jurisdiction and gets no services from it?  Career pols simply want the money; no justification needed.  By the way, that bill would overturn a Supreme Court decision limiting a state’s ability to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes for nearly 10,000 separate state, local and municipal tax jurisdictions.

Alexander was one of nine out of 40 Republican senators who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who thinks that better judicial decisions can be made by a judge based upon her race, gender, and culture. He also voted for other conflict-of-interest burdened Obama appointments like Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor who has demonstrated that he does not believe in the equal application of the laws. His action in labor cases leave little doubt as to how he will run the Department of Labor. Perez filed an anti-religious liberty brief in a Supreme Court case arguing against the ability of churches to hire individuals they choose. He has also threatened local swimming pools with fines if they do not install mechanical lift chairs and opposed removing ineligible voters from the voting rolls. And, to mention just one more extreme Obama choice,  Alexander was one of 8 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for confirmation of Harold Hongju Koh as Legal Adviser to the State Department. He favors international courts having jurisdiction in the US citing specifically "the global regulation of small arms" –elimination of our Second Amendment rights and other distinctly un-American concepts. Does Sen. Alexander hold those views or does he just go along to get along with the powers-that-be? 

You get the idea why we would have liked to have seen Sen. Alexander term-limited years ago. But his latest gambit should be the clincher. I’m referring to his insult of great American heroes. Recently, ridiculing Sen. Ted Cruz for his principled stand against the imposition of ObamaCare and comparing him to Davey Crockett who stood on principle at the Alamo along with thirty-one other Tennessee heroes. That’s what a lifetime in Washington does to career pols; eventually they lose the principles once held.  A foreign concept to them is this, from the Declaration of Independence: “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor..”.

Just not relevant to today’s professional politicians like it was to our Founders and to Davey Crockett and his brave American heroes.

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