posted on 17 February 2017
by FEE, fee.org
-- this post authored by Daniel J. Mitchell
One of the unfortunate features of Washington is that people often wind up in places that bring out their worst behaviors.
The classic example is Jack Kemp, who did great work as a member of Congress to push a supply-side agenda of low marginal tax rates and less double taxation. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Reagan tax cuts were made possible by Kemp’s yeoman efforts. But when President George H.W. Bush brought Kemp into his cabinet back in 1989, it wasn’t to head up the Treasury Department. It was to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a department that shouldn’t even exist. And because Kemp was weak on spending issues, he predictably and unfortunately presided over an expansion of HUD’s budget. If he was at Treasury, by contrast, he may have been able to stop Bush’s disastrous read-my-lips tax deal.
Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving their property’s innocence.
Another example is that Republicans members of Congress from farm states generally favor small government. So if they wind up on committees that deal with overall fiscal issues, they usually are allies in the effort to restrain Leviathan. Unfortunately, they more often wind up on the Agriculture Committee, which means they accumulate power and expertise in the area where they are least likely to favor free markets and limited government. They net effect is that they may still have a decent voting record, but their actual impact on public policy will be harmful. The same thing happens with Republicans who get on the transportation committees.
Today’s example is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When he was Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, he was an ally in the fight against big government. He favored decentralization. He supported rolling back the welfare state. He favored entitlement reform. He supported tax cuts. He used his power and position to try to do the right thing. But when Trump asked Sessions to join his cabinet, it wasn’t to head the Office of Management and Budget, a position that would have been a good fit. Instead, Trump picked him to be Attorney General, which is problematical because Sessions is an advocate of the failed War on Drugs. And he’s also a supporter of “asset forfeiture," which occurs when governments steal money and property from citizens without convicting them of any crime. Or sometimes without even charging them with a crime.
I’m not joking. This happens with distressing regularity. It’s called “policing for profit."
In poor nations, a corrupt cop will stop motorists to shake them down for pocket change. In the United States, we’ve legalized a bigger version of that sleazy behavior. George Will shared a reprehensible example last December.
The good news is that there’s a growing desire to stop governments from stealing.
Indeed, Will points out that there was “a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on forfeiture abuses".
Unfortunately, not everybody at the hearing agreed that it’s wrong for governments to arbitrarily engage in theft.
The Senator who made these statements was Jeff Sessions.
And, as George Will explains, the then-Senator missed a few points.
The Wall Street Journal also opined about the new Attorney General’s indefensible position.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear that President Trump is on the right side either.
In a new column on the topic, George Will addresses this unfortunate development.
The folks at Reason have a new video on Trump’s support for theft-by-government.
By the way, I hold out some hope that Trump may not be completely bad on the issue. It’s possible that he’s never considered the issue and doesn’t understand that it involves over-the-top government thuggery. He may simply think it’s some sort of procedural issue involving good cops against bad crooks.
So perhaps when he is briefed on what the issue really means, he’ll be in favor of protecting Americans from the kind of horrible abuse that the Dehko family experienced. Or the mistreatment of Carole Hinders. Or the ransacking of Joseph Rivers. Or the brutalization of Thomas Williams.
I could continue, but I think you get the point.
Let’s close, though, with some good news. I wrote two years ago about the case of Charles Clarke, who had $11,000 that was stolen by government. Thanks to the Institute for Justice, that stolen money has been returned.
And the other bit of good news is that New Mexico has curtailed the disgusting practice of asset forfeiture. Hopefully Trump won’t try to destroy the careers of the lawmakers who decided the Constitution was more important than lining the pockets of the bureaucracy.
Republished from International Liberty.
About the Author
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
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