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Charley Reese: The 1984 column that wouldn’t die

EDITOR’S NOTE: Several people in recent weeks have suggested we print what is called the last column by Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel writer Charley Reese. The theme is that the solution to America’s domestic problems rest squarely with 545 people — the members of Congress, the president and the nine Supreme Court justices.

The column is circulating on the Internet and it’s a good one. The only problem is Reese did not write it.

Charley Resse retired in 2001. He wrote a similar column in 1984 and updated it in 1995, but what people find online is a creation of others who have rewritten and updated the original. Reese calls it his Frankenstein column – it just won’t die.

The phenomenon speaks to the pitfalls of the Internet, but it also speaks to the endurance of the ideas Reese put forth and how strongly they resonate today. Here we are, 29 years later, and the president and Congress are struggling to reach consensus on spending, the national debt and a path to economic security.

And so here, reprinted with permission of the Orlando Sentinel, is the original 1984 column by Reese published Feb. 3, 1984. If you agree with it, or disagree, let us know by emailing us at letters @ gazettenet.com.

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don’t write the tax code. The Congress does.

You and I don’t set fiscal policy. The Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices — 545 human beings out of 238 million — are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don’t you see how the con game is played on the people by the politicians?

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept. it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O’Neill is speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.

Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted - by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise complete power over the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical force like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. they and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Charley Reese retired from the Orlando Sentinel in 2001, 17 years after he wrote this column.

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