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Hollow Ideologies

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING of Iowa. Madam Speaker, it's always my honor to be recognized to speak here on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, and I'm privileged to hear from the ``Dr. Phil Show'' that we've just listened to over this past 60 minutes.

I have a few things on my mind that I'd like to inform you of, Madam Speaker. And I'd start with this: that sometimes we need to take a look at the bigger, broader direction that this Congress is going and this country is going.

And one of the things that I've learned, being involved in the legislative process, in fact, back in the Iowa State Senate some years ago, one of my colleagues said we're so busy doing that which is urgent that we're not addressing those things that are important. And that should frame all the things that we do.

We should have a long-term plan. We should have a big picture plan, and the things that we do should fit into that. We should be putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together under that broader view.

And how does that broader view fit?

Our Founding Fathers understood it. They understood the perspective of history. They knew where they stood in history, and they acted accordingly. They understood human nature. They understood human universals.

They watched the continuum of history to get up to their point, and they made deep, long-term, broad, deliberative decisions that were difficult and debated, they were hard-fought out, and they put those pieces in place for us. It's clear to me when I read through the documents of our Founding Fathers that they understood history and human nature.

It's not as clear to me, Madam Speaker, when I serve here in this Congress and engage in debates here on the floor and in committee and in subcommittee and around in the places where we're often called upon to comment or listen to the comment of others, that we're looking at this from the big picture.

So something that brought this home for me was on a trip that I was involved in dealing with negotiations with the Europeans, and one of the speakers who was an expert on the Middle East made a presentation about the Muslim Brotherhood. And I'm not here to speak about the Muslim Brotherhood except this: that part of his presentation was that the Muslim Brotherhood is, according to the speaker, a hollow ideology. I put that in quotes, ``a hollow ideology.''

Now he said that they can't sustain themselves over the long term because their belief system isn't anchored in those things that are timeless and real, those things like the core--now, I'm going to expand a little bit--the core of faith, the core of human nature, but a hollow ideology.

So when he used that term and professed that hollow ideologies cannot continue, that they will eventually expire because they're sunk by their own weight, rather than buoyed by a belief system, then I began to look at our Western civilization.

And we are, here in the United States, Madam Speaker, the leaders of Western civilization.

And so when the allegation of a hollow ideology is placed upon the Muslim Brotherhood, I have to wonder: can I make the argument that our ideology is full and wholesome and identifies our values that are timeless? And are the pillars of American exceptionalism restored with the ideology we carry here? And do we strengthen this Nation so that the next generation has the opportunities we had or do we just ignorantly wallow through the day-to-day urgent decisions of Congress without dealing with the broader picture of who we are and, particularly, how we got here?

I look back to the time when I first ran for office. I was putting together a document that I wanted to hand out to my, hopefully, future constituents. I believed that I should put a quote in there that sounded wise, and hopefully was wise.

As I sat in my construction office about 1:30 in the morning, I wrote up this little quote. Part of it is naive; another part of it, I think, is appropriate. And the quote was this: that human nature doesn't change; that if we ever get the fundamental structure of government correct, the only reason we need to reconvene our legislative bodies are to make appropriations for coming years or adjustments for new technology.

Madam Speaker, when you think about what that means, if we ever get government right, if we ever get our laws in place, our regulations in place so that they reflect and bring about the best of human nature, since human nature doesn't change and it hasn't changed throughout the generations, then just make the adjustments for appropriations in new technology, that is a correct statement, I believe. But it is pretty naive about the reality of coming to a consensus on getting the fundamental structure of law correct, let alone the fundamental structure of regulations correct, without regard to the changing technology that always is thrust upon us here.

We are continually going to be in an argument, in a debate, about the fundamental human nature, how people react to public policy and about where we would like to see society go. Those of us on my side of the aisle believe that we have values that are timeless. Whatever was true 2,000 years ago is true today, and whatever was sin 2,000 years ago is sin today.

There are those on the other aside of the aisle, many of them would advocate that society isn't going in the right direction unless you are constantly changing things, without regard to the values we are changing, without having to grasp for a higher ideal, just grasping for change. If change is the mission and they are launched upon that mission, they believe they are doing good because they are eliminating the things that we have had and adopting something different, not necessarily something better. And they don't even argue that it is better, but they argue for change.

I would say this, Madam Speaker: that we have fundamental values, that these fundamental values have been clear to our Founding Fathers. They are rooted in human history. They go back to the time of Adam and Eve. But the things that we should keep track of here are those things that our Founding Fathers looked at as well, that being the rule of law is one of the essential pillars of American exceptionalism. Without it, we can't be a great country. Most of the pillars of American exceptionalism are listed in the Bill of Rights.

Our Founding Fathers got it right. When they guaranteed us, in the First Amendment, the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and the press, all of that rolled up in one amendment, think what that means.

And I would argue, especially to our young people, Madam Speaker, that if we don't exercise these rights--and our Founding Fathers made it very clear, these are God-given rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote it in the Declaration, as signed by the hands of those Founding Fathers that pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, that these rights come from God. And it is the first time that concept had been argued, established, and put down as a foundation of this Republic. It is not the beginning of these God-given rights; it is the most defensible version of it.

I would take us back to the origins of the rule of law, which seems to be getting eroded here in this Congress--in the House and in the Senate and in the White House. I don't have that same charge to the Supreme Court these days, but I would test them in a couple of places, perhaps in a different venue, Madam Speaker.

The rule of law, the foundation of the rule of law, I will say that was handed down by Moses, Mosaic Law. And as that law was handed down and we went through those times after the birth of Christ--and we saw during that period of time of Christ that the Greeks and the Romans had embraced Mosaic Law, even though they sometimes good-naturedly teased each other about borrowing their ideas about the rule of law from Moses--it is true, Mosaic Law flowed into Greek law and Roman law.

If you look at history, the Romans flowed across Western Europe all the way up into England up into Ireland. They established themselves in a big way because of the rule of law.

That rule of law was torn asunder about the time that the Dark Ages began, around 406 AD to around 410 AD, when Rome was sacked and we saw ourselves go into the Dark Ages. And, I will say, the uncivilized began to destroy anything that they saw that was evidence of the civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. They tore down the buildings. They tore down the symbols, those things that reminded them of the former civilization.

Out of that, the Roman church collected and protected many of those documents of the classics and the Irish monks collected and protected many of the classics of the era of the Greeks and the Romans. And we went through those hundreds of years of the Dark Ages when people forgot how to think about the age of reason, how to apply deductive and inductive reasoning, rational thought. That disappeared, and it became the rule of emotion rather than the rule of law, the society driven by instinct and emotion rather than a society that was ordered by rational thought.

And how did this come back together? We think we couldn't lose this again today, Madam Speaker. It was lost at one time, and it was reconstructed again after hundreds of years.

I think about how that was bridged. There are a number of symbols of the bridging of the classical period of the Greeks and the Romans through the Dark Ages into the Middle Ages and into today.

One of those symbols would be the Cologne Cathedral dome in Germany. Now, if I have my history right--and I am going to speak generally, Madam Speaker, because I didn't commit this to precise memory for the purposes of delivering it, but conceptually I will--the origins of that cathedral and that church and that diocese there began about 330 AD or so.

Can you imagine, before the fall of the Roman Empire, the Christian faith was building gothic edifices in Western Europe as monuments and symbols of the deep core of their belief system, not a hollow ideology, but a full ideology driven by a Christian faith and followed along by individual rights.

The foundation of the Cologne Cathedral dome began to be laid around 330 AD. The architectural plans, as I recall them, for the church that exists today was about 832 AD. Then they began to build for a few hundred years. Around about 1100 AD or so, they ran out of money.

Now, we haven't yet emerged from the Dark Ages, but it is beginning. Hundreds of years of Dark Ages and the construction of this church had stopped. They ran out of money. The Dark Ages had suppressed it, and the image and the vision of this not hollow but full ideology had to weather through centuries.

Then coming out of the Dark Ages in 1100 AD or so, they began their fundraising drive again. For 600 years they raised money to finish the cathedral that was planned. Architectural drawings were put down on parchment about 832 AD.

They picked up those plans 600 years later, the same plans, to complete the church that was completed in the late part of the 19th century and exists today.

That is an idea of the length of time that a vision can sustain itself. A not hollow but a full ideology can drive itself through the collapse of the Roman Empire, through the Dark Ages, through the reconstruction period, into the modern era and survive, in fact, survive all the allied bombers that went over it in World War II. That is a vision of not a hollow ideology but a full ideology that is driven by culture, by civilization, by faith.

Here we are today. As I listen to that presentation about the hollow ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, I thought: what is our agenda here in Congress? Does this agenda reflect our value system? Does it anchor in these core beliefs that go back in a timeless way? Does it recognize that there are human universals that never will change? And does it recognize that we are motivated by those human universals and that it is anchored in our value system?

I don't know that our agenda reflects that these days. It seems as though we are running herky-jerky from one economic issue to another economic issue, not with a long view picture, but with the idea that we are going to get past this crisis and then somehow we are going to put this back together on the other side of the crisis.

That's the case with the fiscal cliff. That's the case with reordering the issues of sequestration, continuing resolution, and, later on, the debt ceiling. These are the urgencies that are being addressed, sometimes at the expense of the bigger picture.

It would be different if we were dealing with urgencies that were fitting the jigsaw puzzle pieces into the big picture, but I don't believe that we are. I think that we are starting to lose sight of who we are as a people and we're starting to lose our grip on those fundamentals.

There is a big difference going on in this country that we have not seen in the history of the United States of America, Madam Speaker, and the difference is this: those of us who believe that we have timeless values and that we need to be reconstructing and refurbishing the pillars of American exceptionalism competing against those who believe that chiselling those pillars of American exceptionalism down and replacing them with something or nothing is preferable to restoring them. I think that that is being driven out of the White House and the people that share common cause, Madam Speaker, with the President of the United States.

This movement that he is driving, it divides people against each other. When you see this concept of multiculturalism--which is something that I embraced when it emerged on the public scene because I believed it was a good tool for us to respect all people of all races and all ethnicities, whatever their behaviors might be in life. But I began to see that the people on the other side were using it as a tool to divide, not to unite, a tool to pit people against each other rather than to draw them together. I've seen the President use that in his politics repeatedly to the extent that I've never seen in the history of this country. I did, though, recognize it.

When Bill Clinton was elected President, I wrote an op-ed about the method that he used to appoint his Cabinet. That method was: I'm going to put together a multicultural formula and I am going to--and he said this: I'm going to appoint a Cabinet that looks like America. That would be the quote from Bill Clinton after he was elected, before he was inaugurated, as he put the Cabinet together.

I thought at that time, the President of the United States should be putting together a Cabinet that best serves America, regardless of what they look like. But that wasn't what happened under the Clinton administration, and I'm not convinced that's what's happened under any subsequent administration, Republican or Democrat, since then. But this President has pitted us against each other along the lines of race, along the lines of ethnicity, with sometimes little comments that are made that aren't so subtle. These things divide us as a people rather than unite us as a people.

When you hear the promise out there that people won't have to worry about their rent check or won't have to worry about their car payment, that somebody will take care of you--this idea that government is going to step in and lift the burden off people and take away individual responsibility is something that was pervasive in the last two Presidential races, particularly in the last one, and it undermines the efficiency of the American people.

We should be thinking, Madam Speaker, about a Nation of over 300 million people that has some of the longest and the highest and most sustained unemployment rates in the history of this country--the Great Depression would be the exception--and a Nation with around 313 million people in it, a little over 13 million people who have signed up for unemployment, another number of people that approaches that of about 20 million people that are definably underemployed, and that's just a piece of those who are not engaged.

When we look at the Department of Labor's Web site and we start to add up those unemployed to those who are of working age simply not in the workforce, we come to a number of over 100 million Americans, Madam Speaker, that are not contributing to the gross domestic product, that are of the age group that one would think we would get some work out of some of them. Now, I recognize in that group of over 100 million there are some that are retired, some are early retired, some are in school, some are homemakers. It's difficult for me to complete the list of reasons why people would not be contributing to our economy.

But we seem to think that 100 million Americans not in the workforce doesn't seem to trouble very many people in this Congress, but it's okay for us to be looking at 11 or 12 or 20 million people that are in this country unlawfully, who are working unlawfully, and who are, at least theoretically, taking jobs that Americans might take.

At one point, Madam Speaker, I wrote an op-ed that laid out an analogy. It described the United States as analogous to a huge cruise ship--it would also be a sailing cruise ship--with 300 million people on it. You need some people that will pull on the oars and swab the deck and trim the sails and work in the galley and clean out the cabins and do those kind of things up in steerage and in first class and wherever else, and somebody there to man the navigation and take care of the captain. That's all jobs that happen on a cruise ship. And our whole economy and our society is tied together, 50 States and 300 million people.

What kind of people, if they needed somebody else to pull on the oars or swab the deck or trim the sails or calculate the navigation, what kind of people would say, We've got 300 million people on this ship and we've got 100 million of them that are sitting up in steerage, but we need somebody else to do the work that those people in steerage won't do, so let's pull off on this continent and load another 10 or 20 million more people on to do the work that people on this cruise ship won't do? No captain in his right mind would sail that ship over there and load a bunch more people on to do work if he had 100 million people up in steerage that had opted out because somebody is taking care of delivering the food, cleaning their cabin, and making sure they have a place where they can stay. That's what happens to human nature when you have a domestic policy that makes it easy to turn the safety net into a hammock.

That's something that Phil Graham used to discuss about how it's one thing to create a safety net--and we're for a safety net in here almost universally--but to turn the safety net into a hammock and then ask somebody else to come do work that Americans aren't willing to do is a reach that I'm not willing to accept.

Neither do I accept the idea that there's work that Americans won't do. Every single job category has Americans working in it in a majority of that job category. We saw some of that data today, Madam Speaker.

So I'd say this instead. We are a country that is richer than any country ever in the history of the world. We have more technology than ever in the history of the world. We have more capital created. We have more human capital, more know-how, more can-do people out there to pull on the oars and trim the sails and navigate the ship and do all of the things that need to happen. This country has all of those assets and all of those resources in greater number and supply by any measure than any civilization in the history of the world, and Madam Speaker, we can't live within our means? We have to run a deficit of $1 to $1.2 trillion and borrow money from the Chinese and the Saudis--and, by the way, about half of this debt is held by domestic debt, the American people that are buying bonds and T-bills.

But a Nation that's the richest Nation, the richest culture, the richest economy, the richest civilization in the history of the world has to borrow over $1 trillion a year just to sustain this lifestyle that we have, while we have 100 million--a third of our population--that is of working age that is not contributing to the gross domestic product. Think of what that means. Think how posterity will judge us if we don't step up to our responsibilities, get our spending under control, bring more of the people into the workforce that are, I will say, living off of public benefits.

I would be willing to submit that you won't find someone on the streets of America that can name for you all of the means-tested welfare programs--Federal programs that are means tested--that we have. That number used to be 72. Then it went to 80. This is a number that has been calculated and pulled together by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. I asked him, you know, I used to quote you at 72, now you say 80. What happened? He said, I found some more. I said, Is 80 the finite number, 80 different means-tested Federal welfare programs? He said, Well, there are at least 80; why don't you say a minimum of 80.

So 80, a minimum of 80 different means-tested Federal welfare programs, some of them competing with each other, and no one can list them from memory, and no one has the capability of understanding how they interrelate with each other nor how they motivate or demotivate the people that they are designed to help. What kind of a country would do that?

And why would we have 100 million people of working age not in our workforce while we're running up a debt of $1.2 trillion a year? We've seen that the per capita national debt now for a baby born in the United States--babies born today, their share of the national debt is $53,000. It went over $53,000 just the other day. So, welcome to the world. You're an American citizen born here by birthright citizenship, but you don't have a right not to contribute to paying off the national debt, and your share is $53,000.

What kind of a country would do that and not tighten its belt and not put some of its people to work? And then I end up with these economic discussions, Madam Speaker. They come from smart people who will say, well, the labor force should be determined by supply and demand. Why don't we let human migration follow where the jobs are? Well, Milton Friedman had the answer to that. He said that you cannot have open borders and a welfare system, especially one that is as generous as our welfare system is.

So which one can you fix? Can you fix the border problem? Can you fix the welfare problem? I'd like to fix them both, Madam Speaker. One of them is a little easier than the other. We can control the borders and shut off the jobs magnet easier than we can make the case that we should be tightening down the welfare system in this country. But we need to do both. We need to bring the country back within its means. The entitlement system that's out there that fits within those 80 different means-tested welfare programs needs to be completely reexamined.

I think Congressman Louis Gohmert is correct when he said we need to put all of the welfare into a single committee so they're responsible for all of the programs that we have. It's the only way we can begin to get a handle on it. The committee jurisdiction is scattered out through multiple committees, and he knows that better than I.

The big picture that I started to talk about in the beginning, Madam Speaker, is that we need to identify the pillars of American exceptionalism and we need to refurbish those pillars. The identification of them become the things that we've inherited from far back in the origins of Western Civilization. Mosaic law flowed through Greek and Roman law, and the Magna Carta that was signed in 1215 established individual freedom from the monarch or the despot that no subject could be--let's say no one other than a serf at that time--could be punished arbitrarily. They had to have the right and the protection of the rule of law.

We have these guarantees in our Constitution, freedom of speech, and I'm exercising it now, Madam Speaker, and I encourage all to do so. If we stopped exercising freedom of speech, we would eventually lose it because it would be defined away from us. Freedom of religion fits the same category. If we don't exercise our freedom of religion, it becomes redefined away from us. How about freedom of the press? I would submit, Madam Speaker, that those who abuse freedom of the press, those who do not have journalistic integrity, are undermining our First Amendment right. If every newspaper out there printed things that they knew were dishonest, if they just drove purely a political agenda on the front page, on the side where they're held accountable for journalism, or in their commentary when they print falsehoods as fact, it undermines all of our freedom, because when someone abuses a freedom, they diminish that freedom for all of us.

Now, think in terms of this--if that's hard to understand for some folks, Madam Speaker, I'll put it this way: If everybody went out there and abused the Second Amendment right, it wouldn't be long before we wouldn't have the right to keep and bear arms, regardless of what the Constitution says. We have to utilize those rights, and we have to exercise them in a responsible way. The abuse of God-given rights, the abuse of these rights, especially in the Bill of Rights, undermines the rights that we have.

But we do have freedom of speech, religion, and the press and assembly. If we stopped exercising them, we would lose them. We have the right to keep and bear arms, not for hunting, not for target, not for self-defense, and not for collection. All of those four reasons to keep and bear arms are--I'll say they are additional rights; it's just the bonus that comes along with it because our Founding Fathers understood that a well-armed populace was a protection against tyranny. I agree with that and defend the Second Amendment because that is what allows us to defend ourselves against tyrants.

You can go on up through the Bill of Rights, the right to property in the Fifth Amendment--nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. The Kelo decision took that phrase out of there, ``for public use.'' I think one day, a Supreme Court, if we raise an adequate objection, will have to go back and revisit the Kelo decision. It was an unjust decision that didn't reflect the language in the Fifth Amendment. Property rights is another core of American exceptionalism.

Without these rights, freedom of speech, religion, and the press, and the Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, without property rights, without being tried by a jury of our peers and the right to face our accusers, without the concepts of federalism and these enumerated powers in the Constitution, that being reserved for the Congress and the balance of them that revert to the States or the people respectively, without those components, we would not have emerged as the country that we are. We can't sustain ourselves as a country that we are to be if we don't protect those pillars of American exceptionalism.

In the core of those pillars of American exceptionalism is, as I said earlier, the rule of law. When the rule of law is usurped by a king or a despot or a President of the United States, it diminishes us all, and it diminishes the potential destiny of the United States of America. We've seen, as the President of the United States has decided, that he will enforce the law that he sees fit, and he will not enforce the law that he doesn't agree with. And it's clear in a number of ways, Madam Speaker. The President suspended No Child Left Behind. He won't enforce that. He essentially has waived it off the books.

Now, he took an oath to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. That is in the Constitution, and it's a requirement. He took the oath, he understands it, he taught constitutional law, but he simply set aside No Child Left Behind. It isn't the issue that I'm advocating here; it is that a President must take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Behind that, he suspended welfare to work. In the middle 1990s, there were three times that President Clinton vetoed the welfare reform law. He finally signed it and took credit for it--okay, that's politics--but one component of that was welfare to work. And only one of all of our more than 80 different means-tested welfare programs that we have, or a minimum of 80 different means-tested welfare programs that we have, of all of them, there's only one, Madam Speaker, that requires work. That one is the TANF program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. And it says in there that it specifically prohibits the President from suspending or waiving the work requirement. The President did so anyway.

Sticking with this rule of law that has been so damaged by our President, it's also true with immigration law. The immigration law requires that people who are in violation of it be put into the process for deportation. The President has decided he won't do that. Now, it's one thing to have prosecutorial discretion. I agree that the executive branch has to be able to decide which highest priorities are there for the resources of law enforcement. But when the executive branch--the prosecutorial discretion is always on an individual basis, not on a group basis, not on a clear-the-board basis. But look what the President has done. He has issued a memorandum, actually a memorandum that was written by Secretary Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, that said that we're not going to enforce immigration law. So I'm here to endorse the rule of law and stand up and defend the Constitution. I appreciate your attention.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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