District 17





















Joe Dehn for Congress
PO Box 20372
Stanford, CA 94309


25 December

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission has approved new district boundaries based on the 2020 census. The boundaries for Congressional District 17 have changed less than for many other districts, but there have been some changes. For an updated map see the District page.

15 December

Today is Bill of Rights Day, celebrating the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- 230 years ago today, 15 December 1791.

The Bill of Rights sets limits on the powers of the federal government, including the well-known prohibition on laws restricting freedom of speech and of the press, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to a trial by jury. It also states explicitly two general principles: that the listing of rights does not mean these are all the rights (9th Amendment) and that if the Constitution doesn't assign a power to the federal government then it belongs to the states, or the people (10th Amendment).

We often associate enforcement of the Bill of Rights with the judicial branch, as history has given us many examples of courts, including most famously the U.S. Supreme Court, acting to overturn laws on the basis that they are "unconstitutional".

But the first obligation to enforce the Bill of Rights belongs to legislators, including those who represent the people of their states in the U.S. Congress. The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, establishes the ground-rules within which legislators may properly act.

If somebody approaches a member of Congress asking for a law which would violate the letter or even the spirit of the Bill of Rights, it is no answer to say: "The courts will probably overturn it, but I'll vote for it to prove I am your friend -- remember that next time I am up for re-election!" No, the answer should be: "The Constitution is my job description -- it is no part of my job to violate the rights of the people as outlined there."

18 November

Joe Biden, just returned from the COP-26 climate conference where everybody agreed the planet is burning too much fossil fuel, is upset that oil prices are high so people can't afford to burn as much of it. He blames the oil companies for this, he blames OPEC for this, and he wants to fix it by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Let's take these points one by one -- first the SPR, which is a bunch of oil that the federal government bought and stored away. The federal government shouldn't even be in the business of buying and storing oil -- and then in a position to be able to manipulate the price by selling some of it. The traditional excuse for this program is that the oil is for use in emergencies, when the ordinary sources are cut off by something like a natural disaster or a war. After all, the billions spent to buy jet fighters and advanced armored vehicles are going to look like even more of a waste if they can't operate during a war because they have no fuel.

Next, the oil companies. Those would be the same companies that are constantly being told they are killing the planet by drilling for oil, that they shouldn't drill for oil on land, that they shouldn't drill for oil under the sea, that they can't have pipelines to transport their products, and that the answer is renewable energy. And so, guess what? They have been cutting back on their exploration, and putting in place long-term strategies to use the profits they are now making from fossil fuels to invest in renewable energy. Yes, that means less oil. That's supposed to be good, right? Well, apparently it's good in theory -- but not with a mid-term election coming up!

The OPEC countries, along with a few others that produce a large amount of oil, have always been in a position to increase the price of oil by cutting back production, and they have sometimes used that for political purposes. But that's not what's happening now. Yes, as with many indicators of economic activity, as a result of the pandemic the amount of oil OPEC is producing is down from what it was a few years ago, but it has been steadily increasing over the past year. It is now Joe Biden who is pleading for them to use their power for political purposes -- to help the Democrats in 2022!

Which brings us back to the SPR. Selling oil from the SPR can't affect the price of oil over the long term -- there just isn't enough of it. That's not what it is for, and the more of it is sold the more useless it will become for its purported intended purpose -- an actual strategic emergency.

Meanwhile, the market is doing what it's supposed to do -- balance supply and demand, including projections of future supply and demand, in which oil being less affordable compared with renewable energy is, supposedly, a good thing. And the oil companies are doing what they have been told they must do -- produce less oil, and shift their focus to renewables.

The only "emergency" here is a political one -- Biden's dropping approval rating, and the Democratic politicians' well-founded fear that if gasoline prices stay high into 2022 a lot of them will find themselves out of a job.

2 November

The proposal by Democrats in Congress to tax "unrealized capital gains" is one of the worst ideas to come along in a while. Many people have already pointed out how such a policy would interfere with normal operation of the capital markets, the strains that would be placed on revenue during bear markets, and the likelihood that the richest people would be able to find new ways to shelter their wealth.

But even to the extent that it could be made to "work", it would be no solution to the problem it is supposed to address. Even if they can somehow "get it right" in terms of avoiding significant disruptions in patterns of investment and so on (which seems unlikely, but giving them the benefit of the doubt on that point), and even if it actually remains applicable only to "billionaires" (which the history of the income tax suggests is pretty unlikely), it still wouldn't be a solution to any actual problem.

That's because the idea has a much more basic flaw. It only shifts the collection of taxes on capital gains across time. Unless they plan to somehow tax these gains twice, any "unrealized" gain they tax now means less "realized" gain to tax when the owner eventually sells the stock or other property. That's nice for balancing the budget now, but it doesn't do anything about the longer term problem of the government spending more than it takes in.

Viewed this way, it's just another form of borrowing. Although they surely won't admit it in the way they report the government's finances, reducing future tax income from this source will increase the "need" to increase other taxes in the future, just as surely as selling hundreds of billions of dollars worth of bonds. It's a trick that can be pulled only once, one that current politicians can use to say that their current spending plans are "paid for" -- but that's it.

It's just a political gimmick, not an actual solution to the problem of government spending.

15 August

What we are witnessing now is just the final collapse of a long-standing bi-partisan policy mistake. It was of course begun by a Republican, George Bush. But he had the support of plenty of Democrats at the time. And then it was continued for eight more years by Barack Obama (or, as some now prefer to identify it in other circumstances, the "Obama/Biden administration"). Then Trump, who at least had the right idea in promising to end it, failed to end it during his four years. And now this -- a complete bungling of the pull-out process, by Biden again.

It doesn't matter whether we put a Democrat or a Republican in charge next -- they are going to keep making the same mistakes because they refuse to recognize a basic principle of a proper foreign policy. It is not the job of the US government to run the entire world.

From the Libertarian Party 2020 Platform: "American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid."

24 July

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to require women to register for the draft. Doubling the number of people subject to enslavement by the state is not progress.

But isn't it unfair that men must register and not women? Of course. But the answer to that is obvious. Nobody should have to register for the draft!

By the way, this is yet another bad idea that has "bi-partisan" support. The committee vote was reported to be 8 to 5 among Republicans -- and 13 to 0 among the Democrats.

Time to end bi-partisan tyranny. Vote Libertarian!


Joe Dehn for Congress, PO Box 20372, Stanford, CA 94309