Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
Stuff That Isn’t True
Forty Myths About American Government
January 10, 2015
Fallacies fill the American conversation – things that “everyone knows” but just aren’t true – especially in our political views. Believing such falsehoods can demolish our public discussions and our expectations of government. Let’s clarify some of them.
- The words Jesus, Christ, Christian, God, and Creator do not appear in the Constitution.
- The Constitution does not guarantee “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
The phrase is in the Declaration of Independence, which is not a law.
- The Constitution does not require Congress to enact an annual budget.
The Constitution says that the government can spend money only with a Congressional appropriation.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 gives Congress the power to make all laws “necessary and proper” to perform its duties. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 outlines a specific process and timetable for adopting the budget, in order to manage the appropriations process.
- The House of Representatives does not control spending.
All spending must pass both houses of Congress, just like every other bill.
And budget bills do not have to begin in the House.
Revenue bills do.
- The Constitution does not give judicial review power to the Supreme Court.
The Court declared that power for itself in 1803.
- Some folks like to claim that the Bill of Rights cannot be amended.
I don’t know where they get such an absurd idea, but it is not in the Constitution or anywhere else.
- The Constitution was not written to limit government power.
It was written to expand the federal government’s power because the Articles of Confederation were too weak.
The Preamble clearly states the six purposes: to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
See. Limiting government is not one of them.
- The Constitution does not guarantee us a “jury of our peers” when at trial.
That is in the Magna Carta.
Theoretically, all Americans are equal, and so we are all peers.
- There is no such thing as “Congress and the Senate”. Congress consists of the House of Representatives AND the Senate. HOUSE + SENATE = CONGRESS.
- Members of Congress do not receive their full salary for life after serving only one term.
They have exactly the same pensions as all other federal employees.
That pension is based on a combination of years of government service and final salary. It is never more than 80% of their final salary.
- Members of Congress do contribute to their pensions and they do pay into Social Security.
- Congress is not trying to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service.
That would require a constitutional amendment, and no member of Congress has ever proposed such a thing.
- There is no such thing as a “filibuster-proof majority” in the U.S. Senate.
Current Senate rules require 60 votes to end a filibuster so that Senators can vote on the issue at hand.
There is no way to guarantee, or force, 60 senators to vote alike on any issue.
- The “natural born citizen” clause of the Constitution does not require the president to be born in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment defines a citizen as someone who is born or naturalized in the US. Throughout the last 140 years, federal law has defined a "natural-born" citizen as one who is a citizen from the moment of birth, and did not become a citizen later in life. You are a natural-born citizen if you were born in the United States or if at least one of your parents was a citizen.
- Executive Orders are not laws. Presidents don't make laws. Congress does. The Constitution states: The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. The president is the head of the executive branch of government. The executive branch implements the laws passed by Congress and manages the country's daily business through the 15 cabinet departments. Executive Orders are constitutionally valid. Presidents issue the orders to give specific instructions to their employees for doing their jobs. Every president has issued Executive Orders. Governors and mayors also issue Executive Orders to their staffs.
- Impeachment does not fire a president. Impeachment means charging a public official with an offense. Impeachment does not mean firing a public official from her/his job. Members of Congress cannot be impeached or recalled from office.
- The president is not required to give the State of the Union address to Congress on television in January every year. The law does not require the report to be in person, on television, in January, or even every year. The report could be in writing, or in private meetings. It could take place more or less often. If s/he wanted to, the president could e-mail every member of Congress every day. Several presidents have delivered written messages.
Law and Government
- It is legal to be a communist in the United States.
- Obamacare is not health insurance. It is a law that says you must have health insurance, and it requires health insurance policies to cover certain medical conditions. No one is “on” Obamacare.
- Government should never operate like a business. The purpose of a business is to make a profit. The purpose of government is to provide services to the public.
- Not all forms of discrimination are illegal. Employers can legally refuse to hire people with red hair, or beards, who wear blue shirts, or belong to a different political party. Yes, it is discrimination. It is also legal. The only federally illegal forms of discrimination involve race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age over 40, veteran status, and disability. Some states have made other types illegal, such as discrimination for sexual orientation and marital status.
- The president and members of Congress are not required to swear their oaths of office on the bible, or the dictionary, or phone book, or anything else.
- Republicans like to claim that government agencies are never audited. Actually, every U.S. government agency conducts regular internal audits through its own Inspector General’s office. And the General Accountability Office and Office of Management and Budget also conduct audits.
- Food Stamp (SNAP) benefits are not a drain on our economy. SNAP benefits enable low-income people to buy more food than they ordinarily could with only their own income. That increases the demand for food. That means that farmers, food processing companies, trucking companies, grocery stores, and their suppliers have more business. And that creates jobs.
- Communism and socialism are not forms of government. They are economic systems. They are not the opposite of democracy.
- Tax cuts do not create jobs. If they did, we would all have five good-paying jobs by now. Cutting PERSONAL taxes for the wealthy will not magically make CORPORATIONS hire more people.
- Unemployment and workers compensation payments are not welfare. They are insurance. Tax dollars do not pay for standard benefits. In times of extreme unemployment, Congress can approve unemployment payments for people whose regular benefits have expired.
- There are no government grants to start a business, expand a business, take a vacation, or buy a car, house, clothes, jewelry, etc. The guy on your TV lied to you.
- The U.S. Federal Reserve Board is not privately owned and does not print U.S. currency. Congress created the FED through the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. The 12 members of the Board of Governors are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. While the FED helps to decide how much currency is printed, the U.S. Treasury Department actually oversees the printing process.
- SENATOR Joseph McCarthy, known for his communist witch hunts in the 1950s, was not a member of the HOUSE Un-American Activities Committee. He chaired the Senate Government Operations Committee.
- The Vietnam War did not end with the Paris peace treaty on January 27, 1973.
It ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
- Voter fraud is not a problem in the US. There are not busloads of illegal Mexicans driving around to every polling place in your town voting multiple times. Grow up.
- If President Obama wanted your guns, he would have them by now. He has more people, and more guns, and bigger guns, at his disposal than you do. And your little Home Depot padlock won’t even slow them down.
- Barack Obama is not a socialist. He’s barely a Democrat.
- Child labor has not been abolished in the United States or anywhere else. It is regulated.
- Illegal immigrants cannot receive welfare, food stamps, or other federal government benefits.
- No union contract anywhere makes it impossible to fire a union member from her/his job. A union contract merely lists appropriate reasons and procedures for firing employees.
- There is no food anywhere capable of ending world hunger, because there is no world food shortage. Hunger is caused by economic and political forces. Every nation has the capacity to produce enough food to feed its own people.
- The earth is not over-populated. While some areas are highly congested, every human being on earth could fit inside the state of Rhode Island, shoulder-to-shoulder, more than five times. Given one square foot per person, and Rhode Island’s 1,545 square miles, and the world population of 7.2 billion, do the math.
- Welfare (TANF) recipients do not give birth to many children in order to obtain more cash benefits. The average welfare family size is about 2.5 people. That’s one adult, usually a mother, and one or two children.
How much did you learn?
THINK, folks. Ask questions. Look things up.
The most powerful research tool ever invented by humans is literally at your fingertips right now.
Don’t be afraid to use it.
For More Information:
USA.GOV – Government Made Easy
Take the Community Matters Civics Quiz
Read the Constitution
United States Code
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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ email@example.com
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