America’s fork in the road: the Tea Party vs. the Occupy Movement

December 1, 2011

Here’s a good video from Encounter Books and narrated by Bill Whittle on the choice the US faces in 2012 between two populist movements: the largely classical-liberal Tea Party and the progressive-and-further-Left Occupy movement (1). The video provides a clear and succinct summary of the deep philosophical differences between the two groups, and I think you’ll find the five or so minutes it takes to watch is time well-spent:

Every four years it seems people call the approaching election “the most important in our history,” and I admit I’ve become somewhat jaded to those claims. But there’s no doubting that the sequence of elections beginning in 2008 and perhaps climaxing in 2012 is very significant. In a process that began in 1980 with Reagan’s election and that continues to this day, the two parties are developing genuine (2) and serious ideological differences, as illustrated in the video.

It may not be the “most important election in our history,” but the choice is real and the repercussions will last for a long time.

Footnotes:
(1) Although I kind of hesitate to call Occupy “genuinely populist,” given the heavy backing from Big Labor.
(2) And, in the interests of authenticity, may I suggest the Democrat Party stop holding their Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners? You’ve gone so far down the Social-Democratic road that Presidents Jefferson and Jackson would run screaming in horror. (Well, Jackson might draw a sword, instead…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


So ignorant, it’s scary: the sequel

January 19, 2011

Last summer I wrote a post about the mind-numbing witlessness of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).  Now, on top of her ignorance of History and Science, she’s shown herself to be devoid of any understanding of the Constitution*, too, by declaring that a repeal of ObamaCare would be unconstitutional:

Arguing that the Commerce Clause provides the constitutional basis for ObamaCare, Jackson Lee said repealing the law by passing Republicans’ H.R. 2 violates both the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“The Fifth Amendment speaks specifically to denying someone their life and liberty without due process,” she said in a speech on the House floor moments ago. “That is what H.R. 2 does and I rise in opposition to it. And I rise in opposition because it is important that we preserve lives and we recognize that 40 million-plus are uninsured.

She continued, “Can you tell me what’s more unconstitutional than taking away from the people of America their Fifth Amendment rights, their Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the right to equal protection under the law?”

Jackson Lee mentioned the names of several people who she said would be helped by the national health care law, including a schizophrenic, a dialysis patient, and somebody whose mother cannot otherwise get dental care. “I know they would question why we are taking away their rights,” she said.

Actually, I should think they would more likely question whether she has two firing synapses in her head. And does anyone seriously think she’d even be giving constitutionalism a passing glance, if her party hadn’t been massacred in the last election by voters sickened by the Democrats’ cavalier disregard for the Constitution?

She won’t understand it, but I’ll try.

Dear Sheila,

The US Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. That means –try to keep up, now– it limits what the federal government can do, assigning it specific powers and reserving the rest to the people and the states. It does this to protect the individual liberty of Americans from tyrannical power-grabs by a distant government. (If you had paid attention in History class, you’d recall we fought the Revolution for that very reason.) This is why the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, the Second the individual right to bear arms, and so on.

What the Constitution does not do, regardless of what Franklin Roosevelt and Cass Sunstein say, is mandate that the government give you stuff. It is not required to give you food, clothing, a place to live, a new TV, gas for your car, a pony on your birthday, or insurance coverage. Your twisting of the Fifth Amendment to say that the government must mandate insurance coverage lest someone’s life be taken from them is… bizarre. If that’s the case, then the government should buy everyone a gun, too, since otherwise someone might lose his life and property in a robbery. You know what happens when you rely on the government to give you everything you could want? The citizen becomes an infantilized servant.

And “due process?” I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean. Are you really saying that the government cannot deny someone insurance coverage without a court hearing? Wait. I don’t want to be giving you any ideas…

Sigh. What’s the use? She’s a progressive through and through, dedicated to the proposition that all Men are to be made equal by the government and are endowed by the government with whatever rights the government makes up that week**. And it’s not a coincidence that handing out goodies and calling them “constitutional rights” is a good way to bribe her constituents*** into reelecting her, which they seem quite willing to do.

But it doesn’t change the fact that she’s dumber than a box of rocks.

*Of course, that’s a common problem among Democrats. Some Republicans, too, but it’s pandemic on their side.

**I’d suggest she read the original, but why bother? It’s over 100 years old and probably too confusing for her.

***Can’t wait to see what reapportionment does to her district. Schadenfreude, baby!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Restraining Leviathan II: spending limits

December 22, 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote about the proposed Repeal Amendment, a change to the Constitution that would allow the states to repeal any federal law or regulation on approval of two-thirds of the state legislatures. The idea would be to allow another avenue of pushback against bad legislation, such as ObamaCare, and regulations that threaten our individual liberties, such as the recently announced assumption of regulatory power over the Internet by the FCC.

In an article at The Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson uses the example of ObamaCare to argue that the Repeal Amendment isn’t enough, for several reasons: first is the difficulty of getting enough legislatures to agree on repeal. Even after the sweeping Republican victories in state elections last November, enough state legislatures remain in Democratic hands to block repeal, even if just in theory. To be honest, I consider this a feature, not a bug, since the pwoer to overturn federal law should require an overwhelming consensus. And, I suspect, that consensus exists in this case.

The other problem he mentions is more serious: that, to prevent a repeal, Congress and the administration could, in essence, bribe state legislatures with federal money in return for voting the right way. We saw examples of this during the debates over the health care law, as Senators Nelson and Landrieu, were (and let’s be blunt here) bought off with the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase. If it can be done to a US senator, it can happen with a state senator.

Anderson’s proposed solution is a amendment that caps spending at the federal level. He explains it thusly:

While we do have a federalism problem (as in too little of it), what we mostly have is a spending problem — and, thus, what we really need is a spending amendment. Such an amendment should limit spending based on 2008 figures and then prevent Congress from increasing real (inflation-adjusted) spending by more than 2 percentage points annually. Exceptions should be made for defense spending or if three-quarters of the state legislatures grant an exception requested by two-thirds of both houses of Congress. Over time, such a Limited Government Amendment would dramatically reduce federal spending as a percentage of our gross domestic product.

In the process, it would also greatly reduce the federal government’s ability to buy off the states. Thus, a spending amendment would not only do a great deal to check federal spending, it would also increase the effectiveness of a repeal/federalism amendment. In combination, these two amendments would profoundly limit federal spending and control, while helping to reestablish the federalist system that’s so essential to securing our rights.

It’s an interesting idea; Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute has argued that simply limiting spending growth to two-percent would balance the budget by 2020. (Presumably surpluses beyond that could be used to pay down our debt.) And one could reasonably argue that a constitutional amendment is required, given Congress’ natural propensity to spend more of our money (or borrow it) regardless of need.

Perhaps it’s odd, but I’m more wary of this proposed amendment than I am of the Repeal Amendment, since I’m wary of tying the government’s hands in a time of emergency. While military spending would be exempted, what about a natural disaster that devastates a whole region? Time would be of the essence for any response, yet the two-thirds/three-fourths provision for an exception to the limit strikes me as too cumbersome.

Still, there’s no doubting the federal government has grown too powerful and needs to be restrained and pared back. Anderson’s proposal is at least worthy of serious debate.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Restraining Leviathan: allow the states to repeal federal law?

November 26, 2010

The US Constitution has not been amended very often in its history – just 27 times since 1789. It’s a document that’s generally functioned well and Americans are rightly leery of monkeying with it. The 18th amendment, establishing Prohibition, is an example of a mistake that was later repealed.

However, in times of national ferment, Congress and the states have amended the document to fix serious problems: the 12th amendment reformed our method of electing presidents and vice-presidents, which had come to a crisis in 1800 under the original system. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed to eliminate the evil of slavery and protect the rights of newly freed African-Americans. The 17th amendment took the election of senators away from corrupt or deadlocked legislatures, while the 19th recognized the right of women to vote.

And so it is today, with so many people concerned about an expanding federal government, that proposals are being floated to amend the Constitution in order to bind Washington within its limits. The Daily Caller has an article about one, the Repeal Amendment, that seems to be on the rise thanks to voter anger:

Rapidly growing support for the “Repeal Amendment” –  a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states to repeal an act of Congress —  symbolizes the intense level of anger Americans have with Washington, according to observers.

In September, Virginia stood alone as the only state where leaders in the state legislature had shown an interest in passing the amendment, but that number has now grown to nine states.

State legislators in South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Georgia have since expressed interest in the amendment.

Hits on the RepealAmendment.org website have mushroomed over the past month, and the amendment has garnered support from Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, according to “Repeal Amendment” executive director Marianne Moran.

Moran also sees future opportunities for legislative support in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Dakota, among others.

“It just restores the balance of government between the states and the federal government as the founding fathers had originally intended,” Moran said. “The fact we have nine states already onboard shows the momentum, and I think the groundswell [of support] is the Tea Party.”

One might also call this the “10th Amendment Protection Act,” since it’s aimed squarely at defending the rights of the states and the people against federal encroachment.

The constitution makes the amendment process difficult, as it should when dealing with something so fundamental and important: passage by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states, or by a specially called convention, whose proposed amendments would also require three-fourths approval. And not every amendment proposed has been approved. The article rightly points out that the Repeal Amendment would have to clear this same hurdle, made more difficult by the fact that Congress would have to agree to give up some of its power.

But, it can be done. The 17th Amendment was passed after a national consensus in its favor arose and pressure was put on Congress in the form of state calls for a constitutional convention. By 1910, nearly two-thirds of the states had issued such calls and the Senate, which had resisted reform, realized it had better act before the Article V threshold was crossed. The same kind of national consensus, represented in the various Tea Parties and the recent election results, could put similar pressure on Congress to act before the states do it for them. As the article points out, state legislators would have a direct interest in seeing this amendment passed, as opposed to many others that cross their desks.

So, what do I think of the proposed Repeal Amendment? After initially being highly skeptical, as I think any conservative should be, I’ve come to favor it, especially since the Democrats and their Big Labor and other leftist allies have laid bare their progressive-statist souls for the world to see over the last few years. Their program threatens a fundamental transformation of the United States into something never intended.

Another check and balance is needed.

My one reservation is that I believe the two-thirds limit is too low. Allowing states to repeal federal law is equal in my mind to the power to approve amendments to the Constitution and should meet the same standard: consent by three-fourths of the states. (This is the same standard Professor Randy Barnett uses in his proposed Bill of Federalism, of which the Repeal Amendment is a part; I commend the whole document to your attention.) That disagreement aside, I now think this is a good and necessary change.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if, under a president who thinks the Constitution is fundamentally flawed, the people agreed and fixed the flaw by hogtying DC?

It would be amusing, to say the least.

UPDATE: More at Big Government.

UPDATE II, 12/5/2010: Ed Morrissey is very skeptical of the proposal for a repeal amendment. My reply. Moe Lane takes on liberal lunacy over the proposed amendment.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Castro: Tea Party means fascism for America

November 18, 2010

Call it a contrary endorsement: if this bloody-handed dictator is against the Tea Party movement, it must be a good thing:

Speaking to a group of students visiting Havana, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the Tea Party of leading the United States towards “fascism.”

In his comments, Castro chided the United States as a “ruined nation” and derided the Tea Party as “extreme right.”

Forgetting for a moment that fascism is a product of the Left and is the opposite of everything the Tea Party stands for, I just have this sneaking feeling that, given their choice, many Cubans would prefer a Tea rather than a Communist Party, right about now.

(via Mark Hemingway)


Voting with our feet

November 17, 2010

One of the functions of the decennial census is to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.  While this doesn’t enable us to determine  in detail who is moving where and why, one can make a few broad generalizations with some confidence based on the likely apportionment.

And one of the chief among them is that people are fleeing high-tax, heavy government states like the plague:

Migration from high-tax states to states with lower taxes and less government spending will dramatically alter the composition of future Congresses, according to a study by Americans for Tax Reform

Eight states are projected to gain at least one congressional seat under reapportionment following the 2010 Census: Texas (four seats), Florida (two seats), Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington (one seat each). Their average top state personal income tax rate: 2.8 percent.

By contrast, New York and Ohio are likely to lose two seats each, while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will be down one apiece. The average top state personal income tax rate in these loser states: 6.05 percent.

The state and local tax burden is nearly a third lower in states with growing populations, ATR found. As a result, per capita government spending is also lower: $4,008 for states gaining congressional seats, $5,117 for states losing them.

The article also draws a correlation between states that require the payment of union dues (losing seats) and right to work states (gaining seats).

There are some obvious lessons to be drawn here about tax competition and free labor: first, businesses and wage-earners will be attracted to states that let them keep more of their own money and not burden them with excessive regulation.  The second and related point is that granting unions a monopoly over labor (or access to taxes disguised as “representation fees” for those who don’t join the union) drives up the cost of labor to such a point that businesses will look to relocate elsewhere. It’s no coincidence that businesses (and their jobs) are fleeing high-tax, big government California, while low-tax, light-regulation Texas accounts for half of all the jobs created in the nation over the last year.

Will job-killing states learn this lesson? But maybe, like so many addicts, not until they hit rock bottom.

UPDATE: A timely example, via Heliogenic Climate Change.

-ANAHEIM, R. Frautschy: (…)

A recent discussion with my accountant determined that in order to comply with AB32 it will cost me almost the same amount as my yearly payroll. Now add in all the new or raised business taxes, and I must more than double the company income to make ends meet.

I received an offer from the state of Nevada. If I move my company to Nevada, my taxes will be 83 percent lower, no AB32 complications. Lower health care costs and more. It’s a no-brainer. I am laying off my entire staff and moving to Nevada. So, as of Dec. 31, 2010, the state of California will have 32 highly skilled workers on their unemployment hands. The unemployment rate is high in Nevada, so I can hire all new employees for much less.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the Day, evening edition, Reagan special

November 14, 2010

From Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, via Gay Patriot:

Our Government has no power except that granted by the people.  It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people.  All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states.  The states created the federal government.

History may not repeat itself, but it sure likes to reuse themes.


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