I Hope We Live To Tell The Tale

 
Shout,  shout
Let it all out
These are the things
I can do without
Come on
—Tears for Fears, Shout
With all the recent obsession over condoms, you may have missed this one, which I suspect is exactly how the Dems hoped it would play.  That’s OK; I’ve got your back on these things.
 
But let’s keep our eye on the ball.  
Week before last, the L.A. Times recounted the tale of the Genesis Solar Project, a huge solar farm being constructed in a Southern California desert.  Genesis received a partial Department of Energy guarantee on an $852 million loan back in August.
Don’t look now, but there’s trouble in green energy paradise.  Again.
Construction of the farm has yet to be completed, and at this point is held up indefinitely.  It seems in their rush to meet deadlines imposed as a condition of their DOE loan guarantee, planners missed a couple of things.  One, construction activities interfered with the native habitat of something called the kit fox.  Dead foxes started turning up all over the site, and after efforts to harass the animals into moving—where’s PETA when you need them—failed, it was determined that distemper brought about by the construction disturbances was killing the foxes off.  So, in essence, this “green energy” project is in fact creating an environmental problem.
I’m drowning in the irony of that one.
The other—likely more serious—problem in terms of the project’s ability to go forward is that  excavators discovered that the farm is being constructed on the site of an ancient human settlement.  The Colorado River Indian Tribes have a reservation near the site, and they, along with other Native American groups, are now seeking to delay or even stop the project altogether.  Meanwhile, the project stands incomplete and generating no revenue.  If they have to cut too much acreage out in order to accommodate the Indian and environmental concerns, the project will become—wait for it—uneconomical.
Shocking.
This, of course, is just the latest in the constantly growing string of disasters flowing from the Obama administration’s Quixotic quest to create an industry that does not exist, to provide products no one wants, at a price no one will pay.  Let’s review.
Solyndra—Bankrupt, August 2011
Of course, the poster child for the green energy train wreck is Solyndra, the California-based manufacturer of solar panels, over 1/3 owned by Obama mega-fundraiser George Kaiser.  Solyndra was the first to receive “green energy” startup loan guarantees from the Department of Energy, netting $535 million in a deal that was rushed through over the objections of financial analysts.  The DOE restructured that debt in early 2011 to move taxpayers behind the private equity holders like Kaiser in the creditor queue.  After there simply wasn’t enough market demand for its product, Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August 2011—almost to the day that the financial analysts who objected to the loan said it wouldand later sold its assets on the cheap to a new outfit also partly owned by Kaiser.  So basically the President’s buddies got to finance their startup with taxpayer money, moved to the front of the line to get their own money out when it went belly-up, then took the assets for pennies on the dollar, leaving the rest of us stuck with the check.
Ener1—Bankrupt, January 2012
Ener1 was a New York-based parent company of a firm that received $118 million in federal “stimulus” grants to produce electric car batteries in part for the Fisker Karma (see below), a deal that ultimately fell through.  Ener1 filed for bankruptcy last month.


UPDATE 2/27/12:  No sooner did I post this, than I see that A123, who won the Karma contract out from under Ener1 on the strength of some $390 million in federal subsidies, is laying workers off, despite hefty pay increases for its executives.
Beacon Power—Bankrupt, October 2011
Beacon was a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of energy storage technology.  It received $43 million in Department of Energy loans.  Beacon declared bankruptcy in October 2011, saying it had been unable to obtain additional private investment (one wonders why).  It received bankruptcy court approval in December to begin selling off its assets.
Evergreen Solar—Bankrupt, August 2011/Now owned by the Chinese
Evergreen was a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of solar panels.  It received government grants including an estimated $5.3 million in federal “stimulus” money.  Evergreen went bankrupt in August 2011, and in November sold its assets to a Chinese firm.
Spectrawatt—Bankrupt, August 2011/Now owned by the Canadians
Spectrawatt was a New York-based manufacturer of silicon cells used in solar panels.  It received It received $500,000 in “stimulus” grants in June 2009.  Spectrawatt filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, and was bought by a Canadian firm.
Sunpower—Insolvency/Layoffs, November 2011/Now owned by the French
Sunpower, yet another California-based solar firm, received a $1.2 billion DOE loan in September 2011, the very last days of the program.  Barely a month later, it announced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and that it was “reorganizing” and cutting jobs.  It is now owned by the French oil giant Total, without whose backing, it would be bankrupt.
Amonix—Layoffs, January 2012
Amonix was a California-based solar systems manufacturer with a plant in Nevada.  It was partly owned by John Doerr, Daniel Weiss, and Steve Westly, who collectively have bundled at least $700,000 for Obama.  Amonix received $5.9 million in federal “stimulus” grants in 2010.  Last month it announced it was laying off two-thirds of its workforce.
Nevada Geothermal—Insolvent, October 2011
Nevada Geothermal, as the name suggests, is a Nevada-based geothermal energy company that received $66 million in federal grants, and another $79 million in DOE loans; loans it immediately used to pay off or renegotiate other loans that were or were about to be in default.  In other words, the company was already insolvent, a fact apparently known to the Obama administration at the time the DOE made the loans.  According to the DOE website, this project created 14 permanent jobs.
Fisker Automotive—Layoffs, February 2012
As I have previously reported, Fisker Automotive is a California-based manufacturer of luxury electric cars.  It received a $529 million DOE loan to produce its $102,000 Karma, which it manufactures in Finland.  After producing—then recalling—a grand total of 239 units, Fisker announced earlier this month that it was laying off employees in its Delaware and California locations, despite miraculous and unverifiable DOE claims that the loan had “created or saved” 2000 jobs.
Remember back when it was all about focusing on the economy and creating jobs?  These projects include five bankruptcies, one insolvency and one about to go under if it can’t resume construction, three laying people off, three now owned by foreign parents, and one manufacturing its product—to the extent it does so at all—overseas.  They represent a total federal investment of about $2.5 billion, and leaving aside temporary construction, appear to have added only 14 permanent U.S. jobs (without deducting for layoffs and bankruptcies), a clip of about $178 million per job.  Contrast that with the Keystone XL pipeline project Obama rejected (claiming it needed more study), which would unquestionably have created tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and not cost the federal taxpayer one red cent.
In a funny coincidence, with one exception (Nevada Geothermal—you work that one out) every one of these debacles involves federal money going to firms based in California, New York, or Massachusetts, huge chunks of it to big Obama backers.
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
With this objective record on this issue alone, for the life of me I can’t understand how this President continues to net an approval rating as high as the 45% he’s been hovering around for months.  The level of incompetency is both obviously demonstrable, and staggering.  Worse, I can’t believe the GOP isn’t keeping this on the front burner and getting this message before the American public.  I’m aware of it, and now you’re aware of it, but Joe Six Pack isn’t, and he’s the one who matters.
This, and the force-feeding of Obamacare, should be the centerpiece of the campaign.  I hope the GOP gets around to telling this story soon, or it’ll be too late.
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The Contraception Mandate And Eroding Liberty, Part II

 
Pleased to meet you,
Hope you guessed my name.
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.
—The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil
Continuing with last post’s discussion of the erosion of liberty flowing from the contraception mandate, I want to turn from the attack on our religious freedoms and our right to be secure in our persons, and look at the private property aspect of this, and of Obamacare more generally.  In particular, I want to focus on the fundamental misunderstanding—or deliberate misrepresentation, depending on how you spin it—of what insurance is, because that misunderstanding appears to drive a lot of this debate.
First, it’s not “health care,” and it’s not “health insurance.”  Those are monikers deliberately crafted to play into the Left’s feel-good narrative that this is all about a “right” to see a doctor.  But that’s not what we’re really talking about.  What we’re talking about is medical expense insurance—that is, policy coverage to offset certain costs associated with medical services.  But let’s back up.
Insurance in our modern sense originated in the form of marine insurance—policies providing some measure of compensation for the value of an oceangoing vessel and its cargo in the event they were lost at sea.  We can think of it as a kind of wager: the vessel owner bets $10 that the ship and its cargo will go down, and the insurer bets $10,000 that it won’t.  We would never say that the vessel owner has a “right” to the vessel going down, or, for that matter, that he has a “right” to make the insurance company prevent that from happening.  He doesn’t even have a right to have the government force the insurer to write the coverage.  What we have is a private contract; an agreement whereby one party pays a fee in order to receive a financial guarantee from another against the happening of a specified risk.
Typically the amount the policy holder pays is very small relative to the magnitude of the risk being covered—otherwise it would make more sense to just bear the risk ourselves.  The insurance provider can make this work because, just like diversifying your investment portfolio, they spread their risk across a large number of policies.  In my marine example above, wagering $10,000 against a $10 premium seems like a bad bet, until we consider that the odds of that particular ship sinking are very low.  Let’s say 1 in 2,000 ships actually sink.  If the insurance company writes policies covering 10,000 of them, it collects $100,000 in premiums.  Statistically, they can expect five of their covered vessels to sink, and thus they will have to pay out $50,000 in benefits.  The remaining $50,000 goes to pay their overhead and costs of business, and anything left over is profit.  That is how the insurance business works.
Of course, if we force the parties to change the coverage terms, we change the mathematics.  For example, if we compel the insurer to pay $50,000 in benefits instead of $10,000, we see very quickly that the statistical risk calculation doesn’t work for him; the same five vessels will sink, costing the insurer $250,000 versus only $100,000 in premiums.  The insurer must either raise the premium, or go out of business.  Neither result is good long term for either the insurer or the insured.
Fundamental to the insurance proposition is that it’s a private agreement.  We can write insurance to cover just about anything as long as we can reach an agreement with the insurance provider as to how much the premium is, what the insurance is to cover, what the monetary limits of that coverage are, and any time limitations that may be applicable.  With medical expense insurance, the concept is NOT that you have the right to see any doctor, anywhere, anytime, for anything.  These same principles of agreement apply, and you must reach an agreement with the provider as to how much your premium (co-pay is a form of per-event premium) is, what illnesses or procedures are covered, what the limits are on how much the provider will pay, and over what period of time the provider will cover you.  Each of those items is almost infinitely variable, but you and the insurance provider must reach an agreement on them.  Once you do, you have a private contract that defines exactly to what you are entitled. 
But somewhere along the way, this idea of insurance as an agreement seems to have been lost.
The Left regards employer-provided medical coverage as some form of fundamental right—but when did this “right” come into being?  Prior to the late 19th Century, medical expense insurance as we know it did not exist.  None of the Founders had it.  Abraham Lincoln didn’t have it.  It’s unlikely that Progressives like Woodrow Wilson or FDR had it.  And before the 1960s, those who had medical expense insurance almost invariably had it through private policies that they bought themselves.  The practice of employer-provided medical expense insurance only became widespread after the creation of tax rules that made it more advantageous for employers to include that coverage as a benefit in their compensation package than simply to offer their employees higher wages that they could use to buy their own medical expense coverage or otherwise spend as they saw fit. 
As these employer-provided policies have become ubiquitous, however, they have come to be viewed incorrectly as some kind of entitlement, rather than as a compensation benefit provided by virtue of this three-way agreement between the carrier, employer, and the employee.  You do not have a “right” to “health care” at someone else’s (the insurance company’s) expense; what you have is a right to reimbursement for whatever medical expenses are specified in your insurance agreement.  And this is where the contraception mandate in particular, and the individual mandate in Obamacare more generally, have their problem. 
Let’s say, for example, that the local Catholic diocese operates Holy Cross Hospital, and offers its employees medical expense coverage through Aetna.  Let’s say further that every one of the Holy Cross employees is a practicing Catholic.  The diocese doesn’t want to provide, and the employees don’t want to receive, a policy that covers The Pill.  Aetna is perfectly happy to write a policy that doesn’t cover it.  All three parties to this private agreement are happy to agree voluntarily to this arrangement—it’s exactly the way they want it.  Under Obamacare and the contraception mandate announced by HHS, they don’t have any choice.  They’re going to have to change their agreement whether they like it or not. 
Let’s take another example.  Let’s say OB1Solar is a green energy startup, and offers its employees a choice between a medical insurance plan or an extra $30,000 in base salary.  Many of these employees are young, healthy, and single; they view their risk of needing medical care as slim, and thus see a greater benefit in taking the extra cash rather than the policy.  They voluntarily agree to take a job without employer-provided insurance, and OB1 voluntarily hires them on that basis.  Again, all the parties to this private arrangement agree it’s exactly the way they want it.  Under Obamacare’s individual mandate, they don’t have any choice.  They’re going to have to provide/accept medical coverage whether they like it or not.
Both mandates are an affront to the notion of private contracts, which is a fundamental aspect of private property.  When and from where did the federal government—and the Chief Executive in particular—get the power not only to order you to enter into a private contract, but also to order what the terms of that contract must be?  And if that power exists, where does it end?  This is not just a Freedom of Religion issue reserved to Catholics.  It’s an Article II issue (as I explained yesterday), and a freedom of contract/private property issue.  
And that affects everybody.

The Contraception Mandate And Eroding Liberty, Part I

 
Slip sliding away,
Slip sliding away,
You know the nearer your destination,
The more you’re slip sliding away.
—Paul Simon, Slip Sliding Away
 
WARNING:  THIS ARTICLE HAS A FRANK DISCUSSION ABOUT SEX AND SEXUAL PRACTICES.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
 
Frankly, I had hoped we’d be past the whole contraception mandate issue by now, because I thought we had bigger fish to fry.  Now, I’m not so sure.
Let me be clear up front:  NOBODY is trying to keep you from obtaining and using contraceptives if you so choose.  I don’t advocate that the government institute a legal ban on them—let’s leave aside true pure abortifacients like the so-called “Plan B,” which are a different issue—and as far as I know even the Catholic Church has never sought one, either.  If you want to use a condom or The Pill, fine.  I’m not going to cast any moral judgments on you.  Just don’t make me pay for it, which has been the core of the standard—and correct—First Amendment free exercise of religion argument. 
I fear, however, that the issue and the potential danger here go to something much deeper.  Last Friday, talk radio host Andrew Wilkow was taking a slightly different tack and making an Article II argument:  it’s not just that the mandate violates the First Amendment, it’s also outside the scope of the power given to the President.  And Wilkow’s right.  The President simply has no Constitutional authority to issue an executive edict requiring either Catholic hospitals, or their private insurance companies, to pay for contraception for someone else.
But what scares me here is the logical train Wilkow’s discussion sent me thinking my way down, because if we follow this out the implications are chilling. 
Let’s start by asking the question why we need “free” contraceptives.  The Left will immediately begin shrieking about the need to protect women’s right to “preventative health care.”  Just last week, Press Secretary Jay Carney was out there talking about the “right” to contraception “free of charge.”  House members Thursday were complaining that those objecting to the mandate were diminishing the “interests of women”  “who want and need coverage for basic preventative health care services[.]”
On closer examination, this “preventative health care” mantra doesn’t hold water.  As I’ve pointed out before, the only form of contraception with any legitimate preventative health care link in any normal understanding of the term is condoms, and not only are they cheapless than a buck apiecebut they’re also already widely available for free.  You simply don’t need a federal mandate that they be covered by insurance. 
But what about the health consequences of unwanted pregnancy? 
Well, the simple and incontrovertible fact is that the easiest, safest, cheapest, and most effective way of avoiding the potential negative health effects of pregnancy (or STDs, for that matter), is abstinence.  It’s literally free even without insurance.  It’s accessible to everyone, everywhere, 24/7/365.  And it’s 100% safe, and 100% effective.  If what you’re all about is protecting women’s health, then abstinence should be at the top of your list, and there is simply no need for an insurance mandate to force other people to pay for it.
No, this isn’t about women’s health and pregnancy.  It’s about sex.
How so, Rusty?
The only reason to push contraceptives and ignore abstinence is that what the Left really wants, but can’t say out loud, is to make sure women can have recreational sex without consequences.  Taking them at their word that they’re pushing this issue in the interest of women’s health, because we’ve just seen that this health concern isn’t, and can’t be, about the health aspects of pregnancy, it must be that there are health benefits related to sex itself, and contraception is somehow a necessary tool for facilitating access to those benefits. 
Now, I’m not disagreeing with the idea that sex has health benefits so far as it goes, but the issue isn’t what you do or with whom you do it.  It’s whether you can make me pay for it. 
The underlying premise is that there’s not only a health benefit to sex without consequences, but that it’s such a compelling need that we have to override other people’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and their Fourth Amendment right to private property and make them pay for the contraceptives that make it possible.  And we’re going to ignore the Article II limitations on the power of the Chief Executive in order to do it. 
Well, where does that idea lead us?
If one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with birth control in order to obtain the health benefits of sex, what that really means is that the one citizen must ensure the other citizen has the things necessary to access the health benefits of sex.  Well, what if even with birth control the sex just isn’t satisfactory enough to generate those health benefits?  If we can compel one citizen to pay for another’s birth control in order to ensure the other’s access to the health benefits of sex, can’t the President order one citizen to pay for another citizen’s pornography (and if so, can’t that pornography take whatever prurient form is necessary to get the job done)?  What about sexual aids—can the President order one citizen to pay for another’s adult toys?  Once the issue is enabling access to the health benefits of sex, there’s no difference between forcing one citizen to provide another’s condom and forcing him to provide any other tool or implement necessary to enable that access. 
But wait.  Let’s keep following the logic train.
If one citizen can be ordered to provide the implements necessary for another citizen to get access to the health benefits of sex, it’s only a slight step further to say that one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with the sex itself.  Those of you who like to scream about the government keeping its hands off your ovaries should start worrying about the government’s hands going somewhere else.  And before you complain that I’m just out there flapping in the winds of paranoia, bear in mind that a lot of the people pushing this contraception mandate are the same folks who push for gay marriage, and who think Roman Polanski should be canonized.  So there’s no telling where that might lead. 
Now, do I really think it’s going to get as far as all this?  No, probably not.  But I raise the issue to point out the serious erosion of personal liberty that’s going on here.  To return to our Article II complaint, this administration is so far out of bounds they can’t even see the Constitution from where they are now.  And the more we let them get away with, the less the tethers the Constitution was supposed to place on President’s authority to act as a dictator mean. 
And let me tell you, friends, history teaches us that at some point it takes a whole lot of blood to get liberty back once it’s lost.

You Are What (The Government Lets) You Eat

 
The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police
They come to me in my bed
The dream police
They’re coming to arrest me, oh no!
—Cheap Trick, Dream Police
Government is out of control.
You already knew that, but wait till you get a load of this.  At a preschool in North Carolina, a four year old was on her way to lunch, toting the lunchbox dutifully packed for her by her mother.  A state inspector—following guidelines established by the USDA, and enforced through the federal Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services—took the child’s lunch away from her, concluding in the inspector’s infinite wisdom that under the guidelines it wasn’t satisfactorily nutritious. 
Here’s what the derelict mom put on the menu:
Turkey and cheese sandwich
Banana
Apple juice
Potato chips
Good Lord, it’s a wonder the child hasn’t already turned into Mr. Creosote.  How about just one wafer-thin mint?
But wait, it gets worse.
Having stripped the child of the lunch provided for her by her own mother, the genius bureaucrat forced her—no doubt to the added profit of the purveyor with the government contract—instead to eat the school-provided menu, the entrée of which was chicken nuggets.  So, in the interest of ensuring the child’s nutrition, we traded a turkey sandwich and a banana for freaking chicken nuggets!!!!  Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, anyone?
Only government could get it this spectacularly wrong.
I know most kids love chicken nuggets, and my own kids eat them frequently.  But the truth is they’re gross.  Let’s think about this.  With few exceptions, chicken nuggets aren’t even made from chicken meat in the traditional sense (ever wonder why they don’t bear any resemblance to any recognizable part of a chicken?).  They are processed from a substance known as  “mechanically separated meat,” that involves taking the scraps and bits left on the bones after a chicken is butchered, running them through a sieve to create a kind of pink primordial paste—not unlike what OCP fed to Robocop.  To that paste the manufacturers add thickeners, artificial flavorings, and undoubtedly huge amounts of salt and chemical preservatives.  The resulting goo is then molded into the nugget shape of choice, and the thing is breaded and deep-fried.
I’m all for deep-frying, but you won’t catch me claiming it’s the height of lean, healthy eating.
In this particular instance, the ruckus stems from the State of North Carolina’s Division of Child Development and Early Education Program, which includes a requirement that sites “provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements.”  I suppose that’s fine to set some kind of government-established nutritional criteria if what you’re talking about are government-funded meals, particularly under a state program.  Where we run into trouble is the second part of the requirement: “When children bring their own food for meals and snacks . . . if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.”  As apparently applied in practice, this doesn’t mean that the school is to supplement whatever may be lacking in the child’s meal, but that the school must actually forcibly replace the meal provided by the child’s parents in its entirety.  In other words, at least in North Carolina, the USDA is now regulating what you can feed your kids.
Over my dead body.
Never mind the obvious and complete incompetence that substitutes chicken nuggets for a turkey sandwich and a banana in the name of better nutrition—either the bureaucrat is hopelessly stupid in their understanding of the federal standard, or the standard itself is indefensibly moronic.  My problem here is what the hell business is it of the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, or some state agency what I feed my kids?  As long as I’m not putting a gun or illegal drugs in that lunchbox they take to school, what I feed my kids is between me and my kids.
This is an extremely dangerous development.  If the federal government, through a state agency, can regulate—read:  dictate—what a parent can put in their child’s lunchbox to take to school, it can regulate what that parent can/must feed the child at home.  And if it can dictate what I feed my kids at home, it’s only a tiny extension for it to regulate what I feed myself, and then where does it stop?  Rusty, nobody’s trying to regulate what you eat.  Oh, no?  We already see the food Nazis cracking down in the restaurant industry:  compulsory nutritional labeling on menus and reduced salt in New York City restaurants, bans on the use of foie gras in California and Chicago (the latter subsequently repealed).  And now we have Big Brother’s agents snooping in preschoolers’ lunchboxes.
I get it.  We’re too fat.  But government-imposed dietary restrictions aren’t the answer.  We have to break out of this growing culture of trading personal choice in order to be free from personal responsibility and the consequences of those choices.  If I want to eat french fries until I puke, that’s my business; and if I do it every day and I get fat as a result, that’s my problem. 
Our Constitution was designed with limited government in mind, the idea being that most decision making is best left as close to the people it most directly affects as possible.  The smallest decision-making units, and the core around which the Framers intended our lives to be structured, were the family and the individual.  There is no more fundamental personal liberty than the daily choice of what we’re going to eat—decisions that for the entire history of the Republic people and families have made for themselves.  Once that goes, there’s really no limit left to what the government can regulate in your personal life; what you can wear, where you can live, what color your car—er, electric golf cart—can be.  Even how many times a day you may exhale that dangerous pollutant CO2.  Everything’s fair game for the powers that be.
If we can’t reverse this trend and get government back in its pen, it’s not going to matter what we feed our kids, because there won’t be any America left to hand down to them.

Spinning The Cost Of Contraception

 
“I’ve worked out a few statistics of my own.  Fifteen billion dollars in gold bullion weighs 10,500 tons.  Sixty men would take twelve days to load it onto two hundred trucks.  At the most, you’ll have two hours before the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines move in and make you put it back.”
               —Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger
Figures don’t lie.  Liars figure.
By now you’re well familiar with the flap over the executive mandate that religiously-affiliated universities and hospitals cover contraception and sterilization under the Obamacare plan.  In yet another showing of his boundless empathy for those who disagree with him, Obama offered a “compromise” last week whereby those universities and hospitals wouldn’t have to provide that coverage themselves, but instead their insurance carriers would have to provide it.
I was going to ask whether he really thinks we’re that stupid.  Alas, judging from some of the  comments I’ve seen, not only does he think that, but apparently he’s right.
This “compromise” is, of course, a nonstarter, and should have been laughed down as the silly semantic game that it is.  We can shift the direct cost of the contraceptives from the employer to the insurance company, but who, exactly, pays for the insurance, and what exactly do we think is going to happen to the cost of that insurance once carriers are forced by executive mandate to cover these drugs? One way or another, religiously-affiliated universities and hospitals are going to end up paying for these things, their religious convictions be damned.
What’s the big deal?  It’s not like we’re making you pay for abortions.
Um, yes it is.
Many common contraceptive drugs such as The Pill and “Plan B,” and even modern contraceptive devices like IUDs work at least in part through an abortifacient mechanism.  That is, they prevent implantation of an embryo after fertilization, thus not preventing pregnancy but instead inducing a very early miscarriage—an abortion.  This presents a very serious problem for Catholics and many other Christians:
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life . . . Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 2270, 2272 (emphasis added).  I don’t go through this in an effort to proselytize you, but to help you understand that for many of us being compelled to participate, directly or indirectly in abortions—and, by extension, in contraception—is a major affront to our religious beliefs.  That’s why it’s so amazing to see the mental gymnastics that have been going on for some time to force this measure down our throats, despite our First Amendment guarantees.
The controversy dates back to the original regulations released by HHS in August 2011 requiring so-called “non-grandfathered health plans” to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures for women.  Although after receiving approximately 200,000 comments HHS graciously permitted an exception for “religious employers,” that term was so narrowly defined that it really only includes churches themselves, not church-supported universities or hospitals or other organizations like charitable groups.  So the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was exempted, but the seminary at the University of St. Thomas was not.  After much hue and cry, HHS conceded an additional year for nonprofit organizations that do not currently provide contraceptive coverage due to religious beliefs, to comply.
A whole year for those organizations to reverse a 2,000 year old teaching.  And I thought it was going to be a rush.
This time, after the latest “concession” purportedly shifting the cost from the faithful to their insurance carriers, HHS attempted to justify its new regulations by claiming that “there are significant cost savings to employers from the coverage of contraceptives.”  The way HHS figures it:
“[I]t would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of pregnancy and the indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.”
I see.  It’s OK for the administration to trample on our religious beliefs because in doing so, they’re saving us money.
Obama, the “Savings President.”  Has a nice, hollow ring to it, doesn’t it?
But notice the underlying mental pathology here.  Implicit within the dollar savings is the assumption that all of the pregnancies occurring because a certain health plan doesn’t cover contraceptives were unwanted. So, if only those women had contraceptive coverage under their employer’s health plans, they wouldn’t have had all of those babies.
Ah, I get it now. If all women had access to contraceptive coverage through their employer’s health plans, none of them would be having babies – because all of the pregnancies that occur in employees working for employers that don’t cover contraceptives are unwanted.  Of course, that policy undermines Joe Biden’s philosophy of children as a funding mechanism for the Entitlement State.
Continuing with its fuzzy “new math,” HHS also noted that “owing to reproductive and sex-specific conditions, women use preventive services more than men, generating significant out-of-pocket expenses for women.”  What they forgot to mention is that, as of January 1, 2011, Obamacare took condoms, contraceptive creams, home pregnancy tests, and other over-the-counter contraceptive items off of the list of reimbursable expenses for healthcare flexible spending accounts in an effort to reduce the amount of money that employees could use to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis, thus generating more tax revenue for the government.  So in the name of reducing the financial burden on women we’re ramrodding contraceptive coverage down the throats of those whose religious beliefs oppose it, while at the same time we’re adding to that burden by taking away an incentive for men to use over-the-counter contraceptives.  In other words, it’s OK to exclude contraceptives if doing so generates more tax dollars, but it’s not okay to exclude them if the exclusion is based on religious beliefs.
Things are definitely becoming clearer.  I’m glad we passed that bill so we could learn what’s in it.
But here’s where it’s really going to get sticky.  Last week’s “compromise” shifted direct costs from religious employers to their insurance carriers.  But the next move is going to be coming up with a similar mechanism for employees covered by self-funded plans.  Self-funded.  As in claims are not paid for by an insurance company, but out of the employer’s general asset base.  According to the Obama administration, the money to pay for the contraceptive coverage is not going to come from those plans.  So, where’s it going to come from?  The insurance fairy?
Once again, this administration—and the Left in general—is exposed for its fundamental practical ignorance.  Caught up in utopian dreams of free universal health care covering unlimited access to contraception and abortion, they lose sight of the basic fact that somebody in fact has to pay for those things.  Insurance is not some magic arrangement where you just get to go to a doctor for free.  It’s a private contract of wager.  You pay periodic premiums set by an statistical formula that calculates the odds a given person will need treatment, such that the insurer by spreading its risk over a broad enough pool, takes in enough money to cover the claims it has agreed to pay, and still make a profit.  No matter how you try to spin it, when you enact legislation forcing the carrier to cover certain additional drugs or procedures, you alter that private contract, and you change the math.  You’ve added to the risk to which the carrier is exposed, and it must change the premium calculation accordingly.  That added cost is passed on to the person paying the premium—typically an employer—whether they agree to it or not. 
So much for the First Amendment.

Brave New World

Be careful what you wish for
‘Cause you just might get it all
You just might get it all
And then some you don’t want
—Daughtry, Home
By now most of you have picked up on the fact that, as a matter of substantive policy, I am, well, in sharp disagreement with this President.  Today’s not about that.  Today I want to focus on process, and especially for those of you on the Left—you know who you are—I want you to pay particular attention, because this should scare you to death.
The year is 2038.  Sounds very futuristic, but it’s really only 26 years from now.  Not far off, in the grand scheme of things.
The President is Republican David Wainwright*, a former one-term senator from Alabama.  Wainwright came to national prominence with a stirring keynote address at the 2032 GOP national convention.  During his campaign in 2036, the Leftist media tried to raise alarms about some of Wainwright’s associations with Big Oil and the Klan, but these largely fell upon deaf ears as a public long-tired of being beaten down with excessive taxes—the so-called “Buffett Rule,” originally enacted in 2013 during Barack Obama’s second term to impose a flat tax of 30% on those making over $1 million, was later expanded to apply down to those making more than $150,000—was more interested in his “Keep Your Money” message of tax reform.
But in his second year in office, Wainwright faces serious opposition from a Democrat-controlled Congress.  Nevertheless, the Wainwright administration presses forward with his vision of transforming America with the following initiatives:
 
  • Calling it “unworkable in practice,” and impatient with Congress’ failure to enact amendments on its own, Wainwright directs his Department of Education to begin granting waivers from the school integration and busing requirements of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  The first states to receive these waivers:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois.
  • Citing a protein deficiency in the American diet—and dismissing reported connections between high administration officials and lobbyists for the National Cattlemens’ Beef Association—the Secretary of Agriculture issues an order directing all public schools to include increased minimum quantities of beef in all school lunches.
  • As part of an initiative “to better safeguard women’s health,” the Department of Health and Human Services issues new guidelines requiring all women over the age of 16 to undergo annual gynecological exams, to be conducted under the supervision of an HHS officer physically present in the exam room.
  • Concluding that it is unconstitutional—even though no court has so held—the Attorney General, acting at the President’s direct instruction, announces that the Department of Justice will no longer prosecute cases under the Voting Rights Act.  All cases on appeal are dropped.
  • In an effort to reduce the crippling cost of federally-funded abortions under the state-run National Insurance Program and “to enhance poor women’s access to preventative health services,” Wainwright establishes the Federal Birth Control Bureau.  The FBCB’s mandate is to set up clinics in inner-city neighborhoods, where women seeking a second abortion must also submit to sterilization surgery.
  • The Treasury Department creates a panel—whose members are appointed by the Department, with no Senate review—to review tax cases and no longer prosecute actions to recover unpaid taxes against certain people who “have historically been economically disadvantaged” by the tax system.  The criteria the White House establishes for this review center on whether the person being reviewed falls into a tax category whose share of total tax burden exceeds its share of gross national income.
  • To reduce the impact of ever-increasing mental health claims during the holiday season, HHS promulgates a new regulation requiring every homeowner to purchase and display a Nativity scene at Christmas.  President Wainwright dismisses atheists’ First Amendment claims, saying there must be a balance between free exercise (or non-exercise) of religion, and the national interest in ensuring peoples’ mental health.  As an accommodation, however, he relaxes the rule and instead requires all homeowners’ insurance plans to cover the cost of the displays. 
Rusty, you’re dealing with a doomsday fantasy land.  These things could never happen.
Oh, no?
Let’s rewind to the present day.
As I’ve tried repeatedly to explain in this space, the current administration has become a serial abuser of unconstitutional executive fiat power.  The Civil Rights Act waivers above are in both verbiage and practice almost identical to Obama’s action last week unilaterally granting state exemptions to the requirements of No Child Left Behind.  The beef example is similar to the individual mandate in Obamacare, and the gynecological exam and abortion examples are fairly natural extensions of it (once they can make you buy health insurance, they can justify almost anything as a “preventative measure” aimed at reducing the cost of that insurance).  The Voting Right Act example is exactly what the current administration has done with the Defense of Marriage Act (and, in limited cases, with the Voting Rights Act itself).  The panel for selective enforcement of the tax code is very much like the deportation review panels now being established.  And the Nativity scene mandate is very similar to HHS’ recent rule (as “accommodated”) requiring Catholic schools to cover their employees’ contraception.
In our Constitutional system, Presidents don’t have the power to legislate.  They have a veto power, but that veto extends only to entire pieces of legislation—despite Reagan’s forceful arguments for it, later echoed by Clinton and Bush 43, we still don’t have a line-item veto.  Once passed and signed into law, the ONLY power a President has is the mandate to enforce it.  A President cannot add laws by executive order, and cannot repeal laws through selective enforcement.  Yet that’s exactly what this President is doing—bypassing and overriding both the current and prior Congresses by executive edict. 
The examples I’ve used here are extreme, and they’re deliberately crafted to bother you on the Left in their substance, because I’m trying desperately to get your attention.  But the real problem here isn’t the substance, it’s the process.  This administration is totally out of control in terms of its usurpation of powers the Constitution does not grant to the executive.  And as you can see, once we become completely divorced from our Constitutional moorings, we have a real problem.  There cease to be any limits on what a President can do.  
 
You may love it now because you like the substance of all the hope and change this President is creating.  But he won’t be President forever—I’m still clinging to the assumption that even HE can’t overcome the 22nd Amendment—and you’ll find then that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  You’ll rail against a President Wainwright and claim he’s suspending the bill of rights, that he doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to do what he’s doing.  And you’ll be right.   
 
You’ll also be too late.
_____________________________
*This is a made-up name of a purely fictional character employed here for purposes of illustration only.  I am not aware of any real person by that name, and any resemblance between the portrayal of the character here and any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Texas Sonograms Revisited

 
Lemond:         Remember, Gene, keep things with the Senator on a need-to-know basis.
Ryack:            Oh, you mean treat him like a mushroom: keep him in the dark, and feed him a lot of shit.
—Ken Jenkins as Major Donald Lemond, and Mel Gibson as Gene Ryack in Air America
Somebody’s gotta call these people out on this.
I’ve posted before on the new Texas sonogram law, which after the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, took effect yesterday.  There was much hue and cry in the local press over the coming Nazi intrusion into the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship, and hand-wringing over how we were unfairly demonizing and tormenting women by forcing them to view sonograms and listen to heartbeats. 
Oh, the horror of human life.
Apparently confirming what a monstrosity this law is, the Houston Chronicle yesterday morning ran a front page, eight column piece titled “Sonograms evoke strong emotions as law takes effect” (electronic version here).  The story led with three consecutive paragraphs describing the devastating reaction of women being forced against their will to look at and listen to the lives they were contemplating ending:
Some women covered their ears as the sounds of fetal heartbeats echoed into their exam rooms at a Houston abortion clinic.
            Others tried to drown out the noise with their own voices, said Planned Parenthood officials, nervously humming or talking over the sounds of fetuses in their wombs.  Still others turned their heads away from ultrasound images, an effort to opt out of part of the state’s new sonogram requirement for abortions, which the Department of State Health Services began enforcing Tuesday.
            “These patients are livid, they are hurt,” said Tram Nguyen, director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, describing recent scenes at her Houston clinic.  “They feel that we are the ones being condescending and questioning their decision when we are just messengers.”
It’s no surprise to find Planned Parenthood behind the article, although query how Planned Parenthood officials know how women were reacting in the exam rooms, given their supposed worship of the privacy of the patient/physician relationship.  Presumably they weren’t in the room to see it, and the doctors who were shouldn’t be talking.  But I digress.
The article is clearly intended to leave the impression that the Evil State of Texas is forcing these poor women to endure images and sounds they don’t want to experience.  Of course, the authors are simply shining a bright light on the Religious Right’s heavy-handed attempt at “shaming and bullying” women into not exercising their God-given right to an abortion, and we have to protect against that, right?  Never mind that the Fifth Circuit has ruled on that right vis-à-vis the State’s compelling interest in protecting human life. 
But what continues to irritate me with all this noise about forcing women to experience these things is the Chronicle’s and Planned Parenthood’sobvious and deliberate lie by omission:
The Texas statute doesn’t require women to view the sonogram or hear the heartbeat.
Don’t take my word for it; here’s Texas Health & Safety Code § 171.0122, added last year as part of the new sonogram law, in full and without any added emphasis or commentary from me:
*  *  *
171.0122.  Viewing Printed Materials and Sonogram Image; Hearing Heart Auscultation or Verbal Explanation.
            (a)  A pregnant woman may choose not to view the printed materials provided under Section 171.012(a)(3) after she has been provided the materials.
            (b)        A pregnant woman may choose not to view the sonogram images required to be provided to and reviewed with the pregnant woman under Section 171.012(a)(4).
            (c)        A pregnant woman may choose not to hear the heart auscultation required to be provided to and reviewed with the pregnant woman under Section 171.012(a)(4).
            (d)       A pregnant woman may choose not to receive the verbal explanation of the results of the sonogram images under Section 171.012(a)(4)(C) if:
            (1)        the woman’s pregnancy is a result of sexual assault, incest, or other violation of the Penal Code that has been reported to law enforcement authorities or that has not been reported because she has reason that she declines to reveal because she reasonably believes that to do so would put her at risk of retaliation resulting in serious bodily injury;
            (2)        the woman is a minor and obtaining an abortion in accordance with judicial bypass procedures under Chapter 33, Family Code; or
            (3)        the fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality, as previously identified by reliable diagnostic procedures and documented in the woman’s medical file.
            (e)        The physician and the pregnant woman are not subject to a penalty under this chapter solely because the pregnant woman chooses not to view the printed materials or the sonogram images, hear the heart auscultation, or receive the verbal explanation, if waived as provided in this section.
*  *  *
I don’t know how our Legislature could have been more clear:
“A pregnant woman may choose not to . . .”
“A pregnant woman may choose not to . . .”
“A pregnant woman may choose not to . . .”
“A pregnant woman may choose not to . . .”
The Texas statute not only didn’t require the women described in yesterday’s article to endure the sonogram images or heartbeat audio if they didn’t want to, IT AFFIRMATIVELY SAID THEY COULD CHOOSE NOT TO.  But this fact conveniently doesn’t appear until the next-to-last paragraph of a two-page article, and it begs the question why so many women were supposedly “livid” and “hurt” about being involuntarily subjected to these images and sounds.  Taking the Chronicle story at face value, one has to conclude that Planned Parenthood simply didn’t tell the women in their examination rooms that the law gave them a right to opt out.  Indeed, although the Chronicle eventually notes that “women do have the option to request that the ultrasound volume be turned off”—no mention of the sonogram images—it does so at the end of a sentence that begins by saying that Planned Parenthood has been playing the fetal heartbeats for “all women who undergo the mandated sonograms.”  Nothing in the article says that Planned Parenthood is actually advising them of their right to decline.
Am I suggesting that Planned Parenthood would deliberately keep women in the dark?
Don’t be ridiculous.
As a for-a-fee abortion provider, Planned Parenthood has no financial stake in doing such a thing, so why should I question its motives in how it goes about complying with Texas law?  And I wouldn’t suggest that Planned Parenthood might manipulate women into a negative reaction in order to drive opposition to the statute.  No, that’s thoroughly and utterly absurd.
But now that you mention it . . . 
Let the facts speak for themselves.  First, Planned Parenthood, along with like-minded organizations like The Center for Reproductive Rights, argued to the ends of the earth to prevent the State of Texas from ensuring that women had access to potentially relevant information as they make their decision whether to have the abortion.  Having lost that battle, it now appears Planned Parenthood is deliberately avoiding advising women of their right to decline that information, thus forcibly inflicting it upon women who did not want it and had a right under the law to avoid it if they so chose—in the process placing itself in the very bully role in which it disingenuously attempted to cast the State.  At both turns, Planned Parenthood has worked to keep women as ignorant as possible, presumably in order to advance its own agenda and self-interest. 
Why it’s simply beyond all imagining.
The fact is the new Texas law does not require women to view sonograms or hear heartbeats; it requires that those things be made available sufficiently in advance for women to be able to absorb the information—if they choose—in making their decision.  But Planned Parenthood and their media accomplices on the Left are so blindly wed to their ideological point they’ll not only ignore that truth, but apparently will lie by omission to cover it up when it matters most.  And what I can’t understand is how so many, particularly women, continue to listen to and follow these people on this issue when it’s so easily demonstrated that these people are lying to them.  When do they wake up and ask, if you’re so into helping me and defending my rights on this, why do you keep lying to me about it?  Why are you so keenly interested that I not only have the right to obtain an abortion, but in ensuring that I actually get one—even if you have to deceive me to do it?
As I posted a couple of weeks ago on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, abortion undeniably terminates a human life.  Sonogram images and heartbeat audio are the most compelling evidence of that fact.  Assuming the reactions described in today’s Chronicle piece are accurately depicted, they confirm this and demonstrate that we as human beings know, viscerally, that what’s about to happen with an abortion is simply wrong.  Wrong at the deepest, most fundamental level.  So wrong that the only way we can go through with it is to remain deliberately, consciously, actively ignorant of the truth.
Which, of course, is exactly where those in the business of taking your money to provide an abortion and others on the Left want you.

Biblical Taxation

 
Roxie: God, that was beautiful.
Billy:   Cut out God.  Stay where you’re better acquainted.
—Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn in Chicago
Full disclosure:  I am not a theologian.  Truth be told, I’m not even a very good Catholic.
But I think I got this one.
Last week at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama invoked the Bible to support his recent calls for raising taxes on the wealthy in order to continue funding entitlement programs:
“For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that, for unto whom much is given, much shall be required . . . It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these, for the poor, for those at the margins of our society . . . To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

 

One wonders where the hue and cry is from the ACLU and the atheist zealots who sue kindergarteners for putting a Nativity scene on a school grounds at Christmas.  After all, if what we’re going to do is base our tax policy on what the President believes are his instructions in the Bible, doesn’t that convert the government into a quasi-religious institution, and make taxes essentially a forced tithe?
How DARE the government intrude on the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause!  Why, next thing we know they’re going to be making Catholic hospitals give out contraceptives!
 
Oh, yeah.  Oops.
I hear it a lot: folks on the Left appealing to common Christian catch-phrases or to their own selective quotation/interpretation of the Bible in order to justify Big Government programs, as though they are somehow beating me down with the ultimate trump card.  After all, if I’m a Christian conservative—not to leave out conservatives of other faiths, it’s just that this particular phenomenon appears to be reserved for Christians—how can I possibly object to an initiative that comes straight out of the Bible?   I believe I am my brother’s keeper.
Yeah?  Well keep him, then.
The problem when folks like Obama wax biblical in a transparent attempt to “demonstrate their faith”note the opportunistic Obama only does this at occasions like the National Prayer Breakfastthey rarely take the text as a whole, and they frequently get it wrong.  Take the President’s invocation of Jesus’ teaching about the burden upon those who have been blessed.  He has lifted the reference to Luke 12:48 out of context, and ignored the distinction between the service we owe to God, and the service we owe to the government (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2242).  This distinction is itself biblical, as illustrated in, for example, Matthew 22:21, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees to “[g]ive to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.  Or Acts 5:29, where St. Peter and the Apostles answer charges from the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than men.  
 
In discussing the expectations placed upon the blessed, Jesus wasn’t talking about a mandatory obligation to be extracted by the government.  If we back up and start reading the lead-in at Luke 12:35, we see He was talking about the unknown time of His return, and the kind of self-sacrifice necessary to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This becomes more clear when you read Jesus’ teaching together with His instruction to the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-24; Luke 18:18-24) to give away everything he has and follow Him.  That is what is expected, and that is why He told the Apostles it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:24; Luke 18:25).  But in his zeal to give his tax policy the superficial air of a biblical grounding, Obama missed that.
The Left also confuses their personal conviction with the ability and propriety of forcing someone else to act on that conviction.  They will claim they are their brother’s keeper, but they do so to justify a policy whereby it’s not them keeping their brother, but them forcing someone else to do it.  The problem with trying to ground this sort of thinking in the Bible as though it’s derived from God’s directives is that what God asks of us is voluntary.  God does not want us to love Him and follow His commandments because He makes us do it—He could have made us perfect sin-free followers had He so desired.  He wants us to do it because we choose to do so.  Abraham did not have to slay Isaac (yes, I know he ultimately doesn’t, but God allows him to go all the way to the last second, and he does so voluntarily).  Jesus did not have to die on the cross.
God gave us free will, and when we look at charitable contributions in a biblical context, it is the willingness to give that is the touchstone, not forcibly taking more from those who have more.  In Matthew 10:8, Jesus instructs the Apostles, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  In 2 Corinthians 8:12, St. Paul urged the Church at Corinth to be eager and willing givers:
“Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has[.]”  
President Obama is correct that Jesus taught that much will be expected of those to whom much has been given, but that expectation was of free and voluntary giving.  He never spoke about forcibly extracting charity at the point of a Roman sword, yet that’s exactly what a tax policy aimed at increasing taxes on the wealthy in order to fund entitlement programs is.
If we’re going to have the Bible drive our tax policy, perhaps we should consider the entire document.  For example, maybe we should be looking to, say, Mark 12:41-44:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 
 
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Combine that with Matthew 13:12:
“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
St. Mark tells us that although the rich were paying in much more than the poor—exactly our progressive tax system—rather than call for the rich to pay even more, Jesus is more interested in the poor widow contributing everything she had.  St. Matthew recounts Jesus teaching that those who have more will get more, and those who have less will have it all taken away.  Perhaps we should learn from this and adopt a purely regressive system where we tax the poor at 100%.
Obviously, that’s not what Jesus was getting at, but the absurdity of the extrapolation illustrates the danger in selectively lifting pieces of scripture out of context and using them to justify public policy.  We can debate the relative economic merits of progressive taxation and entitlements.  We can even debate whether they are the right thing to do. 
But the President better leave God and the Bible out of it until he has a better handle on what he’s talking about.

Happy Birthday, President Reagan

 
Today is President Ronald Reagan’s birthday, and I thought it appropriate to post some reminders from his 1964 speech endorsing Barry Goldwater for President, as much of it applies to the situation in which we find ourselves today.  He says it far better than I can:
“One side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, “We’ve never had it so good.”
 
But . . . [n]o nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world.
*  *  *
We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
 
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to.” And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
 
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.
 
This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. 
*  *  *
In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people . . . [T]hey have voices that say, “The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says, “The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.” Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as “our moral teacher and our leader,” and he says he is “hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document.” He must “be freed,” so that he “can do for us” what he knows “is best.” And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.” . . . “[T]he full power of centralized government” — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.
*  *  *
We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they’re going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?
 
But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater.
*  *  *
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things — we’re never “for” anything.
 
Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.
 
Now — we’re for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we’ve accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.
 
But we’re against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They’ve called it “insurance” to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term “insurance” to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they’re doing just that.
*  *  *
I think we’re for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we’re against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They’ve come to the end of the road.
*  *  *
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear.  Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.  Federal employees — federal employees number two and a half million; and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation’s work force employed by government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man’s property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier over-planted his rice allotment. The government obtained a $17,000 judgment [a little over $120,000 in today’s dollars–RDW], and a U.S. Marshal sold his 960-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work.
*  *  *
Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.
*  *  *
Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy “accommodation.” And they say if we’ll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he’ll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.
*  *  *
There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.
*  *  *
You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.
 
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.”
*  *  *
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness . . . [Y]ou and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.”
God bless you, President Reagan, and happy birthday.  We shall not look upon your like again.

Federalism And The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

 
Give ‘em the old flim-flam flummox
Fool and fracture ‘em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?
Throw ‘em a fake and a finagle
They’ll never know you’re just a bagel
Razzle dazzle ‘em
And they’ll beg you for more!
—Billy Flynn in “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago
I’ve touched on federalism a couple of time in this space before.  Let’s expand a bit.
Following the defeat of Great Britain and the Treaty of Paris, what existed on these shores was a loose union of 13 otherwise independent States under the Articles of Confederation.  Although drafted in terms of “We the People,” our Constitution required each of the States as sovereign entities to sign off on it, rather than being adopted by popular vote.  As James Madison wrote:
“Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act.  In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a federal and not a national constitution.” 
           
Federalist Paper No. 39 (emphasis original).
Ratification of the new Constitution and creation of the Union were by no means certain.  Having just fought for eight years to get out from under the thumb of an oppressive central regime, the States were wary of trading one set of shackles for another.  Of particular concern was that with the formation of a central government, the States would lose their individual sovereignty, and that the central government would soon grow out of control, thus putting the States and their respective citizens right back where they started.  It was for this reason that the Framers added the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Bill of Rights:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Alexander Hamilton (together with his conscripts Madison and John Jay) wrote the Federalist Papers to overcome these concerns.  They were, in effect, a sales pitch.  Although Madison addressed the State sovereignty issue (most notably in No. 45, which I have and will continue to quote in this space often), it is the writings of Hamilton on this subject that sting today.
Like Madison, Hamilton told the readers of their Publius essays that there was nothing to fear from the Constitution, and that the central government it created would not encroach upon the liberty so dearly won:
“It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.”
Federalist Paper No. 28.  Indeed, Hamilton pooh-poohed to the point of ridicule those who objected that a central government, once created, would eventually expand and consume all aspects of State sovereignty and individual liberty:
“The moment we launch into conjectures about usurpation of the federal government, we get into an unfathomable abyss and fairly put ourselves out of the reach of all reasoning.  Imagination may range at pleasure till it gets bewildered amidst the labyrinths of an enchanted castle, and knows not on which side to turn to escape from the apparitions which itself has raised.  Whatever may be the limits or modifications of the powers of the Union, it is easy to imagine an endless train of possible dangers; and by indulging in an excess of jealousy and timidity, we may bring ourselves to a state of absolute skepticism and irresolution.”
Federalist Paper No. 31.  Why, these fears of a central government taking over everything, that’s just crazy talk.
As Bill Cosby would say:  Riiight.
Hamilton continued:
“An entire consolidation of the States into one complete national sovereignty would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and whatever powers might remain in them would be altogether dependent upon the general will.  But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, exclusively delegated to the United States.”
Federalist Paper No. 32 (emphasis original).  He even went on to argue that the Bill of Rights itself—which, of course, includes the Ninth and Tenth Amendments—was unnecessary, because the Constitution so limited the authority of the central government that there was no need to protect against that which that central government already couldn’t do:
“I go further and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution but would even be dangerous.  They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted . . . [W]hy declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”
Federalist Paper No. 84.
Yeah, if you’ll buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.
In his effort to sell the new Constitution and its central government to the reluctant States, Hamilton repeatedly assured that there was nothing to be concerned about, and that the central government would be adequately held in check.  Read in context with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, one can even see how Hamilton might be taken at his word.
But any good car salesman is believable.
History shows us that what Hamilton really did was pull off the greatest bait-and-switch in human history.  Having sold the Constitution in 1788 as creating a limited and controllable central government, by 1790 Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury of that new central government had sponsored the first U.S. government bailout by pushing through a bill for the federal government to assume the States’ outstanding war debts, and in 1791 he established the first National Bank.  Neither action finds support in the text of the Constitution, although the National Bank concept was later accepted by the Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland—yes, I know McCulloch dealt with the second National Bank and not the first, but the National Bank concept was Hamilton’s—providing the framework for the exceedingly dangerous doctrine of implied powers. 
Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?  That’s why.
In only three years, Hamilton had laid the foundation for unleashing the very Pandora’s Box he argued so vociferously didn’t exist.  His fingerprints can be seen even today in almost everything emanating from the District, including Medicaid, No Child Left Behind, TARP, “stimulus,” FEMA disaster relief, EPA, Obamacare, dictating what must be included in school lunches, and what will surely someday soon be federal bailouts of California and other bankrupt States.  Hamilton’s autograph serves as a watermark to President Obama’s signature on his most recent unconstitutional executive fiat appointments of yet another series of czars and bureaucrats to regulate and dictate, without oversight from Congress or accountability to the citizenry.  Daniel Hannan, in his recent book The New Road to Serfdom, warns us against this very phenomenon of allowing the central government to erect an ever-more complex series of bureaus and agencies through which innumerable un-elected and unaccountable officials become entrenched in power.  These, my friends, are the steps by which liberty is lost, never to be regained. 
Somewhere in heaven, the Framers are trying to find Hamilton to get their money back.