Running From The Constitution

 

You better run for your life if you can, little girl

Hide your head in the sand, little girl

Catch you with another man, that’s the end, little girl

            —The Beatles, Run For Your Life

 

Run for your life from any man who tells you that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document.”  Run faster still from any man who says “let’s give up on the Constitution.”

Expanding a bit on something I mentioned in the last post, giving up the Constitution is exactly the position espoused by Georgetown University Law Center Professor Louis Michael Seidman on CBS News Sunday Morning last weekend.  Charles Osgood introduced him with the ludicrously loaded question, “Is the U.S. Constitution truly worthy of the reverence with which most Americans hold it?”  Professor Seidman proceeded to answer that question in the negative.

For Professor Seidman, the Constitution is a cumbersome nuisance that interferes with proper debate about matters of policy:

“Constitutional obedience has a pernicious impact on our political culture.  Take the recent debate about gun control . . . [I]nstead of talking about whether gun control makes sense in our country, we talk about what people thought of it two centuries ago.  Worse yet, talking about gun control in terms of constitutional obligation needlessly raises the temperature of political discussion.  Instead of a question on policy, about which reasonable people can disagree, it becomes a test of one’s commitment to our foundational document and, so, to America itself.”

Seidman went on to say that because we are the people who live here now, we should be able to decide for ourselves what this country should be, and we shouldn’t be ruled by people who died 200 years ago any more than we should be ruled by the French or the United Nations.  Basically, according the learned Professor, the Constitution is an old document written by people who are long dead, and so we shouldn’t feel too wedded to it when it doesn’t suit our current purpose.

This, friends, is who is teaching in your law schools.  “Constitutional Law” professors who teach that the Constitution is a dead letter not worthy of reverence, and that Constitutional obedience is “pernicious” (harmful or destructive).

Seidman attempted to temper his argument with a superficial appearance of reasonableness, conceding that some provisions in the Constitution are “important and inspiring,” and should be obeyed because they are important and inspiring.  Of course, he didn’t say which ones are still worth obeying, nor does he explain what (or who) determines which ones are and which ones aren’t.  We can surmise that the provisions that should be obeyed are the ones he and the Left find “important and inspiring,” but that would be just rank speculation on my part.  You can draw whatever conclusions you want, however, from Professor Seidman’s calling into question the Constitution (via the electoral college system in Article II) allowing the election of a President “who is rejected by a majority of the American people” (read: George W. Bush in 2000), but disallowing the election of a President who isn’t a natural-born citizen (read: Barack Obama (were he not—no, I’m not trying to start another “birther” debate)).

Alternatively, it could be that the provisions that should be obeyed are those that a majority of Americans at any given second find “important and inspiring.”  But that would render the entire discussion about giving it up moot in light of Osgood’s introductory concession that “most Americans” at this point still revere the Constitution.

Discarding the Constitution as Professor Seidman suggests leaves us with either an elitocracy of self-appointed pseudo-intellectuals, or mob rule by 50%-plus-one.  Either way, the result is a system where governance in all things is left to the whims of men.  And this is precisely what the Founders—long-dead though they may be—wanted to avoid.

Our Fathers bequeathed us a nation of laws, not of men.  And that is the most profound, noble, and loving inheritance they could have left us, because it is the essence and cornerstone of freedom.  It doesn’t matter what men—even a majority of men—say.  No matter your station in life, your rights and your freedom are guaranteed by law:  an objective, concrete, knowable, and constant set of rules to which you can appeal and which is binding upon all that does not depend on the capricious fancies of this or that passing administration or the fad of the moment.

The foundation of this law that safeguards your rights and your freedom is our Constitution.  Nowhere is that more clear than in the Supremacy Clause in Article VI:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby[.]”

There is no higher authority than the Constitution.  And isn’t it funny that people like Professor Seidman complain that those who invoke their constitutional protections to disagree with him are “needlessly rais[ing] the temperature of political discussion,” yet they  shriek about the sanctity and supremacy of the Constitution when the matter of dispute is something they have declared to be a “right” (not coincidentally, almost always a “right” not actually found in the text of the document).  Those things you support are mere matters of policy, where disagreement is simply a difference of opinion to be tolerated, debated, and resolved by majority vote; but those things they support are Holy Constitutional Writ, where dissent is an abomination not even to be acknowledged.

How convenient.

Of course, the real beauty of the Constitution is that it isn’t a particularly complicated document, and it doesn’t require a University of Chicago or Harvard degree to read and understand it—that’s only necessary if you want to engage in the mental gymnastics (read: intellectual fraud) required to make it say something it doesn’t, because what it does say doesn’t suit your purpose.  But the Constitution is not an a la carte menu; you have to take it as a whole, and you don’t get to pick and choose which parts you will follow and which parts you will ignore.  The concept of a supreme and binding law of the land becomes meaningless if that law can arbitrarily be discarded piecemeal.

That said, the Founders didn’t leave us hopelessly chained to a permanently static document forever burdened with impracticality and anachronism.  They recognized that later generations might see a need to make changes, so in Article V they laid out two—and only two—processes for amending the Constitution when it became necessary to do so:  either via a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress, or by application of two-thirds of the States.  These processes have been invoked and carried to completion twenty-seven times to deal with matters as weighty as equal protection for blacks following the Civil War (the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments), and as relatively trivial as the consumption of alcohol (the 18th and 21st Amendments).

The people of this country know how to adapt their Constitution to changing times, and they have done so on numerous occasions.  As a professor of constitutional law, Seidman undoubtedly knows this, which begs the question why he says we should just ignore the Constitution (or at least those parts that he or someone determines aren’t “important and inspiring”).  Seidman says matter-of-factly, as though there’s no reasonable dissent about it, that the Constitution is out-of-date and out-of touch.  If he’s right about that, presumably there’s a broad consensus about it, and there should be no trouble going through Congress or the State Legislatures to make the appropriate adjustments.  That’s what you do in a nation of laws—you go through the prescribed process and change those laws, not just ignore them as some academic tells you is appropriate.

If that’s not how we’re going to do things; if we’re not going to abide by the law as it’s stated in the Constitution until that law is changed via the mechanisms for doing so contained in that Constitution; if instead we’re only going to adhere to the Constitution (or not) as the winds of the time blow; then who’s to say what your rights are today?  And what’s to protect those rights tomorrow?  Ignoring the Constitution means the law says whatever whoever has the biggest, baddest gang at a given time says it says.

I was wrong about running from a man who says we should give up our Constitution.

We should stand and fight him like Hell.

************************

By the way, for those who might feel the need to let Professor Seidman know what you think of his suggestion that we give up our Constitution, he can be reached at the following contacts published on the Georgetown Law Center website:

seidman@law.georgetown.edu

600 New Jersey Avenue N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20001

(202) 662-9102

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(Forced) Unilateral Disarmament

Clanton:   Why, it’s the drunk piano player.  You’re so drunk, you can’t hit nothin’.  In fact, you’re probably seeing double.

Holliday:   I have two guns, one for each of you.

                  —Thomas Haden Church as Billy Clanton, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone

 

I can’t believe I’m having to deal with this again.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has now introduced her bill on gun control.  In it she seeks to ban a list of some 150 specifically-named guns, as well as more generically-defined “assault weapons,” meaning those semi-automatic weapons that combine a detachable magazine and at least one other “military characteristic.”  I am at a loss as to what cosmetic or ergonomic features like a pistol grip or a barrel shroud have to do with gun violence and a particular weapon’s potential lethality, and I expect Senator Feinstein can’t explain it either; she’s admitted that the current bill, like her 1994 ban, has more to do with what looked scary to her in a catalogue picture than any actual study or evidence relating a particular design feature to gun violence.

As President Reagan once quipped, “The problem with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

There are a number of things you should notice about this push.  First, as I alluded above and have covered before, banning “assault weapons” and even high-capacity magazines has little or nothing to do with actually curbing gun violence, which is what they tell you is their objective.  The 1994 ban on those very things had no discernible impact, and the reason for that is very simple: those types of weapons are almost never used by civilians to kill people.  Mass shootings are incredibly rare, and they’re rarer still with guns qualifying as “assault weapons.”  If they were serious about gun violence, they’d be seeking to ban your garden-variety handguns—.38 specials and the like.

But they’re not.

No, what they’re after are not the kinds of weapons that are actually being used in gun crime to any significant degree, but those that a militia—go read the Second Amendment—would want to have available if it came down to the citizenry having to protect themselves and the security of a free State.

Second, there’s a big push for increased registration and background check requirements.  But that wouldn’t have stopped the Connecticut massacre; those guns were purchased legally after a background check and duly registered.  Ditto the guns James Holmes allegedly used to shoot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Ditto the guns Major Nidal Hassan allegedly used to murder fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas.  And the man who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  And the guy who shot up Virginia Tech in 2011.  And so on.  Registration and background checks didn’t and won’t stop people who go insane.  And they’re irrelevant to criminals; criminals don’t buy guns via legal channels, and they damn sure don’t register themselves.  What registration and background checks do is let the government know where the law-abiding citizens who have guns are.

Why would they want to know that, do you suppose?

So, what we have is a proposed ban on guns that have almost nothing to do with gun violence, but have considerable potential for providing the public with a viable means of defense.  We have proposed registration and background check requirements that have almost nothing to do with gun violence, but everything to do with telling the government where the legal guns are.  And here’s the real punchline:

Feinstein has conveniently exempted herself from the ban.

That’s right, Senator Feinstein wants to prevent you from having an AR-15 with a 30 round magazine, but her bill and its weapons ban specifically do not apply to herself and other “government officials.”  Now, recall this is the same government that I told you back in August was stockpiling literally billions of rounds of ammunition—including over 11 million rounds of AR-15 ammo—for agencies other than the Army and Marines.  This is the same government I now notice has its Department of Homeland Security placing an order for 7,000 M-4 rifles (the military version of the AR-15) with 30 round magazines, in part because of their utility for “personal defense.”  Hmmmmm.  This is the same government whose Commander-in-Chief recently signed a law granting himself armed bodyguards for life.  New York Mayor and shrill gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg—“government officials” isn’t limited to federal—similarly has refused to give up his own armed security detail.

There’s something sinister when someone tells you you don’t get to have a gun, but they do.  There’s something particularly sinister when that someone is already in a position of power.  We have the Left opportunistically using an emotionally-charged tragedy to claim a state of emergency that requires action.  But the action being taken has little or nothing to do with the tragedy.  Instead the action seeks to disarm us, while the government itself is stockpiling the very weapons and ammunition it seeks to take away, and those in government exempt themselves from the disarmament and surround themselves with professional armed bodyguards.  Meanwhile, mysteriously right on cue, the Left’s surrogate mouthpieces in the media begin running segments featuring supposed academic experts explaining to an ignorant public that the Constitution’s time has passed, and it’s time we start simply abandoning those pieces the Left doesn’t like.

Take away their defenses, mass your own, and start inoculating them against the idea that the Constitution remains viable and worth defending.  Ensure that you are the only one with any ability to carry on a fight, and convince them that there’s no longer anything left worth fighting for.

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being set up?

Political Correctness Amok II

“See this right arm?  Worth a million bucks a year.  All my limbs together aren’t worth seven cents a pound.”

            —Kevin Costner as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham

 

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to be politically incorrect.

Again.

The Department of Education last week issued a new directive declaring that access to interscholastic, intramural, and intercollegiate athletics is a “civil right.”  To support this newly-found right, the directive requires schools and colleges to make “reasonable modifications” to allow students with disabilities to participate in school athletic programs, or, alternatively, to create a parallel athletic program of comparable standing to mainstream sports.  Supporters hail this as a dramatic victory for students with disabilities, comparable to what Title IX did for women’s athletics.

Let me say up front that I am a big proponent of interscholastic sports.  I played baseball in high school, and for a brief time tried to walk onto my college team.  I recognize that there are substantial benefits from participation.  But we’re starting to carry the forced inclusiveness thing too far.

First, since when did the Department of Education—in itself inherently an unconstitutional extension of federal authority into state and local matters—gain the power to declare the existence of civil rights?  Maybe I missed something, but I thought that was really left to the Constitution and the courts.  Once you decree a “right,” you open a whole Pandora’s box of endless litigation and controversy.

Second, how exactly is this directive supposed to be implemented?  The DOE swears the idea isn’t to change sports traditions or the nature of the game, or to guarantee disabled students spots on competitive team rosters, but to prevent schools from excluding disabled students “if they can keep up with their classmates.”  Notice the interesting phrasing; the threshold for legitimate exclusion is not “if they’re good enough to make the team,” but “if they can keep up.”  Does that mean that if they are a competent player you have to keep them on the team, even though their disability makes them less competitive than other players?  Consider, for example, a high school golfer who has only one arm.  He may well be able to learn to play with that one arm such that he can get around the course and not hinder the pace of play; but if because of the arm he can’t break 90 playing from competition tees, do we nevertheless have to give him one of the eight spots on the team to the exclusion of an able-bodied player who shoots in the 70s?

And what do “reasonable modifications” mean if not changing the rules of the game to accommodate a disability?  The AP article I read quoted Kareem Dale, who guides the administration’s policies on disabled Americans.  Dale, the article reports, was a high school wrestler who was able to compete because of special rule changes requiring his opponents to maintain physical contact with him during a match.  In other words, the rules were changed to work the game around his disability.  That’s not unlike what the Supreme Court forced the PGA to do several years ago by ordering it to change its rules to allow Casey Martin to use a golf cart due to a bone disorder that made walking difficult (Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc., 532 U.S. 661 (2001)).

Rusty, those two examples were very minor adjustments that didn’t really impact the nature of the game.

Perhaps, but once you allow individual exceptions to the rules, the individual subject to those exceptions is in absolute fact not only not playing the same game as his opponents, but he is playing against them with a rules advantage in his favor.  Casey Martin got to ride a cart, while his competitors had to walk 7000+ yards of often sloping and slick terrain, and if you think that doesn’t matter in golf, go walk Southern Hills in Tulsa when it’s 105 degrees in July and then come talk to me.  And even if those two examples may be minor, where does it end?  The whole point of an athletic contest is for the players to compete against each other under a common set of rules, and the best player on that day wins.  And while the battle is not always to the strong, nor the race always to the swift—that’s the way to bet.  But when we start changing the rules to benefit individual players who are not as gifted as others, the nature of the competition is lost.

Look, the fact of the matter is we are all different.  We have different talents and different abilities.  Different strengths, and, yes, different weaknesses.  Not everybody can do everything, and at some point the distinction between “disabled” and “not good enough” becomes blurry indeed.  At 5’7”, I can’t dunk; does that count as a “disability” such that there should be some rule change to allow me to play college basketball?  No coach in his right mind is going to keep a kid off the team if he’s among the best who try out, regardless of whatever “disability” he has; in that sense, disabled students have the same access other students have.  But with limited rosters and finite resources, the reality is not everyone makes the team.  Able-bodied students get cut, too.

Rusty, you don’t have to change the rules of competitive varsity teams; you could just run a parallel program with disabled students playing other teams of disabled students, just like was done for girls through Title IX.

The parallel program concept is practically unworkable.  First, there aren’t going to be enough disabled students to fill teams.  Second, resources are already stretched thin, and frankly we already spend too much on interscholastic sports in comparison to what we pay our teachers.  Most importantly, however, this isn’t like Title IX and women’s sports.  It’s pretty easy to figure out—with incredibly rare Olympic exceptions—who’s a woman and who isn’t.  But what counts as a disability, if you’re going to start creating parallel programs?  Do you have to be blind or missing one or more limbs?  What if you’re just really, really slow?  And there’s the not so small point of where does it end?  How many “separate but equal” athletic programs do we have to set up to accommodate this shortcoming, that stigma, and the other deficiency?

At some point we are going to have to come to grips with the fact that everyone is different, and that you can’t legislate equality of outcome.  It isn’t possible to make all things equally accessible to all people.  No amount of rules changing or other “reasonable accommodation” is ever going to make the playing field totally level.  The simple truth is we’re not all meant to be athletes, and not everyone belongs on that field, whether it’s because we’re too small, too slow, lack sufficient hand-eye coordination, or are blind.

And that’s OK.

Goldfinger

 

I gave you my heart, and I tried to make you happy

But you gave me nothing in return

You know it ain’t so hard to say

Would you please just go away?

            —The Commodores, Sail On

 

Did you know that at one time it was illegal in this country to own gold?  It’s true.

Up until the early 20th Century, our money in this country was tied directly to gold and silver.  Most of it was literally gold and silver coinage.  Paper “money” really consisted of certificates redeemable at any national bank for a specified amount of gold or silver, and thus a paper “dollar” derived any value it had from its holder’s ability to convert it into gold or silver.  In 1900 the Gold Standard Act pegged the value of the dollar at 25.8 grains of .9 fine gold (23.22 grains of pure gold).

The benefit of such a system is that you know your money is always going to have a relatively stable value because it is (or is backed by) physical gold and silver, which have been accepted as currency basically since the beginning of civilization; i.e., gold and silver have always been real money.  The limitation of this system, however, is that because you had to mint your coins out of gold or silver, or be in a position to redeem any paper certificates presented by exchanging gold or silver for them, your ability to mint or print money was limited to the amount of gold and silver you had on hand.  And this poses more than a little nuisance to progressive politicians who like to spend money without having to worry about where it’s going to come from.

With that background, meet Fred Campbell.

In October 1932 and January 1933, Mr. Campbell bought twenty-seven bars of gold (at the time, about $200,000, or $3.4 million in today’s money) which he deposited at Chase National Bank in New York for safekeeping.  On March 9, 1933—just five days after taking office, and building on restrictions originally enacted by Woodrow Wilson—Franklin Roosevelt signed the Emergency Banking Act, which amended the 1917 Trading With The Enemy Act to grant the executive branch sweeping powers to regulate money, including the power to regulate the hoarding or transfer of gold.  On April 5 FDR issued Executive Order 6102, the first of a series of orders that—with extremely limited exceptions—outlawed private ownership of gold, and required all privately held gold to be turned over to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $20.67 per ounce in paper currency.  When Mr. Campbell later tried to retrieve his gold from Chase, the bank—to no one’s surprise—declined to give it back to him.    Campbell was then indicted for violating the executive orders.

The federal district court that heard the case (Campbell v. Chase Nat’l Bank, et al., 5 F. Supp. 156 (S.D.N.Y. 1933)) began by correctly observing that gold and silver have forever been recognized as the basis of trade—as money.  And thus, whether as legally monetized coin or as commodity bullion, gold and silver are necessarily and inherently tied to the concept of money.

But then the court went off the rails.  Because gold and silver are the basis of money, according to the court, they are affected with “public interest.”  Uh-oh.  And because they are a matter of public interest, they must be within the scope of Congress’ “plenary” (total) power to regulate money.  From this, the court then upheld the government’s action of taking Campbell’s gold—his money—as a valid exercise of the government’s sovereign power of “eminent domain” (the power to seize property):

“The frontiers of necessary action by the federal government are constantly shifting, and, as a result, the methods of using federal governmental powers have to change from time to time, and hitherto unused powers have to be invoked to cope with the varied exigencies encountered . . . The incidence of the right of eminent domain, as will be seen from what is hereinafter said, is not, however, limited to commodities affected with public interest, but involves the right of the government to take private property of any kind when it is deemed necessary, by the appropriate authority, for the public good.”

Notice the dangerous thinking embedded in the court’s expansive language.  The limits of the federal government’s power are not fixed, but are instead infinitely flexible to allow the government to take action in response to the self-declared emergency of the moment.  And thus the government’s sovereign power of eminent domain extends to allow it to take anything from you it deems necessary for the public good.  Even your money.

But Rusty, we see eminent domain used all the time to build roads, and the government always has to pay fair compensation for what it takes.

True enough.  But without getting into the argument over whether people who have their land taken from them ever really receive fair compensation, consider that in this instance we’re not talking about a forced sale of land.  Nor are we talking about a taking for use by the general public.  We’re talking about the government taking your money for itself and replacing it with less money (or with what is arguably not even money at all).

Later in 1933 the government, having confiscated all the gold, took it upon itself to raise the exchange rate for gold to $35 an ounce, conveniently allowing it then to sell that gold internationally and claim for itself the profit it denied to the rightful private owners of that gold.  People who were forced to accept $20.67 in U.S. currency in exchange for their gold in effect took an immediate 70% loss, as illustrated in what became some of the “Gold Clause Cases” decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1935.  The plaintiff in Nortz v. United States, 294 U.S. 317 (1935) was denied the difference between the value of his gold on the open market and the dollar face value of the currency he was given in compensation for its confiscation.  In Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 330 (1935), the plaintiff was denied the difference between the gold value of a U.S. Treasury Bond originally payable on its face in gold and the devalued dollar face value of the bond.

For the next 40 years, private gold ownership was illegal in the United States.  Although U.S. currency was technically backed by gold held by the U.S. Treasury, you couldn’t actually redeem it and collect that gold.  In the mid-1960s the Treasury phased out silver coinage.  In 1971 President Nixon officially ended the gold standard; since then, neither gold nor silver have been considered money in this country.  With no tie to an objective value, U.S. currency became “fiat” money—money that has value solely because the government says so.  And because it’s not subject to being redeemed for gold (or silver), the government can then print as much as it wants, because there’s no risk of a run on inadequate gold reserves to back it up.  Of course, like anything else when you increase supply (in this case, by printing more dollars) you drive down its price; in the case of dollars, that means inflation—the same number of dollars buys less than it used to.

Thus, the government was able to take people’s money in the form of forcibly confiscating their gold in exchange for devalued currency.  Then the government was able to take it again (and again, etc.) by printing fiat dollars resulting in inflation that made the paper money that replaced the gold worth less and less.  This illustrates the problem with an unbridled power of the government to just take what it wants in the name of what it says is the “public interest”: your private property is no longer safe.

George Will wrote yesterday about a disturbing case in Virginia where Old Dominion University has commandeered the City of Norfolk to use its eminent domain power to seize private land, not for public use, but for the University’s use.  And although your ability to own gold was reinstated in 1975, there’s precious little to stop the government—potentially by executive decree of the President—from confiscating it again just as FDR did in 1933; only this time they’ll be compensating you not with devalued gold certificates, but with inflationary fiat currency.  Indeed, what’s to stop the government from then seizing your fiat money accounts themselves and compensating you with 20 year Treasury bonds?  We’ll have gone from gold, to gold certificates, to Monopoly money, to IOUs.

What happens when there’s nothing left to seize?

The New Obamacare Trap

“Relax,” said the night man, “we are programmed to receive.”

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

            —Eagles, Hotel California

I know then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told us we’d have to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it.

But wait ‘til you get a load of this.

Most of the discussion over the last couple of years about Obamacare has centered on the individual mandate and the contraception coverage requirement.  But while the public attention has been focused on those issues, somewhat under the radar most of the attention of the benefits professionals who have to understand and implement the mechanics of Obamacare has been focused on the obligations the new law places on the employers who will have to provide most of the mandated coverage.

Without getting too deep into the weeds, under Obamacare, all employers with 50 or more full time employees (“full time” defined for these purposes as 30 or more hours per week) must offer health care coverage meeting minimum federal standards.  Any that don’t must pay a fine of $2,000 per employee after the first 30.  This was always the first problem with Obamacare and the President’s outright lie that “if you like your coverage you can keep it,” because in many instances it’s cheaper for the employer to pay the fine than to provide the coverage.  With this as the new environment beginning in 2014, some businesses will make the very rational, and in some cases economically necessary, decision to drop coverage—coverage their employees may well have liked—in favor of simply paying the penalty.

But in some lower-margin industries like the restaurant business, even paying the penalty simply isn’t a viable financial option.  Well, if you’ll look again at the defining threshold for triggering the requirements, there are a pair of obvious alternatives for businesses that find themselves in that situation.  One is to lay off employees until they get below 50 (or, for a growing business, stop hiring at 49).  The other is to cut employee hours to a maximum of 29 hours a week so they’re not “full-time.”  Either option gets the business under the threshold of 50 full time employees such that the mandate doesn’t apply.  And many businesses—Dardens Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster), and some Wendy’s and Taco Bell franchises, among others—are now starting to do precisely that.

As an aside, notice the perverse “unintended” effect here.  Employees in these businesses are typically low-income people: fry cooks, waiters, etc.  These are the very people Obamacare was supposed to help by getting them employer-sponsored coverage.  Instead, as a direct consequence of Obamacare not only do they not get the employer-provided medical insurance they were promised, they’re having their already low incomes reduced by having their hours cut or losing their jobs altogether.  With lighter or nonexistent paychecks, they’ll then be shunted off into Medicaid under the individual mandate.  Of course the real irony here is you know the majority of these people voted for this crap.

Be careful what you wish for, ‘cause you just might get it all.

There’s a similar phenomenon happening in the medical device industry, which employs some 400,000 people in the U.S.  Now, these are typically higher income earners, but the essential problem is the same.  Medical technology companies are faced not only with the mandate to provide coverage or pay the penalty, but effective the first of this year they also must pay an additional 2.3% excise tax under Obamacare.  In response, publicly traded medical device companies cut 7,000 jobs in 2012.  A recent survey indicates that 62% of those surveyed plan additional layoffs or reduced hiring in 2013.  All to offset the tax.

Well, it appears that all this hasn’t been lost on the Obama administration, and it’s not going to let them get away with it.  The IRS has now released a 144 pages of new regulations that included an announcement that measures would be coming to stop employers from taking these steps to avoid the impact of the Obamacare employer mandate.  What does this mean?  It means the IRS will begin levying penalties against employers who initiate layoffs or reduce hours in order to get below the thresholds that trigger the mandate/penalty dilemma.

Of course, all of this only applies if you’re already over the 50 full-timer limit; if you have only 49, none of it matters to you (as long as you don’t grow your business).  As a result, you could see an Olive Garden with 50 employees facing tens of thousands of dollars in federally-mandated additional costs, while the Chili’s next door with only 49 employees incurs none of those costs, and the Olive Garden has no way to correct the competitive imbalance; once over 50, always over 50 (at least as far as the fines are concerned).

So here’s the trap in which some businesses will now find themselves caught:

  • The government requires them to provide health insurance they can’t afford.
  • If they don’t provide it, they’ll have to pay a penalty they can’t afford.
  • If they try to trim staff so the law doesn’t apply, they’ll have to pay a different penalty they can’t afford.

That doesn’t leave many options, and the simple fact is that some businesses won’t be able to afford any of it; they’ll be forced to close.  I expect more than a few business owners who could afford the penalty will refuse to pay it and close out of spite.

This is truly terrifying.

Many of us on the Right, like voices crying in the wilderness, tried to warn about this.  You now have a federal government that although it lacks the power under the Commerce Clause to compel you to engage in a commercial transaction, it can tax you if you don’t.  That same federal government is forcibly imposing costs on businesses, then threatening to impose fines if those businesses try to restructure themselves to get out of it.  We gotcha now.  And here’s the really sick part:  Obama and the Democrats created this Frankenstein’s monster of a health care law, and now the administration is sending the IRS after people to fine them for acting under the terms of the law as Obama and the Democrats wrote it.  Not only are they over-regulating, but now you can’t even avoid their laws/fines by complying with them.

Obamacare is a disaster.  It is a vicious assault on individual economic liberty and religious freedom.  It is an unconscionable abuse of the Constitution.  It will prove to be a strangling albatross around the neck of the economy.  And not only will it never achieve the stated objective of providing health care insurance to [pick your number] of uninsured Americans, it will actually be counter-productive to that end.

We’re caught in a trap; we can’t walk out.

Form Over Substance

“I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight.  It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either.  ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance.  Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

            —Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky

 

One of the better columnists out there is Charles Krauthammer, and it is a rare occasion indeed when I dare to disagree with him.

This is one of those times.

In his latest piece at Jewish World Review (h/t to my buddy Brutus), Krauthammer argues that there is no real fundamental split in the GOP; that the divide is simply a matter of tactics, rather than one of substantive philosophy on policy.  One camp, as Krauthammer views it, is committed to fighting the President and the Democrats on shrinking government and reducing spending, even though they only hold a majority in one half of one branch of government.  The other camp—that of the GOP establishment (Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader McConnell, et al.)—views resistance as futile, and therefore eschews the fight in favor of capitulation.

Krauthammer takes the view that the latter position is the only practical alternative.  Either way, he says, the GOP is going to lose on the budget/debt issue, and if they press the issue and stick to their guns they’ll not only lose but take the blame for being obstructionists.  So rather than lose and come away with egg on their face, he argues that the pragmatic approach is to accept that you can’t govern from this position, and offer a watered-down short term proposal that cannot be refused.

In other words, roll over and punt.

I hold Mr. Krauthammer in the highest regard, but respectfully I could not disagree more on this one.  First, the situation as he describes it in fact does reflect a fundamental substantive split.  Either you hold to a conservative fiscal philosophy or you don’t.  If you do, that’s not subject to compromise (or, in this case, all-out abandonment) simply because 51% of the country (or, more to the point, 51% of the votes that got counted) elected Obama.  There are those in Congress who actually do stand on conservative principles; the GOP establishment simply isn’t among them.

Second, Krauthammer’s position that even if you resist you’ll end up losing depends on his assumption that at the eleventh hour even the resistance will be forced to cave in.  Why?  If you’re going to resist, resist.  If they have the votes to pass something over your objection, let them do so; then they own it and you can rub their noses in it before the public when it fails, something you can’t do if you’ve capitulated, because they’ll cast the policy as bipartisan.  If they don’t have the votes, then you’ve won by stopping a bad policy—it’s not a loss if nothing happens.  It’s OK for Washington to stop.  A legislature doesn’t HAVE to legislate.

Third, I think Krauthammer may be being a little naïve here.  There is no middle ground compromise to be made, and no offer that cannot be refused.  Obama and the Democrats have made it clear that they are not going to negotiate on anything.  It is a fool’s errand to try it.  Look back to the original debt limit discussions in 2011: the entire thing consisted of Boehner making revised offers and Obama telling him to “spit higher.”  The result, of course, was the “compromise” that led to the current problems with the debt ceiling, budget sequestration, and the “fiscal cliff.”  That’s just how it’s going to be with this President if you try to meet him in the middle.

Finally, Krauthammer’s concern over the GOP “taking the blame” is misplaced.  What is the nature of this “blame”?  Public opinion.  But what is that, really?  Nationwide polling asking about a global opinion of the GOP as a party is almost totally irrelevant, particularly now that we’re out of the Presidential election cycle.  Nobody in Congress, particularly in the House, represents the nation, or Gallup; the President is the only one elected on that scale.  Each member of the House is elected by the 750,000 or so citizens of his or her district.  The job of a Representative is precisely that: to represent the interests of those people, and no one else.  It’s not their job to compromise or go along to get along.  And it’s certainly not their job to concede the interests of the people in their district simply because they are not part of a governing majority.

And this is the real rub with Krauthammer’s argument (and it particularly irritates me, because he knows better).  He’s effectively accepting the premise that this country is a true democracy, that we operate on an absolute majority rule basis, and that anything 50%-plus-one wants, they get without opposition, dissent, or even discussion.  That, of course, isn’t the way our government was designed to operate, and in fact Krauthammer’s premise defeats the very point of that mechanism.  Rather than a true democracy, we have a constitutional republic, where power is distributed among three co-equal branches of government, and the legislative power is divided yet further into a bicameral (two houses) body.  The system is specifically designed to promote debate and opposition, and to protect the minority from the whim of the majority.

But all of that is lost if you simply punt because it’s more pragmatic to recognize that you can’t pass anything of your own when you’re in the minority.  If you’re not going to oppose when you’re in the opposition, then why bother showing up in the first place?   We could just say that everything was decided on November 6, and now the Democrats get to do whatever they want for the next two years; they can legislate via teleconference among their own caucus, and we don’t even need to convene Congress.

I’ve been making this point from the very beginning of Chasing Jefferson.  You don’t fight only the fights you can win; you fight the fights that need fighting.  You stick to your guns, and if you go down, you go down swinging.  Rather than worrying about being blamed for obstructionism, the Republicans need to re-learn how to present their case to the public.  The current leadership can’t do it.

The Democrats are going to do what they’re going to do.  The GOP doesn’t need to accommodate them.  It needs to be able to explain that, explain who owns it, and explain the cause-and-effect when it goes bad.

No Real Bias For Action

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

            —William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Once again, President Obama has demonstrated that he’s all political style, and zero substance.

On Wednesday—once again emphasizing the urgent need to take decisive action to save lives—he announced a series of executive actions he is undertaking unilaterally to reduce gun violence.  Further highlighting the importance that we do this to protect the safety of children, and in an impossibly cynical and sophomoric bit of political showmanship, he surrounded himself on stage with a bunch of grade-schoolers.  We have to do this for the kids.

It’s too bad that the executive orders he signed have essentially nothing to do with preventing gun violence.

Consistent with everything else this man has said over the last four years, the list—up to 23 items from the advertised 19—is chock full of vague platitudes like “launch a national dialogue . . . on mental health.”  What the hell does that mean?  In all, there were five items relating to data sharing and tracing (i.e., knowing which law-abiding citizens have guns, and where they go after a crime has been committed) two on research, two on safety standards and practices, and one each on the prosecution of gun crimes (again, after  the crime has already been committed) and administrative matters.  In fairness, three items related to training and response plans for law enforcement and school officials, although query how that’s in any way a legitimate federal responsibility or even prerogative.  But a whopping FIVE—basically a quarter of the entire list—dealt with issuing or clarifying new regulations under Obamacare.

Health care regulations are going to prevent gun crimes?  Really?

In all, roughly half the list dealt with tracking law-abiding citizens and the unconstitutional health care law.  Not surprisingly, Wednesday’s actions also included some $4.5 billion in new spendingBy all means throw some money at the issue.  Among the whoppers in the spending are $150 million for new school resource and guidance counselors, $50 million for schools to create “safer and more nurturing” environments, and $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.  I guess we’re now turning these people into either the new gun-control enforcers or at least government informants; they’ll eventually be subject to liability if they fail to turn someone in and that person later shoots someone.  Worse, the prospect that they in their sole judgment have the power to put people under federal scrutiny has to have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to go seek help when they need it.  Sounds like a positive step, doesn’t it?

Like so much from this President, Wednesday’s announcements contained a lot of noise, but at the end of the day didn’t do much.  I suppose I should be thankful that, at least for now, Obama has kept his exercise of Imperial authority to a relatively modest level on this issue.  On the whole it’s a bunch of nothing at least as it relates to the stated goal of actually preventing gun violence.  But at least he acted, and he did so within a month of the school shootings in Connecticut.

And boy, did it make for good political TV.

But contrast his swift, if meaningless, action in this instance with some other notable issues facing his administration.

It’s been now five years, and he has never presented Congress with a meaningful budget.  What little effort he has made in this regard has been routinely and unanimously rejected even by his own party.  Given his current insistence that Congress must raise the debt ceiling yet again and do so without placing any contingencies concerning reducing future spending, one begins to suspect that the underlying problem may be he has absolutely no idea what a budget is.

It’s been 129 days since the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in what now appears to have been a large military-style assault.  Four Americans were killed while the White House and/or CIA watched live via spy drone.  These were Americans that, unlike the children in Connecticut, actually were the federal government’s—and, more to the point, this Administration’s—responsibility.  Obama’s own State Department put these people in harm’s way, and kept them there despite obvious warning signs and repeated pleas for help.  Yet for all his talk about the urgency to take action to save even one life, President Obama hasn’t even had the temerity to address the nation on what happened.  Not exactly a bias for action there.

It’s been over two years since federal agent Brian Terry was killed near the Mexican border; yet another dead American.  Ironically, in this instance not only was Terry’s safety the responsibility of the federal government, but he was killed by guns; guns allowed into the hands of Mexican gangsters by this Administration.  Yet there’s still been no real explanation to the American public or to the Terry family, and no real fallout from the incident.

We are still in Afghanistan with no mission, even though Osama Bin Laden was killed nearly two years ago.  Meanwhile, over 1500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s four years and three weeks on the job.  That’s nearly three times more than killed during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, in half the time.  Indeed, just in the time since Bin Laden’s death, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan has nearly matched the total Bush-era fatalities (606 vs. 630).

This guy is all about what makes him look good, and nothing more.  For all his flowery talk about saving lives, the actions he took Wednesday have little to do with that.  When it’s been time to face up to real issues in a substantive way, particularly when there’s no good political theater to be had, he’s a complete no-show.  Even on other issues when there’s been real action he could legitimately take to save American lives, if it won’t make him look good on TV, he’d rather just wait out the news cycle and hope everyone moves on to American Idol and forgets about it.

At least his handicap is going down.

Second Term Predictions Revisited

I know you’ve deceived me, now here’s a surprise

I know that you have, ‘cause there’s magic in my eyes

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles

            —The Who, I Can See For Miles

 

I am not a professional political pundit; just an opinionated guy with a burr under his saddle.  But sometimes I get pretty close to getting it right.  Unfortunately.

Back in April I posted my top 10 predictions if Obama were to get re-elected.  Well, he did (thanks, Mitt).  And while he has yet to take the oath of office for his second term, we can see that Obama has already made significant progress on a number of my predicted goals (albeit in some cases in slightly different forms than I forecast).  Let’s see how I did.

10.       Serious push for reparations.

No one in the White House has said anything about this out loud yet, but you’re already hearing something like it from other corners.  As I reported back in December, city council members in Detroit were calling for a federal bailout as the quid pro quo for 82% black Detroit’s overwhelming support of the President’s re-election bid.  They voted him in, and they expect to get some jack back in return.  Not quite “reparations,” but it’s close.

9.         EPA regulation requiring complete phase-out of gasoline engines within 10 years.

Back in April I told you EPA was proposing to increase the CAFÉ standards fleet average requirement.  In August, they did just that, raising the requirement from 34.5 MPG by 2016 to 54.5 MPG by 2025.  The idea is to reduce gasoline consumption (thus reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions) by forcibly reducing the amount of gasoline cars consume.  Of course when the CAFÉ standards were originally introduced in the mid-1970s, it turned out that increased efficiency drove down the price of gasoline, leading to more people driving more miles, which is ultimately counter to both stated purposes.  Not coincidentally, the lighter weight cars necessary to meet the standards have empirically resulted in approximately 3,000 more dead Americans every year since their implementation.

Forward.

8.         Open borders and amnesty.

Obama has outlined a broad plan for immigration reform that includes citizenship for some 11 million illegal aliens, a guest worker program, and a streamlined visa process.  He’ll say it’s not “amnesty,” because it makes them pay their back taxes; whoop-de-do.  Cow-towed Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner, and new GOP stars like Senator Marco Rubio are showing signs of support for at least pieces of this plan.  Obama will achieve effective amnesty before Labor Day of this year.

7.         More “stimulus.”

He hasn’t proposed this yet, but he has steadfastly refused to consider any meaningful spending reductions.  Meanwhile Congress moves forward with pork-laden plans to spend billions on Hurricane Sandy relief, hundreds of millions of which aren’t even directed to the same time zone.

6.         Increases in capital gains taxes and income taxes on income above $200,000.

Obama got most of this already.  In the “fiscal cliff” deal a couple of weeks ago, the tax rate for top income earners above $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples) goes back to Clinton-era 39.5%, and from 15% to 20% for capital gains.  And I doubt he’s done.

5.         Elimination of 401K eligibility for higher wage-earners, and confiscation of retirement assets.

Nothing on this.  Yet.

4.         Re-introduction of Obamacare, with single payer.

This was rendered moot when Chief Justice John Roberts capitulated on the constitutionality of the individual mandate as a tax (failing to explain, of course, how Congress can have the power to compel behavior via a tax when the Commerce Clause didn’t extend far enough to give Congress the authority to regulate that very behavior).

3.         Nuclear Iran, followed by major conflict if not world war in the Middle East.

Enter Charles Hagel, Obama’s nominee to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.  Hagel is nominally a Republican, but his foreign policy views—particularly on Iran—are to the Left of the President.  As a Senator from Nebraska, Hagel in 2007 voted against a resolution that would have labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, despite well-documented evidence of the IRGC’s involvement in killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Hagel has repeatedly opposed sanctions, and he pushed the Bush administration to open diplomatic ties with Iran, and for the opening of a U.S. “interest section” in Tehran.  Hagel believes military options should be totally off the table in dealing with Iran; even Obama isn’t that naïve.  And it should tell you everything you need to know that Tehran itself supports the Hagel nomination—and why not, since it signals that the U.S. plans to be a paper tiger over the nuclear issue.

2.         Federal ban on handguns. 

This is on its way, more or less.  In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, gun control has moved to the top of the President’s agenda despite a recent Gallup poll showing only a whopping 4% of Americans list it as the most important issue of the day.  Look for a possible ban on “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines (they’re “magazines,” not “clips”—stop saying “clip” unless you have an M1 Garand (and you don’t)), and increased registration requirements.  He may not get as far as banning handguns altogether, but the magazine ban would impact popular pistols like the Glock 19, Springfield XD, and Beretta 92 series.  Won’t stop gun-related crime, but it will tell the government where law-abiding citizens have guns.

1.         Dramatic shift leftward in the Supreme Court. 

This already happened to a certain extent when Chief Justice Roberts came out of the closet back in July.  What that gives you is a current lineup that actually already skews a bit left (call it 4-3-2), with only three Justices (Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas) consistently weighing in as conservative constitutional originalists.  Scalia and centrist Anthony Kennedy are both 75 or older, making them likely candidates for retirement over the next four years.  If Obama gets to nominate replacements for both of them, you’re looking at a Court that would bend Left at least 6-2-1 (if you give Roberts credit for being in the center, and not crediting him to the Left; it’s 7-2 if you don’t).  Worse, if Ruth Bader Ginsberg (79) and Stephen Breyer (74) also retire, the block on the Left would get very, very young, with all six (plus Roberts) likely to be under 60—you could see a heavy Left majority for the next twenty years or more.

So, how are we doing?  Of 10 predictions, five to some degree have already happened or are substantially under way, and we haven’t even reached the inauguration.  One has been rendered moot.  Two more show every sign of being on their way.

Check back in eighteen months and see where we are.

 

Fiat Out Of Control

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun . . . Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”

            —Chairman Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book

 

This is scarier than I thought.

Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting this week with his committee on curbing gun violence and various pro- and anti-gun groups.  On Wednesday, he emphasized the urgency of action:

“If our actions result in saving only one life, they’re worth taking.”

Only one life, huh?  To save even one life, it’s worth the Administration taking unilateral action; you sure about that, Joe?

You mean like sending armed help to save Americans trapped in a consulate compound under siege in Benghazi?   Or responding to urgent requests in the weeks leading up to that attack to increase security at that post?  Or closing it (as the British did) months earlier after it became clear that the situation was unstable and dangerous?  Are those the kind of life-saving actions worth taking, Mr. Vice President?

You mean like ending the occupation in Afghanistan and withdrawing instead of leaving troops in harm’s way for some undetermined period of time with no mission?  Or employing whatever means are necessary to obtain information about terrorist plots aimed at killing Americans?  Are those the kind of actions worth taking if they save even one life, Mr. Vice President?

Or do you mean like securing the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico borders against heavily-armed drug runners (drug-runners armed by your own Department of Justice)?   Is that what you mean, Joe?

How about stopping hundreds of millions in federal funding for 300,000+ abortions a year performed through Planned Parenthood?  Is that what you mean, Joe?

I assume you don’t mean ensuring that a stay-at-home-mom is in a position to stop an intruder and save her children when there’s no time to wait for the cops, do you, Joe.

Apparently some lives and some actions are more worthy than others.

But here’s the scary part.

The above litany demonstrates that these people are not serious about “saving lives,” which of course begs the question what it is they’re really up to.  And that’s what makes this so troubling, because Biden now says that the Administration’s zeal nevertheless to act and act quickly on gun control could include the issuance of undetermined executive orders:

“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.  We haven’t decided what that is yet.”

Wow.

I have repeatedly covered this President’s history of power abuse through the unilateral exercise of executive fiat (by decree: it is because I say it is).  But to date that’s been limited to unconstitutional usurpations of Congressional authority by effectively repealing legislation (Defense of Marriage Act), amending legislation (Obamacare (the CLASS Act), No Child Left Behind), or enacting legislation (DREAM Act) by one form or another of executive order.  Now we’re talking about the possibility of the President, acting alone under his sole authority as determined by himself, purporting to alter/restrict/eliminate (pick your verb) a right expressly reserved to the People of the United States in the Constitution.

Let me repeat:  we’re talking about the President limiting or removing a right specifically guaranteed to you under the Constitution, based solely on his own self-proclaimed power to do so.

Of course, nothing in the Constitution grants him that authority:  Article I gives the legislative power exclusively to the Congress; Article II limits the power of the President to executing laws duly enacted by that Congress; Article V provides the sole means of altering the Constitution itself, neither of which include executive fiat.  Yet there he goes (or is at least threatening), and if he can do that, where, exactly, are the limits of his power and who is to enforce them, because they’re obviously not to be found in the Constitution?

Now if that doesn’t have you good and puckered, let’s review a little history.  On November 9, 1938, anti-Jewish riots broke out all over Nazi Germany in response to the murder of a German diplomat in Paris.  This event became known as “Kristallnacht” (“night of broken glass”), and although Jews had been persecuted in Germany prior to this event, Kristallnacht is generally regarded as the beginning of the Holocaust in earnest.

On November 11—just two days later—Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick enacted the Regulations Against Jews’ Possession Of Weapons, which effectively banned all Jewish ownership of guns.  The next day, November 12, the German Jews were fined 1 billion marks to pay for the damage caused during Kristallnacht.  On November 15, Jewish children were expelled from public schooling.  Less than a year later, Jews were being rounded up and shipped to concentration camps.

Some six million Jews were killed.

No, Hitler didn’t come to power by seizing guns, nor did anti-Semitic persecution begin with gun control.  But when it came time to get serious about rounding up and disposing of perceived enemies of the State, one of the very first things the Nazis did was disarm their victims.  And they did it by administrative order—the stroke of a bureaucratic pen—not through the open deliberative process of a representative legislature in accordance with an objective rule of law (i.e., a Constitution).

The Nazi Germany experience is not unique, although it may be the most stark in terms of the temporal relationship between government disarmament and the institution of mass killings of potential dissenters.  There are numerous other examples of public disarmament followed by governmental mass murder of dissenters just in the twentieth century.

  • The Ottoman Empire began instituting restrictions on the manufacture or carrying of firearms in the late 1890s.  By 1915, local Armenian officials were ordered to collect (read: confiscate) quotas of guns, but faced a Hobson’s choice:  meeting the quota proved you were part of an armed conspiracy against the government, while not meeting it proved you were stockpiling weapons.  Either way, you were executed.  Ultimately the Armenian population was rounded up and force-marched to relocation camps in the interior of Turkey.  A million or more died.
  • The Soviets began requiring the registration of firearms in 1918, almost immediately upon taking power.  By 1925, unauthorized possession of guns was outlawed.  Stalin’s political purges and ethnic deportations between 1929 and 1953 led to some 20 million deaths.
  • The Chinese began instituting gun control laws in the early 20th Century.  In 1957, the Communist government banned possession altogether.  Between 1957 and 1976 about 20 million Chinese dissidents died at the hands of that same government.
  • Cambodia likewise had had gun restrictions dating to the early 20th Century.  When the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, they didn’t bother enacting a law—they just went village to village and took the guns.  Once the population was disarmed, the Khmer Rouge rounded up the intellectuals (i.e. the most likely potential dissenters), and force-marched them to labor camps.  About a million died.
  • In Uganda, the government banned unauthorized possession of firearms at least as far back as 1955.  By 1969, the country was under the control of dictator Milton Obote, who tightened the ban basically to cover everyone but those close to the government.  Idi Amin took over in 1971.  The Asian population was promptly deported and their property confiscated.  Some 300,000 political enemies were killed.

While it does not involve genocide, even our own history is marked by the efforts of a tyrannical government to disarm a dissenting public.  The first military engagements of the Revolution took place on April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.  Any elementary school kid can tell you about Paul Revere riding the countryside to warn the colonists and muster the militias against a column of Redcoats marching out of Boston:  The British are coming!  But recall what it was the British were after:  private guns.  They were going to seize weapons and supplies the colonists had stockpiled at Concord.

The White House’s threat to resort to executive action on gun control is a serious, serious deal.  And don’t hold your breath waiting for John Boehner and this Congress or John Roberts’ Supreme Court to stand up and stop it.  Ain’t.  Gonna.  Happen.

We, the People, are all that’s left.  We have to stand up and stop this, and we have to do it now, before it’s too late.

Join the NRA and your state or local association.

Call or write your congressman and your state reps.

And when it comes down to it, band together and refuse to comply.

Getting Serious About Cutting Spending

“Looks like there’s not a lot of options, kid.  Somebody’s gonna have to make the hard choice if we’re gonna get out of here alive.”

            —Morgan Freeman as Joe Matheson in RED

 

Just to recap, the national debt now stands at $16.4 TRILLION and climbing.  Last week’s “fiscal cliff” deal will add another $4 trillion, meaning it will top TWENTY TRILLION DOLLARS by the end of the Obama administration.  And the federal government currently borrows about 40 cents out of every dollar it spends, meaning it spends roughly 67% more than it takes in.

Now, against that backdrop we see that apparently the $632 billion in additional taxes built into last week’s debacle just isn’t enough for the Left; Nancy Pelosi and the Dems are now making noises about seeking an additional $1 trillion in new revenue (read: yet more taxes).

Where does this end?

Now I will agree that we are in serious need of some reform on the revenue side of the fiscal equation.  When the income tax was instituted in 1913, the Internal Revenue Code was just 400 pages long, roughly the length of a Harry Potter novel.  Today, that same body of law weighs in at a staggering 70,000 pages, and that’s exclusive of the thousands of court decisions and IRS opinion statements interpreting the law.  It’s no wonder that over half of Americans have to hire a tax professional in order to navigate the law and make some attempt at actually paying their taxes.  Moreover, one suspects the complexity of the tax code is a major reason the Treasury budget in 2011 was $532.3 billion.

That’s right kiddos: we spend over a half-trillion dollars a year on taking money from ourselves.

And this alone highlights the fact that the real issue isn’t revenue, it’s spending.  We’ve previously covered the fact that you can’t raise enough taxes to cover our spending.  There simply isn’t enough money to tax.  And yet the solution—in the interest of ensuring that “everyone pays their fair share,” and not making the middle class and the elderly bear the burden—is always more and more taxes (or more and more borrowing).

The District has for too long promised too much to too many, and far more than it actually had to give.  And what’s so perverse about this whole fiscal discussion is that the spending is not only the cause of the problem, it is now so entrenched as fait accompli that it actually becomes the justification for more taxes.  We see the same argument now coming from a number of corners on the debt ceiling debate.  They point out that the debt ceiling isn’t really about future borrowing, but about covering money already spent; you can’t argue about increasing the debt ceiling, they say, because that’s just paying off what’s already been done.  And so spins in a never-ending cycle of increasing spending, then throwing up the hands and saying we have to raise additional revenue (higher taxes/higher debt limit) because we already spent the money.

To be serious about addressing our fiscal problems, you must cut spending.  You must cut it drastically, and you must cut it now.  This is how you know nobody in the District (on either side of the aisle) is serious, because they simply never address this fundamental reality.  The best they do is speak in vague terms about “considering” spending cuts over time in the future, which really means at most reducing future spending increases.  That’s never going to get it done.

Any legitimate, adult consideration of the issue has to focus on the big ticket items:  Defense, HHS (Medicare), and Social Security.  These three alone cost $2.28 trillion in 2011, 59.7% of the total federal budget.  Add in another $532 billion for the IRS, and you account for three-quarters of all federal spending.  I submit there’s some room to maneuver here.

Let’s start with Defense.  I believe in peace through strength, and I understand that we have a legitimate interest in maintaining some global presence (or at least capability).  But come on.  Looking at the Defense Department listing linked in Wikipedia, and the DOD base roster, we have over 600 overseas military facilities in over 150 countries.  Pardon the unintentional pun, but that’s overkill.  I mean, do we really need a military presence (however small) in Nepal?  In Papua New Guinea?  In Chad?  Surely we can still project power and help our allies without stationing troops on every square inch of the planet—that’s why the Constitution gave us the U.S. Navy.

This massive global presence carries a massive price tag.  According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), our current defense budget not only ranks first in the world, it comprises 41% of the entire planet’s military spending.  We spend five times as much as China, the next biggest military spender.  We spend ten times as much as Russia, the next biggest.  In fact, we spend about as much as the rest of the top 15 military spenders COMBINED, and many of the others on that list are our friends.  Let’s cut that budget by 40% by putting an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, closing the bases in Japan and Europe, and turn it back over to the rest of the world to defend themselves.  And just to put it in context, a 40% cut would still leave us spending $444 billion a year, which is really only ratcheting back to about 2005; we’d still be spending three times as much as China, and twice as much as China and Russia combined.

We can parallel that 40% cut in HHS, through serious rollbacks in Medicare and other unconstitutional “services.”  As with Defense, this cut isn’t as harsh as it sounds, as it reflects only a return to 2005 spending levels.  And if you reformed the Tax Code as I suggest, my guess is the Treasury budget could be cut in half (probably more); $266 billion a year is still more than insane.

Other big-ticket agencies that, frankly, it’s difficult to see what they do anyway, could take cuts of 50% to 67%, and for the most part would only be returning to the levels of the Bush 43 administration: Agriculture, Education, Energy, HUD (I would cut entirely), Labor, International Assistance, and the Office of Personnel Management.  One could make a strong argument for doing away with most of these agencies altogether.  I mean, what do they do, really?  The Department of Agriculture doesn’t grow anything (if anything it subsidizes farmers not to grow).  The Department of Education doesn’t educate anybody.  The Department of Energy mostly impedes the production of energy.  HUD doesn’t house anybody.  And so on.  So why do we pour hundreds of billions of dollars into these things year after year?

That leaves Social Security and the remaining “other” spending.  Social Security needs an overhaul, but it’s sticky because for all its problems you are talking about beneficiaries who spent a lifetime contributing into a system based on the promise that they’d get that money back.  We can’t renege on that.  Any reform would have to come over time, and it will require a younger generation accepting the difficult premise that they’re going to have to contribute in and NOT get anything back.  But surely the SSA can find 10% of waste it can trim.  As to the rest of the budget, I think a 20% haircut is a modest request.

These are big-ticket cuts on big-ticket items, and that’s the only way you’re going to get serious progress on correcting our financial situation.  All together, these proposed cuts would yield a budget of about $2.4 trillion—still a huge federal edifice, but a good start towards getting things back under control.

But more than a few in the District are going to have to own up to the problem like grownups, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.