Monday, July 16, 2012

Will Barack Obama bring back slavery to the United States?

Without a doubt November is going to bring us the single most important election in the United States since 1860. At that time too the country was on the verge of an irreparable breach, and by the time Lincoln was inaugurated in March of 1861 seven of the eleven eventual confederate states had seceded, with the remaining four gone two months later.

I’m certainly not suggesting that the United States is going break apart if Barack Obama defeats Mitt Romney. When citizens go into the voting booth in November they are certainly not being asked to choose between Stars and Bars or the Stars and Stripes. If the choice were that stark, if the choice were that clear, even the most brain dead Americans could figure out who to vote for.

The fissure today is far more subtle. Fully half the population doesn’t pay any income taxes and many of those people are on the government dole. Government debt is 100% of GDP and at the current rate will reach 200% in a little over a decade while inefficient government spending takes up a quarter of GDP annually. Government regulation at all levels threatens not only to strangle the struggling private sector, but more and more individual freedom itself.

While far less stark than what the country faced in 1860, the consequences for the American people are no less as great. Although there is nothing the government does today that is the equivalent of the viscous and inhumane institution of slavery, in the long run an unfettered government is no less dangerous. Indeed, egalitarianism was a staple of Soviet propaganda for decades but the Kremlin’s statist policies cost tens of millions their lives and hundreds of millions their freedom.

Given the explicit choice between slavery and freedom Americans are smart enough to choose freedom. The question is, with such an explicit distinction absent from the ballot, can they make the right choice?

How many Americans want to spend over half of every workday toiling just to pay for government? How many Americans want to pay taxes so that 50% of their fellow citizens don’t have to? How many Americans are satisfied postponing vacations, clipping coupons, working overtime and choosing shank or chicken over tenderloin just so the government can take money out of their checks to give people with cell phones, multiple TVs, air conditioners and satellite dishes? How many people want government deciding what companies can make, who they can hire or telling them how to run their businesses?

But of course none of those choices will be written on any ballot. They will be there nonetheless, and that is the challenge. Are Americans willing and able to look beyond the glittery Hollywood produced commercials, the endlessly fawning media coverage and the unceasing appeals to “fairness”, and of course the ubiquitous “Hope and Change”, to understand that the real choice is simply between freedom and slavery. Not slavery in the sense that blacks are going to be fitted for shackles while whites enjoy mint juleps as they sit on their porches, but rather all of us are on the road to slavery where the overseers are government bureaucrats who tell you what you can eat, where you can live and what you must buy. At the same time the government masters will confiscate ever increasing amounts of your money to pay for things you would never pay for yourself. And of course don’t forget about your guns too.

In the ultimate irony, it is under the banners of “rights” and “fairness” the government is simultaneously turning the American population into a nation of sharecroppers. Sharecropping was of course the tactic of usurious rents and loans that indebted the newly freed slaves to the land they worked and made it almost impossible to exercise their newly granted freedom. The more money the overseers spend the deeper is the crushing debt the not so free American citizens must toil to service.

In the United States the whole concept of slavery has a racial connotation rightly imbued with violence and oppression and heartbreak. The slavery that lays ahead with Barack Obama’s progressive America doesn’t have that racial component, nor does it bring to mind the heart wrenching images that most of us associate with the word. The reality is however that statism has a long history of equally barbaric images, from the Soviet Union’s gulags to Communist China’s slave labor system to the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields. In those cases, the slavery was imposed at the tip of a bayonet. Here it is being welcomed in via the ballot box by people who are caught up in the anti-capitalist propaganda disguised as “hope and change”.

The assertion that the progressive policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats are nothing but Communism Lite invariably brings charges of hate speech and racism. So be it. That doesn’t make the assertion any less true. The simple question is, are enough Americans able to see through the thinly veiled pleas to “worker’s rights” and “fairness” to recognize the hammer and sickle below and the slavery that comes with it?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is an election a gift for a job well done or a choice about the country's future?

Throughout any given day I normally catch bits and pieces of three or four different talk radio shows during the day. From Rush to Boortz to Hannity to Michael Medved and an occasional Mark Levin peppered in. All are brilliant with their own styles, but sometimes they overlap. At some point last week most of them invited listeners to call in and explain why they support Barack Obama. Invariably the callers sounded like buffoons, and it had nothing to do with anything the host said. In fact, heard Neal Boortz give a number of callers a full uninterrupted 60 seconds to explain their position. It didn’t help.

Now, there are lots of reasons someone might not sound good on the radio. Sometimes callers get nervous knowing that millions of people are listening to them. Other times they miscalculate how long they have and stumble to get through their points. And the truth is, not everyone has the gift of gab and often simply don’t express themselves well. Despite those caveats, the reality is that most callers who say they support Barack Obama have a very difficult time explaining why. He killed Osama Bin Laden, he saved the auto industry, Obamacare will guarantee healthcare for everyone and he ended the war in Iraq are usually the four main points.

Interestingly, regardless of their veracity, all of those reasons are backward looking. They’re looking to reward the President for things already done. Rarely do you hear Obama supporters say things like “He’s going revive the economy” or “He’s going to jumpstart the American jobs engine” or even “He’s going to lower gas prices or taxes”. And you never ever hear them talk about their candidate reducing government regulations.

Romney supporters on the other hand, can be equally disingenuous: “He’s not Obama.” The difference is, however, typically those supporting Romney are not doing so to punish Obama – although there are certainly those – but rather because they see what Obama and the Democrats have wrought on the country and they want a change of direction.

And that is the key. An election is not about thanking someone for a job well done… or even the Alice in Wonderland perception of a job well done… but rather a Presidential election is about doing what’s best for the country over the next four years. If hiring a President was a reward for a service rendered, John McCain would be president. He served in the Senate for decades, he authored one of the most important (not to be confused with good…) pieces of legislation in decades and he proved his valor and mettle during five years in a North Vietnamese prison. No, Americans elected Barack Obama because he told a story that inspired millions of followers and supporters. If nothing else, Barack Obama was a brilliant campaigner, albeit with a great deal of support from the media.

But there’s a difference between inspiring a political movement and actually doing a good job of governing. On that score, Barack Obama has been a complete and utter disaster. On virtually every facet of the job, he has failed, and done so miserably… with the exception of not screwing up the plan to find and kill Bin Laden. From the millions of lost jobs to an economy that’s stuck in park to billions lost in his green job boondoggles to $5 trillion in new debt, the Obama administration has been an abject failure. And that doesn’t begin to address the tyranny of the growth of government regulation he has fostered.

That discontinuity between candidate and executive is at the heart of the decision Americans are being asked to make in November: Barack Obama is a brilliant candidate, but a disastrous executive while Mitt Romney is barely adequate as a candidate but has a proven record of success as an executive. Do voters want someone who talks a good game but actually manages it poorly or would they rather have a guy who mumbles his words but actually manages the game very well?

The key to the White House comes down to this: Are those voters who were willing to overlook the holes in Barack Obama’s resume in 2008 in order to make a leap of faith in an historic election going to overlook the fact that those very holes are today filled in with failing marks? There’s an old saying “Trick me once shame on you… trick me twice shame on me.” Let’s hope they’ve learned Barack Obama’s tricks over the last four years…

Monday, July 2, 2012

There is no silver lining: Justice Roberts' despicable Obamacare decision

In March of 1937, in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish erstwhile conservative Justice Owen Roberts suddenly began voting to support New Deal legislation. His change of heart was the beginning of what became known as “The switch in time that saved nine.” His sudden reversal was in direct response to FDR’s threat to pack the Court in the face of the Court’s resistance to the President’s sweeping progressive agenda. From that point forward the Constitution ceased to be a significant barrier to anything FDR wanted to do.

Fast forward 65 years and another erstwhile conservative Justice Roberts makes the same switch. For similar reasons – although President Obama has not yet called for a modern day “Court Packing”, he has frequently assailed the Court for its Citizen’s United decision, and strongly implied that the court would be guilty of judicial activism were it to overturn Obamacare, stating: “I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected congress.”

In the face of such attacks, Chief Justice Roberts voted to preserve the legitimacy of the court by voting to support Obamacare. To support his decision, Chief Justice Roberts chose to reached back 85 years to Blodgett v. Holden so that he can quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “the rule is settled that as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the Act.” For it to have been so compelling for Justice Roberts to depend on it so strongly, one might expect that Justice Holmes’ edict must surely have come straight out of the Constitution, or at a minimum must have been simply “codifying” some long settled precedent reaching back to the time of the Founding Fathers. Actually, not so much. Justice Holmes was really only drawing on decisions that had been around for less than 20 years, starting with US v. Delaware & Hudson in 1909. In other words, Justice Holmes was claiming his actions were supported by settled law when in reality they were nothing of the sort.

This leads to something of a detour… The left is constantly suggesting that the country cannot possibly be governed by the words in a document that was written by a bunch of rich white guys 225 years ago. Imagine, television didn’t even exist then… The Constitution said slaves counted for only 3/5 as much as free men for taxation and representation purposes. Most people worked for themselves on farms and got their water out of wells and Virginia, the most populous state in the nation had a mere 747,000 people, 30% of whom were slaves. No way those old guys could have known anything about modern America.

The question I see in this case, however, is thus, if the 225 year old Constitution, which was ratified by each of the original 13 states, cannot be counted on to determine the limits of government power, what makes an 85 year old precedent voted on by 4 guys in 4 to 4 decision that much more compelling? Maybe because the world was so much more modern by then? Except that television still didn’t exist and most people were still living on farms, getting their water from wells and Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet. Maybe precedent trumps everything... Except it doesn’t: Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy v. Ferguson after a mere 58 years.

At the end of the day, Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion that Justice Roberts’ decision is “one of the great constitutional finesses of all time”, the reality is that it is nothing of the sort. It is at its base judicial activism in its most despicable form. In the face of explicit and frequently and vociferously stated opinion of the President and the legislators who passed Obamacare, the law was not a tax. It passed with its advocates telling the American people stating that the power to pass it came from the Commerce Clause. Regardless, Chief Justice Roberts decided that the stated constitutional grounds upon which the law was passed were in fact unconstitutional. But in a pretzel like logic he stated that the legislation was indeed constitutional after all because Obamacare was really a tax after all.

What’s worse, while the Chief Justice had to reach back almost a century in order to find even the thinnest of grounds to find Obamacare constitutional, he had to compound his legislative contortion by suggesting that the mandate penalty was not a tax for the purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act – which states that a tax must be paid before it can be challenged. This was critical because none of the penalties would be due before 2014 and thus there would be no standing to sue to overturn Obamacare until then. He then immediately declared the penalty a tax for constitutionality purposes.

The Chief Justice had many options available to him in this case. He could have, as it appears he originally did, voted to declare Obamacare unconstitutional on the grounds that Congress does not have the power to compel anything like it under the Commerce Clause. He could have declared the mandate a tax and stated that there was no standing to sue until someone actually paid the tax. Each of these options would have been a straightforward constitutional approach that most citizens could have understood, even if they didn’t agree with it. Instead the Chief Justice chose to engage in the worst form of judicial activism. It wasn’t that he was supporting the legislative or executive branch when they suggest some flawed reasoning about how the Constitution gives them the power to do something. No, more disturbingly, he became an advocate for a piece of legislation and contorted its language and intent for the specific purpose of finding it Constitutional.

Those suggesting that the Chief Justice created some new Commerce Clause line in the sand across which Congress cannot venture are deluding themselves. He has just as quickly provided a roadmap for any marginally intelligent legislative aide to find a way around any such limits… “We can’t pass a law forcing them to eat broccoli or buy a planet saving electric car or limit them to one gun per household, but we can certainly tax the hell out of them for not complying.”

The first Justice Roberts’ change of heart opened up the floodgates to a tidal wave of government intervention and regulation that would not be matched until LBJ and Richard Nixon sat in the Oval Office. And we all know how that has turned out. One has to wonder what this second Justice Robert’s legacy will be... maybe it will be something like this: A judicial branch advocate for the legislative and executive branches against the Constitution and American people. That can’t turn out well. It makes me wonder if we may be finally testing Benjamin Franklin’s words about what the Constitution provided: “A republic, if you can keep it.”