Sunday, November 23, 2014

Will the Constitution Survive King Barack the Transformer?

What makes a tyrant? defines tyrant thus: A sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly.

In 1776 the 13 American colonies declared independence from just such a tyrant. Eleven years later the same 13 states came together to write a Constitution that was specifically crafted to thwart the emergence of a new tyrant. The laws were to be written in Congress, where discussion, debate and competing factions would keep them from consistently favoring one constituency over another. In turn those laws were to be executed by the President whose constituency was the whole country. That separation of powers and duties has been the key to keeping the United States as a free, democratic republic without a tyrant for over two centuries.

Tyrants rarely adhere to constraints on their power being imposed by anyone or anything, Constitutions included. If they did, they wouldn’t be a tyrant in the first place. At the same time they often don’t brook the slings and arrows of enemies very well either. After all, what self respecting tyrant can allow subjects to feel free to criticize him? Tyrants also often seek to hide what they are doing. Whether it’s a war against someone who has something the tyrant covets or the implementation of a controversial new law, tyrants often choose to obscure the truth of their desires in order to gain the acceptance and acquiescence of their subjects rather than tell them the truth and deal with possible rebellion. Basically tyrants usually do exactly what they want, regardless of what anyone else thinks… but sometimes they feel compelled to lie about it.

Barack Obama seems to have excelled in all of these areas of Tyranny 101. In the first place he sees little constraint on his power. The endless waivers, delays and changes to Obamacare are easily the most impactful example of Obama’s disregard for the Constitution’s direction that Congress writes the laws. Follow that with his “Executive Order” on immigration essentially providing amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and it removes any sheen of Constitutionality. Indeed, Barack Obama is on record 22 times having said he didn’t have the Constitutional authority order amnesty. But he went ahead and did it anyway.

Obama also shines in his treatment of his enemies. This week proof emerged that the administration worked to spike stories by Sharyl Attkisson that were critical of its handling of the Fast and Furious program. Not content with just getting stories spiked, the administration also decided to selectively criminalize the practice of journalism itself when it named Fox News journalist James Rosen as a possible ''co-conspirator'' in a criminal investigation of a news leak. Add to that the IRS’s intimidation of Tea Party groups and anyone who’s just a bit critical of the tyrant president might just want to start checking under their beds and in their closets before they go to sleep at night…

Then there is the lying and obfuscation. The last couple of weeks have been chock full videos popping up of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber telling audiences that the lack of transparency in the bill was critical to its passage, because if Americans knew its real costs it would never pass. So rather than tell the American people exactly what Obamacre would do, Barack Obama simply lied to them, reassured by Jonathan Gruber that the citizens were simply too stupid to pick up on it.

Tyrants rarely come to power telling everyone they are planning on ruling as a tyrant, particularly in ostensibly free nations. Instead they usually come to power by making grand promises of reward to a sufficient enough number of voters that they are welcomed through the front door. Once in power however, they begin to scheme and manipulate the levers of power so that they can accomplish their goals, regardless of the rules and regardless of any opposition. Indeed, they transform their perch from that of a servant of the people to a that of a ruler of the people. That is exactly what Barack Obama has done… and it’s only become more blatant the longer he’s been in office. With his amnesty move, coming so close after a decisive vote for the opposition, he’s finally demonstrated with unvarnished clarity exactly what he thinks of American voters and the American Constitution. The Constitution has been strong enough to whether crisis’s before. The paper itself is fragile but the ideas behind it have been extraordinarily resilient. Let’s hope both are strong enough to survive the reign of King Barack the Transformer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Barack Obama's Amnesty won't be legal, but it will likely be permanent...

Sometime over the course of the next week Barack Obama is likely going grant amnesty to millions of people who are in the United States illegally.

He’s doing this very much against the will of an overwhelming majority of American people. Not only do polls show that Americans are 3 to 1 against his giving amnesty to illegals, but his party, which very much supports his position, just got shellacked in voting booths across the country, at every level. Nonetheless, Barack Obama plans to do it anyway, because he feels he’s right… and because he can.

Technically he can’t really grant permanent amnesty because that would require the law to be changed. He’ll probably use his prosecutorial discretion to simply tell them that – at least while he’s president – they need not fear deportation. He’ll likely accomplish that by telling the DHS to basically look the other way and not deport those who are here illegally, depending on who they are, when they arrived, whether or not they have kids, etc. While as the chief executive of the government, he does indeed have the Constitutional power to tell agencies how they should act within the law, he does not have the power (legally) to tell them to close their eyes and arbitrarily ignore the law. Which is likely exactly what he’s going to do.

This action presents a variety of dilemmas. The first is the fact that Congress, not the President, writes the laws. (Although as demonstrated dozens of times with Obamacare, Barack Obama either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care about it.) For Congress, there is only one Constitutional remedy available to them: Impeachment. When Obama grants Amnesty to 5 million people next week, he will almost certainly have committed an impeachable offense. This however is likely to be a bridge too far for most in Congress. The result will be that for the next two years millions of illegals will come out from the shadows, will buy houses, get jobs, get married and begin living their lives as if they were in the United States legally. Which brings up the second dilemma.

In 2017, when a GOP president takes office he won’t be able to simply reverse Barack Obama’s Executive Order, as presidents regularly do when they disagree with the policies of their predecessors. While he’ll have the legal authority to do so, the Democrats and their media lapdogs will ensure that every newscast in America is filled with stories of downtrodden immigrants who have spent the last two years building a life founded on the American dream and how any politician who seeks to send him back home to Mexico or Guatemala is simply a racist. I would doubt there are many in the GOP who have the stones to stand up to such withering attacks and defend the Constitution… although I think Ted Cruz probably does.  Such is the spineless GOP... Even now, on the heels of one of the GOP's biggest victories in decades and at a time when Americans 75% against amnesty, soon to be Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already capitulated on the option of a government shutdown to address the president's overreach. 

Theoretically Congress does have one other avenue available through which it can pursue a remedy: the courts. This however is a very iffy proposition. The federal court system is extraordinarily slow, and given that Congress has impeachment as an option, the likelihood of the Supreme Court getting involved is rather thin. In addition, a split decision on the case (unlike US v. Nixon) declaring the Executive Order illegal would simply cause Obama to reword it and issue another.

Most despairingly for those who value the Constitution and the nation, Obama’s amnesty will likely have the impact of opening the floodgates of immigrants from Latin America. Already the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are reported to believe that Joe Biden has laid out the welcome mat for their citizens seeking to emigrate to the United States. In 1986 Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 2.5 million illegal aliens and the result was 20 million more crossing the border over the next three decades. In 2014, when Latin America is the home of 40 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world – including the 18 top spots, how many millions will follow after Barack Obama’s amnesty next week?

Finally, the dilemmas are not reserved for the GOP. If Barack Obama is allowed to blatantly ignore the law and simply choose not to enforce it, what will the next president be free to do? What if a GOP president directs the IRS to not collect capital gains taxes or estate taxes? What if a GOP president directs HHS to stop direct deposit of welfare checks, forcing those on welfare to stand in line at a government office to pick up their checks? What if a GOP president decides to stop enforcing civil rights legislation that he thinks is outdated? If Democrats have no problem with Barack Obama rewriting Obamacare or immigration law to suit his own needs, they will be hard pressed to not be seen as hypocrites when a GOP president chooses to do the same when he targets their golden calves. At that point we cease to be a nation of laws and become a nation of men, the exact thing our Constitution was established to prevent.

The United States has survived as a representative democracy for 225 years because presidents understood that they were not kings. Even presidents who might have thought they were, such as Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, in the end demurred to the Constitution when the chips were down. Barack Obama on the other hand has decided that even in the face of a blistering defeat he is going to implement his policies, Constitution be dammed. Let’s hope the next part of the Constitution he decides to ignore isn’t the 22nd Amendment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Obamacare, WW II and how hubris undermines citizen confidence in government

I recently heard a broadcast minute from Neal Boortz. He said the following:
During the 3 1/2 years of U.S. involvement (in WW II), here’s what we manufactured: 8 battleships, 22 aircraft carriers, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 4 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighters, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, 2.5 mil military trucks, 16.1 million men in uniform, and we developed the atomic bomb. Simply astounding.

“During this same period of time, three and a half years, it should be noted that Obama couldn’t put together a functioning website,”
That contrast is simply amazing. The difference between then and today is much greater than the stark numbers might suggest however. Not only did the government of the early 1940s figure out how to harness the productivity of the American economy to build an unprecedented war machine in record time, but at the same time it was able to employ those resources to defeat enemies entrenched on three different continents, each thousands of miles away from home.

As anyone who has even a minor sense of history knows, it takes more than hubris to actually accomplish anything of consequence. In the case of the Roosevelt administration, in terms of domestic policy they were very much full of hubris. It most clearly showed itself in FDR’s legion of domestic programs which not only didn’t end the depression, but prolonged it and kept unemployment in double digits for years.

On the war front however, it was a different story. Not only was there no hubris, there was a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty as to what the prospects were for success. Nonetheless, while partisan divisions persisted – FDR’s Democrats lost 47 Congressional seats in 1942 – the nation was united in its pursuit of victory. Everyone understood that it was all in. As a result, through a combination of government direction, private sector ingenuity and productivity, individual courage and effort, the United States was not only able to develop everything Boortz talks about, but to employ those materials effectively enough to defeat the combined efforts of Hitler and Tojo.

While not perfect, FDR’s execution of its war strategy was successful for a number of reasons. First, the government was operating in an area where it had a unique skillset, one where it had an unambiguous Constitutional role to play, and one where it could focus the resources the energy of the nation on a common goal. Second, there was a finite clear measure of success everyone understood and agreed upon: the defeat of the Germans and the Japanese.

The competence of the various role players and clarity of the objectives allowed the government to lead the country to achieve what some might call its greatest moment. Such triumphs are rare with government action, and it’s no surprise Obamacare is not among them. Obamacare is the polar opposite of WW II in every way, from start to finish… although in Obamacare’s case it’s never finished. Obamacare did not have a Pearl Harbor to unify a nation… it had dubious statistics manipulated by duplicitous politicians seeking to extend government power. Unlike in WW II, with Obamacare the government had no Constitutional foundation for its actions. And finally, there is hubris. At the beginning of WWII nobody, from FDR down to the greenest private in the Army knew how they were going to defeat the Axis powers, and they knew they didn’t know. But they were confident they would find a way. With Obamacare you had exactly the opposite. You had lying, manipulating politicians, power hungry regulators and their legions of ivory tower lackeys telling the country that they knew exactly how the healthcare market worked, exactly what to do to fix it and precisely what the results would be for the American people. They were extraordinarily wrong on all three, and spectacularly so. As Boortz notes, there was the years in the making website debacle. But then there were the promises of “You can keep your doctor” and a $2,500 reduction in healthcare costs that turned out to be actual lies. And perhaps most ominously, the geniuses in the Obama administration so badly misunderstood how markets work that today, fully a quarter of the country’s doctors have opted out of participating in Obamacare exchanges, and more are opting out every day.

And so it goes with hubris and arrogance, emboldened by police power, the government inflicts the consequences of both on the country’s citizens. From Obamacare to green energy debacles to immigration to the disaster of the VA to… pretty much everything else this administration has tackled has been a textbook demonstration as to why government should not reach beyond its powers laid out in the Constitution. If the citizenry’s view on the Constitutionality of a law is murky, perhaps one should tread lightly and not jam it down their throats. If half of the population is viscerally and vociferously opposed to a law, it might be prudent to move slowly rather than rush through a 2,000 page law no one can read. Finally, if there is no endgame, if there is no clear, objective measure by which government action can be determined to be successful or not, then it might be time to go back to the drawing board and reexamine the goals of the law in the first place. Without such clarity laws are either too broadly written or too ambiguously written and either way adds up to too much power in the hands of bureaucrats and not enough in the hands of citizens. And that's how hubris leads to a collapse of citizen confidence in government...