Monday, June 29, 2015

Obamacare, Gay Marriage and Disparate Impact - 25 Hours Which Will Live in Infamy

When historians look back on the collapse of the United States and seek to pinpoint the beginning of the end, they will no doubt look to the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. If they want to narrow the focus they will point to the period of his reign between 10:00 AM June 25th and 11:00 AM June 26th. Ted Cruz has charitably labeled this period as “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history”. It’s slightly more than 24 hours, but he’s spot on. In fact, he’s far too charitable, they are the simply the most destructive 25 hours in American history.

To some that is no doubt hyperbole, after all during Pearl Harbor 2,400 Americans died, on D-Day 2,500 did and on September 11th almost 3,000 Americans died. How is it even remotely possible that Supreme Court decisions giving gays the right to marry, the sick the ability to keep their healthcare subsidies and the government the power to fight discrimination could compare with the deaths of thousands of Americans? Tragically that is the question conservatives are faced with.

The answer, simply put, is that the United States Constitution is the rule of law for 320 million Americans and during one single 25 hour period last week Barack Obama and the Supreme Court cut out its very heart. They essentially eviscerated the document that has helped improve the lives of billions of people around the world over the last century and a half and provided the world with a great deal of stability and relative peace for the last 70 years.  Whether it’s American inventions or American industry or the American military, the United States has been a power for good – albeit an imperfect one – around the world because we had the strongest foundation of representative government yet established. While our Republic has been slow to react on occasion, the basic structure of individual rights protected by the Constitution and the powers ordained, assigned and limited by it have been the rock upon which the greatest nation in human history was built. On Thursday and Friday of last week the Supreme Court endorsed Barack Obama’s shredding of it.

On Thursday in King v. Burwell the Court destroyed the notion that words actually mean what they say. In the legislation that created Obamacare, Congress explicitly stated that subsidies could only go to citizens who purchased insurance on “exchanges established by the States”. When it turned out that many states refused to be coerced into creating such exchanges, Barack Obama simply decided the IRS would issue subsidies to everyone, even those who purchased insurance via exchanges not “established by the States”. Essentially the Supreme Court said “No problem”. As much of a problem as Obamacare is, this decision is far worse. Why? Because while Obamacare can be overturned, the Supreme Court has now set the precedent that the Executive Branch has the power to rewrite laws it doesn’t agree with without looking to Congress to pass constitutionally mandated legislation. That is literally a dagger into the heart of the document’s core separation of powers. Once the executive branch has the power to rewrite laws, what is Congress other than a convenient straw man target whenever a president needs to publicly justify his desire to act?

In a second case on Thursday, the Supreme Court decreed that Barack Obama can now decide where you live. Actually, that is hyperbole, but not by much. In Texas v. The Inclusive Communities Project the court decided that the president can use “disparate impact” to decide whether communities are guilty of discrimination, regardless of whether they have actually discriminated or not. (In this case seeking to protect employees or customers from convicted criminals counts as discrimination!) This literally means that the federal government can look at your community and if it doesn’t like the racial, ethnic or any other makeup, it can coerce the city or the municipality to changing it. I call it the Obamanization of your neighborhood. Let’s say you grew up in Southeast DC, a low income and high crime neighborhood of the nation’s capital. You start a business, find success and move out to McLean, a Virginia suburb of DC and one of the highest income and safest communities in the country. There aren’t many low income families in that community.  Too bad for thinking you could leave your past behind.  Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, even if no one in McLean ever perpetrated one single discriminatory act, if the feds decide the diversity isn’t quite right they can force the a change by coercing the community to build or provide low income housing or otherwise figuring out how to adjust the racial, ethnic or financial population so that it accurately reflects the government’s desires.  The government already had the power to tell employers who they must hire, they already had the power to dictate a schools’ diversity targets and now, thanks to the Supreme Court and Barack Obama they can now tell communities and neighborhoods what they must look like. After work and school, there’s not an enormous amount in life other than faith and families. How much longer before churches risk losing their tax exemptions based on their hue of their congregations and the government decides there are too many monochrome marriages taking place?

Finally there is Friday’s travesty of a decision. In Obergefell v. Hodges the Supreme Court decided there is a right to gay marriage, and in the process likely put a bull’s-eye on the back of the 1st Amendment. Essentially the Court created a fictional right that will trump a right that is explicitly protected in the 1st Amendment, and it did it while the country was in the midst of a vigorous discussion as to how to deal with the issue. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of American liberty; indeed it was the motivating factor for many of the people who founded this nation. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, that freedom is gone. Across the country we will see churches, bakers, photographers and service providers of all sorts finding themselves in jeopardy of losing their money, their businesses and in some cases their freedom simply because they are exercising their 1st Amendment rights and refusing to violate the tenants of their faiths.

And so it goes… the beginning of the end as the Constitution is shredded. Words no longer mean what they say, the government gets to decide where what our communities look like and courts get to invent new rights while deciding which others we get to exercise, even those constitutionally protected.

If one were drawing up the plans for a dictatorship based on the rule of man rather than a republic based on the rule of law, the 25 hours of Supreme Court folly last week make a pretty good foundation. That’s great when the man making the rules agrees with you… but what happens when the same freedom to act is in the hands of the guy who disagrees with you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Maybe the race problem in America is… the focus on race

The events last week in a South Carolina were tragic and heartbreaking. Those are the only words I can come up with that embody the senseless loss of life and the pain the family and community feels.

Unfortunately however that tragedy has spurred some misdirected anger… specifically as it relates to what everyone is (wrongly) calling the Confederate flag. Many people are suggesting that that flag is a symbol of hate and are somehow using its presence on the grounds of the South Carolina capital as a symbol of state or white approval of the things that motivated a 21 year old white man to murder nine innocent people as they sat in church.

The flag may or may not be a racist symbol; it depends on who you talk to. Whether it is or is not however has little bearing on this situation. If people want to take it off the state’s grounds they have every right to petition to do so. What might have been acceptable 50 years ago maybe isn’t today. Mores change over time. But the problem definitely isn’t that that flag somehow inspired that killer. That argument is specious. There are tens of millions of those flags in America and if somehow the flag was a symbol of such viscous, violent hate we wouldn’t be talking about nine black victims of one drug addled white man, we’d be talking about exponentially more… and doing so regularly. But we’re not. In reality, the opposite is true. It’s an aberration. White people in America aren’t regularly going around killing black people. According to the FBI, in 2013, of the 2,491 black murder victims, only 8% were killed by whites, and in this case Hispanics are counted as white. Compare that to the reverse where 49% of the 1,891 non-Hispanic white murder victims were killed by blacks. 8% vs. 49%! Whites are six times more likely to be killed by a black person than the reverse.

The entire meme of a nation beset by white racism is simply false, and focusing on the “Confederate” flag simply muddles the debate. If you want to get rid of the flag, go ahead, but don’t somehow blame the flag for this tragedy. The young man, like so many other mass murders, was on mind altering drugs. In addition, he wanted to start a race war… so did Charles Manson. Does that mean that we have to ban Beatles records? Taking that argument one step further, thousands of Americans have been killed over the last two decades by Muslim terrorists who explicitly point to the Koran as their motivation. Should then the Koran be stripped from the shelves of every bookstore in America and Islam banned from the public square? The flag in question may indeed stir up strong emotions; both in support and opposition, but taking it off a flagpole won’t solve the complex race situation in America.

The murder of nine innocents by a racist, drug addled crazy loner says nothing about American society as a whole. It says something about racist drug addled crazy loners. There always have been, and there will always be racists in our midst – and they come in all colors – but there’s a difference between a racist carrying out his evil plan and a nation that condones, tolerates or even supports such actions or thoughts. Across the country among both blacks and whites you see just the opposite.

Those who are looking to somehow solve the race problem in America by focusing on banning a flag from the public square are fooling themselves into thinking they are doing something of value. When there were no blacks in football we were told there was a race problem. Today 60% of NFL players are black. When there were no Fortune CEOs we were told there was a race problem. Today the CEO of American Express is black. When all the occupants of the White House were white we were told we had a race problem. Today, the president, his Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security are all black and we’re still told we have a race problem. Maybe the race problem in America is… the focus on race. In the case of this tragedy in South Carolina race was certainly an issue, and maybe it’s driving issue, but thankfully it is an aberration, not the norm. Trying to leverage an isolated tragedy into a vehicle to propagate the fiction that white America is racist is foolish at best and probably reprehensible as it distracts from solving real problems that Americans of all stripes face.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deer Hunting, Dependence and the Obama Youth...

I’ve never been a hunter. Somehow I can’t quite bring myself to be the one who shoot’s Bambi’s parents. I have a couple of friends who do however and I don’t really have a problem with it. One lives in New York and always seems to come home empty handed. Frankly I’m not sure he could bag a deer in a petting zoo. The other lives in Texas and he constantly tells me about the deer he’s shot. Not being a hunter I wondered what made New York so different than Texas when it came to deer hunting that someone in the former would be so much less successful than the latter. Well, it turns out to be technique. My friend in New York treks out into the woods, tries to camouflage himself and waits for hours in the snow and cold until he sees a deer. At that point he tries to shoot it… and usually misses.

My friend in Texas does things a bit differently. He apparently has a mechanized feeder of sorts. This feeder is timed to pour out a bit of deer food every day at the exact same time. Over time the deer figure out the schedule and simply show up to the buffet at the appointed time. Given this schedule, my friend, whenever he goes “hunting” simply goes to his property and shoots a deer or two. Once he has shot a deer the others scatter and will stay away for a while, but eventually they come back and my friend is back shooting fish in a barrel again.

There may be a lot of things one can call what my friend in Texas does, but hunting is certainly not one of them. This story came back to me last week when I read a piece about a school system in Pennsylvania that is going to begin providing free meals to every student in its system. This is not some needs based program providing lunches to students who might not otherwise eat on any given day. No, this is every single student in the system. What’s worse, the school will then be providing the fingerprints of students to the federal government under the guise of “accounting”. This school is one of the first to figure out that if it offers lunch to every student it will maximize the funds it derives from the federal government.  The rest of the Education Industrial Complex schools will no doubt follow suit soon enough.

Along with the deer, this whole thing also made me think of a meme that made its way across the Internet a few years ago. It compared the National Park Service’s missive about not feeding animals lest they become dependent on humans to the federal government’s aggressive policies seeking to increase the number of people receiving welfare and food stamps. Indeed the Park Service puts it rather explicitly: “Animals that are fed by people become dependent on human food, and may lose their natural fear of humans and their ability to forage for natural foods.” They don’t state that the same thing to humans… but it does.

So now with this latest not only do we have the federal government seeking to grow the number of students dependent on the federal government for lunch, but we also have them collecting fingerprints on the students. Ostensibly the prints are being taken for accounting purposes, and are not identifiable, but how much of a stretch is it to imagine a government that tracks virtually every phone call Americans make and regularly requests user data from ISPs and other Internet companies to start a database of students that can track things like the number of meals skipped, the number of visits to the school nurse or the number of times a student has been sent to the principal’s office or suspended?

It’s bad enough that the Obamacare keeps a person’s most sensitive data forever, now imagine that that data is somehow melded with data from schools about students with family and or discipline problems. Would the government step in to threaten parents if their children skipped too many lunches? Would they mandate lunchtime Al-Anon meetings for children of alcoholics? Would they use the IRS to ensure parents are spending enough money on “approved” extracurricular programs for junior?

While I’m quite sure the government doesn’t have exactly the same plan in mind for students that my friend in Texas has for the deer, the principal is the same. Use the gateway drug of lunch to teach young people that government is the fount from which all things come – food, condoms, healthcare, housing subsidies and EBT – and soon the government has them eating out of its proverbial hand. Just as the National Park Service warns that human fed animals may lose the ability to forage for themselves, a person who’s dependent on government for virtually everything in their lives ceases to be an objective, critical thinking citizen of the republic. They instead become foot soldiers in the government’s army as it seeks to accumulate even more power. Monitor your parents for racial insensitivity… Protest the homes of CEOs who don’t pay "enough" taxes… Refuse to use products from Company X because they provided funding to political group Y… Community organizing as government policy.

At the end of the day, becoming dependent on government is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it foretell lifetime of subsistence, more importantly it costs the individual and the nation the potential of a life driven by entrepreneurship, ingenuity and hard work, the very things that made the cancer of government largesse possible in the first place.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Post Obama Top 10 List For American Prosperity...

America has a love affair with Top 10 lists. Probably the most well known is David Letterman’s “Top Ten List” that began as a throwaway skit on NBC 30 years ago and soon became a cornerstone of his program, even more so when he later moved to CBS. There’s also ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day… and they even have a Not Top 10 list. And no walk through a grocery checkout would be complete with catching a glimpse of at least one magazine touting a Top 10 list of beauty tips, sexiest men or Hollywood divorces. Then of course there are the Internet’s ubiquitous click bait ads featuring “Top 10 things you didn’t know about…” this celebrity or that food or cute animals.

If nothing else, Top 10 lists are an attempt to focus attention… whether they are seeking to entertain audiences, sell magazines or drive online stats. They can however sometimes be things of consequence. This is one of those times, and this list is about more than just making viewers laugh or readers envious. It’s about the first ten (domestic) things the next president should promise to do immediately upon taking office from Barack Obama. While a complete list would no doubt be exponentially longer, a Top Ten list provides an opportunity to focus the attention of voters and candidates in the months leading up to next year’s election, and provide clarity about what a candidate’s priorities are.

Drum roll please…

Number 10: Refocus NASA on science and space exploration rather than “Muslim outreach”.

Number 9: Eliminate NLRB Ambush Election Rules – This rule is a giveaway to unions and dramatically ties the hands of employers seeking to present a balancing argument against unionization.

Number 8: Eliminate the HUD rule that seeks to “diversify” wealthy neighborhoods… or what I call the Obaminization of your neighborhood.

Number 7: Withdraw all NLRB lawsuits and actions seeking to apply Joint Employer legislation to franchisors. This position threatens the very foundation of the franchise model that has been so extraordinarily successful and has generated a countless choices for consumers, great wealth for entrepreneurs, and tens of millions of jobs across the country.

Number 6: Eliminate the EPA’s job killing and extraordinarily expensive rule requiring a 30% reduction (from 2005 levels) of CO2 emissions by 2030.

Number 5: Announce that the administration will work with Congress to repeal Dodd Frank… the disastrous legislative and regulatory leviathan implemented in the wake of the housing collapse.

Number 4: Repeal every Obama Executive Order pertaining to immigration and amnesty. Simultaneously announce that the administration will not engage in immigration reform until legislation is passed requiring work begin on a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego.

Number 3: Announce that the Department of Commerce will immediately cease all efforts to relinquish control over the Internet and, further, announce that the contract that comes up for renewal in 2017 will be written for 25 years to preclude another attempt to internationalize control over the Internet.

Number 2: Immediately move to have the FCC repeal Net Neutrality and utilize all administration resources to block implementation and enforcement in the interim.

And the Number 1 thing the next president should do upon taking office is to immediately repeal all executive orders and eliminate all waivers pertaining to Obamacare. Simultaneously the president should send a team to work with Congress to repeal Obamacare and replace it, with the goal of passing reforms that allow free markets and entrepreneurship to provide solutions to tackle the American healthcare situation.

Of course this will not be enough, as there would be myriad things remaining to be addressed such as the oppressive tax code and tax rates, a failed federal education bureaucracy and a stultifying energy policy… and of course a catastrophically dysfunctional foreign policy. But by conspicuously unfurling a standard with such a list, a candidate would quickly put voters and the nation on notice that with him, or her, economic freedom, entrepreneurship and the pursuit of widespread prosperity would once again be primary forces driving US domestic policy. One can only hope that after the long national nightmare of Barack Obama’s reign the country still remembers what prosperity looks like and is willing to pull the lever for someone who understands how to achieve it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Infographic: LFPR & the Unemployment Rate... when 5.5% isn't really 5.5%

One of the most misunderstood numbers in the economy is the Labor Force Participation Rate.  It is the 800 lb. gorilla when it comes to understanding the numbers relating to the American workforce.

The infographic nearby seeks to clarify the picture somewhat, comparing today's numbers to those if the LFPR was where it was when Barack Obama took office.

Here are some key numbers from the government:

US Adult Population  = 250 Million
(16+ not counting those in the military or imprisoned or institutionalized)

LFPR = 62.9%
(The percentage of the above Adult Population who are in the Labor Force.)

Labor Force - 157 Million
(Those working + those seeking work.)

Employed - 149 Million
(Those currently working.)

Unemployment Rate -  5.5%
(Those not working but seeking work.)

NILF = 93 Million
(Those not in the labor force... not working nor seeking work.)

By comparing today's LFPR to what it was in February 2009 we can see that the 5.5% unemployment rate is largely an illusion created by a growing number of people becoming discouraged about finding work or who have sufficient benefits from the government that seeking work is no longer a necessity.

And it's not because of seniors... they are the only demographic who are working at a higher rate today than they were in Feb. 2009.

Here is a link to a large file of the nearby infogpraphic, suitable for printing.