February 27, 2014
A Constitutional Tipping Point
In testimony before Congress yesterday, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School warned that America has reached a constitutional tipping point.
We are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. If balance is to be reestablished, it must begin before this President leaves office and that will likely require every possible means to reassert legislative authority. No one in our system can “go it alone” – not Congress, not the courts, and not the President. We are stuck with each other in a system of shared powers—for better or worse. We may deadlock or even despise each other. The Framers clearly foresaw such periods. They lived in such a period. Whatever problems we are facing today in politics, they are problems of our own making. They should not be used to take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for over 250 years.
Mr. Turley believes that President Obama has exceeded his authority and that our system of government with its checks and balances is threatened, and that means our freedoms and our childrens' freedoms are threatened. These are not the ravings of a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, but the concerns of a constitutional scholar with very liberal tendencies. As he said in his testimony,
As someone who voted for President Obama and agrees with many of his policies, it is often hard to separate the ends from the means of presidential action. Indeed, despite decades of thinking and writing about the separation of powers, I have had momentary lapses where I privately rejoiced in seeing actions on goals that I share, even though they were done in the circumvention of Congress. For example, when President Obama unilaterally acted on greenhouse gas pollutants, I was initially relieved. I agree entirely with the priority that he has given this issue. However, it takes an act of willful blindness to ignore that the greenhouse regulations were implemented only after Congress rejected such measures and that a new sweeping regulatory scheme is now being promulgated solely upon the authority of the President. We are often so committed to a course of action that we conveniently dismiss the means as a minor issue in light of the goals of the Administration. Many have embraced the notion that all is fair in love and politics. However, as I have said too many times before Congress, in our system it is often more important how we do something than what we do. Priorities and policies (and presidents) change. What cannot change is the system upon which we all depend for our rights and representation.
Unlike Mr. Turley, I do not believe that the accrual of power in the executive branch is a side effects of Obama's good faith effort to bring about policy change. It's the other way around. Policy prescriptions chosen by this president are calculated to enhance progressive power. It was always his plan to transform America, and so to accomplish that goal everything he proposes, from health care reform to action on climate change, requires enhanced regulatory power in government and reduced economic power for private citizens. The power of Congress, and of the people, is diminishing by design.
February 24, 2014
Piers Morgan Puffery
So, Piers Morgan gets canned, and David Carr of the New York Times thinks it's the accent.
There have been times when the CNN host Piers Morgan didn’t seem to like America very much — and American audiences have been more than willing to return the favor. Three years after taking over for Larry King, Mr. Morgan has seen the ratings for “Piers Morgan Live” hit some new lows, drawing a fraction of viewers compared with competitors at Fox News and MSNBC.
It’s been an unhappy collision between a British television personality who refuses to assimilate — the only football he cares about is round and his lectures on guns were rife with contempt — and a CNN audience that is intrinsically provincial. After all, the people who tune into a cable news network are, by their nature, deeply interested in America.
Oh, those provincial Americans. What's a brilliant, sophisticated Brit to do, asks the brilliant and sophisticated David Carr?
Old hands in the television news business suggest that there are two things a presenter cannot have: an accent or a beard. Mr. Morgan is clean shaven and handsome enough, but there are tells in his speech — the way he says the president’s name for one thing (Ob-AA-ma) — that suggest that he is not from around here.
Oh, If only we could get over that accent. Clearly, his departure from CNN is an opportunity lost for us American clods, but any hope that Piers would nudge us away from our provincial ways is gone now. And it's only because he's a foreigner! With an accent! According to David Carr, anyway.
While I may share his feelings about the need for additional strictures on guns, having grown up in the Midwest, I know that many people come by their guns honestly and hold onto them dearly for sincere reasons.
Mr. Morgan’s approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.
He regrets none of it, but clearly understands his scolding of “stupid” opponents of gun laws was not everyone’s cup of tea.
Perhaps "brilliant" and "Piers Morgan" don't really go together after all. But then you knew I was kidding about the "brilliant, sophisticated Brit" part. Come to think of it, the words don't really go that well with "David Carr" either. He agrees with Pier's attitude towards guns, but seems only dimly aware — in hindsight of course — that Piers might have made a mistake when he labeled a segment of his CNN audience "'stupid' opponents of gun laws." Sure, it sounded so good when he said it, but maybe it didn't help in the ratings war.
We don’t look for moral leadership from CNN, or from a British host on a rampage. Guns, along with many other great and horrible things, are knit into the fabric of this country,
No, "we" don't look for moral leadership from a British host on the rampage, but I'd be willing to bet that David Carr does. And he seems to wish we would, too. Tough luck, Carr. We ain't listenin' to no damn foreigner!
Another Dem Retiring
Michigan Democrat John Dingell is retiring after 58 years in congress, and he doesn't have kind words for congress on his way out the door.
In the speech, he had harsh words for Congress, calling it a "great disappointment to everyone." And he said the blame was with lawmakers and voters. "There will be much blaming and finger pointing back and forth, but the members share fault, much fault; the people share much fault, for encouraging a disregard of our country, our Congress, and our governmental system," he said.
Well, I'll go along with that. The voters share much of the blame, and as the longest serving congressman in history, he is the strongest evidence yet of voter culpability in the matter.
His wife, Debbie Dingell, 60, is said to be considering a bid for the seat, which is likely to stay in Democratic hands. Ms. Dingell is chairwoman of the Wayne State University board of governors and previously served as a senior executive at General Motors for more than 30 years. President Barack Obama won the district with about two-thirds of the vote in 2012.
So, there's not much hope that voters will rectify the situation anytime soon.
February 22, 2014
It's An Election Year
Still wondering why Jay Leno left the Tonight Show in favor of Jimmy Fallon? Leno was forced out. Here is a little snippet about it from an April, 2013 Washington Post column.
“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1,” Burke said in Wednesday’s news.
There’s one big difference: Carson shocked NBC suits in May of 1991 when he announced his retirement at an affiliate conference in New York. (That, following press reports NBC was concerned that Carson (who was in his mid-60’s) was losing younger viewers, and that NBC had guaranteed Leno the gig when Carson retired.
Leno, 62, on the other hand, is being told when to step down — again. Leno’s contract expires in ’14.
Leno didn't want to leave, but NBC forced him out. Leno's final broadcast was an emotional farewell. So, why did NBC want Jay Leno out? He was an equal opportunity joker. He was one of a very few in Hollywood who was willing to poke fun at Obama. On the other hand, in Jimmy Fallon Democrats have an activist ally.
The Obamas have had few more obsequious media allies than NBC's Jimmy Fallon. Now that he's taking over the hallowed ground of "The Tonight Show," Fallon's proven ability to spread his reach into viral videos on YouTube promises to become even more politically potent.
Fallon's Obama-friendly sketches and interviews have become immediate "news" grist for the Comcast corps at NBC and MSNBC. The same sensation happens when Fallon is ripping into a Republican.
Just as NBC and MSNBC were tearing Gov. Chris Christie apart over "Bridgegate," Fallon joined this political crusade by bringing on liberal rock star Bruce Springsteen for a jokey version of the hit "Born to Run."
Fallon and Springsteen sang clumsy lyrics that Christie was "killing the working man who is stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam." The YouTube video went viral, while the media played it up as another nail in the coffin they were building for Christie's career.
The NBC press agents are trying to paper over Fallon's political tilt.
Well, it's an election year. Timing is everything.
February 20, 2014
The Astonishing Influence of Barack Obama
Dateline: February 19, 2014. Barack Obama issues a stern warning to Ukrainian President Yanukovich
President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Ukraine to avoid violence against peaceful protesters or face consequences, as the United States considered joining European partners to impose sanctions aimed at ending deadly street clashes that are sparking fears of civil war.
“There will be consequences if people step over the line,” Obama said shortly after landing in Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, as fires burned in central Kiev. “And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step in to what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”
Dateline: February 20, 2014. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich responds to Barack Obama's empty threat.
Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day since Soviet times on Thursday with a gun battle in central Kiev as President Viktor Yanukovich faced conflicting pressures from visiting European Union ministers and his Russian paymasters.
Three hours of fierce fighting in Independence Square, which was recaptured by anti-government protesters, left the bodies of over 20 civilians strewn on the ground, a few hundred meters from where the president met the EU delegation.
Riot police were captured on video shooting from a rooftop at demonstrators in the plaza, known as the Maidan or "Euro-Maidan". Protesters hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive the security forces off a corner of the square the police had captured in battles that began on two days earlier.
Kiev's city health department said 67 people had been killed since Tuesday, which meant at least 39 died in Thursday's clashes. That was by far the worst violence since Ukraine emerged from the crumbling Soviet Union 22 years ago.
Obama opens his mouth, Yanukovich is a good to go with the riot police. Another Red Line that begged to be crossed — and in only one day.
February 08, 2014
Leveraging The Lack of Economic Education
Casey Mulligan, professor of economics at University of Chicago, studies the impact of government decisions on the incentives and disincentives for work. It so happens that Professor Mulligan's work had some influence on the recent CBO study that said the impact of ObamaCare would be the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs lost.
In response to the study Democrats, leftists, and their friends in the media are now claiming that job losses like this are a good thing.
Thanks to ObamaCare, we're told, Americans can finally quit the salt mines and blacking factories and retire early, or spend more time with the children, or become artists.
Funny, they didn't always think that way. As a matter of fact, ObamaCare was projected to create jobs, not destroy them. In 2011 David Cutler of Harvard and Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago put together a letter that was signed by dozens of left-wing economists. The letter said that ObamaCare would boost the economy, creating 250,000 to 400,000 jobs annually. Oopsies.
Well, maybe jobs don't matter after all. Especially the upside is a bumper crop of new artists! Whatever.
No matter the fallout from ObamaCare, we know one thing. Democrats and other lefties will say it's all good. OK, it hasn't fueled America's economic engine as advertised. So what if economy has been in the tank for Obama's entire administration? That's a good thing. And if it's not good it's George Bush's fault.
Mr. Mulligan reserves particular scorn for the economists making this "eliminated from the drudgery of labor market" argument, which he views as a form of trahison des clercs. "I don't know what their intentions are," he says, choosing his words carefully, "but it looks like they're trying to leverage the lack of economic education in their audience by making these sorts of points."
Let's see how that leverage works out come November. Sooner or later you might expect even low information voters to begin wondering about all the contradictions surrounding ObamaCare. Maybe not.
February 06, 2014
Advice for Republicans -- From James Carville
Well actually, his advice is for Democrats and it goes like this:
Oh, by the way, go negative, early and often.
But going negative is bad, isn't it? Nah. Democrats only say it is, and they that say so that Republicans won't do it. It tends to work. When Republicans point out Democratic failures in leadership, the mainstream media wring their collective hands and lament about the sad state of politics these days. Why, they wonder, can't candidates talk about the issues that matter to the American people? Haven't we talked about Benghazi enough?
Candy Crowley sure thought so back in 2012 when she dove out onto the Obama/Romney presidential debate stage to cut of any discussion about Benghazi when Romney was about to deliver a haymaker.
On the other hand, when Harry Reid accused Mitt Romney of not paying any income tax, that was just Harry talking about the issues. In support, the media jumped in to complain that Romney hadn't turned over his income tax returns for the last 50 years. Investigative reporters pondered, what is Romney hiding?
At any rate, the point of Carville's article was to say that as bad as things look for Democrats, it's worse for Republicans who are viewed negatively by a majority of Americans.
According to the Pollster average, two-thirds now disapprove of the Republican Party. We are not talking about Congress or even the Republicans in Congress. The party itself, the Republican Party, has a net -40 approval rating. With just a quarter of the country approving of the GOP, that means not even all of the party’s own members are giving it a positive rating.
There's a reason for that negative view, and it's not because of negative campaigning by Republicans. Democrats and the media have been waging a relentless and successful campaign to smear the Republican brand. It's been going on at least since Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, and it really heated up when Newt Gingrich orchestrated a Republican takeover in the House of Representatives in 1994.
Here's a clue, Republicans. Your approval rating is not going to go down if you engage in what the media calls negative campaigning. It's going to go down because Democrats and their friends in the media are going to be waging negative campaigns against you.
Wake up and smell the coffee. Your campaign issue is the Democratic party. Look what they've done to the country.
February 05, 2014
Our Casual Liar In Chief
Without batting an eye. When asked by Bill O'Reilly in his Super Bowl interview about why he opposed school vouchers, the president just casually lied the way he always does.
Asked by Mr. O'Reilly why he opposed school vouchers that "level the playing field" and "give poor people a chance to go to better schools," the president replied, "Actually, every study that's been done on school vouchers, Bill, says that it has very limited impact if any."
Mr. Obama said that the means-tested voucher programs in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C, "didn't actually make that much of a difference," and added, "As a general proposition, vouchers have not significantly improved the performance of kids that are in these poorest communities."
In fact, study after study using gold-standard random-assignment methodology has shown that vouchers not only improve student outcomes but have the biggest impact on low-income minorities. Here's a sampling:
The article by Jason L. Riley went on to list six different studies in which students who participated in the voucher programs showed significant gains over control group students. And the last of the six studies was one released by the Obama administration.
And the Obama administration itself released a report on the D.C. voucher program in 2010. "The students offered vouchers graduated from high school at a rate 12 percentage points higher (82 percent) than students in the control group (70 percent), an impact that was statistically significant at the highest level," according to a summary. "Students in three of six subgroups tested showed significant reading gains because of the voucher offer after four or more years."
It's about the money. Obama's problem with voucher programs is the threat they pose to public education labor unions. The unions are important to Obama because they funnel money to the Democratic party. The income stream is what matters to Obama.
What benefits Obama is what qualifies as truth, to the point where his dishonesty is ordinary, routine, just his usual practice.
February 04, 2014
Advice That Obama Would Never Take
Fay Vincent, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball, offers advice in the Wall Street Journal to new executives. Let me just pick a few of Mr. Vincent's ten tips that Barack Obama might have done well to heed.
5. The wisecrack you believe is witty often is not. Your sense of humor is easily misread as patronizing and clumsy...
I wouldn't call it a misreading of Obama's humor to say he's patronizing and clumsy. Sometimes he's downright offensive, never passing up an opportunity to impugn the motives of those who disagree with him.
7. Never complain; never explain. No one listens. Take the blame if something goes wrong. Do not blame mistakes on prior administrations, the weather, bad luck or your competitors. But don't appear defensive...
Barack Obama has never been at fault for anything, ever. Five years into the disaster that has been the Obama presidency, he and his crony Democrats are still trying to blame George Bush for all of their own mistakes and their own misguided and corrupt policies.
10. It's a cliché, but true: Never do or say anything that you would be unhappy to see written about on a newspaper front page. In dealing with the media, avoid answering hypothetical questions, remember that the microphone is never really off, and never agree to speak "off the record." The only worthwhile public response to a crisis is honesty.
The concept of honesty in a crisis situation is foreign to Barack Obama, because there is only thing that qualifies as a crisis in the Obama administration. That would be anything that threatens the Obama image. All else pales to insignificance.
Was the security situation in Benghazi a crisis? It was for Ambassador Christopher Stevens, but not to Barack Obama. Not nearly as important as maintaining the image of Obama as the scourge of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda was decimated and on the run, according Obama's chosen narrative. The Ambassador feared for his life, but his many requests for additional security were all denied. And then he and three other Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack.
But did their deaths amount to a crisis that required an honest accounting to the America people? Here again the crisis to Obama was the threat to the Obama image. So rather than the truth, we got a song and dance from Susan Rice, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton about how an obscure YouTube video caused outrage and ignited a spontaneous protest, and that was to blame for four dead in Benghazi.
Fay Vincent offers advice worth reading, but it's advice intended for leaders. We have none at the top of this Democratic administration. There are only liars, parasites, and con artists.
February 03, 2014
Deserves The Presumption of Innocence?
I suppose Nicholas Kristof deserves some credit for publishing Dylan Farrow's Story. On the other hand, there's little doubt that hers is the kind story that sells papers. Ms. Farrow claims that she was sexually abused by Woody Allen when she was seven years old. Was it so very brave for Kristof to air those accusations? Woody Allen is, after all, a darling of the left.
So in his original article, quoted here, Kristof established an even-handed agnosticism towards the issue writing:
"It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence."
Yes, Allen deserves that we presume his innocence. But then Kristof revised his original disclaimer, which now reads:
"Allen’s defenders correctly note that he denies the allegations, has never been convicted and should be presumed innocent."
Maybe "deserves" was too strong a word. Still, Kristof maintained that Allen should get some benefit of the doubt. Well, sure. It's not as if Allen's a Catholic priest. Or a Republican.
January 31, 2014
Wendy Davis -- Standing for Texas Women?
Lefty feminists have their latest heroine in Wendy Davis, who made a name for herself by filibustering Texas abortion legislation. In her words,
So while the “people’s filibuster” will go down in history for putting a stop (if only temporarily) to a misguided bill, the filibuster was more than organized opposition or even endurance — it was an expression of mainstream Texans standing up against partisan power-mongers who no longer act in Texas’ best interest or even tell Texans the truth. These partisans have depicted their bill as an effort to improve the quality of care available to women in local clinics. However, the filibuster exposed their real intent — to close clinics all over the state of Texas and deny health-care services to thousands of Texas women. And now Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have rammed these new restrictions through the state legislature in a special session, without concern for health care or constitutionality.
In reality the Texas legislation put a limit on late term abortions, and that is something which is quite unacceptable to lefty fems.
Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator running for governor, became a liberal superhero last June when she filibustered a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.
Here is the reality of it in more accurate terms, as reported by Charles Krauthammer.
And the issue, as most succinctly defined by the late liberal Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is infanticide. Describing one form of late-term abortion known as partial-birth, Moynihan said: “I had once remarked that the procedure was too close to infanticide. And now we have testimony that it is not just too close to infanticide, it is infanticide.” How else to describe crushing the infant’s skull in mid-delivery before the head leaves the birth canal?
Quite the little heroine, Ms. Davis. As Mr. Krauthammer advises, if Republicans are going to campaign on gender issues this year, this is the one.
Talk policy — specifically, the issue that brought Davis to national prominence.
What was her 11-hour filibuster about? Blocking a state law whose major feature was outlawing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Make that the battlefield. Make Davis explain why she chose not just to support late-term abortion but to make it her great cause.
It should matter that half of those babies at risk would grow up to be women. What about them?
January 30, 2014
Open Letter to Senator Kelly Ayotte
Dear Senator Ayotte,
'The pollsters at Gallup wrote last week that Mr. "Obama is on course to have the most politically polarized approval ratings of any president." Segments of the U.S. population see themselves not just in disagreement with the Obama administration, but as the target of its policies.
This includes not only the famous 1%, but also the upper-middle class, Southern states, charter schools, politically active conservatives, private businesses, the Catholic church, electric utilities, doctors driven out of ObamaCare's health networks and those famous partisans, the Little Sisters of the Poor.All have been vilified, investigated, audited or sued by the president himself, Eric Holder's Justice Department, the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and, not least, the Internal Revenue Service. Last year's most remarkable polling number from Gallup said in December that 72% of Americans regard big government as the greatest threat to the U.S. They got the message.'
January 21, 2014
The Myth of the Deserving Rich
Did you know that there was one? A "myth of the deserving rich," I mean. Neither did I. But according to the NYT's Paul Krugman, there is one and it's a topic of such acute importance that he asks,
'So how can the myth of the deserving rich be sustained? Mainly through a strategy of distortion by dilution. You almost never see apologists for inequality willing to talk about the 1 percent, let alone the really big winners. Instead, they talk about the top 20 percent, or at best the top 5 percent.'
In case you're wondering, inequality is topping the list for campaign topics in this year's midterm elections. If you're a partisan like Krugman, this is the only viable avenue for rescuing Democratic fortunes in the face the ObamaCare disaster. ObamaCare hasn't gotten any more popular than it was when it passed four years ago. In all likelihood it's going to get even more unpopular as the year wears on. So what's a progressive to do?
If you're Obama you'll continue to do what you'e been doing right along. He attacks his opponents, calling them racist, greedy, dishonest, or all of those things. Racism, greed, and dishonesty is so rampant, according to Obama, that it must be fought using the powers of federal government. Like when he sicced the IRS on Tea Party groups. Look for it to be the new perk for Democratic presidents. He started out using the Federal Election Commission to outlaw political campaigning by the other side. But when the courts found that to be unconstitutional, Obama transferred his political hacks over to the IRS who continued the practice from there.
And on the public relations front he talks about inequality. It's perfect. Inequality is really the natural state of things. Let's face it. Not everybody can play Major League Baseball. But talking about inequality likes it's some kind of conservative plot to keep the disadvantaged from taking their money? That's caught on as a winning campaign issue.
So we get Paul Krugman talking about the deserving and undeserving.
'I’ve noted before that conservatives seem fixated on the notion that poverty is basically the result of character problems among the poor.'
He moralizes over pretend conservative moralizing. And who are those conservatives who moralize about the poor. Why, they're the undeserving rich. In the face of rising inequality these lowlife undeserving rich engage in 'a determined campaign of statistical obfuscation.' Ah, but what about his own obfuscation?
'For an example of de facto falsification, one need look no further than a recent column by Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, which first accused President Obama (wrongly) of making a factual error, then proceeded to assert that rising inequality was no big deal, because everyone has been making big gains. Why, incomes for the bottom fifth of the U.S. population have risen 186 percent since 1979!
If this sounds wrong to you, it should: that’s a nominal number, not corrected for inflation. You can find the inflation-corrected number in the same Census Bureau table; it shows incomes for the bottom fifth actually falling. Oh, and for the record, at the time of writing this elementary error had not been corrected on The Journal’s website.'
Think about it. There is a bottom fifth of the U.S. population. As unjust as this may sound, eighty percent of the U.S. population will be richer than they are. Next year there will be a bottom fifth of the U.S. population, and a hundred years from now there is still going to be a bottom fifth.
But the question never addressed is, who's going to be in it? Answer: Just about everybody. Almost all of us start at the bottom, and that's the way it should be. Now, those of us who weren't delusional when we started out, didn't expect to pull down CEO-sized salaries when we were selling toys in a department store, washing dishes in a restaurant, or picking tobacco. We got minimum wage. On tobacco it was less than minimum wage. But it was not a career and we knew it. We were just starting out.
Which brings me to this startling fact. There are still such things as entry level jobs. Usually, they're minimum wage jobs and historically they've been part of the education of American workers. With any kind of luck there will be entry level jobs 50 years from now, though if progressives like Obama can hold onto power there will be much fewer of them than there are workers who want them. Why is that?
It's not fair unless Democrats get to decide who is entitled to be rich. That's why. This is something way too important to be left to the uncaring mechanics of the marketplace. The Democratic approach is to make sure people are not exploited in low wage jobs. It's simple, really.
Think Keystone Pipeline! 20,000 jobs right there for the taking. Just approve the project and let construction and the hiring begin. Construction pays better than minimum wage, but the infusion of construction cash into local economies would spin off the entry level jobs as the demand for the necessities of life explodes. Those entry level jobs are the one the Democrats strive to prevent, and by preventing their formation they save thousands from exploitation. By stopping Keystone Democrats save countless people from the ravages of minimum wage jobs -- or any other jobs for that matter.
For Democrats, an important function of government is saving the disadvantaged from the disadvantages of a job. They've been extraordinarily successful at it, too. Come to think of it, with immigration reform they're saving our nation's youth -- particularly African American and Hispanic -- from the indignities of low paying jobs. Undocumented workers from Mexico, Central, and South America can have them.
But we can't expect all of their compassion and hard work for nothing. Our deserving Democrats hope and expect to be returned to power where they can do more such good works, and of course be paid handsomely. They can't be expected to fight greed for nothing.
January 18, 2014
By Governor Scott Walker
Published by the Penguin Group (2013)
Unintimidated is the story of Governor Scott Walker's courageous fight for budget reform in Wisconsin, and how he won out in spite of a fierce campaign by organized labor and the Democratic party that drew upon resources at the national level.
Earlier in his political career, Milwaukee county executive Scott Walker had come face to face with the drivers of what would become the worst budget crisis in Wisconsin's history. Over the years public employee labor unions had gradually gained veto power over any and all attempts to rein in out of control state and local spending. In the meantime, the generous union pensions and health care plans they had won for themselves were driving up the deficit.
It was in the capacity of county executive that Walker first proposed that public workers make modest contributions towards their own benefits. With taxpayers tapped out, the alternative was to start laying off public workers. Walker had other suggestions, such as the temporary adoption of a thirty-five hour work week, but changes required union sign off, and his proposals came to nothing. In fact, it was impossible to move a clerical worker from one office to another, even within the same agency, without a union sign off. Union bosses were in control and they chose layoffs over even the slightest change.
I will never forget sitting across the table in my office from Rich Abelson, the head of AFSCME Council 48, explaining to him that without some of these modest changes we would have to lay off hundreds of workers.
He looked me in the eye and said: “Go ahead and do it!”
As county executive Walker had no choice. Layoff notices went out. But in November of 2010 Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor, and Democrat, Tom Barrett to become governor of Wisconsin. By that time the previous Democratic administration had run up a record $3.6 billion state budget deficit. No amount of belt tightening or tax hikes was going to fix that problem. Tackling Wisconsin's budget crisis meant tackling Wisconsin's collective bargaining rules. A daunting challenge, but as governor, Scott Walker had gained the power, the incentive, and the impetus to take it on.
Governor Walker proposed Act 10. It required that public employees contribute 5.8% of their salaries to their pensions where before, they had contributed nothing. They would pay 12.6% of their health insurance premiums where before, they had contributed only 6%. Collective bargaining for everything except base wage would be eliminated, as would compulsory union membership and forced collection of union dues.
When it finally became law, Act 10 reforms allowed school districts to buy health insurance on the open market and to hire and fire teachers on the basis of merit. When local governments gained flexibility in dealing with educational needs and with hiring and firing of workers, they were able to dramatically reduce their costs. Instead of causing teacher layoffs, the reforms made it possible for school districts to balance their budgets, hire more teachers, reduce class sizes, and implement long overdue improvements, all at the same time. This allowed the state of Wisconsin to cut education aid to cities and towns, and turned a state budget deficit into a surplus.
But getting Act 10 into law was a huge battle. Labor framed its argument against Act 10 in terms of "collective bargaining rights," and almost won it. Protests against the bill went on for months. Protesters occupied the state capitol building. There were death threats against Republican legislators. Democratic state senators absconded to Illinois where they stayed holed up in a motel. Their absence meant that there were not enough votes to pass Act 10 since the bill had a fiscal provisions in it. The Republican majority eventually passed it without the Democrats by splitting fiscally related items out from legislation to reform collective bargaining rules. This meant the bill could be passed by a simple majority.
It passed and Governor Walker signed it into law. But the battle didn't end there. Protests got larger. Labor proponents successfully petitioned for recall elections to remove Scott Walker and a half dozen Republican legislators from office.
Labor's best chance to defeat Act 10 was a bid to derail what would otherwise have been the ho-hum re-election of state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was expected to favor overturning Act 10 on a technicality. If she could prevail in the election she might have become the deciding vote to strike down the law. The election drew campaign money from all across the country. The national attention turned it into a close race, but in the end Prosser prevailed.
And so did Walker. He won his recall election becoming the only U.S. governor in history to be elected twice to the same term of office. Four of six recalled legislators won as well, depriving Democrats of the majorities needed to overturn the law legislatively.
In the end it had become clear. It was about the money. Organized labor's opposition to these reforms boiled down to two crucial issues, compulsory union membership and forced collection of dues.
The unions would have given up anything else in the bill to keep the dues. The involuntary dues were the their lifeblood, the source of their power. They knew that if government workers had a free choice, most would decide to keep their dues and the union coffers would run dry. They could not allow that to happen. They could not care less if we were to lay off fifteen hundred workers or fifteen thousand workers, so long as they could keep their precious dues.
Unintimidated is an important book for conservatives because it lays out what conservatives have to do to win their battles for reform. The lessons are there to be applied in the state and federal levels.
First and foremost, reform requires courage. Vested interests will resist reforms. They have a financial stake in the corrupt status quo, and they will resort to intimidation and threat of violence to prevent the loss of their taxpayer funded income streams.
But if conservatives can remain faithful to their principles they can win the public opinion battles. Rather than abandon positions that opinion polls say are unpopular, it is crucial that conservatives advocate for their policies and explain the benefits.
That lesson was driven home to Governor Walker when, under the stress of the endless protests going on in front of his house, his wife, Tonette asked him, "Why are you doing this?" That brought him up short. If his soulmate didn't understand why pursuing Act 10 reforms was the right course of action, he obviously hadn't made the case for the citizens of Wisconsins. The success of his subsequent campaign to to explain it all was proven out when he won his recall election.
When conservatives make their case, they generally have to do it their own. A significant number in the media generally oppose reductions in public spending (unless of course it's a reduction in defense spending). Conservatives do not have media allies to promote their policies the way progressives do. It is crucial for conservatives leaders to explain, and continue to to explain, why conservatives policies will benefit everybody, even the most disadvantaged among us.
Conservatives must champion the vulnerable. The American dream is real. Unfortunately, in this day of multicultural political correctitude, too many are being lead to believe the American dream is a gift provided by government. But the mandated layers of "protection" inevitably become obstacles to anyone seeking to achieve their dreams through initiative and hard work, and inevitably the most vulnerable are the ones who are most easily held back. Conservatives have to make their case to those people.
Governor Scott Walker demonstrated that it is both possible and necessary to continually reform government, and in the process, to win over hearts and minds to the cause. He wrote a book telling us how he did it and how it can be done all across the country. The book is Unintimidated, and I highly recommend it.
January 14, 2014
The Fundamental Orders
Today marks the 375th anniversary of Connecticut's Fundamental Orders. They are considered by many to be America's first constitution, and probably the world's first as well.
[A] "Great Migration" of Puritans brought John Winthrop, John Cotton, Rev. Thomas Hooker and Roger Williams to these shores, each of whom held strong views about religion and government.
Uncomfortable with the orthodoxy of fellow Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Hooker and a small group left their church in Newtowne (Cambridge) in 1636 to pursue desirable land elsewhere for their "New Israel."
They soon reached "the delightful banks of the Connecticut River," where at Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield they set down roots, established churches and wrote a charter stating that qualified citizens delegated such powers to their representatives as are necessary to maintain a form of government for all the people.
These "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut," inspired by a Hooker sermon and likely drafted by magistrate and fellow colonist Roger Ludlow, further stated that ultimate power rests with the will of the people, and hence all powers not delegated remain in the hands of the people.
For Hooker, a graduate of Cambridge, and Ludlow, a graduate of Oxford and a lawyer, their knowledge of the history of England's "unwritten constitution" as it evolved over the centuries would now take a new form. Among the qualities they possessed as English Calvinists was a reliance on the written word. Thus 1639 marks the first appearance of a written document proclaiming self-government and committing those who choose to live by it.
There's been a dispute over which of the three towns was Connecticut's first town, Windsor, Wethersfield, or Hartford. Windsor stakes its claim based on it being the site of the first English trading post which was established in 1633. Hartford was the site of a Dutch trading post, also established in 1633, but apparently shortly after Windsor. Wethersfield, settled in 1634, claims to be Connecticut's first town, on the strenght of a distinction between an actual town and a mere trading post.
On the Connecticut Secretary of State's website, Windsor is the first. But I always knew that. I grew up there. It was sometime after 1633, though.
December 31, 2013
A Look Back
Looking back on the most noteworthy events of 2013, three of them stand out above the rest.
First up was the revelation that the regulatory power of the federal government had been put to political use in unprecedented ways. In May of this year Lois Lerner let drop that the IRS had been systematically delaying, and thus denying, conservative organizations the same tax exempt status that was routinely granted to equivalent liberal organizations.
In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.
This was an important story because of the impact that the targeting is likely to have had on the 2012 election. Some amount of conservative money and conservative messages were kept out of it.
The scandal followed a familiar Obama-style series of disclaimers. First it was said to be the work of a couple of rogue employees in a single IRS office, the Cincinnatti office. Then later when asked to testify before a congressional committee investigating the improper targeting, Lois Lerner announced that she had done nothing wrong. Then finally, asserting her constitutional right against self-incrimination, she refused to answer any questions.
In testimony before a House committee yesterday, before invoking the Fifth Amendment, Lerner proclaimed her innocence. “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.”
After making that proclamation, she then refused to answer questions. No questions. Not one.
It was like she was following a script, which seems to be the one she got from President Obama who at first condemned the targeting,
"If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. And there's no place for it," Obama told reporters.
The Obama administration launched an attempt Tuesday to limit the same class of politically active non-profit groups the IRS was accused of targeting last summer.
Under the proposed new rules, organizations that fall under the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) umbrella would also be more clearly identified during campaigns. The new guidance would curtail activities such as running ads, distributing campaign literature and other get-out-the-vote initiatives.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing 41 organizations in a federal lawsuit challenging the IRS, says the proposed regulation change puts free speech rights of Americans at risk.
“This is a feeble attempt by the Obama Administration to justify its own wrong-doing with the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups,” attorney Jay Sekulow said in a written statement. “Instead of holding those responsible for the unlawful targeting scheme accountable for their actions, the Obama Administration is determined to further limit the free speech of Americans by attempting to change constitutional practices that are decades old.”
The next big story for 2013 were the revelations by Edward Snowden, which publicized the extent to which the National Security Agency has gone in collecting what is termed cell phone communications "metadata." Was the NSA spying on American citizens? In a pair of dueling judicial rulings the courts found in one case that the capture and storage by the NSA of phone records of millions of Americans is likely to be unconstitutional, but in another case found that it is legal.
The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III and the opposing view earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., sets the stage for federal appeals courts to contemplate the delicate balance between individual rights set out in the Constitution and the need to protect national security.
Pauley concluded the program was a necessary extension of steps taken after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Still, Pauley said such a program, if unchecked, "imperils the civil liberties of every citizen" and he noted the lively debate about the subject across the nation, in Congress and at the White House.
"The question for this court is whether the government's bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds it is. But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide," he said.
A week ago, President Barack Obama said there may be ways of changing the program so that is has sufficient oversight and transparency.
The judgment in favor of national security might carry some weight if President Barack Obama seemed somehow inclined to protect Americans. His past performance, however, does not provide evidence of any such an inclination.
Just look at how well he protected Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the three Americans who died with him in Benghazi, Libya. In the face of a heightened threat of terrorist attack, the Ambassador repeatedly asked for additional security personnel, but all requests were denied. You see, Obama was campaigning for re-election at the time and beefing up security at that moment might have contradicted Obama's campaign theme: al Qaeda on the run and decimated. It was a theme Obama would not relinquish even after the terrorists murdered Stevens. Sent out to explain how and why Americans were killed in Libya on the anniversary of 9/11, Susan Rice said it was a spontaneous demonstration gone awry.
Obama protects Obama. Assuming Obama stays true to form, his natural inclination will be to use the NSA just as he has used the IRS — against his political enemies instead of against America's enemies.
But the biggest story of the year is the disastrous ObamaCare rollout, which is not to say that the disaster was came as a big surprise. If anything, the fact that it was a predictable disaster made the story even bigger. What a picture. Against Senate Republican urging to let ObamaCare fall of its own weight, House Republicans used the threat of shutting down the government to try to delay the ObamaCare individual mandate. They failed only to have Obama delay the individual mandate when it became clear that the $650 million Healthcare.gov website didn't work. It barely works now, three months down the road.
But in the meantime, millions of Americans received letters from their insurance carriers that their health insurance plans were "substandard" and were being cancelled. Substandard was the word Obama used to describe plans that didn't conform to his new regulatory requirements. Those millions whose plans were cancelled were finding that comparable ObamaCare plans were double and triple the cost of what was being cancelled. They were also finding that thousands of doctors were being dropped from insurance plans because of ObamaCare.
Between October 1st and December 31st Obama has been making adjustments on the fly. The administration is strongly advising that insurance carriers please continue to offer the formerly substandard policies which are, under the letter of the law, illegal. Dear Insurance Company, Please disregard the law. Why not? Barack Obama does.
This has become the biggest problem of Barack Obama's presidency. All during his re-election campaign he had assured us: "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period." Here on the right we all knew it was a lie, but he was able to get away with it by saying those people on the right who disagreed with him could only be doing it out of racist hostility.
But when the cancellation letters started hitting the mailboxes, the rest of America came to realize he had been lying as well. And then he compounded his problem by lying about the lie.
Obama’s speech on Nov. 4, 2013, at a meeting of Organizing for Action, his campaign organization, seemed to offer a new, and confusing, wrinkle.
"Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed," Obama said.
Unfortunately for Obama, that's not at all what he said, and by claiming it was, he confirmed to everyone that he was lying when he said, "Period."
But he's been lying all along. What's new is that now more people are aware of it, even to the point where his fawning media has been forced to make mention of it. We have a president who stands revealed. For Obama, as for so many on the left, truth is a relative thing. In Obama's case truth is anything that sets him in a flattering light while anything that reflects badly on him is subject to dispute.
Those three stories of 2013 — the IRS targeting, the NSA surveillance, and the ObamaCare rollout — have put Obama in a new light. Obama is a politician who is eager to use the power of government for his own political benefit. By looking the American people in the eye and lying to us about ObamaCare, he put his credibility in doubt on the IRS and NSA issues. Alas, I will not go so far as to say that he or any of his Democrat colleagues will pay a political price for it, though they should.
But there are another ten months to go before the 2014 midterms. That's plenty of time for our leftist media to go to work smearing Republicans in order to save Obama's questionable legacy.
December 26, 2013
Their Piece of the Action
Would we be better off without UPS and FedEx? What problem would we solve if we eliminated all other carriers except the US Postal Service for delivering packages and letters? Such a thing would create rather than solve problems. In fact government has always opposed monopolies, except for those of its own making. Yet there is this incessant chatter about how we should adopt a single payer plan for US health care, as if it would solve some problem. Consider this from John H. Cochrane:
The U.S. health-care market is dysfunctional. Obscure prices and $500 Band-Aids are legendary. The reason is simple: Health care and health insurance are strongly protected from competition. There are explicit barriers to entry, for example the laws in many states that require a "certificate of need" before one can build a new hospital. Regulatory compliance costs, approvals, nonprofit status, restrictions on foreign doctors and nurses, limits on medical residencies, and many more barriers keep prices up and competitors out. Hospitals whose main clients are uncompetitive insurers and the government cannot innovate and provide efficient cash service.
I always used to think that regulation of medicine and medical services was foremost for the benefit of providers, particularly the doctors. Years ago the American Medical Association explained how it imposed limits on the number of medical school slots through its acreditation authority and why they did it. It was to ensure the highest quality education for physicians, but it was also intended to keep physician compensation high.
A single payer system won't alleviate our shortage of doctors, and instead adds even more restrictions on medical care to the ones mentioned above by Mr. Cochrane. But the limitations imposed by a single payer plan won't have the effect of pushing up doctors' incomes. This is pretty obvious when you look at the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare and Medicaid services. They're getting stiffed. That's why more and more are refusing to take on new Medicare and Medicaid patients, and why there is "Doc Fix" just about every time congress passes a budget.
Think of the Affordable Care Act as the first step towards a single payer plan, which itself is a hostile takeover of an industry by the party of government. Its purpose and the purpose of a single payer plan is to siphon off some of the billions spent on medical care and divert it into political party coffers and wallets. Democrats are the party of government, and they want their piece of the action.
December 19, 2013
Would you buy a used car from this man? That was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this picture. It was more famously asked about Richard Nixon back in the days before Watergate. The answer then was supposed to be, no you would not. But with John Podesta the answer might yes, but not necessarily based on any trustworthiness. If he lives up to a hit man reputation he has, according to the Wall Street Journal, saying no to the figurative used car risks the figurative broken kneecap. As soon as he joined the White House staff Podesta proved out the Journal's opinion, calling Republicans "a cult worthy of Jonestown."
I guess Obama means business. There's a lot at stake, all the more evident as state level healthcare exchange directors abandon, or are jetisoned, from the sinking ship that is ObamaCare. Just take a look at some of these numbers.
What an absolute cash cow ObamaCare has been for those who signed on to implement it. Just look at those grants: $205,342,270 to Hawaii and $303,011,587 to Oregon to set up their state exchanges. Not to mention the $634,000,000 for Healthcare.gov. Software development doesn't really cost that much.
As a matter of fact, you've probably heard about those private for profit websites where you can get health insurance. They have an advantage over Healthcare.gov. They work. You can actually buy a policy on them. (Though if we had this to do all over again buying new insurance wouldn't be high on your list of things you'd want to do.) There's another advantage that doesn't get much mention. Development of the private websites didn't cost over a billion dollars like Healthcare.gov.
But let's not mix apples and oranges here. The billions spent on ObamaCare were meant to buy more than just a website. The real objective is to buy the power and votes to secure Democratic majorities well into the future. Back in 2010 Obama and his cronies at the top of the Democratic party placed their bet that the tipping point was reached. They believed they could ram ObamaCare through even though it was (and still is) wildly unpopular. All they would have to do would be hang on until the subsidy checks hit the mail. Then the new dependent demographic makes repeal impossible, as fear keeps the gravy train rolling.
Obama isn't giving up, troubles with ObamaCare notwithstanding. His goal of permanently co-opting federal income streams for the Democratic party is far from dead.
December 13, 2013
There's panic in the Obama administration over the ObamaCare rollout, according to a couple of articles that appear online today. HHS is asking Insurers to ignore another deadline, accept partial payments, extend coverage options, and to treat out of network providers as if they are in network.
The Department of Health and Human Services said this afternoon that it will extend coverage options for individuals currently enrolled in the law’s temporary high-risk pool program through the end of January, instead of allowing the program to end on December 31 as originally planned. It will also require private insurers selling policies in the law's insurance exchanges to accept payment up until December 31 of this year for coverage than begins January 1.
In addition, HHS said it would “strongly encourage” insurers to take other "transitional" steps over the next month as well—steps like accepting partial pre-payment for coverage that begins on January 1 as a “down payment” in lieu of full payment prior to the start of coverage and allowing people who sign up after the December 23 deadline to begin coverage on January 1. HHS also said it hoped insurers would accept out of network providers as in-network for “acute episodes” or in cases in which a provider was listed in an insurer’s enrollment directory but dropped out after an individual’s enrollment date.
It's very clear that ObamaCare is not getting the warm reception that the White House planned on.
This is the administrative version of the Democrats’ political strategy since Obamacare was first passed, which has also been built on the hope that public opinion was about to turn around any minute, and they just need a little bit of time. With this latest step, they’re pushing what appear to be huge problems off by a couple of weeks (in some cases days), and it’s not clear why they think things will be very different at that point.
It's a predictable White reaction. Ignore the law and lean on insurance companies to keep things moving along at all cost.
The move also puts HHS in the position of playing the role central manager of the American health-care system—telling private insurers to do various things that have nothing in particular to do with the law, as though they work for the government. It is an eerie prefiguration of where the administration would like to get with this system, but it’s also surely something they didn’t want to be doing so publicly at this stage.
The race is on the get the subsidy checks in the mail. There is almost no chance that a majority of Americans are going to come around to the idea that ObamaCare was a good idea. However, there is one thing that might help progressive prospects come November 2014, and that's setting the hook with subsidies. If enough Americans can be switched over to subidized policies, and quickly, maybe the fear of losing them will stop what looks like an oncoming landslide against the Democrats.
In the media blackout of Thanksgiving week, the Treasury Department dumped a new proposal to govern the political activity of 501(c)(4) groups. The administration claims this rule is needed to clarify confusing tax laws. Hardly. The rule is the IRS's new targeting program—only this time systematic, more effective, and with the force of law.
That this rule was meant to crack down on the White House's political opponents was never in doubt. What is new is the growing concern by House Ways and Means Committee investigators that the regulation was reverse-engineered—designed to isolate and shut down the same tea party groups victimized in the first targeting round. Treasury appears to have combed through those tea party applications, compiled all the groups' main activities, and then restricted those activities in the new rule.
"The committee has reviewed thousands of tax exempt applications," says House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp. "The new regulation so closely mirrors the abused tea-party group applications, it leads me to question if this new proposed regulation is simply another form of targeting."
With targeting of Tea party groups legalized, the IRS will be authorized to limit opposition campaign spending and disrupt conservative election efforts. We don't have White House panic here. Maybe some congressional Democrats have grounds for worry, but only in the short run. The White House is methodically transforming America into a place where the various agencies of the government are enlisted to keep progressives in power.
It's the rest of us who ought to panic.