Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Aren't Self-Proclaimed Fiscal Conservatives Questioning Afghanistan Troop Surge?

Self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives in both the Democratic and Republican parties approach healthcare reform with a high degree of skepticism. Senator Joe Lieberman, who has received $1 million from the insurance industry over the course of his Senate career, has vowed to oppose any reform package that contains a public plan option. Lieberman explains that he is voting his "conscience" and that he cannot endorse an expansion in government during an economic downturn.

Senator Mary Landrieu has expressed a similar view. Some media outlets report, however, that in exchange for her vote allowing debate on the latest Senate healthcare reform bill, the White House promised to secure an additional $100 million in Medicaid assistance for Louisiana (the state Landrieu represents).

Across the aisle, Republicans are behaving like "born-again budget conservatives." They suddenly embraced fiscal restraint following the election of President Obama, but they recklessly agreed to cut taxes and increase spending during the Bush administration. Their newly found fiscal salvation leads them to oppose healthcare reform and basically any other element of government spending unrelated to wars and cops.

Fighting Wars versus Healing the Sick
After weeks of deliberation regarding a military-endorsed troop surge in Afghanistan, President Obama, according to emerging reports, has agreed to send an additional 34,000 troops to fight the Taliban. The troop surge would take place over the next 9 months. The estimated cost for the war over the next decade approaches $1 trillion -- more than the cost of each healthcare reform package pending in Congress.

Two Democrats in Congress -- Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Representative David Obey of Wisconsin -- have called for a surtax on upper-income earners to finance the troop surge. Self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, however, have remained virtually silent regarding the expense and deficit-impact of the war in Afghanistan. Most of these individuals strongly endorse the troop surge and voted for the war in Iraq.

Bombing foreign nations and leading young Americans to their deaths in the name of national security (however skeptical the claim) is worth the expense. Funding healthcare for almost all Americans is reprehensible and socialist. Someone please explain this logic.

19 comments:

docjim505 said...

"Bombing foreign nations and leading young Americans to their deaths in the name of national security (however skeptical the claim) is worth the expense. Funding healthcare for almost all Americans is reprehensible and socialist. Someone please explain this logic."

Well, let's see:

1. Making war has ALWAYS been a perogative of a nation-state;

2. The Constitution explicitly gives this power to the government;

3. In contrast, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that requires the government to give out charity, and indeed, under the concept of enumerated powers, the federal government is outright FORBIDDEN to do it;

4. If one tries to claim that such a power to bestow charity IS within the federal government's constitutional powers, how is it that generations of some of the most brilliant Americans, including the people who WROTE THE CONSTITUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE, managed to miss it for nearly 150 years?

5. As a moral issue, if a person wants to give to charity, that's fine, but I regard it as theft for Bob to use the police power of the state to take money from Tom and give it to Joe so that Bob can feel virtuous.

6. Our country is bankrupt. Can somebody explain how taking on even more open-ended spending is a good idea?

Now for a couple of other points:

"Across the aisle, Republicans are behaving like 'born-again budget conservatives.' They suddenly embraced fiscal restraint following the election of President Obama, but they recklessly agreed to cut taxes and increase spending during the Bush administration."

Yes, and their voters are increasingly angry about it. This is, in large part, why they lost in 2006 and in 2008: a significant fraction of their own base distrusted and even despised them. You know their base, right? The ones that tolerant, intellectual, inclusive libs like to call "teabaggers"? Go to a few conservative blogs and I believe you'll find considerable criticism of the GOP's big-spending ways. I certainly will not defend them.

I also repeat the remark about our country being bankrupt. Becoming a fiscal conservative when faced with a $12 trillion debt may be late, but better late than never.

I also have to ask if you think that pointing out bad behavior on the part of one person or group excuses it in another person or group. If so, then Bush should get a pass on his wars because, after all, Johnson did it, too.

"Bombing foreign nations and leading young Americans to their deaths in the name of national security (however skeptical the claim) is worth the expense."

Please list which times when we attacked foreign nations and lead Americans to their deaths in the name of national security was OK with you. War for Independence? Civil War? World War II? May I accuse you of being either unwilling to fight ANY war for "national security", or are you merely a hypocrite who likes to pick and choose his wars in the way that (gasp!) other Americans like to pick and choose how they want to see their taxes spent?

"After weeks of deliberation regarding a military-endorsed troop surge in Afghanistan, President Obama, according to emerging reports, has agreed to send an additional 34,000 troops to fight the Taliban. The troop surge would take place over the next 9 months. The estimated cost for the war over the next decade approaches $1 trillion -- more than the cost of each healthcare reform package pending in Congress."

An important point: wars end. Why not claim that the war in A-stan will last for a century and use THAT cost to compare to the highly dubious estimates of how much HarryCare will cost us?

Oh, but I'm wrong about one thing: some wars NEVER end. Take, for example, the "War on Poverty". That one will never end because there's always some joker who thinks that it's perfectly OK to purchase a feeling of virtue (or some votes) with somebody else's money.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, DocJim. Thanks for posting. Here's my response to your arguments.

1. Making war has ALWAYS been a perogative of a nation-state;

So has spending for citizens.

2. The Constitution explicitly gives this power to the government;

The Constitution also specifically endows Congress with the power to tax and spend to support the general welfare; it also authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Spending money to support healthcare falls with an explicit power delegated to Congress.

3. In contrast, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that requires the government to give out charity...;

The Constitution does not require government to wage war! The Constitution does not forbid Congress from giving relief to persons here or abroad.

4. If one tries to claim that such a power to bestow charity IS within the federal government's constitutional powers, how is it that generations of some of the most brilliant Americans, including the people who WROTE THE CONSTITUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE, managed to miss it for nearly 150 years?

Your statement is absolutely ahistorical. Let me suggest the following article to you: Michele Landis Dauber, Sympathetic State, 23 Law and History Review 387 (2005). The article chronicles various federal charitable spending programs beginning in the 1700s and beyond!

5. As a moral issue, if a person wants to give to charity, that's fine, but I regard it as theft for Bob to use the police power of the state to take money from Tom and give it to Joe so that Bob can feel virtuous.

The argument makes every spending program a theft. Why? The government can only spend money through a system of taxation. Not all taxpayers will benefit from every item of expenditure. For, example, Bush faith-based inititatives did not benefit me, but arguably, my tax dollars supported them. I never heard conservatives screaming about "theft" in this context.

6. Our country is bankrupt. ...

The country is not bankrupt. But assuming it is, the same question applies to dumping one trillion dollars into Afghanistan.

Please list which times when we attacked foreign nations and lead Americans to their deaths in the name of national security was OK with you.... May I accuse you of being either unwilling to fight ANY war for "national security", or are you merely a hypocrite who likes to pick and choose his wars in the way that (gasp!) other Americans like to pick and choose how they want to see their taxes spent?

You already accused me. But you are wrong. I absolutely supported a cost-benefit analysis with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq, and I do so with respect to healthcare reform. Apparently, the so-called fiscal hawks only worry about costs in the domestic context -- not with respect to war. That is hypocrisy -- not matter how much you try to spin it.

An important point: wars end. ....

Wars end, and new ones begin. The cost still exceeds healthcare reform -- which even the CBO has predicted would become self-sufficient with premium payments. War is never self-sufficient!

Oh, but I'm wrong about one thing: some wars NEVER end. Take, for example, the "War on Poverty". That one will never end because there's always some joker who thinks that it's perfectly OK to purchase a feeling of virtue (or some votes) with somebody else's money.

Apparently, Western-led wars in the Middle East never end either. Also, why is it wrong to "fight" poverty, but ok to purchase a "regime change" with "somebody else's money."

RealityZone said...

As Gen. Smedley D Butler so aptly entitled his book " War Is A Racket". As i always say " Health Care belongs on Main st. not Wall ST."

Jerod said...

You mistake, intentionally or otherwise, priority for hypocrisy. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the federal government is constitutionally empowered to enact some version of the healthcare legislation debated, there is nothing hypocritical in holding that the prosecution of the Afghan war, in a manner that yields the best chance of victory, should be a top, perhaps THE top, spending priority. As it is with any budget, you identify spending priorities, and fund them according to their importance.

Why should national security occupy a space of greater importance to a national government than the access of healthcare to their citizens? Easy, because while individual states have the power to enact their own versions of healthcare, tailored to their needs, they have no power to defend themselves against foreign aggressors.

Only the national government has the authority, not to mention the resources, to wage war in defense of the nation. As the only entity capable of fulfilling a vital national need, naturally that role should occupy a position of primacy.

If, AFTER we have appropriately funded the primary role of the national government, we still have room in the budget, THEN we can talk about how best to address other needs. Many might still claim that it is not the place of Congress to impose a healthcare regime on the entire nation, but then your argument with them is that they misapprehend the proper role of the federal government, not that they are hypocrites.

On a different note, I challenge your claim re: the CBO numbers. Both measures in the House and the Senate rely on paying into the new Healthcare system for years before the system actually starts paying out benefits. For every year in which benefits are actually paid out, 2014 in the Senate bill, the program runs a deficit. Democrats have claimed that the first 10 year costs are $849 billion, but that refers to the early years when there are virtually no benefits paid. If you shift that window to view the first 10 years of benefits paid, you get a price tag of $1.8 TRILLION. Given this clumsy accounting trickery, and the federal government's history of vastly underestimating future costs of entitlement programs coughmedicarecough, coughsocialsecuritycough, it would be unreasonable NOT to expect enormous cost overruns.

And yes, while war has not been eliminated, you'll notice we haven't invaded Iran or North Korea. Individual instances of armed conflict are discreet, and can be evaluated on their own terms. Many have argued that one reason we haven't taken action against Iran is because our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have depleted us. You can use that as an argument against those actions, but the fact is we do actually make decisions about going to war after conducting at least a rough CBA. That simply isn't the case for entitlement programs, which always see their funding rise and rise, divorced from the current economic situation and reality.

As for "Western-led wars in the Middle East never end[ing]", I would say that while the war in Iraq hasn't ended, it at least is on the way to winding down, and the time when associated operations represent a relatively small portion of the defense budget is not far beyond the horizon. Do you disagree?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Jerod, thanks for your thoughtful response. My point is not that warfare cannot occupy a central space in policy agendas, but that the same type of wrangling over spending should take place in that setting as well. Rather than debating the merits of healthcare reform, most opponents have simply argued over costs and raised very sketchy constitutional arguments. With respect to the war, I have not heard many arguments concerning costs. Healthcare reform might be expensive. Two wars are very expensive too! Anyone who is concerned about the deficit should consider costs in both settings. The failure to do so is inconsistent and hypocritical.

docjim505 said...

In two parts:

DLH - "So has spending for citizens [always been a perogative of the nation state]."

Let me roll this into the issue of "support the general welfare".

Nations spend on THEMSELVES. When a country builds a road, a canal, a dam, a warship, etc, it is not for the benefit (crooked members of Congress notwithstanding) of a single person. This is supporting the GENERAL welfare. Please note that, among the enumerated powers in Art. I sec. 8, the federal government is allowed to build roads, deliver the mail, coin money, establish courts, etc, all of which are for enhancing the GENERAL welfare.

On the other hand, if a government takes money from some people to give to specific other people as charity, this is not "general welfare". I suggest that the US government, in common with most others, did not engage in this until the 1930s and especially the 1960s. There is a quote attributed to James Madison in regard to Congress voting "relief" money to Frenchmen displaced by their revolution to the effect that he could not find where the Constitution permits the federal government to engage in charity, no matter how benevolent.

I add that, if one regards "support the general welfare" as a blanket clause that allows the Congress to do pretty much whatever it likes in this regard, then why would the Constitution have a list of enumerated powers?

DLH - "The Constitution does not require government to wage war! The Constitution does not forbid Congress from giving relief to persons here or abroad."

Um... WHAT??? Of COURSE the Constitution does not "require" the government to wage war, any more than it REQUIRES it to pass out printing presses or guns in accordance with the I and II Amendments.

Please note the language of sec. 8:

"The Congress shall have the power to..."

The clear implication is that the Congress can do the things listed, but nothing else. Power to declare and wage war is an enumerated power; passing out cash to people for charity is not.

DLH - "The argument makes every spending program a theft. Why? The government can only spend money through a system of taxation. Not all taxpayers will benefit from every item of expenditure. For, example, Bush faith-based inititatives did not benefit me, but arguably, my tax dollars supported them."

1. No, not every spending program is theft. If the government spends my tax dollars to build a new interstate (an enumerated power, by the way), that's fine because I and all my fellow citizens can use it. If they build an M-1 tank(also an enumerated power), it's for the defense of me and all my fellow citizens. If, however, they take money from me and give it to somebody else, ONLY that person can use it. That's theft. More, it is slavery: I am working to support somebody else who is not paying me, and indeed my life is potentially forfeit if I refuse (the government will throw me into prison if I refuse to go along, and shoot me if I resist).

2. Yes, the government only gets money through taxation. What's your point?

3. Um, yes, the Bush faith-based programs were theft (and underscore how laughable it is to use Bush as an example of a fiscal conservative). Again, what's your point?

docjim505 said...

Continued:

DLH - "The country is not bankrupt. But assuming it is, the same question applies to dumping one trillion dollars into Afghanistan."

We have a $12 trillion debt. We may not be technically bankrupt, but it is uncomfortably close to it. Further, if we continue on this path, we WILL be bankrupt in that merely trying to pay the interest on the debt will soak up all of our GDP.

As for A-stan and spending money... I'm sorry to say that fighting wars is a costly affair. I understand why people think we should not be fighting that war, though I of course think that they are wrong. I scoff at the attempt to cloak opposition to the war with claims of "fiscal responsibility", and I certainly scoff at attempts to somehow equate supporting war / defense spending with hypocrisy on fiscal matters. Finally, I scoff at people who claim that it's "too expensive" to fight the war, but have no problem voting huge sums in perpetuity for unconstitutional purposes.

I suggest that, if we nasty ol' fiscal hawks had our way (i.e. the federal government stuck to enumerated powers and got out of the charity business), the budget wouldn't be a problem. I also suggest that, if we had our way and the government had to have a balanced budget every year, we also wouldn't have a problem.

DLH - "Wars end, and new ones begin. The cost still exceeds healthcare reform -- which even the CBO has predicted would become self-sufficient with premium payments. War is never self-sufficient!"

Are you seriously suggesting that a government program will be self-sufficient??? Or that the CBO estimates will hold up for any appreciable length of time??? The Post Office is supposed to be self-supporting, yet is so far in the hole that you can't see daylight from the bottom. And how much more does Medicare / Medicaid cost than was projected when those budget-busters were signed into law forty years ago? Ditto Social Security or FDIC.

Your faith in the accuracy of government projections and the ability of politicians to adhere to a budget is absurd.

Finally, you seem to suggest that the proposed health care bill will not cost the government anything because it will be paid for by "premiums". I suggest that the war in A-stan will not cost the government anything because it will be paid for by "taxes". What's the difference? People will still be paying money - A LOT of money - to Uncle Sugar.

DLH - "Apparently, Western-led wars in the Middle East never end either. Also, why is it wrong to 'fight' poverty, but ok to purchase a 'regime change' with 'somebody else's money.'"

Ah, the usual liberal boilerplate about imperialism, colonialism, wars of aggression, Wall Street, etc. It had to come out sooner or later.

I will not rehash the causes of the wars in Iraq or A-stan as it would be wasted effort. All I will say that it is not "wrong" to fight poverty per se (my preference in this regard is donating to the Salvation Army and Goodwill), but rather that it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL (i.e. illegal) in the same manner that it is not "wrong" for me to fight crime, but it is sure as hell illegal for me to go about imprisoning, executing, or otherwise punishing criminals vigilante-style.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Docjim - Your limited interpretation of "general welfare" is not mandated by the Constitution. The document leaves that phrase undefined. It also endows Congress with additional powers that are "necessary and proper" to carry out its specifically delegated powers. Your reading of the Constitution is both narrow and selective.

Also, solving a healthcare crisis is easily seen as being in the general welfare of the nation. The national impact of sick people on businesses, local and state governments, etc. harms the general welfare to a much larger degree than a bad patch of highway on a rural stretch of a midwestern interstate highway.

Under your analysis, Congress could fix the road that benefits locals primarily, but it could do nothing regarding a national healthcare crisis. The Constitution does not require such a perverse outcome.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

DocJim: You describe my statement about Western-led wars in the Middle East never ending as "usual liberal boilerplate about imperialism, colonialism, wars of aggression, Wall Street, etc." This is yet another empty and ahistorical position (in addition to your bankrupt argument that for 150 years, the US did not give out "charity" to citizens). Google is a wonderful research tool. Use it.

The amount of time that the UK and US have spent waging war in the Middle East since WWI is close to, if not longer, on balance, than the time of peace. You call that liberal boilerplate; I call it reality.

PS: I have happily supported conservatives and criticized liberals when the situation justified the arguments. See: RUN: FACTS!
Have you ever stepped outside of your own political zone?

Jerod said...

Darren,

I think I appreciate your position, I would just submit that any wrangling over cost w/ respect to military action, particularly something as drastic as invasion and regime change, ought to happen BEFORE the shooting starts. Once committed, we should be, well, committed. If we decide that our military objectives are of sufficient importance that we're going to go kill people, and send some of our people to be killed, then I would submit that we have already pre-approved any "cost overruns" necessary to achieve those objectives, to achieve victory. It may argued that we didn't engage in sufficient debate or cost evaluation before going in, but the time for that debate has passed.

You're absolutely correct that two wars are very expensive, but they only strain the coffers because of all the other federal programs busting the budget. And since many fiscal conservatives consider national defense to be most important function of the national government, any discussion of deficit reduction will start with other programs, particularly programs that exist only as proposed legislation.

To give an analogy, there have been times when I myself couldn't afford healthcare. Not because I had no income, but because there were other priorities in my budget that couldn't be cut, e.g. rent, utilities, food etc. There were only so many dollars to go around.

Obviously, I can't say that my line of thinking represents the thought processes of every fiscal conservative who supports the surge in Afghanistan, yet is very skeptical about the current health care reform proposals. But I think that holding both positions is not necessarily inconsistent or hypocritical.

docjim505 said...

In two parts:

DLH - Your limited interpretation of "general welfare" is not mandated by the Constitution. The document leaves that phrase undefined.

These sentences are contradictory. If the Constitution leaves the phrase "general welfare" undefined, then how can you say that my interpretation is not mandated by it? I assert that my interpretation is correct and was the prevailing view for most of our history. Allow me to cite Attorney General Cushing, quoted in Mr. Justice Reynold's dissenting opinion in Stewart Machine Company vs. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937):

I shall not discuss at length the question of power sometimes claimed for the General Government under the clause of the eighth section of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power 'to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,' because if it has not already been settled upon sound reason and authority it never will be... It is not a substantive general power to provide for the welfare of the United States, but is a limitation on the grant of power to raise money by taxes, duties, and imposts. If it were otherwise, all the rest of the Constitution, consisting of carefully enumerated and cautiously guarded grants of specific powers, would have been useless, if not delusive... Indeed, to suppose it susceptible of any other construction would be to consign all the rights of the States and of the people of the States to the mere discretion of Congress, and thus to clothe the Federal Government with authority to control the sovereign States... [emphasis mine - dj505]

Lest it be thought that Cushing is not sufficient authority, here is James Madison on the subject (Federalist #41):

Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the... general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare...
...
The objection here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language used by the convention is a copy from the articles of Confederation... Construe either of these articles by the rules which would justify the construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever. [emphasis mine - dj505]

docjim505 said...

Continued...

DLH - Also, solving a healthcare crisis is easily seen as being in the general welfare of the nation.

This is a slippery slope indeed. What powers does the federal government NOT have to "promote the general welfare" in response to a "crisis"?

Incidentally, I object to the widely-used term "health care crisis". We don't have any such thing. Upwards of 80% of Americans are perfectly happy with their health care, which is excellent in terms of response time, innovation, efficiency, and availability. What we have is a money crunch: the government especially is going broke trying to pay all the health-care costs that it has (foolishly AND unconstitutionally) agreed to cover.

DLH - You describe my statement about Western-led wars in the Middle East never ending as "usual liberal boilerplate about imperialism, colonialism, wars of aggression, Wall Street, etc." This is yet another empty and ahistorical position...

In what way, exactly? You state that, "Apparently, Western-led wars in the Middle East never end either." I consider this liberal boilerplate. Do you claim that all wars in the Middle East are "Western-led"? Or that the Middle East is in a constant state of war? What DO you mean?

DLH - ... in addition to your bankrupt argument that for 150 years, the US did not give out "charity" to citizens). Google is a wonderful research tool. Use it.

Well, counselor, I will politely decline your invitation to try your case for you and invite you, rather, to prove your assertion that the US government routinely handed out charity to citzens for the first 150 years of our country's existence. I suspect that your list of such charitable actions will be quite short and limited in the main to pensions for veterans, aid to the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers, and occasional disaster relief. Prior to the Great Depression, the federal government didn't get into the giveaway game.

liberal dissent said...

docjim505:Allow me to cite Attorney General Cushing, quoted in Mr. Justice Reynold's[sic] dissenting opinion in Stewart Machine Company v. Davis...Lest it be thought that Cushing is not sufficient authority"

Oooh, ooh, I have a more "sufficient authority" than Attorney General Cushing, quoted in Mr. Justice McReynold's dissenting opinion in Stewart Machine Company v. Davis. It's called the MAJORITY OPINION in Stewart Machine Company v. Davis.

This ia a slippery slope indeed. What powers does the federal government NOT have to "promote the general welfare" in response to a "crisis."

Exactly, DJ, if there were only some sort of addition in the Constitution that provided what the government couldn't do, some sort of "amendments" if you will...

to prove your assertion that the US government routinely handed out charity to citzens for the first 150 years of our country's existence.

I did not notice Darren use the word "routinely." In fact he didn't even imply that. Are you intentionally being dishonest to set up a strawman, or was it an accident?

By the way, what exactly is the war in Afghanistan going to do, in the case that it goes without a hitch from now on, and a year from now Afghanistan is a stable democracy? Best-case scenario, right? You obviously think that would be worth the cost in money and lives, and I'm curious as to how.

My next question is, there are a lot of countries in similar straits. Are we going to spend a trillion dollars for each of them to "stabilize" them? Won't that be exepsnsive? If not, why did Iran and Afghanistan get our largess? Obviously rooting out Al Qaida justifies the first few months in Afghanistan, but they're for the most part moved on to other countries, so continuing the war won't do too much on that front. What benefit to us if we win in Afghanistan in terms of its cost?

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docjim505 said...

In two parts:

liberal dissent - Oooh, ooh, I have a more "sufficient authority" than Attorney General Cushing... It's called the MAJORITY OPINION in Stewart Machine Company v. Davis.

1. And James Madison? Are you seriously going to try to argue that his opinion is less "sufficient authority" than the majority in Stewart?

2. Have you read the majority opinion? I think you'll find that Mr. Justice Cardozo spends some time discussing NOT the legal / constitutional questions (though he hardly ignores them), but rather the "crisis" of massive unemployment. Here is the key paragraph:

Accordingly, the roll of the unemployed, itself formidable enough, was only a partial roll of the destitute or needy. The fact developed quickly that the states were unable to give the requisite relief. The problem had become national in area and dimensions. There was need of help from the nation if the people were not to starve. It is too late today for the argument to be heard with tolerance that, in a crisis so extreme, the use of the moneys of the nation to relieve the unemployed and their dependents is a use for any purpose narrower than the promotion of the general welfare. [emphasis mine - dj505]

In other words, Cardozo and the rest of the majority were engaged in trying to twist the law to "do good", an example of the very problem under discussion.

3. Would you agree that a "majority opinion" and a "correct opinion" are not the same thing? If so, then please explain why the Warren court effectively overturned Plessy v. Ferguson.

4. I repeat my earlier question: "If one tries to claim that such a power to bestow charity IS within the federal government's constitutional powers, how is it that generations of some of the most brilliant Americans, including the people who WROTE THE CONSTITUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE, managed to miss it for nearly 150 years?"

liberal dissent - Exactly, DJ, if there were only some sort of addition in the Constitution that provided what the government couldn't do, some sort of "amendments" if you will...

I'm not sure why you're dragging in the amendment issue, because it really makes MY point that, as currently written, the Constitution does not allow the federal government to engage in charity. An amendment could, of course, change that. Or are you trying to assert that some amendment, and not the "general welfare clause" in Art II sec 8, DOES give the federal government the enumerated power to pass out largesse?

docjim505 said...

Continued...

liberal dissent - I did not notice Darren use the word "routinely." In fact he didn't even imply that. Are you intentionally being dishonest to set up a strawman, or was it an accident?

You're right: Professor Hutchinson does not use the word "routinely". I suggest that it is implied when he writes: "Your statement is absolutely ahistorical. Let me suggest the following article... [that] chronicles various federal charitable spending programs beginning in the 1700s and beyond!" [emphasis mine - dj505]

I suggest that "various" implies "several", which can be reasonably interpretted as "routine". This, incidentally, was the genesis of my citation of Cushing : he, as attorney general, seems to have been unaware that the US government had charitable spending programs during his lifetime.

liberal dissent - By the way, what exactly is the war in Afghanistan going to do, in the case that it goes without a hitch from now on, and a year from now Afghanistan is a stable democracy? Best-case scenario, right? You obviously think that would be worth the cost in money and lives, and I'm curious as to how.

As I understand President Bush's goals when we went in after the 9-11 attacks, it was to deny that country as a safe haven to al Qaeda. One way to do that is to attempt to convert it into a more-or-less stable, more-or-less democratic state, much as we did with Germany, Japan and Italy after World War II. I happen to support that goal as a worthy one, not only because I believe it good for our national security but also because I think it good for the Afghan people. Another option, of course, would be to treat A-stan as we did the various Indian nations or the Phillipines during our early occupation there, i.e. subject them to brutal and remorseless slaughter until they are either exterminated or so totally cowed as to become our vassals. Modern nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons would make this relatively simple. I'm not comfortable with that option.

liberal dissent - My next question is, there are a lot of countries in similar straits. Are we going to spend a trillion dollars for each of them to "stabilize" them? Won't that be exepsnsive?

When you see somebody drop a buck or two into a Salvation Army kettle at Christmas, do you sneer at them for not giving to charity every day, or do you give them a little tip of the hat for doing something decent? Is Scrooge good in the end for helping Tiny Tim, or a hypocrite for not helping every crippled child in the world?

Our power clearly has limits. I would be happy if (for example) we stopped the slaughter in Darfur, but we cannot afford to be so liberal with our blood and treasure when there are not other vital national interests at stake.

liberal dissent said...

1. As a legal authority? Of course it is less sufficient, Supreme Court opinions trump the Federalist Papers any day of the week.

2. I think you're missing Cardozo's point; the 1930s unemployment crisis required federal action precisely because it wasn't, as Madison referred to,and McReynolds cited "Within the states." And, of course, that is by no means the "key" paragraph of the opinion.

3. No, several does not mean routine in English. If you are talking of a frequency of "several" over 200 years of history, it logically means NOT routine. And Cushing's ignorance is not an authority of anything.

4. Believing that denying a small patch of ground to a highly mobile, global terrorist organization is worth a trillion dollar is stupid beyond belief. Thinking it could be done in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time is even more idiotic. The right-wing think-tank crowd, especially those supremely incompetent cowards in the Project for a New American Century, have run our economy into the ground and lowered our standing in the world, and barring Al Qaeda from a single country at the cost of all that is stupid. Like I said, victory tomorrow isn't necessarily worth the cost.

5. This isn't the equivalent of a buck or two in the Salvation Army bucket. A trillion dollars to create a war-ravaged country that is perpetually on the stage of collapse. And of course I notice you are careful not to discuss the Iraq war, which I have no doubt you supported), as even the most neoconservative chickenhawks have started to realize they were disastrously wrong about the purported benefits of invading Iraq.

What exactly is this "vital, national interest" that will be served by staying in Afghanistan? Al Qaeda has been driven out. I ask again, what will a stable, democratic Afghanistan do for us? Terrorists will be forced to plan attacks from Aden instead of Kabul? This is worth risking the economic and military health of the US? To inconvenience Al Qaeda?

docjim505 said...

In two parts...

liberal dissent - As a legal authority? Of course it is less sufficient, Supreme Court opinions trump the Federalist Papers any day of the week.

Let's not switch the terms of the argument, shall we? The question has to do with who best knew what the Constitution means, James Madison or Mr. Justice Cardozo. There is no question but that, as a legal matter, current SCOTUS rulings are the law of the land. However, as to what the Constitution means, I suggest that Attorney General Cushing got it right, the 1937 bench got it wrong, and Federalist 41 explains why. Refer to my comment regarding the Brown decision vs. the Plessy decision and "correct" interpretation vs. "majority opinion".

liberal dissent - I think you're missing Cardozo's point; the 1930s unemployment crisis required federal action precisely because it wasn't, as Madison referred to,and McReynolds cited "Within the states." And, of course, that is by no means the "key" paragraph of the opinion.

I say that Mr. Justice Cardozo missed the point of the Constitution, which is to create a UNITED country from a collection of several sovereign STATES. Prior to the 1930's, it was considered that the states, with the few exceptions listed as enumerated powers of the federal government, had sole authority to deal with problems affecting their citizens (please refer to Amendments IX and X). Hence, in the various depressions and recessions prior to 1929, the feds did not try to pull the "national crisis" card to usurp the powers of the states under a misinterpretation of the general welfare clause.

Please read all of Cushing's argument, by the way: you should see the parallel between dealing with the NATIONAL problem of the mentally handicapped and the NATIONAL problem of dealing with the unemployed or the NATIONAL problem of dealing with people who don't have health insurance... or the high cost of insurance... or insurance companies making too much money... or whatever the reason of the day is for passing ObamaCare.

As for the quote from Mr. Justice Cardozo that I offered, it is the "key paragraph" of the opinion in that it demonstrates that he was not looking solely at the written law and precedents to decide the case, but rather at political / social issues. I assert that he abused his power as a justice because he had a predetermined outcome (the law WOULD be constitutional) and twisted the meaning of the Constitution to suit his needs. It is clear from Federalist 41, Cushing, and the LACK of federal government charitable programs during the preceeding 150 years, the there was no federal power to pass out charity prior to Cardozo and the other justices simply asserting - hey, PRESTO! - that there was. Cardozo, in an understandable though misguided response to the Great Depression, overturned 150 years of precedent AND the opinion of the MAN WHO WROTE THE CONSTITUTION and made up a new interpretation. Our country is going bankrupt as a result of this sort of foolishness.

docjim505 said...

Continued...

liberal dissent - No, several does not mean routine in English. If you are talking of a frequency of "several" over 200 years of history, it logically means NOT routine. And Cushing's ignorance is not an authority of anything.

Very well. I apologize for putting words in Prof. Hutchinson's mouth and withdraw my use of the word "routine". However, I DO NOT withdraw my challenge to provide examples the "various federal charitable spending programs beginning in the 1700s and beyond!" that are alleged to have existed, and my prediction that such a list, if offered, will be short and confined to assistance to veterans, the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers, and disaster relief.

I would also ask that, if we accept that the federal government was NOT "routinely" in the charity business prior to the Great Depression, then doesn't that rather bolster my argument? After all, there were national crises, including depressions, in the preceeding 150 years. Why did the various presidents and Congresses prior to 1929 NOT enact "New Deal"-type legislation in response to them? I suggest that it is in large part because they understood that they didn't have that authority under the Constitution. Cushing's opinion, which you are pleased to call "ignorance", demonstrates how American jurists prior to Cardozo et al understood the Constitution, enumerated powers, and the general welfare clause.

Please consider yourself at liberty to present examples of federal charity programs and examples of Founding Fathers and legal scholars prior to the 1930s who argued that the general welfare clause allowed, as Madison puts it, "unlimited power" to provide for the general welfare.

liberal dissent - Believing that denying a small patch of ground to a highly mobile, global terrorist organization is worth a trillion dollar is stupid beyond belief.

I'm not going to be drawn into an argument over this issue as it would be a waste of my time. I WILL say that, if your argument is reduced to name-calling, then you've lost. Further, whether or not our efforts in A-stan are "stupid beyond belief" has no bearing on the legality or advisability of spending billions on a national health care takeover. Finally, I suggest that you take up the issue with the current president, as it's his baby now.

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