Monday, September 19, 2011

Obama's Debt-Reduction Plan: Has The Lion Found Courage?

Early reports of President Obama's debt-reduction bill reveal signs of courage in the proposal. According to the New York Times, for example, Obama has promised to veto any bill that does not include a tax increase. Also, the plan would increase taxes paid by the upper .03 percent of taxpayers. It would also allow the Bush-era tax cuts (extended by Congress during the Obama administration) to expire. Furthermore, conceding to the demands of liberals in Congress, Obama's plan does not include a change to the minimum age needed to qualify for Medicare or Social Security (see also, this article in the Washington Post).

Obama has frustrated many of his supporters by repeatedly conceding the center in his negotiations with Republicans and conservative Democrats. This proposal defies Republican threats and manages to deliver something that is worthy of support -- at least as the details have emerged so far.

I suspect that this plan has a lot to do with Obama's reelection bid than a sudden passion for more progressive economic policies. Well, politics is not for the faint of heart of the idealistic. Stay tuned for more updates.

UPDATE: Yes - he is in full-blown campaign mode. Too bad he does not exhibit such passion and leadership too often.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Game Time: Name One Leading Country That Follows the Tea Party Model of Government

The Tea Party and conservative Republicans -- including Ron Paul -- continue to scream about the perils of the national government. Anything that comes out of Washington is horrible, oppressive, and -- undoubtedly -- unconstitutional.

They seemingly want the nation to return to the type of country it was under the Articles of Confederation. Well, the Framers believed that this was a bad idea. So, as much as the conservatives lament the passage of a imagined fantasy land when the states, as provided by the Constitution, were all-powerful, history has involved an expansion of federal powers. And each generation has inscribed this expansion in the Constitution.

After the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, the next expansion in federal power came with the Civil War. Although conservatives want the states alone to determine the scope of important rights (e.g., Paul saying the states should decide abortion and sexual orientation issues), the Fourteenth Amendment explicitly limits the power of states with respect to substantive liberties, due process, equal protection and privileges and immunities. The Constitution also expands federal power with the Sixteenth Amendment, which gives Congress the power to tax income.

Conservatives have blatantly lied about history. Although they argue that the country was always -- until recently -- one of a very limited national government, the historical record shows that people in each generation of American history have generally favored more government due to the benefits that it brings to the People.

Rather than debating "whether" the government has a role in our lives, we should work together to identity issues that are suitable for governmental support and involvement. Instead, conservatives basically abhor anything at the federal level -- except for the military. While many liberals tend to think that a government-private sector collaboration is inherently suspicious - even though some of the most heralded liberal policies (like Medicare) involve a partnership with private entities.

This stalemate is extremely frustrating - particularly for those of us who have actual knowledge about history. The stalemate is also troublesome because it wastes precious time that we could spend mending the poor state of the country. And -- yes -- the government has a role in this as well.

So, here is a challenge to conservatives: Please name ONE (just one) country that has relative wealth, a democratic government, a good healthcare system, an educational system that provides basic early education for all residents, and a system of government that at least formally values due process, equal protection and civil liberty --- while at the same time having a central government that provides no services to the public -- except for national defense, that does not spend money to assist states with social services, and in which the people believe that government services are unhelpful, wrong, harmful to society, and a sign of totalitarianism.


Ron Paul Supporters: Fighting Mad!

Related Post: Game Time: Name One Leading Country That Follows the Tea Party Model of Government

Huffington Post has reprinted my article, Five Reasons Why Ron Paul Should Never Become President. Although the article generated buzz on Dissenting Justice, it has caused quite a stir at Huffington. Over 450 persons, primarily fans of Paul, have expressed their opinion on the article (and the number of posts grows even as I complete this essay).

The responses generally fall into the following categories:

1. "This article is garbage, horrible, disgusting, terrible, blah blah blah blah blah."
2. This article completely misrepresents Paul (without citing to one word in the article that is an actual misrepresentation).
3. Paul does not oppose abortion; he just wants it to be decided by the states.
4. Paul is not a racist. He opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is unconstitutional. Besides, it is no longer needed.

These posts are pretty silly. The first two categories are completely nonsubstantive. Perhaps these individuals are frustrated beyond all reason because it is highly unlikely that Paul, who first ran for president in 1988, will come close to winning the GOP nomination in 2012.

The third category distorts my blog post. Regardless of Paul's personal views on abortion, his belief that only the states should decide the issue would transform abortion from a constitutional right (which it presently is) and turn it into an option that women could exercise only subject to the laws in her state.

By contrast, constitutional rights apply throughout the country; states do not get to limit or expand them. Leaving this issue to the states implicitly means that it would no longer be a constitutionally protected right. There is no way to dispute this. It is a completely accurate statement of constitutional law.

The fourth category is dead wrong on the law. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the civil rights legislation. Furthermore, Paul's arguments are simply a modern rehashing of the Dixiecrats' views in the 1960s -- regardless of whether he is a bigot or not. Also, many studies demonstrate that racial discrimination in employment continues -- despite the legislation. Removing it would free companies to do so without a legal deterrent. Finally, if the legislation is unnecessary, then why repeal it? If companies are no longer discriminating, then they should not worry about the existence of the law.

To their credit, other individuals (only a few) agree that the blog post fairly presents Paul's past statements. Nevertheless, they say this is precisely why they support him. In other words, they agree with Paul's positions on the issues without accusing me of some conspiracy to misportray him. At least these individuals are intellectually honest. I commend them.

To the rest: thanks for bringing attention to the article. As a result of your efforts, more folks than I ever expected have now read the article. Many have emailed me and thanked me for the post. Now, a lot more people have a clearer understanding of Paul and his ideas. I suspect a lot of them will also decline to vote for him.

Update: There is one additional strand of analysis from Paul supporters: As president, Paul could not implement many of his ideas that you find threatening because the president cannot enact or repeal legislation.

This is probably one of the most troublesome -- but easily refuted -- claims. Of course presidents cannot enact or repeal legislation. Nonetheless, they are influential in the legislative process. Conservatives know this; they describe the healthcare legislation as "Obamacare," rather than Congress-care.

Furthermore, the president is the legal head of the executive agencies. The agencies have a tremendous amount of power to interpret and execute federal statutes. Thus, Paul's view of statutory enactments and constitutional text is extraordinarily important. This is such a basic part of our political system. I am shocked that Paul's supporters would even make this style of argument.
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