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Views on the News

Views on the News*

August 24, 2013

 

One of the underpinnings of successful representative government is that voters feel they can trust their representatives, and those in the bureaucracy to whom power is delegated, to follow the law, which is the foundation for a sense that the law is legitimate, so that citizens feel a duty to follow the law as well.  That trust in government has taken a big hit lately.  The IRS scandal hit the 100th day since the IRS admitted targeting conservative groups during the 2012 election year.  Yet the IRS is still being charged with stonewalling Congressional investigators.  New revelations of NSA lawbreaking have come out with NSA violating privacy rules thousands of times per year.  It appears that despite assurances that there was no domestic spying program, the NSA was, in fact, “hoovering up” vast numbers of phone calls, emails, etc. in order to spy on Americans.  Back in June, President Obama told us that if you trust Congress, you can trust the NSA, but that wasn't all that reassuring, considering how few Americans trust Congress.  Meanwhile, the Benghazi scandal was pushed off past the 2012 elections by scapegoating an obscure YouTube filmmaker, is looking worse and worse.  Although government officials blamed the video, the administration knew that Al Qaeda was involved from the beginning.  Now it has been revealed that missiles were being funneled through Benghazi to the Syrian rebels and that 400 were stolen by Al Qaeda terrorists at the time of the attack. Dozens of CIA agents were on the ground in Benghazi, and that they're being pressured to keep quiet.  Whatever went on in Benghazi, and in Washington, afterward, it doesn't inspire trust.  Enough breaches of trust and ordinary people will assume that the whole system is corrupt.  If that happens, people will quit following the law because they think it's the right thing to do, and only do so to the extent they're afraid of getting caught.  This lack of trust is also why we should try electing, and employing, people with strong moral compasses of their own; government officials who will follow the law because they think it's the right thing to do, rather than their being afraid of getting caught.

(“Scandals costing us American exceptionalism” by Glenn Harlan Reynolds dated August 19, 2013 published by USA Today at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/08/19/benghazi-irs-nsa-government-trust-column/2669039/)

America elected a President whose top priority was to reduce high-end income inequality, i.e., the inequality between the wealthy and everyone else, but the financial divide is hardly America’s biggest challenge, economic or moral.  Obama’s claim that the income of the top 1% surged over the past 30 years, while the income of the typical family “barely budged,” has been thoroughly debunked.  While the rich did get a lot richer, real median household income grew by roughly 20% before taxes and government transfers, and by about 40% after.  Instead of fretting so much about income inequality at the high end, Obama should focus on expanding economic mobility. Primarily, this means policies to boost GDP growth, polices including education, tax, and regulation reform.  The economy has grown at just 1.8% annually, adjusted for inflation, for the past decade, versus 3.3% a year since 1929, which is also the lowest of the post-WWII era.  The Federal Reserve pegs the economy’s long-term growth rate at 2.5%, the Congressional Budget Office at 2.2%.  Solid research from the Equality of Opportunity Project shows big variation among U.S. cities in residents’ ability to rise above their birth stations thanks to factors, including family structure and geographic segregation, not directly linked to the macro economy.  Once again President Obama has hyped a class warfare problem, then mis-diagnosed the root causes, and prescribes solutions that only make the situation worse, so America does have a 1% problem, just not the one Obama thinks it has.

(“Obama is Obsessed with the Wrong 1 Percent” by James Pethokoukis dated August 19, 2013 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/356100/obama-obsessed-wrong-1-percent-james-pethokoukis )

President Obama's approval numbers are now hitting record lows, due to the pattern of Presidential lawlessness.  The Constitution requires the President to "faithfully execute the law," based on Article 2, Section 3, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "(The President) shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed."  Our founders conceived and established in that document three co-equal branches of government to preserve our individual liberty and restrain the unlimited power of government.  However this President and his administration have routinely ignored the divisions of power between the Presidency, the Congress and its legislation, and the Supreme Court and its rulings.  Constitutionally, the President has the authority to check the legislative branch by recommending legislation to be passed by Congress or through the Presidential veto, but he cannot legislate through executive fiat and he can't pick and choose which parts of the law he will comply with or decline. Nor can he defy judicial rulings from the highest court in the land.  Whether one agrees with that law or not, its legal authority lies within the constitutional powers of Congress, not the executive branch.  There is a growing litany of Presidential lawlessness:

·    Feb. 3, 2010: Judge Martin Feldman held the Obama administration in contempt for re-imposing an offshore drilling moratorium that was struck down by the courts.

·    March 1, 2011: Attorney General Holder lied to Congress, claiming decisions on the New Black Panther Party were made by career attorneys in the department, it was  Associate A.G. Thomas Perrelli, an Obama political appointee, who overruled a unanimous recommendation for prosecution by DOJ attorneys.

·    May 3, 2011: When asked when he first heard of Operation Fast and Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder falsely testified he had heard only recently about Fast and Furious, when the Head of the National Drug Intelligence Center Michael Walther told Holder about Fast and Furious in a July 2010 memo.

·    March 27, 2012: EPA issued final rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions on electric utilities that require power plants to use nonexisting carbon capture-and-control technology to meet new emission standards, in defiance of the Congress' rejection of cap-and-trade legislation.

·    April 23, 2012: The administration postponed Medicare Advantage cuts by calling them a "demonstration project" and used funds not approved by Congress to delay effects of those cuts before the election.

·    June 15, 2012: The Obama administration announced it will stop deporting illegal immigrants under the age of 30 in a "deferred action" policy to circumvent immigration laws, after Congress rejected a similar measure about a year ago.

·    May 10, 2013: The IRS targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status beginning in March 2010, a direct targeting of political opponents through the tax laws.

·    May 13, 2013: AP reported the DOJ secretly collected phone records of AP reporters and editors, a move completely outside the realm of law.

·    May 20, 2013: A Washington Post article revealed that Fox News reporter James Rosen was investigated by the DOJ, which subpoenaed his phone records and emails in direct contravention of the First Amendment under the pretense of a leak investigation.

·    June 25, 2013: The Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Eric Holder that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is "unconstitutional" and that "the formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdiction to preclearance." Ignoring this ruling, Holder filed suit to order Texas to submit to preclearance, in defiance of Congress' authority to legislate and the Supreme Court's authority to rule on the constitutionality of the law.

·    July 1, 2013: The Obama administration unilaterally decided to delay the employer mandate provision of ObamaCare for a year, which is to provide information to the feds about the extent of an applicant's insurance.

·    July 17, 2013: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals joined the federal appeals courts in D.C. and Philadelphia in ruling President Obama's National Labor Relations Board recess appointments were unconstitutional, but thus far, the President has ignored the ruling.

·    Aug. 14, 2013: The Obama administration delayed the provision in ObamaCare to cap out-of-pocket health care costs, picking and choosing parts of the law to enforce, which is to exceed its authority.

This is just a small sampling of the lawlessness of this administration.  This lawlessness is the leading cause of distrust in government, and also the leading cause of President Obama's lost luster as America's leader.

(“Obama Presidency A Lengthening Legacy of Lawlessness” dated August 16, 2013 published by Investor’s Business Daily at http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/081613-667885-obama-presidency-leaves-a-lawless-legacy.htm )

 

Nothing will influence 2014 (and 2016) nearly as much as the implosion of ObamaCare, which so far has been messy and will become even worse.  The White House has missed 41 of 82 deadlines in the bill's first three years of existence, while labor leaders say the bill is destroying full-time employment.  Obama just announced the umpteenth delay in implementation; exempted Congressional staffers from ObamaCare costs; and said he will spend an additional $67 million to "educate" the public on the blessings to come with the law that survived the Supreme Court and the 2012 election.  It may not survive its clash with reality, however, which was always its enemy and which seems to be closing in fast.  Democrats claim these "glitches" mirror those faced by Medicare and Social Security soon after their birth, but two key things are different: Medicare and Social Security had wide and bi-partisan backing.  Only 16 states are committed to running ObamaCare exchanges, a critical fact that may ultimately doom the whole enterprise. If not enough people join the exchanges, the rickety house will collapse.  Democrats are pinning their hopes on Jan. 1, 2014, when subsidy checks start going out to ObamaCare recipients, as they believe that once an entitlement goes into practice, it never can be dialed back.  Except for somewhat higher taxes, Medicare and Social Security never hurt anyone, and disrupted the lives of no actual voters. ObamaCare does. The time has long passed when ObamaCare could be called a success; what remains to be seen is the size and the scope of the chaos it brings; and what this will do to its party of origin.  No man is an island, and no island is detached enough to be immune from this wreckage, if only through the harm it has done the economy, ask not for whom this bill tolls, all of you Democrats, because this bill tolls for thee.

(“This bill tolls for thee, Democrats” by Noemie Emery dated August 21, 2013 published by Washington Examiner at http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/2534520 )

 

Republicans have a plan to replace ObamaCare, introduced by Representative Tom Price, originally submitted as the Republican Study Committee (RSC) alternative.  The 250-page legislation, known as the Empowering Patients First Act currently has 32 co-sponsors, including Representatives Michele Bachmann, Tim Huelskamp, Jeb Hensarling, and Tom Cotton, but hasn’t been voted on yet.  The bill aims to provide affordable coverage through a series of tax credits and deductions designed to entice individuals into the insurance market with positive incentives, as opposed to ObamaCare’s solution of fining those who refuse to purchase health insurance.  Individuals would be allowed to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health-care-benefit programs in favor of receiving a tax credit; an individual’s health coverage would be “portable;” Individuals and small business would access insurance pools that reduce risk for those with pre-existing conditions, and they could purchase plans across state lines.  Tort reforms would cut down on physicians’ practicing “defensive medicine” and driving costs up by ordering unnecessary practices in an effort to avoid lawsuits.  The plan is based on six principles: affordability, accessibility, quality, responsiveness, innovation, and choice. “All of those principles are violated by the Affordable Care Act.”  Price said “My goal is always to have a positive alternative if the current system isn’t working, and in health care, the current system clearly isn’t working.”

(“Tom Price’s Plan to Replace Obamacare” by Andrew Stiles dated August 16, 2013 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/355963/tom-prices-plan-replace-obamacare-andrew-stiles )

 

A small band of conservative senators have called on Congress to pass a year-end spending bill that would keep government going, but bar spending anything to implement ObamaCare, and common wisdom holds that the President would veto any measure denying funds to his “legacy” achievement, thereby triggering a government shutdown.  Common wisdom also holds that Republicans would be blamed for the shutdown, and a resentful public will punish them for it at the polls.  That’s certainly the narrative being spun by the Administration and many pundits of the left.  The defund equals doom predictions stem from an erroneous reading of the 1995-1996 government shutdowns, when a GOP-controlled Congress faced-off against a Democrat White House.  In the 1990s, Republicans achieved a balanced budget and welfare reform, even though it took a government shutdown to get there.  Commentators frequently cite the “political fallout” from that confrontation as reason enough to avoid another shutdown scenario.  The notion that Republicans paid a steep price for the Clinton-era shutdown simply doesn’t reflect reality.  In the 1996 elections, the first election following the shutdown, Republicans suffered a net loss of only eight seats in the House.  It was the first time in nearly 70 years that Republicans carried a House majority over into the next Congress prior to 2012.  On the Senate side, Republicans gained two seats.  When the electoral dust cleared, Republicans had kept their majority in the House and strengthened their Senate majority.  By sticking to their principles, conservatives managed to win a balanced budget agreement and a reformed welfare system from a most reluctant White House.  Moreover, a vote to defund is by no means a vote to shut down the federal government.  If the House passes a Continuing Resolution (CR) that forbids spending a dime on implementing ObamaCare but keeps the rest of the federal government up and running, then the measure would go to the Democrat-controlled Senate, putting the onus to act on the other party.  Suppose enough Democrat senators, not wanting to take heat for valuing ObamaCare above all other government programs combined, join their Republican colleagues to pass the CR.  Should President Obama then choose to veto the measure, any responsibility for a resulting government shutdown would be on him, not on Congress.  President Obama, through his unilateral decisions to delay the employer mandate and exempt Congress from participating in the program, has already demonstrated just how unworkable and unfair his signature achievement truly is.  Once the law’s provisions and subsidies are fully implemented, it may be even more difficult to dismantle them.  The bottom line is that if lawmakers want to go home to their constituents and truthfully proclaim they did all they could to avert the ObamaCare “train wreck,” they need to back up their words with principled action and refusing to show up for the fight is not an option.

(“Defunding Obamacare: Much Ado About a Showdown” by Hans A. von Spakovsky dated August 15, 2013 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2013/8/defuning-obamacare-much-ado-about-a-shutdown)

It’s hard to see the battlefields of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and Mali as pieces in a global war in which we are targeted, because the deep thinkers zero in on the single battlefields.  Our government, our universities, our news organizations and our think tanks are all primarily organized to deal with countries, and our analysts, policy makers and military strategists inevitably think inside those boxes.  There is a global war, we’re the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don’t see it and therefore have no idea how to win it.  Any serious attempt to understand what’s going on has to begin by banning the word “stability,” much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists.  If anything is fairly certain about our world, it’s that there is no stability, and there isn’t going to be any.  Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it, but things are changing, as always.  The war is easily described:  there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  The radicals include the Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias.  Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, the United States.  War is foggy, and alliances are often very unstable, especially when the whole world is up for grabs.  For the moment the struggle for power trumps the power of the faith.  Notice that this bloody confrontation has nothing to do with the celebrated Sunni-Shi’ite war that is so often invoked to “explain” current events.  There are plenty of “foreign fighters,” just as there were in Iraq, just as there are in Afghanistan:  in the last 8 days, according to usually reliable sources in Cairo, 253 Uzbeks, 21 Yemenis, 40 Afghans and 11 Turkmens have been arrested, along with 126 Hamas operatives, who bring weapons and train pro-Brotherhood Egyptians.  There’s an alliance plotting against us, bound together by two radical views of the world that share a profound, fundamental hatred of us.  If they win, it will be hell to pay, because then we will be attacked directly and often, and we will be faced with only two options, winning or losing.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that they’re divided, and slaughtering each other.  The radical left has failed everywhere, and so have the radical Islamists.  Both claim to have history (and/or the Almighty) on their side, but they go right on failing.  The left is now pretty much in the garbage bin of history, and the “Muslim world” is a fossilized remnant of a failed civilization.  We’ve got lots of opportunities.  We’ve already passed up many:  failing to support the Iranian people against the evil regime that is the central source of terror against us and our would-be friends, failing to support Mubarak against the Brothers, failing to quickly support the opposition to Assad at the outset, before the enterprise got buried under a heap of jihadi manure, and so forth.  Think globally when it comes to terror.

(“It’s War, You Idiots” by Michael Ledeen dated August 18, 2013 published by PJ Media at http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/18/its-war-you-idiots/ )

 

* There is so much published each week that unless you search for it, you will miss important breaking news.  I try to package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning.  Updates have been made this week to the following issue sections:

·  Bibliography at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/intro/bibliography.php

·  Culture at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/philosophy.php

·  Africa at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/africa.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com