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June 28, 2012

Eat Your Broccoli! The Supreme Court Decision on Obamacare

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is fond of saying that if the government can make you buy health insurance, they can make you eat, or at least buy, broccoli. It may seem like an odd way to put it, but he's right.

Liberals usually retort that everyone has to have car insurance, so what's the difference? The difference is that you don't have to own a car. No car, no requirement to have car insurance. But by simple virtue of existence as an American you are now required to buy health insurance. They can call the fine if you don't a "tax" all they want; it's a fine all the same. From Fox News:

The decision to uphold ObamaCare and its individual mandate forcing people to buy health insurance was based on the federal government's taxing authority rather than other powers.

The Roberts majority determined that Congress deserved reasonable deference on the determination of whether the cost incurred for non-compliance with the individual mandate to obtain insurance was a tax or a penalty.

"Congress's authority under the taxing power is limited to requiring an individual to pay money into the Federal Treasury, no more. If a tax is properly paid, the Government has no power to compel or punish individuals subject to it. We do not make light of the severe burden that taxation -- especially taxation motivated by a regulatory purpose -- can impose. But imposition of a tax nonetheless leaves an individual with a lawful choice to do or not do a certain act, so long as he is willing to pay a tax levied on that choice," the majority wrote.

Whatever. The take-away is that this is one of the most dramatic increases in the power of the federal government that we have seen in a long time. If they can make you buy health insurance, they can indeed make you buy certain food. Foods they say is good for you. All for your own good, of course.

As Karen Harned put it in an editorial on Fox News, "Americans have lost the right to be left alone.

I don't have much time, so I'll post this editorial from National Review, which sums up what I think:

Chief Justice Roberts's Folly
June 28, 2012 2:00 P.M.
By The Editors

In today's deeply disappointing decision on Obamacare, a majority of the Supreme Court actually got the Constitution mostly right. The Commerce Clause -- the part of the Constitution that grants Congress the authority to regulate commerce among the states -- does not authorize the federal government to force Americans to buy health insurance. The Court, by a 5-4 margin, refused to join all the august legal experts who insisted that of course it granted that authorization, that only yahoos and Republican partisans could possibly doubt it. It then pretended that this requirement is constitutional anyway, because it is merely an application of the taxing authority. Rarely has the maxim that the power to tax is the power to destroy been so apt, a portion of liberty being the direct object in this case.

What the Court has done is not so much to declare the mandate constitutional as to declare that it is not a mandate at all, any more than the mortgage-interest deduction in the tax code is a mandate to buy a house. Congress would almost surely have been within its constitutional powers to tax the uninsured more than the insured. Very few people doubt that it could, for example, create a tax credit for the purchase of insurance, which would have precisely that effect. But Obamacare, as written, does more than that. The law repeatedly speaks in terms of a "requirement" to buy insurance, it says that individuals "shall" buy it, and it levies a "penalty" on those who refuse. As the conservative dissent points out, these are the hallmarks of a "regulatory penalty, not a tax."

The law as written also cuts off all federal Medicaid funds for states that decline to expand the program in the ways the lawmakers sought. A majority of the Court, including two of the liberals, found this cut-off unconstitutionally coercive on the states. The Court's solution was not to invalidate the law or the Medicaid expansion, but to rule that only the extra federal funds devoted to the expansion could be cut off. As the dissenters rightly point out, this solution rewrites the law -- and arbitrarily, since Congress could have avoided the constitutional problem in many other ways.

The dissent acknowledges that if an ambiguous law can be read in a way that renders it constitutional, it should be. It distinguishes, though, between construing a law charitably and rewriting it. The latter is what Chief Justice John Roberts has done. If Roberts believes that this tactic avoids damage to the Constitution because it does not stretch the Commerce Clause to justify a mandate, he is mistaken. The Constitution does not give the Court the power to rewrite statutes, and Roberts and his colleagues have therefore done violence to it. If the law has been rendered less constitutionally obnoxious, the Court has rendered itself more so. Chief Justice Roberts cannot justly take pride in this legacy.

The Court has failed to do its duty. Conservatives should not follow its example -- which is what they would do if they now gave up the fight against Obamacare. The law, as rewritten by judges, remains incompatible with the country's tradition of limited government, the future strength of our health-care system, and the nation's solvency. We are not among those who are convinced that we will be stuck with it forever if the next election goes wrong: The law is also so poorly structured that we think it may well unravel even if put fully into effect. But we would prefer not to take the risk.

It now falls to the Republicans, and especially to Mitt Romney, to make the case for the repeal of the law and for its replacement by something better than either it or the health-care policies that preceded it. Instead of trusting experts to use the federal government's purchasing power to drive efficiency throughout the health sector -- the vain hope of Obamacare's Medicare-cutting board -- they should replace Medicare with a new system in which individuals have incentives to get value for their dollar. Instead of having Washington establish a cartel for the insurance industry, they should give individuals tax credits and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. Instead of further centralizing the health-care system, in short, they should give individuals more control over their insurance.

Opponents should take heart: The law remains unpopular. Let the president and his partisans ring their bells today, and let us work to make sure that they are wringing their hands come November.

Put simply, they destroyed the law in order to save it. Or they twisted the law in order to uphold a political policy.

Some say this will not be a very big issue in the election, which they say will center around jobs and the economy. I agree in that this is what will sway the swing voters. But this ruling, and the fervent desire to be rid of this awful law, will fire up the Republican base and encourage donors to dig deeper in their pockets. While I'd rather have had the ruling go the other way, this ruling will motivate Republican volunteers like nothing else.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 6, 2012

Walker Wins!


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The story from Fox News:

With nearly all precincts reporting, Walker had 53 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for Barrett. The margin of victory was wider than many expected and slightly better than Walker's 5.8 percentage-point victory over Barrett in the 2010 race. Some 2.5 million voters cast their ballots. ... Wisconsin went for President Obama in 2008, but the recall results give Republicans hope that their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, can win there in November.

"Governor Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington," Romney said.

Republicans see Walker's win as evidence voters across the country want their elected officials to keep government living within its means. They said this paves the way for Romney to become the first Republican candidate to carry Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

It's obviously way premature to move Wisconsin into the "likely Republican" column, but the state is certainly in play.

It would be intellectually dishonest to say that this election does anything other than give Republicans a boost and Democrats a loss. Liberals put a lot into this election and while it wasn't a runaway, neither was it a squeaker. President Obama didn't get involved, which tells me two things: One, they were not nearly as confident of victory as they said they were, and second, they did not think his presence would help Walker's opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.

Worse for Democrats was that although the cause of the recall election was the issue of unions and collective bargaining, the campaign itself was conducted entirely around the issue of jobs and the economy. That Walker won the argument does not portend well for Obama.

And even worse is the conclusion that comes next; that liberals have lost the argument on public sector unions and their supposed right of collective bargaining. Forbes has the story:

Governor Walker's Victory Spells Doom For Public Sector Unions
by Bill Frezza
6/05/2012 @ 9:36PM

Despite a last-minute smear campaign accusing Scott Walker of fathering an illegitimate love child, the governor's recall election victory sends a clear message that should resonate around the nation: The fiscal cancer devouring state budgets has a cure, and he has found it. The costly defeat for the entrenched union interests that tried to oust Walker in retribution for challenging their power was marked by President Obama's refusal to lend his weight to the campaign for fear of being stained by defeat. We'll see how well this strategy of opportunistic detachment serves in the fall as Obama reaches out to unions for support.
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Scott Walker ran for office promising change. The fiscal medicine he is administering may be bitter, but it looks like it is starting to work. The state budget has been balanced. The unemployment rate has been dropping and is now below the national average. Property taxes are down. Fraudulent sick leave policies--which allowed employees to call in sick and then work the next shift for overtime pay--have been ended. The government has stopped forcibly collecting union dues from workers' paychecks.

Best of all, the myth that union bosses represent their members' interests has been exposed as a lie. Now that union dues are voluntary, tens of thousands of union members have stopped paying them. Membership in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) has dropped by half. Membership in the state's American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is down by over a third. Given unions' influential role in most elections, the national implications of this trend are staggering.

Walker's message is clear: The key to bringing balance back to public sector labor relations and balance state budgets is to break the iron triangle of closed-shop mandatory unionization, compulsory dues collection, and oversized campaign donations to politicians that promise to do the unions' bidding. If other governors take his cue and take up the cause, that giant sucking sound you hear will be the air coming out of union bosses' bloated political action budgets.

A few quick important points from Robert Costa at National Review (follow the link for more):

- Walker is the first governor in history to beat a recall. And he galloped to victory in a bluish state -- with more votes than he won during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

- Walker's policies, not his personality, won him the election. According to a recent Marquette University poll, 55 percent of likely voters said they favor limiting collective bargaining for public-sector employees.

- Turnout hit record highs across the state -- more than 55 percent according to the Associated Press.

- Walker's numbers among independents are solid, according to CBS News. Among this coveted group, he beat Barrett soundly, 54 percent to 45 percent.


Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 2, 2012

Romney is Rocking

It is safe to say that there is a general consensus on the right that Mitt Romney is running a good or even a very good campaign. In recent weeks I have heard this from many of my conservative friends who supported other candidates during the primary. I've also seen this around the Internet, where some of my favorite bloggers like Neo-Neocon, Sister Toldjah, and Mike's America are now basically singing Mitt's praises. And believe you me, if Mitt were faltering, they, and I, would be criticizing him.

Here is one of Romney's latest that nails Obama and good as being the king of "crony capitalism:"

Powerline Blog has a good piece summarizing the thoughts of many on the right:

These Aren't Your Father's Republicans
by John Hinderacker
May 31, 2012

One of the most heartening aspects of the early stages of the presidential race has been the Romney campaign's aggressiveness. Nothing discourages activists more than getting out front of a candidate who, it later turns out, isn't willing to do what it takes to win. A number of Republicans of recent years could be said to fit that description, most recently John McCain. But not Mitt Romney.

We've seen it over and over: the Obama campaign will launch an attack, and in next to no time, the Romney team hits back-twice as hard, as President Obama and Glenn Reynolds both like to say. It happened with the smear of Ann Romney, it happened with the dog on the roof, it happened with the silly "war on women," it happened with the administration's clumsy attack on Bain Capital, and it happened again today with the Democrats' attempt to denigrate Romney's service as Governor of Massachusetts.

A campaign can resemble a boxing match. Obama thinks he sees an opening and takes a swing at Romney. But before he can do any damage, he realizes he has walked into a counterpunch. Bam! Romney rocks him, and Obama retreats in disarray. Romney has shown himself already to be a top-notch counterpuncher.

His campaign has shown itself to be tough in other ways, too. When reporters pressed Romney to repudiate Donald Trump because he has been a "birther," Romney flatly refused. (Maybe Obama should be asked to repudiate his literary agent, who also, evidently, is a "birther.") This is exactly the right course. When Obama apologizes for Bill Maher and urges his SuperPac to return Maher's million dollars, then Romney can at least consider repudiating someone who supports him-if, that is, he can find anyone remotely as unsavory as Maher.
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Of course, amid all of the punching and counterpunching it is vital for Romney to stay on message, and not be distracted away from the all-important issue of the economy. He has done a good job of that, too. Today he held a surprise press conference at Solyndra. What I liked about Romney's comments at Solyndra is that he didn't just focus on the financial loss to the taxpayers, or accept the implicit assumption that everything would have been fine if only the company hadn't gone out of business. Rather, he talked about the differences between free enterprise and government cronyism:

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Wonder what Mitt Romney will do on Day One of his presidency? Wonder no more, as here are two very effective ads that have been running on TV:




Here he speaks about the Promise of America. Guess what, it's not about taking money from one group and giving it to another as part of some redistribution of wealth scheme:


Posted by Tom at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack