Archives: 05/2010

Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal?

Decrying political polarization and “the ideological purification of both parties,” the Washington Post notes in an editorial:

The world is complicated, and an electorate so diverse in geography, race, class and beliefs can’t be shoehorned into two fixed templates. There is no particular reason why all advocates of fiscal restraint should also oppose abortion rights, or why supporters of a progressive tax code should necessarily favor restrictions on gun ownership.

Indeed. That’s a point we’ve been making since 1981, when we published “An Alternative Analysis of Mass Belief Systems: Liberal, Conservative, Populist, and Libertarian” by Stuart A. Lilie and William S. Maddox. And especially in our studies on the “libertarian vote,” in which we make the point that there are millions of voters who don’t line up neatly into red-blue, liberal-conservative columns.

Obama Administration Doesn’t Walk the Ed Reform Walk

Oh, they’ll chew your ears off about how boldly they support and are catalyzing  real education reform, and how they won’t accept the failed status quo. Yes sir, they’ll boast nonstop about what a gigantic success their  Race to the Top initiative has been, despite having no real evidence to back that up. Without question, the Obama administration will talk the talk about transformative education reform. But walk the walk? That’s another story.

Let’s put this in perspective. Almost the entire basis for the Obama administration’s claim to school reform supremacy is Race to the Top. And what does RTTT do? It furnishes $4.35 billion to entice states into submitting sort of bold-sounding plans for education reform while requiring them to do very little when it comes to implementing those plans. At the very least, we have little reason to believe the administration can or will hold states to their promised reforms. And by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s own admission, the only winners to date won by getting lots of union and school district buy-in for their proposed reforms. So, as far as we can tell, Race to the Top itself is way more hot air than fiery reform.

But that isn’t even close to the clearest evidence that the Obama administration does little more than flap its gums about real reform while substantively supporting something very different. The clearest sign is that the so-called “stimulus” from which RTTT funding came furnished about $100 billion for education, and the vast majority of that was intended to keep as many people employed in our incredibly inefficient, labor-dominated public schooling monopoly as possible. In other words, the “stimulus” provided a gargantuan payoff for the very people who are supposed to be the subjects of tough reforms, while furnishing a relatively tiny sum for the program supposedly intended to inspire such reforms. (Of course, the Obama administration also helped kill the proven-effective D.C. school choice program, but we’ll save that for another time.) 

And the hits just keep on coming. With school districts nearing the end of their stimulus windfall, they once again face having to cut some of their copious fat. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has put forth the $23 billion, “Keep Our Educators Working Act” to keep that from happening, and yesterday the administration — suprise, surprise — threw its support behind the bill.  

Even the Washington Post has come out against the legislation, which if nothing else would add another $23 billion to our absolutely collosal federal deficit. Moreover, to borrow a favorite phrase of the President’s, let me be clear:  an honest accounting of even the biggest potential staffing cuts shows that those losses would constitute a relatively small cut from a system that has for decades added staff at a furious pace without producing any better outcomes.

Unfortunately, neither the shamefully irresponsible mortgaging of our future, nor the clear need to eliminate costly public-schooling jobs, seems to matter to this administration. As long as people keep letting them get away with nothing but reform-y talk, it appears they’ll willingly bankrupt the country to keep the status quo fat and happy.

DHS to States: Pleeease Spend This Money!

Here’s a window onto the upside-down way government spending works. The Department of Homeland Security has sent a letter to states begging them to spend federally provided money on implementing REAL ID, the national ID law.

“DHS is regularly asked by members of Congress, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, if these funds are needed by the states, and whether these funds should be reallocated to other efforts,” writes Juliette Kayyam of DHS’ Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. “As both the states and the Federal government face increasingly tough budgeting decisions, it is more important than ever that these available funds be utilized.”

That’s right: Tough budget times make it imperative to spend more money.

States don’t want to implement REAL ID, and the American people don’t want a national ID, but the DHS bureaucracy is rattling cages to try to get money spent purely for the sake of spending. It’s flabbergasting.

NFIB: ObamaCare Is Unconstitutional, ‘Threatens Individual Freedom’

The National Federation of Independent Business — the nation’s largest small-business lobby — will join the lawsuit that 20 attorneys general (including one Democrat) have brought against ObamaCare. 

According to the Associated Press, NFIB found ObamaCare’s individual mandate particularly offensive:

The National Federation of Independent Business will join the argument that Americans cannot be required under the Constitution to obtain insurance coverage, the group’s president, Dan Danner, said in an interview…

The new law allows government “to regulate you just because you exist,” said Danner. “If you can regulate this, where do you stop? Do you tell people, ‘We are going to mandate that everybody exercise?’ We think this is an overreach by the government. It goes too far, and threatens individual freedom.” [Emphasis mine.]

Repeal the bill.

The Desperate Left

Today Politico Arena asks:

Are tea partiers the new John Birchers?

This is absurd. An obscure assistant professor teaching in a middling university writes an opinion piece comparing the Tea Party movement to the John Birch Society — indeed, even to the Ku Klux Klan — and Politico Arena asks us to take it seriously for comment?! Res ipsa loquitur: The several recent elections speak more loudly than this professor ever will. Back to adult fare.

Immigration II: On the Substance of the Matter

Responding to my immigration post this morning, my colleagues Dan Griswold and Jason Kuznicki have focused on the single short paragraph that touched on the substance of the matter. (The question before me, posed by Politico Arena, concerned mainly the political implications of the new Arizona law, given the latest Pew Research Center poll on the issue.) I quite agree with both that we’ve never had full control of our southern border (or any border, for that matter), but as Dan has noted elsewhere, when we had a guest-worker program in place, illegal immigration dropped by 95 percent – no small drop. And illegal, not legal, immigration is the issue before us. And Dan is right too that we’ve thrown a lot of enforcement at the problem in recent years, to limited avail, so it’s not true that Congress hasn’t done anything. What it has done, however, hasn’t addressed the real problem, the underlying substantive law, as Dan has often written.

I’m struck, though, by Jason’s unqualified comment that he can’t say he shares my views on immigration.” Really? I did say, I believe, that Congress needs to address the problem, including with a guest-worker program. And I also said that “It hardly needs saying that a welfare state, in the age of terrorism, cannot have open borders.” I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with that.

Concerning both the welfare state and terrorism, Jason points to “remedies” at the far end of the problem. He writes, for example, that our welfare state is going broke anyway, and “compared to the damage being done by native-born U.S. citizens and their cursedly long lifespans, the immigrants’ overall effects are quite small.” (I won’t take that “cursedly long lifespan” point personally.) True, but in places where the welfare state issues are concentrated, like border-state emergency rooms and schools, that long-term national perspective isn’t the issue. Yes, getting the government out of health care and education might ameliorate those localized problems (that question’s for another day), but we can’t always wait for more remote problems to be solved before we address more immediate ones.

And that goes for Jason’s terrorism point, too. He writes: “Without the black market in drugs, we’d have a lot less to fear from terrorists, particularly on our southern border.” I’m all for legalizing recreational drugs. But I was alluding to Islamic terrorists, not narco-terrorists, when I spoke of getting control of our borders. Legalizing drugs (again, a more remote remedy) might have some effect on the coffers of Islamic terrorists, but it would hardly solve the terrorism problem. As long as that problem exists, we need border control. Let’s remember, for example, that it was an alert border agent who thwarted the would-be LAX bomber.

Ask Kagan about ObamaCare

Senate Judiciary Committee members should be sure to ask Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, during her upcoming confirmation hearings, whether she or her office played any part in crafting ObamaCare or the administration’s defense to the lawsuits challenging that law.  If Kagan helped to craft either, that would present a conflict of interest: when those lawsuits reach the Supreme Court, she would be sitting in judgment over a case in which she had already taken sides.

Though the Solicitor General deals with appellate matters, it is certainly possible that Kagan was consulted during the drafting of the law or the administration’s legal strategy for defending it.

The Senate Democrats who drafted ObamaCare took pains to protect it from a constitutional challenge.  The law contains several pages of findings designed to show that the Constitution’s commerce clause authorizes Congress to force Americans to purchase health insurance.  It would have been prudent for Senate Democrats to ask the government’s top appellate lawyer, who belongs to the same political party, whether they had done all they could to protect the “individual mandate” from a constitutional challenge.

Opponents began filing legal challenges to ObamaCare just minutes after President Obama signed it into law, and seven weeks before he announced Kagan’s nomination.  On Tuesday, the Obama administration filed its first response, to a private lawsuit.  According to the Associated Press, that filing “is to be followed in coming weeks and months by federal government court responses to lawsuits filed by many states.”  Regarding the case filed by 13 (soon to be 20) state attorneys general, The New York Times reports, “Some legal scholars, including some who normally lean to the left, believe the states have identified the law’s weak spot and devised a credible theory for eviscerating it.”  It is not certain, but it is certainly possible that the Office of the Solicitor General was consulted on the government’s response to lawsuits that would likely reach the Supreme Court.

If Kagan played a role in drafting ObamaCare or formulating the administration’s legal defense, and is confirmed by the Senate, propriety would dictate that she recuse herself from any challenges to that law that reach the high court.  Supporters and opponents alike should be interested to know whether the Court will judge ObamaCare with nine justices on the bench, or eight.