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March 19, 2010 9:45AM

Schumer and Graham on Immigration Reform: Why Not Do it Without the Biometric National ID?

There is much to commend in the op-ed on immigration reform that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published in this morning's Washington Post. Unfortunately, they lead with their worst idea: a biometric national ID card, mandatory for all American workers.

Here's the good: "Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration," they say. "Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic."

Their plan includes problem-solving proposals: "creating a process for admitting temporary workers" and "implementing a tough but fair path to legalization." The latter would reduce the population of illegal aliens in the U.S.---good---and the former would reduce the need to enter illegally in the first place---also good.

Joined with the enhanced border security they propose, these ideas would address the immigration challenge as well as anyone knows how. (Details matter, and my colleagues will have more to say, I'm sure.)

But then there is their gratuitous national ID proposal for all American workers, and stepped up interior enforcement. "Interior enforcement" is a euphemism for "rounding up illegal workers" under some administrations and "raiding employers" under others.

This is the most specific Senator Schumer has ever been about his biometric national ID proposal, though he's had it in mind since at least 2007. But it is hardly satisfactory, and the claim there will be no national ID database is almost certainly not true.

Here is the paragraph that captures the senators' plan:

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March 18, 2010 5:07PM

Davy Crockett’s Lesson for Congress

Fess Parker, the actor who portrayed both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in classic television shows, has died at the age of 85. In his honor, I offer this version of Parker singing the theme song “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”:

And more substantively, I note that Col. David Crockett served three terms in Congress from Tennessee, where he is best known for delivering a speech known as “Not Yours to Give.” In response to a proposal for an appropriation to benefit the widow of a naval officer, Rep. Crockett said:

I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. …


We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.

He went on to quote a constituent who had complained when he previously voted for a similar measure:

The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.

He may not actually have patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell, but he did his best to preserve the Constitution.

March 18, 2010 5:07PM

SAFRA‐​ficed?

Here’s a quick, preliminary reaction to the higher‐​education portion of the mammoth health‐​care reconciliation bill. I could find I’m wrong about some stuff as I delve more deeply into the bill’s language, but it appears that much of the out‐​of‐​control spending that would have occurred under the odious Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act has been axed under reconciliation. SAFRA, it appears, has been sacrificed, though to bring to life an even more destructive demon.


Unfortunately, some of SAFRA survived. While a great deal of the spending has been stripped out, reconciliation would still tighten the federal government’s already iron grip on college financing. It would also plow billions more into Pell grants despite decades of evidnece that schools just eat such increases by raising prices. And don’t be fooled by the deceptive accounting in which administrative costs for guaranteed lending are counted as mandatory, but for direct lending as discretionary. When one fully accounts for the costs of going to all direct lending the estimated savings drop from $19.4 billion to $14.4 billion between 2010 and 2019, a sizable chunk of change for a nation so in debt it needs to save every penny it can.

March 18, 2010 5:06PM

GOP Congressmen: Most Republicans Now Think Iraq War Was a Mistake

In a Thursday panel at Cato on conservatism and war, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R‑Calif.) Tom McClintock (R‑Calif.) and John Duncan (R‑Tenn.) revealed that the vast majority of GOP members of Congress now think it was wrong for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003.


The discussion was moderated by Grover Norquist, who asked the congressmen how many of their colleagues now think the war was a mistake.


Rohrabacher:

“I will say that the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake. …Now that we know that it cost a trillion dollars, and all of these years, and all of these lives, and all of this blood… all I can say is everyone I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now.”

McClintock:

“I think everyone [in Congress] would agree that Iraq was a mistake.”

Watch the clip:

March 18, 2010 4:31PM

Lawrence Lessig’s Constitutional Amendment

Lawrence Lessig has proposed a constitutional amendment in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United.  It reads:

"Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power to limit, though not to ban, campaign expenditures of non-citizens of the United States during the last 60 days before an election."

In Citizens United, the Court said that the First Amendment concerns speech rather than speakers. Congress has no power to discriminate against speakers; hence, a source of speech - people organized as a corporation - could not be prohibited from speaking (or funding speech).

Professor Lessig hopes to introduce a discrimination among speakers into the First Amendment. His proposed discrimination will not lose a popularity contest. He wishes to allow Congress to control the speech of non-citizens.  He follows two lines of argument in support of his amendment, one less rational than the other.

The less rational line of appeal to the reader is both implicit and predictable. The Chinese are invoked along with the Chamber of Commerce. A denial of xenophobic intent follows immediately, and "We the People" appear near the end. Carl Schmitt would recognize the rhetorical construction of "friend and enemy." Rather cleverly, Lessig manages to equate the foreign devils with the internal demons of the liberal mind. Corporations (including the Sierra Club?) and the Chinese (or other foreigner) are on one side of political struggles while "We the People" are on the other.

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March 18, 2010 4:22PM

Joe Scarborough on War

Former Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough delivered the keynote address at today’s conference on the topic of conservatism and the war in Afghanistan.


During his speech, Scarborough took on neo‐​conservatives, Obama’s foreign policy record since taking office, and why the United States is still at war.


“In 2010, there’s not much difference between the Republicans’ view on foreign policy and the Democrats’ view of foreign policy,” said Scarborough. “President Obama… this anti‐​war president, has doubled the number of troops to Afghanistan to nearly 100,000… and he’s continued the transformation of the Afghanistan effort from a counterterrorism mission to a nation‐​building mission.”


For more, listen in:

To download this to your iPod, subscribe to the Cato Daily Podcast on iTunes.

March 18, 2010 3:16PM

Who I’m Not Voting For

It’s that time of year again, when friends start telling me about this or that candidate I should support because he or she is a dedicated defender of liberty and limited government. I’m a political junkie, so I love getting these recommendations. But I don’t end up supporting or contributing to many candidates. In my view, it’s not enough for a candidate to say that he’s “committed to slashing wasteful spending, providing tax relief, and eliminating red tape.” What’s your actual tax plan? What spending do you propose to cut or eliminate? Not many of them offer clear answers to that.


And liberty involves more than just economics. Often I’m told, “Congressman X is a libertarian.” I always check, and then I say, “He voted for the war, the Patriot Act, and the Federal Marriage Amendment. Sounds like a conservative.” Now a conservative who opposed President George W. Bush’s trillion‐​dollar spending increase, his Medicare expansion, and his stepped‐​up federal involvement in education is a lot better than your average member of Congress. But those votes do not a libertarian make.


This year I’m looking for candidates who stand for freedom across the board, who want government constrained by the Constitution, who believe in the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.


And that means I don’t want to back candidates who support

  • the war in Iraq
  • the war in Afghanistan
  • war with Iran
  • the war on drugs
  • the constitutional amendment to override state marriage laws and make gay people second‐​class citizens
  • the president’s power to snatch American citizens off the street and hold them without access to a lawyer or a judge
  • new restrictions on immigration

So don’t everybody write at once. But I’ll be looking out for political candidates who support liberty and limited government across a wide range of issues.