Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Foreign Affairs

Our "Waivering" President

Among the most egregious and apparently corrupt aspects of Obamacare is the widespread waivers which excuse Obama's allies and big donors from complying with the more burdensome and expensive regulations of the act. Not only does this represent political cronyism at its worst, but it also presents an unparalleled intrusion of governmental favoritism into private financial markets. Obama has effectively told America that any business or corporation which doesn't support his party will be punished with targeted regulation to which their left-leaning competitors will be excused.

Now comes confirmation that Obama has given a waiver to another liberal darling: Palestine. The Palestinian Accountability Act stipulates that "no funds available to any United States Government department or agency ... may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority." Congress froze $192 in aid when Palestine petitioned the UN to recognize Palestinian statehood last year - that was shortly after it was revealed that Palestine was using U.S. aid dollars to pay the "salaries" of Arabs imprisoned in Israel for terrorism.

Obama has now given Palestine a waiver, excusing them from U.S. law.

The AFP news agency quoted White House spokesman Tommy Vietor as saying the $192 million aid package would be devoted to "ensuring the continued viability of the moderate PA government under the leadership of [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad."

So Obama is defying - that is, waiving - American law in order to benefit Palestine in their hour of antagonism toward America. One is left to wonder which moderate PA government policies Obama hopes to keep viable through American funding.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


What Are Young People Thinking?

In today's New York Times, Charles Blow highlight a survey released this week by Harvard University's Institute of Politics which "asked respondents ages 18 to 29 to choose between pairings of issues to determine which ones they felt were more important."

Among domestic issues, creating jobs almost always won, while combating climate change almost never did. Immigration is also a losing issue (except when paired with climate change), while access to affordable health care is a winner.

"Reducing the role of big money in U.S. elections," a reference to the Citizens United decision which liberals had hoped to convert into a powerful election issue, also seems to be a non-starter among the young. One must doubt whether Obama's ruckus over student loan interest rates will have any effect, as well.

On the foreign affairs front, the youth vote cares about withdrawing from Afghanistan, combating terrorism and preventing a nuclear Iran. They are not particularly concerned about North Korea or solving the EU's troubles.
Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Confidence in New Europe

The Czech Republic survived a vote of no confidence on Friday, whereas the Romanian government has fallen. Both countries are implementing austerity measures which domestic leftist movements deeply oppose. (Sound familiar?) The Czech Republic has increased sales and income taxes and introduced modest university fees (which will likely never disappear, now that they have been successfully introduced - signaling an end to "free" college education). They have also proposed deep spending cuts.

Romania, on the other hand, has failed to accept austerity measures and courts political chaos.

Romania took a €20 billion ($26 billion) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank in 2009 when its economy shrank 7 percent. The government has hiked the sales tax to 24 percent and slashed public sector wages by one-fourth in 2010 to meet the conditions of the loan, angering many Romanians.

The IMF and European Commission said in a statement they expected Romania to "continue to observe its economic policy commitments to its international partners."

Whether Romania will comply with the former government's international obligations is an interesting question. And whether Romania presents a potential trend of ruling party collapses is another interesting question. The Czechs seem to have barely avoided such a fate, but France seems likely to depose Sarkozy in light of the continuing fiscal crises and subsequent French unemployment. With Spain at 24% unemployment and Greece still circling the drain, Europe remains a fragile enterprise.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Sebelius Brushes Off Religious Liberty

At a congressional hearing, HHS Secretary Sebelius has to admit she did not consider constitutionally protected religious liberty when she issued her now infamous HHS mandate on insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception. Congressman Gowdy pins her down. Her worst excuse was that she is not a lawyer.

Categories > Health Care

The Founding

Federalism (and Limited Government) Reaffirmed

Many contemporary friends of limited government adopt erroneous theories ("states' rights," secession) that actually increase the possibility of tyrannical government, as American history bears out.

Often the case for secession as a device of limited government resorts to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. But Villanova University professor (and MAHG instructor) Colleen Sheehan argues that James Madison, author of the Virginia Resolutions, had a much profounder view of not only federalism but the nature of popular government than his friend Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Kentucky Resolutions.

Whereas Jefferson sought to implement modes outside of the ordinary processes of law, in the form of constitutional conventions or negations of contractual/compact agreements, Madison sought to establish a political practice in which, whenever possible, the settled decisions of the people would control and direct government. Madison's cure was not to pit the extraordinary authority of the people against the ordinary deliberative processes of majority decision-making, but to hold the government dependent on and answerable to the deliberate, sovereign public.

Her essay appears in a series on the provocative Library of Law and Liberty website of the Liberty Fund.

Categories > The Founding


A Largely Forgotten Man

A hero to many contemporary conservatives and libertarians, William Graham Sumner (who penned the phrase "the forgotten man," which was then misappropriated by FDR), takes a beating from Steve Hayward. Sumner joined the attack on Progressive Darwinists who, along with this Social Darwinist, renounced the Declaration of Independence.

Categories > Conservatism

The Founding

Your Constitutional Authority

The Heritage Foundation has put on-line its Guide to the Constitution, co-edited by David Forte and Matthew Spalding. This is a line-by-line commentary with major essays by significant legal scholars. Heritage does terrific work with its instant digests on contemporary policy issues, but this is something different, yet relevant to policy debates.

Take this analysis of the first line of Article II of the Constitution, on the nature and scope of executive power, "the vesting clause." There's even a teacher's companion guide, besides the essay by UVA law professor Sai Prakash and a brief (and diverse) bibliography of legal scholarship.

Or consider co-editor Forte's thoughts on the commerce clause, now at the heart of the Obamacare case, to be decided by the Court this term. Are you clear on the meaning of "to ... regulate commerce ... among the several states"? And so it goes, line by line, through the whole Constitution.

The achievement deserves favorable comparison with the best encyclopaedias of legal thought, such as the grand project of the late Leonard Levy. And besides Heritage's is on-line, will be constantly updated (not a living Constitution, but a lively commentary) and free.

Categories > The Founding

Political Philosophy

Ah, To Be Informed and Open-Minded

Daily Caller reports on a Pew survey, "Partisan Differences in Knowledge," which "shows that Republican supporters know more about politics and political history than Democrats."

The Pew survey adds to a wave of surveys and studies showing that GOP-sympathizers are better informed, more intellectually consistent, more open-minded, more empathetic and more receptive to criticism than their fellow Americans who support the Democratic Party.
. . .

A March 12 Pew study showed that Democrats are far more likely than conservatives to disconnect from people who disagree with them.
. . .

A March Washington Post poll showed that Democrats were more willing to change their views about a subject to make their team look good. For example, in 2006, 73 percent of Democrats said the GOP-controlled White House could lower gas prices, but that number fell by more than half to 33 percent in 2012 once a Democrat was in the White House.

The article also mentions "novel research from the University of Virginia."

UVA researchers have used a massive online survey to show that conservatives better understand the ideas of liberals than vice versa. The results are described in a new book by UVA researcher Jonathan Haidt, "Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

The book uses a variety of data to argue that conservatives have a balanced set of moral intuitions, while liberals are focused on aiding victims, fairness and individual liberty. Conservatives recognize how liberals think because they share those intuitions, but liberals don't understand how conservatives think because they don't recognize conservatives' additional intuitions about loyalty, authority and sanctity, Haidt argues.

And this bit of "commercial research into the tastes and political views of potential customers" was also highly amusing to me.

. . . researchers have learned that Internet sites offering financial information, sports scores, online-auctions attract far more interest from Republicans than from Democrats, according to a 2010 study by National Media Research, Planning and Placement, based in Alexandria, Va.

In contrast, Democrats outnumber Republicans at online dating sites, job-searches sites, online TV and online video-game sites, said the firm.

All very interesting - and very unsurprising.