July 4, 2009, finds me filled with positive patriotism as always, but with a shadow of concern.
Our country has had the occasional president who did not believe in the truths of the Declaration or the restraints of the Constitution. But we have never had one who did not believe in the essential goodness of America itself. In Barack Obama, sadly, we now have a president who is an unbeliever of all three.
I am confident we will defeat him and survive him. Yet this is a somber Independence Day for me, because of the grave danger he and his personality cult and his socialist agenda pose to this land we love. With this bad man in power, Americans face a new and deadly challenge to our ideals. Let us rise to the occasion.
America's health care system certainly has its share of problems, of which most emanate from politicians' tinkering. They keep tempting the frustrated consumer with promises of better benefits at someone else's expense.
So the prospect of President Obama and Congress remaking American health care in their own image should scare the pants off anyone who looks not merely at the existing problems but at government's abysmal record as a problem-solver.
Since last November, Obama and Congress have operated in crisis mode. They hastily passed a stimulus bill that still hasn't stimulated - only to be subsequently embarrassed by provisions that no one, except select staffers and lobbyists, had actually read.
The President incessantly beats the drum for grandiose new programs in health care, "clean energy," and education, touting them as fundamental steps in a regimen of economic recovery and fiscal responsibility.
This, of course, is hogwash.
Even the Washington Post observed that "these pursuits have little to do with the economic crisis, and they are not the key to economic recovery."
Before overhauling what remains of a voluntary, market-based system of private-sector health care delivery, the President and Congress should focus instead on Medicare, the $462 billion-a-year boondoggle that is on course to devour the federal budget and ruin the U.S. economy.
President Obama argues that health care change is necessary because 46 million people don't have insurance. Setting aside the questionable validity of that statistic, compare it instead to the 45 million people currently enrolled in Medicare.
Today, Medicare consumes 13 percent of the federal budget and 3.2 percent of the national economy. (Medicare and SCHIP push total federal government health care spending to more than one-fifth of all federal outlays - more than spending on national defense.)
According to the annual Trustees' report, in 2008 the Medicare Trust Fund began paying out more in benefits than it was collecting in payroll taxes and interest. By 2017, the fund will be completely exhausted and staring at a $37.6 trillion - with a "T" - deficit over the next 75 years.
Of all the reckless, irresponsible promises made by Washington politicians and charged against our children and grandchildren's future, Medicare is the largest and most costly. In 20 years, its costs will surpass Social Security and are forecast to more than triple unless politicians muster the courage control spending or allow private competition to control costs.
The rush to "do something" to reform health care is doubly dangerous and counterproductive because the numbers used by the President don't add up - not remotely.
The President and his budget office vow that the as-yet-incomplete plan will be "deficit neutral." Why then has it been exempted from the new "pay as you go" spending rules? Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the Senate's Kennedy-Dodd health care bill at $1.6 trillion over 10 years. And that's just for the portions that have been unveiled.
Get this: despite the embarrassment of voting for a non-stimulative stimulus bill that they couldn't take time to read, Democrats are now amending a health care bill even before a complete version has been introduced - a process Sen. John McCain aptly labeled "a joke."
CBO's estimate does not include the cost for Obama's "public option," under which a government insurance program would compete with private plans. An independent analysis by the Lewin Group suggest that up to 119 million people currently insured by their employers could be shifted to a public plan.
So Obama claims he can create a new health care program nearly three times the size of Medicare and that he can do it for free? Compared to that, loaves and fishes are child's play.
Given that 67 percent of Americans still rate their own health care coverage as excellent or good and that the federal government's existing health care programs are budget-busters, President Obama should take some divine advice: "Physician, heal thyself."
Mark Hillman is a former state senator and state treasurer, now a Centennial Institute Fellow.
(Boston) While the world watched the fraudulent Iranian elections by chance I found myself here in the historic capital of American election fraud. Just a few steps from Boston’s City Hall the Union Oyster House has been a favored haunt of local politicians since Colonial times. As we sampled the culinary delights of this Beantown landmark my companion- a wryly self-described “humble servant of the people”- noted that two centuries earlier Governor Elbridge Gerry had enjoyed similar fare here. It was he who invented “gerrymandering”, a method of redistricting now institutionalized in every state as the most successful form of election fraud in American history. Through the years Boston continued to invent, refine and export to grateful imitators nationwide many new breakthroughs in election fraud. One of the most productive was creating the key patronage post of Cemetery Commissioner said official being responsible not just for mowing the grass above the graves but much more importantly insuring that those loyal Democrats beneath the grass were not deprived of their right to vote “early and often” every election day. While stealing votes outright was more cost effective sometimes it was necessary to buy them. Even then these thrifty New Englanders deplored wasteful spending. Jack Kennedy’s grandfather Boston Mayor “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald insisted that the “Machine never bought more votes than actually required”. In another context his son-in-law Joe Kennedy sternly told a Chicago alderman that he “wasn’t paying for a landslide”. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ignored these counsels of moderation, apparently being quite willing to pay for a landslide and/or steal more votes than actually required. The initial U.S. response to this self-evident fraud was somewhere between an embarrassment and a disgrace (when you sound less tough than the Europeans you know you’ve dropped the ball badly). Waffling between saying it didn’t matter who won the election and being fearful of accusations of “meddling” Obama and company demonstrated once again why foreign and national security policy has been the Achilles Heel of the Democratic party for over forty years. In its obsequiousness Obama’s expression of gratitude to “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamenei for his willingness to look into irregularities in a few precincts rivaled the notorious bow to the King of Saudi Arabia. Amazingly none of this qualified as the week’s top example of U.S. spinelessness. After North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-IL defiantly announced that he was (A) weaponizing his nuclear stockpile, (B) conducting further tests of his Hiroshima sized bomb, and (C) scheduling tests of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the U.S., the Obama Administration announced it would adhere to a new “get tough” policy proposed by Chinese and Russians at the United Nations. The heart of the policy involves intercepting North Korean vessels suspected of carrying nuclear presents to friends like Syria or Iran and asking permission to board and search; however if they say no, that’s O.K. too. When loony right-wingers in Congress questioned the adequacy of this response the Administration gave further evidence of its resolve by announcing that if North Korea persists in its’ nuclear naughtiness in next year’s budget we may refuse to make further cuts to Missile Defense spending beyond these already included in this year’s budget. Right now, if you’re keeping score the old “axis of Evil” – Syria, Iran, and North Korea-is definitely ahead on points. Obama’s much hyped but pathetic speech in Cairo (“America is one of the largest Muslim nations; my daddy was a Muslim”) clearly signaled he isn’t going to fuss too much when Iran inevitably gains full nuclear power status. As noted above he’s O.K. with letting Russia and China via the UN set the limits of U.S. toughness with North Korea. The only member of the “Axis” who’s even been scored upon in this contest is Syria and that only because the Israelis who know a threat when they see one helpfully bombed that country’s rising nuclear facility flat. The Boston Globe (owned by the N.Y. times since 1994 and hopefully soon going bankrupt) was “deeply troubled by this unilateral Israeli action” and this week even had the effrontery to editorially call on Obama to “oblige Netanyahu to rearrange his governing coalition to be more in accord with U.S.. policy toward the Palestinians”. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot, and the price of folly may be exacted sooner than we think.
William Moloney is a former Colorado Education Commissioner and now a Centennial Institute Fellow. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News.
Barack Obama's selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is par for the course with this president, a man who ascended the presidency on the basis of a compelling personal story and a bag full of bromides about post-partisan hope and change. Those who bought the Obama schtick may not have known it then, but they elected a hyper-partisan pol with big dreams of remaking America into a social justice utopia where the ends always justify the means. Rules -- and indeed the rule of law -- mean little in this world where grievance politics dominate, and the playing field shifts regularly to protect those suffering all manner of "discrimination" at the hands of the (white) power structure. Its typical class warfare, only this time it is practiced with extreme efficiency and on the backs of a huge Congressional left-wing majority. For those who believe that America is a meritocracy and should be truly "color-blind", the country is now being run by those who see everything through race-colored glasses.The nomination of Sotomayor is a perfect example of this. Obama picked her not because she has the finest legal mind in the country (she does not), but because of she is an Hispanic woman who has a personal history that is appealing. She grew up poor in the Bronx and worked hard, and made something of herself. She also satisfies two check boxes on the identity politics checklist -- being a woman and a minority -- which brings Obama praise from NOW and other interest groups.Ironically, Sotomayor's story is little different than that of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas -- a point eloquently made by Kim Strassel in today's Wall Street Journal. But whereas Thomas' personal struggles led him to embrace the lesson that if "I can do it, so can others" -- Sotomayor fell firmly into victimization's clutches, where she joins a legion of other minorities in the belief that the system is arrayed against them. The irony, of course, is that the evidence of their own success from hard-scrabble beginnings has done nothing to dissuade them from their hardened belief that somehow "the man" is out to get them. This is yet another example of how facts have little bearing on the "feeling" politics practiced by the left.Sotomayor has made it clear that her view of the world -- and the law -- is based principally on her gender and background. It is something that she feels makes her better positioned to "come to a wise decision" than is a white man who hasn't been subjected to the devastating discrimination that people like Sotomayor see lurking behind every tree. If you view America as a mean place where Hispanics, women and other minorities need protection, then I suppose this is a reasonable position to take. But is this what a Justice of the United States Supreme Court should believe? Someone appointed to intepret the Constitution for all Americans -- white, black or other? A process that, by definition, must be impartial and based on legal fact and analysis?As it happens, a famous case of Sotomayor's from her tenure on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is now being reviewed by the current Supreme Court -- as the WSJ outlines today in the case of the New Haven Fire Department. With a single paragraph, Judge Sonia Sotomayor and two colleagues dashed the hopes of firefighters here who believed they'd scored high enough on exams to win a promotion.
The three federal appeals judges said last year the city had the right to reject the results of two tests because no black firefighters scored high enough. The ruling is now turning into perhaps the most contentious of the 4,000 Judge Sotomayor made in 17 years on the federal bench, and it is likely to come up in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The justices whom she may soon join on the high court are expected to rule within weeks on the case, which they took on an appeal by white firefighters.
The facts of the case are as follows:
A total of 118 applicants took the two tests for promotion to lieutenant or captain in late 2003, and 59 earned passing scores. Because there were limited vacancies, only the top scorers were eligible for promotion -- a group of 17 whites, and two Hispanics. None of the 27 black firefighters with passing scores was eligible. New Haven city lawyers advised the city's Civil Service Board to reject the results, warning the city could be exposed to a race-discrimination lawsuit by minority firefighters if it let the exam stand. The board heard conflicting views on whether the test could have been re-engineered to have a less disparate impact. It split 2-2, which meant the exam wasn't certified.
This is classic liberal social engineering at work: you give a merit based test to determine promotions and tell firefighters to study hard for it. They take the test and when the results come back in a way that you don't like, you throw the results out and say "nevermind". If no blacks and only two Hispanics scored high enough, it must be because of some discrimination at work. Let's not reward those who passed -- let's reengineer the test so more blacks and Hispanics will pass.
Sotomayor was at the heart of this decision -- stating that it was in the "state's interest" to throw out the results so that the outcome was more to her liking. And what about the white firefighters who have now been discriminated against? To Sotomayor, it doesn't matter, because she lives in a world where color matters more than principle. This is a woman who values outcomes over equality -- even if it results in a decision that is reverse discrimination.
We can take some solace that her decision in New Haven is almost certainly going to be reversed by the current Supreme Court. But it leaves little comfort that we are now poised to put this very same judge on the highest court in the land for a generation to come.
President Obama says he seeks "empathy" in a Supreme Court justice. His first nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, says a "wise Latina woman" would generally make better decisions because of "the richness of her experiences" than a white man.
Those views reveal the extent to which political and personal agendas have supplanted the rule of law in selecting nominees.
If "rule of law" sounds cold and callous, remember that the alternative isn't "rule of empathy" but "rule of men" ‹ the hierarchy most prevalent throughout human history.
Rule of law requires that laws be written, accessible, understandable and uniformly applied. Hence, Lady Justice is depicted as blindfolded, unable tosee the identity of those before her, and holding scales on which she weighs the merits of the opposing sides.
Where rule of man predominates, the law means whatever king or dictator or court wants it to mean on a given day. Historically, this form of corruption favored those with money or power, even when their case was unjust. Those who undermine the law today do so to reward political constituencies, like racial, gender or other interest groups.
"(Chief Justice John) Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire," Obama said in 2007. "But the issues that come before the court are not sport.
"We need somebody who's got the heart ‹ the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young, teenage mom; the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old."
Surely this President to whom profound intellect is routinely attributed understands that the view of a judge as umpire has nothing to do with sports (although he seems strangely enamored of Sotomayor's ruling in a baseball labor dispute).
In comparing the role of a judge to that of an umpire, Justice Roberts understood that, just as an umpire's job isn't to determine the outcome by bending the rules, a judge's duty isn't to pick winners and losers by selectively applying the law to some but not to others.
Legendary Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes understood this, too, and famously explained that his primary responsibility as a judge was "to see that the game is played according to the rules, whether I like them or not."
While Obama purports to seek judges who will empathize with the downtrodden, he seems unwilling to consider that sometimes the downtrodden break the law.What then? Similarly, a corporation or business owner with deep pockets should be afforded the same legal protections as a bartender or schoolteacher.
Though American justice has its flaws, the standard inscribed on the Supreme Court building - "Equal Justice Under Law" - was once our common goal. Obama, however, wants the courts to selectively tip the scales: "I view that quality of empathy as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."
In the very next sentence, he seamlessly performs a remarkable contradiction, claiming he will "seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process."
When it comes to Jedi mind tricks, Yoda has nothing on Obama.
Sotomayor doesn't even pretend that impartiality is a worthy goal. Citing "basic differences in logic and reasoning," she argues that "our experiences as women and people of color" make "the aspiration to impartiality is just that - it's an aspiration[.]"
If a jurist nominated by a Republican president suggested that women and minorities are incapable of impartiality, that nominee would be excoriated - and properly so. Clarence Thomas, Janice Rogers Brown and Miguel Estrada, among others, demonstrate that judges of all backgrounds can choose to apply the law impartially, while others choose to favor particular groups and distort the law accordingly.
President Obama understands that his nominee has little interest in presiding like an umpire or in impartially applying the law. He also understands that this undermines the rule of law. He just doesn't want you to understand.
Mark Hillman served as senate majority leader and state treasurer. He is now Republican National Committeeman for Colorado, and a Centennial Instsitute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com
Much is being made of the Dick Cheney vs. Barack Obama "debate" now going on in the media over national security. It was page one in Friday's Wall Street Journal, after Cheney and Obama gave dueling speeches the day before -- Obama from the rotunda of the National Archives and Cheney from the American Enterprise Institute. As has been his consistent message, Obama again reiterated his view that the Bush administration had "gone off course" in using enhanced interrogation techniques and off-shore prisons, saying that he is seeking to restore "the power of our most fundamental values".The former Vice President, meanwhile is having none of it. Calling the Bush policies "legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do", he again took on the administration's critics by pointing out that "After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked or scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed."This is an exceedingly vital debate. President Obama has made decisions on the basis of politics that I believe are putting our nation at risk. He caved to the left in precipitously deciding to close Guantanamo without any alternative plan; now it turns out that many of the most hated Bush policies -- using military tribunals and indefinite detention -- will continue. Why? Because more than half of the remaining Guantanamo detainees are too dangerous to try in court or to release back into the civilized world. But where will they go once Guantanamo is closed? No one has a clue, because nobody in Congress wants these lethal prisoners in their backyard. In the halls of Congress, NIMBY is the rule -- unless, of course, it's pork.The problem for those who think that Obama is on a dangerous path, however, is that it is Dick Cheney leading the charge. Where is the spokesperson for the opposition to this president who isn't past his prime and considered a cross between an "angry white man" and Darth Vader?We know, of course, that John McCain -- the Republican candidate for president just a short 6 months ago who got more than 44 million votes in the election -- is of little help on this issue, having campaigned himself against enhanced interrogation and for the closing of Guantanamo. So he's been -- by necessity and by temperament -- silent in this debate. But where are the others? Are there any conservatives who have a future (as opposed to a past) in politics willing and able to stand up and say to the nation what it already suspects? That Obama's inexperience and desire to "make everyone happy" is putting us at risk? That his world view -- and thus his emerging foreign policy -- is dangerously naive?You have to give Obama credit -- he certainly likes to talk as if he is reasoned and balanced in his approach, that he has command of the vital issues that face us as a nation. He is nothing if not outwardly confident. But this president doesn't deal well with specifics and facts. He's long relied on soaring rhetoric that sounds great but says nothing. Like many liberals, he makes statements of opinion as if they are fact, saying it in such a way that it seems beyond dispute -- but offering no evidence to back it up. As the WSJ editorialized:
The President went out of his way to insist that its existence "likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained," albeit without offering any evidence, and that it "has weakened American security," again based only on assertion. What is a plain fact is that in the seven-plus years that Gitmo has been in operation the American homeland has not been attacked.
It is also a plain fact -- and one the President acknowledged -- that many of the detainees previously released, often under intense pressure from Mr. Obama's anti-antiterror allies, have returned to careers as Taliban commanders and al Qaeda "emirs." The New York Times reported yesterday on an undisclosed Pentagon report that no fewer than one in seven detainees released from Gitmo have returned to jihad.
Mr. Obama called all of this a "mess" that he had inherited, but in truth the mess is of his own haphazard design. He's the one who announced the end of Guantanamo without any plan for what to do with, or where to put, KSM and other killers. Now he's found that his erstwhile allies in Congress and Europe want nothing to do with them. Tell us again why Gitmo should be closed?
President Obama is making things up out of whole cloth and peddling them as fact; he is tremendously vulnerable on these issues, because what he says doesn't pass the simple smell test. Where is the leadership that is screaming this question -- and the attendant risks of doing so -- at the top of their lungs? Why is it Dick Cheney -- a man whose career is over -- shooting the arrows at the president and his party over this?Is this really the best we can do?