Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare for Dummies

Cato Comments on SCOTUS Ruling for Obamacare

by Roger Pilon, Vice President for legal affairs at the Cato Institute and director of Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

ObamaCare was a mistake from the start, a massive effort by the federal government to take over and control one-sixth of the economy – indeed, the part that concerns the most complex and intimate details of life, our health. It’s the most ambitious example to date of the political hubris progressives have displayed for over a century now, the belief that government can solve all of our problems.

Today, the Supreme Court had an opportunity to put a brake on that hubris. Four justices, led by Justice Kennedy, would have done so. But Chief Justice Roberts joined the four justices who are Exhibit A of the modern hubris, writing for the Court to uphold almost all of this monstrous intrusion on our liberty and on the very theory of the Constitution. And he did so on the flimsiest of rationales for deciding a constitutional question – precedent. If precedent carried the weight Roberts gave it today, we’d still be riding in segregated trains and sending our children to segregated schools.

So let’s look a bit more closely at this decision – which, to be clear, will take some time to fully digest. The Court rejected the administration’s main argument for the individual mandate, based on Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce: "The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated." But that’s a slim victory for those of us who’d argued that “not buying insurance” is not an act of commerce. How often does Congress try to regulate “non-commerce” under its power to regulate interstate commerce? As best anyone could tell, this was the first time Congress had ever tried such an expansion of its power.

And because there’s no “commerce,” the Court rejected the parasitic Necessary and Proper Clause argument, too, which affords Congress the means to carry out its other powers.

But Robert’s bought the administration’s second fallback argument – that the penalty for not buying insurance is a tax, even though the administration abandoned that argument during the course of litigation, and even though calling it a “tax” would seem to implicate the Anti Injunction Act, which would preclude the Court from even deciding this case until someone was forced to pay the tax, which won’t happen for another couple of years. Yet the Court apparently brushed aside that AIA impediment – talk about lawlessness – in its rush to uphold ObamaCare.

And so there’s your foundation for the decision: the individual mandate is constitutional based on Congress’s power to tax: Congress can “tax” those who don’t buy government approved health insurance. Don’t ask what kind of a “tax” that is! It’s not an income tax. Nor is it a duty, impost, or excise tax, the only kinds of taxes recognized under the Tax Clause of the Constitution, where Roberts purports to rest Congress’s power; and it certainly isn’t “uniform throughout the United States,” as is required for those taxes. It’s sui generis, which is a polite way of saying it’s unconstitutional – if we take the Constitution seriously.

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? As James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, and virtually everyone else at the Founding made clear, the power to tax, the first of Congress’s 18 enumerated powers, like the power to borrow, Congress’s second enumerated power, was designed to enable Congress to obtain the funds needed to carry out its other enumerated powers or ends. It was not, as Madison made clear in Federalist 41, and often on the floor of Congress, an independent power to tax for any purpose at all. Search as you will through those 18 enumerated powers and you will find no power to enact ObamaCare or anything like it. And please don’t say that the taxing power serves the commerce power which in turn authorizes the individual mandate, because the Court nixed that second leap today.

But all of that was lost in 1937 when the New Deal Court, cowed by Roosevelt’s infamous Court-packing threat, suddenly “found” that Congress had an independent power to tax and spend for the “general welfare,” a power that had escaped the Court’s attention for 150 years. That’s the “precedent” for today’s decision – which, like the precedent itself, turn’s the Constitution on its head, giving us effectively unlimited government.

It will fall to Congress, then, to undo this monstrosity, if it can. Under the Constitution, as written, health care would be provided like any other service that’s stayed largely free from government control. But starting with World War II wage-and-price controls and the tax advantages that were given to employer-provided health insurance, it’s been one government intrusion after another and a textbook example of how government can completely mess up what free markets plus voluntary charity can efficiently order while respecting the rights and dignity of people in the process. That’s a vision, the Founders’ vision, that Congress can restore, even if this Court has failed to do its part today.


For further reading:
Insurance Is the Problem, not the Solution
How to Fix the Health Care Problem

Financial Failure in Government Education

I can't say I'm surprised.  It has been proven over and over that the private sector is better at education than the government, but it seems we as a culture just aren't paying attention to the facts.  Or, maybe the teacher lobbies are too powerful, or probably some of both.  I've spent a good bit of time in New Orleans over the years since Katrina tore up the city.  The charter schools there are an amazing success story compared to the horrific public (read: government) school system prior to the hurricane.

Here's another story out of our nation's capitol that proves the answer to better education isn't more money, but less government involvement.  The US Census Bureau confirms Washington DC Spends $29,409 per pupil.  This spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil—and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lame Math Jokes

Mathematicians never die, they just lose some of their functions and disintegrate.

When she told me I was average, she was just being mean.

A mathematician came home at 3am and his wife got angry. He responded by saying, 'I'm right on time. I said I'd be home by a quarter of twelve.

What did one math book say to the other? Don’t bother me, I've got my own problems!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Ron Paul Still Matters

Party power politics annoy me.  They are about coercion and fear mongering. People who vote for a party over principal out of fear of "the other side" winning just don't get it. Fortunately, as Ron Paul says in this video, an idea whose time has come cannot be stopped.

If you are against everything Obama stands for, then voting for Robama is going to get you more of the same. Romney is just Obama spelled with an "R", and he's not a conservative no matter how hard conservatives try to fool themselves into believing that. If you're part of the "hope and change" party, a vote for Roboma is going to get you four more years of the same undelivered promises you got in your first four years of hope and change.

If you think someone who votes for and supports Ron Paul is "wasting their vote" the Republicrats have successfully buffaloed you with power politics and fear. You've been duped regardless of which side of the aisle you support. Spend 8 minutes and 44 seconds watching this video to find out why Ron Paul matters, and why any lover of truth, justice, liberty and the United States of America should thank him for his service to our great nation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ideas or Feelings

Over the weekend I watched The Iron Lady where Meryl Streep plays an elderly Margaret Thatcher.  I was hoping for more of a historical documentary, so I was a bit disappointed that the movie was primarily about a confused old woman talking to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband. However, I was intrigued by this comment she makes to her dead husband.
People don’t think any more, they feel. One of the greatest problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas. Now, thoughts and ideas, that’s what interests me.
She then goes on to quote...
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
I've seen this quote attributed to various sources, including Ghandi, and it generally includes a first statement to "watch your beliefs for they become thoughts."  Either way, it is a good quote.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Update From My New Orleans Friends

I've been going to New Orleans since 2007 and working with these people to bring the light of Truth to their community, usually twice a year in February and October.  It is amazing what God is doing through this ministry.  If you've never been to New Orleans come join us.

New Orleans Church Plant - Diversity from Chase Oaks Video on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's Okay, I'll Just Confess Later

Back in April the worship arts pastor at my church preached on sin.  It was the best sermon I've heard on sin, but I have to confess I don't really remember very many sermons on sin - ever.  Sin isn't a popular topic for the post-modern church.  It seems to me that a lot of church leaders in America spend a lot of time thinking about how to be attractive in their ministries, and avoiding any topic that might make someone uncomfortable is often a result of this effort at attracting the unchurched - but that is a blog topic for another time.

Greg's sermon was titled, "It's Okay, I'll Just Confess Later." You can watch it here.  He dealt with attitudes about sin using some very vivid word pictures.  Unfortunately, I believe the idea captured in his sermon title has so permeated post-modern evangelicalism that persuading the listener to adopt a Biblical attitude about sin is only one small step toward transforming our lackadaisical behavior when it comes to overcoming sin in our personal lives.

From talking to my Christian friends, the general consensus seems to be that overcoming sin is a good ideal to strive for, but since it probably isn't going to happen in this lifetime it doesn't get a lot of focus.  The highest value in the post-modern American church seems to be geared around personal relationships more than personal piety.  We strive to be accommodating, attractional, and relational and above all avoid offending anyone.  Criticism is a definite no-no.  Being nice often trumps being truthful.  It seems to me that holiness just isn't high on the agenda because, after all, I can just confess it later. As Greg points out in his talk, Jesus took personal piety a lot more seriously.  If we are going to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, then shouldn't we take it more seriously too?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is Gold Worth Its Weight as an Investment?

I lifted this Warren Buffet quote from an insightful article on gold as an investment by my friend and financial advisor, Brent Everett, Chief Investment Officer for Talis Advisors. Read the full article here.
Today, the world's gold stock is about 170,000 metric tons. If it were all melded together, it would form a cube of about 68 feet per side (fitting within a baseball infield). At $1,750 per ounce, it would be worth $9.6 trillion. With the same amount of money, you could buy all US cropland (400 million acres with output of $200 billion annually) plus 16 Exxon Mobils (the world's most profitable company, one earning more than $40 billion annually), and still have about $1 trillion in cash.

 A century from now the 400 million acres of farmland will have produced staggering amounts of corn, wheat, cotton, and other crops -- and will continue to produce that valuable bounty, whatever the currency may be. Exxon Mobil will probably have delivered trillions of dollars in dividends to its owners and will also hold assets worth many more trillions (and, remember, you get 16 Exxons). The 170,000 tons of gold will be unchanged in size and still incapable of producing anything. You can fondle the cube, but it will not respond.
Source: Warren Buffett, "Why Stocks Beat Gold and Bonds," Fortune, February 9, 2012.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Richard Dawkins: A Logical Theist

In this two and a half minute video, William Lane Craig shows how self-proclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins is logically a theist. This sort of cognitive dissonance and/or intellectual dishonesty is not uncommon with the "new atheists." Ironically, Mr. Dawkins would like us to call him a "bright" instead of an atheist. Call me silly, but if someone who fancies himself as an intellectual cannot even hold a consistent world view, why would I consider him to be bright, much less *a* bright? If Dawkins wants to be a "bright" and avoid the ridicule and negative consequences of holding to the unpopular, illogical, and philosophically untenable worldview of atheism, perhaps he should openly embrace the theism he's already unwittingly acknowledging. Then he'd be truly bright and enlightened. The irony of the ill conceived "bright" movement is they totally miss or stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the True Light that could illuminate their darkened minds.