Archives for June 2012
When I write about decriminalization and ending the War on Drugs, my libertarian friends cheer while my Republican friends roll their eyes and say “Oh, he’s talking that crazy talk again.” They tell me that decriminalizing drugs will cause drug usage to run rampant, that 12 year olds will be smoking marijuana, and that addiction rates will be at an all time high.
As if those things aren’t already true.
I always insist, as most libertarians do, that decriminalizing drugs isn’t an endorsement of drug usage, that addiction rates will come down, and that we’d spend a lot less money if we’d just pay for treatment for addicts.
(Those who say libertarians are never willing to compromise should take note: libertarians would gladly let government pay for addiction treatment for abusers instead of spending the money for prosecution and incarceration. A purely libertarian stance would be to decriminalize drugs and insist private charities handle drug rehab programs.)
On July 1, 2001, Portugal decided to give the libertarian approach a try: it decriminalized all drugs. Yes, marijuana, but also drugs like cocaine and heroin. Notice they didn’t legalize drugs; they decriminalized them. The difference is that while drug possession and usage is still banned, violations relating to personal usage are not prosecuted. Drug trafficking, on the other hand, is still prosecuted.
So, ten years after the decriminalization, Portugal was full of addicts and everyone was high all the time, right? Wrong.
With the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on Arizona immigration status laws coming down earlier this week, one has to wonder what the candidates for President will work into their campaigns how those decisions will affect the race for President in November.
Peter Wallsten from the Washington Post writes:
The ruling came as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been struggling to connect with Hispanics after courting conservative primary voters with sharp rhetoric against illegal immigration. A survey published Monday showed him favored by just one-fourth of Hispanics.
The quandary for Romney and the GOP is clear from recent polling. The Arizona law is very popular with whites and independent voters, according to data from the Pew Research Center, while many GOP strategists think their party has little chance for success in battlegrounds such as Colorado, Nevada and Virginia if Romney doesn’t win close to 40 percent of Hispanics.
I suppose one might point to one unmistakable solution for Romney and the GOP which would come in the form of a VP nod to Marco Rubio.
On the other hand, you can point to statistical data pointing the current administration’s deportation record as was written in September of last year by Kevin Lincoln at the Business Insider:
[Editor’s note: This post should not be construed as an endorsement of Mitt Romney or of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate or U.S. House in 2012. The author is a political media strategist by trade.]
Regular readers know I am not a lawyer, and that I do not specialize in health policy. I also did not come to Washington through Capitol Hill and am therefore no expert in parliamentary procedure. Still, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare — some original, some not — and they’re not all bad.
First, here’s the opinion itself (PDF).
Second, the greatest legal minds on the left have spent the last couple of years arguing that the individual mandate is constitutional under authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause. The Court summarily rejected this argument, and that is great for individual liberty. Congress does not, as Obamacare opponents have argued all along, have the power to force you to buy health insurance, broccoli, or anything else. It does not have power to regulate economic inactivity.
Third, the mandate was upheld because Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the penalty for not purchasing health insurance can reasonably be construed as a tax. Because the power to tax is an enumerated power of Congress as outlined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, this provision of the law was upheld.
An interesting political point — in September 2009, fearing political blowback from pushing so hard for the law, the president flatly rejected that Obamacare constituted a tax increase on Americans during a recession:
Yesterday, I noted that several Democrats were opting to skip their party’s upcoming national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. There is little doubt that these Democrats are frustrated with their party and don’t want to be lumped in with President Barack Obama, who will be re-nominated at the convention. That’s understandable from a political perspective, and DCCC Chair Steve Israel apparently agrees:
The Democrat charged with trying to win back the House majority is telling his candidates that it’s OK to skip the party’s national convention.
Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told a gathering hosted by Reuters his advice has nothing to do with President Obama.
“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their district,” Israel said yesterday at the Reuters Washington Summit.
The New York lawmaker added: “I don’t care if the president was at 122% favorability right now. I think (candidates) should be in their district.”
That’s humorous. Four years ago, Democrats, many of whom were ecstatic over the coronation of Obama, couldn’t stay away from the DNC in Denver. After the shellacking Democrats received in 2010, suddenly Obama is toxic and, unless you’re in a relatively safe district, no one wants to be seen with him.
First, as you’re probably already aware, the Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is constitutional, and that the individual mandate is also constitutional, but not as how it was argued in Congress, but rather as a tax. So instead of the extremely dangerous Commerce Clause (which is really, really badly written) we have it surviving under Congress’ taxing power.
This is really just as bad. Although now technically, they can’t “force” us to buy things with Commerce power, the federal government now has absolutely no limits on taxing us. This is going to be 1775 all over again, except we can’t say “No Taxation Without Representation!” (unless we live in DC.)
The one silver lining that some are bringing up is that, because Obama campaigned hard on Obamacare and the mandate not being a tax, and now with SCOTUS saying “it’s a tax,” he’s going to be royally screwed come November. I have to agree with the results; I’ll defer to one of my friends who has this down:
— George Scoville (@stackiii) June 28, 2012
That is pretty much going to ruin Obama’s chances of reelection, especially with so many already up in arms over this (something like 55-60% wanted this law overturned?)
However, as another friend of mine points out, this is no silver lining at all:
Rand Paul has generally been a good ally for libertarians in the Senate. However, much like his father, he has more than a shade of social conservative in him. Sadly, this side has been rearing its head more often lately.
Last month, Senator Paul made some very offensive remarks regarding President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, stating he didn’t think the president’s views “could get any gayer”. And now, the Senator is trying to attach a totally irrelevant “personhood” amendment to an unrelated bill.
For those not familiar with these laws, the intent is to define life as beginning at fertlization. The effect would be to not only make abortion totally illegal, but to also have an impact on such things as contraception, some fertility treatments, and some forms of stem cell research. Suffice it to say it could have ramifications far beyond abortion and would likely be an unmitigated disaster. It certainly is not the kind of thing someone who believes in a limited federal government would propose.
Now, I am definitely more sympathetic to the pro-life cause than most libertarians. I believe the country would be better off moving towards a mindset that views abortion as something to be avoided. While I don’t believe it will ever go away, there is nothing wrong in my mind with making the case it is morally objectionable. However, my support comes to an abrupt halt when things like this are suggested. There are few problems that are best solved through heavy-handed government action; and the problems that the federal government should attempt to solve are even more sparse.
Rep. Ron Paul’s “Audit the Fed” legislation, which would require the GAO to audit the Federal Reserve, is a step closer to passing the House. Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), passed the measure unanimously, clearing the way for a vote on the floor next month:
The House Oversight Committee easily cleared legislation Wednesday that would require a top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), was advanced by the committee on a bipartisan voice vote with no vocal opposition.
The measure, which has garnered 257 co-sponsors from both parties, would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full audit of the Fed’s operations, including its monetary policy deliberations, for the first time.
Before the audit bill cleared the oversight committee on Wednesday, ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) attempted to introduce an amendment that would prevent the GAO from auditing the Fed’s deliberations on monetary policy. Cummings withdrew the amendment after Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) voiced opposition, saying it “essentially guts this bill.”
Issa maintained it was ironic that Congress took an intense interest in the $2 billion and counting in losses suffered recently by JPMorgan Chase when it “pales in comparison” to the Fed’s multi-trillion dollar portfolio.
“It is long past time for a real audit,” he said.
SCOTUSblog reports that the Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate and the rest of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, though the “federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.” Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts explains that the individual mandate is a tax.
The decision is certainly interesting because Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that the individual mandate wasn’t a tax back in March. And that was an argument with which members seemed to agree.
Stay tuned for a link to the opinion and further updates.
[10:22am] SCOTUSblog notes that Roberts’ vote, not Kennedy’s, saved ObamaCare. It was 5 to 4 decision.
[10:24am] Based on what we know right now, the implication is that the Commerce Clause was not expanded as a result of the decision. But we can’t say for sure until we see the opinion of the court.
[10:26am] Remember when President Obama said the mandate wasn’t a tax.
[10:27am] The Commerce Clause is untouched by the opinion. The majority only ruled the mandate constitutional as a tax, via SCOTUSblog: “Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn’t. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.”
[10:49am] And here is the opinion.
The Supreme Court won’t bring all of the fireworks today as the finally make public their decision in the legal challenges to ObamaCare. As I explained yesterday, the House of Representatives is set to vote on the contempt resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder due to his failure to produce documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal.
Because the National Rifle Association is scoring the vote on the resolution, some House Democrats are planning to cross the aisle and vote to find Holder in contempt, a point that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) freely admitted earlier this week. The National Journal tells us exactly which members are bolting from their party on the vote:
he House may vote on Thursday to cite Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in connection to the Fast and Furious investigation. And although the vote will likely be largely split along party lines, some Democrats have said they’re breaking ranks. Here’s a list of such members, which we’re updating:
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., plans to vote yes, his press secretary confirmed to the Alley.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, was the first to announce he’s going with the Republicans on this one.
After the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a Montana campaign finance law prohibiting corporations from participating in elections, many are wondering what the future of the Citizens United case law and the First Amendment may be. George Will probably said it best while recently discussing the concept of “super PACs”:
This kind of pretense or charade is what you get when you get into the business of regulating political speech in a country with the First Amendment. If we would just deregulate political speech — let anyone give anything they want to anyone, call it freedom,” what a concept, and we wouldn’t have all these pretenses.
It still boggles my mind that anyone would oppose the rights of individuals, either acting alone or as a group formed out of some common interest, to express their opinion on an issue or against a certain politician. Of course, there are populists that are always going to oppose anything corporations do and aren’t going to be willing to listen to reason. But the sad fact is that there is now talk of undoing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United through a constitutional amendment.
In a new video from the Cato Institute, John Samples and Caleb Brown discussed Citizens United and the First Amendment and what we can expect in the future as the push to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling heats up: