As noted in a new ACS Issue Brief the opponents of the landmark health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, are fighting to advance a long-outdated view that the Constitution limits the federal government’s ability to effectively address national concerns. Simon Lazarus, author of the brief, “The Health Care Lawsuits: Unraveling a Century of Constitutional Law and the Fabric of Modern Government,” writes that the opponents are pushing legal theories that if accepted by the federal judiciary would endanger other landmark federal laws and programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare and civil rights laws.
The opponents of the health care law argue, Lazarus writes, that Congress does not have the constitutional ability to “effectively reform a dysfunctional health care market comprising over 17% of the national economy, that causes 62% of personal bankruptcies, leaves 50 million citizens uninsured, and deprives individuals with pre-existing medical conditions of access to affordable health insurance and, thus needed health care.” If the high court were to buy into those arguments and “block an undisputed rational solution for an economic problem so big and so urgent, what limit is there on the Court’s capacity to hamstring federal stewardship of the national economy?”
A recent editorial in The New York Times also notes the health care opponents’ broader agenda. Noting a recent hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the constitutionality of the health care reform law, the editorial cites Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett’s testimony attacking the health care law as “a means to severely limit the power of Congress, urging senators to reach their ‘own judgment about the scope of Congressional powers,’ regardless of ‘how the Supreme Court,’ has ruled.” Later in his testimony, the editorial notes, Barnett “warned sensationally, ‘Congress would have all the discretionary power of a king and the American people would be reduced to subjects,'” if the Supreme Court finds the health care law’s individual responsibility provision falls within Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate commerce.
Barnett’s overwrought rhetoric falls in line with talking points being pushed by other far-right opponents. The Cato Institute, as the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Elizabeth Wydra recently noted, has run ads in national publications arguing that the Constitution was never intended to give Congress broad powers to regulate commerce.
But The Times says, citing former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who also testified at the Senate committee hearing, by applying a “mainstream understanding of the Constitution,” this debate can be simply resolved. As Dellinger put it, “Will it lead to some extraordinary expanse of congressional power? It will not.”
On some level we know that Conservatives do not hold some pure hands off view of the Constitution as it relates to commerce or we would not have so many corporate lobbyists in Washington greatly influencing legislation and in many cases as much as writing the legislation. In a previous post at the ACS Blog Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer made a related observation,
“I think we are about to lose the Constitution,” Spitzer said at the Feb. 8 “Federal Courts, Inc.?,” event. “I don’t mean in some dramatic way, like it’s going to be ripped away from us. But I do mean, just as we lost the conversation about what government should do, just as we lost the ability to speak with pride and vigor and define what a government can do for our communities, because we failed to make a counter argument, we are losing the narrative about the Constitution, because we are letting the other side claim it.”
Whether we are actually losing the debate is arguable. The Right is, as always, speaking over us through the daily repetition of talking points. Even if they do not completely win over Main St USA, they plant the seed of doubt about the progressive point of view. Polls can be frustrating snap shots, but over time if you follow Kos’s regularly posted polls on favoribility ratings, Republicans have remained in the basement for the last twelve years. Statistically even the people who vote for conservatives think they’re all bastards. The Whats the Matter with Kansas phenomenon haunts the national electorate. People are not voting for their own best interests. It’s like we need a national intervention – why are so many Americans intent on giving away their economic power and constitutional rights to have a federal legislature respond to the the common good. Florida’s new governor Rick Scott(R), who would be in prison without his millions and lots of political connections, is a perfect example. He plans to steal from working class Floridians to give to the wealthy, Rick Scott, Redistributionist
The pious claim of many Tea Party and other conservative movement activists and apologists is that they simply want to rein in runaway government spending and reduce disastrous levels of public debt. In practice, of course, they don’t care about debt if it’s created by corporate or high-end tax cuts, and they are often less interested in reducing government spending than in redirecting it to their favored constituencies.
A very good example of this phenomenon is coming to light in Florida, where newly elected governor Rick Scott, the famously controversial (that’s putting it nicely) health industry executive who bought himself the Republican nomination last year and then won a very close general election, has rolled out his budget proposals for the economically battered and nearly dysfunctional Sunshine State.
Yes, Scott is proposing $5 billion in state spending reductions (in absolute terms, not reductions from some sort of current-services budget). Many of these cuts seemed to be ideologically driven, such as the decimation of the state Department of Community Affairs, which runs growth-management programs hated by developers; and a (roughly) ten percent cut in K-12 education, part and parcel of the state GOP’s war with teachers and other state employees.
But the size of the cuts wouldn’t be nearly so high if Scott were not also insisting on major tax cuts, notably in corporate taxes (due to be phased out entirely in a few years) and in state-controlled property taxes that support public schools.
Moreoever, nestled in his budget proposal are spending increases that are designed to redistribute resources according to conservative ideological prescriptions. Most remarkable is his request for $800 million (over two years) for “economic development incentives,” which almost certainly means a gubernatorially-controlled slush fund to be used to bribe companies to relocate to Florida through tax abatements, free government services, and other subsidies.
When Republicans picture the poor, the tired, the beleaguered, the over worked and underpaid, they do not see the just below median two income family with 1.5 kids, they see guys in two thousand dollar suits who need more government assistance. Their contempt for education is understandable. While not a guarantee, education is the best gateway the low-end of the economic scale has of stepping up the income ladder. The years of working at the factory for twenty-five years and working your way up to management are pretty much gone. Conservatives have made sure that government cannot have a major influence in making a positive difference in people’s lives. Not because there are any statistics to prove progressive policies do not work – on the contrary Bill Clinton made some substantial progress despite inheriting the ruins of the Reagan administration. Republican prescriptions for creating jobs and educating the masses continue to be products of tunnel vision. All they can see is their mission: make sure most wealth goes to people who already have wealth.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
Economic power is power – see lobbyist above. Conservatives know this and judging from their political philosophy it gives them nightmares to think about a government which is actually by and for the people. Wisconsin’s new governor is a case in point, New Wisconsin GOP Governor Pushes For Massive Rollback Of Worker Rights
Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has set a new benchmark in fraying state-union relations in the wake of massive GOP victories in the November elections.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Scott Walker proposed stripping nearly all government workers of their collective bargaining rights. And as a warning shot across the bow, he told Wisconsin reporters Friday that he’s alerted the National Guard ahead of any unrest, or in the event that state services are interrupted. Under his plan, which he’ll include in his forthcoming budget proposal, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index.
According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer “The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”
He also says this plan is non-negotiable — as in, he’s cut off negotiations with prison guards, teachers and other state workers.
How clear can an agenda and attitude be – workers are all just criminals in waiting, get uppity and you’ll be shot. Let’s not call Walker, a graduate of the Hosni Mubarak school of government names, name calling would not be civil. Treating teachers and state workers like cattle with an infectious disease, now that is civility, right?
Many of the commentators on Egypt cannot seem to take a moment to celebrate. Sure there are legitimate concerns about Egypt’s future and the democratic movement being hijacked by either the military or radical Islamists. But for today there is not much of a downside. Morning news reports showed Egyptian protesters returning to the streets to clean up the old posters and other trash. I managed to find one good exception, Marc Lynch at FP, Mubarak Leaves at Last
There is no question that the first, second and third drivers of this Egyptian revolution were the Egyptian people. The creativity of the youth and their ability to mobilize a wide range of Egyptian society around a common demand against daunting odds are simply an inspiration. The fact that these massive crowds avoided violence under incredibly tense conditions and under great uncertainty speaks volumes. This did not come out of nowhere — Egyptian activists have been mobilizing for change for a decade, with the Kefaya movement deserving enormous credit for breaking the walls of silence and fear and bringing opposition to the Mubarak regime out into the public sphere. But their success in the face of the power of a strong authoritarian regime was a surprise to everyone — including to them. And in the analyses to come, al-Jazeera’s role will require a chapter of its own… time for me to do an updated version of Voices of the New Arab Public!
The Obama administration also deserves a great deal of credit, which it probably won’t receive. It understood immediately and intuitively that it should not attempt to lead a protest movement which had mobilized itself without American guidance, and consistently deferred to the Egyptian people. Despite the avalanche of criticism from protestors and pundits, in fact Obama and his key aides — including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power and many others — backed the Egyptian protest movement far more quickly than anyone should have expected. Their steadily mounting pressure on the Mubarak regime took time to succeed, causing enormous heartburn along the way, but now can claim vindication. By working carefully and closely with the Egyptian military, it helped restrain the worst violence and prevent Tiananmen on the Tahrir — which, it is easy to forget today, could very easily have happened. No bombs, no shock and awe, no soaring declarations of American exceptionalism, and no taking credit for a tidal wave which was entirely of the making of the Egyptian people — just the steadily mounting public and private pressure on the top of the regime which was necessary for the protestors to succeed.
The Obama administration also understood from the start, and has consistently said, that removing Mubarak would not be enough. It has rejected “faux democracy,” and pushed hard for fundamental systemic reforms. Over the coming days and weeks, it should push for specific changes on a clear timetable: lifting the emergency reform, amending the Constitution, appointing a credible and nonpartisan commission to oversee elections, securing a guarantee from whoever acts as the interim head of state that he will not run for re-election, preventing retaliation against protestors, ensuring the inclusion of opposition figures in the process, and more. The outcome will be judged on what emerges over months and years to come, not only by today’s exhilarating turn of events. I hope that everyone thrilled by the downfall of the dictator remains attentive and committed to helping bring about the democratic transformation which Egyptians deserve, which serves real American interests, and which could help change the entire region.
From President Obama’s speech,
But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered.
But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.
The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.
Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table, for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.
The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary, and asked for, to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.
I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight.
And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region, but around the world.
And damned straight Obama is at his best when he does what the Right derides as the hopey-changey thing. Bush’s hopey-changey thing cost thousands of American lives and three trillion dollars – and that was to install some new friends for Iran. Vice President Biden took the opportunity to rub Egypt in the face Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
US Vice President Joe Biden has urged the Iranian government to let the people of Iran march and speak out.
“I say to our Iranian friends: let your people march, let your people speak, release your people from jail, let them have a voice,” Biden said.
The comments came on the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and shortly after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned following massive protests aimed at bringing down his 30 years of rule.
They also came after Iran blocked access to the BBC’s Persian TV service due to its coverage of the revolt in Egypt, even as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extolled the protest movement.
The United States slammed Tehran’s “hypocrisy” in blocking the broadcasts.
“The recent arrests [of opponents] and effort to block international media outlets underscores the hypocrisy of the Iranian leadership,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“For all of its empty talk about Egypt, the government of Iran should allow the Iranian people the same universal right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate in Tehran that the people are exercising in Cairo.”
And Glenn Beck has staked out every position on Egypt – if Mubarak resigned he was right. If Mubarak did not resign he was right. The GOP Cannot Control Its Own Noise Machine (The Egypt Edition)
A handy chart to compare RomneyCare – based to a large degree on a plan by the far Right think-tank the Heritage Foundation’s plan, to ObamaCare, ‘No Apology’ Romney Embraces Senate Massachusetts Health Reform And Individual Mandate