Monthly Archives: June 2015

Liberty and justice for all who fall in line

statism-force

The media lit up after last week’s momentous news of the Supreme Court narrowly preserving Obamacare and establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Less noticed was a potentially more significant ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.  This decision, which affirmed the right to claim housing discrimination based on “disparate impact,” left the door open for equal housing advocates to litigate over statistics rather than discriminatory intent.  The ripple effect of this decision will surely be felt more broadly than that of the others.

Although the Court went great lengths to define limits, it refused to undo what the White House considers an essential tool to ferret out more subtle, equally pernicious forms of discrimination.

So fearful had the Obama administration been of an adverse decision that it had cut deals to keep the question of disparate impact out of the nation’s highest court.  With a ruling in his favor, the president can now move forward with his agenda to re-engineer the composition of our neighborhoods.  The federal government will begin to take “affirmative” steps to coerce demographic change.

For the progressive movement, it is not enough that American society forsake discrimination.  To cleanse the sins of our racist past, our zip codes must comply with preordained metrics of diversity.  Developers, financiers, and even public housing agencies are racist if their activity results in statistics which do not live up to the multicultural ideal.  Never mind that the rational choices of free citizens may lead them to cluster with people who look and live as they do.

Sadly, disparate impact is just another example of progressive disrespect for the individual.

Consider President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  Individuals are not permitted to purchase health insurance that meets their needs if the policies do not meet the government’s mandated standards.  Apparently, people simply do not understand what the government knows is good for them, including the absurdity of maternity coverage for men and for women who cannot get pregnant.

Generations of children are trapped in public schools that do more to protect the livelihood of staff than the education of students.  Should parents be allowed to choose another school that works better for them?  Not according to the teachers unions and their guardians in the Democratic party establishment, who claim school choice undermines public education.  Their solution is to throw more of your money at failing schools.

But at least the teachers unions speak for their members, right?  Some workers think it makes sense to join a union, while others do not.  So we can let them vote with a secret ballot, where they decide for themselves which way to go, right?  Think again.  President Obama, an original co-sponsor of the dubiously named Employee Free Choice Act, would rather unionization decisions be made in public.  Under this legislation, employees would only sign a card to authorize the union — and have no free choice to decide privately in accordance with their conscience.

Who is really threatening the American worker: an employer, who has no access to authorization cards or ballots, or union bosses, who know exactly which employees have refused to sign a card?

If you think the liberal elite strong-arm the population merely to help ill-informed poor and working classes, you should take a look at our prestigious universities, training grounds for our best and brightest.  In the academy the left’s authoritarian tendencies have soared to unparalleled heights.  Students are deemed too helpless and fragile to hear ideas that diverge from politically correct orthodoxy.  Nonconforming speakers must be harrassed or “disinvited,” and students must be afforded “safe rooms” to shield their tender ears from classroom lectures that challenge their beliefs.

Yesterday Facebook was awash in celebratory posts about the monumental leap forward for American society.  Like it or not, the Court enshrined a constitutional “freedom to marry” by judicial fiat, short-circuiting the democratic process that was trending toward marriage equality on its own.  It remains to be seen whether the imposition of a mandate by unelected jurists ushers in challenges to religious freedom and other liberties we hold dear.

The left claims to honor human freedom and dignity but its methods disparage individual liberty at every turn.  When we put more faith in government than ourselves, we invite tyranny.

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Filed under Domestic Policy, Education, Supreme Court

Who are you fighting for?

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Hillary Clinton officially officially launched her presidential campaign last weekend.

After plenty of analysis and calibration since her unofficial official launch via video recording in April, the Democratic frontrunner delivered an address on New York’s Roosevelt Island setting forth the theme of her campaign.  “I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans,” she assured the crowd. “I’ll wage and win four fights for you” — most of all a populist economic program to uplift struggling poor and middle class Americans.

The speech went on to recite a litany of liberal policy prescriptions, what commentators have interpreted as a nod to the Democratic Party’s increasingly vocal progressive wing.

If the fighter proposition represents Hillary’s long-awaited “reason to run,” then it’s worth asking how well the progressive agenda has delivered for its purported beneficiaries.

In recent months, progressives have gone to bat for raising the minimum wage, denounced proactive policing methods, and blocked the president’s bid for Trade Promotion Authority.  For his part, President Obama has taken the Supreme Court to task for threatening the viability of Obamacare.

All these positions the left portrays as salves for the downtrodden.  But who pays the bill for all this medicine?

Let’s start with the minimum wage.  It sounds good that workers should receive more pay for their labors.  Economists debate the macroeconomic impact, but one thing is for sure:  raising the wage destroys jobs at the lowest end of the wage scale.  Employers of hourly wage earners make do with fewer workers, reduce plans to expand headcount, or go out of business altogether.  Those workers remaining on the payroll get a boost, but those shut out of the workforce do worse.  What’s better for workers — low wages or no wages?

Liberal advocates (who seemingly have never had to make a payroll) like to imagine that mandated wage increases make for better, more productive employees, which compensates for the increased costs.  But if the benefits were so self-evidently compelling, it would not take the force of law to generate an increase.  Costco and other large corporations can absorb the impact, so they are happy to gain a competitive advantage while they play the role of good corporate citizens.  In contrast, small businesses, the true engines of job growth, have tighter margins and less room to give.

How about proactive policing, such as New York’s supposedly oppressive “stop-and-frisk” policies?  Under Mayor de Blasio, who pulled the plug on these measures, criminal shootings and homicides are on the rise.  The so-called “Ferguson Effect” seems to be causing police to shy away from aggressive tactics as they fear mistakes that could jeopardize their freedom, let alone their careers.  The changes are emboldening criminal elements throughout our nation’s biggest cities, destroying any hope of economic development and revival.  It’s not affecting affluent white suburbs.  Poor, minority communities of the inner city are paying the price.

Free trade?  Progressives lambast the supposed horrors trade inflicts on working men and women.  But nothing has lifted more people out of poverty than the economic growth driven by the free exchange of goods and services across borders.  Would the left be so parochial as to say job security measures stop at the water’s edge?  Putting aside the universal benefits of economic growth, free trade has a direct impact on the cost of consumer goods.  Who is most sensitive to fluctuations in the price of food, clothing, and other staples?  The people who shop at Whole Foods?  More like those roaming the aisles at Wal-Mart.

And then there’s the showpiece of the Obama presidency, the Affordable Care Act.  Far from bending the cost curve down, the ACA, with its assortment of taxes, regulations, and mandates, has made health care less affordable not more.  Yes, the most impoverished uninsured have gained premium support or access to Medicaid, but at a cost of diminished benefits and increased out-of-pocket costs for the vast majority of the population.  The result hardly comports with a commitment to fight “for all Americans.”

The list goes on and on.  Liberal environmental decrees, labor regulations, and energy policies all sound good from the ivory tower, but cut deep in the real world where people struggle to pay the bills.  In their fervor to coerce societal change, the left rarely takes account of the damage left behind.  Nothing does more good for more Americans than economic growth, and the surest way to help the most vulnerable in our society is to unshackle the economy.

Now that’s something worth fighting for.

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Filed under Domestic Policy, Economic Policy, Electoral Politics

What’s in a terrible name?

terrorism

With little fanfare on Friday, Secretary of State Kerry signed an order removing Cuba from our list of state sponsors of terrorism, leaving only Iran, Sudan, and Syria with the odious designation.

Because the change reverses a number of financial and trade barriers imposed by statute, it paves the way for additional steps toward normalization being negotiated by Washington and Havana.  Opponents have railed against what they view as another unjustified concession to a recalcitrant adversary, but no one in Congress took material steps to block this latest move by the administration.

The point of the state sponsor list is to sanction countries that facilitate terrorist activity directly or indirectly.  On that count, Cuba’s continued inclusion was tenuous at best.  Cuba’s efforts to foment violent revolution abroad are largely a thing of the past.  Its presence on the list has persisted due to Washington’s animosity with the Castro regime rather than any continued material links to terrorist organizations.

So while there may be good reasons to isolate Cuba, and I have weighed in on their respective merits previously in this space, it is also a good thing that we have stopped calling Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

One can only hope that the rest of the world begins to show a similar fidelity to labels which are fraught with political meaning.

Let’s begin with “terror” itself.  World leaders and activists regularly throw around the terrorist moniker to discredit anyone who uses force in a way that conflicts with their political agendas.  Since March 2011 Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has denounced the popular uprising against his government as a terrorist enterprise requiring violent repression.  The actor Morgan Freeman decries the terrorism of police against blacks in urban America.  Even Israel, which should know a thing or two about the importance of political language, regularly conflates Palestinian guerrilla attacks against soldiers with terrorism.

Playing fast and loose with claims of terrorism undermines efforts to build a consensus among civilized people against its use.  We should be clear what terror is and what it is not.

Terrorism means intentional violence against non-combatants to further political, religious, or other ideological aims.  If the targets are soldiers, attacks may be loathsome, but they are not terrorist.  If an action is cruel or repressive, but not violent, it is not terror.  Wanton bloodshed without a political purpose may be criminal, but that does not make it terror.

When we heap derision on conduct by attaching a despicable but inappropriate label, it serves no purpose but to dilute the meaning of the label and to create daylight for justification.

Put another way, if one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, then we have opened the door for political sympathizers to rationalize — or at least accommodate — the indefensible.  If terror is permitted anywhere, it will be possible everywhere.

For years irresponsible petrodollars have funded Islamic terrorist organizations.  Now the Gulf states are seeing how shortsighted it was to enable jihadist violence. With the rise of ISIS, the chickens have started to come home (to Saudi Arabia) to roost.

Ignorant activists, well-meaning or otherwise, stumble into this semantic sinkhole whenever they lash out at their villain of choice with reckless accusations of rape, genocide, Naziism, Apartheid, and the like.  When facts do not match the rhetoric, words lose their force, and moral boundaries become matters of opinion.

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Filed under Terrorism