Tuesday, July 19, 2016

South Carolina Senator Scott discusses being a black man in America

“Mr. President, I rise today to give my second speech this week discussing the issues we are facing following last week’s tragedies in Dallas, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge. This speech is perhaps the most difficult because it’s the most personal,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, in the Senate Chamber last week.

Scott has a long, distinguished record of public service, serving 13 years on the Charleston County Council beginning in 1995. In 2008 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, in 2010 he elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and was appointed to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate term in 2012 and was elected to retain that seat in 2014. He is the first southern African-American senator since the late 1800s.

Scott said that in his first speech “I talked about how the vast majority of our law enforcement officers have only two things in mind: protect and serve. But as I noted then, we do have serious issues that must be resolved. In many cities and towns across the nation, there is a deep divide between the black community and law enforcement, a trust gap, a tension that has been growing for decades. And as a family, one American family, we cannot ignore these issues, because while so many officers do good – and we should be thankful, as I said on Monday, we should be very thankful and supportive of all those officers that do good – [but] some simply do not. I’ve experienced it myself. And so today I want to speak about some of those issues.”

Recalling his first encounter with the police, he said: “The very first time that I was pulled over by a police officer as just a youngster,” the officer came up to the window, “hand on his gun, and said, ‘Boy, don’t you know your headlight is not working properly?’” Scott said he was embarrassed and ashamed. And “scared, very scared.”

That was not the last time he was stopped by police, he said; he has been stopped seven times in the period of a year, and admitted that he was speeding a couple of times, but usually he was stopped for things like driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other equally trivial reason. “Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity” each of those times, he said, capping the story off with an incident that happened while he was serving in the U.S. Congress.

After having been in Congress for five years, and at the time in the Senate, an officer challenged him as he entered a government office building. “The pin, I know,” the officer said, referring to Scott’s U.S. Senate lapel pin. “You, I don’t. Show me your ID.” Later that day he received an apology from the officer’s supervisor, but the damage was done. Again. That was the third such apology he had received since entering the Senate.

Police question millions of Americans of all races every year in their effort to “protect and to serve,” and they should always have a legitimate reason for doing so. Obviously, they don’t always have a good reason, as Sen. Scott illustrated. But often they do have reasons, and sometimes it is at least partly due to the behavior of some of those in groups that are often the focus of police bias.

Chicago serves as a prime example, a place where black Americans are most often killed or attacked by other black Americans, not white Americans or police officers. In neighborhoods where back people routinely commit violence and murder against other blacks, why are we surprised that blacks receive greater police scrutiny?

Columnist Peggy Noonan recently wrote a column titled “Three Good Men Talk About Race” in The Wall Street Journal, all of them black Americans. They are Tim Scott, Dr. Brian Williams of Parkland Memorial Hospital, who fought to save injured Dallas police officers ambushed by a black man, and Dallas Police Chief David Brown.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said recently. “They’re paying the price for every societal failure. “Not enough mental health funding? ‘Let the cop handle it.’ Not enough drug addiction funding? ‘Let’s give it to the cops,’” he continued. The chief said that society must get in the game.

In response to blacks being killed by police we now see black men assassinating police officers. The shooter in Dallas who killed five officers and injured seven others was black. In Baton Rouge, six officers were ambushed last Sunday, and three of them died. Police killed the shooter, a 29 year-old black man who, according to The Daily Caller, was a former member of the Nation of Islam.

As Scott said, the country is deeply divided; there is a very tense trust gap. Police sometimes unfairly target black people. Many black people assume every death at the hands of police is a wrongful death.

We need leaders to calm the tension, not pour gasoline on emotional embers, to wait for details before reaching a conclusion. And we must make sure that all who do wrong are punished.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lipstick on a pig: Administration putting a spin on the U.S. economy

It is natural for politicians to put things in the most favorable light, and the worse the general situation, the greater the need to do so. That serves as an appropriate introduction to the White House’s June economic analysis, which is summarized thusly: “The economy added 287,000 jobs in June, as labor force participation rose and the broadest measure of labor market slack fell.” As far as that statement goes, it is true.

That new jobs number is a decent number – the best jobs figure since October – and miles ahead of May’s revised number of only 11,000 new jobs. But it is not an outstanding number, and is only one of several really significant numbers.

Back in December 2009, six months after the end of the recession and 11 months into Barack Obama’s first term, economist Paul Krugman said that 300,000 new jobs each month were necessary to make up the job losses of the recession over the next five years, so the June figure falls short of that number. In the weak Obama recovery new job production has only met or exceeded 300,000 six times in 89 months. The last was in November of 2014 at 331,000.

Whether the 287,000 number holds up after revision we won’t know until August. May’s preliminary number was revised down by more than two-thirds to a mere 11,000; therefore August may show a downward revision, an upward revision, or a number that is pretty close to the preliminary figure.

Other relevant numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data set for June include an increase in the U-3 unemployment rate, the one President Obama prefers to cite, from 4.7 to 4.9 percent. Despite the increase, the U-3 rate still looks good because it discounts all those marginally attached to the labor force that involuntarily work part-time instead of full-time, or have given up looking for work because they cannot find a job. Those workers are included in the U-6 rate, which more accurately represents reality, and stood at 9.6 percent in June, and improved one-tenth of a percent since May, as some of the previously disaffected workers started seeking employment again.

Even so, the Labor Force Participation rate was still at the late-70s level of 62.7 percent. From 66.0 percent in December of 2007 when the recession began, the trend in the participation rate has been steadily downward and has been below 63 percent since March of 2014. The labor force is made up of those age 16 and older that are working, looking for a job, and not in prison or in the military, and totaled 94,517,000 people last month. That means that 56,228,000 working age Americans are not working, and not in the military or in prison.

In June, 1.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force. These are individuals who wanted to work, were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Another 5.8 million individuals prefer full-time employment, but are working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they haven’t been able to find a full-time job.

The BLS reported, “Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates [U-3] for adult women (4.5 percent) and Whites (4.4 percent) rose in June. The rates for adult men (4.5 percent), teenagers (16.0 percent), Blacks (8.6 percent), Asians (3.5 percent), and Hispanics  (5.8 percent) showed little or no change.”

The 9.6 percent U-6 rate tells one part of the story, but the actual harm of the administration’s policies that keep the economy from cranking up are another story.

“Today’s jobs number can’t hide the ongoing struggles facing the country’s main jobs producers – small businesses – which are overwhelmed by over-taxation, over-regulation, and a lack of access to credit,” said Jobs Creators Network (JCN) president Alfredo Ortiz. “And it shouldn’t distract us from an underwhelming labor force participation rate—still the lowest figure since the 1970s.”

National Federation of Independent Business president and CEO Juanita Duggan commented, “Each month our survey shows that small business owners are trying to hire qualified workers,” and, “The job openings are there, but owners are not going to invest in new employment when labor costs are becoming insurmountable, and the political climate is wildly uncertain.”

All the way back in November of 2010 President Obama was already claiming a “new normal” for the economy: “What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a new normal where unemployment rates stay high,” he said on CBS “60 Minutes.”

Today, with a real unemployment close to 10 percent, Obama may be viewed as a pretty good prophet. However, rather than seeing the future, he engineered it, and the term “new normal” is much less a reality than an excuse. As the JCN’s Ortiz noted, high taxes, rampant and intrusive regulation and limited credit do not a good recovery make.

America deserves better. November’s election provides the opportunity to elect as president someone who understands job creation.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Constitution is under attack, and from an unexpected source

Just when you think you have heard the silliest thing possible, someone comes along and slaps you in the head with something sillier yet.

It is no secret that lots of Americans do not appreciate or honor the U.S. Constitution, and millions have no clue what it is, what it means, or why it exists. Among those we do not expect to find in that group are people trained in the law, and especially those who have been elevated to the judicial bench through appointment or election. Of course, every group has its eccentrics, even the judiciary.

To wit: Richard Posner, a judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, who expressed an idea on that baffles those of us who honor the country created for us 200-plus years ago, and the controlling document, the U.S. Constitution, the law of the land that has been the anchor keeping our republic relatively stable all these years. It has done so to the extent it has been followed, and its principles upheld by those specially trained folks who study the law.

Said Posner: “I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation,” which he followed with: “Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc. of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post-Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today.”

Education, it seems, is frequently incomplete. For example, some doctors seem to have not had the class in Bedside Manner 101. News journalists often appear not to have heard the idea that news reporting requires impartiality and accuracy. Many teachers at all levels do not understand that their job is not indoctrination, but the presentation of, and assistance in helping students understand their subject.

Posner apparently missed the class where it was discussed how the Constitution could be improved through amendments, and also where one should have learned about the concept of principles, like those set forth in the Constitution.

A principle, in this sense, is a broad concept, not merely a list of specifics. For example, the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech, the freedom of religion, etc. to all Americans, and the Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Constitution is not intended to limit its protections to only those threats that existed in the 1700s, but also to any that may arise thereafter.

Giving Posner credit not substantiated by his comment, let us assume that he understands that a nation must have laws. Since he does not respect the fundamental law that now exists, if we take his argument that the Constitution is old, outdated and therefore useless, what are we supposed to replace it with? Whatever ideas are the most popular? Or the ideas that a particular group of judges like best? Or, worse yet, what each judge and law enforcement official decides ought to be legal and illegal.

Would he prefer a set of rules proposed by the sitting president? Or, would he prefer a set of “living” rules that changes with the winds of popular opinion?

Posner’s article does not address that aspect.

Even with the protections of the Constitution, we see frequent over-stepping by government officials and agencies that ignore its limits on government, so without it how would the citizens of the United States be protected from government excesses? By what measures could we keep our government from becoming just another tyrannical body like communist China or North Korea?

The Constitution in Article III, Section 1, provides: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour…” This runs contrary to the widely accepted idea that federal judges are appointed for life or until they decide to step down. Clearly, the Framers foresaw that a judge might exhibit behavior other than “good Behaviour,” in which case he or she is subject to removal from the bench.

With that in mind, several judicial watchers have suggested that Posner’s idea of discarding the Constitution, the document he is sworn to uphold, warrants his impeachment, and also said that a Congress that took both Posner’s oath and its oath seriously would impeach him.

However, Posner is protected by the provisions of the very document he so disdains and wants done away with, the First Amendment’s protection of free speech, which was written not to protect speech with which we agree, but speech that is not popular to some, and even critical of the government. This includes criticism of the Constitution, even by someone so high in the judicial hierarchy as a federal Circuit Court judge.

Our freedoms are now under more serious attack than ever before since the nation’s founding, by political correctness and those who find some protections inconvenient, and now by some charged with defending them by upholding the Constitution’s protections.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Politics, ideology often trump duty and honor among public servants

Here in America, the land of the free, it ought to take actual wrongdoing for government to act against individuals and organizations. And when those in positions of authority in government are properly serving the people they work for, that is the way it is.

Alas, that is not always so. It seems to be getting more frequent to see misfeasance by public servants who, rather than seeking out criminal or civil misbehavior, now use their offices that they are paid to operate honorably for purposes outside their scope of responsibility. Apparently the punishment for abdicating one’s sworn duty to honorably do his/her job are insufficient to discourage bad behavior. Or maybe it is because people rarely are held accountable and punished for their misfeasance.

Perhaps the best-known recent episode of such public dis-service was the targeting for harassment of conservative organizations that had filed for non-profit status with the IRS, a function under the control of one Lois Lerner.

During a Congressional hearing investigating the affair, Lerner refused to answer questions, hiding behind the 5Th Amendment’s protection from self-incrimination, later resigning her federal position and, having avoided criminal charges, lives peacefully on her government pension.

While Lerner used her IRS position against political adversaries, public servant misbehavior also creeps into the area of harassing ideological adversaries. The environmental left’s position that burning fossil fuels significantly harms the environment is based upon evidence so weak and heavily disputed that a substantial number of Americans – perhaps a majority – reject the idea. Unable to convince people through the strength of scientific evidence, the liberals then resort to using the power of government to force people into line.

This time the target is ExxonMobil and a dozen independent groups that are in the crosshairs of a state prosecutor because they do not accept the idea that fossil fuels significantly damage the environment, and have had the unmitigated gall to express their opinion publicly.

Earlier this month ExxonMobil released a copy of an April 19 subpoena filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey demanding forty years of communications regarding climate change from the company and the organizations. Exxon has filed a motion for injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accusing Healey of waging a politically motivated fishing expedition aimed at silencing oppositional opinion on climate change.

Did Exxon engage in legally actionable fraud as Healy claims? “Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable,” she said, referring to what she called the “troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew and what the company and industry chose to share with investors and with the American public.”

Healy’s statement suggests that someone can be held criminally liable for knowing the left’s argument about climate change, and failing to discard their own opinion in favor of that argument. Merely knowing that the environmental faction thinks fossil fuel use is harming the environment makes you legally obligated to adopt it, even if you do not agree and, more importantly, even if there is no actual proof that assumption is correct.

Healy and the fellow travelers on the left seem to believe that their opinion becomes truth, merely because they believe it, even if it has never been proven true or valid, and if you disagree you can face legal action. Free speech and the First Amendment apparently no longer apply where climate change is concerned.

Of this poorly thought through legal fiasco, Alex Epstein, whose Center for Industrial Progress is one of the dozen organizations targeted by Healy along with Exxon, had this to say: “What ExxonMobil is being prosecuted for is expressing an opinion about the evidence that the government disagrees with … There is a fundamental distinction in civilized society between fraud and opinion.”

In his excellent book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Epstein advances the position that fossil fuel use has provided millions and millions of people wonderful advantages in terms of higher living standards, increased life expectancy, decreased infant and child mortality than they would have had without fossil fuels, and he references the manic climate change narrative that produced repeated predictions of doom that did not materialize.

A fundamental truth in the United States is that one may hold and espouse any opinion he or she chooses, without regard to whether that opinion is true or false; it is not a crime to disagree, even if the subject is climate change.

This effort to force acceptance of the weak theory of fossil fuels damaging the environment is an initiative of “AGs United for Clean Power.” This perhaps signals a coming expanded effort to silence disagreement. But it has aroused the attention of 13 attorneys general, who signed a letter to their counterparts across the country that said: “We think this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake.”

Whether that letter will help redirect AGs tempted to the dark side or not is unknown. But it is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mass shootings: Attention must be focused on reality, not politics

The liberal left’s Pavlovian response to mass shooting incidents is always blaming too many guns, too easy access to guns, and the availability of the wrong kind of guns. More recently the subject has broadened to include keeping certain types of people from buying guns, an aspect that at least contains a degree of rationality.

President Barack Obama went to Orlando, FL last week to offer condolences to the families of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, but could not resist turning the subject from the victims and their suffering in this tragedy into an opportunity talk about guns.

Three Democrats walked out of the House of Representatives chamber when Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., asked for a moment of silence in memory of those killed and injured in the Orlando shooting, and later during regular House business when Ryan tried to call up a measure for a vote, Democrats began shouting over the announcement of the bill being voted on.

Favored targets for blame, rather than the actual perpetrators and their motives, are the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservatives and/or Republicans, which is a common theme despite the fact that none of the killers have been members of the NRA, conservatives or Republicans. What the NRA, conservatives and Republicans realize that liberals do not is that absent the intent to commit murder, guns – like hammers, butcher knives and motor vehicles – are inanimate objects. Every day tens of millions of guns harm no one, especially those under control of law-abiding citizens. Guns are not the problem; they are but a tool and only harm when used by someone with the intent to harm or occasionally by accident.

There is also a near-universal misidentification of weapons these killers use: “assault weapons.” The fact is that no true assault weapon has been used in any mass shooting.

Assault weapons – which are fully automatic, or have the capability to be used in fully-automatic mode – are illegal in the U.S. Weapons used in mass shootings are semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, revolvers, or shotguns. Just because a weapon has characteristics of appearance and similar accessories to assault weapons does not make it an assault weapon. Those using that term are either ignorant about the subject, or are deceptively using it for its emotional value, trying to gin up support for their cause.

The gun control faction’s desires run a broad gamut from banning all guns, to banning some types of guns, to preventing some particular people from getting any sort of gun at all, and using the no-fly list, the terror watch list and mental health issues as disqualifying elements.

Before starting down the road to implementing some restrictions, we must remember that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” formed to guarantee personal liberty, and America reached heights previously unknown in history due to its singular devotion to freedom. We cannot trample on the freedoms of millions of American citizens in order to discover the relative few who have evil intent.

* Suggesting a total gun ban is dead on arrival.
* Trying to limit the kinds of guns people may purchase begs the question of who decides, and how; and opens the door for dictatorial abuse by the politically motivated.
* Denying gun purchases to people on the no-fly list, terror watch list or who have been flagged for a mental health issue is fraught with potential for errors and abuse. Journalist Stephen Hayes found himself on a terrorist watch list, as did South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and at least two children 6 and 8 years of age. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was denied boarding a plane back to Washington while in the Senate. What could possibly go wrong?

Americans are protected from arbitrary denial of Constitutional rights through a legal due process proceeding, where evidence must be offered and a specific ruling made to approve taking one’s rights. West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin seems ready to ditch due process. The Weekly Standard quoted Manchin as saying, "The problem we have — and really, the firewall we have right now, is due process. It's all due process … due process is what's killing us right now."

Two other factors scream out for attention, things that mass shootings have in common. First, all of them have occurred in places that were declared “gun-free zones,” where guns were forbidden. This is an open invitation to someone bent on committing an atrocity.

Second, many/most of them were committed by Muslims inspired by al Qaeda, ISIS or some other source of Islamist anti-American fervor. That factor existed in the Pulse nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fort Hood, and the San Bernardino shootings, for example.

President Obama turns back-flips to avoid using the term “radical Islam” to describe these murders, saying that Islam is a religion of peace. Okay, fine. But not all Muslims adhere to that creed, and the killers among them pledged allegiance to Allah during these far too-frequent events.

We cannot eliminate or reduce these atrocities by continuing to ignore these two factors. Political correctness be damned; our lives are too important for PC.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Obama’s failed record and legacy is Hillary’s campaign platform

Yes, it was a significant recession, deep enough to earn the title the “Great Recession.” But since the Great Depression there have been several recessions that, at the time they occurred, were called the “Great Recession.”

Since the Great Depression and including the latest incarnation of the Great Recession, none of them have come anywhere close to the horrible conditions during the 1930s. Thus, Barack Obama’s citing of the Great Recession falls short in excusing the dismal economy and the failed Obama recovery. The lousy economy is due to faulty policies since the end of the recession in June 2009.
As the end of Obama’s presidency nears the U.S. is more than $19 trillion in debt, and the debt nearly doubled during Obama’s presidency. At a seriously high $10.6 trillion when he began, Obama’s policies have added about a trillion dollars for each of his eight years in office.

During the Obama recovery, Gross Domestic Product has not once reached 3.0 percent. “Adding insult to injury,” The Daily Signal reports, “Obama coupled an incredibly weak economic recovery with a more than trillion-dollar tax hike.  By allegedly making the rich ‘pay their fair share’ through the $620 billion (2013-2022) fiscal cliff tax increase, the administration really pushed for everyday Americans to sacrifice lower take-home pay for more government spending and intervention in their lives.”

Obama has claimed the creation of millions of jobs. "We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history,” he said. “More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s; an unemployment rate cut in half."

Well, sort of. When a recession produces job losses, the recovery – even a poor recovery like this one – produces some “new jobs.” And according to CNN Money, Obama created 9.3 million, not 14 million, new jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the U-6 unemployment rate reflects “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.” At the end of the first quarter of 2016, the U-6 rate was 10.1 percent. 

These unemployed, discouraged workers who have stopped looking for a job, and underemployed workers are not counted in the unemployment figure the administration brags about, but are nonetheless part of the American workforce, which totals 243 million people, and currently more than 90 million of them are unemployed or underemployed, putting the workforce participation rate at a decades-low 62.6 percent.

In a May open-ended Gallop survey, participants noted general economic issues as the most important thing on their minds, but not far behind were issues with their government, such as immigration and race relations, two things Obama has made worse.

Potentially more serious, however, is the disintegrating U.S. influence across the globe and our severely weakened military, issues considered so serious that Congressional Republicans have developed a 23-page policy document to address them, under the leadership of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis).

“In the past seven years, our friendships have frayed, our rivalries have intensified. It’s not too much to say that our enemies no longer fear us and too many of our allies no long trust us. And I think this is the direct result of the president’s foreign policy,” Ryan said. “All he did was create … many voids around the world and now our enemies are stepping in to fill those voids. This is what happens when America does not lead.”

With Obama’s tenure ending we are faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton being elected to what will essentially be Obama’s third term, continuing his disastrous policies, and adding her own signature disasters to the mix.

Among Clinton’s favorite issues are: gun control, climate change, and income inequality.

She says that 33,000 gun deaths every year is unacceptable. But considered in context, 33,000 deaths among our 320 million population is roughly one death for every 10,000 people. And not all gun deaths are murders. Some are killed by police; others by people defending themselves; some are suicides; some are accidents. To Obama and Clinton, the Orlando terrorist attack is a gun control issue.

Obama’s manic compulsion for climate change has produced policies that have destroyed the lives of thousands of energy industry workers, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars propping up failing green energy companies like Solyndra, based on a theory that is faulty and heavily disputed. Likewise, Clinton wants to install a half-billion solar panels by 2020, seven times what we have today. More bad policies on the horizon.

She favors making incomes more equal, not understanding that wages are based on economic principles, not fairy tale desires. She wants a $12 an hour minimum wage for everyone, trained or not, good at their job or not.

And we cannot ignore her failure to provide adequate security at the Benghazi consulate when evaluating her foreign policy credentials.

Clinton, like Obama, seeks to control and ignores logic and reasoning when seeking solutions. She shares his “big government as the solution to all problems” philosophy, and that is a recipe for continued trouble.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Constitution provides states with a high degree of sovereignty

When the founders of our young nation realized that the original governing document, the Articles of Confederation, was insufficient, the task of creating a better one began. Ultimately, during the process of creating and ratifying the United States Constitution to replace the Articles strong sentiment existed for specific rights to be guaranteed to Americans, and the Bill of Rights was created, consisting of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

As time passed the strength of some of those first 10 amendments has been weakened, and some are under constant attack. As our once-limited national government has grown, the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have diminished.

The Bill of Rights guarantees such things as freedom of speech and religion, the keeping and bearing of arms, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and other protections from a government set on tyranny.

The several states, which represented the interests and will of their citizens, created the national government, and the Tenth Amendment emphasized that the states had protection from the acquisition of powers by the national government outside the limits set forth in the Constitution.

During the process of replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution, a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers stressed that under the Constitution’s governmental structure, the principle of popular sovereignty would continue, with Constitutional protections against the national government trampling on the rights reserved for the states. This was known as “federalism.” The national government has those powers assigned to it; the states or the people have those powers not assigned to the national government, nor prohibited by the Constitution.

The Ninth Amendment strengthens the Tenth, but more than 230 years later, who can argue that the Tenth Amendment's proscription against a power grab by the federal government has actually been respected?

Arguably, the Environmental Protection Agency is the greatest offender of 10th Amendment protections, as it writes regulations and rules with the force of law that have not been made into law by the Congress.

Or maybe it is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – that is a law made by Congress, but shoves Uncle Sam over the edge of the big government cliff. Imagine Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the Founders agreeing that the national government was allowed someday to impose a healthcare system on the people of the several states, even if it worked as advertised.

The idea that the federal government has the authority to change the operations of hundreds or thousands of individual insurers and healthcare providers in 50 different states, each serving its own separate customer base, into a single system controlled by Washington is as anti-Constitution as it gets.

Other areas of Tenth Amendment abuse are same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which originally were state issues, until the federal government found some way to finagle a national interest in these issues.

Until the Roe v Wade case of 1973, abortion had been a state issue, but the Supreme Court ruled that bans on abortion were unconstitutional on a “right to privacy” basis discovered in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And the federal government was never involved in marriage issues until 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed.

The Constitution also protected state sovereignty by the way Congress was organized. The House of Representatives, frequently referred to as “the people’s house,” consisted of Representatives directly elected by the citizens of the Congressional Districts. Members of the Senate, on the other hand, were to be elected by the state legislatures, and therefore senators’ loyalty was to the government of the state more than to its citizens.

This protection vanished, however, when the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, and now the citizens of the states also elect Senators, in addition to the Representatives. Members of the Senate no longer have any special reason to protect the interests of the government of the state they represent, and that shifts the governing balance between the states and the federal government toward the federal government.

The result often is that federal mandates, about which the states themselves have nothing to say, not only can and do intrude on state sovereignty, but force states to pay for their implementation, as well.

Some people think these changes are just fine, such as those who have bought into the scare tactics of the climate change catastrophe gang, those who support abortion and same-sex marriage, and those who generally like big government and have never stopped to think how miserable they may be in the future if this big-government mania isn’t stopped.

There is some good news on this issue: States are fighting back against federal over-reach. Twenty-four states filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to strike down the Environmental Protection Agency’s new source performance standards that effectively prohibit the construction of new, coal-fired power plants. And 12 states are fighting the Obama administration’s LGBT rights mandates.

If the courts do not support restoration of state sovereignty in these and other issues, the states will have no other choice but to refuse to follow intrusive federal measures.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Transportation Security Administration is failing the public

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been in the news a lot lately, and not because of the number of terrorists that it has caught trying to board domestic and international flights originating in the U.S.

The most flagrant set of problems occurred primarily at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where waits of up to three hours to get through the security check occurred, and the more serious situation where travelers had to spend the night in the O’Hare terminal on cots furnished by the airport because the long wait caused them to miss their flights. It is estimated that as many as 4,000 travelers have missed flights at O’Hare since February due to slow security checks. These are a painful testimony to just how badly the security check problems have become.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) predicts a long, hot summer, blaming the TSA’s inept bureaucracy for being unable to provide an efficient security check process at American airports. CAGW blames the TSA directly, rather than other things, like budget cuts or a smaller workforce, which are offered up as excuses.

“This blame shifting simply does not stand up to scrutiny for TSA, whose fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget of $7.3 billion is one billion dollars and 16 percent higher than in FY 2007,” CAGW notes.  “TSA’s full-time workforce rose by 4.3 percent over the last decade, even as air travel at major airports decreased. To date, 22 airports have dropped TSA and switched to more cost-effective, flexible, and efficient private alternatives.  The massive lines of outraged passengers have caused airports in Atlanta, New York, and Seattle to announce they would like to privatize security as well.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said that passengers must accept the new reality of “increased wait times as you travel,” but assured air travelers that TSA would be asking airports for help with “nonsecurity” activities, speeding the process. And he said that the number of carry-ons "has a lot to do with the wait time." Airlines have begun charging for extra bags being checked through, which encourages passengers to carry more bags with them into the passenger cabin, slowing the security check process.

These problems will likely increase as air travel picks up in the summer tourist season.

Underscoring CAGW’s accusation of incompetence is this from the New York Daily News: “The Transportation Security Administration assistant administrator who received $90,000 bonuses despite failed security tests at U.S. airports has been replaced, a government agency said Monday.” Kelly Hoggan, who testified before Congress about multiple TSA problems earlier this month, has been reassigned within the TSA.

Last week The Daily Signal proposed three steps to improve the TSA’s performance:

1. Expand the Screening Partnership Program - The Screening Partnership Program’s ability to take advantage of private security companies is one way the TSA can meet high passenger demand without sacrificing security.

2. Enlarge and Strengthen TSA PreCheck - TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that allows members to expedite the security process after going through a background check and vetting process. The program allows TSA to move its resources towards a more risk-based approach by focusing less time on low-risk travelers.

3. Ensure Airport Screening is Subject to Risk Assessments and Red Team Tests - Waiting in TSA lines is partially alleviated because the TSA is supposedly providing extra security. That’s why it’s important to continue assessing the effectiveness of the TSA’s security measures. Red Teams, or undercover agents are one way to test that TSA security measures are working. In the meantime, it’s up to passengers to also take personal responsibility in preparing themselves for security checkpoints.

But perhaps the answer lies not in how to repair a broken and dysfunctional federal bureaucracy, but in replacing it with a private sector solution.

Like Postal Service workers who are frequently friendly, courteous and competent, TSA workers also display these qualities. But like the Postal Service, the TSA is a broken and largely failing agency.

Government agencies operate in a system that provides guaranteed clients, guaranteed revenue, and no competition, hence there is little incentive to be effective. This is why few of the multitudinous activities of the federal government are successful.

Our government keeps growing, finding ever more things that it believes need federal attention, all the while adding bodies to the federal payroll, increasing costs and delivering less than we deserve.

Airport/airline security really is mostly the concern of the individual airlines and airports – after all, they have the most to lose from a security failure and more to gain from being recognized for security successes. Why, then, should the federal government attempt this important mission with its history of ineffective bureaucratic methods?

Private businesses have not only the pride factor in their operation, but also the profit motive. If they fail to do the job satisfactorily, they will be replaced, and that adds an incentive to preform well that government agencies simply do not have. Competition drives success.

The big government mentality sees all problems as federal problems and big government solutions as the only means of salvation. Bureaucracies are self-sustaining parasites living off citizens, and mostly failing them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The U.S. armed forces have been weakened by budget cuts and ideology

In recent years America’s military has experienced operational readiness issues. A good bit of this is due to budget cuts resulting from the 2013 sequestration, but some sources also blame philosophical ideas about the military within the Obama administration.

Sequestration, as explained by CNN at the time, is “a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending. More than $500 billion will be cut from the Defense Department and other national security agencies, with the rest cut on the domestic side…”

The Pentagon, under then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, planned to reach its mandated cuts through furloughs of hundreds of thousands of civilian workers in combat readiness training and weapons maintenance. He said at the time that the $46 billion in cuts the first year would significantly affect military readiness, and the longer the sequestration lasts, the deeper cuts that will be required to achieve the mandated savings.

Just how badly this has affected military readiness is demonstrated in a Fox News story earlier this month. The U.S. Air Force, the smallest of the four major armed services, has cut staff to the degree that many military personnel now work extra shifts performing administrative jobs previously performed by civilians.

These cuts have put the Air Force in the position of being short 4,000 service personnel to maintain its aircraft and 700 pilots to fly them. Personnel are now cannibalizing parts from planes no longer in service and stored at a desert site called "The Boneyard" and from planes on display in museums to repair active aircraft.

Master Sgt. Bruce Pfrommer, who has worked on B-1 bombers for more than 20 years, told Fox that at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, where the 28th Bomber Wing is located, only nine of the 20 bombers there can fly. Those aircraft are closing in on 10,000 flight hours each, compared to about 1,000 when Pfrommer started working on them 20 years ago.

"Our retention rates are pretty low. Airmen are tired and burnt out,” Staff Sgt. Tyler Miller, of the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth, told Fox. "When I first came in seven years ago, we had six people per aircraft — and the lowest man had six or seven years of experience," Miller said. "Today, you have three-man teams and each averages only three years of experience."

The Navy also has operational issues. A Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this month, titled “Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan” (OFRP) discusses problems facing our sea-going service. While the report does not specifically mention sequestration budget cuts, the symptoms support this as a least part of the problem.

An excerpt from the OFRP tells us that:
• Over the past decade, high operational tempo has reduced the predictability of ship deployments for sailors and for the industrial base that supports ship repair and maintenance. For example, carrier strike group deployment lengths have increased from an average of 6.4 months between 2008 – 2011 and 8.2 months between 2012 – 2014, to 9 months for three carrier strike groups in 2015.
• Increased deployment lengths have resulted in declining ship conditions and materiel readiness, and in a maintenance backlog that has not been fully identified or resourced, according to Navy officials.
• The declining condition of ships has increased the duration of time that ships spend undergoing maintenance in the shipyards, which in turn compresses the time available in the schedule for training and operations.

In its 2016 assessment of the four major military branches, the Heritage Foundation shows how true Panetta’s prediction was. The assessment rated the Army as “weak,” and the Navy, Marines and Air Force as “marginal,” rating the U.S. military overall as “marginal.”

In addition to budget cuts, reports of military brass being displeased with President Obama’s policies also pose questions.

Writing in Politico in 2013 Rosa Brooks noted, “In my interviews, however, many senior military leaders complained of feeling baffled and shut out by a White House National Security Staff.”

“The NSS wants to run the show, day to day and minute to minute,” laments a former military official, “so they have no time—they’re almost incapable of strategic thinking.” Another recently retired senior general said, “I don’t understand the process by which the White House is making strategic or foreign-policy decisions. … There’s an appearance of consultation, but you know you won’t be listened to.”

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution provides that the federal government “provide for the common defense.” But in Article Four, Section Four, it states specifically that the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.” No other power of the federal government shares that strong a requirement for performance.

No reasonable observer would contend that the federal government is obeying its Constitutional mandate to “provide for the common defense.”

How does the Commander in Chief plan to fix this?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Democrat policies have a troubling past and promise a bad future

When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 the U.S. was emerging from the recession that began in December of 2007. Running 18 months, this was a significant recession, with GDP reaching -8 percent in 2008 and unemployment peaking at 10.0 percent in October 2009, four months after the technical end of the recession.

In February 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an $830 billion spending plan that was supposed to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. It didn’t.

Truthfully, seven full years later the United States has not fully recovered from the recession, and Obama blamed the recession throughout most of his presidency to cover his tracks on the poor economic recovery. But the severity of the recession wasn’t to blame.

Gross Domestic Product growth has been inconsistent during Obama’s presidency, and averaged slightly above the 2.0 percent range. And while unemployment finally dropped to respectable territory at 4.9 percent in January, that must be considered in light of the fact that it’s only that low because more than 90 million Americans couldn’t find a job to replace the one they once had and left the workforce. When those people are included in the calculation, the unemployment rate at the end of April was 9.3 percent (U-6).

The labor force participation rate is the percentage of working-age persons in an economy who are employed, or are unemployed but looking for a job. Today, according to the Bureau of Labor Standards, the participation rate is 62.8 percent, the lowest since the 1970s.

Contrast Obama’s dreary results with the last recession that lasted at least 16 months. During Ronald Reagan’s first term, the recession began in July 1981 and ended in November 1982. Under Reagan’s policies the unemployment rate fell from a high of 10.8 percent in December 1982 to 7.2 percent in November of 1984 – that’s a 3.6 point improvement in 23 months, a striking difference from the 2007 recession, where unemployment peaked at 10.0 percent and never fell below 8.0 percent in the first 43 months afterward.

During the Reagan recovery the economy posted a robust 4.8 percent annualized growth over 23 quarters, according to economist Stephen Moore in The Daily Signal, and that was more than double the rate during Obama’s tenure.

Where Obama responded to an economic recession with $2 trillion worth of government expansion (more than $1 trillion on health care and $830 million in economic stimulus), Reagan cut marginal income tax rates across the board permanently through the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981: Different approach; different results. Reagan’s results were far better.

When your country is in trouble the president is supposed to put political and ideological goals aside and take actions that help the country recover. Instead Obama, not one to let a crisis go to waste, pursued his manic pledge to “fundamentally transform” the country, doubling down on reckless environmental policies that since September of 2014 have cost 191,000 people in mining industries their jobs, about 30 percent of them in the coal industry, according to CNS News, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That trend will continue if, through some great misfortune, Hillary Clinton gets elected. Recently, Clinton said, “I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

She then visited West Virginia coal country on the campaign trail and faced an out-of-work coal miner who is having trouble taking care of his family because of the Obama administration’s punishing policies on mining and burning coal. She answered his complaint about killing the coal industry by saying that her comment was out of context and that she had a plan to help families and individuals who have been put out of work.

The Huffington Post described that plan: “Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion, 4,300-word plan to retrain coal workers ...”

But there are two problems. First, in her initial statement she clearly promised to kill coal jobs. For a candidate for president to advocate a policy of deliberately targeting a group of jobs that are legal ought to be disqualifying. Furthermore, Clinton said the focus would be retraining those out of work for new jobs. And just what sort of new jobs would there be in this situation and in a state so terribly wracked by Obama-caused economic woes?

Of Clinton’s plan, West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton told The Huffington Post, “Hillary’s plan is akin to somebody running you over, then offering to pick you up,” he said. “It’s not a plan. It’s a care package.”

Obama’s policies have inflicted great pain on the nation, and Hillary Clinton gives every indication of continuing along a similar line. So much of what liberal Democrats have done and will do is to shove their ideas down our throats, instead of allowing change to evolve naturally. People who live in coal producing states understand quite well the damage such policies cause.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Strong resistance to federal overreach is overdue, but growing

For four years, an organic farmer in Indiana was harassed when he supplied raw milk to the local organic co-ops. What prompted this action was what the Goshen News reported in 2010 as an outbreak of campylobacter bacterial infections “that might be traceable to the Forest Grove Dairy.”

Obviously, if bad milk makes people sick, health departments need to be involved, however, farm owner David Hochstetler told the paper at the time that health departments had not visited the farm to investigate, and he was never found to have sold bad milk.

Despite never having his product tied to the outbreak, Hochstetler’s farm was subjected to frequent inspections and harassment by two federal agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice, actions believed to be aimed at closing down the dairy farm. And then Elkhart County Sheriff David Rogers responded to Hochstetler’s complaint, realized there was no justification for such harassment, and stepped in and blocked this over-reach from the federal government.

Rogers wrote to the DOJ telling them he would take action, including “removal or arrest” of federal agents, if the inspectors came without a signed warrant specifying probable cause and giving a clear reason justifying their invasive searches.

Rogers explained in the local newspaper, “My research concluded that no one was getting sick from this distribution of this raw milk. It appeared to be harassment by the FDA and the DOJ, and making unconstitutional searches, in my opinion. The farmer told me that he no longer wished to cooperate with the inspections of his property.”

You may be wondering why federal agencies were involved in what clearly was a local/state issue. This is not unusual.

The Daily Caller reported a year ago on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the United States rule that critics say “would allow the agency to regulate waterways previously not under federal jurisdiction, including puddles, ditches and isolated wetlands.”

The EPA may be the agency that has done the most damage to the U.S. economy and business operations with its over-zealous and intrusive mandates, concerning such things as incandescent light bulbs, toilets that use “too much” water, limiting wood burning and charcoal use, and now extending its tentacles to regulating temporary water collections on private property.

Many states are growing tired of these overreaches. A bill introduced in the Indiana State Legislature reflects that state’s frustration. The bill nullifies all of the EPA’s regulations and places all environmental protection authority with the state’s Department of Environmental Management. And 24 states, including Indiana, have filed a lawsuit in federal court to strike down the new source performance standards affecting new coal burning power plants.

The EPA’s costly excesses and other excessive behaviors by administrative agencies trample all over the plain language the Founders deliberately wrote into the U.S. Constitution through the Tenth Amendment, which states: “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

However, it is the wont of federal bureaucracies to grow like weeds, often with the tacit approval of our elected representatives in Congress, and not infrequently at their behest. Bureaucrats isolate themselves into protected enclaves extending their reach beyond that which is appropriate. They often do serious harm to their bosses, the American people, usually without accountability for their misdeeds.

Having escaped the heavy hand of King George only a few years before, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to create a document establishing a new government for the United States that could not evolve to be as oppressive as Mother England had been; a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It was no accident that the phrase “the people” is mentioned five times in the Bill of Rights.

The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School explains: “The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government with power over issues of national concern, while the state governments, generally, have jurisdiction over issues of domestic concern. While the federal government can enact laws governing the entire country, its powers are enumerated, or limited; it only has the specific powers allotted to it in the Constitution.”

Some constitutional scholars and experts have described the Tenth Amendment as the Bill of Rights’ “catch-all” amendment, a strong reminder to federal lawmakers and officials that the federal government has strict limits, and everything outside those limits is under the control of the states.

The checks and balances of our governmental system give Congress the duty and the authority to oppose excessive behavior by the executive branch. The federal budget is an excellent tool for this purpose. It is shameful that these elected representatives have so often and for so long failed to protect their own Constitutional authority and, more importantly, the best interests of the people they were elected and sworn to represent.

The failure of Congress to oppose over-zealous federal agencies means the states have no other choice but to strongly oppose the unconstitutional federal intrusions, either through legal action, or by actions like that of Sheriff Rogers.