March 2010

I have also written in these pages that recent electoral and legislative successes have emboldened the true-blue leftists in Congress to splay open their worldview, unconcealed by the vaguely centrist rhetoric that until now they have been obliged to employ.

The latest example is Senator Max Baucus:

This is also an income shift.  It’s a shift; it’s a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.  Too often, of late, the last couple three years, the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much.  The wealthy are getting way, way, too wealthy and the middle income class is left behind.  Wages have not kept up with the increase in income of the highest-income Americans.  This legislation will have the effect of addressing that maldistribution of income in America, because health care is now a right for all Americans and because health care is now affordable for all Americans.


I have written in these pages that man’s thirst for power over other men is without limit.  Hypberole, you say; but the statists in Congress continue to demonstrate this truth on a daily basis.

Within a week after passage of the health care law, Caterpillar, Verizon, AT&T, John Deere, Valero Energy, AK Steel, and 3M announced massive write-downs due to new taxes and regulatory burdens.  This is rather basic accounting stuff:  taxes go up, regulations increase, company costs go up.  In fact, disclosures such as these are required of public companies by the SEC.

But Henry Waxman, bless his heart, is concerned.  The Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote ominously to the CEOs:  “The new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern.”  Apparently because Congress “designed” it that way, it shall be so.

Waxman has ordered the companies to explain their inconvenient defiance at an April 21 hearing.  He has also demanded internal e-mails and other documents related to the companys’ public statements regarding health care costs.  The message is clear:  Do not make Lord Waxman concerned.

Read additional stories here and here.

Once again, Serfdom brings you another installment of “Pushing Back the Frontiers of Constitutional Ignorance. ” Today’s uninformed person in need of correction is Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, who said this today on CBS’s This Week:

Look, the commerce clause says you can not only regulate interstate activity, you can regulate intrastate activity when it’s part of a broad scheme and it’s necessary to do so.

Let’s go to the Actual Constitution, which says in Article 8:

The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

That’s it.  Nothing about “intrastate commerce” or “broad schemes” when “necessary to do so.”  Secondly, “regulation” certainly cannot be extended to mean “forcing a private citizen to purchase a product.”  As Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi suggested, why not force every citizen to buy a gun in the name of homeland security?

Charles Schumer, senator from New York, opining this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, said this:

Right now as we speak, there’s some salesman talking to a doctor and saying, ‘Hey, if you buy this machine for a million dollars, my company will finance it, we’ll then show you how to fill it up 100% of the time with patients, and you’ll make $200,000 more a year.’  And even though there’s another machine a couple of miles away and the machine’s not needed.  Right now, there’s no check on that kind of waste.  Our bill does it.  Doctors who go overboard and provide tons of quantity and no quality will be disciplined here.

Let’s dissect this statement in light of rudimentary economic principles.  Schumer paints a picture of a dim-witted but greedy doctor being manipulated by the maker of a medical machine.  Suppose this doctor decides to go ahead and finance the million dollar machine and offer the service to the public.  Only two outcomes are possible:

  1. Sufficient demand exists for the service and the doctor is able to keep the machine busy and make his finance payments.  In this case, the doctor has made a good decision.
  2. Insufficient demand exists for the service, the doctor cannot make his payments, and the machine is either repossessed or the doctor goes belly-up.  In this case, the doctor has made a bad decision.

In either case, it is the market which decides whether or not the service is warranted.  If outcome #1 occurs, we know the service was needed.  The additional supply of that service (in conjunction with the machine down the street) will tend to drive costs down, not up.  The fact that that doctor makes additional money is not just a good thing but an indispensable thing – that’s how the market says “right decision.”  If outcome #2 occurs, we know that there was insufficient need for that service, and the market will remove the service from the supply chain.  The fact that the doctor loses money is also a good and indispensable thing – that’s how the market says “stupid decision, don’t do that again.”  In either case, the most efficient outcome is automatically determined by the market, without consulting Chuck Schumer.

This type of market decision is not theoretical; it happens millions of times every year in a free economy, in the medical industry and every other industry.  Resources are allocated most efficiently this way.  If Schumer had his way, he would, by the force of the state, prevent the doctor from purchasing the new machine.  How in the name of Pete does Chuck Schumer, senator from New York, know that this particular machine in Ottumwa, Iowa or wherever, wasn’t needed?  Is he omniscient?  If the additional machine was in fact needed, the Schumer solution would result in a shortage of the service and drive costs up, not down.  It would stifle innovation and remove the incentive to provide the service at a lower cost because competition would be prohibited by the government as “wasteful.”  Competition is never wasteful.  It always results in lower costs, better service, and a more efficient allocation of resources than government planners could ever hope to achieve. It’s government planning that leads to 6-month waits for cat scans and women giving birth on the mop-room floor.

And the degree of government planning that Schumer is advocating is astonishing.  I run an engineering firm, and the firm owns a full-color Size D plotter.  It’s an expensive piece of equipment.  Guess what?  Another engineering firm – less than one mile away – also owns a full-color plotter!   Is Chuck Schumer going to declare my plotter to be wasteful, and send his thugs over to take it away?  We use our plotter almost every day to provide services to our clients.  I’d rather he declare my competitor’s plotter to be wasteful.  There are two newspapers in Chicago.  Is that really necessary?  What city really needs two newspapers?  Think of the waste:  twice as many computers, printers, typesetters, printing presses, and newsboys than are really needed.  Chuck Schumer should crack down on this waste.  He should declare that Chicago only needs one newspaper and shut one down so that we can all reap the benefits of the cost savings.

So who is safe?  Who doesn’t get their plotter confiscated or their newspaper shut down?  Well, whoever ingratiates themselves to Chuck Schumer and his merry band of statists, of course.

Finally, there is the disturbing use of the word “discipline.”  Think long and hard about that:  the government, by force, is going to “discipline” a private citizen because he is about to make an economic decision with which it disagrees.  A doctor is about to freely purchase an item that Chuck Schumer thinks he oughtn’t, and the state will forcibly see that he doesn’t.  This kind of thinking is indistinguishable from that which held sway in 1930s Germany and the former Soviet Union, and in fact is precisely the view advocated by the antecedent of those two monstrous regimes, Karl Marx.  It has no place in the United States of America.  We were founded on principles unalterably opposed to those advocated by Chuck Schumer.  Mr. Schumer should take his views elsewhere, where they are more in line with the culture of the nation.  North Korea would be an excellent fit.

Use of the power of government to confiscate the wealth of one person and convey it to another is completely and categorically illegitimate and immoral.  It is a tyrannical abuse of power that spits in the face of the most basic principles of liberty on which this country was founded and built.  In all its ugly incarnations, from welfare transfer payments to unfunded social security payments, from “tax credits” for those who pay no taxes to “luxury taxes” and the death tax, it must cease. Now, with the passage of the health care monstrosity and the plethora of new taxes it entails, we will see the most massive confiscation and transfer of wealth in history.

On this question I subscribe to Barry Goldwater’s maxim:  “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”  Call me extreme.  I believe it must be so written into the Supreme Law of the Land that forcible wealth transfer is consigned to the ash-heap of history, never again to be open for debate.  The likes of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi must never be allowed to indulge their statist desires, no matter how powerful.

James Madison on the Constitutional powers of the federal government:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined … (to be) exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) on the exercise of federal power:

Let me remind you this [Americans allegedly dying because of lack of universal health care] has been going on for years. We are bringing it to a halt. The harsh fact of the matter is when you’re going to pass legislation that will cover 300 [million] American people in different ways it takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people.

One result of the Democrats’ takeover in 2008 has been a general loosening of the liberal lips.  The need to guard one’s true Marxist ideology has been mitigated because a) Republicans can’t stop any vote, and b) the media will remain the disinterested lapdogs they have become.  So, we are regaled with ejaculations like this wingdinger from Dingell on WJR radio on Monday.

Take a moment to read and re-read the quote from Madison.  Remember, he is not a pundit, not (merely) a politician or opinionist.  He is The Author of the Constitution.  Of all people who have walked the planet since time began, here is the one man who all should agree knew precisely what that document means.  Does Madison’s description of the Constitutional powers bear even the slightest resemblance to the United States Government in 2010?  Do you see a government-run retirement program authorized in there?  How about a public TV network?  Arts funding department?  Education department?  How about…let’s see…taking over one-sixth of the economy of the United States?

The states are granted the latitude to do many things – even many of the things they are doing today, however misguided.  The federal government is not.  Its powers in Article 8 were meant to be narrow, limited, and enumerated; this may be the one thing that every founder agreed upon.  Just in case, the 10th amendment is the smack upside the head of anyone who failed to understand Article 8:

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.

Could the 10th amendment have been written any more clearly?

The natural course of events is for government to gain ground and liberty to yield, so said Thomas Jefferson. The slightest reflection upon history bears this out conclusively, but why is it a truism and not merely a philosophical opinion? Because, simply,  some men yearn to rule other men. This is a sin of humanity that most people learn to identify and control. But some men do not, allowing it to fester and grow and eventually take full reign within their members to the point where it must be gratified at all cost. This is the seed of tyranny. Thomas Jefferson and the other founders knew this, but the man who knew it best, and perhaps feared it most, was the father of our Constitution, James Madison. Why is the Constitution primarily a document that constrains government, not, as Barack Obama bemoaned, a document that describes the various constraints government can place on men? Because Madison knew that the greatest threat to liberty would come not from the passions of the populace, but from the passions of men in government.

Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, and Saddam Hussein all lusted for absolute control over other men.  Precisely the same ugly, festering lust resides within Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the rest of the statists in the Democratic party.  Most shockingly, and most sickeningly, it resides deep within the President of the United States. It has – there is no other conclusion after observing the single-mindedness of the past month – totally consumed him. Last night we saw the passions Madison feared given full vent. And the statists celebrated! They celebrated the fact that they finally will be able to confiscate, regulate, and manipulate on a truly mammoth scale the businesses they hate and the private lives of those they pretend to care for.

I dare say that, as of 2010, the Constitution has failed to protect its citizens. Madison even in his brilliant paranoia could not have envisioned the likes of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi rising to power in our republic. Madison did not fully appreciate the worst-case scenario that, one day, the Constitution would be held in such contempt by a majority of elected representatives.