Tag Archives: Federalism

Pelosi Whines of Health Care: I Can’t Hear the Discussion Over All This Dissent!

‘Un-American’ attacks can’t derail health care debate

Americans have been waiting for nearly a century for quality, affordable health care.

By Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer

Great start. Why engage with your detractors when you can just levy an ad hominem attack and point a sweeping finger instead?

Health coverage for all was on the national agenda as early as 1912, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose presidential run. Months after World War II came to an end in 1945, President Harry Truman called on Congress to guarantee all Americans the “right to adequate medical care and protection from the economic fears of sickness.” From President Lyndon Johnson to President Bill Clinton, to President Obama’s winning campaign on the promise of reform, there hasn’t been a more debated domestic issue than the promise of affordable health care for all.

This is a classic call for central planning. Remember in Animal Farm when Snowball seemed genuinely interested in the entire farm’s best interests, and then Napoleon took over? Napoleon was interested only in power. That’s the problem with centralizing power in one person’s hands: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The “un-American” dissenters that bother Pelosi are not only concerned with the ramifications of public health care (though those are also grave concerns). We are concerned with changing the individual’s relationship to the state, and the state’s requited relationship to the individual.

Even if Snowball was in fact a good and faithful leader, this centralized power will inevitably pass to the next set of hands. People who crave power over policy are typically interested in having that power, NOT in the well being of all affected by the policy. Rather than marginalize a collected will to central consciousness, we should encourage growth along a strong, lower center of gravity. The free market may seem vulnerable to shocks and bumps in the short run, but it is invincible to sustained Napoleonic manipulation. Central planning, though invulnerable to the short-term jostling that makes a market strong, remains susceptible to more invidious power transfers that eventually cause the fall of whichever nation adopted it.

It’s frustrating that “Snowball’s” policies are not the most efficient. But the real problem lies in the fact that centralizing all control in one helpful soul’s hands leaves that balled power entity ripe for Napoleon to pluck and do with what he pleases.

We believe it is healthy for such a historic effort to be subject to so much scrutiny and debate. The failure of past attempts is a reminder that health insurance reform is a defining moment in our nation’s history — it is well worth the time it takes to get it right. We are confident that we will get this right.

Already, three House committees have passed this critical legislation and over August, the two of us will work closely with those three committees to produce one strong piece of legislation that the House will approve in September.

In the meantime, as members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent.

However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted “Just say no!” drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.

I’ve never been a fan of really radical dissent. Discussing the merits of ideological fringe—like libertarians promoting anarchy—does nothing more than remove your ideas from discourse, alienating the strong, centered base capable of making change. The point of having ideas isn’t to navel-gaze among those who already agree with you.

A more fruitful course of action requires debate, dissent, and “come to Jesus” moments on both sides. If one or both debaters resist the necessity to engage actively in the discussion then neither side gets anywhere.

Pelosi whines that she wants a “substantive discussion,” but she misses the point: her constituency is shouting “Just say no!”

Our government is structured around the idea that those who care most about an idea will come to the forefront of relevant discussion. Whichever “faction” cares most about government subsidies for sugar will be front-and-center when the time comes to lobby for sustained subsidies, and those of us who have better things to do than care about sugar subsidies will not get involved. This disparate cost compared to contained benefit means that lobbyists perpetuate subsidies; taxpayers simply aren’t interested enough to lobby against paying.

Pelosi claims she wants a discussion, but she is ignoring what her constituents say. No, Nancy! Just say no to National Socialism; just say NO to socialized health care! You want to ignore the loud, passionate faction that just drowned out your comrades, but the more acutely-affected faction appears determined to be heard.

Let the facts be heard

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.

In fact, both sides have chosen a set of facts that drive their arguments. Your facts rest on speculation, and the ever-more-insistent call for Hope and Change. The townhall-crashers no doubt look to existing examples of public health care—including, close to home, the miserable option available to the military—as ominous specters of our future. As the summer wears on we are reminded of the aphorism: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Power will always fall into the hands of those who intend to use it. Paternalistic politicians will always ignore the cries from a constituency the politician deems helpless.

The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.

Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

The current administration has been successful because they never directly disparage free markets. Rahm Emmanuel never says “the free market is a myth”; he claims that “with a little intervention” that market will be stronger.

Yet intervention effectively freezes the pipes through which a market economy flows. “Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class,” but cryogenically freezing them would obtain the same effect. I feel for those who need in-vitro fertilization to conceive, I really do, but I don’t think I should pay for it. Nor does it make sense to tax everyone enough to cover the broad range of abortions permitted in this country. While I would not necessarily condemn either procedure, I am not willing to pay for yours. We already fund Planned Parenthood, which uses 80% of its national funding to subsidize abortions. Need we pay more into this controversial pot?

Doesn’t it make more sense to leave money in the spenders’ pockets, to spend as they wish? Then the market for services will mirror demand for those services. Instead, Pelosi suggests that we take just a little bit more out of people’s pockets to contribute to a central pot, to be redistributed per whatever method “the factions” choose. I’d rather decide my fate than leave that up to a committee. I’m sure Nancy would rather decide hers, too. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Nancy. Why can’t you just leave us free to decide?

Lower costs, better care

Reform will mean affordable coverage for all Americans. Our plan’s cost-lowering measures include a public health insurance option to bring competitive pressure to bear on rapidly consolidating private insurers, research on health outcomes to better inform the decisions of patients and doctors, and electronic medical records to help doctors save money by working together. For seniors, the plan closes the notorious Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” that denies drug coverage to those with between $2,700 and $6,100 per year in prescriptions.

This would take two strokes of a legislative pen to fix. No need to write a thousand page referendum full of additional unforeseen oversights that will no doubt become the “hook” for selling your next reform.

Besides, a “doughnut hole” in legislation is a classic characteristic of government planning. When one central power-at-be who “knows better” takes it upon himself to distribute according to what he assumes “the people want,” he will always overlook some groups. Medicare Part D is nefarious because it overlooks a critical faction who could not speak for themselves.

It would make more sense to leave it to the people to buy what they need (which necessitates lowering taxes or promoting competition so drug prices will all fall in the long run) and avoid gaps, rather than than take people’s taxes and redistribute what you think they need, subject to gaps and holes.

Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We’ll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket.

This month, despite the disruptions, members of Congress will listen to their constituents back home and explain reform legislation. We are confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics.

Now — with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change — America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal.

This fall, at long last, we must reach it.

Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is speaker of the House and

Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is House majority leader.

Perhaps there is nothing more “American” than debate. Rather than face her opposition tete-a-tete with interest and curiosity, Pelosi disparages them with her pen. She chooses a medium unlikely to reach her dissenters—an oped in the USA Today—so her appeal falls dead on arrival.

This is not a discussion. This is a whine. Pelosi reveals that she understands precious little about how our Constitutional Republic works. Reform is indeed necessary. But this step away from market competition will leave the public welfare in government’s often-incapable hands. Switching to a public system cannot be undone. Leaving private choice with regard to health is the first step down a path yet unchartered in American history. Future government interference with private lives will differ only in degree, but not in kind.

Discouraging debate and ignoring factions is not what politicians are hired to do. Pelosi’s decision to avoid confrontation by whining to the USA Today rather than facing her shouting (“Just say no!”) constituents like an adult perfectly characterizes the relationship she wishes individuals had with the state.

With all due respect, Ms. Pelosi, that is what I would call “un-American.”

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What Up, Sarah?

Alaska’s leggiest governor has left the building.

Is she positioning for a 2012 run?  Sarah coquettishly denies it, but stays cryptic:

“I know when it’s time to pass the ball for victory,” Palin said.

But Palin also hinted at her own national ambitions, invoking a quote that she credited to Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “We are not retreating; we are advancing in another direction.”

Sarah isn’t my #1 favorite politician, but then, my #1 fave just held a press conference to confess that he cheated on his mistress, so we’re through, Mark.

Palin said she planned to make a “positive change outside government,” without elaborating. She also expressed frustration with her current role as governor.

“I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so I can hold the title of governor,” Palin said.

Later, on Twitter, she promised supporters more details: “We’ll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election … this is in Alaska’s best interest, my family’s happy … it is good. Stay tuned”

We’re tuned, Sarah.  But keep in mind that when you keep actively alienating your already-waning fans, your political ambitions aren’t necessarily…our first priority.  Your two stated reasons for resigning (first, that you want to make a 2012 play, or alternatively because you want more time for family) are in direct contradition.

I have no doubt that a position on the state side can be frustrating when such dire issues face America as a nation.  Indeed, we’re facing the most serious threat: a lack of national faith rotting from the inside out.

Get your act together, Sarah.  We — Americans — need to believe in our representatives!  We need our public figures to stop betraying our trust!

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No Federal Hate Crime?

Converted Muslim kills a soldier outside of an Army recruiting center, then pleads not guilty to all state (Arkansas) charges, including hate crime charges.  The interesting thing is that there’s no federal charge yet, and officials seem hesitant to press federal charges at all.  The assailant claims he shot the soldier “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.”

An FBI-led joint terrorism task force based in the southern United States has been investigating Muhammad since he returned to the United States from Yemen, a law enforcement official said. The suspect had been arrested and jailed in Yemen at some point for using a Somali passport, the official said. The time of that arrest was not immediately clear.

I know it’s much more interesting to investigate the meaning of torture, but at the risk of being unpopular let’s consider what it means not to charge this man with any federal crimes.  Was this a “terrorist act”?  Even if it was not an overt act of terrorism, he killed an American soldier for being an American soldier.  Killing is killing, but this man killed someone in his official capacity as a national officer, paid with federal tax dollars to protect the national public.  Even if this wasn’t terrorism, this act was clearly federal in nature.  

Even federalism arguments totally fail here.  Framers squarely rejected the idea of state level militia and opted instead to pay a national Army.  This was the result of a huge amount of negotiation and several sub-compromises to install this agreement.  There is no state nature at all to an act against a soldier.  “Terrorism” maybe fails, but that makes this an act of war.  Which also fits a federal (not state) crime.

Link to story.

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Quick Caveat: Federalism and Local News

I post a lot of national and international stuff, and would like to note an intent to look a little closer at local issues.  The whole point of a representative republic is that each person looks out for herself, and represent their own interests in their home owners’ associations, their neighborhoods, their city council, states, and continue to consider local interests when dealing with national news.  I moved from France to Arlington on July 4, 2007, and have been struck constantly by how unlocal we are here.  It’s telling that the DC gun ban stayed in effect for over 25 years, and, more recently, that two weeks ago DC knocked down the city housing provided in case District residents finally decided the recession’s newly homeless should get a supply-side subsidy.

It’s more telling that DC didn’t even begin the “vote!” initiative until recently.  There have been murmurs over the years, but the semi-permanent residents of our nation’s capital recognize that representation fails to guarantee anything for a faction’s interests.

I’ll continue to post “big picture” stories, mostly because there are so many of them and local stastistics like crime stories are just too depressing.  But for my FedSoc this year I’ll try to bring a focus to the purpose of federalism.  When we look at hyper-cerebral issues like the economics behind separation of powers we are not representing local interests and we’re ignoring the point.  Both the macro- and microcosms are important, but neither is complete without the other.  Because the microcosm is more casually ignored I’ll spend a lot of time this summer reminding everyone (and myself) to consider the locals, one individual at a time.

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California: Democracy Now

California voted for Proposition 8 in November, and today the court gave it to them:

SACRAMENTO, May 26 (UPI) — Proponents and opponents of California’s Proposition 8 held their ground Tuesday after the state high court upheld the ban on same-sex marriages.

The California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Prop 8 is constitutional, but unanimously said 18,000 same-sex marriages, performed before the November vote on Prop 8, remain valid.

California will recognize existing gay marriages but will not perform any more. That’s the short of it. The long? Be careful what you vote for, kiddos. This here is a democracy!

Prop 8 merits aside, this ruling seems exceptionally stupid. You recognize that sometimes marriage is between a woman and a woman, but constitutionally claim that it’s not a marriage unless it’s between a woman and a man…? Maybe when I’m a 3L this will make sense to me.

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Police Checkpoints at Home

What starts with “P” and ends with “olicestate”?

Rather: What happens when a federal jurisdiction attempts to police a bunch of individuals lacking in any intermediate municipal governance or representative voice in that federal rule?

The WaPo reports:

A civil liberties group pressed its challenge of D.C. police checkpoints yesterday, asking an appeals court to overturn a ruling last year that cleared the way for authorities to continue using the tactic.

Whoa, what kind of judge would so glibly pave the way to hell with good intentions? Ohhh, Judge Leon, what a tangled web you weave; if only we were dealing with enemy combatants, then maybe you would ask for some stricter scrutiny in examining whether or not we should be subject to federal checkpoints in our backyard.

In October, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon refused to grant an injunction and strongly endorsed the checkpoints.

What do residents of Da Capitol think about this? Well, absent political responsibility to a voting constituency there’s really no conclusive way to find out. Well played, DC! You have closed that last pesky “federalism” loophole on accountability!

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The Right to Arm Bears

Bearing Arms in National Parks (http://americasfuture.org/doublethink/2008/10/bearing-arms-in-national-parks/)

Bearing Arms in National Parks
by Kathryn Ciano | October 15, 2008

Lost in all the noise about the ongoing bail-out is an important vote before Congress, slated for November 1, on a controversial plan to overturn the ban on guns in National Parks. The proposed new rule would lift the ban only in National Parks located in states that allow concealed carry in their own State Parks. It’s not just about the Second Amendment, however. People’s lives are increasingly at risk from marauding drug dealers who grow vast quantities of marijuana on federal parkland and jealously defend their turf.

Since 1983, the Department of the Interior has prohibited people from carrying firearms into lands controlled by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This rule correctly separates laws governing federal lands from those of surrounding states—federalism dictates that state laws should not automatically apply to federal land within its borders. However, in the recent Heller ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the individual’s right to bear arms on federal territory (the District of Columbia), thereby calling into question the validity of the park ban on Constitutional grounds.

In overturning the District’s gun ban this summer, the Court did not rule on whether states have to respect the Second Amendment. However it’s now clear that individuals can successfully defend their Constitutional rights on federal land. While D.C.’s reluctance to accept the Court’s ruling may be annoying—guns still must remain disassembled until an intruder actually breaks in, and the District rejected Heller’s own application to purchase a firearm—the legal writing is clearly on the wall for the nationwide park ban.

Yet the ban cannot be lifted soon enough.

The National Park Service claims that the gun ban protects park visitors from violent crime. But gun bans only affect law-abiding citizens, leaving them defenseless against armed criminals who ignore the laws. While park rangers wear bulletproof vests at all times and travel with guns on their persons or vehicles, the National Park Service denies such protection to campers and hikers. Indeed, the Park Service withholds research permits until researchers sign waivers acknowledging that the National Park Service cannot protect them.

According to the White House January 2008 drug policy report, armed drug traffickers cultivate most American marijuana grown outdoors in National Parks. Worth billions of dollars, 80% of the marijuana plants officials eradicated from federal lands in 2007 grew in National Park areas of California and Kentucky.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, drug smugglers cannot easily transport drugs across tightened US borders. Instead, cartels bring cultivators into the US to grow marijuana in remote, sparsely policed federal lands. Criminal drug trafficking organizations headquartered abroad supply workers with weapons and materials necessary to maintain these extensive operations. These workers clear cut native trees, poach and hunt wildlife, divert natural waterways to irrigate the land, and devastate the soil with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. National Park officials estimate that traffickers destroy ten acres of forest for each acre of cultivated marijuana.

Traffickers live close to their crops, often less than one hundred yards off the trail, growing intimate with the land and rangers’ schedules. While parks are still relatively peaceful places, an increasing amount of violence occurs when unsuspecting tourists stumble upon these plantations and are menaced by the drug farmers. These criminals know that tourists are not armed, and have been known to detain and threaten hikers.

A repeal of this dangerous and unconstitutional law is within reach. The November 1 vote is on a Department of the Interior proposal repealing the ban in National Parks located in states that permit concealed carry. Forty-eight Senators support the right to bear arms on federal land and will likely support this measure.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed HB-1845, overruling the Pennsylvania State Park firearm carry ban. Pennsylvania is signaling approval of the proposed national policy, and has tailored its own law, ensuring that National Parks in Pennsylvania qualify for the National Park gun ban repeal.

Yet the Interior Department has specifically prohibited Park Service employees from commenting on the proposed change. Conflicting evidence regarding crime statistics surrounds these obscure but ominous problems facing our National Parks. The Interior Department should weigh rangers’ comments at least as heavily as those from the general public.

Since the Supreme Court categorized the right to bear arms as a fundamental individual right, both the Congress and the Department of the Interior should consider this federal precedent and the dozens of state cases decided since then. Pennsylvania’s commitment to individual liberties further signals state support for this federal policy.

We need to ensure that our National Parks remain safe, allowing us to enjoy the grandeur of nature that is our inheritance. Depriving law-abiding citizens of another hard-won inheritance, the right to bear arms, is at best counterproductive.

-Kathryn Ciano is a law student in Virginia.

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