Monday, July 15, 2013
GEORGE WILL: OBAMA’S NEVER-MIND PRESIDENCY
By U-T San Diego 12:01 a.m. July 9, 2013 Updated 4:44 p.m. July 8, 2013
At this intermission in the immigration debate, with House Republicans preparing to look askance at the Senate’s handiwork, the argument is becoming ever stranger. It has reached a boil, especially concerning border security, at a moment when illegal entries are at a 40-year low and net immigration from Mexico has recently been approximately zero, largely because enforcement efficiency has already been substantially improved and because America’s economic growth is inferior to Mexico’s. Yet some Senate Republicans support spending $46 billion over 10 years to, among other things, double the number of border agents.
The Government Accountability Office says border security in 2011 was about 84 percent effective. A much-discussed aspiration is 90 percent. So the $46 billion is supposed to purchase a six-point improvement. This embarrassing militarization of the border was
designed to entice a few of the 14 Senate Republicans (of 46) who joined all Democrats in supporting the Senate bill. Some senators expect House Republicans to be swayed because a minority of the Senate minority supported the bill. These senators should trek to
the other side of the Capitol and, like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, mingle with the natives.
On a Friday, the Senate received a 114-page amendment to the (by then) more than 1,000-page “Gang of Eight” bill, which the Senate passed the following Thursday. Senators can repent at leisure after they read details such as: Never mind what maps say, the Senate says Nevada is a border state. So Majority Leader Harry Reid’s constituents, and those of Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who supported the bill, can feast on border-security pork.
Such provisions reflect an imperative of legislating in a continental nation. Because durable, principle-based congressional majorities are rare, legislation often becomes large and complex through the process of cobbling together a coalition of legislators more attuned to parochial interests than philosophical arguments. Logrolling is necessary to this process, but it necessarily reduces the moral momentum of the final product.
Whatever momentum the Senate imparted to reform is a wasted asset. The House is unlikely to complete its immigration legislation before the August recess, when Republican members will return to their districts, about which the Wall Street Journal says: Only 38 of 234 House Republicans — 16 percent — represent districts that are at least 20 percent Hispanic. And “only 28 Republican-held districts are considered even remotely at risk of being contested by a Democratic challenger.” Democrats will not accept a bill that does not provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and in a recent poll, almost half of Republicans said they were less likely to support a legislator who supports a pathway.
Four Augusts ago, Congress was busy passing — in order to find out what was in it — a different mammoth, because “comprehensive,” bill. During the August 2009 recess, legislators conducted often-tumultuous town hall meetings, where they discovered that intensity resided disproportionately among opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Opponents’ anger was registered emphatically in congressional elections 15 months later, which is one reason why implementation
of the act’s most onerous provisions was delayed until 2014, after the 2012 presidential election.
The PPACA remains unpopular, and there are congressional elections in years divisible by two — not even the Obama administration can ignore that constitutional fact — so last Tuesday, the administration said this about the act’s mandate that in 2014, large employers provide expensive health-care coverage for their workers or pay a substantial penalty: Never mind.
Although the Constitution has no Article VIII, the administration acts as though there is one that reads: “Notwithstanding all that stuff in other articles about how laws are made, if a president finds a law politically inconvenient, he can simply post on the White House
Web site a notice saying: Never mind.”
Never mind that the law stipulates 2014 as the year when employers with 50 full-time workers are mandated to offer them healthcare coverage or pay fines. Instead, 2015 will be the year. Unless Democrats see a presidential election coming.
This lesson in the Obama administration’s approach to the rule of law is pertinent to the immigration bill, which at last count had 222 instances of a discretionary “may” and 153 of “waive.” Such language means that were the Senate bill to become law, the executive
branch would be able to do pretty much as it pleases, even to the point of saying about almost anything: Never mind.
Will can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.
The Terrorists have won! Like termites attacking a building, they have undermined the very structure of our country and we have facilitated this with our overreaction to their every action. "Stop the termites! Tear down the building!" America has lost the unique freedoms we held so precious and our forefathers struggled to establish more than 200 years ago. We have surrendered the freedom and individual security that Americans have died for in numerous wars, that established America as a shining champion of the rights of individuals in the world. We allowed, maybe even encouraged, the demagogues to take it all away in the name of "safety." Shame on us!
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Excellent commentary by Daniel Henninger in the WSJ - July 11, 2013
Mark July 3, 2013, as the day Big Government finally imploded.
July 3 was the quiet afternoon that a deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy announced in a blog post that the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate would be delayed one year. Something about the "complexity of the requirements." The Fourth's fireworks couldn't hold a candle to the sound of the U.S. government finally hitting the wall.
Since at least 1789, America's conservatives and liberals have argued about the proper role of government. Home library shelves across the land splinter and creak beneath the weight of books arguing the case for individual liberty or for government-led social justice. World Wrestling smackdowns are nothing compared with Hayek vs. Rawls.
Maybe we have been listening to the wrong experts. Philosophers and pundits aren't going to tell us anything new about government. The one-year rollover of ObamaCare because of its "complexity" suggests it's time to call in the physicists, the people who study black holes and death stars. That's what the federal government looks like after expanding ever outward for the past 224 years.
Even if you are a liberal and support the goals of the Affordable Care Act, there has to be an emerging sense that maybe the law's theorists missed a signal from life outside the castle walls. While they troweled brick after brick into a 2,000-page law, the rest of the world was reshaping itself into smaller, more nimble units whose defining metaphor is the 140-character Twitter message.
Laughably, Barack Obama tried this week to align himself with the new age in a speech calling yet again for "smarter" government. It requires whatever lies on the far side of chutzpah to say this after passing a 1930s-style law that is both incomprehensible and simply won't work.ObamaCare is turning into pure gravity. Nothing moves.
On July 5, the administration announced into the holiday void that because of "operational barriers" to IRS oversight, individuals would be allowed to self-report their income to qualify for the law's subsidies.
If the ObamaCare meltdown were a one-off, the system could dismiss it as a legislative misfire and move on, as always. But ObamaCare's problems are not unique. Important parts of the federal government are breaking down almost simultaneously.
The National Security Agency has conservative philosophers upset that its surveillance program is ushering in Big Brother. What's more concretely frightening is that a dweeb like Edward Snowden could download the content of the NSA's computers onto a thumb drive and walk out of the world's "most secretive" agency. Here's the short answer: The NSA has 40,000 employees. (Some say it's as high as 55,000, but it's a secret.)
Echoing that, when the IRS's audits of conservative groups emerged, the agency managers' defense was that the IRS is too big for anyone to know what its agents are doing. Thus both the NSA and IRS are too big to avoid endangering the public.
It is hard to imagine a more apolitical federal function than the nation's weather satellites. The ones we have—to predict hurricanes and such—are about to wear out and need to be replaced. Can't do it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the Pentagon have been trying to replace the old weather satellites, since 1994. The Government Accountability Office says "we are looking at potentially a 17-month gap" in this crucial weather data. NOAA has good scientists whose bad luck is they work for a collapsing constellation of bureaucracies.
The State Department missed signs of the Arab Spring's insurrections in late 2010 despite warnings from outside groups. Egypt is in flames, in part, because State for years has been mainly a massive, drifting bureaucracy. Little wonder Hillary Clinton spent four years in flight from the place.
Even some conservatives have given up and boarded the death star. The Senate immigration bill throws $46 billion at the Department of Homeland Security to implement a "border surge" strategy that has no chance of achieving its goals. Securing the border is the conservatives' Solyndra.
To call the U.S. federal government a black hole is a disservice to black holes, which have a neutral majesty. Excepting the military's fighting units, the federal government has become a giant slug, like Jabba the Hutt, inert but dangerous. Like Jabba, the government increasingly survives by issuing authoritarian decrees from this or that agency. Barack Obama, essentially a publicist for Jabba's world of federal fat, euphemized this mess Monday as the American people's "democracy."
Thomas Jefferson, who must be rolling in his grave, said the way to ensure good government was to divide it among the many. Some states and cities are indeed reworking their functions in efficient, innovative ways. But Washington is oblivious to life beyond the Beltway.
Those indispensable but dying weather satellites are a metaphor for the U.S. now. Whether ObamaCare or the border fence, Washington is winding down into a black hole of its own making. The debate's over. Liberalism will be swept into this vortex, too.
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A version of this article appeared July 11, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Big Government Implodes.