The Mandate is No Big Deal. Defeating it Would Have Been

I keep reading that requiring us to do something, as opposed to requiring us to not do something, is a new step, and conservatives are sounding alarms all over the internet that freedom died as a result of the Supreme Court upholding the health care mandate, and that we’ve crossed a line into government mandated oblivion. But the health care mandate is not the first mandate. Several months ago the story of George Washington’s gun mandate was making the rounds. Other examples are in a discussion about the draft, posted by Greg Sargent, and in a post in Daily Kos about a railway case, which quotes NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel (1937):

The decree which we affirmed in that case required the railway company to treat with the representative chosen by the employees and also to refrain from entering into collective labor agreements with any one other than their true representative as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In other words, the railway company was required to do something, and face penalties for not doing it.

With all of the power that the federal government already has, much gained with the support of right wing ideologues, the idea that this power to enforce a mandate represents a bold new step seems petty and hypocritical. The court didn’t grant any new power, it affirmed power that already exists and refused to carve out a special exception. It should have affirmed this power under the commerce clause, as argued by the administration. As a Kos commenter noted, referencing Gonzales v. Raich:

Growing pot on your patio to smoke yourself is clearly interstate commerce, but a central issue facing any effort to reform a sector that occupies 18% of our economy, well that’s just going too far.

But instead, the Supreme Court affirmed the power as falling under the power to tax. Either way, the power was there.

If freedom died, it died long before the Affordable Care Act. It was dead on or before 1942, when Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat for his own use because doing so interfered with interstate commerce. So don’t blame Obama.

Abuses of eminent domain and laws against personal use of home-grown medicine are examples of overreaching government that I’m all for rolling back, along with all of the Monsanto and factory-meat friendly laws which make it almost impossible for a small farmer to legally sell his product. But I don’t want to go back to the days before equal rights, national fire codes, child labor laws and environmental protection.

Unlike eminent domain abuses, invasive drug laws, and overregulation of home-made produce and meat, the Affordable Care Act won’t prevent us from doing things that we’re free to do. There are plenty of examples of over-regulation and abuses of federal power. But we didn’t suddenly become unfree last Thursday and we didn’t cross a line into new territory.

There are plenty of ways for Americans to become freer. Allowing health care companies to keep increasing the cost of health care isn’t one of them.

Talking About Impeachment

Assuming Justice Scalia’s new opinion about Wickard vs Filburn is what it appears to be, which is a convenient lie to explain why he is more loyal to ideology than to his own constitutional interpretations, then he should be impeached. He won’t be, of course, but as Nathan Newman points out

Talking about impeachment, however, is a way to label this right-wing Court majority as the partisan tool of corporate right-wing interests that it has become.

That the constitutional question about the health care mandate is nothing but a partisan, political, attack on the President is belied by the fact that ideologues who are leading the attack once supported such a mandate. That Justice Scalia plans to go along with the ruse appears to be indicated by timely reversal of opinion about a Supreme Court case which he once supported.

We can’t read Scalia’s mind to determine if he’s shaping his beliefs to support an agenda, but we can look at the evidence. While agreeing with Wickard vs. Filburn should coincide with support for the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming Wickard a mistake isn’t necessarily preparation for declaring ACA unconstitutional. And if Scalia ends up supporting ACA, it would be pretty strong evidence that his change of heart about Wickard was genuine.

But if Justice Scalia votes down ACA, despite his previous opinion which lays groundwork for supporting it, than it would appear that he is willing to flip on his beliefs in order to support political goals. That would not be good behavior for a Supreme Court justice, and would be reason to bring up the conversation about impeachment.

Talking about impeachment now will likely have no immediate effect, but it may reduce political influence on the Court in the future.

Boycott Facebook. ‘Share’ on Facebook if you Agree.

The irony of a Facebook page promoting a boycott of Facebook is so obvious I feel silly even pointing it out. But it illustrates a point. Facebook has become too important to boycott. I’d like to boycott Facebook but doing so would mean I couldn’t ‘Share’ a link to Thousand Kites project with my FB friends and I couldn’t ‘Like” the Western Tidewater Free Clinic‘s Facebook page. Facebook has become a powerful tool to help the advancement of important causes, and if progressives up and leave than this powerful tool will be left in the hands of the very people who gave us a reason to boycott it.

One of those reasons is Eduardo Saverin’s despicable decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship, thus avoiding taxes on Facebook’s initial public offering. He does this after earning billions thanks to the hard working people who support the infrastructure that helped him rise to his position of wealth and fame.

As the Pando Daily points out, Saverin owes the U.S. “Nearly Everything”.

Would Eduardo Saverin have been successful anywhere else? Maybe, but not as quickly, and not as spectacularly. It was only thanks to America—thanks to the American government’s direct and indirect investments in science and technology; thanks to the U.S. justice system; the relatively safe and fair investment climate made possible by that justice system; the education system that educated all of Facebook’s workers, and on and on—it was only thanks to all of this that you know anything at all about Eduardo Saverin today.

But Mr. Saverin doesn’t see it that way. He’s going to take his ball and go to Singapore; a ball he built with the help of hard working Americans.
According to The Atlantic, more and more wealthy are leaving America, balls and all. So what are we to do? Right wing tax reformers say we need to become more like the countries to which our ingrate billionaires are fleeing. Like Singapore.

Singapore is a nice place for billionaires. But for average workers, their hours have risen while their take-home pay has been falling, and many parents don’t have money for their children’s lunch.

As income inequality in the U.S. increases, we may soon catch up to Singapore in the CIA’s GINI index of family income distribution. Singapore’s a little worse than El Salvador, and we’re not far behind. This is the direction the right wing wants us to go in order to beg selfish, arrogant billionaires to stay with us. But it’s absurd to think we can compete with countries that disregard the needs of their poor. No matter how far we lower the tax rates for billionaires, there will always be nations with lower taxes. The right wants us to be more like those nations, even as they accuse Obama of wanting to be more like Western Europe.

They tell us that if we stop taking money from our “job creators” and stop coddling the non-working, our labor force will be more productive and we’ll all live better. But looking at Singapore tells us that our poorest laborers would work more hours for less pay and the income gap will be even greater than it is now.

So, our choice is to lose billionaires to tax havens or become more like the nations to which they’re so attracted. It’s a nasty choice, like continuing to use Facebook or relinquish a tool which is no longer optional in promoting important causes. Those are the choices that our fleeing billionaires have left us.

But it’s the silly protesters who are waging class warfare.

Precedent vs Ideology will be important in the Health Care Decision

From TPM:

Since [ the new deal era ], the high court has overwhelmingly supported congressional authority to make economic regulations — from the 1942 Wickard v. Filburn case, which upheld laws restricting wheat production for personal consumption, to the 2005 Gonzalez v. Raich ruling, which decreed (with the help of Scalia and Kennedy) that Congress may override state laws permitting medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis for personal use. The administration will argue that both laws reflected broad exercises of Congress’s power on the scale of mandating insurance coverage.

But..

Despite the favorable precedents, progressives have a nagging fear that the five Republican-appointed justices will hand down a partisan decision on the scale of Bush v. Gore, to deliver a blow to President Obama. After that unprecedented 2000 ruling, some liberals take little comfort in scholars’ view that political pressure doesn’t usually carry the day in the chamber, that the high court’s longstanding tendency is to make gradual, not radical, shifts in jurisprudence on core Constitutional questions.

A Supreme Court decision in favor of the health care mandate would reflect a century of precedent. A decision against it would reflect the same philosophy that resulted in the 2000 decision to stop Florida from recounting its own votes, which is that federal power over states’ rights can only be used to enforce conservative ideology.

US Supreme Court

I don’t understand the “Stimulus is Winding Down” argument

Kevin Hasset said, “It is no coincidence that the private sector is taking off while the government stimulus is winding down.” But the reason stimulus is so bad for the economy, according to anti-Keynesians, isn’t the spending per se, it’s the taxing and the borrowing. And as far as I know, taxes haven’t been lowered in response to the winding down and we still have to pay back all of the money we borrowed.

So, if you, dear reader, believe that the recent growth in the economy is due to the winding down of stimulus spending, what aspect of that winding down is spurring the growth? I’m not being rhetorical, I’m really asking.

How can we Avoid Class Warfare …

… with quotes like this floating around (via Bloomberg, via Delong),

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Although, as my wife says, It’s not quite as absurd as it sounds. If I’m a middle class man worried about the cost of maintaining my car, how does my worrying sound to somebody trying to scrape up bus fare to get to work? No matter what class we exist in, we worry about loosing what we have.

But if there’s a lack of understanding between the wealthy and “People who don’t have money”, the burden for resolving that problem lies more with the former than the latter.

Charts

As the Rational Republican points out, Democrats and Republicans can each refer to charts which bolster their arguments for or against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

source: http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/2012/02/09/did-obama-help-or-hinder-the-recovery-dueling-campaign-narratives/

One chart that I haven’t seen used much is the employment/population ratio.

Employment Population Ratio (falls at end of Bush years and after Obama takes over but then flattens out).

What this shows is in the end of 2009, our jobs losses stopped. Not a very good chart to use against Obama but also not the most impressive chart to support him, because it flattens out in the end rather than rises up.

Much better for Obama is the chart showing the amount of jobs lost and created. Clearly we were loosing jobs at a rate unseen for over 60 years, but after stimulus we started adding millions of jobs back into the economy. But our population also grows, so we have to add millions of jobs each year just to keep up. It’s a lot better for the Obama administration to say, “We’ve added millions of jobs” than, “We’ve added millions of jobs and are keeping up.”

Bar chart showing negative job growth prior to ARRA then positive.
source:http://www.democraticleader.gov/blog/?p=4707

Republicans like to show the labor force participation rate, because it looks so bad. Republicans point out that unemployment figures only show people looking for work, so they actually improve when people give up. Labor force participation drops when people stop looking for work, so they claim it’s a better indication of the nation’s employment situation. But the labor force participation rate only tells a small part of the story. If during hard times two people loose their jobs, than one finds a new job while the other gives up, the labor force participation rate will go down even as the employment situation improves.

Chart showing decline of labor forced participatin rate.
source: http://www.redstate.com/congressman_jim_jordan/2012/02/17/the-stimulus-chart-obama-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-you-to-see/

It may be misleading for the Obama administration to show jobs created without putting them into the context of an ever growing population, but it’s more misleading for Republicans to present a chart that only shows a piece of the puzzle and use that chart to suggest that we’re actually loosing jobs.

If you want to understand our employment situation, you’re going to have to do more than look at a chart.

Any Result Proves Keynesianism has Failed

I like this. This comes from Noahpinion, and I found the link on Brad Delong’s blog:

John Taylor thinks that our economic recovery has been terrible, and continues to be terrible. He chalks this up to the failure of “Keynesian” policies. I think it would be interesting to see him argue with Tyler Cowen, who says that we are having a good, strong recovery, and that this is evidence of the failure of “Keynesian” macro

An Overt Display of Dishonesty

A while ago I expressed my concern about the cross-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in if a budget deal can’t be reached. As Republicans get ready to brazenly renege on a deal that they never really intended to keep, I find myself even more concerned.

But I was off on one point. I thought the most significant factors were that Democrats don’t feel strongly enough about cutting military spending and that Republicans are willing to sacrifice the military in order to cut vital services for the poor and middle class. As it turns out, the most significant factors are that Democrats don’t feel strongly enough about cutting military spending and Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about keeping their promises.

I felt that Republicans would be more willing to let the cross-the-board cuts kick in than Democrats would because Democrats are more afraid of being branded as the party who weakened our national defenses than Republicans are afraid of being branded as the party who allowed people to die because they couldn’t afford shelter, food, or health care. What I didn’t realize is Republicans felt they could get whatever they want simply by lying.

Apparently the Republicans feel they can earn points by overtly behaving like charlatans, as long as the only people they’re lying to are Democrats. I hope they’re wrong. I hope that the Right wing base won’t actually cheer such a public act of chicanery because if it does, we will be at the brink of having a one-party government ruled by maniacs with the support of middle class citizens convinced that the reason they can’t get ahead is the poor have too much of their money. I don’t see such a future as being good for anyone but the ruling class.

Chess board and pieces

The Truth is Too Biased for Politifact.

Update: Politifact changed their rating of the President’s statments on jobs from “half” to “mostly” true.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our original Half True rating was based on an interpretation that Obama was crediting his policies for the jobs increase. But we’ve concluded that he was not making that linkage as strongly as we initially believed and have decided to change the ruling to Mostly True.

That said, the rest of my post is still mostly true.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Jared Bernstein expresses his disappointment with Politifact’s lame reasoning for giving President Obama a “half-true” rating on his statements that “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs.”, and “Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.”

Mr. Bernstein says:

This is not half true or two-thirds true. It is just true.

So why, I ask you, why do they go where they go? Because of this:

In his remarks, Obama described the damage to the economy, including losing millions of jobs “before our policies were in full effect.” Then he described [sic!] the subsequent job increases, essentially taking credit for the job growth. But labor economists tell us that no mayor or governor or president deserves all the claim or all the credit for changes in employment.

Really? That’s it? That makes the fact not a fact? I’ve seen some very useful work by these folks, but between this and this, Politifact just can’t be trusted. Full stop.

Politifact seems to use “half-true” most of the times a politician makes claims about jobs, based on that advise from their “labor economists”. That’s a pretty weak policy, but at least it’s fair. Politifact would be even more fair if they simply used “half true” for everything.

When Romney said “More Americans have lost their jobs under Barack Obama than any president in modern history.”, they rated it as mostly false. It should have been pants on fire. Romney compared Obama’s unfinished term against previous presidents’ final tallies. If you use a fair measurement, by their own words:

So by this measurement, Obama doesn’t have a net loss of jobs at all — in fact, the only president who does is George W. Bush.

Additionally, Romney counts jobs losses that Obama can’t be responsible for, in the beginning of his term before his policies took effect. I don’t think “mostly false” covers it.

But Politifact has policy of aiming for the middle whenever a politician makes a claim about jobs.

So what good are they?