This is a must read op-ed from The Wall Street Journal:
Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government's reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.
How did the FCC get here?
For years, proponents of so-called "net neutrality" have been calling for strong regulation of broadband "on-ramps" to the Internet, like those provided by your local cable or phone companies. Rules are needed, the argument goes, to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand. That sounds good if you say it fast.
Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
...during the cold war you didn't think that the Soviet Union was a threat but you currently believe that passing the START Treaty before Congress adjourns for Christmas is absolutely vital to our national security.
The quote is "the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, & government to gain ground." Letter to Edward Carrington, 27 May 1788. Jefferson was in Paris at the time.
The context of the letter is about the proposed Constitution. Jefferson speaks of his trepidation, and then support for the Constitution with a bill of rights. In a discussion of the Bill of Rights, Jefferson speaks of not crippling the federal government too much--that it has a proper sphere to be vigorous. He also speaks of not constraining the government where it ought to be constrained.
The protector of our rights comes from the people, Jefferson continues. Near the end of the letter, he talks of paper money being the ghost of money (real money).
Let this not suppose that Jefferson was anti-government--he was not. He believed the government should secure us in safety AND our rights. He was embarrassed by Shays, though privately hoped for lenience. He may have feared government over-reaching, but found the Articles insufficient and thus sided with others for an increase in central government power.
Suspicious of government power he was; despite a few misgivings in the original proposed Constitution, he favored its passage.
In today's Pope Center piece Michigan State University engineering professor Indrek Wichman writes about the incursion of political correctness into his field. Engineering is being invaded by social engineering to ensure a better "balance" of students and guarantee that National Science Foundation proposals include "diversity" considerations.
American colleges and universities still graduate well-trained engineers-to-be, but even this bastion of rigor is on the slippery slope of trading off excellence to placate the multicultural gods.
Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced today that Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) will be named Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee for the 2011-2012 session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Sen. Brown is the owner of National Dodge Chrysler Jeep and National Volkswagen in Jacksonville and is entering his third term in the N.C. Senate.
Sen. Berger said, “Sen. Brown has just the right combination of on the ground experience as a business owner and perspective as a veteran lawmaker to bring fresh eyes to the Commerce chairmanship. His commitment to improving North Carolina’s business climate makes him the ideal choice for this post.”
“As a longtime business owner, I look forward to chairing the Commerce Committee and working to find ways to make North Carolina more business friendly, to help make it easier to do business here, and to encourage private sector job creation,” said Sen. Brown.
Is it too much to ask the NYT coverage of the Repeal Amendment--a constitutional amendment that would allow 2/3 of the state legislatures to repeal any federal law or regulation--to get the basic facts right.
You would expect a college journalism student to get the main point wrong but not the NYT.Times reporter Kate Zernike writes:
Like any constitutional amendment, it faces enormous hurdles: it must be approved by both chambers of Congress — requiring them to agree, in this case, to check their own power — and then by three-quarters of, or 38, state legislatures.
Totally false. When the Founders wrote Article V of the Constitution, they foresaw just this situation. They knew that Congress would never propose an amendment that
limited its power. Thus the Founders provided a way that the state legislatures could propose amendments independent of Congress.
...or on Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments...
The Repeal Amendment aims at using this method of proposing the amendment and then working to get three-fourths (38) states to ratify the amendment.
Of course it is the reporter's job to find a critic of the amendment. Ms. Zernike asked Sanford V. Levinson, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas, his opinion. He calls it "a really terrible idea" because:
it would give the same weight to small states as it would to large ones, allowing those with a relatively small proportion of the national population to have outsize influence.
Ms. Zernike and especially Professor Levinson should be ashamed of themselves for not recognizing that this is the
current situation in the US Senate. The senators from the sparsely populated states--Wyoming, North Dakota, Vermont, Alaska, etc.--can join together to block or defeat legislation they don't like. This rarely happens and it is not a significant issue related to the Repeal Amendment.
Whether this is the usual liberal bias at the NYT, ignorance of the Constitution or just slipshod copy editing, it deserves a clarification. I won't hold my breath.
For more information on the Repeal Amendment, see Professor Randy Barnett's WSJ op-ed here.
Michael Barone's latest Washington Examinerarticle explores the reasons for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's failure to win enough votes for a 1,924-page spending bill and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's failure to block a tax deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans.
"If someone had told me, the day after election day 2008, that the tax rates on income and capital would not increase for the next four years," wrote Bush White House staffer Keith Hennessey in his blog, "I would have laughed."
Plenty of time for laughter now, for Hennessey and for the couple of million people who in some way, shape or form took part in the protests symbolized by but not limited to the Tea Party movement.
It is a source of continuing fascination for me to watch the interaction between public opinion, as measured in polls and election results, and the actions of members of Congress, elected in one political environment and looking in most cases to be re-elected in one that may be quite different.
Eleven months ago, after the Massachusetts Senate election, I was convinced that Democrats could not jam their health care bill through because voters had so clearly demanded they not do so. But Pelosi proved more determined and resourceful than I had imagined, and found enough House Democrats who were willing to risk electoral defeat to achieve what Democrats proclaimed was an historic accomplishment.
Pelosi and Obama predicted that Obamacare would become more popular as voters learned more about it. Those predictions were based on the theory that in times of economic distress Americans would be more supportive of or amenable to big government policies.
That theory has been disproved about as conclusively as any theory can be in the real world, and most of the Democrats who provided the key votes for Obamacare were defeated on Election Day.
Democratic congressional leaders did take note of the unpopularity of their policies when they chose not to pass budget resolutions last spring. Presumably they did so because they would have had a hard time rounding up the votes for the high spending and large deficits that would have ensued.
But had the House and Senate passed a budget resolution, Democrats might have been able to pass their preferred tax policy, raising taxes on high earners, under the budget reconciliation process. So the House vote Thursday night was a delayed consequence of the public's long-apparent rejection of their policies.
Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to "spread the wealth around." November's vote, presaged by more than a year of polls, was, as political scientist James Ceasar has written, "the Great Repudiation" of that policy.
The latest Fortune tries to whip up the class envy in its discussion of the future of the federal estate tax. Writer Michael V. Copeland examines the cases of five billionaires who died this year:
Take Dan Duncan, the Houston oil and natural-gas tycoon who co-founded Enterprise Products Partners. When the 77-year-old died of a brain hemorrhage in March, his fortune was an estimated $10 billion, according to the research firm Wealth-X. Were that subject to the 2009 top estate tax rate of 45%, the federal government would be looking at a tidy $4.5 billion. (Duncan’s spokesman says much of his estate was already transferred to his children or will be given to charity.) Either way, the feds get zero from his estate.
Tally up the lost estate taxes from the other superwealthy who passed this year — including John Kluge, founder of Metromedia ($7.5 billion fortune); Mary Janet Cargill, heir to Cargill, the agricultural giant ($2.5 billion); real estate investor Walter Shorenstein ($1 billion); and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner ($1 billion) — and the cash-strapped federal government missed out on another potential $5.4 billion in taxes, for a total for all five billionaires of about $9.9 billion. And that’s just the billionaires. Overall, Uncle Sam collected $21.6 billion in estate taxes for 2009. This year: $0.
Note Copeland’s implication that this is money that rightfully belongs to the government, not money that the government is stripping from its owner(s) just because government officials have decided arbitrarily that some people have accumulated too many resources.
Of course, the estate tax does more than force the wealthiest of the wealthy to skip buying another villa, as the John Locke Foundation has discussed and as Adam Nicholson of the American Family Business Institute describes below.