Today’s Lesson In Progressive Politics: Pete Stark

August 2, 2010

Congressman Pete Stark admits what Progressives truly believe: the Federal Government has the power to do anything it wants to do, regardless of what that pesky Constitution says.

The lesson? The Constitution of the United States is irrelevant.

Of course, he wouldn’t be Pete Stark without throwing in an insultingly snide comment which he does in the seconds before the video ends. This, too, is an indicator of the “we are better/more enlightened than you” mindset that lives in the Progressive mind like a tick burrowing into your skin. The woman at this town hall asks her question eloquently and intelligently only to be reminded that it is the Pete Starks of the world who get to decide how other people can and should lead their lives.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin blasts “the bloated oracle of entrenched incumbency,” and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air expands on the Constitutional issues that were not addressed in the question posed to Stark.

Comprehending Reform

May 5, 2010

A quick Google search this morning of the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” turned up more than half a million hits. A similar search for “comprehensive health care reform” showed well over a million hits. The term “comprehensive (blank) reform” is pervasive on the news and in Washington. It seems that no issue can be tackled without some sort of reform that is geared towards fundamentally changing the entire system.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

It’s time we strike down the notion of comprehensive reform. The recent health care debacle is proof that the notion of comprehensive reform is foolish and arrogant. “We need to pass the bill,” said Nancy Pelosi, “to see what’s in it.” When politicians start blathering on about the need for comprehensive reform we end up with bills that are thousands of pages long, not written by legislators, not read by legislators, and not understood by legislators. These same bills are not read or understood by the American citizen, either.

But the fact that Congress didn’t write, read, or understand the health care bill didn’t stop it from becoming the health care law. And now we see the real cost of it all: increased spending, increased deficits, increased premiums, less access for senior citizens. The “comprehensive” cure has made the problem so much worse, sparking cries for a total repeal.

But repealing health care will be difficult. Why? Because the Democrats in Congress are so busy patting themselves on the back for their comprehensive fix that they can’t (or won’t) see that their best intentions have only made matters worse.

The idea of “comprehensive reform” is supremely arrogant. It assumes that Congress is so well-informed on the issue at hand that they can see every problem, project any and all future problems, and then correct all of these problems in a single, bold stroke. But in the end the reality is that a bunch of half-informed political hacks are trying to repair a leaky lifeboat by firing a bazooka at the leak. Behold the omniscient, all-powerful Congress and their God-like powers!

What we need is to change the game plan. Instead of relying on Hail Mary passes that almost never work, we should be using the short pass. Instead of trying to fix all the problems at the same time under an avalanche of rules and regulations, we should address each of the problems with a separate bill. There is no need to try to fix everything at the same time. Each law that Congress passes is, in effect, an experiment. We can theorize, but never really know the long-term effects of these bills. What we should be doing is passing a small bill, that is easily read and understood. Then let’s see what the effects of that bill are. Is it working? Great! Now let’s address another problem with an equally small bill and see if that works.

This is a much slower way to solve a problem, but it’s a better way of making sure that the solution doesn’t create a host of new problems. Instead of a 2000+ page comprehensive health care reform bill that nobody understood, we should have passed a simple bill expanding Health Savings Accounts, followed it with an equally simple bill allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines and personalize their own policies, and then another simple bill for tort reform, etc. By making the bills smaller, you are making them more transparent. Only masochists will go online to read thousands of pages of legal mumbo jumbo, but if the bill was only a hundred pages long and written in a manner that is clearly understood…well, I can’t help but think that more citizens might be inclined to really see what their elected officials are up to. This would also make it more difficult for Congress to attach sweetheart deals to the bills because those deals would no longer be lost in the tar pit of modern legislation. Good for America, bad for a lot of incumbents.

Lock Up Your Salters, There’s A New Nanny In Town

April 21, 2010

In case you ever wanted to know why this blog is called The Clampdown and why the tagline is “I’m not working for The Clampdown” the reason is right here in this entry (and also it’s a great Clash song).

Many of us have a sweet tooth…it’s chocolatey goodness we crave. Many of us prefer the sour tastes of the world. While I enjoy both of these tastes on occasion, my weakness is for the salty goods. Pretzels, potato chips…the saltier the better. I put way too much salt in my food, but my blood pressure is good.

So this strikes home: the Food and Drug Administration is launching a ten-year program to cut down the amount of salt in processed foods. They are doing so in the name of health, claiming that lowering sodium intake will result in fewer deaths from hypertension and heart disease.

Sneaky folks that they are, the changes will be slowly phased in so people won’t even be aware of the difference because their taste buds will be slowly acclimated. A little less salt this year, another tiny subtraction next year, and ten years later you won’t even notice that your food is as bland and grey as the bureaucrats who brought you this decision. Like the myth of the frog that will be boiled alive if you turn up the temperature slowly, the FDA is stating that we won’t be able to tell the difference if they just make the changes gradual enough. Unless, of course, you have a memory that extends back eleven years.

This is just the latest and stupidest manifestation of the Nanny Government sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. It does so “to help,” of course, by regulating business and industry and by forcing you to accept dietary changes that…well, that you’re just not smart enough to understand are for your own benefit.

This new program needs to be fought not just because it represents a massive government intrusion into our lives, but because it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks to the Democrats in Congress and the President of the United States, the government now has a massive stake in the health care industry. This massive stake means that they have a financial interest. A huge financial interest.

What this boils down to is that the government will be getting involved in all manner of things that were previously considered none of its damn business. If it affects your health, it affects their cost.

Over the past 20 or 30 years, whenever Democrats have wanted to increase the size of government, they claimed that they were doing it “for the children.” It was an emotional catchphrase designed to circumvent rational debate. By phrasing it this way—that government intervention in this, that, or the other thing was necessary for the future of America’s youth—they were able to cast anyone opposed to their statist goals as being somehow anti-child. The rallying cry for the next 20 or 30 years is likely to be “for the health of our children.” The government will now be claiming outrageous regulatory powers under the guise of “health care.” It started several years back with the government assault on tobacco companies and laws designed to prevent the “dangers” of second hand smoke by regulating businesses. Then there were the laws passed banning “trans fats” from food. Now in New York they want to add a tax to all sugary drinks: soda, powdered lemonade, etc. The goal is to “combat obesity.”

Today we add the Salt Police of the FDA, trying to save us from ourselves, and spare us the horrors of hypertension even if it means making our food bland and tasteless. And through all of this—secondhand smoke, trans fats, obesity, Coca-Cola, Lay’s Potato Chips—there is never even the acknowledgment that Americans are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Clearly there are real health problems in America, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc., but the way to solve these problems is not government regulation of business. The way to solve them is personal responsibility. If the government were to ban salt completely, my guess is that a whole new generation of “sweet tooths” would spring into being. Ban cigarettes, and people will smoke cigars; ban cigars, they’ll switch to pipes. It is a parent’s job to make sure the child doesn’t eat the entire Easter bunny in one sitting; it is not the government’s job.

The health care reform bill that was just signed in to law is a Trojan Horse for a single-payer system, to be sure. But it also carries within its hollow core the meddling busybodies of the Nanny State, now given free rein to regulate our lives right down to the seasoning in our soup.

UPDATE: Hot Air is on this, too and over at the Weekly Standard Mary Katherine Ham weighs in. Mmmm…ham…delicious salty ham…

Today’s Lesson In Progressive Politics: Phil Hare

April 2, 2010

The conservative blogosphere is having a “kids on Christmas morning” day today with this video of Illinois Representative Phil Hare summarily dismissing the United States Constitution.

So much has been said on Hot Air. Big Government, Gateway Pundit, and others that there isn’t really all that much left to say.

That’s never stopped me before, though.

What we’ve got here really is nothing short of fascinating. It’s a genuine peek into the Leftist mindset that is usually hidden from prying eyes. Bless the You Tube generation, folks, because there are millions of tiny portable cameras out there ready to catch the Left unguarded.

For a quick history lesson, this is what’s known as the “Supremacy Clause”:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Translated, the United States is a nation of laws, and the U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. There can be no laws that circumvent, overrule, or ignore the Constitution and all Senators, Justices, Representatives, and Presidents have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Yet when asked a simple question: “Where does the Constitution give you the power to create this health care bill?” Phil Hare responds: “I don’t worry about the Constitution.”

While this is really not surprising, in many ways it is nothing short of staggering. Rep. Hare goes on to talk about the “right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as if it were in the Constitution, and when told that this phrase is from the Declaration of Independence (not a legal document), Hare responds, “It doesn’t matter to me.”

This is the mindset of the Left. Specifically enumerated laws are unimportant. Anecdotes about poor children and bankrupt families are worth more than the legal document on which this country was founded. The law is unimportant. Gefühl ist alles, said Goethe. “Feeling is everything.”

There is a very telling line that Hare uses that isn’t getting much play anywhere else: “I’m the dreamer,” he says when asked about his convictions. The unintended consequences, the crippling of business, the enforced mandates on private citizens, the sick engorgement of government, the thousands of pages of new rules and regulations, of taxes and penalties…all of it in the pursuit of a Leftist dream.

Of course, morning arrives as it always must. When those who are awake find that the law and government policy is based on anecdotes, emotion, and the dream of a perfect society, then one realizes that there are no longer any limits on what government can do and the descent into tyranny will be swift and sure. It won’t be the brutal tyranny of a Nazi regime, but it is fascism nonetheless.

And Congressmen like Phil Hare are wearing the jackboots you hear sneaking up behind you under cover of doing something for “the people.”

Don’t Go Wobbly On Us

March 31, 2010

Back during the original Gulf War (1990s version), Margaret Thatcher famously told President George H.W. Bush, “Don’t go wobbly on us now, George.” It was her veddy, veddy English way of telling him to stiffen his spine and follow through.

When I suggested Republicans run on a slogan of “Repeal, Replace, Reform” I believed that it would be a winner for Republicans. Mitch McConnell agreed, and so did Karl Rove. There seemed to be a large push for a campaign run with health care reform as the centerpiece. I still believe this, but it’s starting to look like the Republicans are going a little, well, wobbly.

Fox News is reporting that “top Republicans” are starting to backtrack a little bit. The fear is that while repealing the bill is popular in the conservative base, it may not play well in a general election. The Republicans seem to be buying into the Democratic narrative that the more people learn about the bill, the more they’ll like it.

For instance, Democrats think people are going to just love, love, love these “surprises“: (H/T: Hot Air)

TIME FOR MOTHER’S MILK For a year after giving birth, nursing mothers must be allowed breaks on the job to express breast milk as often as necessary, and a private place to do so that’s not a bathroom (emphasis mine). Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

A TAX ON TANNING Tanning salons say they will be burned by a new 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning that starts in July. But the American Academy of Dermatology applauded the move. According to the academy, indoor tanning before age 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, by 75 percent.

COMING SOON TO W-2 FORMS: HEALTH BENEFITS DETAILS In the name of transparency, employers will be required next year to spell out the value of health benefits on W-2 forms. “It’s about making consumers aware of what’s getting paid on their behalf toward health insurance, part of an effort to make everyone aware of how much we’re spending on health care services,” said Jennifer Tolbert, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

LESS FLEX IN FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS Starting in January, you will no longer be able to tap your account to cover aspirin, vitamins and other over-the-counter medications, unless they are prescribed by a doctor. Come 2013, the total amount you can contribute annually will be limited to $2,500.

STRENGTHENING THE ‘S’ IN H.S.A. Times are tough. But if you’re thinking of raiding your health savings account to cover your mortgage payment or your child’s college tuition, think again. The health reform law increased the tax on H.S.A. withdrawals for nonmedical expenses to 20 percent from 10 percent for people under age 65. The provision takes effect in 2011. For the uninitiated, health savings accounts are tax-advantaged accounts linked to high-deductible health plans. About eight million people have signed up since the accounts were introduced in 2004.

ABSTINENCE MAKES A COMEBACK Abstinence-only education programs to prevent teenage pregnancy took a hit when President Obama took office and eliminated $115 million in funding, moving the money into more comprehensive programs that cover contraception and sexually transmitted diseases as well. Congress allowed another $50 million in abstinence-only funding to expire in June. The health reform law restores $50 million a year for abstinence-only programs for each of the next five years. But there’s a catch: states must match any federal funding they receive. “That may be significant,” said Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute. Last year, even before the previous $50 million expired, she said, “many states had already stopped participating.”

NURSING A BOND BETWEEN MOTHER AND CHILD Pregnant teenagers who receive home visits by nurses once or twice a month before delivery and for a few years afterward learn parenting and coping skills that can cut child abuse and neglect nearly in half, according to research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The $1.5 billion that home-visiting programs will receive over five years is by far the biggest financial commitment made to those evidence-based programs, said David Kass, president of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit anticrime organization.

Taxes, penalties, regulations and, as a kicker, we’re spending taxpayer dollars to teach teenagers that it’s bad to beat your kids. Think about that last item for one more second: a home visit from a nurse once or twice a month will cut child abuse in half. Do they really believe this? Do they really, honestly believe that all we need to do to cut child abuse by 50% is teach teenage parents “coping skills?” That telling a 16-year-old mother who spent her formative years being beaten by her mother’s boyfriend that she should just count to ten when she starts feeling angry will have a massive impact on child abuse? Good grief.

And yet, this is perfectly indicative of the larger problem of the health care reform bill. Here is the Nanny State in all of its hideous glory, reaching down to take care of you by hook or by crook. You will learn to be happy with health care reform by being taxed, by being penalized, and by being instructed. Memo to “top Republicans”: this isn’t popular, it won’t become popular. The only worry is that it will become addictive. Democrats like to claim that Social Security and Medicare are popular, but they would probably find out that heroin was popular if they asked junkies. These programs are not generally popular except to those people who become addicted to them. Big government is the true opiate of the people.

But Republicans are right that they need more than a promise to repeal health care reform. They need to run on a promise to repeal the Nanny State that this bill represents. They need to offer a simple replacement for health care reform and they need to accent other issues. Health care reform repeal should be right near the top of issues, but the Republicans should be running this year and in 2012 on a platform of smaller government, less regulation, and lower taxes…a platform that will accent the job-creating nature of these proposals. Health care reform is a huge issue, but with a 10% unemployment rate, people are more worried about paying their bills tomorrow than a government reform plan that doesn’t take full effect until 2014.

The Republicans need to run on the idea that the Federal Government has absolutely no business telling private industry that they need to create a special room for lactating mothers. They need to run on the concept that Washington D.C. shouldn’t be telling restaurants what information to put on menus. They need to run on a platform that stresses that it’s not the job of Congress to tell you the preferred way to get a tan. Health care reform is not a disease. It’s simply the most visible symptom of a far more malignant virus that promises to choke the life out of the economy and the nation: Big Government. It is Big Government that needs to be repealed, and health care reform is only part of that picture.

UPDATE: Turns out Ace of Spades was on the same page as me…right down to the headline. And Michelle Malkin is asking a rather pointed question about this. And the always worthwhile Iowahawk also chimes in.

UPDATE II: Via Hot Air, it looks like Doctor Zero has reached the same conclusion:

It’s true that the GOP cannot completely dedicate itself to the repeal of one piece of legislation for the next three years. Instead, they should dedicate themselves to slaying the blasphemous, rotting leviathan that gave birth to ObamaCare, and whose tentacles are visibly squeezing the life out of the American economy. Big Government is a parasite that is more than willing to kill its host.


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