I’ll never give up a chance to talk about the difference between American Liberalism and Conservatism. On top of that, I’ll never walk away from an opportunity to correct a typical liberal talking point about American Conservatism. In my still very young politically intellectual life, I have tried to define the major political philosophies in our country. There are more than two, but the two most common, of course, are liberalism and conservatism. This task has many pitfalls because it is hard to define a philosophy that has no concrete definition and is constantly modified by people who operate under that philosophy’s banner. However, words must have definitions so I will continue this intriguing study.

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That brings me to the newest, yet typical op-ed in the Washington Post. “Liberals and conservatives don’t just vote differently. They think differently” by Chris Mooney. Author of “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality.”  His editorial concludes that liberals are open-minded individuals who are more willing to challenge their beliefs and ideas while conservatives are closed-minded and are less, if at all, willing to challenge their beliefs and ideas. What is the reader left with? Conservatives are dumb schmucks.

Part of the problem with his argument is that he creates a situation where conservatives cannot challenge his opinion because that action will confirm his opinion. He argues that conservatives deny science and that is supported with scientific data. Therefore, challenging him would be to deny his science. See the problem? Chris Mooney might not see that as an issue, but I am going to go ahead and challenge him regardless of his illogical arguments.

A second problem with his argument is that the analysis is fairly shallow. It isn’t that conservatives refuse to challenge their ideas. The difference is the magnitude of risk tolerance between the two groups of people. Conservatives, one of the reasons why they are called conservative, have a low risk tolerance. Liberals, on the other hand, have a high tolerance for risk. Liberals except knew ideas and are willing to risk uncertain outcomes. Conservatives would rather accept ideas that are tried and tested. With further understanding, conservatism does not sound nearly as stupid as Chris Mooney would have you believe.

Mooney also argues that the Tea Party’s member’s strong held belief of creationism supports his larger argument about conservatism. This is technically a non-sequitor because individuals in the Tea Party are not necessarily conservative. His argument is the equivalent of stating that because a certain percentage of Americans are criminals all Americans think that committing a crime is okay. That doesn’t follow.

Mooney argues that because of these psychological differences we argue over things like:

 Does the health-care reform law contain “death panels”? Did the stimulus package create any jobs? Even American history is up for debate: Did the founders intend this to be a Christian nation?”

 Actually, these questions have nothing to do with how we process our beliefs or facts. Sure, there will be individuals on both sides that have ideological beliefs and will refuse to examine a conflicting opinion, but true conservatism philosophy does little to inform opinions on things like healthcare policy or job creation. For instance, the truth is that there are no “facts” when it comes to job creation in the stimulus package. There is no way to count physical stimulus job creation. There are estimates released from the Congressional Budget Office, but they are only estimates. Those estimates range from positive job creation to job loss. The CBO admits that there is no way of knowing for sure which estimate is true.

Yes, conservatives will be slow to accept new ideas due to their low risk tolerance for the new and untried. While liberals will be the first to jump off the cliff and accept the new and sparkly.

By now most readers have probably heard of Hilary Rosen and her comments about Ann Romney.  If you have not yet, then I suggest you watch this video:

There are two major points that Hilary brings up. One is getting a huge amount of play while the other is not. First, obviously the line, “Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life” is receiving a huge amount of criticism from the Romney and Obama campaigns. It is clearly a dismissive line built on the assumption that those mothers who stay home and are not working cannot understand basic economic issues. Her statement ought to be criticized.  The second point mentioned by Hilary is much more subtle. She begins to explain how the Romney’s wealth prohibits them from understanding the economic issues of the poor and the middle class. It is this second part that was more important to Hilary’s overall point, but overshadowed by her first remark.

I would agree with Hilary that the Romney’s would probably have a very hard time understanding exactly what it is like to be poor because they have lived well-off lives. There is nothing wrong with that, by the way. They are wealthy, successful people who have raised a family and become very productive members of society. They should be congratulated for their success. However, their success does not mean they cannot relate to and understand the hardship of not getting what one wants. Ann Romney suffering from breast cancer and multiple sclerosis is enough to make anyone understand what hardship means.

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More importantly, the fact that the Romney’s are successful does not make Mitt Romney any less prepared or worthy of becoming president. In fact, I think a poor person with little education may be less prepared to become president than a successful person with an education. I think most people would agree with that because it really has nothing to do with the amount of money a person has in the bank, but the amount of wisdom and knowledge they can bring to the position they are running for.

That brings me to my other point. Feminism.

The supposed “war on women”, starting with the HHS mandating employers to provide free birth control to equal pay issues, and now to the issues of stay at home mothers vs working mothers. The radical feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s did a lot to switch up gender roles in this country and we are still suffering from some of those changes.  There is a radical strain of feminism that wanted more than the chance to prove themselves in the workforce. They wanted to be liberated from all restraints of womanhood both natural and unnatural.  Sure, the removal of the unnatural restraint put on women by sexist men was a worthy goal. It went too far when it tried to adapt the law of the lands to fit its own cultural goals. Equal pay laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc. These more radical aspects stemmed from a desire to remove all natural restraints on women. They wanted to impose the radical idea of sameness. An idea that women should be just like men in all ways, that they shouldn’t be constrained by their natural instinct, their own reproductive organs, or good behavior. In fact they should deny these things.

It is clear from the discussions we are having today that females are still very conflicted about their many roles in society. The radical strain of feminism encourages females to be men. That is, you work every day, you have a sex as much as you want, you don’t feel bad if you can’t watch your children, and by all means do not be constrained by pregnancy. This is the radical feminist ideology that has tried to replace the sexist ideology of the 60s. We see this radicalism in the discussions had by many females “do I work or do I raise a family? Do I work the extra hours or do I go home to my children?” There is the pressure to be the “all you can be” women while deep down many females have a need to be at home. The feminists tell females that they should deny the second instinct and go be all you can be. Yet, isn’t that replacing a sexist ideology for a radical feminist ideology? IT still tells females how to act.

I tend to believe that all of us have instincts built into us through our biology, our families, our culture, and our overall society.  I think it is undeniable that the two sexes tend to act differently in some aspect of life. IT may not always be the case, but it seems that females on average tend to be more nurturing while males tend to be tougher.  One, these basic instincts do lend themselves to certain roles and these instincts are either further developed or inhibited from developing with family, cultural, and societal customs. I think we are seeing the clash of these instincts with a popular strain of societal norms.  There are those who promote the radical feminism of all work and no family. Then there are those who think a female belongs at home and have no work life. There are those in the middle who think a female should have both.  Of these three, there may not be a correct answer.

I do know; however, that government imposing one of these roles through laws is the wrong answer. Many females will point to unequal earnings and believe discrimination is at play. It may be, but at the individual level it is difficult to know for sure. That is why it is wrong for the government to enforce anti-discrimination laws or equal pay laws based on sex. If a female believes she is getting paid less because she is a female then she ought to either leave that sexist company or demand a raise. Using the force of government to enforce equal pay allows the government to intrude on private business matters where they do not have any objective methods to determine if the employer is being discriminatory.

These societal questions are difficult and ought to be left to the individual female and her family. Hilary Rosen, informed by her radical feminism, thinks otherwise. More importantly, the government should not step in on voluntary work arrangements and force a person to do something they would rather not do.

It is about to happen officially. Mitt Romney is the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. 

Term limits for Judges?

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

Every few years the Supreme Court is pushed into the spotlight with an extremely controversial cases. Things like Brown v. Board of Education, Roe V. Wade, Bush V. Gore, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and now Florida V. Health and Human Services become cemented into American legal history. With these historical cases comes the typical rally cry of term limits for judges. (Yes, the Supreme Court Justices serve life terms, if you didn’t know)

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The term limit cry is pushed by radicals on both sides of the aisle when they see their prized legislation about to be overturned by the court. With the case concerning ObamaCare arriving at the Supreme Court there are renewed attempts to push the “term limits” argument.

The question of term limits for judges is asked by Duke Law professor Paul Carrington in The New York Times. He first argues that term limits should be implemented if the conservative wing of the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare. He argues that the supreme Court holds the power to invalidate laws and that “ultimate political power” ought to be constrained. He then goes on to argue that the Framers of the Constitution never considered issue of prolonged service of the Supreme Court justices and instead were only concerned if that the justices hold office for the period of “good behavior.” Carrington finishes up with describing how term limits would work, the benefits of term limits, and examines past interference with the court. (As if it makes it okay!)

I’ll take argument one point at a time.

“If five of our present justices broadly prohibit the federal government from providing accessible health care, Congress should consider using its constitutional power again to add two more justices – and impose a reasonable limit on the length of time that a mere mortal should hold so much political power.”

His argument is one of the reasons why the founders thought it best to give judges lifelong terms. They were afraid of political influences on the justices in light of certain judicial decisions. More importantly, the professor argues that the court should be constrained if the court decides a certain way on health care. What gives? Judges need term limits because they say the Constitution doesn’t give Congress the authority to force individuals to purchase health care, yet if they decide that ObamaCare is constitutional then the court is okay and isn’t in need of further restraint? Again, the founders were trying to confine this kind of political thinking by separating the court from politics as much as possible.  The professor seems to think that our court system should be radically altered if his personal policy solutions are not enacted with the greatest of ease. It is interesting and funny how he is the one to complain about “mere mortals” having great political power.

Concerning the political power held by mere mortals the Professor makes this argument:

“The power to invalidate legislation is, in a sense, the ultimate political power, and mortals who exercise it need constraint. So why not the highest court in the land?”

In the Federalist Papers (more on those in a little bit) the founders point out that the judicial branch has the least amount of political power. The Congress and ultimately the people, have the authority to change the Constitution. Moreover, the Congress has the power of the purse and the Executive has the power of the sword. The Court has neither. Instead the Court is separated from political influence and therefore, has the power of credibility. However, it can’t enforce its judgments and must rely on the Executive branch to willingly support its decisions. In that light, its political power seems quite diminished. Furthermore, the Court can always be overruled. As several justices would point out, if you don’t like the decision we made, change the Constitution.

The professor argues that the founders never considered the outcome of lifelong terms:

“Long lives were uncommon in 1788, so the issue of prolonged service was not considered by the framers… Instead, they simply borrowed the term “good behavior” from a law enacted by the English Parliament in 1701 to deter a king dissatisfied with a judicial decision from firing the judge who made it.”

I don’t know how much a law student pays to attend Duke University, but I hope it isn’t much because the professor is utterly wrong on this issue. For an adequate response to his complaint about the founders not thinking this through, I turn to Alexander Hamilton and Federalist paper 78 entitled, “A view of the constitution of the judicial department in relation to the tenure of good behavior.” By the way, there are 6 separate papers written by the founders specifically concerning the judicial branch.

In the 78th paper, Hamilton argues the need for lifelong terms. He rightly points out the court does not have the power of the purse or the power of the sword. It is for that reason that Hamilton says:

“That as from the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed or influenced by its coordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence, as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in is constitution; and in a great measure as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.”

If Congress or the Executive branch was the judge of its own laws it would simply expand its own power. The need of a third branch, separated as much as possible from political influence, would be best suited for judging laws. As Hamilton points out, that doesn’t necessarily mean the third branch will always act proper or in the “best” manner. Yes, judges have and will interpret the constitution to fit their own political goals and preferences. However, forcing judges to run for re-election or nominating judges more frequently will not guarantee that judges interpret the constitution any “better”.

The professor does argue that nominating judges more frequently (every two years a new judge is added to the bench and the most senior is removed) will curve the long term ideological bent of the court.  He claims his plan would “revise the job of a justice to a more human scale and perhaps make the court less likely to impose erratic political preferences on the citizens it governs. Because it would assure regular turnover, the court would experience fewer long-term ideological swings, enabling it to better do its original job of anchoring the legislative process to the Constitution.”

Although he is correct that his plan would curve the long-term ideology of the court he trades long-term ideology for short-term ideology. I am not sure if one is better than the other, but life-long terms do protect the court from short-term swings in political power and maintain the importance of the court. Under his plan, the majority of the court would be changed within ten years. That seems like a long time, but under the current system justices serve much longer and that is a benefit. John Paul Stevens retired in 2010 and had served for 35 years. That is 35 years of experience and knowledge. He is also a justice who was inaugurated at a different time when politics and government was different from it is today. Under this plan we would lose that experience and old-age traditions that are carried with the justices. It is a way for past generations to have an influence on current day politics which is a positive because it can act as a stabilizer in an ever-changing and chaotic political climate.

Under the current plan the courts importance is maintained. If the Professor had his way the nomination process would become another dull routine of Washington D.C. It would lose its grand-ness and importance as a means of having a profound effect on American politics and government. When a Supreme Court Justice slot is available the media and Washington D.C. stops. They honor the commitment of the former Justice, but also prepare for the fight to nominate the next. If it were to transform into a routine many in government would say, “Don’t bother wasting your time fighting on principle, will nominate a better justice in two years.” This, I believe, will have the effect of making short-term ideological swings greater and more dangerous. That is because fewer people will pay attention and the fight won’t mean as much. This will leave room for radicals on both side of the aisle to push their ideological favorites.

No, the court system isn’t perfect, but if this Duke Professor did his own homework he might have realized that the founders were not making perfect. They were taking a bad situation and trying to turn it into something more ideal given the circumstances. Our government, being created and operated by humans is by definition fallible. All we can do is create rules which will allow for the best outcome given our human nature. Term limits for the judicial branch, are not one of them.

A New York Times editorial today discussed the findings of several medical specialty boards. Nine of these specialty boards have found 45 different routine treatments that add little to no value for patients yet, costs boat loads of money. In fact, the studies found that the several treatments often didn’t help some patients and sometimes caused more harm than good!

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With more recommendations on the way, the liberal editorial board at The New York Times is celebrating the opportunity to save the nation from useless medical costs. Since the US spends so much money on healthcare this can only benefit us, right?

Wrong.

The NY Times editorial proposes the question “Do you really need that test?” It then details these several reports and how expensive and unnecessary these tests actually are. Here is the problem. We premise the healthcare problem with a collectivist outlook.

The U.S. spends 16% of its economy on healthcare. The second highest of all UN countries. Therefore, the U.S. must do something to cut down these costs, right?!?!? The statement characterizes the issue as if the U.S. writes one collective check to the healthcare gods. The solution to the problem becomes, “how to reduce that check”. Yet, Uncle Sam doesn’t write one collective check. A huge sum of the healthcare payment comes from individuals seeking out healthcare treatments. Sure, you probably think you pay a lot in healthcare payments. However, if one of your loved ones has cancer is there any treatment too costly?

How about procedures that are deemed to have no value? The Times seems to think those procedures can be eliminated.

“Patients must take responsibility as well. They must discipline themselves not to request care of little or no value. To help patients make informed decisions, Consumer Reports is developing more-accessible versions of the lists and will join other organizations in disseminating them.”

Above is the problem with the collectivist approach to cost savings in healthcare. Sure if you, as a customer, deem a procedure to have no value than by all means cut your costs and don’t pay for it. That makes sense, but that isn’t what the Times editorial is saying. It is instead saying that medical experts have deemed that most individuals do not receive value from certain treatments and therefore those treatments shouldn’t be used. What if you aren’t most individuals? What if you would rather pay for the additional radiation, the additional treatments, etc. for peace of mind?

Is peace of mind worth the additional dollars spent in the healthcare market?

In Obamacare’s collectivist approach to healthcare, that peace of mind question would be answered by the government. If the overwhelming group of individuals do not think ‘peace of mind’ is a worthy tax payer expense, then the individuals who would like to pay for ‘peace of mind’ are out of luck. They could try a broken private market that is crowded out by government insurance or submit to the federal government.

The question of value cannot be answered by the government because every individual has a different perception of what is valuable in healthcare. Therefore, the government cannot set a standard for everyone. It is impossible.

Yesterday, the President had a few words for the House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. For more information on his plan, go here. This is a taste of what the prez had to say:

“Disguised as deficit-reduction plans, [the Republican budget] is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.”

“The Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.”

He also referred to the plan as a Trojan horse and thinly veiled Social Darwinism. This was all in an attempt to frame Republicans and Mitt Romney, who he called out by name, as heartless and for the rich at the expense of the middle class.

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Washington TimesIt was a very tough speech, the first of many campaign speeches that the president will be giving until November. However, I don’t think it is proper for anyone to really call his speech as unprecedented or a “surprise”. This president is going to defend his job and is going to attack Republicans any way he can.

Even if he has to lie.

And lying is exactly what he did. The claim that the Paul Ryan budget plan imposes a radical vision for the country is, as the kids say, poppycock.  The only radical vision is to continue on the path that we are currently heading. That is to not reduce the debt, not reform the tax code, and not tackle our entitlement programs that are financially exploding.  Paul Ryan’s budget does all of that and ironically, does not radically reduce the debt. Instead, the plan continues to increase the deficit for some time. It reforms Medicaid and Medicare, it doesn’t eliminate them. It closes tax loopholes for business and corporations.

In one part of his speech the president said this:

Whoever he may be, the next President will inherit an economy that is recovering, but not yet recovered, from the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Too many Americans will still be looking for a job that pays enough to cover their bills or their mortgage. Too many citizens will still lack the sort of financial security that started slipping away years before this recession hit. A debt that has grown over the last decade, primarily as a result of two wars, two massive tax cuts, and an unprecedented financial crisis, will have to be paid down.

 The two wars in the Middle East cost about 1.14 trillion dollars from 2003-2012. The economic stimulus package, the one Obama never seems to talk about, costs 787 billion. The stimulus package is approximately 70% of the total cost for two wars. Comparing the costs year for year the stimulus added 787 billion to the 2009 deficit while the two wars only added 126 billion. Furthermore, the stimulus was not worth it, as I talk about elsewhere on this blog.
Whoever will become the GOP nominee must now realize this one important truth. Obama is willing to do and say anything to win this race.