Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Breakfast Club

1) I have just realized how we can internalize things without realizing it. Remeber the scene when the prinicipal throws the Judd Nelson character into a closet and then basically threatens to beat him up? And promises to deny his threats later?

I kind of did the same thing once as a new teacher, without realizing I was doing it. I told a kid once that if I ever saw him as an adult I would kick his ass, and that I would deny that I ever said that. I was new, extremely frustrated, and this kid purposefully sabotaged my class every day.

It was wrong, and I regret it now. But I wonder if unconciously I was reaching back to this scene.

2) When I first saw this movie, and when I was young, I was on the side of the five kids. I just saw the movie last week, and I was struck by the fact that now that I am older and a teacher, I'm on the principal's side and think the kids are acting like a bunch of punks.

Hello, my Name is Gary and I am.....

...addicted to the Internet.

My computer broke down last Wed around 1:00 PM. It froze up and when I tried to restart it, Windows wouldn't work right. I tried to fix it, and then reboot it and nothing worked. I was without internet access until I went to my parents' house around 1:00 PM on Friday. 48 hours without being able to log on. I nearly went crazy! My whole life was disrupted.

Yet 15 years ago, I had no internet access. I managed pretty well.

Stop for a few minutes and imagine your life with no:

cable or satellite TV
cell phones
game consoles and handheld games
MP3 player

Scary huh?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is Obamacare Constitutional?

Here is a site that makes the argument that Obamacare is constitutional.

Here is my counter argument that I first posted at a blog called The Living Room Times.

My take on the Balkin article:

I) He spends a lot of time discussing the House bill. This is off topic and I will ignore it.

II) His argument that this is not an individual mandate:

A) Listing a set of people who are exempt from the mandate does not invalidate the fact that for most people it remains a mandate. Instead it reinforces the fact that it is a mandate for those not exempted.

B) At least four of the exemptions Balkin describes are temporary states, and when that person’s status changes the mandate will cover them.

C) He argues that it is a tax, and not a mandate.

1) He first argues that it is an excise tax, in his words a “tax on transactions or events”. However this is not a tax on a transaction or event, it is a tax on the absence of a transaction or event. The person is not being taxed on something he did, but rather because he didn’t do something. This is not an excise tax.

2) He then argues that it is a penalty tax, a tax for not doing something you are mandated by the government to do. Logically this defeats the whole basis of his argument that it is not a mandate. You can’t be penalized for not doing something you are not mandated to do.

D) If his argument is that the term individual mandate is misleading, why does he then proceed to use the term in the rest of his article?

III) His General Welfare argument

A) The term general welfare had a much different meaning when the Constitution was written than it does today. The general welfare clause originally was a justification for passing laws, not a justification for entitlements.

B) Balkin states:The individual mandate is a tax. Does it serve the general welfare? The constitutional test is whether Congress could reasonably conclude that its taxing and spending programs promote the general welfare of the country
The individual mandate is not a tax. The individual mandate is a requirement to purchase health insurance. The tax is a penalty for not complying with the mandate. The argument is not that the government cannot impose taxes or penalties, it is that the government cannot require you to purchase health insurance. If this bill simply taxed the people to pay for health care this constitutional argument would not exist.

C) As Sully says above his polluter analogy is flawed. To be correct he must instead argue that everyone, polluters and non- polluters alike are forced to pay for pollution control equipment or pay a fine. Indeed it would be more accurate to say that everyone is forced to pay for yearly pollution offsets every year or pay a fine, whether they produce pollution or not. (in any case the analogy would still be flawed)

D) I strongly disagree with his proposition that “the textual argument for Congress’s authority under the General Welfare Clause is obvious and powerful” in this case. He assumes that proposition. His only arguments are the flawed pollution analogy and a flawed definition of the individual mandate.

IV) His Commerce Clause argument:

A) Both of the cases he cites, Wickard v. Filburn and Gonzales v. Raich (both of which I disagree with), are cases where the government prohibited people from taking an action that might affect interstate commerce. This is a case where the government is forcing people to take an action by arguing that their inaction affects commerce. Prohibiting an action is not the same thing as mandating an action.

B) Where is the logical end of this argument? Using this argument the government has a basis to mandate that individuals purchase anything they want because it could affect commerce. Why can’t the government mandate the purchase of a new GM or Chrysler car every four years? Not buying GM or Chrysler products has a huge impact on interstate commerce, especially on other buying their products.

“Because Congress believes that the GM and Chrysler bailouts won’t succeed unless these people are forced to buy GM or Chrysler products, it can regulate their activities in order to make its bailout of GM and Chrysler effective.”

V) In my opinion, the argument is not properly “Will the Supreme Court over turn this law.” sadly, I agree that it is unlikely that there are enough votes to overturn this law. However the argument properly should be “Should the Supreme Court overturn this law?” In that case I think the only answer is yes.

Update 10/27/10 9:45AM: Great minds think alike.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's Next?

Dateline Washington D.C. June 3, 2010:

The Democrats regained their filibuster proof majority in the Senate today after Democratic Governor Steve Beshear resigned and was appointed to fill out the term of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who died in a tragic and mysterious home invasion robbery last week; by his successor, Daniel Mongiardo (D), who had formerly been the Lt. Governor.

Dateline Washington D.C. June 12, 2010:

President Obama held a joint press conference today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi today to announce the introduction of a new bill, the Invest in America and Americans Act.

"For far too long millions of Americans have lacked access to a savings account and financial security", said President Obama. "This bill will fix that, and at the same time allow every American to own a piece of this great country, and help build a better future." "The American people have a right to a savings account, and we will provide them with one!" Sen. Reid proudly proclaimed.

The bill would require every taxpayer to set aside 10% of his gross income every year in savings, in the form of a 25 year Treasury bond issued by the government directly to a savings account in a government approved bank of their choice. Those with no income, or incomes under $50, 000 a year, would be issued a $2,500 dollar savings bond in their name in a similar manner. The savings would be collected by the I.R.S. through deductions from paychecks and on tax forms for other types of income.

"For far too long the poor have been made to feel that they have no part of America," said Speaker Pelosi, "today that has come to an end!"

The bill is expected to be quickly passed by Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress so that the I.R.S. can begin collecting the savings from income in July of this year.