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Archive for March 28th, 2010

George Will argues that the answer should be no. I’m not a lawyer, but I think he makes a compelling case regardless of how one feels about immigration in general or the specific issue of how to deal with illegals:

A simple reform…would bring the interpretation of the 14th Amendment into conformity with what the authors of its text intended, and with common sense, thereby removing an incentive for illegal immigration. To end the practice of “birthright citizenship,” all that is required is to correct the misinterpretation of that amendment’s first sentence: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” From these words has flowed the practice of conferring citizenship on children born here to illegal immigrants. A parent from a poor country, writes professor Lino Graglia of the University of Texas law school, “can hardly do more for a child than make him or her an American citizen, entitled to all the advantages of the American welfare state.” …If those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment had imagined laws restricting immigration — and had anticipated huge waves of illegal immigration — is it reasonable to presume they would have wanted to provide the reward of citizenship to the children of the violators of those laws? Surely not. …Congress has heard testimony estimating that more than two-thirds of all births in Los Angeles public hospitals, and more than half of all births in that city, and nearly 10 percent of all births in the nation in recent years, have been to mothers who are here illegally. Graglia seems to establish that there is no constitutional impediment to Congress ending the granting of birthright citizenship to those whose presence here is “not only without the government’s consent but in violation of its law.”

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There’s going to be a referendum on marijuana prohibition this November in the (not so) Golden State. The good news is that it is ahead in the polls. But the bad news is that this is not a reflection of libertarian sentiment. Instead, voters are sympathetic to the notion that pot could be a new source of tax revenue (which presumably means a smaller risk of other tax increases). The AP reports:

When California voters head to the polls in November, they will decide whether the state will make history again – this time by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults. The state was the first to legalize medicinal marijuana use, with voters passing it in 1996. Since then, 14 states have followed California’s lead, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law. “This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end failed marijuana prohibition in this country,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We really can’t overstate the significance of Californians being the first to have the opportunity to end this public policy disaster.” …The California secretary of state’s office certified the initiative for the general election ballot Wednesday after it was determined that supporters had gathered enough valid signatures. The initiative would allow those 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, enough to roll dozens of marijuana cigarettes. Residents also could grow their own crop of the plant in gardens measuring up to 25 square feet. The proposal would ban users from ingesting marijuana in public or smoking it while minors are present. It also would make it illegal to possess the drug on school grounds or drive while under its influence. Local governments would decide whether to permit and tax marijuana sales. Proponents of the measure say legalizing marijuana could save the state $200 million a year by reducing public safety costs. At the same time, it could generate tax revenue for local governments. A Field Poll taken in April found a slim majority of California voters supported legalizing and taxing marijuana to help bridge the state budget deficit.

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Sleazy political behavior does not necessarily require a bag of money being handed to a politician in a deserted parking garage. Sometimes it is blatantly visible. A good example is the European version of “cap-and-trade” climate legislation. While the legislation produced lots of criminal activity, it also enabled big European companies to game the system, pocketing lots of unearned money thanks to their lobbying power. The House-passed version of the “cap-and-trade” bill in America makes many of the same mistakes, with favors to various campaign contributors and special interests. The Wall Street Journal editorial excerpted below is a good indication of the type of nonsense that will happen in the United States if the bill is approved by the Senate:

Democrats are promising to apply themselves to the task of imposing legislative curbs on carbon. So it’s a good time to see how a prototype cap-and-trade scheme, the European Union’s Emission Trading System, is faring. …Last week, spot trading on the ETS ground to a complete halt for three days after a scandal erupted over players gaming the system. In this case, the government of Hungary admitted to reselling “certified emission reduction” credits that companies had already relinquished, or “spent.” …This is just the latest in a string of embarrassments that have plagued the system almost from the beginning. European authorities admitted last year that in certain countries, 90% of the trading volume was taken up by value-added tax fraud. Sandbag, a British advocacy group, reported in February that metals firms ArcelorMittal, Salzgitter, U.S. Steel, and Corus were just a few of the companies that had been granted more emission permits than they needed. In ArcelorMittal’s case, according to Sandbag, those spare permits amounted to €202 million in asset value in 2008. Last year, Corus announced it was closing a steel plant in Britain and laying off 1,700 workers, for which the company reaped a windfall in carbon allowances. …the ETS is a cautionary tale in how quickly environmental policy engineering degrades into rent-seeking for the fortunate few.

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