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Archive for March, 2012

I’ve repeatedly said that Michael Ramirez is a good political cartoonist (see here, hereherehere, here, and here), and he’s proved his worth in this cartoon that cleverly mocks the cavalier attitude that statists have about America’s founding principles.

And here are two more Ramirez cartoons, including one that also uses the theme of Obama vs the Founding Fathers.

Finally, for those who want some analysis of why schemes like Obamacare are inconsistent with the Constitution, here’s some good analysis by Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Philip Klein and Damon Root, and yours truly.

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I’m periodically asked why I share political humor on  this blog. The glib and easy answer is that it’s good to share amusing material.

But there’s also a serious point, especially when disseminating jokes from the late-night talk shows. Politicians should be mocked. And the more pretentious they are, the more vicious we should be.

Even the ones we like should be subject to ridicule. Elected officials often get very egotistical because they spend all day being flattered by lobbyists. Our role is to make sure there’s a countervailing force.

So enjoy these gems.

Jay Leno

  • What do you think your odds are of winning that jackpot? The last odds I checked, 176 million to 1. But then again, still better odds than Newt Gingrich getting the nomination.
  • I think even President Obama realizes the Obamacare thing is not looking good in front of the Supreme Court. He’s starting to downplay it. Like today he called it Bidencare.
  • Newt Gingrich announced today he is laying off a third of his campaign staff. Is that surprising? He laid off two-thirds of his wives.
  • In New York City this week, they had the annual Greek Independence Day Parade. In fact, it was so authentically Greek that before the parade even started it was $12 million in debt.
  • A madam in New York City claims that John Edwards was a customer in her brothel. You hear that kind of thing and it really makes you lose respect for prostitutes, doesn’t it?
  • This weekend former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant. And I thought this was nice — they let him shoot the donor himself.
  • Fox News sent Dick Cheney flowers. MSNBC sent chili cheese fries.

David Letterman

  • Rick Santorum wants to ban pornography. That’s one of the few thriving industries America has left.

Conan

  • Yesterday, Mitt Romney told what he thought was a humorous story about how his father closed down a Michigan factory. Then Romney went on to quote some of his favorite funny quotes from the movie “Schindler’s List.”
  • The Supreme Court is deciding right now whether the government can mandate that all Americans buy health insurance. Rick Santorum said, “There’s no way I’m letting the government make me go on a man date.”
  • In Germany, a court has ruled that German police are allowed to racially profile citizens. But don’t worry. It’s Germany, so things shouldn’t get out of hand.
  • Today is Ann and Mitt Romney’s 43rd wedding anniversary. This means that 43 years ago Mitt proposed to his wife and due to a weak field of candidates, she said yes.

Jimmy Fallon

  • A new poll found that President Obama’s approval rating is above 50 percent for the first time since last May. Obama made sure to thank the people who made that possible — Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul.
  • Rick Santorum gave a speech at the Jelly Belly factory in California. Incidentally, “Jelly Belly Factory” was also Newt Gingrich’s nickname in college.
  • A recent survey showed that Rick Santorum is the favorite GOP candidate among Republican women. When he heard that, Santorum was like, “Wait — women have the right to vote?”
  • Ron Paul said it’s still too early to count him out as the Republican nominee. Seriously? That’s like Newt Gingrich saying it’s too early to count him out as an Abercrombie model.
  • That’s right — Rick Santorum was seen lying on the beach without his shirt on. He would have worn sunscreen, but he’s not really into protection.

Jimmy Kimmel

  • Some top Republicans are urging Newt Gingrich to leave the race, but he says he’s sticking around. If they could get him to marry the race, he would probably leave it eventually.
  • This Wednesday Mitt Romney goes one-on-one in a debate against the one man who stands in the way of his nomination: Mitt Romney.
  • Rick Santorum wants to crack down on pornography. Most political analysts say it could hurt him with the “every single man in America” vote.

If you find these one-liners amusing, you can enjoy previous editions by clicking here, here, hereherehereherehereherehereherehere, and here.

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A few days ago, I wrote about Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, which lists the “enumerated powers” of the federal government. That post included a reference to Wickard v. Filburn, an infamous Supreme Court case that opened the door to unlimited intervention from Washington.

Why was this case important? As is so often the case, Sowell’s analysis is a model of clarity and common sense.

Thomas Sowell

Roscoe Filburn was an Ohio farmer who grew some wheat to feed his family and some farm animals. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined him for growing more wheat than he was allowed to grow under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, which was passed under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. Filburn pointed out that his wheat wasn’t sold, so that it didn’t enter any commerce, interstate or otherwise. Therefore the federal government had no right to tell him how much wheat he grew on his own farm, and which never left his farm. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that all powers not explicitly given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people. So you might think that Filburn was right. But the Supreme Court said otherwise. Even though the wheat on Filburn’s farm never entered the market, just the fact that “it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market” meant that it affected interstate commerce. So did the fact that the home-grown wheat could potentially enter the market. The implications of this kind of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal government could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect on interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment’s limitations on the powers of the federal government virtually disappeared.

So why was this case such a disaster? Sowell continues.

The implications of this kind of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal government could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect on interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment’s limitations on the powers of the federal government virtually disappeared. Over the years, “interstate commerce” became magic words to justify almost any expansion of the federal government’s power, in defiance of the Tenth Amendment. That is what the Obama administration is depending on to get today’s Supreme Court to uphold its power to tell people that they have to buy the particular health insurance specified by the federal government.

Sowell identifies the bottom line.

The power to regulate indirect effects is not a slippery slope. It is the disastrous loss of freedom that lies at the bottom of a slippery slope.

Many people have identified Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed the racist imposition of separate-but-equal policies, as one of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.

They’re right, but Wickard v. Filburn deserves a place on that list as well, only it enabled statism rather than racism.

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There are several semi-permanent fiscal policy fights in Washington, most of which somehow are related to the big issue of whether government should be bigger or smaller.

Today, I want to focus on two of those battles, and point to developments in Japan to make the case that the left is wrong.

First, let’s look at a couple of sentences from a Wall Street Journal story about Japanese fiscal policy.

Top officials from Japan’s government and ruling party formally endorsed a revised bill to double the country’s sales tax, despite strong objections from other party members, in a sign of their determination to rein in the nation’s soaring public debt. …The legislation will double the current 5% sales tax in two stages by 2015 as a way to help pay for the nation’s growing social welfare costs as the population ages.

I realize I’m a strange person and I look at everything through a libertarian lens, but I think this story provides strong support for my viewpoint on two important issues.

1. Higher taxes lead to higher spending – Just like in the United States, politicians in Japan claim that they have to raise taxes to deal with deficits and debt. Indeed, the excerpt above includes that assertion, reporting that the VAT increase would be “to rein in the nation’s soaring debt.”

I think this is nonsense. Politicians are motivated by a desire to finance bigger government. And that’s what’s happening in Japan. Later in the article, we see that the real purpose of the tax hike is to “pay for the nation’s growing social welfare costs.”

2. The VAT is a money machine for big government – I’ve cited the European evidence to show that small VATs become big VATs in part because it is a hidden tax. My statist friends often respond by saying I need to look at Japan, Canada, and Australia, where VATs haven’t been increased. I then respond by saying it’s just a matter of time. So, even though I would like to be wrong, Japan is confirming my fears.

That being said, I must acknowledge the possibility that Canada and Australia may prove me wrong. And I will be happy if that’s what happens. Both nations have done a pretty good job of restraining the growth of government (see Table 25 of this OECD data), and I don’t see any immediate threat of VAT hikes. But I’m not holding my breath for what happens 10 years from now.

Last but not least, I’ve decided the title of this post is inaccurate. The left isn’t wrong. They know the higher taxes lead to higher spending, and they know the VAT is a money machine for big government. They just don’t publicly admit these are the results they want.

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My daily email containing the editorials and opinion columns from the Washington Post included an item written by E.J. Dionne entitled “Supreme Court activists: Conservative justices forget we’re a democracy.”

Surely this was a mistake.

I suspect he does understand, at least with regard to the first question. For instance, I’d bet a lot of money that he was correctly in favor of the Court’s decision to protect flag burning as a form of political speech, notwithstanding public opinion and congressional approval.

But he seems to join with other leftists in treating the interstate commerce clause as some sort of blank check for federal intervention into every aspect of our lives. And it shows up in various ways in his column.

…conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature…discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell… Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship. …This is what conservative justices will do if they strike down or cripple the health-care law. …a court that…sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws.

At the risk of being blunt, the conservative justices are doing exactly what they should be doing. They’re deciding if a law enacted by Congress is consistent with the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution.

America has a democratic form of government, but we are not a democracy. At least not in the sense that 51 percent of the people have the unlimited right to rape and pillage 49 percent of the people.

I have no idea of the Supreme Court will make the right decision, but I am overwhelmingly confident that the Founding Fathers didn’t envision mandated health insurance as a function of the federal government.

But maybe I’m just too old fashioned, because when I peruse the enumerated powers, I don’t see any authority for a Department of Energy either. Or a Department of Agriculture. Or a Department of Commerce. Or Department of Housing and Urban Development. Or Department of Education. Or a Department of Transportation. Or…well, you get the idea.

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Illinois is a hopeless state, filled with greedy bureaucrats and senseless politicians. Not surprisingly, it’s also a state that prosecutes people who try to protect themselves from criminals.

Here’s part of a story from the Chicago Tribune, featuring an elderly army veteran who was arrested for shooting a burglar.

An 80-year-old tavern owner in Englewood believes it’s “unjust” that he is facing charges after shooting a burglar, but believes he will prevail in court. “It’s wrong,” Homer “Tank” Wright said as he walked into his bar after being released from jail this afternoon. “Unjust that I can’t protect me.” Awakened by his 75-year-old wife, Wright confronted a 19-year-old burglar who had broken through some plywood over a bathroom window in hopes of stealing liquor, according to police. Wright grabbed his 38.caliber pistol, loaded with four rounds, and shot the intruder in the leg. The suspect was arrested — but so was Wright. …Wright said his bar has been broken into four to six times, and he and his wife had started staying overnight at the property to protect it. “This is our living,” he said, adding that he has had triple bypass surgery. “I’m going to be here. I’m not leaving. This is where I’m planning to stay.”

Fortunately, this isn’t like the Trayvon Martin case since both Mr. Wright and the thug are black. So without the distraction of race, we can focus on the genuine injustice of the government making it difficult for innocent people to fight back against crime.

Mr. Wright’s family understands the real issue.

Several of Wright’s relatives cheered in the gallery after the judge ordered him released, drawing a rebuke from deputies. After the hearing, Wright’s grandson Courtney Cook said his grandfather has the right to protect his home and the tavern he has run for 40 years. “You have to look at what’s right and what’s wrong in that situation,” he said. “He’s supposed to protect his home and his family. I mean, you know, is he supposed to be the victim? I mean, you know, just let it keep happening? If it’s going to keep happening, then where’s the law? What good is the law?”

Mr. Wright’s neighbors also have the right attitude.

On his South Side block, Wright is known as a hard-working neighbor who runs a bar that has become a neighborhood institution. Known as “Tank,” Wright has operated the bar next to his home for more than 40 years, neighbors said. …Anita Dominique, head of the block club in the neighborhood, said she has known Wright for more than 30 years. “He is a pillar of our community,” she said. “What does it say to me and other senior citizens that we will be arrested if we defend ourselves?” Neighbors held a news conference this morning to call on prosecutors to drop the charges. “If a man can’t defend himself from harm, what can he do?” asked Darryl Smith. “If he hadn’t defended himself, we would be here for a different reason — because an intruder came in and killed him. “We’re outraged as a community and we’re calling for the state’s attorney’s office to drop the charges,” he added. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

By the way, I’m mocking Illinois, but New York City is equally foolish about penalizing victims.

And you will be flabbergasted by this example of anti-gun zealotry in England.

It’s ironic, in an outrageous way, that the government punishes people for protecting their lives and property, when such actions are only necessary because the government is failing to fulfill one of its few legitimate responsibilities.

This is why I recommend you share this Cato Institute study showing how private guns are frequently used to thwart criminals.

P.S. I suspect these two anecdotes/stories are urban legends, but this interview with a general and this letter-to-the-editor are very much worth reading…and sharing.

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I’ve recently become a fan of Lisa Benson’s cartoons (see here, here and here), and this may be her best piece of work.

My only quibble is that there should be an elephant somewhere on the wagon since Schwarzenegger also was a big spender.

I’m also a big fan of the work of Michael Ramirez work (see here, hereherehere,here, and here), and he has a new cartoon about Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare reform.

What makes this cartoon especially biting is that Ryan’s current plan isn’t quite as good as the one he proposed last year, but that isn’t stopping demagogues from complaining.

Which raises a good issue. If you’re going to be viciously demagogued regardless of whether you solve 5 percent of a problem or 100 percent of a problem, why not go all the way?

Maybe I’ll call this “Mitchell’s Don’t-Cross-a-Canyon-in-Two-Leaps Principle,” to complement “Mitchell’s Law” and “Mitchell’s Golden Rule.”

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