Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Time to Pick a High Court Fight

It is unclear whether the Left realizes just how bad Justice Stevens’ timing was when he announced his retirement last week. Given the Democratic Party’s increasingly precarious prospects for the November elections, the very last thing it wants or needs is a summer long, partisan fight over a liberal Supreme Court nominee. Therefore, that is exactly what conservatives should give them.

The high court is losing its most liberal member at a time when modern liberalism is increasingly unpopular with the American electorate. President Obama will feel compelled to replace Stevens with an equally progressive, equally activist judge. Otherwise, he would risk moving the court to the right--something his base would never stand for.

Stevens will likely be replaced by someone who is very liberal and liberalism is very unpopular. Conditions are perfect for the G.O.P and the Tea-Parties’ opposition to whomever Obama nominates to resonate with the public.

Senate Republicans made acted wisely when they held their fire and went easy on Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation process. At that point, the President was still relatively popular and the Democratic Party had yet to be mortally weakened by the health care debate. Not having the numbers to mount a filibuster, the Senate G.O.P. kept its powder dry. This gives Republicans added credibility when it goes after Obama’s next pick. And they should not hesitate to do so vigorously.

In ramming through health care, Democrats showed the country that they were willing to change all of the rules in order to get their unpopular bill passed. Terms such as “reconciliation” and “deem & pass” have become well-known and infamous additions to the political lexicon. Along with the shady deals which were made in full view of the American people, these acts of legislative arrogance proved that the Democrats have nothing but contempt for the public’s desire for bipartisanship and a government which at the very least attempts to hide its backroom shenanigans from the inconvenient stare of the public.

It is predictable that Democrats will cry “obstructionism” if the G.O.P. flouts tradition by filibustering a Supreme Court nominee. But these accusations are likely to be viewed as the height of hypocrisy by a country still smarting from being ignored by Democrats during the health care debate. The Democrats don’t have a leg to stand on.

Obama’s efforts to sell the still deeply unpopular health care overhaul have fallen on deaf ears, further complicating things for the Democrats. It now appears that the Democrats want to change the subject as soon as possible. A battle over a new Supreme Court justice actually prevents them from doing so.

Instead of a debate about over abortion--the focus of past high court confirmation battles--the upcoming Senate smackdown will inevitably turn on the nominee’s views on the constitutionality of Obama’s health care mandate, which forces Americans to buy health insurance from private entities.

Thus far Democrats have explained away concerns over the legality of the mandate with vague references to the Commerce Clause. Yet, to this point, no Democrat has adequately explained how the Commerce Clause permits the government to force Americans to buy a good or service from a private party. Senate Republicans must make sure that Obama’s nominee is not able to worm his or her way out of answering this question. Making this the focus of the hearing and a prominent topic of the national conversation ensures that voters are continuously reminded of the health care fiasco that took place over the last year. Stretching this conversation out until the fall will benefit us immensely.

Oh, that pesky Constitution. Always getting in the way of the Left’s never-ending crusade for government-administered social justice. This poses yet another problem for Obama’s pick. Like Stevens, Obama’s selection for the court is likely to fit the mold of every other Democratic high court nominee of the last 30 years--an activist judge who believes that the Constitution is not to be taken literally, but is instead a “living” document, the language of which can be manipulated in order to justify just about any policy which that judge deems to be a moral imperative.

It’s unclear whether Obama has noticed or not, but right now the Constitution is experiencing a renaissance among conservative and independent voters. They kind of want their elected leaders to, you know, follow it.

Liberals may think the founding document is outdated and flawed, but if conservatives are successful in making the upcoming hearings about the relevance of the founders’ wishes and can turn the public’s attention to how 220 year old intentions conflict with Obamacare, the Democrats are going to pay a huge price.

There was a time when a great deal of deference was given to the president in the naming of Supreme Court judges. In a less partisan era, it was widely believed that the founders intended the Senate to base its decision to confirm or oppose a nominee on a judge’s competence and knowledge of the law. Then, Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden changed everything by opposing the nomination of the eminently qualified Robert Bork, solely on ideological grounds. In recent years, the Left has continued this strategy, putting strict constructionist judges through a vicious ideological and, at times, personal wringer in hopes of destroying their credibility.

By changing the standards by which judges are judged, the Left believed they were ensuring the continuation of progressive judicial activism and thus, the modern liberal agenda for generations to come. However, they are about to get a comeuppance for their agenda driven behavior.

In the end, Obama will probably get his pick through as we know that Harry Reid will not hesitate to go nuclear if he’s not getting his way. But that’s not the point of this upcoming exercise.

While it should sadden conservatives to accept that the standard by which the Senate approves judges has unalterably diverged from the intention of the founders, the benefits of putting up a protracted fight in this instance, both politically and for the sake of the Constitution, should not be shied away from. Given the anti-progressive mood of the country and the fact that even the confirmation of a far-left jurist will not change the balance of power on the court, this appears to be a no-lose situation for the conservative movement.

- Dan Joseph

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Preempting the V.A.T.

On Tuesday, Obama economic advisor Paul Volcker confirmed what many conservatives have assumed for months--Democrats are considering the implementation of a national sales tax in order to pay for the massive amounts of money that they have added to the debt since Obama took office. This national sales tax, known to economists as the “Value Added Tax” or V.A.T, would apply to every American and would be added to the amount we pay for almost every product we buy. The tax would be higher for some types of items than for others, but all in all it would hit middle and lower class Americans the hardest, diminishing their already limited buying power.

Now, let’s not dwell on the fact that putting such a tax in place would be a complete reversal of Barack Obama’s oft-repeated campaign promise that he would not raise taxes on anyone making over $200,000 a year. By now we should all know that this president’s promises are worth about as much as the promises that Tiger Woods makes to adult film stars.

Nor should we assume that those who continue to support this president are going to begin questioning why such a tax is warranted. In a sane world, you’d think this group would be among the first to question the V.A.T.’s necessity. After all, Obama's base seems to be the only group that believes that Obamacare is actually “deficit neutral” and that the $787 billion stimulus package is well on its way to bringing about a return to 5% unemployment and a sustained period of robust economic growth. Why would people who see such a bright and prosperous future think that a something as drastic as a V.A.T was needed? But analytical thinking was never the Obamabot's strong suit. Alas,convincing these dedicated Obama devotees to go against the president is hopeless. Obama’s core supporters are split into two groups. Those who truly believe that turning the U.S. into a European-style, social welfare state is a good thing and those who don’t pay any attention and are simply waiting for their share of Obama’s “stash” to show up in their mailbox. Both are a lost cause.

However, there remains a large group of independent voters who are still in the process of forming their initial opinion about President Obama. This group may not have been able to fully grasp the complexities of the health care reform debate, but they will sure as hell understand what a national sales tax will do to their pocketbooks. My guess is that they are not going to like it one bit.

This morning the possibility of a federal V.A.T was the primary focus of conservative radio talkers. Conservative hosts should keep the focus on this new tax for the next few months. Make sure the base knows everything about it--how it will be implemented, its negative effects on the economy and its regressive nature. Conservative talk radio and Fox News were instrumental in ensuring that the conservative base knew far more about the details and consequences of Obamacare than did our liberal opponents. This information trickled down the pipeline to moderates and independents and they quickly turned against the bill forcing Democrats to pass a wildly unpopular piece of legislation contrary to popular will. This act of hubris has threatened the Democrat’s congressional majorities and has hindered their ability to pass other items on their agenda. The same kind of education of the public should occur with the V.A.T and the conversation needs to begin right now.

Next, every Democrat who is running for office this year should be endlessly challenged by their opponents and the conservative media on the subject of the V.A.T and it should be demanded that they go on record either in support or opposition to the tax. Between now and November, an effort must be made to force every single one of them to take a position. If House Blue Dogs and senators in tough races admit that they will support the tax or refuse to say that they will oppose it, G.O.P. candidates will have a huge cudgel with which to bludgeon them throughout the summer. (Note: I am not advocating the literal bludgeoning of Democrats.) By making the V.A.T part of the national conversation before it is even proposed, we can also force President Obama to address the issue publicly. If he backs off, great. If he admits that he’s considering it, even better. Bigger gains for us in November.

Finally, it is important that conservatives cut off the Democratic talking points at the knees before they have an opportunity to infect the weak-minded, “Yes We Can” crowd. When it comes to selling the V.A.T, the Obama administration and its congressional allies will almost certainly embrace a talking point in which they allude to the fact that a national sales tax is an idea that has been embraced in the past by conservatives. Conservatives must make sure that people understand that our side’s support for such a tax is conditioned on the V.A.T replacing the progressive income tax. We are adamantly opposed to it being levied in addition to the income tax as the Left wants to do.

If Obama and the Democrats had wanted to be honest about their plans, they would have proposed the V.A.T prior to the budget busting triumvirate of stimulus, omnibus and Obamacare. Instead, they plan to propose it after the fact and disingenuously warn the American people that our debt is going to become unsustainable without the new revenue source. The conservative response should be “tough luck.” We were unanimous in our opposition to these big spending programs and would be more than happy to defund them and repeal them, but otherwise our plan is to starve the beast. If we kill the V.A.T and Democrats go ahead with their reckless spending, 100% of the blame for the repercussions should be aimed at the Democrats. Such are the risks of partisanship and broken promises. Time to pay the piper.

The truth is that the implementation of a European-style national sales tax would most likely lead to European-style economic stagnation and unemployment. But that increasingly seems to be the Democrat’s long-term plan. It’s time to call their bluff. We need to make this summer the summer of the V.A.T in order to ensure that, regardless of the results of November’s elections, a national sales tax does not become a permanent revenue source that will, in all likelihood, just be frittered away by Congress anyway, leaving the debt at the same staggering heights that it has reached during Obama’s first year in office.

Last week, at a town hall meeting, a woman named Joyce Ravis echoed the thoughts of millions of Americans and told the president straight up:“We are over-taxed as it is.”
Obama responded with a 17 minute, 2500 word, rambling filibuster in which he talked about health care, Wal-Mart, roof repair, George W. Bush (of course), foreign aid and something about a janitor who cleans office buildings. Only once did he even come close to addressing Joyce’s major concern and he essentially brushed that off by saying

“I don't think this will affect you, but I don't know -- you know, I don't know your family's circumstances.”


If Obama was an honest politician, and most of us can now say with a great deal of certainty that he the antithesis of such a being, he could have trimmed his 2,500 word non-answer down to a 15 word straightforward response and said:

“If you think that your taxes are high now Joyce, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

-Dan Joseph

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