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Archive for April, 2010

Drug Czar Supports More of the Same                                                        

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), a nonprofit organization of scientists, health care practitioners, and academics based in Canada and Britain, released a report this week that found that when government cracks down on the drug trade the result is an increase in violence.  The group reviewed over 300 international studies from the last 20 twenty years.  87 percent of the studies reviewed show a direct correlation between intensified drug law enforcement and drug market violence. 

Of course, this should come as no surprise since even without scientific literature anyone can point to examples from history.  The largest lesson to be learned from the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s was that when government bans a demanded commodity consumers will find a way to get it and suppliers will find a way to supply it – unfortunately more often than not through the use of violence.  Thus, prohibition was a boom to organized crime in the 1920s as its profits soared and crime rates rose.  Similarly, the Drug War in the United States has had few if any victories in regards to reducing drug use and violence on our streets continues to be its biggest shortcoming.  Finally, the current Drug War in Mexico has been a catastrophe for that country.  There have been massive increases in gun violence, beheadings, and kidnappings since Felipe Calderon started the crusade.  Close to 23,000 deaths are attributed to the intensified drug law enforcement.  Worst yet, Mexico’s Drug War no longer threatens to spill over into our country, it is already here.

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Article first published as Drug Czar Supports More of the Same on Blogcritics.org

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

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As Usual, Government Regulation as Political Payoff

I heard the president’s speech at Cooper Union College today and thought it was quite bizarre that he would criticize Wall Street for bad behavior when Washington is currently running our national debt through the roof and the policies that emanated from there in the last ten years caused our current financial crisis.  The old adage about those that live in glass houses and stone throwing immediately came to mind.  But, the president really believes that the financial crisis we still find ourselves in despite trillions of dollars in Keynesian spending is somebody else’s fault.  In fact, he indicated that, “…the system as it stands is what led to a series of massive, costly, taxpayer bailouts.”  And I thought it was Mr. Obama and his big government colleagues in the Congress who voted unconstitutionally to give away our money to the greedy, misbehaving banks.

Now, the president’s bizarre remarks are one thing, but the financial regulation bill before the Senate is even more bizarre.  Crafted by Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the bill will do nothing to fix the real causes of the financial crisis. In actuality, the bill amounts to nothing more than a political payoff for Dodd’s benefactors on Wall Street.  And this should come as no surprise since Dodd’s donor list reads like a who’s who of the financial services sector.        

First of all, Dodd’s bill does nothing to address the primary culprit of the financial crisis – the Federal Reserve.  Yes, consumers took out mortgages they could not afford and loan officers falsified applications knowing that they would collect their commissions long before the bad loans defaulted on a bigger institution up the line.  But the Fed supplied the poison for it all to happen – easy money.  After 911, Alan Greenspan’s Fed kept interest rates artificially low at 1 percent for three years.  This encouraged a mortgage craze as trillions of dollars were borrowed.  It was a government sponsored get rich quick scheme as many housing investors bought homes with low teaser rates and no money down.  You know the rest of the story – homeowners leveraged their homes to the max, rates adjusted up and the bubble burst when many folks could no longer afford their payments.  To add insult to injury, the Fed came to the rescue of financial institutions, even foreign ones, at the expense of taxpayers.  Make no mistake about it, the Federal Reserve exists for the profit making of banks alone.  It was established by bankers; it is run by bankers; it allows banks to inflate dollars through fractional reserve banking; and it is there for them when they need a few dollars to keep the charade going.  No other industry has a full government agency to support its shady dealings like the banking industry.  Dodd’s bill, by ignoring the Fed’s culpability in the crisis, has no chance of preventing financial calamities in the future.  Additionally, it only benefits the big banks since their benefactor, the Fed, will continue to operate unencumbered by any new regulations or oversight.

If ignoring the Fed’s role in the financial crisis is not bad enough, Dodd’s bill also institutionalizes “too big to fail” bailouts.  It should be pointed out that a major rationale of financial reform is to ensure that taxpayers never again get stuck with bailing out firms that are too crucial to our economy to fail.  Well, Section 113 of the bill provides for a “Financial Stability Oversight Council” which would identify distressed firms whose failure would “pose a threat to the financial security of the United States…”  Section 210(n)(1) establishes an “Orderly Resolution Fund” within the U.S. Treasury that would provide $50 billion in bailout money funded by taxes on financial firms.  Of course, ultimately those taxes would come from consumers in the form of higher bank fees.  These two sections of the bill essentially provide implicit guarantees from the government against failure for big banks.  They extend the life of the moral hazards that we have become too familiar with.  In the end, they will encourage big banks to continue to take undue risks which will once again put taxpayers in harm’s way.  These sections of Dodd’s bill will not prevent future financial crises.  On the contrary, they only benefit big banks by allowing them to risk everything with the knowledge that taxpayers will be there to pony up bailout funds for them.

Since 1989, Chris Dodd has received over $12             million in campaign contributions from the financial services industry.  They own him and this bill proves it.  On the other hand, the president is yet to embrace Dodd’s bill.  In his speech at Cooper Union he said to financial firms, “I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort.”  If he chooses Dodd’s bill to reform the financial industry he probably won’t get much of a fight from Wall Street.

       

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

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In the Antelope Valley, on April 15th of 2010, there were two tea parties.  They were at different locations and had different organizers.

It is hard to say if either of them were successful.

The first was a demonstration in a parking lot at a busy intersection.  People held signs and waved banners.  Observers honked their horns in encouragement as they went by.  Due to all the good cheer it was considered a resounding success.

The second was a table at the post office that had after-hours service.  A patron could go into the post office and buy a dated stamp that, since it had the date, guaranteed your income tax forms were mailed before midnight even though there were no postal employees there.

At the table, a very small group of people handed out reading material to the people in the very long line.  This material included the Libertarian Party’s Cut Taxes brochure, stuffed with political quizzes and with the Obama 1040 for entertainment value.

We had over 200 pamphlets, and we handed out all of them.  People read them in line, and took them home as well.  We actually got information into peoples’ hands.

The protest ran from about 7 pm to 10 pm when we ran out of materials.

We were also very helpful to those who didn’t know what was going on.  We explained about the date-stamps, why people were waiting in line, about how if you simply dropped your mail in the box then it would be post-marked the next day.  People were really appreciative of our help.  It is somewhat ironic that we were helping people file their taxes on time, but it made a big difference to the people involved.

While nobody honked their horns at us, it was from our point of view a success, perhaps more of one than the larger rally that accomplished nothing.  Lesson learned?  If you want a Tea Party to mean something, and you know that the announced parties are Astroturf, go ahead and do your own Tea Party.

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Why the Constitution Matters in Military Affairs                                    

Week after week it’s easy for me to blog with compelling arguments that most things Congress does is unconstitutional.  But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Partiers, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional?  That document is outdated and irrelevant.  These are modern times with issues unimaginable to the Founders.  Nonsense, the eternal truths contained in the U.S. Constitution are as relevant today as they were in the 1700s.

Take making war for instance.  Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war.  In that same section, Congress has the power to finance the endeavor.  Since the end of World War II, the clause pertaining to declaring war in the Constitution, like many others, has been almost totally ignored by both the Congress and president.  Additionally, Congress has rarely if ever invoked its power to restrain presidential power by controlling the purse strings of the military during times of war.  The consequences have been horrendous. 

In the 1960s and 1970s it led to an 11 year war in Southeast Asia.  Instead of a declaration of war the military action was justified on the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed in 1964.  The resolution gave President Johnson the authorization to do whatever was necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”   This vague and open ended wording led to much criticism of the president and his Secretary of Defense over how they conducted the war.  Specifically, President Nixon’s expanding of it to include the bombing of Cambodia made an already unpopular war almost an event that tore the country in two.  It also led to over 50,000 American and countless Southeast Asian lives being lost.  The conflict ended in defeat for the U.S. and spending for the war caused high inflation which hurt American households, facilitated our manufacturing base to move overseas, and eventually brought on problems like the Savings and Loan crisis.

In current times we find ourselves mired in two conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To be sure, Congress did not declare war in either circumstance.  For Afghanistan, it passed a resolution authorizing the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.  For Iraq, the resolution authorized the president to use the Armed Forces of the United States “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

It seems like Washington never learns from its mistakes.  Again, loosely worded resolutions instead of firm declarations with a narrow objective allowed President Bush to abuse his powers by spying on Americans, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, and expand the bombing to include other countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, namely Pakistan.  In addition to over 1 million Iraqi and Afghani deaths from the main theaters of war, 1 in 3 people killed in the expanded bombings of Pakistan have been civilians. 

Because Washington has not followed the eternal truth that war should be entered into and conducted carefully, our government is primarily responsible for the destabilization of the Middle East.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that because of the threats of invasion that came from the previous administration and with American military might all around it Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  Even though Saddam was a vile and ruthless tyrant his Iraq acted as a counterweight to Iran.  Today, Iraq is in chaos and if U.S. forces do ever leave it will be ripe for a takeover by Islamic extremists.

A Republican Congress unfortunately did not deny George W. Bush the ability to launch an unjust war on Iraq based on lies, misinformation and his desire to avenge Saddam Hussein for allegedly sending a hit squad to assassinate his father.  One man made the decision to start the war in which Americans would die and hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent.  This was not the intent of the Founders who were wise enough to give the powers of declaring wars and financing them to the Congress.  The Founders gave them to Congress because it is a deliberative body that represents the many viewpoints of Americans.  These viewpoints, like in the enactment of laws, place a check and balance on the solitary power of the president.  Congress has abdicated this constitutional power and consequently has propped up an imperial presidency – something the Founders, other than Hamilton and Adams, would have vehemently rebelled against.

In 2006 the Democrats took back control of Congress with a pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For a time there was hope that they would restore the constitutional balance of power in war making. They simply could have done this by cutting funding for the wars.  But instead, Congress continues to finance the wars and in fact has gone along with President Obama’s wishes to continue funding bombings in Pakistan and to escalate the war in Afghanistan – so much for the hope that Congress would exert control over the powers granted to it and rein in the powers usurped by the president.

Wars are costly both in terms of human life and monetary expense.  Unless an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Congress must retain its constitutional power to declare war and use its authority over funding it to limit the president’s actions.  By not following these constitutional mandates we have become a militaristic society almost constantly at war in adventures far beyond what the Founders envisioned.  This has caused a drain on our families, our finances, and our country’s reputation in the world.  Fortunately, many Americans are finally waking up to this reality.      

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

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Obamacare is Unconstitutional – Part 2

So, let’s see, towards the end of last year both houses of Congress passed a form of health care reform despite close to sixty percent of Americans being opposed to both bills.  A few weeks later, the usually liberal voters of Massachusetts in a true sign that the polls were not lying about America’s opposition to Obamacare, essentially replaced the late Godfather of the Socialized Medicine Movement in America Ted Kennedy with a candidate that vowed to defeat the president’s far-left scheme for health care.  Scott Brown’s victory took away the Democrats’ 60th seat in the Senate thus rendering them impotent in overcoming a Republican filibuster that would certainly have been employed to derail Pelosi, Reid, and Obama’s dream of European style health care in the U.S.  There was utter panic in Washington.  Schemes were devised to thwart the will of the people and those evil Republican fat-cats.  We heard talk of deem and scheme and reconciliation being used to circumvent the Constitutional mandate of an up or down vote.  Eventually, Nancy Pelosi devised a way for the House to approve the Senate bill with amendments that the Senate could vote on through reconciliation sparing them the need for 60 votes to end debate.

It seemed the Democrats were able to do the impossible – pass an unpopular bill that has eluded them for close to 100 years without any Republican support and 22 Democratic defectors.  And they did it without even violating the Constitution.  Ah, but not so fast.  Article 1 Section 7 of the Constitution reads, “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”  The Senate bill which has revenue raising provisions in it, namely a new Medicare payroll tax, an excise tax on “Cadillac insurance plans, and a tanning tax, did not originate in the House as the Constitution requires.  Thus, Obamacare is unconstitutional.  Those compassionate politicians really ought to read the fine print before they do us anymore favors.

Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that any court would invalidate the new health care legislation based on the above Constitutional violation.  That is where we find ourselves in 21st Century America – with a federal government that would rather pull a fast one than live by the rule of law.  As I have argued earlier and will argue again here the whole piece of legislation that has come to be called Obamacare is unconstitutional on many levels.  Under Article 1 Section 8 health care or anything close is not one of the enumerated powers of Congress.   Anything that is not an enumerated power of Congress is left to the states under the 10th Amendment.

Of course, liberal interpreters of the Constitution always ignore what they don’t like and cite those clauses that they say gives Congress the ability to do whatever.  For the sake of not being redundant, we will move on from our discussion of the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” clauses that we had last week and instead focus on a another clause big government types like to misinterpret – the interstate commerce clause.

This clause also found in Article 1 Section 8 simply says, the Congress shall have power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes…” It was included in the Constitution in reaction to the failure of the Articles of Confederation in preventing states from erecting protectionist trade barriers against each other.  Essentially, the clause gave Congress the power to ensure a free trade zone between all the states.  No less than the Father of the Constitution, James Madison confirmed this in an 1829 correspondence with Virginia politician Joseph C. Cabell,

“Yet it is very certain that it grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing       States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government, in which alone, however, the remedial power could be lodged.”

The interstate commerce clause did not give Congress the power to enact minimum wage laws, worker safety regulations, Social Security, health care legislation, or the thousands of other statues Congress has enacted through the years.  As a matter of fact, Madison also confirmed this in Federalist Paper 45,

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are    few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

The above text blows a huge hole in the argument of statists that the Constitution is a liberal document that gives wide discretion to Congress to provide for us from cradle to grave.  According to Madison, whose fingerprints are all over the document, no far-reaching powers were ever given to Congress.  In essence, Congress was given jurisdiction over “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce” while the states had jurisdiction over “the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”  Under this definition, health care falls under the domain of the states.  Of course, that is where it has been until Obamacare.

I understand that through the history of this country the Congress has taken great liberties (no pun intended) with regard to passing unconstitutional acts and the Supreme Court has let it.  But, Congress has never required Americans to buy a product or service from a private provider.  The Court must strike this provision of Obamacare down otherwise Congress’ power would become virtually limitless.  Getting away with violating Article 1 Section 7 is bad enough, but if the Court allows Congress to get away with forcing Americans to purchase a product ultimately at the end of a gun barrel, then we are further along the road to a fascist state then I even imagined.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

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