Oct 19 2012
Aug 31 2012
The really remarkable thing about President Obama’s rhetoric about the economy in this election season is just how little it has changed since 2010. Those who expected new ideas from this administration for getting the economy back on track must have been sorely disappointed, as the widely-anticipated “reset” on economic issues has really just been a “repeat.” Once again, he’s trotting out the same old strawmen and warmed over policies he has pounded relentlessly for the last three and a half years: he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, Republicans have stymied the recovery by refusing all compromise, and the only way we will remain competitive in the world economy is by “investing” in things like education, renewable “green” energy, and infrastructure development.
This “investment” angle has become so repetitive it’s easy just to ignore.
But what does it really mean?
When the president says he wants to invest in education, what, exactly does he want to invest in it?
It can’t simply be better education results, because 40 years of soaring costs for public education have already failed to do that. Since 1970, the per-pupil cost of a K – 12 education has exploded from about $55,000 to about $150,000 in real, inflation-adjusted terms. Yet math and reading scores have stagnated, and science scores have actually declined.
Surely, President Obama cannot believe that “investing more in education and training” and “recruiting an army of new teachers” in math and science constitutes new and innovative education policy. We’ve been trying it for decades, and despite hiring 3 million more teachers and spending $210 billion more per year on public education, taxpayers have nothing to show for it.
If taxpayers and students have not benefited from all this public largesse, who has? Teachers unions, of course, who are – not coincidentally – one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful constituencies and the single biggest obstacle to education reform in America today, continually sacrificing the interests of public school students to permanent job security and pay hikes for teachers.
When the president talks about investing in “education,” what he means is giving more money to the teachers unions in order to solidify their political efforts on his behalf.
The same goes for the other abstract nouns in which the president constantly demands more “investment.”
“Clean energy?” We’ve been “investing” in that for years. And what is the return on that investment? Solyndra, a company whose failure cost taxpayers $528 million in Department of Energy loan guarantees. A123 Systems, a recipient of $279 million in energy grants, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. First Solar, having procured $1.46 billion in loan guarantees, announced layoffs of over 2000 employees over the last several months. Dozens more “clean” energy companies are filing for bankruptcy or laying off thousands of workers after receiving federal funds. Is this “investment” producing better energy resources, or economic growth?
But, as with the teachers unions, subsidized green energy executives do produce lots of campaign contributions.
Time and again, when the president says “investment,” he doesn’t simply mean spending – he means a redistribution of wealth from successful individuals and businesses to those who support his liberal agenda.
The president compares his “investment” vision to the successes of Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers. But none of them needed a government handout to invent the light bulb or the airplane. Government “investments” invariably go not to the people with the most promising innovations, but those with the best political connections. Politicians – of both parties – use the “investment” rhetoric to paper over payoffs to their friends and benefactors. It’s both immoral and inefficient.
But for Obama, this spending is a matter of faith. “I don’t believe,” he asserted, “that a tax cut is more likely to create jobs than providing loans to new entrepreneurs or tax credits to small business owners who hire veterans. I don’t believe it’s more likely to spur economic growth than investments in clean energy technology and medical research, or in new roads and bridges and runways.”
If we are to take his rhetoric seriously, the president clearly believes that the way to get our floundering economy moving again is not to let employers keep more of the money they themselves created, but to tax them and spread the wealth around to special interests like teachers unions, labor bosses, and well-connected firms like Solyndra that embody the correct leftist policies.
Call it a boondoggle. Call it crony capitalism. Call it corporate welfare. But let’s stop calling this “investment.”
Mike Lee is a U.S. Senator from Utah and a member of the Joint Economic Committee
Jul 24 2012
Jul 02 2012
This morning the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But I believe it will ultimately prove to be a hollow and short-lived victory for the health care law.
I believe it will prove hollow because the Supreme Court was able to find the individual mandate constitutional only through a series of extraordinary logical gymnastics that led the Court to conclude that the mandate is actually a tax. But, of course, members of Congress did not vote to pass the ACA as a tax. Nor did the American people understand it to be a tax. Indeed, President Obama himself flatly stated that the individual mandate “is absolutely not a tax increase”—that “nobody” considers it a tax.
As Justice Kennedy noted in his dissent, “[i]mposing a tax through judicial legislation inverts the constitutional scheme, and places the power to tax in the branch of government least accountable to the citizenry.” There is simply no way that the ACA would have become law had the American public and their representatives understood it as a tax.
As a result, I believe the practical effect of today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the mandate will be short-lived. As numerous public opinion polls confirm, the majority of citizens already oppose the individual mandate. As more Americans come to understand the individual mandate as a middle-class tax hike, it will only become more unpopular. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, at least 75 percent of the penalties or “taxes” imposed by the individual mandate will fall on hard-working Americans who make less than $250,000. In making choices at the ballot box this November, I believe the American people simply will not stand for the ACA to remain the law of the land.
When we look back at today’s decision in the coming months and years, it may ultimately be regarded less as a victory for the Affordable Care Act and instead as an important recognition and validation of the freedoms protected by our constitutional structure. The Court’s decision today upheld the individual mandate as a tax, but it also validated fundamental principles of limited government and federalism.
A majority of the justices rightfully concluded that Congress had exceeded its regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause by attempting to impose the individual mandate as a government directive. As Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion explained, “The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. . . . Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. . . . That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.”
In so holding, the majority opinion expressly embraced the limiting implications of the distinction between activity and inactivity, put forward by critics of the Act. The Court noted that although its Commerce Clause jurisprudence throughout much of the last century had been notoriously expansive, even at its most expansive in cases like Wickard v. Filburn, it had always limited Congress to regulating preexisting activity. The ACA, by contrast, impermissibly attempted to reach inactivity. The Court refused to countenance such limitless congressional regulatory power.
Today’s ruling also includes an important precedent upholding the right of the States not to be coerced into administering federal regulatory programs. The Court held that the manner in which the ACA sought to expand Medicaid violates the Constitution and our nation’s system of federalism. The federal government may not bully the States into expanding Medicaid coverage by threatening to take away all preexisting Medicaid funding. As the federal government increasingly attempts to circumvent the Constitution by coercing States through funding threats, this aspect of the Court’s opinion may prove to have enormous significance.
For now, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA’s individual mandate as a tax puts the call to action squarely back on the people’s elected leaders in Congress. As the majority opinion reminded, the Court “possesses neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them.”
Without a single Republican vote, Congress enacted an intrusive and burdensome mandate on the American people—a mandate that is hugely unpopular and has the potential to do our country great harm. The individual mandate violates basic American freedoms and personal liberty in a way no Congress had before attempted in the 225 year-history of our Republic.
With a new administration and new leadership in Congress, we can repeal the ACA and restore individual liberty to all Americans.Click here to read article as originally published in the National Review