Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Center-Right and Federalism Gain in Italian Elections

The ruling center-right coalition made gains in regional elections held in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions this week. Candidates backed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held onto the two regions the center-right had, but wrested four major regions from the center-left coalition, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.

The results in Italy contrasted sharply with those in France, where the conservative ruling party of Nicholas Sarkozy suffered losses in regional elections. The Italian regional elections are seen as a referendum on Berlusconi’s performance, although turnout was low by Italian standards, with only two-thirds of the voters turning out to cast their ballots, ANSA reported. The center-right victory was particularly surprising in the central region of Latium, where, according to ANSA, the center-right list of candidates had missed a filing deadline, which precluded them from appearing on ballots in the province of Rome.

ANSA reports that the regional election results showed an increase for the Northern League party, an ally of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party. The devolutionist Northern League was founded in the 1990s by supporters of secession from Italy because of the economic disparity between the industrial North and agrarian South – a major economic and political divide in Italy. Significantly, the centre-right not only made gains in the North, but even in the South (in Campania and Calabria, where the ruling party has cracked down on organized crime), according to ANSA, because the Northern League has broadened its appeal by adopting a more federalist and less anti-Southern platform that appeals to Southern Italians who favor more regional autonomy.

This growing movement toward federalism in Italy is in contrast to the growing centralization within the Europe Union in its various forms, a topic which I shall address soon in another post.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anti-Monopoly Liberal “Progressives” Create a Student Loan Monopoly

Liberals, who nowadays prefer to call themselves “progressives,” share many beliefs with the Progressive movement of the turn of the Twentieth Century. One of the goals of the Progressive movement was to eliminate business monopolies. But the liberal “progressives” of today have created a new business monopoly themselves – a government one.

Today, United States President Barak Obama signed into law a bill that fixed the law which federalized health insurance that he had signed last week. Included among the new law’s provisions is one that also federalizes the student loan program. No private lender will be able to participate any longer in the program. The “progressives” have thus established a federal government monopoly for student loans.

The liberal “progressives” argue that the federalization of student loans eliminates the private middleman, which would lower costs. But it also means that the federal workforce will have to grow, at the loss of the private workforce, as lenders will no longer require the services of student loan specialists. Government overhead will also grow. With the growth of the federal government, there will be increased deficit spending, which will add to the rapidly growing federal debt.

Moreover, a government monopoly is as dangerous as a private one. It means that there will be no free market competition to keep prices (in this case, in the form of interest rates) down. The rates will be whatever the federal government wants them to be. Without the fear of a loss of business, there is also no incentive to save costs or to provide for good customer service. Indeed, bureaucrats are not known for innovation.

Conversely, federal politicians could make promises to lower student loan interest rates or to make riskier loans than private lenders would for political expedience – at the expense to the taxpayers. Students are now among the Americans who are being made by the Obama Administration and the liberal Democratic Congress to be increasingly more dependent on the federal government they control.

The liberal “progressives” would argue that a public entity is responsive to the will of a people in a representative republic, but a bureaucracy is less responsive to the people than a private business is to customers who can take their business somewhere else. It has become increasingly apparent that the liberal “progressives” believe ideologically in government control over the private sector, regardless of the economic consequences.

The takeover of major financial institutions by the Obama Administration and its predecessor was a cause of concern, although it was intended to be temporary. However, the federal takeover of half of the mortgage industry and two of the three major automobile makers (and the manner in which the latter was accomplished, whereby labor unions were favored over bondholders), the federalization of health insurance and now the takeover of the student loan industry are alarming. With more and more centralization of power in the federal government, there is less and less liberty for the states and the people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bunning’s Heroic Stand, and Update

Recently, Senator Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) objected to a $15 billion appropriations bill to extend unemployment compensation that was not offset by cuts in other spending, despite an act approved by Congress only the week before to require that all such spending be paid for.

One liberal Senator declared that Bunning’s principled stand demonstrated what is wrong with the Senate: that one liberal Democratic Senator can hold up people’s unemployment payments. What is wrong with the liberal-dominated Senate is that it gives away so much public money that it makes many Americans dependent on politicians. Americans’ economic well being should not depend upon the political process.

People were afraid of losing their benefits, even though no one – not even Bunning – was opposed to extending them. Thus, there was never a doubt that the benefits would be extended. The only source of fear came from liberal scare tactics, not conservative Senators.

This unemployment compensation debate is like the claims during every federal election by Democrats that the Republicans will cut or eliminate Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The Democrats fail to see that their scare tactics – although politically effective in the short term – undermine their intent of providing economic security for everyone by exposing the fact that no one is secure who depends upon politicians.

Bunning’s reasonable argument is that the debt created by appropriations that are not paid for undermines the economy by increasing the federal debt, which burdens future generations of Americans. Liberal Democrats, however, seized the political opportunity to villify Bunning as cruel. Joined by only a handful of other conservative Republican Senators, Bunning agreed to a compromise that allowed votes on whether to pay for the measure, but the Democrats had the votes to add to the debt in order to be seen as helping the poor, as if the debt does not harm the poorest the most.

Update: Another measure extending unemployment insurance and other spending provisions that were not offset with spending cuts was objected to by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was supported by a number of other Republican Senators, who were able to reach a bipartisan compromise with the Democratic leadership of the Senate to pay for it. However, the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives declined to agree. Today, Senate Democrats rejected the bipartisan compromise they had reached and decided to accept the House version, calling the measure “emergency spending,” meaning that it does not have to be paid for under budget rules.

Despite the vilification of Bunning, Senate Republicans are succeeding in raising public awareness of the increasing burden of debt and should continue to pressure Congressional Democrats to offset spending increases with spending cuts, as they promised to do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

House Impeaches Clinton-Appointed Judge

Thomas Porteous, a federal district judge who as appointed by United States President Bill Clinton in 1994, was impeached by the United States House of Representatives, becoming only the ninth federal judge ever impeached.

The liberal Porteous allegedly accepted gifts from lawyers who appeared before him, which he failed to disclose. He was impeached unanimously on four charges, including one of corruption, one of perjury and another of making false financial disclosures.

Perjury is lying under oath – an offense that is inconsistent with holding public office, for which an oath is required. Clinton himself was impeached for perjury, but acquitted by the Senate, even though it has convicted lesser officials, like judges, for perjury, despite the extra constitutional requirement in Article I that the president “take care that the laws are executed.” Clinton was later disbarred in a plea bargain in which he escaped criminal prosecution.

Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) did not vote against impeachment. He had been impeached and convicted by the Senate and removed from office as a federal judge, but the Senate did not impose the only penalty it constitutionally is permitted to impose: a ban on holding public office.

Conservatives should demand that the Senate convict Porteous and ban him from ever holding public office.

Conservative Analysis of the Federalization of Health Insurance

The liberal Democratic-led United States Congress has approved President Barak Obama’s plan to federalize health insurance, which he has signed into law. The law federalizes health insurance not through federal ownership, as in the case of other industries and enterprises, but through heavy government regulation, at the loss of liberty in various ways.

Among the many provisions of the law, the federal government will oversee the collection of insurance premiums, fine those employers with over 50 employees who do not provide health insurance benefits as a form of compensation and individuals who do not have insurance policies, require that insurance policies provide whatever benefits it decides, and approve all insurance policies. With government control, bureaucrats will decide whether or not individuals are worth the expense of coverage (i.e. rationing). Therefore, the law truly meets the definition of a “government takeover” of health insurance. It is not communist-style socialism whereby the government owns the industry, but fascist-style socialism, whereby the government does not own it, but effectively controls it. Individuals will thus lose their commercial rights.

That the main intent of Obama and the liberal Democrats is government control, instead of only their stated goal of helping those in need by extending insurance coverage to many who do not have it, is suggested by the extent of these regulations that affect all Americans, even though most Americans are satisfied with their insurance policies. Obama and the Democrats believe that government control is the solution to every problem because they do not believe in free market solutions. Yet the law neither reduces the cost of insurance for many Americans, for which it was advertised as necessary, nor prohibits one of the practices its proponents claim it will end: the dropping of coverage for those who are ill; the insurance companies are simply replaced with government bureaucrats who would deny coverage.

It was government policy that contributed to the problems with health insurance in the first place. During World War II, the federal government implement wage controls, which forced companies to compensate employees with health insurance in lieu of cash, which has caused many employees to overuse health care, which they regard as free because they are ignorant of the cost, even though the higher the cost of insurance premiums, the lower their wages and salaries. Furthermore, health insurance benefits represented a tax-free form of compensation, which is not only unfair to those who pay for their insurance out of their pockets without any tax benefit but also contributed to the sense of health insurance as not costing anything. Instead of gratitude toward those employers who provide health insurance, Obama and the liberal Democrats believe that employers have an obligation to provide it and now will force them to do so.

Other government causes for the increased costs of health insurance the law was supposed to address include the federal ban on purchasing it across state lines and the higher costs of law suit awards for medical malpractice. The health insurance federalization law addresses neither of these concerns. It continues the dependency on employers, whom it makes agents of the federal government, for health insurance. It even increases the tax unfairness and reduces freedom because it limits health savings accounts, the tax-advantaged instruments enacted by Obama’s predecessor to liberate Americans from dependency on their employers for health insurance.

By extending insurance coverage to some who do not have it – regardless of whether they want it – the law that federalizes health insurance creates a massive new welfare entitlement, which reflects the goal of Obama and the liberal Democrats to redistribute wealth instead of liberating the economy from government interference in order to unleash prosperity. In other words, the government steals from those who earn money and gives it to those who do not. Welfare is not charity. Because welfare decreases liberty by taking away the people’s freedom to engage in charity, it nullifies charity.

Even with the increases in taxes not only on the wealthy, but on anyone who purchases certain medical devices and on pharmaceutical companies, the imposition of fines and increases in insurance premiums for many, the law will nonetheless result in cuts in health care, as well as increase the deficit, in addition to the massive increase in federal spending already undertaken by the Obama Administration. In addition to the rationing of health care, the law to federalize health insurance will provide federal funds for insurance companies that cover abortion, in addition to the anti-life aspect of health care rationing.

These taxes and the higher costs of goods and services that will result because of the increased costs to businesses will be harmful to the economy and further reduce economic liberty, as well the increase in federal debt. In addition to violating states’ rights by unconstitutionally expanding the federal power to regulate interstate commerce to the power to force individuals to engage in commerce, the law represents an unfunded federal mandate to the states to provide even more welfare benefits in the form of health insurance coverage for certain individuals.

In conclusion, instead of using free market solutions to problems in health insurance or leaving the matter up to the states, or eliminating the federal interference in the market that caused some of the problems in the first place, the Obama Administration has seized the opportunity to control a major sector of the economy as part of its policy of centralizing power in the federal government. The law that federalizes health insurance is costly to both the economy and individual liberty, as well as to the constitutional rights of the states.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Federal Courts Would Rule that the Law Takes Precedent over an Executive Order

The federal courts would rule that a statute would take precedent over an executive order signed by a president.

United States President Barak Obama has promised to sign an executive order to ensure that no federal funds are made available for insurance coverage for abortion by his proposed federalization of health insurance. The pro-abortion president, who in the past has expressed support for federal funding for abortion, made the promise in order to gain the necessary votes of several pro-life liberal Democrats for his proposal.

Not only could a successor overturn Obama's executive order with another executive order, but Obama could even overturn his own order. Regardless, his proposal that passed the U.S. Senate, upon which the U.S. House is set to vote, requires federal funds (i.e. taxpayer money) to be made available for companies that provide insurance coverage for abortion. Therefore, federal courts would rule that the law requires that the federal government not discriminate against insurance companies that provide coverage for abortion, despite any executive order, which would make Obama's promise meaningless. In conclusion, the House vote for the Senate bill that would be signed into law by the President, would be a vote to provide federal funds to companies that insure abortion, notwithstanding any executive order to the contrary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dresden Bombing Deaths Exaggerated

In a new report, British and American historians have concluded that the number of civilian deaths attributed to the February 13-15, 1945 Allied bombing of the German city of Dresden has been exaggerated. In contrast to the claims of Nazis and other leftists that there were hundreds of thousands of deaths, the historians report that there were only 25,000 civilian deaths, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Dresden was a military and industrial target defended by anti-aircraft artillery near the Eastern Front. The Allies dropped a comparable tonnage of bombs on the city as they had other Axis cities, in which there were more civilian deaths.

The exaggerated claims of upwards of half a million deaths were used by the Nazis and their sympathizers to portray the Allies as the moral equivalents of the Nazi Germans, so as to make the Nazi Germans appear relatively less evil, as well as by other leftists to support their anti-American views.

One such leftist, Kurt Vonnegut, had been an American prisoner of war held by the Germans in Dresden. He wrote a novel, Slaughterhouse Five, loosely based on his experience in Dresden, in which he cited the exaggerated claims of the Nazis.

Thus, Vonnegut's misleading and crude book has become the second liberal text out of only a handful I had to read in school that has since been discredited, joining Guatemalan communist Rigoberta Menchu's autobiography I had read in college in which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate fabricated human rights abuses against indigenous civilians by the Guatemalan government. In conclusion, one should be skeptical of any liberal historical claims.

Herb Denenberg, In Memoriam

Herb Denenberg, the public servant and Emmy-award-winning consumer advocate died yesterday at the age of 81, according to the Philadelphia Bulletin, for which he was a columnist.

According to the Bulletin, Denenberg, who had served as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, was described by Ralph Nader as the most “consumer-oriented insurance commissioner in American history.”

It might, at first, seem odd that I, as a conservative, would memorialize someone praised by the liberal Nader. I recall Denenberg on Philadelphia news stations decades ago doing consumer protection stories, like the more famous journalist John Stossel. What I did not know until I recently discovered his column in the Bulletin was that he held strong free-market views. Denenberg consistently warned, in columns published as recently as a week ago, about the threat to the economy and liberty represented by United Sates President Barak Obama's socialist policies, as well as his softness on terrorism. Denenberg was especially opposed to Obama's proposal to federalize health insurance. Like Stossel, Denenberg understood that the free market, with only a minimum amount of government regulation, offered the best protection for consumers.

The following biography is based upon information from Denenberg's obituary published in today's Philadelphia Bulletin: Born in Nebraska, Denenberg earned a law degree from Creighton University and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Army in the Judge Advocate General Corps as a First Lieutenant and later as a Captain in the Reserves.

Denenberg taught at the University of Iowa, Temple University School of Law and Cabrini College, and was a professor at the Wharton School at Penn. Although Jewish, he was a strong supporter of Catholic Education.

In addition to serving as insurance commissioner, Denenberg also served Pennsylvania as its Public Utility Commissioner. He also was an advisor for various federal agencies and also for several other states. The insurance laws he authored established a number of consumer protections, some of which saved Pennsylvanians hundreds of millions of dollars.

Denenberg was columnist for 35 years, including for the Philadelphia Daly News, and an investigative and consumer television reporter for 25 years. His consumer guides for insurance and health care were popular. He won 40 Emmy Awards.

May Herb Denenberg's example remind us that our economic liberty comes from God, not from government, and that governments are instituted to protect our rights. With government protection of liberty, the free market -- not excessive government regulation -- can best safeguard consumers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cinfici Polled by Rasmussen Reports

I was polled Monday by Rasmussen Reports, the most accurate surveyor of public opinion in the United States. The questions included a rating of U.S. President Barak Obama's and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's performances as president and governor, respectively, as well as for whom I would vote for U.S. Senate for Pennsylvania, and whether most incumbent members of Congress deserved reelection and whether my U.S. Representative deserved reelection. The pollster also asked my opinion of the proposal to federalize health insurance and whether it would be preferable for Congress to consider individual reforms.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to express my opinion in the health insurance debate, as well as for the election questions. I expressed my opposition to the federalization of health insurance and preference for individual reforms, disapproval of Obama's and Rendell's performances, support for Pennsylvania Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Pat Toomey, disapproval of most incumbent members of Congress, but support for my Republican incumbent.

Visit Rasmussen Reports at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Census Update

I received my United States Census questionnaire today. Unlike the letter sent by the U.S. Census Bureau a week before that I discuss in my last post, the cover letter to the questionnaire explains the legal purpose of the Census: to apportion representatives in Congress among the states. Then it explains that the survey results are also used in order to dole out government largess, but the letter does so in a manner that makes it clear that this use of the survey results is secondary, unlike the first letter, which made it appear that it was the sole purpose.

The Obama Administration could have and should have written the first letter like the second one, instead of giving in to the temptation to politicize the Census and cynically appeal to people's economic self-interest instead of their civic responsibility.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Obama Administration Politicizes the U.S. Census

Today I received a letter from the United States Census Bureau notifying me that in about a week I will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. Apparently, the Obama Administration has seized the opportunity to politicize the U.S. Census.

The letter declares a resident’s response “important,” but gives only one reason: that the results of “the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need.” Thus, instead of taking the opportunity to educate Americans by explaining that the purpose of the Census is that it is required to be conducted every ten years by the United States Constitution in order to apportion representatives in Congress among the states, the letter appeals to personal self-interest instead of the interest of the community and the state.

The Obama Administration’s Census Bureau’s letter represents welfare statist propaganda, insofar as it presents government as an entity that gives away its money. Note the letter refers to that money opaquely as “funds,” not as “public money” or as “taxpayer dollars.” The Census Bureau declares in the letter that the “programs” are something the resident and his neighbors “need,” even though welfare programs are not necessarily needed by each resident, if they are truly needed by anyone at all.

The Census Bureau’s letter reveals an anti-federalist bias not only because it emphasizes personal self-interest over interest for one’s state, but also because it refers generally to “government” instead of the “federal government” or “federal and state governments” as if the federal government is the government, i.e. it is responsible for everything, and states are merely its provinces, not the sovereign independent entities that created the federal government though the Constitution. Thus, the Obama Administration is subverting the intent of the Framers who insisted that states retain their sovereignty, instead of allowing their citizens’ money to be confiscated by the federal government for “programs” of dubious constitutionality.

There is one positive aspect to the Obama Administration’s propaganda letter: it refers to the distribution of public money by the federal government proportionate to the population as a “fair share,” which is an admission that those congressional districts or states that receive earmarks or other forms of pork in addition to the base level of funding are receiving an unfair share of tax dollars, despite the Administration’s policies of accepting such unfair appropriations.

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration is wrong to use a letter from the Census Bureau to American residents as an opportunity to indoctrinate the people, contrary to the intent of the Framers who established the Census and the Congress that authorizes the money to conduct it. Americans must have confidence that the Census in being conducted in a non-political manner in order to have confidence in its results. Conservatives must persist in educating Americans about the Constitution by exposing and refuting anti-constitutional liberal statements whenever they see them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

1,500 Visits to My Blog

Thank you for your patronage of my blog. Since I began tracking on April 2, 2009, over 1,500 visits have been logged, not including my own and counting only those hits by individuals at least one hour apart. I shall save further details for the annual report in a few weeks, but wanted to take this time to express my gratitude to those of you who visit my blog, especially those loyal readers. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Obama Administration Blames Its Predecessor for Terrorism More Than The Bush Administration Did, But Cites Bush Policies as a Model

Bush Did Not Blame Clinton Like Obama Blames Bush

United States President Barak Obama and his Administration have been blaming the Administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush, for the inadequate security measures that failed to prevent the al-Qaeda Christmas Day Bombing aboard a commercial jet bound for Detroit.

Bush could have blamed the Administration of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, for September 11, but he did not and discouraged his Administration from blaming its predecessor for anything. Bush preferred to set a more positive political tone in the hope of achieving reform without unnecessary partisan rancor -- a formula he was successful in using in order to enact education reform, for example.

The Clinton Administration’s policies had encouraged the terrorists and failed to adequately protect the United States. For example, the “Wall of silence” that prevented federal prosecutors from disclosing information learned through grand jury investigations with the F.B.I., the revelation because of a civilian trial of terrorists that bin Laden named as a co-conspirator in an indictment, the massive cutbacks in defense and intelligence -- to the point that there was no longer any human intelligence, the pullout from Somalia after the U.S. victory in the Battle of Mogadishu because of the death of 18 American soldiers, and the launching of cruise missiles against al-Qaeda targets in 1999 instead of risking American servicemen were serious policy mistakes. Additionally, the Clinton Administration had failed to update law enforcement tools in order to keep up with technology and failed to establish better intelligence sharing in general, even after bin Laden had declared that it was the duty of Muslims everywhere to kill Americans.

Although it is impossible to determine whether or not the September 11 Attacks would have been prevented had the Clinton Administration followed policies that the Bush Administration did after September 11, it can be said with certainty that the Clinton Administration did not adequately protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack; its central error was treating terrorism as isolated criminal acts instead of as a war. The Bush Administration resisted the temptation to blame Clinton for every failure and focused instead on preventing terrorist attacks.

I can detect no policy failure that led to the security breach that allowed the Christmas Day Bomber to carry out his attack. The failure was more in terms of procedure than of any policies from either the Bush or Obama Administrations.

The Obama Administration Cites the Bush Administration as a Model

In order to justify its decision to try the September 11 conspirators in civilian court instead of military tribunals, the Obama Administration and its liberal supporters cite statistics of hundreds of terrorists who were tried and convicted in civilian courts during the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration is arguing that it is following the example set by Bush, despite the promise of “change,” because it realizes that the American people had faith in the previous Administration’s policies, which were successful in preventing another September 11-scale attack, which, I should add, is a vindication of some of Bush’s policies in the War on Terrorism.

However, many of the hundreds of civilian trials of terrorists conducted by the Bush Administration were either of terrorists unrelated to al-Qaeda or before the military tribunals were ordered, after plans for them had been developed after September 11. The Bush Administration would have tried more terrorists in military tribunals after that point, but liberal lawyers objected and the federal courts ruled the military tribunals unconstitutional, despite longstanding precedent. Military tribunals were later congressionally authorized. In short, the Bush Administration’s preference was to try the terrorists in military tribunals, not civilian courts, but liberals succeeded in blocking the military tribunals. Now, many liberals are essentially crediting the Bush Administration for these civilian trials for terrorists, which they are holding up as an example worthy of following.

In conclusion, the Obama Administration and its supporters blames the Bush Administration for everything bad when it is politically expedient to blame its predecessor, but claims to be following it when it is politically expedient to be viewed as strong on preventing terrorism. Their inconsistency suggests their insincerity.