Friday, September 30, 2011

Update: Pennsylvania Federal Judge Rules the Mandate to Purchase Health Insurance Unconstitutional

     A federal district judge in Pennsylvania has ruled the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the linchpin of the federalization of health insurance plan signed into law by United States President Barak Obama, unconstitutional.

     The ruling earlier this month attracted no media coverage outside of the state, even though the liberal media has reported on all other district court rulings.  It is possible that the district ruling was overshadowed by the Courts of Appeals rulings against the mandate which will result in judicial review by the Supreme Court. 

     Nevertheless, the ruling was significant because it was in favor of a plaintiff who is a private citizen.  Such cases have sometimes been dismissed by other federal district courts for lack of standing because no harm can be demonstrated by the mandate, which has not yet been implemented.  The only other cases in which the mandate has been ruled unconstitutional were brought by States of the Union, which successfully argued that the mandate violates states' rights.

     In the Pennsylvania case, a citizen argued that he can afford to pay for health care and thus does not need to purchase health insurance.  Therefore, the individual mandate does not regulate commerce because no commercial activity would have taken place.  The citizen would be harmed by the requirement to enter into a contract with a private party for a service he does not need.  I suppose he could have argued that the harm he is currently experiencing is his inability to set aside the money now for another purpose.

     The constitutional question around the individual mandate has been narrowly focused on whether a decision not to engage in commerce (i.e. not to purchase health insurance) constitutes commercial activity that may be regulated under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  As I have been posting, however, the broader question of whether the activity, even if considered commercial, constitutes interstate or intrastate commerce, remains not only unanswered, but unasked.  Under the Commerce Clause, the United States may regulate only interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce, which health insurance is because federal law prohibits its purchase across state lines. 

     The failure to raise the issue legally implies a concession of a broad federal power to regulate all commercial activity, under the theory that it affects the economy.  Liberals have relied upon the tolerance of the gradual expansion of the power to regulate interstate commerce as a justification for increasingly expanding it to all commerce and are relying upon it now to expand it even further to activity that is not even commercial activity.  However, the federal power to regulate interstate commerce was intended not to manage the economies of the States of the Union, but to establish a free market within the Union by prohibiting states from imposing tariffs on goods from other states. 

     The states are defending liberty by reasserting their constitutional rights.  It is also a defense of liberty and the Constitution that the people, such as the plaintiff in this Pennsylvania federal case, reassert their freedom.  May we conservatives continue to defend the liberty of all and the Constitution by opposing the individual mandate to purchase health insurance and all unconstitutional federal encroachments on the rights of the states and the people.

Monday, September 19, 2011

European Monetary Union Update: Italy’s Parliament Approves the Latest Austerity Package

     The Italian Parliament approved the latest round of austerity measures, according to a report from ANSA. As I had posted, the over $50 billion in cuts and tax increases will balance Italy’s budget in 2013 instead of the originally-projected 2014.

     As I have been posting, Italy, with its $1.8 trillion gross domestic product – the eighth largest in the world – has become the European Monetary Union’s firewall during its debt crisis. Because the Italian sovereign debt is 120% of its GNP, Italy’s debt load is the third or fourth largest in the world.

     The acceleration of the balancing of Italy’s budget was strongly urged by the Monetary Union in order to restore confidence in the euro. The Monetary Union had pushed for a large tax increase on upper middle class and above incomes. I posted recently about this violation of sovereignty and Italy’s resistance to it. 

     The 3% income tax increase included in the measure, according to ANSA, will affect only those earning over $400,000 dollars – much less than what was originally proposed to satisfy the European Monetary Union. However, there will also be an increase in the Value Added Tax (the European version of a sales tax) from 20 to 21%, ANSA reports. Most of the austerity program is in the form of spending cuts, including reductions in bureaucracy, and greater efforts to collect unpaid taxes.

     The focus in Italy will now turn to measures to increase economic growth, which has been sluggish. Growth is fiscally beneficial, as it leads to more revenue from taxes as people earn more.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Centre-Right Gains in the Danish Parliamentary Elections, Despite Losing Power

     At first glance, the victory of the centre-left bloc led by the Socialists in the Danish parliamentary elections appears to be a reversal of the recent trend toward the right in Western elections. Further analysis, however, reveals that the election results confirm the trend.

     The centre-right party of Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen gained a seat in parliament and will remain the largest party in that body, despite losing power because of losses by its coalition partners. By a margin of only a handful of votes, the the centre-left bloc will gain the majority, if it can form a coalition government. 

     Rasmussen has been a strong ally of the United States during the War on Terrorism. His government lasted for ten years, thanks in part to his pro-growth policies, which is relatively long in a parliamentary system. The worldwide economic downturn did not leave Denmark untouched, however, although the Danish economy weathered the recession better than many. Rasmussen had proposed spending cuts during the campaign amidst the European debt crisis, while the centre-left opposition proposed more Keynesian spending on health and education supposedly to spark economic growth, although it did acknowledge the need for sacrifice, such as a slight increase in the workweek.

     The centre-left will have difficulty maintaining such a slim coalition. It will have further trouble if it causes Denmark to be added to the list of European states contributing to the debt crisis on the Continent. Despite the loss of the governing majority, the elections in Denmark, as in the elections in Sweden and Australia I posted about, represented gains for the right, despite the losses of power in each case. As such, the Danish elections reflect the popular trend toward the right and fiscal responsibility.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Liberal Slogan Conservatives Can Adopt for Al-Qaeda Leader Dr. Zawahiri: Healthcare Not Warfare

     I saw a typical Left-wing slogan today, an example of the usual simplistic thinking on the Left.  It read Healthcare not Warfare. 

     As is often the case whenever I see slogans intended to oppose the War on Terrorism, such as Make Peace, Not War,I would agree literally with the message of the slogan, as long it were intended strictly for the Islamist enemy that has been making war upon us for many years. 

     Alas, Leftists do not mean it that way.  Just as many liberals advocated for unilateral disarmament during the Cold War, by war, in this case, they mean not the unjustifiable terrorist and other militant attacks by Islamists, but our own measures of self-defense.  It is the latter that angers them much more than the former, which leads to such foolish slogans. 

     But there was another reason for my post, in addition to refuting liberalism.  Because of the irony that the leader of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization with the most American and Western blood on its hands, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a doctor, I could not pass up the opportunity to post my thought that this particular Left-wing slogan ought to be turned to good use against the Islamist enemy: Dr. Zawahiri, practice healthcare, not warfare!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Conservative Republican Wins a U.S. House Special Election in New York City

     Conservative Republican Bob Turner, a 70 year-old businessman and political novice, won a special election to the United States House of Representatives in a district that includes parts of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The seat had become vacant because of the resignation of the incumbent Democrat.

     Democrats, who have held the seat since the 1922 election, outnumber Republicans by a 3:1 ratio in the district. Turner’s upset victory is seen as a referendum and President Barak Obama and a harbinger of Republican success in the upcoming 2012 Elections.

     Meanwhile, a Republican, Mark Amodei, easily won election in another U.S. House special election on the same day in Nevada. The seat had become vacant because of the appointment of the incumbent Republican as U.S. Senator. Although a GOP victory was expected in the Republican district, the high margin of votes validated the significance of the results in the New York special election. 

     A Democrat had won a special election in a Republican district earlier this year in upstate New York by accusing Republicans of wanting to cut Medicare, but that strategy, which the Democrats had hoped to replicate, was unsuccessful in yesterday’s election. The election focused more on Obama’s fiscal policies and their harm to the economy and his federalization of health insurance. Turner ran as a fiscal conservative.

     However, it must be noted that the Democratic nominee was hurt by a few additional issues. As a state legislator, he had voted earlier this year for gay marriage, which was a major issue in the campaign. Turner, a Catholic, ran as a pro-life and anti-gay marriage candidate. The Democratic nominee also had supported the Islamic Center near the World Trade Center. Although the Democratic candidate was a pro-Israel Orthodox Jew, Turner was able to make the contest a referendum on Obama’s policy toward Israel, which is recognized as less supportive than that of previous Presidents. The social issues and the foreign policy matter combined to lift the Republican nominee in a district comprised of many Jews and Catholics, especially in Brooklyn, where the GOP candidate easily won.

     Although special elections always depend upon the individual candidates and local issues, they nevertheless are somewhat predictive of voting trends. If a conservative Republican can win a race in New York City, Republicans are likely to succeed in both the elections for presidential Electors and Congress in 2012. In the meantime, the results confirm the unpopularity of Obama’s policies, which might stiffen congressional resolve against any additional unnecessary spending programs.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Personal Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the September 11 Attacks

     I am grateful that we Americans have not endured any attack in the United States nearly on the scale of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. I congratulate the U.S. intelligence, military and security personnel in both the Bush and Obama Administrations. I am especially grateful to those who have made the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. I also salute the resilience of the American people.

     At the time of the attacks, I felt sadness, fear, especially for friends and family near the targets of the attacks, and mostly anger at the terrorists who committed the massacre. The emotions increased when I learned that a cousin was missing at the World Trade Center; Port Authority Police Captain Kathy Mazza’s body was recovered in February of the following year. The anger served as a motivation to defeat the Islamist enemy, which is why I believe it is appropriate for the media to continue to show the images of the attacks, as a reminder of our need for vigilance and resolve against an evil, determined foe.

     I am pleased to see the Freedom Tower rising from the former site of the World Trade Center. I am glad that it is being built as high as it is (with its antenna rising symbolically to 1,776 feet) – just to stick it in the eye of the militant Muslim enemy. The tower and accompanying structures will demonstrate American resilience and the defeat of Islamism. I especially appreciated that some of the steel salvaged from the wreckage of the Center was used to build a new U.S. warship. The new Center will have appropriate memorials, like the monument that was dedicated today to honor the heroic passengers and crew of Flight 93 in western Pennsylvania.

     I agree with those who do not support a federal holiday for September 11, as it would represent a reduction of productivity, which would give an unnecessary victory to our Islamist foe who struck at the targets it did in order to damage our economy. Instead, commerce ought to continue as usual as reflective of our resilience. Instead, the day should continue to be commemorated as it has been every anniversary.

     In my post in April of 2009, September 11 vs. 9/11,, I expressed my objections to the abbreviation “9/11” for September 11. It has since occurred to me that this month, September of 2011, is also abbreviated 9/11, which ads to the reasons to avoid this abbreviation for the September 11 Terrorist Attacks.

     The attacks and their anniversaries make me grateful for my faith and for liberty. May God bless America.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Update on the Federalization of Health Insurance: The Virginia Lawsuit Dismissal

     A three-judge panel of the United States Federal Court of Appeals dismissed Virginia’s lawsuit against the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which is the key piece of the federalization of health insurance signed into law by President Barak Obama. The ruling by the all-Democratically-appointed judges conflicts with a ruling by a separate Appeals Court that ruled the mandate unconstitutional.

     The Virginia case is different from the case being brought by 26 other states led by Florida. Virginia argues that its state law that prohibits its citizens from being required to purchase health insurance makes with the federal mandate to purchase health insurance unenforceable in that state. The Florida case is about the violation of the constitutional principle of federalism that is violated by the federal mandate because the federal government lacks authority to regulate an activity that is not interstate commerce.

     Regardless, the Virginia lawsuit was decided on narrow grounds. The Court ruled that the Commonwealth lacked standing because the federal law did not conflict with the state law. In other words, a state could prohibit itself from requiring its citizens to purchase health insurance, whether or not the federal government required them to purchase it. The merits of the case – whether or not the individual mandate is constitutional – was not decided.

     The conflicting opinions by the Courts of Appeals increase the likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the question by hearing at least one of the appeals of these two cases.

Update on the War on Terrorism: Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya

     There have been no United States troops killed in Iraq during the entire month of August. This good news suggests the success of the American policy to defeat Islamist militants, restore Iraqi security and allow the Iraqi people to exercise self-determination.

     Unlike in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Iraq, there have been no American casualties (killed, wounded or captured, either in action or by other means) in Somalia (since the Somali Civil War was subsumed into the War on Terrorism), Yemen or Libya. Although it is not unprecedented in American history, it is unusual that a war is fought without any casualties for the U.S. Three at one time without any American casualties is extraordinary. Even if they are considered campaigns in the War on Terrorism, as they should, it is extraordinary nonetheless. See also my posts from June, The Libyan and Yemeni Wars Are Not the Third and Fourth U.S. Wars,, and Follow-Up to the Number of U.S. Wars,

     I had posted Part I of an intended series on the U.S. involvement in the Libyan Civil War, A Conservative Refutation of Isolationists on the Libyan Civil War in April, but the war settled into a long stalemate until recent developments. I made notes for Parts II and III, but have yet to complete them. I still intend to post them, so please visit again soon. Part II will address the Libyan connection the War on Terrorism and compare the Libyan Civil War to the current strife in Yemen and Syria. Part III will be focused on Constitutional and legal matters regarding the war, which is especially applicable to other interventions in general.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dollar Coins Are Not a Waste of Money

     There has been some opinion expressed in Congress and the media that the billion dollars in surplus unwanted United States Presidential Dollar Series coins represents a waste of taxpayers’ money. As a conservative, I applaud the concern about waste, but the concern in this particular matter is based upon ignorance. Dollar coins do not waste money.

     The Presidential Dollar series began in 2007, at a rate of four presidential portraits a year (one every quarter of the year). It is scheduled to include all Presidents who have been deceased at least two years. This series is in addition to the Sacagawea Dollars, which have been renamed Native American Dollar Series because the reverses have been modified. 

     First of all, a billion Dollar coins are worth a billion dollars legal tender. In other words, they are not a waste of money; they are money. Even if collectors do not buy all up all of the remaining stock and the public does not get into the habit of using them, the federal government nonetheless will use them. It will use them as it did the unpopular Susan B. Anthony Dollars: in vending machines at Post Offices, for example. The Anthony Dollars, which were minted from 1979-1981, were used up in this way. By 1999, the supply of dollar coins had run out. The U.S. Mint then produced Anthony Dollars again in 1999 until it began producing the Sacagawea Dollar in 2000. Thus, the surplus supply of Presidential Dollars will also be used up, regardless of its popularity or whether the series is discontinued. 

     Second, dollar coins cost less than a dollar each each to produce. The mint earns money for the United States through seigniorage, the difference between the cost of the production of a coin, including its metal content, and its face value. In other words, dollar coins make money.

     Third, coins of the same denominations as Federal Reserve Notes save money because they last longer, meaning they do not need to be replaced as quickly. Dollar coins, for example, last many times longer than dollar bills. In other words, to the extent they are used instead of bills, dollar coins save money. 

     Dollar coins have seldom been popular in American history, with the exception of Morgan Silver Dollars, which were especially popular in the West in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. The public should be encouraged to use dollar coins more. I find dollar coins more convenient than dollar bills for paying tolls. They work well as tips, especially as a paperweight on top of other bills or the check. The current golden-colored Dollar coins also make better presents for children than bills, aside from their educational value. 

     There has been a proposal for two dollar coins featuring an image of Christopher Columbus. I suggest higher-denomination dollar coins, such as ten or twenty, to reduce the heavy usage of the commonly-used ten and twenty-dollar bills. A reintroduction of silver to general American coinage – with enough seigniorage to allow for the volatility of the price – would restore some faith in the dollar and in the United States government. Only a relatively small amount of the precious metal would be necessary to be included with base metals (either as an alloy, plating or cladding) to keep the coins appropriately sized.

     See also my post on the Presidential Dollars Series, Commentary on Current U.S. Coins, from April of 2009,, in which I discuss my objections to the series. If the Presidential Series should be ended early, however, it ought to be ended for the right reason, not the wrong one.