March 26, 2010
Students of American government learn that the U.S. Senate plays a unique role in forcing careful, lengthy deliberation on controversial issues, and has a firm rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority in order to pass major legislation, so as to protect minority rights and preserve domestic tranquility. As we all know, however, the Democrats decided to use the "nuclear option" to force through Obamacare, invoking the "reconciliation" provision to dispense with the supermajority requirement in order to get final approval. The whole purpose of that provision is to facilitate votes on the budget, either ensuring that government operations continue, or reducing the deficit. The fact that there are very sharp disagreements on the fiscal impact of the health care legislation is itself a clear sign that the reconciliation process was badly abused by the Democrats. (The Senate approved the reconciliation bill yesterday, and then the House did likewise, thus completing the last piece of legislative work on that issue this year.) The minority party is understandably furious, especially since it passed up an opportunity to invoke the nuclear option five years ago, and the legal challenges being prepared in Richmond and many other state capitals would seem to be the prelude to a constitutional crisis that we have not seen in well over a century.
That is the delicate topic that Newt Gingrich's former aide Tony Blankley addresses in "Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854, Redux" at jewishworldreview.com. He makes a comparison between a domestic stalemate that could not be resolved back in the mid-19th Century, and the situation we are in today:
But now, just as the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 broke through the slave state limitation to the South, the Democratic Party's 2010 health care law has broken socialism's boundary of being so limited. Now, the chains of socialism are to be clamped on to the able-bodied middle class -- not merely the already presumed helpless poor and old who have paid their insurance premiums.
It's a scary analogy, and the dire potentialities that one can imagine should make us all reflect very soberly on the dangerous road our country is currently headed on. As more evidence of the extreme passions unleashed by the passage of Obamacare, political thuggery has become bipartisan, as Rep. Eric Cantor's office window was hit by a flying object. Meanwhile, the Albemarle County Republican headquarters was vandalized yesterday. See newsplex.com. We can expect more of this sort of thing in the weeks and months to come. Lest anyone forget, moreover, after then-Rep. Virgil Goode made some stridently anti-Muslim remarks in December 2006, vandals used a stencil to paint the word "BIGOT" on the window of his office in downtown Charlottesville. Read The Hook.
Even as Republicans are loudly denouncing the enactment of Obamacare on constitutional grounds, many observers are pointing out that several GOP leaders used to support the individual mandate. See Bruce Maiman at examiner.com. On Facebook, Bruce Bartlett keeps bringing up former Gov. Mitt Romney's approval of a health insurance mandate in Massachusetts, which looks extraordinarily hypocritical on its face. Perhaps Mitt will be able to explain his way out of that one. I referred to that Massachusetts episode as "Socialist folly" in April 2006: "Such an unfunded mandate marks a devastating blow to individual liberty, one more step in the Long March toward Socialism." Was I ahead of the curve on that one, or what?
Just as the U.S. government takes a leap into the utopian (?) dark, the Social Security system is starting to pay out more in benefits than it is bringing in. Under the Clinton and Bush II administrations, the surplus in the Social Security system provided a fiscal cushion that enabled Congress to postpone tough decisions. Moreover, a recent report from the Social Security Administration casts a pall over the financial integrity of Medicare:
For the third consecutive year, a "Medicare funding warning" is being triggered, signaling that non-dedicated sources of revenues -- primarily general revenues -- will soon account for more than 45 percent of Medicare's outlays.
Translation: Our goose is almost cooked.