Sunday, February 28, 2010


At one point a few weeks ago, after the special election when Republican Scott Brown was elected to replace the late Edward Kennedy as the Senator from Massachusetts, it appeared that President Obama’s health care bill was dead. However, a decision was made by the President’s men to make a last ditch effort to pass some version of nationalized “health care reform” legislation before the November, 2010, congressional elections. Thus, the debate on what sort of health care we should have in a free society has started anew.

Paul Ryan, the six-term congressman from Wisconsin who has become a leading spokesman for the Republican point of view on health care reform, tells us that

“[u]nder the terms of our constitution, every individual has a right to care for their health, just as they have a right to eat. Their rights are integral to our natural right to life – and it is government’s chief purpose to secure our natural rights. But the right to care for one’s health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than our right to eat, in order to live, requires government to run the farms and raise the crops.”

In making these statements, Ryan alludes to the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”). He also indirectly alludes to the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”).

Congressman Ryan urges with conviction that our Government’s obligation in protecting the health care rights of our citizens would best be met, not by seeking to supply the health care need itself, but by making adjustments in the health care system to unleash competition and choice. In other words, we should reject the health care model promoted by the Obama Administration “in which federal bureaucrats tell us which services are allowed.” We should also reject, he says, “today’s business-government partnership…in which bureaucratized insurance companies monopolize the field in most states.” Instead, we should adopt a health care model “consistent with our constitution in which health care providers compete in a free and transparent market, and in which individual consumers are in control.”

Ryan says that our goal should be to simply reduce health care costs – not to subscribe to the ideology that we should abandon our nation’s traditional free market economic model. In order to reduce health care costs, he advocates and states that:

1. We should end the current discrimination against those who do not get health care insurance from their jobs. “Everyone paying for health care should receive the same tax benefits”;
2. We need “high risk insurance pools” in the states so that (a) those with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage that is not “prohibitively expensive” and (b) so that the costs in non-high-risk pools are stabilized and driven down.
3. We need “portability” – a simple and obvious way to reduce costs. In other words, we need to allow people to purchase health care insurance across state lines – just as they do car insurance and other goods and services.
4. We must establish “transparency” in terms of costs and quality of health care. Ryan tells us that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “an MRI can cost between $400 and $4000, and a bypass surgery between $4700 and $100,000.” He says that if consumers are empowered and allowed to compare prices and quality of services, the free market will solve most of our current health care cost problems.

Paul Ryan made these observations in a recent speech at Hillsdale College on January 13, 2010, and they were adapted for Hillsdale’s monthly publication, IMPRIMIS (which in Latin means “In the first place”). I wonder why we do not adopt Ryan’s simple suggestions, especially since President Obama has said that the federal government will go bankrupt if we do not reduce health care costs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


A fascinating discussion is now going on within Republican circles concerning the future of the tea party movement that is sure to accelerate after former presidential candidate and 74-year-old U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Texas) won the straw poll of the 2935 votes cast by those who attended the annual conference of CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, D.C., last week. It is noteworthy that of those voting, 48% were students and 54% of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 25. Still, Paul’s victory, according to CNN’s Peter Hamby, “…might be seen, in part, as a result of his support among anti-establishment Tea Party activists – who turned out in force at this year’s conference and expressed some frustration with the Republican Party.” The final results of the straw poll: Ron Paul-31%; Mitt Romney-22%, ending a three-year winning streak at CPAC; Sarah Palin (who did not attend)- 7%; Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty-6%; and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence at 5%. Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee tied at 4%, while Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour rounded out the field; with 5% voting “other” and 6% “undecided”.

Rep. Paul was described by CNN as “a stalwart foe of government spending” and by Jonathan Martin and Jessica Taylor of the POLITICO as “the libertarian-leaning Texas Republican who ran a quixotic bid for the presidential nomination in 2008….” Both stories on the CPAC election agreed that Paul was “unlikely to be a serious contender for his party’s nomination” or that the CPAC vote would have a “major impact on the 2012 presidential contest.” Still, a majority of those participating (53%) indicated that they were not entirely happy with the field of potential or likely candidates they had to choose from. Thus, discussion of the impact of the tea parties on the upcoming November Congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election will only intensify in the coming months.

Ironically, not one, but TWO thoughtful commentaries concerning the future of the tea parties were published just before the CPAC election – one by Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne of the NATIONAL REVIEW; and the other by Karl Rove in an article appearing in the WALL STREET JOURNAL. In their article (“The Coming Tea Party Elections”), Ramesh and Kate report the results of a poll commissioned by The National Review Institute, in which 6% of those questioned stated that they had “participated” in tea party rallies, and an additional 47% stated that they “generally agree with the reasons for the protests.” Although the subject of critical and condescending remarks by persons of prominence, such as Paul Krugman and David Brooks of the NEW YORK TIMES; and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.), the NR poll revealed that the tea parties are (1)not driven by racial animus (large numbers approve of Obama’s performance and voted for him in 2008); and (2) are not generally unpopular (57% of the electorate view the tea parties as merely a group “of citizens concerned about the country’s economic future” while only 19% disagreed and considered the tea parties to be an “anti-government fringe organization” driven by “anger” or “concern”. Moreover, 53% of the electorate looks “sympathetically” on the tea parties.

According to NR, most tea party sympathizers and participants are pro-life and their “religious practices are roughly in line with those of the electorate.” Thus, social issues are not likely to cause a division between the tea parties and the Republicans. The same thing appears to be true on economic issues as well. While tea party participants and sympathizers are concerned about the deficit, most are not in favor of cutting the defense budget; and a majority (52 %) wants to “cut taxes to stimulate growth.” Only 7% want to increase taxes to reduce the deficit. Finally, although tea parties are opposed to bailouts of financial firms, a majority are against a new tax on banks that have benefitted from the recent bailout. Significantly, a majority are in favor of cutting taxes on corporations, presumably to make American corporations better able to compete in world markets.

Ramesh and Kate conclude that tea partiers will, as did religious conservatives before them, eventually become “valuable parts of the party’s infrastructure – if Republicans form a productive partnership with them. If Republicans can’t do that, they deserve to go out of business.”

Karl Rove, on the other hand, takes a somewhat different view in his Feb. 18, 2010 WSJ article (“Where the Tea Parties Should Go From Here”):

“The tea parties have made an important splash because they are not yet another auxiliary to the Democratic or Republican parties. Like the pro-life and Second Amendment movements before it, the tea party movement will have a bigger impact if it holds the feet of politicians in both parties to its fire. Each party must know it can win or lose swing tea party voters.”

Karl then voices concern that fringe groups or third party movements will try to “co-opt the tea parties’ good name, which is happening in Nevada…which will only serve to elect opponents of the tea party philosophy of low taxes and fiscal restraint. It could also discredit the tea party movement.” His advice to the tea parties: “keep their distance from any single party and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government.”

These divergent views by respected conservative leaders are fascinating and revealing. After serving almost eight years as a Republican state party chairman and as a county chairman for almost eight years prior to that, I am convinced that a healthy and spirited two-party system is good for America and will prevail in this case if Republicans remain responsive to the views of the tea parties. I also see the logic of Karl’s view that the leadership of the tea parties should ideally remain separate from the Republican leadership, on the Biblical theory that one cannot serve two masters. Whether that is possible will probably be played out on a state-by-state basis. One thing is for sure: most tea partiers and rank and file Republicans are waiting for a new champion with the leadership qualities of Ronald Reagan, adjusted to deal with today’s problems. Hopefully, we will know this candidate when we see him or her, after the “vetting” process that all presidential candidates must go through. But we are looking and waiting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


In recent weeks, Democrats in Congress have increasingly referred to Republicans as “The Party of No”. By this they mean to say that Congressional Republicans have run out of ideas on how to solve our country’s domestic ills. All they know how to do is say “no” and have no clue on “how to get America moving again.”

Historically, it has been normal for a sitting President to set a domestic agenda and for the opposition party to respond to that agenda. Sometimes, however, the opposition party in Congress sets an agenda of its own, as the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich did in the 1990s, when they adopted their “contract for America” and pledged their allegiance to the principles of the contract if elected during the midterm elections of the first Clinton Administration. Fresh from a victory over Hillary Clinton’s national health care plan, the Republicans clearly defined what they believed in and distinguished their vision for America’s future from the vision of the Democrats. In the process, the Republicans “nationalized” the election and took control of both houses of congress for the first time in many years, because the voters tended to elect their congressmen based on national issues rather than personalities or who could best “bring home the bacon.”

Once again, we Americans find ourselves at a crossroads with midterm elections fast approaching in November. Once again, we have a Democratic administration that has embarked during a severe recession on a massive spending program, purportedly designed to invigorate the nation’s economy. This time, however, I believe that most Americans are genuinely concerned that the huge sums that the government has obligated for its “stimulus package”, together with the projected costs of Obama’s health care plan and other initiatives, will not only result in significantly higher taxes, but will bring us close to a European-style welfare state of dependency – where Americans will receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. In such an economy, double-digit unemployment is the accepted norm, rather than an aberration during hard times.

Many Republicans wonder when some new dynamic Republican leader will emerge with new ideas to address America’s domestic problems. Are Republicans capable of seizing upon the somber and unsettled mood of the electorate and make substantial gains in the November congressional elections? Can Republicans substantially reduce the supermajority which the Democrats presently enjoy in the House and Senate? Can they check the efforts of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who, emboldened by their supermajority, are attempting to move the country, once and for all, past the “tipping point” and create a collective and regulated society from which there is no turning back?

There is at least one such Republican in congress who appears to have a clear vision of what is necessary to solve America’s domestic ills. He is Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee, who has recently introduced in congress his plan – called “A Road Map for America’s Future” – which addresses the nation’s fiscal crisis, as well as tax reform, Medicare, health care, and Social Security issues. Ryan suggests that we have only two simplified income tax rates: (1) 10% for single filers making $50,000 of taxable income or less per year and 10% for joint filers making $100,000 or less as well; (2) 25% on taxable income for single filers making over $50,000 and the same amount for joint filers with a taxable income over $100,000. With the exception of a health care credit and a generous standard deduction and personal exemption not to exceed $39,000 for a family of four, there would be no further tax credits, exclusions or loopholes. Finally, Ryan offers an 8.5% “business consumption tax” to replace our present corporate income tax, so that America’s companies can compete more effectively internationally.

Ryan’s “Road Map” also calls for similar reforms for the nation’s Medicare system, the present health care system, and for Social Security. His goal is to preserve the solvency of Medicare and Social Security and to bring affordable health care to all Americans, without bankrupting the country. In my view, Ryan’s plan has the makings for real solutions to real problems facing Americans, and you may want to contact Congressman Ryan for more information about his “Road Map for America’s Future.”

My advice to Congressional Republicans: do not expect to win back the House and Senate in November, 2010, by employing a defensive, “rope-a-dope” boxing strategy designed to wait for the Democrats to make mistakes and further antagonize the voters. If you want to win and really do something for America, adopt a domestic plan such as Ryan’s plan, and tweak it; poll it; publicize it; and then drive it home to the American people. You will distinguish yourselves from the Democrats; show the voters that you really care and that you are trying to solve their problems. In the process, you will nationalize the November elections – and you will win big.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Former Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke last week at the “Tea Party Convention” in Nashville and in so doing fully embraced the populist political movement that now has the full attention of the national media and a growing segment of the American people. According to writer and philosopher Larry Anderson, in his February 7, 2010, article in Real Clear Politics (“Populist Constitutionalism and the Tea Parties”),

“The tea parties are a unique populist movement and moment in American history . . . The tea parties have more grass roots movers, shakers, and members, than any populist movement ever seen in our country.”

In his article, Anderson proceeds to compare the tea party movement to other populist movements of the past such as the prohibitionist movement (the “Noble Experiment” that sought to outlaw the production and sale of intoxicating liquor and resulted in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919); and the 1933 people’s movement to reject black market hoodlums like Al Capone, which resulted in the repeal of the 18th Amendment and the passage of the 21st Amendment. And then, of course, there were the populist politicians: Louisiana Governor Huey Long (who said that we should have “a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage”) during the depression; Governor George Wallace of Alabama (who advocated “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”) and his so-called “populist” American Independent Party in the late 1960s; and populist Ross Perot and his “Reform Party USA” which garnered enough votes to split the electorate, and resulted in the defeat of President George H. W. Bush in his bid for second term (and the election of Bill Clinton, an obscure Democratic Governor of Arkansas).

In my view, Governor Sarah Palin’s populism is different from those mentioned above and is more akin to the populism exhibited by former California Governor Ronald Reagan when he spoke to a young audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 1977, after being narrowly defeated in his bid to become the Republican nominee for President in 1976:

“Reagan called for bringing into the Republican fold those Democrats concerned with ‘social issues – law and order, abortion, using, quota systems – [that] are usually associated with blue-collar, ethnic, and religious groups.’ In short, he proposed a fusion between those mercantile and economic interests long associated with the GOP, who were mostly concerned with government regulations, and social conservatives, who believed the fabric of society was also threatened by big, intrusive government. . . . Then Reagan took on the GOP, telling his CPAC audience that the party ‘cannot be one limited to the country-club, big business image that . . . it is burdened with today. The ‘New Republican Party’ I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat.”
(Craig Shirley, Rendezvous with Destiny p. 21).

It is significant to me that in her recent memoir, Going Rogue, Sarah Palin refers, again and again, to Ronald Reagan, [“Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession. He showed us how to get out of one.” (p. 391)] [“Reagan showed courage when he stayed the course through the long recession of the early 1980s.” (pp. 391-392)] [“Reagan once recalled with amusement that economists in the 1970s never saw a tech boom coming when they made their gloomy forecasts.” (p. 392)].

Palin, as did Reagan nationally, took on the establishment of her own political party on her road to becoming Governor of Alaska, and she speaks of the Gipper when she talks about protecting the homeland: [“And our goal in the War on Terror must be the same as Reagan’s: ‘We won. They lost.’” (p. 393)]

In the last paragraph of her book prior to the Epilogue (p. 395), Sarah Palin says the following:

“The enlightened elites want to tell you to sit down and shut up. But the way forward is to stand and fight. Throw tea parties. March on Capital Hill. Write letters to the editor. Run for local office – you never know where it might lead. And make your voice heard on every single election day, on every single issue. That is your birthright.

Stand now. Stand together. Stand for what is right.”

That kind of language is Reaganesque in tone and powerful in times of stress and turmoil. Reagan was elected because the people were tired of the Carter malaise and because they felt the need for a strong leader whose vision of American was “a shining city on a hill”. I suspect that if the people ever reach the conclusion that Sarah Palin and her brand of Republican populism can thwart Obama’s march toward socialism; and that she has what it takes to protect the homeland without getting us into World War III, she will be tough to beat in the race to determine the next Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

Monday, February 1, 2010


In his nationally televised State Of The Union Address last week, the President of the United States, in what should be characterized as a shameful act of cowardice, publicly condemned a recent decision of the nation’s Supreme Court, six of whose members were seated in front of him on the front row on the floor of the House of Representatives. These justices, who rarely appear or speak at public events except in judicial settings, were only attending the State Of The Union Address as a courtesy to the President and were following a long tradition of displaying to the nation the solidarity of our three branches of government. Nevertheless, the President called out the justices, and his exact words were:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill the helps to right this wrong!”

Even before the President finished these remarks (which had been released to the media and to the Congress only a few minutes prior to his speech and after the justices had already arrived) hundreds of Democratic members of Congress, who were seated immediately behind and alongside the justices, stood and wildly cheered the President’s remarks, while the members of the High court sat quietly and endured the remarkable public display of abuse heaped upon them.

Randy E. Barnett, a constitutional law professor at the Georgetown Law Center, in his January 28, 2010, Wall Street Journal article (“Obama Owes the High Court an Apology”), accurately described the scene: “The President fully expected that his hundreds of supporters in the legislative branch would stand and cheer, while the justices remained seated and silent, unable to respond even afterward . . . . In short, the head of the executive branch ambushed six members of the judiciary, and called upon the legislative branch to deride them publicly.”

Not only was this presidential and legislative behavior disrespectful, but it was cowardly as well, because President Obama knew that members of the Supreme Court could not publicly defend themselves on that occasion and they can only comment on their decisions through their writings and in other judicial settings.

It is ironic that since the President’s address to Congress, his remarks have been shown to be factually wrong. Instead of reversing “a century of law”, the Court’s decision merely reversed a 1990 decision of the Court that prevented labor unions and domestic corporations, including non-profits, from publicly expressing in the media their views about candidates within 60 days of an election. In other words, the Court ruled that labor unions and corporations have the same First Amendment free speech rights as do individual citizens. Also, as stated by Mr. Barnett, instead of allowing American elections to be “bankrolled” by “foreign entities”, the Court actually left standing current restrictions on “foreign nationals and entities. Also untouched was a 100-year ban on domestic corporate contributions to political campaigns to which the President was presumably referring erroneously.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with a ruling of the United States Supreme Court or any court, there is a proper time and place to voice that disagreement, and it is vitally important that our state and federal courts remain totally independent of the executive or legislative branches of government. It is also vitally important that the President of the United States show respect for the independent judicial branch of government and never attempt to intimidate or ridicule the justices where they are present and cannot respond, in a setting such as a state of the union address. Such a public display of presidential arrogance breeds and encourages disrespect for the nation’s highest court, which was created by the founders as a part of our governmental system of checks and balances against unbridled presidential power.

We, here in Mississippi, have recently seen the results of a climate where wealthy attorneys lost respect for the judicial system and naturally concluded that they could intimidate, buy or improperly influence certain judges to their own advantage. (See the recently published book “Kings of Tort”, which is a chronicle of the abuse of the state’s judicial system). We have learned the hard way that prolonged and wide disrespect for the judicial system inevitably leads to the abuse and corruption of that system.

It was remarkable to me that on the night of the State of the Union Address, the only criticism of the President’s shabby treatment of the Supreme Court that I heard from the television commentators came from Juan Williams of Fox News and National Public Radio. He voiced concern that a sitting President would publicly attempt to intimidate another branch of government in such a fashion.

Other commentators focused instead on Justice Alito, who, while remaining silent and not knowing the cameras were on him during the President’s remarks, accurately and in apparent frustration mouthed the words “not true.” As stated by Professor Barnett in his article,

“For those who strongly object to the ruling in Citizens United and still do not see the impropriety of criticizing the Court this way, consider Rep. Joe Wilson’s ‘You lie!’ outburst during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress in September. No one denied the right of a congressman to criticize the accuracy of the president’s remarks. The objection was to the rudeness and disrespect shown the president, for which Mr. Wilson promptly apologized. So too should the president.”

I agree, and still wonder: where was the outrage that should have instantly erupted when the President publicly and cowardly attacked the justices in such a fashion. Is Juan Williams the only public commentator, public official, or member of the media who recognized the dangerous nature of the President’s actions on that night? I hope not.

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