Two contrasting editorials about what is at stake in the November election

The Las Vegas Sun has an editorial that is nothing more than lengthy excerpts from a recent Obama speech under the headline: “Don’t sit on the sidelines for the most consequential election of your life.”

Obama is quoted as saying:

This November’s election is more important than any I can remember in my lifetime. And I know politicians say that all the time, but this time it really is different. This time the stakes are higher. …

Politicians try to keep us angry, keep us cynical, and they appeal to our tribal instincts and appeal to fear. They try to pit one group against another. And they tell us order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those people who don’t look like us or sound like us or pray like we do. …

On Nov. 6, we have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We can tip the balance of power back to the American people. Because you are the only check on bad policy, you’re the only real check on abuses of power. It’s you and your vote.

Hollow and pompous rhetoric without any specifics.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal has an editorial under the headline, “The Election Tax Divide,” that says precisely what is at stake in November.

Republicans are pushing a bill that would make the tax cuts for individuals and families permanent. Currently, obscure rules about deficit scoring force the expiration of individual tax cuts at the end of 2025.

Democrats want to repeal the tax cuts outright. They especially are foaming at the mouth about the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction that means fewer IRS deductions for rich Democrats in high-tax states like California and New York.

Come Election Day, WSJ implores: “If nothing else, the House proposal makes clear that Republicans want to cut taxes while Democrats want to raise them. Voters who want to continue the economy’s robust growth should keep that in mind.”

 

 

Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.

You remember the Constitution don’t you?

That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”

The Constitution also says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”

But when it came to ObamaCare, which is replete with a panoply of revenue generating taxes to offset its expenses, the Senate grabbed an unrelated bill that had passed the House, cut the existing language and substituted the ObamaCare verbiage. The bill number was the only thing that originated in the House.

Yes, it’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce by buying health insurance or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.

That Commerce Clause also has been stretched to prohibit a farmer from growing grain to feed his own cattle because that affected demand for grain on the interstate market. The same rationale allows Congress to set minimum wages for jobs that have nothing to do with interstate commerce.

It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Some wars get declared, while others are just military exercises.

The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the judiciary slapped Obama’s wrist on that one.

During ratification the Founders added the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment that says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs.

We’re pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement and rules promulgated by the EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD or USDA without the consent of Congress.

Another clause gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States …” though the foregoing powers and powers vested by the Constitution part is largely ignored.

The Constitution also gave Congress the power “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever … to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings …” And just when did Congress purchase and the state Legislature consent to turning over 85 percent of Nevada’s land mass to the federal government?

As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations …”

Happy Constitution Day, while it lasts.

A version of this first appeared in 2014.

Editorial: Democrats pushing for socialized health care

In a speech in Illinois this past week former President Obama called “Medicare for all” a “good new idea.”

He said, “It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day, let alone retirement. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate debt-free.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders actually has such a bill pending that would nationalize and socialize the U.S. health care system and claims he has 16 Democratic senators supporting it. Sanders has argued that the United States spends almost three times as much on health care per capita as the British, who have a socialized system.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in August she supports an eventual move to a “Medicare-for-All” but that it is not immediately plausible.

“I applaud the concept, I understand what they’re trying to do at the end of the day, which is get us to the day where we have health care that everybody has and they can afford,” she said in an interview with the online news site The Nevada Independent. “And what it looks like, you can call it whatever you want, but we’ve got to take incremental steps along the way and bring everybody along.”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller meanwhile is said to be leaning toward supporting a move by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who would take money spent under the Affordable Care Act and give it to states in the form of block grants.

As for Medicare for all, a recent George Mason University’s Mercatus Center study found Sanders’ plan would add $32.6 trillion to federal spending in its first 10 years and costs would steadily rise from there. Doubling corporate and individual income taxes wouldn’t cover the costs.

The proposal also would amount to a roughly 40 percent cut across the board in payments to doctors and hospitals, a devastating blow to the economy. With rural hospitals already going out of business, image how many more would have to close and how many doctors would retire or change professions.

As if the costs were not enough, that aforementioned British socialized health system earlier this year was forced to cancel 50,000 non-emergency surgeries due to hospital overcrowding. Emergency room waits were said to be as long as 12 hours.

You don’t have to pay as much for something you don’t get.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Obama calls for Medicare for all. (Getty Images pix)

 

NYT anonymous op-ed just could be heartening information

I hadn’t bothered to read the original anonymous op-ed in The Gray Lady attributed to “a senior official in the Trump administration.”

But there has been so much ink spilled over this ink spill that I decided I should peruse and evaluate. Frankly, I’m not convinced it is not an elaborate hoax on The New York Times. There is nothing in it that reveals insider knowledge. The closest the piece comes is when it says Trump was upset that his aides had convinced him to expel too many Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

But The Washington Post reported in April that Trump was upset that the U.S. was expelling 60 Russians while the French and Germans were expelling only four each. “There were curse words,” one official told WaPo. “A lot of curse words.”

And the anonymous op-ed’s claim that there were “early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” seems highly implausible given the political devastation and utter futility of such a move. The 25th was designed to give the vice president the ability to function should the president become comatose, not merely “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” as anon attests.

The paper insists it adequately vetted the piece and its not from some low level mope.

Now, some of anon’s observations are smack on, such as:

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

But you don’t have to be a White House insider to see that. I’ve noted that Trump has changed political parties more often than some people change their socks. He has no philosophical moorings.

Trump has characterized the anonymous writer as a traitor in one of his ubiquitous tweets. Some have criticized the writer for hiding behind the shrubbery of anonymity and not having the courage to resign and put his or her name to the criticism of Trump’s whims and foibles.

As for me, if this is really an administration insider with the ability to thwart some of Trump’s baser instincts, good. Glad to see there are people who put the country first. Trump is not the pope. He is not infallible. He’s not the king. He is just the guy who lucked out and got handed the job.

Anon characterizes himself or herself and others inside the administration as “unsung heroes,” who “have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.” And, yes, I do take comfort in the possibility of there being “adults in the room. … trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

Though he or she says, “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back,” anon gives the administration, if not the president, credit for “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

If all is above board and as the writer makes them out be, well, I’m glad there are some adults aboard this ship of state willing to try to wrest the rudder from the drunken captain before he runs aground. And I’m glad we have been offered this peek inside … if that’s what it truly is.

I remain skeptical but hopeful.

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Too many willing to forgo First Amendment rights

Here is proof positive that ignorance is hazardous to freedom.

The Freedom Forum’s 2018 First Amendment survey, conducted in May and June, asked 1,009 Americans to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only one person could name all five. One out of more than 1,000.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of the survey was when knowledge of the First Amendment was compared to a willingness to have the government censor social media online. Fully 63 percent of those who could name not a single First Amendment right agreed the government should censor speech, while 87 percent of those who could name four freedoms disagreed.

The more rights one could name, the more those people balked at government censorship. The curve of ignorance runs counter to the curve of freedom.

Knowledge is power and ignorance is hazardous.

Even more scary is the fact that ignorance is rampant. Fully 76 percent of those surveyed could name none or only one First Amendment right — meaning that if such a censorship scheme were put to a vote it just might win.

As for political party affiliation, 54 percent of Democrats agreed with government censorship compared with 47 percent of Republicans.

For the record, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’ve been writing about this annual survey with considerable angst for two decades and things have gone downhill since. In 1997, the first year of the survey, 2 percent of those questioned could name all five rights.

Somewhat ironically, considering the considerable willingness to renege on it, the one First Amendment right a simple majority, 56 percent, could name was freedom of speech. Only 15 percent could recall freedom of religion. A mere 13 percent could think of freedom of the press, while right of assembly garnered only 12 percent and right of petition a paltry 2 percent. Fully 9 percent thought the Second Amendment right to bear arms was in the First.

Another disturbing finding in the survey is the willingness of Americans to silence someone merely because someone might be offended. When asked whether public universities should be able to retract invitations to controversial speakers if their remarks would offend some groups or even individuals, 42 percent agreed. If the appearance might provoke protests, 51 percent would withdraw the invitation. And if it might incite violence, 70 would cancel — the hooligan’s veto.

“It’s a little disquieting that 4 in 10 believe that public universities should be able to cancel a speaker if he or she might offend ‘individuals.’ In these polarized times, it’s difficult to conceive of anyone speaking on any topic without offending someone,” commented Ken Paulson, president of the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University.

“That finding — along with majority support for cancelling speakers if a protest is likely — suggests there is significant public support for keeping controversial ideas off college campuses,” Paulson continues. “This begs the question: If a public institution dedicated to the sharing of knowledge and ideas is the wrong place for controversial thoughts, what is the appropriate venue?”

On a more positive note, 74 percent of survey respondents agreed that it is important that the news media act as a watchdog on the government, up from only 68 percent in 2017.

David L. Hudson, Jr. — author, co-author or co-editor of more than 40 books, including “First Amendment: Freedom of Speech” — noted that politicians have long extolled and excoriated the role of the press.

Though President Obama praised “a tough and vibrant media,” President Trump has called some members of the press “enemies of the people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

“The most encouraging part of the 2018 State of the First Amendment survey is the public’s embrace of the ideal of the media serving as the watchdog of a free society,” Hudson writes. “The American public recognizes the essential importance of a vibrant and free press to serve the interests of the public as a check against government.”

But for how long?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Sun swallows hook, line and sinker

Who didn’t know the Sun would bite for this two-day-old story from The New York Times?

The piece reports “the economy is following the upward trajectory begun under President Barack Obama” — even though the U.S. GDP shrunk in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, dropping from 0.57 in the second quarter to 0.48 in the third and 0.44 in the fourth.

In fact, Investor’s Business Daily points out the same NY Times predicted in January 2017, after the government reported that GDP growth for all 2016 was a mere 1.6 percent, that “President Trump’s target for economic growth just got a little more distant.”

That story further stated:

But however solid, the recovery under President Barack Obama never reached exuberance. It is the second longest recovery in American history but the first in the postwar era in which growth for a full year did not hit 3 percent. …

Upward trajectory, indeed.
The Times was a wet blanket then, but now finds it can — apparently with a straight face — credit Obama for the economic recovery. And the Sun fell for it like a smitten suitor.

Some news folks have no sense of history

Merchandise pulled at Newseum (Newseum pix via Ad Age)

Proprietors of the Newseum in Washington could use a history lesson and a sense of humor.

Over the weekend the Newseum, which is dedicated to commemorating a free press and the First Amendment, pulled merchandise off the shelves that included T-shirts that proclaimed “You Are Very Fake News” and “Alternative Fact — a false statement delivered with deliberate intent to mislead or deceive,” as well as caps that read “Make America Great Again.”

“We made a mistake and we apologize,” Sonya Gavankar, director of public relations for the journalism museum, wrote in a statement emailed to Ad Age. “A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people.”

A couple of days earlier, Gavankar had sent an email to Ad Age saying, “As a nonpartisan organization people with differing viewpoints feel comfortable visiting the Newseum, and one of our greatest strengths is that we’re champions not only of a free press, but also of free speech.”

But Twitterdom lit up with profanity-laced criticism, such as: “This is a very bad idea @Newseum — you exist to honor, examine and protect the news media, not embrace the bywords by which others seek to undermine it.” The Newseum caved.

Perhaps someone should explain the term “reappropriation” to those at the Newseum and on Twitter.

That’s when someone calls you a pejorative name, you embrace it. The Brits called Americans Yankees, a term used by the British to refer to Dutch pirates, but Americans proudly adopted it. When people called Southerners red necks, they embraced the term. When the Society of Friends were dubbed Quakers, they latched onto it. Likewise terms like Cavalier, Tory, Whig, Paddy and Methodist.

Reappropriation is a time-honored method of turning the tables on those who taunt you.

Lighten up already. Laugh at those who denigrate you by laughing at yourself.