Defending the status quo

From Charles Krauthammer:

The magnificent turmoil now gripping statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and soon others marks an epic political moment. The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity.

At the federal level, President Obama’s budget makes clear that Democrats are determined to do nothing about the debt crisis, while House Republicans have announced that beyond their proposed cuts in discretionary spending, their April budget will actually propose real entitlement reform. Simultaneously, in Wisconsin and other states, Republican governors are taking on unsustainable, fiscally ruinous pension and health-care obligations, while Democrats are full-throated in support of the public-employee unions crying, “Hell, no.”

A choice, not an echo: Democrats desperately defending the status quo; Republicans charging the barricades.

Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.

Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute – and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance.

The unions quickly understood that the more than 85 percent of Wisconsin not part of this privileged special-interest group would not take kindly to “public servants” resisting adjustments that still leave them paying less for benefits than private-sector workers. They immediately capitulated and claimed they were only protesting the other part of the bill, the part about collective-bargaining rights.

Indeed. Walker understands that a one-time giveback means little. The state’s financial straits – a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years – did not come out of nowhere. They came largely from a half-century-long power imbalance between the unions and the politicians with whom they collectively bargain.

In the private sector, the capitalist knows that when he negotiates with the union, if he gives away the store, he loses his shirt. In the public sector, the politicians who approve any deal have none of their own money at stake. On the contrary, the more favorably they dispose of union demands, the more likely they are to be the beneficiary of union largess in the next election. It’s the perfect cozy setup.

To redress these perverse incentives that benefit both negotiating parties at the expense of the taxpayer, Walker’s bill would restrict future government-union negotiations to wages only. Excluded from negotiations would be benefits, the more easily hidden sweeteners that come due long after the politicians who negotiated them are gone. The bill would also require that unions be recertified every year and that dues be voluntary.

Recognizing this threat to union power, the Democratic Party is pouring money and fury into the fight. Fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized. The Democrats’ strength lies in government workers, who now constitute a majority of union members and provide massive support to the party. For them, Wisconsin represents a dangerous contagion.

Hence the import of the current moment – its blinding clarity. Here stand the Democrats, avatars of reactionary liberalism, desperately trying to hang on to the gains of their glory years – from unsustainable federal entitlements for the elderly enacted when life expectancy was 62 to the massive promissory notes issued to government unions when state coffers were full and no one was looking.

Obama’s Democrats have become the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Entitlement reform? No. Tax reform? No. Breaking the corrupt and fiscally unsustainable symbiosis between public-sector unions and state governments? Hell, no.

We have heard everyone – from Obama’s own debt commission to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – call the looming debt a mortal threat to the nation. We have watched Greece self-immolate. We can see the future. The only question has been: When will the country finally rouse itself?

Amazingly, the answer is: now. Led by famously progressive Wisconsin – Scott Walker at the state level and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan at the congressional level – a new generation of Republicans has looked at the debt and is crossing the Rubicon. Recklessly principled, they are putting the question to the nation: Are we a serious people?

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Democracy vs. Liberty

From Walter E. Williams:

It is truly disgusting for me to hear politicians, national and international talking heads and pseudo-academics praising the Middle East stirrings as democracy movements. We also hear democracy as the description of our own political system. Like the founders of our nation, I find democracy and majority rule a contemptible form of government.

You say, “Whoa, Williams, you really have to explain yourself this time!”

I’ll begin by quoting our founders on democracy. James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 10, said that in a pure democracy, “there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Virginia Gov. Edmund Randolph said, “… that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.” John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Alexander Hamilton said, “We are now forming a Republican form of government. Real Liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship.”

The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the two most fundamental documents of our nation — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution’s Article IV, Section 4, guarantees “to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” If you don’t want to bother reading our founding documents, just ask yourself: Does our pledge of allegiance to the flag say to “the democracy for which it stands,” or to “the Republic for which it stands”? Or, did Julia Ward Howe make a mistake in titling her Civil War song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”? Should she have titled it “The Battle Hymn of the Democracy”?

What’s the difference between republican and democratic forms of government? John Adams captured the essence when he said, “You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.” That means Congress does not grant us rights; their job is to protect our natural or God-given rights.

For example, the Constitution’s First Amendment doesn’t say Congress shall grant us freedom of speech, the press and religion. It says, “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…”

Contrast the framers’ vision of a republic with that of a democracy. Webster defines a democracy as “government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.” In a democracy, the majority rules either directly or through its elected representatives. As in a monarchy, the law is whatever the government determines it to be. Laws do not represent reason. They represent force. The restraint is upon the individual instead of government. Unlike that envisioned under a republican form of government, rights are seen as privileges and permissions that are granted by government and can be rescinded by government.

To highlight the offensiveness to liberty that democracy and majority rule is, just ask yourself how many decisions in your life would you like to be made democratically. How about what car you drive, where you live, whom you marry, whether you have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner? If those decisions were made through a democratic process, the average person would see it as tyranny and not personal liberty. Is it no less tyranny for the democratic process to determine whether you purchase health insurance or set aside money for retirement? Both for ourselves, and our fellow man around the globe, we should be advocating liberty, not the democracy that we’ve become where a roguish Congress does anything upon which they can muster a majority vote.

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Will this end the Toyota witch hunt?

From BGR:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with the aid of NASA engineers, concluded that the electronics systems found in Toyota’s vehicles was, in all likelihood, not the cause of unintended acceleration. In 2009 and 2010, the Japanese car manufacturer recalled nearly 8 million cars after drivers began reporting sudden and unprovoked acceleration from their vehicles.

“Our conclusion- that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical – comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough, and intensive research efforts ever undertaken,” said Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood.

The report determined that two mechanical defects in the accelerator pedal and floor mats are to blame. “Both problems had been identified before the NASA investigators began their work.” NASA was given unrestricted access to over 200,000 lines of code used in Toyota’s vehicles; its examination of said code lasted over 10 months.

Toyota says it’s confident that the issue is now resolved and that its cars are amongst the safest on the road.

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