As I write, judging by the saturation coverage of all the major media outlets, the primary consideration on the minds of the world’s popular culture is the plan for the memorial service for Michael Jackson. I will spare you my commentary on the life and career of this obviously very gifted, but sad and tragic figure, except to observe that we have come a long way in the evolution of generational pop icons–from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson–and I will leave it to your judgment as to which direction this progression is headed. RIP.
Notwithstanding the priorities of popular culture, I trust that most Americans will reserve the proper time this coming Independence Day weekend for the reflective contemplation of what July 4th means to all Americans and, in fact, should mean to the world, for this is much more than an American holiday. We could start by doing two things: first, read the Declaration of Independence, or at least the second paragraph, remember how revolutionary were these words at the time they were written, and reflect on how important they are to the foundation of the rule of law and moral order that have sustained this experiment in self-government; second, read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, particularly the part that includes “whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure”, to remind you of how absolutely critical the success of this experiment has been and remains to the many millions of struggling people around the world. When we live and defend the words in these two documents, they become, as Lincoln said, ”a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression”. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.
A couple of recent items indicate that the immigration debate could be shifting. Who knows why–maybe because of the pressure on employment from the recession, maybe the increasing fears about the drug war in Mexico, possibly because of heightened fear of terrorism–all legitimate concerns. Item one: In the wake of the Texas legislative session which failed to produce a resolution of the “voter ID” issue, a recently released poll of Texans conducted by the Texas Lyceum Association revealed some interesting results. 71% of Texas voters support voter ID and 54% strongly support it. It has support across party lines, among Democrats (58%), Independents (68%), and Republicans (86%). It also has support across racial and ethnic lines–Anglos 78%, African-Americans 75%, and Hispanics 59%–and only 2% of Texans are undecided. Item two: Houston’s police officers union recently petitioned Mayor Bill White and the city council to, among other things, reverse the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of ignoring immigration status except for arrests for serious offenses. It seems that the police have had enough of officers being seriously injured or killed in the line of duty by illegal immigrants.
Maybe a convergence of these factors and attitudes will soon produce a critical mass of opinion significant enough to dictate that we finally get serious about our borders and our national sovereignty. These anecdotal trends indicate that elected officials should have no fear of backlash from doing so.
It seems that President Obama has difficulty knowing when to “meddle” in the domestic affairs of both friends and enemies. As a result, he has been badly wrong twice lately in ways that will not be helpful to our interests or to the people of the particular countries. In Iran, he demurred for most of a week while dissenters and petitioners for democracy converted what began as simply an election dispute into a potential overthrow of a dangerous totalitarian regime and then watched silently while the revolutionaries were being crushed, so as not to be accused of “meddling”. Finally he rebuked the regime for its repressive response, but probably too late with too little encouragement or tangible support for the leadership of the opposition in the streets, and a huge opportunity for regime change has been squandered. Apparently, he favors “stability” over freedom, a preference that is counter to the American ideal and a principle on which we cannot be neutral.
On the other hand, in Honduras, he was quick to condemn the legitimate authority of the Supreme Court and the Congress in their wresting control of the government from the President, who had clearly violated the country’s constitution and an order by the Court. In the process, he joined those democratic paragons Hugo Chavez, the Castro brothers, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations in extolling the virtues of defending a democratically-elected official! Our President obviously has a real problem determining in which cases the real perversion of the democratic rule of law is taking place, who our friends should be, and which side to join.
The Supreme Court completed its term with what has been described as a conservative tilt, and I certainly applaud the rulings in most of the key decisions, but I regret that more was not accomplished with more substantive decisions in the two most recent critical cases. In a significant voting rights case, Northwest Austin MUD vs. Holder, the court ruled in favor of the utility district, but unfortunately declined to address the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it applies to any change in the voting procedures in southern states, an omission duly noted by Justice Thomas in his separate opinion, which preferred ruling the 1965 Act unconstitutional.
Likewise and more prominently, in an obvious case of “reverse discrimination”, the Court ruled in Ricci vs. DeStefano that white firemen were subject to discrimination in their denial of promotion in spite of their performance on qualifying examinations because no black candidates qualified, but the Court declined to address the larger constitutional issue of affirmative action in general under the equal treatment clause of the 14th Amendment. As noted by Justice Scalia in his concurring opinion in Ricci, the ruling “merely postpones the evil day” on which the Court must decide “whether or to what extent” existing disparate impact law conflicts with the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. We have again missed an opportunity to once and for all address the injustice of the embedded violation of the equal protection clause in our institutionalized system of racial preferences in hiring, contracting, and college admissions.
These cases illustrate the leadership of Chief Justice Roberts and the legacy of George Bush, but as well they indicate the tenuous nature of the balance of the Court in favor of our founding principles.
As California sinks slowly into the West, let’s take a look at what makes the difference in states that are successful and those that are suffering. CEO Magazine conducts an annual survey of about 600 CEOs on a broad range of issues, including regulation, tax policies, education, quality of living, and infrastructure. In the 2009 survey, for the fourth consecutive year, the bottom five states for job growth and business climate were California, New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. On the upside, Texas ranked #1 for the fourth year in a row, followed by North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. (Incidentally, Texas added more jobs in the past year than all other states combined!) There is no magic in this; a couple of observations are instructive. The states that are at the bottom of the list have been models of “progressive” policies that have been touted for their wealth creation potential: high tax rates on the rich, high levels of government “investment”, heavy unionization, and a large government role in health care. The worst impact of these policies are in taxation and business regulation. So how is it working for them? And doesn’t this strongly resemble what is in store for us as we spread the progressive model nationwide?
Here is another analysis. Yale economist Ray Fair has studied the impact of partisan political results on the economies of each state. The result is that the more consistently a state has voted Republican in the Presidential election since 1980, the lower their average unemployment rate and the more robust the growth and business climate over that period by a significant margin. Conversely, the reliably Democratic states with the more “progressive” fiscal policies experienced the greater negative impact of downturns in the economy. Is the nation going down the California road? Is there some instruction here for our national political leadership?
Readers of The Texas Pilgrim are sophisticated enough not to need from me an outline of how the Obama administration is debauching constitutional contract law in the various “bailout” transactions. Very bright people like Richard A. Epstein are explaining this much better that I am qualified to do. In fact, I suggest that you “google” his May 4, 2009 National Review article, “Why Constitutions Matter”, for a history of this debauchery leading to the present crisis.
Of all the unintended consequences of currently unfolding domestic policy, it is this one that will be most difficult to reverse, for it goes to the essence of the immorality that underlies the project. George Will captured it best, as follows:
“The Obama administration’s agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of ‘economic planning’ and ‘social justice’ that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration’s central activity–the political allocation of wealth and opportunity–is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.”