Today I invite you to join me in taking a close look at the actual Constitutional language under which the United States Supreme Court broke controversial new ground in supporting further federal intrusion into the lives of individual Americans.
If you’ve heard enough and more than enough about the court’s majority—headed by an unlikely former conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts—breaking new ground in extending the power of the federal government over individual citizens, skip on down to later items.
But as one who has been following the expansion of the power of the federal government over the lives of individual Americans for a good many years now, I thought it worthwhile to examine in detail this latest example of the expansion of “welfare state” powers.
I’ve read or listened to thousands upon thousands of news media words dealing with the surprising—shocking?—Supreme Court endorsement of the most controversial feature of the multi-billion-dollar health care plan which President Obama is trying—successfully, so far—to lay upon the people of the United States. I’ve yet to see or hear a single word citing specific language in the United States Constitution which supports the court’s approval of punishing individual Americans if they cannot—or choose not to—comply with ObamaCare’s most controversial feature.
Let’s Look At The Constitution Itself
So join me today in examining the language of the Constitution, language which at one time supposedly limited Supreme Court justices, liberal or conservative, from imposing their personal views on the American people.
The key issue before the court was whether Congress can constitutionally force individual Americans to pay a penalty if they cannot—or choose not to—buy individual health insurance policies as mandated by the Congress.
ObamaCare supporters argued that such a penalty for non-compliance can be authorized by invoking the Constitution’s commerce clause. Supporters of giving almost any law passed by Congress Constitutional protection so long as it involves the citizens of more than one state have stretched the commerce clause far beyond the rather clear language in the Constitution, giving Congress power “to regular Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several states.”
The clear intent of those who drafted the Constitution was to give “commerce” its traditional meaning; i.e., the interstate conducting of business.
Defenders of the “buy insurance or pay the penalty” language in the ObamaCare law were depending on Supreme Court approval of another example of very liberal interpretation of the intent of the Commerce Clause.
Commerce Clause Not Enough, Roberts Switches To Tax Power
Apparently the commerce clause approach couldn’t muster five votes in Supreme Court discussions. So Chief Justice John Roberts, supposedly a conservative, surprisingly steered the liberal four justices in the direction of punishing the non-insurance buyers by levying a tax against them. His implicit reasoning was that the Congress does have the power to tax, so let’s call a non-compliance penalty a tax.
Roberts was relying on constitutional language which says that, “The Congress shall have Power to levy and collect Taxes…and provide for the common Defense and General welfare of the United States.”
It seems to me that it is a far stretch—a legally unsupportable stretch—of constitutional language to turn “general welfare” taxing authority into a form of penalty on individuals who don’t obey the “we know what’s good for you” requirement to buy health insurance.
The surprising alliance of Chief Justice Roberts (some speculate he was trying to uphold the reputation of the court by his unpredictable switch to the liberal point of view) obviously enhances the power of the president and the Congress, in direct and continuing conflict with the limited-government traditions under which this country declared its independence from rule by a monarchy, established a democracy with a central government of essential but limited powers.
Consider What Constitution Says Congress Cannot Do
Justice Roberts and his liberal allies apparently have lost sight of the fact that all down through American history, the definition of the powers of the federal government have not been what Congress can do but what Congress can’t do beyond the essential mission of providing for the common defense and enacting legislation which clearly serves the “general welfare” of its citizens.
Consider that the celebrated First Amendment to the Constitution starts with these words: “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.”
The First Amendment doesn’t say that Congress shall have the authority to promote freedom of religion or the press or speech, leaving to congresses and courts in the future to decide whether or how to invoke to promote those freedoms.
Yes, yes, I know. The principles on which this country was founded—a central government with limited but essential powers and an independent judiciary to assure that those powers are not exceeded—has faded into the mists of history. But from time to time, I think it’s still appropriate to pull the chain on both the federal government and the Supreme Court.
Some fundamental principles of individual freedom, individual choice, shouldn’t change with time.
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Timely To Salute The Union Pacific
And Kudos Also To Mutual Of Omaha
Properly predominant in the public eye these recent days have been two of Omaha’s most important corporate citizens: The Union Pacific Railroad and Mutual of Omaha.
The Union Pacific role is highlighted, of course, (1) by the fact that this is the 150th birthday year of a railroad which played such a fundamentally important part in the history of its Omaha and Council Bluffs-based starting point and, (2) to this day, its Omaha-based operating headquarters (with the corporate headquarters now also located in Omaha.)
Council Bluffs, of course, shares in the celebration. It was from Council Bluffs that railroad attorney Abraham Lincoln, in 1858, looked west across the Missouri River and was favorably impressed with the Omaha/Council Bluffs area as a proper route for the Union Pacific to build west up the Platte River Valley.
Council Bluffs residents, properly, like to remind us that the official starting point for the railroad—starting-point zero, so to speak—is on the Council Bluffs side of the river.
So a rousing “Happy Birthday!” to the Union Pacific Railroad and all those proudly associated with it, including native Omahan Chairman Jim Young. And a heartfelt “Thank You!” for all that the Union Pacific has meant to America, including specifically the Omaha/Council Bluffs metropolitan area and the State of Nebraska.
Re-Energized Mutual Deserves Recognition
Mutual of Omaha also has a long and positive history in these parts dating back more than 100 years. “Thank You!” to Mutual is especially appropriate at a time when the company, re-energized under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Dan Neary, has played a leading role in the sponsorship of the Olympic Swim Trials.
Those nationally-televised trials, of course, brought massive favorable attention to our city, including statements like that of popular television commentator Bob Costas who told his audience the other evening that Omaha is an ideal place to host the Olympic Swim Trials.
Night after night, national telecasts focused on the swim trials and, in the process, on Omaha. The Omaha image was helped along by the clever “Aha moment” vignettes featuring Olympic swimmers and presented on national television by Mutual of Omaha.
Mutual has expanded from an insurance company to banking, for a major example, and to development of Midtown Crossing, a combination of upscale apartments and condominiums and equally upscale eating places, banking, shopping and cinema facilities, with a very attractive park as the entire development’s front yard.
And as with the Union Pacific, Mutual executives play a prominent role in the Omaha civic scene, and, again liked the Union Pacific, Mutual has a generous philanthropic budget to support worthy causes in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area and elsewhere.
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College Preparation Efforts Are Commendable
But Non-College Careers Also Need Attention
The headline read: “College prep starts with visits,” followed by this subhead:
“Universities inviting 8th graders to set goals that will lead to degrees.”
More power to those universities which start to prepare their potential freshmen for potential collegiate success. But let me quickly add:
More power to those same universities for new and effective efforts to prepare students for success in four collegiate years, not five or six. In that connection, the University of Nebraska system is, I’m happy to note, placing considerable emphasis on making four collegiate years the norm, not the exception.
This approach makes excellent sense (especially considering that the fifth year is customarily the most expensive in a collegiate career).
Four-Year Norm Long Served Well
Four years was the traditional norm those long years ago when I attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. It was the norm even at a time when the university by law had to accept as a freshman any graduate of a Nebraska high school.
This meant a significant number of students had, for example, to take a non-credit English class to prepare them for collegiate-level work to follow. But a degree—or departure from the campus—in four years or less was still the objective—a routinely-achieved objective.
While encouraging young people with collegiate potential to prepare themselves as they move through high school—prepare themselves for four-year collegiate achievement—I believe it is a serious mistake to encourage any and all high school students to believe they can succeed in college or to set college as a goal even if the student is not particularly interested in that goal.
Millions upon millions of Americans have achieved comfortable living standards and career-satisfying goals without a college degree. Currently, it should be pointed out, non-college degree jobs are going begging because of a lack of enough skilled craftsman to fill them.
If early encouragement and preparation for college can help find significant numbers of college-potential recruits who can be reasonably counted on to finish their collegiate work in four years, more power to the recruiters.
But college officials know that not every American is prepared for—or indeed needs to aspire to—a college education.
President Obama, in another example of his careless rhetoric, said in a political speech that every American youth is entitled to a college education. He quickly backed away from that extreme statement, talking more sensibly about training in two-year colleges or training in the skilled trades with no college exposure at all.
In the latter connection there should be increasing emphasis in high school on what used to be called “shop” or manual-training classes which prepare students for skill-trained jobs as high school graduates. And, of course, continuing emphasis on two-year or less attendance at community college.
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Smorgasbord, anyone? Help yourself:
–My candidate for puzzling headline of the week: “And that’s the power of love,” followed by this subhead:
“On a sweltering day, 70,000 cheer Huey Lewis and the News and support the region’s food bank.”
The story told, of course, of the crowd—which no one in the world could have estimated accurately at 70,000—which turned out for the annual free fireworks extravaganza in Memorial Park, funded in recent years by the Bank of the West.
What attracted the crowd and demonstrated “the power of love”? The fireworks display? Huey Lewis? The chance to support the Food Bank for the Heartland?
(I would be interested in the total text-pledged to the Food Bank as was suggested to the crowd.)
–The impressive new basketball locker room and training center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln certainly got an impressive introduction in last Sunday’s World-Herald sports section—1-2/3 pages including seven color pictures, with an accompanying 80 paragraphs of text which included this language:
“The hoops palace—part Vegas sports bar and part Rodeo Drive fitness center—has vaulted Nebraska, which last won an outright conference championship 96 years ago, into a believe-it-or-not level of basketball prestige.”
I accept the option, I don’t believe it, and I think it is too bad that the college recruiting—whether basketball or football or whatever—these days depends on the extent to which you can dazzle the prospective recruits by the arenas in which they will play and, increasingly, the facilities in which they will locker and lounge and train.
Incidentally, as a longtime Husker fan, I do share the hope expressed by Howard Hawks, who with his son contributed to the new basketball center and suggested some of the features. Howard expressed the hope that the new facility will help raise the Huskers into the top half of college basketball programs—a realistic goal, I believe.
(I hope, incidentally, that the academic opportunity offered at UNL gets more attention than it did in the one and two-thirds page Sunday sports section spread.)
Predictably, new Husker basketball coach Tim Miles called the new recruiting, training and practice center “an integral part of the decision-making process for recruits. The message about commitment that it sends to people is of equal value to the benefit we get out of it.”
–The headline read: “Common sense key with fireworks.”
Good advice, but not enough parents follow it. In television advertising and print, the availability of fireworks explosives—which in one case includes a pound of powder—and ads promote “1/2 OFF!” prices four days before July 4th, there obviously are a large number of buyers who may or may not be using common sense.
A strong case can be made against the liberalization of fireworks laws enacted by the Nebraska Legislature. A good many families don’t indulge in 4th of July fireworks but must put up with the noise. And dog lovers certainly have grounds for complaint.
The effect on many dogs is so traumatic that some kennels sell sound-proof lodging protection for a family’s dog or dogs during the July 4th fireworks overkill season.
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Talk About Club Throwing; Here’s Mega Example
My thanks to a loyal reader, Warren Reimer, a Norfolk, Nebraska attorney who described for me—and now you—perhaps a never equaled club-throwing performance that he witnessed at the Norfolk Country Club many years ago. His e-mail was prompted by my recent club-throwing confession about my putter getting stuck in a tree at the Omaha Country Club a good many years ago.
My confession prompted this report from the loyal reader.
“Your comment on club throwing brought to mind an incident that I witnessed (participated in) at the Norfolk Country Club many years ago.
“I was golfing with a regular companion and we just had a twosome rather than our usual group. We went through the first 8 holes and my partner made his third 3 putt bogey of the day.
“Without saying a word, he turned and launched his putter with his finest overhand toss, picked up the flag and waited for me to finish the hole, all of the time saying nothing.
“As we left the green we found the putter perched some 40 feet up in a nearby Austrian pine. Again without words, he tried shaking the boughs of the mighty pine, to no avail. He made an effort to scale this tree, which was probably 15-20 inches around, to no avail.
“Then, he stopped, pulled out his driver (heaviest club in his bag) and launched it in an effort to dislodge the wayward putter, and now he had two clubs in the tree. Without hesitation, he sent his sand wedge (without a pesky head cover) up, and his pitching wedge and his 9 iron.
“At this point, I became involved and suggested that he just empty the bag and try using it. He did, and then he uttered his first words, “OK, Reimer, empty your bag.” I resisted. We were able to shake the branches enough to recover the bag and all clubs except the putter, and we finished the round (and he went on to make 3 birdies putting with his one iron).
“But, we still did not have that pesky putter. Upon arriving at the pro shop we inquired about a ladder, but there was none. As we were moving about the area, I noticed the hook from the swimming pool. We grabbed that, he (who was 6’4″) stood on a cart and we recovered that pesky putter.
“Sadly to say, though, it did not end the launching of putters/clubs by my companion, but never toward a tree.”
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