Free Markets, Free People
The Supreme Court will take up a case dealing with free speech:
Months after its debut, “Hillary: The Movie” faces nine of the nation’s toughest critics: the Supreme Court.
The justices’ review of the slashing documentary financed by longtime critics of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could bring more than just a thumbs up or thumbs down. It may settle the question of whether the government can regulate a politically charged film as a campaign ad.
At issue in the case being argued before justices Tuesday is the 90-minute anti-Clinton movie and television ads [David] Bossie wanted to air during the 2008 primaries advertising the film.
Bossie’s group, the conservative Citizens United, released the movie as Clinton, then a New York senator, was competing with Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The movie is unquestionably anti-Clinton, featuring commentary from conservative pundits, some of whom specifically say Clinton was not fit to be commander in chief.
The movie was shown in eight theaters. Bossie’s group wanted run ads on television in key election states during peak primary season and show the movie on cable television’s video-on-demand.
Federal courts said the ads would violate the McCain-Feingold law, the popular name for 2002 revisions to the nation’s campaign finance laws. Judges called “Hillary: The Movie” a 90-minute attack ad, rulings that would require Citizens United to identify the financial backers for the ads if they were to appear on television.
The court also said that if Bossie’s group showed the movie on cable television, financial backers would have to be named and the group would have to pay the cost of airing the movie.
Whether you agree with the message of the documentary, but voters will be able to discern for themselves if something is true or not. The government doesn’t need to stifle speech, let alone political speech.
The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Oral arguments begin on Tuesday, March 24th.
The CEO’s of banks and financial firms that received bailout money may not be the only executives to see their pay regulated:
The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation, government officials said.
The outlines of the plan are expected to be unveiled this week in preparation for President Obama’s first foreign summit meeting in early April.
The administration has been considering increased oversight of executive pay for some time, but the issue was heightened in recent days as public fury over bonuses spilled into the regulatory effort.
The officials said that the administration was still debating the details of its plan, including how broadly it should be applied and how far it could go beyond simple reporting requirements. Depending on the outcome of the discussions, the administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation.
One proposal could impose greater requirements on company boards to tie executive compensation more closely to corporate performance and to take other steps to ensure that compensation was aligned with the financial interest of the company.
The new rules will cover all financial institutions, including those not now covered by any pay rules because they are not receiving federal bailout money. Officials say the rules could also be applied more broadly to publicly traded companies, which already report about some executive pay practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
You are not free to make as much money as you want. You are not free to succeed because government will tax you at the point of a gun to make sure you aren’t making more money than they approve of.
Welcome to Obama’s America.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson
Everybody’s angry. But anger doesn’t make good law. And there are real questions about both the wisdom and the legality of such legislation. Bloggers like Conor Clarke, Megan McArdle, and Eugene Volokh have asked if the bonus tax is legal or constitutional. And thank goodness for bloggers who ask the questions that members of Congress and print journalists seem to ignore!
The bloggers wonder if after-the-fact taxes on specific people violate the constitutional ban on bills of attainder and ex post facto laws. (Ex post facto = after the fact.) Good questions indeed. But they should go further and ask, Are laws like this tyrannical? Ex post facto legislation isn’t just bad because it’s unconstitutional. It’s unconstitutional because it’s bad. (Nate Silver did raise these broader questions, arguing that the bonus tax bill was like the congressional intervention into the Terri Schiavo case: quite possibly legal and constitutional, but “it represented a gross overreach of the chamber’s authority, and ultimately undermined, at least a little bit, the rule of law.”)
The rule of law requires that like people be treated alike and that people know what the law is so that they can plan their lives in accord with the law. In this case, a law is being passed to impose taxes on a particular, politically unpopular group. That is a tyrannical abuse of Congress’s powers. And in addition, it is retroactive legislation, changing the law upon which AIG and its employees had relied. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 62, “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws . . . undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”
Selective taxation is tyranny. Ex post facto legislation violates the spirit of the liberal order, even if a particular piece of legislation can be “structured” to pass constitutional muster.
I saw some of the speeches by members of Congress yesterday. It wasn’t about taxpayer money being involved, because the bonuses make up a fraction of the TARP money, and if it really was about the taxpayers, each of them need only look in the mirror to see the real reason our dollars are being wasted. It was an opportunity to bash business by playing on this misguided populism that has taken hold in our country.
People need to stop and realize that if we allow our government to do this to people receiving these bonuses, what makes us think they won’t do it to us.
During his presidential campaign, President Barack Obama promised the American people a “net spending cut.” Instead, he signed a “stimulus” bill that spends $800 billion, and he has proposed a budget that would:
- Increase spending by $1 trillion over the next decade
- Include an additional $250 billion placeholder for another financial bailout
- Likely lead to a 12 percent increase in discretionary spending
- Permanently expand the federal government by nearly 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over pre-recession levels
- Raise taxes on all Americans by $1.4 trillion over the next decade
- Raise taxes for 3.2 million taxpayers by an average of $300,000 over the next decade
- Call for a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) law despite offering a budget that would violate it by $3.4 trillion
- Assume a rosy economic scenario that few economists anticipate
- Leave permanent deficits averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers; and
- Double the publicly held national debt to over $15 trillion ($12.5 trillion after inflation).
H/T: Club for Growth
Last night’s episode of 20/20 was one of the best I’ve ever seen. John Stossel took on several topics, such as taxpayer-funded bailouts, transportation, medicinal marijuana, universal pre-kindergarten and immigration. Many of the segments are based on and include footage from The Drew Carey Project from Reason TV. Stossel also interviews Drew Carey in some of the segments.
The they are six videos (five below the cut). The first one deals with bailouts. Stossel talks to 18 economists about why the “stimulus” was a bad idea. He asks House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer if debt got us into this recession, then why is creating more debt going to get us out? One economist says that one dollar taken out of the economy is one less dollar to be spent in the private sector.
The second video deals with transportation, and actually starts off in Atlanta (my hometown), and is based on this video from Reason TV. It highlights private toll roads built in Orange County, California, Paris, Chicago and Indiana.
This segment is on medicinal marijuana and Charlie Lynch and is based on this Reason TV video. Lynch owned a medicinal marijuana dispensary in California, which is legal under state law. He was arrested by DEA agents for helping sick people and is now awaiting sentencing, up to a hundred years in jail.
This is the segment on universal pre-kindergarten, a promise made by Barack Obama during his campaign. It’s based in part on this Reason TV video.
Here’s the segment on immigration, which is based on a Reason TV video. Stossel shows how the gate is useless because illegal immigrants still manage to get around it, either by climbing over it or cutting holes in it. Stossel talks to both Duncan Hunter and his son, Duncan Hunter, Jr., about why it is necessary. The younger Hunter asks Stossel, “What is it worth to the American people to not have another 9/11?” Stossel says the fence wouldn’t have stopped 9/11 (the 9/11 hijackers came in the country legally). Hunter says, “It may stop the next 9/11.” Gotta love the fear mongering.
Here’s the final segment of the episode. It talks about how easy it is to make it in American if you live within your means and is based on this Reason TV video.
Barack Obama doesn’t have the votes to pass his $4 trillion budget:
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he has spoken to enough colleagues about several different provisions in the budget request to make him think Congress won’t pass it.
Conrad urged White House budget director Peter Orszag not to “draw lines in the sand” with lawmakers, most notably on Obama’s plan for a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions.
“Anybody who thinks it will be easy to get the votes on the budget in the conditions that we face is smoking something,” Conrad said.
Conrad joined Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the top Republican on the Budget Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in criticizing the administration’s cap-and-trade proposal for not doing enough to counterbalance increases in energy costs that will be felt by consumers and companies, especially those in energy states such as North Dakota.
Conrad said that it would be a “distant hope” to expect the climate change plan to pass unless it includes help for industries that would be hit hard by limits on carbon emission production.
That’s good news, though I don’t have much faith in Democrats holding the opposition.
Let’s face it, these policies will hurt the economy even in good times, so why try to pass them when the economy is already in shambles? It makes no sense.
The Supreme Court smacked down New York City and Mike Bloomberg:
New York City on Monday failed before the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a lawsuit it filed against the gun industry.
New York sued several gun manufacturers in 2000, arguing the companies violated a state public nuisance law with their marketing and distribution of the firearms products they sell. Among the companies sued were Beretta USA Corp., Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC), Colt’s Manufacturing Co. LLC, Sturm, Ruger & Co. (RGR) and Glock GmbH.
A federal law enacted in 2005 sought to shield gun makers from lawsuits like the one New York filed, prompting a federal judge to throw the case out. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in April 2008 upheld that ruling by a 2-1 vote.
New York, in a court brief, said the 2005 law violates state rights under the U.S. Constitution. “This congressional effort to control how states make law raises important questions about the Tenth Amendment’s protections of state sovereignty,” New York said.
The gun manufacturers, in a joint legal brief, said the federal appeals court correctly applied the 2005 statute and argued the law does not violate the Constitution. “This case does not qualify for Supreme Court review,” the gun makers said.
Does anyone else get New York’s argument in this case? Talk about non-sense.
H/T: Of Arms and the Law
The following was written by Andrew Davis for Conservative HQ. It has been posted here with his permission.
During the 2008 election, Ron Paul became a grassroots icon in his fierce denunciations of Big Government, Big Spending and the federal government’s failure to live by our Constitution.
Unfortunately, his actions don’t match his rhetoric.
According to a Houston Chronicle analysis of the $410 billion dollar spending bill passed by Congress at the end of February, Ron Paul had a role in obtaining 22 earmarks, totaling $96.1 million—making him the pork-leader of Houston’s congressional delegation.
Paul’s office did not respond to comment requests from the Chronicle; however, on Paul’s congressional Web site, it states: “As long as the Federal government takes tax money from [Paul's] constituents, he will make every effort to return that money to his district.”
Comforting logic, consistent with our Constitution? Not really.
This isn’t the first time Congressman Paul has been caught with his hand in the federal cookie jar. In August of last year, a Wall Street Journal article highlighted Paul’s request for 65 earmarks costing nearly $400 million. This included $8 million for marketing shrimp, and $2.3 million for shrimp-fishing research.
At the time, Paul’s spokesperson told the Journal that, “Reducing earmarks does not reduce government spending, and it does not prohibit spending upon those things that are earmarked.”
“What people who push earmark reform are doing is they are particularly misleading the public — and I have to presume it’s not by accident,” the spokesperson added.
Again, not a very convincing logical justification. And, Paul’s spokesperson certainly didn’t explain how marketing shrimp is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
Paul is far from the top of the list of Big Spenders in Congress, but he isn’t at the bottom either. Earmarks are a small portion of Congress’ overall spending; however, you have to start somewhere to cut spending, and eliminating earmarks is as good of a place as any.
Although Paul ended up voting against the $410 billion spending bill, he still had his hands in the cookie jar. At the end of the day, he’ll end up with taxpayer cash flowing into his district, but can boast about a clean record.
A list of Congressman Paul’s 2009 earmark requests can be found here.
While stocks are tanking, partially due to uncertainty and skepticism over President Barack Obama’s economic agenda, the president encouraged people to invest:
As Wall Street tumbles, President Barack Obama offered up some investing advice on Tuesday, telling a wary nation that stocks are becoming a “a potentially good deal” for those willing to think long term. The White House later cautioned people not to read too much into the statement.
Obama also said he will not base policy on what he called the “day-to-day gyrations of the stock market.” The Dow Jones industrial average fell again Tuesday after plunging on Monday to it lowest level in more than 11 years.
The index has lost more than half its value since a record peak in October 2007. The toll on retirement plans, college savings and nest eggs has been huge.
“You know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics,” Obama said during an appearance with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “It bobs up and down day to day, and if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.”
Yet lately, Wall Street’s direction has been down, period. Investors are in despair over the state of financial companies, the deepening scope of the recession and doubts about the government’s various attempts to bolster the banking sector and create jobs.
Talk show host Neal Boortz responded with this:
Is he kidding? He’s waging an all-out war against capitalism, and he wants us to buy stocks? This man who wants a government-controlled economy wants us to invest in the stock market? This is like the Surgeon General telling us to go out and have unprotected sex with drug addicted street walkers. Yeah … let’s all do that!
No doubt that stocks may improve in the future, but economic forecasts aren’t that great in the long term, considering the amount of debt being piled up and unfunded liabilities from entitlements.
And who wants to be an investor when they constantly have a target painted on their backs by politicians who make class warfare the focal point of their economic agenda?