|September 18, 2012||Burning American Flags: Obama’s Foreign Policy Repudiated||14 comments|
|August 27, 2012||Youth Vote: Unemployment Does Not Rock||4 comments|
|August 14, 2012||The Campaign: The Hollywood PAC Ad Against Citizens United||6 comments|
|August 03, 2012||Facebook and Politics: The Loss of Manners in a New Age||3 comments|
|July 27, 2012||The Sweet Taste of Activism||1 comments|
|July 18, 2012||The Destruction of the Individual: A Foreign Concept||13 comments|
|July 06, 2012||A Mandate is a Tax is a Penalty: The Politics of Semantics||no comments|
|June 28, 2012||The Affordable Care Act Ruling: The Chief Justice is not Frankenstein||5 comments|
|May 28, 2012||Take Pause on Memorial Day||2 comments|
|May 22, 2012||Unemployment in Unicoi State Park||2 comments|
On September 11, Embassy walls were stormed in Egypt, and the black flag of militant Islam was hoisted over what is sovereign American soil in Cairo. An American ambassador and three of his staffers were murdered in Benghazi in what US Ambassador Susan Rice has called a “spontaneous” protest over the release of a minor movie. (Conversely, Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf has said this was a planned “criminal act” by militants.)
Since then, American flags have burned across the Middle East in countries like Pakistan where hundreds were subdued with tear gas while marching to the American Consulate in Karachi. Protesters in Morocco, a moderate Muslim country, chanted “Death to Obama.” In Kabul, crowds yelled, “Death to America.”
Rocks and bottle rockets have been hurled outside the US Embassy in Jakarta where the AP recorded a protester yelling, “We will destroy America like this flag!” In Sudan riot police have had to protect the American, British and German Embassies.
Still, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney insists, “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at US policy, but it is in response to [a] video that is offensive to Muslims…”
In regards to that perspective, one should note ABC News and other outlets have reported that the producer of Innocence of Muslims used an alias while promoting his film. While he claimed to be a Jewish real estate agent, he is actually an Egyptian who raised the money for his movie in Egypt. The American government did not fund or condone the creation of this movie mocking Islam, and the producer wasn’t even an American. Thereby it seems the movie’s only real relationship to the United States—apart from the location where it was filmed--is the cherished American value that purports even offensive speech is free.
This creates a problem for the Obama presidency.
The Obama doctrine as demonstrated by multiple speeches and foreign policy initiatives is one that rests on the assumption that the animosity that has long radiated towards the United States was in large part a reaction to a lack of American humility, military posturing and interference in the affairs of other cultures.
Yet after four years of a recalibrated relationship with the Middle East, a video has caused radical Islamists to yell such niceties as “Obama, we love Osama” and “Our dead are in paradise; your dead are in hell.”
Were such things said in a remote outpost of the Hindu Kush where radicalized sheepherders with Internet access are unable to differentiate You Tube videos from American endorsed positions?
Actually, the “Obama, we love Osama” folks were gathered in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, and ABC News Australia reported police used batons and dog squads to repel the five-hour long protest conducted by violent radicals wearing Arabic scripted headbands that read, “We are your soldiers, Mohammed.”
In fact, while still in the “peaceful” stages of assembly, children were photographed holding signs that said, “Behead all those who insult the prophet.”
This gives pause for reflection.
Let’s assume that all of these protests really are the result of a movie.
Does Western culture condone the beheading of producers? Obviously not, so what can the United States do to appease Islamic fascists? Disavow such films? Stop them from being made?
To think about what this really means in the context of our own values, put aside for the moment a silly film produced by a fringe Egyptian for nefarious purposes.
If an author like Salman Rushdie is ever murdered and wider protests erupt around the globe because of his writing, should the United States respond by tweeting that Americans repudiate Rushdie’s highly acclaimed work?
If not, one has to consider the broader implications of how the Obama administration has handled the violent—and not isolated—reactions to a remote film.
Is it okay to continue to propagate the idea that insanely intolerant people have a reason to be mad? How do Americans live peacefully with extremists who are alive, well, and so easily agitated despite President Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policies? (This was the description an Obama adviser gave to The New Yorker of the president’s approach to the Arab Spring.)
It would be refreshing if someone seemed even remotely interested in analyzing what this crisis actually says about American security around the globe.
After all, the Commander-in-Chief’s primary duty is not to protect the feelings of fanatics. It’s to engage in policies that protect the people of the United States.
In fact, in 2008 President Obama convinced 66 percent of 18-29 year olds who actually voted to pull the lever for him. The “Hope and Change” campaign was sleek and connected. That ultra cool cat candidate had a cool name, cool poster, cool vision. It seemed on university campuses, everyone liked Barrack. A lot of professors still do. President Obama does, after all, have a lot in common with them.
But now I wonder about those students.
On August 21, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics released a summary of employment trends among American youth. This demographic is defined as men and women between 16 and 24 years of age. The percentage of unemployed is calculated upon the number of these who are seeking a job and can’t find one. Many of these young adults were eligible to vote in 2008, and now the wave of hope they rode then has crashed real change over a lot of their lives with not nice consequences.
Consider, in July 2012, the average youth unemployment rate was 17.1 percent.
To break those numbers down further, a higher percentage of young men today are unemployed than a percentage of young women. White youth registered a 14.9 percent unemployment rate; Asians were at 14.4 percent, and Hispanics reached 18.5 percent. Black youth suffer the most under a 28.6 percent unemployment rate, which is by any definition crushing. Remember, the highest average unemployment figure during the Great Depression was 24.9 percent in 1933.
So it is no wonder NPR recently reported the youth vote feels less energized in 2012. Who feels energized when living in their parents’ basement?
As we kick around debates about how to preserve retirement entitlements, it’s also useful to remember a 2010 CNN poll found seventy percent of people under the age of fifty do not even believe Social Security will be around by the time they retire, so it’s not a youth issue.
Medicare is also not a sure thing, and while Obamacare has allowed kids to stay dependent on their parents longer, it looks to them as a “healthy group” to pay more premiums rather than capitalize upon their youth and save money.
I haven’t even mentioned the burden of that monster called the national debt. (Since our current youth can’t find jobs, maybe their children will pay it?)
So President Obama has talked a lot lately about lowering tuition costs, forgiving student loans, and adding Pell Grants. But these are great examples of pandering to the college set he thinks might actually get registered and show up to vote for him in November. They don’t address the real problem of today’s youth, which is unemployment.
After all, I remember when I was a young undergraduate. I wasn’t eligible for a Pell Grant, but I consistently worked two jobs to pay for my BA, as my middle class parents simply couldn’t afford to help a lot with school.
If I was an undergraduate in the same circumstance today, I would still not be eligible for a Pell Grant. Would I be able to find even one of those two jobs I depended upon to pay my tuition? And if I could get a lot of President Obama’s student loans instead, how would I pay those loans back after graduation with no job market?
The truth of the matter is that President Obama’s economy has been a disaster for young men and women.
Keep in mind, with a kid of my own in college, and as a graduate student still paying ever-increasing tuition costs, I do understand why President Obama’s efforts to stop short-term hikes in student loans and to tout student loan forgiveness programs, gets the youth vote’s attention. I also understand that young voters tend to trend more to the left on social issues than their stodgy, old parents.
But this time around, young men and women must consider more than just the poster-sized picture of politics that might fit into a dorm room.
In 2012, whose policies will get companies hiring again? How will a president kick-start the financial engine that will get unemployed youth out of their parents’ basement and into careers that promise independence? Whose vision is best suited to tackle current problems of finance?
If we’re going by records—and the real unemployment numbers he has not fixed—I think President Obama has already had—and missed—his chance to make a difference.
I mean, at this point, wouldn’t getting a job be the coolest change?
I love to laugh. I love politics. I have loved several Will Ferrell movies. So going to see The Candidate on a Friday night with my family was a no-brainer.
I am happy to report—while the film is crass—my ninety-minute investment—as well as my butter-laden popcorn—proved quite palatable. What person with a sense of humor doesn’t laugh at the idea of a politician punching a baby?
However, one should know The Campaign also has a fairly transparent agenda in this very real political season, so let me give you the quick low down on this Hollywood hoe down.
Basically you’ve got two politicians running for Congress in North Carolina. The slick Democrat who gets embroiled in a sex scandal reminds one of men like John Edwards. The bumbling Republican has an “accident” while hunting that is reminiscent of Dick Cheney.
During these scenes, I greatly appreciated the movie’s non-partisan portrayal of the hypocritical nature of politicians, the many absurdities of modern day campaigning, and the fickleness of an easily swayed electorate. In fact, the parody was so often on the level of South Park, that I kept waiting for someone to kill Kenny.
If someone ever did do such a thing, it was clear from the start that he would surely have been one of the evil Koch brothers… I mean, Motch brothers.
However, the ultimate message of the movie is that the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United—which is called out by name—was a bad decision because it has injected too much money from the business world into politics.
This is a fair position to take, I suppose, but I left the theatre with the exact opposite view. Hollywood, which injects its money into the political realm all the time without any conflict of conscience proves to me that the Supreme Court got it right.
To review, the Citizens United ruling has become a rallying cry for many on the Left who feel the Court is too ideologically driven, but what did the ruling actually say?
To figure this out I did what everyone should do, dear reader, when the aim is to weigh the validity of ideas expressed in any Supreme Court decision. I went straight to the source and read all 183 pages of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, including concurrences and dissents.
The experience was educating.
Truly, it is impossible in a short column to expound on all the intricacies of opinions that the Court took 183 pages to describe, but there are some basic points that the majority used to justify its facial ruling.
First one must remember that this whole broo-ha-ha began because Citizens United created a “documentary” about Hillary Clinton that they wanted to make accessible to viewers who requested to see it via video-on-demand within thirty days of a primary election.
Just like many a Michael Moore “documentary” has tried to make citizens believe that the Bush family regularly eats babies covered in oil for breakfast, the Citizens United film had the clear intent of discouraging voters from supporting Senator Clinton. Since Citizens United received some money from corporations—and the 1990 Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce ruling made banning speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity possible—Citizens United might have been violating the law if the movie was released.
Now, don’t get confused.
The right of a corporation to spend money for the purpose of expressing a political viewpoint is very different from the right of a corporation to make a direct contribution to a candidate. The Tillman Act in 1907—as pointed out in the dissent—made these sorts of contributions illegal so as to cut down on the appearance of impropriety—quid pro quo relationships—in the American political system.
The question that the Court tackled in the Citizens United case is whether or not it is Constitutional to deny an entity with specific political interests the right to express those interests based solely on that entity’s form. As the majority opinion states, Citizens United’s problems with the distribution of their film highlighted the fact that “the FEC [had] created a regime that [allowed] it to select what political speech is safe for public consumption by applying ambiguous tests.” The ultimate ruling determined this was not a fair application of the First Amendment.
So I keep hearing some scream that “corporations aren’t people,” but, as the Citizens United ruling points out, media corporations have always enjoyed special exemptions from the law that allow them to engage in whatever political speech they want without censorship.
Of course media corporations are necessary to disseminate information in a democracy, but they can be as involved in the business of making money as any other corporation. They have the same pitfalls of stockholders with diverse opinions that they may not represent in full, and they are often not “fair and balanced” in how they present information.
After all, any Occupy Wall Streeter will tell you, Fox News programs can have an agenda. Fox News is part of News Corporation. So by saying media corporations are exempted from the restrictions imposed on other corporations during an election season, the law is in effect privileging the Fox News agenda.
If News Corporation is “not a person” anymore than a Fortune 100 company is a person, then why should News Corporation enjoy Constitutional rights to free speech that a Fortune 100 company does not?
In addition, for those interested in “fairness,” can you tell me why a corporation that has a media arm, as some do, should be able to use that media arm to influence voters in the run up to an election while another, similar corporation without a media arm should say nothing in the crucial time period when electioneering really matters? Does the media arm somehow make the corporation’s viewpoints neutral?
Citizens United basically levels the playing field and allows all corporations to engage in political speech however they see fit as long as they disclose that they are the source of that political speech.
Of course I must note that part of the Citizens United dissent asserts the ruling will chill democracy, as voters like me will feel as if individual votes are inconsequential next to the mighty influence of that corporate dollar.
But whether or not a corporation can engage in express advocacy 30 days before an election, I know Sarah Jessica Parker can host dinner parties that require guests to pay $40,000 a plate and can guarantee access to a sitting president. While no one is going to argue about Ms. Parker’s “personhood,” it’s clear her money buys her political influence I will never be able to afford. Yet I do not lose faith in the system in her case. Why is the corporate dollar any different?
Which brings me back to The Campaign and its political messaging.
While not expressly supporting a candidate—while only pushing an opinion about a Supreme Court ruling—it occurs to me that the big difference between Hollywood and your run-of-the-mill corporation is that Hollywood makes a profit on the political ads it produces by packaging them as entertainment.
There’s a great deal of irony in knowing that according to a July 17 article in the New York Times, “Of the $96 million or more raised by … super PACs [funded after Citizens United], only about 13 percent came from privately held corporations, and less than 1 percent came from publicly traded corporations.” However, The Campaign with its clear political agenda made $27.4 million in its opening weekend.
Those aren’t bad corporate profits to earn when selling a political viewpoint, eh?
Regardless, it seems clear to me that actors like Will Ferrell who make Moveon.org PSAs, billionaires like the Koch brothers or George Soros, millionaires like Sarah Jessica Parker, Fox News, CNN, Michael Moore, Citizens United, Simon and Schuster, and—yes—other corporations with vested political interests should be able to make their case to the American people for whatever political positions serve them most.
This does not mean money can “buy” elections. Hilariously, money doesn’t even end up buying the election in The Campaign.
However, “we the people” have a clear duty to carefully assess all the information put in front of us—which includes evaluating sources—when participating in our democracy. If we do this, the Citizens United ruling does little more than even the playing field for all who wish to engage in their rights to free speech.
However Hollywood spins it, that’s not a bad thing.
There is a series of statues in Prague that serves as a memorial to the victims of communism. This series is called the Pomník Obětem Komunismu. It was erected twelve years after the Velvet Revolution, which was the historic pulling away of the Iron Curtain from a Czechoslovakia too long obscured by the dark powers of Stalinism.
Today, Pomník Obětem Komunismu reminds citizens of all nations of the brutal oppression and loss of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in the dark days of totalitarian despotism when the Soviet Union was the undisputed Big Brother of Eastern Europe. It can be found at the base of Petrin Hill in the Czech Republic, and it is, indeed, a visually powerful work of art.
In fact, out of all the many amazing things I have seen in extensive travels, this memorial has impacted me in a way that many other, similarly focused works have not. I’ve thought about it often, and as a teacher, I’ve even used images of it when addressing themes in George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984.
However, I did not ever expect an American president to make me recall this memorial as President Obama did last week in a campaign speech extolling the virtues of government sponsored group work, the illusory power of the individual.
First, I need for you to imagine a long flight of stairs cutting up a green hill. On those stairs walks a bronze man with an expression of misery. His body is naked and vulnerable. But what you notice most is the same man a few steps further up the hill. This version is cracked. Now he is missing a limb, two limbs. Now he is not himself, not a man, not a whole human being. Now he is broken.
The system under which this man—and the many real people he symbolizes--lost his very sense of self was an insidious one built in parallel to the ideology of double-think used to destroy Orwell’s fictitious Winston Smith in the aforementioned 1984. Under its banner, the government was glorified, and the worker became an insignificant drone in a living hive focused on collective perpetuity.
So why did President Obama recall this memorial to my mind?
I do not think that President Obama is a communist. (In truth, British author George Orwell was a democratic socialist, not a capitalist.) But I do think the president’s speech shows an ideological bent counter to my understanding of the United States.
For example, when praising the higher income tax rates President Bill Clinton imposed in a time of prosperity on higher wage earners, President Obama said, “We created 23 million new jobs… We created a lot of millionaires.”
This simple statement, which has not garnered much attention from any press, is the most shocking to me. It puts “we”—which is the government per the president’s use—into an almost God-like position, shaping the financial fortunes of the chosen few, as if it is through the power of the state that men are made.
This is not the idea upon which the American system is built.
Rather, our Founding Fathers formed a government to deal with collective affairs of state in a way that keeps the individual sacrosanct. Voters dictate policy to the government and then consent to fund that government’s initiatives, not the other way around.
Therefore, “we” in Obama’s sense of the word never create jobs or millionaires.
People in the nineties were allowed to pursue happiness as they saw fit to create their own wealth. They then gave a percentage of their earned income to a government that worked for them to maintain the infrastructure and hire public servants needed for the country to run smoothly, not the other way around.
In other words, the private sector creates jobs, is responsible for millionaires, and employs everyone who works for the government, not the other way around.
President Obama then said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Again, this foreign sentiment strips an American of the right to any contributions made to his own system. It suggests “somebody else” dictates success. Therefore, no one should have pride in ownership, no sense of accomplishment, no right to the forging of his or her own destiny because the individual isn’t important.
To visualize this worldview is to visualize the Czech statues. To think this way is to deny that some individuals squander every advantage; others press even the most miniscule of opportunities, and all free people have the power to choose.
Furthermore, if one reads the president’s entire speech made in Roanoke, there is a great deal of class demagoguery couched in contradictory populist platitudes (or double speak), which suggests all good comes from government programs, not the other way around.
My favorite sentiment toward the end of all this blather is the promise that the president said he has fulfilled, which is to wake up every morning to think about how to make “your life a little bit better.”
I suppose he is deciding which of us precious few drones shall have jobs in his command economy. Perhaps he is choosing which of us is allowed to walk up that government-built staircase on the green hill of success for certainly we cannot get to the top without him or improve our lives on our own.
Truly, it must be nice for him to be such a powerful individual in this country where only he can stand alone.
Benjamin Lee Whorf was an American linguist who put forth the principle of linguistic relativity. Basically, he believed the structure of a language shapes how a speaker thinks. His thesis has been contradicted to an extent by the work of men like Noam Chomsky, but writers and politicians innately understand—it is impossible to argue—that words in general have shifting emotional associations, which influence how people react to arguments.
This is relevant because, while the Supreme Court has deemed the only way to view the individual mandate as constitutional is to view it as a tax, there is a reason President Obama did not present it as a tax in the first place and still insists the mandate is a penalty.
In the grand scheme, this is all very puzzling, and the linguistic nature of the debate has become most interesting to geeks like me who are in love with the nuances of the English language.
To expound on that debate, I go to my handy-dandy dictionary.
A tax is 1) a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc., 2) a burdensome charge, obligation, duty, or demand.
A mandate is a 1) command or authorization to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative, 2) a command from a superior court or official to a lower one, 3) an authoritative order or command.
A penalty is 1) a punishment established by law or authority for a crime or offense, 2) something, especially a sum of money, required as a forfeit for an offense, 3) the disadvantage or painful consequences resulting from an action or condition.
When analyzing Chief Justice Robert’s ruling with these definitions, I can accept that the individual “mandate,” which was never popular with the electorate, is simply a sum of money demanded by the government to support its new healthcare behemoth. It is a burdensome charge on those who do not buy healthcare but who will use healthcare services. Therefore, it is a tax on healthcare.
Additionally, I can understand the requirement to pay this tax isn’t a “mandate,” because, according to our Supreme Court, our government cannot within the bounds of the Constitution order or command citizens to buy a private product.
(Yes, friends, there is a difference between “demand” and “command.”)
Additionally, if the “mandate” is then simply a “penalty” instead of a “tax” as President Obama continues to claim, I must assume not buying healthcare is a crime or offense. This implies the government can “mandate” that all people buy healthcare, which we’ve already determined is unconstitutional at the federal level based on the meaning of “mandate.”
Perhaps the Obama administration would then use a dictionary to argue with me that the penalty is simply the disadvantage or painful consequence resulting from an action or condition, but one has to engage in a certain amount of Orwellian “double think” to make this case because not buying health insurance is certainly an inaction, and the only condition required of a person on which this penalty is levied is existing.
Aren’t semantics fun?
Besides, if one wishes to substitute the word “penalty” for “tax,” a Pandora’s box is opened to obfuscate the negative connotations of these words.
For example, if we call the healthcare penalty a “tax,” it is clear to voters that President Obama blatantly broke his promise to not raise taxes on the middle class.
This is true because people who don’t have healthcare are not normally the folks who make over $200,000 a year. They also aren’t poor, or they’d qualify for Medicaid. They are in the middle-income bracket, often young and starting out in life. Therefore, no matter how you look at it, a lot of people in the middle class will see a hike in their taxes.
President Obama knows this, so whatever he thought about the individual mandate before the ruling, he’s now misleading voters because it’s not politically expedient to accept what he has made is a tax.
Of course, I must address the assertion that relies on the hope that only a small portion of people will have to pay this tax, so it’s a “half truth” to assert President Obama is doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t do: levying a major tax on people he promised to leave alone. When it doesn’t impact a lot of people, it’s really more like a penalty levied on folks who should be giving their fair share anyway, right?
Okay. So let’s go with these parameters when looking at another taxing scenario and see if this logic works politically.
According to the 2012 Index of Dependence on Government, a full half of the American population doesn’t pay any federal income tax. Therefore, can we agree income taxes are only levied on some citizens, right?
Well, in that case, let’s substitute the word “tax” with the word “penalty.” Only half of the people in the United States must pay an “income penalty” to the federal government. These people pay this penalty because they have been financially successful. Clearly, these people are being penalized for their financial success.
Per this logic, I suppose the income penalty payers should aspire to invest less, make less, do less, and avoid punishment from the government in the future. They should try to fit into that group who doesn’t pay a penalty—yet reaps the benefits of all the programs that income taxes support—because making a good income is an offense in this country. It’s only fair to make those people have a painful consequence for being productive, right?
Do you see how sometimes a “penalty” is worse than a “tax” regardless of how many people pay it? Can you see why politicians like to splice meanings to lead you to only their conclusions? Conversely, the “tax” in the ACA has bad optics.
Now, I won’t lie and say I like the Affordable Care Act, and I would have preferred the ruling go with the dissent that would have killed it. But I can understand how judges much smarter than me were able to conclude that the individual mandate is something other than what it was said to be because a thing is its definition. I can accept President Obama has levied a new tax.
You should ask yourself, why can’t Democrats?
I have not gone to law school, and Supreme Court rulings are far above my expertise. However, I am enough of a student of history to know the majority opinion on the Affordable Care Act was destined to be controversial no matter what the verdict.
In fact, if the ruling had gone another way, many people would still be unhappy.
As it stands, forcing an individual to participate in commerce has been ruled beyond the power of the federal government, but this matters naught as the majority of justices have also accepted the argument that the mandate requiring every American citizen to maintain healthcare is actually a tax, which is within the reasonable purview of Congress.
The logic per the ruling is framed within the government’s assertion that “even if Congress lacks the power to direct individuals to buy insurance, the only effect of the individual mandate is to raise taxes on those who do not do so, and thus the law may be upheld as a tax.”
How exactly this tax will be levied on American citizens now seems to me a complex and onerous question because nothing about Obamacare is as it was presented to be to the American people.
Contrary to what Democrats claimed while forcing the bill against popular opinion and into law, the costs of healthcare have not been curbed; a major tax is being levied on American citizens, and guarantees for keeping in tact current coverage for those who like their healthcare plans are viewed by most as empty.
Of course conservative pundits are excoriating Chief Justice John Roberts for his acceptance of the argument that the individual mandate is a tax. The hope was that this heart of the bill would be ripped out and destroyed as unconstitutional. Now the Chief Justice with his unexpected swing vote has acted like Dr. Frankenstein, allowing the monster to live.
While I am an unabashed conservative who feels this signature “accomplishment” of President Obama’s is destructive, I took the time to actually read the logic used in the ruling, which is undergirded with precedents that lend strength to the opinion.
As the ruling states, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not [the Court’s] role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
I can speculate with these words that Chief Justice Roberts—and even, perhaps, his more liberal peers—sees much in Obamacare is not wise, fair, or desirable for the nation. There are many implications for the economy and the American healthcare system that one can argue are not good. In fact, aspects of Medicaid expansion have been ruled unconstitutional, and this will impact the funding and execution of this law.
But Chief Justice Roberts did not create the Affordable Care Act. His only job was to interpret whether or not contested aspects of the thing could stand under our Constitution. In my opinion, he has not acted unfairly here anymore than he was an “ideologue” when ruling in cases such Citizens United that left liberals calling foul and seeing red. He has simply analyzed the case and expressed his opinion.
Certainly the merits of this ruling can be argued as they are argued in an equally articulate dissent, but I can respect the rationale so succinctly written by the Chief Justice. In fact, I fervently hope that people forming an opinion on this ruling look at the source documents rather than rely exclusively on the talking heads that dominate our media. After all, we must respect rulings by the Supreme Court even when they are not what we expected them to be, and we should try to understand more than sound-bytes.
Besides, while Obamacare’s heart may still be beating, this creature birthed exclusively by Democrats is ugly, hated by a strong majority, and surely doomed to lumber into a life of unexpected consequences that will not increase its popularity. If one really despises this legislation, the way to fight it is in the voting booth. The way to kill it is to elect a Republican President and Republican Senate.
After all, per Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, “The Framers created a Federal Government of limited powers, and assigned to this Court the duty of enforcing those limits…. But the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”
Now let the people speak.
While I have never served in the military, I am the daughter of an Army officer, the granddaughter of a Naval officer, the daughter-in-law of an Air Force officer, the sister of a former Army lieutenant, the sister-in-law of a West Point graduate, the cousin of many others who have served in all the branches of service in all ranks, and the mother of a boy who has had his eyes set on a career in the military since he could walk.
Like most Army brats, I have no illusions about what servicemen and women are asked to sacrifice for their country. I know about long deployments, missed birthdays, and empty seats at holiday tables.
I also know that in addition to the “big” days like high school graduations, soldiers often miss out on those basic family events—those common activities like cheering at football games, attending band recitals, or reading bedtime stories—that we take for granted as part of our daily lives in America.
Rather than being able to quit and move onto a different job when things don’t go in the direction they might have envisioned--when they are ordered to countries they might not know much about or have no desire to visit—those in the military and their families must simply adjust and keep marching forward.
For instance, I recall one year when my brother was stationed in Korea and could not come home for Christmas. My mother left the tinsel-bedecked Christmas tree replete with lights shining in her living room until it was time for her son’s February homecoming. All the brightly wrapped packages were unopened on December 25 because Jim could not join in the joy of the festivities until he was back in Georgia. We wanted to wait for him, and we did.
I remember when I finally picked him up at the airport in Savannah—him beaming and weighted down with the many gifts he couldn’t wait to dole out like a skinny Santa dressed in a camouflaged uniform--I realized we’d missed an entire year of each other’s lives: 365 days gone.
And this all happened long before the increased demands of September 11th.
Now I think with my own mother’s heart about those young men and women in beating sun, biting cold, who choose to stand guard on the front lines of today. So much has been asked of them in the last decade, and the burdens they carry do not get any lighter as withdrawals from war zones come in the face of growing hostilities from other countries like Iran.
I know this must be difficult for all involved, yet how can I really know?
I have never stood in boots. I am not part of the less than one percent who volunteer year after year to stand up for freedom regardless of their politics or the inevitably missed family moments.
So on this Memorial Day Weekend, as many revel at the good sales, Florida beaches and impromptu barbecues, I will stop and think for at least a moment about those many men and women who have not only raised their hands and stepped forward to serve strangers like me, but of those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. This is, after all, what this weekend is about. Their spirits are part of our country’s collective family, and they should never be forgotten.
Furthermore, I will further keep vigil every time I say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the Star Spangled Banner at one of those many events we enjoy in the day-to-day that the dead will never attend again.
This is the least that I can do for those who have done so much more for me while asking for nothing in return.
May God always keep them and those they leave behind in the palm of His hand.
My husband and I went on a guided hike around Helen on Saturday. We joined a small group of delightful strangers from different cities in Georgia who had all traveled north to enjoy the great outdoors. As we eventually ate lunch together on a platform overlooking a waterfall in Unicoi State Park, two things struck me as worthy of note.
First, we are privileged to live in a gorgeous state with incredible natural resources that enhance our quality of life and are worth treasuring and preserving. Second, in an arbitrary party of nine, which included folks in their early twenties to late fifties, three of our hikers had lost their jobs in May.
This latter fact was astonishing to me because according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate in Georgia in April registered at 8.9%. This is slightly higher than the national unemployment rate President Obama touts as falling to 8.1%. Yet the actual unemployment rate amongst our random sampling of Georgia residents was a whopping 33%.
Of course, I realize this number comes from an anecdotal experience. I am no Paul Krugman; this was not a scientific poll, and I don’t even know the detailed circumstances surrounding why three people in different industries had been so recently laid off. (It is always bad form, you see, to drill too deeply into another’s misfortune an hour or two after exchanging names.)
Yet it somehow felt significant that subsequent to crossing a stream and eating turkey sandwiches, three people felt comfortable enough to share the loss of their livelihoods, as if such losses have become so common, they are now a topic of casual conversation, as neutral a discussion as how those Braves are playing.
If this perception is reality, politicians should take note, because it hardly inspires faith in an “improving” economy.
I mean, even in that peaceful setting amidst wild rhododendrons and purple butterflies in the Georgia mountains, 33% of us, at least, were carrying a burden of uncertainty about the future that no statistics spouted on the nightly news have the power to alleviate.
Rather, it should seem as clear as sunshine in this newest election cycle that the one thing that will matter most to an astonishingly large number of voters—whether they keep an R or a D behind their names—will be the path that leads them to a new employer.