Posts tagged ‘Republican President’

More Thoughts on Immigration -- Why I Think the Tiberius Gracchus Analogy is Particularly Apt

First, congrats to many millions of people who can remain in this country, a status they should have always have had.  We can argue whether anyone who makes his or her way over the border should be able to vote or draw benefits, but there is no doubt in my mind that they should be able to live anywhere they can pay the rent and work anywhere that there is an employer willing to pay them.

I am willing to accept the analysis of folks like Ilya Somin who say that the President's non-enforcement decision on immigration laws is legal.  But I think his concept of "precedent" when he says there are precedents for this sort of thing is way too narrow.  This is an important, dangerous new precedent.

What I think folks are missing who make this argument about precedent is that while many examples exist of the Executive Branch excercising proprietorial discretion, the circumstances are without precedent in both scale and well as in its explicit defiance of legislative intent.  One can argue that Reagan's executive actions vis a vis immigration provide a precedent, for example, but Reagan was essentially following the intent of then-recent Congressional legislation, arguably just fixing flaws with executive orders in the way that legislation was written.  What he did was what Congress wanted.

The reason I think Tiberius Gracchus is a good analog is that Gracchus too took actions that were technically legal.  Tribunes always technically had the legal power to bypass the Senate, but in hundreds of years had never done so.  Despite their technical legality, his actions were seen at the time as extremely aggressive and plowing new Constitutional ground, ground that would soon become a fertile field for authoritarians to enhance their power.

Somin includes the following, which I think is an example of where defenders of the President's process (as different from the outcomes) are missing reality.  He writes:

I would add that the part of the president’s new policy offering work permits to some of those whose deportation is deferred in no way changes the analysis above. The work permits are merely a formalization of the the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion here, which indicates that the administration will not attempt to deport these people merely for being present in the United States and attempting to find jobs here. They do not purport to legalize their status, and the policy of nondeportation can be reversed at any time by the president or his successor.

This is one of those statements that are technically true, but totally obtuse at the same time.   Issuing formal get-out-of-jail-free cards to 5 million people is unprecedented.  Think of it this way:  Imagine a Republican President who is opposed to the minimum wage.  The Executive branch is tasked with enforcing that law, so wold the folks defending the President's methods also argue hat the government can issue permits to 5 million businesses allowing them to  ignore labor law?  Or emissions standards?  Or insider trading laws?

People are just being blinded by what they rightly see as a positive goal (helping millions of people) if they fail to see that the President issuing licenses to not be prosecuted for certain crimes is a huge new precedent.  Proprietorial discretion is supposed to be used to avoid patent unfairness in certain cases (e.g. the situation in Colorado with conflicting state and Federal laws on marijuana).  It is not meant to be a veto power for the President over any law on the books.  But I can tell you one thing -- it is going to be seen by future Presidents as just this.  Presidents and parties change, and for those of you swearing this is a totally legal, normal, fully-precedented action, be aware that the next time 5 million wavers are issued, it may well be for a law you DO want enforced.  Then what?

Update:  Libertarians are making the case that the Constitution never gave Congress the power to restrict immigration.  I could not agree more.  However, I fear that will have zero impact on the precedent that will be inferred from all this.  Because what matters is how the political community as a whole interprets a precedent, and I think that this will be interpreted as "the president may issue mass waivers from any law he does not like."  Now, since I dislike a hell of a lot of the laws on the books, perhaps over time I will like this precedent.  But the way things work is that expansive new executive powers seldom work in favor of liberty in the long run, so I am skeptical.

Maybe Another Reason To Vote Romney

OK, there are lots of reasons to get Obama out of office.  The problem is, that for most of them, I have no reasonable hope that Romney will be any better.  Corporatism?  CEO as Venture-Capitalist-in-Chief?  Indefinite detentions?  Lack of Transparency?  The Drug War?   Obamacare, which was modeled on Romneycare?  What are the odds that any of these improve under Romney, and at least under Obama they are not being done by someone who wraps himself in the mantle of small government and free markets, helping to corrupt the public understanding of those terms.

So I am pretty sure I cannot vote for Romey.  I really like Gary Johnson and I am pretty sure he will get my vote.  Republican friends get all over me for wasting my vote, saying it will just help Obama win.  So be it -- I see both candidates undertaking roughly the same actions and I would rather that bad statist actions be taken in the name of Progressives rather than in the name of someone who purports to be free market.

To test my own position, I have been scrounging for reasons to vote for Romney.  I have two so far:

1.  Less likely to bail out Illinois when its pension system goes broke in the next few years

2.  I might marginally prefer his Supreme Court nominees to Obama's

That is about all I have.  Stretching today, I have come up with a third:

3.  If we have a Republican in the White House, the press will start doing its job and dig into the facts about drone strikes and warrant-less wiretapping.

You know the press are in full defense mode protecting their guy in office when the only press that reports on the ACLU's accusation about sky-rocketing wire tapping under Obama are the libertarians at Reason and the Marxists at the World Socialist Web site.  Four years ago the New York Times would have milked this for about a dozen articles.  It may take a Republican President to get the media to kick back into accountability mode over expansions of executive power.

The Income-Shift Is Reversed

Typically, wealthy individuals and investors will work hard to delay declaration of income and to push taxes off as far into the future as possible.  The present value of taxes paid a year from now are less than paying the taxes today.

But over the last several weeks, I have had casual conversations with entrepreneurs and individuals from the moderately to very wealthy, and almost to a one they have said they are trying to pull income into 2007 and 2008 in anticipation of potentially large increases in capital gains tax rates and the rates at the top of the bracket.

On a different topic, a friend and I depressed ourselves in a bar last night laying out the case that the next decade may in many ways be a repeat of the 1970s.  Already, we see both parties reverting to the economic prescriptions they promoted in the 1970s.  Further, this week may herald the beginning of an inflationary monetary and fiscal policy combined with government enforced structural limits on growth (e.g. Co2 abatement policy, trade protectionism, price controls, high marginal tax rates and capital gains tax rates, lending restrictions, etc.)  We are seriously discussing nationalizing a major industry (health care) for the first time since the 1970's (when nationalizing oil was seriously considered).  Currently we have a Republican President who is less market-oriented than his Democratic predecessor, and at least as clueless on economic issues as were Nixon and Ford.  All that's left to do is elect a new Jimmy Carter in 2008...

Is This Really The Replacement We Want?

Regular readers know that I am a critic of the Bush administration for any number of failings, perhaps most importantly its flaunting of the separation of powers and its attempts to avoid scrutiny by hiding behind the war and calls on patriotism.  In this post, aimed mostly at the drift in the Republican party, I threw in this  observation:

in response to a Republican President thought to be over-reaching,
secretive, and overly fond of executive power, they seem ready to
nominate Hillary Clinton, who may be one of the few people in the
country more secretive and power-hungry.  Anyone remember how she
conducted her infamous health care task force?  I seem to remember she
pioneered many of the practices for which Democrats tried to impeach
Dick Cheney this week.

Q&O links an article from the National Review which goes further on Hillary:

If grumbling about a basketball story seems excessive, it's also
typical of the Clinton media machine. Reporters who have covered the
hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too
minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe
reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer
specifics for the record--"They're too smart," one furtively confides.
"They'll figure out who I am"--privately, they recount excruciating
battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep
suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers.
Hillary's aides don't hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as
when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by
threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the
magazine had in the works. Reporters' jabs and errors are long
remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton
aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top
editors. "They're frightening!" says one reporter who has covered
Clinton. "They don't see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process.
They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game."...

It's enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within
the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign's strategy. And,
if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say
reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the
model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly
veiled contempt and minimal cooperation. "The Bush administration
changed the rules," as one scribe puts it--and the Clintonites like the
way they look. (To be sure, no one accuses the Clinton team of outright
lying to the press, as the Bushies have done, or of crossing other
ethical lines. And reporters say other press shops--notably those of
Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards--are also highly combative.)

The only quibble I have is the distinction that Hillary is not lying, but Bush is.  That seems, at least to this libertarian, to be a silly statement.  There is no reason to believe Hillary is any more or less mendacious than GWB.  Though I will say, with the right audience, Hillary can be surprisingly honest and open about her aims:

10/11/2007:  "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

June, 2004:  "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common
good," she told San Franciscans in June 2004. As first lady, she said:
"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what
is best for society."

An Observation About Republican Presidential Candidates

I almost never ever post on politics and political races, but I had an interesting conversation the other day.  As a secular libertarian, I find no one (beyond Ron Paul) among the Republican candidates even the least bit interesting.  I trust none of them to pursue free market and small government principals, and several, including McCain, Giuliani, and Huckabee, have track records of large government intrusiveness.

What I found interesting was a conversation with a friend of mine who self-identifies as a Christian conservative  (yes, I know it is out of vogue, but it is perfectly possible to have quality friendships with people of different political stripes, particularly considering that I am married to a New England liberal Democrat).  My Christian conservative friend said he found no Republican he was really interested in voting for.

I find it interesting that the Republicans (again with the exception of Ron Paul, who I think they would like to disavow) unable to field a candidate that appeals to either of its traditional constituencies.  It strikes me the party is heading back to its roots in the 1970s in the Nixon-Rockefeller days.  Yuk.

Update:  Which isn't to necessarily say the Democrats have everything figured out.  For example, in response to a Republican President thought to be over-reaching, secretive, and overly fond of executive power, they seem ready to nominate Hillary Clinton, who may be one of the few people in the country more secretive and power-hungry.  Anyone remember how she conducted her infamous health care task force?  I seem to remember she pioneered many of the practices for which Democrats tried to impeach Dick Cheney this week.

An Observation About Republican Presidential Candidates

I almost never ever post on politics and political races, but I had an interesting conversation the other day.  As a secular libertarian, I find no one (beyond Ron Paul) among the Republican candidates even the least bit interesting.  I trust none of them to pursue free market and small government principals, and several, including McCain, Giuliani, and Huckabee, have track records of large government intrusiveness.

What I found interesting was a conversation with a friend of mine who self-identifies as a Christian conservative  (yes, I know it is out of vogue, but it is perfectly possible to have quality friendships with people of different political stripes, particularly considering that I am married to a New England liberal Democrat).  My Christian conservative friend said he found no Republican he was really interested in voting for.

I find it interesting that the Republicans (again with the exception of Ron Paul, who I think they would like to disavow) unable to field a candidate that appeals to either of its traditional constituencies.  It strikes me the party is heading back to its roots in the 1970s in the Nixon-Rockefeller days.  Yuk.

Update:  Which isn't to necessarily say the Democrats have everything figured out.  For example, in response to a Republican President thought to be over-reaching, secretive, and overly fond of executive power, they seem ready to nominate Hillary Clinton, who may be one of the few people in the country more secretive and power-hungry.  Anyone remember how she conducted her infamous health care task force?  I seem to remember she pioneered many of the practices for which Democrats tried to impeach Dick Cheney this week.

The Death of Small-Government Republicans

My liberal in-laws always give me this strange condescending look whenever it comes up that I have voted for a Republican at some point in time, that same look you might give the otherwise beloved family dog that keeps pooping on the front lawn.  As a libertarian, I seldom fully agree with any political candidate of either party.  Every election is a tradeoff:  Do I vote for the unelectable and perhaps truly odd Libertarian candidate?  Or do I vote for a mainstream party with which I disagree with about half of everything they promote?

So here is how I normally make the decision:  On pure self-interest.  Since, as a small business owner, I am much more likely to need strong protection of property rights than I am going to need an abortion, a gay marriage, or legal marijuana, I end up voting Republican more often than I vote Democrat.  For this reason, the Republican party has generally garnered a good many libertarian votes, and the two most identifiable libertarians in Congress (Flake and Paul) have both called themselves Republican, though I am sure with some reservations.

This relationship, however, may be at an end as Republicans are disavowing their libertarian wing, and returning to their large government tendencies of the 1970's.  Bush and his buddy Tom Delay are turning out to be classic Nixon Republicans.  The most recent evidence comes from the fact that the following is not from our Republican President, or our Republican Speaker of the House, but from the for-god-sakes Washington Post:

But this spirit of
forbearance has not touched the Louisiana congressional delegation. The
state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in
federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000
per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from
businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top
of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for
emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six
televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana
legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly
spend usefully. ...

The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought
to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was
flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money
to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a
system of political patronage. ...

The Louisiana bill is so preposterous
that its authors can't possibly expect it to pass; it's just the first
round in a process of negotiation. But the risk is that the
administration and congressional leaders will accept the $250 billion
as a starting point, then declare a victory for fiscal sanity when they
bring the number down to, say, $150 billion. Instead, Congress should
ignore the Louisiana bill and force itself to think seriously about the
sort of reconstruction that makes sense.

The Republicans are lost.  Combine this kind of spending with their Patriot Act and Sarbabes-Oxley driven Big-Borther-Is-Watching intrusiveness, luke-warm committment to free-trade, and bizarre obsession with pornography, and I find nothing at all attractive about the party.  Only the economic insanity of the opposition party continues to keep Republicans in power. 

More on the Louisiana money grab here.