Early in the debate over financial reform, the banking lobby explicitly stated that any tax assessed on them would just be “passed onto the consumers”. Early in the debate on energy reform (aka cap and trade), Republican legislators explicitly stated that the cost of any tax or carbon credit would just be “passed onto the consumer”. We are not dealing with implications friends, we are dealing with explicit threats.
It is a fact that business passes its costs onto consumers; that is just the way it works. Consumers pay the cost of the product or service, and some level of premium (or markup) that goes to profit; this is how business exists. There is nothing inherently unethical or amoral about the capitalist marketplace, but neither is it a guiltless virgin worthy of unrestrained activity. When businesses externalize their costs to the community they operate within, it is the responsibility of we the people to decide how those costs will be paid.
This is fun stuff.
For those of you unaware, the Big Ten Conference has already announced its intentions to “explore the possibility” of expanding conference membership to 12, 14, or possibly even 16 teams. An advisory board has been hired and is exploring several possibilities (i.e. schools that could possibly be a good fit in the Big Ten.)
That’s really all we know right now. It seems like there are different pieces of “information” leaking out every day with regards to the new additions to the conference. Over a month ago, Pitt was supposedly a done deal, a couple weeks later it was on good authority that UConn was in, and recently there have been rumblings that Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, and Notre Dame were all extended offers, and that three of the four (with, you guessed it, Notre Dame being the holdout) were virtual locks to accept.
Who in the world is Elena Kagan? Why in the world did President Obama nominate her? How is it that Republicans and Democrats have begun to see the same picture, and report radically different visions? Supreme Court nominations, and the idea of the Court itself, have always been something of an enigma to the citizens of our democracy. We were all taught in civics or government class that the Court exists in our system of checks and balances, but we are deeply suspicious of it nonetheless.
The nomination of Elena Kagan, expected for weeks, has succeeded in driving other important news (financial reform, immigration reform, the Gulf environmental catastrophe) from the front pages. The initial Republican lines of attack are both humorous and obvious. Rush Limbaugh called Ms. Kagan an “intellectual lightweight” (her bipartisan status as brilliant notwithstanding). John Cornyn and others also immediately attacked her lack of judicial experience…she has never been a judge. Republicans in this new century have stood out for their short memories and ability to reverse themselves. Chief Justice (and conservative icon) William Rehnquist was appointed to the Court in 1972 by Richard Nixon…without having served as a judge previously.
Most of America knows what the Miranda rights are, we hear them every time we watch a police procedural show on television. The product of a 1960′s Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, it mandates that a suspect be told his or her rights before an interrogation, lest the results of that interrogation be inadmissible in court. The question in today’s headlines is whether this should be extended to terrorist suspects, and whether the extension of such rights is dangerous to America.
I have written many times of my personal beliefs on this matter; liberty and principle don’t matter when they are thrown aside in times of danger. Patrick Henry called us to this ethic when he decried, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” But neither do I desire to be overly critical of divergent opinion; citizens have the right to call for the safety of their families. What then, are we to make of the recent controversies surrounding the “wannabe-bomber” and the “underwear-bomber”?
The Rational Middle is published by a defense hawk. I am an amateur student of military history, and a believer in robust military spending. I am stating this upfront because the rest of this article is a reality check. This is for the Tea Parties, Conservatives, and Moderate Democrats who are (reasonably) pressing for fiscal discipline. Mathematically, you just can’t talk about the deficit without addressing defense spending. Of course, you can’t do it without talking about tax increases either, but I wrote on that subject here.
In the fiscal year 2009, as directed by George W. Bush’s final budget, the United States spent $538.1 billion on discretionary domestic spending. That number is, as a friend would say, a lot of cheddar. During that same budget, our democracy spent $655.8 billion on defense. That is $117.7 billion more cheddar. I would vigorously argue that much of that spending (or at least what was purchased) was and remains necessary. I would also argue, as many have, that much of the spending cut be cut without the loss of programs…if only we could be more efficient. Some people think that the savings lie in stopping the “generous pay raises and benefits” lavished by Congress on the troops. Some people also, in my humble opinion, need to be taken out and and shot at for a while before deciding what level of pay is “generous”.
The great American author, Tom Clancy, noted in the epilogue to The Sum Of All Fears that it was not probable that any free democracy could prevent a terrorist event using weapons of mass destruction. Since 9/11, most of the nation’s best analysts, through interviews on television or in print, have repeatedly stated that another major attack is a near inevitability. This friends, leads us to the nature of terrorism; the ability of a small force able to bend a larger force to its will through intimidation. But the United States hasn’t changed in response to the events of 9/11, have we?
Clancy made it a point to reference the free democracy in his note. Liberty, after all, does not blend well with a police state. For decades the Red Chinese, and the Soviets, Nazis, and Czarists before them, controlled the ethnic and religious divisions that existed in their nations. It is not coincidental that bloodshed began anew in the Balkans when Yugoslavia was dissolved; the tensions of Serb and Croat had been sublimated to the will of world socialism. Iraq as well, showed the results of tyranny on the profession of terror; Hussein allowed no jihad in his country, and was utterly without limits in his ability to enforce his will. It took a foreign power to uncork the terrorist potential in that nation.