Archive for January, 2011

Another judge says ObamaCare is unconstitutional (Updated)

UPDATE at 5:10 p.m.: Reading through the ruling, I’m struck by how sharply worded it is. An example:

According to the defendants [the Obama administration], because the Supreme Court has never identified a distinction between activity and inactivity as a limitation on Congress’ commerce power, to hold otherwise would “break new legal ground” and be “novel” and “unprecedented.” … First, it is interesting that the defendants — apparently believing the best defense is a good offense — would use the words “novel” and “unprecedented” since, as previously noted, those are the exact same words that the CRS [Congressional Research Service] and CBO [Congressional Budget Office] used to describe the individual mandate before it became law. Furthermore, there is a simple and rather obvious reason why the Supreme Court has never distinguished between activity and inactivity before: it has not been called upon to consider the issue because, until now, Congress had never attempted to …

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Egypt and how we spend our foreign aid

The outcome in Egypt is still far from clear, but it is becoming clearer by the day that Hosni Mubarak will not make it to the 30th anniversary of his assuming the presidency, in October. Most likely, Mubarak is down to two choices: Hang on until elections scheduled for September, or leave power soon in the hands of a military-backed transitional government.

Both choices suggest that the Egyptian military will be the ultimate arbiter, and that a true Egyptian democracy is still years away. Neither choice speaks to the fulfillment of the desires of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who have stood their ground on streets where aspirations of freedom have died many times before.

The emerging consensus candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, appears a lackluster prospect. ElBaradei was at best ineffectual, and at worst feckless, as the international community’s chief liaison for a time with nuke-hungry Iran. It is no comfort that …

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On shorter legislative sessions, a new banking chair and refunding train lobbyists

The action in the Georgia House and Senate chambers for most of last week went something like this: Convene, say the pledge, hear a devotion, make announcements, adjourn.

It was so efficient, it was inefficient.

Our part-time General Assembly traditionally meets for 40 legislative days each year, wrapping up in March or April. The state Constitution says only that legislators shall meet “no longer than 40 days.” That’s a limit, not a requirement.

Yet it was widely understood in the hallways under the Gold Dome that lawmakers needed to “burn” a few days last week to hasten the end of the session just a little bit. Those final days, after all, are when almost everything of note gets done.

Now, far be it for a journalist to question the mind-focusing powers of a deadline. But — and I’m just asking here — if lawmakers feel an urge to bring the end along sooner, and if the Constitution says it’s OK to meet fewer than 40 days, wouldn’t it make more sense to have shorter …

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Concerns about a Georgia tax hike may be assuaged soon

Today’s meeting of the minds about a special panel’s tax-reform proposals was closed to the press. But afterward I spoke with several participants, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who has previously called the reform package a tax hike and who came to Atlanta to hear members of said special panel argue otherwise.

It appears that the concerns that Norquist voicedas did I, a couple of weeks ago — may be resolved in relatively short order.

First, Norquist defended his determination that the reform package as written, with the revenue estimates it included, was a tax hike. He said A.D. Frazier, who chaired the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, told him that while producing a “revenue neutral” reform package was the intent of the council, “they were focused on the principles of tax reform but not on the totals” of revenue estimates. To which Norquist said, “Well, I’m kinda concerned about the totals.”

Frazier told me this afternoon …

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The day the thrill of space died for my generation

If you were born in the early 1960s, as President Barack Obama was, then you were 7 or 8 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. The buildup to that seminal event would have been tremendous, and it would have been one of the first major historical events of which you were aware. And, in the years that followed, the general feeling surrounding America’s space program would have been one of immense pride — a great race against the Soviets that we had won.

But if you were born in the late 1970s, as I was, then you were 7 or 8 years old when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the Florida sky on Jan. 28, 1986 — 25 years ago today.

It was one of the first major historical events that people my age experienced, and we all experienced it in one way or another because the buildup to it was great. Everyone in my first-grade classroom — throughout the entire school, and in every school across America, I dare say — knew the name Christa McAuliffe. In …

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How Tunisia and Egypt could affect us

If you’re not paying attention to the news from Tunisia and Egypt, you should be. The nature of America’s engagement in the Middle East, and the future of our allies there, may be changing before our eyes.

Whether for good or ill, we can’t yet know.

Credit: AJC staff / Source: World Book Encyclopedia

A look at the Arabic-speaking world (AJC staff / Source: World Book Encyclopedia)

The uprising in Tunisia began in December and culminated two weeks ago with Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years, and his family fleeing for exile. Remnants of the ruling cadre and some opposition leaders have since cobbled together an interim government to run the country until elections within a few months, as endorsed by the military.

The country’s future is in obvious flux, but its so-called Jasmine Revolution is already remarkable.

When I visited the capital city of Tunis on a reporting trip five years ago, I found many of the hallmarks of a dictatorship: huge, ubiquitous …

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Obama gives a speech we can’t take seriously

How do you take seriously a speech in which the president says we will spend more money on educating students, rebuilding our infrastructure and funding research for innovation in alternative energy sources — all while saying we’re not going to spend more money?

How do you take seriously a speech in which the only budgetary dollar figure the president gives is a made-up one — a reduction in spending (even as spending is frozen, remember) as compared only to hypothetical future budgets?

How do you take seriously a speech in which the president claims the mantle of fiscal restraint — while essentially bidding to make permanent the supposedly temporary, stimulus-inflated levels of spending we’ve seen the last two years?

How do you take seriously a speech in which the president says he will work more closely with Republicans — by making the same offers he has made, but not acted on, in previous speeches? (Examples: “If you have ideas about how to improve [the health-reform] law…I …

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Obama’s ‘down payment’ on fiscal restraint: Less than 1 percent

House Republicans want to cut $100 billion in federal spending this year. Think tanks have produced lists of cuts far beyond that.

And the president? Well, his idea of fiscal restraint is to cut $26 billion…spread over five years. From The Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama will call for a five-year freeze on nonsecurity discretionary spending in his State of the Union address Tuesday night “as a down payment toward reducing the deficit,” a White House official said.

The freeze won’t touch some of the budget’s biggest items, such as Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, nor will it apply to homeland-security spending or foreign aid.

You have to love the “down payment” analogy, given how much economic damage we’ve suffered the last few years due, in no small part, to the lack of seriousness banks and borrowers devoted to down payments toward home mortgages. Even if we accept the wrong-headed idea that only nonsecurity discretionary spending is on the table — …

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Obama and the GOP on ‘competitiveness’

President Obama reportedly will call for more government spending in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Coupled with his naming Wall Street figure Bill Daley as his chief of staff and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head a council on job creation, the president’s long-awaited pivot seems to be setting up a debate with Republicans over what constitutes “competitiveness.”

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post neatly explains what’s wrong with the president’s position, and how Republicans need to fight back:

The Bill Daley-Obama-Immelt vision isn’t one that promotes competition, lowers employers’ costs, reduces regulatory burdens and the like. In fact, Obama is opposed to things that really would aid competitiveness — reducing the cost of capital and labor, repealing oppressive mandates (including ObamaCare), and doing away with costly goodies for organized labor (e.g. Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” rules).

In his response to the State of the Union address, Rep. …

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Debunking some myths about school choice

For thousands of students, news of probation for Atlanta Public Schools was yet another time that adults key to their education have let them down. And for too many parents, unable to afford other options, it was one more reminder their child’s educational future is too tightly bound by their ZIP code.

National School Choice Week begins Sunday, and the urgency of extending truly equal opportunity for all students — whether in Atlanta or elsewhere — is only growing. Arguments to the contrary rely largely on myths, such as:

1. School choice amounts to “stealing” money from public schools.

Whether you talk about publicly funded charter schools or vouchers for use at any type of school, this objection comes up. It’s wrong-headed.

State-approved charter schools get no more money per student than the local system spends. If one of XYZ School’s 100 students leaves to attend a charter, XYZ will have 99 percent as much funding as before, for 99 percent as many kids.

Yes, fixed costs …

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