Archive for June, 2012

Obamacare ruling offers good possibilities, but no substitute for a win

Generals are often accused of “fighting the last war.” After Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, conservatives are asked to pin our hopes on the notion Chief Justice John Roberts was fighting the next war.

This is a tempting proposition. There is the fact Roberts, in the main opinion of the court, and the four dissenting justices endorsed a limit to the power Congress wields under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. As this was the key judicial theory advanced by the law’s opponents, one that sought to halt a decades-long expansion of the meaning of “regulating” interstate commerce, that is no minor feat. It could even provide the starting point one day for further rollbacks of bad Commerce Clause precedent, starting with the awful 1942 Wickard decision that found a farmer affected interstate commerce by growing his own wheat.

There is also the fact the court’s majority decided the “penalty” for non-compliance with Obamacare’s …

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Obamacare upheld: What it means now and in the future

Challenging Obamacare on constitutional grounds was never what anyone on the right wanted to rely on as a Plan A. “Repeal and replace,” the mantra of conservatives since Congress approved the health-insurance overhaul in 2010, is a high bar requiring the election of a president and congressional majorities dedicated to taking Obamacare off the books and passing more sensible reforms in its place. But persuading the Supreme Court to void the law by declaring it beyond Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, while sincerely believed to be correct, was always a higher bar to clear.

The irony is that we cleared the higher bar, and have nothing to show for it.

Do not confuse this for spin: Barack Obama and the Democrats won a clear policy victory today in seeing the court uphold their health law. There’s no denying that. Any other outcome would have been a debacle for them. This is the opposite of a debacle. That would be a victory.

That said, five of the court’s nine …

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Obamacare upheld — as the tax Obama promised us it wasn’t

UPDATE at 11:59 a.m.: The president is expected to comment on the ruling at 12:15 p.m. One wonders how his remarks will square with White House talking points from the Obamacare debate, such as:

What President Obama is proposing is not a tax, but a requirement to comply with the law.

and

People are required to obey the speed limit and have to pay a penalty if they get caught speeding? Does anyone consider that a tax?

and

People are required to have car insurance and can be fined if they are caught without it. Is that a tax?

In one of the court’s other decisions today, United States v. Alvarez, the justices upheld American’s First Amendment rights to lie about receiving military honors. In the Obamacare ruling, the majority upheld politicians’ First Amendment rights to lie about their policies. Not that anyone thought that kind of lying would ever stop.

UPDATE at 11:42 a.m.: At first blush, any cheers for the court’s declining to uphold Obamacare based on the Commerce Clause …

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Is high-speed rail really feasible for Georgia?

The Georgia DOT recently declared “feasible” three passenger-rail routes from Atlanta to other Southern cities: a straight shot to Birmingham; a line to Louisville via Nashville; and a line to Jacksonville via Savannah. While these plans do not directly relate to the T-SPLOST, they are very relevant to the multimodal transit hub planned for “The Gulch” in downtown Atlanta. But how feasible are these routes, really?

I’ll not comment today on the cost and ridership estimates, except to say the former are almost always too low and the latter almost always too high. What I want to examine is whether the routes are likely to be attractive to passengers at the prices DOT projects for each.

First, a brief detour to Europe. The Old Continent’s high-speed rail system is the aspiration of many an American train fanatic, and I’m quite familiar with it from my time living there. In 4.5 years I traveled from Brussels to London maybe a dozen times and to Paris seven or eight times — always …

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2012 Tuesday: Obama’s failing to out-raise the GOP this time

A little over a year ago, independent analysts were projecting that Barack Obama’s re-election campaign could raise an unprecedented $1 billion. Now, the president’s team is lamenting he may be the first incumbent outspent by his opponent and has taken to asking supporters to forgo wedding gifts and ask their friends to donate to his campaign instead:

Obama Registry

How the mighty have fallen.

We can get into the reasons for this drop-off, which includes fewer contributions from donors both large and small, but let’s also get ahead of an emerging meme in the election: that Mitt Romney and the Republicans are trying to “buy” the presidency.

Most of the people making these complaints didn’t have much to say four years ago, when Obama was the first major-party presidential candidate to forgo public campaign financing and outspent John McCain by half a billion dollars, or more than 3-to-1. And few of them will rue the fact that Obama will end up spending about as much money this time, just that …

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In Arizona case, court doesn’t betray its alleged ideological gap

Oh, that zany, right-wing Supreme Court.

Liberals have been working themselves into a frenzy about the possibility that the court’s four conservative justices and the less-predictable Anthony Kennedy will overturn the 2010 federal health-care reform, a.k.a. Obamacare. Such a ruling figures into two of the “5 Signs of a Radical Change in U.S. Politics,” according to The Atlantic’s James Fallows. “Court packing,” the idea of adding justices to the court which was last threatened by Franklin Roosevelt when the court wouldn’t accept as constitutional some of his New Deal programs, is already being suggested on the opinion pages of the Washington Post.

Other commentators have warned — presumably for the benefit of any justices who might peruse their columns or blogs — that the court risks discrediting itself if it rules in a way that just happens to go against President Barack Obama. Unexplained is exactly how and why this discrediting will occur, given that majorities of the …

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Court upholds Atlanta’s rights to Lake Lanier’s water, overturns part of AZ immigration law; Obamacare on hold

UPDATE at 1:55 p.m.: Here’s my longer take on the Arizona ruling.

UPDATE at 11 a.m.: A quick clarification: I erred in writing that the court said the opinion will come out Thursday. What it said is Thursday will be the last day for issuing opinions this term; there is a slight possibility it will hold the case over until the next term.

ORIGINAL POST:

The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare today and said the opinion will come out Thursday. In very big local news, however, the justices declined to hear an appeal by Alabama and Florida of the 11th Circuit’s ruling in the long-running “water wars,” meaning metro Atlanta can still take drinking water from Lake Lanier. And it overruled substantial portions of Arizona’s highly controversial immigration law — while leaving intact the most scrutinized part, which allows local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people who have been arrested.

More analysis coming as I make it through …

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On T-SPLOST, vote your interests — not what you think others’ are

In recent weeks, a few friends have asked me for advice: How should they vote in July’s T-SPLOST referendum?

I asked them where they do most of their driving. Then I rattled off the nearby projects I could remember — and advised them to check the official map in case I had forgotten others. But one guy replied that he wanted to know what’s best for the region, not just himself.

What’s best for the region, I told him, is for everyone to decide what’s best for themselves, and vote accordingly.

Advocates of the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax say many of our transportation problems are regional in nature. One of their favorite illustrations is that the project most desired by elected officials in Douglas County was the interchange of I-285 and I-20 west, which sits in Fulton.

They’re right about the regional nature of many of our problems. And it might well be true that the best way to improve commutes for the people of Douglas County is to spend money on projects …

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Poll Position: Carry permits for soldiers under 21?

While the T-SPLOST vote rightly gets most of the attention, the July 31 primaries will also feature a number of ballot questions for both Republican voters and Democrats. We’ve covered a few of them in previous Poll Positions, and today we’re going to resume that series with a bang. No, really.

The third question on GOP primary ballots will read:

Should active duty military personnel who are under the age of 21 be allowed to obtain a Georgia weapons carry license?

Should active duty military personnel who are under the age of 21 be allowed to obtain a Georgia weapons carry license?

  • Yes (547 Votes)
  • No (57 Votes)
  • I don’t know (10 Votes)

Total Voters: 614

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The question dovetails with a Senate bill (SB 493) sponsored by Bartow County’s Barry Loudermilk in this year’s session. That bill passed the Senate with a broader impact, lowering the carry license from 21 to 18 for anyone who passed a firearms training course within three months of applying. A

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Texas bank sues to overturn key element of Dodd-Frank

It’ll be at least Monday — and quite possibly later next week — before we get the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare. In the meantime, a Texas bank filed a federal lawsuit today seeking to overturn a key provision of the other major legislative achievement of the Obama era: the Dodd-Frank banking law. From The Hill:

A Texas community bank is filing suit in U.S. District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

In particular, the suit will contend that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the law, lacks sufficient checks and balances and, in the words of the CEO of State National Bank, is “simply unconstitutional.”

“No other federal agency or commission operates in such a way that one person can essentially determine who gets a home loan, who can get a credit card and who can get a loan for college,” said Jim Purcell, head of the Big Spring, Texas, bank. “Dodd-Frank effectively gives unlimited regulatory power to …

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