Monthly Archives: November 2013

Hobby Lobby Case Shouldn’t Be About Religion, It Should Be About A Government That Does Too Much

Eric Teetsel and Andrew Walker have a piece in The Federalist today arguing that government attempts to carve out exemptions to some laws on the basis of religion is incompatible with the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Religious freedom as nothing more than exemption is concession; little more than the slow and incremental surrender of a basic human right. The Supreme Court will likely rule on these issues in the next year and religion may win under the rubric of exemption, but it is unlikely the Court will wipe the slate and reinvigorate the free exercise clause. It is the responsibility of the people to revive and rebuild a culture of religious freedom, one that values the vital contributions of faith-based individuals and organizations. Or, at least, one that understands if the state can tell a person what to believe, or deny the right to conform one’s life to her beliefs, it can do anything.

While I agree with this in theory (and I agree wholly with the notion that the Court’s religious freedom jurisprudence is a mess), I think there are practical problems left unaddressed. What do they think a proper balance between the need for universal applicability of laws and the Free Exercise clause would look like?

Clearly no one argues that an assertion of a religious belief alone is a Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to following a law. The Supreme Court has held that Amish have to pay Social Security taxes and that religious pacifists have to pay taxes even if some of their money goes to supporting wars.

Inevitably there will be conflict between religious belief and the law, as there has always been in this country. The question is, how to balance the two? Relying on the Supreme Court is clearly a dicey proposition based on the particular beliefs of 9 people at a given moment in time.

The solution I would focus on isn’t trying to convince five justices on a case by case basis but rather a less active, more limited federal government.

These conflicts have multiplied in numbers as federal, state and local governments have expanded beyond their traditional boundaries over the last 60 to 80 years. Liberals will always claim that their actions are about expanding freedom. What they never admit is that while they may well be doing that for certain favored groups, it often comes at a loss of liberty for individuals in groups they don’t favor.

Progressives can boast about providing insurance for some but we must focus that what they are providing doesn’t come out of thin air. The resources for it are taken from others (who might have had different plans for them) and the services required to give coverage meaning must come from someone. Government mandates are not only ineffective (to say the least in the case of ObamaCare) but dangerous to a free society.

My argument against the contraception mandate isn’t that it infringes on people’s religious beliefs and practices but that the federal government has no business telling anyone what must be in insurance policies.

If you accept, even if only by implication, that the mandate is flawed on religious freedom grounds that will mean there are grounds on which it is acceptable. That by definition leads a big government exemption culture, whether based on a constitutional right or simple political might.

My argument against “non-discrimination” laws isn’t that photographers have a religious right to not shoot same-sex weddings, it’s that the government doesn’t have the right to tell anyone who they must do business with. That the state elects to recognize certain things doesn’t require that individuals do so as well or that state approval means all individuals must approve. (I will admit that I make an exception for race based non-discrimination laws (which are separate from affirmative-action laws) because race, especially when it comes to black Americas, does have a long and sorted history that I think merits special distinction. We can argue about that another time.)

The list of big government programs goes on and on but you can see how expanding the size and scope of government inevitably makes it the arbiter of winners and losers. Expanding freedom (albeit a warped version of freedom) for some, constraining it for others.

In theory, Constitutional guarantees are supposed to trump the prevailing political winds But the reality is different when momentary winds become long lasting and powerful political tides.

It’s tempting to say, “we will just fight this one battle at a time” but that is how you get the “exemption culture”. Liberals will always outlast conservatives when it comes to a war of attrition. As Charles C.W. Cooke put it, “today’s exemption is tomorrow’s loophole”.

Shrinking the scope of government redistribution of goods and services is the only truly reliable way to reduce these conflicts and reestablish Constitutional norms. Either rip out the progressive worldview at its roots or be prepared to be strangled by the weeds it spawns.


Defining Down The Success Of HealthCare.Gov

Barack Obama promised using would be like using Kayak or Amazon.

After 6 weeks of crashes, downtime and general dysfunction, Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the entire ObamaCare system, has a new idea how the vaunted website will work for people desperate for health insurance

But let’s talk about the Web site being available means. It doesn’t necessarily mean people can do everything they need to on the Web site. It means they can shop effectively. The important thing for the Web site is for people to be able to comparison-shop across their options.

They can then get on the phone and enroll. So I think the main thing is that, by the end of November, early December, people need to be able to effectively comparison-shop on this Web site. Otherwise, those cancellations for January, they will have to find some way to extend them a month or two until the Web site can be made to work better.

Browse online and then call someone to actually buy the product. Why it’s just like Amazon!

Question Obama And All Of His Appointees Should Be Asked

Every reporter and Republican should ask this question every time they talk to an administration official involved in the ACA, from Obama on down,

For years the President, top administration officials and congressional Democrats assured the American people that, “if they liked their health insurance plan and their doctor, they could keep them”. Since the October 1st roll-out of the exchanges those same officials have amended that blanket statement to explain why people in the individual insurance market are losing their plans and access to their current doctors.

Can you still say unequivocally to the more than 150 million Americans who receive their health insurance plans through their employers, that when the delay of the employer mandate expires next year, they can keep their plans and their doctors? Or should those Americans begin to prepare for the same cancellations and changes we are seeing now for people who buy insurance in the individual market?”



No, The GOP Does NOT Need A Detailed Policy Agenda

So many Republicans are stuck on stupid. Take Thomas G. Del Beccaro for example. He writes at the Weekly Standard blog that the GOP has to develop a detailed policy agenda to succeed in 2014.

What issue should be at the fore of this policy agenda?

“The nation’s finances, which are famously in bad shape.”

“Similarly, entitlement programs will cease to operate near the way the now operate—and to the effectiveness they operate—without serious reforms that better reflect the way most Americans now live.”

“Fiscal insanity will destroy America’s standard of living over time, far more than any government program could possibly ever help. It’s up to Republicans to detail serious and practical plans to avert crisis.”

Hmmm, that stuff sounds awful familiar. I have a feeling that I’ve heard candidates talk about that stuff not too long ago. I just can’t put my finger on it. Wait! I know! It was John McCain and Mitt Romney who ran on those very same issues. Well, that worked before so I’m sure we should just trot out those same issues again and bask in the love and support of low information voters across the country!

Wait. I think I’ve got that wrong. Yes, reality was a bit different. Both those mainstream Republicans got beat by the guy who promised “Hope and Change” and then promised to save Big Bird while rescuing women held captive in binders.

Del Beccaro also suggest that the GOP run against ObamaCare, which is such a no brainer it’s hardly worth mentioning.

We should also resist Del Beccaro’s faulty history. Yes, Reagan and the Contract With America were successful but not because they were so specific in their policy details but because they each tapped into the underlying feeling of America in their moments.

How many voters in 1980 really understood the Laffer Curve (or do today)? Did they really embrace the underlying economic assumptions of the Kemp-Roth tax reform plan or did they react to Reagan’s optimism that America had untapped energy that could be released to make America great again? Yes, his economic proposals were the vehicles for turning his vision to reality but first the voters had to buy into the vision. That is not accomplished by a policy book or 139 point plan for every issue on a candidates website.

The same goes for the Contract With America. How many people voted for Republicans in congressional races because they could name most, let alone all of the promises made vs. people who understood that the Democratic majority in the House had grown old and corrupt? How many had seen the Clinton promise of a middle class tax cut turn into the reality of a tax hike and wanted to see a check placed on their young and inexperienced President?

To be clear, I’m not saying policy doesn’t matter. I’m saying the GOP needs to stop thinking that people make their voting decisions based on a dispassionate review of both sides governing agenda as reflected in deep dives into policy books.

The old saying that you “campaign in poetry and govern in prose” is an old saying for a reason…it’s true. Right now the job of the GOP is to identity the mood of the country and get right with it. In an era where big institutions are viewed less favorably than ever and the true extent of disastrous big government in the form of ObamaCare is clear for all to see, the GOP should be focusing not on running those institutions better than the Democrats but making them less of a danger to the happiness of the people of the United States.

Or you could take the timeworn advice of Del Beccaro who is after all the “former chair of the California Republican party”. The California GOP is in such great shape, so why wouldn’t you want the national GOP to be more like that?