For constitutional lawyers, the federal takeover of healthcare is the gift that keeps on giving. Even before the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its opinion on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 43 Catholic charities and schools have brought a federal lawsuit challenging a separate federal mandate to provide contraceptives. And the latest is a canonical case brought by “The Exorcist” author William Peter Blatty over Georgetown University’s hosting of a speech by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is enforcing the contraceptive requirement.
When the federal government attempts to take over something like education or health care that has constitutionally and traditionally belonged to the states, its one-size-fits-all pair of regulatory shoes starts pinching a lot of feet. Deciding questions such as contraceptive requirements in health insurance at the state level not only brings the debate literally closer to home, but leaves room for more liberal or more conservative states to address these things according to their own political and cultural values. But now that healthcare is becoming a federal matter, every aspect of it necessarily becomes “a federal case.”
So now, in addition to the imminent Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the federal mandate that states change their Medicare policies, we also have church-state healthcare problems as well. President Obama and Secretary Sebelius tried to finesse this question by saying churches would not have to provide contraception in their insurance, but they would not extend that policy to church-related organizations such as charities and universities. Now Notre Dame and others have sued in federal court, charging that such a federal mandate violates their First Amendment freedom of religion, requiring them to provide coverage that goes against their own religious policies.
Mr. Blatty’s case says this is bigger than federal, since his suit goes to the Vatican, as well as the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., asking that Georgetown no longer be considered Catholic. Blatty’s suit will not be popular on campuses, of course, since academic freedom claims the need for a diversity of speakers, but it asks the essential question: What does it mean to be a Catholic university?
Tallying up the scoreboard of where the federal takeover of healthcare has brought us so far:
–The general public doesn’t like it. Its polling numbers have dropped steadily, now 52%-41% against. The more people know, the less they like it.
–Over half the states have brought federal lawsuits opposing it on constitutional grounds.
–The Catholic Church, and other religious organizations, doesn’t like Washington telling them they have to provide controversial coverage that violates church doctrine.
–And economists now tell us that federal healthcare will cost more, not less, than what we have now. A recent study by Charles Blahous, trustee of the Social Security and Medicare funds, indicates that, rather than saving money, the new health reform law will add $340 billion to the deficit.
At this point, there are only two “exorcists” capable of expelling these demons. First, and more likely, the U.S. Supreme Court could decide that the new healthcare law goes too far and is unconstitutional. This is not nearly as unlikely as some once thought and, given the mounting problems with federalizing health care, it could be a welcome relief. Although President Obama and his colleagues have tried to build a rhetorical barrier against such a decision, arguing that it would fly in the face of precedent, in fact the way these things work is that federal power keeps growing until it simply grows too far, it reaches a tipping point, and a more conservative opinion is issued. The justices asked precisely these kinds of questions in oral argument: if this is commerce, what limits would be left, and, if this isn’t coercing states to follow federal policy, what would be?
The other potential “exorcist” is Congress itself stepping up to repeal the health care law. The House actually did vote to repeal it last year, though the Senate voted against on a straight party vote. Barring significant gains in Republican Senate seats in the fall elections, this would be a tougher route to go.
In an election year, it is easy to find political motives for most anything. But when you have economists estimating rising costs, public opinion polls heading steadily south, federal lawsuits springing from both the commerce and spending power clauses, and now serious questions about religious freedom, it seems like time to at least pause and rethink, if not exorcise some of these federal healthcare demons.
To view the article on Forbes.com please click on the link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2012/05/30/the-more-people-know-obamacare-the-less-they-like-it/
Abandoning Austerity a Mistake (Townhall.com) May 16, 2012Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
Voters in Greece and France have ousted leaders who pursued economic austerity, but why? Is it because the alternative—economic stimulus—has worked so well elsewhere? Or because they lack the patience and character to see through a program of spending cuts and debt reduction?
Ironically, two other European countries, Germany and Sweden, have pursued austerity successfully and gained stability and growth. The problem in countries like Greece and Spain—and, to some degree France—is that they started so deeply in a fiscal hole that their austerity measures were not enough.
Increasing government spending and debt has done very little for the U.S. economy short-term, and has kept a lid on long-term growth. It’s always easy to vote out leaders who administer tough medicine, but the world economy is likely to pay a high price.
To listen to the audio please click on the link: townhall.com/talkradio/dailycommentary/641292
The month of May is not only about final exams and graduation ceremonies on our nation’s college campuses. AtLibertyUniversityand Vanderbilt recently, they have also been busy with the continuing debate over the place of faith in the public square.
Mitt Romney was the weekend commencement speaker atLibertyUniversity, founded by the evangelical Christian leader, Jerry Falwell. While Romney had some predictable words of encouragement for the graduates, no one doubted that the primary agenda for his appearance was the opportunity to strengthen his credentials with evangelical Christian voters, a crucial support group for his presidential campaign.
It would be difficult to overstate how important this group has become to a Republican presidential candidate. Over 50% of Republican primary voters this year were identified as evangelical Christians, which accounted for much of Rick Santorum’s surprising strength. When Karl Rove spoke of mobilizing George W. Bush’s base, this was the main group he sought to turn out. So these are voters that Romney needs to have energized on his behalf, not just favorably disposed.
But evangelicals have not been enthused about Romney. Despite being a man of faith, and a lay leader in his church, the evangelical language is not Romney’s native tongue. As a Mormon, Romney’s faith is more lived out in his daily walk as a matter of ethics and morality, whereas evangelicals want to hear about it. Theirs is a confessional faith, one that is preached, not just lived. At the edges of evangelicalism, some consider Mormonism more of a cult than a Christian denomination.
Specifically evangelicals want to hear that Romney’s faith translates directly into his positions on key social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage. It will be tricky for Romney to win their support while at the same time reaching out to moderate voters in the center, whose very different preference is for a candidate who is religious, but not too religious. Polls consistently show that moderates and independents prefer a candidate’s faith to produce strong values and moral behavior, but not one that looks to God or church leaders for policy positions.
Although Romney touched several important bases in his address atLiberty, one speech isn’t going to hit all the evangelical hot buttons. He did talk about the importance of culture, which is a bedrock issue for evangelicals, but his idea of culture was essentially the primacy of family. On that subject, he did contrast his position with President Obama’s, saying marriage is between a man and a woman, but most of his talk about family concerned broad notions few would disagree with.
In the end, perhaps the most important statement he made to evangelicals was simply to show up at one of their bastions of strength, Jerry Falwell’sLibertyUniversity, but he has much more to do to win the enthusiasm of Falwell’s followers.
Meanwhile the Tennessee Legislature and Governor were in engaged in their own battle over faith atVanderbiltUniversity. Vandy has recently taken the official position that campus Christian groups cannot require that their leaders share the group’s faith and values, mandating a policy of nondiscrimination to “take all comers.” As these groups have pointed out, such a policy is not required by federal law and, in many cases, compromises the entire purpose of the organizations.
The Tennessee Legislature responded by passing a “religious freedom bill,” exempting religious groups from non-discrimination policies at colleges and universities in the state. Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he disagreed with Vanderbilt’s policy but, as a conservative who believes in limited government, he vetoed the bill, seeing no reason for the state to tell a private university how to run its own affairs.
Vanderbilt, ironically founded as a Methodist institution, has essentially said through this policy that most Christian groups, especially those with a focused faith-based mission, are unwelcome on their campus. This is part of a larger, misguided effort to say that every position in every organization of every university must be open to every student. There is no longer room for a diversity of institutions, or even a diversity of student organizations within an institution, but only an “all comers” philosophy of nondiscrimination everywhere. Plain vanilla is now the only acceptable flavor.
America’s colleges and universities, unfortunately, continue to serve as politicized battlegrounds for these larger questions on the role of faith in the public square. With same sex marriage gaining momentum, and a divisive presidential campaign in the air, it will be politics, politics, politics on our nation’s campuses for the foreseeable future.
To go to the Forbes.com site to view the article please click on the link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2012/05/14/college-campuses-as-political-battlegrounds-over-faith/
When state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told the Sacramento Press Club recently that he thinks the state’s initiative process needs to be changed, people took note.
A good place for the senator and his colleagues to start would be, well, with the voters themselves.
The California initiative process was designed 101 years ago to put greater lawmaking power in the hands of the people. History tells us that the voter initiative was adopted because the people of California in the early 20th century didn’t always trust their elected officials – and certainly wanted to act on their own behalf if elected officials did not.
Californians in the early 21st century haven’t changed much. How do we know?
We asked them. At California Forward, we’ve been talking with people for the last three years. Californians are frustrated with their government and believe it can and must do better. In fact, voters are so eager for change and they seem ready to take ownership to make sure it happens.
About 10 months ago, more than 400 “regular” Californians from around the state gathered for a weekend in Torrance to discuss major issues facing California. It was the first-ever California Deliberative Poll, sponsored by reformers, academics and foundations. A random sample of Californians sat down, discussed and analyzed some important matters. It was a remarkable experience in honest-to-goodness democracy.
James Fishkin, who has conducted deliberative polls all over the world through Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy, spearheaded the California Deliberative Poll titled, “What’s Next CA.” (For more information, go to http://www.nextca.org.) His conclusion of how these Californians view government?
”They believe it is the people’s process.”
People like the initiative process, but find it confusing and in need of improvement. But while Sen. Steinberg understandably thinks of ways the Legislature could help with the process, the public had a much different take.
Seventy-six percent of them wanted to create a formal review process to allow an initiative’s proponents to amend an initiative after public input. In other words, if the language isn’t clear, let’s give the proponents time to make it so. Clarity is important for an informed electorate.
Eighty-five percent favored requiring all ballot measures that require new expenditures to indicate how we will pay for them. That’s common sense. People want to make sure that if the state is going to make a commitment, everyone knows how that promise will be paid for.
Ninety-one percent said they want to know who is paying for each ballot measure and agree it is a good idea to publish the top five contributors for and against each measure in the ballot pamphlet.
There also was strong consensus that the Legislature should keep its distance from the initiative process. A strong majority of Californians do not believe lawmakers should be able to put a competing measure on the ballot with a majority vote or to remove a measure from the ballot by enacting it into law. Once the people have spoken, more than half said they did not want state elected officials to be able to amend an initiative.
Interestingly, after a weekend of discussion with other voters and experts, more Californians walked away satisfied with the initiative process than those who walked into the event.
It also is important to note that while 70 percent of Californians don’t think the Legislature is getting important things done, they wish lawmakers could. And when asked to fix the Legislature, they had some interesting remedies in mind.
Eighty percent were in favor of lengthening Assembly terms from two to four years and the Senate terms from four to six. That would mean fewer elections, less fundraising and, presumably, giving elected officials more time to get some work done.
Seventy-one percent thought that expanding the Assembly from 80 to 120 members was a good idea because it would mean fewer people being represented by Assembly members, which could, in turn, mean better service for the constituents from the elected officials.
Californians are willing to improve the initiative process, and improve the legislative process. But voters don’t want to give lawmakers more control of the voters’ process.
At California Forward, we have been working hard to help fix our state. We started by listening to Californians so we could make sure that “reforms” are predicated on the public interest. Their expectations are reasonable:
• They want government to get the job done.
• They want transparency and accountability.
• And in a state growing in complexity every day, they want decisions made closer to where they live – so they can keep a better eye on those making the decisions on their behalf.
Sen. Steinberg is understandably frustrated. Governing this state is hard work. The people legislators serve are frustrated, too.
But they see a way out. Their answer is to give lawmakers the tools to do their job. And for the voters to keep their own tools just in case.
To view the article please click here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/05/02/4458053/californians-want-to-change-initiative.html#storylink=cpy