And dying when you’re not really sick is really sick, you know. Really!

Where to begin on this? Jonah Goldberg‘s recent column for (enough said, some will (correctly) say) begins with an interesting notion, although it foreshadows nonsensical babbling. Consider:

In Washington, conservatives and liberals are quietly loading up on drinking water, D batteries and extra ammo, in preparation for the coming battle over judges. Ralph Neas himself has been seen by the campfire carving notches into the stock of his rifle, muttering, “Pain don’t hurt.” No one knows when the fight’s coming, but everyone knows it is. But while we’re digging fresh foxholes and listening to our Vera Lynn records, waiting for the blitzkrieg, it might be worth taking a step back to look at the big picture.

This is a battle between the forces of life and death, and, as inconvenient as it may be to the marketing efforts of abortion opponents, we are resolutely on the side of death. For we are those who believe the only good constitution is a dead constitution.

Having read that far, he intrigued me. Is he saying we should kill the Constitution and start over? Obviously there are a few things in there that he wouldn’t like, so better to scrap it, I guess. I only had a little information, but I prepared for the inevitable “activist judges” gargoyle to appear, and soon. Sadly, Mr. Goldberg only alludes to it. But it’s there in abundance, which will be obvious in a moment.


We’ve all heard about how great living constitutions are. The most extreme, but essentially representative, version of this “philosophy” can be found from the likes of Mary Frances Berry or the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Scheer. They matter-of-factly claim that without a “living” constitution, slavery and other such evils would still be constitutional. This is what leading constitutional legal theorists call “stupid.” The constitutionality of slavery, women’s suffrage and the like were decided by these things called the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Also, contra feminists, women got the vote not through a living constitution but by the mere expansion of the dead one – via the 19th Amendment.

I get it. Citizens decided that they weren’t happy with the specifics of the Constitution, so they changed it. Brilliant. Why doesn’t everyone who believes in a “living” constitution know that crazy little footnote? But I know, he means to imply that we need to fix the handiwork of “activist judges”. He didn’t say that, but I know it’s coming later on. I’m jumping ahead.

Back to where we were.

This is not to say the “living constitution” is a myth. “It’s alive!” all right, as Dr. Frankenstein might say. Supreme Court justices have found the most interesting things swimming in the penumbras and emanations of the U.S. Constitution. The point is merely that it is batty to argue that constitutional change is impossible unless we view the Constitution as a completely viable life outside the womb of historical context and principled meaning.

There it is. He didn’t say it, but it’s there. Whew. Four paragraphs in is a looooong time to wait for the conservative’s verbal “money shot” first appearance, even if only its shadow arrived. Maybe Mr. Goldberg will stop teasing and just say it already. Let’s see:

The more reasonable arguments for a living constitution revolve around the view that society is changing too fast and the Constitution-as-written must grow to stay relevant. Al Gore said in 2000, “I would look for justices of the Supreme Court who understand that our Constitution is a living and breathing document, that it was intended by our founders to be interpreted in the light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people.”

And it’s obviously true that the founders never envisioned a world of embryonic stem cells or retinal-scan cat doors (coming soon!). And there are good answers for what the Supreme Court should do when the Constitution is truly silent on an issue. For example: It should stay silent.

“It should stay silent.” Bingo. So, what Mr. Goldberg instructs is that “activist judges” should ignore their duties when faced with an issue on which they might rule in favor of the liberals misread the Constitution. Better to let Congress act until the citizenry acts (through Congress) to amend the Constitution. Wise.

So what’s the solution in America 2005?

But the problem here is that these arguments are all on the opposition’s turf. Conservatives aren’t merely anti-living Constitution – we are pro-dead Constitution. In order for us to live in freedom, the Constitution must die (Faster, Federalist Society! Kill! Kill!).

The case for dead constitutions is simple. They bind us to a set of rules for everybody. Recall the recent debate about the filibuster. The most powerful argument the Democrats could muster was that if you get rid of the traditional right of the minority in the Senate to bollix up the works, the Democrats will deny that right to Republicans the next time they’re in the majority (shudder).

Remember, we’re in the rule of “with us or against us”. Every decision funnels through a prism of Conservative or Wrong. There are no shades of grey, and definitely no shades of chartreuse, bisque, or fuchsia. Binding rules are perfect for that mindset. We don’t want to reinterpret anything under changing times. It’s better to amend than to understand, I guess. Which leads us to this:

The Constitution works on a similar principle, as does the rule of law. Political scientists call this “precommitment.” Having a set of rules with a fixed (i.e., dead, unliving, etc.) meaning ensures that future generations will be protected from judges or politicians who’d like to rule arbitrarily. This is what Chesterton was getting at when he called tradition “democracy for the dead.” We all like to believe that we have some say about what this country will be like for our children and grandchildren. A “living Constitution” denies us our voice in this regard because it basically holds that whatever decisions we make – including the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments – can be thrown out by any five dyspeptic justices on the Supreme Court. In other words, the justices who claim the Constitution is a wild card didn’t take their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution in good faith because they couldn’t know what they were swearing to.

What if our children and grandchildren don’t like what we do to their country? I’m just saying. Can we really make the Constitution “dead” and the Bill of Rights “living” and expect it to be perfect? Or will we encounter growing pains? I’m just saying.

Mr. Goldberg offers guidance and insight in the form of a quote from Justice Antonin Scalia, of course. Consider:

“What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority,” Justice Scalia wrote this week, “is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that – thumbs up or thumbs down – as their personal preferences dictate.”

Right, because Justice Scalia rules on consistently applied principle and not personal preferences. The First Amendment says what it says and conservatives like Justice Scalia honor the words of our Founding Fathers on this. Just as a
n example.

But I’m not a constitutional legal theorist. Except, no, I really am a Constitutional legal theorist. Mr. Goldberg doesn’t say I have to have a J.D. to be a constitutional legal theorist. I don’t want to read any words into his statement that aren’t there, so I must now reconsider. I’ve written enough about what the Constitution should mean, filling tens of hours of non-financially and non-legally productive time, that I have to have some reasonable term for why. What better title than the simple three word suggestion from Mr. Goldberg. There is the bump that is the fourth word (“leading”) in Mr. Goldberg’s proffered title, of course, that gets in the way, but I think highly of my mind, so there it is. Thus, I now confer upon myself the title of (leading) constitutional legal theorist.

But I’m still stupid.

Respect my Authoritaahhhh or I will kick you in the Nats

Congressman Loose Cannon is at it again. He and a fellow Congressional imbecile sparked a controversy yesterday with regard to the eventual sale of the Washington Nationals by Major League Baseball. Consider:

Major League Baseball hasn’t narrowed the list of the eight bidders seeking to buy the Washington Nationals and some Republicans on Capitol Hill already are hinting at revoking the league’s antitrust exemption if billionaire financier George Soros , an ardent critic of President Bush and supporter of liberal causes, buys the team [in a group headed by Washington entrepreneur Jonathan Ledecky].

“It’s not necessarily smart business sense to have anybody who is so polarizing in the political world,” Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said. “That goes for anybody, but especially as it relates to Major League Baseball because it’s one of the few businesses that get incredibly special treatment from Congress and the federal government.”

Rep. Tom M. Davis III (R-Va.), who was a strong supporter of bringing a baseball team to Virginia, told Roll Call yesterday that “Major League Baseball understands the stakes” if Soros buys the team. “I don’t think they want to get involved in a political fight.”

For fuck’s sake, what is wrong with him? We all know that no one in Congress will pull Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption because then they’d have no tool with which to threaten Bud Selig. (Representatives Davis and Sweeney make Bud Selig appear to be a statesman in this debate, which is especially pathetic for the Congressmen because Mr. Selig has said nothing.) So why the idiocy? Could it be a growing, insatiable hunger for power and nanny-statism? Consider:

Democrats weren’t about to let the broadsides go unanswered.

“Why should politics have anything to do with who owns the team,” Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) asked. “So Congress is going to get involved in every baseball ownership decision? Are they next going to worry about a manager they don’t like? I’ve never seen anything as impotent as a congressman threatening the baseball exemption. It gets threatened half a dozen times a year, and our batting average threatening the exemption is zero.”

It’s not just Democrats who are commenting on the stupidity. Consider Michelle Malkin, Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan. Representatives Davis and Sweeney should know that when Michelle Malkin and I share an opinion 100%, they’ve slammed through the wall of questionable judgment into an unambiguous zone worthy of constant mockery.

The Washington Post followed up with Rep. Davis and received this response:

Davis didn’t return calls to his office, but spokesman Robert White said, “The point [Davis] was making was how it would look if Major League Baseball sells the hottest team in the market to a guy who spent more money than the gross domestic product of Colombia to legitimize drugs.”

After all of the Republican conservative hysterical blathering about Senator Durbin’s recent comments, I’m amused that Rep. Davis wants it both ways. His party believes that every public comment should be scrutinized before it’s delivered to be sure it’s not “traitorous”, but he has permission to pretend like we’re taking his words out of context? Nope, sorry, Congressman, you don’t get a free pass on that. You said what you said and meant it. You didn’t misspeak, nor did we impose meaning where it wasn’t. You threatened Major League Baseball to harm a political enemy’s bid for the Nationals. You attempt political blackmail and expect us to accept that as reasonable? That’s a slimy leadership governance failure and you should be removed as chairman from the House Committee on Government Reform.

(Source: The Agitator)

P.S. The gross domestic product of Columbia was projected at $83.01 billion for 2004. I can’t find reliable numbers for how much Mr. Soros spent in his effort to legalize certain drugs, but his estimated net worth, as of 2004, is $7.2 billion, nearly $75 billion less than Colombia’s gross domestic product. Off-the-cuff hyperbole or deflecting heat from a political retribution by Rep. Davis? You decide.

Inspector Butters is on the case, ma’am

As evidenced by the 2,146,316 flag amendment posts over the last few days, I’m a bit bothered up about it. But as Wendy pointed out in comments last night, there is another legal travesty in the news. In a (not really) stunning decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. New London. Here is a summary of the decision:

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a city can take a person’s home as part of a private development project aimed at boosting tax revenues and revitalizing a local economy, a decision that could have nationwide impact.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court upheld a ruling that New London, Connecticut, can seize the homes and businesses owned by seven families for a private development project that will complement a nearby research facility by the Pfizer Inc. drug company.

I admit that I’m not a lawyer, although I play one on Sometimes, such as in this case, I admit that I don’t know as much as I should. I’m only basing my argument on standard, obvious logic. But I know enough to realize that this case is an abomination. However, since there are sufficient commentaries all over the internets, I’m not going to contribute anything other than to point to two of particular interest.

First, consider this New York Times travesty (link via Michelle Malkin – truth is truth, even when it comes from an ideologue):

In a blistering dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor lamented that the decision meant that the government could transfer any private property from the owner to another person with more political influence “so long as it might be upgraded.” That is a serious concern, but her fears are exaggerated. The majority strongly suggested that eminent domain should be part of a comprehensive plan, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing separately, underscored that its goal cannot simply be to help a developer or other private party become richer.

That is not the situation in New London. Connecticut is a rich state with poor cities, which must do everything they can to attract business and industry. New London’s development plan may hurt a few small property owners, who will, in any case, be fully compensated. But many more residents are likely to benefit if the city can shore up its tax base and attract badly needed jobs.

Do you believe that some hack politician being bribed lobbied by a real estate company will make sure that eminent domain is “part of a comprehensive plan”? Right, neither do I. As for “fully compensated”, family history and memories can’t get an appropriate price tag. How does a city compensate a family whose house has eight years of height lines etched into the kitchen door frame? How exciting will it be for a man to take his kids to his boyhood home and point out the nice backyard parking lot where he used to play catch with his dad? Cash isn’t always king.

On a different angle, consider reasoning from KipEsquire:

Wouldn’t it be nice if all those grass-root, “let the voters decide,” Red State, “damn activist judges” types put as much effort into enacting state constitutional amendments limiting eminent domain as they did discriminating against gays? You might think people like that would care more about keeping their own homes than what goes on in their neighbors’ homes. We’ll see.

It’s an argument that some might not like, but he’s right. So, yeah, people can think what they want about social issues like same-sex marriage and flag desecration, but there are more important issues with a more fundamental, long-term impact on the United States.

So, yeah, although five Justices and the New York Times think this decision makes sense, I’m with everyone else. It pisses me off, too.

I’m not giving up on this topic

More thoughts on the Constitutional that passed the House of Representatives Nanny-statists yesterday.


When I e-mailed Congressman Loose Cannon&#153, I informed him of my opposition to H.J.Res. 10, which is this:

Title: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
Sponsor: Rep Cunningham, Randy (Duke) [CA-50] (introduced 1/25/2005) Cosponsors (196)
Related Bills: H.RES.330, S.J.RES.12
Latest Major Action: 6/22/2005 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 286 – 130 (Roll no. 296).

Do I need to clarify that Congressman Loose Cannon&#153 is in the list of 196 Cosponsors?

This is the response I received earlier this week to my e-mail. Before I reproduce it here, though, let me remind you that I referenced H.J.Res. 10 because I knew that it was the proposed amendment coming before the full House. I made specific reference to the fact that it would come before the House this week. And he was one of the 196 Cosponsors. So this is what his intern he wrote:

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.J.Res. 5, the Flag Amendment. I appreciate hearing from you regarding this important issue.

As you know, Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) introduced H.J.Res. 5 in January 2005 at the outset of the 109th Congress. H.J.Res. 5 proposes to amend the Constitution by authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the United States flag.

Since its introduction, H.J.Res. 5 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Rest assured I will keep your comments foremost in my mind if this measure comes before the full House for a vote.

Thank you again for contacting my office regarding this important issue. I appreciate you sharing your views with me, and I look forward to hearing from you in the future on matters of interest or concern.


Tom Davis
Member of Congress

I’m sure my comments will be foremost in your mind, but only if your mind is in the circular file. At least the pattern of not reading my e-mails for context continues, so that’s a reassurance in this world of change.


Here are two more wonderful quotes about the amendment that passed yesterday:

Among the new votes for the amendment is Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who pushed the issue in his campaign and helped recruit co-sponsors. “Out in the country, at the grass-roots level, it’s seen as a common man’s practical patriotism,” Thune said.

Because, you know, it’s about the common man, the country folks. The real people. Not us liberal, elitists snobs on the East Coast. Because I hate America, unlike real, salt-of-the-Earth Americans. But, Sen. Thune, perhaps a suggestion: remove the symbolic flag from the pole before you beat us over the head with it. And take that slice of your mom’s apple pie out of your baseball mitt. But most importantly, please, please make sure you loosen it from around your neck so that you still get oxygen. It’s obvious that it’s wrapped so tightly around you that it’s cutting the flow to your brain.


House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said during the debate that lawmakers “must act with bipartisan dispatch to ensure that this issue is returned to the hands of those most interested in preserving freedom — the people themselves.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner, returning this issue to the people, who hadn’t been clamoring for you to address it the way they have about, oh, I don’t know, terrorism, war, social security, taxes, and other minor issues, is wise in a Republic. Encourage mob majority rule when you’re in power because, you know, your party will never be in the minority again. Well thought out.



Here’s an interesting article from Eugene Volokh titled “What’s Wrong With the Flagburning Amendment”. Here’s an excerpt, but read the full text.

“Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States, and the flying of the Confederate flag.”

OK, so that’s not exactly how the proposed flag protection amendment reads — I’ve added the Confederate flag phrase. But this little thought experiment helps show that the flag protection amendment is a bad idea.

After all, burning the U.S. flag and flying the Confederate flag are similar in many ways. Some people argue that flagburning shouldn’t be protected by the First Amendment because it isn’t “speech.” Well, burning one flag and waving another are pretty similar on that score. I think both are traditional terms in our political language, and should be constitutionally protected; but if I’m wrong, then both should be unprotected.

Of course, burning the U.S. flag deeply offends many people. But so does waving the Confederate flag, even when it’s done by individuals and not by state governments. Many American boys died defending the U.S. flag — and many of them died fighting against the Confederacy. Burning the U.S. flag is often an anti-American symbol. Likewise, the Confederate flag was a symbol of treason and rebellion against the lawful American government.

Mr. Volokh carries the argument through, building a very strong case against the amendment. He concludes with this:

America is different from most other countries, and even from most other democracies. In America, all ideologies are protected, even those that the majority thinks are evil.

Why is this right? Because the First Amendment was drafted and interpreted by people who intimately understood cultural, religious, and political conflict, and who knew how calls for censorship could launch the most bitter of culture wars.

The [First] Amendment is a truce: “I won’t try to suppress your ideas, if you don’t try to suppress mine.” And the flagburning amendment risks shattering this truce.

(via Instapundit and The Corner)

Artificial intelligence is dumb

To add a little levity to yesterday’s anti-flag desecration amendment entry, while searching for sources, I encountered an interesting ad. Clearly, whoever coded the logic didn’t bother with context. Consider:

Need Flag Burning? Find Flag Burning products and suppliers? Who even knew that there were 650,000 manufacturers of flag burning supplies? And they’re all online? Who knew?

Now, imagine if Congress passes the amendment and it eventually passes thirty-eight state legislatures. Our government will be responsible for putting 650,000 manufacturers out of business. That should sell well at re-election time.

It’s just not the same without the balloons

I want to comment on Michelle Malkin again, but this time it’s not a complete disagreement. Today, she posted a new Desecration of the Day. (Here’s the picture.) I agree with her basic premise that it’s important to highlight how some around the world disrespect/hate America. There’s no need to pretend that everyone loves us. It’s not true, so why hide from it? Show it every time it occurs, even though it’s not new information. But, and this is important, we need to remember that we’re not the cause, something Ms. Malkin ignores. Consider:

Here’s your regular, gasoline-drenched reminder of the latest MSM-induced desecration that won’t be getting front-page coverage

I enjoy that phrase: “the latest MSM-induced desecration”. Ms. Malkin is referring to the Newsweek fiasco, of course, but why stop there? It’s the whole mainstream media’s (MSM) fault. Or, more to the point, the liberal media’s fault. One poorly sourced/reported story and every future anti-American activity will be MSM-induced. Does that make sense?

Long before Newsweek screwed up, individuals around the world have burned the American flag. They’ve protested us. They’ve burned our presidents in effigy. This is not new. If nothing else, remember this: people with opinions like to be heard. (Hence, blogs. That I’m writing this for free indicates that I’m not immune.)

Yet, there’s a more fundamental value that conservatives supposedly hold above most others. I thought Ms. Malkin would maintain this. I assume she still agrees with it, but it’s lacking in the phrase “MSM-induced”. What happened to personal responsibility?

If I walk up to someone and say “I hate you and I hate your ass face,” would that person be absolved of assault if he punched me in the face? No? Why not? Just because someone is offended does not offer liability-free vindication to respond in whatever manner feels desirable.

Yes, the mainstream media screwed up and reported “facts” that portray America badly. (Newsweek, really, but I’ll stick with Ms. Malkin’s MSM generalization.) Don’t the flag-burners have the choice of how to respond? If they choose to riot or burn flags, is that really “MSM-induced”? Yes, it sets the conditions, but unless the reporter provides the matches and the flag, the flag-burner must retain ultimate responsibility for his actions.

But you already knew that. It just doesn’t sell very well among the “with us or against us” and “blame liberals” crowd.


On a related “with us or against us”, “blame liberals” lesson, this post is 100% spot-on. Read it and know the truth.

Fifteen words are worth a picture

Following up on yesterday’s post about personal “lockboxes” for social security, I want to pass along this brilliant analysis of John Fund’s idea. Consider:

I assume Fund’s unspoken premise is that substituting “marketable” Treasury bills for the current system of vague promises will make it more difficult for future versions of the government to cheat, because defaulting on Treasuries amounts to ripping off the Chinese, which is much harder to get away with than ripping off Americans. Note that this addresses the dishonesty problem only by increasing the insolvency problem: future fiscal obligations become larger and more mandatory.


Anyway, read a few paragraphs down and tell me who’s huffing the pipe:

Would the deficit increase if Congress used the Social Security surpluses to create personal accounts rather than finance current government spending? Not if Congress found the will to cut federal spending by roughly 3% a year.

Oops; when I saw that the first time, I thought it said, “Not if Congress found a nest of pixies at the bottom of the garden who vomited shiny gold coins”, but then I realized that Fund’s assumption was ridiculous. His overall conclusion, however, is true: if we spent less money, then we would spend less money.

I tried to explain the absurdity of Mr. Fund’s proposal through illustrations. I think they were effective, but I wish I’d written Evan Kirchhoff’s words, instead. How much more fun it would’ve been to write “a nest of pixies at the bottom of the garden who vomited shiny gold coins” than to drag clip art into neat order in Microsoft Visio…

At least I’m not the only one who understands the basic principles of government and debt. And for what it’s worth, I’d like to participate in Evan’s “Let me out of Social Security” plan, as well.

(Link via The Penultimate Genius)

Any color you want, as long as it’s black

We’ve all heard a great deal over the last six months about President Bush’s call for social security reform. Although I believe he should’ve started with tax reform, he’s correct to encourage Congress to take action. Much of the information regarding his plans is vague, which mostly seems like a (correct) political play to get the topic in the national debate. But, for various missteps and bouts of irrational rhetoric, reform momentum seems to have faded away. Of course, we’d all like to pretend we can run away, but the problem is here until we deal with it. And even though I despise the government imposing mandatory “savings” minimum on me, I understand the social costs of a large percentage of workers saving nothing for retirement, thus creating an unfair (and economically ruinous) burden on society. There is a rational government interest in not having American cities cluttered with poor, homeless elderly and disabled. So I will issue no call for revolution. I welcome new proposals which serve to meet that alleged social security goal of a social safety net. Unless they’re ill-conceived.

In an Opinion Journal column yesterday, John Fund wrote about a forthcoming proposal from Senators Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum. According to Mr. Fund:

Ceaseless pounding by liberals has driven many Republicans into a defensive crouch. It’s time for some political jujitsu that will instead focus the public’s attention on stopping Congress from spending the extra payroll taxes now flowing into Social Security on anything else. The only effective way to prevent that would be to take the money off the table by starting personal Social Security accounts for every American who wanted one.

I agree that we need to stop Congress from spending the extra payroll taxes. As I’ve mentioned in the past, as a self-employed taxpayer, I have the pleasure of paying both employee and employer payroll taxes out of my income. Admittedly everyone pays this because if employers didn’t have to pay it, it would lead to higher salaries (with the additional tax going to the IRS) but my point is still the same. I see the direct impact of our social security taxation scheme. It’s atrocious and must change. Any proposal that offers me more control over the money I pay so that I may one day see a return of that money earns my attention. If it also limits the government’s ability to recklessly spend my money for other purposes, that’s a wonderful bonus.

However, if I must save a specific portion of my income every year, I should be allowed to control the investment mix. At only 31-years-old, I’m not at the point where I need an ultra-conservative investment strategy. While I also will not pretend that purely speculative securities would be wise for social security savings, some risk (and diversity of choice, i.e. international stocks versus U.S. blue chips), especially for those willing to learn and actively participate in their investments, should be encouraged allowed. So my first choice is not to have a personal lockbox account of any sort because I fear the investment options will be too limited, yet to expect anything else borders on fantasy.

Mr. Fund’s hypothetical personal lockbox under the DeMint/Graham/Santorum proposal meets my “worst-case scenario” test. Consider:

Politically, their proposal does disarm some of the most oft-used arguments against reform. It would create no new debt for the government because, unlike President Bush’s proposal, the personal accounts would use only the surplus payroll taxes now flowing into the Treasury. That surplus will hit some $85 billion next year, and grow in succeeding years to the point that it could provide every worker who wanted one with a personal account of some $1,200. The surpluses will total some $2.5 billion until 2017, when Social Security starts running a deficit as baby boomers begin to retire. Preventing that money from being “raided” by a spendthrift Congress and White House could be enormously popular with a cynical public.

In addition, if the personal accounts were limited to no-risk, but marketable, Treasury bills, the argument about the “scary and risky” stock market investment of payroll taxes would be neutralized. Converting the nonmarketable IOUs the government now holds into marketable Treasury bills issued to taxpayers would create an asset that individuals would own and be able to pass on to their heirs. If history is a guide, such risk-free Treasurys would earn an annual rate of return of between 2.5% and 3%–much better than Social Security will deliver. The surpluses would become real assets owned by citizens rather than government IOUs (or, more accurately, “I owe me’s”) piling up in a filing cabinet in West Virginia.

Where to begin? While there are several issues in there, I’ll focus on one. “…if the personal accounts were limited to no-risk, but marketable, Treasury bills, the argument about the ‘scary and risky’ stock market investment of payroll taxes would be neutralized.” Ummm, no. Sure, such a plan would then securitize a portion of my social security funds, but how is this plan wise? More importantly, how is it any different than what we have today? The government would no longer have “I owe me’s”, but I would have “I owe me’s”. This sleight of hand offers the warm, fuzzy fiscal value of ownership, but I don’t really own anything I didn’t own before (other than the ability to pass that asset on to heirs, which is something). Every taxpayer is the government. The IRS is only the middleman.

Rather than explain this sleight of hand, allow me to illustrate it. This diagram shows how Mr. Fund’s idea would work. Notice that the government would still spend the same amount under this proposal as it does today when it is “allowed” to spend the surplus. Consider:

It’s simple. While I get the asset worth $1,200, the Treasury still has my $1,200 to spend on however Congress decides. The only difference is that the government no longer has an IOU in a filing cabinet in West Virginia. Now it has a item on its balance sheet showing an extra $1,200 in Treasury bills, which it will have to repay in the future. Again, Congress can still spend my $1,200.

What happens when those Treasury bills mature? Oh, here’s where it gets interesting. Mr. Fund does offer a proposal for this inevitable scenario. Consider:

Would the deficit increase if Congress used the Social Security surpluses to create personal accounts rather than finance current government spending? Not if Congress found the will to cut federal spending by roughly 3% a year. Even if they don’t, the unavailability of the payroll taxes to fund other programs could be useful. As Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress in March, “One can credibly argue that [the trust funds] have served primarily to facilitate large deficits in the rest of the budget.” He went on to argue that personal accounts would add to overall savings, which “in turn, would boost the nation’s capital stock. The reason is that money allocated in the personal accounts would no longer be available to fund other government activities.” In other words, once Congress couldn’t get its mitts on the payroll tax money, it would be put to more productive use in the hands of individuals owning their own accounts.

“Not if Congress found the will to cut federal spending by roughly 3% a year.” Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahaha. That’s a
good one. Raise your hand if you have faith in this Congress to cut spending. Ignore partisanship because Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible. (Ms. Coulter, that means you must put your hand down, now. Now. Thank you.)

Mr. Fund even argues the possible inevitable scenario where Congress doesn’t cut spending. Remember, he argues “the unavailability of the payroll taxes to fund other programs could be useful”. But I’ve already shown you that, under his proposal, Congress can spend the surplus payroll taxes. The accounting is the only aspect that changes.

So let’s return to the obvious, logical question. What would the future look like when those Treasury bills mature? I have two illustrated scenarios for your consideration. On the left is the expected scenario, a tax increase to cover the maturing Treasury bills. On the right is Mr. Fund’s hopeful scenario, a 3% Congressional spending cut. Tell me if you like either scenario.


Again, in both scenarios, the $1,200 for personal lockbox accounts continues. However, the additional $1,200 for maturing Treasury bills must be accommodated. Either taxes increase, or we get fewer services. I, of course, am all for fewer services, but until Congress shows some resolve to implement that, I’m not expecting it. Because today’s political decisions have consequences, prepare for tax increases.

At least the social security crisis will be resolved.

(Link via Instapundit)

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

I think I’m beginning to make a hobby out of countering Michelle Malkin’s lapses in logic contentions. Today, she linked to a story about released French hostages. Consider the basic facts of the story:

A French journalist who was held hostage in Iraq for five months says she was beaten by her captors.

Speaking at a new conference in Paris, Florence Aubenas said she was kept blindfolded in a basement cell that measured 4m by 2m (13ft by 6ft).

She said she was beaten after being accused of speaking to a cell mate.

Ms Aubenas was forced out of her car in Baghdad on 5 January, along with her guide, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi. They were both freed on 11 June.

Mr Saadi was reunited with his family in Baghdad. Ms Aubenas, who is a senior correspondent for Liberation, was flown home to France.

What’s the lesson in this story? Terrorists are despicable. They’ll beat hostages for allegedly speaking to a cell mate. They’ll hold hostages captive in a basement. They’ll subject them to mock trials. Most importantly, this is the lesson reported by the BBC, which any right-thinking conservative will tell you is one of the biggest pushers of the Liberal Agenda&#153. Yet, the BBC reported this with objective facts that are easy to interpret. Again, terrorists do Bad Things.

So what does Ms. Malkin focus on? Consider:


Terrorist farewell gifts for a recently released French kidnapping victim:

Two rings and a bottle of perfume.

The French hostage reported that one of her captors offered her gifts at the same time he returned her belongings. Rather than discounting the significance of this as either a crush or a goodwill gesture or a hideously presumptuous guard, Ms. Malkin decided that this was the lesson: We hate terrorists, terrorists like the French, we hate the French. All with the specter of hating the Liberal Agenda&#153, I presume.

How ridiculous. From reading her blog, I understand that she wants us to realize that terrorists are bad, we’re fighting terrorists, and we can’t waiver in our commitment to the task. Ok, got it. I even agree with it, despite not casting my vote for George W. Bush last November. Yet, she doesn’t use this as an example to further illustrate who the real bad guys are in this war. She takes another hysterical jab at Those Who Are Against Us because they don’t agree with and condone every action we take. That’s stupid logic.

Until we stop throwing around this nonsense and presenting the “with us or against us” mentality, we’re going to be mired in the problem rather than striving closer to the goal. America is founded on belief in the moral correctness of our ideals and the ability to dissent in an effort to stretch the moral correctness of our actions closer to perfection.