Friday, November 11, 2005


Moderate Conservatives

OK. I think that I'll just talk about whatever I want from hear on out (although I will strive to stray towards financial issues as current events dictate, as I am slightly less incompetent on such subjects).

Today's gripe: NPR's characterization of those Republicans voting against further tax cuts as Moderate Republicans. Some of them undoubtedly were, such Senator Voinovich of OH, but the implication is that it is Liberals who are fighting for fiscal conservatism and conservatives who are free spending. While I haven't made a careful survey of the field, I suspect that many who voted against the lates tax cutting bill were some of the same folks who were castigating the choice of Miers as Supreme Court nominee.

Still, while my friends at the Wall Street Journal will remind me that tax cuts pay for themselves (true -- to a point) budget deficits collect a lot of that additional revenue. Assuming, for the minute, that the timing of the two are equal (I'm not sure that is true) the problem is that debt service is certain (we have to make payments on bonds) and the benefit of tax cuts are not certain (it depends on what the newly enriched do with their cash).

I think that even Al Gore was talking about some form of tax relief back in 2000; we all agreed that the record surplus wasn't necessarily a good goal. But it is nice to see the brakes being put on the tax relief program that has ensued. If there's anything worse than a tax-and-spend liberal, it has to be a don't-tax-and-spend cadger.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2005



So Miers is out. We may never know why, but any of the following 3 reasons would be sufficient:

I think that the most likely reason is #2 -- that faced with enough opposition within the Republican party, the honorable thing was to withdraw. I personally don't discount #3 -- when Miers was co-chair of this commission some actions were taken that looked slightly less than ethical (although may have been fine -- we'll never know).

As for the stated reason? It sure sounds nice; nicer than either of the other 2 explanations, but it doesn't really reflect well on Bush either. It kind of means "whoops, I didn't realize that I had to defend my picks."

So what now?

As a fan of the Supreme Court, I think that this is good. What the court needs is competent judges who have the ability and experience to understand the complex role that the Supreme Court plays. Judges without that competency will inadvertently shift the balance of power among the 3 branches and the results could be unforeseeable and generally not good. From what we know of Roberts, he certainly appears to be a competent judge. To be amoral for a second, I suspect that there are plenty of folks on the far right and left who have this level of competency. I would rather see any of them on the bench than an incompetent judge who shares all of my sympathies. I would of course prefer a judge who shares my sympathies, but that is a matter of secondary importance.

Given that predilection, I am pleased that Miers has withdrawn her nomination. Given the amount of withering criticism of her lack of experience, I can only guess that the next nominee will be a (somewhat) seasoned judge. If I had to guess, I would expect one of the conservative judges who's names have been listed in the press so often (Luttig, Brown, etc.).

The Right

I would think that the Right will be pleased. What will follow will surely be a horrific battle involving filibusters, the threat of the nuclear option and the predictable fall-out. In the end, the Right has both the presidency and the majority in the senate and I cannot imagine but that they will succeed.

The Left

For the Left, all hope is not lost. In the first place, there is no guarantee that the next nominee will be a Luttig. The nomination of Miers may simply have been Bush attempting to do something nice for a friend, but I think that it is more likely an indication that Bush feels unable to deliver a Luttig. I am not enough of a political commentator to guess why this might be, but it is certainly possible that Bush will attempt to replicate his success with Roberts (an unknown quantity) or do something totally unpredictable (His wife? Sammy Sosa? The possibilities are limitless). In the second place, even if Bush does nominate Luttig, there are many opportunities. The one I think about most is that the Nuclear Option will have far reaching affects. Even if it never comes to fruition, the ensuing confrontation could cause widespread random resentment among voters, creating a lot of turnover at the federal and local level. I wouldn't guess that this would help the Democrats pick up seats in congress, but the existance of chaos certainly creates the potential for that kind of change.

Regardless of what follows, the next couple of months will be riveting for political junkies such as your humble correspondent.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Back from Paternity leave - just in time for Miers


We have a new kid. Now I might as well go back to blogging.

Harriet Miers. It is most unfortunate that nobody has ever clearly laid out what the appropriate credentials for a Supreme Court Justice are. Suffice it to say that, were they to have done so, it is unlikely that Miers would top the list.

One can only hope that fate (or the Judiciary Committee) will intervene before Miers is put to a vote in the Senate. Despite Charles Shumer's proclamation to the contrary, I would have to guess that Miers would pass.

Here is how I handicap the situation as of today (10/24/2005):

50% probability that Miers will make it through the Committee
20% probability that, having made it through the committee, her Texas Lottery commission (more on that on another day) experience will keep her from being appointed.

In the end, that's a 40% chance that she will make it to the bench. Kind of scary given how little relevant experience she has. Had your humble correspondent but known, he would have put his name into the hat.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 25, 2005


State's rights or not?

One of my mythical readers questioned whether I could fairly call the Majority Opinion a good example of strengthening States' rights. After all, as D.H. correctly points out, property rights are basic and this is certainly a Constitutional issue.

My argument would be that the Constitution is appropriately vague about what constitutes "public use," so that it is well and appropriately left to the states to define that term severally. In the great political laboratory that is our states, each state could come up with its chosen definition in the hopes that the states naturally gravitate towards the best.

It is understandable that one would be anxious about such a fundamental right being treated so variably. A reasonable solution to this problem may have been furnished by a letter to the New York Times I read some years back. Simply put appropriate billboards on the highways:

"Warning: You are now entering Connecticut, the Constitution State. Public use is defined more broadly than in many neighboring states."

As always, thanks for reading,

Friday, July 22, 2005



Since the Kelo decision is both topical and controversial, I thought that it might be a nice place to start.

This case concerns a hard-luck city decided to build a commercial park with the goal of bringing more business, jobs and tax revenue into the region. The park was designed with a major corporate tenant in mind. In order to build the park, the city had to purchase a fair amount of land from the folks who currently owned it. In most cases, a deal was worked out, but in a few cases, the owners refused to sell. The city pulled out its “eminent domain” card and sought to take the land, for public use, with just compensation.

For those playing at home, eminent domain is outlined (in reverse) at the end of the second amendment

“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Kelo and others challenged use of eminent domain and the case eventually wound up before on the Supreme Court of the United States.

To state my bias up front, I sympathize with both sides of the decision, but I tend to side with the majority on this case. First, to the dissents. Justices Thomas and O’Connor wrote separate dissenting opinions, but both argued that this decision essentially eliminated the requirement that private property can only be taken for public use. First O’Connor:

“To reason as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings ‘for public use’ is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property – and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”
And Thomas:

“If such ‘economic development’ takings are for a ‘public use,’ any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution.”
These are powerful arguments made all the more powerful by the visceral fear that what we possess is only ours at the leisure of the government. The majority opinion, written by Stevens, simply says that the state legislation, state Supreme Court and even SCOTUS decisions all allow this taking. To decide against would be to invalidate the lower courts decision and deviate from the Federal courts history.

With case law showing that non-blighted property has been found to be condemnable, and that transfers from private entity to private entity can still be within the realm of “public use” the opinion was unable to

“grant petitioners the relief that they seek, [and] the judgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut is affirmed.”
In the end, I side with the majority because to have done otherwise would have

Several state legislatures responded quickly, drafting legislation meant to keep state governments from engaging in these kinds of takings. There are those who wish that the SCOTUS had stepped in here, but I think they were right not to do so. I guess it was just one of those cases where there ought to be a law, but there ain’t.

As always, thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


The stealth nominee

Talk show host Jay Severin has taken to calling John Roberts a "stealth nominee," by which he means that the nominee has relatively few (~50) opinions authored in his name. This leads to the situation in which one cannot really guess how he might respond to reproductive rights question before him. On the one hand, he has said that

"Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."
But that comment was not made in the context of a legal decision. Alternatively, as Solicitor General for the U.S. Solicitor General under President Reagan, he apparantly argued against reporductive rights. Some have discounted that statement as an example of a lawyer arguing on behalf of his client. The truth is that Roberts is a relatively unknown quality (although I tend to side with those who feel he would be fairly conservative).

I would characterize his nomination as an interesting bet. President Bush has bet that

I really don't know what to expect from the confirmation process, but from what I have read, it seems a good bet that it will be from the Alberto Gonzales mold: No filibuster, lots of pointed questions, ultimately a succesful nomination.

As always, thanks for reading.


And now for something completely boring.

Given the anticipated 2 year hiatus from action in the world of Social Security blogging, this webpage shall be henceforth largely dedicated to the wholly unrelated topic of the Supreme Court of the United States. On the upside, this gives me more topical material to cover, through the confirmation of the next justice and decisions as we start to learn where said justice stands. On the downside, this involves your humble correspondent exchanging a topic on which he had some amount of credentials for a topic on which he has none.

I can hear the hue and cry of my mythical readers: "but J.G., the Supreme Court simply isn't a boring subject!" Rest assured that, when viewed through the appropriate lens, the life can be drained from virtually any subject.

For those mythical readers that choose to continue on this flight of fancy, thanks for reading. For those that do not, I shall see you when the world next decides to take steps towards fiscal responsibility.

Thursday, July 14, 2005



It would appear that primary purpose of this blog -- to provide advocacy to the dozens of members of Congress who check it hourly for updates -- has come to a rather lengthy suspension. The Boston Globe reports that Social Security overhaul will almost certainly be pushed into the 2006 session. At that point, one can imagine those congressman up for re-election being too timid to vote for any significant change.

I recognize both the good and the bad in this developmemt. On the good side, some of the proposals on the table would have had some serious consequences, like transferring risk from the Federal Government to individuals, or saddling us with massive amounts of debt. However, it is very likely that Trust Funds are going to go bankrupt in the 40's, and a relatively small set of changes today, could have significantly helped. It is disappointing that the Federal Government could not figure out how to do that.

In the meantime, your humble correspondent will endeavor to keep you appraised of the latest developments and perhaps coalesce a complete suggestion of his own.

As always, thanks for reading.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?