Cynical Synapse

Sat, 29 Oct 2011

Snyder’s Romneyesque Approach to Michigan Transportation

Filed under: Driving, Government, Governor, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics, Roads, Taxes, Transit — cynicalsynapse @ 1:48 pm

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R)

Although I’ve got to give Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) credit for thinking outside the box, splitting hairs doesn’t change the growing deviation from his own campaign rhetoric. While more subtle than flip-flopping Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Snyder is still back-pedaling from previous positions. Regarding his proposals for road and transit improvements, the disconnects are more significant than they appear at first glance. As a reminder, here’s candidate Snyder’s view on transportation funding in October 2010:

Asked if he’d support increasing Michigan’s gas tax, given that the state has the nation’s worst-maintained roads, Snyder said no, “because we need to get efficient first” with the state’s existing transportation funds. …

“So let’s get efficient about where we’re deploying these dollars. There’s a much better way to do things, and that’s what we should focus on first.”

First, the Governor wants a revenue-neutral change in the fuel tax. Snyder’s plan eliminates the 19-cent “current gas tax on consumers”, shifting it to a percentage at the wholesale level. Wow! I won’t have to pay state gas tax anymore! Except, does anyone believe wholesalers won’t pass the cost of that tax onto retailers? Is the average retailer likely to discount his pump price by the amount of the wholesale tax passed to him? As the Brits would say, not bloody likely. While this proposal is initially revenue-neutral for the gas tax, a percentage tax on wholesale fuels will go up as prices rise. The proposal includes another hidden tax increase. Michigan levies sales tax, presently 6% on goods sold, including gasoline. Retailers don’t include the current 19-cent gas tax when calculating the sales tax. Since the wholesale tax will be part of the price retailers pay, it will now become subject to the 6% sales tax. On day one of a wholesale tax, Michigan will collect more than a penny per gallon in additional taxes from consumers. So much for “revenue-neutral”; never mind Michigan’s fuel taxes are already among the highest in the country.

fuel tax comparison by state

Next up, Snyder figures Michigan needs an extra $10 per month from every vehicle registration. Sounds minimal, but that’s $120 per year, on top of what you’re already paying for license tabs. As Stephen Henderson noted, it disproportionately impacts poor people.

It’s a big hit to people’s wallets in a state still struggling to rebound from a decade-long recession. A family with three cars registered to one person would have to fork over $360 extra all at once.

From my perspective, the increased vehicle registration fees are neither logical nor beneficial. Snyder says they will raise about $1.4 billion for roads. They will also price many out of their cars in a state with few functioning transportation options. Don’t be surprised if there is an increase in license plate thefts or cutting their corners off to get someone else’s current year tab. Here’s a novel concept: how about charging heavier weight vehicles for the road damage they cause? A 5,000-pound car exerts a mere 2,500 pounds per axle while Michigan allows up to 17,000 pounds—nearly seven times that of the car—per axle. Financing road repairs also needs to ensure non-resident users pay their share, not just Michiganians. Earlier this year, a bipartisan legislative report said Michigan needs $1.4 billion more for roads each year. Coincidence? I think maybe not.

road workers

Snyder also proposed voluntary elimination of county road commissions, folding their responsibilities into general county government. Such a move would save money by eliminating a separate bureaucracy and improve accountability, through county commissioners, to county residents. Since I absolutely abhor my road commission, I’m tempted to support this proposal. The only problem is Snyder wants counties to be able to levy their own $40 vehicle registration fees on top of the state’s. In the 3 car example, the cost now skyrockets to $780, based on a $100 per car average at present, plus the added $120 state and $40 county fees.

Having nothing to do with the state of Michigan’s roads, or fixing them, Snyder also suggested the red herring of so-called “high-speed buses” on key metro Detroit routes. What he means is rapid-transit buses, which often operate in dedicated lanes, but are still subject to speed limits, traffic lights, and road conditions, like standard buses. The concept of dedicated lanes means either removing lanes from availability to motorists or spending money to add sole-use lanes. Personally, I’m not sold on the idea of bus rapid transit, but what concerns me about the Governor’s plan is its creation of yet another transit agency in Southeast Michigan. Say what? Just over a week ago, I posted on metro Detroit’s two dysfunctional bus systems. How is adding another layer going to fix that? How does this fit with Snyder’s push for local governments to consolidate?

Let’s summarize.

  • Candidate Snyder said no new gas tax, but even his “revenue neutral” proposal increases taxes consumers would pay on fuel
  • Candidate Snyder wanted to eliminate transportation administration/funding inefficiencies, but the Gov. Snyder wants taxpayers to fork over $1.4 billion instead
  • Gov. Snyder wants to eliminate Michigan’s extra layer of county road commissions, but will allow counties to charge vehicle registration fees on top of taxes
  • Gov. Snyder wants local governments to consolidate services, but he proposes adding another transit agency to those already preexisting in southeast Michigan

Gov. Snyder ran on the claim he was a political outsider. What he’s showing us is the same smoke and mirrors approach used by seasoned politicians.


 

Tue, 18 Oct 2011

Smoke and Mirrors Bus Tour: Tax Cuts That Aren’t

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Economy, Employment, Government, Language, Politics, President, Stimulus, Taxes, Unemployment — cynicalsynapse @ 8:24 pm

Pres. Obama and his stealth bus

Pres. Obama has been traveling around North Carolina and Virginia in his Stealth Bus, the all-black $1.1 million Canadian-American customized luxery coach, the Death Star of the roads. Republicans claim the trip is a taxpayer-funded campaign tour, a charge the White House denies. Let’s face it, anything a politician—of any party or persuasion—does or says in public has a campaign element to it. So, all you Republicans who felt Pres. Bush got chastised by the media for everything he did, get over it, stop pointing at Obama, sit down, and stop saying “but, but, but…”

Features in the American Jobs Act, uncannily similar to 2009’s $720 billion Stimulus, seems like a half-hearted attempt, at only $448 billion. More troubling is the fact it’s not really a new idea and, if Big Stimulus didn’t work, why would anyone think Baby Stimulus will? Maybe that’s why Senate Democrats didn’t take up Obama’s bill, but saw their own version defeated last week. Even so, it gives the President political mileage: “100 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against it [the Jobs bill]. That doesn’t make any sense, does it?”

Pres. Obama in Jamestown NC

One of the points in Obama’s jobs plan is payroll tax cuts, intended to put more money into workers’ pockets and encourage employers to hire at reduced costs. What the President doesn’t tout is he wants to extend the current worker tax cut, due to expire at the end of the year, and increase it from 2% to 3.1%. That’s just half of the normal 6.2%. He’s already blaming Republicans if this doesn’t happen and he can just see jobs withering away from less money in your pocket.

Fact Check: First, the current extra pocket money is not making it into the economy as most people pay down debt or save it. Something else no one is talking about is the payroll tax holiday reduces contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund. Has anyone forgotten the dire predictions for the immenent collapse of Social Security?

Wizard of Oz

Smoke and mirrors: here are a few coins for your pocket today, but they won’t be there when you retire. In this case, paying it forward doesn’t make any sense to me. In his speech in Jamestown NC today, Mr. Obama obfuscated the matter (emphasis added):

So don’t be bamboozled. (Laughter.) Don’t fall for this notion that somehow the jobs act is proposing to raise your taxes. It’s just not true. Under this—here’s what will happen. If we don’t pass the American Jobs Act, if we do not pass the provision in there that extends the payroll tax cut that we passed in December, most people here, your taxes will go up by $1,000. So voting no against the jobs bill is voting in favor of middle-class families’ income taxes going up. And that’s a fact. Don’t take my word for it—all the reporters here, they can check on the facts on this thing. That’s the truth.

Are any reporters fact-checking the only payroll taxes the Federal government collects are Social Security (FICA) and Medicare?
 

Previously on Obama’s jobs bill:

Sat, 15 Oct 2011

Herman Cain Tops Republican Polls but No Black Walnut

Filed under: Candidates, Politics, Rants, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 5:22 am

Herman Cain

When I first heard Herman Cain refer to himself as Häagen-Dazs Black Walnut, I cringed for two reasons. First, he’s using a company name for political purposes, either without permission, or they’re paying him for product placement. Second, I took the flavor to have a clear racial undertone contrary to Cain’s calling out Rick Perry for his leased camp’s former name. Maybe it’s just because Cain can say it, but if I did, I’d be considered insensitive, at best. In any case, Cain has been milking (no pun intended) the ice cream analogy.

I happen to believe there’s iced milk, and then there’s Häagen-Dazs black walnut. “Substance, that’s the difference. I got the substance. I’m the black walnut! It lasts longer than a week.

melting ice cream

Now, Herman Cain finds himself at the head of the pack of Republican contenders. This shouldn’t be too surprising since Mitt Romney speaks out of more mouths than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has and Rick Perry has performed miserably in the debates. I don’t know why her constituents elected her in the first place—Michelle Bachman’s elevator stops a floor short. Never mind the also-rans.

Well, here’s a ripple for Mr. Cain: Häagen-Dazs no longer makes black walnut ice cream. It had a limited run because sales fell below expectations. Beyond his ice cream substance and 9-9-9 tax plan, what exactly is Herman Cain standing for or offering in his presidential bid? Hope and change didn’t work the last time, so if that’s his meme, he’s going to melt away.
 

Previously on Herman Cain:

Mon, 10 Oct 2011

Snyder Pulled a Romney; Wants Higher Michigan Gas Taxes After All

Filed under: Budget, Deceit, Government, Governor, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 2:02 pm

Southfield Freeway reopens after summer closure

Michiganians want good roads and there is no doubt a good transportation infrastructure is important to Michigan’s economy. Of course, this takes money and there’s no secret Michigan is struggling with budget deficits. Last month, a bipartisan legislative committee recommending doubling Michigan’s road funding. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) even made a propaganda film, using my tax dollars, to justify it. And now, Gov. Rick “No New Gas Tax” Snyder flip-flopped, à la Romney, and climbed on board the tax increase steam roller.

I want good roads, just like everybody else. But I’m not convinced MDOT is spending our money as wisely as they say. I get the whole Federal-State match thing, but to squander 20% on stupid stuff to get the 80% is not solving the problem. I offer Exhibit A: mile marker signs with the direction, highway designation, and, in urban areas, placed every 1-2 tenths of a mile. If someone needs to be reminded what highway they’re on and which direction they’re going every 2/10ths of a mile, they shouldn’t be driving. Even if these markers cost the same as the originals, which they don’t, the cost has skyrocketed 5 times; for no significant value. The irony is the example pictured was part of a Detroit News article warning how bad Michigan’s roads are going to get. And don’t even get me started on the project a few years ago when the replaced all of the big green signs for better night visibility. Why not replace them as they wore out or got damaged?

West Michigan variable message sign

As Exhibit B, I offer Michigan’s so-called Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), intended to facilitate traffic around greater Grand Rapids and southeast Michigan (metro Detroit). The most visible aspect of ITS are the nearly 100 variable message signs (VMS) like the one pictured, including those at Grayling and Clare for which there is no traffic congestion justification. The VMS routinely depict messages about as useful as the one pictured near Grand Rapids. With fall approaching, you can expect them to say “Don’t veer for dear.” I spend a lot of time on the road and I think I can count one one hand the number of times a VMS has assisted my travels in any meaningful way.

But ITS is more than just useless electronic signs. It includes nearly 270 closed circuit TVs, not counting the out-state ones like those in the upper peninsula, obviously with no congestion management purpose. And it includes two manned operations centers. MDOT’s website shows 3 people in the metro Detroit center, presumably a typical shift of staff that “oversees a traffic monitoring system”“. Neither these MDOT employees nor the VMS they are masters of contribute substantially to reducing congestion. At what expense are we gaining such miniscule benefit?

I-94 west to I-696 west

For Exhibit C, I offer the I-94/I-696 interchange. MDOT completely reconstructed this interchange in 2010 to the same exact specifications as existed previously. Here’s the problem with that: two lanes exit from I-94 east and west each to become four lanes of I-696 west, except the right lane becomes exit only in a quarter mile at Gratiot, a major arterial. Why didn’t MDOT add another lane to accomodate this and allow four lanes to continue past Gratiot? Gratiot’s westbound on-ramp restores the fourth lane. The same intersection was previously rebuilt, again to the same standards, in the late 1990s. So, despite changes in traffic volumes and flows, MDOT has rebuilt the I-94/I-696 interchange twice to 40-year-old (1968) design criteria.

While I could keep going on, let me finish with Exhibit D, the 30 MDOT transportation service centers across the state. This includes five in metro Detroit alone. At least MDOT plans to consolidate some service centers. I hope they reduce their seemingly large fleet of red minivans, with several to a dozen or more at each service center.

Before MDOT expects additional state revenues for road projects, they need to show they’re fiscally responsible and working smart with what they get. The additional lanes at the reworked Okemos/I-96 interchange is proof they can when they want to. Oh, and don’t use my tax dollars to lobby me about your funding.
 


 

Previously on Michigan Roads:

Sun, 31 Jul 2011

These Are Not the Oil Profits You’re Looking For

Filed under: Business, Congress, Economy, Gas Prices, Government, Greed, Hypocrits, Oil, Politics, Rants, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 2:41 pm

big oil's big gusher

ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil, the five biggest oil companies, reported skyrocketing profits for the second quarter. The profit jumps result from higher oil prices, which seems counterintuitive to me. Obviously the cost is simply passed along to consumers and not absorbed by the oil companies. The top 5 Big Oil companies increased profits almost 10% over second quarter 2010. Their combined profit for second quarter 2011 was $35.1 billion.

Although second quarter profits were up 41% compared to last year, the results are “below expectations.” Investors called BP’s 13% improvement in profit over 2010 “disappointing” at $5.6 billion in the second quarter 2011.

Hoekstra on healthcare

On top of increased, but disappointing profits, Exxon Mobil pays a lower effective tax rate than individuals, at 17.6% compared to 20.4% for individual US Federal taxpayers.

With record profits and low effective tax rates, why do big oil companies get $70+ billion in tax breaks? How about slashing those to reduce the deficit? Silly me, Big Oil owns Congress.

Previously on Oil:

Sun, 02 Jan 2011

Synder Has One Tough Row to Hoe

Filed under: Budget, Business, Economy, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 8:19 pm

Rick Snyder being sworn in as governor

Michigan’s 48th Governor, Rick Snyder, is no H. Ross Perot. But he had a certain similar appeal during the campaign and enough Michiganders are fed up with business as usual that he won the election. I’m pleased he edged past charlatans like Mike Cox, Pete Hoekstra, and Mike Bouchard. But Snyder will need more than optimism from his inaugural address if he is to succeed.

We need to move from negative to positive. We need to stop looking in the rearview mirror and look toward the future. We need to stop being divisive and become inclusive.

Snyder’s campaign catch phrase was he’s “one tough nerd.” Well, he’s got one tough row to hoe if he’s going to implement positive change in Michigan; there is a lot that needs fixing.

Synder and his appointments

For a guy who wants to reinvent Michigan, I’m a little concerned he’s not making such a good start. Snyder’s first cabinet appointment was Andy Dillon as State Treasurer. This is a positive move how? Former Speaker of Michigan’s House Mr. Dillon missed more votes than any other state legislator! He presided over the Democratic House that failed to complete budget work and forced state government shutdowns in all but the last year of his tenure as speaker. To avoid a fourth shutdown, Dillon caved to Senate Republican budget proposals. There’s a man with moral fortitude and obvious budget experience for you—not! Snyder’s also surrounded himself with a bunch of former Gov. Engler hacks.

Beyond cabinet choices, Michigan has serious systemic issues that can’t just be wished or hoped away. To start, there is state government’s structural deficit, which actually precedes Gov. Granholm’s two terms in office. It remains to be seen if Michigan can live within the 2011 budget, some of it’s “revenue” is based on one-time fixes. As a result, Michigan’s 2012 budget shortfall is project to be at least $1 billion. In fact, Michigan’s Senate Fiscal Agency says the deficit could reach $1.85 billion for fiscal year 2012. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s biggest failure was her lack of leadership, especially in her second term. So, she passes the structural budget deficit she inherited to Gov. Snyder, who I’m sure is blown away.

Michigan Works job fair

At the fundamental root of Michigan’s current crisis are jobs. Simple as that. For 50 months Michigan had the worst unemployment in the US, surrendering that dubious position to Nevada in June. Michigan’s unemployment rate is still 49th, tied with California at 12.4%, as if that’s anything worth bragging about. Part of the problem is a relatively business-unfriendly environment in the state. Michigan has the 3rd highest business tax rate and the 6th highest unemployment tax rate in the country. So, except for targeted tax incentive industries, like filming and movies, why would a business locate in Michigan?

While there are many others, I’m going to end with Michigan’s dysfunctional political process. New State Treasurer Andy Dillion admitted being part of the dysfunctional system. Granted, Snyder has Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, but that’s no guarantee. Like chief executives at all levels of government, unless Snyder can get the legislature behind his plans, he will accomplish nothing. His forays into bipartisanshp and forays into inclusivity could turn very quickly on him when he gets down to making hard decisions. Decisions, I might add, left over from his cronies’ former boss, big ole John Engler.

Fri, 17 Dec 2010

Surprise! House Passes Tax Cut Extensions

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Economy, Government, Hypocrits, Politics, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 3:37 pm

opposition to tax cut extension

After much wringing of hands and showboating, the Democratic Party-controlled US House passed the tax cut deal by 277 for and 148 opposed in Roll Call 647.

Interestingly, Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-14) voted against the bill, but the doddering old fool Conyers thinks Pres. Obama is trying to usurp Congress’ power. Also opposed were Michigan’s failed gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra (R-2) and pro-Wall Street Bailout Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-13). You may recall, Kilpatrick is also Detroit’s felonious former mayor Kwame’s mommy. Thad McCotter (R-11) and self-immolating Bart Stupak (D-1) rounded out the Michigan Congressional naysayers. The remaining 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted in favor.

Rep. Sander Levin

Sander Levin, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, summed up exactly why the Democrats’ huffing and puffing was just that. In his remarks on the House floor yesterday, Levin supported the bill because Republicans will be in charge next year.

I will accept the remainder of the bill because after the approach taken by Republicans in the House and the Senate these last weeks – obstructing and holding hostage everything until they get their way on the tax breaks for the very wealthy – I am not willing to put the fate of the middle class and the unemployed in the hands of the Republican Majority next year.

Thanks, Sander! I was going to make just that very case myself. Democrats voted in favor simply because they were afraid of what Republicans might do in the next session of Congress. There’s moral fortitude and courage for you.

Previously on Sander Levin:

Sun, 11 Jul 2010

US Passport Prices Up 50% Because They Can

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Government, Life, National security, Opportunists, Taxes, Travel — cynicalsynapse @ 11:46 am

US passports

Just announced this past week, US passport fees rise about 50% on 13 July. While it seems there’s hardly any notice for this hefty increase, the State Department has been considering it since February. What’s interesting is 70% of public comment was opposed to the increase. To skirt that, State just implements the price hike while Congress is recessed.

Why are prices going up now and by so much? According to the State Dept., it’s because new passports include high-tech security features. Woops. Those features have been in place since 2006. Never mind that those high tech features have been hacked already.

Customs and Border Protection checking documents

If it’s not the high-tech cost, then State says it’s because of increased demand. Woops! I’m sorry, but the increased demand is because US citizens need a passport to return to the US. This has been a requirement for air travelers since 2006 and in effect for land/sea crossings for the last year. So, the so-called increased demand doesn’t support a passport price hike right now, either.

I live 20 minutes from Windsor, Ontario, and it’s always been easier to go there than it has to come back to the US. The guys in the little booths on the US side are just so full of themselves. I’ve not been to Canada since 9/11 because I knew it would be painful to come back home. Maybe I just don’t like being treated like a suspect for no other reason than wanting to come home. Now the US has added a travel tax in the form of the passport requirement. And now, they’re raising that tax.

Nothing permitted in visitor center

The added hassle of entering the US has cost jobs, income, and taxes. It’s done little, if anything, to increase national and border security. As if that’s not bad enough, US passport security is in jeopardy because we outsouce making the smartchip to Thailand. Which means the passport requirement isn’t even accomplishing its intended purpose. Just more security theater with little tangible benefit.

Tue, 30 Mar 2010

Granholm’s “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 6:15 am

Granholm pointing down

I’m not sure what Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has in her pipe, but she continues to say the wildest things, even if she means good. Granholm told MSNBC Michigan has “a big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our number of college graduates.” Now, what kind of phraseology is that with respect to higher education?

Of course, Granholm’s remarks, 29 March, are more about her call to extend Michigan’s sales tax to services. I’m sure the Governor is all the more anxious about this since the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a budget measure, cutting K-12 funds by $112 per pupil. Increasing taxes is the easy, but unsustainable, short-term fix to Michigan’s structural deficit.

The Senate’s cuts to K-12 funding follow on the heals of there chopping 3% from public universities and community colleges. So, how does Granholm expect to get more graduates with less money across all levels of education?

student hostages

“The long-term future of the state depends upon strong universities,” said Peggy Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. In an effort to double the number of college graduates who stay in Michigan, Granholm proposed a revised Promise scholarship. Michigan college graduates would be eligible for a $4,000 refundable credit on their income tax return after working a year in Michigan past graduation. Students don’t like it and the state Senate didn’t take the bait.

Education, and students, are being held hostage by state politicians, educational institutions, local school bureaucracies, and teachers’ unions. Per pupil funding is not the issue nor is the state’s stipend to community colleges and universities. The problem is per pupil costs, about half of which are not attributable to the classroom or education. There are a lot of cost reduction efforts schools should consider before raising taxes. Remember those so-called “legacy costs” of the automakers that were in the news a year ago? Guess what? Schools have “legacy” costs, too, and they’re blatant about it. Everyone wanted Big 3 retirees to give up benefits. How about school retirees? I choose whether or not to contribute to automaker retirees by what car I buy, but I have no choice with school retirees.

protest in front of MEA

Michigan didn’t fare well at all in Race to the Top, the Federal educational dollars competition. Michigan lost points, ending up 21st, because teacher unions didn’t sign on. They don’t care about education, they only care about member benefits.

Granholm’s problem is she has great ideas, but they’re all “blown away.” She wants to double college graduates, but both K-12 and higher education are under-funded. She says college graduates are key to Michigan’s future, but the Promise grants are gone. I’m seeing big and hairy, but I’m not seeing audacious coming through.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010

On the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

dog attacks receiver

The passing of health care reform is just the beginning. The bill itself is more than 2,000 long, which is why John Conyers didn’t bother to read the bill. And, why should they have read the bill, besides the obvious you should know what you’re voting on? I don’t know. Maybe because bill porked them in the ass?

Still, the bill, now law, doesn’t include the specifics of how to implement health care requirements. So, what will make it all work? Why, hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations from a variety of government agencies. Many of the health care changes won’t be implemented for several years, perhaps to permit time for government agencies to draft those implementing regulations. None of those regulations has to undergo consideration by Congress and they don’t get voted on. Implementing regulations just become ipso facto laws we all must comply with.

In the meantime, several states have enacted or are considering bills to limit Federal health care impact on the states. Honestly, these are an exercise in futility since Federal law trumps state law when the federal government has jurisdiction.

US Constitution

Which leads us to the fundamental question. Does the federal government, as embodied by Congress, have jurisdiction over health care? Many would argue no, and that’s the basis the lawsuit by 13 states attorneys general who claim the insurance mandate is a living tax. This is the most plausible assault on health care reform, since it contains a provision requiring everyone to buy health insurance. The usual argument made in support of this mandate is the interstate commerce clause of the constition. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides the following powers for Congress:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

John Conyers

Most Representatives and Senators aren’t concerned about the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate in the health care overhaul legislation. In fact, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) cited the “the good and welfare clause and a couple others” as the Constitutional basis for the health care legislation’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance. But there is no “good and welfare” clause in the Constitution. And, we’ve already looked at Article 1, Section 8, regarding welfare. The word “good” only appears once in the Constitution, in Article 3, Section 1, which deals with the Judicial branch, not the powers of Congress. Seems to me a longtime Member of Congress is failing his oath of office.

Conyers also said, “there’s nothing unconstitutional in this bill and if there were, I would have tried to correct it…” Um, how would he know? This is the same guy who said “What good is reading the bill?” Did I mention Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee?

Still, many argue the health care legislation is not constitutional. Regardless of the commerce clause, requiring people to buy health insurance may violate their constitutional right to individual liberty. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of the individual in several cases regarding medical treatment. The Court held individuals have a “constitutionally protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment,” in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. Even more interesingly, in Washington v. Harper, the Court held prison inmates have a “significant liberty interest” in refusing antipsychotic medication. Similarly, children have a significant liberty interest in refusing medical treatment even if their parents requested it, according to the Court’s ruling in Parham v. J. R. It seems, then, requiring individuals to buy health care insurance is contrary to their liberty interest.

Andrew Napolitano

Judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano noted the Federal government cannot commandeer state legislatures. There have been several Supreme Court decisions affirming states rights. Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge explained.

The Constitution does not authorize the Congress to regulate the state governments. Nevertheless, in this piece of legislation, the Congress has told the state governments that they must modify their regulation of certain areas of healthcare, they must surrender their regulation of other areas of healthcare, and they must spend state taxpayer-generated dollars in a way that the Congress wants it done.

Napolitano believes the State Attorneys General lawsuit to overturn health care reform stands a good chance in the Supreme Court. “The states for 230 years have had near exclusive regulation over the delivery of healthcare,” he said. “The feds have had nothing to do with it.”

Congress dunce

Referring to the backroom deals used to garner enough support in the Senate, Napolitano said the “create “a very unique and tricky constitutional problem.” The Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, Gatorade Exception and others create a disparity in treatment among the states. Of the deals, Napolitano said they “clearly violate equal protection by forcing people in the other states to pay the bills of the states that don’t have to pay what the rest of us do.” Similarly, the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans can’t fairly be exempted for union members.

“The problem with the constitution is that those who take an oath to uphold it don’t take their oath seriously,” Napolitano said. Congress only has authority to craft legislation in the 17 aspects enumerated in the Constitution. That might explain why my Senators and Representative failed to answer my question as to what clause in the Constitution authorized the health care reform bill.

In short, the Constitution does not authorize Congress to regulate health care nor does it allow for mandating citizens buy anything, not even for their own good. The commerce clause allows for regulating interstate commerce, not creating it. Disparate treatment among the states and between groups violate the equal protection clause. And, for the record, there is no good and welfare clause in the Constitution. Someone please tell the Chairman of the House Judicial Committee.


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