Grassroot Perspective: Supreme Arithmetic, NYC Nonsense, and More

The US Supreme Court AP PHOTO
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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

By Malia Hill

The US Supreme Court AP PHOTO

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”—Abraham Lincoln

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

Vote Counting on the Supreme Court

Many lawyers (and I am speaking as someone who attended law school—although like most youthful indiscretions, it’s one I’d rather not delve into) enjoy seeing themselves as interpreters of special knowledge.  After all, it takes many years and lots of money to get that degree, and no end of patience to read though most court decisions without wanting to jump out the window.  So you can’t really blame them for feeling as though legal training is a specialized skill and interpretation of the law and Constitution require specialized knowledge.  And so, it makes sense that so many legal “analysts” are hostile to the jurisprudential philosophy that says that the meaning and intent of the Constitution should be clear to just about anyone and that one should not go beyond such a strict reading in determining the constitutionality of a law like . . . say . . . Obamacare, just to pick a random example.

The Supreme Court held oral arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare this week, and great was the shock among its supporters when the Court (especially the assumed swing vote, Justice Kennedy) echoed the same objections to the individual mandate as the Act’s opponents have been repeating all along.  As Erick Erickson at Red State explains, in many ways this comes down to the great left/right philosophical divide in government and jurisprudence.  If the Court rules against Obamacare, in whole or in part, expect the Left to decry . . . hmmm, it can’t be judicial overreach if the decision is based on strict constructionism, can it?  Maybe they’ll be protesting judicial underreach?

Repairing the Third Rail

Many have tried and failed to reform social security.  Even more have been too afraid to even try, so intimidated by the political forces arrayed against any effort to change it.  It’s a funny thing, since you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would claim it didn’t need reforms, and yet every person who attempts to reform it runs into a tidal wave of opposition.  And yet, there is some hope in the form of an alternate plan from Texas. Three Texas counties opted out of social security in the 1980s, implementing an alternate plan meant to minimize risk and government liability without reducing the retiree benefit.  Not only did it work, but it has been found to pay out far more—across all levels of income and contribution—then social security.  Of course, anything that makes this much sense has a real fight ahead of it on the federal level, but there is now further incontrovertible proof that there are ways to provide for retirees without bankrupting our future.

A Charter Resource

Voters favor charter schools and other education alternatives—often by large margins.  And yet, lawmakers seem to drag their feet on change.  They are always ready with extensive and complicated explanations for that fact, but it’s difficult for the cynic not to read those reasons as a code for “unions” and “campaign donations.”  Still, for those who are determined to continue to fight for charter schools and such alternatives, there is hope.  Not only are there great resources out there, like the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, but even the most intractable legislator will eventually give way before a determined electorate—we just have to keep up the pressure.

The Looming Threat of Flexibility

In the furor over President Obama’s request to Russian President Medvedev for more “space” on missile defense issues, not enough thought has been given to all of the implications of the President’s promise of more “flexibility” in his second term.  We all know that “lame duck” politicians are prone to act more boldly (and with less regard to pleasing the electorate), but as Paul Jacob points out, this flies in the face of democracy.  With that mention of flexibility, the President has tipped his hand as to how little regard he plans to have for the will of the people in his next term.

Oversensitive in New York

I am now going to hurt your feelings, offend your religion, and make you dwell on the economic inequalities you may sometimes experience.  Are you ready?  (Don’t keep reading if you can’t take it.)  Here goes:  Dinosaurs lived a long time ago.  I dressed up like a dancer for Halloween.  For my birthday, I swam at home in my pool, and then played games on my computer.

Whew.  That was pretty intense.  I hope you’ll forgive me.  Of course, if you’re completely bewildered as to how dinosaurs, dancing, Halloween, birthdays, and nice houses cause hurt and offense, then you probably don’t work for the New York Department of Education.  As the New York Post reports, bureaucrats in New York have banned these and many other “controversial” topics from various tests meant to measure student progress on the grounds that they may cause upset or serve as a “distraction.”  Though I have to wonder what kind of education children are getting if the mere mention of a birthday is enough to prevent them from completing a test.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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