The Week

(Darren Gygi)


All praise the House Progressive Caucus, which intends to release an alternative to Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal program. They’re calling it “the People’s Budget.” (Strange how progressives continue to claim the mandate of “the people,” when the people continue to not elect many of them.) Don’t like the Ryan plan? Maybe you’ll prefer what’s in the People’s Budget: massive, massive tax increases, hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth. Top income-tax rates are raised to 47 percent, taxes on capital gains are increased, taxes on dividends are increased, the tax on death is increased, and, perhaps most destructive, the tax on work is increased: Both the employer and the employee sides of the payroll tax are raised substantially — an enormous tax hike on everybody fortunate enough to be employed and a significant disincentive to future hiring. More new taxes on businesses of all kinds — from banks to investment firms to manufacturers — round out the agenda. As for spending cuts: National defense is gutted. And that’s about it. Instead of putting the brakes on our out-of-control entitlement spending, the People’s Budget spends even more. Rather than repealing Obamacare, as Ryan would, the People’s Budget complements it with a health-care system directly run by the federal government. Our sincere thanks to Representatives Nadler, Fattah, Rangel, and Frank, Senator Sanders, et al., for helping to spell out the options to the American people.

Every so often the Supreme Court uses a good method to reach a good result. Such was the case when the Court dismissed a recent challenge to an Arizona law that offered tax credits for donations to organizations that provide private-school scholarships. The plaintiffs claimed that letting people receive a tax break in return for donations that help students attend religious schools violates the First Amendment. A 5–4 majority of the Court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case: In other words, even if they were right, they had not suffered a harm that the Constitution empowers federal courts to remedy. In her dissent, the newest justice, Elena Kagan, demonstrated that she has mastered the misleading diction of modern judicial activism. The Court, she wrote, “damages one of this Nation’s defining constitutional commitments,” said commitment to lax standing rules having been made in a 1968 case. A win for judicial restraint, and for school choice.

President Obama concluded a free-trade agreement with Colombia — you know, the one Pres. George W. Bush negotiated more than four years ago? If passed, the pact would eliminate most Colombian tariffs on U.S. goods and, one estimate predicts, boost our exports by $1 billion per year. In 2008, Obama swore to oppose the deal because of “violence against unions” in that country. But Colombia was in a civil war; there was violence against everybody. Now, Pres. Juan Manuel Santos has promised to implement a labor-rights “action plan” — a sop to Obama’s disgruntled union buddies. As is so often the case, Obama’s performance cannot truly have pleased anyone.

The useful term “anarcho-tyranny” describes that stage of governmental dysfunction in which the state is anarchically hopeless at coping with large matters but ruthlessly tyrannical in the enforcement of small ones. An example recently turned up in San Gabriel, a middle-middle-class, mostly Asian suburb of Los Angeles. Following complaints from neighbors about noise, police and building inspectors entered a row of connected townhouses and found a large “birthing center” filled with women from mainland China. The women were “obstetric tourists” who had flown in from China to give birth, thereby securing the advantages of U.S. citizenship for their children. One Chinese website advertising such services enumerates those advantages: tuition-free public schools, student loans, consular protection, “preferential treatment in assuming significant leadership positions in the US . . . access to all American social welfare measures and medical facilities . . .” It was not this flagrant hawking of U.S. citizenship that caused San Gabriel to shut down the birthing center, though. Nor was it the shameless appeal to foreigners to come leech off our welfare and public-education systems. No: The proprietors had removed interior walls in violation of building codes. Some challenges to the rule of law the authorities cannot abide.

May 2, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 8

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Andrew Roberts reviews Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II, by Michael Burleigh.
  • John Derbyshire reviews The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, by Jim al-Khalili.
  • Thomas Donnelly reviews U.S. Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain, by Mackubin Thomas Owens.
  • Anthony Paletta reviews An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, by J. Hoberman.
  • Richard Brookhiser muses over graveyards.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .