Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Party of Choice

Since the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973, “choice” has become a code word for abortion rights. Politicians and pro-abortion interest groups speak of “a woman’s right to choose” in lieu of naming abortion explicitly. Democrats are the primary supporter of the abortion choice and are quick to label pro-life politicians as “anti-choice.” But when the right to choose is expanded to other issues the Democrats do not necessarily champion the freedom of choice.

A fundamental choice that Americans can make is the choice of how to spend the money that they earn. On this issue, the issue of how much the government takes in taxes, the Democrats are solidly anti-choice. Democratic politicians have repeatedly favored heavier taxes in a variety of forms, including income taxes, gas taxes, as well as taxes on dividends, capital gains, and the estates of deceased people, who, in turn, have paid taxes all of their lives. Democrats almost uniformly reject President Bush’s across-the-board tax cuts as “a tax cut for the rich” and plan to let them expire. By supporting higher taxes, Democrats take the freedom of choice in spending away from ordinary Americans.

A second choice that Americans make is the choice to decide what to do their own property. Private property rights face an assault on two fronts: eminent domain and environmental legislation. Eminent domain means that the government can take private property for public use if the property owner is compensated. This was traditionally held to mean that the government could seize private property to build roads, schools, and other projects that benefit the public at large. This changed in 2005 with the Kelo v. New London decision, which held that public benefit could mean nothing more than increased tax revenues. This means that virtually no private property in the United States is safe from an alliance of developers and tax-hungry local governments. The liberal (activist) wing of the Court voted for the decision, while the conservative (constructionist) dissented.

The second assault on private property is through environmental laws, which allow the government to render private property unusable without compensation. This is commonly accomplished by declaring areas as protected wetlands. In many cases, a small drainage ditch or wet weather stream is designated a wetland. In other cases, protected species, such as the snail darter, are found on private property. In either case, restrictions are placed on the use of the property. Often the property owner can neither use the land nor sell it due to the government restrictions. Of course, the government does not compensate the property owner. The Democratic Party is beholden to the radical environmental groups that support these laws.

Education is another area where choice is limited as a result of Democratic activism. As public schools in many areas decline, many parents would appreciate the opportunity to send their children to private schools where they can receive a better education. In most areas, schools are supported by property taxes. Parents must continue to pay property taxes and support public schools, even if their children attend private schools. In effect, parents must pay twice for their child’s education. This puts private schools out of reach for many families. An answer to this problem is by providing school vouchers that would allow parents credit for tuition at the school of their choice. Unfortunately, teacher’s unions that support the Democratic Party oppose school vouchers.

Additionally, parents have little control over the curriculum that their children are taught in public schools. Many schools teach things that many parents find offensive. These lessons often teach a view of issues such as sexuality, religion, or even American history that is contrary to the beliefs of the family. Parents often find it difficult to know what their children are being taught. If they find that their children are being taught something contrary to their beliefs, it can be even more difficult to prevent their child from being exposed to these lessons.

Gun ownership is another choice that Democrats would take away from Americans. The most restrictive gun laws in the United States are found in Democratic strongholds such as the District of Columbia, Illinois, New York, and California. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned the gun ban in the District of Columbia. This ban, the most restrictive in the country, was deemed constitutional and sensible by Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. Contrary to the Court’s opinion, many Democrats believe that the second amendment applies to government militias and not individuals.

A telling example of the Democratic Party’s anti-choice attitudes is the belief that the US government should force all Americans to purchase health insurance from the government. Government mandates for coverage have made affordable basic health insurance hard to find in many states. Popular Democratic plans would mandate that all Americans obtain coverage through single-payer government plans. This is regardless of whether an individual believes that they need, want, or can afford health coverage. Under current law, people who cannot afford health insurance do not have to purchase it, but can still receive medical treatment from hospital emergency rooms. Under a single-payer system, mandatory taxes would pay for a national health care system, eliminating the freedom to choose to self-insure.

A final example of Democratic anti-choice is their proposed energy policy. Current high oil prices have convinced a majority of Americans that domestic drilling should be expanded to bring additional supplies of oil into the marketplace. Democratic leaders, however, support an extension of the bans on drilling in ANWR and on the continental shelf. Keeping the bans in place means that states are not allowed to choose to exploit a valuable natural resource.

Instead, the Democrats pursue solutions that remove choice from the marketplace. One example is the Renewable Fuels Standard passed in 2007, which sharply increased the amount of ethanol required in US gasoline. Not only did this legislation do nothing to lower gas prices, by creating an artificial demand for corn, it also caused higher food prices and shortages around the world.

Other Democratic energy proposals are similarly focused on top-down mandates. Ideas include restrictions on investing in commodities futures, requirements for investing in alternative fuels, mandates for increased auto fuel economy, and a complex system of taxes on carbon use. One proposal by the California Energy Commission would even require Californians to place a radio-controlled thermostat in new buildings that would enable the government to remotely control the temperature to save energy!

Democrats may claim to be pro-choice, but on most issues their policies would take choice away from Americans and place it in the hands of the government. Allowing individuals to choose how to spend their money and time means that some people will make poor choices, but most will make the choice that best suits their own life.

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