Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pivotal week on Capitol Hill

The past week produced several political events of great political significance in Washington.  The Republicans were able to exercise influence far out of proportion to the size of their still outnumbered caucus to shape fiscal and tax policy for the next few years.  They can thank the Tea Party for this.

The first major news of the week came from Virginia though, where US District Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance was unconstitutional.  If this ruling is upheld when it ultimately is likely heard by the Supreme Court, it will render Obamacare unworkable. 

The individual mandate was needed to keep the insurance companies from being run out of business when the law changes to require that they cover pre-existing conditions.  Without the mandate to force healthy people to buy insurance, there will not be enough premium revenues to pay the medical bills of unhealthy people who wait until they are sick to buy insurance.  Companies, and governments, cannot continue to exist if they pay out more money than they take in.

Harry Reid lost on the spending bill, but passed DADT.
The second major story of the week was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s inability to sway Republicans into supporting the omnibus spending bill.  Initially, several Republicans (although none from Georgia) had planned to support the pork-filled bill.  However, as revelations of the bill’s earmarks and pork-barrel spending became public knowledge, Republican support evaporated.  The echoes of last month’s landslide election, as well as the primary election loss of Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), one of the Republicans who planned to vote for the bill, were obviously a factor in the revolt against Reid’s bill.

Coming on the heels of the spending bill’s defeat, President Obama signed the tax compromise to extend the Bush-era tax rates and prevent a January 1 tax increase for all Americans.  Many Democrats tacitly admitted that the Keynesian demand-side policies of President Obama have not worked as well as they had hoped (or at all).  Larry Summers, director of the White House Economic Council even noted that “failure to pass this bill in the next couple weeks would materially increase the risk that the economy would stall out and we would have a double-dip,” which is exactly what Republicans have been saying for years.

Similarly, much of the Democratic opposition was on the grounds that the deal would increase the deficit.  The deal is slated to add $857 billion to the deficit over ten years, which is very misleading since it is only in effect for two years.  This estimate does not take into account the fact that the economy would likely shrink if taxes were increased, but will probably continue its slow growth under the deal.  It also doesn’t take into account the fact that the wealthy would move their money to tax shelters if tax rates were increased.  Republicans should remind Democrats of their newfound zeal for deficit reduction when the next spending and appropriations bills are debated. 

The final earth-shattering moment this week was the repeal of the “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” (DADT) law.  This was a Clinton-era compromise that allowed military personnel who were homosexual to remain in the armed forces provided they remained silent about their sexual orientation.  The policy does not change immediately, but the new law sets in motion a gradual elimination of DADT.

Military DADT publication
The repeal of DADT was an issue in which some left-leaning and social libertarian Republicans broke ranks with the majority of their party.  Eight Republican senators and five Republican congressmen voted to repeal.  None of Georgia’s Republican delegation voted to repeal DADT.

The new law may have important (and negative) implications for national security.  In the midst of a two-front war and with other hot spots such as North Korea and Iran simmering, almost twenty-five percent of American military personnel indicate that they would not or might not re-enlist if DADT were repealed.  Ten percent of those polled indicated that they definitely would not re-enlist.  A loss of one in ten US military personnel would be greater than the loss of the entire US Marine Corps.

A big part of the problem is that many soldiers view homosexuality as immoral.  This is based on the teachings of most of the world’s major religions.  Military chaplains have long been concerned about freedom of speech and religion if DADT were repealed.  Their primary calling is to preach the Gospel to soldiers and a zero-tolerance policy for dissenting against homosexuality would put their roles into conflict. 

The conflict between freedom of religion and gay rights in the military is a harbinger for the coming societal battle.  As gay marriage becomes more prevalent in spite of societal opposition, it will become increasingly more controversial to speak out against it.  Chai Feldblum, President Obama’s nominee to the EEOC, has already stated that she believes that sexuality liberty should trump the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and religion.  Americans are already finding themselves being punished for opposing the homosexual agenda.

December 2010 will be a pivotal month in our nation’s history, and the past week will likely be the most important week of the month.  The impact of the decisions made this week, good and bad, will be felt for years to come.

No comments: