Unambiguously meant to squeeze the states

Perhaps it was an error to rush a flawed bill that affects 1/6 of the economy, using parliamentary ledgermain to achieve a party-line victory?

Perhaps it was an error to rush through a flawed bill that affects 1/6 of the economy, using parliamentary ledgermain, to achieve a party-line victory, in the face of widespread (and hostile) voter resistance?

Jonah Goldberg says “The Great Liberal Forgetting about Jonathan Gruber begins… NOW.”   Writing in the wake of Halbig he points out Gruber’s (one of the architects of Obamacare) admission that the law was written unambiguously to “squeeze” the States.

Anyway, the liberal response to the decision was really quite fun. They shrieked about how this was a mere “typo” or “drafting error” (which is just not true) and tried to make it seem like suggesting otherwise was dishonest madness of the sort reserved for the likes of  Dr. Evil’s father and his claims to have invented the question mark. But what I really liked was the panic over “judicial activism.” E.J. Dionne — who has no problem with liberal judicial activism that simply invents new rights out of thin air — called this decision “anti-democratic sabotage.” This is funhouse logic. As NR put it in an editorial, “It’s an odd world in which judges are accused of usurping the role of Congress for ruling that the executive branch must follow the text of a law Congress wrote.” Seriously, who knows what will happen if the courts start adhering to the law as written? That’s like saying the IRS should be politically neutral. Madness!

Moreover, liberals insisted that nobody in their right mind ever believed Congress intended to withhold subsidies on the federal exchange in order to encourage states to create state exchanges.

Not exactly.  Here’s Gruber’s admission:

“In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it.  I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.”

We’ll see just how ugly when Halbig gets to SCOTUS and the Left goes Alinsky on the Roberts Court.


Charles Cook writes that Gruber is “renouncing his previous testimony with all the giddy enthusiasm of a veteran clerk in the Khrushchev administration.”

Those of us who have been critical of Obamacare’s endless textual invitations to leave the details of national policy up “the secretary” have often referred to the law as an “enabling act” — as a perilous general warrant that transfers the prerogatives of Congress to the executive branch and substitutes for the codified work of citizen-approved legislators the transient whims of a haughty mandarin class. Little did we know just how appropriate our critique would become. There being nothing in America’s constitutional settlement that permits a president to recast the rules if they prove electorally inconvenient for him, the Obama administration’s repeated rewriting of the law has been vexing enough in isolation. Far worse, however, is that in the eyes of the expansionist Left, Obamacare seems not to represent a limited series of binding and meaningful words on a page — there to be implemented within the usual bounds of discretion — but a holistic permission slip for its aims. Increasingly, its defenders’ arguments are boiling down to “but this is a good idea,” an approach that renders Obamacare little more than a shell into which good intentions can be poured without limit and that cannot legitimately be resisted — not by Congress, not by the states, and not even by the courts. “Sure,” the attitude dictates, “it doesn’t say we can do that explicitly. But all right-thinking people believe we should.”

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Astronomy Pictures of the Fortnight, LXVI

Images and descriptions below the jump, per usual.

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Book review: Liberalism: The Life of an Idea

I can still remember Professor Hinchman calling me a “liberal” just to rattle me.  Great teacher.  There’s an interesting book review in today’s WSJ.  Excerpt:ED-AS463_bkrvLi_DV_20140723195119

Liberalism’s motivating force, he suggests, was the need to find a sturdy, if flexible, status quo after a succession of 18th-century upheavals—not least the French Revolution and the wars it ignited—had turned society and politics upside down.

With settled arrangements fractured, the liberal project aimed at a kind of restoration, Mr. Fawcett implies, but it did so in a new way. It sought to secure ethical order without an appeal to custom or divine authority; economic order without state interference or monopoly; international order without force as its linchpin; and political order without absolute rule or undivided powers. Mr. Fawcett describes the liberal project as, essentially, an effort to channel conflict into peaceful cooperation. It is “a fluid and capacious story,” he notes. At its core lay a distrust of power and a faith in progress….

Fascism and communism presented the greatest challenges. But after the catastrophe of the two world wars, liberal ideas revived—in part, Mr. Fawcett suggests, by re-asserting the importance of constitutional government and putting in place an inclusive welfare state. The decision to adopt liberal democracy became the price of entry to the Western political sphere, first for authoritarian countries like Greece and Portugal, then for ex-communist ones.

If all this has a triumphalist ring to it—”the end of history”—it shouldn’t. Late 20th-century liberalism took an authoritarian turn. As Mr. Fawcett notes, group rights, aimed at promoting what he calls “civic respect,” began to intrude on the private sphere. Enforcing civic respect meant compelling individuals and businesses to endorse behavior or opinion at odds with their own principles. Tolerance alone—an aspect of the liberal temperament—was deemed insufficient.

In the 19th century, liberal attacks on authority dismayed the traditionalist members of society. Little could they imagine what was to come—not only, in the modern era, a celebration of radical individual autonomy but a new sort of orthodoxy enforced with Jacobin severity.

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“Liberal” comes from the Latin word meaning freedom

I’ve remember first reading Michael Barone 20+ years ago in U.S. News & World Report.  Always enjoyed him.  He seems to be growing more outspoken with age.

His latest sounds similar to the wise man who once said: today’s Progressives are fond of sexual freedom but not so much other freedoms.

Here’s Barone in How Obama is turning liberalism into an instrument of coercion:

The word “liberal” comes from the Latin word meaning freedom, and in the 19th century liberals in this country and abroad stood for free speech, free exercise of religion, free markets, free trade — for minimal state interference in people’s lives.

In the 20th century New Dealers revised this definition, by arguing that people had a right not only to free speech and freedom of religion, but also, as Franklin Roosevelt said in his 1941 Four Freedoms speech, freedom from fear and from want.

Freedom from want meant, for Roosevelt, government provision of jobs, housing, health care and food. And so government would have to be much larger, more expensive and more intrusive than ever before.

That’s what liberalism has come to mean in America (in Europe it still has the old meaning), and much of the Obama Democrats’ agenda are logical outgrowths — Obamacare, the vast expansion of food stamps, attempted assistance to underwater homeowners.

But in some respects the Obama Democrats want to go farther — and are complaining that they’re having a hard time getting there. Their form of liberalism is in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom, for government coercion of those who refuse to behave the way they’d like.



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Tom Steyer ruined the planet before he offered to save it

Holman Jenkins quotes my favorite Hemingway story (The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber) and jabs, “Tom Steyer ruined the planet before he offered to save it.”

From A Climate Activist Bags Himself:

He wouldn’t be the first to consider himself “passionate” on the subject of global warming without being quite so passionate as to delve into its complexities and ambiguities. But you might at least expect a shrewd latecomer to notice a few things—such as how signally the standard doom-mongering and oil-bashing has failed to move the needle. But then the very clichéd-ness of Mr. Steyer’s adopted patter has been his lever to the overnight visibility and pseudo-influence that he apparently aspires to.

And we do mean pseudo-influence. He vilifies the Koch brothers (“evil persons”), and lobbies universities and foundations to dump their fossil energy holdings, though the only effect is to transfer those holdings to investors like Mr. Steyer’s former hedge fund that are immune to pressure and unwilling to forgo the profits from meeting the world’s wholly non-illusory demand for energy.

Advised by Clintonites John Podesta and Chris Lehane, he would spend millions to drive up the negatives of those candidates (invariably Republican) he would “destroy” (his word). But even if he succeeds in shifting the outcome of one or two close races, it will be because voters are angry at big oil over gas prices, not global warning.

In case he hasn’t noticed, the world is embarked on a multi-decade fossil-energy investment boom. … A true revolution would be a new breed of climate activist who admitted what they didn’t know and toned down their absurd pretense that they’re going to ban or seriously curb fossil fuel by fiat. If they were smart, they would put all their effort into winning government funding for battery research. But there are reasons, quite apart from lack of imagination, which is the nicest explanation of Mr. Steyer’s shrill imposture, that this doesn’t happen.

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You can’t legislate morality?

Excerpts from an editorial about the history behind the Hobby Lobby controversy, from National Review:

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Astronomy Pictures of the Fortnight, LXV

Some cool phenomena:  The gegenschein, Red Rectangle Nebula, and an avalanche on Mars.  Other stuff too.  Details below the jump.

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