American Elephants

Forty-three Catholic Institutions File Lawsuits over HHS Mandate. by The Elephant's Child

Twelve legal challenges have been filed today by 43 plaintiffs against the ObamaCare regulation that requires health care plans to include abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures. The University of Notre Dame was prominent among the  challengers. Many religious institutions object on religious or moral grounds to providing, paying for and facilitating coverage for such procedures.

In addition there are several other institutions that have already filed lawsuits, with the Becket Fund for religious Liberty: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University. Hercules Industries has filed suit as a family owned business that would be forced to violate its religious beliefs in February in Newland v. Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called the ObamaCare mandate an “unprecedented” violation of religious freedom by the federal government.

The case seems very strong  that the mandate is in direct conflict with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Aside from that ObamaCare does grant religious exemptions to the mandate to Muslims, the Amish, American Indians and Christian Scientists. Then there is the famous Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel &Tube v. Sawyer in 1952.  The Court held that “the president may not rule by decree, conscripting private industry to carry out his commands.  The chief executive may only execute laws passed by Congress, according to their terms.  He may not make up laws of his own and then enforce them.” That would seem to squash  this particular mandate, and Obama’s personal revision of it, quite thoroughly.

The plaintiffs have a lot to complain about.  Freedom to practice one’s own religion is one of America’s most cherished freedoms. It is not about contraception, abortion-inducing drugs , or sterilization. These services are widely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the government from making them available. But Barack Obama may not decree that religious institutions must violate their beliefs. The first phrase of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” And only Congress gets to make laws. That is not a power of the Executive Branch.

The administration clearly thought that this fit right into their silly “War on Women” theme. They assumed that the Catholics would fall in line, and claims that conservatives were trying to deny women the right to contraceptives because they objected to taxpayers being forced to pay for something that women should pay for themselves at $9 a month or less, would emphasize how conservatives were against women’s health.

Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins stated firmly:

Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.  And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.  We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.  For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.  For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.  If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.

If this case winds up before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli will have his hands full trying to defend this governmental usurpation of powers.

Milton Friedman Explains: Soaking the Rich Doesn’t Work. by The Elephant's Child

A good spat over economics always inspires me to reach for Milton Friedman. He explains so clearly, with such good humor.

Paul Ryan vs. Austan Goolsbee: The Grudge Match. by The Elephant's Child

I don’t know if you watch Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. I cannot embed the video, but  you can watch it here. The debate was between former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama,Austan Goolsbee,  and Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan mops the floor with Goolsbee.

Goolsbee demonstrates why the economy is still in the doldrums. It’s a pretty clear demonstration of how far apart the two sides are. If you believe in Keynesian stimulus, wasting taxpayer money on government bets on improbable energy companies invariably run by Obama bundlers or buddies, then you will find nothing untoward with Mr. Goolsbee’s claims. I would tell a kid of mine to avoid his classes. If you enjoy political confrontation, this is great fun.

The Group of Eight Met, But Did They Accomplish Anything? by The Elephant's Child

The Group of Eight met at Camp David on May 18 and 19 to be lectured by President Obama on how to solve their economic problems. just like he has. At least previously he had no compunctions about telling European heads of state how to manage. I’m sure he advised them to do more Keynesian stimulus — and to raise taxes, particularly on the wealthy. I don’t know any such thing, of course,  but it’s a good bet.

Obama does not change his mind. His ideas are set in concrete. In spite of the failure of the previous stimulus, he still wants another. The Group of Eight issued  “The Camp David Declaration” which says that “they need to take action to boost confidence and nurture recovery with reforms to raise productivity, growth and demand within a sustainable, credible and non-inflationary macroeconomic framework.  We commit to fiscal responsibility and, in this context, we support sound and sustainable fiscal consolidation policies that take into account countries’ evolving economic conditions and underpin confidence and economic recovery.” There, doesn’t that give you a great burst of confidence.

There are 40 points of blather that essentially says that they’ll keep on trying to figure out what to do, and tried to hit all the hot points. They are opposed to the bad things, supportive of the good things, have deep concerns about Iran, the DPRK, and Syria and call on them to straighten out. They note that the people of North Africa have aspirations, and encourage them to have democratic and participatory government while under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood. And, of course they want to promote growth and jobs, and their governments need to take action.

There was, Obama said, “a consensus for progress.”

We know it is possible — in part, based on our own experience here.  In my earliest days in office, we took decisive steps to confront our own financial crisis — from making banks submit to stress tests to rebuilding their capital — and we put in place some of the strongest financial reforms since the Great Depression.

At the same time, we worked to get our own fiscal house in order in a responsible way.  And through it all, even as we worked to stabilize the financial sector and bring down our deficits and debt over the longer term, we stayed focused on growing the economy and creating jobs in the immediate term.

Of course, we still have a lot of work to do.  Too many of our people are still looking for jobs that pay the bills.  Our deficits are still too high.  But after shrinking by nearly 9 percent the quarter before I took office, America’s economy has now grown for almost three consecutive years.  After losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, our businesses have created more than 4 million jobs over the past 26 months.  Exports have surged and manufacturers are investing in America again.

There you go. Our economy is all recovered, we just have some tidying up to do. If the Europeans, whose situation is more complicated, will just do as Obama has done, all will be well.

Obama seems to have a separate film in which he is the hero, playing in his head, and he doesn’t understand that we’re watching the tragedy in an adjacent theater and it is building to a desperate climax. It’s not a good show, and a lot of the audience is already filing out.

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