Monday, June 29, 2020

Federal Spending Cuts vs. the Divine Right of the Welfare State

A correspondent posted an image on the Thomas Sowell Foundation Facebook page listing 28 federal programs, with the preamble:

A lot of people out there don’t believe the Trump cut the U.S. Pandemic Response Team. For those who might not be aware, he also gutted:

Of the 28 programs supposedly “gutted,” the correspondent queried 

My leftist cousin posted this, and I don't know how much of it is true, and wouldn't know how to check it out. If any of you have specific knowledge of any particular parts, please give me your thoughts.

I posted these comments, slightly edited:

I don’t know about these agencies and I don’t intend to waste time fact-checking these claims. What I do know is that Trump is a big spender who has overseen the biggest deficits in history, prior to COVID-19.

That said, the American Left has never met a domestic spending cut they would view as justified. Any and every government agency is sacrosanct. Any and every dollar that is cut is framed as “gutting,” even if it is merely cutting the growth in the agency’s budget. They are statists. Their view of government is a reincarnation of the “Divine Right of Kings” applied to the regulatory welfare state. The state can do no wrong, except to not tax, redistribute, and regulate enough. Government officials are omniscient and infallible. If a government agency exists, that very fact is unchallengeable, and thus so is its budget. They have no respect for peoples’ wallets or individual liberties. This “leftist cousin” views these alleged Trump “guttings” through the lense of the Divine Right of the Regulatory Welfare State. S-He is trying to frame the issue on that premise. 

I reject that premise outright. If any of these alleged “guttings” are true, I don’t view them as ipso facto wrong. The very fact that such a long list of “Acts” that most people have never heard of exists is alarming from the standpoint of supposedly constitutionally limited government. 

Some questions that need to be answered are; What do these functions spend our tax dollars on? What power do they have to control our lives and property? Are they necessary to secure our rights to life, liberty, and property, as is the government's proper function? If so, how effective are they at it? Are they wasteful, in which case they should be cut, consolidated, or eliminated? Or do they violate rights, in which case they should be gutted and or eliminated? It’s time to put the entire regulatory welfare state under review, and start gutting, gutting, gutting all acts and agencies and bureaucracies that are contrary the the government’s primary purpose, which is to secure and protect individual rights

Related Reading:

Friday, June 26, 2020

Does New Jersey’s New Contact Tracing Initiative Expose Catastrophic Failure of Government?

In early June, 2020, New Jersey began a COVID-19 tracking program. A NJ Star-Ledger editorial about the initiative starkly brought home to me a stunning fact. In If a virus detective calls, don’t hang up. Your life may depend on it, the Star-Ledger opined: 

New Jersey is in the process of launching its most aggressive strategy yet against the coronavirus, by deploying an army of health officials known as contact tracers. . . .  [C]ontact, test, and isolate when necessary — and if you stay with it long enough (as they did in South Korea, Hong Kong, New Zealand, etc.), the virus is stopped in its tracks. . . . [T]his state has no chance to eradicate COVID unless we all buy into the most proven tool in public health and epidemiology.

Emphasis added. The Star-Ledger didn’t acknowledge, or maybe didn’t connect to, the obvious conclusion. 

Contact tracing is actually a good idea and in my view a legitimate function of government in a pandemic. So my question is, if contact tracing is  “the most proven tool in public health and epidemiology,” why is it only now being employed? Why didn’t the state have an established CT program in place and ready to go? After all, NJ has a State Office of Emergency Management that exists just for the purpose of being prepared to respond to emergencies. Pandemics aren’t exactly unforeseeable emergencies. 

If this “most aggressive strategy” was put into effect in January or February, the virus may have been “stopped in its tracks” and thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs could have been saved. We could have avoided the indignity of dividing the economy into expendable and non-expendable businesses and workers. We could have avoided the freedom-crushing lockdowns.

A government’s job is to keep us safe and free, so pandemic response is a proper governmental job--not in the wide-ranging dictatorial way of King Murphy, but through limited, established, common sense, rights-respecting actions. As more info comes in, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the months-long lockdown and economic carnage were unnecessary. We have been witness to a catastrophic failure of government. 

Related Reading:

We Need Economists, Civil Libertarians, and Epidemiologists in the COVID-19 Discussion The tradeoffs among considerations of health, prosperity, and liberty are catching up with us even if we don't want to acknowledge them.
By J.D. Tuccille

Were the COVID-19 Lockdowns a Mistake? Many Americans are losing patience with statewide shelter-in-place orders. By Zach Weissmueller for

Democratic Leaders Praise George Floyd Protesters, Show Utter Contempt for Everyone Else Still in Lockdown Bill de Blasio and Phil Murphy evince little sympathy for nail salon owners or Jewish mourners. by Robby Soave for

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Barney Frank’s Double Standard

Former Senator Barney Frank, who is gay, defended  the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow procedural ruling in favor of a Christian baker who refused to serve a gay wedding cake. From Barney Frank to LGBT Voters: ‘People Have a Right to be Bigots,’ Don’t ‘Trash Them in Return’:

Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said that people “have a right to be bigots,” which is not “a license to trash them in return.”

“He was moved to decide this in part because people on the Colorado Human Rights Commission may have been well-intentioned, but they were mean-spirited when they made nasty comments about religion. And so there’s a very important point for people on our side to understand: You can’t have a one-way standard,” 

My emphasis. 

Strictly speaking, the Colorado Masterpiece Bakeshop case is not fundamentally about bigotry. Bigotry is certainly part of it. Fundamentally, it’s really about faith—which is actually worse. A bigot can be persuaded. Faith precludes persuasion because it is based on blind acceptance of an idea from the authority of a holy book. Be that as it may, Frank is right, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go far enough.

Later, in defending free speech, Frank also says “This is not a principle that doesn’t have some two-way street,” implying that principles should be applied consistently. Sounds a lot like mutual respect for each others’ opinions, even if one disagrees. 

But he also supports anti-discrimination laws that force bigots to sell services that violate his beliefs:

“Secondly, yeah, the ruling is very limited. I think it’s very clear if you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, whatever your sexual self-description is, you will not be legally denied any service that is normally provided to others. Let’s be clear: that’s a given. The question is, if you want something specifically tailored to reflect your interests as a lesbian couple or as transgender people, how far can you go? And it is logical, yes, people have a right to be bigots and you have some limits on what you could have people sign on to,” he added.

This mish-mash becomes clear later: Frank believes businesses should be legally compelled to provide services even if the service violates the business owners conscience. But does an LGBT person have a right not to patronize a bakery? Where is the two-way street? How has an LGBT person any more right to legally force a merchant to provide a wedding cake than it is for Christians to, say, legally outlaw gay marriage. Why is it wrong for Christians to force their values on LGBT persons through bans on gay marriage, but right for LGBTs to force their values on Christians by compelling them to provide that cake?

It sounds like a one-way standard. Frank argues for the right to be a bigot, but not to live by that opinion. But the right to hold an opinion is hollow without the right to act upon it. The right to think and the right to act on one’s judgement are indispensable corollaries of a free society. People living under dictatorships have the first. It’s the second that makes us free. The only obligation is that one’s actions not violate the rights of others. The baker’s refusal to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple no more violates the couple’s rights than that gay couple’s refusal to patronize the bakeshop violates the baker’s rights. 

Related Reading:

Court Violates Cake Baker’s Right Not to Serve Gay Weddings—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The NJ Star-Ledger’s Racist Rant

The New Jersey Star-Ledger ridiculed a Republican candidate for Congress because he dared to challenge the Left’s “diversity” narrative. In Another white man running for Congress endorses self, opposes 'diversity', the Star-Ledger opens with:

Seth Grossman is running for Congress in South Jersey, because he knows what Congress should look like. It should look like Seth Grossman.

"The whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American," the Tea Partier-turned-Trumpster declared to a table of fellow white men in suits, at a Republican debate in April. 

Grossman’s unfortunate language aside (see my post, Don’t Allow the Left to Own ‘Diversity’), note the obsession with skin color.

I left these comments, slightly edited:

Racism is alive and well and predominates on the Left. It’s an insidious, highbrow racism, masquerading as “diversity.” 

Note that meaningful human diversity is brushed off by the Left as irrelevant. A free society is based on the recognition that each individual possesses his own mind and free will, and thus has a right to freedom based on her unique individual attributes such as intelligence, ability, ambition, moral character, values, goals, experience, personal circumstances, temperament, etc.[*] These attributes are as diverse as the number of individuals. If the Left really valued diversity, they’d be crusaders for the economic and political freedom that allows individual human diversity to flourish. But this sense of meaningful diversity belongs to individualism, the core of Americanism and the base of individual rights. 

Individual diversity clashes with the Left’s collectivism, which limits its diversity to primitive racial tribalism. Racism holds that a person’s character traits, perspectives, values, guilt, victimhood, etc., are transmitted through the genes or blood. Thus, it is necessary to correct past injustices by granting unearned rewards to non-victims of today by forcing innocent people to pay, based solely on the actions of long-dead ancestors--engineered, of course, by statism. 

This “social justice” is cruel and unjust. But that is the Left because racism advances its political agenda. The Left has defined diversity around a racial narrative for a reason deeper than racism. A society that values individualism as the standard of moral value will never go for socialism. A society that values the collective over the individual is primed for socialist authoritarianism in one form or another. 

Grossman is not a polished rhetorician. So I can’t endorse everything he says. But Kudos to Grossman for advancing the dialogue on diversity.

[*] It was pointed out that this statement implies that rights are based on personal attributes. This is certainly not the point I wanted to make. For better wording, see Mike Kevitt's comment below.

Related Reading:

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

NJ Governor Murphy’s June 6, 2020 30-Day Extension of the State’s ‘Health Emergency’ Shows the Need to Reign In Executive Power

NJ Governor Murphy’s June 6, 2020 30-Day Extension of the State’s ‘Health Emergency’ Shows the Need to Reign In Executive Power

On June 6, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy extended NJ’s health emergency by 30 days. This was a unilateral action, as have all of Murphy’s moves been since he unilaterally made his emergency declaration in early March.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday night he’s extending the public-health emergency he declared in New Jersey for the coronavirus pandemic by another 30 days, even as the state’s outbreak continues to decline and his gradual reopening plan keeps moving forward.

The move extends all of Murphy’s executive orders that remain in place to respond to the virus, such as his his [sic] order for residents to stay home as much as possible.

Murphy declared both a state of emergency and a public-health emergency on March 9 as COVID-19 was beginning to spread in the Garden State, which is now home to the second-most deaths and cases in the U.S.

The state of emergency is indefinite, but the public-health emergency must be renewed every 30 days. Murphy extended the order on April 7 and again in early May. This new extension will remain in place through early July.

A state of emergency gives state authorities certain executive powers and safeguards to respond to a crisis. It also allows the state to receive federal aid.

A public-health emergency allows the governor to take broad action to protect New Jersey under the Emergency Health Powers Act.

Governor Murphy’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a dangerous loophole in NJ governance.

Throughout this crisis, Murphy has ruled by fiat.* But, a fundamental premise of American government is the principle of checks and balances. NJ’s constitution honors this principle, by authorizing only the legislature to make law, and the governor to “faithfully execute” the laws. 

When a governor can declare a state of emergency, commandeer whatever “emergency” powers he feels like, make “law” by executive order, enforce his edicts, often unequally, however and against whomever he chooses, usurp county and municipal governments, and extend the emergency declaration in perpetuity, without limit or accountability, we no longer have the rule of law. We don’t even have the “rule of men”. We have the rule of one man--i.e., a dictator.  No branch of government should ever have the power to both make and enforce laws. 

We need an Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution. The amendment should require the governor to get legislative approval, by at least a two-thirds supermajority, before declaring any kind of state of emergency. If approved, the emergency authorization should include a detailed accounting of the nature and limits of the governor’s emergency powers; a requirement for the governor to submit periodic reports to the legislature for oversight purposes; a time limit; and a legislative reauthorization for any extension of the emergency declaration, and related powers, the governor deems necessary. 

We need to extend checks and balances to emergency situations. No NJ governor should ever again be allowed to do what Murphy has done.

* Related Reading:

A New Textbook of Americanism — edited by Jonathan Hoenig

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Governor Murphy Doubles Down on his Double Standard

In case anyone thinks my last post was an exaggeration, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy dispelled any doubt. In Gov. Murphy defends decision to attend Black Lives Matter events despite his ban on large gatherings, Matt Arco reports for

Gov. Phil Murphy defended his decision to take part in two Black Lives Matter events over the weekend that defied his own order against public gatherings limited to 25 people and guidelines for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although Murphy, his wife Tammy Murphy and other protesters pictured holding a sign in Westfield wore masks, they could be seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with one another — something else Murphy has repeatedly told people not to do while in public. Public gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited under his executive order, which has spurred some New Jersey Republicans to criticize Murphy for violating his own order.

But Murphy said Monday he stands by his decision to attend the events. 

“This may be one of the most profound moments in the history of our country,” Murphy said at his regular COVID-19 briefing in Trenton. “This is the moment that I think is bigger than any of us right now.”

This is a "profound moment," alright. Under Phil Murphy, we're seeing perhaps the most egregious abuse of power by a state government since the defeat of the Confederate slavocracy. Murphy rules by arbitrary dictat, but enforces his dictats unequally, depending on which people are in or out of his favor. 

He allows people to defy his orders with impunity, as long as they are protesting in a cause he favors. Never mind that these”peaceful” demonstrators are blocking streets and commerce, violating the rights of others to use the public streets and shop in the stores or get to work. He clamps down with police power on those who defy his orders in protest for causes he disfavors; who are opening their businesses to anyone who chooses to patronize them but violating no one’s rights, merely exercising their right to earn a living. 

Worst of all, as dictators usually do, Murphy declares himself not only above the law, but above his own dictats that he expects other people to abide by. Apparently, "this moment" is bigger than everyone . . . except Phil Murphy. 

In an inversion of America’s ideals, Murphy fosters rights-violators, while punishing non-rights-violators for exercising their own rights. To anyone who still takes rationality seriously, Murphy's actions have become completely indefensible.

Related Reading:

A New Textbook of Americanism — edited by Jonathan Hoenig

Thursday, June 11, 2020

NJ Governor Murphy’s COVID-19 Double Standard Toward the Demonstrators

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy arrests, fines, and strips people of their licenses and livelihoods for defying his lockdown orders. He threatens business coalitions, telling them “you’re playing with fire” for contemplating opening their businesses before he allows it. He bans outdoor gathers larger than 25. He arrogantly dismisses his critics. When counties and legislators request the ability to “open the economy” based on local conditions, Murphy refuses, saying we act as “one state” because “it takes a village”. After the indignity of dividing New Jersey businesses and workers into “non-essential” (expendable) and “essential” (non-expendable) categories, Murphy has the nerve to do nothing but “urge caution” to the George Floyd protestors who brazenly flout his orders. Where are the warnings not to “play with fire”? Where are the arrests? Where do we see the police moving in to shut down the Floyd protests, the way he does with private businesses? What of his “one state” principle? Where is his precious “village”? What happened to “saving lives”? What happened to “public health” comes first? What happened to “We’re all in this together”?

Murphy apparently senses his own double standard. In Gov. Murphy to N.J. protesters: ‘I think you should get tested’ for coronavirus', Alex Napoliello and Brent Johnson report:

On Monday, Murphy drew a sharp distinction between these demonstrations and recent protests calling for him to lift New Jersey’s coronavirus restrictions faster and reopen more businesses.

“I don’t want to make light of this, and I’ll probably get lit up by everyone who owns a nail salon in the state,” Murphy said. “But it’s one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening, and it’s another to come out in peaceful protest, overwhelmingly, about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes."

Get that? People can protest Minneapolis police abuse of power, but cannot protest Governor Murphy’s abuse of power. Where does the U.S. or NJ constitution favor one protest over another? The First Amendment protects “the right of the people . . . to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. That goes for the Floyd protestors and lockdown protestors equally, regardless of whether you are part of a mass protest or the sole owner of a nail salon. What authority does Murphy have to treat them differently? None. The 14th Amendment guarantees the equal protection of the law for every individual, regardless of number.

This is a man who pledged, “I, Philip Dunton Murphy, elected governor of the State of New Jersey, do solemnly promise and swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey,” and then declared that the Bill of Rights--the first 10 Amendments to the U.S Constitution--is “above my pay grade”. I guess the 14th Amendment is above his pay grade, too. Murphy’s unending executive orders directly violate the NJ Constitution, which says only the legislature can make law. Murphy’s digressions are laid bare. He violated his oath of office to “solemnly promise and swear” to support the Constitutions of the United States and of NJ. Murphy shouldn’t just get “lit up”. He should be impeached. 

Related Reading: