Friday, April 30, 2010
In my previous post, I noted that as 70% of voters in Arizona supported the new immigrant check law, but only 58% of the population was Non-Hispanic White, it was difficult to attribute the results to White racism. It was suggested in comments that possibly the pollsters didn't have a representative sample; perhaps those polled were 85% White. I didn't think it likely; Rasmussen is a respected firm- but I decided I'd check their raw data. I ran into a glitch: the raw data is available, but you have to buy a membership to get it.
Unwilling to spend the money, I looked around and found this very in-depth and fascinating poll from The Pew Hispanic Center It's a couple years old, but in a way, that's better- it's recent enough for the border troubles to be relevant, but not so recent as to be affected by the current political uproar over Arizona.
Some interesting points: "About a quarter of Hispanic adults are unauthorized immigrants, most of them arriving as part of a heavy wave of immigration that began gathering force in the 1970s." That's an astonishing figure right off the bat. Hispanics settled a great deal of what is now the United States; they were the majority non-indigenous peoples in the west and the south, from Florida to California, in the early years of US history. If today a quarter of Hispanic adults are not native born, then illegal immigration, especially in the last couple decades, must have been far greater than most of us in the northern half of the country realized.
That figure also puts an interesting perspective on many of the numbers that follow. For example, on immigration enforcement issues, the report says, "Latinos themselves also have differences on these issues, especially between the foreign born and native born. On all three questions, foreign-born Hispanics are more opposed to the stepped-up enforcement policies than are native-born Hispanics. The breakdown is as follows: 83% of the foreign born do not support active involvement by local police in immigration enforcement, compared with 74% of the native born; 84% of foreign-born Latinos disapprove of workplace raids, compared with 63% of native-born Latinos; and 66% of the foreign born disapprove of states checking immigration status before issuing driver’s licenses, compared with 39% of the native born." Let's break that down a little further: if 74% of the native born do not support active involvement by local police in immigration enforcement, and only 75% of the total are native born, then only 55% of the possible Hispanic voters are opposed.
As these are national numbers, and a couple years old, they would not reflect any new problems occurring in Arizona today. If we took the normal 45% White support for local enforcement with an estimated 40% of possible Hispanic voters, times the local Arizona demographic skew, that's 48% of the possible voters in Arizona who might have been expected to support the new enforcement law in normal times- throw in a crime wave that largely victimizes Hispanics, and it starts to look like Rasmussen's numbers aren't so unbelievable.
Another interesting point is about the perceptions of discrimination. "Asked to choose among four possible causes of discrimination against Hispanics, nearly half (46%) of all respondents say language is the biggest cause; 22% say immigration status; 16% say income and education; and 11% say skin color." I find that interesting because the Hispanic community seems to have a higher opinion of their fellow humanity than UUs do. I'm unaware of any polls on the subject, but my perception is that a clear majority of UUs believes that skin color is the biggest single issue in the minds of White Americans.
Yet another fascinating point is the Hispanic view on the quality of life here. "About seven-in-ten Hispanics describe their quality of life as excellent (26%) or good (45%). Also, 78% of respondents say they are very or somewhat confident that Latino children growing up now in the U.S. will have better jobs and make more money than they themselves have." Again, that seems more upbeat than my perception of UUs, many of whom seem to believe the country is going to Hell in a hand basket, or at least it would if Hell existed.
There's a lot more, too, about the Hispanic views on the right number of immigrants, language, etc- it's a fascinating read, I recommend it.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Judging by what I read from UU bloggers, that's a ridiculous question- it's racism, pure and simple; no need to look for any other reason. OK, let's address that head on. According to a Rasmussen poll taken April 21st, "...70% of likely voters in Arizona approve of the legislation, while just 23% oppose it." But according to the US Census Bureau, Arizona doesn't have that many white people- "White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2008 58.4%." Huh. Ok, let's throw African Americans into the mix- (Yes, I know only white people can be racist, but I'm trying to get to the numbers here) "Black persons, percent, 2008 (a) 4.2%." Hmm... that still leaves us way short of 70%. Whatever, no Hispanic would be in favor of it, right? "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2008 (b) 30.1%" Wow, that's 130% of the opposition...
Well, forget the numbers- the law is so outrageous, racism must be behind it, right? What other country would do such a thing? Well, nearly all them, it turns out- including, according to Amnesty International, Mexico: "At present, Article 67 of Mexico's Population Law says, "Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues."
So if maybe there's more than racism at work here, what could it possibly be? Well, let's look at the headlines from Arizona recently... from Newsmax.com:
"The near-daily kidnappings and home invasions in Phoenix often involve masked gunmen armed with high-powered assault rifles and bulletproof vests, emulating tactical strike-team maneuvers to force others to forfeit drugs or cash. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on Arizona's 370-mile border with Mexico. The targets are usually drug stash houses and their keepers scattered throughout the region. Both the perpetrators and their victims tend to be Mexicans with roots in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Phoenix has long been a destination for Sinaloans, and only the rare kidnapper is not from Sinaloa, according to detectives." Then there's this NY Times story about Tuscon: "Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch.... The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”
Hmm... I wonder how many of the people looking down their noses at Arizona today would be on their high horse if they had 200 home invasion assaults in a single year in their own home towns. Well, if nothing is done, they may get the chance to find out- from the same article: "Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.
United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations."
But forget for the moment Arizona's justifiable anger at the federal government for failing to enforce its own laws, or protect their citizens from what amounts to a de facto foreign military invasion. Forget the drugs. Forget the people who talk about jobs. There are still other reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration. Those who argue- and this seems to be a majority of the UUA- that people should be able to "wander free, Where–so us listeth, uncontroll'd of any", are doing more harm than good to the poor and oppressed they would help.
The people of Central and South America, trying to get to the US, find nothing but more oppression in Mexico on the way here, according to Amnesty International "Rupert Knox, Amnesty's Mexico researcher, said in the report that the failure by authorities to tackle abuses against migrants has made their trip through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.
"Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses," Knox said.
Central American migrants are frequently pulled off trains, kidnapped en masse, held at gang hideouts and forced to call relatives in the U.S. to pay off the kidnappers. Such kidnappings affect thousands of migrants each year in Mexico, the report says.
Many are beaten, raped or killed in the process."
And what of the people of Mexico itself? Mexico is one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes on Earth. Any other nation so corrupt would have collapsed decades ago, but the Mexican regime is being propped up by illegal immigration to the US in two ways: first, in the money sent home- until the current recession caused a drop off, it was the largest source of income for Mexico, surpassing even oil; it's still a close second at this moment- and the Mexican government gets a cut during the electronic transmission of these remittances. Secondly, the Mexican government can and does encourage the discontented to come here instead of facing down the corrupt government. That safety valve relieves the oligarchy from any need to address the grinding poverty, the criminal gangs who rule the streets, the bought-and-sold justice.
How bad is it? By some estimates- not the highest- 20% of the population of Mexico has already come here, and 46% of those remaining would come here if they could- including among those who earn well above the minimum wage and are well educated. And those are the people Mexico would need to rebuild its own economy, its own infrastructure- if there was any desire to. But why should they want to? The oligarchs are getting rich, and the people who would in any other country revolt just leave instead- a grand formula, if you're one of those on top. And those here who argue for open borders are unwittingly doing their part in propping up the regime.
UPDATE: As we were debating crime statistics, this was happening in the open desert of Arizona:
Yes, this is coincidental, anecdotal, but... when people don't feel safe in their own homes, it does no good to say, "Suck it up; things are worse in my home town". I think a tipping point was reached when rancher Rob Krentz was shot- he was known to help illegal immigrants; I imagine people thought to themselves, "If he can be murdered on his own land, what chance do I have?"
Look- suppose you have someone dropping bricks off an Interstate bridge. Statistically, you may still have the safest roads in the country. Statistically, you can probably prove that you would actually save more lives by setting up speed traps to lower highway speeds than wasting the manpower chasing one man... but the people will demand you go after what they feel more threatened by. That's what's happening in Arizona- the criminal gangs hiding amongst the normal immigrants are what's terrifying them, and no amount of "Well, in the greater scheme of things..." is going to allay those fears.
UPDATE: UU Blogger Will Shetterly lives in Arizona, and reports, "Emma and I marched with thousands of Tucsonans for immigration reform. There was a very small group of supporters of Arizona idiocy across the park from us, maybe thirty when we got there. (Emma and I were at the end of the march, so some might've left before the march was over.) A point for people who think this is exclusively about racism: at least two of the supporters were Hispanic." This is all I've been trying to say here. While not a good law, and no doubt unconstitutional, it is genuinely popular not because evil KKK types hate Hispanics, but because ordinary people of all stripes feel their government is doing nothing.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I really don't know how I can make it any clearer to this person that I am not interested in a relationship. Perhaps it is hopeless; I know that in this blogger's home town another poor unfortunate was forced to seek a restraining order, and the court was concerned enough to grant it. Sheer distance makes it unlikely that I will need to do the same- but given this individual's numerous and bizarre obsessions, one never knows. I hope- not just for my sake, or even the sakes of the others this reader has pursued so relentlessly, but for the reader's own sake- that the reader will seek the help so desperately needed, and rejoin polite society. I would welcome the reader back, should it ever happen.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
As cheerful and affable and amusing as he always was, it would be easy to miss how extraordinary he was, and his life had been. The description of The Winking Fox, a book about his experiences in the Army: "The Winking Fox is the captivating self-account of a U.S. Army Officer, who as a young Frenchman shortly before WWII, came to the United States to join his father who had emigrated twelve years earlier. In 1943, disheartened and discouraged by the desperate military situation, he joined the U.S. Army. Trained as an intelligence specialist, he was recruited by OSS and trained as an agent by SOE he parachuted alone into occupied France to organize and train French resistance groups. After the liberation of Paris, he was transferred to Asia where he served as second in command of a team parachuted into Japanese held French Indochina in support of a group assembled by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyên Giap. Shortly after WWII he was recalled to active duty and served twenty years as an Army intelligence officer with duty in Europe, Asia and the United States."
But that only begins to touch on his fascinating life. From the memorial order of service: "During Rene's lifetime, his vocations and avocations could be listed as: artist, bread baker extraordinaire, smuggler, tool and die maker, photographer, carpenter, spy, private detective, coin and stamp collector, importer/exporter, author, raconteur and public speaker." And that list doesn't mention father, Kiwanian, promoter of Indianapolis, bell ringer for the Salvation Army, and much, much more.
I wish I could have known him better. Goodbye, Rene.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Friday, April 09, 2010
But not spending freedom day. We have earned enough in 99 days to cover our tax burden for 2010- but we're spending more than we're paying in taxes. $1,170,000,000,000 more. If we earn $2.38 Trillion (the 2010 estimated receipts) in 99 days, then it would take 148 days to earn the $3.55 Trillion we're actually spending- so spending freedom day is May 28.
Imagine for a moment that we had a balanced budget. Hard to do, I realize, as there hasn't been a balanced budget in more than 50 years*; just try. Suppose we wanted to add a few days to our tax freedom day, dedicated to paying off the national debt. How many days would we have to add? Well, if we paid $2.38 Trillion in 99 days, then covering our $12.83 Trillion debt (today's total) would take 534 days. So, assuming we never run another penny in deficits ever again, if we added 30 days to tax freedom day every year, it would take 18 years. Just in time (maybe) to start borrowing again to cover Social Security.
Nothing to worry about.
*I'm sure somebody is going to say we had balanced budgets in the Clinton years. That's the biggest bipartisan lie I know of. If you look at the year-by-year history of the national debt from the Treasury Dept., you'll see that the national debt increased during those "balanced budget" years. I know politicians have, shall we say interesting definitions of words (such as describing income tax as "voluntary"), but no bankruptcy judge would describe a budget that results in an increase in your debt load as "balanced".
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Someone brought to my attention a paper from the Tax Policy Center, a joint project by the Brookings Institute and the Urban Institute, entitled "Desperately Seeking Revenue" "This paper poses a simple question: could incremental reforms of the current tax system raise enough revenue to reduce the deficit to an average of 2 percent of GDP over the last five years of the budget window?" Before I continue, let me note that they aren't even trying to balance the budget, much less pay down the debt; the intent is only to reduce the amount of the annual deficit.
"Raise tax rates proportionately on single taxpayers with income over $200,000 and married couples filing jointly with income over $250,000. This policy would impose tax increases only on those taxpayers targeted by President Obama during the 2008 presidential election for tax increases under the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. We model a proportional increase in tax rates for taxpayers for whom adjusted gross income minus the standard deduction and one personal exemption (two exemptions for married couples) exceeds the relevant threshold. To meet our revenue target under current law, the top two tax rates would have to increase more than 40 percent, lifting the top rate to 56.4 percent. Under the administration baseline, the top rates would leap by 160 percent, lifting the top rate to nearly 91 percent. (my emphasis)
None of the options we have examined would provide a realistic approach to reducing the deficit over the coming decade, particularly if we impose our more stringent goal of cutting the deficit to just 2 percent of GDP. That goal would require tax increases that would cut after-tax income by an average of just over 2 percent, a politically difficult action. All of the changes we examine would be progressive, imposing greater costs on those higher up the income distribution; some of the options would be significantly more progressive than others. However, the most progressive— raising tax rates only for the wealthiest taxpayers—would require increasing the top tax rate to 56.4 percent under current law and to over 90 percent under the administration baseline. Because most of the additional tax burden would hit the top end of the income distribution, either situation would impose substantial efficiency costs on the economy, raise less revenue than generated in our simple simulations that ignore behavioral effects, and meet with great political opposition.
We recognize that raising the statutory corporate income tax rate could increase revenues but would be unlikely to contribute much to deficit reduction. Corporate income taxes make up only a small percentage of federal revenues— less than 9 percent of total revenue and less than one-fifth of individual income tax revenue over the ten year budget window, according to CBO projections. Whether reforming the corporate tax could do much to bring in needed funds is an open question. The U.S. statutory rate is high by international standards; Japan is the only OECD country with a higher combined federal-state statutory corporate tax rate. Raising the corporate rate significantly would likely have adverse effects on U.S. businesses and on foreign investment in the United States. We do not rule out corporate tax increases (through either statutory rate increases or base broadening), but we feel that raising significant revenues through the corporate tax is not a viable strategy.
If your eyes have glazed over by now, let me summarize: it is simply not possible to balance the budget by raising taxes. Even a serious attempt to do so would have such a negative impact on the economy as to actually reduce tax receipts. We cannot grow our way out of the deficit in time- not when the deficit alone is larger than the entire US budget when Bill Clinton took office.
Without a dramatic change in the way our government operates- and soon- the federal government will be forced to default in the next 20 years. Either default on loans, or default on the promises made in the Social Security, but one way or the other something will have to give.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Simmering problems. As I reported in my post, Jobless recovery- or jobless economy?, there hasn't been a new private sector job created in eleven years. New types of jobs have been created, but in terms of more people working today than yesterday, not a single new job. This lack of new jobs was masked by the big corporate profits being made, and the fact that most of the unemployed had in the past been those without special skills or education- it's not headline network news when there's high unemployment among the high school dropout set. But then highly skilled workers, with college degrees and/or decades on the job started getting laid off.
What caused the collapse of the mortgage industry? Yes, yes, there were all kinds of crazy mortgage schemes going on; some actually illegal, some so new there were not yet regulations in place that covered them. But all the finger pointing at Freddie This and Fannie That and Soandso's Bank misses the point that the mortgages were being defaulted because people were losing their jobs and couldn't pay the mortgage! Think about the timeline of the first troubles being reported, the bankruptcies, the Bush bank bailouts (and the protests over them), the auto company bailouts, (and their protests), along with the formation of the Tea Party... now look at this interactive unemployment map. It's no wonder middle class people are protesting. The dearth of decent jobs has been preventing upward mobility from the lower class to the middle class for years; now the previously existing middle class is dwindling, as is discussed in America's Sinking Middle Class: "Middle-class wealth was personal savings, homeownership, and a pension, stemming in most cases from a decent job. Savings are now debt, homes are mortgaged and losing value, and the private-sector pension has devolved into a 401(k) with shrunken assets. Government pensions face shrunken assets, too."
Some new I know it's considered racist to call corporate bailouts and government interference in private industry socialism (which I guess proves that President Nixon was black, as conservatives called him a socialist for his Lockheed bailout and his wage and price controls. But I digress), but whatever it is, people resent it. The reason people resent it is that as most people work for small businesses, they never receive the benefits, but they can see the costs every April 15th. I know I resented it when the USPS started offering quick-printing services in direct competition with my shop; I know I received no bailout when my company failed, nor when the company I then went to work for failed, nor when the company that bought that one laid me and half the rest of its workforce failed. Play that interactive unemployment map again, and imagine how few of them are getting any benefit from the Bush/Obama bailouts.
Too close for comfort This is a fear of future problems; to understand it, we must look at the recent past as prologue. The symptom is debt. Look at these figures of both government debt, and privately held debt, in billions:
_National debt__%GDP_Public debt_%_Total
1990 _3,206.3___55.9___2,411.6_ 42.0__97.9
2000 _5,628.7___58.0___3,409.8 _35.1__93.1
2008 _9,985.8___70.2___5,802.0 _40.8_111.0
We haven't seen debt ratios like that since WW II. Why does it matter? Because when a country tries to borrow money, the lenders usually look at both the national debt and the public debt to determine interest rates- and that's already affecting us. As reported in Bloomberg," "The bond market is saying that it’s safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama.
Two-year notes sold by the billionaire’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in February yield 3.5 basis points less than Treasuries of similar maturity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Procter & Gamble Co., Johnson & Johnson and Lowe’s Cos. debt also traded at lower yields in recent weeks, a situation former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. chief fixed-income strategist Jack Malvey calls an “exceedingly rare” event in the history of the bond market...While Treasuries backed by the full faith and credit of the government typically yield less than corporate debt, the relationship has flipped as Moody’s Investors Service predicts the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K. America will use about 7 percent of taxes for debt payments in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, moving “substantially” closer to losing its AAA rating, Moody’s said last week."
Ok, so it would be embarrassing if we lost our AAA rating, is it really that critical? Yes- because something is looming on the horizon that will force us to borrow huge amounts, no matter what the interest rate is: baby boomers retiring and demanding their Social Security. We've long known this day was coming; the predictions were that we would start paying out more SSI than we were taking in by 2016, exhaust the surplus by 2037, and then have to borrow the difference for a decade or so before demographics balanced the scales again. But those predictions were made before this major recession, and before major new entitlements like Bush's senior drug program and Obama's new healthcare law- not to mention little things like the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the bailouts, etc. That old schedule is no longer operative; according to The Boston Globe, we've already hit the first of those predictions: "WASHINGTON — Social Security will pay more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes in the current fiscal year, six years earlier than expected, the Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday." How will that affect the second prediction? I've seen projections that we will have to start borrowing to cover SSI not just six years earlier, but possibly ten or more years earlier, possibly as soon as 2025. And those are the middle projections, not the worst case ones.
In order to maintain our AAA rating during the borrowing we must do to cover the SSI baby boom, we must pay down a large portion of that total debt, both public and private, in the next 15 years. For that to happen, we have to have an economic boom in the next couple of years that will be big enough that tax receipts will balance the budget, plus extra to make big payments on the existing debt... in other words, double digit growth for pretty much the entire 15 years. And not have any emergencies in the meantime- no Katrinas, no 911's, no wars, no carbon taxes, nothing to upset the applecart for 15 years.
Tea Party members don't think that's going to happen with politics as usual. Perhaps you think it is going to happen, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the Tea Partier's fears as irrational or race based, and you'll win neither friends nor elections by sneering at them.
Monday, April 05, 2010
As to whether Tea Party members are all racist and/or Republican, there is Tea Party Anger Reflects Mainstream Concerns by Juan Williams. Relatively few people have called Juan a right wing racist. CNN, also rarely described as right wing, has Disgruntled Democrats join the Tea Party .
Many bloggers and pundits say it's the level of vitriol that is new and proves racism. For example, when Rush Limbaugh recently called the Obama administration a "regime", Chris Matthews was appalled: ""I've never seen language like this in the American press," he said, "referring to an elected representative government, elected in a totally fair, democratic, American election -- we will have another one in November, we'll have another one for president in a couple years -- fair, free, and wonderful democracy we have in this country…. We know that word, 'regime.' It was used by George Bush, 'regime change.' You go to war with regimes. Regimes are tyrannies. They're juntas. They're military coups. The use of the word 'regime' in American political parlance is unacceptable, and someone should tell the walrus [Limbaugh] to stop using it."
Matthews didn't stop there. "I never heard the word 'regime,' before, have you?" he said to NBC's Chuck Todd. "I don't even think Joe McCarthy ever called this government a 'regime.'"
Well, Byron York at The Washington Examiner looked it up. "... a search of the Nexis database for "Bush regime" yields 6,769 examples from January 20, 2001 to the present... It was used 16 times in the New York Times... "Bush regime" was used 24 times in the Washington Post,... " In fact, it was even used on Chris' own network, MSNBC, by, "Finally -- you knew this was coming -- on June 14, 2002, Chris Matthews himself introduced a panel discussion about a letter signed by many prominent leftists condemning the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror. "Let's go to the Reverend Al Sharpton," Matthews said. "Reverend Sharpton, what do you make of this letter and this panoply of the left condemning the Bush regime?"
Another article in a similar vein is Against ObamaCare? You're A Racist Hater by Larry Elder. An even more interesting submission is this You Tube video of anti-Bush protestors. It's worth listening through to the end for the protestor who says, "Us Democrats are gonna get up in arms, we'll have to come out and, you know, do what we have to do in the spirit of revolution... we'll have to come out and kill somebody, I guess."
UPDATE: From a poll taken by the Winston Group, released as Behind the Headlines: What’s driving the Tea Party Movement?
"In three national surveys, done for New Models from December 2009 through February 2010, 57% of Tea Party members called themselves Republicans, another 28% said they were Independents, and 13% were Democrats. Two-thirds of Tea Party members identify as conservatives but 26% say they are moderate and 8% described themselves as liberal."
Friday, April 02, 2010
There are two ways one might define the size of government; the first is how much it costs. As a percentage of gross national product, the federal government has grown from 8.03% to 44.48% in the last hundred years. State governments' growth has kept pace; the combined burden is often expressed as "tax freedom day", or how long you have to work just to cover your taxes. In 1910, taxes took all your income earned through January 19th; this year it's April 9th. It should be noted that these numbers do not include deficits or fees, such as license plates, which can exceed $500.
Another way to measure the size of government is by power. The original form of the federal government was too weak to govern; it didn't even have the power to outlaw slavery- that required a Constitutional amendment. But today- proving the axiom that there is no happy medium in politics- the federal government can control such picayune minutia as whether you can turn right at a red light. But the provision in the new healthcare law that one must buy insurance is a whole new level of overreaching. As I noted before, the commerce clause in the Constitution has already been stretched to say that the federal government has the right to overturn state laws on the basis of an interstate market that has no legal existence. What this new law claims is that the federal government has a right to overturn state laws on the basis of an interstate market that does not exist at all, and cannot exist in the future unless that same federal government changes the law to make it so.
Conservatives fear that if this stands, it erases the 10th amendment altogether; one can always fantasize some hypothetical trade that would then need federal regulation- there would be no practical limits on federal power whatsoever. We will in fact have changed our very form of government from a union of sovereign states to a single state with some limited local autonomy without the democratic procedure of amending the Constitution. Now perhaps you think we should change the Constitution to make us "One Nation" in law as well as poetry; a good case for that can be made- through the democratic process. But the Tea Party type of conservative feels that one cannot "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States" by violating it. And they fear the mindset of a person or a party that thinks you can.
By the way, if you think that fear shows the right wingnut nature of the tea Partiers, then you are deeming 56% of the country to be wingnuts, according to this CNN poll. "Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government's become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." You will have also confirmed the diversity of the Tea Party; even 37% of Democrats agree with them in this.
Ronald Reagan held the deficit record for 25 years at 6% of GDP in 1983; Bush was a piker by comparison- though his deficits looked big in dollars, they were scarcely 2% of GDP. But now, early in his first term, President Obama has succeeded in his ambition to be a transformative figure like Reagan was; 2009's deficit was 9.9% of GDP, more than half again bigger than Reagan's- in fact, the 2009 budget deficit is larger than all budget deficits from 2002 through 2007 combined. More than 43 cents of every dollar Washington spends in 2009 will have been borrowed.
What's this doing to the national debt? According to this Washington Times story, "The federal public debt, which was $6.3 trillion ($56,000 per household) when Mr. Obama entered office amid an economic crisis, totals $8.2 trillion ($72,000 per household) today, and it's headed toward $20.3 trillion (more than $170,000 per household) in 2020, according to CBO's deficit estimates.
That figure would equal 90 percent of the estimated gross domestic product in 2020, up from 40 percent at the end of fiscal 2008." This puts our economic condition somewhere between Bulgaria and Greece.
More about deficits in part three, "Why now?"