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Mt. Pleasant, Michigan 2014

Front Page

Volume 7, Issue 3

March 1, 2014

1930’s-2010’s (Fiscal Comparisons)

THERE ARE LONG-TERM ROOTS TO

OUR PRESENT POLITICAL CRISIS

By Ivan W. Parkins

Inflation, real growth, and changing standards make most comparisons of this kind difficult, and likely to be misleading.  This one brief comparison is, I think, worthy of consideration.

 

During FDR’s first two terms, 1933-1940, his policies approximately tripled this nation’s debt as it compares to national product.  Still in his first term of office, President Obama has increased the debt, as compared to America’s product, by about one third.

 

By the end of FDR’s first eight years of spending, our national debt remained less than half as large as the nation’s annual product.  In a little over 2 years of Obama’s Presidency, this nation’s indebtedness threatens to exceed national product, if it has not already done so.

Our Constitution Protects Us

THE HEALTH CARE LAW

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     Early constitutions, with which James Madison and others among our Constitution’s founders were familiar, often failed when a new majority took control and imposed laws that sacrificed the liberties of others.

     The Constitution of the United States was designed to avoid that.  In Article V, it provides for it’s own amendment, but only by processes that require approvals by extraordinary majorities and the participation of the states.

     The Obama Administration’s Health Care Act is an almost classic example of what our Constitution is intended to prevent. It imposes unprecedented requirements upon both individuals and states, and it was created in semi-secret by a highly partisan cabal within Congress; it has also been discredited by the election following.  Recently, has been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Court in Florida-Ed.

-So, What about Health Care?

     If health care is to be a constitutional “entitlement” it, and other social entitlements, should be limited, as the “safety net” simile implies.  The circus performers’ safety nets are simple devices to preserve bodies and lives.  They make it possible for individuals to continue.  Comfort, dignity, and more advanced achievements will vary with the individual’s own efforts; there should be no public effort to guarantee them.

     One simple and modest tax credit or grant, available to all Americans, and adequate to purchase insurance covering most common emergencies and illnesses, is needed.  Several practical administrative hurdles stand in its way.  One is the lack of a single reliable identification device for all individuals.  Another is a plethora of state laws specifying what health insurance must include.  Congress has adequate authority to resolve both of those impediments.

      Regarding rarer health problems and those resulting from the individual’s own indulgences, any single centralized authority is at a disadvantage where cases vary widely from one to another. The nation may provide for health and medical research, and for controls of poisons and epidemics.  It may also aid lesser governments and private agencies that are dealing with unique problems. It should avoid highly varied services.

     Most urgently, and relating to health care costs, the distortion of tort proceedings into “jackpot justice” should be crushed, and made costly for those who participate in it. Real injuries should be compensated on an actual loss basis, if specific negligence is demonstrated. We can appropriately refer to ourselves as “individuals” because we do not all respond alike, even to advanced medical science.  The legal process should not be a game of chance for predatory and dishonest persons.

OBAMA  and  FDR

 

THERE ARE LONG-TERM ROOTS TO

OUR PRESENT POLITICAL CRISIS

This article has been previously posted last year, but it is a good refresher-ED

By Ivan W. Parkins 

 

             We should not rely too much on comparisons of the Obama and Franklin Roosevelt Administrations.  There are crude similarities in their excesses of deficit spending and their gross expansions of the national government, but circumstances were different in many and significant respects.

             First, let us consider the popular sovereignty issue.  Both the British tradition and the Constitution of the United States set some limits to popular sovereignty.  The essential idea is that while a popular majority should hold primary power, no single and brief majority should be permitted to change the basic system (constitution) without further confirmation of its public support, i.e. no short term or “mob” changing in the rules of the political contest. 

             Franklin Roosevelt’s initial popular sanction was in a 1932 victory that elected over 100 more Democrats to the House and over a dozen more Senators than Obama has so far had.  FDR, himself, entered with 4% more of the popular votes and over 100 more electoral votes than Obama has so far won. ( Furthermore, Roosevelt extended all of those margins in both the elections of 1934 and 1936).  And, Roosevelt entered office at a time when Western Civilization was being threatened by the development of several vast, aggressively authoritarian, and increasingly militarized nations.  He faced that with an American military establishment that was both technically out-dated and defensive in posture.  Domestically, he had to deal with what really was our “greatest natural disaster.”  The Dust Bowl drove many hundreds of thousands from their homes, choked and dirtied millions of Americans (us) who lived further east, and defied any quick or easy remedy.  That tragedy was invited by pre-New Deal neglect, but precipitated by a particularly severe drought.

             It now appears that the Obama Administrations’ massive and complex legislative “innovations” may be even more limiting to the discretion of future Congresses than FDR’s were.  Also, there is no evidence that the coming election will advance the Obama Administration’s popular mandate.  President Obama faces world-wide threats, but while commanding the world’s most technically advanced and globally capable military.  And the Gulf oil spill is a large, but mostly very recent, man-made and man limited, disaster.  In terms of popular sovereignty, the Obama Administration treads a fine line of separation from the unconstitutional “mob-rule” that our Founding Fathers so much feared.

-SOME FACTORS THAT HAVE NOW CHANGED OUR  POLITICAL         SYSTEM.

             Since the middle of the past century advances in electronic communication, especially television, have greatly changed the enterprises through which the American public gets most of its political information and opinion.  Those changes have also extended to the personnel and power structures within journalism, and in ways that affect political outcomes.  News “anchors” of major networks became “celebrities” and better known to most citizens than any except the highest and most popular of political officeholders.

             Meanwhile, since the New Deal and World War II, Congress has been in session during a large part of nearly every year.  Also, the American population has been growing rapidly.  The net result of those factors is that Representatives have had less and less time in which to meet directly with the greater and greater numbers of their constituents.  President, Senators, and Representatives all are less and less accessible to the public, except via electronics.  And that avenue is more and more managed by professional journalists.

             Also, World War II and the “G. I.” Bill expanded greatly the numbers of persons seeking college educations.  Soon older colleges and universities, many of them having been church affiliated, were being dwarfed by new, publicly financed institutions.  Curriculum emphasis shifted away from developing the characters and capabilities of individuals, and towards encouraging social and political activism in student groups. I witnessed the exclusion of Senator Robert Taft from an official appearance at the University of Akron, as “too controversial” (i.e. He was a candidate for reelection.), and a couple of decades later the well-paid appearance of Jane Fonda at Central Michigan University, where she attacked Dow Chemical Company and the Vietnam War.

Personal note:

             A letter in the WALL STREET JOURNAL (7/26/10) quotes a young woman as saying that she wanted to study journalism “Because I want to change the world.”  That is very much like much of what I encountered as a political science teacher.  Too many students were already convinced that they knew what in the world needed changing; they wanted only to be helped with the means to do it.

             I found myself ailing from increasing signs of stress.  To reduce that I avoided some face-to-face confrontations and began writing columns in the local newspaper.  That helped until a change of editors produced an order that I not criticize journalism.  I W Parkins 72610

AN IMPORTANT FREEDOM?

Should non-profits be treated different than profit corporations ?

By Ivan W. Parkins

     Most Americans today are unaware that the legally created freedom to incorporate a for-profit enterprise is largely a product of Jacksonian Democracy (late 1820s-1840).  Incorporation permits a few people to create an organization having some of the legal identity and rights of a person.  A major advantage is that those who invest in the organization will then be responsible only to the extent of their investment, i.e. not be individually liable for all that the organization does.

      Blackstone lamented that the corporations had neither souls to be damned nor bodies to be kicked.  He, like Adam Smith, of Wealth of Nations fame, wrote in a period when profitable business was not the usual purpose cited to justify incorporation.  Those corporations that existed-- Professor E. Merrick Dodd wrote that he had found evidence of 310 in the United States in 1800--were largely for public or eleemosynary purposes.  They were created individually by acts of legislative bodies.  Historically, they had been cities, universities, etc.  In the early United States they included increasing numbers of banks, toll bridges and roads, and other often profitable enterprises, but were still created individually to serve an alleged public need.

     Persuading a legislative body to incorporate your particular enterprise usually required special influence, often bribery.  Jacksonian Democrats regarded that as a major injustice, even as a form of theft.  But, once in power, they found that the most practical solution was to make the incorporation privilege a right of everybody.  General incorporation laws were enacted, permitting any small group who met minimal qualifications and paid a small fee to incorporate their own enterprise.  That greatly facilitated raising capital for larger businesses.  The practice spread rapidly, here and in Europe.

     Railroads were our first great industrial corporations.  Often they were corruptly managed.  Substantial portions of our western lands were given to the railroads by the federal government as subsidies for their construction.  In spite of such matters, the railroads probably did as much as any other factor to facilitate rapid settlement, widespread homestead ownership, and general prosperity.

     By the late nineteenth century America was beginning to legislate seriously against monopolistic and other abuses of corporate enterprise.  Various forms of government intervention spread rapidly with WWI, the Great Depression/ New Deal, and WWII.

     Since WWII the older, nonprofit, types of corporate endeavor have become more significant, especially in American politics.  Universities, foundations, public interest organizations, research institutes, etc. have multiplied and grown rapidly.  The larger universities rival some federal departments in their largely taxpayer funded budgets and their technical resources.  Yet, public attitudes and laws usually treat these non-profit corporations very differently than incorporated business ventures, especially where their political activities are concerned.

     Why should the freedoms of non-profit corporations be greatly different than those of their for-profit counterparts?  Are not both legitimate means by which people, of different talents and ambitions, contribute to the welfare of society?

   Just a note about-

Political Change in Egypt

It is grand to see an almost bloodless revolution emerging in a country that has hosted one of mankind’s earliest civilizations.

Let us all hope that this portends another great advanceI.W. Parkins 021711

NOTE: Well, sometimes hope is not enough.  It appears now, that Egypt is on the correct course.

Note: The following series of articles are a re-post from 2011.  They are still relevant to current issues and are being  re-posted here.– Editor