Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DOMA, the GOP, and the Constitution...

In the heat of the Republican primaries, it’s no surprise that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is once again coming to the fore. Marriage, it seems, is such a weak and vapid institution that only a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman will save it, according to both front runners in Florida, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former defender-of-gay-rights-while-Massachusetts-Governor-but-not-now Mitt Romney, who increasingly sounds like a line from a Whitman poem[1]…
Ron Paul, defending federalism over liberty on this issue, says that decisions on legalizing or prohibiting gay marriage should be left to states. This is not acceptable to that great conservative Rick Santorum who, like Gingrich and Romney, are eager to amend the Constitution of the United States before the demographics change and gay marriage becomes a done deal. In response to Paul, Santorum, in defiance of reality, says, "We can't have 50 marriage laws." 
Earth to Santorum: We DO have 50 different marriage laws, differing in such matters as what constitutes a common law marriage; the age of consent to marry, with and without parental consent; whether or not premarital medical exams are required, and if so the scope of the exam and the maximum allowable period between the exam and the subsequent marriage; the length, if any, of the waiting period between obtaining a marriage license and the marriage ceremony; the duration of validity of the marriage license before expiration; how marital assets are handled, among many, many other differences. Though no doubt shocking to Santorum--how did this guy pass the bar?--both the Republic and the institution of marriage have so far survived all these variations in marriage laws. (For God’s sake, DON’T anyone tell him marriage laws differ internationally. This is one man who doesn’t need another reason to start bombing other countries…)
From a libertarian perspective, all of these candidates are wrong, though admittedly Paul comes closest to being correct. The larger mistake regarding DOMA, however, belongs to Speaker of the House Boehner. Almost a year ago now (2/23/11), the Speaker became upset that the President, through his Attorney General and Department of Justice, announced their unwillingness to defend the legality/constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996. 
Some background here: For many years, through many administrations of both R and D stripe, the Justice Department has always proceeded on the assumption that, until the Supreme Court says otherwise, anything passed by Congress is constitutional and thus worthy of Department of Justice defense in court. This “Presumption of Constitutionality” was challenged last year by the Obama administration, refusing to defend DOMA in court against numerous judicial challenges.
On the practical side, this was a not unreasonable choice by Attorney General Holder, as DOMA has not done well in court. It is read by the court, not unreasonably, as prima facie designed to achieve an unwarranted disparate impact on the citizenry, and therefore suspect.
Also on the practical side, Boehner then and the Republican Presidential hopefuls now are foolish going to the wall to defend DOMA. Not only will they likely lose, but in the process they will turn off many independents who switched sides between 2008 and 2010 to give them the House, and may, if sufficiently turned off by Republican church dogma, switch back again in 2012.
But more importantly, this was one of those rare situations where the Obama administration is in the right. And this executive interpretation will be a helpful precedent the next time someone favoring limited government sits in the Oval Office (granted, a description no candidate save Paul falls under in this race).
Both Congress and the President swear to uphold the Constitution. The question then arises, how can one seriously attempt to uphold the Constitution if one refuses to hazard a guess as to what it means? Does Boehner seriously believe that “upholding the Constitution” is identical to “upholding whatever rulings the Supreme Court hands down?” If he doesn’t believe this—and his position on Roe v Wade certainly implies he doesn’t—then he must believe the Supreme Court is not the only source of constitutional interpretation. So what we have here is a difference of opinion between some members of Congress and the President on the constitutionality of DOMA. 
This is not a rare occurrence. The current Congress and the President also disagree on the constitutionality of the Obamacare legislation. The Supreme Court will rule at the end of the current session. If Obama and Biden suddenly died, and Boehner, as Speaker, assumed the Presidency, would he really feel compelled as President to say, “Well, I don’t believe in the constitutionality of Obamacare but of course I will defend Obamacare to the best of my ability in front of the Supreme Court.” Doing that would imply that an oath to defend the Constitution includes defending things one truly and strongly believes to be unconstitutional.
To think otherwise is to misunderstand the Founders’ concept of the division of powers. Giving the Supreme Court supreme judicial power doesn’t mean no other branch of government has a role in determining constitutionality. If Congress doesn’t think a bill is constitutional, it doesn’t pass it into law, so it never reaches the Supreme Court. If Congress thinks a former Congress passed an unconstitutional law, it repeals it. It doesn’t claim that the presumption of constitutionality requires waiting for the Supreme Court to rule. Similarly, if a bill reaches the President’s desk that he believes is unconstitutional, he doesn’t sign it into law. He doesn’t say, “Well, Congress thinks this is Constitutional; who am I to judge such things?” Conservatives rightly castigated President Bush II when he signed the McCain-Feingold bill into law even while explicitly saying he thought parts of it were unconstitutional. 
Just as signing bills into law, or refusing to do so, is part of the President’s executive powers, so is the way he chooses to run the Justice Department. Every government department, even today, has a finite budget. Decisions regarding priorities have to be made. If the President thinks the scarce resources of the Justice Department’s budget are not well spent by defending DOMA, why should Congress object? Surely using resources to defend a law one believes unconstitutional is a low priority use of funds. If the Justice Department indicated it didn’t feel it worthwhile to defend certain OSHA or environmental regulations, Republicans would rejoice. 
Former generations understood this. Laws do not enforce themselves. When the Supreme Court ruled on the rights of native Americans in a way that Andrew Jackson opposed, he said, “The Supreme Court has ruled. Now let them enforce their ruling.” Jackson is now considered retrograde for his position on the Indians, but his position on the law not enforcing itself withstands the test of time. Does anyone seriously believe that if the Supreme Court in the 1960s had determined the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional the troops would have been immediately withdrawn?
Everyone agrees the President has the power of the pardon. A blanket pardon for anyone incarcerated for violating certain laws—be it anti-war protestors during the Vietnam era or those politically prosecuted under the infamous Palmer laws of WWI; be it drunks thrown in prison during Prohibition or abolitionists violating Fugitive Slave laws—is well within the President’s authority. Would Boehner say this, too, is a violation of the will of Congress, a violation of the Presumption of Constitutionality toward anything Congress spews out?
Won’t this lead to anarchy? Not at all. It will lead to a divided, and thus limited, government. How are our freedoms maintained and protected? By restricting the rules that bind our actions. Therefore, it is right that a rule, to have societal impact, must be so correct, and so clearly agreed to, that not only can it get passed into law by Congress but it can also get enforced by the President and approved by the Supreme Court. DOMA got passed by Congress but federal courts routinely oppose it and it will likely not survive a Supreme Court ruling. Nor can it get enforced by the current administration. This is how the Founders conceived of things. 
No one should be surprised to find that in the months leading up to the repeal of Prohibition, the Justice Department did not work quite as hard as it had previously to enforce Prohibition, just as soldiers don’t risk all in the final hours before a peace treaty is signed. No one wants to be the last person to die in a war.
Boehner and the Republicans should be happy with this result. First it is the essence of limited government. Second, it allows a President more devoted than Obama to limited government to carefully pick and choose which laws he is willing to defend in front of the Supreme Court. 
But when it comes to the shameful stands the GOP Presidential candidates take on marriage equality, the best their supporters can say is, “don’t ask, don’t tell…”
[1]: Song of Myself: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

But SURELY You Need A Government to Do THAT!?!?

We all live in a world that stunts our imagination. Before Steve Jobs put out an iPad, few of us imagined how something like that could impact our lives. Now iPads are everywhere, being integrated into both our lives and our businesses in ways Jobs himself could never have imagined.
Similarly, now that the government cares for the poor, few of us can imagine how civil society handled such matters a century ago. Down the memory hole go the vast array of voluntary organizations that handled problems of health, insurance, and unemployment for the poor and did so until they were no longer needed because the government "took care of that." And now we can't conceive of it being done without government. To oppose federal programs for the poor is now assumed tantamount to wishing the poor were dead. [For those interested in this history of voluntarism, see historian David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967
And of course a huge regulatory apparatus is needed in the financial center. How could people handle the complexities of finance and assess risk without ratings agencies deemed safe by government regulators, without wise federal overseers to protect them? 
I thought of this on coming upon:
[HT to economist/historian Jeffrey Hummel]
Do not read this to think I believe this one link solves ALL financial problems. Merely that one financial problem is solvable in a way that does not involve the government and that no one conceived of, until someone conceived of it. Further, this post is not meant to recommend this particular solution, merely to point out how people spontaneously offer solutions in the market, oft times, as with Wikipedia, on a voluntary non-profit no-charge basis. Much like the fraternal societies of yore...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Breaking News! Gingrich Endorses Romney!!

At least that’s how it seems to me. Follow my logic…
After the drubbing Newt gave Mitt in South Carolina, Romney is fighting back. He has called Gingrich a “lobbyist” for raking in millions selling Congressional influence to those running Freddie Mac. And that might spell trouble as a vast majority of Republican primary-goers hold Freddie and Fannie responsible for the economic melt down that has crushed the housing market. It’s not that unreasonable a belief.
Gingrich’s response? On ABC's Good Morning America today, he said, "I did no lobbying. Period. He keeps using the word ‘lobbyist’ because I'm sure his consultants tell him it scores well. It's not true. He KNOWS it's not true. He's deliberately saying things he knows to be false." And Newt is understandably concerned Romney’s wealth and establishment ties may make this a SUCCESSFUL lie.
So, to sum up: Newt Gingrich says that Mitt Romney is speaking out on an important issue of the day by knowingly lying to the American people, and may, in view of his wealth and connections, get away with it.
That sounds like an endorsement for President to me. Lying and getting away with it are what make our greatest Presidents. They are the key requirements for the job.
 Rich establishment white guys who lie to the public with at least initial impunity. I’m thinking JFK and the Bay of Pigs. I’m thinking LBJ and the Tonkin Gulf. I’m thinking George W. Bush and weapons of mass destruction. I’m even thinking Bill Clinton and if it weren’t for that dress...And now, due to Newt, I’m thinking Mitt Romney and isn’t Newt a lobbyist, c’mon, really?. Granted, compared to the Bay of Pigs and WMDs, it’s a paltry issue, but the man’s not President YET. 
Newt agrees Mitt has all the characteristics of a successful President: wealth, connections, and--most importantly--the ability to look straight into the eyes of the American people, and lie to their faces, and get away with it. Endorsements just don’t come stronger than that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What’s the Point of a Debt Ceiling?

It will soon be time for Congress to once again decide whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. It was only last August that Congress debated a similar raise, told markets would collapse if they didn't raise the ceiling, only to watch the market drop precipitously even after the ceiling WAS raised.

Back then, NPR had an economist, a former Federal Reserve member, answer questions from listeners concerning the potential upcoming federal default. As we face another demand to raise the ceiling, it seems like a good time to review...
He answered questions like:
  • What is a default? Is it a default if payments are simply delayed? If principal is paid but not interest? If some but not all principal is paid? Ans: These are all defaults.
  • If Congress can’t raise taxes or raise the debt ceiling to borrow, why doesn’t it pay for federal spending by just printing the money? Ans: The government can’t print money; only the Fed, a nominally independent agency, can print money. And it would lead to significant inflation.
The story mentioned that raising the debt ceiling is not an unusual occurrence. What’s unprecedented is NOT raising it.  It has been raised over 100 times since legislation requiring a debt ceiling was passed in 1917. It’s been raised 8 times in the last decade alone. A vote to raise the debt ceiling has never not passed.
In the last 20 years, the debt ceiling has gone from about $5 trillion to about $15 trillion.
So here’s a question that was never asked, nor answered:
What’s the point of having a debt ceiling if it is always raised, over 100 times since 1917?
Clearly the country managed from 1787 to 1917, 130 years, without any debt ceiling. The government had debt during that period, just no legislative ceiling. A ceiling that always moves farther away as one approaches it is a mirage. So what’s the point of having a debt ceiling? That was the question neither asked nor answered. The one time in almost a century where it is not routinely raised and the governing class is screaming that great devastation will follow… So what’s the point?
Is the point that a debt ceiling shows the world we’re not profligate, that we won’t take on more debt than we can afford? How can it possibly fulfill this function if it is never not raised whenever we approach it?
Is the point that having a debt ceiling creates incentives for spending restraint? But government growth has been MUCH larger from 1917-2011 than it was from 1787-1917. From the pre-Civil War period to just before WWI, government grew from 1.5% of GDP to 5%. From WWI to Obama, government has grown from 5% of GDP to 25%. So the debt ceiling is clearly unsuccessful in creating incentives for spending restraint. 
Is the point that without a debt ceiling purchasers of government debt would have no way of knowing whether or not we thought we could repay what we borrow? That’s too silly a notion to seriously contemplate. If Greece says they can repay their debt, and promises to never take on more debt than what their continually rising debt ceiling allows them to, is everyone supposed to believe them?
Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, commented on Meet the Press in late spring, 2011, that he saw no reason to have a debt ceiling. Greenspan certainly didn’t mean he saw no reason for spending restraint. He merely meant this repeated political theatre, this habitual kabuki dance, this routine wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, this recurring financial brinksmanship, serves no purpose. With or without a debt ceiling, those who buy our bonds will judge for themselves whether or not we can pay it back. That, not an arbitrary and continually increasing ceiling, is what is important in the end. 

The debate this time around should not be on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. It should be on whether or not to REPEAL the debt ceiling. The illusion of restraint cannot possibly be fooling anyone any longer. It's time to move on to more substantive debates.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It Shows Who's Boss

The 2012 Golden Globes Awards are now history. Ricky Gervais was positively tame, and barely used, so it was disappointing. But I did come away with two observations.
First, Julianne Moore, presenting with Rob Lowe, flubbed her lines. We’re talking about a professional actress and maybe 20 seconds of dialog, and she couldn’t manage because her teleprompter stalled. I’m guessing this is one reason Hollywood stars are so forgiving of Barack Obama.
Second, look for a moment at the “Best TV Series, Drama,” category. It included “American Horror Story” on FX; “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones” on HBO; “Boss” on Starz; and the winning “Homeland” on Showtime.
That is, no nominee for best TV Drama Series was produced for the public. All were produced for cable. In today’s America, there is a digital divide, so the saying goes. If you want to watch good drama, you have to pay for it.
The Hollywood elite have no problem with this model. They make money off this model. But apply the same model to healthcare and they’re outraged. Hollywood never cries that “All Americans deserve equal access to drama.” They have no qualms about producing a product the relatively well off can access immediately at the theatres and on cable while the relatively poor have to wait months for video rental.
Though their work puts many of them well into the 0.1%, they don’t feel their field should be regulated to help the poor, not even access to Nurse Jackie. Doctors, seldom in the 1%, our work routinely misrepresented on TV shows, are chastised for setting up cable equivalents known as concierge medicine, even as cable sweeps the drama awards at the Golden Globe. 
Truly, an American Horror Story...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rick Perry: Pissing Away the Lives of American “Kids”

January 15, 2012

Per the LA Times online edition, Kim Geiger reports (1/15/12): Texas Gov. Rick Perry, [trying to] revive his sputtering presidential campaign, said Sunday morning that the Obama administration has gone “over the top” in criticizing Marines who were videotaped urinating on Afghan corpses.”

“Obviously, 18, 19-year-olds make stupid mistakes all too often,” Perry said in an appearance on CNN's “State of the Union.”  “These kids made a mistake, there's no doubt about it,” he said. “But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top,” and in fact the Marines have so far not been officially accused of crimes, even though the Geneva Conventions specifically forbid desecration of the dead.
This is a sober attitude and sensible understanding on Perry’s part, and I’m sure he will be equally restrained when reports of Taliban fighters voiding on dead Americans surface. But it leads to this problem:
Perry is in favor of expanding foreign wars, of doing “whatever it takes” to achieve victory; he declares his fellow Texan Ron Paul’s idea of bringing home the troops dangerous. That is to say, he’s in favor of putting 18 and 19 year old “kids,” who are prone to going “over the top,” in more hot-spots around the world. Frankly, it’s a piss-poor idea, and explains why Perry is no longer polling #1.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

All A-Twitter…

January 13, 2012

Ron Paul is 76 years old. But he has the energy of a much younger man...and the following. Here’s just one example:
I look at the national Twitter counts of the various Presidential candidates over the last week, the number of tweets mentioning each candidate:
Barack Obama        116,803
Mitt Romney            215,873
Rick Perry               68,638
Jon Huntsman        44,309
Rick Santorum        96,878
Newt Gingrich         65,906
Ron Paul                 279,839
Jon Huntsman, who bet it all on New Hampshire, has the fewest Tweets coming out of Granite State; he will be spit out by the Palmetto State. 

Newt Gingrich and the two Ricks can’t get out of 5-digit territory. 

Barack Obama, that darling charismatic leader of hope and change who so captivated the youth of only 4 years ago, barely passes the 6-figure mark. 
Ron Paul more than DOUBLES the number of weekly tweets of the President of the United States. Only Mitt Romney comes close, getting 77% of Ron Paul’s traffic.
Ron Paul, a bit of a grandfatherly crank, the oldest man in the race, a man who was born in 1935 and had an obstetrical degree before there was ultrasound, OWNS the Internet. Go to YouTube. Check out the hits on Paul websites and compare them to those of other candidates. Look at the pro-Paul Internet ads spreading like viruses. This man captures the imaginations of the youth more than anyone could themselves imagine...and more than Barack Obama could hope for, or change.
President Obama inherited a bad situation, the result of a big-spending Republican who frittered away two terms on foreign wars. Barack Obama made things much worse, spending to such an extreme the Bush II regime appears in retrospect humbly frugal, and extending but only barely revising what can now be called the Bush/Obama wars. As Peggy Noonan put it month’s ago, he inherited a bad situation, and he made it worse...much worse.
Barack Obama owns the moment, and has to take responsibility for it.
But Ron Paul owns the future. And as Nick Gillespie of Reason.com often reminds, the future’s so bright we’ll have to wear shades.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The GOP Visits A Psychiatrist…

Fools are my theme, let satire be my song. 
Lord Byron 

A tired appearing older gentleman enters a psychiatrist’s office; he is white, well-dressed but strangely carries a few straws of chewing straw in his breast pocket; he holds a bible in one hand and a copy of Free to Choose in the other; he presents  with an uncomfortable affect and a patrician air...
Psychiatrist: Hello..GOP is it? Glad to meet you. Thanks for coming in to see me.
GOP: [Nervous tick, speaking hesitantly]: Yes, yes...glad to meet you as well. Are we done yet?
P: Not quite yet. I see you were referred by a Dr. Paul. It says here he’s a gynecologist?
GOP: He sees my wife. After her last visit, which I attended, he thought I should meet with you.
P: Do you know why that was?
GOP: I wanted her to stay home, barefoot and pregnant, and school the children and clean the house while supporting her desire to rise as far as she could in the business world...
P: What about the glass ceilings?
GOP: She should clean those too...
P: I see...Tell me, where do you live?
GOP: In a big tent.
P: Ah...OH! I see Dr. Paul was concerned about multiple personality disorder…
GOP: Yes, exactly. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Can you help me?
P: I’ll need a little more information, first. What do you see as the problem?
GOP: The budget. And the debt. The budget and debt! We need to take the budget seriously. The debt is growing out of control.
P: So you’re willing to look at cutting everything?
GOP: Well not the military, of course. That can't be cut! Defense is paramount!! 
P: So none of the troops in over 100 countries abroad can come home?
GOP: Not a one! Too risky. Wouldn't be prudent. Like Vice-President Cheney said after 9/11, we must act as if a 1% chance of a danger from abroad is equivalent to a 100% danger. We can’t afford any risk.
P: Isn’t that the Precautionary Principle the Left uses when discussing global warming. We can’t risk even a small chance of irreparably harming the planet…?
GOP: They’re completely different!
P: How so?
GOP: Well, in the case of global warming, the alleged science is discovered by scientists whose grant money is supplied by the taxpayers. They don’t get tax dollars to play with unless they claim the science shows global warming. Whereas, when it comes to discovery of foreign threats, taxpayers pay high-ranking military officials and State department officials who work to find foreign threats, aided by public spirited companies in the defense industry that help us in this never-ending fight.
P: American troops garrisoned in foreign lands...That’s also to protect us?
GOP: Sure. They want us there. It’s protective.
P: And if foreign troops were garrisoned in America?
GOP: Are you insane? We don’t want them here. That would be inflammatory.
P: You believe in a small, modest, Constitutionally limited government…
GOP: Just like Jefferson's!
P: ...capable of policing the world and fighting multiple foreign wars simultaneously?
GOP: Only much, much larger! [Facial grimace…] Can you help me?
P: What about domestic policy?
GOP: We want to keep the government out of your business. Regulatory growth has been explosive, and harmful. This must stop, and stop now!
P: So you’re willing to get the government off the backs of the marijuana entrepreneurs?
GOP: Absolutely NOT! It’s a gateway drug that causes much harm!
P: And your solution to the harm of using drugs?
GOP: We have to throw the users in prison.

P: Can’t you just leave the users alone?
GOP: Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not like they’re businessmen…
P: But how does favoring small government tie in with a drug war?
GOP: Well, when we put all the marijuana users in prison, we won’t need a big government to handle the remaining citizens. [Rapid eye movement…] Please, can you help me?!
P: So you’re for less government…
GOP: Yes!
P: ...that controls what people smoke and eat…
GOP: Well, not tobacco or trans-fats! That nanny-state stuff won’t fly with me!!
P: But you’ve used marijuana yourself, I understand…
GOP: Just during my youthful experimentations...Hey, you can’t hold that against a guy!
P: But now you want to…
GOP: Lock them up and throw away the key. Exactly!! Can you help me?
P: I understand you favor federalism.
GOP: Absolutely. It keeps the federal government in check and allows the states to be laboratories for liberty.
P: So if marijuana were legalized at the state level, for medical or other reasons…
GOP: I’d have the DEA dragnet large areas to round up people for federal prosecution.
P: And if judicial rulings went against you?
GOP: Damn activist judges! They need to rule based on the laws Congress passes, not on what they wish the law were. That’s what democracy is all about.
P: What’s your position on Obamacare?
GOP: Very destructive; hopefully it will be overturned by the courts. [Unconscious toe tapping…] Please dear God, can you help me?!
P: Just a few more questions. Tell me about spending under Obama.
GOP: Outrageous! Huge deficits. Massive bailouts and reckless stimulus spending. 
P: And the bailouts and stimulus spending under GW Bush?
GOP: What?
P: The massive spending--the most ever until Obama--under Bush 43?
GOP: Yes?
P: I’m asking your thoughts about it…
GOP: What about it?
P: Your thoughts on the massive spending and deficits…
GOP: This massive spending and deficit growth under Obama is killing the country!!
P: And under Bush?
GOP: I’m sorry, what is your question? MY GOD! HELP ME!!
P: I’m beginning to see your problem.
GOP: What problem?
P: Let me ask you, how do you feel about choice?
GOP: Choice! That's anathema. This abortion choice culture has deadened our society and created irreparable harm. I blame the liberals.
P: I was talking about school choice…
GOP: Choice! That's a saving grace. The culture of school choice has enlivened our society and created great benefits. Without it, generations of children are deprived of an education to favor special interests that hold the Democratic Party in thrall. I blame the liberals.
P: OK. I’ve got enough. I think I can help you.
GOP: Electroshock? 
P: We can’t turn the voltage up high enough, I’m afraid. But don’t despair. There are other methods…have you heard of leeches?
GOP: Congress is full of them.
P: That’s what you need. You won’t be able to accomplish your goals without them.
GOP: You mean I need…
P: Massive blood-letting. Yes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Thought That Would Never Occur to Rick Santorum, Understandably...

 January 11, 2012

“This is a president who thinks he’s smarter than everybody,” Rick Santorum said today in South Carolina, criticizing President Obama for “trying to run people’s lives.”
Santorum, opposed to gay marriage equality, said HE would never try to run people’s lives.
Santorum, who seeks to strengthen the power of the State to throw hundreds of thousands of Americans into prison for using marijuana, said that unlike the sitting President, he believed people should run their own lives. 
Just according to Santorum’s rules...

Saturday, January 7, 2012


A strange claim made the rounds just over a year ago in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Made by incumbents, the argument asserted many candidates running for the first time were “not qualified” for office. Since this argument may well resurface with Tea party supported candidates later this year, I think it worth analyzing. The question is: what qualifies a person to be a Congressman?

We already have incumbents sitting on finance committees who have no background in accounting, economics, or finance. We already have Congressmen working on committees impacting the troops or American foreign policy who have not previously studied world history, military theory, diplomacy, or even been overseas. We have Congressmen who blithely claim their actions are constitutional without benefit of a law degree or deep knowledge of Constitutional theory or history. We have members who micromanage healthcare decisions for the American public who have neither medical degrees nor published papers in the healthcare economics literature.  So where is this necessity for experience when so many of the incumbents seems personally satisfied with on-the-job training?
How much experience does one need to vote on bills without reading them, as most sitting members do? 
In 2010, throughout the country, dozens of anti-incumbent ads talked about Democratic incumbents who “vote 99% of the time with Nancy Pelosi.” How much experience is required to simply do what one is told? The same 99% figure won’t be used with regard to current House Speaker, John Boehner, since the Tea Party GOP freshmen are, for the first time in a long time, standing up even to their own party structure. Many Americans think that is a good thing, but it is likely harmed by “experience,” and certainly experience is not a pre-requisite.
Might a principled commitment to less government substitute for experience? After all, one does not need to be an expert in the automotive industry to determine the Constitution affords no grounds for the government to run it.
It was argued last cycle in Delaware we just can’t vote for someone who claims she was once a witch. Yet for years we’ve voted for incumbents who seem to think they are wizards…