Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rangel's Draft

Incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y has promised that he will introduce legislation calling for a military draft making men and women eligible for service, with no exemptions beyond health or reasons of conscience. The purpose appears to be more a matter of politics and social engineering than pragmatic national defense. Rangel said, “[T]his president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, […] if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way.” Maybe, maybe not.

Another reason he offers is that it is a matter of “fairness.” His website states, “As long as Americans are being shipped off to war, then everyone should be vulnerable, not just those who, because of economic circumstances, are attracted by lucrative enlistment bonuses and educational incentives.” For youngsters wary of rifles and crew cuts, Rangel would allow other forms of involuntary servitude: "[Y]oung people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals[.]" I know that I’d sleep a little easier knowing that our airports are being guarded by pissed-off teenagers who don’t want to be there.

Whatever the nature of the service, Rep. Rangel assumes that the government has preemptive claim over the lives of its citizens. From where does this assumption arise?

The Constitution does give Congress power “to raise and support armies…” in Article I, section 8, clause 12. But as Constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar points out: “By itself, the authority to ‘raise’ armies in clause 12 no more naturally grants Congress the power to conscript soldiers than does clause 1’s authority to ‘lay and collect Taxes [and] Duties’ grant Congress the power to draft tax collectors and customs officers; nor does clause 9’s authority to ‘constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court’ grant Congress the power to conscript judges and bailiffs; nor does clause 13’s authority to ‘provide and maintain a navy’ grant it the power to engage in the odious practice of impressment (to compel a person to serve in the military).” Perhaps the great statesman Daniel Webster put it more eloquently when, arguing against a draft for the War of 1812, he said, “Where is it written in the Constitution, […] that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children[?]”

Before some of you accuse me of being a “draft-dodging pinko,” let me just say that I voluntarily served six years as an infantry rifleman, and that I have every respect for our current volunteer military and the conscripted veterans of the past. If I was 18 again I would volunteer again, even if it meant deployment to Iraq. But if I had been drafted, I would have introduced my draft notice to my trusty Zippo lighter. A government that views its young people as property of the state isn’t worth fighting for. Conscription is a statist slap in the face of freedom-loving Americans. Let's hope Rangel's bill goes down in flames.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Raise this!

Here in Iowa the Democrats have retaken the legislature in Des Moines, just as they have in D.C., and at both levels they have promised to raise the minimum wage. Currently the national minimum is $5.15 an hour. I believe $7.25 is the new figure that at least some of the Dems are kicking around. I didn’t want to have to write about the minimum wage because , like most Americans, economics kind of bores me. But our local Iowa media have been running stories on the subject that have been about as balanced as Teddy Kennedy on his way from the pub to his car. So, since the news media aren’t even going to feign objectivity and instead resume their familiar role as cheerleaders for the new Democrat majorities, here goes:

Of course the big reason to oppose raising at least the federal minimum wage (or even having one at all) is because the federal government has no Constitutional authority to impose one. The first minimum wage was established in 1933 as part of the FDR’s “National Industrial Recovery Act.” Two years later the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional, abolishing the minimum wage in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S. But FDR and the New Deal Democrats weren’t about to let a little thing like the U.S. Constitution get in their way. They reauthorized the minimum wage and the Supreme Court, cowed by FDR’s threat to “pack the court” with new appointees, later reversed its own ruling. While the Supreme Court may waffle before a tyrannical president, the Constitution does not. It gives Congress NO power to set wage and price controls of any kind. Period.

That is probably not an effective argument these days, after the neo-con Republicans have helped the Dems throw the last few spades full of dirt on the 10th Amendment’s shallow grave, so let me try another. Raising the minimum wage will not help the nation’s working poor. I could argue that if the Dems truly wanted to help the working poor they should raise the minimum wage not to $7.25 but to $15.47 an hour (a nice arbitrary number, just like they like).

Even supporters of raising the minimum wage could deduce that at $15.47 an hour many small businesses, and even many large ones, would feel a hit on their bottom line. Business would therefore have to either hire fewer workers (which would hurt the working poor), lay off some workers (which would hurt the working poor), outsource more work overseas (which would hurt the working poor), and/or raise their prices (which would hurt all consumers including… the working poor). Even if a minimum wage earner was able to find a job and keep it after the wage goes up, the prices he has to pay for every good and service he buys would go up. Therefore the purchasing power of his new wage would end up being pretty similar to what it was before his big “raise,” rendering the whole exercise pointless. If that logic is true at $15.47 and we begin to look back down the pay scale, perhaps one of you Democrats can tell me at what exact dollar amount that logic ceases to exist.

Also, to use a well-worn quote from the left, “for the good of the children” we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 accounted for 53 percent of all minimum wage-earners in 2005. David Neumark, professor of economics at Michigan State University, and William Wascher, a researcher with the Federal Reserve, found that increasing the minimum wage decreases the proportion of teenagers enrolled in school, as the higher wage makes leaving school appear more attractive. Throughout their lives these new dropouts will earn lower wages than their classmates who stayed in school. I guess in the Democrats eyes that’s probably a good thing. It will create more working poor that the Dems can “help,” in exchange for a vote of course.