Thursday, January 22, 2015

Supreme Court Agrees to Define Marriage

I should perhaps mention the libertarian perspective here.  Conservatives find much libertarian thought congenial and they might find the libertarian perspective on marriage helpful as well in a legal environment that is hostile to the traditional view of marriage.

Libertarians think governments should butt out of involvement with marriages altogether. Libertarians hold the view (And I know some who have put it into practice) that marriage is simply an agreement between two people and that such an agreement or contract may be whatever suits the couple concerned.  The contract could be formalty registered as a contract in some way and then it would be just another contract under normal contract law.  And two homosexuals could obviously make contracts with one another.

But people have always wanted heavy social recognition of such contracts and that is where churches, mosques or temples have always figured prominently.  So a traditional marriage is basically a religious occasion.  And until about a century ago, church records were the only formal records we had of who had married whom.  Libertarians ask:  Can that be so hard to go back to?  The traditional nature of such arrangements should be attractive to conservatives.

And churches can of course have different views about who gets their blessings.  Episcopalians would probably marry dogs if asked and Catholics won't marry divorced people.  But that is just part of the rich texture of society and as long as nothing is forced upon us, let people go to hell in their own way (As Elizabeth I once said to the King of Spain).

So ALL marriage laws should be abolished and replaced by contracts that can  be solemnized in any way that can be agreed on by the parties concerned.


For Americans who maintain that marriage is between one man and one woman, gear up for the next battle. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it had agreed to hear cases regarding same-sex marriage. Given the track record of activist judges on the High Court, we are not overly optimistic the justices will rule in favor of the third pillar of Liberty.

In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases from five states seeking to preserve their lawful, voter-approved definitions of marriage. By choosing not to take on those cases, the Supreme Court left in place lower court rulings overturning laws on same-sex marriage.

And two years ago, the Supreme Court tossed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that the federal government is bound to recognize same-sex marriages from states in which they are legal. The justices did not, however, go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a right – yet.

The result of that decision led to most of the lower courts striking down numerous state bans on same-sex marriage.

There was one exception: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Judge Jeffrey Sutton said in that ruling it was not the place of the courts to decide such an important social issue. What a novel concept. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

Given the split among the circuit courts, it was almost certain the Supreme Court would step in to settle the dispute.

It’s worth noting the timing of the Court’s announcement. There is growing capitulation among Republicans on the issue, and the party’s candidates offered little debate over marriage during the campaign season. The GOP’s new congressional majorities are occupied with other agenda items. Should the Supreme Court rule to redefine marriage (as many political pundits presume it will), the GOP could be further divided on this issue leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Regardless of whether the Supreme Court discovers a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, any Republican candidate who has or continues to oppose same-sex marriage will be portrayed as a bigot. But a Court ruling could move the needle further. There will also be many potential candidates who would argue that, since the Court ruled, the matter is settled.

On the other hand, there could also be ample opportunity for candidates to stand firmly on principle. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review notes, “If the Supreme Court does issue such a ruling, Republicans in the presidential primaries will be under a bit more pressure to say that they back a constitutional amendment reversing the decision and to say explicitly that they’ll appoint justices who don’t tend to agree with that sort of decision.”

Aside from the political fallout for the GOP from a Supreme Court decision that is presumed to side with the homosexual agenda, the greater impact will be on the people. A majority of voters in a majority of states have said that marriage is a sacred institution that does not change at the whim of progressive lobbyists and activist judges. Their voice will have been rejected.

And don’t think for a moment that a ruling redefining marriage will have no impact on churches and religious liberty in America. If the Supreme Court can redefine marriage, then is that same Supreme Court not powerful enough to impose its will on those who preach, teach and believe that the only true marriage is that between one man and one woman? Where does it end? Bakers, florists and photographers are already under assault – just wait until same-sex marriage is a “constitutional right.”

America had better wake up, because regardless of which way the Court rules the issue of what constitutes marriage isn’t going away any time soon.



The case against annual health insurance contracts

In Australia, health insurance is bought by individuals dealing directly with insurance companies, all of which are private businesses.  Having insurance tied to your employer is virtually unknown. And once you buy a health insurance policy, the policy stays current for as long as you pay your monthly premiums  -- unto death even. So permanent insurance can be done.  And health insurance in Australia is much more affordable than in the USA.

The new U.S. Congress—and the American public—will be hearing numerous ideas for improving the healthcare system, including several spelled out in publications such as Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman’s Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis and Healthcare Solutions for Post-Obamacare America. But one of the most badly needed reforms may be so obvious that, paradoxically, we usually overlook it. That reform, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham, is for the United States “to move beyond the ‘Heliocentric Doctrine’ of health insurance, whereby patients and insures switch dance partners every January 1.”

“This nonsensical Heliocentric Doctrine is enshrined in employer-based plans, Obamacare exchange plans, and Medicare plans,” Graham writes in the Daily Caller. Not only is the practice of tying most insurance plans to the calendar year completely arbitrary, but it can lead to costly absurdities. Graham makes this point with a hypothetical example of two brothers—identical twins—both diagnosed with a genetically caused cancer in the second half of last year. Their medical histories are exactly alike in every relevant way except one: one of them incurred medical expenses stemming from a skiing accident in the first half of the year, leading him to reach his out-of-pocket limits earlier than the other. This difference can result in the brothers paying wildly different costs for their cancer treatments. But it doesn’t have to be this way—not if we drop the Heliocentric Doctrine of health insurance.

“In other countries where private health insurance dominates, with Switzerland being the prime example, no one tolerates this absurdity,” Graham continues. “Instead, patients and insurers have contracts that last multiple year, and each are rewarded for good behavior during the long term. This type of health insurance is especially effective for very sick people with lots of illnesses, who would no longer have to worry about losing their doctors because of having to choose a new plan every year.”



Liberals Push Dental Coverage for All, Health Insurance for Illegals--And More

 At a time when Republicans are trying to roll back certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (if not the entire law), a liberal advocacy group is looking ahead to the next round of taxpayer-subsidized health care "reform."

Families USA says the ACA was a good start, but it has now outlined 19 specific proposals "to improve health care for everyone in our nation."

The plan, called Health Reform 2.0, would "improve coverage and extend care."

That means making dental coverage universally available; reducing cost-sharing, with low-cost, low-deductible plans; expanding Medicaid in every state; getting rid of fee-for-service care; enabling "public payers" (the government) to set prescription drug prices; and stopping hospital mergers and other "uncompetitive" provider consolidations that can drive up prices.

Health care for illegal immigrants

"One other coverage matter demands attention: the uninsured status of American immigrants," says Health Reform 2.0.

"At a time when Congress refuses to consider pathways to citizenship and scorns administrative proposals that would enable people to stay in the country, practical proposals to secure health coverage for immigrants are elusive.

"However, immigrants -- who often fill key jobs that disproportionately place them in harm's way -- should be able to obtain necessary health care. We must ensure that immigrants can receive health coverage so that they can get the care they need."

Families USA said the Affordable Care Act granted every legal resident the "right to health coverage," which it calls a "historic achievement."

"However, enacting this unprecedented legal right is not the same as making it a living reality. We must take additional steps to ensure that health coverage and care become concrete realities for everyone. In Health Reform 2.0, we identify the steps necessary to transform America’s health care system to ensure that all Americans are able to get the high-quality care they need, when they need it, at an affordable price."

The nonprofit group says in the years ahead, it will start building support for its radical proposals to speed their adoption:

"The time is right to promote this forward-looking agenda. Since meaningful social change does not occur overnight and is never easy, we must lay the groundwork now for the essential goals that lie ahead. It is in this spirit that we offer our call to action, Health Reform 2.0."

Families USA, aided in 2013 by a $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, collects "personal health care stories" of people who have benefited from Obamacare, then distributes those stories to the media.



Controversy builds at U.S. consumer protection bureau

The arrogance of America's  mainly Leftist bureaucracy on display

Costly building renovations at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are raising more congressional concerns that the agency is out of control.

A government report pegs the price of the work at $210 million — $120 million more than initial estimates, with off-site leasing costs included.

“That’s more per square foot than the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas,” said John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And, critics add, CFPB doesn’t even own the building.

The Office of Inspector General for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board found that “approval of funding for the renovation was not in accordance with the CFPB’s current policies for major investment.”

“A sound business case is not available to support the funding of the renovation,” the OIG concluded.

Lawmakers have mocked the project, which includes a glass staircase, concession kiosk and a ‘water wall’ ending in a splash pool.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray countered: “We don’t own the building, but the notion we are building some kind of palace is ridiculous.”

Cordray acknowledged, however, that he did not know the square footage of the office located near the White House. Still, the project lives.

The building battle is an ironic twist for the 4-year-old CFPB, whose website declares, “We want to help consumers make smarter decisions.”

“They say they need sensitive mortgage and credit card data to do their job,” said Berlau. “No other agency has this power — they’re rivaling the National Security Agency.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, made the agency “unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress.”

“We’re seeing the results of this dangerous unaccountability today in a Washington bureaucracy that is running amok, spending as much as it wants on whatever it wants,” the Texas Republican said.

Hensarling estimated that halting the renovation plans and finding a cheaper office would save the bureau about $100 million. He recommends that the government sell the building to the highest bidder.



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