Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Is an Executive Order?

On Thursday, February 18, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order to create a bipartisan debt commission to address ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. President Obama signed this order after a proposal to create such a commission failed in Congress. Executive orders allow the President to circumvent Congress to implement various policies. In fact, Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications director, recently said, [t}he challenges we had to address in 2009 ensured that the center of action would be in Congress. In 2010, executive actions will also play a key role in advancing the agenda” (emphasis mine). President Obama has used executive orders 43 times in his presidency thus far to order action ranging from closing the Guantanamo Bay prison to establishing a Council of Governors (NOTE: links are PDFs and may take more time to load). In recent administrations, President George W. Bush issued 248 executive orders, and President Bill Clinton issued 364 executive orders.

What is the precedence for a President using executive order? The Constitution does not specifically extend such power to the President. Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 states, “[t]he Executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America”. While executive orders have been used since 1789, the basis for such usage is thought to have originated from the Mississippi v. Johnson Supreme Court decision. This decision suggested that the President performs two general types of tasks: ministerial and discretionary. Executive orders are a means of a President executing his or her ministerial duties. The guidelines for executive orders were clarified by the Youngstown Steel Sheet Tube Co. v. Sawyer Supreme Court decision. This court decision stated that executive orders must not be used to create law, but only to act upon a law or the Constitution.

Executive orders have been used extensively by both Republican and Democratic administrations. They have been used for controversial and noble reasons alike. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 was used to promote the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. One executive order under President Eisenhower led to the desegregation of public schools. Executive orders have also been issued by consecutive administrations to nullify the executive order of the previous administration. Though not by executive order, President Clinton rescinded what is widely known as the Mexico City Policy, a policy instituted by President Reagan that prevented any federal funding from going to foreign countries for abortion services. When President Bush took office, he issued an executive order that re-instituted the Mexico City policy. Last year, when President Obama took office, he issued an executive order rescinding President Bush’s executive order which once again allowed taxpayer money to fund foreign abortions (NOTE: links are PDFs and may take more time to load).

While individuals of all political stripes can recognize the subjective good and bad that has resulted from executive orders, we as Americans should be vigilant and attentive to what executive orders are stating. We must view their words and subsequent effects as Constitutional or non-Constitutional rather than Right or Left.

Crossposted here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Does a Recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision Tangle the Branches of Government?

At the beginning of February, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down a decision deeming caps on medical malpractice lawsuit awards unconstitutional. This allows juries to have free rein to award any monetary value that they see fit to a person who sues a doctor for medical malpractice. This decision has potential health care implications including higher medical malpractice insurance premiums for physicians which often subsequently mean higher costs for patients. Additionally, this decision sets a dangerous precedence that may allow the Illinois Supreme Court to legislate from the bench. Specifically, the summary of the judicial opinion stated, “[i]n this decision, the supreme court reversed as unnecessary the circuit court’s judgment holding the statute unconstitutional as applied, but affirmed the finding that, under the Illinois Constitution, the statute is facially invalid on separation of powers grounds.”

The Illinois state constitution states that the jurisdiction of the Illinois Supreme Court is to “exercise original jurisdiction in cases relating to revenue, mandamus, prohibition or habeas corpus and as may be necessary to the complete determination of any case on review.” In layman’s terms, this means that the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to review cases regarding taxation, overturning a lower court’s decision (mandamus), prohibition as determined by the Constitution, and protection of unlawfully imprisoned individuals (habeas corpus).

While the court opinion seems within the court’s jurisdiction to overturn a lower court’s opinion, it seems as if they are outside their bounds by, as they stated in their summary opinion, that “the statute is facially invalid on separation of powers grounds” (Article 2). Essentially, they are stating that the Court should be able to determine the laws of medical malpractice suits. Legislative powers are not given to the judicial branch, but to the legislative branch as stated in Article IV, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution, “ [t]he legislative power is vested in the legislative branch”. The term, legislative, means that a certain entity has the right to make laws. Such legislative powers to make laws are given only to the legislative branch of the Illinois government.

While the Supreme Court decision states that limiting medical malpractice claims is “invalid on separation of powers grounds”, their decision seems to do just the opposite. Rather than appropriately reviewing legislation and the effects of such legislation, this decision ultimately allows the judicial branch to write the medical malpractice law by stating that there cannot be caps on such insurance. What is to say that the judicial branch cannot then decide what other laws or regulations may be? For example, with the precedence of this decision, the judicial branch may also have the “power” to determine the fine or prison time for anyone breaking an Illinois law, when such determinations are really left to be made by the legislative branch. The judicial branch, as all branches of government, must act within the power given to it by the Constitution. When one branch acts beyond its power, the branches of our government become tangled.

Crossposted here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wearing Christ

I wrote this for my church's bulletin a few months ago, but I realize I need the reminder today:

I recently started wearing a cross necklace simply as a physical reminder to me of my faith. Sometimes, though, I take the necklace off when it doesn’t look right with the neckline of my clothing. I wonder if I do the same thing in the spiritual sense too. Do I “take off” Christ when I don’t think He looks right in a certain situation? Do I not always live boldly for Christ because I’m concerned about others’ opinions?

God’s Word tells us that when we were baptized, we became “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). We don’t make the choice as to whether or not we wear Christ. We are clothed with Christ! An athlete wears a jersey with his or her team name on the front of it. They are representing that team by clothing themselves with that jersey. As Christians, we are representing Christ by wearing Him. We are to live our lives as He would have us to live, as we are part of His “team”.

As members of His team, we are to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). These are the “articles” of Christ are not to be worn only when it is convenient or safe. We are to wear Christ proudly no matter the circumstances.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln!


February 12 marks the 201st birthday of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln governed our nation during arguably the most domestically tumultuous time in our nation's history. In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln delivered one of the most famous presidential speeches in American history--the Gettysburg Address. On November 18, 1863, President Lincoln dedicated the Soliders' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania giving the following address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The picture shown above is the only known picture of Abraham Lincoln at the cemetery dedication (President Lincoln is spot shadowed in the photo). Historians suggest that photographer David Bachrach was prepared for President Lincoln to give a longer speech, as the previous speaker, Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State, had given a two hour speech. However, President Lincoln had perhaps heeded the words of Founding Father and former President, Thomas Jefferson, who said, " [t]he most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one word would suffice". One of the most famous and memorable speeches in American history took only a few minutes to deliver, yet its message has resonated with Americans for nearly 150 years.

For more information on President Lincoln, see <<here>>and <<here>>.

Crossposted here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unkosher State Spending

With Governor Quinn's budget address on the horizon and the state deficit estimated at $11 billion (pdf file-allow time for download), one would think that the state would tighten its belt and rid itself of wasteful spending. However, as a study published by the Illinois Policy Institute and Citizens against Government Waste on February 9th shows, $350 million could have been saved in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget by cutting out "porky spending". See <<here>> (pdf file - allow time for download) for the entire study.

As highlighted by the study, here are a few examples of the wasteful spending the Illinois government is engaging in during this fiscal year:

  • $17,691, 700 for "employability development" with no criteria for program eligibility or means of measuring the success of such problems.
  • Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on conservancy projects including $104, 271 for the Nature Conservancy, an organization that has $4.6 billion in assets and would be able to fund themselves.
  • Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on horse racing tracks including nearly $24 million for the Arlington International Race Course.
  • Various private sector transportation companies are receiving taxpayer dollars. Among these disbursements are a $28 million subsidy for Amtrak, more than $1 million for Boeing, and more than $33 million dollars to the Regional Transport Authority (which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and suburban bus services) to subsidize reduced fares.
  • 2.38 million dollars of state monies were given to the Illinois AFL-CIO and its outreach program. The AFL-CIO is a federation of national and international labor unions.
Crossposted here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Governor Palin's Tea Party Zingers

Short for Ordinary has put together a great montage of excerpts from Governor Palin's speech at the National Tea Party Convention on Saturday. This montage is complete with Batman fight scenes (the TV series, not the movies). While conservatives stand firmly on the platform of limited government, strong national security, and the sanctity of life, I contend that conservative women add an additional plank to the platform: sarcasm. This was on full display in Governor Palin's speech. Enjoy! :

By the way, aren't their tea flavors that are "zingers"?

Cross posted here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

If Only All Revolutionary/ Constitutional History Was Put to Music

I ran across the video posted below this week. The song that is used in the video was popular a few years ago, but re-written to fit the theme of the revolutionary history:

I'm reminded of the good ol' Schoolhouse Rock videos that I used to see in elementary school. Hey, you may laugh, but I have the Preamble memorized because of it:

It may be sad, but perhaps if we set the revolutionary and constitutional history of our country to music, we would be standing on better footing than we currently are.

Dialogue not Debate

The minister at my church concluded a series of sermons on truth this past Sunday with his final lesson on "speaking the truth". He began by discussing how there are three subjects that are often seen as taboo in America: money, politics, and religion. Two of those subjects happen to be my favorite to talk about! Oops. I think that the reason these subjects are seen as taboo is because they often lead to heated debate and anger. Sometimes, such discussions ruin relationships. People's religious beliefs and political opinions cut at the heart of who they are, and when those beliefs and opinions are challenged or derided, it can be hurtful.

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you have strong political beliefs of some sort. Those espoused political ideologies could theoretically range from totalitarianism to anarchy, but are more than likely somewhere in between. When we discuss such ideology with others, what do we do? Do we get angry when they disagree with us? Do we pretend to listen to their opinions only waiting until we can talk ourselves? Do we share our opinions with conviction and listen to the opinions of others intently? I hope that we do that last option. We need a dialogue not a debate when it comes to politics. This applies to all of us: politicians, political staffers, campaign workers, grassroots activists, political junkies, and those of us who may only have a passing interest in politics.

There is a lot on the minds of those interested in politics in these times: legislative policy, presidential agenda, primary elections, political speeches, endorsements, PAC and campaign contributions, and politically focused non-partisan organizations. All of these engender a strong response from us. Strong responses are good; it means that we have opinions are built upon deep-seated principles and well thought out viewpoints. However, it may also make us prone to debate and argument rather than dialogue. My mom always said when I was growing up, "God gave us two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk". By definition, a dialogue means that two people talk, and two people listen.

I don't mean that we are supposed to be pushovers or that we aren't supposed to be vocal in our opinions. In fact, sometimes we're too timid, fearing that we may be misunderstood or seen as radical. Let us be passionate and principled not pushy. Let us be bold but not brash. Let us be intrepid but not insulting. Let us have a dialogue not debate.

Crossposted here.