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Friday, September 05, 2003

Getting the Point on Liberty & the Constitution...
plus the FMA is just plain 'ol unAmerican

Tony Adragna
My all-time favourite political character — that great gentleman fromt the state of Wyoming, Sen. Alan Simpson — wrote an exceptionally good op-ed that appears in today's WaPo. He makes three solid points
1. Federalizing regulation of marriage is anti-federalist: "In our system of government, laws affecting family life are under the jurisdiction of the states, not the federal government...

As someone who is basically a conservative, I see not an argument about banning marriage or "defending" families but rather a power grab. Conservatives argue vehemently about federal usurpation of other issues best left to the states, such as abortion or gun control. Why would they elevate this one to the federal level?"
The "why" is because the FMA's proponents see no other way to stop the ban on same-sex marriages from being found unconstitutional by the federal courts, where advocates of same-sex marriage took the fight. But why did same-sex couples take this fight to the courts? Could it be because marriage, absent the political question of legislated benefits, implicates fundamental rights? If so, then is the majority's want, expressed at the ballot box or through representatives, the final answer to Liberty's call? That brings me to Sen. Simpson's second objection
2) The FMA is anti-Liberty: "[I]t is surely not the tradition in this country to try to amend the Constitution in ways that constrict liberty. All of our amendments have been designed to expand the sphere of freedom, with one notorious exception: prohibition. We all know how that absurd federal power grab turned out."
Ah, tradition — where's Topol when I need him... Now, I'm not a traditionalist, so you've got to convince me that there's a good reason to not break from tradition. Here's a good one in the instant case: Amending the Constitution "in ways that constrict liberty" is't just anti-tradition, but also contra at least one of the Constitution's purposes — to "secure the Blessings of Liberty."

But, what about "promot[ing] the general Welfare", you ask? Isn't that a purpose? The answer is yes. And government attempts to do that by granting legislated rights & benefits to married couples & families are how that purpose is properly pursued [whether it's a fruitful pursuit is another matter]. And I'll concede that as a political question on the social policy benefits of granting benefits to same-sex couples the ban passes a toothless rational basis test. However, tf the government wants to regulate a fundamental right — an individual liberty — and if marriage is just such a right, then there's got to be a compelling interest and regulation narrowly tailored to that interest. The interest articulated by the FMA's proponents is the protection of marriage and families, but
3) Arguments for the FMA don't address what ails marriages: "As our country has gained honest and steady knowledge about homosexuality, we have learned that it is not a mental illness or a disease or a threat to our families. The real threats to family values are divorce, out-of-wedlock births and infidelity. We all know someone who is gay, and like all of us, gay men and women need to have their relationships recognized in some way. How are gay men and women to be expected to build stable, loving relationships as all of us try to do, when American society refuses to recognize the relationships?"
Indeed, why should gay men & women even aspire to that institution our straight brothers & sisters already ruined... Seriously, how is banning same-sex marriage the indicated cure for a plague of "divorce, out-of-wedlock births and infidelity" in heterosexual relationships [and how effective have legislated rights & benefits been at the same task]? I've still not heard a good answer to this question I've been asking for at least two years.

Sen. Simpson's last graf
To reach the best understanding, the debate over gay men and women in America should focus not on what drives us apart but on how to make all of our children -- straight or gay -- feel welcome in this land, their own American home.
Exactly! And it's that "focus" I find most offensive in the FMA — it wants to write into our national charter, and on the basis of external differences, a justification for treating me as separate and unequal...

p.s.: My Blog Ate My Homework! The above was drafted much earlier today, and the earlier draft was probably better, but was lost somewqhere in the ether...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

My thoughts on Labor

Tony Adragna
So, what have I been thinking about? Certainly not 'bout the price of tea in China. Though, I'm quite sure that some folks might find their way clear to a perfectly reasonable stance that we oughtn't allow the import of Chinese tea — that, too, must hurt American workers somehow.

I understand what Labor is trying to do vis a vis opposition to NAFTA & other free trade agreements — the labor & environmental protections they want to see in those agreements are all about taking away the incentives to moving manufacturing jobs overseas. It's about job protectionism for U.S. labor.

Now, I do think we've got two good reasons for wanting to maintain a strong manufacturing sector in the U.S. — we want to be able to export goods, and we want the capacity to provide for ourselves at times when we aren't able to import. But it seems to me that throwng up barriers to foreign competition & subsidizing uncompetitive domestic operations isn't the answer to the problem.

Instead of imposing tariffs on foreign steel & propping up domestic producers who can't compete against legal trade,[pdf, pg 3 para 2 et seq] we should be finding ways to reduce overcapacity & promote efficiency.

'Course, that's not how you protect jobs...

And I won't dispute that unions may serve an interest that I think important — protecting worker's from abusive practices is what the labor movement was about at its begin, and where its focus ought still be today. So, I've no problem with Labor advocating for better working conditions & pay in China or Mexico or wherever.

But, when Labor dresses up domestic job protectionism in the guise of concern for foreign labor, my cynicdar starts beeping.

What got me thinking on this topic was this past Labor Day's Washington Journal segment that boiled down to a discussion between "rights at work" and a "right to work". Perversely, the Labor folks seem less interested in protecting the individual worker's rights, than they are in protecting "collective rights"[if any such things exist].

For instance, a union may claim the right to bargain on behalf of all workers at a shop, notwithstanding that some workers may desire to represent themselves. And union dues may be compelled as a condition of employment, even if a person elects not to join the union. I'm not sure why this isn't a First Amendment "right of association" violation.

Instead of messing around with folks who don't need or want collective protections, why doesn't Labor focus its energies on folks who really do need some advocacy — minimum wage workers. I was upset, very, to hear the Labor representative get all realistic in not arguing for better than $6.65 an hour[pdf] — $13,832/yr [2080 hrs] — when the minimum wage question was raised. He settled without a fight.

Certainly, a buck fifty is probably the best that can be got out of the current political climate. But why not at least argue the merits of starting with a raise to where minimum wage ought be — $8.27 — if it had been indexed to inflation from the begin? Despite it probably not being a winning argument, it's still a discussion worth having to bring out the point that the minimum is and will still be something less than it was 30 years ago.

'Course, these minimum wage earners don't pay union dues...

That's all I've got to say 'bout that... been thinking on other things — the value of vision, the situation in Iraq, Califronia, etc — and I'll have more to say after I've thought through some more...

This break has been sponsored by the word "think"

Tony Adragna
Thinking... thinking... thinking...