Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 5, 2013

Stop trampling constitutional rights and focus on improving economy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week insisted that “we are in a recovery,” and blasted Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for disparaging the economy’s performance. The drop in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter is the Republicans’ fault, he said, citing their austerity and brinkmanship. “Growth went down in the fourth quarter because of reduced government spending,” he said. “The economy was rejecting the austerity and brinkmanship.”

Well, if Sen. Reid is correct and the economy is recovering, things must be better than when President Obama took office prior to the recession ending. Let’s take a look.

On the positive side, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is bumping up against its all-time high mark of 14,164, and has regained the losses from the financial crisis.

However, since January of 2009 until just before the election last November the number of long-term unemployed had risen from 2.7 million to 4.8 million; the price of gasoline had more than doubled; there were 40 states with high unemployment compared to 22 in 2009; median household income was down 7 percent; mortgage delinquencies were up by 60 percent; the Misery Index was up 25 percent; and the National Debt had increased by 53 percent.

Today there are 1.2 million fewer jobs in America than there were then, and the number of Americans on food stamps has increased from 32 million to 46 million. The amount of money that the federal government gives directly to Americans has increased by 32 percent since 2009.

And the most recent economic news in addition to the news that for the first time since 2009 the U.S. GDP was in negative territory in the fourth quarter is that consumer confidence plunged in January to its lowest level in a year, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent for January.

Is this what Sen. Reid thinks a recovery looks like?

Actually, this is what happened to the economy because Barack Obama avoided dealing with the things that really needed attention — the economy, jobs, energy independence, etc. — and instead wasted all of his four years playing with less-critical issues like health care, killing the coal industry, sending guns to Mexican drug dealers, wasting billions on a failed economic stimulus, and flushing money down the green energy toilet.

As the president’s second term begins it is remarkable to observe the high degree of outright revolt among the states and the people over government actions and proposed actions under Mr. Obama’s watch, highlighted by the feeling of a majority of Americans in a new poll that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. Fifty-three percent of 1,502 adults surveyed from January 9-13 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press responded that government is now a threat to their freedom.

Twenty-seven states are balking over the Affordable Care Act on constitutionality and budgetary grounds, and have sued the government. Provisions of the law threaten to blow states’ Medicaid expenses through the roof.

Forty-three Catholic groups have sued the government on religious freedom grounds. The Affordable Care Act forces them to provide services to their employees that violate their religious tenets, in contravention of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.

And perhaps worse, as the details of what was in the bill that no one read before voting on it leak out, we are learning of taxes and increased costs. The measure requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the IRS tells us the cheapest plan will cost a family $20,000 a year.

“We found that about three quarters of again, whatever you want to call them — taxes, fines, penalties — about three quarters of those costs will fall on the backs of those who make less than $120,000 a year. It’s a big punch in the stomach to middle class families,” economist Steven Moore of The Wall Street Journal said. This is what passes for “affordable” to Democrat leaders.

A more serious revolt against federal initiatives results from talk of imposing a ban on assault weapons. A number of county sheriffs are refusing to assist the feds on banned weapons initiatives from the administration and Congress on constitutional grounds, should a weapons ban be put into effect.

Many law enforcement officials have written letters expressing their positions on proposed bans, and one county sheriff noted that not only does every sheriff takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution, but federal agents also take that oath, and he believes they won’t enforce the bans, either.

Despite the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act that punishes those it was supposed to help, and the brewing constitutional crisis over banning weapons instead of addressing the root cause of mass killings, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats go merrily along, trampling on whoever and whatever gets in their way.

We expect our government to be responsive to our wishes, and the unprecedented level of opposition to these two issues ought to command the attention of those in leadership positions, and cause them to re-evaluate the unpopular course they are following.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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