Thursday, January 14, 2010

Obama, the Scourge of the Constitution

By Alan Caruba

Barack Obama taught a University of Chicago Law School course on the U.S. Constitution. In response to inquiries during the campaign, the school released the following statement:

“He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.”

Presumably, he knows something about the Constitution, but that has not prevented him from ignoring parts of it that he finds inconvenient and undermining others.

Putting aside the controversy over his actual place of birth which would render him ineligible to be President, his latest effort to ignore the Constitution comes in the form of a proposed “financial crisis responsibility fee” to be imposed, according to Fox News, on “roughly 50 firms (that) will be subject to the fees, which will apply only to banks, insurers, and investment houses with assets in excess of $50 billion.”

“Significantly,” noted the Fox article, “the administration will exempt General Motors, Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the fees even though most of the current TARP deficit is linked to taxpayer bailouts of these firms.” It is worth noting that General Motors and Chrysler owe $66 billion of the total and the insurance conglomerate, AIG, owes about $70 billion. While the government is, for all intents and purposes, owns GM and Chrysler, the real winner in the bailout bonanza is the United Auto Workers.

I am not a constitutional scholar, but among my friends is an attorney and former judge, Lionel Waxman, who writes one of the liveliest blogs on the Internet, “Flashpoint.” As he noted in a recent post, “I cut Obama no slack on his ignorance of the Constitution. He was a law professor for Pete’s sake. He taught the stuff.”

“Here’s where he runs merrily athwart the Constitution,” said Waxman. “The equal protection clause has been ruled as prohibiting singling out some people for different (treatment) by law than others similarly situated. That’s exactly what he is doing. Article 1, Section 10, rules out issuing writs of attainder.”

Here’s a definition: BILL OF ATTAINDER, legislation, punishment.
1. An act of the legislature by which one or more persons are declared to be attainted, and their property confiscated.
2. The Constitution of the United States declares that no state shall pass any bill of attainder.

Wikipedia notes that, during the Revolutionary War, bills of attainder, and ex post facto acts of confiscation, were passed to a wide extent. The evils resulting from them, in times of more cool reflection, were discovered to have far outweighed any imagined good. As a result, the authors of the Constitution ensured that such writs of attainder could not be issued by the federal government.

Waxman advises me that the prohibition against Bills of Attainder did not bind the States at the time of the Revolution. It was not extended to the States until the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1866, whereupon it was held to be one of the privileges and immunities which the States were then bound not to abridge.

What makes the President’s proposal even more outrageous is that the banks he seeks to punish are guilty of nothing more than obeying federal laws that required them to make loans to borrowers that, under normal banking standards, would never have qualified for them. The law is the Community Reinvestment Act and it is one of the primary causes, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for the implosion of the housing mortgage market.

Adding to the outrage are the exemptions noted above and the fact that the banks in question have all repaid the TARP money they were literally forced to take!

This President wants to punish banks and other financial institutions for obeying the law! He wants to extract monies from them as a means to reducing the present federal debt, elements of which he voted for. There is no talk whatever of returning the unspent “Stimulus” bill funds to the Treasury towards this end.

Obama is becoming the scourge of the Constitution.

His healthcare “reform” bill, major portions of which no one has seen to date, is unconstitutional on several counts, not the least of which is the way it exempts the entire State of Nebraska or extends special provisions to the State of Florida, thus requiring the other States to unfairly pick up the slack.

This is a President who, through his Attorney General, is extending the protection of the U.S. Constitution to admitted enemy combatants! This is an offense to the 9/11 victims and all Americans past and present for whom the document represents hard won freedoms.

At what point will the ruling party in Congress, the Democrats, begin to resist these attacks on the Constitution? At what point will the Republicans take off the gloves? At what point can we expect the President to cease his attacks upon it?

If ever there were grounds for impeachment, these and other actions by the President are mounting evidence for such an action.


Anonymous said...

"...a deeply flawed document."

Obama is a deeply flawed, and extremely dangerous individual.

Travis sez said...

This empty suit pretender seems to pay no attention to the trivial fact that taxes can only be initiated in the House of Representatives, Article 1, Section 8. In his imperial manner, he just calls his special meetings outside the purview of C-Span and the minority party and proposes new taxes, after meeting with AFL, SEIU, and the other union bosses. Mr. Brown is looking good in MA. Good article, Alan.

Eddy said...

How about taxing Health Insurance Policies, unless you belong to a Union. How's that about discriminatory treatment!!!

Guy said...

Constitution? What's that?

Rich Kozlovich said...


Another great commentary! Recently I ran an article called, “Methodologies! What Are They?”

This was written as a result of a TV show that outlined the greedy business practices that caused the financial mess the world is facing. However, they kept leaving out the most important component of the story as to what prompted and promoted that greed. The Community Reinvestment Act! The government forced them into this based on a false premise.

(please see my article, “Sub-Prime Pest Control” )

Once these companies signed on to that scam it was "in for a dime, in for a dollar and in forever."

accounting guy said...

I don't know. This is tax law and not a constitutional issue. IRS tax law is filled with examples like this. I don't even know this and I have an MBA.

I mean, think about all the special taxes on the petroleum industry. They are the only ones that have to pay some of these taxes. I suspect that the industry would have challenged the constitutionality of these industry specific taxes by now if there was any chance of undoing these onerous taxes. It is quite common for Congress to push social agendas throw tax policy.

Tax court is ultimately under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Some legal case would have come to the Supreme Court by now to over turn industry specific taxes.

I get a tax credit for my son's day care expenses. People without day care expenses don't get that credit. I don't want my credit taken away just because the banks are whining a little bit.

And think what would happen if they undid the Reagan tax cuts! Oh, that would cause some damage.

For the most part the banks have profited from Bush and Obama's bailouts by investing in the market and gambling in derivatives, . It seems reasonable for tax payers to want a percentage back from their gains. We, the People funded their gains and kept the "too big to fail" companies afloat, afterall.

Alan Caruba said...

Accounting guy, you're looking for logic and fairness when it comes to tax laws and you're expecting the Supreme or a lower court to act in a similar fashion, but it does not work that way. The SC has often rendered extraordinarily bad decisions, including Dred Scott and the more recent judgement that EPA could regulate CO2 as a pollutant. These are human institutions and subject to error. As to taxes, they are too often putative and coercise.

Anonymous said...

"This is tax law and not a constitutional issue."

Such broad brush strokes, accounting guy. Careful you don't white out what needs to be highlighted.