Month: June 2012

The “Best Earthly Inheritance” Our Founders Bequeathed

Every July much is said by eloquent historians, civic and religious leaders, and—thanks to blogs and social media—Americans everywhere, about the Declaration of Independence, the meaning of the American Experiment, and the price of freedom. Independence Day is a moment to be grateful for the blessings of liberty and to remember the gifts many sacrificed so much to leave us.

But this year we also mark the 180th anniversary of the death in 1832 of the last surviving signer of the Declaration. Charles Carroll’s life spanned nearly a century. By the fiftieth anniversary of July 4, 1776, Carroll had outlived Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who both died on that day.

At the time of the signing, Charles Carroll was the wealthiest man in the American colonies. The risk he took in siding with the cause of independence was acknowledged to be substantial, both in material terms and in his social standing as one of the most prominent citizens of Maryland. In his book, Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary, biographer Scott McDermott recounts that when John Hancock asked Carroll to sign―and Carroll responded, “Most willingly”―a bystander commented, “There go a few millions.”

And just to make sure that everyone, including King George III, knew which of Maryland’s many Charles Carrolls was the signer, he proudly added the words “of Carrollton” (his Frederick County estate). Thus, history remembers him as “Charles Carroll of Carrollton.”

Carroll is unique among the signers for more than just his wealth. He was, in fact, ineligible to vote or to hold public office when he was chosen by the Maryland Convention as a delegate to Congress to approve the Declaration on its behalf. Maryland’s early Toleration Act granting religious freedom had been overturned in 1692, so Catholics could not vote, hold public office, worship in public, or freely educate their children in their faith.

Carroll’s participation in the War of Independence was motivated by his firm belief in natural law and rights, government by consent of the citizens, and freedom of religion. The Catholic minority in the British American colonies recognized in the cause of liberty the path to equality under law.

Carroll strongly supported and collaborated with George Washington during the war, influenced the crafting of the Maryland and the U.S. Constitutions, and served as the first senator from the new state of Maryland. His public life was long, and he was a giant figure through the early decades of the 19th century. Looked up to as an elder statesman and symbol of national unity, at his death, the Baltimore American called him “the last of the Romans”―a reference to the classical prototype of the generation who built the new but maturing Republic.

Charles Carroll’s brief testament to the America he would leave behind was written on a parchment copy of the Declaration, dated July 4, 1826. He wrote in the style of a man educated in the 18th century, but behind the formality is a stark humility and a simple message intended for today:

“Grateful to Almighty God for the blessing which, through Jesus Christ our Lord, he has conferred upon my beloved country, in her emancipation, and upon myself, in permitting me, under circumstances of mercy,…to survive the fiftieth year of American Independence, and certifying by my present signature my approbation of the Declaration of Independence adopted by Congress…, and of which I am now the last surviving signer, I do hereby recommend to the present and future generations the principles of that important document as the best earthly inheritance their ancestors could bequeath to them, and pray that the civil and religious liberties they have secured to my country may be perpetuated to the remotest posterity and extended to the whole family of man.”

This July 4th, as we celebrate our freedom and the legacy of each of America’s founders, let us also “remember Carroll’s sacred trust…and all [who slumber] with the just.”

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. A lover of history, she has traveled extensively to sites of historical and cultural significance throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. She is a graduate of the University of Portland and Kolbe Academy Home School.

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Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of ObamaCare – Not its Efficacy

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is constitutional means that Congress now has power to do virtually whatever it wants,” says Steve Buckstein, Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank. “But having the power to write health care rules and actually improving our health care system are two very different things.”

“By finding that the individual mandate cannot stand under the Commerce Clause, but can stand when looked at as a tax, the Court essentially seems to be telling Americans that while Congress cannot control every aspect of our behavior, it has virtually unlimited powers to tax us and spend the money as it sees fit.”

“Moving more control over health care to Washington, D.C. means that Oregonians, and citizens of every state, will have even less control over our own health care decisions. Big, centralized government systems mean higher costs, less access and less innovation in one of the most important areas of our lives,” Buckstein added.

Buckstein concluded that, “Now that the Court has failed to limit the role of the federal government in health care, it is up to Congress and the states to try to do so. The better chance for a lasting health care system fix involves empowering patients rather than marginalizing them. It involves giving them choices, and letting them do the inevitable rationing themselves, even if part of the money comes from public sources.

“Today’s Court decision was a step in the wrong direction, but Cascade Policy Institute will continue working to reaffirm that in America personal liberty is a cornerstone, not an afterthought, of our way of life.”

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Supreme Court Strikes Down ObamaCare Individual Mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court ObamaCare decision reinforces what British researcher John Spiers told Oregonians when he came here to study the Oregon Health Plan in 1999:

Political fixes in health care come unfixed fast.

They came unfixed for The Oregon Health Plan as pressure groups succeeded in eviscerating its rationing scheme, and they came unfixed for ObamaCare today as the highest court in the land struck down its centerpiece, the individual mandate.

Oregonians should be happy that the Supreme Court ruled as it did. After all, it was just six years ago that the Court sided with the state against the federal government in a health care regulatory case. In Gonzales v. Oregon (2006), the Court upheld Oregon’s “right-to-die” law, approved twice by Oregon voters. The U.S. Attorney General argued that federal law pre-empted the state law.

The Court disagreed and found that states generally have wide discretion in regulating health and safety, including medical standards. Finding that the Bush Administration’s reading of the federal statute would mark “a radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government to define general standards of medical practice in every locality,” the Court ruled that Oregon could protect the rights of its citizens, at least in this specific instance.

ObamaCare is a far broader “radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government.” By striking down its most onerous feature, the individual mandate, the Court recognized a bright line protecting every American against an overreaching federal government that tried to force us to purchase health insurance against our will. Any perceived reduction in health care benefits is far outweighed by the restoration of our personal liberty that the Court affirmed today.

The rest of ObamaCare is still an overreach by the federal government, even if the Court didn’t find it unconstitutional. The better chance for a lasting health care system fix involves empowering patients rather than marginalizing them. It involves giving them choices, and letting them do the inevitable rationing themselves, even if part of the money comes from public sources. And, again, it involves reaffirming that in America personal liberty is a cornerstone, not an afterthought, of our way of life.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down ObamaCare

The U.S. Supreme Court ObamaCare decision reinforces what British researcher John Spiers told Oregonians when he came here to study the Oregon Health Plan in 1999:

Political fixes in health care come unfixed fast.

They came unfixed for The Oregon Health Plan as pressure groups succeeded in eviscerating its rationing scheme, and they came unfixed for ObamaCare today as the highest court in the land struck it all down including its centerpiece, the individual mandate.

Oregonians should be happy that the Supreme Court ruled as it did. After all, it was just six years ago that the Court sided with the state against the federal government in a health care regulatory case. In Gonzales v. Oregon (2006), the Court upheld Oregon’s “right-to-die” law, approved twice by Oregon voters. The U.S. Attorney General argued that federal law pre-empted the state law.

The Court disagreed and found that states generally have wide discretion in regulating health and safety, including medical standards. Finding that the Bush Administration’s reading of the federal statute would mark “a radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government to define general standards of medical practice in every locality,” the Court ruled that Oregon could protect the rights of its citizens, at least in this specific instance.

ObamaCare was a far broader “radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government.” By striking it all down, including the onerous individual mandate, the Court recognized a bright line protecting every American against an overreaching federal government that tried to force us to purchase health insurance against our will. Any perceived reduction in health care benefits is far outweighed by the restoration of our personal liberty that the Court affirmed today.

The better chance for a lasting health care system fix involves empowering patients rather than marginalizing them. It involves giving them choices, and letting them do the inevitable rationing themselves, even if part of the money comes from public sources. And, again, it involves reaffirming that in America personal liberty is a cornerstone, not an afterthought, of our way of life.

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Union Members Can’t Be Forced to Pay for Political Activities

By Victoria Leca

Last Thursday the Supreme Court rejected the idea that public sector unions can charge non-members for political activities.

It was a 7-2 decision, and the practice was struck down on First Amendment grounds. The majority opinion held that while employees can be required to pay dues for the direct benefits they get from the union, they cannot be forced to give money to unions for political activities.

At first the Service Employees International Union offered refunds to employees who were non-members and who disagreed with the political cause the union was promoting, but the Supreme Court ruled that the individuals had to choose to “opt-in” to the payment.

The workers who do not join unions should not be forced to pay for the union’s political activities. The fact that the Supreme Court majority decided that the worker has to opt-in to paycheck deductions, rather than opt-out of these payments, restores protection of individuals’ right to free speech and property.

Coming on the heels of Governor Scott Walker surviving his recall election in Wisconsin, this is one more victory for the rights of workers to be independent of union control. Workers shouldn’t have to join a union to have the right to work, and they certainly shouldn’t be forced to make political contributions against their will.

Victoria Leca is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Kathryn Hickok talks about the first amendment fight to serve

We sat down with our Publications Director Kathryn Hickok to discuss her latest commentary, This First Amendment Fight Is for Freedom to Serve, where she discusses the threat to religious freedom from a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

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Supreme Court to EPA: “You Are Not Above the Law”

By Daniel A. Himebaugh

Five years after the Environmental Protection Agency forced them to stop building their dream home, Mike and Chantell Sackett are celebrating a major legal victory. If you don’t already know, the Sacketts are the now-famous Idaho couple who have become the new poster children for victims of EPA bullying.

In 2007, the Sacketts were blind-sided by the EPA when the agency ordered them to restore a residential lot they were preparing for a home site. The EPA, lacking any proof of violation, asserted that the Sacketts’ property is a wetland which the Sacketts had filled without a required federal permit. The agency issued a “compliance order” directing the Sacketts to remove all fill, plant new vegetation, fence the lot for three years, provide off-site mitigation, and pay a fine; or risk ruinous civil penalties (up to $75,000 a day) and possible criminal sanctions.

Holding all necessary state and local permits—and adamant that they had not filled a wetland—the Sacketts filed a lawsuit with the help of Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys, challenging the EPA’s claim of jurisdiction over their property. The EPA, for its part, brushed aside the Sacketts’ complaint, arguing that the Clean Water Act did not provide the Sacketts with an opportunity to seek judicial review of the agency’s compliance order.

The Sacketts lost their case in every court until March 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the Sacketts are entitled to challenge the EPA’s assertion of jurisdiction over their property. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the Clean Water Act does not preclude the Sacketts from seeking judicial review of the EPA’s compliance order. In one of the more strongly worded passages of the opinion, Scalia remarked that “there is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into ‘voluntary compliance’ without the opportunity for judicial review.” As a result of the Court’s opinion, the Sacketts now have the opportunity to show that their property is not a wetland under the Clean Water Act, which means they could eventually be able to build their home as they originally planned.

In a forceful concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito expressed his disapproval of the EPA’s overbearing administration of the Clean Water Act: “The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the Act, and according to the Federal Government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy….In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.”

True, the Sackett v. EPA decision does not solve every problem that builders might encounter when dealing with the EPA, but it goes a long way in the right direction. Homebuilders finally have the opportunity to challenge EPA compliance orders, an option that had heretofore been unavailable to them. And hopefully the decision will cause the EPA to base future compliance orders on more than mere suspicion, since the agency can now be held to account in federal court when it asserts wetlands jurisdiction over private property.

The Sacketts should be commended for pursuing a case that injects some much needed fairness into the compliance order process, which for too long has been dominated by an agency utterly disdainful of any constraints on its authority.

Daniel A. Himebaugh is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation in Bellevue, Washington. PLF is the oldest and most experienced nonprofit legal foundation litigating for property rights, free enterprise, limited government, and a balanced approach to environmental regulation. He is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center. This article originally appeared in Building Insight Magazine, April 2012.

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Limit Government, Not Consumer Choices

By Erin Mae Shiffler

We live in a country founded on freedom and limited government. We choose where we live, what we do for a living, and what products we buy. If we aren’t satisfied with our decisions, we choose differently next time. Consumer choices are an important market signal that directs the allocation of resources more efficiently in our economy. It is not the proper role of government to micromanage those choices in order to enforce a “politically correct” lifestyle on everyone else.

The plastic bag ban that took effect eight months ago is just one recent example of how Portland imposes its “green” ideology on everyone who does business here. If enough people thought refraining from using plastic shopping bags would protect the environment, and valued the importance of that, they would choose not to use plastic bags. Plastic bags are a reusable product I get when I buy something else. But I no longer get the choice of canvas, paper, or plastic. Instead of reusing my plastic bags, I have to buy other plastic bags to take out my garbage. Where is the net environmental benefit in that?

Our choices are our personal liberty in action. If we want to preserve our freedom in the most important areas of our lives, we need to stop government from encroaching even on what may appear to be the most trivial of things.

Erin Mae Shiffler is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

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Friedman Legacy for Freedom Day

RESERVATION DEADLINE IS THIS WEDNESDAY, JULY 25TH AT NOON.

The Cascade Policy Institute cordially invites you to participate in this year’s Friedman Legacy for Freedom Day on July 31st, which would have been Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday. This annual, international event provides fans of Professor Friedman and lovers of liberty the opportunity to learn about the late economics Nobel laureate, to share his ideas, and to celebrate the impact they still have on our country and the world.

Join us at the Portland Golf Club to hear School Choice Reform Advocate and former Arizona school chief Lisa Graham Keegan talk about Milton Friedman and the future of school choice in Oregon.

Sponsor tables of eight available

To RSVP, complete this form and send to:

Patrick Schmitt at

503-242-0900

or by e-mail at patrick@cascadepolicy.org

Milton Friedman Birthday Celebration

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Steve Buckstein talks with Victoria Taft on ending forced unionism

KPAM’s Victoria Taft interviewed Cascade Policy Institute Senior Policy Analyst Steve Buckstein about the involvement of Congress in professional sports and his latest QuickPoint about ending forced unionism in Oregon.

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