Wednesday, June 15, 2005
On this day:

Top 10 Things I'd Like the Senate to Apologize For

Here are some things that I'd like to see the U.S. Senate apologize for - not by passing some lame resolution full of half-hearted expressions of sorrow and woe, but by taking real action to fix the problems it has caused.

10. Failing to confirm President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, while consenting to the nominations of Justices Earl Warren, William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

9. Failing to state clearly once and for all that the federal holiday that has become popularly known as "Presidents' Day" is, and forever shall be, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY.

8. Creating the Department of Agriculture in 1862; the Department of Labor in 1913; the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1953; the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965; the Department of Transportation in 1966; the Department of Energy in 1977; the Department of Education in 1980; the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980; and the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989.

7. Passing "Lyin' Lyndon's" Great Society programs in the 1960s - Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC welfare - under which the federal government usurped powers not granted by the Constitution, consolidated the welfare state, and created tremendous financial burdens for taxpayers.

6. Enacting the first federal minimum wage as part of the National Recovery Act of 1933, and then repeating that mistake again in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Add to that the wage and price controls that were passed during the 1970's under the guise of controlling inflation, and you've got a whole set of policies that have proven themselves time and again to be miserable failures. The minimum wage has led to higher unemployment, particularly among young and unskilled workers most desperate for jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, limiting growth in wages and prices creates shortages that hurt both producers and consumers, and it served to exacerbate the "stagflation" of the '70's. The sad thing is - Adam Smith warned us about the evils of those kinds of policies back when George Washington was fighting the Redcoats, but the U.S. government and a few pointy-headed economists thought they knew better.

5. Passing the Social Security Act of 1935, thereby subjecting Americans to a dependence on the federal government that is antithetical to individual liberty and that endures to this day.

4. Proposing the 16th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, both of which were ratified by the states in 1913. The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power to tax incomes directly. The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of Senators by the people of each state. (U.S. Senators had previously been chosen by the state legislatures.) The 17th is the more objectionable of the two, in that it permanently upset the delicate balance between the states and the federal government that had been established by the Constitution's Framers. Taken together, the two amendments were precursors to the massive expansion of federal power during the previous Century.

3. Passing the Reconstruction Acts advanced by Radical Republicans in the aftermath of the Civil War, establishing federal military control over the former Confederate states and ensuring that Southerners to would view their countrymen to the north with hostility and bitterness for generations to come.

2. Failing to impeach Justice Roger Taney following the infamous Dred Scott decision, which established a constitutional right to own slaves. In Dred Scott, the Court struck down a hard-fought compromise over the issue of slavery in the territories, inflaming tensions between the states and clearing the path to Civil War. The mischief of Dred Scott was achieved by reading new meaning into the 5th Amendment's due process clause solely to achieve a political objective supported by a majority of the Court. The doctrine established by Dred Scott, known as "substantive due process," set the precedent for later cases like Lochner v. New York, Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, and Lawrence v. Texas.

1. Failing to keep up the tradition of wearing powdered wigs, as was the custom in the British House of Lords (and still is, I think...unless it has been abandoned along with so many other peculiar British traditions under Tony Blair's reforms.)