Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reasoning towards grace

Samuel James wades into the middle of an apologetics dispute between Eric Metaxas and Francis Beckwith, and makes a great point about Romans, which I am coteaching to my small Sunday morning Bible class. We actually covered this in class March 8:

Admittedly, when it comes to Christianity and faith, adopting the vocabulary of the Enlightenment is usually not the best course. However, any discussion about this should carefully consider Romans 1. In that familiar passage, Paul, discussing the scope of mankind’s rebellion against its Creator, intensifies the cosmic treason of unbelief by magnifying the imprint that God has left on Creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [ESV]

“So they are without excuse” is a significant sentence. Whatever else Paul might mean by declaring that God’s attributes are “clearly perceived” in the created world, he plainly teaches that this knowledge, this natural revelation, serves an epistemologically judicial function: It renders unbelief inexcusable. Paul believes that the natural world is an unalterably persuasive evidence of God, so much so that to persist in unbelief (as human beings do) is nothing less than “suppressing the truth.”

Apropos of natural law, Doug Mainwaring reasoned his way to God. He writes in Public Discourse:

Where and when should I draw the line with reason? With examining my conscience? With looking at the facts and making decisions based not simply on what I want or what I think is good for me, but based on absolute truths? My thoughts needed to result in actions. Eventually, I chose to lead a chaste life. In view of the facts, in view of the constant testimony of nature all around me, it was the only reasonable thing to do.

Reason led me to acknowledge natural law, which led me to begin rejecting some of my former ways of thinking and acting. Reason alone was enough to lead me to change the direction of my life. Then quite amazingly, natural law and reason working together led me to recognize and acknowledge God’s existence. And once I acknowledged God’s existence, again there was only one reasonable thing to do: I asked Jesus Christ to take the throne of my life, and I began to reject the emptiness of my self-centered ways.

Life experience and reason taught him there was a right and a wrong. They also taught him that he fell short, and continues to fall short, and he needs continuous grace.

Probably his observations also taught him not to expect an accounting of sin in this world, the world being demonstrably fallen and capricious towards righteous and unrighteousness alike. Where the rubber hits the road is answering the question: To whom are we accountable? Who judges us by the law we know we fall short of? If the answer is “self” or any earthly judge, we are stuck in the same fix. The world is fallen and cannot sort these matters out justly.

This leads to two deductions:

  1. God waits to judge us in the heavenly realms.
  2. God must forgive us by grace if we are to be accounted righteous.

Indeed God’s forbearance in putting up with our sins, not accounting them against us during our lifetimes, is a feature of His grace. Without it, no one would have an opportunity to repent and join Jesus, the first fruits, in heaven. We’d all be zapped before we knew what we were doing.

So by God’s grace we lead an imperfect life circumcised to God. Any other way leads to damnation.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bulls’ Fed

Over the last year, between the Federal Reserve “taper” and the European Central Bank launching their own QE misadventure in February, the euro had lost a quarter of its value against the dollar—until Wednesday. The dollar lost 2.4 percent of its value against the euro Wednesday, bucking the year-long trend. So what gives?

For weeks people’s expectations have been that the Fed will move closer to raising interest rates for the first time in 10 years. The reality was sinking in that the free money pump was being turned off as it couldn’t stay opened forever. American stocks reacted accordingly, like they had actually hit their peak and had nowhere to go but down.

Those expectations of tightening Fed policy abruptly changed with the Federal Reserve downgrading its economic outlook on Wednesday. Surprise, surprise, the “longest period of job growth in American history” is a phony boom, fueled by wage stagnation, fascist demand-side stimulus, and low cash velocity.

Because this is opposite world, the Fed’s revised forecast means the more determinative force in this weak socialist economy, monetary policy, will continue to be loose for the foreseeable future to stimulate demand, which is all Keynesians know how to do. That is, there is no imminent, mid-summer interest rate hike. Thus, the $4 trillion bandwagon stayed to yoked equities where they are assured to earn better than zero interest. Stocks responded accordingly, jumping 2 percent, and currency traders dumped their dollars for euros, among other currencies.

Investors are bullish again, but savers don’t have the luxury of betting their savings on equities. The safest bet has always been low-risk interest-earning accounts, which in normal circumstances outearn inflation. These aren’t normal circumstances, though. Who knows when things will return to normal?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Helpless little darlings

The helpless little darlings don’t know what’s best for them, Big Mother says. They need a benevolent dictatorship to protect them from themselves.

Eric Posner agrees:

Lately, a moral panic about speech and sexual activity in universities has reached a crescendo. Universities have strengthened rules prohibiting offensive speech typically targeted at racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; taken it upon themselves to issue “trigger warnings” to students when courses offer content that might upset them; banned sexual acts that fall short of rape under criminal law but are on the borderline of coercion; and limited due process protections of students accused of violating these rules.

Most liberals celebrate these developments, yet with a certain uneasiness. Few of them want to apply these protections to society at large. Conservatives and libertarians are up in arms. They see these rules as an assault on free speech and individual liberty. They think universities are treating students like children. And they are right. But they have also not considered that the justification for these policies may lie hidden in plain sight: that students are children. Not in terms of age, but in terms of maturity. Even in college, they must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults.

It was liberals, the free-love cultural revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s, who made immaturity cool. They’re realizing a little late that relativism and depravity create victims and that judgment was good insofar as it at least communicated discernment of better from bad. It’s past due for those raised in such an environment (i.e., Posner [b. 1965]), who are parents and grandparents now, to advocate paternalistic government to pull tight the disciplinary slack left over by their excess and permissiveness.

Post-bourgeois liberals—usually conservative in temperament and well-educated—don’t understand how beneficial the social, religious order is to the proletariat, or how enslavement to sin can undo a person. Some are deluded in thinking the technocratically empowered super state can render obsolete the deleterious effects of mistakes that derail life from its plotted course, like how getting pregnant out of wedlock hurts a woman’s ability to find financial support outside her family or the government, like how gambling ruins a family’s self-sufficiency and marital peace, like how smoking weed hinders the mind from applying knowledge and wisdom to work and life. “Managing” these problems with the resources of the state is impossible due to the sheer size of the population and the variability of individuals.

Posner the progressive does realize this. What he doesn’t realize is no force can tame a man better than the gentle pressures of those closest to him and an active conscience—not a distant, heavy hand (that has a lot of trouble itself discerning better from bad).

Tyranny becomes more acceptable the further we fall from the vision of American character the Founders had in mind when they set up a government of limited powers.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Remember the Rainy Day Fund!

The Alamo is the most recognizable icon in the state of Texas, and it’s tucked away on a crowded street lined with garish businesses like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Corner preachers, percussion bands, and street merchants are in abundance. The downtown hubbub distracts from the dignity of the garrison and its special place in Texas history.

All things being equal, should the street be closed? Should the buildings across the street be leveled? Should ordinances be passed to forbid vendors and noisemakers? Yes, yes, yes! But at what cost?

A Texas beat reporter on 1200 WOAI was very excited Friday morning about a proposed revolutionary funding measure to renovate Alamo Plaza: the Rainy Day Fund. Eureka! Yes, the same Rainy Day Fund that Texas taxpayers abused twice in the last two elections to fund water infrastructure projects and tollroads will be siphoned off yet again, to the tune of $250 million, if lawmakers get their way.

This is not how you treat the Texas Constitution. This is not how you treat people who put money away with the promise that it wouldn’t be spent like this. Alas, Texas voters have demonstrated they have no compunction risking the state’s financial security to avoid paying for something themselves.

The reporter on 1200 WOAI suggested San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor could secure a political legacy by campaigning for this $250 million Alamo Preservation Fund. It was a pitiful appeal to political self-interest. Legacies are gratuitous monuments to self. They’re a big log on a small fire, smothering it. Social Security is a legacy (insolvent). The Great Society is a legacy (total failure). A good leader does what’s best for her city, not what gets her name written in the history books.

Wouldn’t a better legacy be preserving the integrity of the public fisc and guarding the public against bad laws? Ivy Taylor already has a legacy in that regard. As far as I know, she’s the only mayoral candidate who took the correct positions on the horrible nondiscrimination ordinance and the horrible streetcar plan.

There’s a better way to clean up the Alamo than throwing money at it from the Rainy Day Fund.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Odds and ends 3/13/2015

“One criterion by which a culture’s civilizational attainments are often assessed has been the extent to which it gives scope to man’s capacity for reason. National Socialism’s Nietzschean glorification of an untrammeled Will of the Volk and the State, not to mention the regime’s efforts to exterminate entire categories of people, reflected a thoroughgoing irrationality; thus the absurdity of the Third Reich’s claims to be promoting European civilization. Less appreciated, however, is the extent to which a society’s capacity to embrace full-bodied conceptions of reason depends heavily upon the dominant understanding of the Divine prevailing in that community. In that regard, modern Western civilization may be more at risk of cultural decline than many presently realize.” –Samuel Gregg

Tolerance is the buzz word nowadays. What it means now is not what it meant 300 years ago, when scumbags like Dan Savage didn’t set terms. Jeremy Neill writes at Public Discourse:

For John Rawls, a representative political liberal, toleration is a trait of citizens who are accepting of each other and who are willing to cooperate amicably with each other in conditions of reasonable pluralism. It involves an effort to refrain from an untoward interference in the lifestyles of others. Usually, it is also manifested in the willingness of the citizens to allow each other to pursue their comprehensive conceptions of the good without the threat of discrimination or coercion.

For Rawls, the free exercise of reason generates a variety of different comprehensive doctrines. Since it is not possible—in Rawls’s view—for persons to achieve agreement on these comprehensive doctrines in conditions of freedom, they must tolerate each other. Rawlsian toleration is thus, at most, undertaken for the sake of fair terms of social cooperation.


Early modern theologians—thinkers in the era between John Calvin and Roger Williams—saw the laws of the state as protecting persons from the most egregious vices, and as placing them in a position to succeed in the heavenly kingdom. But they also believed that faith is ultimately a matter of internal conviction, and thus is non-coercible. Thus they believed that the different ways in which persons pursue God ought to be tolerated.

The purpose of early modern Christian toleration was to free persons to rise, via religious aspiration, to a more exalted level of flourishing. Its animating force was the Christian worldview and the belief that spiritual truth is achievable in one kingdom in a way that is simply outside the authority of the other.

Human sacrifices have been abhorrent to God since Abraham almost burned Isaac to God. Liberals have regressed 4,000 years.

The SAE chapter was closed and kicked off campus this week after a student group published a video depicting some of the frat’s members participating in a racist chant. Two of its members were also expelled for what university president David Boren called their “leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant.”


The university responded severely to the racist video. SAE students had two days to remove their belongings from the now-closed SAE house on campus this week. “We don’t provide student services for bigots,” Boren declared.

It will be interesting to watch how far OU and SAE go towards cleansing their memberships of thoughtcrime, and how swiftly their memberships dwindle as a result.

Catholic schoolteacher fails the religious test:

Patricia Januzzi, the teacher in question, recently posted some remarks on same-sex marriage and homosexuality on her publicly accessible Facebook page. After remarking on the dubious proposition that protection of gays and lesbians as a class can be brought within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment, Januzzi wrote: “In other words they [advocates of same-sex marriage] want to reeingineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!!!!”

Of course—of course—a firestorm erupted over this. Even (whatever happened to) Susan Sarandon weighed in with self-righteous condemnation (it seems her nephew once attended Immaculata). The principal of the school told Januzzi to take down her public Facebook page, which she did, and the school issued a statement a couple of days ago assuring the public that its “investigation” had “determined that the information posted on this social media page has not been reflected in the curriculum content of the classes [Januzzi] teaches.” Then followed the rote recitation of the gospel of “respect and sensitivity.” As stilted and impenetrable as all this was—Januzzi had not posted “information” but opinion, and what, after all, was the school telling us was not “reflected” in the classes it offers?—at least it seemed for one brief shining moment that this little flap would go away.

No such luck. Now it is reliably reported that Patricia Januzzi is under pressure to resign, and threatened with dismissal if she utters a peep about the matter. This is rapidly becoming an outrageous assault against a person whose worst offense was to speak with what some (but by no means all) would call an intemperate passion, in favor of the Church’s teaching.

This phony posturing surely is the work of the father of lies.

“We are centralizing power in practice because we are erasing the alternatives from our minds. We have forgotten that the regulation of human societies can come from communities, from states, and from civil society—and so, increasingly, it can’t. The world of the Affordable Care Act begins in our own conceptions. The growing centralization of American political power is a product of our decision to forget. Can we sustain federalism and a robust civil society if no one notices they exist?” –Chris Bray

At VDARE, James Kirkpatrick goes after the libertarian Students for Liberty:

The truth is that the libertarianism—especially the “millennial libertarianism” or “second wave libertarianism” that Students for Liberty is determined to promote—privileges cultural liberalism above restricting the state. You can’t take concepts like Leftist buzzwords like “privilege” and “normativity” seriously and still defend limited government. Once you accept these kinds of concepts, the inevitable performance gaps between racial groups, nations, and sexes become evidence of “oppression” rather than of objectively existing inequalities.

Of course, libertarians like Murray Rothbard recognized this, which is why he openly defended concepts like racial differences in average intelligence. Whatever name-dropping contemporary libertarians practice, it’s doubtful that the author of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature would even be allowed on the stage at something like Students for Liberty.

I find this quote from the increasingly unstable vice president synchronous with the above:

What happened is not only did we move toward freeing black Americans but also the conscience of white Americans.

What a revelation! Emancipation’s goal was to cleanse white guilt, same as the progressive income tax. As if anything but the blood of the Son of God in the flesh could do that.

Libertarians lose their minds in defending the zeitgeist. Not only does Stephanie Slade misrepresent what Ben Carson said to Chris Cuomo, she claims the truth escapes the peons who didn’t go to college.

Ben Carson, the apparent 2016 hopeful, thinks being gay is “absolutely” a choice. He made that clear in an appearance on CNN last week. That may or may not be enough to disqualify him from being president, as some commentators have suggested. It certainly led to a lot of facepalming from election watchers inside the Beltway, myself included. But it’s always worth being reminded that things sometimes look different outside the confines of Washington, D.C.

A report from Pew, released on Friday, shows that Americans as a whole are as likely to think that being gay or lesbian “is just the way some people choose to live” (42 percent) as they are to think that “people are born gay or lesbian” (41 percent). Admittedly, the percent agreeing with Lady Gaga that gay people were born that way has doubled over the last three decades—but it’s still nowhere near a majority.

The even divide among all Americans masks a noteworthy trend, however: The more educated a person, the less likely she is to think homosexuality is a choice. Individuals with postgraduate degrees are twice as likely to say gay people are born that way than to say it’s simply how they choose to live. Meanwhile, those with a high school diploma or less see homosexuality as a choice by a 13 percentage point margin.

Sexuality isn’t fixed. It’s not genetic, it’s behavioral. Given those two options, I’d say it’s a choice, too.

Is there a political actor more obtuse than the cool, reactionary libertarian?

Carl R. Trueman summarizes the tyranny of sexual identity:

There are surely grounds for congratulating folks at Wesleyan on their consistent honesty in the cause of sexual liberation. Liberation, that is, of sex from any intrinsic moral significance. As Luther said to Erasmus in very different circumstances: You and you alone have placed your finger on the hinge on which everything turns.

If very few of the sexual acts of today’s identity politics are procreative, that has certainly not inhibited their proponents’ impressive ability to give birth to endless categories of sexual preference. This is the result of more than a mere lack of conceptual contraception. It also indicates the loss of any sense that sex in itself might carry some kind of larger moral significance. Indeed, the plethora of sexual identities now available witness to the fact that there is no longer any basis for rejecting any kind of sexual act, considered in itself, as intrinsically wrong. The multiplication of such categories is part of rendering sex amoral: When everything is legitimate, then nothing has particular moral significance.

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

David T. Koyzis considers the Supreme Court precedent that set in motion the madness:

However, I would contend that the principal issue raised by this and similar rulings in both of our countries’ supreme courts is whether the quest for personal autonomy is a feasible goal for either legislatures or courts to advance. Does justice consist of giving everyone the maximum ability to fulfill their desires, whatever they might be? Do constraints on the ability to choose constitute oppression? Is it the task of our political institutions to liberate us from such constraints?

This would appear to be the accepted orthodoxy in this latest stage in the centuries-long development of liberalism, as I have described elsewhere. The U.S. Supreme Court’s judgment in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) claims to grant citizens an impossibly expansive right to autonomy in this oft-quoted passage: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Here the human will seems to be sacrosanct and is limited only by the requirement not to inflict harm on others. Yet attempts to flesh out the legal implications of this statement can only run aground because it ascribes to mere human beings godlike powers, which is, of course, the spurious promise given to our first parents. No society can long endure whose members think themselves gods, no matter how many courts rule differently.

Commenter “DN” at the American Conservative is strangely optimistic:

I personally see plenty of room for a reversal of this trend. The LGBT movement has been quite effective in shifting the narrative of sexuality from one of actions/behavior to personal identity. Most Americans are decent people, and when the question is posed of whether to condemn a person or not, we choose not to do so.

Most LGBT never really believed the “born this way” narrative, and some even found it offensive that they had no control over their sexual behavior. However, the narrative reached sufficient consensus to be used as a rhetorical and legal strategy for a few decades. Dividing people into discrete groups of “sexual orientation” and declaring these to be immutable was an important basis for a civil rights claim. At one point, progressives argued that Science proved a genetic predisposition for gayness, but this line was eventually dropped.

What’s happening now, even in advance of a SCOTUS ruling, is that the sexual libertarians are feeling more confident to abandon the “born this way” narrative, and embrace fluidity of sexual expression. This is much more aligned with the overall philosophical basis and actual personal experiences, and it allows people who embrace other taboo forms of sexuality to join the coalition. The sadist who declares, “I was born to inflict pain on others” strains credulity, but he will be right at home in an ethic of pure sexual libertarianism.

It remains to be seen how Americans will react once the personal identity narrative is supplanted by the notion of sexual fluidity and liberation.

Investor’s Business Daily lets world citizen Obama have it:

Obama had plenty of compliments for Islam Wednesday at his “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” even declaring, “Here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding,” and noting that the first American mosque was in, of all places, North Dakota.

But two days earlier, he wouldn’t support Egyptian and Emirates’ airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya in retaliation for the videotaped beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. How about some support for our Islamic friends as they bomb our Islamic enemies?


“They are not religious leaders” but “have perverted Islam,” Obama claims. It’s like Franklin D. Roosevelt saying the Nazis gave German expansionism a bad name.


But the worst moment in Obama’s speech was when he evoked memories of Jimmy Carter confiding that he got advice on nuclear weaponry from his 12-year-old daughter, Amy. “I’m thinking of a little girl named Sabrina, who last month sent me a Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart,” Obama said. The 11-year-old Muslim told the president, “If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn't mean all of them do.”

“That’s how we discredit violent ideologies, by making sure her voice is lifted up,” Obama said, adding, “There will be a military component to this.” No kidding.

“Doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists” won’t defeat Islamist terrorism. And neither will denying their religious nature.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Power knows not shame

Thucydides wrote: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” An imbalance of power is preferable to equality to negotiate favorable terms. It’s incumbent on moral authority to use its power as a force for good, not denigrate it as President Obama does in the vain pursuit of the equality of nations.

Five years after the president said this in Prague, Putin took eastern Ukraine by force, understanding fully the West’s unwillingness to fight, and ISIS stormed across an Iraq that had known peace for a little while before the U.S. Army pulled out:

We are here today because of the Prague Spring—because the simple and principled pursuit of liberty and opportunity shamed those who relied on the power of tanks and arms to put down the will of a people.

We are here today because 20 years ago, the people of this city took to the streets to claim the promise of a new day, and the fundamental human rights that had been denied them for far too long. Sametová Revoluce—(applause)—the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. (Applause.) And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.

Tell that to the 80 million Chinese Mao murdered, or the 6 million Jews the Nazis killed, or the millions of Ukrainians Stalin starved. A lot of good their ideals did for them in resisting evil. They could not very well fight for what they believed, for good or ill, unfed and unarmed.

Ideals are nothing without determination and sacrifice. Ideals must be powerful enough to inspire lack of self-regard in the use of force. Without force, ideals get crushed, because power knows not shame.

There are bad ideals that bad people act on, with nationalist and religious fervor. They have to be defeated. Obama thinks he can defeat them in a debate among equals in standing, that people naturally choose peace, love, and understanding when they’re given the choice. The Arab Spring proved that notion wrong, once and for all.

Obama understands the usefulness of power. You can tell what is important to him from reading what he actually uses his power to do. For example, Conn Carroll writes:

[Bernie] Sanders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Friday identifying a number of executive actions he believes the IRS could take, without any input from Congress, that would close loopholes currently used by corporations. In the past, IRS lawyers have been hesitant to use executive actions to raise significant amounts of revenue, but that same calculation has change in other federal agencies since Obama became president.

Obama’s preferred option would be for Congress to pass a corporate tax hike that would fund liberal infrastructure projects like mass transit. But if Congress fails to do as Obama wishes, just as Congress has failed to pass the immigration reforms that Obama prefers, Obama could take actions unilaterally instead. This past November, for example, Obama gave work permits, Social Security Numbers, and drivers licenses to approximately 4 million illegal immigrants.

So, he knows how to fight for what he believes. Pointy-headed idealism is just a cover for his powerlessness against evil. Liberalism is bloodless and weak. Because liberalism puts stock in worldly comfort at truth’s expense, as a civilizational cornerstone it cannot make sacrifices to face down an enemy, for it lacks selflessness and a claim to ultimate truth.

Friday, March 6, 2015

King v. Burwell

I have full faith in John Roberts to keep Obamacare alive. USA Today reports:

The principal argument advanced by the law’s opponents—that four words in the 906-page statute permit the use of tax credits only in states that set up their own health insurance exchanges—appeared to please the court’s most conservative members.


In combative terms, the court’s four more liberal justices argued that limiting tax credits used by millions of Americans to pay insurance premiums, as the challengers said the law requires, would throw the insurance markets in 34 states into a “death spiral.”

“We’re going to have the death spiral that this system was created to avoid,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “Tell me how that is not coercive in an unconstitutional way.”

You see, the law can’t mean what it plainly says because without socialism there would just be too much pain in the world. The ends justify the means.

During the second half of the oral argument, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito said the law clearly does not include tax credits in federal exchanges—and that if the court rules that way, states or Congress can step in and fix it.

“How can the federal government establish a state exchange?” Scalia said. “That is gobbledygook.”

The lawyer for the challengers, Michael Carvin, returned repeatedly to the wording of the law itself. “This is a straightforward case of statutory construction, where the plain language of the statute dictates the result,” he said.


During the second half of the argument, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli—who successfully defended the health care law in 2012—argued that it would make no sense if essential tax credits were excluded from two-thirds of the states, as the challengers suggest was either Congress’s intent or error.

“Their reading produces an incoherent statute that doesn’t work,” Verrilli said. “That cannot be the statute that Congress intended.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a major branch of government failed internal consistency. Verrilli seems incredulous that Congress would do something so stupid. Is it because progressives are too smart to make one mistake in 906 pages of incoherent socialist utopian lawmaking? My Bible is about 900 pages and it’s not as dense or as moralistic as Obamacare.

Michael F. Cannon writes at Forbes:

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act only offers premium subsidies, as the statute says, “through an Exchange established by the State.” Members of Congress who voted for the PPACA—most recently Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)—now swear it was never their intent to condition Exchange subsidies on state cooperation.


Ironically, Casey’s and Nelson’s decision to wade into the King debate demonstrates why, when a statute is clear, courts traditionally assign no weight to what members of Congress claim they intended a law to say—especially if, as here, those claims come after a clear provision has proven problematic. While he claims he never intended to condition subsidies on states establishing Exchanges, Casey repeatedly voted to condition Exchange subsidies on state cooperation, has misrepresented what Congress intended the PPACA to do, and continues to misrepresent the PPACA on his Senate web site. Nelson’s claims about what Congress intended should likewise be taken with a grain of salt. In an unguarded moment in 2013, Nelson admitted that in 2009 he paid no attention to “details” such as whether the PPACA authorized subsidies in federal Exchanges.


Conditioning Exchange subsidies on state cooperation is hardly a foreign concept to Casey. In 2009, he supported and voted for another health care bill that even the Obama administration and congressional Democrats acknowledge conditioned Exchange subsidies on state cooperation. That bill was S. 1697, reported by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

As Jonathan Adler and I explained in a brief we filed before the district court in King, every Democrat on the Senate’s HELP Committee voted in favor of S. 1697, and therefore in favor of conditioning Exchange subsidies on state cooperation.

In Casey’s words, then, he himself voted for a bill that “included the threat” that residents of uncooperative states “would lose access to premium... credits intended to ensure that those residents could afford health insurance.”

If you were a judge, what would you consider a better indicator of what Casey actually intended: what he repeatedly voted to enact, or what now he says to influence the courts after the clear language he voted to enact has proved problematic?

These men are so smart they made healthcare decisions for millions of patients they don’t know for health conditions even the patients themselves don’t know they have. Sic semper tyrannis.

How is it that the mythically “disfunctional” Congress of the last 4 years has sacrificed Congress’s credibility? The worst they’ve done is go along with the idiocy that came before. Remember, the temporary liberal supermajority of 2009-2010 passed this horrible law.

[Scalia] and Alito also asked why the states or Congress couldn’t fix what the court breaks if it rules that 34 states should not be offering tax credits. Alito said “it’s not too late” for the states to set up exchanges, while Scalia intoned, “What about Congress?”

“You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue?” Scalia said. That brought knowing smiles and chuckles from the lawmakers seated adjacent to the news media section.

As if the do-anything-to-pad-the-federal-register-with-rationalizations-to-do-whatever-our-socialist-hearts-desire Congress that created this mess is any better than the one we have today.