August 11, 2009

August 11, 2009 | Commentary on Economy, Political Thought

Recess for Your Wallet

Congress has left town, so members can head back to the district or take some fancy, taxpayer-funded trip overseas. Your wallet may be safe while the congressional tax-and-spenders are away, unless President Obama decides to bail out another failing industry.

Unfortunately, Congress used the last week before its break to spend a few billion more tax dollars and to help out some special interests. Conservatives pine for a Congress that takes more vacations, sooner.

Cash for Clunkers Part II

The Senate exited town after passing an expanded bailout of car dealers. It added $2 billion dollars to the "Cash for Clunkers" program that provides up to $4,500 in government rebates to people who trade in their old car and buy a new one with better fuel efficiency. So many people rushed to buy a new car that the program burned through the whole $1 billion appropriated for it in a week.

This measure may help car dealers in the short-term. Yet, in economic terms it is a dismal failure. First, consumers are spending money on cars they might have spent on something else. That means "Cash for Clunkers" is an anti-stimulus for many industries. Also, the law mandates that auto dealers destroy the cars that are traded in. This will deplete the supply of used cars and take perfectly good, inexpensive cars off the market.

This program has two goals: saving the environment and stimulating sales for auto dealers. Ironically, though, "Cash for Clunkers" will likely cause more pollution, because the new, more fuel-efficient cars will be taken on some fun, long trips this summer. People tend to drive a new car much more than they do an old clunker. Meanwhile, even though this will provide stimulus for auto dealers, the money is being printed by the federal government and will add to this nation's already massive debt.

In other words, the bill will increase pollution, injure the used car market, and eventually cost you, the taxpayer, $3 billion.

Native Hawaiian Separatism

The Senate and House are working on separate versions of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009. This bill would create a race-based government in Hawaii for the purposes of soliciting federal monies to buy up lands and create other programs to benefit individuals who fit the race-based category of "Native-Hawaiian." This bill is unconstitutional, as it violates the equal protection clause. But that hasn't stopped chief sponsor Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

The bill would create (in the Department of the Interior) the United States Office for Native Hawaiian Relations. This office would "effectuate and coordinate the special political and legal relationship between the Native Hawaiian governing entity" and the United States. One part of the legislation that directly implicates the Equal Protection clause of the constitution is the provision that limits membership to the "indigenous, native people of Hawaii." This race-based definition of membership troubles many, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Alexander explained in HUMAN EVENTS in 2006 that setting up race-based governance is offensive to the whole idea that we're one nation, not separate, racially-based islands. Alexander wrote that being an American "is unique because, under our constitution, becoming an American has nothing to do with ancestry. America is an idea; Americans are a people, not a race."

Many in Hawaii are concerned that the controversial Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) will become the de-facto governing entity of the Native Hawaiians and will use the Native Hawaiian designation as a means to enrich some Hawaiians to the detriment of others. Native Hawaiians are free to celebrate their unique history -- but this legislation would do nothing to promote the proud heritage of all Hawaiians. Conservatives are offended by the idea of setting up a separatist governing institution for some Native Hawaiians and moving the United States away from the unifying idea that residents of Hawaii are Americans, not a separate nation.

The language of Health Reform

The House health care bill contains provisions that would require providers to deliver health care services in languages other than English. The words "culturally and linguistically appropriate communication" pop up throughout the legislation. The measure also contains numerous provisions requiring translation into every conceivable language, even those "not frequently encountered in the United States."

Requiring the "availability of a free interpreter and translations services" would provide jobs for trial lawyers and interpreters, yet would only increase the cost of health care for all Americans.

As Congress goes into the August recess waving special handouts to auto dealers, Native Hawaiians, trial lawyers and translators, Conservatives should educate lawmakers that it's time to stop the special-interest handouts.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

Related Issues: Economy, Political Thought

First Appeared in Human Events