Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

Religious Persecution in India Should be on President’s Agenda

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 24, 2009

Official Washington is all atwitter about the state dinner to be given tonight to Indias Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. There have been newspaper articles filled with stories of guest lists, menus and the anecdotes of past dinner attendees.

India is a large nation, in geography and population. Its friendship with the United States benefits both countries, and all Americans should welcome its respected PM to our shores.

India is also a nation rife with problems that dwarf those in our own: Massive corruption that stultifies economic growth and robs the poor of needed resources; endemic poverty affecting tens of millions; a weak educational system, fraught with caste-system bias; nearly 300 million Dalits, or untouchables, viewed in Hindu theology as sub-human and treated with contempt by their own society. Sexual slavery and human trafficking also present profound and enduring challenges to all conscientious Indian political leaders.

Religious persecution in India is also on the rise. Such Web sites as Open Doors, Catholic Online and Voice of the Martyrs provide chilling descriptions of what happens to Christians who stand for their faith in areas where devout Hindu and Muslim activists are determined to squash Christian faith violently.

Consider just one example, this one detailed in the UKs Guardian newspaper:

We cannot now return to the village as the murderers would be on the streets with more hatred and anger for us.” So said a witness after testifying last month in a courtroom in Kandhamal district in India’s eastern state of Orissa, which was the scene last year of ferocious violence against Christians carried out by mobs incited by extremist Hindu nationalists. The case saw three men acquitted of hacking to death a non-Christian tribal leader who tried to stand up to the mobs, and burning to death an elderly widow. They were convicted for destroying evidence, but sent home on bail, pending appeal. (Orissas Forgotten Victims, November 23, 2009).

Family Research Council hopes that President Obama will raise the issue of anti-Christian persecution with Prime Minister Singh. To PM Singhs credit, he has made strong statements against anti-Christian violence, noting that Christianity is part of Indias national heritage (www.oikumen.org/gr/news, October 20, 2008) and condemned the anti-Christian assaults in the province of Orissa (www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 29, 2008).

But as events of recent days indicate, much more must be done. It is in Americas interest for us to press our friends to live to the principles of human dignity and religious liberty to which they are sworn. By doing so, we are standing true to our own principles, and standing with those suffering for owning the Name of Jesus.

They Just Can’t Help It

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 16, 2009

This shouldn’t be a debate about abortion,”’ says the President’s Senior Advisor David Axelrod. The President himself argues that he and his allies in Congress are not “in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but on the other hand that we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices.”

This is sort of like saying that when eating a four-scoop sundae, the dessert really isn’t about ice cream. Abortion is essential to the Democratic approach to health care. Why? Because if, as the great majority of national Democrats believe, abortion is a matter of public moral neutrality, a procedure not unlike the removal of a nasty tumor, it should be funded (or, as an interim step, subsidized) as part of any federal health insurance regime.

After the vote on the Stupak pro-life amendment on November 7, pro-abortion Members of Congress and their allies in the so-called “progressive” movement became apoplectic. “Abortion is healthcare. That’s the whole point,” wrote ultra-feminist and the Left-wing magazine Nation writer Katha Pollitt. Pollitt has made a career as a Left-liberal who actually speaks her mind (example: after 9/11, she wrote that the American “flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war”). Of course, her perspective is warped, but at least she says what she thinks.

And what she thinks seems to be what’s in the heart of the current Administration. Mr. Obama has built a career by stating two opposing views and pretending to find common ground between them. Of course, there is - as he admitted in his speech earlier this year at Notre Dame - no real common ground between the culture of life and the culture of death.

By subsidizing health insurance plans that provide abortion, the US government would be providing funds to companies that would thereby have greater financial freedom to pay for abortion and related services.

Mr. President, we either “restrict women’s choices” by refusing to allow the federal government to subsidize abortion providers, or we subsidize insurance companies that pay for abortion. There is no way around it. Your key allies know it. And, in the integrity of your mind, so do you.

How to Create Jobs

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 13, 2009

According to ABC News, President Obama is now “calling for a summit meeting of experts to find ways to jump-start job creation. And a jump-start is needed.”

This comes on the heels of a new report that the federal deficit “hit a record for October as the new budget year began where the old one ended: with the government awash in red ink,” as the Department of the Treasury warned that “the deficit for October totaled $176.4 billion, even higher than the $150 billion imbalance that economists expected.” Note: this is the deficit for a single month - not a calendar year.

Mr. President, here are some ideas distilled from leading economist dating from Adam Smith through the current day: If you want to create jobs,

(a) Quit spending the country into economic oblivion, farming out our debt to foreign creditors who will someday soon call in their loans and damage our nation’s economy. If you stop overspending, you will also ameliorate the growing fear of many investors that we are on the verge of monetizing the debt, simply printing worthless bills that will hyper-inflate our currency. Fiscal discipline, if dramatic and real, will energize the markets.

(b) Cut taxes - on individuals and families, on major firms and S-corporations. Cut the dividend tax. Cut the income tax. Cut capital gains taxes. Cut, and cut some more.

(c) Reduce and simplify a vast federal regulatory apparatus that confuses and cripples business growth.

(d) End the government-mandated “health care reform” madness, which will further impose on our companies and employees growing fiscal, legal and regulatory burdens. Target those things in our system that don’t work and offer market-based incentives and tax reforms that will enable insurance providers to better serve the underserved.

More on Health Care & the Constitution

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 13, 2009

Sen. Daniel Akaka is probably the quietest person in the U.S. Senate. He is known as a kindly man who votes faithfully but is not a vocal or activist member of the “upper body.” But this week, when asked if there is a constitutional basis for the Democratic health care bill, he candidly said, “Im not aware of that, let me put it that way.”

Good way to put it, Senator, because your lack of awareness indicates that at least you know your Constitution well enough to recognize that it contains no basis for this latest exercise in federal elbow-throwing.

Sen. Akaka’s colleague Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) could learn from him. Sen. Reed was asked by a reporter where in the Constitution does Congress get its authority to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance?

Reed responded, I would have to check the specific sections, so Ill have to get back to you on the specific section. But it is not unusual that the Congress has required individuals to do things, like sign up for the draft and do many other things too, which I dont think are explicitly contained (in the Constitution).

Sen. Reed is an undoubted patriot, a former Marine who served honorably in Vietnam. So it is disappointing that someone of his political stature would equate the draft with an individual federal mandate of citizens for non-military purposes. To what many other things is Reed referring?

In the 1918 Arver v. United States case, the Supreme Court ruled that the draft is constitutional because it is essence an implementation of the Constitutions provision for the federal government to create a standing army (Article I, Section 8). Men (and women) are needed to defend the nation, and during times of national crisis conscription might be needed.

The Democratic health plan (H.R. 3962), passed last weekend in the House, goes well beyond any authority conferred on the federal government, through our written Constitution, by “We, the People.” In fact, the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) wrote to the House Ways and Means Committee that “failure to comply with the terms of the law that the Democrats passed last weekend could put people in jail. The JCT told the committee that anyone who decides not to maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” or, absent that, pay the individual health insurance mandate tax of about 2.5 percent of income, would be liable to large fines or prison sentences” (The Washington Times, “Tax Penalties and Prison,” by Donald Lambro, November 12, 2009).

The JCT went on to write that “H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at anytime during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.”

This mandate is unconstitutional in its own right and also poses a serious threat to the fundamental liberty of ordinary Americans: When the federal government requires specific economic activity (in this case, the purchase or acceptance of a health insurance plan) and threatens to impose “fines or prison sentences” for non-compliance, our essential freedom as citizens is eroded and our path into coerced political subjection all the more obvious - and dangerous.

Health Care and the Constitution

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 10, 2009

Family Research Council has several critical concerns with the Democratic health care legislation under consideration on Capitol Hill. The sanctity of human life, although safeguarded in the House version of the measure passed on Saturday, remains a live issue as the bill goes to the Senate. Rationing, costs, patient control of medical decisions, an increase in the size and scope of Washingtons power: These and other matters animate FRCs active opposition to the Democratic approach to revising our system of medical care.

But there is another issue that we have raised and will keep raising as the debate goes forward: The constitutionality of the Democratic plans.

When Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked recently at the introduction of her mammoth health care reform bill if the measure was constitutional, the usually glib Californian was caught off-guard. Are you serious? she asked. And, a second time, Are you serious? She then turned to another reporter without answering further.

At least House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gives the Constitution a guilty nod. He says that the general welfare clause gives Congress the right to pass a massive health care bill full of mandates on businesses and individuals and higher taxes for all.

Mr. Hoyers theory of constitutional interpretation would surprise the documents chief author, James Madison. In a letter written in 1831, he said, With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

In other words, the Constitution gives the federal government few and closely proscribed powers. Those powers not given to the federal government shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people (the Ninth Amendment), and The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (the Tenth Amendment).

The general welfare, then, refers only to those things the Constitution allows or requires the federal government to do (the powers connected with them under the Constitution). Thus, the general welfare is advanced when the federal government does those things it is charged by the Constitution to do nothing more, nothing less.

The general welfare clause is not an open-ended endorsement of whatever Congress deems in a given moment is in the public interest. Were that the meaning of general welfare, no Constitution itself would even be necessary Congress could simply do whatever it wants regardless of any constitutional limitations.

Of course, thats what Congress does most of the time anyway. But at least conservatives can appeal to a written text whose meaning is clear. Were it not, why have a provision for its amendment (why amend something you can simply reinterpret?) and why have an existing and profoundly important amendment that says those things not delegated to the federal government are in the hands of the states (the Tenth)?

Another supporter of Congresss health care power grab, Dean Erwin Cherminsky of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, argues that Congress can enact sweeping health reform under the Interstate Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8). His reasoning? The cumulative impact of health care activity across the country.

Dean Cherminsky cites an unbroken line of precedents stretching back 70 years. But nowhere does he cite something far more significant indeed, conclusive than the rulings of positivist, post-New Deal courts: The original intent of the Constitutions authors and signers.

As noted by Georgetown University Law Center professor Randy E. Barnett in the University of Chicago Law Review (former Chicago Law Professor Obama, are you listening?), according to the original meaning of the Commerce Clause, Congress has power to specify rules to govern the manner by which people may exchange or trade goods from one state to another, to remove obstructions to domestic trade erected by states, and to both regulate and restrict the flow of goods to and from other nations (and the Indian tribes) for the purpose of promoting the domestic economy and foreign trade.

Put a bit more simply, the Clause was simply designed to prevent multiple barriers to trade among the various states. The Clause was a necessary control on the conduct of some of the importing States toward their non-importing neighbors (James Madison, 1832). It was never intended to serve as a pretext for Congress to micromanage, control and/or fund (through taxation) any national economic program, including one that would concentrate regulatory and competitive power over medical care in the hands of the U.S. government.

There is no constitutional basis for the Obama/Pelosi/Baucus approach to health reform. Period. Let us not delude ourselves that this is a serious constitutional debate the debate does not exist, at least within the realm of intellectual honesty. It is settled.

The Democratic Congress does not care, nor does the President, nor do many Republicans. But we, the People, should, especially if we care about remaining a nation whose God-bestowed liberties and rights are protected not by the legislative confections of Congress but by a written Constitution whose text defends us from the intrusions of the federal state if, but only if, we are willing to follow it.

Robert Schwarzwalder has served as chief of staff to two Members of Congress and was a presidential appointee under George W. Bush at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The New Spin on Abortion Funding

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 8, 2009

Democrats are going out of their way to argue that the Stupak-Pitts amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion is an effort to enact new restrictions on abortion itself. Julie Rovner of NPR, a journalist no less, argued today that the pro-life Members of Congress seeking to prevent Uncle Sam from paying for abortions are trying to impose new limits on access to abortion. Ms. Rovner seems to be taking a line from Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, who in today’s NY Times is quoted as saying, with reference to her colleague Bart Stupak’s amendment, Theres no way at the end of the day were going to support these kinds of further restrictions on abortion.

This is a desperate misrepresentation of the facts. The bipartisan pro-life effort to maintain existing federal restrictions on federal funding of abortion is nothing more than an attempt to sustain existing policy. It does nothing to “further restrict” abortion.

Those who advocate for unrestricted access to federally financed abortion on demand are getting more outraged by the minute. By affirming the sanctity of life, the Members of Congress who are standing their ground against federal financing of abortion are saying “yes” to the Creator of natal personhood. For this, they deserve our enduring thanks. And let’s pray for Ms. Schakowsky and her fellow advocates of the culture of death, that the God Who made and loves them will draw them into the light of life itself.

But It Was Just a Fetus … Wasn’t It?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 28, 2009

Today in Utah, a 21 year-old man was sentenced to five years in prison for, according to the Associated Press, “beating a pregnant (17 year-old) girl to try to cause a miscarriage” after she paid him $150 to do so.

The girl was seven months pregnant. Aaron Harrison, the criminal convicted of assaulting her, beat her stomach and, bizarrely, even bit her on the neck to induce a miscarriage. And although Harrison had pled guilty to “second-degree felony attempted murder, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison .. District Judge A. Lynn Payne instead sentenced him under Utah’s anti-abortion statute, saying a charge of third-degree ‘attempted killing of an unborn child’ better fit the facts of the case.”

I don’t think words can describe the kind of depraved conduct you entered into in trying to take the life of a child,” Judge Payne said to Harrison from the bench.

The mother of the baby, born healthy in August, is now seeking custody of the child she tried to have killed.

Judge Payne’s words ring like a bell: “The life of a child.” At seven months, the child is almost fully developed; it’s eyelids are opening and closing at this stage, with its brain functioning and its heart beating. All that really needs to happen prior birth is weight increase.

The potency of medical knowledge has pushed proponents of abortion on demand out of the realms of reason and science. The humanness and personhood of the unborn child are indisputable by any measurable, objective standard.

It was President Obama who said, during his one-on-one with Rick Warren last summer, that determining when human life begins is “above my paygrade.” Perhaps the President could read Judge Payne’s remarks and the facts of this wrenching case and let us know if his current salary is sufficient for him to decide.

Bill Gates Takes on Radical Environmentalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 15, 2009

In a speech today at the World Food Prize forum, Microsoft founder Bill Gates took the extreme environmental movement to task for putting rigid ideology ahead of basic human need.

Here’s an excerpt of his comments: “Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment. They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it, or what the farmers themselves might want.”

Gates noted that the international initiative “to help small farmers” in the developing world “is endangered by an ideological wedge” that pits higher productivity through the use of new agri-technologies and those who speak only of “sustainability,” often a code word for policies that would allow people to die for the sake of perceived environmental “purity.”

The Microsoft chief applauded some things that are anathema to the environmental purists, such as genetically-modified seeds that can increase crop yields and possibly even the nutritional content of such developing world staples as maize and sorghum. Drought-resistant seeds can be used by small farmers throughout Africa to help them feed their families and strengthen their nations’ economies.

One of the world’s wealthiest people, Gates and his foundation have poured an estimated $1.4 billion into combating hunger, malnutrition and disease in places like sub-Saharan Africa. Sadly, Gates is also a supporter of abortion-related “family planning” services in these regions. But he deserves credit both for his commitment to providing sustainable agriculture to the world’s neediest populations and for taking on the radical environmental movement, which would rather see people die than advance dynamic new agriculture technologies that could save millions of lives.

Obama, Reason, Revelation and Abortion

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 19, 2009

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. - Barack Obama

Then-Senator Obama made this statement during his speech to Jim Wallis’ “Call to Renewal” conference in 2006. Note two things:

(1) He effectively denies the commonality of natural law and the conscience the foundation of the universal values he commends and links opposition to abortion only to the revelation of Scripture.

(2) He also suggests that opposing abortion cannot be justified by our “common reality.”

As the first point, is the President prepared to argue that no “self evident truths” exist? Is the assertion that all men are created equal and have rights endowed to them by a Creator too culture-specific for Mr. Obama? And is the validity of these assertions determined simply by the number of people who agree with them?

As to the second point, is the “common reality” determined by the 50 percent plus one? If so, did the “common reality” of the Japanese military state in the 1930s surely justify the rape of Nanking?

Mr. Obama calls for our being amenable to reason. Yet he is unreasonable in refusing seriously to interact with the irrefutable scientific evidence that personhood begins at conception and, if so, that every person has value independent of his or her mother from that moment and therefore possesses and should obtain a legally-recognized right to life.

Perhaps the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured it all most clearly:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.

Ethics (New York; Macmillan, 1965), pp. 175-6.

What Kathleen Sebelius Could Mean for the Department of Health and Human Services

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 4, 2009

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not just another massive bureaucracy. It is the largest department in the federal government, with a proposed budget of $821 billion for 2010. In contrast, the Defense Department’s budget of $534 seems puny.

Much of the HHS budget is composed of outlays for two “entitlement” programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet HHS is a vast federal agency, laden with sub-agencies and programs, most of which are unfamiliar to the American people but many of which have a direct bearing on federal policy regarding pre-born life, in our own country and internationally.

Now, with the nomination of abortion advocate Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to be HHS Secretary, President Obama has signaled his willingness to use the nation’s largest Cabinet department as a means of advancing a radical abortion agenda.

In public life, personnel is policy: Political appointees are the ones who develop legislative goals, implement law and craft regulation. Given the profound importance of HHS for “the culture of life,” it is worth considering the kind of authority Gov. Sebelius— and those she places in positions of decision-making and policy influence — would have if she is approved to lead the department.

For example, HHS administers the Office of Public Health and Science, which contains within such important organizations as the Office of the Surgeon General, the Office of Population Affairs, the Office of Women’s Health and the President’s Council on Bioethics.

A Secretary Sebelius could also make sure abortion is encouraged to every pregnant Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) that is in the custody of HHS. And if she categorizes each of the pregnancies as a result of rape, then the federal taxpayer will pay for these abortions too. The US government has control of around 8000 UACs per year.

She could also examine all sorts of funding streams at HHS, including the Community Services Block Grant, the Social Services Block Grant, family planning waivers, community health centers, and others and find ways to funnel as much money as possible toward abortion providers.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for authorizing public release of such drugs as RU-486, “Plan B” and other abortafacients, is also housed within HHS. And the Administration on Children and Families, which under President Bush was at the forefront of encouraging abstinence education, could well be used to promote a pro-contraception agenda for American’s youth, instead.

The Medicare program funds health care for America’s seniors; Medicaid provides medical services to lower-income citizens. Under current law (the Hyde Amendment, authored by the late, great Congressman Henry Hyde [R-IL]), federal funding for Medicaid abortions is prohibited. Yet President Obama has stated that he wants to repeal the Hyde legislation and require taxpayers to foot the bill for abortions provided to lower-income women who receive Medicaid coverage.

HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) maintains an “Office of International Health Affairs,” which will help “coordinate and advance” the Obama Administration’s “international health policy.” A similar group, the Office of Global Health Affairs, exists within the Office of the Secretary under the direct supervision of the HHS Secretary. Given the “family planning” agenda of pro-abortion groups, these offices could become conduits for fostering abortion in impoverished regions worldwide.

Then, of course, there are the National Institutes of Health, a sprawling collection of 19 Institutes and seven Centers that deal with all facets of health care— including such things as embryonic stem cell research, bioengineering and human genome research. NIH also funds pre-natal and ultrasound research that is critical to the well-being of at-risk unborn children.

These and many other HHS centers, agencies and offices can and do perform tremendous services for the people of our country. However, they can also do great harm by fostering policies that are destructive of life— unborn life, most especially, in the United States and abroad.

Family Research Council is concerned that should Gov. Sebelius win Senate confirmation, she would bring a dramatically anti-life agenda to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children (born and unborn) and families, here at home and in developing nations around the world, could experience grave and bitter consequences during her tenure.

[Editor’s note: In 2001, FRC Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder was appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve as senior speechwriter for then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, where he served through 2002.]

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