Ear to the Sidewalk: Issue 6

Posted: Jul 28, 2006 12:04 AM

It’s been a craaaaazy week in the policy world. Congress is rushing to get to August recess, and the courts nationwide have been on a tear. Here are five items that you may have missed, but that are sure to get a reaction if you bring them up at your neighborhood BBQ this weekend.

Liberal State Holds Back Gay Marriage

Pro-family insiders warned me early Wednesday morning that they weren’t optimistic about that day’s same-sex marriage decision in Washington state. An hour later, my friends were smiling big.

By a one-vote margin, the Washington Supreme Court decided that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act was indeed constitutional. Instead of rendering the state legislature impotent, as many activist courts have done in recent years, the Washington court deferred to the state law -- and also to what William C. Duncan of United Families International calls “our inherited understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Interestingly enough, the Court’s majority opinion mentioned the implications of the man-woman definition for both procreation and child-rearing. Duncan believes this case shows that “when courts are willing to honestly examine the purposes of marriage…, they are likely to reject claims that marriage should be redefined around adult desires.”

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Glen Lavy echoes the importance of this decision to kids: “Marriage licenses don’t certify one person’s love for another person; they provide a legal framework to protect the children that result from the marriage.”

Incidentally, United Families International is already preparing for the next round of court cases -- it’s urging Congress to pass a “findings of fact” resolution that shows why it’s important to preserve the man-woman marriage definition. UFI believes that such a resolution would greatly bolster the arguments against same-sex marriage in future court cases.

Ohio Court Protects Private Property Owners

Social conservatives weren’t the only ones wanting to give a court a hug on Wednesday. Anyone who despised last year’s U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision had reason to cheer as the Ohio Supreme Court effectively thumbed its judicial nose at the federal decision.

In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that the City of Norwood couldn’t exercise eminent domain over private property for the sole purpose of economic development. In other words, you can’t get bumped out of your house because a hotel in your yard would bring in more tax revenue for the community.

Kudos go especially to the Institute for Justice, who litigated the case on behalf of the threatened property owners. Joy Gamble, who almost lost her home of 35 years, says, “We can’t thank them enough for winning us back our home and our rights.” Thanks also go to the Ashbrook Center, who filed an amicus brief in the case.

Now let’s take a show of hands --how many of you are starting to think about moving to Norwood, OH?

Chicago’s Poor Prepare to Lose Their Jobs

I guess three home runs was too much to ask for. Defying their mayor, as well as all common sense, members of the Chicago City Council passed a minimum wage bill Wednesday that will effectively chase Wal-Mart and its hundreds of low-skill jobs out of the metropolis.

Illinois’ state minimum wage is currently $6.50. The new ordinance requires mega-retailers to pay wages of at least $10 an hour plus $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010. Yes, you read it right -- each worker will cost Wal-Mart twice as much four years from now.

Instead of penalizing Wal-Mart, however, this is going to hurt the unskilled workers of Chicago most of all. If I were Wal-Mart, I’d shrug my shoulders and move to a different community. But all the Wal-Mart employees who thought a higher minimum wage would help them economically will suddenly be without jobs altogether. As one congressman I know would say, "They'll be patting themselves on the back all the way to the unemployment line."

John Doyle, managing director of the Employment Policies Institute, noted many more tragic ironies when I called him to bemoan the decision. For instance, he pointed out that one of the liberal groups behind the Council’s decision was the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), who once sued the state of California to exempt itself from paying its own employees the minimum wage! And although ACORN says on its own Web site, “The Earned Income Tax Credit is the largest and most effective poverty reduction program in the country,” people who lose their Wal-Mart jobs will no longer be eligible for the EITC, which can amount to up to $4300/year.

Even if Wal-Mart stays in Chicago, Doyle says the outlook for lower-skilled residents is bleak. Competition for the higher-paid jobs with benefits will be much fiercer, and the replacement of people with automation will become a greater temptation for the retail giant.

Way to look out for the little guy, Chicago.

John Bolton Up for Confirmation -- Again

One year ago, President Bush bypassed the stalled Senate Foreign Relations Committee and used a recess appointment to put John Bolton in place as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Now the Committee is preparing to take another look at Bolton, whose appointment will expire soon if no further action is taken.

Sen. George Voinovich, the sole Republican on the Committee to oppose Bolton last year, has done an abrupt about-face and agreed to back Bolton’s re-nomination. Rumors swirl that Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton aren’t far behind their colleague.

Just to be sure, conservative groups are out in force to lend their support to the embattled Bolton. UN expert and Freedom Alliance president Tom Kilgannon calls Bolton “one of the best and most effective Ambassadors this country has ever had at the United Nations,” and American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene calls Bolton “the perfect man” for the job.

Several at the Heritage Foundation have also lifted up their voices, including Peter Brookes, who calls the re-nomination “an opportunity to right a terrible wrong."

Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney is circulating a letter from 54 foreign policy and defense experts arguing that the “challenges now confronting the United States at the UN make it simply unthinkable that Ambassador Bolton’s service might come... to a premature end.”

Let’s hope the Committee and the full Senate agree.

Pork Ratings Released

Is your Congressman a porker or a hero to taxpayers? How about your Senators? The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has just released its 2005 Congressional Ratings to help you figure it out.

For the last 17 years, CCAGW has graded legislators in order to honor the ones who are serious about cutting spending and to expose those who prefer big government and pork.

Congressional Republicans have been under fire by conservatives recently for their inability to hold back spending, but when graded as individuals, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is astonishing. In the House, the average score for Republicans was 73%, and the average for Democrats was 13% -- a difference of 60%! In the Senate, the margin was smaller, but only slightly. Senate Republicans averaged 68% and Senate Dems averaged 18%. Even though Republicans are currently in charge of both chambers, it’s obvious that the spending isn’t entirely their fault.

Maybe it really does matter who controls Congress.