Category: History

Democrat In, Deficit Gone – Again

The latest projections have the US budget deficit falling to 3% of GDP in fiscal year 2015, which started this past Wednesday, October 1st. 3% is the magic threshold for deficits. Under that level, they are theoretically sustainable forever, because the US economy, on average, grows by that amount every year.

On inauguration day, January 20th, 2009, the Obama administration inherited a projected budget deficit of $1.2 trillion for fiscal year 2009. (“FY 2009” began October 1, 2008, while Obama was still a senator.) Fiscal stimulus packages and other legislation passed soon thereafter added an additional $200 billion, to create what would become FY 2009’s largest-ever deficit in US history ($1.4 trillion). As a fraction of US GDP (9.8%), it was and is the largest deficit since WWII.

It’s remarkable how much the US fiscal outlook has since improved. Following FY 2009, the US experienced three more years of trillion-dollar deficits – albeit each year’s deficit was smaller than that of the year before. The deficit for FY 2014, which ended on Tuesday, September 30th, is expected to be less than $650 billion. It’s projected to shrink to about $450 billion in FY 2017, when Obama leaves office – about 2% of GDP. (For the past several years, actual deficits have proved smaller than Congressional Budget Office projections.)

To put this in historical perspective, consider that between FYs 1982 and 1993, Reagan and Bush ran precisely one deficit of less than 3% of GDP – and six that were 4.4% or greater. But under Carter and Clinton, every deficit was less than 3% of GDP. Half of Bush Duh’s eight years saw deficits surpass 3%, culminating in FY 2009’s record-setting $1.4 trillion in his last year in office. The pattern could not be more apparent. During the 32 year period 1977-2009, the annual US budget deficit was less than 3% for all 12 years that Democrats held the White House – but over 3% for 14 out of 20 years that conservative Republicans held it. And under Obama the deficit has only ever shrunk.

Obama’s fiscal stewardship is impressive. CBO now projects Obama will become the first two-term president in US history under whom budget deficits will shrink year-over-year, every year. (Bill Clinton and Andrew Jackson came close, each with declining deficits in their first seven years in office.)

The icing on the cake is what finally pushed US deficits under the 3% threshold: Medicare. Under the ACA, growth in healthcare costs have fallen to their lowest rate ever recorded, and Medicare is leading the way, with the public insurer returning slower cost-growth than private insurers.

The Obama administration has returned the US from typical conservative Republican fiscal irresponsibility to moderate Democratic sensibility – enduring conservative recriminations all along the way. It’s the same thing Clinton experienced while he was turning red ink into surpluses. Just as Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote to enact the tax increase that put the US on track for the Clinton boom and balanced budgets, so Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid used a side-door reconciliation scheme to enact the ACA, which was the last step the US needed to get under the 3% threshold – without a scintilla of GOP support.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fight for Liberalism in Syria

The US may have been tempted to support Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s nominal head of state, in his fight against Islamic State (IS). His army remains the best trained and best equipped of the many belligerents fighting for control of Syria. If the US had the single goal of wiping out IS, then backing Assad would be a good strategy. But the US, prudently, is not fighting militant Islam at any cost – surely not at the cost of aiding a secular authoritarian who has himself demonstrated exceptional brutality. The Obama administration and a majority in Congress are wise to eschew that unsavory liaison, and to support the Free Syria Army (FSA) instead.

There are many factions competing for control of Syria. But the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) stands out as by far the best bet for the cause of liberalism and democracy. Not coincidentally, a growing number of countries have recognized the SNC as Syria’s government, and have been arming their fighting force, the FSA. By denying aid to Assad, and instead favoring the weaker SNC/FSA as part of its newly elaborated campaign against IS, the US affirms that the era of convenient dictators is over.

While grappling with the USSR during the Cold War, the US faced the threat of total annihilation: of civilization, the species, the planet’s ability to support life. And so from Batista to Somoza to Trujillo to Pinochet to the Shah to Hussein to Mubarek, no dictator was too brutal – so long as a regime opposed the USSR and opened its markets to US firms, it could count on unfettered US support. Thus it was that US foreign policy during the Cold War frequently served to subvert democracy and liberalism abroad, as winning the Cold War took precedence. Liberalism within the US took a beating too, with the McCarthy era’s war on free speech and assembly, and the lingering scar that is the phrase “under god” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 – ostensibly to distinguish the US from “godless communists.”

Today the stakes are different. While the rise of theocracy in the Middle East – and the ability of terrorists to project power out of that region – are real and serious threats, they are not existential threats; and they therefore cannot justify the abandonment of what must be the US’s long-term interest in the worldwide proliferation of liberalism and democracy.

It’s for this reason that the Obama administration’s newly devised policy – aiding the FSA in its ground war against IS, Assad, and others (such as the Islamic Front, another nasty Islamist faction fighting in Syria); while itself prosecuting an air campaign against IS across Syria and Iraq – is a good one, and deserving of support.

Like the Cold War, the “War on Terror” has also taken a toll on American liberty, with Americans, under the auspices of the Patriot Act, subject to an outrageous degree of electronic surveillance. One hopes that that ill-considered law will be allowed to lapse next year. As for the Pledge of Allegiance, Americans may have to endure its bastardized form for another 60 years, albeit while (cynically) savoring the irony that religious zealots have replaced godless communists as America’s enemy du jour.

Militant Islam, like communism, shall also pass – as will the next affront to liberalism, whatever form it takes. But our commitment to liberalism must not be compromised along the way.

 

Refs:

http://news.yahoo.com/u-congress-poised-approve-aid-moderate-syrian-rebels-150528851.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Syrian_Army#Location

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Coalition_for_Syrian_Revolutionary_and_Opposition_Forces

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/07/syria-national-coalition-opposition-shift-new-president.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/05/us-syria-opposition-diplomatic-foreign-mission-status

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulgencio_Batista

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anastasio_Somoza_Debayle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Duvalier

Ukraine, Perspectivized

The story on Ukraine, as most commonly told, has Vladimir Putin, calculating autocrat, out to gobble up a weak neighbor – while the US and EU watch helplessly. But the evolving geopolitical map of eastern and central Europe tells a different story.

It will be 25 years this November since the Berlin Wall fell. In 1989, West Berlin (with Norway, Italy, Greece and Turkey) marked the easternmost extent of the US sphere of influence, in the form of its military alliance, NATO; and-or its economic partner, the EC (now the EU). Berlin is about 600 miles east of Paris and 1100 miles west of Moscow.

Since the Wall fell, every former member or the Warsaw Pact – NATO’s one-time rival – has joined NATO, or is applying to join, including former constituents of the USSR itself. The list is impressive: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Croatia have all joined NATO.

Imagine an alternate history in which the US lost the Cold War, and over the past 25 years saw one former ally after another – France, Germany, Italy, the UK – leave NATO to join the Warsaw Pact and the Russian sphere. Imagine Canada wobbling in its allegiance: protestors on the streets of Ottawa, Russian politicians with them, expressing support for efforts to depose Canada’s pro-US president. Then comes the revolution, and installation of a pro-Russian president in Canada, who Russia immediately recognizes, legitimizes, and begins to aid.

“Kiev” in a Russian ear has the warm familiarity that “Toronto” has for an American – but more so, because Russia and Ukraine have for centuries been much more closely tied than have been the US and Canada. Ukraine’s defection to the US sphere is terrifying to Russians – as well it should be. Kiev is 500 miles from Moscow – about the same distance as Toronto to New York, and a bit closer than Ottawa to Washington.

It isnt that Russia lost the Cold War. Russia has been losing ever since the Cold War ended. The past 25 years have seen the US sphere expand more than 1000 miles eastward. And it’s still expanding: when 2014 began, the line between east and west ran through Kiev, where an embattled pro-Russian president struggled with a legislature and local population that favored the EU. Now Kiev is firmly in the US sphere. In just the past few months, the line has moved 500 miles farther east – to Donetsk and Luhansk, which is actually east of Moscow!

To fully appreciate the events in Ukraine, one looks even farther east – to Georgia, another former constituent of the USSR, which for centuries had also been part of the Russian sphere. Georgian relations with Russia have been strained since it gained independence. Crimea might be said to have first played out in Georgian Abkhazia; while war in Eastern Ukraine has its precursor in the Georgian region of South Ossetia. No less a leader than Eduard Shevardnadze – Gorbachev’s Foreign Affairs Minister – put Georgia on track for both EU and NATO membership during his tenure as Georgian president. While Georgia is a long way from Moscow, it shares a border with Russia’s restive Chechnya region – and Russia has often accused Georgia of lending aid and support to Chechen rebels.

Until his death this past July, Shevardnadze denied that the US promised Gorbachev that NATO would never expand east of Berlin – much less east of Germany. His counterpart, former US secretary of state James Baker, also denies that such a promise was made. However Gorbachev maintains that he received explicit assurances, and recently declassified documents suggest that Shevardnadze was lying all along, likely to aid Georgia’s own NATO aspirations.

Our purpose is to put current events in Ukraine in perspective – not to excuse Russia’s practice of old-fashioned European land-grabbery: its 2008 seizure and ongoing occupation of South Ossetia, its recent annexation of Crimea, and its sponsorship of rebellion in Eastern Ukraine today.

But we must acknowledge the US’s own aggression, though it differs in its manifestation. John Quincy Adams authored the Monroe Doctrine and, with it, the geopolitical strategy that the US has followed for two centuries. Eschewing colonialism, and restricting land grabs to contiguous North America, the US seeks to expand its sphere of influence, not its nominal land holdings. The US has always been extremely aggressive about bringing countries into its sphere – and keeping them there. Toward that end, the list of foreign governments that the US has overthrown or helped to overthrow is impressive, and may yet include that of Viktor Yanukovych.

 

Refs:

what the US may (or may not) have promised Gorbachev:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nato-s-eastward-expansion-did-the-west-break-its-promise-to-moscow-a-663315.html

http://en.ria.ru/russia/20090402/120879153.html

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/13/a_diplomatic_mystery

war in Georgia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_%28country%29#Russo-Georgian_War_and_since

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Abkhazia_%281992%E2%80%9393%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_cleansing_of_Georgians_in_Abkhazia

a very different take on Russia:

http://www.thenation.com/article/178344/distorting-russia

http://www.thenation.com/article/180466/silence-american-hawks-about-kievs-atrocities

and a rebuttal:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/07/stephen_cohen_vladimir_putin_s_apologist_the_nation_just_published_the_most.single.html

http://www.thenation.com/blog/181506/stephen-cohen-russia-will-react-militarily-if-ukraine-joins-nato

bonus material:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Quincy_Adams#U.S._Secretary_of_State_.281817.E2.80.931825.29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Crises

Conservatives like to pooh-pooh the US economy’s recovery from the worst downturn since the 1930s. But because the Great Recession is so singular, it’s difficult to judge recent economic performance, and the effectiveness of the government and Fed response. No downturn since World War II compares. Both for the conditions that triggered each, and their severity, the closest and nearest-in-time comparisons we have are the Great Depression and the Panic of 1893. And the US economy did much better this time around.

The Great Depression remains the worst of them all. GDP fell 30% and unemployment got to 25%. The Panic of 1893 saw GDP drop 5 to 10%, and unemployment peak at 12 to 18%. (Measures for that period remain crude.) The Great Recession was less severe: US GDP dropped 4.7% and unemployment topped out at 10%.

The key to our escape from what might have been a replay of the Great Depression was massive, directed spending on the part of the federal government, and perhaps more importantly, a commitment on the part of the Federal Reserve to pump cash into the economy, to prevent deflation. By one measure, US GDP in 2010 was 13% higher than it would have been in the absence of Fed and fiscal action.

It is not generally appreciated that the initial drop in economic activity during the 1st 3 quarters of the Great Recession during 2007-08 was in fact STEEPER than 1929-30. In other words, at the outset, the US was on track for a 1930s-style depression. The difference, according to the best research on the subject (cited below), was aggressive fiscal and monetary intervention.

Financial bubbles happen when banks continue to pour money into an economy, even as asset prices inflate. When banks collectively get cold feet and stop lending, asset sellers quickly outnumber buyers, and prices collapse – as they do, a lot of money vanishes. It doesnt merely change hands – it ceases to exist – no longer available for borrowing, investing or buying. In 1893, the asset bubble was concentrated in railroads. In the Great Recession, it was housing. In the Great Depression, the bubble wasnt specific to a particular industry. In all three, the crash was preceded by a massive run-up in private-debt, followed by a prolonged economic malaise, in which banks were insolvent, and personal savings was wiped out – there was no money left in private hands to buy anything.

Getting out of such a funk takes time. With the Panic of 1893, real per capita GDP needed 6 yrs to get back to 1892 levels. And even after it did, unemployment (which lags behind other indicators) was 12% – the economy wouldnt get back to full employment until 1900, 7 yrs after the bubble burst. The Great Depression was worse: real per capita GDP didnt get back to its 1929 level until 1937, and full employment wasnt achieved until World War II.

By comparison, real per capita GDP after the GR needed 5 years to get back to its 2007 level. Full employment (which is not well defined) may be achieved next year, which would make for a 7 to 8 year recovery. Not quite 5 1/2 years since the GR began in Dec 2007, unemployment today is a manageable 6.7% (though labor force participation remains quite low). 5 1/2 years after the Panic of 1893 and Great Depression, unemployment was still in double-digits.

The relative shallowness of the Great Recession – both in unemployment and GDP contraction – can be directly attributed to a policy of deficit spending by the federal government, and aggressive action by the Fed to shore up banks and maintain money supply. The aim of these policies at the time was to take the edge off – and they succeeded. In 1893 and 1929, prices collapsed soon after asset values. During and after the GR, the US teetered on the edge of deflation but never succumbed – this alone may have halved the depth of the contraction.

The short of it is that financial crises dont make for ordinary recessions – the recovery that follows has always been slow, and is beset by persistent unemployment. But the US economy has come a long, long way since the dark days of 2008, thanks in large part to aggressive government and central bank action.

 

Refs:

https://www.economy.com/mark-zandi/documents/End-of-Great-Recession.pdf

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/243118/Great-Depression#toc234439

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1893

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Recession

great source for historical macro data: http://www.measuringworth.com/

help wanted: i’d be very grateful for a historical graph on private debt for the US that looks like this one for Australia: http://www.creditwritedowns.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Australia-private-debt-to-GDP.png

http://www.multpl.com/unemployment/table

 

 

 

 

How the GOP Became the Whites-Only Party

Immediately after winning the 1980 GOP presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan went to Philadelphia, Mississippi and gave a speech on “States’ Rights.” It was a curious venue for a curious subject. In the same southern town just 16 years previously, 3 civil rights activists were murdered by the local police department, the county sheriff and the KKK. “States’ Rights” had a special meaning: it stood for opposition to the civil rights movement. It would be like giving a pro-guns speech in Columbine today – a massacre which happened 15 years ago.

Reagan advisor Lee Atwater said in a 1981 interview, “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you cant say ‘nigger’…. So you say stuff like ‘forced busing, states’ rights’ and all that stuff…. You’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Conservatism among poor whites was and is fundamentally about racism. The GOP, not by accident, but BY DESIGN, is a party for whites only. Though they feinted toward inclusiveness during the 90s, their Tea Party wing – birthers and all – still doesnt care enough about winning the White House to strike a deal on immigration reform – a necessary first step toward taking a fraction of the Hispanic vote – without which they have little chance of winning a national election.

LBJ knew that the Civil Rights Act would drive white southerners to the GOP. The so-called “solid south” had been wobbling since the 1940s, when Strom Thurmond formed the “States’ Rights” party, whose single policy goal was maintaining segregation. He took 4 southern states in the 1948 presidential election. Coming just 4 months after passage of the Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Presidential election saw 5 southern states go to the GOP, whose candidate, Sen. Barry Goldwater, voted and campaigned against the Act. With his home state, they were the only states he won. The same 5 states went to George Wallace in 1968, again running only on segregation. Wallace remains the most successful third-party presidential candidate of the past 100 years. Racism, and nothing else, was all it took to win the white southern vote. And still is.

One of Nixon’s advisers dubbed it “the southern strategy” – stripping the white southern vote from the DNC though appeals to racism. Remarkably, one facet of the southern strategy explicitly included pushing southern blacks into the Democratic Party, to lower that party’s stature in the eyes of racists. As a Nixon adviser put it, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the south, the sooner the negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

Success breeds success – Nixon’s “southern strategy” has grown to define GOP electioneering and politics, as increasingly virulent strains of conservatism have taken over the GOP – a once-great party with a strong liberal tradition. Since Reagan, GOP candidates have competed in general elections on Goldwater’s conservative policy positions, using Nixon’s electioneering strategy. The quadrennial GOP presidential candidate’s visit to the outrageously racist Bob Jones University (which forbids interracial dating) only ended after Bush Duh went in 2000, after which BJU unilaterally decided to withdraw from politics.

The language the GOP uses has evolved – where before we had “states’ rights” and “busing”, we now hear about “the takers”, “the 47%”, “illegals” – and then there are the birthers. The common element is belief in an “enemy within,” against whom a nation unifies in animus. Patriotism – nominally defined as love of country – is routinely expressed as hatred of particular people within it.

The birthers – crazies who suggest that Obama was born in Indonesia or Kenya – are NOT fringe elements within the GOP – they are mainstream. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Newt GIngrich – all GOP national candidates – have made remarks sympathetic to or supportive of them.

And that’s how we got here – with many poor, white Americans supporting a political party that opposes there own financial interests. Among 46 million Americans in poverty, more than 30 million are white. Red states are themselves net recipients of federal dollars – receiving far more in federal support than they pay in federal taxes. Increasing the size of government almost invariably means that rich, liberal states will pay more; while poor, conservative states will receive more – and yet red-staters are against “big government.”

Almost 10 years ago, Thomas Frank took a crack at this issue with his book “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” His conclusion was that conservatives pulled a bait-n-switch on poor whites: luring them with demagoguery on cultural issues (abortion, death penalty, gay marriage, flag burning, etc.), in the hope that they wouldnt notice their regressive stand on fiscal issues (reducing taxes on passive income, slashing social insurance). There’s a lot of truth in his analysis – though Frank, a decent Kansan himself, was a bit too genteel in his conclusions.

In a Russian fairy tale, a genie appears to a peasant and says he will grant him any wish – on the condition that whatever he receives, his neighbor will receive double. After thinking it over for a minute, the peasant replies “kill one of my cows.” Poor whites have long taken pride that they’re somewhat less poor than poor  blacks. They remain content with losing, as long as they think those other folks will lose more.

Refs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_civil_rights_workers_murders

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2007/11/dogwhistling_dixie.html

http://www.economist.com/node/17467202

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/news/2012/02/23/11042/debunking-poverty-myths-and-racial-stereotypes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia,_Mississippi#Reagan.27s_visit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixiecrat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Jones_University#2000_election

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories#Campaigners_and_proponents

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1948

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Presidential_Election

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1968

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater#Atwater_on_the_Southern_Strategy

http://www.teapartynation.com/forum/topics/the-birther-manifesto

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/tea-party-nation-goes-birther

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-birther-myth-persists-among-tea-partiers-all-americans/

Originalist Abortion

Conservative justices – Thomas, Scalia, Allito, Roberts (in descending order of extremism) – take issue with abortion rights because they believe, among other things, that they require us to “rewrite” the Constitution to gain a modern reading – that the Constitution’s 18th century drafters and ratifiers; and-or the 14th amendment’s 19th century drafters and ratifiers would not have subscribed to women’s reproductive freedom. These conservatives dont treat the Constitution as a “living document” – but instead would freeze it in time, holding its meaning constant since it became law, which occurred in 1791 for the Bill of Rights, and 1868 for the 14th amendment. Since people in 1791 and-or 1868 would not have regarded abortion as a right, they will argue, then we should not. This style of Constitutional interpretation is called “originalism.”

Clearly, if the Constitution’s protection of privacy evolves with modern sensibilities, then a woman’s dominion over her reproductive organs cannot be seriously questioned – almost every rich, modern country – including the US – has resolved this issue to permit abortion on demand, without significant limits. But a woman should also have the same rights to early-term abortion under a conservative, originalist reading of the Bill of Rights and 14th amendment.

Few people know that when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified in the late 18th century, early-term abortion was legal in EVERY state – and had been legal under the common law for centuries. In fact, abortion was legal in every US state from colonial times up until 1821, when Connecticut passed the US’s very first anti-abortion law.

The roots of legal abortion predate American history. The Christian philosopher St. Augustine (4th century AD) adopted Aristotle’s moral reasoning (4th century BC), sanctioning abortion until the “quickening” – when the fetus is felt to kick, which doesnt happen till after the 1st trimester. Thomas Aquinas (13th century) adopted Aristotle’s belief that the soul entered the male fetus in the 40th day (90th day for females!) – and so also permitted early-term abortion. The Catholic Church followed these prescriptions, and permitted early-term abortion until 1869.

What even fewer people know is that early 19th century anti-abortion laws were adopted NOT to protect fetuses or embryos, but to protect women from a potentially dangerous practice. Such laws did not necessarily address abortion per se, or women, but the drugs that induced abortion, and the druggists who dispensed them. The Connecticut law is a good example – it outlawed “abortifacients” – poisons which were used by women to induce an abortion – and subjected apothecaries to prosecution for distributing them. Like most early 19th century anti-abortion laws, the Connecticut law did NOT subject women to penalty or punishment for abortion. Most of the early laws did not apply to early-term abortions in any case. And despite such laws, abortifacients were widely advertised in major US cities throughout the mid-19th century; during which time abortion remained quite common in America – most frequently practiced by married Protestants, right through the 1860s, when abortion laws first targeted women.

Some of the founding fathers objected to adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution. One specific fear was that if we had a discrete list of rights, someone could argue that a particular right’s absence from the list was evidence that it was not a right. To cure this problem, the 9th amendment was included in the Bill, expressly stating that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” it’s primary purpose is to prevent one specific legal argument: you cannot construe the absence of a “right to abortion”, for example, in the text of the Constitution as indicating that the right doesnt exist. (The charm of conservatives is their fondness for seizing on the one Constitutional interpretation that the Constitution itself forbids!)

Even if the 9th amendment evidences the existence of other rights, one cannot argue that everything a person was allowed to do in every state in 1791 (and-or 1868) is a human right. But abortion is special – it’s hard to imagine anything more intimately personal – nor an interest into which the intrusion of the state is more noxious.

Early anti-abortion laws were meant to regulate the practice of medicine, and protect women, not fetuses. Laws aimed at forcing women to take pregnancies to term were quite uncommon before the 1860s. An originalist reading of the Constitution must incorporate the fact that early-term abortion – from colonial times, right through the mid-19th century – was an entirely acceptable part of mainstream American life. A law outlawing the practice entirely would likely have shocked an 18th or 19th century sensibility. For these reasons, abortion should be regarded as a Constitutional right, whether you give the Constitution a modern or an originalist reading.

Refs:

good articles on the history of abortion in the early US:

https://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/history_abortion.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97may/abortion.htm

http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft967nb5z5&chunk.id=d0e195&toc.id=d0e71&brand=ucpress

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2013/08/08/71893/scarlet-letters-getting-the-history-of-abortion-and-contraception-right/

https://www.connerprairie.org/Learn-And-Do/Indiana-History/America-1800-1860/Women-And-The-Law-In-Early-19th-Century.aspx

other background info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortifacient

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_the_Bill_of_Rights

19th – early 20th cent. ads for abortion drugs:

PS Roe v. Wade’s holding is based on the due process clause of the 14th amendment, which has been interpreted to require the states to respect most of the explicit and implicit rights in the bill of rights. In the case of Roe, this is the right to privacy – that states cannot insinuate themselves into such personal decisions made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.

Prior to the 1920s, the states were NOT bound by the bill of rights – in state court, you had no constitutional right against self-incrimination, privacy, counsel, speech, etc. This changed primarily during the 1960s, and today states are bound by most (not all) of the rights specified or implied in the Bill of Rights.

Thomas v. Marshall

We begin not with Clarence Thomas, but the remarkable jurist he replaced: Thurgood Marshall. Even if he never sat on the Court, Marshall would be remembered as one of the great attorneys of his generation – successfully arguing the biggest case of the 20th century – Brown v. the Board of Education – and coming away with a unanimous decision. Marshall won 29 of 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Count – and another 14 out of 19 as US Solicitor General. Fighting to expand American civil liberties for more than 50 years, first as a civil rights litigator and later as an Associate Justice, Marshall’s contribution to American society compares with any lawyer or judge of his era.

Clarence Thomas, however, was NOT nominated to the Supreme Court for his talents, but in spite of them. He’d been an undistinguished civil servant when he was nominated to the DC Circuit. After just 16 months as an undistinguished appellate judge, he was nominated to the Supreme Court to fill Marshall’s seat.

The ABA gave Thomas the lowest rating of any Supreme Court nominee of at least the past 40 years. ALL of the Court’s other 8 current Justices, as well as retired Justices Souter and Stevens, were unanimously rated “Well-qualified”. Thomas, by comparison received 13 votes of “Qualified”, and 2 votes of “Not Qualified” from the 15 member panel.

The past 23 years have borne out the ABA’s judgment. Thomas has been a cipher – silent during oral argument – and so outlandish in his opinions that he can rarely get four other justices to sign on. The one area in which he’s distinguished himself is in his assault on the rights of prisoners – advocating to make prison beatings permissible under the 8th amendment. (Yes, really.) Thomas isnt a bad justice – he’s an abomination.

Thurgood Marshall would be remembered as a great jurist even if he had never sat on the Court – Clarence Thomas should never have sat on the Court, even if no one had ever heard of Anita Hill or Angela Wright. Their accusations – well-evidenced and entirely credible – unfortunately distracted from an equally valid concern: that Thomas was AND IS unfit to be on the Court – not only for his poor character, but for his incompetence.

Every so often, as happened recently, Thomas is heard to whine about our modern sensitivity regarding race. Perhaps he is so unreflective – perhaps no one ever delivered the news: in the absence of those sensitives, Thomas would never have been nominated to the Court. His condemnation of affirmative action is utter hypocrisy: he had no trouble with it when he was its beneficiary. Thomas likes to recount how his Yale law degree was scoffed at by prospective employers, skeptical that he made it into Yale on the strength of his talents. Perusing some of his many hysterical lone dissents – defending a strip-search of a 13 year-old girl for 2 Advil tablets; insisting that the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional; arguing for a presidential power to hold a US citizen indefinitely, without going before a judge; and at every opportunity: that beating prisoners, no matter how brutally, is fine under the 8th amendment – one reasonably wonders what Yale saw in him.

To be fair, not a single Justice on the Court today bears up in comparison to Marshall. But in one Court opinion after the next, and one interview after the other, far from washing out the stain with which he arrived to the Court, Thomas has only deepened our conviction that not only was he an absurd successor to the remarkable Thurgood Marshall – but that he lacks the minimum of skill, judgment and conscience required of his office.

Refs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurgood_Marshall

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Thomas

http://news.yahoo.com/clarence-thomas-on-race-194104252.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-clarence-thomas-grew-to-hate-affirmative-action-2013-10

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/24/clarence-thomas-affirmative-action_n_3491433.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/03/nation/la-na-clarence-thomas-20110703

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-01-04-alito_x.htm?csp=34

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1129&dat=19910828&id=T9c0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=aW4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6853,7569388

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1991-08-31/news/9102020960_1_clarence-thomas-thomas-nomination-judge-thomas

http://blogs.sacbee.com/i-tool_tips/2009/07/aba-ratings-of-federal-court-n.html

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-6696.ZD1.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/25/savana-redding-strip-sear_n_220717.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_v._Pelzer

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/civil-liberties/news/2013/07/09/69044/clarence-thomas-the-anti-thurgood-marshall/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/hank-johnson-clarence-thomas_n_3512999.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/clarence-thomas-silent-but-sure/

http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/24/clarence-thomas-continues-his-long-war-o

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2011/04/cruel_but_not_unusual.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2012/01/clarence_thomas_in_juan_smith_eyewitness_dissent_after_another_harry_connick_sr_case.html

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2009/06/25/will-media-start-calling-justice-thomas-out-of/151521