I’ve finally gotten around to writing an opinion piece on the divisive subject of abortion, one that I feel is fair-minded and based in sound, logical argument rather than emotive in nature. The discussion herein is one of the fundamental philosophical issues underlying the debate rather than demographic data, teen pregnancy rates and case law (the merits and demerits of Roe v Wade as sound law are an article unto themselves). The goal of this article is to begin an intelligent dialogue about abortion that is not colored by religious conviction or partisan rancor and to avoid blanket categorizations. I am under no illusions, however, that moderating the tone of the debate will somehow change the fact that the two sides of this issue are irreconcilable, and that middle ground is untenable. This will almost certainly be just the first of many articles on this subject that appear on this blog.

What spurred the penning of this piece was the
announcement by Gallup that, for the first time since the poll was conducted, a majority of Americans identify themselves as “Pro-Life.” According to Gallup’s 2009 poll, 51% of Americans call themselves “Pro-Life,” while 42% say they are “Pro-Choice.” Even more significant is the data they present on legality, in which 37% (a plurality) of Americans support abortion only in “a few circumstances,” while 23% say that abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances”. This makes a combined number of 60% of Americans that lean more toward a ban on abortion in most cases than existing abortion rights. This is, needless to say, significant and represents a monumental shift in public opinion in a mere one year period. If these numbers hold steady into next year, we can expect the debate in Washington to begrudgingly recognize and adapt to the new reality, though I do not expect a seismic shift in policy to occur quickly, if at all, given the entrenchment and political investment on this issue.

Consequently, there is no more opportune time to reframe the debate on abortion and lay out foundational arguments than now. First and foremost, as I think both sides of the argument agree, this is a civil liberties issue. Personal experiences, political sympathies and, perhaps most of all, religion may color the pitch and tambour of the debate, but at the end of the day it must be about individual freedom and the liberties protected under our Constitution in order for the reasoned arguments to resonate and to ensure that the participants aren’t speaking past one another. On the one side, the case is made that abortion is about the rights of a woman to make a choice involving her body. On the other side, it is argued that the choice to terminate a pregnancy is an infringement of the basic human rights of the unborn child, and therefore illegitimate.

As the readers of this blog are aware, as a rational conservative I am loathe to come down on the side of banning anything. Nevertheless, I strongly support the latter argument in the abortion debate, which is, in my opinion, a better reflection of maximum civil liberties protection than the former. This may sound counter-intuitive to many, particularly those supporting abortion rights, which is precisely why the reframing of this debate is so essential. The fundamental maxim of civil liberties, according to rational conservatism, is to permit any action that does not infringe upon the basic liberties of another. The conclusion for those of us who oppose abortion then is simple: given that life is among those basic liberties, the practice of abortion does not meet that criteria. Would that it were so simple, however.

The focus of the debate seems to rest upon the question of when life begins. Frankly I believe this is the wrong question to ask, and furthermore it is unlikely to be resolved by science definitively. As such, it adds little to the debate as it stands. Nevertheless, those advocating abortion rights, framing their position within the “when does life begin” construct, present various medical arguments that contend that the embryo/fetus is not technically a human being, among which are:

1. It is incapable of sentient thought
2. It is incapable of surviving outside of the womb
3. It displays similar characteristics to a parasite

I counter that these items are irrelevant. The more appropriate focus for the debate seems to me to be the basic intent behind and the logical consequences of abortion. To the first, the intent behind abortion is not to terminate an embryo/fetus, it is to avoid giving birth to and raising a living child. The reasons for this choice are numerous and varied, ranging from economic and social circumstances to the discovery of genetic defects during the pregnancy. Regardless, when a woman or a couple makes the decision to have an abortion, they are not saying, “I don’t want this embryo.” They are saying, “I don’t want this child.” While the pregnancy may be part of the inconvenience, the real goal of an abortion is to eliminate a human being.

Still, there are those participating in the debate that point back to the medical arguments outlined above. They contend that, despite the intent, the consequence is that an embryo/fetus, which is not a living human being in its current form, is what is destroyed. The argument seems legitimate but it is conveniently only taken halfway to the logical conclusion. Reason dictates that, barring natural incident or accident, the embryo will develop into a fetus, which will in turn be delivered as a live infant (bear in mind: barring miscarriage, accident, stillbirth). Metaphysically and scientifically speaking, that embryo will become a human being; it is a member of our human species. This is beyond question. Any human agency that destroys the embryo or terminates the pregnancy prevents the march of nature from taking its course to inevitably produce a human life. At what stage the pregnancy is terminated is wholly irrelevant. Similarly, at what stage human life begins in the womb also becomes irrelevant.

This raises a few other questions, however. If preventing human life is tantamount to taking human life, wouldn’t contraception go out the window, as the Catholic Church currently teaches? No, it would not. Contraception is a perfectly legitimate and responsible (though not 100% reliable) way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The difference between preventing pregnancy and preventing birth is that a sperm on its own will not evolve into a human being. An egg on its own will not become a child. Only when the egg is fertilized does the aforementioned and critical “march of nature” or maturation begin. Using the parlance of the traditional debate, this would be similar to the “life begins at conception” argument.

Another counter-argument is that, in the era of modern science, a mere skin cell or unfertilized egg could potentially be used to create a living human being. If this is the case, wouldn’t clipping your fingernails or cutting your hair be equivalent to abortion? Clever, but once again, I point to the fact that, without active human agency, fingernail and hair clippings on their own will not become a human being. While a skin cell contains the building blocks for life, human beings mercifully did not evolve to reproduce by asexual fission, like
planarians. The cloning debate is an entirely separate argument, and as it stands Americans rightly and overwhelmingly oppose human cloning.

But let us suppose that the question of when life begins remains the central focus of the debate. Legally speaking, how should this logically be addressed? As previously stated, science has not definitively proven when life begins, though both sides of the debate present evidence supporting their claims. In cases dealing with human life and death the law has an obligation, in lieu of definitive scientific data, to err on the side of caution. If it cannot be proven definitively that a fetus is not alive, then it logically follows that legal protections should be offered pending a final analysis, just in case. Those advocating abortion rights would say that this puts the burden of proof on them rather than those opposing those rights. That is absolutely correct. In instances where there is a potential for the destruction of human life, the burden of proof should be on those who advocate the course of action in question, just as the prosecution must prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, rather than the other way around. If this sounds unfair, perhaps you should step back from the debate and analyze it in its entirety as we suggest: logically and Constitutionally.

It’s important to ask another fundamental question when debating abortion rights. In the unlikely event that science is able to prove beyond question that life begins at conception, would those advocating for abortion acquiesce, or would they still contend that abortion is a fundamental right? Bear in mind, the “when life begins” argument really matters only to those arguing in favor of abortion rights as it is the cornerstone of their case; for those of us arguing against, the question of exactly when a human being becomes a human being does not anchor our argument. If the inverse should be true, and science should prove indisputably that an embryo is not a living human being, it does not alter the “intent and consequences” logic of our case.

It’s easy to flatly state that abortion should be illegal. What isn’t necessarily as easy, however, are the consequences of making such a statement reality. What do unready or unwilling mothers do if they are unable to terminate their pregnancy? Do they have an abortion performed illegally? If so, what legal consequences would they face? For those that carry their child to term, should the state offer assistance with medical care? If the child is born to a mother financially incapable of supporting it, what options does she have? Put the child up for adoption? Should the state provide targeted support if they decide to raise the child themselves? These are all legitimate issues for which those arguing against abortion rights must offer solutions if we are to be responsible and intellectually honest citizens.

To the first, what are the consequences of eliminating the option of abortion for unready and unwilling mothers? To be sure, there will be women who choose to have an abortion performed illegally. Those arguing for abortion rights often point to this as a chief reason why it should remain legal, as a ban creates more criminals and does not eliminate abortions altogether. While true, it is not a legitimate argument. We do not legalize theft because it would reduce the prison population or because we cannot prevent all robberies. Nevertheless, there are very real societal difficulties when making something that has been a “fundamental right” for thirty-six years illegal. What legal consequences should a woman who has an abortion performed illegally face?

This has typically been one of the biggest hang-ups for those arguing against abortion. Some take the extreme view that abortion should be treated as murder by our criminal justice system, resulting in 20 years to life in prison, while others suggest only minimal or even no significant punishment. The question must be answered fairly and consistently. While abortion is equivalent to taking a human life, the circumstances surrounding it are unique, particularly given that it is currently a Constitutionally-protected right. Personally, I wouldn’t find it productive or fair to throw what is often a frightened 17-20 year-old girl in prison for the better part of her life as punishment for her choice to have an abortion. In the United States, our legal system already recognizes the varying degrees of homicide, ranging from involuntary to voluntary to second and first degree murder. Additionally, there is a subcategory of voluntary manslaughter called infanticide that deals specifically with mothers who kill their infant children as a result of an unbalanced mental state brought on by post-partum depression. I would see no problem with creating a similarly distinct subcategory of voluntary manslaughter for abortion that carries a lesser sentence. For first-time offenders, I think a minimum sentence of 250 hours (roughly one month) of community service working with underprivileged children, adoption organizations, single mother support groups, etc would be reasonable, in addition to one year of mandatory counseling dealing with responsible sexual education, pre-natal development, and motherhood. For repeat or serial offenders, punishment would necessarily be harsher, involving jail time determined by the number of abortions and manner or reason for which they were conducted. But those actually conducting the abortion, that is to say the doctors, would be subject to serious penalties. Jail time ranging from 2-15 years depending upon the number of abortions performed and health consequences for the mother would be wholly appropriate.

We would, of course, not be hunting down and pursuing those who have had abortions or performed them in the past and those prior occurrences would not count against them on their record should they be brought up on charges for abortion after it became illegal. Furthermore, while the suggested penalties outlined above seem reasonable and fair to me, ultimately of course it would be left up to the states and the legal system to make a final determination with the input of society as a whole. Mine would be just one voice among hundreds of millions of Americans, some arguing for sterner penalties and others for minimal or none at all.

Mitigation of the factors that lead to a woman’s decision to have an abortion must also become part of the solution. Common factors that influence the decision are the inability to support the child financially, or inability to carry or raise a child due to life circumstances (school, career, unmarried, etc). As a society, if we agree to bar a woman from having an abortion, we are obligated to provide her with as much support as possible to carry the child to term and, if she so chooses, raise the child. The government should have a role to play in making assistance with medical expenses and care available for women in these circumstances should they need it, though the role should be an indirect one. Offerring generous tax incentives and federal funding for charitable and non-profit organizations that provide pre-natal care and financial aid, adoption assistance, single mother support and childcare would be one of many ways the state can give indirect support. If a mother decides to raise the child herself, despite difficult social or financial circumstances, targeted government support in the form of welfare services already exist, as does financial aid/tax relief for day care and education. As far as this conservative is concerned, providing support to mothers in need and the children they carry and raise is perhaps one of the most suitable uses of tax money conceivable.

As stated earlier, I am typically the last person to advocate a ban of any sort, and favor freedom of choice and government non-interference in just about every aspect of life. I do not consider myself to be a social conservative in the traditional sense of the word and do feel a significant level of discomfort advocating for banning and punishing a practice that is currently perfectly legal. Nevertheless, like
Nat Hentoff and other secular opponents of abortion, I feel that there are compelling and legitimate reasons why the practice should be ended that do not rest solely on religious or emotive principles, but on logic, liberty and basic ethics. Furthermore, I have satisfied myself that the core arguments in favor of abortion are insufficient to warrant Constitutional protection as a “fundamental right,” despite my own personal political inclinations that often border on libertarian. I do recognize the difficulties of transforming what has been a Constitutional right into a crime, though I would state that the difficulty could have been avoided with more thoughtful and responsible judicial exercise in 1973, and am willing to concede that such a ban obliges government assistance for those who otherwise may have sought abortion. The purpose behind this article is to initiate thoughtful, reasoned debate and offer a more secular case against abortion. I have intentionally avoided the usage of loaded terms such as “pro-life” or “pro-choice” (except when referencing the language of the recent Gallup poll) due to their ties to the existing, politically charged debate, and have opted to instead make this discussion one between rational individuals rather than disparate interest groups.




Bruce Bartlett had a shocking article in Forbes today that every American should read. What is shocking about it is not that he maintains that taxes for all Americans will have to go up in order to cover Social Security and Medicare obligations (sadly this isn’t necessarily common knowledge), but rather that taxes will have to shoot up by 81%. Bartlett runs the numbers and makes a starkly convincing and mathematically sound case. Says Bartlett:

“To summarize, we see that taxpayers are on the hook for Social Security and Medicare by these amounts: Social Security, 1.3% of GDP; Medicare part A, 2.8% of GDP; Medicare part B, 2.8% of GDP; and Medicare part D, 1.2% of GDP. This adds up to 8.1% of GDP. Thus federal income taxes for every taxpayer would have to rise by roughly 81% to pay all of the benefits promised by these programs under current law over and above the payroll tax.”

Facts are facts. And to complicate matters the Obama administration has gone on record as the biggest spending administration in American history, creating a federal deficit of $1.8 trillion. President Obama has also set his sights on a public health care initiative that won’t come cheap. While the president rightly says we need to tackle entitlement reform, what options does he truly have? A reduction of benefits will be a hard sell, even for someone with his considerable (but waning) political capital. Privatization would be a non-starter considering the constituency that elected him. Realistically he is left with only one choice: raise taxes.

Of course, he won’t raise our taxes by 81%. He will likely be clever and do as we predicted in The Coming Train Wreck, raising corporate tax rates to all-time highs not seen since the 1970s to help cover some of the cost. But that alone won’t come close to saving Social Security/Medicare, funding his pet programs and reducing the deficit. We’ll see our taxes go up one way or another. More than likely it will be in the form of what I like to call “behavior modification” taxes, such as the tax on soda and sugar that is currently under discussion in Congress. In the interest of American health, he could get away with taxing the daylights out of all sorts of things on the federal level. But can he reach Bartlett’s 81% that way? Not a chance.

And to complicate matters further, the president promised that any American earning less than $250,000 a year would not see their taxes go up by one cent. While this is a promise he’s already cleverly broken (by allowing “behavior modification” tax hikes, such as those on tobacco products), he cannot touch our income tax rates without suffering a quick (albeit painful) political death reminiscent of George HW Bush.

So while the president can squeeze business (which in turn will cause a whole slew of separate issues for the languishing economy) and sneak in some targeted tax hikes here and there, he’s tied his own hands on income tax hikes where most of the money would presumably have to come from. This wouldn’t be that big a problem if he could keep his lust for spending and big government programs in check, but he has proven himself to be one of, if not the most, fiscally irresponsible presidents in American history; and he’s only been in office for less than five months. He will kick the can down the road to the next president, as he has frequently accused the Bush administration of doing, and hope for the best.




As I’m sure we’re all aware, Arlen Specter jumped ship on April 29th, and has now handed the Democrats their 60-seat majority on a silver platter. That is, of course, when Coleman finally gives up in Minnesota. Why did Specter switch, you ask? Easy – he likes his job better than he likes his party, and he knows that there was a spot on the Dem’s 2010 scalp wall with Specter stenciled above it.

I don’t expect the party to make up seats in the mid-term election. It’d be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. The Obama campaign has kept chugging along, and his personal popularity ought to be enough to see his party squeak through with a handful of gains. Is this the end of the world? No, but it does mean that the Republicans need to take this time in the wilderness to improve. They’ve got to do a Rocky IV montage of pulling logs in the Siberian wilderness, because quite frankly, that’s what’s needed. Not to win the fight, no, but to avoid a new ‘era of good feelings’ and effective one-party rule for the next 20-40 years.

During the last Republican ascendancy, the party was aided by a brilliant pundit who chased the crazies out of the tent and turned what was an odd mish-mash of whigs, tories, libertarians, southern old-boys, the military, and yes, even crypto-fascists into the party that would usher in a revolution. William F. Buckley, Jr., we will miss you.

With our watchman retired, the crazies have snuck back in. The idea that we can roll back the last 17 years (21 for many) is stupid. The idea that we can allow unmitigated self-regulation across the board is also stupid. Do we need a 90% tax rate? Of course not, but locking down all meaningful traffic in Congress over a stupid 34/39% rate only leads to more of the political tribalism that’s sent this country into a downward spiral. The tea parties were a stupid idea, rightfully mocked by the left AND middle. Open discussion about where a big chunk of this spending is going is legitimate and necessary. Allowing all of the anti-government cranks to rant about “teabagging the president” is hilarious to watch, shameful when affiliated with one’s party. The ONLY redeeming thing I can think that these events could have accomplished is to fill the party’s coffers, and not merely inflate Lipton’s quarterly revenue.

Reagan’s “three-legged stool” of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and defense hawks, has been shattered by the fusing of the latter two groups into the NeoCons, a group whose name is an oxymoron: having abandoned the textbook realism of its conservative forebears, this group preaches the exporting of our values (textbook liberalism) and by force, if necessary (imperialism). Picking up our slack, the Democrats’ 50-state policy actively recruited moderate Republicans to run against their more right-wing Republican opponents. They succeeded, and wildly. I’m not even talking about Rockefeller Republicans, as even the moderates have been chased out of the party in favor of rabid populism.

It is a simple truth of politics that the biggest tent wins elections. By setting up a bigger tent, the Democrats have collected the votes needed to push their agendas. Are some of them wrong for the country? Yes. By chasing off potential allies and drawing a strict red line around a little circle of ideas will the Republican Party regain even a competitive balance? No.

Here is Luscus’ New Republican platform, by which the GOP has a chance to not be relegated to a third party of cranks when the Democratic wings eventually split:

1. Tough on Crime, Punishment reform – Luscus’ new criminal platform is toughest on white-collar crime, with two tracks of punishment for violent and non-violent offenders of other crime. Punishment reform would see the elimination of the three-strike rule for drug use offenders, and a 2nd track of addiction treatment and education (not incarceration) for all users, with all street-dealers’ punishment commuted upon conviction of their suppliers (higher up the chain, more time commuted).
2. War on Drugs now War on Organized Crime – new approach would buy drug supplies from growing countries (Columbia, Afghanistan, Myanmar) and eliminate the income source of middle-man cartels in a drive to break the cycle of drugs – guns – human trafficking/political intimidation. This would see a massive hike in the level of cooperation with Mexico, even to the point of using the US military against the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels.
3. Immigration Reform – all of the rabid anti-immigrant border Nazis must leave the party. Yes, it gets votes, but forcing millions of GDP-boosting workers off of the grid fuels crime, and reduces the government’s rightful take of their wages. The sad truth of this is that a contracting economy makes this a significantly smaller problem than when times were good. Luscus would enact a ‘guest-worker’ program similar to Germany’s gastarbeiters, and give blanket amnesty to all undocumented workers that signed up for these 1-2 year work permits. This would also allow unlimited H-1B visas (for specialty occupation) so long as the holder had guaranteed employment.
4. Foreign Policy – adoption of Wilsonian Realism (or Pragmatic Wilsonianism) as foreign policy, which combines textbook Realism in dealing with diminishing sovereignty at irregular levels with international treaties and fora with the goal of a single world order that includes all participants. This means pumping up the NPT and IAEA, reigning in China’s egocentrism (and currency manipulation), and working more closely with Russia and Europe to establish order (not necessarily democracy) as the preeminent goal of world cooperation.
5. Political Financial Reform – Two giant planks of this: 1) every member of congress, and all non-career civil servants (especially cabinet rank) would undergo annual auditing by the IRS. 2) Campaign donations would be limited to residents of one’s constituency, so if you’re running for house, it’s your district. If you’re running for Senate, within the state. If you’re running for President, you can only spend the money you raise within each state. No term limits, but no more California Real Estate moguls deciding who wins in Kentucky.

I’m leaving off Domestic Policy, because the next 3-7 years will change the system so radically it won’t matter. If I were to have one, it would be Infrastructure investment – this would eliminate stupid subsidies (Corn-based ethanol, farms over 1000 acres) and invest in infrastructure the way the Eisenhower Interstate System did – more high speed rail (private competition) for certain industrial corridors, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) along the rust belt (Buffalo, Cleveland, entire state of Michigan), roll-on container ships for coastal transit of trailer trucks to relieve stress on coastal interstates, smart water and electrical grids (with huge investment in security to keep the Chinese and Russians out) and expanded broadband and wifi for urban centers. This would be a pro-growth, pro-job policy that would set out national goals instead of constituency-projects (which is how it’s being handled now). All numbers would be run by the GAO and the Congressional Research Service, and published as such. Education reform would see more charter schools, and a reversal of the No Child Left Behind standards – instead of the federal government mandating training and states setting benchmarks, we’d see national standardized tests and the states would determine qualifications (ideally minimal).

Otherwise, here are Luscus’ predictions for short to medium term Domestic policy:

1. Increasing scope of Medicare/Medicaid will price out private insurance, leading to a nationalized health care system by attrition and not enactment
2. Letting Wall Street gamble with pension plans will see nationalization of retirement, as the last two years has shown that we can’t trust either the retirees or their financial managers to handle their retirement accounts
3. Bastardized nationalization of banks will see more and more bankers become millionaires, while limiting entry to this Midas caste to family members of executives
4. Gay marriage legalized, but not the right way (must give civil benefits evenly and respect religion’s beliefs and give them a right to choose who to serve).

Am I angry? Yes. Am I cranky? Yes. What makes me different is that I am anti-populist, seethingly anti-corruption, and can sum up my feelings towards our elected officials in four words: Grow The F*** Up. You’re elected to make the tough decisions, not to entrench yourself in a high-paying high-profile fundraising job with all sorts of perks. By manipulating the easily-swayed boobs of the population, you’ve balkanized the country into crazy tribes who can’t talk to each other, don’t know what they’re talking about, and are getting louder and louder.

What Republicans have to do to regain their relevance is to become as seethingly anti-corruption as I am, strike out against globalized crime, domestic corruption (on Wall Street and on K street), and adopt an economic pragmatism that may stray from strict ideology from time to time. In short: don’t drink the Kool Aid, drive off the crazies, and get back to doing the heavy lifting and number crunching.



The president has drawn a line in the sand on reforming a tax code that encourages businesses to move their operations and their profits offshore to avoid paying federal income tax. Obama boldly declared on Monday that he will demand that tax loopholes that allow businesses to claim certain deductions and hide their money offshore be closed, and that financial institutions that facilitate these offshore operations open their records to the US government or become a target. Said the president, “If financial institutions won't cooperate with us, we will assume that they are sheltering money in tax havens and act accordingly.” Sound familiar? But Obama’s proposed War on Tax Havens has been met with stern opposition from businesses and uncomfortable silence from his own Democratic Party in Congress.

There is no question that President Obama’s proposed reform would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage with foreign companies. Indeed, such a move would eliminate the only incentive that American businesses have to remain tied to America. Obama’s plan ignores or misunderstands the real reasons why American businesses avoid federal income tax. The first reason is that their taxes are too high. US corporate tax rates are the second highest in the world (Japan takes first place), ranging from 35-41%, as compared to 34.4% in France and 25% in communist China. Which leads to the second reason: everyone wants to minimize their tax payments. If there were copious tax loopholes for middle-class Americans that we could take advantage of, don’t think for a moment that we wouldn’t. Businesses are not villainous because they’re keeping their tax payments as low as possible in order to preserve their capital and generate growth. If you’re looking for someone to blame, look no further than your Congress, who writes these insanely complicated and ad hoc tax laws.

The fact that the president’s allies in Congress are trying to avoid the issue belies that they know it would spell economic doom for the US, particularly their constituents. Senate Finance Committee Chairman and Democrat Max Baucus said the proposal requires “further study.” Even ultra-liberal Barbara Boxer has said that a plan should not be adopted that has “unintended consequences.” To be realistic, the president doesn’t stand a chance of making this plan a reality. Businesses will not allow themselves to hobbled in such a way by the federal government and they will make sure that enough Congressional Democrats see things their way to stall the move. The consequences of enacting such a plan would be dire, particularly in a recession with rising unemployment. I’ll go so far as to say the idea is monumentally stupid. This is not to say that the idea won’t resound with many Americans, who like words like “fairness” and feel, now more than ever thanks to the president, that businesses are to blame for many of their woes.

If the president wants to reform the tax code, conservatives are all ears. We’ve been asking for tax reform for quite some time now. But this “simplification” of the tax code amounts to a tax hike on the people already paying the majority of taxes in this country and creates a disincentive for them to operate in the United States at the worst possible time. Like we’ve been saying, President Obama, why don’t we keep tax rates as low as possible right now? It’s not our fault your stimulus plan and budget are wildly irresponsible debt-monsters (well, it’s not my fault anyway).