The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Democratic Nebraskan Senators

With the 1978 Labor Law Reform Act (as recounted in the Orrin Hatch biography "Leading the Charge" by Lee Roderick, Chapter 7), Democrats wielding control of all of Congress and the White House [sound familiar?] sought to greatly expand the power of the Unions by easing election rules and expanding federal power exercised by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).

Economist Pierre Rinfret projected the measure to have a severe inflationary effect on an already bumpy economy while Carter-administration pollster Pat Caddell showed the President the people wanted unions to have less, not greater power. The Senate, then with a 61 Democratic +1 Independent supermajority needed the help of moderate Democrats to stay in line with with the party in order to avoid being filibustered by the Republicans.

The filibuster endured several weeks and repeated failed attempts by Majority Leader Robert Byrd at cloture, but the last Democratic holdout--a Nebraskan Senator by the name of Ed Zorkinsky seemed on the verge of wavering just before a record-setting sixth cloture vote on a single bill (ten years later Byrd would later push the record to eight attempts in 1988). "Leading the Charge" describes the pressure on Zorinsky thus:
Hatch calls Zorinsky and says he must have his vote today. Zorinsky sounds haunted. Hatch guesses that Byrd worked him over last night, Zorinsky confirms it: "They promised me everything."

"Ed, you didn't give in did you?"

"No, but you can only count me as a mushy no," says Zorinsky, meaning he's still with Hatch--barely. "If I change my mind I'll call you." (p. 98)
Yet Zorinsky went on to stick to his convictions and became the deciding holdout vote against big government and big unions when 58 Senators had voted for filibuster-ending cloture and a 59th had announced on the floor his conversion. The bill was defeated and the filibuster held.

When I read this story, I reflected on the contrast to the modern-day story of another Senator from Nebraska--Ben Nelson1--and the infamous "Cornhusker Kickback" he received in exchange for his vote a year ago this month for cloture on another economy-busting Democratic bill: Obamacare.

As 2012 elections slowly begin to roll around, I hope we will not forget the damage Ben Nelson did to our country through his vote and find someone better in Nebraska with Zorinsky-like toughness to vote for what is right.

1 Coincidentally, Nelson occupies the selfsame Class I seat previously held by Zorinsky

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