It’s About Federalism, Stupid!
Last year, President Bush officiated at an adopt-an-embryo ceremony at the White House. It was an odd convention (or coven, rather), intended to symbolically protest a vote in the House to ease restrictions on federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research.
Back then, Bush acknowledged the promise stem-cell research held, but disavowed a process predicated on the destruction of embryos: "the way those cells are derived today destroys the embryo," he said, going on to heap praise on representatives of the "Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program," and 21 of the families it had assisted in "either adopt[ing] or giv[ing] up for adoption frozen embryos that remained after fertility treatments."
"Rather than discard these embryos created during in vitro fertilization, or turn them over for research that destroys them, these families have chosen a life-affirming alternative. Twenty-one children here today found a chance for life with loving parents," the POTUS puled.
Would that Republicans fussed as much over the many fully formed human-beings dying daily in Iraq, as they do over fetuses. But they don't. And for that, the GOP—"culture of life" and all—was hurled from both houses. With the Democrats in control, we're likely to witness many more grand mals over stem-cell research. So, let me attempt to untangle the issue, not least of all for Rush Limbaugh.
The pompous talk-show host's sneering assault on a deformed Michael J. Fox was utterly depraved. Aping Fox's Parkinson's-induced spasms, Limbaugh told listeners: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act." Rather than lampoon an-obviously afflicted human being, someone with a head and a heart would have stuck to the issue.
And the issue is this: The founders bequeathed a central government of delegated and enumerated powers. Intellectual property laws are the only constitutional means at Congress's disposal with which to "promote the Progress of Science." (About their merit Thomas Jefferson, himself an inventor, was unconvinced.) The Constitution gives Congress only 18 specific legislative powers. Research and development spending is nowhere among them.
Neither are Social Security, civil rights (predicated as they are on grotesque violations of property rights), Medicare, Medicaid, and the elaborate public works sprung from the General Welfare and Interstate Commerce Clauses—you name it, it's likely unconstitutional. There is simply no warrant in the Constitution for most of what the Federal Frankenstein does.
Ditto the demands issued by the histrionic New-York Democrat, Carolyn B. Maloney:
"How many more lives must be ended or ravaged? How much more unimaginable suffering must be endured until government gives researchers the wherewithal to simply do their jobs?" she frothed back in 2005. Silly me, I guess government-giving-researchers-the-wherewithal-to-do-their-jobs was what the founders had in mind when they bequeathed a central government of delegated and enumerated powers.
Implied, moreover, in Democratic fits over stem-cell research is that if the House didn't mulct taxpayers of money for research and development, there'd be no R&D. That's absurd—and is contradicted by the government itself. An un-updated report issued by the United States Department of Health & Human Services states that, "Based on 2002 data, one study reports that private sector research and development in stem cells was being conducted by approximately 1000 scientists in over 30 firms. Aggregate spending was estimated at $208 million. Geron Corporation alone reported that it spent more than $70 million on stem cell research by September 2003."
"In the Stem Cell Business News Guide to Stem Cell Companies (Feb 2003)," writes the HHS, "61 U.S. and international companies are listed as pursuing some form of research or therapeutic product development involving stem cells. For example, Geron Corp. has announced plans to seek FDA approval to pursue human trials."
What do you know? The private sector has been beavering away for some time now, exploring the promise—or lack thereof—of embryonic stem cells.
Limbaugh needed only to remind Fox (and his own soon-to-be-dethroned party) of a thing called the Constitution. He needed to berate Fox not for his spasticity, but for using his celebrity to petition Congress for money not his. Limbaugh ought to have suggested Fox refrain from pickpocketing the taxpayer, and raise money for private research among his stinking rich pals. Instead—and in character—Limbaugh beat up on a cripple.
Later, Limbaugh offered a lame apology, the main purpose of which was self-aggrandizement, as usual: "All right then, I stand corrected," he boomed, "so I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."
©2006 By Ilana Mercer