The Digest

The American Enterprise, March-April 1997 | Go to article overview
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The Digest


Rein in our Judges

Edwin Meese III and Rhett DeHart, "The Imperial Judiciary ... and What Congress Can Do About It," in Policy Review (January/February 1997), Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.

Thomas Jefferson warned that if unelected judges were the only interpreters of the Constitution, "a very dangerous doctrine" would result "which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy." Jefferson's nightmare has come true. Today, judges have more power than ever. But Meese and DeHart of the Heritage Foundation suggest that Congress can "confine the judiciary to its proper constitutional role." The authors' recommendations include:

* Senators should block more nominations. Senators must confirm each federal judge, but most of the time they routinely approve whomever the President selects. Meese and DeHart urge members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to be more cautious and to grill candidates about their temptation to activism. The Senate should also have individual votes on each nominee, instead of approving candidates in batches.

* Congress should limit the powers of federal courts. Article III, section 1 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to create or dissolve any federal court except the Supreme Court. The 104th Congress passed two laws designed to restrict the power of these lower courts: the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which restricted the power of federal courts to regulate state prisoners; and the Effective Death Penalty Act, which reduced the number of appeals that prisoners on death row could file. Congress should impose more curbs, say Meese and DeHart. It should restrict the ability of judges to force states or cities to raise taxes. It should restrain the ability of federal judges to micromanage schools and hospitals.

* Congress should reduce the number of federal crimes. Congress has federalized so many crimes that it's now a federal crime to ship water hyacinths across a state border without permission. Congress should start anew and only declare the most important crimes to be under federal jurisdiction. And Congress should impose a "federalism assessment" on legislation that requires every bill to include a "justification for a national solution to the issue in question."


Women: The First Sex?

Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba, Women's Figures: The Economic Progress of Women in America. Independent Women's Forum/AEI Press, 1150 17th Street N. W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Feminists like to argue that women, as victims of discrimination, are predestined to be less successful than men in the workplace unless the federal government imposes massive affirmative action schemes. Furchtgott-Roth of the American Enterprise Institute and Emory University graduate student Stolba disagree. "The statistical evidence shows that American women have achieved startling gains since the early part of the century," they write. "The figures suggest that they will continue to succeed."

Wages: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median weekly wage of American women in 1995 was equivalent to 76 percent of what men earn. But this wage gap results from a variety of factors; women are more likely to leave the labor force to bear children and often prefer to take lower-salaried positions that provide flexible hours. In any event, the "wage gap" is steadily narrowing, particularly for younger workers. In 1974, for example, women aged 16-29 earned 74 percent of what comparable men made; by 1993, twentysomething women earned 92 percent of what men their age made. And by 1994, women aged 27-33 who didn't have children earned 98 percent of what comparable men made.

"Glass ceilings":It's often assumed a "glass ceiling" prevents women from running large enterprises. But it usually takes 25 years to climb to the top of a big business.

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