We often talk about how poorly we’re served by our political class. The examples are legion (just take a gander at the “Gang of 8’s” travesty of an immigration bill). But most puzzling about what they do is when there are real world examples of why what they propose is doomed to costly failure, they go ahead anyway. Hubris? Arrogance? Ideology? A giant dollop of all?
Take Obama’s latest – his late entry into the climate change nonsense just as everyone else has realized it’s a costly boondoggle and are pulling out. For example:
In May, Europe’s heads of state and government at the EU Summit promoted shale gas and reduced energy prices. They would rather promote competition than stop global warming.
Obama just returned from Northern Ireland at the G8 meeting where he evidently didn’t ask why the United Kingdom removed climate change from the agenda.
European carbon markets had collapsed with the price of carbon hitting record lows, wrecking the European Union’s trading scheme for industrial CO2 emissions.
British Gas owner Centrica was buying up shale gas drilling rights in Lancashire for fracking operations. Green investors faced bankruptcy as Spain cut subsidies even further.
Large German companies such as Siemens and Bosch abandoned the solar industry, which had lost them billions, while investments in failed solar companies, including Q-Cells and SolarWorld, destroyed 21 billion euros of capital.
In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a June energy conference in Berlin to expect reduced government spending on energy like wind and solar power to keep Germany economically competitive. Europe’s clean energy economy had become a black hole eating euros.
Last week, Merkel’s government warned EU member states that German car makers would shut down production in their countries unless they support more affordable vehicle emissions rules.
At the same time, our oblivious president spoke at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, saying, “The United States will “do more,” before it’s “too late” to prevent “dangerous” global warming.
Yeah. We’ll do “more”. Meanwhile, everyone else has decided to do much less or … nothing. And that “more” Obama is talking about? Well, apparently it’s time to wreck another industry:
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told me, “The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan is a declaration of all-out war on coal. The only affordable way to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power plants – which now provide 40 percent of the nation’s electricity – is to close them down.”
Obama’s plan has political implications as well, Ebell said. “Coal dominates the heartland states that tend to vote Republican. Major industries are located there because coal produces cheap electricity. If electric rates go up to California levels in the heartland, where will American manufacturing go?”
Good question, no? Answer: he doesn’t really care. Seriously. This is all about ideology. Blinders on, facts ignored, examples discarded, it’s about legacy and “saving the world from itself” even if he has to do so autocratically. Because, you know, that Constitution thingie just get’s in the way of good governance … or something.
That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:
The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.
But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.
Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it. As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power. And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust. This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.
What should bother you is they don’t seem to care. To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong. It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses. It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.
One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago. In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison
Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in. The problem – we need statesmen who can do that. And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.
By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?
Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.
And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.
Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live? Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?
From The Hill, this paragraph concerning the brothers who perpetrated the Boston bombings:
The news that the suspects were not authorized to own firearms will likely add fuel to calls for tougher gun laws – an issue that was put on the back-burner last week after the Senate blocked the central elements of a gun-control package backed by President Obama.
A) I told you so … I said a few days ago that the defeat of the latest gun control legislation was only a set back and hardly the end of the left’s efforts to further restrict the right to own a firearm. B) I also told you I feared the aftermath of the bombings. And here we go. And finally C) WTF?
It is clear that Massachusetts’ very strict gun control laws has no effect here. None. Absolutely zero. How many times and in how many ways must we say that scofflaws don’t obey laws? How often does the “we ought to pass a law” crowd who think legislation and restriction is the answer to everything have to see that their way is a failure before they quit trying to take our freedoms away?
Gun control laws don’t work. If they did, there’d be no criminals running around with “illegal” guns, would there? There’d be no source of those guns if those laws worked. But, in fact, criminals almost exclusively obtain “illegal” guns and/or completely ignore any gun control legislation. Look at Chicago for heaven sake. Some of the most restrictive gun control laws in America and criminals have all but made it a free-fire zone.
When will the left understand that the problem isn’t guns, it’s criminals? How often does it have to be pointed out to them that criminals, by definition, don’t obey laws? How will more legislation suddenly stop (or even deter) two determined people, like the Boston bombers, from illegally obtaining guns? Harsher penalties? Obviously they were willing to take the risk. And that seems to be the case with all the other criminals who use guns in the commission of their crimes.
The only people that will be deterred and restricted by new gun control legislation are the law abiding. And watch out for this – at the end of this road (or slippery slope if you prefer) is the rationalization that the only way to “control gun violence” is to completely outlaw guns. It is the logical end of the left’s push for more and more restrictive gun legislation. And, as they often do, they’re willing to spend the time, exploit and politicize tragedies and achieve incremental success in taking guns away. It’s no different than ObamaCare. That’s not the end of anything. It is the first grab. The end state, if you are a student of the left’s actions at all, is fully government run single-payer health care. ObamaCare is just the beginning. Once it fails, because government has, whether on purpose or inadvertently designed it to fail, government will blame “the market” and claim it is the solution.
It’s an old pattern being repeated, in a slightly different way, in the gun control saga. One only has to harken to the era of prohibition (or not even that far back … how about drug laws?) to know that restrictive legislation doesn’t work, has never worked and will never work.
Violence and criminal behavior are the problems. Passing all the laws in the world won’t change that. As usual, government chooses to treat the symptoms and go after a tool rather than the actual problem.
If and when they finally find a way to ban all guns, run gun manufacturers out of the country and put more untold thousands of citizens in jail, they’ll be shocked, shocked I tell you, when gun violence continues and violence in general rises.
See the UK and Australia for case studies.
That’s essentially what Sarah Conely does in a NY Times op-ed. Oh, she cloaks it benignly enough -“it’s just soda” – as he supports the Bloomberg ban on large volume soda sales. But in essence what she claims is “government knows best” and “giving up a little liberty isn’t so bad if it benefits the majority”.
You see, liberty, in her world, is much less important that security or safety. And we, as knuckle dragging neanderthals, don’t always know what is best for us or how to accomplish our goals without the hand of government to guide us (how we ever managed to make it to the 21st century without that guiding hand is still a mystery in Conely’s circle). Sure some can do it, but most can’t and so laws should be designed to protect and guide (coercively of course) those who can’t (or are believed to be unable).
A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.
Research by psychologists and behavioral economists, including the Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, identified a number of areas in which we fairly dependably fail. They call such a tendency a “cognitive bias,” and there are many of them — a lot of ways in which our own minds trip us up.
For example, we suffer from an optimism bias, that is we tend to think that however likely a bad thing is to happen to most people in our situation, it’s less likely to happen to us — not for any particular reason, but because we’re irrationally optimistic. Because of our “present bias,” when we need to take a small, easy step to bring about some future good, we fail to do it, not because we’ve decided it’s a bad idea, but because we procrastinate.
We also suffer from a status quo bias, which makes us value what we’ve already got over the alternatives, just because we’ve already got it — which might, of course, make us react badly to new laws, even when they are really an improvement over what we’ve got. And there are more.
The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance [John Stuart] Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.
So, now that we have these Nobel Prize winning psychologists and behavioral economists on the record saying we’re basically inept shouldn’t it be clear to you, as Conely concludes, that “we need help”?
That sort of “help” used to come from family, friends and community. We somehow managed, for around 200 years, to grow and succeed splendidly without government intruding and trying to control our lives.
The basic premise of her piece is much the same as Bloomberg’s more direct assault:
The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.
Or to quote a more succinct Bloomy: “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”
Notice the arbitrariness of the “I do think”. His choice, not yours. Bloomberg picked sodas. What else could he or those like him arbitrarily pick next time? Think government health care for example and your mind explodes with where they could go.
And notice Conely’s dismissal of the loss of freedom as “not much” of a loss. Incrementalism at its finest. Pure rationalization of the use the coercive power of the state to do what they think is best for you, because, as her academic colleagues have stressed, “we need help.” And our betters are always there to “help” us, aren’t they?
Funny too how the solution is always the same, isn’t it?
And their desire to intrude? Well its wrapped up in their concept of government’s role in our lives:
In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.
That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go.
No. It’s not. That isn’t at all the function of government as laid out in the Constitution. Not even close. It has always been our job to “get where we want to go”. Government’s job was to provide certain functions to ensure an equality of opportunity (like a fair legal system, stable monetary system, etc), but on the whole we were free to pursue our lives without its interference as long as we stayed within the legal framework and did no harm to others or attempted to defraud them.
Conely’s last sentence is the mask that fronts and justifies/rationalizes every authoritarian regime that has ever existed. If you don’t believe that, I invite you to look at the title of her last book. “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”
Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
At least in terms of your freedoms?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: Sometimes government does know best. And in those cases, Americans should just cede their rights.
“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom,” Mr. Bloomberg said, during an appearance on NBC.
Well, he may not be THE most dangerous, but he’s right up there with them. He’s just more blunt and obvious about it than most of the others.
I’m sorry folks, but this is an attitude that has pervaded our politics for quite some time and it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable and should be stomped on like you would stomp a cockroach.
Government rarely “knows best” and has a dismal track record in that area. More importantly, this was a country founded on the principle of individual freedom (liberty) and heavy restraints on government power. As someone said, the Constitution doesn’t grant rights – they’re natural. What the Constitution is is a restraining order on government. Or was. It is government via people like Michael Bloomberg who’ve turned that upside down and feel comfortable enough to blurt what can only be considered authoritarian drivel (pick your brand) because he thinks he has the “right” to infringe on yours. His statement is anathema to all this country once believed in.
Yet, there are a good number of people today who will back his play and agree that he his job entails being big daddy and using the force of government to save you from yourself.
Yeah, not really.
Let me preface this by saying there is absolutely no need for new gun control legislation. None. Nada. Zip. Zero.
The claims by the left that gun control legislation will solve problems of violence are nonsense. Period.
But that likely won’t stop the usual suspects among GOP Senators from helping the left in their incremental but determined efforts to limit your 2nd Amendment rights. Apparently “Congress shall make no law” has a different meaning to some people:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has emerged as a key player if Senate Democrats are to have any chance of passing legislation to expand background checks for private sales of firearms.
McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are at the top of a list of Republicans considered most likely to sign on to legislation expanding background checks after talks with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) stalled earlier this month.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has signaled he will likely support the yet-to-be-finalized proposal he negotiated with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks to cover private gun sales, according to Senate sources.
Of course we’ve been assured by some that this is really of no big consequence and we should relax and let it happen.
Like I said in the beginning – there is absolutely no need for new gun control legislation – none. The fact that some in the GOP seem poised to make that happen anyway should tell you all you need to know about certain members of that party and their professed claim to believe in your Constitutional rights all while negotiating parts of them away.
Emily Miller, writing in the Washington Times, reports:
Gun control efforts on the nation level lost a major battle when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a bereft Sen. Dianne Feinstein Monday that her so-called assault weapon ban bill was getting pulled from the gun package coming to the floor next month. Her legislation, which passed the SenateJudiciary Committee last week by a straight party line vote, is the only one of the four gun-related bills that passed out of committee that Mr. Reid axed.
Mrs. Feinstein insists she will not be ignored. The California Democrat plans to bring two amendments up during the gun votes — to ban firearms that have one cosmetic feature that makes them resembles military weapon and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Mr. Reid said Tuesday that “her amendment, using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes — that’s not 60.”
However, Mr. Reid’s calculation was really less about vote counting and more about keeping the majority in the upper chamber.
“The Democrats know that Feinstein’s ‘assault weapon’ ban is suicide at the polls for them come 2014,” Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation told me Tuesday. “It is so extreme that even the Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want it as part of their package.”
So ‘whoohoo’, huh? Yeah, sort of, but Miller entitles her piece “RIP national assault weapons ban”. RIP? Hardly. If you think Democrats, or at least Feinstein, are going to quit on this, you’re wrong. Just consider how long they pushed for government mandated health care. The fact that they couldn’t muster 40 votes in the Senate is, to those who would take your guns, another temporary setback. Despite the fact that studies have shown no positive link a decline in gun violence and the last assault weapon’s ban, they’ll continue to try. Trust me on that. This isn’t about safety, it’s about controlt:
Mrs. Feinstein insists she will not be ignored. The California Democrat plans to bring two amendments up during the gun votes — to ban firearms that have one cosmetic feature that makes them resembles military weapon and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Right now Democratic Senators are reading the electoral tea leaves and know that such a vote, at least for those in states where their seat isn’t safe, is electoral poison. As soon as they see or feel that the electorate’s opinion has shifted, they’ll gladly vote for such a ban. The lack of votes isn’t about principle, it’s about keeping their jobs.
“The Democrats know that Feinstein’s ‘assault weapon’ ban is suicide at the polls for them come 2014,” Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation told me Tuesday. “It is so extreme that even the Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want it as part of their package.”
Mr. Obama does, of course. And so they’ll continue to try. And they’ll use the incremental approach instead.
And there’s something else to consider here – the politics of the Reid move. He’s taken the step of removing the most controversial parts of the gun control attempt. But there’s still more for the Senate to consider. And Reid is trying to use his removal of the “extreme” parts to demand a corresponding move (i.e. “compromise”) from the GOP in support of what’s left.
The background check bill is the most contentious of those three, and lawmakers are still working behind the scenes to find a compromise that can garner 60 votes in the chamber.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who has been trying to work out a compromise, said Tuesday he was optimistic on that front.
“I’m still working very hard, and hopefully reasonable people will look at reasonable proposals and something will happen,” he said.
And what would that compromise bring?
Currently, all sales by licensed firearms dealers must go through background checks, but transactions between private individuals do not. Lawmakers are looking for a way to extend checks to almost all transactions without also creating a record-keeping system that gun rights supporters fear could turn into a gun registry.
How could it not turn into a defacto“gun registry”?
And who wants to bet that some GOP Senators end up supporting it?
I have to preface this by saying absolutely nothing would surprise me any more. Since this administration has come into office, what would have, or should have been, unthinkable previously has not only happened but has been cheered by a certain element of our population. ObamaCare is the most visible evidence of this. But there is plenty of other stuff too. Drone strikes on US citizens are “okay”, i.e. “legal”. Speaking of “legal” how about this:
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.
The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.
More shredding of Constitutional guarantees. And what do we hear for the most part? A collective yawn.
We’ve all seen what has happened on Cyprus with the government imposing a “levy” on savers. A “levy”. Outright theft is what it is. And even while they’ve lowered the amount of the “levy” they’re still imposing it.
Couldn’t happen here, could it? Don’t bet on it. What other government is desperate for revenue? And where is it that 19 trillion dollars exist that is currently out of their reach?
Try 401(k)’s. Katie Pavlich has the story:
As a reminder, the United States government has been eying and researching how Americans use their 401k plans for quite some time now. Recently we saw the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggest the government help “manage” retirement plans.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is weighing whether it should take on a role in helping Americans manage the $19.4 trillion they have put into retirement savings, a move that would be the agency’s first foray into consumer investments.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been exploring and are interested in in terms of whether and what authority we have,” bureau director Richard Cordray said in an interview. He didn’t provide additional details.
The bureau’s core concern is that many Americans, notably those from the retiring Baby Boom generation, may fall prey to financial scams, according to three people briefed on the CFPB’s deliberations who asked not to be named because the matter is still under discussion.
The retirement savings business in the U.S. is dominated by a group of companies that handle record-keeping and management of investments in tax-advantaged vehicles like 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. The group includes Fidelity Investments, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. (TROW) Americans held $19.4 trillion in retirement assets as of Sept. 30, 2012, according to the Investment Company Institute, an industry association; about $3.5 trillion of that was in 401(k) plans.
So we have a new government agency (created in 2011) looking for a job to justify its continued existence and an administration and political elite looking for revenue while over 19 trillion dollars lays in front of them. The statement “the …. bureau is weighing whether it should take on the role of helping Americans manage [their] retirement savings” should send shivers down your spine. Why do they feel the need to consider such a thing?
Well, it’s because you need their protection:
This agency, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank-Act, is very concerned about how safe your retirement savings are. They are apparently concerned that retiring baby boomers may become victims of financial scams.
That’s right, it’s save the geezers instead of the children. You’re simply too dumb to manage the account you’ve spent your entire working life amassing. You have to have government help to do it and that means what? Government access and, one would assume, at some point government permission to spend your dollars. How else does government save you from “scams” (you know, like Social Security)?
You sputter, “but they have no right…”. Since when has government really been concerned with rights? If it can give spy agencies access to your financial records “legally” to combat terrorism, how big of a stretch is it to believe they’ll grant another agency access to your financial records (401(k)) to combat “scams?”
And, with the camel of government’s nose under the tent, how long before that access turns into some sort of “levy” for this service they provide that you never asked for?
It all starts with what could be described as a very simple act – the acceptance of a premise. As soon as one side accepts the premise of the other side, the other side has won. It simply becomes a matter of how bad the damage is.
In this case, the premise that seems to have been accepted by the “old ladies” of the GOP leadership is that some sort of federal “gun control” legislation is necessary because of “mass killings” and our “children”. From Ammoland:
You might think that with Republicans in control of the US House of Representatives there would be no way ANY gun control legislation could reach the floor.
But sadly we are already beginning to see so-called “conservative champions” folding to pressure from the anti-gun media to sell-out gun owners.
Former Vice Presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan, has stated that he would support legislation that bans private sales at gun shows.
In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with the help of Rep. Scott Rigell (VA), Patrick Meehan (PA) and others, have stated openly that they will work together with anti-gun Democrats from Maryland and New York to tighten restrictions on private firearms sales and expand background checks.
Possibly even more upsetting has been Senator Tom Coburn’s willingness to work alongside anti-gunner Chuck Schumer (NY) to propose “bi-partisan” anti-gun legislation in the Senate.
Make no mistake, so-called “expansion” of background checks is little more than a blatant attempt by anti-gunners to register all firearms and gun owners in America.
That is why Representatives Steve Stockman (TX-36) and Paul Broun (GA-10) have drafted a letter to Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership urging them to require the support of the majority of Republican members in the House before bringing any anti-gun bills to the floor.
This so-called “Hastert Rule” would mean that 117 Republicans would have to support a particular bill before it had any chance of getting a floor vote, not just the support of the anti-gun elitist in leadership.
So the premise seems to have been accepted by the GOP leadership if this report is accurate. And, if it is accurate, then they’re going to try to fashion some sort of gun control legislation to address a problem that the type of gun control legislation they’ll propose won’t effect. What it will do, however, is create a new law that will put legal gunowners in criminal jeopardy if they desire to sell their firearms and don’t follow the new rules to a ‘t’ (and, my guess is the new rules will likely be mostly unenforceable – they’d only be enforced retroactively if a gun involved in a private sale that wasn’t “background checked” was used in a crime).
The criminals? Those who are likely to commit mass killings? Yeah, they’ll comply.
Meanwhile, if you believe that Congress has no right to “infringe” on 2nd Amendment rights, prepare to be sold down the river by the GOP. They’ve already accepted the need and the premise, it’s now just a matter of figuring out what the “compromise” will be. What should be clear, however, is that if anti-gun legislation does get passed, it will be your 2nd Amendment rights that will be compromised and the GOP will be complicit.
When you hear all this nonsense coming out of DC about “spending cuts”, “savings”, sequestration or just about anything to do with budget, deficit or debt, who’s fault it is, etc. – even while they plan to kick it down the road, again – take it with a grain of … pie.