Thomas Sowell discusses the rash of political charlatans we’ve been plagued by over the recent decades.
He blames them for the condition we’re in, policy-wise. But he puts equal blame on “we the people” for continuing to support them and their policies:
Political charlatans are not the whole story of our social degeneracy on many fronts. “We the people” must accept our own share of the blame because we voted these charlatans into office, and went along with their ever-increasing power over our lives.
When it came to charlatans taking ever larger amounts of our own money to finance ever more big government programs, we stood still like sheep waiting to be sheared. We remained as meek as sheep when they turned schools into places to propagandize our children to grow up accepting more of the same.
All the while we had the power to vote them out. But we couldn’t be bothered to look beyond their magic words. Even now, many are too absorbed in their electronic devices to know or care.
Most voters, it seems to me, are like magpies – distracted by shiny things and never able to see the danger that exists in reality. Sowell uses “the legacy of slavery” as one of his points of discussion. I’m going to add a lengthy quote that pretty succinctly tells the story of how we allowed political charlatans to distract us with a problem that seems to not have existed and used it to gain greater control over our lives while, in fact, making the “problem” worse”
Here again, rhetoric distracts attention from questions about logic or evidence. The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just a convenient excuse for bad behavior, it allows politicians to escape responsibility for the consequences of the government policies they imposed.
Although the left likes to argue as if there was a stagnant world to which they added the magic ingredient of “change” in the 1960s, in reality there were many positive trends in the 1950s, which reversed and became negative trends in the 1960s.
Not only was the poverty rate going down, so was the rate of dependence on government to stay out of poverty. Teenage pregnancy rates were falling, and so were rates of venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. Homicide rates among non-white males fell 22 percent in the 1950s.
In the wake of the massive expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s “war on poverty” program — with the repeatedly announced goal of enabling people to become self-supporting and end their dependence on government — in fact dependence on government increased and is today far higher than when the 1960s began.
The declining rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases in the 1950s both reversed and rose sharply in the wake of the 1960s “sexual revolution” ideas, introduced into schools under the guise of “sex education,” which claimed to be able to reduce teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases.
Black labor force participation rates, which had been higher than white labor force participation rates in every census from 1890 to 1960, fell below white labor force participation rates by 1972 and the gap has widened since then. Homicide rates among non-white males reversed their decline in the 1950s and soared by 75 percent during the 1960s.
None of this was a “legacy of slavery,” which ended a century earlier. But slavery became the rhetorical distraction for the political magicians’ trick of making their own responsibility for social degeneration vanish into thin air by sleight of hand.
Now you can point to many negatives the “War on Poverty” brought us … Sowell highlights the big ones. But the most important changes were two-fold. One: it created more dependency on government (and it helped tear the nuclear family apart among the poor) and it created an illusion that government (which mostly meant “Democrats”) cared more than any other institution.
The political charlatans had created a false problem and a false narrative which has had disastrous results in the long run. But those changes it created were manifestly worth it according to certain of the political class, because it increased their power. And the narrative that has been built about this program (and the “legacy of slavery”), along with the narrative that has created the “cult of the victim”, has hidden the huge problems created by government intrusion and instead has created a myth which says “more government is good government”.
So you end up with an entire segment of the voting public duped by this “shiny” narrative and either too lazy or too incurious to look below its surface. That’s the formula for political success on one side and national decline on the other.
The question, then, is how do the defenders of liberty catch the attention of the voting magpies and help them catch a clue? Facts apparently don’t matter. And alternate narratives don’t seem to stick.
If you can answer that question, you’ve hit upon a way to help save this country. I’ve been trying to come up with a way for 40 years.
I wish you luck.
It’s been said, a lot recently, that on the world scene Vladimir Putin understands he’s playing chess, and Barack Obama thinks he’s playing checkers.
We should be so lucky.
Our feckless back bench leader isn’t even playing a game that was based on the same board as the one Putin is playing on. In chess and checkers at least some of the fundamental principles carry over and there is some strategy involved beyond tick tack toe where you can always play the game to a draw.
Back in 2013 when President Present was drawing his first red lines and threatening Bashar Assad in Syria with a fate similar to the one he so expertly delivered to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Russians let him talk until he’d used his vaunted powers of speechifying long enough and then stepped in, saved their Assad from being dragged out of a spider hole and shot, and embarrassed President “Red Line” and Secretary of State “Unbelievably Small” by delivering a fait accompli in ‘securing’ the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles on behalf of their client.
At the time the usual plethora of sycophants declared that Obama had masterfully gotten everything he wanted, stopped Assad, neutralized the chemical weapons and should possibly consider selecting wall space for his next Nobel Prize owing to his brilliance in implementing effective credible foreign policy.
Forward to current day.
President Obama mid-week demonstrated yet again that he is totally out of his depth, and actually far worse than that, demonstrated the people he’s surrounded himself with for advice, are as lackluster and simple as he is. They might be fine when figuring out how to smear an opponent out of an election in the United States, but on the world stage they probably shouldn’t be allowed to touch the brooms used to clean up the set once the curtain has come down, the lights come up and the actors head to the “after” party.
In a more than adequate display that he has no knowledge of world history. he declared Russia was going to find itself “in a quagmire” in Syria. This is a favorite of the liberal left, and harkens back to the swamp we experienced in South Vietnam between 1961 and 1973. They like the quagmire thing because the Vietnam era was when a good many of the liberal left bravely earned their credentials on college campuses making the quagmire worse while avoiding experiencing it what their blue collar brethren in the jungles of South East Asia.
They also like to point out that the Russians, wearing their spiffy Soviet Union outfits, experienced a similar quagmire in Afghanistan during the Reagan era. Really that only puts the Russians in company with damn near every major power that carried arms to the foot of the Hindu Kush since before Julius Caesar observed Gaul was divided into three parts. Afghanistan has always been, and I think always will be, nothing but a meat grinder for “conquering” armies.
But there’s an added wrinkle to that particular quagmire that bears a remarkable similarity to our experience in Vietnam.
In Vietnam we were fighting the indigenous forces of the Viet Cong and the Army of North Vietnam, officially, and the Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union unofficially. In Afghanistan the Soviets were officially fighting the tribes of Afghanistan (who adopted internecine fighting as a hobby several millennia ago and have never found any other hobby since) and, unofficially, the forces of the ‘west’ lead primarily by the United States.
So the boggy water, marsh grass and alligators for both quagmires was being greatly supplemented by outside forces in Vietnam and Afghanistan. That’s called a proxy war. It’s been done for ages, and it’s the fundamental ingredient of a quagmire. President Precious has decided that talking will eventually solve the wars in the Middle East, singularly unable to observe historically the only time there is NOT war in the Middle East is when some ruthless bastards show up and ruthlessly enforce some version of peace on the locals. While he’s sure that Syria is going to be a Russian quagmire, because that appeals to progressive schadenfreude, he hasn’t pointed out who’s going to supply the continuous outside source of bog water and alligators this time to make it one.
But he does understand the concept of a proxy war, or someone said it to him so he could repeat it in context because his next demonstration of cluelessness was for him to declare that Syria was not a superpower chess board contest.
Of course that is exactly what this is.
If you aren’t already alarmed at his failure to grasp the obvious it might be a good time for you to start, and invite your friends and neighbors because it’s going to make for, as the apocryphal curse says “interesting times.”
Syria is not going to be a quagmire for Russia, and Bashar Assad, or his son or brother(s) are going to be in charge when the chemical clouded explosive debris laden dust has settled over Damascus.
The Russians had no hesitation in using any kind of fiendish device they could invent to squash the Afghan tribes on behalf of their clients and they will have no hesitation in doing so in Syria because no one is going to stop them. No proxy war you see.
Bashar Assad isn’t too particular about who he has to destroy, or whose villages, and families he has to destroy, to restore his control of Syria. Neither are the Russians.
Syrian refugees (actually refugees from all over the Ummah) are pouring into Europe creating various crisis situations to keep the EU more than busy, and at each others throats over who will provide meals and housing and who will pay the bills.
The Russians have allied themselves with the upcoming hegemon, Iran, in the Persian Gulf, using President Red Line and Secretary of State Unbelievably Small to create a treaty that will probably result in Iran being a nuclear power within the next 2 years.
The Russians have – acquired the Crimea in a blatant territorial grab that easily rivals Hitler occupying the Sudetenland, provided aid and comfort to a “rebellion” that shot down a commercial air liner killing hundreds of passengers in the Ukraine and stepped up their aggressive behaviors in border breaching and response testing that easily rival their former behaviors as the Soviet Union.
The Russians and the Chinese are participating in large scale cooperative military ‘exercises’ – for any progressive squishy liberals, that does not mean the Chinese are now teaching the Russians Tai Chi.
And this week Russia announced, in a signal to all those former Soviet satellites and their European ‘friends’, that they’re increasing the size of their armed forces by roughly 20%. Why they need to do that isn’t clear to people who don’t think we’re playing superpower chess, but the move won’t be lost on the Eastern Europeans.
Ah, but all this ruthlessness will surely lead to “War Crimes!” you say. Sure. Russia on behalf of Syria deliberately bombs villages earlier this week (after we sorta threatened we’d take away their iPhone or something) and five days later the world mumbles it ‘may’ be a war crime – the US tags a hospital in Afghanistan by accident yesterday and within 12 hours the world is screaming for a war crimes tribunal.
You can bet the UN will be sure and let the world know that the US won’t be allowed to behave like that and President Precious will send someone to apologize while Russia and Syria continue killing at will and cleaning up ‘the quagmire’.
That’s superpower chess on display.
They have tested the steel of Barack Obama, and have discovered it’s suitable for lining the bottom of your oven or making hats to keep out alien thought control beams.
There used to be someone sitting on the other side of the chess board from Russia or China, who understood that as nasty a job as it is, someone has to counter their moves in superpower chess.
Now we have a collection of people playing Tick Tack Toe while Putin moves any pieces he wants, any way he wants, on an unopposed chess board.
Something we’ve discussed for quite some time has been validated. It, of course, concerns the climate alarmist zealots. We’ve pointed out, along with many of you, that climate alarmism isn’t so much about science as it is about power. It also seems to be a secular religion. And it’s a religion that rejects all that we’ve seen make us a prosperous and relatively free people.
Or, said another way, the commie true believers are back and they have leadership positions. For instance, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
She’s quite clear about her feelings concerning her mission:
“This is the first time” in history, she said earlier this year, that there’s a chance “to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
He also notes that Figueres “is on record saying democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model.”
Newman could have mentioned, as well, that while many who are aligned with Figueres are motivated, as she is, by a raging desire to quash capitalism, the fight against man-made global warming and climate change has become a religious crusade for more than a few.
So, let’s recap:
She doesn’t like democracy because democracy doesn’t give the “elite” the power they need to force the benighted of the world to their agenda. Much prefers the Communist China model. She’s ready to throw over capitalism (or the semblance we have in this world) to an obviously authoritarian model of a state or world government driven command economy. Because, you know, that’s worked so well in the past.
Bottom line: she apparently pines for the good old days of the gulag when recalcitrant deniers could have been banished to labor camps forthwith to do penitent work healing Gaia. And if the masses starve under collectivization and incompetence, just as long as Gaia thrives, it’s all good. Turn the clock back a century and we’re there.
It never changes does it? The only answer most of those who consider themselves “elites” -such as this woman – is total control.
Because, you know, if they gave you a tax refund you might not spend it right. And yeah, the wife of the guy who said that is running for president and is no less a control freak than this woman. She’s just smart enough to know that we’re not as stupid as some of these people think we are … but trust me, if she could throw over “democracy” and have herself crowned queen, she’d do it in an NY minute. Instead, she’s committed to the incremental diminution of our rights and the incremental increase in the power of the state.
Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.
Then, just look at the blue model elsewhere and its track record:
St. Louis has not had a Republican mayor since the 1940s, and in its most recent elections for the board of aldermen there was no Republican in the majority of the contests; the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Baltimore has seen two Republicans sit in the mayor’s office since the 1920s — and none since the 1960s. Like St. Louis, it is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Philadelphia has not elected a Republican mayor since 1948. The last Republican to be elected mayor of Detroit was congratulated on his victory by President Eisenhower. Atlanta, a city so corrupt that its public schools are organized as a criminal conspiracy against its children, last had a Republican mayor in the 19th century. Its municipal elections are officially nonpartisan, but the last Republican to run in Atlanta’s 13th congressional district did not manage to secure even 30 percent of the vote; Atlanta is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department.
But our blamer-in-chief and responsibility dodger par excellence prefers to have you believe that the problem is this particular Congress which happens to be Republican.
Of course, obviously the problems in Baltimore aren’t a recent event, as something that has developed within the last 2 years:
This did not come out of nowhere. While the progressives have been running the show in Baltimore, police commissioner Ed Norris was sent to prison on corruption charges (2004), two detectives were sentenced to 454 years in prison for dealing drugs (2005), an officer was dismissed after being videotaped verbally abusing a 14-year-old and then failing to file a report on his use of force against the same teenager (2011), an officer was been fired for sexually abusing a minor (2014), and the city paid a quarter-million-dollar settlement to a man police illegally arrested for the non-crime of recording them at work with his mobile phone. There’s a good deal more. Does that sound like a disciplined police organization to you?
Then there’s this from a reporter who has lived in Baltimore for 30 years:
Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial. The mayor, city council president, police chief, top prosecutor, and many other city leaders are black, as is half of Baltimore’s 3,000-person police force. The city has many prominent black churches and a line of black civic leadership extending back to Frederick Douglass.
Yet, the gaping disparities separating the haves and the have nots in Baltimore are as large as they are anywhere. And, as the boys on the street will tell you, black cops can be hell on them, too.
Well, then … if it isn’t “racism” (Al Sharpton, you can stay home) and it isn’t the GOP, what could it possibly be?
Let’s try a little deductive reasoning. What’s left?
Found on Facebook (Clare Spark), I think this nicely describes Obama’s speech last night:
I am not the first to point out that Obama is a postmodern president. Tonight he proved that label by his “not-so-fast” speech on foreign policy vis a vis ISIS. It was what the pomos call ” a performative act”–the last word in magical thinking.
Indeed. Platitudes, chest thumping, equivocation – and absolutely nothing new. He’s given a speech … the act is complete. The “ususal”. Talk equals action.
As we’ve become familiar with the “non-apology apology” in today’s life, we have now been introduced to the “non-strategy strategy”. What he talked about wasn’t a strategy, it was pure justification for doing … not much (even though he made it clear he doesn’t need Congress’s approval to do … not much). Apparently he thinks that a few airstrikes and few advisors will stimulate “allies” to do much more than that and take the bit and run with it. Yeah, that’s always worked so well in the past. Leading from behind again.
Also unknown is how one is going to take an obviously dispirited and seemingly unwilling (incompetent) Iraqi army and turn it around any time soon, but if there is a plan in there, that seems to be it, sort of. Oh, that and a “National Guard” (new name for the “awakening’s” militias)? Say what? But what I mostly got from it was he, like many other mistaken arm-chair generals, believes that he can accomplish “degrading” ISIS by air. First, any significant degradation would require a sustained air campaign on the level of our Gulf War “shock and awe” campaign. Not going to happen. Secondly, finding and killing ISIS C4 nodes, like we did with Saddam, is an extraordinarily difficult task in comparison. While we may randomly accomplish knocking out some of those nodes, it will be mostly luck without good hard timely intelligence (and acted upon immediately) about an enemy which remains mostly mobile.
And how about him deciding ISIS isn’t “Islam” or “Islamic”? Since when does he get to decide? Certainly some parts of greater Islam are against ISIS, but then Sunnis have no use for Shiites either do they? Does that make one or the other not “Islam”. Who gets to decide? Such declarations do Obama’s poor credibility even more damage and feeds the conspiracy theorists. But, that said, one has to wonder why it was so important for him to include that in a national policy speech. It is a total non-sequitur in my opinion. But for whatever reason, he chose to include it.
I think James Joyner has a good take on the speech. His first reaction:
The first thing I’d note is how much it sounded like any number of foreign policy speeches given by his predecessor. He declared again and again that, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people” and proudly enumerated all the ways that “we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.”
Our Peace Prize president sounding like Bush … got to love the irony. Of course what Obama didn’t expound upon is how his withdrawal of troops from Iraq helped enable the ISIS expansion. Reality (i.e. an objective military assessment of the status of the Iraqi army and its actual abilities) rarely, if every, conforms to an arbitrary political deadlines. I think it is clear to everyone the pullout at that time was a very bad idea. It takes time to build an effective fighting force. What is now left in Iraq is a shattered and dispirited force. Because of that, we’re put in the position to again try to salvage a situation there. With greater forethought and less ideology, we would have kept US forces still there to ensure the Iraqi military was actually ready to confront a threat like ISIS instead of pretending it was so to keep a political promise.
Joyner’s second thought:
The second observation is that it’s still not clear exactly what Obama’s strategy is. His stated political objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” but he offered no plan that could plausibly do more than the former.
Well, except for, you know, “air strikes”. Hand wave, promise, done. Polls suck? Hitting ISIS popular? Wag the dog. It’s all about politics and elections, folks. Not the security of the United States. If someone had told him that his poll numbers would rise by not playing golf … well, there are limits you know. If it was truly about the security of the United States, this administration would be working to secure our borders, not ignoring the immigration laws.
Frankly, this is simply the logical continuation of Obama’s existing ISIL non-strategy and, indeed, his general counter-terrorism strategy of blowing up the bad guys and hoping they get tired of it eventually. We could call it the Global War on Terror but, alas, that name’s been taken. That’s rather unsatisfying but it’s not at all obvious what more the United States can or should do to degrade ISIL. The threat to the homeland is too tangential at present to warrant the proverbial boots on the ground. So, it’s Whack-a-Mole with no end in sight.
And the moles will continue to be whacked as we hear glowing progress reports from the Eastasian front.
Because? Well, that’s how we roll now. Back to the future.
Apparently tomorrow, President Obama will “showcase” his climate change agenda. According to the Washington Post:
After years of putting other policy priorities first — and dismaying many liberal allies in the process — Obama is now getting into the weeds on climate change and considers it one of the key components of his legacy, according to aides and advisers. He is regularly briefed on scientific reports on the issue, including a national climate assessment that he will help showcase Tuesday. He is using his executive authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and is moving ahead with stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the heaviest trucks. And while he routinely brings up climate change in closed-door meetings with world leaders, according to his aides, he also discusses it in his private life, talking about global warming’s implications with his teenage daughters.
As usual, he intends to proceed by using executive power, whether or not the people or their representatives agree. And also without any consideration of the cost to the consumer. All in the face of mounting evidence that the supposed crisis of CO2 is a non-crisis. According to the WaPo, this intention to address “climate change” was spurred by Obama viewing satellite pictures of the California mountain snow pack:
Of course, most of us know that’s likely a local weather phenomenon, not a result of “global warming” or we’d be unlikely to be seeing things like this:
Antarctic sea ice continues to set new records, with extent in April at the highest since measurements began in 1979.
Remember, Antarctic and Arctic sea ice melts were to be the harbingers of doom. In fact, the Arctic was supposed to be ice free last year according to the perpetually wrong alarmists. Instead we saw record sea ice there as well. Factor in the fact that there has been no global warming for over 17 years and one has to ask why this, in the face of a badly performing economy and over 92 million Americans being out of work, is suddenly to become a priority for the White House? As one editorialist puts it:
The problem is, it’s just so hard to be an alarmist these days. Temperatures aren’t rising, U.S. CO2 emissions are down, and now it turns out that peak oil won’t peak. What’s a scare-monger to do?
The answer is keep on trying to gin up the alarm to satisfy the true-believers who are an important political constituency of the Democrats. And it is becoming clearer every day that the Democrats are going to need all of their constituencies to even have a ghost of a chance in the November mid-terms. To this point, the left environmental movement hasn’t been to happy with the Obama administration and it certainly wants more drastic action to be taken to curb the use of fossil fuel. So its time to shore up their support:
Environmentalists such as Democratic donor and billionaire Tom Steyer want him to veto the Keystone pipeline and wean the nation from natural gas. Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said of the administration: “We have to increasingly get them to acknowledge that there has to be a major transformation away from fossil fuels.”
That desire the Natural Resources Defense Council voices has resulted in such things as the “war on coal” and the reduction in production of oil on federal lands and off our coasts. It has also meant slow walking the permit process as well as holding the Keystone Pipeline hostage to presidential politics. So why now? Why is this the time to do this? Because he can:
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans are not final, said Obama has made it clear that he considers climate change a priority and is less politically constrained now that he no longer faces reelection.
Meanwhile the public views the issue as a low priority if a priority at all, given jobs and economic problems. Yet Obama persists. Elections are in the offing. And if there is one thing he has at least a semblance of competence in, it’s getting elected (or helping others do so). So all the high flying rhetoric aside, this is about votes, this is about elections and this is about trying to preserve at least one Democratic house in Congress for the last two years of his presidency. It is one of many such moves he’ll be attempting in the coming months. But make no mistake – this isn’t about the environment or his legacy, it’s about politics. ~McQ
I wonder just how intelligent the bulk of Americans are. From a Quinnipiac poll:
American voters support 71 – 27 percent raising the minimum wage. Republican support is 52 – 45 percent. Given several options:
- 33 percent of voters say increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour;
- 18 percent say increase it from the current $7.25 per hour to something less than $10.10;
- 18 percent say increase it to more than $10.10 per hour;
- 27 percent say don’t increase the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage will lead businesses to cut jobs, voters say 50 – 45 percent, with Republicans seeing job cuts 68 – 29 percent and Democrats saying no 65 – 29 percent. Independent voters expect job cuts 51 – 45 percent.
We’re faced with the lowest job participation numbers in a long, long time, our economy is just starting to recover, a majority of Americans know that raising the minimum wage will lead “business to cut jobs” and yet, the majority also want to raise it anyway (to include 52% of “Republicans”).
It makes you just want to throw up your ands and say “screw it”.
You tell me. Robert Samuelson:
The presumption of strong economic growth supported the spirit and organizational structures of postwar America.
Everyday life was transformed. Credit cards, home equity loans, 30-year mortgages, student loans and long-term auto loans (more than 2 years) became common. In 1955, household debt was 49 percent of Americans’ disposable income; by 2007, it was 137 percent. Government moved from the military-industrial complex to the welfare state. In 1955, defense spending was 62 percent of federal outlays, and spending on “human resources” (the welfare state) was 22 percent. By 2012, the figures were reversed; welfare was 66 percent, defense 19 percent. Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants and Social Security’s disability program are all postwar creations.
Slow economic growth now imperils this postwar order. Credit standards have tightened, and more Americans are leery of borrowing. Government spending — boosted by an aging population eligible for Social Security and Medicare — has outrun our willingness to be taxed. The mismatch is the basic cause of “structural” budget deficits and, by extension, today’s strife over the debt ceiling and the government “shutdown.”
You know, we keep saying this is “unsustainable”, yet we keep refusing to face the problem head on and do anything about it.
This little bit of political theater isn’t going to change that and we all know it. The last paragraph identifies the problem. What apparently isn’t understood, though, is government is not the solution. And big government simply makes the problem worse because it sucks down more and more of the GDP.
The solution is both painful and difficult. And, of course, no one wants to face that fact, certainly not any politician.
So the can gets kicked down the road – as you know it will before any of this ever begins. None of the politicians want to be “the ones” in power when all of this collapses.
For whatever reason, after WWII, we decided to change the purpose of government from “night watchman” to “Santa Claus”. Maybe it was the horror of war. Maybe it was the huge surge in post-war prosperity, but like the story of the goose that laid the golden eggs, we’re about to kill the goose.
So what does that mean?
As economist Stephen D. King writes in his book “When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence”:
“Our societies are not geared for a world of very low growth. Our attachment to the Enlightenment idea of ongoing progress — a reflection of persistent postwar economic success — has left us with little knowledge or understanding of worlds in which rising prosperity is no longer guaranteed.”
And that fact alone makes any recovery from this mess even less likely. We’ve been able to stumble along and put off the inevitable because we have managed to have “persistent postwar economic success”. But if you look at economic projections for the future, they don’t show the historical growth that America has enjoyed since the ’50s. They show European type “growth”. They show slow growth as the “new normal”. Why?
Lindsey attributes U.S. economic growth to four factors: (a) greater labor-force participation, mainly by women; (b) better-educated workers, as reflected in increased high-school and college graduation rates; (c) more invested capital per worker (that’s machines and computers); and (d) technological and organizational innovation. The trouble, he writes, is that “all growth components have fallen off simultaneously.”
As it seems now, Greece is our future. Nothing, politically, is going to be done about it, despite the current political theater. Neither the politicians nor the citizens want to face reality. And as it is shaping up, it isn’t a matter of “if”, but “when” it all folds in on itself like a wet cardboard box.
On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.
The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”
His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.
IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.
I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.
Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.
I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:
The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.
So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:
Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”
Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.
I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.
Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.
The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.
Reason magazine notes the following concerning Obama’s “end of terrorism” speech:
What was remarkable about Obama’s speech was its complete disconnect with his own actions in office. In a textbook example of Orwellian doublespeak, he declared that America would be haunted by the civilian casualties produced by drone attacks — without noting that these attacks were the defining feature of his war on terror.
As atonement, he pledged to transfer oversight of the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. But the problem with the program is not who runs it but what it does.
For those of us that have watched this guy from the beginning, it’s hardly a “complete disconnect”, it’s business as usual. We’ve noted from the start that one should never believe what the man says, they should instead monitor his actions. 9 times out of 10, what he does or has done won’t be anywhere near what he said or said he’d do. He is the master of doublespeak.
Oh, and remember how he told us that the world would love us again now that he was in charge? Uh, yeah, more doublespeak:
[The Obama Administration] has escalated drone strikes against alleged militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. According to the liberal AlterNet, the Bush administration conducted 52 drone strikes in this region killing 438 people, including 182 civilians. This administration ordered 300 strikes in just its first term, killing 2,152 people, including 260 civilians. The constant buzzing in the sky traumatizes the local population — and violates Pakistani sovereignty — all of which has caused America’s popularity in Pakistan to plummet from 36 percent under Bush to 24 percent under Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner Obama.
I wonder if the Nobel committee ever wished they had recall privileges. More importantly, I wonder if they learned anything from this debacle which might make them tend to wait until the subject of their next peace prize has actually done something to earn it.