Freedom and Liberty
Niall Ferguson has a piece in the Wall Street Journal which talks about the growth of regulation within the nation. He starts with a quote from de Tocqueville in which de Tocqueville marvels at how Americans manage to self-regulate through associations. He then notes that de Tocqueville wouldn’t recognize the US if he were to suddenly come back. It looks too much like Europe.
Regulation has crept in to help smother us all the while the culture has changed to where Americans seem to no longer look to each other to solve problems, but instead look to government.
Regulations are simply a symptom of this business and autonomy killing movement. And their growth track pretty well with our demise:
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly. Excluding blank pages, the 2012 Federal Register—the official directory of regulation—today runs to 78,961 pages. Back in 1986 it was 44,812 pages. In 1936 it was just 2,620.
True, our economy today is much larger than it was in 1936—around 12 times larger, allowing for inflation. But the Federal Register has grown by a factor of 30 in the same period.
The last time regulation was cut was under Ronald Reagan, when the number of pages in the Federal Register fell by 31%. Surprise: Real GDP grew by 30% in that same period. But Leviathan’s diet lasted just eight years. Since 1993, 81,883 new rules have been issued. In the past 10 years, the “final rules” issued by our 63 federal departments, agencies and commissions have outnumbered laws passed by Congress 223 to 1.
Right now there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation, of which 224 are deemed “economically significant,” i.e., their economic impact will exceed $100 million.
The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that’s on top of the federal government’s $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.
Got that? 224 new regulations which will have an economic impact that will “exceed $100 million” dollars. Negatively of course. That was the purpose of having regulations rated like that – to understand the probable negative economic impact. And we have 224 in the hopper, in a very down economy, which will exceed the negative $100 million dollar mark. What are those people thinking? Or are they? Indications are they give it no thought when these new regulations are proffered. They just note the cost and move on. No skin of their rear ends.
And if you think that’s bad, just wait:
Next year’s big treat will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something every small business in the country must be looking forward to with eager anticipation. Then, as Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) warned readers on this page 10 months ago, there’s also the Labor Department’s new fiduciary rule, which will increase the cost of retirement planning for middle-class workers; the EPA’s new Ozone Rule, which will impose up to $90 billion in yearly costs on American manufacturers; and the Department of Transportation’s Rear-View Camera Rule. That’s so you never have to turn your head around when backing up.
Yes, that’s right, they’re hardly done. In fact, they’re not even slowing down. The accumulation of power within the central government – the ability to intrude in almost every aspect of your life – is attempting to reach warp speed.
Finally, as if what I’ve noted isn’t enough, we have another costly travesty in the gestation stage, i.e. the “Gang of 8′s” immigration bill. From PowerLine:
The CBO confirms that the bill provides for a vast influx of new, legal immigration. The Senate Budget Committee says:
CBO projects 16 million new immigrants will be added by 2033 on top of the current law projected flow of 22 million and that 8 million illegal immigrants will be granted permanent status – for a total of 46 million legal immigrants, including a doubling of guest workers to 1.6 million in a single year.
Contrary to the claims of the bill’s sponsors, this influx will be overwhelmingly low-skilled. The CBO says:
[T]he new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law.
The result is that unemployment will increase, and wages will be driven down, for America’s existing blue collar work force:
Taking into account all of those flows of new immigrants, CBO and JCT expect that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages.
Terrific: the only ones who would gain would be those who came here illegally, while native born workers would suffer. The CBO report continues:
[T]he average wage would be lower than under current law over the first dozen years. … CBO estimates that S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020.
Ruinous? Along with everything else, pretty much.
To say America has lost it’s way is, well, an understatement. We aren’t close to being what was envisioned at our founding and we’re almost kissing cousins of that which our Founders attempted to keep us from becoming – today’s Europe.
Unfortunately, that ruinous drift and over reliance on government seems to be fine for all too many of those who call themselves Americans today.
Why? Because it isn’t really better. Oh, it may be marginally better than it was a year ago but that’s not saying much at all. In terms of real progress? Yeah, not so much. The National Journal says:
The U.S. jobs picture is bleaker than the most recent jobs reports may make you think. The economy added 175,000 jobs last month, but at the rate things are going, it would take almost a decade to get back to prerecession employment levels. A Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics digs in on the bad news: The number of job openings in the U.S. actually fell by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million.
How bad can 3.8 million job openings be? The Economic Policy Institute looks at the number and sees that “the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.”
Here’s a chart they put together to visually make the point:
An economy on the mend is generating jobs at such a pace that it is competing for workers. As is obvious, that’s not the case in this economy, nor has it been the case for quite some time.
In a word, the employment picture sucks. Anyone pretending otherwise is doing exactly that – pretending. And they can toss around all the numbers they like, the bar charts above tell the real picture – business is not hiring and the reasons are multiple, most having to do with government intrusion (see ObamaCare for one example).
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?
Not that the US hasn’t been one for quite some time, but lifting the veil or if you prefer an Oz reference, peeking behind the curtain, has been difficult, because most of it has been kept a secret. Today the WSJ gives us a look at another “sliver” of the surveillance that apparently goes on routinely via secret orders:
The National Security Agency is obtaining a complete set of phone records from all Verizon U.S. customers under a secret court order, according to a published account and former officials.
The account provides fresh evidence that NSA’s far-reaching domestic surveillance effort has continued after Congress passed a law five years ago to institutionalize a post-9/11 warrantless surveillance program.
The revelation of the secret order appears to lift the veil on a broad NSA domestic collection program under way, which former government officials say represents just a sliver of the domestic data NSA is taking in and which includes all types of communications data, such as emails and records of Internet browsing. The data collection began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to several former intelligence officials.
NSA is only one of many government agencies conducting this sort of surveillance. And of course, we now have drones approved for domestic use.
I’ve said this many times, but terrorism has been the excuse for an vast expansion of government intrusion the like of which we’ve never seen before.
While I may fear a terrorist attack, the chances of being involved in one are almost if not completely statistically improbable. The chance that I’ll be a subject of freedom stealing intrusion from government? When’s you next plane trip?
I assume you’re aware of the riots in Turkey. The people of Turkey, or at least a unhappy group of them, are making themselves and their feelings known in a very direct way. According to the WSJ, it began over a park in Istanbul that was going to be replaced by a housing development and shopping center (since the Turkish government controls the media, this “cause” could be as flaky as the anti-Islamic video causing Benghazi). The natives, or at least some of them, are not happy about that.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not happy about the situation either. Why, how dare these people question his government and its motives. They’re pure as the driven snow:
“If you can call someone who is a servant of the country a dictator, then it leaves me speechless,” he said in a televised speech. “I have no aim other than serving the nation.”
The siren song of every dictator I’ve ever heard of or read about. My guess he borrowed the words from Mr. Assad in Syria, who, may have gotten them from Saddam Hussein, who … well you get the picture. And add a little “Bolivarian revolution” to the statement and the dead but unlamented Hugo Chavez or his mentor Fidel Castro could have said them.
Perhaps the most interesting statement, however, came from someone in the street:
People are angry because the government is interfering in everything, be it the alcohol restriction, building of the third bridge, or the new Taksim Square. Everything has piled up, and that’s why people protest,” said Erdal Bozyayla, a 29-year-old restaurant worker who supported the protesters and condemned the violence.
I’d like to believe that’s the real sentiment behind those riots and protests. It may not be. But it got me to thinking what it would take in this country for people to actually take that sort of direct action (and no I’m not condoning or calling for violence … direct action doesn’t have to be violent – witness the civil rights movement). Oh, sure, we’ve had the “Tea Party” rallies and the like, but what is happening in Turkey is obviously much different than that. And if they sentiment expressed is the true cause, why is it that a country like Turkey, with only a short history of freedom (now under concentraged attack by the latest “servant of the country”) apparently have the gumption to say “enough”, when we simply roll over each time another of our freedoms is taken or pared down.
Now, I recognize there could be all sorts of other factions, to include extremist Islamist factions who don’t think Erdogan is moving far or fast enough, could now be trying to co-opt the protests and turn them into something else. But still, was the spark really “the government is interfering in everything” and if so, when, if ever, will that spark be struck here?
Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:
What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.
And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.
First paragraph … agree, for the most part. Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government. There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception. Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting. They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government. They do it out of fear.
As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey. Total.
The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations. How does one not politicize it? It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.
And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.
Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.
Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.
Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.
Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.
Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.
You’ve all read about the first “3D gun” being made? Well here’s some of the fallout:
Defense Distributed, the Texas-based nonprofit that wants to empower people to 3D print their own guns, has hit a bit of a legal snag. According to founder Cody Wilson, DEFCAD, the open source weapon-printing project powered by Defense Distributed, received a letter (embedded below) from the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Compliance, telling him to remove the blueprints of the Liberator, his 3D printed gun, from the web so that they may be reviewed by the department.
The group’s website currently has a red banner appended to the top that reads, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”
“We got an official letter from the Secretary of State, telling me who they were, what their authority was under U.S. law and telling me they want to review these files to see if they’re class one munitions,” Mr. Wilson told Betabeat by phone. “That includes blueprints.”
So anyone want to guess how many times those blueprints were downloaded before this order came along? I know there are many other aspects of this case to discuss such as this:
In the letter … the State Department says that Defense Distributed may have released data that is controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation without getting prior authorization. This would put the company’s actions in conflict with … the Arms Export Control Act.
“Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export,” reads the letter. It also says that until Defense Distributed has received the legal all-clear, the company “should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately.”
But other than a basis to prosecute, the letter accomplishes nothing. Same with the “law”. Add the internet and, well, whoosh, it’s around the world before the government even knows about it.
A perfect example of why, and you can see rumblings of it happening now here (and, of course, it is a top priority in other countries), government is growing more and more interested in controlling the internet. Again, the excuse du jour will be what? “It’s for your own safety and security that we clamp down on these things and take away some of your freedoms”. It has no choice if it is going to enforce it’s laws does it?
And we all remember what Ben Franklin said about trading freedom for security, don’t we?
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is governments at all levels building expensive monuments to itself. From local city halls and county administration buildings to Washington DC, governments spare no expense in ensuring they have the very best in terms of buildings to house them. And, it appears, the Department of Homeland Security is not to be denied either:
Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.
The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.
Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission — protecting the homeland — in ways big and small.
“It will help us hold meetings,” Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It will help us build that culture of ‘One DHS.’”
“It will help us hold meetings.” That’s the best she can come up with (I mean, with today’s technology, I guess virtual meetings are just too much work)? And when I read about her hope of building a culture of “One DHS”, I saw an image of my freedoms flitting out the window while a band play “Deutschland Uber Alles”.
By the way, the site on which this building will be built is the former site of an insane asylum.
I love irony.
If ever there was an apt description of our general problem in this country, Dr. Milton Wolf nails it in the first paragraph of his discussion of the building disaster we call ObamaCare.
The fatal conceits of Obamacare are the absurd notions that the government can spend your money more wisely than you can and that bureaucrats are more capable than you are to make your own most intimate, personal decisions. The antithesis of government-centered Obamacare is what I simply call “Patientcare.” Patients should be at the center of our health care universe, not President Obama and not the government.
We suffer under a landslide of the same fatal conceit applied to literally hundreds of government programs in this country. These fatal conceits (or flawed premises if you prefer) have cost us literally trillions of dollars and much of our freedom. Government has essentially decided that it’s priorities for your money are more important than your priorities for what you earn. And, it had also decided that in many areas it can make better decisions for you than you can make for yourself.
But, that’s not the problem in full. In full, the problem is exacerbated (and the notion “validated”) by the number of people who, for whatever reason, have bought into the efficacy of these conceits. They believe the flawed premises to be true and willingly cede their money and freedom believing government does indeed spend their money more wisely and is more capable than them of making “good” decisions on their behalf.
The problem, of course, is that as long as those people who willingly enslave themselves to government exist in large enough numbers, they’ll succeed in putting the shackles on the rest of us as well. As long as they look at the federal government as their care giver, they force that on the rest of us as well.
One of the reasons we have the debt and deficit problems we currently suffer is the left has been very successful in selling those flawed premises via emotional appeal to low information (and frankly, ignorant) voters. They’ve avoided rational discussion with “for the children” campaigns. They’ve often claimed “market failure” where government created problems through preverse incentives and market intrusion and then push government as the solution.
Years ago we came from a people that knew that nothing was “free”. They knew that there really wasn’t anything called a “free lunch”, someone had to pay for it. The knew that you were responsible for your own welfare, self-defense and freedom. And interestingly, so did most of the politicians of the time. Oh there were certainly those among them that believed as the left does today, but they were a distinct minority. Their creed was considered extreme and, frankly, un-American.
Now it is they who are “main stream” and those who call for much less government intrusion in our lives who seem to be considered the extremists. Common sense, the ability to see through the blarney and nonsense, seems to have died. In the so-called information age, we seem to have a growth of ignorance. Part of that I lay at the feet of another government program that has been a woeful failure – public schooling. Common sense tells you that such an institution would be unlikely to teach anything negative about government and, in fact, might even become a bit of a propaganda arm for it. That it might involve itself in a bit of indoctrination. That it might fill fairly benign subjects with information preferred by government and spend less time on information that wasn’t in favor at the time or is contrary to the agenda it prefers. But that all assumes an ability to teach the core competencies, something most of our school systems seem unable to do with any great success. So we have the misinformed and the illiterate buying into the government’s flawed premise in droves.
Obviously a great deal of things over the years have led us to this point of dependency on government. And we know how it ends. It is the blue state model and the blue state model is failing all over the country and the world.
Yet was still hear it extolled by its zealots and lapped up by the ignorant who refuse to look beyond the promises. It still amazes me that we’ve managed to get in this mess and can’t seem to find the intestinal fortitude to say “enough” and begin doing the very unpleasant task of reversing it. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? It would be unpleasant. And we don’t like unpleasant. So instead, we continue to believe the fantasy.
The problem, of course, is like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, reality is going to pull back the curtain very soon and expose the fantasy for the fraud it is. And then we’ll look back at “unpleasant” as something we wish we’d done.
By then, it will be way too late.
How convoluted has our world become? How screwed up is this nation? How Orwellian is everything these days?
Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.
State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.
In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.
The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money.
We paid for our own bombing.