Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Socialism through Welfarism

Here is what Barry Goldwater wrote in 1960 in The Conscience of a Conservative: The effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later on--after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail."

Well, we're feeling it all right. When Goldwater wrote this some fifty years ago the entire budget for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (which included Social Security) was around $15 billion. Welfare program expenditures ranked second to national defense in overall allocations.

Fast forward to today. President Obama's 2010 budget calls for the following: $721.5 billion for Social Security, $457.1 billion for Medicare, $284.5 billion for Medicaid and $194.3 billion for unemployment claims just to name a few of the entitlements. And defense? Trailing the sum total of the quartet by a cool (approximately) $937 billion at $719 billion. In other words the president's 2010 budget called for $1.65 TRILLION in those four entitlements alone which is more than double the amount planned for defense. Add in income security benefits (a fancy name for welfare) at $363 billion and we have close to $2.1 TRILLION allocated to entitlement programs, dwarfing defense three to one and consuming the lion's share of the budget, our economy and our future.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time to Put the Lid On (Government)

I love these Tea Party folks. They understand that liberty is being confiscated each and every day Obama and the Democrats are in power. They understand, too, that the battle has been raging in earnest since FDR began his New Deal of centralization of power and redistribution of wealth. They understand that BIG government and consequently BIG deficits are bubbling over and it is time to put the lid on. And quick.

But here's the thing I don't get. Why aren't more people outraged? Why aren't ten times as many people attending Tea Party events? And sending money to conservative candidates? Or simply talking about what is going on, what can be done, to stop the spread of this, well tyranny?

The government has invaded every aspect of our lives, maintaining a presence in our bathrooms through regulation of toilet flushing standards, seeping into our kitchens with their stamp of approval on virtually every food item lining our shelves; government now regulates our light fixtures legislating the phase-out of the incandescent light bulb over the next few years to be replaced by the--some would say--toxic, halogen bulb. The government sets the standards of education for our children, fuel standards for our cars, supports the "arts," subsidizes education and housing for the poor and not so poor, and now they want to invade our very bodies with a health care program that will set the quality of health care in our country back a century. These, my friends, are not the legitimate powers of government. At least not a government guided by a Constitution such as ours.

As long as Americans acquiesce to every government demand, every invasion into our lives and consequently our freedom, the need for ever increasing taxes will continue. As Barry Goldwater wrote in The Conscience of a Conservative, "Property and freedom are inseparable: to the extent government takes the one in the form of taxes, it intrudes on the other" (43). If government continues to expand, the demands for funding will continue to grow. It is as simple as that.

So I applaud the Tea Party and the rising Conservative movement. But I will continue to wonder why it is not larger. Why the clamor is not greater. For as Goldwater also presciently remarked, " the public grows more and more cynical, the politician feels less and less compelled to take his promises seriously."

The time to take this crisis seriously is upon us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Unbelievers Stand Aside Please--You are About to be Crushed at the Ballot Box

To me the difference between conservatives and liberals comes down to one simple thing: the Believers versus the Unbelievers, in freedom. Of the individual sort.

The Believers count on their fellow man to act in his own best economic interest. Believers believe at their core the ideals America was founded on: individual freedom and liberty. And, in their view, this extends to private property--that is: the individual's right to amass and employ his private wealth however he sees fit. The Believer's assume their fellow citizens will--for the most part--manage their lives well. They will save and spend the money they work for on things that improve their lives and the lives of their children. The things that are important to them. That is their right.

The unbelievers don't take such a sanguine view of the individual. They believe that the government has a right to usurp individual rights in the interest of the common good. This is manifested most clearly in the debate over taxes. Nancy Pelosi (among others, the President included) claim that cutting the taxes of "the rich" is something the country can't afford. Doing so will increase the deficit--as though "the rich" work for the sole purpose of reducing the deficit having no say over its creation in the first place. The unbeliever's place the needs of the State above the needs of the individual who is creating the wealth. And in their view--manifested most clearly in the progressive income tax structure--the more wealth you have, the more of a right to it they have.

None of this is new. Nor original. Or progressive for that matter. Taxes have been the source of tyranny since the beginning of recorded history. As Charles Adams writes in his tome on the history of taxation, For Good and Evil--The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization, the Rosetta Stone, the "Proclamation of Peace" issued by Ptolemy V to end the Egyptian civil war sparked by increased tax burdens carried as its most important provision a "general amnesty debtors and rebels. Tax debts were forgiven" (Adams, 19) The tax burdens in Egyptian society had reached confiscatory levels. Debtors were thrown into prison, filling the prisons to overflowing. Private property had been confiscated and villages and farms abandoned. The fabric of society was threatened by excessive taxation. A remedy was required. Tax amnesty via the Rosetta Stone proclamation of peace restored order (Adams, 21). And the rights of the individual.

During FDR's reign, in 1935 to be precise, the economy was deemed to be in recovery--"a jobless recovery," ironically, according to Amity Shlaes', The Forgotten Man. Yet for political reasons FDR determined it was time to go after the rich, the source of jobs. Benjamin Anderson of Chase Bank warned against such a strategy. His point was, there is danger in targeting the rich. He noted while the economy was improving some, "the country was not getting the strong recovery that it should expect. The New Deal was causing the country to forgo prosperity, if not recovery" (Shlaes 263). The marginal tax rate had been increased to 75%. And the level of unemployment still 70% above pre-depression levels.

And so here we are again. With the democrats referring to our taxes as revenue needed for deficit reduction, adding threats that the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire for the wealthy while being reinstated for the middle class, with Cap and Trade, the Leviathan of taxation looming, state governments--like California--effectively bankrupt despite one of the highest marginal state tax rates in the nation, the politicians are forgetting one thing: it is our money. It is our government. It is our liberty. And it is our intention to exert our great displeasure with their policies in November.

Something it has taken the modern day citizen-militia or the tea party as it is most commonly called, to commemorate.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Conscience of a Conservative

"...the Constitution is: a system of restraints against the natural tendency of government to expand in the direction of absolutism."
Barry Goldwater, 1960
Conscience of a Conservative

If you don't have a copy of Barry Goldwater's, Conscience of a Conservative, buy one. If you have one, pull it out and re-read it. Focus, in particular, on the chapter entitled "The Perils of Power."

In that chapter, Goldwater recounts for the reader the intentions of the founders in constructing our Constitution and three-branch government: to limit power. He reminds us that our founding document is "an instrument, above all, for limiting the functions of government." That "throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man's liberty." Government, not rich guys.

He also presciently reminds us: "The framers were well aware of the danger posed by self-seeking demagogues--that they might persuade a majority of the people to confer on government vast powers in return for deceptive promises of economic gain." And, finally, that no matter how airtight they crafted the hull of the Constitution, dishonest men would attempt to sail it anywhere they pleased, without regard for the will of the passengers. Goldwater writes, "rules of government... would be no match for men who were determined to disregard them. "

Which brings me to the health care law looming before us. Rasmussen reported today that 61% of Americans at least somewhat favor repeal of the law. Up 8 points from last week. And still, few Americans--including Nancy Pelosi and most of Congress--actually understand what is in the bill. My prediction? When Americans understand the gritty details of the law opposition will rise to 70%.

As you prepare to vote on the candidates, inform yourself. Even if you're voting for City Council-- or especially if you are voting for City Council and live in the city of Bell (population 37,000) where the city manager earns $787,000 annually and the city council members who work part-time earn approximately $100,000--learn about the candidate and his/her positions on the issues important to you. Treat your ballot selections like an exam where getting the right answer is the difference between life and death. Of our country as we've known it. Of our liberty.

Then cast your vote for the candidate who says as Goldwater wrote: "My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The President of Me

Have you ever had that feeling sweep over you that you have been in the very same place before? That out-of-body, deja vu realization that something was happening that had happened before?

While reading Amity Shlaes' history of the FDR Administration, The Forgotten Man I have experienced instance upon instance of that very sensation. I find myself checking the publication date again and again: 2007. She published the book in 2007, wrote it in the years leading up to 2007. While Bush was still president. Before Obama was the certain Democrat candidate, the president. There is no way she could have molded the narrative to fit our current political situation. No way she could have known just how eerily similar Obama's policies would be to FDR's. She is brilliant but she is not psychic.

The latest wave of deja vu came when I read the following few paragraphs.

  • "As Roosevelt in 1936 would freely acknowledge to another adviser, the election was about a single issue--Roosevelt (249). It seems that everything political over the past 20 or so months has been about one thing: Obama. There is no other way to view the bulldozing through of ObamaCare. He, in fact, said so himself. The Founders anticipated leaders like Obama and FDR. Madison wrote in Federalist 10: "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." And, thus they provided an intricate set of checks and balances to mitigate tyranny. Hamilton summarized, perhaps, the most effective check against tyranny in Federalist 22: "The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority." In other words, it is about us, not the Me occupying the White House.
  • The president (FDR) relished squeezing cash for the poor out of the well-to-do...The country was splitting into those who were Roosevelt favorites and everyone else. The division started at the top" (248-249). So obviously similar to what we are experiencing today and anticipated by the Founders. They understood that the very nature of man ensured society would have factions. The owners, the renters, the employer the employee, the religious, the atheist. Society (government) should not inflame the factions, increase the chasm of separation as FDR did and as Obama is doing, rather government should seek as Madison proposes in Federalist 10 "to control its effects. "Justice," he wrote ought to hold the balance between them."
  • "He (FDR) illuminated objectives--even fantastically unrealizable objectives. These excited and inspired. When one...faded, he provided another." The fact that he shifted did not have to matter (248). And this, too, is familiar. Obama talks of jobs, then health care, then castigates the rich, then castigates the Republicans, then talks of the need for increased spending to stimulate, then lectures on religious freedom, back to health care, jobs again, more stimulus. Each speech overflowing with the pronoun "I." Ever focused on himself, his legacy, his agenda. One new idea after another. Spinning. Spinning.
Out of control.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Play Out of the FDR Playbook

"Roosevelt had played around with economics, and economics hadn't served him very well. He would therefore give up on the discipline and concentrate on an area he knew better, politics."
The Forgotten Man by, Amity Shlaes (246)

At almost precisely the same point in his first term as Roosevelt was in his, Obama seems to be shifting from playing around with the economy, to hard-boiled, special interest politics. Economics hasn't served him very well so he is returning to the divisive accusation-driven speeches that hallmarked his campaign.

Back to Shlaes for a moment: "If he (FDR) followed his political instincts, furiously converting ephemeral bits of legislation into solid law for specific groups of voters, then he would win reelection. He would focus on farmers, big labor, pensioners, veterans, perhaps women and blacks" (246).

This was Roosevelt's strategy for re-election in the face of economic failures and disappointing rulings in the court against his Great Government Centralization Plan. Obama is taking the same bet. He's just raising the stakes some with angry and accusatory rhetoric. FDR, too, lashed out at the media and Supreme Court when he lost the Schechter Brothers case to a unanimous decision signaling the death knell for the NRA. He tried castigation and abandoned it. Conciliation and clever co-opting became the new calculation. And it worked.

Luckily for us, there is not a conciliatory bone in Obama's body.

There are more similarities. Social Security legislation was assigned to Frances Perkins of the Labor Department. This was a high priority item. Think ObamaCare in measuring its importance to the Administration. Ms. Perkins worried that she would have difficulty getting her social insurance system past the Court. A little snag called The Constitution. She confided her worry to Justice Harlan Stone. Stone gave her the following advice: "The taxing power of the federal sufficient for everything you want and need" (Shlaes 229). Justice Stone was providing the critical clue to how the Court would view the Constitutional test of Social Security. If it was insurance it wouldn't hold up. If it were simply another tax, it would meet the threshold.

In response to the various suits against the Constitutionality of ObamaCare, the government is now scrambling to take the same position.

One can hope they are just a little too clever too late. Setting your defense after the offense has already run the play doesn't usually work out so well.

Fingers crossed, set, hike.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2.5 Trillion Dollars in 19 Months. Oh Yes He Did!

The U.S Treasury Department calculates the federal debt held by the public. The federal debt is the money government borrows from those willing to buy U.S. Treasury notes--investors, or as the liberals like to call them: the wealthy. Those funding the federal debt, the wealthy, are the enemy of every liberal. Liberals hate the wealthy though they have no problem spending their money. Just a problem with the people who provide it. But, I digress.

For the first 200 or so years of our country's history, from the administration of President Washington to that of President Reagan, the federal debt grew to approximately $2.1 trillion. That's a great deal of zeros to be sure. But, President Obama, proving that he is truly the first post-sound economic policy president ,among other things post, generated $2.5 trillion in publicly held debt in just 19 months raising the total debt outstanding to $8.8 trillion. In one insatiable spending binge Obama beat all the records of the first 200 years of our history in just 19 months.

Yes he did.

And what did we get for all that spending? A chicken in every pot? A BMW in every garage? Not exactly. Despite record spending and promises from the president's economic advisers that if we spent the money unemployment would not rise above 8%, 19 months later unemployment hovers at 9.6%. The economy is growing in single digits rather than the robust growth the very same economic advisers and the president and the vice president advertised in their Summer of Recovery.

And now our economic-savant president has proposed more spending to get our economy rolling again. If that almost $900 billion stimulus bill didn't do the trick, how about $50 billion to rev things up? That's his plan. Oh Yes It Is.

Will it work? Not on your life.

This economy needs jobs. Private sector jobs. And to get those jobs employers need some certainty that they will not be taxed into usurious oblivion by a hostile federal government. And to increase investment in the private sector the government needs to stop sucking every last available cent out of the markets to fund its profligate deficit spending.

In short, we need tax cuts and an iron clad spending freeze. Government needs to shrink, not grow bigger.

Oh Yes It Does.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Nero At His Worst"

"This is Nero at his worst. As for the Constitution, it does not seem too much to say that it is gone. "

Justice James McReynolds
in his opinion on the Roosevelt Administration's Gold Policy

Justice McReynolds' indictment against Roosevelt rings true today. Every time we turn around government grows bigger and we lose a little more liberty. The Constitution was painstakingly crafted to protect "we the people" from the government. But somewhere along the line, something went seriously awry. And, based on my read of history, a good deal of it began with FDR.

Return with me for a moment to Amity Shlaes' remarkable history of the Great Depression: The Forgotten Man.

Frances Perkins of Labor was worried that the Supreme Court would reject the social insurance system she working to put in place--what we know today as Social Security. She stated her concern to Justice Harlan Stone who advised: "The taxing power of the federal government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need" (Shlaes229). His words were meant to assure. If the Social Security Act was formulated as a tax rather than a government insurance program it would clear the Constitutional hurdle (229).
Fast forward: This is now one of the tact's the Obama Administration is taking in response to the many lawsuits against ObamaCare. Flimsy at best. But, more importantly, right out of the playbook.
In the famous Schechter Brothers case, where the justices ruled unanimously in favor of the Schechter Poultry Corporation and against the constitutionality of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA), Justice Hughes read the opinion: "Extraordinary conditions may call for extraordinary remedies. But the argument necessarily stops short of an attempt to justify action which lies outside the sphere of constitutional authority. Extraordinary conditions do not create or enlarge constitutional power" (emphasis mine, 242).

The corruption of the Constitution had gone far enough. Too far.

Justice Brandeis sent the message to FDR via two of the New Dealers' lawyers: "This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we're not going to let this government centralize everything. It's come to an end" (243).

Roosevelt's response? To "castigate the press and the court" (244). Sound eerily familiar?

If congressional Republicans do not understand they are enjoying a tidal wave of support in their direction because the population overwhelmingly desires repeal of ObamaCare and the government's sudden lurch to the left, they will squander the greatest opportunity to preserve what's left of the Constitution in the history of this country. According to yesterday's Rasmussen polling 57% of Americans disapprove of the President's performance. 47% strongly disapprove. The numbers are remarkable to be sure. Additionally, 56% of likely voters favor repeal of ObamaCare though only 39% believe repeal is likely.

Republicans need to muster up the courage to do the right thing. They need to send the message that the American people are fed up. That "we're not going to let this government centralize everything."