Sunday, December 26, 2010

History Repeats Itself, Yes, But This is Remarkable

Obama: "He just moves on to another issue. Never skips a beat," a friend of mine remarked of the President. "Obama has given more speeches and made more appearances than I can recall of any president. One speech, one issue after another. Remarkable really," he concluded.

FDR: In The Forgotten Man (published in 2007), Amity Shlaes quotes Ray Moley, a one-time advisor to Roosevelt: "When one set of these objectives...faded, he provided another." And Shlaes remarks, "The fact that he shifted did not have to matter" (248).

Obama: Obama talks of unity, then famously divides. Recall the recent comment he made to a crowd prior to the mid-term elections: "We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” A divisive comment like that is one thing coming from a candidate, it is quite another coming from the president of ALL of the people--Republican and Democrat.

FDR: "Now by defining his forgotten men as the specific groups he would help, the president was in effect forgetting the rest--creating a new forgotten man. The country was splitting into those who were Roosevelt favorites and everyone else. The division started at the top" (Shlaes 246).

Obama: After spending trillions of dollars in the first two years of his Administration, unemployment in the US has risen. Yet we are being told by the experts the economy is in recovery-- a jobless recovery.

FDR: The New Deal, also a Keynesian recovery plan that formed countless government agencies and spent billions of dollars, "was causing the country to forgo prosperity, if not recovery" (Shlaes 263). In 1934, Will Green, head of the AFL made the following point to the press, "While business has recovered half its Depression loss, only 30 percent of the Depression unemployed have been put to work." People might be speaking about recovery, but business activity was still far below 1929 levels--and it was a jobless recovery (262).

Obama/FDR Cabinets: Roosevelt was criticized that his "Brain Trusters," his advisors were largely former professors with no real world experience. The Washington Times recently published the chart below. With all the criticism of FDR's Brain Trusters take a look at Obama's Cabinet.

Nick Schulz, editor of the American Enterprise Institute's The American magazine, catches this eye-popping graph from a J.P. Morgan research report:


at the Washington Examiner:

Stay Tuned. The similarities between these two Administrations are remarkable. Really.

Friday, December 24, 2010

From the Heritage Foundation

Remembering the Providential Gift of America
Morning Bell, The Heritage Foundation

Christmas, 1776.

Summer had begun with strong declarations of noble ideals, but by winter the cause of liberty seemed to be at low ebb. Having suffered defeat after defeat, many had all but given up hope. It looked like freedom would succumb yet again, as it had throughout history, to the forces of authoritarianism and tyranny.

Then, on Christmas Day, 1776, a small band of colonial forces under the command of Gen. George Washington, having retreated all the way from New York, again crossed the Delaware River and brought battle at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington not only won the battle but regained the initiative and turned the war in the patriots’ favor. One week later, Washington defeated the British at Princeton and forced the enemy to withdraw, preventing its advance on Philadelphia, seat of the Continental Congress.

When it announced itself to the world in 1776, the United States of America was little more than an alliance of 13 small colonies on a barren continent, thousands of miles from their ancestral homeland, surrounded by hostile powers.

Now, well over two centuries after winning independence from the British Empire, America is the freest, wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. Along the way it established sovereign nationhood, settled a continent and more and brought unprecedented prosperity to its citizens. It survived a devastating Civil War that threatened its very life, abolished slavery and raised up the emancipated to be citizens equal to their one-time masters. It triumphed in two world wars fought on foreign soil and a decades-long struggle against worldwide communism that, 20 years ago, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union.

What accounts for this monumental success? The founding of the United States was indeed revolutionary. But not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another, or overthrowing the institutions of society. John Adams queried:
What do we mean by the American Revolution? The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

Our revolution was about the ideas upon which a new nation was to be established. Permanent truths “applicable to all men and all times,” as Abraham Lincoln later said, proclaimed that principle rather than will would be the ultimate ground of government.

What is truly revolutionary about America is that, for the first time in history, these universal ideas became the foundation of a system of government and its political culture. Because ofthese principles, rather than despite them, the American Revolution culminated not in tyranny but a constitutional government that has long endured.

To this day, 233 years after Washington and his men crossed the Delaware, these principles–proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the Constitution–still define us as a nation and inspire us as a people. These principles are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other. They are the highest achievements of our tradition, a beacon to those who strive for freedom but also a warning to tyrants and despots everywhere. Because of these principles, not despite them, America achieved greatness.

The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson later recorded, was “neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, [but] was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”

As Americans, our aim must be a clear expression and forthright defense of the nation’s principles in the public square so that they become, once again, an expression of the American mind. Despite constant scorn by academic elites, political leaders and the popular media, most Americans still believe in the uniqueness of this country and respect the Founders’ noble ideas. They may fail a test of particulars – quick: when did Washington cross the Delaware? – but they overwhelmingly want to know about this nation and its meaning.

We must give voice to all those who have not given up on their country’s experiment in self-government, have not concluded the cause of liberty and limited constitutional government is lost and have not accepted America’s decline as inevitable.

The goal must be to restore the liberating principles of the American Founding as the defining public philosophy of our nation. As it was for most of American history, so it can be again.

The joy of this wonderful season is about new beginnings and the eternal promise of redemption. We Americans have the immeasurable benefit, the providential gift, of having inherited a great country.

We must never forget its confidence, optimism and promise, its endless capacity for renewal, are contained in our dedication to the enduring principles of liberty with which all men are endowed by their Creator.

May you and yours have a merry and blessed Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lies and More Lies in the Never Ending Quest for Revenue

(Liberty Bell from my personal collection of photos.)

A country's tax policy lies at the center of the debate over liberty. The Founders understood that. They believed that the individual must be protected from government because they understood further that when government has license to confiscate property it will eventually become addicted to doing so.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 35 wrote: "if the jurisdiction of the national government, in the article of revenue, should be restricted to particular objects, it would naturally occasion an undue proportion of the public burdens to fall upon those objects. Two evils would spring from this source: the oppression of particular branches of industry; and an unequal distribution of the taxes" (emphasis mine)

He was right.

A recently published study revealed the United States ranks first among nations for the most progressive tax structure. In an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal Alan Reynolds writes: "A 2008 study of 24 leading economies by the the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) concludes that, "Taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States." For all the accusations by the left that the rich must pay their fair share, The Journal of Economic Perspectives reports "the upper 1% of the income distribution earned 19.6% of total income before tax [in 2004], and paid 41% of the individual federal income tax. No other major country is so dependent on so few taxpayers" (Reynolds).

The accusations and distortions by the left are nothing new. Hamilton characterized these kinds of attacks as follows: "...argument presents itself under a very specious and seducing form; and is well calculated to lay hold of the prejudices of those to whom it is addressed. But when we come to dissect it with attention, it will appear to be made up of nothing but fair-sounding words. (emphasis mine)

Despite the fact that the Democrats recently claimed victory over the extension of the Bush tax rates, claiming that raising taxes would harm the economy, they will soon be back to their old bully pulpit attacking "the rich" for their greed and calling for higher tax rates for the "wealthy."

It is they who are greedy. And, sadly, ignorant.

Hamilton understood the importance of sound economic and tax policy and understood further the risk to the citizenry when those in leadership didn't. "There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or to sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue" (Federalist 35).

It is time for economic literates to explain to the public the facts of sound fiscal policy. Ronald Reagan style. And give voice to the Founders' intentions when they penned the Constitution: That purpose of government is to protect its citizens, not confiscate an ever increasing portion of their income and property in its never ending quest for revenue.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ronald Reagan Move Over

The extension of the Bush tax rates (what the media is now calling Obama's tax cuts) is a victory for Conservatives that should not be squandered. The Obama tax cuts are neither Obama's--they are Bush's--nor are they tax cuts--they are an extension of the current rates that were set to expire on 12/31/10. But the claim of the Democrats that these extensions had to be made because raising taxes on Americans in this economy would be disastrous is a true victory for Conservatives. It is also sound fiscal policy and should be capitalized on.

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal points out: "As Milton Friedman taught us with his "permanent income hypothesis," consumers base their consumption on their longer-term income expectations, not merely on current income." Temporary tax rates return money to its rightful owner, the earner, but without the certainty of knowing what future tax rates are increased consumption will be muted by the lack of clarity. The Republican majority in the House has a golden opportunity to revisit the tax question while they have the Democrats on their heels and push for further, permanent cuts in 2011.

After passage of the bill Senator Dick Durbin (D) claimed: "The president has a big victory here. It's big because it means there won't be a tax increase at the first of the year, which could have hurt our economy."

Suddenly, though not un-coincidentally (recall the landslide November elections), the Democrats have found lower tax religion. If, as the Senator says higher taxes "hurt" our economy, why has it taken two years for the Democrats to support this extension of the Bush tax rates in an economy they call the worst since the Great Depression? Additionally, why didn't they propose lower and permanent rates to further stimulate demand?

President Obama, too, is a an enthusiastic member of the lower tax club. Only a week ago he was complaining that the House Republicans were holding unemployment benefits hostage to the tax rate extensions, then upon signing the bill declared: "This is real money that's going to make a real difference in people's lives. That's how we're going to spark demand, spur hiring, and strengthen our economy in the new year" (Reuters)

Ronald Reagan move over and meet the new supply-sider in the White House. His claim that "lower taxes spark demand, spur hiring and strengthen our economy" should be rung from every mountain top from now until 2012.

You heard it here folks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

(photo courtesy of my personal collection taken at the 111th Army Navy game)

Much has been made in the press regarding Mr. Obama having to postpone his Christmas vacation because of a recalcitrant Congress wrangling over "his" tax bill. A little has been made about Congress having to stay in Washington; potentially working through Christmas because the Democrat leadership left all of the heavy lifting until after the November election when they could--how to say this politely?--uh, stick it to the electorate during their lame duck session. With the passage of the extension of the Bush tax rates by Congress and scrapping of the $1.1 TRILLION budget in the Senate last night, perhaps our ruling class friends will get to go home after all and the President will get to don his Oakley's and board shorts and body surf for the cameras in the Oahu surf. Sigh of relief.

Yet, not once in the breathless press reports regarding Mr. Obama's Christmas vacation have I ever heard commentary or sympathy or even appreciation for the members of our military who will be working right through Christmas. Away from their homes and families. In a far away and hostile land. Not once.

So, I would like to thank them, each and every one, and their families. I would like to thank them for their courage and their self-sacrifice and their dedication to the preservation of this great Republic. I think about our military often, I think about their quiet discipline and constancy, their devotion to liberty, and their self-effacing humility.

I think of none of those qualities, by the way, when I think of Congress. But I digress.

As impressed as I am by the members of our military, I am equally as impressed with the naivete of many of our citizens. Can anyone tell me what that mysterious Coexist bumper sticker means? Tell me please why someone would slap an End this Endless War sticker on their back window? Do these people think that our country, and particularly those that serve, like war? That it never occurred to the average person to "coexist" peacefully with our neighbors? Is their smug moral superiority so veneered onto their brains that they think the rest of us have lost our way? That we enjoy seeing our military men and women sacrifice and suffer and die simply for the sake of mindless aggression? Did they not study the history of the Revolutionary War that launched this nation? Can you imagine a Revolutionary patriot slapping a Coexist sticker to the rump of his horse? Or a Revolutionary farmer planting an End this Endless War sign in their front garden while their neighbor marched shoeless through the bitter snow of New England trying to defeat the most powerful army the world had ever known?

Justice Stephen Breyer in an interview on Fox News Sunday last week argued that the Founder's couldn't possibly have understood what the future would hold for this nation when they penned the Constitution and the Federalist Papers: "That being the case, and particularly since the Founding Fathers did not foresee how modern day would change individual behavior, government bodies can impose regulations on guns, Breyer concluded." (emphasis mine)

It is exactly Justice Breyer's kind of arrogance that inspires our fellow citizens to explain to the rest of us the way the world works. It is what motivates City Council's to ban McDonald's toys, or the First Lady to dictate nutritional standards to our children; that arrogance emboldens the hapless Prius owner to paste a Coexist sticker on their bumper--to remind us all that peace is the answer. In case we didn't know.

So Justice Breyer in all his sophistication doesn't believe the Founder's exercised foresight? Allow me to quote from Federalist 34 where Hamilton is arguing for (among other things) a strong defense: "A cloud has been for some time hanging over the European world. If it should break forth into a storm, who can insure us that in its progress a part of its fury would not be spent upon us? ...Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others. ...To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquillity, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.

Those prescient statements seem to me to anticipate wars and attacks, jealousies and aggression and most importantly, to clearly understand the true nature of man. So, until the rest of us are civilized enough to Coexist, let's offer support and prayer to the real hero's--the ones who will quietly serve far from home during Christmas and the New Year, Easter and children's birthday's and wedding anniversaries. With deep humility and sacrifice.

An inadequately heartfelt Thank You members of our Military. May God Bless you and your families this Christmas Season especially.

Oh yes, and: Go Navy! Beat Army!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Change of Men

In Federalist 21, Alexander Hamilton writes: "The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men."

In November the country overwhelmingly demanded a change of men. A change of direction. A return to Conservative, Constitutional principles. The election was a repudiation of the reckless disregard of Nancy Pelosi's House, and Harry Reid's Senate for the Constitution so carefully and courageously crafted by our Founders. The Founder's understood as Hamilton wrote in Federalist 22 that "The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of 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, the Founders respected the will of the people.

How far we've sunk.

Since the decisive election in November, instead of heeding the voice of the people, the left-leaning, Democratic majority continues the path they blazed with the unconventional hijinks employed to ram through Obamacare. They are rejecting the mandate of the election and the limitations of the Constitution. They do so arrogantly and without remorse. And their popularity has reached an historic low.

We might be able to suffer through Congress's treachery if we were blessed with a courageous leader in the White House. Instead our President continues to whine about his legacy.

The Hill reports: "In urging lawmakers to vote for his tax deal, President Obama is using one of his go-to lines from the healthcare debate, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Obama is telling members of Congress that failure to pass the tax-cut legislation could result in the end of his presidency, Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) said.

"The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls, the president is making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn't get this bad deal," he told CNN's Eliot Spitzer" (Fabian).

The people spoke in November and the current ruling class has chosen to continue to ignore the very people they serve. They treat our governing framework with disdain and the President, instead of advocating for his constituents and protecting the Constitution, worries instead about his legacy. Hamilton had it right when he suggested the cure for an ill-administration is a "change of men" and that the "original fountain of all legitimate authority" is indeed the CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.

Our current ruling class is imposing their will against the consent of those they serve. This is a dangerous and capricious precedent. Yet our president is focused merely on saving his presidency while the deficit quadruples and this cabal of self-serving bandits squanders our children's future.

We need a change of men. And we need it fast.

Come January. Quick.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Washington Elite--Meet Charlie Rangel

A few years back I began working on a book about tax policy history in America entitled The Power to Destroy. The title comes from a ruling by John Marshall, the fourth, yet arguably the most important Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In McCulloch v. Maryland, which involved the question of taxation and the rights of the states to tax the federal government Marshall wrote: “…the power to tax involves the power to destroy.”

In a section discussing out of control Washington spending I wrote: In FY 2008, the U.S. Congress pushed through $17.2 billion in pork attached to 12 appropriations bills. There were many moments to cherish but we will consider but one here; certainly not the biggest earmark but one of the most interesting.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a nineteen term representative, asked for and got $1,950,000 for a library and archives at the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at The City College of New York. In other words Congressman Rangel received $1.95 million dollars of my money and yours to finance a little library named for himself at a college in his district. He was challenged in his request by a mere two term republican from California, John Campbell who said, “You don’t agree with me or see any problem with us, as members, sending taxpayer funds in the creation of things named after ourselves while we’re still here?” Rangel did not. He responded, “I would have a problem if you did it, because I don’t think that you’ve been around long enough that having your name on something to inspire a building like this in a school.”

Today Congress voted to censure Mr. Rangel. By all reports he is a likable man but that is no excuse for his abuse of the trust bestowed on him by the American people. It's also no excuse for the cavalier way he has used taxpayer money.

The Wall Street Journal writes: "During the debate, Mr. Rangel sat slumped in a chair on the House floor as fellow lawmakers said his misconduct had dishonored them all. The 80-year-old Democrat who has represented Harlem for 40 years was found to have misused congressional perks, failed to pay taxes on some income for 17 years, failed to report assets properly for a decade and misused a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office" (WSJ).

Any one want to venture a guess as to what would happen if we failed to pay taxes on some of our income for 17 years...?

I know! I know!