The Washington Post reports that Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglioco in Argentina), issued a long (50,000 word) statement on November 26, 2013, in which he expressed disgust with capitalism and advocated redistribution as a sure formula for eliminating poverty.
It is a highly audacious – in our opinion impudent – display of economic ignorance.
Pope Francis … sharply criticized growing economic inequality and unfettered markets in a wide-ranging and decidedly populist teaching that revealed how he plans to reshape the Catholic Church.
“Unfettered markets.” If you don’t chain ‘em up they will attack you?
In his most authoritative writings as pontiff, Francis decried an “idolatry of money” in secular culture and warned that it would lead to “a new tyranny”. …
A statement rich in baloney. (1) No one sane worships money (not even the many cruel and lascivious Popes who accumulated it passionately in pre-Enlightenment times did that). It is a medium of exchange. It is wanted for what it can do, what it can acquire, not for what it is. That’s why the poor are in need of it. (2) He decries poverty, yet he scorns money. (3) Market economies do not lead to tyrannies. But governments that redistribute money are exercising a form of tyranny. And wherever economic equality is enforced, it is always an equality of misery. Except for those who do the distribution. They invariably redistribute a big whack to themselves.
[Pope Francis] showed a willingness to use tough language in attacking what he views as the excesses of capitalism.
“The excesses of capitalism”? Wherever on this earth there is prosperity, wherever the poor are least poor and have the best chance of getting richer, capitalism is the magic that does the trick; and it is only in a free society, where the free market – or “capitalism’ – operates, that the poor are least poor and can most easily become richer.
Using a phrase with special resonance in the United States, he strongly criticized an economic theory — often affiliated [sic] with conservatives — that discourages taxation and regulation.
Yes, we conservatives do dislike, and would discourage, governments taking money from those who earn it and giving it to those who don’t. And we don’t think bureaucrats know better how to run our businesses than we do.
The Pope’s statement is then quoted directly:
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Since he does not understand that wealth is created, but conceives it to be a fixed “pie” that some get too big a slice of leaving too little for others, he thinks that those capitalists “affiliated” with a “trickle-down” theory (his use of that phrase greatly impressed the reporters who see it as a sign that Bergoglioco knows what he’s talking about) have made some sort of promise or prediction that their riches will bring about “greater justice and inclusiveness in the world”. He means “social justice” – a meaningless phrase, dear to the hearts of egalitarians, statists, and collectivists in general. But the poor in – say – America, are not poor because someone, or a class of people, has been unjust to them. And what can he mean by “inclusiveness”? If he means participation in the market, it is open to all in a free – but not an egalitarian – society. Perhaps he has a picture of ragged starving people begging at the gates of a castle, as in the centuries when the Catholic Church ruled over Europe.
Although Francis has previously raised concerns about the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor, the direct reference to “trickle-down” economics in the English translation of his statement is striking. The phrase has often been used derisively to describe a popular version of conservative economic philosophy that argues that allowing the wealthy to run their businesses unencumbered by regulation or taxation bears economic benefits that lead to more jobs and income for the rest of society. Liberals and Democratic officials have rejected the theory, saying it is contradicted by economic evidence.
It is not contradicted by the evidence. All the evidence points the other way. Every experiment in redistribution, ie socialism, has failed. And how does encumbering business with regulation and taxation help society? Is a heavily taxed business more or less likely to employ more people? As for regulation, the Obama administration has issued and continues to issue such a volume of it, that if it could reduce unemployment and restore prosperity it would surely have done so spectacularly by now!
Then comes the really dangerous part of the Washington Post article:
Some scholars say the Pope’s statement should invariably shape the thinking of today’s Catholics.
“There’s no way a Catholic who is a serious intellectual can ever again not address the issue of income inequality, of the structural sins of our economic system. This is so front and center,” said Michael Sean Winters, a fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. …
Francis’s words may ripple across many fronts.
‘The structural sins of our economic system.” Capitalism, or the free market, or “the natural order of liberty” as Adam Smith called it – is sinful! If millions of Catholics are going to have to believe that …
But wait. Will Catholics who are literate in economics and therefore supporters of the free market have to “address the structural sins of our economic system”?
The pope’s statements — especially if they continue — could impact U.S. politics. Several potential contenders for the presidency in 2016 are economic conservatives who are also Catholic, and liberal Catholic groups have in the past taken aim at what they view as the overly stingy policies of Republicans who have little regard for the role of government in redistributing income.
A government that doesn’t redistribute is being “stingy”, you see?
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a recent proponent of those policies and a devout Catholic, has said before that he tries to uphold Catholic teaching “as best I can” and believes his policies match Catholic teaching because they emphasize small institutions close to the people — for example, churches — over the role of state or federal government. A spokesman for Ryan declined to comment Tuesday on the pope’s statement.
Hard to imagine what he could possibly say to reconcile irreconcilables. If this nonsense from Pope Francis is now “Catholic teaching”, will someone like Paul Ryan have to choose between being a Catholic and being a Republican?
There is a lot more nonsense to be read in the article - including a reminder that the Church is against Communism!
John Paul II’s warnings on economic inequality were swallowed at times by his war on Communism, a far more dangerous problem in the church’s eyes because of its anti-religious bent …
So atheism is even worse than the “unfettered” market in papal eyes.
Also reported is the Pope’s belief that the 2001 economic collapse of his native country, Argentina, was due to a failure of free market capitalism. For a description of what actually happened – authoritarian central control, hyperinflation, rising debt, bad decisions, and extreme corruption – listen to the first 13 minutes or so of this lecture.
Winters said a key to understanding Francis is that he’s from Argentina and was archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2001, when the country’s economy collapsed.“When you see people trying to bless capitalism, he has a very real, vivid experience of capitalism and what it has brought to his country, and it’s not a happy experience,” Winters said.
We cannot of course review all the evil that the Catholic Church has done over the last 1800 years, to which this mischief is now to be added. (Yes, it might sometimes have meant to do good, but as Christians say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.) But we will give one reminder since we received only yesterday an email from a retired academic, commenting on the Pope’s statement, that provides a particularly vivid example of the Church’s iniquity in recent history.
Alexander Firestone writes:
How did Hitler become German chancellor? The one man most responsible, apart from the Nazis themselves, was Eugenio Pacelli, Papal Nuncio to Germany at the time and later Pope Pius XII. And he did it consciously and deliberately. Throughout Weimar Germany from the Kaiser’s abdication in 1918 until Hitler became chancellor on 30 January 1933, elections were generally free and fair in Germany. The three largest political parties were  the Communists (KPD) who in every election got 20% of the vote, concentrated mostly in a few large cities like Berlin and Hamburg;  the Socialists (SPD) who always got another 20% of the vote, also concentrated in major cities. Both parties had their loyal followers who never wavered. But the largest party was  the Catholic Center Party which regularly got 30% of the vote, heavily concentrated in Catholic Bavaria and the Rhineland. They got zilch in heavily Protestant areas like Saxony and Prussia.Thus, most governments were headed by Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Catholic Center Party a generally conservative, but not extremist group.
In the election of June 1932 the communists and socialists each got their standard 20% and the Catholic Center got its standard 30%. A government was formed with Brüning as chancellor consisting of the catholic center, the socialists, and a few votes from the remaining parties; mostly small and mostly representing agricultural interests in largely Protestant areas, to get over 50%. In that election the National Socialists [the Nazis] got 12%, an all time high for them, at the expense of some small agricultural parties. The coalition did not work well. Thanks to the depression, unemployment was high and taxes could not be raised further, but the socialists demanded ever larger welfare programs. Brüning did the only thing he could; print more money, basically surrendering to the socialists. That summer Eugenio Pacelli became Papal Nuncio to Germany and chair of the German Catholic Council of Bishops.
Eventually, Brüning had to call for new elections, and he did so for December 1932. German electoral law specifies that elections may be held on any day of the week except Sunday. Therefore, there must be a last Sunday before an election. The practice had been (actually going back to Bismark’s time) for a letter to be read in every Catholic church in Germany on the Sunday just before an election providing church guidance to all German Catholics on how to vote. That letter is written by the Papal Nuncio, blessed by the Pope, and definitive for all Catholics. Since 1918 the letter recommended voting for the Catholic Center Party but did not require it. It also forbade voting for the Communists. After 1923 it was modified to forbid voting for the Communists or the Nazis. Pacelli abolished the Catholic Center Party, calling a Catholic party “unseemly”, even though it was the largest party in Germany. Pacelli also rewrote the Catholic Church letter. The recommendation to vote for the Catholic Center Party was dropped, but the provision forbidding (as a mortal sin) a vote for the communists was still there. The provision forbidding a vote for the Nazis was also dropped. On a vote for the Nazis the letter was silent.
In the December 1932 election the Communists and Socialists each got their standard 20%, and from the usual places, and the Nazis increased their vote from 12% in June to 44% in December. Analysis of voting patterns shows that they increased from 12% to 14% at the expense of the little agricultural parties AND they got the entire 30% from Bavaria and the Rhineland that had once gone to the Catholic Center Party. The German Catholics of Bavaria and the Rhineland got the message and voted as they were supposed to. Always helpful, the Communists announced that they would vote against any government in which they did not get the economics, labor and foreign ministries. Of course, with 44% of the votes themselves, the Nazis had only to bribe a few of the little agricultural parties to get over 50%, which they did. There was a lot of twisting and squirming in December and January, but on 30 January 1933 President Hindenberg did the inevitable and asked Hitler to form a government. That is how, in short, Eugenio Pacelli made Hitler Chancellor of Germany.
As a comment on the idea that capitalism ruined Argentina, TAC Associate Robert Kantor adds this:
The latest speech by the Pope makes explicit what has been known for a long time, namely, that the Church is and has always been anti-capitalist, preferring the top-down economic control and redistributionist policies that have proved such spectacular failures in Marxist and fascist countries. At the turn of the 20th century, the United States and Argentina both served as powerful magnets to immigrants from Europe. Both seemed to be a land of the future. Argentina, which has had the kind of strong central government (i.e., semi-fascist) the Pope seems to find so congenial, is still the land of the future — and always will be.
There is much that we like about libertarianism, but have points of strong disagreement with most of the libertarians we listen to and read. The one we find ourselves most often in agreement with is John Stossel.
Here is his reminder of what we ought to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day: private property. The history of the Pilgrims bears a powerful message that private property is a way to life, liberty, and happiness, while communism is the road to starvation:
Had today’s politicians and opinion-makers been in power four centuries ago, Americans might celebrate “Starvation Day” this week, not Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: “Share everything, share the work, and we’ll share the harvest.”
The colony’s contract said their new settlement was to be a “common.” Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property.
That wasn’t the only thing about the Plymouth Colony that sounds like it was from Karl Marx: Its labor was to be organized according to the different capabilities of the settlers. People would produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs. That sure sounds fair.
They nearly starved and created what economists call the “tragedy of the commons.”
If people can access the same stuff by working less, they will. Plymouth settlers faked illness instead of working the common property. The harvest was meager, and for two years, there was famine. But then, after the colony’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that they should “set corn every man for his own particular,” they dropped the commons idea. He assigned to every family a parcel of land to treat as its own.
The results were dramatic. Much more corn was planted. Instead of famine, there was plenty. Thanks to private property, they got food — and thanks to it, we have food today.
This doesn’t mean Pilgrims themselves saw the broader economic implications of what they’d been through. “I don’t think they were celebrating Thanksgiving because they’d realized that capitalism works and communal property is a failure,” says economist Russ Roberts. “I think there were just happy to be alive.”
I wish people understood. This idea that happiness and equality lie in banding together and doing things as a commune is appealing. It’s the principle behind the Soviet Union, Medicare, the Vietnam War, Obamacare and so on. …
The Pilgrims weren’t the first settlers on the East Coast of the New World to make this mistake.
Just a few years before, the colony of Jamestown was almost wiped out by the same idea.
Historian Edmund S. Morgan, in “American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia,” describes what happened in 1609-1610: “There are 500 people in the colony now. And they are starving. They scour the woods listlessly for nuts, roots and berries. And they offer the only authentic examples of cannibalism witnessed in Virginia. One provident man chops up his wife and salts down the pieces. Others dig up graves to eat the corpses. By spring only sixty are left alive.”
After that season, the colony was abandoned for years.
The lesson that a commons is often undesirable is all around us. What image comes to mind if I write “public toilet”? Consider traffic congestion and poor upkeep of many publicly owned roads. But most people don’t understand that the solution is private property.
When natural resources, such as fish and trees, dwindle, the first impulse is to say, “Stop capitalism. Make those things public property.” But they already are public — that’s the problem.
If no one owns the fishing rights to a given part of the ocean – or the exclusive, long-term logging rights to part of the forest – people have an incentive to get there first and take all they can before the next guy does. Resources are overused instead of conserved. We don’t maintain others’ property the way we maintain our own. …
No one starves when ranchers are allowed to own land and cattle. Or turkeys.
Private ownership does good things.
A young idealist has a formula for ending poverty and achieving economic equality: 100% inheritance tax and redistribution of wealth by government. He thinks – as the Left does – that there is a fixed quantity of wealth in the world – “the capital” he calls it . (Why can’t or won’t the Left understand that wealth is created?)
Milton Friedman explains how the formula would destroy a society.
And here he talks – inter alia – about the importance of limiting government power to preserve the freedom of the individual.
On June 7, 2008, we faced with horror the possibility that Barack Obama could become president of the United States with a post titled Obama can only fumble and fail:
We would say to him: ‘Come on, Barry, face the fact that you cannot lead this nation.’
Barack Obama makes flabbergastingly naive statements of intent. He seems to be stuck with adolescent ideals, a view of what is desirable and possible that few sane people over the age of 21 can normally continue to hold. He manifests no knowledge of history, or of political or economic theory. His ideas have the quality of sticky-sentiment greetings cards, but are delivered with the grandiloquence of extreme narcissism. His manner of dropping his voice at the end of every sentence gives everything he says a certainty; an inarguable ‘I say so, so that’s how it is’ finality; an apodictic quality. This manner, combined with the lift of his chin to one side like Mussolini, enchants gullible listeners: makes them think, ‘Ah yes, he is so sure, he must be right, he should lead us!’ Only when he has to answer a question he has not prepared himself for, do we hear him fumbling, stammering, losing the eloquence of the well-rehearsed demagogue.
To elect him to the presidency of the United States at this point in history would be a mistake so devastating that it’s hard to believe sensible voters could even contemplate doing so. Now, just as Europe has learnt too late that socialism does not work, he would bring socialism to America. For make no mistake about it, Obama is a socialist … Just for starters he wants a national health service – a wholly socialist notion – though every example of such a thing everywhere in the world is failing.
Has he brought socialism to America? Yes. Or very much more of it to add to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s start.
Has he imposed a national health service on the nation? Yes. He has begun to do it with a health care act that taxes every citizen and resident of America just for existing, and is proving to be so unmanageable that the only way out of its mess is either to repeal it as Republicans want to do, or go to a full “one-payer system” – the one payer being of course the state – as Obama’s faithful Democrats want to do.
His foreign policy ideas are even more disastrous. He wants to disarm the US in a world of spreading nuclear know-how and capability along with hostile intention.
Is he doing so? Yes. He is defunding the US military and turning servicemen into social workers.
Is the country called ‘the last best hope’ of humanity about to follow the European example and become weak, demoralized, decadent, and slowly subjugated by aliens whose ideas derive from the seventh century?
Yes. In addition to following the European model of socialism, Obama has brought the Muslim Brotherhood into his administration.
What of his world leadership as US president? He has just proved himself incapable of exercising it. Worse, he has broken the Pax Americana on which the world relied – as Caroline Glick explicates:
What happened in Geneva last week was the most significant international event since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the rise of the United States as the sole global superpower. The developments in the six-party nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last week signaled the end of American world leadership.
Global leadership is based on two things – power and credibility. The United States remains the most powerful actor in the world. But last week, American credibility was shattered.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the first part of last week lying to Israeli and Gulf Arab leaders and threatening the Israeli people. He lied to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Saudis about the content of the deal US and European negotiators had achieved with the Iranians.
Kerry told them that in exchange for Iran temporarily freezing its nuclear weapons development program, the US and its allies would free up no more than $5 billion in Iranian funds seized and frozen in foreign banks.
Kerry threatened the Israeli people with terrorism and murder – and so invited both – if Israel fails to accept his demands for territorial surrender to PLO terrorists that reject Israel’s right to exist. …
It is hard to separate the rise in terrorist activity since Kerry’s remarks last week from his remarks.
What greater carte blanche for murder could the Palestinians have received than the legitimization of their crimes by the chief diplomat of Israel’s closest ally? Certainly, Kerry’s negotiating partner Catherine Ashton couldn’t have received a clearer signal to ratchet up her economic boycott of Jewish Israeli businesses than Kerry’s blackmail message …
Kerry’s threats were so obscene and unprecedented that Israeli officials broke with tradition and disagreed with him openly and directly, while he was still in the country. Normally supportive leftist commentators have begun reporting Kerry’s history of anti-Israel advocacy, including his 2009 letter of support for pro-Hamas activists organizing flotillas to Gaza in breach of international and American law.
As for Kerry’s lies to the US’s chief Middle Eastern allies, it was the British and the French who informed the Israelis and the Saudis that far from limiting sanctions relief to a few billion dollars in frozen funds, the draft agreement involved ending sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector, and on other industries.
In other words, the draft agreement exposed Washington’s willingness to effectively end economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement to cosmetic concessions that will not slow down its nuclear weapons program.
Both the US’s position, and the fact that Kerry lied about that position to the US’s chief allies, ended what was left of American credibility in the Middle East. That credibility was already tattered by US fecklessness in Syria and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
True, in the end, Kerry was unable to close the deal he rushed off to Geneva to sign last Friday. [But] it wasn’t Iran that rejected the American surrender. And it wasn’t America that scuttled the proposal. It was France. Unable to hide behind American power and recognizing its national interest in preventing Iran from emerging as a nuclear armed power in the Middle East, France vetoed a deal that paved the way a nuclear Iran.
Kerry’s failure to reach the hoped-for deal represented a huge blow to America, and a double victory for Iran. The simple fact that Washington was willing to sign the deal – and lie about it to its closest allies – caused the US to lose its credibility in the Middle East. Even without the deal, the US paid the price of appeasing Iran and surrendering leadership of the free world [in this instance] to France and Israel. …
Thus, Iran ended Pax Americana in the Middle East, removing the greatest obstacle in its path to regional hegemony. And it did so without having to make the slightest concession to the Great Satan. …
It was fear of losing Pax Americana that made all previous US administrations balk at reaching an accord with Iran. …
The Obama administration just paid that unsustainably high price, and didn’t even get a different relationship with Iran.
Most analyses of what happened in Geneva last week have centered on what the failure of the talks means for the future of Obama’s foreign policy.
Certainly Obama, now universally reviled by America’s allies in the Middle East, will be diplomatically weakened. This diplomatic weakness may not make much difference to Obama’s foreign policy, because appeasement and retreat do not require diplomatic strength.
But the real story of what happened last week is far more significant than the future of Obama’s foreign policy. Last week it was America that lost credibility, not Obama. It was America that squandered the essential component of global leadership.
And that is the watershed event of this young century. …
Until Obama became president, the consensus view of the US foreign policy establishment and of both major parties was that the US had a permanent interest in being the hegemonic power in the Middle East. US hegemony ensured three permanent US national security interests: preventing enemy regimes and terror groups from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm; ensuring the smooth flow of petroleum products through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal; and demonstrating the credibility of American power by ensuring the security of US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. The third interest was an essential foundation of US deterrence of the Soviets during the Cold War, and of the Chinese over the past decade.
Obama departed from this foreign policy consensus in an irrevocable manner last week. In so doing, he destroyed US credibility. …
[Even] if a conservative internationalist in the mold of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan is elected in 2016, Obama’s legacy will make it impossible for him to rebuild the US alliance structure. US allies … will not be willing to make any longterm commitments based on US security guarantees.
Obama has taught the world that the same US that elected Truman and formed NATO, and elected George H.W. Bush and threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, can elect a man who betrays US allies and US interests to advance a radical ideology predicated on a rejection of the morality of American power. Any US ally is now on notice that US promises – even if based on US interests – are not reliable. American commitments can expire the next time America elects a radical to the White House. …
America’s appalling betrayal of Jerusalem under Obama … is the straw that has broken the back of American strategic credibility from Taipei to Santiago. …
The twice-elected president of the United States has dispatched his secretary of state to threaten and deceive US allies while surrendering to US foes. It is now an indisputable fact that the US government may use its power to undermine its own interests and friends worldwide.
Could a president fail more catastrophically than Obama has? The list of his failures is too long for this space. Enough to say he has had no successes. America under his leadership is more in debt, its government is more corrupt, its position in the world is weaker, its Constitution is voided, its citizens are less free, its enemies are triumphant, its allies are enraged …
And yet … an awful question arises. What if all this represents not failure but success? What if the wrecking of the economy, the collectivization of the people, the weakening of America as the dominant world power, the voiding of the Constitution, the advancement of Islam, the existential crisis of Israel, are precisely what Obama set out to achieve?
Then he would have to be assessed as the most successful president since George Washington. The failure is colossal, but it is not his. It is America’s.
Look up! See the skies filling with pigs on the wing – because: The left-biased media are exploding with disapproval of the president they have long and deeply adored.
CBS finally got round to airing a report on what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/12 that is not flattering to the Obama administration because it shows – without explicitly stating – that Obama and Hillary Clinton lied about the disastrous events of that night of death and defeat. [But see Postscript.]
Obama’s most faithful dog NBC reveals to its audience that Obama lied when he said that people could keep their health insurance under Obamacare.
Four opinion columnists of the left-leaning Washington Post are shocked, shocked at Obama’s display of incompetence, his denial of culpability, his claimed ignorance of what his administration has been doing badly.
Ruth Marcus becomes quite strong in her disapproval, here. Her theme is “the chaotic reality of the Obama administration’s second term”. She writes:
The menu of current problems [that] go to issues of core competency to govern [are]:
Eavesdropping on foreign leaders. The choices here are unflattering. EitherPresident Obama did not know what his spy agencies were up to, in which case he is not fully in control of the reins of power after nearly five years in office, or he knew, in which case he did not think through the obviously inadequate cost-benefit ratio and his aides are misleading the public now. … How could he not know? If he did know, how could he think the information gleaned could possibly be worth the risk of having foreign leaders discover the surveillance? …
Syria. … the herky-jerky nature of the administration’s approach — drawing a red line, failing to enforce it, trumpeting enforcement, then suddenly shifting to Congress — does not portray the president in a flattering light. This is first-year-of-first-term amateurishness …
Oh yes, health care. The president’s signal domestic policy achievement. Probably the most important legacy of his administration. … So how could the roll out of the Web site be so bad?
Chris Cillizza writes skeptically:
“Obama didn’t know” has become a regular refrain for this White House. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the president was unaware of the red flags that had been raised in regards the launch of Healthcare.gov, and back in May the President himself said knew nothing about the reports of the IRS targeting of conservative groups before he read about it in the media.”
And his column is illustrated with a video clip from a CNN report about Obama’s repeated plea that he “didn’t know”, questioning whether this was “a strategy”. The host’s air of mild surprise, his tone of “only asking”, fig-leafs the message that if Obama really doesn’t know what’s going on in his administration, he should.
Dana Milbank seems more than a little irritated (writing here at IBD):
For a smart man, President Obama professes to know very little about a great number of things going on in his administration. .. Is it better that he didn’t know about his administration’s missteps — or that he knew about them and didn’t stop them?
Richard Cohen – seeming hurt and even a touch angry (here):
[Obama] has lately so mishandled both domestic and foreign policy … [His Syrian policy is] intellectually incoherent and pathetically inconsistent … The debacle of the Affordable Care Act’s Web [raises]questions about confidence. … An erratic presidency has made the world a bit less safe.
Why were they unable to see what sort of man Obama is until now?
They saw what they wanted to see.
What’s happened that they see him more clearly now? Why did they let him get away with so much? Why are they still not complaining about the lies and cover-up of Benghazi?
Is it too late to undo the harm Obama has done to America?
We now know that perhaps 16 million people* will lose their health coverage because of ObamaCare. But David Axelrod sniffs “the overwhelming majority of the population won’t lose their current coverage,” and Anna Eshoo (my congresswoman) assures us that these millions will now be able to purchase “better” insurance (which they don’t want and which doesn’t fit their needs).
Three years of blatant lies from Obama in order to herd the American people, mostly against their will, into an unworkable, financially disastrous system, all in the service of the long-term goal of the Democratic Party: to increase the power, the reach, and the intrusiveness of the federal government, thereby turning free, independent citizens into wards of the state. This is what Obama meant when he proclaimed shortly before his first inauguration that the total transformation of this country will begin in five days. Next on Obama’s agenda is universal pre-school, that is, a year or two more in state-run, generally mediocre schools and a year or two less time with their parents (who may harbor undesirable, reactionary views). And let us not forget the Obama administration’s long-standing policy of not enforcing immigration laws, which means an ongoing rapid transformation of the demographics of this country and a huge increase in the number of people who will vote for welfare state policies.
What is this transformed America that Obama and most Democrats envision? At best, it’s a bloated European-style welfare state similar to the ones that are currently sinking into insolvency, that are unwilling and unable to defend themselves against the enemies within and without, that are becoming more culturally enfeebled with every passing year, and that are locked in a demographic death spiral which ensures their virtual disappearance as a culture in the lifetime of my grandchildren. At worst, it’s a leviathan state which holds the commanding position in every critical aspect of life, both political and economic — something akin to a Soviet Union but perhaps without the gulags, the purge trials, and the sealed borders. This worst case scenario is not so far-fetched when one considers the chief influences in Obama’s life: the Reverend Wright, Frank Marshall Davis (Communist Party member), Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers, and Obama’s revered father, a Marxist revolutionary. Steve Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, once expressed amazement that religious people actually believe that the Bible is literally true. When it comes to irrational belief, is it as difficult to grasp the notion that Obama might very well believe and wish to put into practice the anti-American, anti-capitalist worldview of those he has chosen to associate with throughout his adult life?
One may argue that a single man cannot possibly do irreparable damage to a society in eight short years. Let us hope this is true. But think about it! In two generations, Greece has gone from a nation of sturdy fishermen, farmers, and merchants into a bankrupt society whose citizens riot at the prospect of not being able to retire at the age or 50 with full pensions. Massive government intervention, in particular unearned benefits, has done to the Greeks what it has done to so many blacks in this country; that is, it has reduced them to feckless wards of the state. As Ambassador Daniel Moynihan pointed out, culture is more important than laws, but culture can be changed by changing the laws.
As far back as the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville described a new and distinctive culture, one that was totally different from those of Europe. It was a culture characterized by individualism, self-reliance, hard work, suspicion of authority, individual generosity, and the willingness to form local associations to solve social problems. It is what shaped and molded America and is the reason why the United States and not Brazil, Argentina, or Russia is the world’s preeminent power. Obama appears to have nothing but contempt for this culture, as exemplified by his off-hand comment about those people who cling to their guns and religion and his wife’s comment (almost certainly approved by him) on the campaign trail to the effect that for the first time in her life she felt proud of her country. When asked what made America great, Obama cited the passage of Social Security and Medicare – implying that the evolution of 13 weak colonies to the most powerful, the wealthiest, and the most innovative and creative nation in a little over two centuries was nothing compared to social welfare legislation. On another occasion, Obama opined that the Constitution was a flawed document in that it stipulates only negative rights (Congress shall not do this or that) and but does not stipulate positive rights (good jobs, free education, free medical care, free housing, etc.). But by their very nature, it is beyond the power of government to guarantee such “rights”. Government can decree the things it wants done but cannot ensure that these things will be done. If it could, the Soviet Union (which had a magnificent constitution) would have been an earthly paradise but, like all other states that have offered cradle-to-grave fulfillment of human needs, was a giant prison whose citizens were equal in their poverty.
Robert Kantor TAC Associate October 30, 2013
*Footnote: A Forbes article headlines: Obama officials [predicted] in 2010 that 93 million Americans will be unable to keep their health [insurance] plans under Obamacare.
Postscript 11/13/13: It turns out that the CBS report was based on a false account. This does not alter the fact that an Obama-supporting TV channel was prepared to discuss Benghazi without whitewashing the Obama administration – unless putting out the program was the start of a cunning plan to tell lies, have them exposed, and so make it seem that any adverse criticism of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack is likely to be untrue. It’s a possibility, but we think it more probable that CBS was simply deceived, and its willingness to criticize the administration’s handling of that dire event remains the notable point.
We hold personal liberty to be the highest value, which is why we are sympathetic to libertarianism.
One of our favorite libertarians is John Stossel, who writes today at Townhall:
When Congress and President Obama agreed on a deal last week to raise the debt ceiling and resume government spending, people reacted as if a disaster was averted — instead of reacting as if a disaster had resumed. It has. And it continues.
Congratulating ourselves for raising the debt ceiling once again, the way we do every time this drama plays out, is like congratulating an alcoholic for talking the bartender out of cutting him off.
As with alcoholics, there’s a deeper problem here. It’s not just that America is addicted to debt. Everyone agrees we should pay our bills, just not when or how. The deeper addiction is to government.
For most of the history of America, federal spending never took up more than 5 percent of the economy. Spending increased during wars, but after World Wars I and II, spending dropped back to prewar levels.
Then came Presidents Johnson and Nixon and the “great society.” From then on, spending rose even in peacetime. Now, if you include local government, government spending makes up more than 40 percent of the economy. …
When Obama campaigned for the presidency, he … complained, “The way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China. … We now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back. … That is irresponsible.”
I agree! $9 trillion in debt is totally irresponsible. That makes it all the more remarkable that just a few years later, under President Obama, debt increased to $17 trillion. But now, suddenly, this vast debt is no longer irresponsible. Today the president says what is irresponsible is for Congress not to constantly raise the debt ceiling. …
Let me make some suggestions: Eliminate NPR and PBS funding. Cut foreign aid. End the war on drugs. Kill Fannie and Freddie, which financed America’s mortgages and helped cause the financial crisis. Eliminate cabinet departments like Commerce, Energy, Agriculture and Education, all activities that happen without any need for the federal government. (Education is a local function, and the department spending $100 billion a year hasn’t raised test scores one bit.)
Oh yes, all those should go.
Reform Social Security by raising the retirement age.
Or phase it out altogether, we would suggest.
And instead of increasing government involvement in health care, turn Medicare into a self-sustaining insurance program.
But with his next suggestion we do not entirely agree. It is a point on which we diverge from our libertarian friends:
Shrink the military by reducing our overseas commitments. …
We do not want to see a shrunken military (although we do think many of the soldiers stationed abroad – in Western Europe for instance – should be brought home*). We think much more should be spent on defense – and preparation for wars abroad that may very well become necessary. (Why not robot armies?)
We are emphatically against the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution of the UN (for which Samantha Power, the present US ambassador to that corrupt and ridiculous institution, was the inspiring muse). America has no responsibility to be the world’s policeman. But aggression against us – by the mullahs of Iran, for instance – should be met with overwhelming counter-force. No absurd notions of “proportionality” should ever be entertained.
But to return to domestic woes – John Stossel makes another suggestion:
To save America from bankruptcy … we could grow our way out of debt if Congress simply froze spending. They won’t do that either, but if they limited spending growth to 2 percent per year, we could balance the budget in just three years.
And he ends on a dramatic note with words that ought to be read not as a mere rhetorical flourish but as a real warning:
Limiting government growth is politically difficult, but if we don’t do it, America is doomed.
*Footnote: From Wikipedia: ”The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with 172,966 of its 1,372,522 active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories.” See the list.
When it comes to magnificent life-styles, King Barry of America has a long way to go to catch up with Tsar Vladimir of Russia.
Now we declare unequivocally that we are made happy by the outward signs of riches. We love abundance, and the best that human hands can build and make however costly the things may be. When people gain great wealth by supplying other people’s wants (or by luck), we applaud. We hear the sound of the invisible hand clapping.*
The world cannot be too full of man-made glory. Let there be palaces, let there be yachts, let there be private jets. Let jewels adorn the beautiful and the ugly alike.
We have no moral objection to extravagance. We see “conspicuous consumption” not as something to inspire disgust, and certainly not envy, but as incentive to those among us who have not yet become conspicuous to keep on trying to be - if they so wish. (We ourselves – in case our readers are wondering – do not live magnificently, but we haven’t despaired.) We abhor poverty, not plenty.
We make one proviso – that the owners acquire their possessions with their own money.
King Barry and Tsar Vladimir pay for their luxury with the money they take from tax-payers. They can do this because they are elected heads of government. Governments hold the people’s money in trust. They should spend it frugally, account to the people for every penny of it, justify every expense. Not to do so is corruption. There is no justification for King Barry to spend millions on a vacation. But at least he has not yet spent American tax-payers’ money (as far as we know) on gold watches and … a toilet seat costing £47,000 ($76, 000)? Good grief! What the hell is the thing made of?
This is from the MailOnline:
Palaces, yachts, white gold watches and a £47,000 toilet on his plane are just a few of the presidential perks Vladimir Putin enjoys, according to a damning new report.
In 2008 the reinstalled Russian President famously compared his life in office to a “galley slave” during a press conference.
But now a lavish list of luxuries at his disposal have been revealed by Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister turned Putin critic.
Nemtsov estimated that the maintenance of Putin’s residences, jets and cars alone costs £1.6 billion a year.
The 32 page document listed 58 planes and helicopters and 20 homes with opulent fittings worthy of the tsars, not to mention 11 watches which alone are worth several times Putin’s annual salary.
Published under the ironic title The Life of a Galley Slave, it denounced the lavish spending as an affront to millions of Russians living in dire poverty.
Listed in the report are -
20 palaces and villas: with opulent fittings worthy of the tsars
43 aircraft available include an Airbus, two Dassault Falcon executive jets and an Ilyushin Il-96 airliner that features an $11 million cabin fitted out by jewelers – and that toilet which, the report says, cost close to £47,000
A 53.7-metre yacht: with a designer interior, a spa pool, waterfall and wine cellar
A waterfall on a yacht? Well, there’s no accounting for taste. And that yacht, the report says, is “relegated to second best” to -
A five-decked yacht: with a jacuzzi, barbecue, a maple wood colonnade and a huge bathroom faced in marble.
The authors also identified from photographs a total of 11 luxury timepieces on the wrist of the head of state and calculated their total value at some £400,000, while noting Putin had declared an annual income less than £700,000.
The text was accompanied by photographs of luxurious homes, jets, helicopters, cars and watches, complete with footnotes citing Russian media as sources for many of the items.
Nine new residences had been added to the list available to the president since Putin first became head of state in 2000, it said.
Homes he could retreat to across the country ranged from seaside palaces to a ski lodge, and boasted everything from saunas and billiard rooms to a ‘presidential church’.
The president of Russia needs his own church? To worship himself perhaps? N0-no – he’s a Christian.
Putin … once dismissed talk of him being a billionaire as “snot from the noses of Western reporters smeared on paper”.
A colorful turn of phrase, the Tsar has.
However, there is one thing we like about Tsar Vlad’s evolution from a Communist to a Plutocrat: it indicates that nobody can really like Communism – not for himself, anyway.
*Footnote: Two allusions here. One to the “invisible hand” of the free market, of course. The other to the Zen Buddhist koan (nonsensical riddle to confuse your faculty of reason): “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
At the LSE – one of the great universities of what is still, laughably, called “the free world” – two students were wearing T-shirts displaying a strip cartoon called Jesus and Mo …
On October 3, Abishek and Chris were manning the ASH [Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society] stall at the LSE Students’ Union Freshers’ Fayre.
They were approached by the Students’ Union’s Community and Welfare Officer Anneessa Mahmood, its Anti-Racism Officer Rayhan Uddin, its Deputy Chief Executive Jarlath O’Hara, and several others. …
Anneessa Mahmood began removing items from their stall without explanation and when challenged, claimed that the material was “offensive”. She would not offer an explanation as to what rules or regulations were being breached.
The pair were also told to remove their t-shirts; the wearing of which, it was claimed, amounted to “harassment”. The t-shirts depicted a cartoon known as “Jesus and Mo” which depicts Jesus and Mohammed in various comical situations. [When they] refused to remove the shirts, the ASH stall was surrounded by uniformed security who threatened to remove Chris and Abishek from university premises by force. [They] agreed to put on their jackets and zip them up, [but] this apparently was insufficient because the word “prophet” could still be seen. They were informed that they were not behaving in an “orderly or responsible” manner, and were accompanied by uniformed security for the rest of the afternoon.
The following day, Chris and Abishek again wore their t-shirts, but this time with the word “censored” covering the “offending” material.
They promptly received a letter from the school secretary informing them that they were in breach of the LSE Harassment Policy, and repeating the order that if they did not remove the t-shirts, they would be forcefully removed.
Again, uniformed security accompanied them for the day.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the start of a very bad thing.
The income tax.
Our creed is: Taxation is theft and income tax is the worst of all taxes.
So we read the following with sad sympathy.
It is from a column at Townhall by Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute:
On October 3, 1913, one of America’s worst Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, signed into law the Revenue Act of 1913, which imposed the income tax. …
The top tax rate was only 7 percent, the tax form was only 2 pages, and the entire tax code was only 400 pages. And a big chunk of the revenue actually was used to lower the tax burden on international trade …
But just as tiny acorns become large oak trees, small taxes become big taxes and simple tax codes become complex monstrosities. And that’s exactly what happened in the United States.
We now have a top tax rate of 39.6 percent, and it’s actually much higher than that when you include the impact of other taxes, as well as the pervasive double taxation of saving and investment. And the relatively simply tax law of 1913 has metastasized into 74,000 pages of Byzantine complexity.
Not to mention that the tax code has become one of the main sources of political corruption in Washington, impoverishing us while enriching the politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and interest groups. Or the oppressive and dishonest IRS.
However, even though I take second place to nobody in my disdain for the income tax, the worst thing about that law is not the tax rates, the double taxation, or the complexity. The worst thing is that the income tax enabled the modern welfare state.
Yes, yes. We heartily agree. Income tax allows redistribution – the robbing of Peter by government to hand out his money to Paul.
The income tax launched socialism on the Western world. A terrible and ultimately fatal disease of the body politic.
Before the income tax, politicians had no way to finance big government. Their only significant pre-1913 sources of revenue were tariffs and excise taxes …
Once the income tax was adopted, though, it became a lot easier to finance subsidies, handouts, and redistribution. … As the decades have passed, the Leviathan state in Washington has grown. And in the absence of genuine entitlement reform, it’s just a matter of time before the United States morphs into a bankrupt European-style welfare state.
And as government becomes bigger and bigger, diverting more and more resources from the productive sector of the economy, we can expect more stagnation and misery.
That’s why October 3 is an awful day in American history.