Cut the government 4

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.

Speaking of secession 18

The great divide between those who want socialism and those who want freedom is unbridgeable. The federal government is imposing socialism, the American people are determined to resist it. What remedies do the people have?

A year ago, Governor Rick Perry mentioned the possibility that Texas might secede from the union, but added that he “saw no reason why it should”.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired up an anti-tax “tea party” Wednesday with his stance against the federal government and for states’ rights as some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, “Secede!”

An animated Perry told the crowd at Austin City Hall — one of three tea parties he was attending across the state — that officials in Washington have abandoned the country’s founding principles of limited government. He said the federal government is strangling Americans with taxation, spending and debt. …

Later, answering news reporters’ questions, Perry suggested Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to secede from the union, though he said he sees no reason why Texas should do that.

“There’s a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”

Washington has continued to “thumb its nose” at the people. Now 13 [update, 18] states, including Texas, are suing the federal government over issues raised by the health care legislation it pushed through against the will of the majority of Americans. And there is talk of 37 states doing so.

Is secession again in the air?

The Tea Party movement is named to revive the memory of revolutionary secession.

Walter Williams, not for the first time, raises the topic of secession, considers the idea favorably, and comes close to advocating it – though he stops just short of doing so.

Ten years ago I asked the following question in a column titled “It’s Time To Part Company”:

“If one group of people prefers government control and management of people’s lives and another prefers liberty and a desire to be left alone, should they be required to fight, antagonize one another, risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences or should they be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways?”

The problem that our nation faces is very much like a marriage where one partner has broken, and has no intention of keeping, the marital vows. Of course, the marriage can remain intact and one party tries to impose his will on the other and engage in the deviousness of one-upmanship. Rather than submission by one party or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.

I believe we are nearing a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative. Just as in a marriage, where vows are broken, our human rights protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been grossly violated by a government instituted to protect them. 

The Democrat-controlled Washington is simply an escalation of a process that has been in full stride for at least two decades. There is no evidence that Americans who are responsible for and support constitutional abrogation have any intention of mending their ways.

You say, “Williams, what do you mean by constitutional abrogation?” Let’s look at just some of the magnitude of the violations.

Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is authority for Congress to tax and spend for: prescription drugs, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and other activities that represent roughly two-thirds of the federal budget.

Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to the states and people about how they may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps and the gallons of water used per toilet flush.

The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do anything upon which they can muster a majority vote.

James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.”

Americans who wish to live free have several options. We can submit to those who have constitutional contempt and want to run our lives. We can resist, fight and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America’s tyrants to respect our liberties and human rights. We can seek a peaceful resolution of our irreconcilable differences by separating.

Some independence movements, such as our 1776 war with England and our 1861 War Between the States, have been violent, but they need not be. In 1905, Norway seceded from Sweden; Panama seceded from Columbia (1903), and West Virginia from Virginia (1863). Nonetheless, violent secession can lead to great friendships. England is probably our greatest ally.

The bottom-line question for all of us is: Should we part company or continue trying to forcibly impose our wills on one another? My preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.

F for a mess-up 0

Investors’ Business Daily deplores the strengthening American dictatorship and the manner in which it is spreading and tightening its control by means of an increasing and ever more privileged bureaucracy:

With the passage of health care reform and the ongoing boom in federal hiring, it’s becoming increasingly clear that America is now run by a new, privileged class of bureaucrats.

For those who remember the old Soviet Union, it was a grim place — at least for average citizens. But not so for those in government. Contrary to the official ideals of equality and a classless society that the ruling communist regime espoused, the USSR created a privileged class of party members inside government — the nomenklatura.

This semipermanent bureaucracy earned higher incomes, got better health care, ate better food and had greater job security than average Russians, the much-despised proletarians. Today, our bloated federal government seems, in significant ways, to be creating this same dynamic.

Take the just-passed health care bill that carefully excluded the White House, congressional leaders and their staffs from having to live under the reforms’ restrictions.

“President Obama will not have to live under the Obama health care reforms, and neither will the congressional staff who helped to write the overhaul,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. “The message to the people at the grass roots is that it’s good enough for you, but not for us.”

The hypocrisy of these officials and the contempt they show for average Americans is bad enough. But  Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public can also go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 for not buying insurance. And the government is spending $10 billion to hire 16,500 new IRS agents to make sure they don’t escape the new system. [But see below]

Under current budget plans, this won’t end soon. With $45 trillion in new government spending planned over the next decade, this new privileged governing class can only grow.

Today, as we witness a massive shift of resources from the private to the public sector, the only place adding jobs is government. Since the start of last year, the federal government has added 81,000 jobs. By contrast, private-sector payrolls have shed 4.71 million.

Big government is the place to be these days. Federal workers are some of the country’s best-paid, earning far in excess of their counterparts in the private sector. …

The average government worker gets a whopping $40,785 a year in health care, pension and other benefits compared to $9,882 for a private worker. The difference in total compensation widens to $38,548 a year — for the same job with the same duties.

Anyone who has visited the slow-moving Post Office, talked to the surly and often hostile IRS agent or even gone to the local DMV to spend time in waiting-room hell can tell you that pay gap doesn’t represent productivity, training or ability.

What it does represent is the new Nomenklatura — the privileged apparatchiks who now run our government and with it, sadly, much of our lives. This is very much a result of years of “progressive” thinking that has pushed the Democratic Party sharply leftward across the political spectrum.

Since the Civil War, the so-called Progressive Movement’s dream has been to exalt bureaucratic expertise and control over free-market efficiency. With the new administration, their dream has become our nightmare.

It’s true and very bad – but  one statement  needs qualification:

Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public can also go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 for not buying insurance. And the government is spending $10 billion to hire 16,500 new IRS agents to make sure they don’t escape the new system.

According to this report by Morgen Richmond at Big Government, there is no provision in the act for enforcing the individual mandate:

One of the more controversial elements of ObamaCare is the mandate for most individuals to purchase insurance beginning in 2014. There is really no precedent for a federal mandate of this scale requiring individuals to purchase a product or service. So not surprisingly a number of state Attorney Generals have indicated they will be filing suit questioning the constitutionality of this provision.

Of course the individual mandate is also very risky from a political standpoint, as the Democrats who orchestrated the passage of this bill are mandating not only that the young and healthy obtain insurance, but also that even their most fervent liberal constituents must purchase this coverage from the “evil”, private insurance industry.

Republicans for their part have focused on the fact that this mandate will be enforced via threat of a financial penalty (or tax), with the added assumption that it is the dreaded IRS which will be enforcing this. And sure enough, it’s already been reported that the IRS anticipates hiring possibly in excess of 15,000 additional personnel to deal with the collection of the individual mandate, and other tax related provisions within the bill.

However, it turns out that the Democrats who crafted this bill significantly – and I mean significantly – hamstrung the ability of the IRS or any other federal agency to enforce or collect on this mandate. Here is what the federal Joint Committee on Taxation had to say about this issue in a report released earlier this week:

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the [Internal Revenue] Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

According to a footnote in the report, “subtitle F of the Code” is the portion of the tax code which grants the IRS the authority to assess and collect taxes. In other words, as the law is written the federal government has no legal authority to enforce this mandate, nor will it have any recourse to collect any penalties that go unpaid!

Without an effective mechanism of enforcing the individual mandate, the entire system is likely to collapse. (The individual mandate is the “third leg of the stool” as many a liberal has been pointing out for months.) Given that the bill also bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, WHY WOULD ANYONE OBTAIN INSURANCE COVERAGE PRIOR TO NEEDING IT? This was already going to be a problem with the relatively low cost of the penalty, but take away any meaningful enforcement of it and it is a complete and total joke.

The net result will be an ever increasing shift of healthcare costs on to those who remain in the insurance system (or to tax payers), and possibly even the bankruptcy of the insurance industry. Given all the double-talk the past year over the public option, and the demonizing of private insurers, it is hard not to wonder whether this was by design. But let’s give our Democratic friends the benefit of the doubt, in which case this represents an inexcusable level of incompetence from the people we have just entrusted with overseeing one-sixth of the economy. Nice job guys.

If it’s a mistake it could be a lucky break for the oppressed  But if the apparent mess-up is part of the plan, what fresh hell awaits us?

Socialism creep 0

Socialism grows government and shrinks the market, including the job market.

From Analects of a Skeptic:

The fatter the government, the thinner the people

The more generous the government, the more robbed the people

The more secure the government, the more threatened the people

which provides an apt comment on this news.

From The Heritage Foundation:

Since President Barack Obama was sworn into office, the U.S. economy has shed 3.4 million jobs and the unemployment rate has risen to 10%. But not all sectors of the economy have been suffering equally. In fact, the sector of the economy most supportive of President Obama has not only avoided contraction, but has actually managed to grow instead.

According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last Friday, in 2009 the number of federal, state and local government employees represented by unions actually rose by 64,000. Coupled with union losses in the private sector economy, 2009 became the first year in American history that a majority of American union members work for the government. Specifically, 52% of all union members now work for the federal, state or local government, up from 49% in 2008. Or, to better illustrate these statistics: three times more union members work in the Post Office than in the auto industry.

So what? Why should Americans care if unions are now dominated by workers who get their paychecks from governments, instead of workers who get their paychecks from private firms? There’s one simple reason: private firms face competition; governments don’t.

Collective bargaining, the anti-trust exemption at the heart of a union’s power, was created to help workers seize their “fair share” of business profits. But if a union ends up extracting a contract from a private firm that eats up too much of the profits, then that firm will be unable to reinvest those profits and will lose out to competitors. But when a union extracts a generous contract from a government, the answer is always higher taxes or borrowing to pay for the bloated spending. And make no mistake: unionized government worker compensation is bloated.

As Heritage fellow James Sherk notes “[t]he average worker for a state or local government earns $39.83 an hour in wages and benefits compared to $27.49 an hour in the private sector. While over 80 percent of state and local workers have pensions, just 50 percent of private-sector workers do. These differences remain after controlling for education, skills and demographics.”

Unionized government employees not only want to keep their bloated compensation packages, but their leaders are desperate for more members and more union dues. That is why public-sector unions have become a fierce lobbying force for higher taxes and more spending across the country. Organized labor once fought against taxes and regulations that impeded the economic interests of their employers, but now they are in alliance with environmentalists pushing private sector and economy-crippling cap-and-trade legislation.

It’s worth noting that the BLS did not count the United Auto Workers working for General Motors and Chrysler as unionized government employees. But perhaps they should have. Our country will share their fate unless something is done about unionized government power.

And the greater the number of people working in government jobs, the more voters there are whose interest lies in keeping the Party of Big Government in power.

It’s hard to reverse socialism.

Less free, therefore less prosperous 0

We agree wholly with the opinion we quote here, though the author does not seem to believe as we do that Obama does not want America to be free. He is a collectivist, a redistributionist, a socialist. To reduce individual freedom, to replace the free market with centralized control of the economy, to expand government is what he is about.

From the Washington Times:

Consider our recent economic policy. In late 2008, the specter of a financial meltdown triggered dangerous decisions under President Bush. He approved an unprecedented intervention in the financial sector – the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program – which actually fed the crisis. Instead of changing course, President Obama not only doubled down on those decisions, but went even further, in the belief that only bigger government can “lift us from a recession this deep and severe.” …

In December, the U.S. economy lost an additional 85,000 jobs. Despite all the bailouts and stimulus spending, the economy shed 3.4 million net jobs in 2009. But while employment has shrunk, the federal deficit has ballooned. One year after Mr. Obama took office, the deficit has grown to $1.4 trillion. His 10-year budget will add $13 trillion to the national debt by 2019. …

The bad news is that the United States is falling behind. The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, released Wednesday, finds that the U.S. experienced the most precipitous drop in economic freedom among the world’s top 20 economies (as measured by the gross domestic product). The decline was steep enough to tumble the U.S. from the ranks of truly “free” economies. We are now numbered among the ranks of the “mostly free” – the same as Botswana, Belgium and Sweden. Canada now stands as the sole beacon of economic freedom in North America, getting a higher score on the economic-freedom Index than the United States.

On the index’s 100-point scale of economic freedom, the U.S. fell 2.7 points. Canada’s score dropped, too, but only one-tenth of a point. Meanwhile, countries such as Germany, France, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia managed to maintain or even improve their scores, despite the economic crisis.

Why? In large measure, it’s because of the way Washington has exacerbated the financial and economic crisis since 2008. By June of last year, when we cut off data collection in order to begin our analysis, Washington’s interventionist policies had already caused a decline in seven of the 10 categories of economic freedom we measure. Particularly significant were declines in financial freedom, monetary freedom and property rights.

Conditions attached to large government bailouts of financial and automotive firms significantly undermined investors’ property rights. Additionally, politically influenced regulatory changes – such as the imposition of executive salary caps – have had perverse effects, discouraging entrepreneurship and job creation and slowing recovery. On top of this, we had massive stimulus spending that is leading to unprecedented deficits….

We are heading the wrong way. The index, co-published annually by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, has become a “leading indicator” of economic vitality, but other surveys also show that when economic freedom drops, falling opportunity and declining prosperity follow. Unless Washington takes steps to reverse the poor decisions it has made, Americans can expect a long and difficult time ahead.

The good news is that we’ve been here before, and we’ve turned things around before. There’s no reason we can’t do that again. Poll after poll demonstrates that the American people understand this, even if their politicians don’t. They clearly want Washington to gather up the political will to do things such as lowering taxes and reducing regulation and massive spending that feeds the federal debt. We need to unleash the power of the market to create jobs and to reclaim our competitive edge in the global economy. …

The less government intervenes in our lives and our economy, the freer and more prosperous we can become. The choices Mr. Obama takes in the future will determine whether America remains a land of opportunity and can reclaim its international reputation as “the land of the free.”

View the Index of Economic Freedom list here.

Pacifists for jihad 0

What could explain why these American women are seeking an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood?

We can think of no answer but ignorance and stupidity – and possibly also sheer malice.

From David Horowitz’s Newsreal:

As Americans keep a wary eye on Muslim radicals in Yemen, little attention is being given to a far more dangerous enemy right in our own backyard. Under the banner of ‘anti-war’ activism, the radical group Code Pink is running banner advertisements on the English language version of the official Web site of a terrorist sympathizing group, the Muslim Brotherhood, one of which invites the Muslim Brotherhood to “join us in cleansing our country.”

The ad is entitled ‘Arrest The War Criminals.’ Only problem is, Code Pink believes the war criminals are none other than George W. Bush and Co. And they’re actively recruiting radical Muslim terrorists to help them in their cause.

A link on the ad goes to a web site that actually calls for the kidnapping of former President George W. Bush, his wife Laura, his family, and various former administration officials. To date, not a peep has been heard from the Secret Service.

Maybe that’s because Jodie Evans, the co-founder of Code Pink was a top fundraiser for Barack Obama. Or maybe not.

This isn’t the first time the rabid feminist anti-war group has had amicable ties with terrorists. As Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government reports:

“The Muslim Brotherhood published a statement by Code Pink issued in May to promote Code Pink’s trip to Gaza that month. In December, the Muslim Brotherhood published an open letter to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by Code Pink and the Gaza Freedom March decrying the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the group passage into Gaza.”

Once again, yet another radical group is discovered to have close ties to President Obama….

Most alarming …  is the absolute media silence…. The media ‘watchdogs’ are asleep and the ones we trust to protect us are instead offering aid and comfort to our enemies when they’re not prosecuting Navy Seals, CIA officials and anyone else whose job is to keep America safe.

The choice 0

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal titled The Welfare State and Military Power shows why redistributive domestic policy necessarily leads to the decline of power. In other words, socialism weakens the nation. And that is what Obama and the Democrats want to do.  As we have reiterated (see below, The two-horse rider and Obama’s grandiose equivocation), it is a choice between liberty and power  (and, we should add, prosperity) on the one side, or collectivism and decline (and impoverishment) on the other.

Has the moment of decision come and gone with the election of Obama? Has America already freely chosen to be unfree?

Or is it coming now with the push to nationalize health care, put the economy under government control, and begin the disarmament of America?

If now, which way will  America choose to go?

Here’s an extract from the WSJ article:

Welfare spending [in Europe] has crowded out defense spending. The political imperative of health care and pensions always trumps defense spending, save perhaps in a hot war. Europe may never again be able to muster public support for a defense buildup of the kind the U.S. undertook to end the Cold War in the 1980s, or even the smaller surge after 9/11.

The tragic irony of this year is that Democrats are rushing the U.S. down this same primrose entitlement path. With ObamaCare certain to eat up several more percentage points of GDP as it inevitably expands, we will take a giant step toward European social priorities.

For many Democrats, this is precisely the goal. Many Europeans, such as those at the Financial Times, will also welcome America’s relative decline. But we doubt the American people fully understand what such a gilded entitlement cage means for our national vitality, or for our ability to defend U.S. interests at home and abroad. …

President Obama’s domestic agenda may well mean that his successors lack the option to deploy 100,000 troops to Afghanistan, or to some other future trouble spot. This is the way superpowers lose their superiority.

Yearning for government control 0

They know what’s best for us. Stop griping. It’s all for our own good. Who wants liberty when you can be nursed like a child by the government if you’ll only do what you’re told?

David Harsanyi writes at Townhall:

How can Americans be expected to wrestle with the myriad dangers that confront them each day? Insalubrious cereal? Unregulated garage sales? …

You know what we desperately are crying out for? An army of crusading federal regulatory agents with unfettered power. Who else has the fortitude and foresight to keep us all safe?

Mercifully, as The Washington Post recently reported, many of President Barack Obama’s appointees “have been quietly exercising their power over the trappings of daily life … awakening a vast regulatory apparatus with authority over nearly every U.S. workplace, 15,000 consumer products, and most items found in kitchen pantries and medicine cabinets.”

If there’s anything Americans are hankering for in their everyday lives, it’s a vast regulatory apparatus. Hey, it’s dangerous out there.

Live free or die 3

Here is part of a lecture given by Mark Steyn at Hillsdale College on March 9, 2009. If we had a laurel wreath to bestow we would crown Mark Steyn the greatest living journalist. 

“Live free or die!” sounds like a battle cry: We’ll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it’s something far less dramatic: It’s a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die…

It seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus ‘n’ truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential

In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it’s effectively severed its citizens from humanity’s primal instincts, not least the survival instinct…

Europe’s addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.

And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it’s another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ’s Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that’s underway. The 44th president’s multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can’t make that math add up…

These programs … deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That’s the stage where Europe is.

America is just beginning this process… “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it’s better to jump off the train as you’re leaving the station and it’s still picking up speed than when it’s roaring down the track and you realize you’ve got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express…

There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz “town meetings” in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away…

If you’re a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you’re an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That’s the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a “health audit” of the contents of your refrigerator. They’re not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the “free” health care—and in the end you may not get the “free” health care anyway. Under Britain’s National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it’s appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of “lifestyle choices.” Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his “lifestyle choices” get a pass while theirs don’t. But that’s the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.

And if they can’t get you on grounds of your personal health, they’ll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you’ll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you’ll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore’s polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.

Isn’t this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of “exit visas.” The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What’s a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home…

That’s Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Really?… The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government “security,” large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It’s ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world’s wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.

And don’t be too sure you’ll get to choose your record collection in the end. That’s Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it’s a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts…

A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state…

And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as “hatred.” In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control. Despite the smiley-face banalities, the tyranny becomes more naked: In Britain, a land with rampant property crime, undercover constables nevertheless find time to dine at curry restaurants on Friday nights to monitor adjoining tables lest someone in private conversation should make a racist remark. An author interviewed on BBC Radio expressed, very mildly and politely, some concerns about gay adoption and was investigated by Scotland Yard’s Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist and Domestic Incidents. A Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested and detained in a jail cell over a joke in a speech. A Dutch legislator is invited to speak at the Palace of Westminster by a member of the House of Lords, but is banned by the government, arrested on arrival at Heathrow and deported.

America, Britain, and even Canada are not peripheral nations: They’re the three anglophone members of the G7. They’re three of a handful of countries that were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century. But individual liberty flickers dimmer in each of them. The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of “stimulus” (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you’re a child in the government nursery, why shouldn’t Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you’re forbidden to think …

Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn’t about the money. It’s more profound than that…

The key word here is “give.” When the state “gives” you plenty—when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood—it’s not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence…

Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that “for the children.” If America really wanted to do something “for the children,” it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That’s the real “war on children” (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they’ll win it…

Small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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The leveler 0

 Obama is a leveler, Charles Krauthammer writes, and so – 

The credit crisis will pass and the auto overcapacity will sort itself out one way or the other. The reordering of the American system will come not from these temporary interventions, into which Obama has reluctantly waded. It will come from Obama’s real agenda: his holy trinity of health care, education and energy. Out of these will come a radical extension of the welfare state, social and economic leveling in the name of fairness, and a massive increase in the size, scope and reach of government.

If Obama has his way, the change that is coming is a new America: "fair," leveled and social democratic. 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, April 3, 2009

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