America's drift into Fascism
Evidence that the growth of government is a one-way ratchet continues to mount in Washington, where President Obama's pieties about abiding by the rule of law are eclipsing "one word: plastics" as a punch line.
The day after he was inaugurated, Obama promised that the rule of law would be a touchstone of his presidency. Apparently this was not a solemn vow but rather a sop to those liberals and progressives who had fumed over the Bush administration's traducing of the Constitution. For eight years the printing presses of the left had been smoking with the heat generated by articles such as "Bush's War on the Rule of Law" (Harper's), "Cheney's Law" (PBS) and others far too numerous to list.
The brief against Bush encompassed numerous charges: his use of signing statements to provide a pretext for disregarding parts of certain legislation; the indefinite detention without trial of suspected enemy combatants in Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay; the use of military tribunals; the Patriot Act; his administration's use of warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition; the use of national-security letters to comb through private information; and so on. Policies such as these "evoked the specter of tyranny," put America on the slippery slope to fascism, and were generally bad for children and other living things.
With Obama's election, the nation supposedly said goodbye to all that. The clouds broke, the fog lifted, and the sunlight of civil liberties once again bathed the nation in its golden hue. Except: Nothing like that happened. Instead, the Obama administration adopted every single one of the policies listed above. Some of the more principled progressives have voiced outrage and a sense of betrayal. The more partisan types have politely averted their gaze.
But Obama has not confined his disdain for the rule of law to the Bush inheritance. He has carved out new realms for it. Take Libya. The president started a war—or "kinetic military action"—without bothering to give Congress formal notification. The War Powers Resolution says a president may do something like that in exigent circumstances, but the action must be limited to 60 days. The administration has blithely let the deadline pass.
Last week, Virginia Democratic Sen. James Webb gave a stirring call to accountability: "Was our country under attack, or under the threat of imminent attack? Was a clearly vital national interest at stake? Were we invoking the inherent right of self-defense as outlined in the United Nations charter? Were we called upon by treaty commitments to come to the aid of an ally? Were we responding in kind to an attack on our forces elsewhere? … Were we rescuing Americans in distress? … No, we were not." The administration ignored Webb, too. Say what you will about the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, at least he got congressional assent before launching it.
But that is not all. Consider the many waivers the administration has granted—around 1,500, though it is hard to keep up when the precise number grows so fast—to ObamaCare. Many of them—unions and the AARP, which supported ObamaCare, now have waivers from it—bear a distinctly political tinge. None of them bears the color of legitimacy: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains no statutory provision for the granting of waivers to itself. Neither has the administration offered any rationale for the approval or denial of waivers, despite its claims to transparency, and FOIA requests, and lawsuits.
But that is not all, either: Remember how the administration gave precedence to the United Auto Workers' claims upon Chrysler over the claims of the company's secured creditors—a direct contravention of U.S. bankruptcy law. Or how it mau-maued BP into creating a government-administered compensation fund in advance of any judgments against it. Or its Orwellian reinterpretation of labor law to stop Boeing from moving a plant from Washington state to South Carolina.
Critics on the right accuse the administration of socialism, but its economic approach more closely resembles fascism properly understood—in which the means of production are privately owned but business decisions are centrally made through a policy of dirigisme. Socialism and fascism are incendiary words, tossed about by people who are upset that they have not gotten their way. That does not render them entirely inapplicable.
Democrat scum being protected
The same congressional panel that launched a preliminary inquiry into Weiner-gate this week has been diddling around with several other Democratic ethics scandals for years. These aren't foxes guarding the henhouse. They're sloths guarding the foxhole.
The House Ethics Committee is now reportedly probing into Twitter-holic Democratic New York Rep. Anthony Weiner's possible abuse of government resources while sending pervy messages and photos to young women across the country. The latest batch of Weiner's leaked social-media self-portraits -- more cheesecake than beefcake -- showed him in various states of undress at the congressional gym. From what other public buildings has Ick-arus tweeted his junk? And how much time on the public's dime did his government staff spend coaching Weiner girls to assist with damage control?
Don't expect an answer from the House ethics watchdogs until after Weiner's first child enters kindergarten. The wheels of justice grind more slowly there than a dial-up modem.
Weiner's dirty laundry is just the latest addition to a teeming heap of scandal. To wit: The committee still hasn't issued a final report into last year's reckless Capitol Hill predator du jour, former Democratic New York Rep. Eric Massa. He's the notorious creep who serially groped male staffers and subjected interns to "tickle fights" for months while then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked the other way.
Then there's Beltway swamp queen Democratic California Rep. Maxine Waters. Last summer, after a yearlong investigation, the House Ethics Committee charged her with three violations related to her crony intervention on behalf of minority-owned OneUnited Bank in Los Angeles. The panel accused Waters of bringing discredit to the House for using her influence to seek and secure taxpayer-subsidized special favors for the failing financial institution. Her Democratic guardians have successfully delayed a trial for 10 months.
Another California Democrat, Rep. Laura Richardson, has been under the House Ethics microscope since the fall of 2009. She defaulted six times on home loans, left a trail of unpaid bills in her wake and allegedly failed to report required information on her financial disclosure forms while receiving special treatment from a lender. While the panel cleared her of "knowingly" accepting favors, she is reportedly the subject of a second probe into using employees on government time to work on her political campaign.
The panel has also toyed for the past two years with Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s pay-for-play scandal involving charges that he or his staff sought to buy President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. A separate congressional ethics office referred the matter to the House ethics panel after it "learned that staff resources of the representative's Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill., offices were used to mount a 'public campaign' to secure the representative's appointment to the U.S. Senate." But Jackson's House ethics probe remains on ice while the feds chase former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was at the center of the scheme and remains on trial.
The House Ethics Committee suffers from dysfunction by design. It is chronically understaffed and underfunded. The panel most recently went without a staff director for four months. Its investigative backlog was compounded by the partisan-charged suspension of two staff attorneys last fall who were knee-deep in the Waters' probe. And the panel's ranking Democratic member, California Rep. Linda Sanchez, is bogged down with her own ethical conflicts of interest.
Sanchez's chief of staff, Adam Brand, is the son of the lawyer handling Waters' ethics defense. That lawyer, Stan Brand, also represented Sanchez and her sister, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in a separate ethics case. The sisters engaged in smelly hiring shenanigans after an aide to Loretta embezzled money from the office account in 2006. Short of funds, Loretta "borrowed" three aides from Linda's staff. House rules ban members from paying people to do work in offices other than their own. Miraculously, Loretta's embezzling aide avoided jail time, and the Sanchez sisters escaped any sanctions for their payroll-sharing collusion. The House ethics opinion on the matter remains confidential.
Intended to boost voters' confidence in Congress (now at an all-time low), the committee's stubborn secrecy and predictable wrist-slap punishments (see "Rangel, Charlie") only make matters worse. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: House-soilers can't be cleaners. Voters, not Washington politicians, are the ultimate ethics committee.
Cuts can be done
America is falling deeper into debt. We're long past the point where drastic action is needed. We're near Greek levels of debt. What's going to happen? Maybe riots -- like we've seen in Greece? We need to make cuts now.
Some governors have shown the way. You know about Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, John Kasich, etc. But you probably don't know about Luis Fortuno.
Fortuno is governor of Puerto Rico. Two years ago, he fired 17,000 government workers. No state governor did anything like that. He cut spending much more than Walker did in Wisconsin. In return, thousands of union members demonstrated against Fortuno for days. They clashed with police. They called him a fascist
Fortuno said he had to make the cuts because Puerto Rico's economy was a mess. "Not just a mess. We didn't have enough money to meet our first payroll."
Fortuno's predecessors had grown Puerto Rico's government to the point that the state employed one out of every three workers. By the time he was elected, Puerto Rico was broke. So the new conservative majority, the first in Puerto Rico in 40 years, shrank the government. What was cut? "Everything. I started with my own salary."
The protesters said he should raise taxes instead of cutting spending. "Our taxes were as high as they could be, actually much higher than most of the country. So what we've done is the opposite." Fortuno reduced corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent. He reduced individual income taxes. He privatized entire government agencies. "Bring in the private sector," Fortuno said. "They will do a better job. They will do it cheaper."
Fortuno's advice for leaders who want to shrink the state: "Do what you need to do quickly, swiftly, like when you take off a Band-Aid. Just do it. And move on to better things."
Canada did that years ago. When I think Canada, I think big government. I'm embarrassed that I didn't know that in the mid-'90s, Canada shrank its government. It had to. Its debt level was as bad as ours is today, almost 70 percent of the economy. Canada's finance minister said: "We are in debt up to our eyeballs. That can't be sustained."
Economist David Henderson, a Canadian who left Canada for the United States, remembers when The Wall Street Journal called the Canadian dollar "the peso of the north." It was worth just 72 American cents. "Moody's put the Canadian federal debt on a credit watch," Henderson said.
The problem, he added, was that Canada had a government safety net that was more like a hammock. "When I was growing up in Canada, people who went on unemployment insurance were said to go in the 'pogie.' You could work as little as eight weeks, taking the rest of the year off."
So in 1995 Canadian leaders cut unemployment benefits and other programs. It happened quietly because it was a liberal government, and liberals didn't want to criticize their own. The result was that Canada's debt stopped increasing. As the government ran budget surpluses, the debt went down.
"The economy boomed," Henderson said. "Think about what government does. Government wastes most of what it spends, and so just cutting government and having that money in the hands of people means it's going to be used more valuably."
Canada fired government workers, but unemployment didn't increase. In fact, it fell from 12 percent to 6 percent. Canadian unemployment is still well below ours. And the Canadian dollar rose from just 72 American cents to $1.02 today.
Canada also raised some taxes. But the spending cuts were much bigger, six to one: agriculture was cut 22 percent; fisheries, 27 percent; natural resources, almost 50 percent.
"We should learn from Canada's experience that you can cut government substantially," Henderson said. "It is so wasteful. There's so much to cut, without causing much real pain -- not causing pain, but helping your economy grow, helping people become better off."
Henderson added, "We need to move more quickly than the Canadians did. Unfortunately, we're moving more slowly than the Canadians did." If we're moving at all. While Canada thrives, we pour more money down the hole.
Obama’s economic experiment has failed: "A flurry of recent economic news –- especially the May jobs report –- confirms what many have feared for some time: This president’s leadership deficit has caused a disastrous jobs deficit, and where he has led, his policies have made things worse. The president clearly inherited a difficult fiscal and economic situation when he took office. But his response to the crisis has been woefully inadequate. The president and his party’s leaders have made it their mission to test the hypothesis that more government spending and greater government control over the economy can jump-start a recovery better than the private sector can."
The exceptional children of skilled immigrants: "Much of the debate over increasing legal immigration and work visas, such as the H-1B visa for highly skilled workers, has centered on the present benefits to the economy and technological development. But there is another long-run benefit that has been largely ignored: The children of highly skilled immigrants become exceptional Americans."
Winners (Romney, Bachman) And Losers In The GOP Debate: "The headline for the big GOP debate should read “ROMNEY SOLIDIFIES HIS STATUS AS FRONTRUNNER” but the appropriate sub-head may prove even more significant in the long run: “Bachmann Makes Energetic and Well-Received Debut.” At this point, no one should doubt that the feisty congresswoman from Minnesota will emerge as a major contender—certainly in Iowa (where she was born and raised, and where her evangelical fervor will rally Mike Huckabee’s currently unfocused cadres) and, if she wins there, then most likely in the rest of the country. It’s not that Bachmann delivered a brilliant or masterful or inspiring performance on the stage at St. Anselm College, it’s just that she so wildly exceeded expectations, especially from all those skeptics who wrote her off long-ago as a whining, unhinged Sarah Palin"
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)