Liberals aren't liberals anymore. These days they call themselves "progressives."
Writing in The New York Times, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs said there were two progressive eras: one in the early part of the last century and the other during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. He called on liberals to create a third progressive era, in part "to re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington."
To hear Sachs tell it, progressivism means being in favor of the little guy and against the special interests. Aligning himself with the motley crew that calls itself Occupy Wall Street, he writes:
The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days, will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power.
Sachs doesn't know much about history. Nor do most other people. Given Teddy Roosevelt’s attacks on "the trusts" and the muckraking novels of Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell, you might suppose that 100 years ago progressives were antibusiness. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The fundamental economic vision of progressivism was to not to combat special interests, but to embrace and empower them. In a very real sense, "progressivism" means rule by special interests.
As the leftist historian Gabriel Kolko has documented, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) — our first progressive-era federal regulatory agency — was dominated by, and served the interest of, the railroads. The main accomplishments of regulation were to outlaw price cutting, establish minimum prices and make the railroads more profitable than they had ever been. The experience was far from unique.
The regulatory apparatus created by the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 served the interests of large meat packers. Safety standards were invariably already being met — or were easily accommodated — by large companies. But the regulations forced many small enterprises out of business and made it difficult for new ones to enter the industry.
This same pattern — of regulatory agencies serving the interests of the regulated — was repeated with the establishment of almost all subsequent regulatory agencies. For this reason, Kolko called the entire Progressive Era the "triumph of conservatism."
The practices Kolko described were elevated to a refined science by Woodrow Wilson’s War Industries Board (WIB) during World War I. Trade associations were allowed to organize along industry lines — controlling output, setting prices and effectively functioning as an industry-by-industry system of cartels. By the time Franklin Roosevelt established the National Recovery Administration (NRA) during the Depression years, planners could draw not only upon the experience of the Wilson-era WIB, but also on the far more extensive experience of Mussolini’s Italian economy — which was organized in the same way. In fact, Roosevelt’s economic vision for America was almost identical to the vision of Italian fascism.
As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, there are more than a few transatlantic parallels. The symbol of the NRA was the Blue Eagle, which businesses were expected to hang on their doors to show compliance with NRA rules. Newspapers in both America and Germany compared the Blue Eagle to the swastika and the German Reich eagle. A quasi-official army of informants and goon squads helped monitor compliance. Nuremberg-style Blue Eagle rallies were held, including a gathering of 10,000 strong at Madison Square Garden. A New York City Blue Eagle parade was larger than the ticker-tape parade celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic.
Through the NRA, the federal government — backed by the full force of criminal law — intruded into virtually every economic transaction. An immigrant dry cleaner spent three months in jail for charging 35 cents to press a suit when the code required a minimum charge of 40 cents. Another case — one that went all the way to the Supreme Court — involved immigrant brothers who ran a small poultry business. Among the laws they were accused of violating was a requirement that buyers of chickens not select the chicken they were buying. Instead the buyer needed to reach into the coop and take the first chicken that came to hand. (Amity Shlaes explains the reason: buyers would be tempted to take the best chicken, leaving less desirable options for other buyers.)
In Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (the so-called "sick chicken" case), a unanimous Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional. Roosevelt responded by trying to intimidate the justices and by asking Congress to expand the number of justices so that he could pack the court with judges more to his liking. Although he lost the battle, Roosevelt eventually won the war.
The Supreme Court today places very few restrictions on government authority to regulate the marketplace, no matter how indefensible the interventions.
The use of the word "progressive" by modern liberals is appropriate — to the degree that it reminds us of the historical and intellectual roots of much of liberal thinking. But there is another sense in which the word is very misleading. In general, there is nothing truly progressive about modern progressives. That is, nothing in their thinking is forward looking. Invariably, the social model they have in mind is in the distant past. Many explicitly admit they would like to resurrect Roosevelt’s New Deal.
In this sense, most people on the left who use the word "progressive" are actually reactionaries. Many are explicit about their desire to preserve the current allocation of jobs and the incomes that derive from those jobs. Although they tend to focus on opposing globalization and international trade, consistency requires them to oppose virtually all of the "creative destruction" that the economist Joseph Shumpeter said was inevitable in any dynamic, capitalistic economy.
Small business: The latest Obama pretense
Today is Small Business Saturday, a new holiday supported by little firms such as American Express, Google, Verizon, Dun and Bradstreet, Occupy Wall Street and –[gush, breathless] Barack Hussein Obama!
Just by the sponsors alone you can tell this is a program designed to create millions of small business jobs in places like India, China, Thailand and Mexico.
Remember, there’s no U-S-A in small business. Ok, maybe there are the letters U-S-A in small business, but why let the facts get in the way of another of Obama's Potemkin jobs moments.
In the Orwellian world of Obama-speak, Small Business Saturday is a day when we should “reaffirm our support for America’s small business owners and their staff, and …celebrate the proud tradition of entrepreneurship they represent.”
Reaffirm and Celebrate. Gotcha. Words that will make the eyes of any small business owner red with gratitude when Obama sends them their very own personal Small Business Saturday greeting card made by Hallmark’s greeting card division instead of Hallmark’s retail store or broadcasting division.
Because what celebration of small business would be complete by the Obama administration without reaffirming the mounds of red-tape that Obama and his confederates have saddled small business with?
“Overall, the Obama Administration imposed 75 new major regulations from January 2009 to mid-FY 2011, with annual costs of $38 billion,” reports Heritage.
In contrast, there were only six deregulatory actions by the Obama administration saving $1.5 billion says the Heritage report.
And those costs were just the cost by the government to implement the regulations, not the overall cost to industry- that is; not the costs to you and I.
In terms of the overall impact on the economic health of the country, the figure is much higher.
“More specifically, the total cost of federal regulations has increased to $1.75 trillion,” writes the federal government’s own Small Business Administration.
Heritage reports that that’s nearly twice the amount that the government collects annually in individual income taxes. Ouch!
The costs are a hidden tax, not just on the rich, says Heritage, but on everyone equally.
But because regulations prevent the creation of new jobs, it hits the poor and middle class particularly hard, “while the updated cost per employee for firms with fewer than 20 employees is now $10,585 (a 36 percent difference between the costs incurred by small firms when compared with their larger counterparts),” says the SBA.
In other words, small employers take it on the chin at the rate of $3,810.60 per employee more than the big guys do.
No wonder the big corporate sponsors of Small Business Saturday wanted to invite Obama in on the deal.
Because while Obama’s rhetoric panders to the little guys, his actions seem geared to favor the big guys instead.
Maybe that’s what the president meant in his State of the Union message when he said his administration was only into doing “big” things: Big Labor, Big Business and Big Graft. There’s just so little opportunity to monetize political power with little people involved in small business- and monetization of political power is the first priority of Obama’s political machine.
It’s not hard to figure why the Obama administration is creating jobs at a post-war low. Jobs aren’t the goal. Fundraising is. That’s why dog and pony shows like Small Business Saturday loom so large for Obama and his corporate pals.
They serve as a reminder that Obama “cares” about little guys [cough, hack], while giving him an opportunity to put the squeeze on the Big Guys.
If Reagan was the Great Communicator, Obama is the Great Fabricator.
For Obama, every day is just another episode of the Beltway Unreality show, where acting is much more important than actually doing something; where pop-culture trumps substance.
But something’s different this election cycle.
The Chambers of Commerce, the Aspen Institute, American Express and the International Monetary Fund don’t own the media anymore.
You do- via the internet. While some may still be deceived, the rest of us are on to the scam.
And through you, Obama’s going to find out that reaffirming and celebrating small business one day a year, doesn’t make up for the 364 days a year that he screws them.
Moron speech from Hollywood
For an actor, the talented Morgan Freeman doesn't have the best sense of timing. At least when off-camera and talking politics. There's a lot of that going around. It figures. A presidential election approaches and folks are heating up.
For example, Mr. Freeman chose the eve of the GOP's straw poll in Florida to describe both the tea party and Republicans in general as racists. Mr. Freeman was particularly vociferous on the subject of those terrible Republicans who were always putting party above country. The only thing they're really interested in, he explained, was denying Barack Obama a second term in the White House. Or, as the talented Mr. Freeman put it, the Republicans' general attitude is: "Screw the country. We're going to do whatever we (need to do) to get this black man out of here."
Whereupon, the next day, the results of Florida's straw poll were announced, and, sure enough, which presidential candidate did those awful Republicans and tea party racists endorse, and by an overwhelming margin at that?
You guessed it: Herman Cain, who, as the current phraseology has it, happens to be black. (You can tell by the way he sings gospel.)
Stars of stage, screen and Democratic politics like Morgan Freeman and Alec Baldwin sound so much better when they let others write their lines. Rather than expose their prejudices. They can be so intelligent when following a well-written script. But left to their own clumsy devices off camera, they can say some fairly idiotic things. Sometimes that's not clear for a while. In this case, it was clear within 24 hours.
Just the other day, Mr. Baldwin was bashing Ronald Reagan as a "failed actor." If only the Republicans could find as great a failure to nominate as their next presidential candidate.
Unable to win fair and square, Big Labor pushes 'ambush elections'
Leaders of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) last week officially endorsed President Obama for re-election in 2012. Endorsing a presidential candidate 11 months before the general election may seem a bit premature, but it's not even the record for the earliest endorsements so far in this cycle. The National Education Association (NEA) endorsed Obama in July, 14 months before the voting. While these early endorsements highlight the fact that Big Labor's leaders are little more than cheerleaders (and paymasters) for the Democratic Party, at least voters will have plenty of time between now and next November to weigh all the facts, policy positions and records of the parties' two eventual nominees.
But what if they didn't? What if unions not only got to endorse candidates, but also schedule election day at a time of their choosing? What if they could also control what the opposing party could say during that election? Would that be fair? Well, it's obviously a moot point in elections for public office, but President Obama thinks it would be just dandy in union votes. His appointees on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) promise to make a final decision November 30th on their proposed new regulations that would allow unions to force organizing elections in non-union workplaces in as little as 10 days.
Currently, there is about a five-week window between when union organizers petition the NLRB to conduct a secret-ballot election, and when the vote actually happens. That time between announcement and vote allows both sides abundant opportunities to make their case, so workers can cast informed ballots on whether to form a union. But the problem for Big Labor is that informed workers are increasingly choosing to keep their freedom to work without paying union dues. Union membership peaked at 26 percent of the work force in 1953. Today, only 9.6 percent of workers are union members. In the private sector, less than 7 percent of workers are unionized.
The NLRB regulation to be adopted next Wednesday is designed to reverse that trend. Union organizers would be empowered to force hurry-up, or "ambush," elections in less than two weeks. At best, this compressed schedule would significantly reduce the time business owners and managers have to make their case against unionization.
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