I’ve always found Teddy Roosevelt to be among the more repugnant of the already repulsive batch of grifters and autocrats we’ve been unfortunate enough to call “Mr. President.” He managed to combine militarism, authoritarianism and economic collectivism with a cult of the state that he called “new nationalism.” As presidential scholar Richard M. Abrams puts it in his discussion of the 26th president, “He spoke righteously for freedom but placed individual liberty in the context of a greater obligation to the nation. He acknowledged that most individuals probably preferred business as usual, to be left to cultivate their own gardens and to pursue modest livelihoods and comforts, but he viewed such an outlook with scorn.”
In economic terms, TR was obsessed with “national efficiency” — a principle he expounded in his (in)famous new nationalism speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. He called for powerful federal and state governments, with all-encompassing powers that allow for no “neutral ground” where people might hide from the government. Said he, “I do not ask for the over centralization; but I do ask that we work in a spirit of broad and far-reaching nationalism where we work for what concerns our people as a whole.”
People who disagreed with his views, he implied (or explicitly stated) were unpatriotic.
If he’d made his speech 20 years later, Teddy Roosevelt’s views could have comfortably clothed themselves in brown shirts (as could those of his cousin who was actually in office at that time).
So, when Barack Obama tramps back to Osawatomie to deliberately echo TR’s speech and views, color me nauseated. “[I]n America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share. … [A]s a nation, we have always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed.”
Once again, the appeal to tribal identity, the call to submerge individual interests in the name of the greater good of the group — as identified by the speaker. And if you don’t agree with the speaker’s very specific idea of what’s good and right? Well, Teddy Roosevelt called you a “reactionary”; Obama, in our psychologized age, insists you and your co-dissidents have “collective amnesia.”
But we live in an age that’s not just psychologized, but fact-checked, and even the Washington Post called bullshit on much of Barry’s supporting evidence for his exhumed not-so-new nationalism.
On Obama’s insistence that “expensive” tax cuts for the “wealthy” are responsible for the current economic mess:
Obama certainly inherited an economic mess, and we have argued he does not deserve blame for the massive loss of jobs early in his administration. But it seems odd to keep blaming poor job growth on the Bush tax cut, especially because Obama himself pushed through a nearly $1-trillion stimulus and took other actions that have affected the economy, for better or worse.
Finally, Obama blames the Bush tax cuts for “massive deficits.” It is certainly true that the Bush tax cuts helped blow a hole in the budget. But they did not do it all by themselves. We looked at length at this issue earlier this year, assisted by new Congressional Budget Office data.
The data showed that the biggest contributor to the disappearance of projected surpluses was increased spending, which accounted for 36.5 percent of the decline in the nation’s fiscal position, followed by incorrect CBO estimates, which accounted for 28 percent. The Bush tax cuts (along with some Obama tax cuts) were responsible for just 24 percent.
And on the president’s insistence that the uber-wealthy are even more successful at tax avoidance than even the Occupiers have charged in their wildest fever-dream accusations:
“Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent — 1 percent. That is the height of unfairness.”
This is a striking statistic. But the only evidence that the White House could offer for it was a TV clip of a conversation on Bloomberg TV, in which correspondent Gigi Stone made this assertion during a discussion about the tax strategies that the very wealthy use to avoid paying taxes. The TV clip was promoted by the left-leaning website Think Progress.
Stone quoted from a Bloomberg News article last month that reported on such tax strategies, which mostly involve complicated ways to defer paying capital gains taxes. But the article never made the one-percent claim. It also noted that the IRS had gotten more hostile to such transactions in recent years.
An administration official conceded the White House had no actual data to back up the president’s assertion, but argued that other reports showed that some of the wealthy pay little in taxes.
The Post even quoted Judge Learned Hand pointing out that “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury.”
So, calls for authoritarianism founded on appeals to tribal identity, based on manufactured data. Thanks anyway, but I’ll pass.
Some things Obama left out of his speech
In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama insisted that the coming presidential primary and general election campaigns "shouldn't be about making each other look bad, they should be about figuring out how we can all do some good for this precious country of ours. That's our mission."
"And in this mission," he continued, "our rivals won't be one another, and I would assert it won't even be the other party. It's going to be cynicism that we're fighting against."
I guess I missed the moment when Obama hung his "Mission Accomplished" banner. Because from where I'm sitting, it looks more like the president not only lost his battle against cynicism, he defected to the other side.
In his remarks this week in Osawatomie, Kan. -- the site of Theodore Roosevelt's famous 1910 "new nationalism" speech -- Obama laid out the themes for his re-election campaign.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denies it was an "election speech," but Obama's own campaign manager, Jim Messina, touted it as one in a fundraising email.
But such is the way of this White House. Facts are dependent variables, history the president's Pool of Narcissus, reflecting his own glory. Hence, Obama cherry-picks TR's "new nationalism" as a justification for his own agenda and proof that today's Republicans are extreme.
After all, was not TR a "Republican son of a wealthy family," as Obama put it?
Well, yes, he was. And then, he wasn't. TR left the Republican Party to promote his new nationalism philosophy and run as a Progressive - a "super socialist," in the words of The New York Times in 1913.
As a Republican president, Roosevelt had been a "trust buster." As Progressive gadfly, Roosevelt believed in making the trusts bigger, stronger and more entwined with the federal government, orchestrated by an all-powerful "Federal Bureau of Corporations."
"Concentration, co-operation and control," he explained in his acceptance speech at the 1912 Progressive convention, "are the key words for a scientific solution of the mighty industrial problem which now confronts this nation."
It's no surprise Obama would find the progressive Teddy so reasonable. Nor is it shocking that Obama would fail to explain to today's generation the true intentions of that "Republican son of a wealthy family."
And no wonder Obama thinks that low tax rates in the 1920s were a significant cause of the Great Depression. Or that he sees income inequality as the chief problem during the 1930s -- and today.
"Now, this kind of inequality -- a level that we haven't seen since the Great Depression -- hurts us all," he declared. "When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom."
Except inequality isn't the cause of these problems, stagnating wages and unemployment are. But Obama wants to talk about inequality because it puts him on the convenient side of populist anger.
Sounding as if he's still running against George W. Bush, Obama laid the blame for our problems on the "most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history." Of course, he leaves out that those tax cuts also went to the middle class.
He also forgets his own favorite metric of jobs "created or saved." It's a bogus, unprovable gimmick, used to defend his failed stimulus, but who is he to say Bush's tax cuts didn't save millions of jobs after 9/11?
Obama describes the Bush years as a libertarian dystopia of "'you're on your own' economics," when we ignored vital spending on things like education and poverty programs. This is Obama's favorite straw man, and he's a kung fu master when it comes to defeating it.
He leaves out that Europe already has his preferred policies and is about to go under.
More significantly, Obama leaves out that under "compassionate conservatism," Bush was the first president to spend more than 3 percent of GDP on anti-poverty programs. Under Bush, federal spending on education grew 58 percent faster than inflation. Obama forgets that Bush fought for the biggest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D). He airbrushes away Sarbanes-Oxley, a new Cabinet agency, faith-based initiatives, etc.
"Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent," Obama barked. "That is the height of unfairness." Except, when the Washington Post asked the White House for evidence to support the claim, an official confessed they "had no actual data to back up the president's assertion."
That's OK. Who cares about the facts when you're fighting to make America safe for cynicism again?
The Orwellian American Left
As I heard Barack Obama and his propaganda minister, Jay Carney, endorsing tax cuts as a vehicle for economic growth, I was reminded, again, of George Orwell's "1984" and the striking similarities between his Oceania and the American left's vision for America.
Oceania's Big Brother regime had "four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided," the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Love and the Ministry of Plenty. Each department was dedicated to the opposite principle suggested by its title. "Truth" disseminated lies. "Peace" promoted war. "Love" enforced uniformity of thought. And "Plenty" manipulated the economy to impoverish the people while enriching the ruling class. God was expelled and absolute truth abolished, while "doublespeak" was promoted.
Oceania's Thought Police was the Ministry of Love's enforcement arm, while the Ministry of Truth undertook the task of rewriting history in service to the Party slogan, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
Today the left has a Ministry of Truth, because it knows that twice as many Americans identify themselves as conservatives than as liberals and so has to disguise its policies to deceive the majority. Its Ministry of Peace would be better-named the Ministry of Bipartisanship, which, in the name of reaching across the aisle with a friendly hand, slices it off with a partisan dagger. Its Ministry of Love is more aptly named the Ministry of Tolerance, which dictates one way of thinking and demonizes dissenters. The Ministry of Plenty is alive and well in the Obama administration's cadre of economic advisers.
The liberal establishment's Ministry of Truth extends throughout our culture, having taken over our educational institutions, the arts and the sciences. How slavishly our academics hew to the Party slogan. They have planted themselves in positions of cultural influence to "control the present," in order to rewrite the past (to conform to their dogma), for purposes of "controlling the future."
Our professors of history, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, journalism, law, the hard sciences and other fields deride Western civilization and characterize our founders as Christian-mocking deists devoted to enlightenment principles of the philosophers. They speciously tie our unique freedoms to our "secular" founding to argue that we must banish God from the public square, lest we lose our liberties. In the name of academic inquiry, these academic and cultural "Thought Police" indoctrinate and intimidate students who dare deviate from their thought mandates.
Their textbooks tell us that Franklin D. Roosevelt not only was not a domestic liberal but also saved capitalism through socialism. (Talk about "doublespeak.") They say his New Deal spent us out of the Great Depression, while current historians not housed in the Ministry of Truth tell us it exacerbated our economic woes. Based on the ministry's revisionism, Keynesian economists were empowered to reflect those myths in their textbooks for a half-century. Armed with their revised lessons from history, Obama's Ministry of Plenty advocated passage of the "stimulus" bill, which was doublespeak for "rampant redistribution to its allies, sucking the oxygen out of the private sector and suppressing the economy."
The left's Ministry of Truth, with the full-throated support of the "unbiased" mainstream media, has given us such Orwellian originals as "pro-choice" while suing an 80-year-old prayer-warrior for standing outside Planned Parenthood's abortion factory to share important information with pregnant mothers to help them make a fully informed choice. The ministry seeks to shut down conservative talk radio, with the "Fairness Doctrine." It forbids private ballots for employees to vote anonymously on union membership for the purpose of intimidating them to join -- in the name of the "Employee Free Choice Act." It boasts of "budget cuts" when it slightly reduces the rate of increases in spending. It calls the budget-busting Obamacare legislation the "Affordable Care Act." It calls a bill that would further expand unemployment a "jobs bill." It fabricates and manipulates a consensus on "climate change" and ostracizes dissenters as science-averse. (In Oceania, science had "almost ceased to exist.") It conspires with its Ministry of Tolerance to describe political dissent from its effort to legalize homosexual marriage as "hate" and to brand political conservatism as "racism." While the rapacious Obama administration recklessly squanders our national wealth in its lust for power, its ministries of Plenty and Bipartisanship vilify the wealthy -- who are paying a disproportionate share of taxes -- for not paying their fair share. The Ministry of Plenty, while presiding over the destruction of the private sector, castigates job creators for hoarding all the wealth.
2012 won't be so much about two competing visions as it will be a contest of truth. Without the left's Orwellian ministers and their deputies in the press and academia, it would be a historic blowout and rejection of their vision. I'm betting it will be anyway.
The Road to Canadian Citizenship: "When we think about second passports, exotic locations such as Singapore or Uruguay often come to mind. But could it be that an American's best bet for second citizenship lies just north of the border? In the last few years, Canada has become more attractive as a destination for would-be immigrants. The country invariably scores near the top of various international life-style country rankings. For starters, Canada has a very stable political and financial system, which stood up well during the 2008 Credit Crisis. Canada is also widely recognized for its health care system (accessible to all its residents), yet it boasts the lowest corporate tax rate among the G-8 nations. Among those who have been increasingly looking at Canada as an option for residency and citizenship are high-net-worth Americans. As the U.S. debt grows to unmanageable heights and the government is increasingly applying new force and security measures, Americans are seeking refuge for safety and a chance at future prosperity."
CA: Homosexual marriage challenge: "The sponsors of California's gay marriage ban renewed their effort Thursday to disqualify a federal judge because of his same-sex relationship, but they met a skeptical audience in an appeals court panel. It's the first time an American jurist's sexual orientation has been cited as grounds for overturning a court decision."
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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)