Monday, August 13, 2012

Obama's Progress

Paul Kengor

Try to define progressivism. In fact, ask progressives to try to define progressivism . All we really know is that they’re, well, progressing. They and their ideas and their politics are always changing, evolving. This means that what they believe and hold fast and dear today may not be what they believe and hold fast and dear tomorrow, or decades or a century from now.

For instance, when progressive heroine Margaret Sanger started her American Birth Control League a century ago, she was seeking birth control for, among other purposes, what she and fellow progressives termed “race improvement.” She hoped to expunge the gene pool of what she termed "human weeds," “morons,” and “imbeciles.” She repudiated abortion, calling it “an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn … the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious.” She clarified in no uncertain terms: “some ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not.”

Today, Sanger’s American Birth Control League is Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. Progressives have not only progressed to that level but also to the point where they demand full taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and birth control and abortion drugs. Most amazing, those who disagree are castigated as Neanderthals favoring a “war on women.”

How did we suddenly progress to this latest stage?

That’s a long answer with a lot of factors, but we cannot disregard the huge impact of the latest influence: President Obama. If you would have told me five years ago that the president of the United States, by executive fiat, would force all Americans—including all religious organizations—to fund sterilization services and abortion drugs, I would have at least taken solace in one thing: my liberal friends would surely respect my religious beliefs and insist their president was crossing the line.

Sorry, the opposite is true. With President Obama leading, millions of Democrats have willfully fallen in line. He is not bending, and neither are they. If we disagree with what they’re compelling us to do … that’s our fault. We have failed to progress to their understanding.

My pro-choice friends always promised they’d never force me to pay for their abortions. With Obama out front, that has changed. They simply hadn’t progressed there yet.

The same is true for gay marriage, where liberals—immediately after Obama’s statement on gay marriage to ABC a few months ago—are suddenly on fire for the cause, from blasting Chick-fil-A to, according to The New York Times, considering the unprecedented step of placing gay marriage in the Democratic Party platform. Consider liberals’ progression on this issue:

A half century ago, the concept of “gay marriage” would have been unthinkable to any Democrat. Currently, I’m being frequently asked about parallels in thinking between Obama and his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis . There are striking similarities when it comes to their words on Wall Street, the rich, tax cuts, wealth redistribution, universal healthcare. I’m often asked if Davis’ writings indicated support for gay marriage and abortion. Are you kidding? Anyone who might have voiced public support for those things back then, Democrat or Republican or radical, would have been hauled off to an asylum as a public menace.

Just 20 years ago, the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

While support for gay marriage has increased since then, what the progressive movement needed was a front man to light the fuse and take the lead. They got it big-time from President Obama. Just like that, the entire public debate has changed, with gay-marriage advocates on the offensive and opponents on the defensive. Those opposing the unwavering norm since the dawn of humanity, following the billions before us—what Chesterton called the “Democracy of the Dead” —are suddenly framed as extremists who must explain ourselves. And CEOs of companies who voice a mere opinion to the contrary—e.g., Chick-fil-A—are picketed, protested, banned, and attacked by the nation’s mayors for manufacturing everything from “hate thoughts” to “hate chicken.”

Progressivism. No one can see where it will end up, but we can see how it unfolds. In this latest manifestation—call it President Obama’s progress—it compels all of us to acquiesce on gay marriage and abortion. Obama didn’t begin the push, but, in only four years, he has advanced the progressive project by leaps and bounds, a stunning surge that doesn’t happen without him.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised fundamental, transformational change—and now, thanks to the American electorate, we’re getting it.



Obama’s War on Family Business

One of the aspects of President Obama’s worldview that has drawn consistent fire is his evident hostility toward business. His comments in Roanoke, Virginia three weeks ago (“If you have a business, you didn’t build that”) are just the most recent in a long history of shameful displays of ignorance about the way a business is launched, how it is grown, and what makes it successful.

In his speeches, Obama tends to praise businesses only as a lead-in to calling for higher taxes on them. The President likes to attach a taint to the word “business,” as if every enterprise were Enron and every founder was Scrooge McDuck, hording piles of gold in his basement. This convenient dodge feeds a vague but satisfying resentment in some of Obama’s core constituencies toward big, faceless, evil “multinational corporations,” which are easy to hate.

But the reality about business in America is quite different, and those who understand this most keenly are those who have started businesses – and the family members who have supported them. They know firsthand that Obama’s attacks on business in general translate to a war on family business in particular.

Few people realize just how predominant family business is in the United States. So some statistics (available from the Census and the U.S. Small Business Administration) are instructive.

First, most businesses in the U.S. are not large. Over 78% of all businesses (21M out of 27M) in the United States are “non-employer” firms, meaning that they report no payroll. In other words, they are either partnerships or sole proprietorships. In fact, the vast majority (it varies from year to year, but typically around 70%) of all businesses are run as sole proprietorships.

Of the remaining 6+ million “employer firms,” nearly 90% employ fewer than 20 people. 1.3 million of these companies gross less than $100,000 each year. 3.7 million have gross receipts of less than $500,000 a year. 4.6 million – or 76% - of all “employer firms” in the United States gross under a million dollars each year.

In other words, most business in the United States is small business.

It is important to consider these data when Obama calls for higher taxes on people making more than $250,000, lumping them with “millionaires and billionaires.” Since most small businesses operate as sole proprietorships, this means that the business doesn’t pay the taxes (as a corporation would); the individual owner pays all of the taxes on the business’ income. And while some might think that $250,000 would be a cushy salary for one person, a business generating $250,000 in gross receipts is a VERY small enterprise indeed. From this amount must come state and federal income taxes, property taxes, rent or mortgage payments, insurance, salaries, benefits, unemployment and workers compensation payments, and more.

Furthermore, 80 – 90% of all businesses in the U.S. are family-owned – including 35% of all Fortune 500 companies. Family-owned businesses are responsible for 50% of all GDP in the U.S., 60% of all U.S. employment, and 65% of all wages paid in the U.S.

Family-run businesses also have a more personal investment in their employees and in their communities. According to Anne Kincaid of Family Enterprise USA, family businesses have far less leadership turnover than shareholder-owned companies, and are less likely to let employees go, even in tough times.

One would think, therefore – particularly in a struggling economy – that the President of the United States would want to encourage the creation of businesses, laud those who take the personal financial risks to start them, and use power of the presidency to minimize the burdens government can impose.

To the contrary, the policies advocated by this president are crippling to business. Just a few examples:
1. Taxes. As noted above, taxing businesses grossing between $250,000 and $1 million a year hits a disproportionate number of the sole proprietorships and small family businesses we desperately need to expand and hire more people. It also discourages prospective entrepreneurs. Then there is his “Buffet rule” tax proposal and his insistence upon raising the capital gains rate. The former is just silly posturing. The latter will negatively affect investment – which, of course, will mean that small businesses have a harder time becoming larger ones.

2. Obamacare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be ungodly expensive, and many small businesses – read family businesses – are not going to be able to afford to insure their current employees, much less hire new ones. Family Enterprise USA reports that 61% of the family firms they surveyed believe that the new law will make it harder, not easier, to pay for employee health care.

3. The HHS mandate. Having to provide what Obamacare considers to be appropriate insurance coverage is already burdensome. But the Obama administration has made this worse by insisting that all employers pay for sterilization and contraception – including abortifacient contraception. Catholic and other Christian universities and hospitals have filed lawsuits to contest the enforcement of this mandate, arguing that it compels them to violate the core teachings of their religious beliefs. But many family businesses are run by individuals who share those same beliefs, and they, too, are threatened by the HHS mandate. Already, at least one family business has sued – successfully. Others have followed. These are laudable developments. But most family businesses cannot afford the expense of a lawsuit in federal court.

4. The constant calls for reduction of the charitable deduction. President Obama has now tried five separate times to reduce the amount of the charitable deduction. This is inscrutable. The average family firm donates $50,000 to charities and philanthropic causes – most, locally for maximum impact. Larger companies donate much, much more.

(Sidenote: since Obama is so keen to yank America toward European-style socialism, he might want to read The Economist’s story from last week, blaming European government policies for the dismal lack of entrepreneurship and economic growth there.)

In light of these events, it is not surprising that the Roanoke speech has become the negative tagline for the Obama presidency. Every family with an entrepreneur in it knows that the business founder didn’t do it on his or her own; spouses and children also make substantial sacrifices to help launch a business, grow it, make it successful and keep it that way. Families in business also know how difficult government makes it.

The Roanoke speech is also the gift that keeps on giving to Mitt Romney. The president’s antipathy to business is affecting his reelection campaign. Donors had already been fleeing Obama in droves – including Democrats who are now supporting Romney. The result is nearly unthinkable to Democrat strategists: Romney is actually outpacing Obama in fundraising, and by a substantial margin.

No wonder. While it might be understandable that those who don’t own a business might vote for Obama the second time around, it is inexplicable that anyone who does – or wants to -- would. And that is a lot of people.



Fear and Shame on the Campaign Trail

Anyone who doubts the enduring power of the mainstream media need look no further than the rise in Romney’s unfavorables in a recent Pew Poll. Yes, this poll is likely skewed, but the percentages are too extreme to escape the conclusion that a large number of Americans do not find Mitt “Mr. Nice Guy.” (I met him and thought he was perfectly okay — but what do I know?) Obama, on the other hand, is still considered a swell fellow.

All this although the economy has been a disaster throughout his presidency and, for the last year, probably more, he has seemed a petulant prig when confronted with the slightest criticism. Not an attractive trait.

You would think under those conditions those poll numbers would be reversed and the election polls themselves would show Romney with a gigantic lead, but no. Like a nation of ostriches, huge portions of the American public have swallowed the media/Axelrod line that Mitt Romney is a rich self-interested capitalist out of touch with the masses, whoever they are and whatever that means(it doesn’t matter as long as they vote for Obama), hell-bent on robbing from the poor to give to the rich like a reverse Robin Hood.

In other words, a large portion of the American public has effectively been brainwashed. And the brainwashers are the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. The former is quite understandable since political parties cling to power by virtually any means when threatened. But for the media it’s another matter. Why do these people persist in their views in a situation where, objectively, almost any corporation or business would have been looking for new leadership long ago? Why are they so destructive to our society and ultimately to themselves? Don’t they have children and grandchildren?

Many explanations exist for this seeming blindness; among them, and not to be ignored, is good old-fashioned habit. But I would suggest, having lived among them, particularly the Hollywood variety, for decades, two other components: fear and shame (and, yes, loathing, to extend the Hunter Thompson analogy).

But fear first and foremost.

It seems counterintuitive, but journalists are some of the most risk-averse people around. Few of them are really entrepreneurs. Despite bohemian veneers, they have little daring. They work for somebody and that somebody calls the tune. “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one,” as the great A. J. Liebling reminded us many years ago.

Journalists fear for their jobs and their jobs are increasingly precarious. If they change their opinions, even investigate the possibility that the other side might have some reasons, quite often they are out the door. So not only do they toe the line, they are disinclined even to consider alternatives in their minds, consciously or unconsciously, because those alternatives are dangerous to their livelihood.

And now for shame. Despite what many may choose to think, journalists are not stupid. They are at least relatively educated. They have seen the same things we all have and know that the economy (the very heart of America) is failing. And they know deep down that they are responsible for some of it, because they bought and promoted Barack Obama as if he were a messiah without the slightest bit of vetting. Obama was anointed, not elected. To this day no one knows who he is, possibly even Obama himself.

And deep down these journos are embarrassed by this (who wouldn’t be?) but they can never never admit it. To do so would injure their self-image and self-respect to the level of personality disintegration.

So this shame is projected out in rage and, yes, loathing toward you, me, Mitt Romney, and anyone else who might deign to disagree with them. We are accused racists, homophobes, sexists, classists, any refugee of sixties group speak that might stick for ten minutes, even though they themselves are more likely to be those things. It is, after all, projection. Ideology is but a pretentious cover for rage.

So no wonder they behave as a shrill gang, banging metal drums like lost characters out of Gunter Grass, “Romney bad and rich! Romney bad and rich! Romney bad and rich!” ad tedium, ad nauseum, as if they were on David Axelrod’s payroll.

And in a sense they are. For to wander off the reservation is a road to penury. And who wants that now more than ever with the number of media jobs contracting?

Of course, the ones who are screwed by this song and dance are you and me — the American public. And no doubt some day the journalists themselves.

If Obama wins, they will rejoice on election day. But they will shortly be throwing up. In the words of Brillat-Savarin, “You are what you eat.” (Actually he said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” — a yet more delicious irony.)


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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