Thursday, June 25, 2015

Losing Faith in American institutions

Last week a Gallup poll revealed that Americans have expressed a loss of confidence in virtually every major institution in the nation, including Congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court, banks, big business, labor, the police and organized religion. "From a broad perspective, Americans' confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993,“ said a spokesman for the polling company.

Is anyone really surprised? Let’s begin with Congress. Right now it is run by the GOP, the party that was handed a massive victory in the 2014 election by an electorate disgusted with the status quo. So what did these stalwarts do? They embraced that status quo. They passed another debt-laden budget with full funding for the DHS, knowing full well Americans were outraged by that agency’s effort to continue phasing in amnesty for illegals, even in defiance of a court order by federal judge Andrew Hanen. They approved the nomination of Eric Holder clone Loretta Lynch for U.S. Attorney General, knowing full well she would support that effort and maintain the Justice Department’s track record of fostering racial polarization. And right now they are in the midst of force-feeding the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal to an American public just beginning to grasp the idea that, while international trade might be beneficial to the nation, ceding our national sovereignty as part of the equation stinks on ice.

The presidency? It would take several columns to detail the failings of the petulant narcissist masquerading as the leader of the free world, but a recent quote by FBI Director James Comey should send a chill up every sentient American’s spine. "We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states,” Comey told a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in reference to ISIS. “This isn’t a New York phenomenon or a Washington phenomenon. This is all 50 states and in ways that are very hard to see.” In short our president has decided that taking the fight to ISIS on American soil is preferable his hollow promise to “degrade and destroy” these terrorist savages where they operate with impunity.

And let’s not forget Iran. While people were distracted by other news, Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear the administration has made a mockery of anything resembling American interests. Despite previous promises to the contrary, the bicycle crasher now insists the U.S. is “not fixated” on Iran accounting for its past efforts at nuclear weaponization. Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), put that unconscionable concession in perspective. “A comprehensive deal — that would include uranium enrichment — can only be reached if uncertainties over Iran’s military capability are credibly addressed,” he said. “That should be an unambiguous condition to achieving a final accord that is meaningful in safeguard terms.” In other words, you can’t know where the apocalyptic-minded Iranian mullahs are going if you don’t know where they’ve been. This concession is surrender-ism on steroids.

Let’s not forget the economy either. It’s going swell — give or take a negative first quarter GDP,  the 47 million Americans who now receive EBT/food stamps, the nearly 110 million Americans receiving government assistance of some kind, the 92,898,000 Americans out of the labor force, or the staggering reality that, for the past six years, more businesses are dying than being created.

The Supreme Court? Americans are still reaping the “benefits” of Chief Justice John Robert's decision to call the individual mandate a tax in order to legalize ObamaCare. And in the coming days, decisions in 11 cases remaining on the docket will be made. The most seismic cases include whether or not states can still write their own laws regarding marriage, or whether gay marriage will be made a one-size-fit- all mandate, much like Roe v. Wade; and whether ObamaCare subsidies will be maintained in states without their own exchanges, despite wording the in law that subsides can only be paid out on exchanges “established by the state.”

Those two decisions and others will go a long way towards restoring Americans' faith in the Court — or exacerbating their discontent with it.

Banks? While they remain beholden to a series of lousy government policies, especially with regard to mortgages, they also remain obnoxiously insouciant with regard to their retail customer concerns. “Banks are chasing the fast buck — and ‘gouging’ their retail customers with hefty new charges, overdraft fees and service cuts to pump up revenue losses due to less loan making, according to investigators,” the New York Post reports, even as many of those banks are “reporting record profits — despite a hostile regulatory environment and near-zero interest rates that crimp some traditional forms of banking.” The Post is refereeing to the Federal Reserve’s Zero Rate Interest Policy (ZIRP), which is nothing less than a de facto tax on middle class American savers. Couple it with the infuriating reality that banks were saved by the very same American taxpayers they screwed — without anyone being prosecuted or forced to resign — and it’s little wonder why they continue to be held in contempt by millions of citizens.

Big business? What could be a better example of contempt for the American worker than Disney firing 250 employees — but only after forcing them to train their foreign replacements coming in on the H1-B visas championed by the Chamber of Commerce, the doyens of Silicon Valley and members of both political parities? Foreign workers who will work for less pay. And those are high-skill workers. Congress and the president are also determined to accommodate businesses employing millions of low-skill illegals, even as the administration has made it clear any effort to continue targeting firms that hire them must be coupled with “comprehensive immigration reform.” Comprehensive immigration reform that will depress wages for blue-collar Americans, unless one is willing to believe the current assertions that adding millions of these low-skill workers to an already under-employed American workforce will enhance those wages.

Since when has more of anything made an individual unit of that thing more valuable? If you answered never, you get an “A” in Econ 101.

Labor? This writer has no beef with organized labor — in the private sector. That’s because there’s an ultimate modifier of union demands known as bankruptcy. On the other hand, government unions are a scourge, from the legions of unaccountable educators who’ve destroyed what was once the best education system in the world, to the callous incompetents who allowed veterans to die and millions of Americans' personal info to be hacked with impunity. And in fairly short order, many Americans are going to learn firsthand what happens when union pension and health benefit obligations overwhelm states' abilities to pay for them. Detroit was nothing more than the tip of the iceberg. The states of Illinois, New Jersey, California and New York are fiscal time bombs waiting to explode. Since one can’t get blood from the proverbial stone, already-high taxes will skyrocket, services will be decimated, or some hideous combination of both will occur. As the saying goes, politicians lie, but mathematics is irrefutable.

Police? In an age of rampant cynicism, Americans' declining confidence in the nation’s police forces ranks right at the top of collective ungratefulness. Yes there are bad cops, but the concerted effort by Obama, his administration and its media allies to paint a distorted picture of “racist” and “abusive” police forces is unconscionable, one “hands up don’t shoot” discredited narrative after another.

Many Americans themselves embrace a damned if they do, damned if they don’t attitude towards the thin blue line, criticizing cops for both vigorous law enforcement, or the lack thereof. The latter has led to crime spikes in cities across the nation in an era where cops are forced to second guess every move they make — or don’t make. It’s easy to bash cops in leisure for decisions they make in split seconds. If truth be told, Americans owe a great deal of thanks to those willing to stand between them and anarchy, every hour of every day. Too bad so many Americans can sweep that reality under the rug.

Americans' discontent with organized religion is utterly unsurprising, yet it is important to separate the category into two distinct parts: religious institutions and people of faith. Religious institutions — exemplified by the series of stances championed by Pope Francis — have embraced a cornucopia of leftist beliefs including amnesty for illegals, man-made global warming, ever-expanding government and even ObamaCare. Meanwhile, people of faith have been subjected to a relentless campaign orchestrated by the same American Left determined to make their traditional beliefs synonymous with bigotry, homophobia and nativism.

Moreover, it doesn’t take genius to figure out the leftist dog whistles that have dominated secular culture for more than 50 years, including “if it feels good, do it,”  "there is no black and white, only shades of gray" and “God is dead” are far easier to embrace than religious dogma that teaches concepts such as delayed gratification, sexual restraint, frugality, shame, morality — and the “problematic” idea that there is a power greater than the self. In an age where it has never been easier to succumb to human nature’s reflexive urge to follow the path of least resistance, the “path less traveled” becomes a harder sell than at any other time in modern history.

Can confidence in the various institutions be restored? As I have said on many occasions, I believe Winston Churchill's quote remains apropos: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.” I remain hopeful that we’re running out of alternatives to the right thing, and that some time soon, a majority of Americans will realize the leftist effort to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” into their version of a socialist utopia is as historically “been there, done that” as it gets. There is a spark of divinity in each of us that transcends the insufferable puerility of the modern age. Its re-discovery cannot happen soon enough.



Hillary and History

There are no sure things in politics, but Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a sure thing to become the Democrats' candidate for president in 2016.

This is one of the painful but inescapable signs of our time. There is nothing in her history that would qualify her for the presidency, and much that should disqualify her. What is even more painful is that none of that matters politically. Many people simply want “a woman” to be president, and Hillary is the best-known woman in politics, though by no means the best qualified.

What is Hillary’s history? In the most important job she has ever held — Secretary of State — American foreign policy has had one setback after another, punctuated by disasters.

U.S. intervention in Libya and Egypt, undermining governments that were no threat to American interests, led to Islamic extremists taking over in Egypt and terrorist chaos in Libya, where the American ambassador was killed, along with three other Americans.

Fortunately, the Egyptian military has gotten rid of that country’s extremist government that was persecuting Christians, threatening Israel and aligning itself with our enemies. But that was in spite of American foreign policy.

In Europe, as in the Middle East, our foreign policy during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was to undermine our friends and cater to our enemies.

The famous “reset” in our foreign policy with Russia began with the Obama administration reneging on a pre-existing American commitment to supply defensive technology to shield Poland and the Czech Republic from missile attacks. This left both countries vulnerable to pressures and threats from Russia – and left other countries elsewhere wondering how much they could rely on American promises.

Even after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Obama administration refused to let the Ukrainians have weapons with which to defend themselves. President Obama, like other presidents, has made his own foreign policy. But Hillary Clinton, like other Secretaries of State, had the option of resigning if she did not agree with it. In reality, she shared the same flawed vision of the world as Obama’s when they were both in the Senate.

Both of them opposed the military “surge” in Iraq, under General David Petraeus, that defeated the terrorists there. Even after the surge succeeded, Hillary Clinton was among those who fiercely denied initially that it had succeeded, and sought to discredit General Petraeus, though eventually the evidence of the surge’s success became undeniable, even among those who had opposed it.

The truly historic catastrophe of American foreign policy — not only failing to stop Iran from going nuclear, but making it more difficult for Israel to stop them — was also something that happened on Hillary Clinton’s watch as Secretary of State.

What the administration’s protracted and repeatedly extended negotiations with Iran accomplished was to allow Iran time to multiply, bury and reinforce its nuclear facilities, to the point where it was uncertain whether Israel still had the military capacity to destroy those facilities.

There are no offsetting foreign policy triumphs under Secretary of State Clinton. Syria, China and North Korea are other scenes of similar setbacks.

The fact that many people are still prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, in times made incredibly dangerous by the foreign policy disasters on her watch as Secretary of State, raises painful questions about this country.

A President of the United States — any president — has the lives of more than 300 million Americans in his or her hands, and the future of Western civilization. If the debacles and disasters of the Obama administration have still not demonstrated the irresponsibility of choosing a president on the basis of demographic characteristics, it is hard to imagine what could.

With our enemies around the world arming while we are disarming, such self-indulgent choices for president can leave our children and grandchildren a future that will be grim, if not catastrophic.



SCOTUS and the Raisin Hope for Property Rights

Marvin Horne of Fresno, California, has been vindicated. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that if the Raisin Administrative Committee was going to take Horne’s raisins it needed to compensate the farmer. In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, Horne refused to give up his raisins to the Raisin Administrative Committee and the agency was fining him at the tune of $695,000. The committee is a New Deal-era program designed to control the supply of raisins so the prices remain artificially high. It would take a portion of farmers' grapes and either donate them to school lunch programs or sell them overseas. Farmers used to be compensated, but then the payout dwindled to nothing.

The Ninth Circuit Court originally ruled in favor of the administrative committee, saying the Constitution’s Taking Clause only covered real estate, but Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, ruled, “Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”

This ruling comes 10 years after the bungled SCOTUS ruling in Kelo v. New London, which said the city of New London could take the home of Susette Kelo and give her property to a private developer. Currently, Kelo’s pink home is demolished and the lot stands empty. While the raisin ruling is a step in the right direction, it will take years before the government fully moves past Kelo and respects the property of the citizens.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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