Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why are the Left returning to Communism?

For most of the 20th century, the Left were angry about disparities in income and power and they thought that government control of just about everything would fix that. Stories about poverty and oppression in the Soviet Union were dismissed as "Lies of the capitalist press". I remember being told that personally by an Australian Communist in the '60s.

Self deception is powerful but it was not powerful enough to withstand the "perestroika" and "glasnost" of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. When the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union said that Sovetskaya Rossiya had big problems, even the most diehard Leftist had to sit up and take notice.  And the complete implosion and breakup of the Soviet Union under Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin threw the whole of Leftist ideology into a cocked hat.  Their great examplar of an alternative system to capitalism was gone as if in a puff of wind.

So we all know what happened after that.  Talk about money and power took a back seat among the Left.  Instead political correctness reigned supreme -- and still does mostly.  It was no longer the poor to whom the Left offered their dubious sympathies but rather every downtrodden or disadvantaged group under the sun.  They no longer had a grand narrative but they could nag. There have already emerged from the Left some intimations of support for pedophilia so that will undoubtedly blossom in due course. Anything to upset the status quo

Memories are short, however, and the Soviet disappointment no longer is in the mind of many Leftists -- not only young Leftists but also in the aged minds of people like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, who should know better.  They probably do know better  but count of the ignorance of the masses who never knew much about communism and who have now forgotten what little they knew.

Communism is an extreme expression of envy and envy has always been a strong force politically so it is a very promising road to power among unscrupulous and ambitious frauds.  It gave the Left half the world for a time.

So in America we now have a resurgence of the old fraudulent  ideas of the 20th century Left.  What Bernie Sanders and Occasio Cortez preach is as if communism never happened.  The old reality-defying ideas about using vast government legislation to correct imbalances of power and wealth have roared back.  America managed to withstand such ideas in the 20th century so we can have good hopes that this new outburst of authoritarianism will not succeed --  but we cannot be complacent.

There is a big article in The Economist that gives a comprehensive but rather skeptical outline of current Leftist thinking.


Leftist hatred of their own society is at an all-time high

The recent news that the University of Notre Dame, responding to complaints by some students, would “shroud” its twelve 134-year-old murals depicting Christopher Columbus was disappointing. It was not surprising, however, to anyone who has been paying attention to the widespread attack on America’s past wherever social justice warriors congregate.

Notre Dame may not be particularly friendly to its Catholic heritage, but its president, the Rev. John Jenkins, demonstrated that it remains true to its jesuitical (if not, quite, its Jesuit) inheritance. Queried about the censorship, he said, apparently without irony, that his decision to cover the murals was not intended to conceal anything, but rather to tell “the full story” of Columbus’s activities.

Welcome to the new Orwellian world where censorship is free speech and we respect the past by attempting to elide it.

Over the past several years, we have seen a rising tide of assaults on statues and other works of art representing our nation’s history by those who are eager to squeeze that complex story into a box defined by the evolving rules of political correctness. We might call this the “monument controversy,” and what happened at Notre Dame is a case in point: a vocal minority, claiming victim status, demands the destruction, removal, or concealment of some object of which they disapprove. Usually, the official response is instant capitulation.

As the French writer Charles PĆ©guy once observed, “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.” Consider the frequent demands to remove statues of Confederate war heroes from public spaces because their presence is said to be racist. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for example, has recently had statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson removed from a public gallery. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has set up a committee to review “all symbols of hate on city property.”

But it is worth noting that the monument controversy signifies something much larger than the attacks on the Old South or Italian explorers.

In the first place, the monument controversy involves not just art works or commemorative objects. Rather, it encompasses the resources of the past writ large. It is an attack on the past for failing to live up to our contemporary notions of virtue.

In the background is the conviction that we, blessed members of the most enlightened cohort ever to grace the earth with its presence, occupy a moral plane superior to all who came before us. Consequently, the defacement of murals of Christopher Columbus—and statues of later historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt—is perfectly virtuous and above criticism since human beings in the past were by definition so much less enlightened than we.

The English department at the University of Pennsylvania contributed to the monument controversy when it cheered on students who were upset that a portrait of a dead white male named William Shakespeare was hanging in the department’s hallway. The department removed the picture and replaced it with a photograph of Audre Lorde, a black feminist writer. “Students removed the Shakespeare portrait,” crowed department chairman Jed Esty, “and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.” Right.

High schools across the country contribute to the monument controversy when they remove masterpieces like Huckleberry Finn from their libraries because they contain ideas or even just words of which they disapprove.

The psychopathology behind these occurrences is a subject unto itself. What has happened in our culture and educational institutions that so many students jump from their feelings of being offended—and how delicate they are, how quick to take offense!—to self-righteous demands to repudiate the thing that offends them? The more expensive education becomes the more it seems to lead, not to broader understanding, but to narrower horizons.



US Constitution Rejects Premise of Judicial Supremacy – And So Should All Americans

Americans today are inclined to accept, without thinking much about it, the idea of judicial supremacy.

We think that the federal courts—and especially the Supreme Court—have an extensive discretion to decide for us the big questions of public policy that come before the nation.

After all, the Supreme Court has taken upon itself the authority to decide whether and to what extent abortion may be regulated, and, more recently, to decide the definition of marriage.

Moreover, we think that the court’s decisions on such questions are final, that there is no way the people or their representatives can effectively assert their own understanding of the Constitution against what was laid down by the judges.

As I explain in a new “First Principles” paper for The Heritage Foundation, Americans should reconsider this uncritical embrace of judicial supremacy.

Judicial supremacy is inconsistent with the much more modest conception of the judicial power put forward by the American Founders. Moreover, it is inconsistent with the fundamental American aspiration to be a self-governing people.

The classic founding exposition of the judicial power is provided by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers. There, Hamilton emphasizes the limited character of the judicial power envisioned by the Constitution.

A properly functioning judiciary, he contended, will be the “least dangerous branch” of the federal government and the “weakest of the three departments of power.”

The power of judicial review, Hamilton explained, is essential to maintaining a limited Constitution. But judicial review does not bestow on courts a wide-ranging discretion to decide what is good and just for the country.

Rather, it empowers courts to strike down laws only in those cases in which there is an “evident opposition” between the law and the Constitution.

The judicial power, in other words, exists to defend the clear provisions of the Constitution, not to empower judges to find new, previously unheard of rights, based on novel theories.

Moreover, Hamilton reminds us that the Founders never intended the courts to have an unfettered power to determine the meaning of the Constitution without having to answer to the people or their political representatives.

After all, Hamilton presents the judiciary as the weakest branch in part because it has to “ultimately depend on the aid of the executive arm for the efficacy of its judgments.”

That is as much as to say that the executive may decline to lend its aid to the courts when they have overstepped the proper bounds of their power.

Finally, The Federalist Papers remind us that judges who abuse their judicial authority are subject to impeachment. Judicial usurpation of the powers of the other branches of government, Hamilton argued, would be deterred by “the power of instituting impeachments in one part of the legislative body, and of determining upon them in the other.”

The power over impeachment “alone” would provide “a complete security” against an overreaching judiciary, because there “can never be a danger that the judges, by a series of deliberate usurpations on the authority of the legislature, would hazard the resentment of” Congress, which possesses “the means of punishing their presumption, by degrading them from their stations.”

Recovering the Founders’ limited conception of the judicial power is necessary to preserving the integrity of the American people as a self-governing people.

By rejecting judicial supremacy, we ensure that when the people’s will is thwarted by the courts, the people, through their political representatives, still retain the authority to reassert their will when they have not been persuaded by the reasoning of the judges.

That surely is essential to the self-respect of a self-governing people, that they must be persuaded—not commanded—by the courts.

That, too, is the promise of the American experiment: self-government under the laws and the Constitution, not under the discretionary supervision of judges.



Attention Working Americans: Democrats Want To Hike Payroll Taxes By $1.5 Trillion

Amid all the hoopla about Democrats wanting to raise taxes on the rich, they are quietly working on a bill that would increase taxes on every working family in America. Why? To fund expanded benefits for baby boomers hitting retirement.

The Social Security 2100 Act would hike the combined payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers from 12.4% today to 14.8% by 2043. The bill would also apply the payroll tax on incomes over $400,000.

According to the Social Security Administration, in the first 12 years alone, this would amount to a $1.5 trillion tax hike.

A Staggering Social Security Tax Hike
Once the tax hike's fully phased in, workers and employers will be paying $340 billion more a year in payroll taxes.

As a share of GDP, Social Security taxes would rise to 6.5%, up from the current 4.5%.

For families making the median income, it means paying an extra $720 a year to Social Security. But that's only half the tax bite. The employer's share effectively comes out of workers' pockets as well, in the form of lower wages. So, the real increase is more like $1,400 a year.

It is, in other words, a staggering tax hike.

The economic effects of this hike will not be pleasant. Andrew Biggs, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explained to the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this month, the impacts will likely be: a reduction in the labor supply, as well as less private savings and more household debt, particularly among lower-income families.

Biggs also notes that such a tax hike will raise far less money than predicted, not only because there will be fewer jobs, but because the payroll tax hikes will suppress wage growth, which will mean less income tax revenue.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Larson, says that, even so, this plan will not only keep Social Security solvent, it will allow for a big increase in benefits.

More Social Security Benefits

Among other things, Larson wants an across-the-board increase in benefits for current and future retirees. A higher annual cost of living adjustment. And a stronger minimum benefit.

"The Social Security 2100 Act shows that Social Security is affordable," Larson says. "It increases benefits and strengthens the Trust Fund, and it is fully paid for." The bill has some 200 co-sponsors — all Democrats.

On paper, at least, Larson is correct.

Number crunchers at the Social Security Administration said that, even with the added benefits, the plan would keep the program solvent for at least the next 75 years.

But that's just an educated guess. And not a very good one.

First, it doesn't account for the negative effects the tax hike would have on jobs, wages and economic growth.

Second, the Social Security Administration doesn't exactly have a stellar record when it comes to making such long-term projections.

For example, in 1983, the federal government boosted Social Security taxes, and cut benefits. This was supposed to keep Social Security on a sound footing for 75 years or more. In fact, the Social Security Administration predicted that the program would be running annual surpluses until about 2025.

In reality, Social Security started running annual deficits in 2010. By 2025, these annual shortfalls are on track to likely top $202 billion. The Trust Fund is now on track to become insolvent by 2034.

By expanding benefits now, and hoping the tax hikes will fill in the gap later, Larson risks only further destabilizing the program's already shaky finances.

A Better Way

There's a bigger problem with this plan, however.

Social Security is already too gargantuan. (It eats up 24% of the federal budget.) It takes too large a share of workers' incomes, discouraging private savings. And for most people working today, it provides a lousy — often negative — rate of return.

Rather than expanding Social Security, the U.S. should be moving in the opposite direction through partial privatization. Let workers put more of their own hard-earned money in personal savings accounts that can't help but perform better than Social Security.

After all, that's what Sweden did in the 1990s, when it realized its public retirement program was going bankrupt. And we all know how much Democrats love to compare the U.S. to countries like Sweden.



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

"Why are the Left returning to Communism?"

They aren't. They never left it. Oh, there have been periods when they disguised their fascination with it, but a bureaucratic State with unlimited control , and with them in charge, has ALWAYS been their aim.

As for why they are letting the mask slip now? I suspect that Nancy Pelosi and the other Party panjandrums have written 2020 off, and are allowing the radicals to run amok in the belief that they will break their teeth on Trump. Then the panjandrums will be able to reassert control from much more secure positions, with nobody to the Left of them in a position to bring up how badly 2016 went.