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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Regressive Watch: Keep Your Eyes on the Lies

REGRESSIVE WATCH

Just in case it seemed like it was safe to go back into the political pool once more, think again. The paranoid fringe is swarming, and Victor David Hanson is leading the charge, as he demonstrates in Our Year of Obama:

America is at a day of reckoning that it never quite expected to face.

Not long ago, tired of eight years of Republican rule, terrified by the September 2008 financial panic, unimpressed by the campaign of John McCain, and mesmerized by the hope-and-change elixirs and landmark candidacy of Barack Obama, the American people voted for change.

But change of what sort?

I think voters wanted an end to the Bush deficits. Big government and Wall Street insiders sickened them. They were tired of the expense of two wars. By 2006, the scandals of the Republican Congress had turned them off. But mostly voters just wanted an end to the shrill politics that had torn the country in two.

Barack Obama saw all that. So he gave the crowds what they wanted: promises of vetoes of wasteful spending, no more lobbyists, an honest Congress for once, financial sobriety, and no more red-state/blue-state, at-your-throat politics. For millions of believers, Obama was to be our version of Truman or Eisenhower — centrist competence, but spiced up with 21st-century postracial pizzazz.

The people took Obama at his word, and here we are a year later with the largest drop in popularity of a first-year president in poll-taking history. A clear majority of the country is now opposed to almost all of the Obama program — more stimuli, bailouts, deficits, and takeovers; statist health care; cap-and-trade; and therapeutic-apology/reset-button diplomacy abroad.

I think it is a fair generalization to say that both the Right and the Left agree that Obama ran as a moderate in order to move America sharply to the left. The former calls it perfidy; the latter, necessary politics to achieve the desired ends. So what we now have is a progressive, grass-roots populist who is doing his best to obfuscate his own goals and ignore the desires of the great majority of the people.

BREAD AND CIRCUSES

Despite his obfuscation, the American people are starting to see a common thread in almost everything Obama does, from the significant to the trivial. The purpose of health-care reform was not really to lower medical costs and broaden access. The current system could have been tweaked to do just that with more intrastate insurance competition, tax credits, modest state grants, and tort reform.

Instead, the real aim was to create a vast new trillion-dollar bureaucracy, staffed by hundreds of thousands of new government auditors and clerks, and necessitating new redistributive taxes to pay for it. The more numerous such government workers, the more plentiful the loyal constituents who receive and hand out more government entitlements — look at the public-employee unions, higher taxes, and resulting financial implosion in California. And the more the “good” people receive, the more the other, “bad” people must pay — and that way we can remedy the unfair and arbitrary nature of individual compensation.

Cap-and-trade proposals are similar. We could have had an honest debate on both the nature of climate change and the catalysts for it. The public could have been apprised by our leaders about the Climategate scandal. Concerns could have been aired about the disturbing conflict-of-interest pattern of international green advocates like Al Gore, who are increasingly combining doomsday sermonizing with old-style multimillion-dollar profit-making. The trade-off of higher carbon taxes in a recessionary economy should have been explored.

Instead, the Obama administration has asserted, not explained, climate change. It has even hinted that if future green legislation is blocked in Congress, then some of it may be implemented by executive fiat through the Environmental Protection Agency. Once again, we should expect new government agencies and thousands more government employees — all working in concert with their foreign counterparts to monitor American energy use.

On the dubious claims that man himself is alone responsible for any heating of the planet and alone can stop such change with radical changes in his daily lifestyle, the Obama administration wants to see to it that the average consumer will have less disposable income and less choice — but we will have more government elites sermonizing about what is deemed correct and tolerable.

THE CHICAGO WAY

On the trivial side, the exhortations of many of Obama’s appointees reflect this world-view — which is innately unpopular with the American people, but nonetheless felt necessary for their well-being.

Former communications director Anita Dunn praises not just any mass murderer, but the greatest and most statist of them all, Mao Zedong. Van Jones, the Truther, talks proudly of his Communist past and the need to castigate whites for their assorted illiberal sins. At the National Endowment for the Arts, where good politics is now equated with good art, Obama is to be an iron-fisted populist Caesar whose intellectual and political powers are put to the service of the populus. Rahm Emanuel plays the enforcer and threatens the unbelieving with warnings that Obama will have a long memory, and that none of these crises will go to waste.

Like the rejection of public campaign financing last summer, almost all of Obama’s promises of reforms — no more lobbyists, health-care debates aired on C-SPAN, legislation posted on the Internet — have been ignored as impediments on the path to a universal equality of result. Obama’s various assertions are as much to be believed as were his supposed deadlines on the closing of Guantanamo, Iran’s nuclear compliance, and health-care reform.

The old congressional “culture of corruption” has been replaced by the well-meaning efforts of Charlie Rangel, Chris being Chris Dodd, and cranky uncle John Murtha. Controversial decisions are quietly announced late on Friday afternoons. Congressional debates and votes on controversial legislation happen on weekends and holidays — all the better to ensure that the American people won’t tune in to see the making of what they don’t want but must have. Chicago-style bribery buys the votes of senators like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu with tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

OBAMA’S GUARDIANS

Here we are one year later in a great race. By almost any means necessary, Barack Obama is trying to remake America at home and abroad before he is stopped by the 2010 and 2012 elections. He knows that his agenda is not what he ran on, and not what the American people want, but it is one nevertheless achievable by majorities in both houses of Congress, despite his own waning popularity.

Obama quite simply believes that those like himself — Ivy League–trained, having spent their lifetimes on government payrolls, untainted by private-enterprise entrepreneurship — not only know best what is good for America, but understand how to implement it through redistributive taxation and vastly expanded entitlements.

In such a vision of the blessed, a Platonic guardian class — so much better educated, better intentioned, better motivated than the rest of us — will direct our lives and yet be exempt from the constraints they place on the less capable.

Our Al Gores to come will still fly on private jets. The next progressive John Edwards, of two-nations fame, and more Tom Friedmans, of hot-and-flat warnings, will appear, still living in carbon-spewing mansions.

More well-meaning Timothy Geithners will dodge their taxes. The Larry Summerses and Robert Rubins of the brave new world will still make millions in a year for their Wall Street expertise while damning fat-cat bankers. Bill Clinton will reemerge to make tens of millions more while talking up his global initiatives.

The wealthiest man on the planet — and the man with the biggest tax-exempt foundation — will support more inheritance taxes, as Bill Gates has been advocating. The second wealthiest, the Warren Buffett of the future, will want higher taxes, whose steep rates the actual Mr. Buffett has so successfully managed thus far to avoid. Such is always the way of the guardian class, from Platonic fantasy to its darker manifestations as so aptly depicted by Orwell.

THE OLD AMERICA

And what will be lost if this race is won by the Obamians?

Consider: The reason that Obama himself enjoys such international stature, such ability to weigh in on matters insignificant and monumental, is not his teleprompted rhetoric nor his utopian world-view. Instead, Obama’s own singularity is tied to an exceptional United States that has always been different and, in the end, far more moral and powerful than the alternatives.

Almost alone in the world, America has never had a command or socialist economy. Its old creed was merit, and confidence in the freedom of the individual to run his own life rather than being told what to do by the state apparat. Its Constitution was antithetical not only to monarchy, but also to Enlightenment statism of the European 18th-century brand.

Freedom of the individual explained not only why America became wealthy and the world’s dispossessed flocked to our shores, but also why it had a moral sense about the world in its willingness to confront, rather than appease and apologize to, thugs and totalitarians. Everything that the United Nations Human Rights Council is now for, we used to be against. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” has now been replaced by √©galit√© and fraternit√©.

The final irony is that should Obama and his revolutionaries prevail in their remaking of America, their own progeny will not enjoy the opportunity and affluence that they so cavalierly take to be their birthright, which was bequeathed to them by less liberal others.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

What's wrong with this picture? Well, nothing that some righteous anti-paranoia meds wouldn't fix.

If the purpose of the healthcare initiative was to create a vast new government bureaucracy (is this guy high, or what?), wouldn't it have been easier just to nationalize healthcare? In fact,if you want to measure the bill by who benefits, as we should, the purpose clearly seems to have been to enrich insurance and pharmaceutical companies. I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure that's why they're dancing in the street right now.

Likewise with climate change legislation. Saying that the purpose of acting in this domain is to create whole new bureaucracies is no different than saying that the purpose of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is to expand the size of government so there will be more Republican voters. Does that make a shred of sense? Isn't it just possible that we need to address global warming? Even George W. Bush figured that out.

As for Obama the tough guy politician who makes deals to get legislation passed, what planet is this guy living on? Ugly legislative deals have been made since there were legislative bodies. That's why people have equated the process with sausage making for a century now. Anyhow, where was cranky Uncle Vic when George W. Bush was arrogating to himself the powers of a king?

You just have to be so very lost in the dark woods to argue that Obama is racing to remake America. He's continuing Bush's wars. He's continuing the fawning support of the government for Wall Street. He's trying to save capitalism from itself. He isn't socializing medicine, but rather foolishly expanding the private profit system that is so broken today. He isn't reverting to isolationsim or pacifism. He isn't doing anything serious about global warming. He doesn't even have an ideology.

This is just sheer paranoia.

The problem is, it's now become so mainstream in America.

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