Roger’s Rules

Ferguson Cleans House

Newsweek — remember Newsweek? — published what is probably my favorite cover ever last week:

It’s the text, I hasten to add, not the photograph, which I found so appealing: “Hit the Road, Barack.” It has a jaunty foot-tapping rhythm, not unlike the song about Jack it’s meant to recall.

The accompanying story, by the intermittently conservative Niall Ferguson, is a damning litany of failure. At least, I found it damning. Some data points:

— The total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak.

— Since 2008, 3.6 million Americans have been added to Social Security’s disability insurance program.

— Growth in 2011 was an anemic 1.8%. Obama had predicted it would be 4%.

— Without the the stimulus, the Obama administration predicted unemployment would be 6% by now. With the stimulus, it was supposed to be 5.6%. In reality, “official” unemployment is 8.3%, but that doesn’t count the millions who have simply given up looking for work.

— Real median annual household income has dropped more than 5 percent since June 2009.

Ferguson writes:

Welcome to Obama’s America … nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return — almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation — half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.

We are fast becoming a two-tier nation, a small band of makers and an increasingly large band of takers.

This is just the beginning of the bad news which Ferguson has assembled. He goes on to marshal the facts about Obama’s profligate spending, U.S. debt, the true cost of ObamaCare, and more. What Ferguson has to say about Obama’s handling of the foreign policy challenges facing America is especially sobering:

Far from developing a coherent strategy, he believed — perhaps encouraged by the premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize — that all he needed to do was to make touchy-feely speeches around the world explaining to foreigners that he was not George W. Bush.

Bottom line on the foreign policy front: “America under this president is a superpower in retreat, if not retirement.”

I said that I found Ferguson’s analysis damning. So, I gather, did the Left. For out of those mephitic swamps of “progressive” animus has risen a great cloud of anguished repudiation. It’s a violent, unpleasant, and ultimately unconvincing display, but it is certainly full of angry pathos.

It has already elicited from Ferguson a long, detailed, and utterly deadly point-by-point reply, which is as entertaining as it is authoritative. Ferguson begins with a splendid quotation from the historin Macaulay: “We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.” Macaulay had not had the experience of witnessing the left-wing commentariat tie itself in moralistic knots in its hapless attempt to answer facts with name-calling. Connoisseurs of futility will find it as entertaining as psychologists will find it alarming.

Ferguson shows in unanswerable detail that his critics adopt a three-pronged strategy of evasiveness. First, they avoid his central arguments. Second, they claim to be challenging the facts he has marshaled, when all they really do is purvey opinions masquerading as facts. Third, they nitpick and name-call.

Ferguson’s whole piece is worth reading; I’ll confine myself to two bits. Responding to what Ferguson says about Obama’s notorious “You didn’t build that” speech, one critic says: “It’s bizarre that Ferguson thinks government policies didn’t help create America’s middle class. America was the first country to make high school compulsory.” Ferguson:

Fact checked and — oh no! I really did get that wrong. It was the government that created the middle class, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge! Remind me to tell Karl Marx about this. It will come as news to him that, contrary to his life’s work, the superstructure in fact created the base. (Come to think of it, this is going to come as shock to a lot of American liberals too. Imagine! The state actually created the bourgeoisie! Who knew?)

Good stuff, no?

And then there are the professors, those holders of life tenure and supposed champions of free speech, who have demanded that Ferguson be fired from his job at Harvard. One non-entity from Berkeley (it would be Berkeley) wrote a column under the title: “Fire His Ass Now.” “Convene a committee at Harvard ,” this loathsome product of our “liberal” education suggested, “to examine whether he has the moral character to teach at a university.” Then there was the reliably obtuse James Fallows writing at The Atlantic, who wrote “As a Harvard Alum, I Apologize.”

To which Ferguson replied, “As an Oxford alum, I laugh.”

I laugh, too. What’s not funny, however, is the spectacle of intolerant rage and the quick desire to shut down the speech of someone with whom you disagree. There were no arguments here, just animus. This has become the Left’s preferred modus operandi, perhaps because they have become painfully aware that they have lost the argument and have concluded that only force and prohibition will salvage their illiberal liberal utopia.

It’s disgusting, but also educational. I hope people are paying attention.