Reflections on the Revolution in America
Jimmy Carter’s administration was forever known for 1979, the annus terribilis in which all of his prior sanctimonious preaching came home to roost in one year — the Chinese invaded Vietnam, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the Iranians invaded our embassy in Teheran, the communist government in exile invaded Nicaragua, along with the rise of radical Islam, the abdication of the shah, and so on. I’ll pass on his simultaneous rising unemployment, rising interest, and rising inflation.
Bill Clinton, who never received 50% of the vote, wisely after 1994 governed from the left/center. In both the trivial (school uniforms, grandstanding about some subsidies for more policemen, etc.) and the profound (welfare reform, balanced budgets), he finally rejected Carterism — albeit with the same symbolic leftist appointments.
That Perfect Storm, Again
But, as we have discussed, with the advent of Barack Obama, the liberal clouds lined up in perfect storm fashion as never before: a) Obama waged a brilliant stealth campaign, as the Senate’s most partisan member. The Rev. Wright devotee, Wall Street favorite, and rejecter of public campaign financing somehow ran as centrist, purple state anti-Wall Street populist; b) ennui after 8 years of Republicans helped; c) so did the good will about the landmark candidacy of our first serious black presidential candidate; d) the September 2008 meltdown destroyed McCain’s 2-4% lead for good (even though Wall Street had given far more to Obama, and its bad actors were empowered by the Freddie/Fannie mess); e) the McCain campaign at times seemed to want to lose nobly than to win in a Chicago barroom fight.
The New America?
The result is that we are witnessing a quiet but insidious revolution. At home, if successful, the state and its vast array of newly hired employees, will administer our health care system, as well as education loans (and that will need a sort of new agency like the Postal Service or DMV). We now take for granted take-overs of much of the automobile industry and financial organizations. Should cap and trade pass, the administration would be dictating energy use. If you add it up — going to the doctor, driving a car, stopping by an ATM, flipping on the lights, taking out a student loan — you could run bump into a lot of new federal bureaucrats. And that’s the point, isn’t it after all?
I doubt anyone in the administration believes that these new public sectors of the economy will be better run. (After all, the Obamas themselves did not wish to live in a city-run housing tract, or send their children to an inner-city public school: wishing to be paid by the government is rather different than relying on the government).
So What’s the Plan?
So the point instead is I think fourfold:
a) those who profit from running these new agencies will be our new anointed class, at the top, Ivy-League technocrats, and lower down among the ranks, the politically deserving: power and patronage; b) the resultant cost increases will require more taxes on those whose ill-gotten gains should be properly redistributed to the commune; gorge the beast; c) in political terms, a constituency that either administers or receives federal larges (think of an ACORN/SEIU hybrid) will prove a predictably loyal base in future elections: dependent future voters; d) federal and state wages and pensions will remind us all during tough times that government “service” is the only steady, reliable, and fair employer: we will all end up the same.
Some readers point out — “But wait, this is insane: they will kill the golden goose. What fuels redistributive government are taxes from the creation of private wealth that demands open markets, incentives for profit, reasonable taxes to allow enjoyment of profits, principled exploitation of natural resources, and government enhancement rather than restriction of business.”
Why Do They Do it?
But I think the Obamians either have not read history and so do not appreciate how statism/socialism/communism have impoverished all that they have touched, or they assume capitalism solely is run by nice-guy billionaires like Buffet, Gates, and Soros who apparently clapped their hands, made a few billion, and then are happy to live on a billion or two and give the rest away to progressive causes.
There is no appreciation that scrappy, often grubby Americans this minute are scrambling on their computer terminals, on their forklifts, in their commuting cars to run a business, provide a service, or move up the employment ladder in hopes of improving their lot and leaving behind something for their kids. They are the engines of capitalism and they don’t often go to Yale, or Rev. Wright’s church, or work at Human Resources Department. And when they all do, we will be in sorry shape.
Abroad, the world is confused. They want to, and still do, mouth the old stale anti-American envy. But even our critics sense that America is morphing into something more like, well, themselves. (When Obamians brag that the world is beginning to like us, they sort of have a point: the world’s communitarians (the majority on this planet) do like us becoming like them.)
There is a lot of irony here to be sure. Europe played good cop to our bad and posed as the soft-power utopian, while assuming American military power was always there to support Western interests. Not now. We are gravitating to the left of Europe on issues in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Our Latin American policies seem closest to Brazil’s. In the Middle East we see eye to eye with Jordan. Whatever Britain seems to do, we either ignore it, take it for granted, or vote present on it. Israel is a neutral now, not an ally; bowing to the Saudi autocrat is not “insulting,” an announcement that Jerusalem might build some apartments apparently is.
We laugh at the lunatic appointments like a Van Jones or Anita Dunn, or some of the lawyers at Justice who seemed so worried about the plight of terrorists at Guantanamo. But they were logical appointments, not aberrations, and are matched by hundreds of the more anonymous now working in government. We shall meet new names and new faces when a comprehensive immigration bill comes up (=blanket amnesty), and cap and trade is reintroduced.
The Mind of the Revolutionary
Where do these ideologies derive? Again, I wish I could say that they are grassroots driven, by the muscular classes who are victimized by business and, in their cry-from-the-heart protests, demand a fairer cutting of the pie. But so often the utopianism is from above, and predicated on abstract education, relative affluence, and little exposure to business or indeed much beyond the metrosexual world in general.
So fascinating these modern revolutionaries. A Buffet does not choose to pay the high income tax rate on his earnings, though he surely could in lieu of lecturing how taxes are too low. A Gates Sr. does not plan for his offspring to pay into the strapped treasury needed inheritance taxes, though he remonstrates that they must be raised on everyone else. A Geithner does not comply with the tax code, though he assumes it should be raised on others. A Gore lectures on honesty and truth and science on his way to a $100 million con that turns him from an affluent ex-politician into a global grandee.
I’m sorry — I don’t take seriously much of anything from this wannabe revolutionary bunch.