Socialist-in-Chief

From Jay Nordlinger:

Some people have called Obama a socialist, and that has other people all shaken up — even “all wee-weed up,” as the president himself might say. I have a couple cents to add to this discussion — and whether these cents are sense, I don’t know.

For some years — starting long, long before Obama — I’ve played a little game. It goes like this: “If Politician X were not an American, but a politician in some other country, what party would he belong to? If his views and outlook were exactly as they are now — if it were merely a question of nationality, or venue — what party would he belong to?”

Well, let’s play with Obama: If he were a Frenchman, what party would he belong to? What would be his natural political home? And if Italian? Why, in either case, he’d be with the Socialists, right? I mean, he certainly wouldn’t be a Conservative or a Christian Democrat. What if he were German? SDP, right?

And take the countries whose main socialist party is a Labor party: Britain, Israel, Norway, etc. (Kind of funny to think of Obama as an Israeli, isn’t it?) What party would he belong to? He’d be a Laborite, right? I mean, no doubt.

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“Socialist” is a heavy charge in America, causing the wee to flow. But that’s a little weird. Most of the world’s democrats are socialists, don’t you think? I mean, free-marketeers — genuine free-economy people — are always in the minority. Some portion of the world’s people are democrats — let’s hope it’s a majority, and a big one. And most of those are surely socialist: certainly more than they are Friedmanite (as in Milton) — or Reaganite, or Goldwaterian.

In America, just about everyone on the left — just about everyone who leans toward statism — is in the Democratic party. If your inclinations are socialist, you are probably a Democrat, or vote Democratic. We are a two-party system: with two big ol’ parties. Bella Abzug was a Democrat; Ike Skelton is a Democrat. Kind of a funny system we have.

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I’ve just checked out the website for the Socialist International — slogan, “Progressive Politics for a Fairer World.” Does it make me a total McCarthyite to say that sounds just like our Democrats? A partial McCarthyite? Well, doesn’t it sound like them, exactly?

And check out the names on the Presidium: The president is George Papandreou (of Greece, needless to say). (Nice job there, by the way!) Vice presidents include Bachelet (Chile), Barak (Israel), Brown (Great Britain), and Zapatero (Spain). Are those politicians so different from Obama? From Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, and scads of other Democrats? Really? Of course not. It’s just that, in America, when someone says “socialist,” we all go, “Eek, a mouse.”

Someone was saying the other day that Kerry might become secretary of state, in a second Obama term. As far as I’m concerned, that’d be pretty much exactly like Joschka Fischer becoming foreign minister. Kerry and Fischer: They are cut from the same philosophical, political, and attitudinal cloth, aren’t they?

I believe that President Obama, and his closest allies, would like the United States to be a lot more like European social democracies. Is that such an outlandish statement? I think Obama et al. probably think that Norway is fundamentally more just than the United States. Remember the Socialist International slogan: “Progressive Politics for a Fairer World.” That’s the ticket.

The Norwegians gave Obama their most precious gift, the Nobel Peace Prize. Why do I say “the Norwegians”? Well, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is composed of five men and women who were appointed by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. The committee is therefore a reflection of the country’s political culture. The chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, is a major Laborite, and a former vice president of the Socialist International. Obama is a president after his heart, and the committee’s heart. He is a soulmate of theirs. They share an outlook, a worldview.

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Some years ago, just before he left the Senate, I interviewed Phil Gramm — the old econ prof. And I asked him whether the Democratic party was, in effect, socialist. (This is long before Obama, mind you.) He said it was, “if by ‘socialist’ you mean the redistribution of wealth, more decisions made by the central government — no question about it. My grandmother thought of the Democrats as the party of the people. What they are is the party of government.” Tell it, Phil.

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Repeal Amendment

From Randy E. Barnett and William J. Powell:

On Sept. 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was signed. The celebration of Constitution Day this year takes on renewed significance as millions of Americans are objecting to a federal government that has bailed out or taken over banks, car companies and student loans while it prepares to take charge of the practice of medicine. Unfortunately, because there is no single cause for this growth of federal power, there is no single solution.

One cause is political, with elected officials promising solutions to social problems that are beyond their power to deliver. Another is judicial, with federal judges who have allowed the Congress to exceed its enumerated powers for so long that they no longer entertain even the possibility of enforcing the text of the Constitution.

Also responsible are two “progressive” constitutional amendments adopted in 1913. Both dramatically increased the power of the federal government at the expense of the states, creating a constitutional imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The 16th Amendment gave Congress the power to impose an income tax, allowing it to tax and spend to a degree previously unimaginable. This amendment enabled Congress to evade the constitutional limits placed on its own power by effectively bribing states. Once states are “hooked” on receiving federal funds, they can be coerced to obey federal dictates or lose the revenue.

The 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of U.S. senators by the voters of each state. Under the original Constitution they were selected by state legislatures and could be expected to restrain federal power. Whatever that amendment’s democratic benefits, the loss of this check on the federal government has been costly.

In its next session beginning in January, the legislature of Virginia will consider proposing a constitutional “Repeal Amendment.” The Repeal Amendment would give two-thirds of the states the power to repeal any federal law or regulation. Its text is simple:

“Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.”

At present, the only way for states to contest a federal law or regulation is to bring a constitutional challenge in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution. A state repeal power provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse.

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The Road to Serfdom

If this proposal comes to fruition, the United Kingdom is well on its way:

The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

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The rise of the Tea Party

From Peggy Noonan:

So far, the Tea Party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is “the reason we even have the Tea Party movement,” shot back columnist and Tea Party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that “ran up deficits” and gave us “open borders” and “Medicare Part D and busted budgets.”

Everyone has an explanation for the Tea Party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They’re “angry.” They’re “antiestablishment,” “populist,” “anti-elite.” All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, “They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed.”

I see two central reasons for the Tea Party’s rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you’ve got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you’ve got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.

But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they’re dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It’s always grown! It’s as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.

Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: “Hey, it coulda been 29!” But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They’d like 8. Instead it’s 28.

For conservatives on the ground, it has often felt as if Democrats (and moderate Republicans) were always saying, “We should spend a trillion dollars,” and the Republican Party would respond, “No, too costly. How about $700 billion?” Conservatives on the ground are thinking, “How about nothing? How about we don’t spend more money but finally start cutting.”

What they want is representatives who’ll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward 5 inches. And they believe Tea Party candidates will do that.

The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the Tea Party: They know what time it is. It’s getting late. If we don’t get the size and cost of government in line now, we won’t be able to. We’re teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn’t “big spending” anymore. It’s ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.

So there’s a sense that dramatic action is needed, and a sense of profound urgency. Add drama to urgency and you get the victory of a Tea Party-backed candidate.

That is the context. Local Tea Parties seem—so far—not to be falling in love with the particular talents or background of their candidates. It’s more detached than that. They don’t say their candidates will be reflective, skilled in negotiations, a great senator, a Paul Douglas or Pat Moynihan or a sturdy Scoop Jackson. These qualities are not what they think are urgently needed. What they want is someone who will walk in, put her foot on the conservative end of the yardstick, and make everything slip down in that direction.

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The Vision of the Anointed

From Walter E. Williams:

While America’s liberal elite have not reached the depths of tyrants such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler, they share a common vision and, as such, differ only in degree but not kind. Both denounce free markets and voluntary exchange. They are for control and coercion by the state. They believe they have superior wisdom to the masses and they have been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. They, like any other tyrant, have what they see as good reasons for restricting the freedom of others.

Their agenda calls for the elimination or attenuation of the market. Why? Free markets imply voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people behaving voluntarily will do what the tyrants think they should do. Therefore, they seek to replace the market with economic planning control and regulation.

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