Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Add The 'Ism' Of Your Choice, Part 1

I'll have more on this later, but for today time only permits a single post that'll have to suffice for the moment (emphasis mine):

Today in Osawatomie, Kan., Barack Obama laid bare his progressive agenda, calling for more federal involvement in education, increased spending on infrastructure, an extension of the payroll tax cut and increased taxes on the rich. He even invoked Teddy "the Trustbuster" Roosevelt, who, if you'll recall, became increasingly socialistic as the sun of his national stardom began to set.

Not surprisingly, Obama was disingenuous in a few places — but just a few. At one point, he said he had already signed $1 trillion in spending cuts into law. Presumably, he was referring to the cuts included in the debt ceiling deal. As a reminder, those were cuts to future spending — and legislators will soon frantically work to ensure they don't materialize. At another point, he called for "greater responsibility from homeowners to not take out mortgages they can't afford, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is." That statement would have had more punch if he hadn't earlier excoriated lenders for "tricking" people into loans they can't afford, as though people are too stupid to understand the terms of a loan. He also cited two of the rare big-government projects of which conservatives approve — the post-World-War-II GI tuition bill and the creation of the interstate system — as evidence that we are "greater together" (a phrase that appeared repeatedly in the speech). Notice he didn't cite the many New Deal, Great Society and modern programs — from headed-for-implosion entitlements to sunken welfare benefits to additional education spending — that have proved to be either ineffective or disastrous, exacerbating the very problems they were intended to solve.

But, on the whole, the president was pretty transparent about his belief that big government makes everything better. The speech reads like a compelling essay in defense of government interference in free markets at every level. Read it and you'll wonder why we're not rushing to increase unemployment benefits, hike taxes, tighten regulations and expand government programs. But then you'll remember the president's own advice: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

As tempting as it is to think not only that the government could supply us all with a comfortable living but also that it should, I'm tempted by something else far more. That "something else" is the Founders' faith in self-government and voluntary associations in and through civic society. Obama said today "we can't return" to a "do-it-on-your-own" economy, but what he fails to realize is that, for Americans, it's not a choice between going it alone and going it with the government. He cited the example of a company — Marvin Windows and Doors — that voluntarily refuses to lay off its employees — but confusedly seemed to think more government involvement would help to proliferate that kind of company. But the CEO himself admits a sense of community inspires his faith in his employees — not any kind of government mandate. That CEO clearly keeps faith with the Founders, who, in the construction of our government, controlled for self-interest, but also admonished citizens to remember moral obligations to others.

Today, the president did sweepingly what he has done patchily for the past few months, did at last what I have long wished he would do. He honestly argued for a welfare state and directly stated his disbelief in trickle-down economics. For once — again, except in a few places — this wasn't conservative rhetoric to cover up progressive policies. It was progressive rhetoric to promote progressive policies. Nobody who reads this speech should be in doubt as to what he's selling — but they should think deeply about how much freedom they're willing to give up to buy it.

Oh yes, I'll have more later, especially digging into the 'ism' part...

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