Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
I need some help. After reading about Trump’s proposed appointments and his transition team and what the entire GOP is planning, I am more than ever convinced it’s time to leave my beloved country. I may be too old and too sickened of heart to fight the coming battles for heart and health of our country. I am not a liberal by choice but by a heritage that goes back nearly 300 years to the earliest days of the MA and CT settlements.
Many among my family fought in the Revolutionary War and one received a medal from General Washington himself. In addition, nearly every side of my family, from those in Missouri, Kansas and Ohio to those in CT, Maine, Illinois and New York, fought to preserve the nation and end the evil of slavery during the Civil War. I have the pictures. My grandfathers fought in WWI and my father and uncles in WWII and Korea. My cousins in Vietnam and now my step-children wherever they are needed. I am proud of my family and their contributions to this great country. As someone who has moderately studied the history of my country, I am thoroughly ashamed by what I see occurring.
As a result of what I’m reading and seeing, including much Ku Klux Klan graffiti on walls, stores, and elsewhere, I am becoming far more serious about leaving the US. This decision hurts my heart. My family smuggled themselves out of England to avoid the anti-protestant ideology of King Charles. Others, as French Protestants, escaped to Holland and then to the English Isles to keep from being slaughtered by the French King because of their religious beliefs. Others from Scotland and Ireland were sent as slaves to the shores of US colonies because they sought freedom from England and freedom of religion.
Current background info on Trump Admin:
His transition team consists of bankers/investment CEOs, real estate moguls, supply siders (aka tax cutters for the wealthy), the disgraced New Jersey governor (2 high level members of his staff are on their way to jail and he may end up there too) and a steel mill owner as well as a large number of lobbyists. (I guess this is his version of clearing the swamp as he said during the campaign.)
Proposals for Cabinet offices include:
A rogues gallery of climate change deniers, major bank CEOs, oil company execs, and lobbyists from various industries. Yet, not one recognized economist or labor leader or foreign policy expert. It’s said that you can tell a person’s character by the company he keeps. If this melange of characters represent Trump, then heaven help everyone who is not supremely wealthy.
Already proposed legislation includes repealing Obamacare (The current plan takes 2 years to phase out completely Obamacare) with no replacement worked out except previously rejected GOP ideas that increase costs and leave millions more uninsured; overturning the Dodd-Frank financial regulations instituted after the financial meltdown in 2008l – thus, leaving Wall St free to go back to the same old practices and activities that causes the Great Recession and global financial meltdown; eliminating the CFPC, the agency that prevents financial companies and banks from cheating consumers as in the recent Wells Fargo scam case; rolling back or eliminating environmental regs (and maybe the EPA altogether) so companies can pretty much do what they want, in the name of profits, regardless of the harm to the environment and the residents; dramatically cutting taxes for major companies and wealthy individuals while raising them on middle and low income people; block granting Medicaid with no restrictions so states could use that money for whatever choose; decreasing Medicaid and Food Stamp budgets by almost a 1/3 (if I’ve calculated correctly), leaving many millions of children facing homelessness and starvation; cutting medicare benefits while raising rates; increasing the retirement age for Social Security…and trying to privatize the program (a la IRAs that have worked so well vs pensions); eliminate head of household and individual deductions on tax filings so median and lower income families pay more in taxes with fewer deductions; eliminating taxes on investment income (i.e. dividends and sales of stocks) that basically only help the wealthy; reducing to corporate tax rates to 12% while leaving small business tax rates at current levels (if not higher); dramatically increased deficit spending (now that Obama will be out of office) on infrastructure (built with Chinese steel, etc – which is why the Chinese commodities markets climbed dramatically today); a trillion dollar expenditure on a wall between Mexico and the US that will be put on the national credit card; mass deportations of undocumented aliens and overturning the Obama rule that allowed undocumented young people to stay in the country, provided they attended college and did community service or joined the military; overturn Roe v Wade that allowed women in consultation with their doctors to control their own reproductive system; and end all funding to Planned Parenthood which serves low income and college student women with all manner of women’s health screenings including cancer and STDs, birth control and family education, and lest one need reminding no where in the Bible does it discuss abortion, although it admonishes over and over again the need to take care widows and orphans, the sick and hunger, the homeless and forgotten, the helpless and forgotten; and finally – most disgusting of all – require Muslims to register with the government (disgustingly ugly shades of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews).
Getting back to real life:
If you naively think this extreme agenda won’t pass, I remind you that extreme far right Republicans now own both houses of Congress and soon the Supreme Court. The entire federal government will be under their control…and Trump, meanwhile, will rubber stamp all that they desire no matter the consequences to average citizens.
If Americans had any sense or knowledge of their own history, they’d see that the current Republican agenda smacks of the 1880s when workers were abused and killed on the job without repercussions, when full time workers lived in cold water flats because that’s all they could afford, when farmers were financially abused by Wall St banks and put out of business, when government sided with big business to steal private property for far less than market value, when small businesses were put out of business by government protected large businesses and organized business trade associations, and when collusion and corruption – i.e. vote buying – ran rampant through state, local and federal governments. But Americans don’t know their history…and don’t care to learn. They can barely remember what occurred ten years ago, let alone who the nation’s leaders are today. We’ve become a nation of idiots!
A strong and healthy nations is one with healthy and incorruptible institutions of government: legislatures, courts, law and justice. When belief in these institutions fail, nations fail.
That is what is occurring right now and will be accelerated under a Trump adminstration. I can guarantee it. History provides ample examples.
Thus, my query:
I’m lucky in many respects in that I’m very old, retired, and a white person. But these GOP and Trump proposals which target the poor and desperate offends everything I was taught in Baptist Sunday school, offends everything Robert F. Kennedy taught me about caring for the poor and those left behind; offends everything I learned from the Old Testament Biblical prophets; offends everything I’ve read about Jesus in the New Testament – indeed it feels like Jesus is once again being crucified by the [money-grubbing] Romans and Pharisees; offends everything Jefferson, Madison and Washington wrote prior to the Continental Congress; offends Madison and Hamilton who wrote most of the Federalist papers; offends Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence; offends Franklin’s beliefs and ideals in a progressive republic; offends the very nature of a caring, compassionate and respectful humanity as Buddhists’ state. It offends decency itself.
I am no longer proud of this nation, This nation that I have loved so dearly has now chosen a president who has gleefully stomped on every one of Ten Commandments, is vulgar and vile in speech and disrespectful of others in action, and cares nothing about anyone other than himself. If he is a symbol of what this country has become, then I want no part of it. While I hate leaving my beloved country, I all too much feel compelled to follow the precedent of my ancestors and leave.
So, my friends, help me if you will in finding somewhere in this world where compassion, respect, and understanding still exist. I am not wealthy…Wall St saw to that. As a result, many harmonious countries will not accept me as I don’t have the financial resources they require and I’m far too old now to start in business all over again. What I seek is peace and joy and contentment and respect for both nature and the people around me. If you will, please help me find such a place…and God willing, I can convince my family to go with me as I cannot live without them and the joy they bring me.
I just finished watching the third presidential debate. Admittedly, many people will be swayed by what he said. However, any thinking person who has a modicum knowledge of economics and national security as well as respect for all people, regardless of race, creed culture, gender or religion can upon reflection agree with him.
By and large, Trump repeated over and over that he would make America great again but without ever delving into how he would do so. On trade, he said NAFTA was bad, but the completely failed to explain how or what he would do to create better trade policies. Throughout his campaign, he has repeatedly called for isolationist trade policies which would be an economic disaster. The USA relies upon our exports for jobs and economic growth. Granted the TTP and other current proposals fail both the American people and other countries by putting too much power into the hands of major corporations – the reason Hillary Clinton does not support them – but international fair and free trade policies are needed worldwide, especially by mature economies like the US. To put it simply, US full employment cannot be supported without international trade.
On tax policy, Trump doubles down of supply side economics. His tax policy, outsourced to Steven Moore, a penultimate supply-sider who consistently ignores the demand side of the economic equation and is no economist, would increase the national deficit by trillions. Some say as much as $5 trillion. Since the financial melt down in 2007, the US has had an overabundance of supply but not enough demand. In other words, there’s plenty of product but not enough buyers. When wages are low or lowered (as has been the case since 2009 when companies lowered wages in the face of an oversupply of qualified candidates) wages, the demand side of the economic equation has gone down. If people can’t afford to buy, demand goes down regardless of the supply quantity. Thus, continuing the feed the supply side, i.e. Wall Street investors, does nothing to increase GNP (Gross National Product). The only way to increase GNP and, thus, GDP is to build up the demand side of the economic equation. Moore’s tax and economic policies, which Trump bought lock, stock and barrel, utterly fail this test.
On National Security, Trump sounded smart when when you delve into what he actually said but yet again failed to propose any solutions, he’s frightening. Does he want an all out war in the Middle East – a la the Crusades? If so, that is one sure way to push moderate Muslims into the freedom fighter camps of ISIS and the Taliban. Imagine if you will an invading force in the US (intent on stealing our national resources to pay for the invasion). Would any American stand by and let that happen, no matter how moderate they were? Of course not. The same principle applies in the Middle East. Throughout history all over the world, people have always fought against a foreign invader, even when they strongly disagreed with their own government. It would be no different in the Middle East now. Moreover, Trump and his neo-con allies have chosen to make his foreign policy about a clash of civilizations – a clash of religions much like the Crusades. And much like during the Crusades, Muslims would come together, regardless of their internal conflicts, to fight off the invaders. Smart policy, which Clinton advocated, is separating the moderates from the extremists…and backing the moderates who see a better way forward for Middle East countries than a 12th Century ideology in the 21st Century world.
Additionally, the idea of Trump denying or ignoring Putin’s spying and hacking and interference with this election shows his incredible naivety. Of course, his financial records prove, as Newsweek and other legitimate media outlets have shown, he has a huge income stake in protecting the Russian (and thus Putin) oligarchy. Do I think Trump would take his order from Putin the way Mussolini did from Hitler? I don’t know; but I’m not willing that that chance, given that Trump is all about himself and his ego and his fortune even as he sells out other and stiffs his suppliers. Trump’s entire career has been one long running steam of conning and lying and cheating others including failing to pay his suppliers. Believing him is like believing in Hitler’s promise to not to invade the restof Europe after stealing Austria.
On issues of his personal morality and how he think about woman and minorities, what more needs to be said other than that he has offended everyone with his misogynist and xenophobic mindset. Even the uber conservative Utah-based Mormon (Church of Latter Day Saints) has come out against Trump in a public statement.They consider his words and ideas…and his behavior…highly toxic. No matter how much he denies his behavior, the numbers of people coming out against him for how he has behaved and what he has done keeps growing. As a result, he’s proven himself to narcissistic megalomaniac who refuses to accept responsibility for his own behavior. In his words, everything is the fault of someone else…and he is totally innocent. That may go over well in the modern Republican conservative movement, but it doesn’t necessarily sit well with a majority of people who have been raised to believe they have to take responsibility for their own behavior.
On border control and minorities, polling shows that the list of minority voters switching from the Republican side of the ledger to the Democratic side ha gown dramatically since Trump became the Republican nominee. Beyond his polling numbers though is the fact that to implement his wall across the US Southern border and round up & deport every non-citizen (i.e. alien) would cost multiple trillions of dollars. Are you willing to agree to a major increase in your taxes to pay for it all…or are you going to shut your eyes and ears and put it on the national credit card and blame someone else for the outrageous deficit once again?
I could go on ad infinitum on the disastereous affects of Trump policies (or lack of coherent policies) but there is little doubt that committed Trump voters will change their minds. To far too many of them, the world is made up of “us against them” which the GOP has pushed, in various and sundry dog whistles, for over 50 years.
Nevertheless, regardless of how reasonably sounding Trump came off sounding in this third debate, the fact remains that all of his ideas, from every perspective, are extraordinary expensive and a national disaster. Moreover, the fact that the national GOP supports and endorses this caricature of a human being shows the party has descended into the bowels of hell.
Clinton may not be everyone’s favorite candidate…and granted she’s been vilified and lied about by the GOP in the national media for nearly 30 years…but compared to Trump, she’s an angel. Her policies are reasonable, well-thought out, progressive, equitable, and fiscally sound. But, of course, that won’t matter to die-hard Trump supporters who choose to ignore the reality of the man and his ideas by focusing only on his fantastic rhetoric as a way out there circumstances.
It’s time to set the record straight.
The following is from a pdf file of a speech given in Chicago. Although many among the modern conservative movement claim to be direct heirs of Hayek, his own words more closely resemble the ideals of modern Liberals than that of the modern Conservative Movement.
Why I Am Not a Conservative
In The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960)
“At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.” – Lord Acton
1. At a time when most movements that are thought to be progressive advocate further
encroachments on individual liberty, those who cherish freedom are likely to expend
their energies in opposition. In this they find themselves much of the time on the same
side as those who habitually resist change. In matters of current politics today they
generally have little choice but to support the conservative parties. But, though the
position I have tried to define is also often described as “conservative,” it is very different from that to which this name has been traditionally attached. There is danger in the confused condition which brings the defenders of liberty and the true conservatives together in common opposition to developments which threaten their ideals equally. It is therefore important to distinguish clearly the position taken here from that which has long been known – perhaps more appropriately – as conservatism.
Conservatism proper is a legitimate, probably necessary, and certainly widespread
attitude of opposition to drastic change. It has, since the French Revolution, for a century and a half played an important role in European politics. Until the rise of socialism its opposite was liberalism. There is nothing corresponding to this conflict in the history of the United States, because what in Europe was called “liberalism” was here the common tradition on which the American polity had been built: thus the defender of the American tradition was a liberal in the European sense. This already existing confusion was made worse by the recent attempt to transplant to America the European type of conservatism, which, being alien to the American tradition, has acquired a somewhat odd character. And some time before this, American radicals and socialists began calling themselves “liberals.” I will nevertheless continue for the moment to describe as liberal the position which I hold and which I believe differs as much from true conservatism as from socialism. Let me say at once, however, that I do so with increasing misgivings, and I shall later have to consider what would be the appropriate name for the party of liberty.
The reason for this is not only that the term “liberal” in the United States is the cause of constant misunderstandings today, but also that in Europe the predominant type of rationalistic liberalism has long been one of the pacemakers of socialism. Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which
deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments. But, though there is a need for a “brake on the vehicle of progress,” I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake. What the liberal must ask, first of all, is not how fast or how far we should move, but where we should move. In fact, he differs much more from the collectivist radical of today than does the conservative. While the last generally holds merely a mild and moderate version of the prejudices of his time, the liberal today must more positively oppose some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists.2. The picture generally given of the relative position of the three parties does more to obscure than to elucidate their true relations. They are usually represented as different positions on a line, with the socialists on the left, the conservatives on the right, and the liberals somewhere in the middle. Nothing could be more misleading. If we want a diagram, it would be more appropriate to arrange them in a triangle with the conservatives occupying one corner, with the socialists pulling toward the second and the liberals toward the third. But, as the socialists have for a long time been able to pull harder, the conservatives have tended to follow the socialist rather than the liberal direction and have adopted at appropriate intervals of time those ideas made respectable by radical propaganda. It has been regularly the conservatives who have compromised with socialism and stolen its thunder. Advocates of the Middle Way with no goal of their own, conservatives have been guided by the belief that the truth must lie somewhere between the extremes – with the result that they have shifted their position every time a more extreme movement appeared on either wing.
The position which can be rightly described as conservative at any time depends,
therefore, on the direction of existing tendencies. Since the development during the last decades has been generally in a socialist direction, it may seem that both conservatives and liberals have been mainly intent on retarding that movement. But the main point about liberalism is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still. Though today the contrary impression may sometimes be caused by the fact that there was a time when liberalism was more widely accepted and some of its objectives closer to being achieved, it has never been a backward-looking doctrine. There has never been a time when liberal ideals were fully realized and when liberalism did not look forward to further improvement of institutions. Liberalism is not averse to evolution and change; and where spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it wants a great deal of change of policy. So far as much of current governmental action is concerned, there is in the present world very little reason for the liberal to wish to preserve things as they are. It would seem to the liberal, indeed, that what is most urgently needed in most parts of the world is a thorough sweeping away of the obstacles to free growth.
This difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact
that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.3. Before I consider the main points on which the liberal attitude is sharply opposed to the conservative one, I ought to stress that there is much that the liberal might with advantage have learned from the work of some conservative thinkers. To their loving and reverential study of the value of grown institutions we owe (at least outside the field of economics) some profound insights which are real contributions to our understanding of a free society. However reactionary in politics such figures as Coleridge, Bonald, DeMaistre, Justus Möser, or Donoso Cortès may have been, they did show an understanding of the meaning of spontaneously grown institutions such as language, law, morals, and conventions that anticipated modern scientific approaches and from which the liberals might have profited. But the admiration of the conservatives for free growth generally
applies only to the past. They typically lack the courage to welcome the same undesigned
change from which new tools of human endeavors will emerge.
This brings me to the first point on which the conservative and the liberal dispositions
differ radically. As has often been acknowledged by conservative writers, one of the
fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such, while the liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.
There would not be much to object to if the conservatives merely disliked too rapid
change in institutions and public policy; here the case for caution and slow process is
indeed strong. But the conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to
prevent change or to limit its rate to whatever appeals to the more timid mind. In looking forward, they lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about. It is, indeed, part of the liberal attitude to assume that, especially in the economic field, the self-regulating forces of the market will somehow bring about the required adjustments to new conditions, although no one can foretell how they will do this in a particular instance. There is perhaps no single factor contributing so much to people’s frequent reluctance to let the market work as their inability to conceive how some necessary balance, between demand and supply, between exports and imports, or the like, will be brought about without deliberate control. The conservative feels safe and content only if he is assured that some higher wisdom watches and supervises change, only if he knows that some authority is charged with keeping the change “orderly.”
This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other
characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces. Since it distrusts both abstract theories and general principles, it neither understands those spontaneous forces on which a policy of freedom relies nor possesses a basis for formulating principles of policy. Order appears to the conservative as the result of the continuous attention of authority, which, for this purpose, must be allowed to do what is required by the particular circumstances and not be tied to rigid rule. A commitment to principles presupposes an understanding of the general forces by which the efforts of society are co-ordinated, but it is such a theory of society and especially of the economic mechanism that conservatism conspicuously lacks. So unproductive has conservatism been in producing a general conception of how a social order is maintained that its modern votaries, in trying to construct a theoretical foundation, invariably find themselves appealing almost exclusively to authors who regarded themselves as liberal. Macaulay, Tocqueville, Lord Acton, and Lecky certainly considered themselves liberals, and with justice; and even Edmund Burke remained an Old Whig to the end and would have shuddered at the thought of being regarded as a Tory.
Let me return, however, to the main point, which is the characteristic complacency of the conservative toward the action of established authority and his prime concern that this authority be not weakened rather than that its power be kept within bounds. This is
difficult to reconcile with the preservation of liberty. In general, it can probably be said that the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule – not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them. Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.
When I say that the conservative lacks principles, I do not mean to suggest that he lacks moral conviction. The typical conservative is indeed usually a man of very strong moral convictions. What I mean is that he has no political principles which enable him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own for a political order in which both can obey their convictions. It is the recognition of such principles that permits the coexistence of different sets of values that makes it possible to build a peaceful society with a minimum of force. The acceptance of such principles means that we agree to tolerate much that we dislike. There are many values of the conservative which appeal to me more than those of the socialists; yet for a liberal the importance he personally attaches to specific goals is no sufficient justification for forcing others to serve them. I have little doubt that some of my conservative friends will be shocked by what they will regard as “concessions” to modern views that I have made in Part III of this book. But, though I may dislike some of the measures concerned as much as they do and might vote against them, I know of no general principles to which I could appeal to persuade those of a different view that those measures are not permissible in the general kind of society which we both desire. To live and work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness to one’s concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends.
It is for this reason that to the liberal neither moral nor religious ideals are proper objects of coercion, while both conservatives and socialists recognize no such limits. I sometimes feel that the most conspicuous attribute of liberalism that distinguishes it as much from conservatism as from socialism is the view that moral beliefs concerning matters of conduct which do not directly interfere with the protected sphere of other persons do not justify coercion. This may also explain why it seems to be so much easier for the repentant socialist to find a new spiritual home in the conservative fold than in the liberal.
In the last resort, the conservative position rests on the belief that in any society there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values and position ought to be protected and who should have a greater influence on public affairs than others. The liberal, of course, does not deny that there are some superior people – he is not an egalitarian – bet he denies that anyone has authority to decide who these superior people are. While the conservative inclines to defend a particular established hierarchy and wishes authority to protect the status of those whom he values, the liberal feels that no respect for established values can justify the resort to privilege or monopoly or any other coercive power of the state in order to shelter such people against the forces of economic change. Though he is fully aware of the important role that cultural and intellectual elites have played in the evolution of civilization, he also believes that these elites have to prove themselves by their capacity to maintain their position under the same rules that
apply to all others.
Closely connected with this is the usual attitude of the conservative to democracy. I have made it clear earlier that I do not regard majority rule as an end but merely as a means, or perhaps even as the least evil of those forms of government from which we have to choose. But I believe that the conservatives deceive themselves when they blame the evils of our time on democracy. The chief evil is unlimited government, and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power. The powers which modern democracy possesses
would be even more intolerable in the hands of some small elite.
Admittedly, it was only when power came into the hands of the majority that further
limitations of the power of government was thought unnecessary. In this sense
democracy and unlimited government are connected. But it is not democracy but
unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not
learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government.
At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political
education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no
sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what
government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.
That the conservative opposition to too much government control is not a matter of
principle but is concerned with the particular aims of government is clearly shown in the economic sphere. Conservatives usually oppose collectivist and directivist measures in the industrial field, and here the liberals will often find allies in them. But at the same time conservatives are usually protectionists and have frequently supported socialist measures in agriculture. Indeed, though the restrictions which exist today in industry and commerce are mainly the result of socialist views, the equally important restrictions in agriculture were usually introduced by conservatives at an even earlier date. And in their efforts to discredit free enterprise many conservative leaders have vied with the socialists.
4. I have already referred to the differences between conservatism and liberalism in the
purely intellectual field, but I must return to them because the characteristic conservative attitude here not only is a serious weakness of conservatism but tends to harm any cause which allies itself with it. Conservatives feel instinctively that it is new ideas more than anything else that cause change. But, from its point of view rightly, conservatism fears new ideas because it has no distinctive principles of its own to oppose them; and, by its distrust of theory and its lack of imagination concerning anything except that which experience has already proved, it deprives itself of the weapons needed in the struggle of ideas. Unlike liberalism, with its fundamental belief in the long-range power of ideas, conservatism is bound by the stock of ideas inherited at a given time. And since it does not really believe in the power of argument, its last resort is generally a claim to superior wisdom, based on some self-arrogated superior quality.
The difference shows itself most clearly in the different attitudes of the two traditions to the advance of knowledge. Though the liberal certainly does not regard all change as progress, he does regard the advance of knowledge as one of the chief aims of human effort and expects from it the gradual solution of such problems and difficulties as we can hope to solve. Without preferring the new merely because it is new, the liberal is aware that it is of the essence of human achievement that it produces something new; and he is prepared to come to terms with new knowledge, whether he likes its immediate effects or not.
Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what are called “mechanistic” explanations of the phenomena of life because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irrelevant or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how.
Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to
be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts.
Connected with the conservative distrust if the new and the strange is its hostility to
internationalism and its proneness to a strident nationalism. Here is another source of its weakness in the struggle of ideas. It cannot alter the fact that the ideas which are
changing our civilization respect no boundaries. But refusal to acquaint one’s self with
new ideas merely deprives one of the power of effectively countering them when necessary. The growth of ideas is an international process, and only those who fully take part in the discussion will be able to exercise a significant influence. It is no real argument to say that an idea is un-American, or un-German, nor is a mistaken or vicious ideal better for having been conceived by one of our compatriots.
A great deal more might be said about the close connection between conservatism and
nationalism, but I shall not dwell on this point because it might be felt that my personal position makes me unable to sympathize with any form of nationalism. I will merely add that it is this nationalistic bias which frequently provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism: to think in terms of “our” industry or resource is only a short step away from demanding that these national assets be directed in the national interest. But in this respect the Continental liberalism which derives from the French Revolution is little better than conservatism. I need hardly say that nationalism of this sort is something very different from patriotism and that an aversion to nationalism is fully compatible with a deep attachment to national traditions. But the fact that I prefer and feel reverence for some of the traditions of my society need not be the cause of hostility to what is strange and different.
Only at first foes it seem paradoxical that the anti-internationalism of conservatism is so frequently associated with imperialism. But the more a person dislikes the strange and thinks his own ways superior, the more he tends to regard it as his mission to “civilize” other – not by the voluntary and unhampered intercourse which the liberal favors, but by bringing them the blessings of efficient government. It is significant that here again we frequently find the conservatives joining hands with the socialists against the liberals – not only in England, where the Webbs and their Fabians were outspoken imperialists, or in Germany, where state socialism and colonial expansionism went together and found the support of the same group of “socialists of the chair,” but also in the United States, where even at the time of the first Roosevelt it could be observed: “the Jingoes and the Social Reformers have gotten together; and have formed a political party, which threatened to capture the Government and use it for their program of Caesaristic paternalism, a danger which now seems to have been averted only by the other parties having adopted their program in a somewhat milder degree and form.”
5. There is one respect, however, in which there is justification for saying that the liberal occupies a position midway between the socialist and the conservative: he is as far from the crude rationalism of the socialist, who wants to reconstruct all social institutions according to a pattern prescribed by his individual reason, as from the mysticism to which the conservative so frequently has to resort. What I have described as the liberal position shares with conservatism a distrust of reason to the extent that the liberal is very much aware that we do not know all the answers and that he is not sure that the answers he has are certainly the rights ones or even that we can find all the answers. He also does not disdain to seek assistance from whatever non-rational institutions or habits have proved their worth. The liberal differs from the conservative in his willingness to face this ignorance and to admit how little we know, without claiming the authority of supernatural forces of knowledge where his reason fails him. It has to be admitted that in some respects the liberal is fundamentally a skeptic – but it seems to require a certain degree of diffidence to let others seek their happiness in their own fashion and to adhere consistently to that tolerance which is an essential characteristic of liberalism.
There is no reason why this need mean an absence of religious belief on the part of the
liberal. Unlike the rationalism of the French Revolution, true liberalism has no quarrel
with religion, and I can only deplore the militant and essentially illiberal antireligionism which animated so much of nineteenth-century Continental liberalism. That this is not essential to liberalism is clearly shown by its English ancestors, the Old Whigs, who, if anything, were much too closely allied with a particular religious belief. What distinguishes the liberal from the conservative here is that, however profound his own spiritual beliefs, he will never regard himself as entitled to impose them on others and that for him the spiritual and the temporal are different sphere which ought not to be confused.
6. What I have said should suffice to explain why I do not regard myself as a
conservative. Many people will feel, however, that the position which emerges is hardly
what they used to call “liberal.” I must, therefore, now face the question of whether this name is today the appropriate name for the party of liberty. I have already indicated that, though I have all my life described myself as a liberal, I have done so recently with increasing misgivings – not only because in the United States this term constantly gives rise to misunderstandings, but also because I have become more and more aware of the great gulf that exists between my position and the rationalistic Continental liberalism or even the English liberalism of the utilitarians.
If liberalism still meant what it meant to an English historian who in 1827 could speak of the revolution of 1688 as “the triumph of those principles which in the language of the present day are denominated liberal or constitutional”  or if one could still, with Lord Acton, speak of Burke, Macaulay, and Gladstone as the three greatest liberals, or if one could still, with Harold Laske, regard Tocqueville and Lord Acton as “the essential liberals of the nineteenth century,” I should indeed be only too proud to describe myself by that name. But, much as I am tempted to call their liberalism true liberalism, I must recognize that the majority of Continental liberals stood for ideas to which these men were strongly opposed, and that they were led more by a desire to impose upon the world a preconceived rational pattern than to provide opportunity for free growth. The same is largely true of what has called itself Liberalism in England at least since the time of Lloyd George.
It is thus necessary to recognize that what I have called “liberalism” has little to do with any political movement that goes under that name today. It is also questionable whether the historical associations which that name carries today are conducive to the success of any movement. Whether in these circumstances one ought to make an effort to rescue the term from what one feels is its misuse is a question on which opinions may well differ. I myself feel more and more that to use it without long explanations causes too much confusion and that as a label it has become more of a ballast than a source of strength.
In the United States, where it has become almost impossible to use “liberal” in the sense in which I have used it, the term “libertarian” has been used instead. It may be theanswer; but for my part I find it singularly unattractive. For my taste it carries too much the flavor of a manufactured term and of a substitute. What I should want is a word which describes the party of life, the party that favors free growth and spontaneous evolution.
But I have racked my brain unsuccessfully to find a descriptive term which commends
7. We should remember, however, that when the ideals which I have been trying to
restate first began to spread through the Western world, the party which represented them had a generally recognized name. It was the ideals of the English Whigs that inspired what later came to be known as the liberal movement in the whole of Europe and that provided the conceptions that the American colonists carried with them and which guided them in their struggle for independence and in the establishment of their constitution.
Indeed, until the character of this tradition was altered by the accretions due to the French Revolution, with its totalitarian democracy and socialist leanings, “Whig” was the name by which the party of liberty was generally known.
The name died in the country of its birth partly because for a time the principles for
which it stood were no longer distinctive of a particular party, and partly because the men who bore the name did not remain true to those principles. The Whig parties of the
nineteenth century, in both Britain and the United States, finally brought discredit to the name among the radicals. But it is still true that, since liberalism took the place of Whiggism only after the movement for liberty had absorbed the crude and militant
rationalism of the French Revolution, and since our task must largely be to free that
tradition from the overrationalistic, nationalistic, and socialistic influences which have intruded into it, Whiggism is historically the correct name for the ideas in which I believe. The more I learn about the evolution of ideas, the more I have become aware that I am simply an unrepentant Old Whig – with the stress on the “old.”
To confess one’s self as an Old Whig does not mean, of course, that one wants to go back
to where we were at the end of the seventeenth century. It has been one of the purposes of this book to show that the doctrines then first stated continued to grow and develop until about seventy or eighty years ago, even though they were no longer the chief aim of a distinct party. We have since learned much that should enable us to restate them in a more satisfactory and effective form. But, though they require restatement in the light of our present knowledge, the basic principles are still those of the Old Whigs. True, the later history of the party that bore that name has made some historians doubt where there was a distinct body of Whig principles; but I can but agree with Lord Acton that, though some of “the patriarchs of the doctrine were the most infamous of men, the notion of a higher law above municipal codes, with which Whiggism began, is the supreme
achievement of Englishmen and their bequest to the nation” – and, we may add, to the
world. It is the doctrine which is at the basis of the common tradition of the Anglo-Saxon countries. It is the doctrine from which Continental liberalism took what is valuable in it.
It is the doctrine on which the American system of government is based. In its pure form
it is represented in the United States, not by the radicalism of Jefferson, nor by the
conservatism of Hamilton or even of John Adams, but by the ideas of James Madison, the
“father of the Constitution.”
I do not know whether to revive that old name is practical politics. That to the mass of
people, both in the Anglo-Saxon world and elsewhere, it is today probably a term without
definite associations is perhaps more an advantage than a drawback. To those familiar
with the history of ideas it is probably the only name that quite expresses what the
tradition means. That, both for the genuine conservative and still more for the many
socialists turned conservative, Whiggism is the name for their pet aversion shows a sound instinct on their part. It has been the name for the only set of ideals that has consistently opposed all arbitrary power.
8. It may well be asked whether the name really matters so much. In a country like the
United States, which on the whole has free institutions and where, therefore, the defense of the existing is often a defense of freedom, it might not make so much difference if the defenders of freedom call themselves conservatives, although even here the association with the conservatives by disposition will often be embarrassing. Even when men approve of the same arrangements, it must be asked whether they approve of them because they exist or because they are desirable in themselves. The common resistance to the collectivist tide should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the belief in integral freedom is based on an essentially forward-looking attitude and not on any nostalgic longing for the past or a romantic admiration for what has been.
The need for a clear distinction is absolutely imperative, however, where, as is true in
many parts of Europe, the conservatives have already accepted a large part of the
collectivist creed – a creed that has governed policy for so long that many of its
institutions have come to be accepted as a matter of course and have become a source of
pride to “conservative” parties who created them. Here the believer in freedom
cannot but conflict with the conservative and take an essentially radical position, directed against popular prejudices, entrenched positions, and firmly established privileges.
Follies and abuses are no better for having long been established principles of folly.
Though quieta non movere may at times be a wise maxim for the statesman it cannot
satisfy the political philosopher. He may wish policy to proceed gingerly and not before
public opinion is prepared to support it, but he cannot accept arrangements merely
because current opinion sanctions them. In a world where the chief need is once more, as
it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to free the process of spontaneous
growth from the obstacles and encumbrances that human folly has erected, his hopes
must rest on persuading and gaining the support of those who by disposition are
“progressives,” those who, though they may now be seeking change in the wrong
direction, are at least willing to examine critically the existing and to change it wherever necessary.
I hope I have not misled the reader by occasionally speaking of “party” when I was
thinking of groups of men defending a set of intellectual and moral principles. Party
politics of any one country has not been the concern of this book. The question of how
the principles I have tried to reconstruct by piecing together the broken fragments of a
tradition can be translated into a program with mass appeal, the political philosopher
must leave to “that insidious and crafty animal, vulgarly called a statesman or politician, whose councils are directed by the momentary fluctuations of affairs.” The task of the political philosopher can only be to influence public opinion, not to organize people for action. He will do so effectively only if he is not concerned with what is now politically possible but consistently defends the “general principles which are always the same.” In this sense I doubt whether there can be such a thing as a conservative political philosophy. Conservatism may often be a useful practical maxim, but it does not give us any guiding principles which can influence long-range developments.
The quotation at the head of the Postscript is taken from Acton, Hist. of Freedom, p. 1.
1. This has now been true for over a century, and as early as 1855 J. S. Mill could say
(see my John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor [London and Chicago, 1951], p. 216) that
“almost all the projects of social reformers of these days are really liberticide.”
2. B. Crick, “The Strange Quest for an American Conservatism,” Review of Politics,
XVII (1955), 365, says rightly that “the normal American who calls himself ‘A
Conservative’ is, in fact, a liberal.” It would appear that the reluctance of these
conservatives to call themselves by the more appropriate name dates only from its abuse
during the New Deal era.
3. The expression is that of R. G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1942), p. 209.
4. Cf. the characteristic choice of this title for the programmatic book by the present
British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, The Middle Way (London, 1938).
5. Cf. Lord Hugh Cecil, Conservatism (“Home University Library” [London, 1912], p. 9:
“Natural Conservatism . . . is a disposition averse from change; and it springs partly from
a distrust of the unknown.”
6. Cf. the revealing self-description of a conservative in K. Feiling, Sketches in
Nineteenth Century Biography (London, 1930), p. 174: “Taken in bulk, the Right have a
horror of ideas, for is not the practical man, in Disraeli’s words, ‘one who practices the blunders of his predecessors’? For long tracts of their history they have indiscriminately resisted improvement, and in claiming to reverence their ancestors often reduce opinion to aged individual prejudice. Their position becomes safer, but more complex, when we add that this Right wing is incessantly overtaking the Left; that it lives by repeated inoculation of liberal ideas, and thus suffers from a never-perfected state of compromise.”
7. I trust I shall be forgiven for repeating here the words in which on an earlier occasion I stated an important point: “The main merit of the individualism which [Adam Smith] and his contemporaries advocated is that it is a system under which bad men can do least harm. It is a social system which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it, or on all men becoming better than they now are, but which makes use of men in all their given variety and complexity, sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes intelligent and more often stupid.” (Individualism and Economic Order
[London and Chicago, 1948], p. 11).
8. Cf. Lord Acton in Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, ed. H. Paul (London,
1913), p. 73: “The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class.”
9. J. R. Hicks has rightly spoken in this connection of the “caricature drawn alike by the young Disraeli, by Marx and by Goebbels” (“The Pursuit of Economic Freedom,” What
We Defend, ed. E. F. Jacob [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1942], p. 96). On the role
of the conservatives in this connection see also my Introduction to Capitalism and the
Historians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954), pp. 19 ff.
10. Cf. J. S. Mill, On Liberty, ed. R. B. McCallum (Oxford, 1946), p. 83: “I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilised.”
11. J. W. Burgess, The Reconciliation of Government with Liberty (New York, 1915), p.
12. Cf. Learned Hand, The Spirit of Liberty, ed. I. Dilliard (New York, 1952), p. 190:
“The Spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” See also Oliver
Cromwell’s often quoted statement is his Letter to the Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, August 3, 1650: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you
may be mistaken.” It is significant that this should be the probably best-remembered
saying of the only “dictator” in British history!
13. H. Hallam, Constitutional History (1827) (“Everyman” ed.), III, 90. It is often
suggested that the term “liberal” derives from the early nineteenth-century Spanish party of the liberales. I am more inclined to believe that it derives from the use of that term by Adam Smith in such passages as W.o.N., II, 41: “the liberal system of free exportation and free importation” and p. 216: “allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.”
14. Lord Acton in Letters to Mary Gladstone, p. 44. Cf. also his judgment of Tocqueville
in Lectures on the French Revolution (London, 1910), p. 357: “Tocqueville was a Liberal
of the purest breed – a Liberal and nothing else, deeply suspicious of democracy and its
kindred, equality, centralisation, and utilitarianism.” Similarly in the Nineteenth Century, XXXIII (1892), 885. The statement by H. J. Laski occurs in “Alexis de Tocqueville and Democracy,” in The Social and Political Ideas of Some Representative Thinkers of the Victorian Age, ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw (London, 1933), p. 100, where he says that “a case of unanswerable power could, I think, be made out for the view that he [Tocqueville] and Lord Acton were the essential liberals of the nineteenth century.”
15. As early as the beginning of the eighteenth century, an English observer could remark that he “scarce ever knew a foreigner settled in England, whether of Dutch, German, French, Italian, or Turkish growth, but became a Whig in a little time after his mixing with us” (quoted by G. H. Guttridge, English Whiggism and the American Revolution [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1942], p. 3).
16. In the United States the nineteenth-century use of the term “Whig” has unfortunately
obliterated the memory of the fact that in the eighteenth it stood for the principles which guided the revolution, gained independence, and shaped the Constitution. It was in Whig societies that the young James Madison and John Adams developed their political ideals (cf. E. M. Burns, James Madison [New Brunnswick, N.J.; Rutgers University Press,
1938], p. 4); it was Whig principles which, as Jefferson tells us, guided all the lawyers who constituted such a strong majority among the signers of the Declaration of
Independence and among the members of the Constitutional Convention (see Writings of
Thomas Jefferson [“Memorial ed.” (Washington, 1905)], XVI, 156). The profession of
Whig principles was carried to such a point that even Washington’s soldiers were clad in
the traditional “blue and buff” colors of the Whigs, which they shared with the Foxites in the British Parliament and which was preserved down to our days on the covers of the
Edinburgh Review. If a socialist generation has made Whiggism its favorite target, this is all the more reason for the opponents of socialism to vindicate its name. It is today the only name which correctly desribes the beliefs of the Gladstonian liberals, of the men of the generation of Maitland, Acton, and Bryce, and the last generation for whom liberty rather than equality or democracy was the main goal.
17. Lord Acton, Lectures on Modern History (London, 1906), p. 218 (I have slightly
rearranged Acton’s clauses to reproduce briefly the sense of his statement).
18. Cf. S. K. Padover in his Introduction to The Complete Madison (New York, 1953), p.
10: “In modern terminology, Madison would be labeled a middle-of-the-road liberal and
Jefferson a radical.” This is true and important, though we must remember what E. S.
Corwin (“James Madison: Layman, Publicist, and Exegete,” New York University Law
Review, XXVII , 285) has called Madison’s later “surrender to the overwhelming
influence of Jefferson.”
19. Cf. the British Conservative party’s statement of policy, The Right Road for Britain
(London, 1950), pp. 41-42, which claims, with considerable justification, that “this new
conception [of the social services] was developed [by] the Coalition Government with a
majority of Conservative Ministers and the full approval of the Conservative majority in
the House of Commons . . . [We] set out the principle for the schemes of pensions,
sickness and unemployment benefit, industrial injustices benefit and a national health
20. A Smith, W.o.N., I, 432.
Is the New Yorker wrong or has the GOP gone over the top? I’m of the opinion that the GOP is hurting themselves for a generation if the most hardline members of their base continue this quixotic campaign. There are a lot of things about the ACA that could and should be fixed that would enable better growth in our economy, but the GOP has not offered any alternatives that fixes the problems of coverage, affordability with consumer protections, or bends the medical cost curve that the nation, as a whole, supports. If the nation had, Romney would be president right now.
What the Republican intransigents were willing to deprive of funds, besides the Capitol police, included the following: The Centers for Disease Control, which said that it would have to stop its seasonal flu-prevention program and would “have significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.” The Environmental Protection Agency, which would close down almost entirely, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which would stop most of its inspections. The WIC program, which provides healthy food supplements for millions of pregnant women, new mothers, and babies, and could run on temporary federal funds only through the end of the month. The Food and Drug Administration, which said it “will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” and would have to halt “the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.” The National Institutes of Health, which announced that it would not be enrolling any new patients in ongoing studies or clinical trials.
Since Tea Party conservatives dislike the federal government on principle, the derailing of what the federal government does every day doesn’t bother them all that much. What should bother them, deeply, is the anti-democratic nature of the maneuver. To hold up a budget and shut down the government in order to sabotage a law you don’t like is not just nose-thumbing at the government; it’s flouting the will of the people. Obamacare passed both Houses of Congress nearly three years ago. In June, 2012, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of its fundamental elements. In November, 2012, Obama, who had devoted much of his political capital to the Affordable Care Act—it will likely be his signature legislation—was handily reëlected. And, last week, on the first day that you could sign up for insurance through the new health-care exchanges, 2.8 million people went on the federal government’s enrollment site. Surely that’s evidence that, whatever else Obamacare will prove to be, it is legislation that is fulfilling a real need: that of the fifteen per cent of the American population who are uninsured, as well as of individuals who are paying exorbitant sums for insurance on the open market, all of whom live with the insecurity of being unable to afford health care. In no small part, fixing this problem was what Barack Obama was elected to do.
In the meantime, the diehard opponents of the bill in Congress remain a faction within their own party, whom fellow-Republicans seem determined to identify by more and more outlandish epithets. To Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California’s Central Valley, they are “lemmings with suicide vests.” To Senator John McCain, they’re “wacko birds.” (He used the term in March, when Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were filibustering the nomination of John Brennan for C.I.A. director; McCain later apologized, but Cruz, according to a profile in GQ, has embraced “wacko bird.”) To Representative Peter King, of New York, Cruz is the “con man” who knew “this would never work” but somehow “suckered” House Republicans. Cruz, meanwhile, compared those Republicans who were willing to vote on the budget—and let Obamacare proceed—to appeasers of the Nazis.
It’s worth remembering that in the early nineteen-sixties, when another health-care bill was under debate, the rhetoric of the Republicans who opposed it was just as over the top. We didn’t get socialism, as those opponents warned; we got Medicare, which turned out to be a very popular, mostly high-functioning program that saves elderly people from going bankrupt when they get sick. In the end, as the President says, that is the kind of outcome that the extremist Republicans running this budget battle fear the most: that Obamacare will work, and the Democrats will get credit for it. And what the mainstream Republicans fear the most is that voters will blame them for letting the lemmings run the show. If Obama refuses to back down, this could be a moment that will define his legacy—a fight for democracy as much as for Democrats. ♦
According to reports, the Dems already accepted the House budget numbers, which, in reality, are lower than the Ryan budget for the 6 week CR. Six weeks! It’s not like we’re talking about a full year, for heaven’s sake. That, in itself, is a great win for House Republicans. But attaching a defunding or delay in the individual mandate – that only applies to individuals who don’t get health insurance through their company – to the CR was always going to be a loser for the GOP which they should have known. First, most of the ACA funding is not part of the discretionary (aka annual) budget. It’s self-funded like Social Security or Medicare. Second, the Dems would never agree to delay it start up until close to the next election, making the ACA again another election year issue.
Moreover, using the debt ceiling as a negotiating strategy, regardless of how much the deficit is hated, is not acceptable. It’s one thing to decry how on the House or Senate floor how much the country is going into debt when you know the increase will happen anyway, but it’s another to threaten the US economy with default on the nation’s promises of payment. The debt limit and promised payments to our all of our nation’s creditors, whoever they may be, should never, ever be put at risk.
Yes, there is an ongoing disagreement over the size of the federal government. Some are good arguments, such as should the US be the world’s police force or have a huge, expensive national security state that infringes upon the rights of privacy of citizens, but some are bad arguments such as throwing the least able into the trash can of history. Can government work better? Clearly the answer is yes. Our federal government continues as a model of the 19th Century. But *only* Congress can change that antiquated model…and that change will only occur when committee power and fundraising models change.
Regardless, PIMCO’s El-Erian notes, the failure to increase to increase the debt ceiling would lead to a Great Depression worldwide and cause irreparable harm to the US in prestige, authority, and, most of all, to our status as the world’s reserve currency and the special borrowing rates that status implies.
Further, China, in 2011, when Congress last threatened the debt ceiling as a serious negotiating point, entered into talks with other BRIC nations to replace the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. China, apparently, received a lot of support among those nations. Does anyone in their right minds believe that China will let go of their ability to reduce the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency when it obviously is in their own interest to reduce the influence of the US? Although the Chinese did not say as much publicly, I am quite sure they would like the Renminbi become the world’s reserve currency.
If US voters do not understand the perils on the world stage and to the US economy of the Tea Party strategy, then God help us all.
There is a growing movement among the Tea Party and the far right to impeach President Obama. Buzzfeed today wrote story about a book, published by World Net Daily which is a far right, conspiracy theory addicted website, that espouses all the reasons why Obama should be impeached.
A new book making the case for the impeachment of President Barack Obama is flying off the shelves, its author said, as the president’s reelection fails to entirely damp down the deep loathing of him on parts of the right.
Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office cites everything from the attack on the American consulate and CIA outpost in Benghazi — which it compares to the Iran Contra scandal in the Reagan years — to the way Obamacare was passed, which the authors say constitutes “taxation without representation.” The book, by WABC radio host Aaron Klein and Brenda Elliott, an anti-Obama blogger, also includes American military action in Libya and the Transportation Security Administration’s passenger screenings as impeachable offenses.
The problem for this book and the conspiracy theorists is that all their claims are fallacious or just hypocritical…or far worse. On foreign policy, Obama has continued Bush policies outside of starting wars of choice as Bush did. On internal, domestic spying, Obama continued the policies of Bush’s Administration. On Executive signings, Obama has used that method far less that Bush did…and only within legal and SCOTUS demanded requirements or his legal powers at head of the Administration. On regulations, his record shows he’s enacted fewer regulations than the anti-regulation Bush Administration. On sticking to regulatory timelines, Obama is no more guilty than any other administration. For example, Dodd-Frank is nearly 2 years behind in setting most of its rules yet no one is complaining, but somehow the rules on ACA have to be met on time even when businesses have asked for clarifications and simplification and HHA acceded those requests.
Should I continue?
I hardly think is it necessary. There are lots of reasons why Americans of all flavor dislike Obama. Some are solid and some are idiotically specious. But to those asking for his impeachment, allow me to ask these questions:
1) Would you prefer President Biden? Remember that Biden is far more liberal than Obama. Compared to Biden, Obama is downright conservative. Moreover, Biden’s decades in the Senate would make him a much tougher negotiator. He could very well be an incarnation of LBJ.
2) If you hate the national security state, why do you continue to vote for legislators who voted for the Patriot Act and NDAA? Regardless of what you may think or wish, the President, regardless of party affiliation, must follow the legislation that Congress passes. You don’t like the national security laws, then stop voting for the Congressional legislators who enacted and continually approve of these laws.
3) The whole Bengazi uproar is idiotic. American embassies and consulates throughout the troubled Middle East and Northern Africa have been targets for over two decades. How many American embassies and consulates were targeted and bombed during the GW Bush and Clinton Administrations? The insanity of perverted jehadism will continue regardless of presidential political party affiliation until Arab nations say enough and use their own power, influence and money to end it.
4) If you hate Obama because of his skin color, doesn’t that say more about you than him? I spent many years as a White child and young adult living in the deep South where Racism reigned supreme. It was ugly, cruel, and wrong. God did not differentiate between peoples based on skin color; He differentiated between people based on the moral values of compassion, respect, consideration, thoughtfulness, and consideration. And still does, as Jesus said over and over again.
5) If you think Obama is some kind of hidden Black Panther racist, then why has he excoriated the Black community, and especially Black fathers, over and over again for not meeting their familial obligations and responsibilities while at the same time not saying a word about White guys who run away from their children and responsibilities?
There are a lot of other conspiracy theories I could debunk, but those who deliberately choose to believe them will never be convinced because they adamantly refuse to change their thinking. Reason, rationality, and logic play no part in their lives. Hate is all that matters, for whatever reason.
The last time the US went through this kind of political and social insanity was during the 1930s because people were scared, confused, and became targets of self-indulgent, ego-centric individuals and organizations that played on people’s fears for their own self interest. This time is worse because of the President’s skin color. But skin color is only…skin color. A physiological development, caused by the pigment melanin, as a result of genetic adaption to sunlight over multiple generations. For example, the onlu reason Northern Europeans have light skin color, blue eyes, narrow noses, and light colored hair is because less melanin was required genetically, over thousands of years, to withstand the sun’s rays.
As a result, skin color has less to do with intelligence than adaptation to climate. Given the same economic and social advantages, all races perform the same, as science has proved.
As a result of scientific and social conclusions, it becomes quite clear that the current hatred of Obama has less to do with his policies and more to do with who is he physically and politically. And those are not good enough reasons for impeachment.
The Constitution states that impeachment of a president can only occur because of “High crimes and misdemeanors.” Think about what that phrase means: murder, perversion of governmental, administrative powers for one’s own benefit, lying to Congress on matter of national importance, etc. None of these criteria have occurred under Obama, except perhaps the national security state which can equally be blamed on Congress and Chief Justice Roberts. Would you chose to impeach Roberts for appointing the FISA court justices who approved the warrentless wiretapping? Would you chose to impeach you local representative because he or she approved the Patriot Act or NDAA that allowed such actions to occur?
United States Americans have to clean up their act and start acting responsibly rather than politically. Tribalism destroys countries and societies. That may be why ancient Greeks developed a governing creed based on logic and not only the denial of emotions but the destruction of all emotions.
The far right and far left depend upon emotion over logic. As many problems exist with Stoicism, it still beats the kind of emotional irrationality that dominates today’s political conversation.
A couple of days ago, Matt Taibbi, wrote a lengthy piece in Rolling Stone Magazine about the student loan scandal that threaten our nation’s economy.
Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal
The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education – saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy
I didn’t read this story two days ago when it was published. I wish I had since my voice now will make little difference – everyone’s moved on to the next scandal or reality show highlights. However much Taibbi’s rhetoric seems over the top, his actual story is accurate. A couple of years ago, the Higher Ed. journal he mentions published a story on the rapidly rising cost of a college education.
Although the journal didn’t go into the whole funding of students loans issue, the publication did lay most of the blame on institutions that went on a spending binge during the last decade, which universities defended as needing to do to “attract students”. According to the schools, competition among colleges required spas, hot tubs, outrageously expensive sports stadiums, cafeterias rivaling the best restaurants, and so much more.
Money was cheap so colleges spent lavishly, expecting the public through taxes, to pick up the bill even as students were being saddled with higher tuition costs. Not long after that journal article came news of the UC Berkeley Chancellor being given a million dollar salary and a completely renovated (real) mansion (at the UC system) multi-million dollar expense. Within months, news broke of other chancellors receiving million dollar incomes…and other expensive perks. Like the dramatic increase in C-suite salaries, competition, you know.
Then as the states’ began to deal with massive lost revenues following the financial crash, states cut back on higher educational funding, putting even more pressure on students in yet higher tuition costs. Even now under Obama’s Administration, as Taibbi notes, the federal government expects to make billions of dollars in profit off of student loans, especially since students cannot discharge those loans under bankruptcy. Nor were students and parents informed or warned of the hazards and total costs of those government backed loans. Now, we have millions of our young people’s lives being destroyed by the cost of loans they never understood and never expected.
To those of us who were paying attention, the inability of discharge student loans in bankruptcy is old news. The GOP Congress, under Bush 2, pushed it through, even though huge numbers of groups and people lobbied against it at the same time they turned over the student loan program to banks. What happened under that GOP sponsored and driven legislation is that student loans became one of only two financial obligations that cannot be erased in bankruptcy. The other is taxes owed.
Taibbi is also correct about the degree requirement for even low skill workers. When I worked for Oracle back in the ’90s, even our receptionists were required to have 4-year degrees. Why, I have no idea; it’s not like someone answering the phone and forwarding calls needs an elevated education. Yet, in our increasing “information” economy, a degree has become a necessity…unless you agree with the recent GOP mantra that only some should attain a degree while the vast majority should forego college. To become what: checkers at Walmart or burger flippers at McDonalds? Even getting into a qualified tradesman program (not hyped for-profit ripoff programs), like plumbing or carpentry which cannot be outsourced, that actually trains apprentices and helps them with jobs are few and far between.
I keep asking but no one answers, why do we citizens continue to permit our entire economy to be financialized to the detriment of millions of families, both now and in the future? Why do we allow ourselves to be conned and lied to and abused? Why aren’t we fighting back not only with our votes but with our power to demand changes in electoral laws that protect our interests, rather than just the interests of the powerful, wealthy and connected?
As long as the voting public unwisely protects the lobbyists and wealthy donors who have far more power, influence, donor money, and ability to get their preferred message listened to and across to legislators, average Americans, and our future generations, will be nothing more than insignificant chess pawns.
It’s obvious that Obama is not really going to stand up for you. Neither will anyone on the GOP bench. Supply side, neo-liberal economics which has destroyed our jobs and our economy is all the GOP offers. And Obama’s Administration is not a whole lot better. Obama is not a progressive or a socialist or liberal. He’s center right on almost every issue. Even Republican TR was more progressive and more concerned about average Americans and new businesses and against the excesses of Wall St than Obama has been.
But nothing…absolutely nothing…will change until we voters demand that the entire campaign financing system be rebuilt from the bottom up. Corporations, so-called non-profit Super-PACs and unions are not people as all of our founders concluded and should not have First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. They are nothing more than legal fictions, which our greatest legal minds stated long ago. Moreover, TR eloquently wrote when money became heavily involved in the political process, corruption occurred either by bribery of legislators or by legislators blackmailing companies. In both cases, the public loses even as legislators grow more wealthy.
The current system of financialization of our entire economy and political bribery and blackmail are killing our country and destroying the lives of our children and grandchildren. Just throwing these “bums” out and replacing them with another set of bums changes nothing since the incentives remain the same. Nothing will change but the faces. If America is to recover, the voters must demand new and strict new election donor laws, including a Constitutional Amendment and prohibitions on party gerrymandering, that puts power back into hands of voters again.
As voters, parents and workers, we must demand real change that protects our interests. Ask and demand all legislative candidates promise in their first term to promote election changes that prohibit lobbying donations and lobbyists writing legislation, make all campaign donations even to SuperPacs transparent and online within 24 hours, and a Constitutional Amendment that eliminates all non-human entities First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
So, the GOP must be in REAL trouble with the young vote if Politico says the report is scathing. As most know, Politico has a Republican bent to its editorials and reporting.
Here’s my assessment. It’s a little long, but bear with me.
I’m a registered Democrat but consider myself fairly moderate. After California changed its primary rules to allow open primary voting, I considered changing my voting status to Independent. But no more. If anything, the modern, conservative movement GOP has caused me to become even more assuredly Democratic in my voting. As an older Boomer, I’ve witnessed the changes in both parties over many decades. But the change in the Republican Party has been so dramatic, and so negative that I no longer trust Republican candidates. And that’s a shame.
Throughout the 50s to early ’80s, Republicans could be counted upon to strong but sensible on defense and rationally conservative on spending. They believed in balanced budgets and taxing at required levels to pay for what was being spent. As a result, spending was controlled because no one really wants higher taxes. (The national credit card hadn’t been invented by latter GOP politicians.) And they had lots of ideas to strengthen the middle class as well as move lower income groups out of poverty.
Mind you, when I was growing up the majority of Republicans were either Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican who grew up during the Great Depression and fought with everyone else during WWII. Many of that era’s leaders had a wholly different take on economics: they saw America, albeit of diverse background and religions, as one people striving to achieve the fabled American dream of success via education and economic opportunities…which is one reason why they continued to control Wall St’s penchant for unbridled peculation that caused the Great Depression. In their minds, as a result of their experiences during WWII, they concluded that we are all in this together. Moreover, honor, honesty, dignity and integrity really meant something to them.
I remember watching the Watergate hearings during which the only senator that grabbed my attention…and my praise…was Republican Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee. He exhibited all the honorable values and integrity I had come to expect, from my civics education and my youth as a military brat, from members of the Senate. Partisanship seemed not to enter his mind; only seeking the truth.
Following the Goldwater rout in ’64, an extremely conservative, religious, libertarian segment of the Republican Party made a concerted push to take over control of the Party. That segment, from Southern state conservative immigrants to Orange County, California, worked hard to execute an all out campaign to take over the GOP. Both Nixon and Reagan fostered that movement to increase their electoral opportunities until their Republican Party take over was complete.
What Nixon and Reagan began and fostered, as a politically advantageous counter to the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, unleashed a backlash against both government and large segments of the population. Prior to Reagan, most people did not hold the federal government in total distain. Except for a somewhat minor loss of presidential, executive prestige caused by Nixon’s paranoia, from which the federal government recovered nicely throughout Ford’s and Carter’s administrations, the federal government generally was held in high regard.
It took Reagan telling Americans that the federal government couldn’t be trusted…and all of his and Nixon’s old staff to convince conservative and Moral Majority religious Americans to hate the federal government as well as state, county, and city governments. In fact, they unknowingly advanced hatred any government whatsoever at all levels…and thus advanced the libertarian utopian idealism espoused by the Cato Institute.
The Republican Party used to be a party of middle class concerned ideas, i.e., protecting the middle class while helping lower classes enter the middle class, rather than a party that strictly protected the most wealthy in the nation. Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans, perhaps because of their WWII experiences, understood that a rising middle class was the secret to American economic success. They lived through the Great Depression and some even remembered via their parents TR’s era. As a result, their policies advanced long term capital investment (five plus years) while penalizing short-term investment gains; strict control of investment vehicles to prevent dangerous speculation; and corporate investment in product and business expansion as well as R&D over short-term stock yields.
For all the racial, religious, ethnic and gender discrimination, Republicans of ’50s through the early ’70s and even some into the early ’80s believed in the party of Lincoln. The party of opportunity even when it meant expanding federal welfare as well as the kind of fiscal responsibility that meant paying for what you spend. In truth, those older, fiscally responsible Republicans held down spending by simply making clear that increased spending meant higher taxes now…not somewhere down the road as our modern GOP chose to exhibit during the GW Bush Administration.
Regardless, the 1980s changed everything.
Modern generation Republicans have forgotten – or never learned – what their parents and grandparents learned. Even those skeptical of the federal government, Southern conservatives who immigrated to So. California during the Dust Bowl and those who stayed in their states eventually came around to asking the federal government for help, as Ken Burns’ documentary on the Depression and Dust Bowl illuminates. After many years of denying federal help, Southern and Midwestern farmers finally gave in, pleaing for federal help. It was the federal government that helped Southern state immigrant families in the West when they found themselves being exploited and Southern farmers who discovered modern federal farm policies could help them save their lands.
When WWII occurred, everyone, rich or poor alike, joined up and served together. Those vets learned about each other – from every sort of community and neighborhood, rich and poor alike – and out of that conflict arose Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans. Not unlike their Republican ancestors nearly 80 years before, they sought a better, fairer America in which anyone could succeed if given the opportunity.
Although racism continued, the barriers began to break down. First with Jews and then with Catholics. Finally, as a result of WWII, the barriers along color lines began to break down even as many Southerners refused to permit that breakdown. With Nixon’s Southern Strategy…and Reagan’s expansion of it…racist Democrats (Dixiecrats) shifted from the Democratic party to the Republican. But that wasn’t the only change that occurred.
Unlike 20th century generations, in which everyone, regardless of wealth or class, was expected to participate, we now have a military comprised mostly of poor or lower income people. Richer, upper income people refuse to serve. It’s not the first time in American history that the most-wealthy refused to serve, but that circumstance is new since the dawn of the 20th Century.
As the nation has grown, the separation of income status and communities has become even more stark, becoming a barrier to public unity. I see it all the time in my small, conservative rural community where community involvement and concern for the commons (local businesses, economic development, charities, and involvement in local activities) exists at nearly negligible levels. There is an attitude that says, “It’s not my problem, and I don’t care. Let someone else do it.” Yet, in communities of comparable size with a more liberal bent where I lived, community events volunteers were turned away as a result of the too many volunteers…and community events were packed with resident participation.
I grew up in a military household who voted Republican. I became a Democrat because of Civil Rights and the ERA. I believe in fairness and charity as practiced by government because of the lessons I was taught in Sunday School in Georgia as a small child. “God loves all the little children. All the children of the World. Black and White, Yellow and Red, all the children of the World.” Scripture is not much clearer than those words as I remember them.
There is a lot conservatives could do to put forth policies that seek better results than those proposed by old fashioned Democrats. But they don’t. They seek only to protect the plutocrats even if doing so destroys America’s ability to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.
The US is not Russia, ruled by a corrupt oligarchy whose only concern is their own wealth and power. The US is better than Russia. It always has been…and it always should be. The US should be the land of opportunity for everyone that Lincoln envisioned.
A few – very few – Republican reformers and pundits get it, but they’ve a very hard uphill climb against those Republicans who seek to return to the 1870s or 1890s or 1950s. As Austrian economist Hayek stated in Chicago, he was a classical liberal because liberals looked to the future while conservatives looked back at the past for answers.