Progressives and liberals love William James’s idea of a “moral equivalent of war.” As Jonah Goldberg defines this concept, “The core idea, expressed in myriad different ways, is that normal democratic capitalism is insufficient. Society needs an
organizing principle that causes the citizenry to drop their individual pursuits, petty ambitions, and disorganized lifestyles and unite around common purposes. Naturally, the State must provide leadership and coordination in this effort, just as it does in a war.” The redefining of social problems as battles in a “war” also expands the regulatory and intrusive power of the federal government, and justifies its appropriation of wealth in order to finance the programs that are de facto redistributions of property. The fundamental purpose of the Constitution, limiting the government in order to allow problems to be solved at the closest possible level to the people, is gutted by a false analogy.
Up until Obamacare, no greater example of costly failure of this idea has been Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” a congeries of various federal programs legislated 50 years ago. Johnson’s grandiose utopian aim for his “unconditional war on poverty” was the “total victory of prosperity over poverty.” Recently the House Continue reading “Winners and Losers in the War on Poverty”→
Rather than twisting the political knife in the gaping wound that is Obamacare, House Republicans are off on a “comprehensive immigration reform” toot. The latest news has the Speaker putting off any action for now, and waiting until after the midterm elections in order not to anger the anti-amnesty base, and “to goose Latino turnout or to swing purple districts” in 2016, as political blogger Allahpundit put it. In other words, electoral timing rather than principle is determining what happens.
But principle, not to mention common sense, is what’s at stake here. Anyone proposing “comprehensive” anything after the debacle of Obamacare is delusional. Complex problems are not going to be solved with grandiose legislation that tries to politically please everybody. Nor are most sensible voters likely once again to play Charlie Brown to the Congressional Lucy jerking away the promised “enforcement triggers” and “border security” football after the de facto amnesty is already in place. We went through all that in 1986, when the same promises of employer checks of legal residency and beefed-up border security were broken, more than doubling the number of illegal immigrants from 5 million to 11 million today. Continue reading “Republicans Go On an Immigration Reform Bender”→
Tuesday night President Obama will deliver another campaign speech, this one marketed as the State of the Union address. As such, we can expect to hear, through the usual white noise of “I,” “me,” and “my,” vacuous bromides like “moving America forward,” and empty promises “to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it,” as White House flack Dan Pfeiffer said. So after token references to economic growth, we can expect to be served heaping helpings of “income inequality” and “economic mobility,” the redistributionist chum for his hungry progressive base. Continue reading “Fight the Next War, Not the Last One”→
It is popular now to talk of race, class, and gender oppression. But left out of this focus on supposed victim groups is the one truly targeted cohort — the young. Despite the Obama-era hype, we are not suffering new outbreaks of racism. Wendy Davis is not the poster girl for a resurgent misogyny. There is no epidemic of homophobia. Instead, if this administration’s policies are any guide, we are witnessing a pandemic of ephebiphobia — an utter disregard for young people.
The war against those under 30 — and the unborn — is multifaceted. No one believes that the present payroll deductions leveled on working youth will result in the same levels of support upon their retirements that is now extended to the retiring baby-boom Continue reading “Eating Our Young”→
Had the Greeks lost at Salamis, Western civilization might easily have been strangled in its adolescence. Had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, the European democracies would have probably remained overwhelmed. And had the Japanese just sidestepped the Philippines and Pearl Harbor, as they gobbled up the orphaned Pacific colonies of a defunct Western Europe, the Pacific World as we know it now might be a far different, far darker place. Continue reading “The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization”→
We are fast approaching what promises to be the year of “comprehensive immigration reform.” In the manner of the “Affordable Care Act,” it will not be comprehensive nor will it reform immigration.
All sorts of new trends have emerged in the American Southwest to address the fact that federal immigration law does not really apply to those who arrived here illegally from Mexico or Latin America. In-state tuition discounts at public universities are now customarily extended to those without citizenship — in effect, privileging the foreign national over the U.S.-citizen student from out of state who helps subsidize the cost. Cities establish sanctuary zones that protect illegal immigrants from the enforcement of federal immigration laws — and the taxpayer picks up the additional tab in social services. Imagine what might happen should a city declare in similar fashion that it was exempt from enforcing federal gun-control laws.
Another trend is the effort to end penalties for past use of multiple Social Security numbers. Many who crossed the border illegally adopted various — and thus fraudulent — identities and acquired numerous Social Security numbers. When they later obtained green cards or citizenship, their poly-personas were found out. But isn’t it discriminatory to count such illegal behavior against the job applicant, if such criteria apply disproportionately to a particular ethnic group?
I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.
Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.
Where did they go?
I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?
When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers. Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?
I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage. Continue reading “The World of the Coliseum”→
The continuing attention devoted to the blunders, incompetence, and lies surrounding the Obamacare rollout is much deserved. But we shouldn’t forget that the President’s health-care monstrosity is merely the latest and biggest of scores of government entitlement programs suffering from the same flawed progressive assumption––that government “experts” armed with coercive power alone can solve problems better left to the states, civil society, and the free market. In reality, such programs relentlessly metastasize, increasing as well fraud, waste, abuse, and costs.
One such program is SNAP, the kinder and gentler name for what we used to call food stamps. Apparently the old coupons were too hurtful, so they have been replaced by the Electronic Benefits Transfer card that looks like a debit or credit card. Over the last decade, SNAP recipients have increased from 21 million to 47 million, 1 in 7 Americans. But benefits paid out have nearly quadrupled from $21 billion to $75 billion. Continue reading “Don’t Forget the Other Entitlement Monsters”→
As all the still underappreciated contours of Obamacare become known, and as those who hold employer-provided plans will soon discover their existing “scams” also do not pass ACA muster, the public will begin to understand that Obamacare is another redistributive zero-sum plan to transfer wealth from one segment of the less-deserving population to another more deserving.
Washington has a bad habit of naming laws by what they are not.
These euphemisms usually win temporary public support. After all, who wants to be against anything “affordable”? But on examination, such idealistically named legislation usually turns out to be aimed at special interests and the opposite of what voters were promised.
The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” otherwise known as Obamacare, frontloaded for immediate enactment some popular freebies. Who would oppose keeping children on their parents’ health coverage until age 26, or prohibiting denial of insurance for those with pre-existing illnesses?
Then, three years later and with two elections out of the way, the tab for all the perks suddenly came due. The law turns out neither to protect patients from rate hikes nor to make health care affordable. In fact, the administration promises of 2009–10 are becoming the nightmare of 2013. Continue reading “Beware of Beautifully Misnamed Laws”→