Disgusted, Again

This is a repost of what I wrote on 3/22/2010 when Obamacare was first passed... with a related image from a 2008 post.


I knew it was coming, and still I'm surprised. As late as last Friday, I had allowed myself the hope that Obamacare would be defeated. I was inspired by the work of Paul Hsieh and others, and thought that maybe, just maybe, America would stave off the Leviathan.

I was wrong.

It's easy to blame the Democrats, but then again, we knew they have been salivating over enslaving the productive and have been gleefully doing it for well over a century. It's easy to blame the Republicans for barely mustering a counterargument that goes further than "we agree with you that it's our Christian duty to provide for the needy, but this just costs too much!" Democrats are the pushers, and Republicans are the friends who state their disapproval but cover for them anyway.

My outrage is broader, as I don't expect anything good from the leeches in Congress.

I am disgusted by every person in America who thinks this health care nationalization is well-intentioned and probably for the best.

I am disgusted by every person who evades the consequences of this bill and says "well, something had to be done!"

I am disgusted by my friends and family members who are smart enough to know better, but who abdicate the responsibility to think and thus welcome the further enslavement of me and my children to the state out of fear and willful ignorance.

I am disgusted by the businessman who sees the premiums he is paying for his employees go up, and sees the destruction of the health care industry and picking of my pockets as the pragmatic solution.

This is the choice you are making: you're calling for the gun to my head (and yours). You think that's melodramatic? How is the government going to enforce this? How else do they do anything? If I disagree and disobey, the guns come out. Is this the America you wanted?

Myrhaf was dead-on in saying "Darkness Descends."

We can’t even begin to know how this bill will worsen our lives. It turns doctors into creatures of the state. Rationing will have to happen, as it always does in socialism. Taxes will rise. 16,000 new IRS agents will be hired to audit Americans, taking us closer to a police state.

For a long time we have been more like Mussolini’s Italy than Jefferson’s America. Tonight we took another leap down the road to serfdom. The America we once knew — a safe and happy place full of “can do spirit” and productive individualists — is now dead. With fear and loathing we look toward the new America.

What I feel right now for all those in favor -- even grudgingly -- of what happened last night is a profound disgust. A deep moral revulsion. These aren't parlor games, and this isn't an abstract political discussion. Your ideas are antithetical to my life and the lives of my children, and now those ideas are being put into full practice. This is on your head.


Christina Romer: Old Dog, Old Tricks

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post called "The Great Depression Reenactor" about former White House Economic Adviser and noted Great Depression "expert," Christina Romer. The gist of the post was that, despite the evidence to the contrary, she was still clinging to her failed Keynesian policies, wishing that unemployment was lower but still happy that they were able to get some stimulus into the economy.

Now that it's been another year and the unemployment rate is still above 9%, the US credit rating was downgraded, we appear to be headed for a double-dip recession, stocks are poised for another sell-off after a horrific week last week, and gold is up over $1700/ounce, do you think she's learned her lesson?

Fat chance.

Now she's on Bill Maher's show (watch the 6 minute video) joking that we're "darned fucked," and lamenting that the stimulus wasn't big enough.

See, she's an expert, if you didn't know, and she teaches that government spending drives recovery. It's in all the textbooks, she says, and she teaches that to the undergrads because she teaches the "truth." Both don't worry. She says the empirical evidence "is definitely there," and to those who disagree, her thoughts are "that people wanna say that the sky is green."

In a humorous exchange -- though not for the reasons they suspect -- Maher compares her to a climate scientist in that they both "know real things that you study at a college," but the "stupid people" keep getting in the way. He suggests that people who disagree must have been "Palinized" and he asks, "isn't it frustrating when the people who don't know things about the subject you're so well versed in, get an equal vote in the debate?"

Of course, she agreed.

Now, it's easy for Maher to lump free market proponents into the Palin camp (note: this is no defense of that theocrat, Palin) because that's the same way he deals with climate change "deniers": ad hominem, insults, and mockery. Yet, his comparison of Romer to the climate change alarmists is quite apt, for one, because Romer sticks to the conventional wisdom despite the evidence staring her in the face, and for another, because the proposed solutions always entail a drastic attack on individual rights.

It would be interesting to see Maher or Romer debate the issues with a free market proponent from an earlier time, one who lived through the Great Depression. This is what Henry Hazlitt said about FDR's policies -- the ones that Romer idolizes so (quoted by Jeffry Tucker, writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute in 1993):
Most importantly, he blamed the "artificial cheap-money policy pursued both in England and America, leading here to a colossal real-estate and stock-market speculation under the benign encouragement of Messrs. Coolidge and Mellon." This malinvestment, caused by inflationary policies, created distortions in the capital stock which called for correction.
I quoted that passage in an article on Romer in November, 2008, just after she was picked by Obama to lead his Council of Economic Advisers. Back then, she was salivating at having a chance to one-up FDR in the application of Keynesian stimulus.

Let's be thankful that she was frustrated by the stupid people, at least a little bit. And let's hope that her brethren in the administration currently will be similarly frustrated in their attempts at a third round of cheap-money policy, QE3.


The Specific and the General

Random happenstance led me to read two articles today that have connections in ways I wouldn't have otherwise noticed and both articles are worth sharing. The first is the Specific.

In Chipotle Mexican Grill versus egalitarianism, Stephen Hicks examines the recent case against the restaurant chain for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To sum up, a man in a wheelchair sued because he couldn't see the food as it was being prepared. As Hicks writes:
The justices in the Ninth Circuit Court agreed, writing in their decision that Chipotle’s counter “subjects disabled customers to a disadvantage that non-disabled customers do not suffer.”

Let’s set aside some secondary matters to get to the key issues. So set aside the large majority of restaurants at which no customers can see their food being prepared. Set aside the children under four feet tall who can’t see their burritos being assembled at Chipotle. Set aside Chipotle’s offer to bring sample spoonfuls to their wheelchair customers.

Here are the key issues decided by the case, one ethical and one political:
Ethical: Customers should have equal food-ordering experiences as a matter of moral principle.
Political: We must use the law, i.e., physical compulsion, to enforce such an important moral principle.
What follows is a nuanced examination of how the ADA and the court enforce a bastardized form of the concept of "equal," one championed by egalitarianism where "to put it in metaphorical terms: they treat equality as a Procrustean Bed." The take home message is that the rights of Chipotle are being trampled upon by the implementation of bad philosophical principles.

As I was cleaning off my desk today, I came across a print out of the article I refer to as the General.

What happens to a society when it is being eaten alive from the inside out by countless examples like the one above? Billy Beck wrote about that nearly a year ago, and his words are even more relevant now:
This is my working concept, now: that it's over, and that all that's left are the particular details of collapse. That will be a rich story in itself, for sure, but we are living a truly unparalleled tragedy. It is unparalleled in that this was the first country in history founded on rational ideals of individualism (even accounting for the original sin of black slavery), and it is a tragedy in that it has been destroyed from within.

...Their grandfathers could build houses if and where they wanted to once they had accrued the moral authority (that's "money", kids) to do it: these people can barely un-flatpack a bookshelf, but at least they wouldn't have to beg zoning permits for that.

Even as it slides, though...they will notice the cold bite of the state. These are special generations -- the earliest of them just passing now and the last of them alive in albums with long hair and bell-bottoms -- who can see it all freezing right in front of their eyes. Their children are groomed to the cold from birth now. All the time, they know less and less about the sheer gaiety of life that once was this country, and what it took to produce that. They take for metaphysically-granted political (and their consequent cultural) structures emergent right in front of them that were once the stuff of "fevered McCarthyism". The worst part of that is the complicity of their parents, who should know better because they actually lived a great deal of what's been lost, now.
If it's not clear why I draw the connection, read both posts for yourself, especially Billy's. I'm no longer able to marshal arguments against Beck's overall assessment of America. Hick's particular example is one of seemingly infinite reasons.

In light of that, Beck's mention of "the complicity of...parents, who should know better," and that "their children are groomed" to accept the all-powerful state struck a chord. As a parent of young children, I struggle with this daily. How do I open their eyes to the fact that omnipresent government is not a metaphysical absolute, that men can deal with each other voluntarily without a statute or regulation (replete with taxes) to govern it, and that amazing prosperity and happiness are the result, without also passing on my own profound anger at it all? Right now, the anger may be all they understand, really, and that's no way to raise a reasoning, happy child. This is a battle I fight constantly, raising my wondrous, beautiful little humans in this time of decay.


Will 2012 be 1936 Redux?

In 1936, the country was still in the stranglehold of the Great Depression, and despite billions of dollars of government largesse, (largely to swing states and politically important groups) unemployment was still hovering near 20% and more Americans were "on relief" (make work jobs and welfare) than was the case 3 years prior. This last despite FDR's solemn promise to reduce the number of people on relief.

The Supreme Court started to declare some New Deal programs unconstitutional and the Republicans were winning back some key congressional seats, as the country seemingly began to wake up to how destructive the New Deal really was. FDR's poll numbers were diving and Republicans salivated at the chance to kick FDR out of office in November.

On election day, FDR crushed the Republican candidate, winning 523 electoral votes to the challenger's 8, which is the largest margin in American history.

What happened?

Two things happened. First, FDR used his printing presses and his political machine to flood swing states with cash and jobs. From Burton Folsom's New Deal or Raw Deal?:
In 1935, Congress had allocated $4.8 billion for the newly created WPA to use for relief work, and much of that cash the president had personal discretion in distributing. What that meant was that state governors had to come hat in hand to Washington hoping to persuade the president to build roads, dams, bridges, and model cities in their states.

...In the four months before the 1936 election, 300,000 men were added to the WPA. In the month after the election, 300,000 were promptly removed from WPA work. As Thomas Dewey observed, "Three-hundred thousand men and their families moved on and off relief as pawns of New Deal politics."

...When, for example, Roosevelt heard that thousands of WPA workers were to be laid off October 1—the month before the election—he told Morgenthau, "I don't give a god-damn where he gets the money from but not one person is to be laid off on the first of October."
Clearly, this was an assault the Republicans could not fight. "As the campaign wore on, and with the New Deal money spigots turned on high, Landon [the challenger] fell behind more and more. Landon won a majority of donations from businessmen, but that cash was dwarfed by Roosevelt's federal money machine. Roosevelt's patronage trumped Landon's protests of high prices, high taxes, failed programs, and executive usurpation of power."

It seems like a clear cut answer, and that alone likely sunk the Republicans despite the clear evidence in their favor. However, something else made it impossible for them, no matter whether they had a stellar candidate (they did not) or more money than FDR.

The second thing that led to FDR's landslide victory is that the Republicans were entirely lacking in principles. Folsom indicts them, then and now:
Landon had a dilemma, and it has been a Republican dilemma ever since 1936. So many American were now working in federal programs that he risked offending about ten million voters if he argued for cutting programs to balance the budget. But if he agreed to continue the programs, then the balanced budget crowd would be unhappy and the people on the programs, although no longer angry, would still have no real incentive to ditch the man who created so many of their federal jobs. As one reporter quipped: "Don't switch Santa Clauses in mid-stream." Roosevelt accurately attacked Landon in Syracuse as follows: "You cannot promise to repeal taxes before one audience and promise to spend more of the taxpayers' money before another audience.... You simply cannot make good on both promises at the same time."
Sound familiar? On the one hand, in the midst of widespread unhappiness we have federal largesse working in the favor of the statist incumbent. On the other hand, we have wishy-washy, unprincipled statists making laughable and half-hearted arguments, all the while supporting the same basic goals as those they are fighting against.

Will the 2012 election end up with the same result as the 1936 election? Time will tell, but if history is any guide, it's doubtful the country will see any relief from this disastrous presidency any time soon.


Dangerous in the Extreme

What follows comes from the private journal of a man close to the president who, when confronted with the reality of the man, looked on in fear and apprehension:
I was impressed as never before by the utter lack of logic of the man, the scantiness of his precise knowledge of things that he was talking about, by the gross inaccuracies in his statements, by the almost pathological lack of sequence in his discussion, by the complete rectitude that he felt as to his own conduct, by the immense and growing egotism that came from his office, by his willingness to continue the excoriation of...business in order to get votes for himself, by his indifference to what effect the long-continued pursuit of these ends would have upon the civilization in which he was playing a part. In other words, the political habits of his mind were working full steam with the added influence of a swollen ego. My deliberate impression is that he is dangerous in the extreme, and I view the next four years with no inconsiderable apprehension.
This was written in 1936 in the diary of a member of Franklin Roosevelt's "Brains Trust," Raymond Moley, in the run-up to the election for FDR's second term.

I pulled this quote from New Deal or Raw Deal? by Burton Folsom, Jr., which critically examines FDR's New Deal programs and exposes them for the destructive and rights-violating abominations that they were. The book includes a large amount of biographical and historical material about FDR himself, and the more I read the more I see stronger parallels with Obama than I thought existed. I find this latest quote from Moley especially interesting in light of some of my recent (admittedly not all that recent) posts about White House insiders and their view of Obama. Moley could have been writing in 2011.

Let us hope that Obama's rhetoric and Democratic machine is not as effective as FDR's was.


Yelling, Pouting, and Temper Tantrums

As a follow-up to a relatively recent post, Whining, Finger-pointing, and Self-indulgence, please see the following behind-the-scenes looks at the Obama presidency and the person of the president: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

It's obvious that one should question the legitimacy of these "anonymous insider" interviews by a previously unknown-to-me blogger, but the thing is, they ring absolutely true, and mesh both with my previous post and my impression of the man himself through all of his words and actions over the past two awful years of his reign. Obama again comes off as a petulant child unfit for his position or the demands of the job, increasingly peevish and perturbed, put upon and petty.
...the president is losing it. I don’t mean he is like losing his mind. I mean to say that he is losing whatever spark he had during the campaign. When you take away the crowds, Obama gets noticeably smaller. He shrinks up inside of himself. He just doesn’t seem to have the confidence to do the job of President, and it’s getting worse and worse. Case in point – just a few days before I left, I saw first hand the President of the United States yelling at a member of his staff. He was yelling like a spoiled child. And then he pouted for several moments after. I wish I was kidding, or exaggerating, but I am not. The President of the United States threw a temper tantrum.
This is hardly surprising to those of us who were never under his spell and who despise everything he does and everything he stands for. Signs of this attitude have been obvious since the '08 campaign started. Later, the anonymous insider laments at how ill-suited Obama is for the job of being president:
Obama is not up to the job of being president. He simply doesn’t seem to care about the work involved. You want to know what? Obama is lazy. He really is. And it is getting worse and worse. Would another four years of Obama be the best thing for America? No it would not. What this country needs is a president who is focused on the job more than on themselves. Obama is not that individual.
Fair enough. This is, if true, a damning statement coming from a party faithful. I'm sure many are outraged at Obama's incompetence, and that someone much smarter and more dedicated should be sitting in the Oval Office.

Well, let me tell you. It doesn't matter one damn bit how dedicated, smart, or competent of a person sits in the big chair. The machinery of the State grinds on, over us and through us, regardless of who sits in that office. Is Obama more consistently evil than any president in recent history? Of course. But this torture is different only in degree, not in kind.

Obama is a cancer, to be sure. But he's just the metastasis of a long line of disease from Sunstein and Alinsky to the Progressives of the early 1900's, all resting on the rotting foundation of Marx and Kant.


More Thoughts on the GZM

Since I weighed in on the Ground Zero mosque not quite two months ago, I have been troubled with my position. I felt a strong sense of discord in my thinking; while I held my reasoning was sound in my position of not wanting the government to use arbitrary force to stop the mosque, the mosque itself is such a monstrosity that the thought of it seems to fester in my mind like an infection or cancer. I chalked it up to what Paul Hsieh had described as a "lose-lose situation" in that there are no good options here.

This morning, Stephen Bourque made an interesting argument about the situation.
If individual rights were being upheld in a reasonably consistent fashion in America, one might argue that the breach constituted by blocking the building of the mosque would threaten the rule of law itself. (Such a breach still might not compare to the threat of Islam, but the argument could be made.) However, this is not a case of “the cure being worse than the disease.” We already have the disease. The government seems to recognize no restraint on its powers to regulate and control our lives. . .

In light of this, my dilemma can be expressed more clearly: Given the past and present failings of the federal government, should it now apply an incremental evil of its own to stop a monstrous, civilization-threatening evil? In those terms, the answer in the affirmative is obvious. [emphasis in original]
I'm not sure if it's obvious, but it is something to think about. Previously, I wrote:
. . .fully recognizing the virulent evil of Sharia and Islam, I come down on the side of stopping the growth of our government’s rights-violating practices at all costs. If I were to guess which will be a greater threat to my kids’ lives in 20 years, I would unquestionably pick the arbitrary force of our own government.
The discord is still there, perhaps even stronger when contemplating Stephen's arguments, but I still think it's a lose-lose.


Whining, Finger-pointing, and Self-indulgence

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.
Peter Wehner discusses an upcoming Vanity Fair article that gives an inside look at the Obama White House. It's a perceptive commentary that helps explain the petulant, spoiled little rich kid attitudes of everyone in that building.

And yet, despite all that incompetence and whining, Obama and his minions have been tragically effective at hurtling our national coal cart down the tracks into the mineshaft of statism and tyranny. What? You say that perhaps that's why Obama is so self-pitying, precisely because things have gone awry? No, dear reader. He's happy with the course on which he has set us. He's just angry that the unwashed masses don't love him for it.


The Great Depression Reenactor

Having done all she can to bring about a country-wide reenactment of the Great Depression, President Obama's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, is stepping down. Following the standard doctrine of politicized, progressive economists, she believes that heavy government intervention saved the country from the Great Depression, and she relied on that "expertise" in her position for the past year and a half.
Among her challenges was explaining why her prediction that the Obama-backed fiscal stimulus would keep the unemployment rate below 8% proved overly optimistic. The unemployment rate is now at 9.5%.

"I certainly hoped it would be lower," she said. "The world deteriorated between November 2008 when I started" and the initial estimates were made "and when we took office January 21. Do I wake up every morning and wish it were 8% instead of 9.5%? You bet."
Well, as least she hoped it would be better. But it's not her fault, you see? The "world deteriorated!" "I'm not to blame! It's not my fault!" (Is that Dr. Robert Stadler or James Taggart -- or both -- from Atlas Shrugged?)

I wrote about Romer in November 2008 when she was first picked to lead the Council. I quoted the following passage from a Boston Globe article:
The lesson she drew from that crisis, according to colleagues and a review of her writings, is that strong government intervention is sometimes necessary medicine. That may mean she will urge Obama to act aggressively to keep capital flowing through the financial system and to enact an economic stimulus package that injects government spending into the economy at the risk of ballooning the deficit.
See my post for Henry Hazlitt's take on how well that worked when FDR did it. Similar policies threw the country into deeper depression which only relaxed when FDR (and the Supreme Court) finally lifted the boot from the neck of American business.

And yet, after seeing the failure of her policies -- even though she wishes! for lower unemployment -- Romer did, in fact, learn something new:
Where we are today is certainly not good. But in the absence of the actions [of the government --ed.] the economy would have been even more terrible."

One thing she says she hadn't realized previously: "The degree to which you often only get one shot at something like the Recovery Act."
See? She learned that as bad as things are, it would have been worse without her. What evidence does she have for that? To quote a favorite phrase of Ayn Rand's, "blank out."

Romer only got "one shot" and it was right on target. She hit America in the jugular and we've been hemorrhaging red ink ever since.