“We don’t leave our First Amendment rights in the hands of FCC bureaucrats”

Although I support Elena Kagan’s confirmation on the grounds that it is certainly the best that we could hope for from an Obama presidency, stuff like this really concerns me.  Please listen to the audio at the link.  The quote comes from Justice Alito.  When General Kagan was questioned about infringements on speech and banning books, her response is that the government’s never actually applied it to books, as if that somehow makes the ability to ban them OK.  If the framers of the Constitution had thought “just trust the government” were a good strategy, I don’t think they would have bothered with the First Amendment at all. 

In today’s hearing, she attempted to make the argument that books were somehow different from movies, something about traditional electioneering methods.  It still doesn’t work.  How about we just don’t ban any speech at all?

What part of “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” doesn’t work for her?


A warning from the left

Stephanie Hitt, at American Thinker, braved a Chicago meeting of the forgotten left wing radicals.  Speakers included Cindy Sheehan and Bill Ayers.  And they can’t understand how they’re no longer relevant. 

I braved a flood of radical leftist whining, disdain, and petulance. Calling themselves a band of “disinviteds,” the three leftists spoke on censorship, free speech, and the revocations of their invitations to speak at various events.   

What started off as a diatribe against the infringement of their right to free speech and their proclaimed right to be heard quickly turned to a litany of complaints against the government, and really, the “Military Industrial Complex” in its quest to suppress free speech and political activism. 


Despite being the least focused and least strident of the three speakers, Cindy Sheehan was in many ways the most insightful. In addition to admitting that her speech was freer under Bush (under Bush, she never spent a night or more than eight hours in jail and never had a restraining order issued against her; under Obama, she was once jailed for 52 hours, and the White House has a restraining order against her), she also questioned why under Obama, the antiwar movement doesn’t seem as important or interesting. In my favorite analogy of the night, she said she felt like the Maytag Repairman of activists. Without actually answering these questions or even expressing a curiosity about this apparent irony, she was able to at least posit that the antiwar movement, when it was popular, was really an anti-Bush movement and that without Bush, no one seems interested in protesting progressive issues. 
Neither Bill Ayers nor Sunsara Taylor was as thoughtful or reflective as Ms. Sheehan, instead blaming censorship and the declining support for radical activism not on the lack of interest in their retreaded “think speak,” but on some conspiratorial notion that people are not able to share their ideas freely. 

It’s a fascinating piece, and I urge you to read the whole thing.  But one thing I kept thinking was that, when these folks were useful, they were lauded and cheered.  Now that they are not, and the now-in-power left suddenly sees the necessity of so many of the hated Bush’s hated policies, they are swept under the rug. 

It could happen to us, too. 

Out of power, many Republicans are eager to embrace the Tea party and its limited spending rhetoric.  When they were in power, however, things were quite different.  When the Republicans return to power, they will be sorely tempted to spend and grow government, and the tea partiers will be forgotten and marginalized. 

This is not a bit to say that the Republicans shouldn’t return to power; when the only alternative is the left, it is necessary to our way of life that they do.  Remember that the Tea party is nothing like the radicals represented by Cindy Sheehan and Bill Ayers, who always appeared somewhat as kooks.  The Tea party, however, is highly representative of America, and many, many citizens share its values.  It will be up to us to remain dedicated and cooperative to ensure that we are not pushed to the sides and marginalized like this when the Republicans suddenly have an incentive to turn their backs on us.

The People Don’t Know What They Want: A Review of John Samples’ The Struggle to Limit Government

The folks who oppose the TEA Party movement love to bring up some of its less logical members’ ill conceived demands to “keep government out of Medicare.” However, these demands perfectly sum up the will of the American populace as a whole, which tends towards a fickle ambivalence on what form it wants government to take.  John Samples’ book The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History, tracks the history of that ambivalence.

The Struggle to Limit Government begins with a brief overview of progressivism leading up to Franklin Roosevelt. He and other progressives cloaked that ultimate big government program, Social Security, which currently accounts for about 20 percent of our national budget, behind an aura of personal responsibility. He argued, correctly as future would show, that once the wage earners were forced to buy into the system, benefits could never be cut, lest those who paid in would lose their investment. We continue to struggle with this problem today. Social Security was politically designed to persist, and it was designed well. As time went on, the program continued to increase through an ever-growing feedback loop; the benefits would increase shortly before elections, then taxes would necessarily increase once power was comfortably entrenched.

The next major wave of government growth came with Lyndon Johnson and his great society programs. LBJ saw government as a way to remake society, and the people went along. Republicans at the time saw little to gain from opposing governmental growth policies, as the growth benefited them as well, so they did not object to LBJ’s intentions to use government to achieve his goals. LBJ’s programs were bolstered by the enormous support that they provided to higher education, leading universities to be stacked with liberals supportive of his goals. Samples points out that the war in Vietnam served the same goals as the war on poverty at home- to remake society. Government continued to grow unabated.

Reagan’s policies represented a radical new kind of Republican; inspired by Goldwater, he ran on a platform of reforming the old system and actually shrinking government. He argued for cutting taxes first, on the theory that by starving the beast, reduced revenues would force government to contract. He was largely wrong, and his policies led to unprecedented borrowing, still a problem today.

However, Reagan was not a complete failure. His theories changed the public’s perception of government growth. Some of Samples’ most interesting anecdotes are the statements that pre-Reagan politicians made about government’s goals. LBJ, for example, openly called for equality “in fact,” that is, equality of both opportunity and outcome, something no modern politician could call for. Had it not been for Reagan, Obama’s famous answer to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around” would not have been likely to even raise eyebrows. Although government never actually shrank under Reagan, he did herald in an era of illegitimacy of government that even the most liberal candidates still attempt to give the appearance of embracing today, by claiming that their policies will lower taxes and shrink government. By offering reforms, though, Reagan was ultimately an upholder of the old system; his policies allowed big, centralized government to perpetuate.

Samples is not kind to the Republicans who followed Reagan. While the Gingrich revolution brought about significant change by forcing Clinton to moderate, it delegitimatized the movement as well. When Gingrich and Clinton forced showdowns that led to temporary government shutdowns, the people, comfortable in the booming ‘90’s, favored Clinton and abandoned Gingrich’s attempts to reduce spending. Bush, with his compassionate conservatism, failed to focus on spending much at all and grew government to unprecedented levels. Samples derides the Republicans for focusing on moral issues, rather than fiscal, and losing sight of the need to shrink government. Led by the moral majority, Republicans forced their own kind of progressivism; even the Iraq war, in its intent to remake Iraqi society, was paternalistic and progressive in nature.

This book provides a wealth of interesting, relevant information. While most political junkies will be familiar with the broad history, Samples breaks down the goals, incentives, and public reaction in great detail, allowing the reader to fully understand how government was made into the looming, centralized power that it is today. However, if I have one complaint about it, it is that this is not the sort of book that you can curl up and get lost in. It reads very much like a textbook, with a broad amount of information, but very little narrative flow to keep the reader engaged. The wealth of information makes it well worth the read, but slogging through it is likely to be difficult for the casual reader.

The book’s conclusion appears to break down to the fact that Americans, in their voting habits, simply cannot make up their minds about whether they want larger or smaller government. The common cliché of the citizen wanting government spending cut on everything but what is important to him is a true one. Neither party helps this issue, as both tend to offer their own takes on progressivism in efforts (sometimes misguided) to stay in power. It is our ambivalence, and give and take back, that keeps us on the path that we are on, and that ambivalence will have to change in order to end the struggle and truly limit government.

Magic Money from the Government’s Tree

I can’t imagine why this wasn’t a bigger story, because it explains so much.  A Fox News poll in March (via Amy Alkon, sort of) found:

Where does the government get its money anyway? While 65 percent understand the government’s money is their taxpayer dollars at work, some 24 percent think the federal government has “plenty of its own money without using taxpayer dollars.”

Now, how many of that 24 percent (and of the 35 percent that doesn’t understand that the government’s money is their taxpayer dollars) voted for Obama?  I”m guessing a full 100 percent.

I’ve always said that my liberatarian instincts can be directly traced back to the two years I spent as grocery store cashier

Yesterday at the Bi-Lo, man in front of me in line.  He walked through with no apparent disability. 

He purchased trout, catfish, perch, and a bakery pie. 

I bought frozen vegetables (generic and bulk), a tiny can of mushrooms, cheapest variety, eggs (generic and in bulk), and,  as a treat to be put into a cobbler, four fall apples. 

He refused the cashiers attempt to provide him with a shopper’s discount card, despite her assertion that it was free. 

I keep mine right on my keychain and presented it eagerly. 

I paid with my Visa.  He presented a government benefits card. 

I completed four years of college, on my own financing, and three long years of law school, for which I will continue paying for years to come.  Maybe he did the same. 

But I doubt it. 

And now, Amy Alkon tells me that welfare is losing its stigma.

Update: The New York Times has more on lost stigma for food stamps.