This essay is based on remarks delivered in Milwaukee on January 24, 2014.
Attacks on basic American freedoms are occurring at such a fierce pace and in such disparate arenas that it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. But with a little effort, we can connect the dots.
In his state of the union address last year, President Barack Obama said his top priorities were overhauling immigration laws, passing new gun-control legislation, expanding early childhood education, and raising the minimum wage. Really?
Illegal immigration is down dramatically since the Great Recession started. Gun-control laws don’t reduce crime, but armed citizens do. Early childhood education programs don’t produce benefits that last more than a year or two. And only 6percent of the population is paid the minimum wage, and the overwhelming majority move quickly to better-paying jobs.
So … why these priorities? Why not propose pro-jobs policies like removing unnecessary regulations and taxes (like the highest corporate income taxes in the world) to improve the business climate, so that the “jobless recovery” becomes a real recovery that creates new jobs and opportunities for advancement for millions of Americans?
Why not support pro-consumer health care reform, like replacing the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance with an individual tax credit that rewards people for being smart consumers of health care services? That would lower the cost of health care without rationing and without erecting a massive bureaucracy.
Why not propose pro-energy policies like approving the Keystone Pipeline, removing obstacles to exploration and fracking on public lands, and repealing ethanol mandates?
Why not push for pro-parent school reforms like vouchers and tax credits? Such programs are known to improve student achievement, retention and graduation rates, and success in college, and they close the achievement gap between minority and white students.
Head Fakes and Real Objectives
If the Obama administration wanted to end the recession, make health care more affordable, protect the environment, or improve K-12 education, its policies in these arenas would be much different. Since it can’t defend its policies, it offers head fakes instead, inviting its critics to dive down rabbit holes of bad ideas that don’t matter or have no chance of being adopted.
What is the Obama administration’s real agenda? What is the hidden architecture of what it is actually doing, rather than what its spokespersons and allies say it wants to do?
Obama and the folks around him are trying to create a new economy that looks a lot like the one liberals in the 1960s and 1970s imagined: lots of central planning, income redistribution, the illusion of world peace, and windmills. Achieving this transformation requires destroying existing institutions in finance, health care, energy, and education.
The stated goals of “financial reform,” “health care reform,” and so on are designed to hide real objectives and effects. Here are some examples of how it works.
In this new economy, big banks and financial institutions are controlled by politicians to steer investments to favored industries and individuals. Some (e.g., J.P. Morgan) are kept alive and profitable to be milked later for massive amounts of cash to finance income redistribution schemes to satiate true believers and provide theater to low-information voters.
Implementation of Dodd-Frank is the real behind-the-scenes story. It is systematically destroying small banks and independent traders. Quantitative easing (QE) – monthly purchases by the Federal Reserve Bank of government and mortgage bonds – is also part of the real story. It is being used to fuel a credit-driven economic recovery at the expense of a stable currency and low rates of inflation and unemployment.
Dodd-Frank and QE are destroying equity markets and the price system, the foundation of a free-enterprise system. They are creating a vacuum to be filled by government planners who have been proven over and over to be incapable of directing capital to its best and highest use.
Obamacare, Global Warming, and Common Core
The purpose of Obamacare isn’t to reduce spending or even expand insurance coverage, as all experts confirm it will do neither. Instead, it is to destroy the private insurance industry, leave a few huge corporate hospital conglomerates standing, and then to plunder them for contributions and special favors.
Same with energy. Obama and his allies in the environmental movement are using the global warming scare to destroy the coal, oil, and gas industries and prop up wind, solar, and ethanol producers. Then it plans to milk those industries, which are highly dependent on subsidies and government mandates, for campaign contributions and insider profit opportunities (e.g., Al Gore).
Never mind that the science of the global warming scare has been debunked and that these “alternative” energy sources are much more expensive, unreliable, and environmentally damaging than fossil fuels. The object isn’t to protect the environment, it’s to destroy an industry that stands in the way of the new economy.
Same with education. Federal law prohibits the national government from imposing a national curriculum on public elementary and secondary schools, but this is exactly what Common Core Standards are. Their object isn’t to improve learning – many critics point out the new standards often are lower than the state standards they have replaced – but to put leftists in charge of what is taught in public and even private schools.
As the Russian communist Vladimir Lenin once said, “Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Do you think Obama’s allies on the left are unfamiliar with this quotation?
Share the Burden
In his 1954 autobiography titled Invisible Writing, Arthur Koestler described a trip he took across the Soviet Union during 1938–39 sponsored by the Communist Party. He was being paid to produce a propaganda book about the new Utopia being built there, but everywhere he looked was evidence of massive starvation, power outages, and huge migrations of starving peasants to impoverished cities.
According to Koestler, every city had two newspapers, one published by the government and the other by the communist party. Both were filled with stories of factories and collectives “exceeding their quotas” and making amazing progress toward the goals of the latest Five-Year Plan. Koestler admits to being blind to what was right in front of his eyes. He was conditioned by official propaganda to believe that things were even worse before the Revolution, that only counter-revolutionaries were starving, that progress was being made, that ordinarily folks wouldn’t understand that sacrifices were necessary, so these stories shouldn’t be told.
It’s difficult not to draw a parallel to the situation here in the U.S. today. The national government and its sycophants in the mainstream media tell us everything is going great, but the truth apparent all around us is nearly exactly the opposite.
We don’t need to follow the Obama administration and the left down the path to what Ronald Reagan so accurately called “the anthill of socialism.” We can search for and report the truth, talk to our friends and neighbors, and make sure they know what is at stake in November.
It’s a heavy lift, but with everyone helping, the burden isn’t too great.
Joseph Bast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of The Heartland Institute.