Mistakes are human — and they’re dangerous when an entity aggregates too much power

erase_mistakeMistakes.  We all make them. Lord knows, anyone reading my blog knows that there are days when I can call myself the Mistake Queen. I’m a careless typist and a lousy proofreader, especially when rushed or stressed, two things that describe me most of the time.  I have a large fund of facts squirreled away in my brain, but I still get facts wrong and am always grateful when those more knowledgeable than I correct them.  I’m a savvy internet user, but not infrequently fall prey to false information on the internet (especially falsely attributed quotations that dovetail too perfectly with my beliefs).

Here’s the deal, though:  My mistakes have minimal impact.  They amuse some and offend others.  When I learn about them, I’ll correct them (unless they’re ancient typos).  I don’t want to make mistakes because my credibility and quality are at issue, but nobody’s going to die or go broke because I’ve made a typo.

The same holds true when individuals in government make mistakes.  For example, Earl tipped me off to a very funny one from the offices of Rep. Paul Cook (R., Cal. 8th Dist.).  I have no bone to pick with Cook.  He’s a retired Marine colonel and Vietnam Vet, and he deserves full honors for both those things.  He’s a Republican and I’ll happily assume for now that he’s not a RINO.  Without further information, therefore, Rep. Cook is all good things and I wish him much success.

But the stuff that comes out of his office!  Oy vey!!  His staff recently mailed out a flyer to his constituents.  The flyer had on its cover this stirring image:

Paul Cook flyer cover

So far so good. We like Congressmen who look first to the Constitution before passing laws. The problem comes with the survey included with the mailing:

Paul Cook survey

Please think long and hard about how you would answer Question No. 2.  If pressed, I would pick “unsure,” only because, of all the answers that make no sense, it’s most honestly acknowledges the inevitable bewilderment the question creates.

So it’s not just me messing up.  This kind of carelessness, thoughtlessness, illogical, foolishness, or whatever else you’d like to call it, is an inherent part of human nature.  The problems begin when we give these careless humans too much power.  The fact that Rep. Cook has silly people in his office says nothing about him and his agenda.  Likewise, although it was good for a laugh, you can’t fault every Democrat for some foolish drone’s reference to Reagan’s hitherto unknown years in Congress.

The contrary is true, though, when we’re looking at mistakes in an all- (or almost all-) powerful organization, such as a modern federal bureaucracy.  In that context, mistakes can be catastrophic.  And that’s precisely what Jim Geraghty touches upon in his National Review article about the fact that liberals cannot govern — they have put too much power into entities whose mistakes are devastating and whose self-correcting mechanisms non-existent:

In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government.

[snip]

Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.

I hope I’m not being too mean when I point to Rep. Paul Cook’s silly flyer as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with big government, even if that government is not actively malevolent and partisan.  When careless error comes out of a single Congressman’s office, it’s inconsequential; when it comes out of an all-powerful, unconstrained bureaucracy, it ought to scare the Hell out of each one of us.

The only way to cut government spending is to cut government

The Cato Institute is putting together a series of videos to identify government agencies that are not merely wasteful, but are also destructive to our country’s well-being.  This video, attacking the horribly misnamed Department of Education, is one of the five videos Cato has already created:

Of course, the above video brings coals to Newcastle.  Those who watch it already agree with its premise, although it’s nice to have hard facts to back up our sometimes inchoate sense of outrage.  What I would love is to see every liberal I know watching the video.  Sadly, though, I know with absolute certainty that none will dare. They are resolute in their desire to avoid contact with any information that might disrupt their New York Times world view.

Hat tip: Power Line

Mark Steyn tackles the administration’s game of “I spy” on the American people

The one good thing about bad news is that it brings out the best in good writers.  You really must read Mark Steyn’s whole column about Obama’s East German spy state, but I can resist cherry-picking for the best of it:

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.

[snip]

Holder had another great contribution to the epitaph of the Republic this week. He went on TV to explain that he didn’t really regard Fox News’s James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” but had to pretend he did to the judge in order to get the judge to cough up the warrant. So rest easy, America! Your chief law officer was telling the truth when he said he hadn’t lied to Congress because in fact he’d been lying when he said he told the truth to the judge.

[snip]

When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”

Read it all.  Post it on your blogs.  Email it to your friends.  Distribute it through social media.  Steyn is right about something fundamental here which is that, even if what the administration did is legal, it’s still profoundly wrong and the laws are badly drafted if they can allow government to listen in on the minutiae of every American’s life.

Gawd, this is just the perfect follow-up to an earlier post about the manly man pretense

I didn’t intend to have it happen that way today, but I’ve already done two posts on manliness and, as I type, have the perfect third to the trio.

The first post was about Obama’s insistence that a member of the few, the proud, and the umbrella carriers take care of him before he melted.

The second post was about a bumper sticker I saw today, in which a manly, obscene man then insisted that he liked having the government treat him like a baby.  Right.  You can’t be both, dude.

And then, right on schedule, this third thing fell into my lap:

Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.

Researchers discovered political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength.

Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to the research.

Yup.  That pretty much sums it up.  The stronger I’ve gotten (age has tempered my strength), the less interested I am in having the government serve as a Mommy/Daddy proxy.  Some men, however, remain weedy wimps forever.

Sadie has a question about drones — Do you feel lucky?

Sadie sent me an email:

Would you post this and ask your clever and knowledgeable readers to answer mine or Dirty Harry’s question: Well, do you feel Lucky. Well do ya, Punk?

I am not feeling warm and fuzzy. Admission: I am warm enough, but very fuzzy on details about internal drones because DHS hasn’t explained the purchase of 450 million hollow-point bullets (they’re the type of bullets that expand after entry). Show and tell video below.

California is searching for Christopher Dorner, who has murdered 3 people already and has a “kill list”. The administration has a “kill list” as well, which is only geared towards Americans on foreign soil, along with foreign jihadists/Al Qaida. Add to the mix that Congress approved the use of 30,000 drones by 2020 within our borders.I can see the program’s usefulness in apprehending Dorner, but ….

It’s not as if the electorate was asked if an internal drone program is a good/bad idea. Is it?

The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and—for the first time—an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA’s original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

The West’s perpetual adolescence — affluence and socialism create a nation of Peter Pans who refuse to grow up

One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year.  I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26.  I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation.  Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.

I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued.  Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.

That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm.  What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents.  Necessity required the Founders to work and grow.  A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.

Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18.  In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years.  The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.

For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18.  The middle and upper classes send their children to college.  For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility.  Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge.  Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real.  Some of them get married and have children.  Too many, however, continue to be adolescents:  they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance.  Partying remains important.

The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education.  Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc.  They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field.  I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money.  When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field.  The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States.  I went to law school instead.

People need to grow up.  They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly.  I realized the truth of this when I had children.  Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid.  Nothing I did really mattered.  When you have children, everything matters.  Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect.  I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back.  I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.

What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain.  Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year.  By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives.  Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.

In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.

Conservatives need a new ground game

Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m feeling less depressed than I felt last night and this morning.  Part of my more sanguine attitude is based upon a Taranto principle, which is that Obama now owns the events of the next four years:

Obama has spent the past four years explaining away his failings by essentially arguing he is the best of all possible presidents–that he has done as well as any man could given the “mess” he “inherited” from his predecessor. It is certainly true that he took office under adverse circumstances. But so will whoever takes office Jan. 20. In fact, things are about to get a lot worse because of decisions taken but deferred during the Obama years.

The mess today’s winner will inherit includes not only high unemployment and slow growth but impending policy changes that threaten to make those problems worse. On Jan. 1, unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts expire–or, to put it another way, “massive, job-killing tax increases” are about to take effect (that quote is from President Obama). If Obama gets his way–which he likely would if re-elected–Congress will forestall the hike only for taxpayers making under $200,000 or $250,000 a year. That would be good for those fortunate enough to have jobs, but it would not change the tax increase’s job-killing nature, as it would hit investors and small businesses hard.

Then there’s ObamaCare. Although enacted nearly three years ago, it was written so that most of its provisions would not take effect until the next presidential term. “The bottled-up rules to set up President Barack Obama’s health care reform law are going to start flowing quickly right after Election Day,” Politico reports. “As soon as Wednesday, the gears and levers of government bureaucracy are likely to start moving at full speed again.”

The scale of the messes Taranto describes makes it unlikely that Romney could have been a successful president.  At best, he might have stemmed an economic or national security collapse, but I doubt he could actually have improved things.  The systems for self-destruction — massive debt, vast entitlement expectations, ObamaCare beginning to weave into the warp and woof of our social and economic fabric, a dangerous world outside of America’s borders — are already deeply entrenched.  Four years won’t fix them.  (Which may be why voters ignored Obama’s empty 2008 promises and decided that he really need 8 years to fulfill the hope and change manifesto.)

But, but . . . what about Reagan?  He also inherited a dangerous world and an unhealthy economy.  That’s true — but he inherited a different ground game.  Political correctness didn’t exist then.  Skin color diversity (offset by ideological homogeneity) was at the beginning of its trajectory, not the peak.  People still viewed government aid as something one first earned or, if one didn’t earn it, as something one accepted with some degree of embarrassment.  Now, even with no pay-in, they view it as a right, with no shame attached.  In Reagan’s day, our troops hadn’t been fighting a blood-and-guts war for eight years (as opposed to a massive Cold War chess game) against an enemy that neither the Republican nor the Democrat President willingly named.  In Reagan’s day, the intelligentsia may have tried to downplay the Soviet Union, but ordinary people still knew that it was indeed the Evil Empire.  Israel was still loved, not hated, so Americans supported a president who supported Israel.

The ground game has changed.  As Roger Simon says,

So we have a problem with democracy. It’s not working or, more specifically, has been turned on its end, with the masses manipulated against their own self-interest, creating power elites similar to those described in Milovan Djilas’ The New Class.

How did that happen? I think many of us know there are three pillars of our own destruction: the educational system, the media and entertainment (the popular arts).

Those three areas are so corrupted those who legitimately are on the center-right (or anywhere close to it) will increasingly find themselves swimming upstream against a current so great who knows where it will take them. (Think Hayek, Orwell, etc.) We must address ourselves to these three immediately before it is too late. In many ways, it already is. Culture is the mother of politics and mother is turning into Medea.

Okay, fine.  We fight the wars we’re given, not the wars we want.  So here’s my thinking.

As I said, I’m less depressed than I was because I think our culture is such that, no matter who occupies the White House, bad things are going to happen.  Really bad things, both with our economy and our national security.  Seeing as I think the coming hurt is inevitable, I’d rather it happens on a Democrat’s than on a Republican’s watch.  If I’m wrong, I’ll eat crow and begin to consider whether my political leanings of the past eight years have been a temporary aberration, and I’ll even contemplate returning to my liberal roots.  (Unlikely, but if the next four years are an American boom time, we’ll all need to rethink our belief systems.)

Accepting the inevitable, how do we fight back?  As polite conservatives, we’ve always tried to work through the ballot box.  We’ve decried the bias in media (including PBS, which we pay for), academia, and education, but we really haven’t done anything about it.  We tried to vote for people who would stop funding PBS and we whined on websites about the indoctrination at our children’s schools.  We’ve still paid to watch movies and we tune in to TV.

We resent the system, but we work within in.  For all that we talk about the ageless wonders of our Constitution and free-market principles generally, we are short-term thinkers, who keep believing (all evidence to the contrary) that we can kill the Progressive tree, not by attacking the roots, but by taking an axe to the tip-top of the tree through honestly brokered elections.  The fact is that the cultural battle is so one-sided (against our side) that we’d probably lose even honestly brokered elections, ones that did not involve massive fraud and media malfeasance.

We keep doing trying the same failed tactic, even though we recognize that the strong Democrat victories resulted, not because the Left voted, but because they spent 60 years going after America’s social and intellectual infrastructure.  The numbers of actual Lefties are probably pretty small; the number of people who have been taught to vote Democrat without thinking what it really means, is huge.

William F. Buckley figured out the problem in the 1950s and started a cultural counter attack, which ended with the Reagan ascendency.  Whew!  That was it.  We won.  Yay.  We won forever.  NOT.  The Left never stopped its ground game.  Indeed, during and after the Reagan years (including during the Clinton years), the hard Left consolidated its hold over cultural institutions.  We just watched and whined.

We cannot do that anymore.  For the next four years, conservatives need to stop worrying about this candidate or that candidate (which is all we ever do) and we need to start wooing the masses.

My friend Lulu, who comments here and who has been an occasional guest poster, called me today with a wonderful idea:  Star Parker.  Okay, you’re right.  Star Parker is a wonderful person, not a wonderful idea, but she’s the symbol for my friend’s idea.  We don’t need to run Star Parker for office, we need to run her for talk show host, a la Oprah.  She’s engaging, approachable, intelligent, conservative and black.  I hate to add the last, because I don’t like to judge people by the color of their skin, but I’m in minority.  I live in my head, so I relate to people intellectually.  Most don’t.  They need other people to look like them in order to start feeling comfortable with their ideas.

The talk show idea, though is the right one.  We know that most people aren’t high-level thinkers when it comes to politics but are, instead, low-level, emotional reactors.  I do not mean that they are stupid.  I just mean that, when it comes to politics, they engage in a non-abstract, non-theoretical, non-intellectual level.  The old saying is that, if the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, than Mohamed must go to the mountain.  We need to reach out to non-engaged voters by meeting them at their level, rather than insisting that they meet us at ours.

Admittedly, our conservative social infrastructure is limited.  Liberals own the media and the entertainment world.  But how did they get there?  They pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed.  We need to start pushing too.  We need talk shows, even if they start on cable or internet.  We also need to take a page out of the Leftist handbook and start using the courts.  For example, Lulu suggested that, as taxpayers, we have standing to sue PBS to demand that, as long as public broadcasting gets public monies, it must devote 50% of its programming time to conservative programs.  After all, for decades, simply because they rented public airwaves, TV and radio were required to be  neutral.  Why isn’t PBS?

When it comes to Hollywood, we need to come together an create alternatives.  Stop spending your money on movies by people who hate us.  Why are we doing that?  And we should take the money we didn’t spend on the haters and invest it in movie makers (such as Declaration Entertainment) that will make entertaining movies that don’t hit us over the head with their message, but that feed it to us subliminally.  (When we do make movies we always go for the iron hand, rather than the velvet glove).  The Left figured this one out, as Ben Shapiro explains in Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.  We too can change the paradigm without being obvious.

And why are we, who pay most of the taxes, allowing publicly funded schools to discriminate against conservative teachers? We sit back and cheer when an individual conservative teacher sues after being denied tenure, but we’ve never had a taxpayer suit saying that, just as student body’s have to be diverse, so should faculty — and that this diversity includes not discriminating against belief systems.  In other words, we have to redefine diversity so that it encompasses ideology as well as (or instead of) skin color.

We also have to advertise ourselves better.  As Romney’s campaign (and McCain’s and Bush’s too) showed, Republican political “leaders” find our ideology embarrassing and seek to wrap it up in gauzy, often impenetrable, platitudes.  One of my readers, Fern, suggests that our campaigns have a musty, fuzzy look.  The Left identifies us as backwards, reactionary, etc., and we yield.  We’ve certainly given the Left linguistic control.  They’re “Progressive” and “Forward.”  We’re fuddy-duddy “conservatives.”

Obama, a child of the Left, understands that words matter, more than the fact that these so-called Progressives keep trying to recycle ideas that failed in all nations that have tried them.  They’ve got the glamor and the gloss, and those gimmicks sell in a superficial world.

One of the first and easiest things we can do is to start with re-branding.  Keep in mind that calling conservatives “right wing” harks back to the 18th century French parliament, when the non-revolutionaries sat on the right side of the hall.  Is that how we want to identify ourselves — as relics of the ancien regime?  “Conservative” too makes us sound like a bunch of reactionary codgers who can be painted as desirous of slavery (never mind that the Republicans freed the slaves), Jim Crow-lovers (never mind that Republicans opposed Jim Crow), and misogynists (never mind that Republicans are in the vanguard of fighting Muslims and Chinese Communists who treat women and girl babies like disposable property).

It turns out that, in a media rich world, Shakespeare was wrong.  That which we call rose, by any other name does not smell as sweet.  With that in mind, how about starting to call ourselves “Individualists” or “the Freedom Party” or something like that?  Liberals successfully (and mostly under the radar) rebranded themselves as Progressives, leaving behind the musty Victorian taint of “liberalism.”  If they can do it, why can’t we?

Truly, the wake-up call we received yesterday is not about 2012 or even about 2016.  It is about our finally understanding that the opposition has long had a better strategy and endless institutional patience.  We won only when there were still enough voters who hadn’t been indoctrinated.  In 2008, there weren’t enough of us remaining to tilt the scales.  The Left attacked America at the root, and we need to take it back at precisely the same level.

The battle is over.  The war has begun.  Consider this post Ground Zero.  If you have ideas — practical, non-whining ideas that ordinary people can put into effect — post them in the comments section, and we’ll see how far we can disseminate them.  For starters, I am no longer a conservative.  I am an “individualist” who supports a “Freedom Party,” as opposed to a “statist” who supports “Big Government.”

UPDATE:  Others thinking about a new ground game too –

The Colossus of Rhodey

Don Quixote (at our own Bookworm Room)

Ron Radosh

Michelle Horstman

Will Obama’s failure to create genuine wealth finally end Keynesian economics?

Many of Obama’s most educated supporters believe in him because they believe in Keynesian economics.  Central to that belief is the theory that government itself can be an economic engine.  If people aren’t working, have them work for the government or at least have the government fund their ostensibly “private sector” jobs.  This theory holds that all jobs are good jobs, regardless of the employer.  Indeed, ardent Keynesians say the government is both the best employer and economic manager, because it’s big enough to control the entire economy, getting money and jobs where they most need to be.

I turned my back on Keynesian theories when I finally figured out that there’s a difference between jobs and wealth.  As Milton Friedman famously said, if all that you’re interested in is employment, forget shovel-ready jobs and aim, instead, for spoon-ready jobs, which will put more people to work.  At the end of the day, whether you have ten people with digging away with shovels or one hundred people picking away with spoons, all you’ll end up with are holes.  Under this model, any benefits from fuller employment are transitory.

What creates meaningful jobs, the kind that move the economy forward instead of create a static back-and-forth of taxes to the government and make-work to the people, is a dynamic private sector.  That’s where you get innovation, imagination, and energy.  Under this free-market economic model, the government’s job is to prevent abuse.  It steps aside to allow the greed that’s necessary for capitalism, while acting affirmatively to prevent fraud, abuse, and other kinds of things that interfere with the marketplace.

During the debate, Romney was referring to this policing role when he said some regulation is not only good, but actually necessary.  It’s when the government starts managing the economy that wealth vanishes.

If you have a rich country (or, as was the case with Europe when America paid for her Cold War security, a sugar daddy), you can keep the back-and-forth of taxes and government make-work going for quite a long time.  Eventually, though, you’re left with jobs, but no wealth.  And no wealth means no taxes, which means no jobs.  Welcome to Greece.

What Romney has to do during the next month is convince undecided voters, or worried voters who aren’t as decided as they thought they were, that, while, Obama’s policies can and will create jobs (as today’s anemic, and suspect, job reports revealed), his policies not only cannot create wealth, they are antithetical to wealth creation.  I think this ad is a good start:

Why does the Left love Mom and Pop stores, but hate Mom and Pop medicine?

Gay Patriot posted the other day about yet another anti-Walmart protest.  His point was that the protesters, rather than being excited about real paying jobs coming to L.A., insisted that they would be better off with some hypothetical Mom and Pop jobs that might arise if they protested Walmart with sufficient vigor:

Last week, when watching TV news footage of people protesting a Walmart being built in LA’s Chinatown, I caught sight of a sign which seemed to define contemporary American liberalism, “Good Jobs/not Walmart jobs.”

[snip]

These protestors, however, prefer these abstract “good jobs” to the very real “Walmart Jobs.”  They favor, that is, something that exists in the abstract, in theory, to something very real — and well, like most real things, (at least) slightly imperfect.

Gay Patriot is, of course, correct, about the illogic driving the protesters.  But think too about their claim that large, impersonal employers aren’t “good.”  The assumption underlying this claim is that multiple small businesses better serve the community by ensuring choice and by preventing people from having a single Leviathan-esque employer beaten them down (in the form of “union busting” and “low wages”):

“This historic neighborhood will be utterly gutted if Walmart comes here,” Morello told the Associated Press.

Others said they were worried that the retail giant will drive smaller stores in Chinatown out of business.

“We hope that Walmart will hear us loud and clear and stop the construction and get out of Chinatown,” said King Cheung, an organizer with the Chinatown  Coalition for Equitable Development. “So that we in Chinatown, the stakeholders, can talk about what is best for Chinatown.”

[snip]

Sarah Tseng said her nonprofit had collected signatures for 80 local small businesses in opposition to the planned store. She said the majority of Chinatown residents oppose it, but are “afraid to say so publicly.”

To summarize, the protesters are appalled that a large entity will move in and squeeze out the diversity offered by multiple small providers, because doing so harms the worker and the consumer.   Pretty clear, right?  Right.  Except….

Except that this principle collapses completely when it’s the government that wants to move in and despoil Mom and Pop concerns (i.e., small providers).  In deconstructing Fareed Zakaria’s liberal defense of the government takeover of medicine, Yuval Levin points out the Left’s hostility to small providers:

Zakaria then contends that the inefficiencies of the American health care system—and especially the frequent disconnect between costs and outcomes—are a function of there just being too many different players in the system, each with his own goals. This is the classic liberal complaint: disorder causes inefficiency. Citing a conversation with Daniel Vassela, the chairman of Novartis, Zakaria writes:

“In America,” he said, “no one has incentives to make quality and cost-effective outcomes the goal. There are so many stakeholders and they each want to protect themselves. Someone needs to ask, ‘What are the critical elements to increase quality?’ That’s what we’re going to pay for, nothing else.”

And from this, Zakaria does not conclude that we need to rearrange the financial incentives in our health-care system so that, like in other parts of our economy, providers of services have a powerful incentive (called the profit motive) to make quality and cost-effectiveness their goal. Instead, he concludes that government must take over decisions about how to provide coverage and organize the system because presumably government is very good at making quality and cost-effectiveness its goals.

In other words, the protesting Left isn’t really interested in Mom and Pop, whether Mom and Pop are selling shoes or health care. Instead, Leftists are simply interested in destroying large capital and elevating Big Government.

John Stossel, live and impassioned

(Image by Luigi Novi)

The Marin County Republican Party, which last year hosted the late, great Andrew Breitbart, was able to entice John Stossel to come visit as part of his book tour for No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed.

To no one’s surprise, during his half hour talk (followed by a Q&A session) John Stossel made compelling arguments in favor of smaller government.  My favorite was his OSHA riff.  Mr. Stossel put up a graph showing that, since OSHA’s creation, workplace casualties have declined consistently and dramatically.  Hmm.  Why in the world was Mr. Stossel, a small government advocate, showing that slide?

The answer came quickly, when Mr. Stossel showed a second graph charting workplace casualties for an extended period of time (going back to WWII or before).  That graph revealed that the decline began before OSHA’s creation and that OSHA had no effect whatsoever on the trajectory.  Before OSHA’s expensive, business-killing creation, what was driving down workplace industries was the market place itself:  between a more educated workforce, changing social mores, and the manufacturers’ realization that dead workers were expensive (lawsuits and retraining new workers), work places were becoming safer without an expensive, oppressive government agency interfering in every American business.  As Mr. Stossel said, the government is like someone who jumps in front of a parade and pretends that it’s the leader.

I could go on dredging my rather pathetic memory for more examples of Mr. Stossel’s proof that government is the problem, not the solution, but you’d do better to buy and read his book, as I did. Indeed, when I asked Mr. Stossel during the Q&A session if the big government egg could be unscrambled, to much laughter, he joked that the best way to get the ball rolling would be to buy his book, and to knock Rachel Madow’s book out of the No. 1 position on the best seller lists.

Of course, that’s only sort of a joke.  Mr. Stossel is right in that we cannot change government unless we change how people think about government.  As Mr. Stossel explained, for most people it’s counter-intuitive to believe that a large, visible entity such as the government cannot “fix” things.  People find it almost impossible to believe that Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” is the real answer to most of the problems we face.   Getting more people to understand the Invisible Hand, and doing it in clear, 21st century language, with 21st century anecdotes, rather than trying to convince through Adam Smith’s 18th century prose, is a good start.

I left the gathering well-satisfied.  As was the case with Andrew Breitbart, John Stossel manifestly and passionately believes in bringing an end to big government.  Although he must have given this talk hundreds of times before, it felt fresh and invigorating.  This was in stark contrast to David Axelrod’s talk before a huge audience in the Marin County Civic Center, which I attended last year.  After noting that Axelrod came across as rather charming, I had this to say:

Axelrod was also dull. The Italians call his kind of speech “fried air,” meaning that there were lots of words, but there wasn’t much content.  (I’d be really good at that kind of speech, plus being charming.)  He described how he met Obama, how wonderful the young Obama was, how wonderful the mature Obama is, etc. He made a few half-hearted attacks against Republicans (especially Perry, which was interesting), but mostly he just wandered on with his canned speech. At periodic intervals, he spouted obligatory conclusions about the wonderfulness of his liberal ideology and the foulness of the Republican world view, but he never made the case for either of these points — which is unsurprising, I guess, since the audience was already on board with his position.

The whole thing was lifeless and lackluster. Axelrod seemed tired and, while the audience was very friendly, it lacked energy.

Axelrod is a cynic; Mr. Stossel a true believer — and I believe too.

Elizabeth Warren — mob boss *UPDATED*

I woke up this morning to find that my Leftist friends literally plastered Facebook with the above poster.  (Since I grew up and still live in the Bay Area, I have lots of Leftist friends.)  If the text on the image is unclear, this is what it says:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.  Nobody.  You built a factory out there — good for you.

But I want to be clear.  You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.  You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.  You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.  You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory.  [Bookworm note:  Warren must have made this statement before the Gibson Guitar factory raid, when marauding bands of government agents did precisely that to a factory that forgot to pay off the Democrats.]

Now look.  You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless!  Keep a big hunk of it.  But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

There are so many things wrong with Warren’s statement that I really don’t know where to begin.  Tonestaple sent me an email that certainly gets the tone right (which led to my post’s title):

They [meaning the middle class Leftists who applaud the above statement] seem to think it is the ne plus ultra of common sense.  I think it sounds like a gangster saying, “Nice factory you’ve got here – be a shame if anything happened to it.”

As my interlineation about Gibson Guitar shows, Tonestaple perfectly nailed the reality behind Warren’s cutesy, nursery school-esque, “God blessy” statement that everybody should share with everybody else.”  The reality is that, in Obama world, if you don’t make nice with the government, the government is not going to make nice with you.  (The cutesy tone, incidentally, is classic Warren. She was one of my law school profs, and I found her invariably sweet in word, unintelligible in substance, and vaguely vicious in action.)

Tone aside, there are two major problems with Warren’s factory parable.  The first is the assumption that the factory owner contributed nothing to roads, education, police and fire forces, etc.  In Warren’s world, the factory owner is a pure parasite.  Warren conveniently forgets that the factory owner pays taxes (hugely more taxes than all those people whom she posits paying for roads, education, etc.); that the factory owner provides work for and pays the salary of those employees who then pay taxes; and that a successful factory owner makes a product that provides a benefit to people.

The second problem with Warren’s statement is actually a much more profound one than her “forgetting” that it’s the employers who provide the goods, services and salaries that make all those useful taxes possible.  Warren’s statement turns the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and everything else the Founders stood for upside down.

In Warren’s world, a socialist world, the government owns everything.  (And don’t you love it when well paid Harvard professors advocate socialism?)  The Founders would have been horrified by Warren’s pronouncement.  As their writings demonstrate, they believed that natural rights, the rights that ought to govern any righteous nation, mandate that ownership is vested in the individual.  The government is merely a servant of the people.  We, the people, pay its salary (taxes) so that it can provide services for us.  That’s all.

You don’t have to go very far to understand that the Founders wouldn’t have agreed with Warren that the government allows people to own things, provided that they then make nice with the government.  Our seminal document, the Declaration of Independence, spells out the master-servant relationship, and it is the people who are masters and the government the servant, not vice versa:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

These were the principles on which our nation was founded, and they provided the guiding paradigm for our Constitution.  When my children ask me what the Constitution is, I have a very simple answer:  It’s a contract under which the federal government promises to provide certain limited services for the American people and, further, promises not to abuse the power that the people hand the government to enable it to carry out those services.  Elizabeth Warren clearly has no use for our nation’s contract.

UPDATEJoshuaPundit comments too on Warren’s dangerous economic ignorance and class warfare.

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What happens when government (state or federal) is pathologically hostile to business

This post tells the story of a case on which I worked.  It’s a true story.

Picture this: It’s 2001.  You live in California and you own a small business that consists of you and maybe three to five at-will employees.  Your profits are decent.

One morning, Jane, one of your employees, announces that she’s quitting, effective immediately, and stalks out.  You know — or think you know — your California law, which requires that, when an employee quits, you have her payment ready within three days of her departure.  (That would be Calif. Lab. Code § 202.) You therefore immediately prepare Jane’s final paycheck, covering the two hours she worked before she quit.

One day goes by, but no Jane.  Two days, but still no Jane.  On the third day, you actually drive over to her last known address to drop off the check, only to discover it’s a vacant apartment.  You head back to the office, check still in hand.  Jane didn’t ask that you mail the check to her, nor do you have a current address, so for the time being, you just hold on to it.

On the fifth day after quitting, Jane shows up, grabs the paycheck, and again disappears.  You breath a sigh of relief, thinking you’re finally done with Jane.  If only you knew, the story is just beginning….

A month goes by, and you suddenly get a notice from the California Labor Commissioner telling you that Jane is claiming that you violated California law.  Your crime?  You did not get Jane’s final paycheck to her within three days of her quitting.  Since you had the paycheck ready immediately, and her failure to receive it was solely the result of her own unavailability, you laugh at this charge, thinking you’ve got a slam dunk case.

You show up on the assigned day to argue your case before the Labor Commissioner.  The Labor Commissioner announces that the three day rule means the employee must have the money in hand by the end of the third day — regardless of either your efforts to pay her or her lack of effort to receive the money.  To punish you, the Labor Commissioner imposes statutory sanctions (or “waiting time penalties”) against you, and insists that you pay Jane an amount 27 times greater than the wages she was actually owed.

Shocked by the unfairness of it all, you hire an attorney, who tells you that you’re right — you complied with your statutory duty, and the Labor Commissioner erred.  The attorney tells you that this is indeed a slam dunk case, and that you should appeal it, which means filing an original action in Superior Court.  Sounds good to you….

The case goes to trial.  Jane is represented by the Labor Commissioner, so this is a freebie for her — the people of the State of California, through their tax dollars, are paying Jane’s attorneys fees.  The judge appears confused by the issues and eventually announces what he believes is a Solomonic ruling.  He holds that, despite the statute’s clear language — Calif. Labor Code §  202 explicitly imposes on the employer only the burden of having payment ready, not the burden of ensuring that the employee receives payment — you should have gotten the payment directly to Jane.  However (and this is where the Solomon part comes in) the judge will halve the sanctions award against you.

While miffed at the fact that you couldn’t get the judge to agree with you entirely, you still leave the Court with a light heart — after all, you got the original award against you cut by 50%, which must be viewed as a clear victory.  Au contraire, my innocent California employer.

In 2001 — when these events took place — the attorneys fee statute governing appeals from Labor Commissioner awards imposed attorney fees and costs against a party who appeared before the Court and was “unsuccessful in the appeal.”  (That was Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c), repealed.)  However, as of 2001, two California decisions had held that this facially-neutral language didn’t really mean what it said.

Instead, said the two cases, what that facially neutral language really meant was that, if an employee appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by even a penny, he was deemed successful on the appeal, so that the employer would have to pay the employee’s (or, really, the tax funded Labor Commissioner’s) attorneys fees.  The contrary, however, was not true.  If an employer appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by 99.9999%, but not by 100%, he was deemed unsuccessful.  He therefore still got to pay the employee’s (or, rather, the Labor Commissioner’s) attorney fees.

What this meant for Jane’s employer was that, even though she managed to better her position on appeal by 50% — she still lost!  She still got to pay the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees at fair market value.

The situation in 2001 was therefore as follows:  No rational employer could take the risk of an appeal from a Labor Commissioner award, since there was a huge chance that the employer, whether entirely or even partially correct, would still end up with a judgment requiring him to pay something, even a nominal something, to the employee.  (Judges hate giving employees nothing.) If that happened on appeal, the employer will be responsible for the oh-so-costly attorneys fees, fees that were usually far in excess of the underlying wage dispute.

And when you stop and think about it, this perverted reading of a facially neutral statute was a green light to the Labor Commissioner to do some nasty stuff.  Begin with the fact that Labor Commissioner employees are generally unsympathetic to employers.  This non-intuitive, twisted, backwards reading of a facially neutral statute gave these employees an incentive to ratchet up sanctions against employers to ridiculous amounts, because the Labor Commissioner employees knew that the employer couldn’t afford an appeal.  Even if the employer prevailed on the appeal by lowering the sanction to a more reasonable amount, the employer would still be impossibly burdened by the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees.

Keep in mind, too, that these attorneys fees were a complete windfall for the Labor Commissioner, since Commission attorneys are automatically paid by the State of California for their efforts.  And last I heard, when they receive attorneys fees from some hapless employer, the Labor Commissioners offices are not refunding the taxpaying citizens in that amount.

Bad as the above-described situation sounds, it actually got worse after 2001.  There was a brief, shining moment in 2002/2003 when the California Supreme Court, in a burst of profound rationality, said that courts couldn’t take a facially neutral attorneys fee statute, and read it to impose disproportionate burdens on employers.  (That moment of common sense was brought to you by Smith v. Rae-Venter Law Group (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 345.)  That was too good to last, of course.

Here’s the “got worse” part:  In 2003, the California legislature announced its explicit intention to overturn Smith v. Rae-Venter.  The current version of the fee shifting statute now gouges the employer in no uncertain terms: “If the party seeking review by filing an appeal to the superior court is unsuccessful in the appeal, the court shall determine the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the other parties to the appeal, and assess that amount as a cost upon the party filing the appeal. An employee is successful if the court awards an amount greater than zero.”  (See Calif. Lab. Code §  98.2(c).)

There is now no possibility of another Smith v. Rae-Venter decision helping hapless employers.  The Legislature has declare in no uncertain terms that the employer can avoid paying the employee’s attorneys fees (read, “the Labor Commissioner’s fees”) only if the employer walks out of Court owing the employee nothing — and obtaining that outcome, especially in liberal courts in the Bay Area or L.A., is a pretty big risk for any small employer to take.  This means that employers simply have to swallow the cost when a greedy employee manages to get the ear of a Labor Commissioner who believes it’s fine to impose disproportionate sanctions against a hapless employer, so as as that sanction will benefit a “downtrodden” employee.

Why does this sad story matter?  It matters because this little bit of social engineering — unknown to most people — is driving business out of California.  I personally know of at least two businesses that have just packed up and moved to other states precisely to avoid these kind of hidden costs.  Those oh-so-clever judges misinterpreting the law before 2002, and the “compassionate” Legislature enacting unfair laws in 2003, all think their good intentions say it all.  They truly believe they’re insulating poor, downtrodden employees from the risk of attorneys fees.

What they’re not thinking about, though, is the fact that these employees will be even more downtrodden when businesses keep pulling out of California, leaving the State without enough jobs — and the government without enough taxpayers to run itself.

There’s a reason I’m telling this story today:  it’s because the problem I’ve described above is not limited to the state level.  The National Labor Relations Board has held that Boeing cannot build a plant in South Carolina:

In a stunning move well beyond the scope of their legal mandate, the Obama Administration appointee controlled National Labor Relations Board is suing Boeing Corporation for, get this, building a second production line for their new Dreamliner passenger plane in South Carolina rather than in Washington state.

[snip]

South Carolina is a right to work state whose voters this past November overwhelmingly amended their state’s constitution to ensure that a worker has the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a labor union. The workers at the Boeing plant in South Carolina have also taken the bold step of booting out the union that represented them, effectively ending the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers stranglehold on Boeing production.

Now, Obama’s NLRB is attacking Boeing’s job creation in South Carolina as “union retaliation” directly related to a 2008 labor strike which crippled Boeing’s production in Washington state.

Now that those state governments that are in thrall to unions and labor have made it virtually impossible to do business in State A, the federal government is upping the ante by making it illegal for a business to move to State B.  I’ll reiterate here what I often say:  The Left may call them corporate fat cats or “rich people,” but I call them employers.  When you make it impossible for them to do business, they’re going to leave.  And if you make it impossible to leave, they’re going to die on the vine, leaving both State A and State B without jobs.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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Obligatory post about POTUS’ SOTU speech *UPDATED*

Preparing and eating dinner took precedence of the President’s first State of the Union speech, so I didn’t watch it in real time.  Indeed, because I find Obama’s presentation dull (he has the cadences of a slightly defective metronome), I haven’t listened to it at all, but I have read it.  I therefore felt that, as an obsessive blogger, it behooved me to make a few comments.

The most obvious comment to make is that the speech was sooooo loooong, clocking in at over an hour.  This might have been okay, but for the second most obvious comment I’m about to make, which is that it was dull.  It suffered from exactly the same defect as Obama’s inauguration speech:  there was no underlying theme tying it together.  It was, instead, a slightly tempered laundry list of Leftist dreams, wrapped up with a wooden peroration about America’s wonderfulness.  In other words, leaden, not stirring — an expected sin from most presidents, but an unforgivable sin in a president elected primarily based upon the expectation that he would be the greatest orator since Cicero.

By my rough count, there are 37 “I’s” in the speech.  By contrast, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural speech had one “I” in it.  Because we live in a more confessional age than in times past, a review of SOTU speeches from the last 40 years probably have their fair numbers of “I’s” in them, but they tend to leap out in an Obama speech, since they are both overused and emblematic of the man himself.

Speaking of the man himself, I’m patting myself on the back, in a slightly depressed way, because the speech was exactly what one could have predicted after reading my attack on Obama’s narcissism.  It was dishonest, defensive and, significantly, showed an inability to be flexible in the face of a rebuff from the voters.  Where both Reagan and Clinton, when rebuffed, tacked to the middle, Obama continues to push an agenda that is more statist than the American people want.

I have no desire to get bogged down in the endless minutiae of Obama’s speech.  It reminds me of the briefs written by a lawyer against whom I had the misfortune to litigate almost 20 years ago.  To the uninitiated, his briefs, aside from the grammatical errors, looked like ordinary documents, with facts, laws and arguments.  Only to the educated eye was it clear that each sentence contained at least one factual or legal falsehood or twisted argument.  Unfortunately, it might take a paragraph or a page to assemble the facts, law and argument necessary to expose even a single misstatement.  This meant that his briefs were smooth and seamless, although entirely false, whereas my opposing briefs, in their effort to educate the court, were long and complicated.  Smart judges ruled in my favor; dumb judges (and, boy, are there a lot of those in San Francisco Superior Court), took the easy way out, only to be reversed, every time, at the appellate level.  Because this is a blog, not a legal brief, I’m not going to occupy myself with trying to right every factual wrong in Obama’s speech.  But there are a few points I want to make.

Obama starts the speech by complaining that things were rotten when he arrived in town, by saying that he did everything possible to make it better, and then by expressing surprise that, one year later, things are worse.  Hmmm.  Could it be . . . and I’m just suggesting here . . . but could it be that the “everything” Obama did is what made things worse?  Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that the efforts he put in place, which involved burdening our country with decades worth of crippling debt, much of which went to political pandering, might be a cause-and-effect situation:

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted — immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who’d already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

Laughably, after stating the above about the massive unemployment, Obama makes his risible statement that, in the face of these rising unemployment numbers, his wonderful policies mean that “there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.”  People like me, those who believe in the marketplace, and believe that government is slow and, because of its concentration of powers, inclined to corruption, think that, had the money been disseminated to businesses and individuals in the form of tax breaks and refunds, there would have been a whole lot more employed and a whole lot less unemployed walking around.

Did you barf, as I did, when Obama said “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change”?  I think ordinary Americans are figuring out that the “overwhelming scientific evidence” is a cesspool of ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, with some actual facts thrown in for leavening.  I’ll concede that the climate is changing, because it has done so for 3 billion or so years.  I’ll concede, wholeheartedly, that we are the earth’s stewards, and that it behooves us to treat it with respect, for our own benefit and that of our children.  But I will not allow myself to be bullied into stupid economic decisions, all in the name of false, agenda-driven “science.”

Throughout the speech, to cover up for the government’s culpability in worsening the recession by taking money away from the people and packing it into the government, Obama engages in populist attacks against the marketplace.  There are little throwaway lines (“bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn’t”) that culminate in Obama’s unconscionable attack on the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court justices, Sotomayor included, responded by sitting there absolutely frozen in shock, surrounded by a sea of applauding Democrats:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

I don’t believe that a President has ever used a SOTU as a vehicle to attack the Supreme Court — and nodding to the “separation of powers” doesn’t make it any better. The statement is especially foul considering that the Supreme Court decision goes to the heart of America’s uniqueness, it’s difference from all other countries, and that is its veneration for freedom of speech, especially in the political marketplace. I think that even ordinary Americans, unversed in the Constitutional law that was allegedly Obama’s academic specialty, have figured this one out.  [UPDATE:  Not only was Obama's attack on the Supreme Court unprecedented it was just plain wrong, explaining Alito's shocked "not true" response.]

The level of self-delusion in the speech is staggering.  A few paragraphs after his extraordinary attack on the Supremes, Obama, self-deprecatingly, assures everyone that he never thought he was the Messiah:

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another. Now, I’m not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony — and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

This is, to say the least, a peculiar statement from a man whose sole platform, in the absence of any experience or accomplishments, was that his wonderful temperament would usher in a new era of government, free from partisan fighting at home, creating peace and harmony abroad, and then, just for an encore, he would heal the planet and lower the seas.  His whole shtick, one that vanished the moment he announced in a meeting that he won, and his opponents lost, was that he would transcend all serious fighting and petty bickering on the earth, an act that had his followers likening him to a sort of God.

And that’s really all I want to say now.  Yes, there is more and more to attack, whether on speech, jobs, ugly populism, national security, etc., but I grow weary just thinking of that task.  Bottom line:  despite the rebuff in Massachusetts (and New Jersey and Virginia), Obama chooses to believe that nothing has really changed.  Americans, he thinks, want big government.  Indeed, he could have “X’d” out the entire speech and simply said this:

Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Better living through Big Government

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

And as for that last line, which I copied directly out of his actual speech, I find it funny coming out of the mouth of a man who can’t seem to find a church in Washington, D.C. — even though I know the City boasts a few churches — and who has not attended any serious religious occasions since arriving in D.C.  Just a reminder, as if you needed one, that his real God is government.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can watch the speech here.  At around 46:30, you can see Obama’s attack on the Supreme’s, followed by their shocked reaction.

UPDATEMark Steyn says clearly what I, in a muddled way, tried to say about the vision-free, laundry-list quality of Obama’s speech:

It sounds like an all-purpose speech for President Anyone: We’ve met here in good times and bad, war and peace, prosperity and depression, Shrove Tuesday and Super Bowl Sunday, riding high in April, shot down in May. We’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time we find ourselves flat on our face, we pick ourselves up and get back in the race. That’s life, pause for applause . . .

There’s no sense that, even as platitudinous filler, it arises organically from who this man is. As mawkish and shameless as the Clinton SOTUs were, they nevertheless projected a kind of authenticity. With Obama, the big-picture uplift seems unmoored from any personal connection — and he’s not good enough to make it real. Same with all those municipal name-checks.

When he does say anything firm and declarative — the pro-business stuff at home, the pro-freedom stuff abroad — it’s entirely detached from any policy, any action, so it plays to the Bob Herbert trust issue. And, when he moves from the gaseous and general to the specific, he becomes petty and and thin-skinned and unpresidential. And, unlike the national security feints and 101 Historical Allusions For Public Speakers stuff, the petulance is all too obviously real.