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Under the Cover of Altruism

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From Kevin Williamson at National Review Online, Downscale Big government is bad for the little guy.

Excerpt:

On the one hand, we have the small-town entrepreneur yearning for sidewalks and streetlights; on the other, we have dodgy “Five Aces” federal contracts and Al Gore’s federally enabled greenmongering. Between those two points there exists a spectrum of possible configurations of government, and the fundamental political debate of our time is whether we’re on the right side of that spectrum or the wrong side. Conservatives want to prune back the vines, and progressives want them to grow thicker.

How’s that working out in the laboratories of the Left?

Progressives argue that we need deeper government involvement in the economy in order to assuage the ill effects of economic inequality. But, as Joel Kotkin points out, inequality is the most pronounced in places where progressives dominate: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago. The more egalitarian cities are embedded in considerably more conservative metropolitan areas in conservative states. “Part of the difference,” Mr. Kotkin writes, “is the strong growth of higher-paid, blue-collar jobs in places like Houston, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, and Dallas compared to rapidly de-industrializing locales such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Even Richard Florida, the guru of the ‘creative class,’ has admitted that the strongest growth in mid-income jobs has been concentrated in red-state metros such as Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Nashville. Some of this reflects a history of later industrialization but other policies — often mandated by the state — encourage mid-income growth, for example, by not imposing high energy prices with subsidies for renewables, or restricting housing growth in the periphery. Cities like Houston may seem blue in many ways but follow local policies largely indistinguishable from mainstream Republicans elsewhere.” In Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, African Americans earn barely half of what whites earn —  and in San Francisco, African Americans earn less than half of what whites earn. Hispanics in Boston earn 50 percent of what whites make; but it is 84 percent in Riverside County, Calif., a traditional Republican stronghold (it holds the distinction of being one of only two West Coast counties to have gone for Hoover over FDR and is Duncan Hunter’s turf), and the figures are comparable in places such as Phoenix and Miami.

Progressivism is a luxury good for college-educated white people. It is the Hermes sneaker of political tendencies. California is not an especially wealthy state — its median income is right between Wyoming’s and Nebraska’s — but it is a state in which one needs to be pretty well off to live decently. The value of the median home in San Francisco is more than ten times the median income; in San Jose, it’s nine and a half times the median income; in Houston, it’s only four times the median income. California is a great place to be a technology executive or a screenwriter, but it’s a rotten place to be a truck driver. California-style progressivism is oriented toward serving the needs of rich people in San Jose, not those of middle-class people in Riverside County or poor people in the agrarian villages. If you’re a well-off lawyer in the gilded suburbs of Los Angeles, you have a great selection of poor, brown gardeners and housekeepers to lessen life’s burdens, which is great for you but stinks for them. It is not an accident that our nation’s most segregated cities are mostly strongholds of the Left: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Boston.

But the fact is that, despite the po-faced rhetoric, progressives do not really care about the poor, the brown, the black, or the marginalized. Progressivism is very little more than the managerial class pursuing its own class interests under cover of altruism.

That, too, is why conservatives favor government on the modest, manageable, local level. And that is why progressives want to centralize political power in Washington, and why they have more success in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York: If you were screwing the poor and the struggling while alleging to act on their behalf, would you be able to look them in the eye? Would you want to?

HKO

Kevin has become one of my favorite political writers.

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Controlling the Power of Kings

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From The National Review Kevin Williamson writes Halbig and Hammurabi : Disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive imagination.   

The written law was the first real constraint on the power of kings. An oral tradition is subject to constant on-the-fly revision. Mr. Klein and others of his persuasion would see us return to that primitive state: “Oh, sure, the law says that the IRS can only operate on state-created insurance exchanges, but that isn’t what we” — and who is this we? — “really meant. And besides, things will turn out other than as we desire if we follow the law as written, and who are you, and what is the law, to forbid us our desires?” It is easier to think that way when you believe that you represent a uniquely enlightened point of view, that you are acting in the public interest, and that your political rivals are wicked and ignorant.

A few days ago, I had a depressing conversation with a federal judge who noted her surprise and distaste the first time that a media account of one of her decisions took note of the fact that she had been appointed by such-and-such a president, as though that, and not the law, were the explanation for her decision. She’d never been active in politics, and had never imagined that the party label of the man who appointed her had any bearing on anything she’d done in the courtroom. Perhaps she needed Mr. Weigel to advise her on the question.

There will always be occasions for discretion and interpretation on legal questions, but it is not the case that such discretion should presumptively empower the IRS to do things that the IRS is not legally entitled to do simply because Barack Obama wishes it to be so. If history teaches us anything, it is that a system of law that presumptively sides with political power soon ceases to be any sort of system of law at all. Rather, it becomes a post facto justification for the will to power, an intellectual window dressing on might-makes-right rule.

The matter addressed in Halbig is hardly the Obama administration’s first attempt to circumvent the law as written — see Hobby Lobby, etc. — nor is it the progressives’ only attempt to impose what they imagine to be enlightened ad-hocracy on the American people. The disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive managerial imagination: The law, in their view, is not something that limits the ambitions of princes, but something that empowers them to do what they see fit. It is not surprising that conservative concerns about limited government frustrate and befuddle those who see the law in that way. They imagine government to be something like a plasma cutting table, a complex and precise tool that, in the right hands, can reshape the world in desirable, predictable ways. But government is not a complicated tool. It is in fact a simple tool: a bayonet.

HKO

Clarity is an albatross around the neck of those who wish to avoid accountability. “The risk of offense is the price of clarity.”

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“Richard Nixon, eat your heart out”

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from the Wall Street Journal, The ObamaCare-IRS Nexus, The supposedly independent agency harassed the administration’s political opponents and saved its health-care lawby Kimberly Strassel

excerpt:

To summarize: The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency’s actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.

Administration officials will continue to use the IRS to try to improve its political fortunes. The subsidy shenanigans are merely one example. Add Democrats’ hijacking of the agency to target and silence political opponents. What you begin to see are the makings of a Washington agency—a body with the power to harass, to collect, to fine, to imprison—working on behalf of one political party. Richard Nixon, eat your heart out.

HKO

Of all of the incompetence, arrogance, and wrongheaded policies of this administration (and the list is absolutely breathtaking)  this pollution of the IRS has – in my opinion- the potential to wreak the greatest long term damage to our country.  Regardless of our political affiliations and preferences we have always been able to trust the basic institutions such as the IRS to be above this fray.  This administration has betrayed that trust more than any other president, including Nixon (the IRS refused to accommodate his intent).  This is the outcome of thinking that ends justify means – and that is the fundamental rule that modern progressivism practices.  A true liberal should be incredibly outraged.

 

 

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Bipartisan Distrust

from Politico Magazine

Blue Crush
How the left took over the Democratic Party.
By DOUG SOSNIK

But the left nonetheless faces an important existential question in the years ahead: Yes, the Republican Party’s inability to adapt to America’s cultural shifts and demographic changes is creating an enormous opportunity for Democrats. However, in an age of political alienation where the majority of Americans lack faith in their institutions in general—and their federal government in particular—Democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/07/left-took-over-democratic-party-109348_Page3.html#ixzz38XM9rW8n

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Fourth Branch Tyranny

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From the National Review, Tenured Partisans by Richard Samuelson

Excerpts:

Today we have the worst of both worlds: a tenured and partisan civil service. Government employees have civil-service protection and are seldom fired, only for the most egregious of crimes. Yet they lean to one party. From 1989 to 2012, two-thirds of donations from IRS employees, for example, went to Democrats. Even so, our civil servants seem to think that they are politically neutral. Hence the employees at the VA think it is reasonable to spy on (presumptively partisan) congressional investigators, and hard drives mysteriously get destroyed in the IRS scandal. Laws are for the little people, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say.

The rise of the “fourth branch” of government — the administrative bureaucracy — complicates things further. Obamacare was roughly 2,000 pages long when Congress passed it. Bureaucrats have added thousands more. The Hobby Lobby case was about a rule written by bureaucrats, not by Congress. In fact, Congress probably would never have passed such a law. Worse, our tenured partisans sometimes delegate their jobs to activists. Who drafted the EPA’s new greenhouse regulations? The National Resources Defense Council.

Nowadays, in other words, laws are, in effect, written, interpreted, and enforced by the bureaucratic equivalent of made men who are quite well paid. So much for checks and balances. Moreover, our legal code is so complicated that, as Harvey Silverglate notes, most businesses or individuals are probably guilty of breaking some law somewhere. That puts each of us at the mercy of the government.

In the 19th century, the social-science Ph.D. was new. Perhaps it was reasonable then to believe that science could provide neutral guidance on most issues, and to provide a professional ethic for the bureaucracy. Today that belief looks hopelessly naïve. Yet the hope is still alive on the left. One may even say that that hope has become the Left’s religion. From the time that the Temple of Reason was consecrated, through Marx’s science of history, up to today, the belief that all reasonable people are on the same side has been an essential support to the Left’s self-image. Only in the abstract do they allow that reasonable people may disagree. As William F. Buckley noted, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”