Statism: Obama’s theory of government

February 21, 2012

Peter Wehner had a good post in Commentary last week that, while talking about Obama’s latest risible budget proposal, neatly encapsulates the statist, progressive view of the relationship between the citizen and the State, Obama’s theory of government:

These numbers are important, but they need to be understood above all as a manifestation of a particular philosophy, which some have called reactionary liberalism. Barack Obama has an almost undiluted attachment for and belief in the wondrous powers of the federal government. He believes the role of the state is to redistribute wealth and level out differences. He would trade off greater prosperity in all classes and income brackets in order to narrow the gap in income inequality, which he considers to be a moral offense. Obama wants to punish wealth creators, empower unelected bureaucrats, undermine private enterprise and centralize power.

Beyond even that, Obama wants government to weaken, and eventually replace, civil society, create greater dependency, and expand the state’s reach into every nook and cranny of life, including into the internal life of the church. And at a time when Medicare in particular is driving us toward a Greece-like crisis, the president opposes any modernization of our entitlement state and savages those who are offering up reforms.

More than any president in our lifetime, Barack Obama identifies the state with society and wants society absorbed by the state.

(Emphasis added)

Wehner calls it “reactionary liberalism,” (1) but I think Goldberg (channeling H. G. Wells) names it best: “Liberal Fascism.” The State becomes the arbiter of a vague “Will of the People” (or “Spirit of the Nation,” or whatever), speaking for the collective and knowing better than the individual what the individual needs, for the good of the whole. Forget the goosestepping images of Nazis or Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and put side the insane racial nonsense the National Socialists added to Fascism; reactionary liberalism/liberal fascism can come with a warm smile and a motherly embrace, promising all sorts of wonderful things, if only you’ll be good and let Nanny State make the choices for you.

It is the infantilization of the individual citizen.

And it would be so easy to say “yes,” which is why, in 2012, we have to say “no.”

RELATED: In a later post, Wehner cites another example, that of Nancy Pelosi’s opinion on the HHS mandate and the proper response of religious organizations: “Shut up and obey.

Footnote:
(1) Although, really, the most reactionary people I’ve ever met have been supposedly broadminded liberals. Mildly challenge even one of their dearly held dogmas (such as the success of the New Deal or the desirability of abortion on demand), and many go into full frothing-and-shrieking mode. It’s almost Pavlovian.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


America’s fork in the road: the Tea Party vs. the Occupy Movement

December 1, 2011

Here’s a good video from Encounter Books and narrated by Bill Whittle on the choice the US faces in 2012 between two populist movements: the largely classical-liberal Tea Party and the progressive-and-further-Left Occupy movement (1). The video provides a clear and succinct summary of the deep philosophical differences between the two groups, and I think you’ll find the five or so minutes it takes to watch is time well-spent:

Every four years it seems people call the approaching election “the most important in our history,” and I admit I’ve become somewhat jaded to those claims. But there’s no doubting that the sequence of elections beginning in 2008 and perhaps climaxing in 2012 is very significant. In a process that began in 1980 with Reagan’s election and that continues to this day, the two parties are developing genuine (2) and serious ideological differences, as illustrated in the video.

It may not be the “most important election in our history,” but the choice is real and the repercussions will last for a long time.

Footnotes:
(1) Although I kind of hesitate to call Occupy “genuinely populist,” given the heavy backing from Big Labor.
(2) And, in the interests of authenticity, may I suggest the Democrat Party stop holding their Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners? You’ve gone so far down the Social-Democratic road that Presidents Jefferson and Jackson would run screaming in horror. (Well, Jackson might draw a sword, instead…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Red States Rising

November 4, 2010

The news has been full of talk about the smashing Republican victories at the federal level Tuesday, taking control of the House with the largest gain since 1948 and capturing at least six Senate seats. But I think one of the great under-reported stories of the election is the absolutely massive gains made by Republicans in both state legislatures and governorships. Just look at this map:

Follow the link for a larger, interactive version courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Like I said yesterday with regard to the House races, this is nothing short of a bloodbath for the Democrats, with Republicans winning an all-time high in state legislative seats. An article at Stateline describes the statehouse carnage:

Republicans won smashing victories in state legislatures yesterday, capturing an outright majority of the nation’s legislative seats and the largest majority for the party since 1928.

As of noon Eastern Time (11/3/10 -PF), Republicans had taken about 18 legislative chambers from Democrats, with more statehouses hanging in the balance. Democrats hadn’t picked up a single chamber from Republicans. So Republicans will have the upper hand when it comes to shaping state policy in the coming years. They’ll also be in charge in most states as policymakers redraw legislative and congressional district lines next year.

In historical terms, the most dramatic wins for the Republicans were in the South. As recently as 20 years ago, long after the region had begun voting Republican in presidential elections, Democrats held every Southern legislative chamber. After last night, Republicans will control a majority of the region’s legislative chambers for the first time since Reconstruction.

The GOP took both the North Carolina Senate and North Carolina House from the Democrats, winning the Senate for the first time since 1870. The party won both houses of the Alabama Legislature from the Democrats, which will also give the Republicans control there for the first time since Reconstruction. In Oklahoma, Republicans retained their control of the Legislature, which, coupled with their win in the governor’s race, will give the GOP complete control of state government for the first time ever. In Tennessee the story was similar: Republicans won the governorship and solidified their control of the Legislature, putting them fully in charge of the state for the first time since Reconstruction.

Check out the article behind the link for a region by region description.

Gubernatorial races were a similar story:

The fortunes of Republicans in state government improved dramatically Tuesday night, as the Grand Old Party’s nominees for governor reclaimed vast swaths of territory that Democrats staked out for the last decade. The most striking gains came in the West and the industrial Midwest. In several contests, Republican women and minorities made history by winning in their states.

With 29 governorships under their control and several more still up for grabs, Republicans appeared close to their goal of winning the top office in 30 states. The Republican dominance came even as they lost small states such as Connecticut, Rhode Island and Hawaii, along with population-rich California.

(…)

Republican victories included ousting the governors in Ohio and Iowa; wresting away open seats currently held by Democrats in Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming; and successfully defending Republican seats in Arizona, South Carolina, Florida and Texas.

One obvious impact this will have is on redistricting, as touched on in the first article quoted,  and one can expect the legislatures controlled by the Republicans -especially when the governor is also a Republican- to draw lines favorable to their own party. Yes, I’ve said before that I’m opposed to gerrymandering, but also that we might as well take advantage of the rules while they’re in place.

Aside from redistricting, though, this sea change in state control may have several other significant effects:

First, there’s the likelihood of better governance. While I don’t have hard data, I suspect many of these new legislators and governors arose from the Tea Party or won with Tea Party support, which means a committment to limited government, low taxes, and sound fiscal practices as a foundation for prosperity. I expect we’ll see several states with bloated governments start to seriously pare them back. Justice Brandeis once said that the states are the laboratories of democracy; if, as I expect, state economies fare well as a result of this pruning, that will put pressure on other bloated states (Hi, California and New York!) and the federal government to do the same.

Also, control of legislatures and governorships will act as a training ground for promising politicians to move up to the federal level, much like a farm league in baseball. Particularly for legislators, being in the majority will provide experience in bearing the real responsibilities of governance, instead of just sitting in the minority and hectoring the other side. This will be invaluable in training the next generation of federal leaders.

Finally, it’s possible that, with a majority of states under the control of a conservative party wary of federal intrusion, we may see more demands for Washington to respect the 10th amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I’m not expecting a revolutionary change, of course, but more likely incremental efforts that slow federal expansion and start to roll it back; we can expect that the federal bureaucracy, the Democrats, and their progressive allies to resist this, devoted as they are to one-size-fits-all statism. I do believe we’ll see more states join the anti-Obamacare lawsuits that, at last count, had 18-20 states joined in one suit, with Virginia pursuing its own. As someone who firmly believes that a decentralized federalism is the best way to govern a nation as vast and diverse as the United States, I’d call this a good thing.

So, while I’m sorry (so sorry) that California bucked the national trend, I’m more than ever convinced that November 2nd, 2010, was not just a good day, but a great day for Republicans, conservatives, and the nation.

LINKS: More from Moe Lane.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Americans to bossy government: “Shut up and go away!”

October 24, 2010

Michael Barone looks at the President’s recent theory of why his party is about to get an unholy beating at the polls next month and offers his own three theses: First is that the Progressive theory of History, that it inevitably moves leftward and toward bigger government is demonstrably untrue. After the vast expansions of government under Wilson and FDR (and statist Republicans like Nixon), for example, there were corresponding periods of moving toward deregulation.

Second is the realization among most Americans (if not left-liberals) that government that grows too large becomes a danger to the real engine of wealth creation, the private sector. The electorate is drawing a connection between the anemic job creation numbers in most of the nation (except Texas) and the statist, interventionist, regulation-happy policies of the (Social) Democrats, and they’re moving to correct things.

The third reason, the one perhaps that’s felt most viscerally, is that voters are becoming sick and tired of being bossed around by government and are going to remind the “public servants” just who the boss is here:

Voters who have learned to navigate their way through life may not believe that they need Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to set the terms and conditions of their health insurance policies, as Obamacare authorizes her to do. “Don’t tread on me,” read the flags at Tea Party rallies. That’s not a contradiction of “facts and science.” It’s an insistence that the Obama Democrats’ policies would strangle freedoms and choke off growth. You may disagree. But if so, it looks like you’re in the minority this year.

Call it a revolt against the nanny state or a revival of Americans’ traditional suspicion of government, but it looks like “Get out of my face!” is one of the big messages the voters are sending to Washington this year.

LINKS: I wrote about the President’s comments a few days ago. At Big Government, Robert Bonelli looks at what’s at stake in the midterms and asks “Are we citizens or subjects?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Big Green and the enviro-statist agenda, part 2

October 6, 2010

Last week, PJTV presented the first in its three-part series on the politics of the environmental movement, presenting an overview of its goals and its relationship with government, particularly the Democratic Party and the administrative state.

This week, Joe Hicks and his guests take a closer look at the origins of the movement in the 1960s left-wing counterculture,  the large sums of money they have to spend, and their alliance with big business* to push harmful measures such as cap-and-trade:

*(Don’t be surprised. As Goldberg pointed out in Liberal Fascism, there’s a natural urge in big corporations to ally with statists if if means guaranteed profits and restrictions on smaller competitors. Think of the utilities under FDR, or the deals the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies almost cut with the administration over ObamaCare. The cooperation between Big Green and Big Business highlighted in this video is just another example.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Beware the racist toddler, revisited

October 3, 2010

More than two years ago, I wrote about a mind-numbingly offensive UK government program to spot early signs of racism in infants and pre-school children:

Does your three-year old sometimes refuse to play with others? Does he occasionally turn his nose up at new foods? Could it be that, rather than simply being behavior normal to all toddlers, these are early-warning signs that your baby is a racist??

Well, two years and a quarter-million children later, we now know the vast size of this generation of tiny Klan members:

Three-year-olds being labelled bigots by teachers as 250,000 children accused of racism

Teachers are being forced to report children as young as three to the authorities for using alleged ‘racist’ language, it was claimed last night.

Munira Mirza, a senior advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson, said schools were being made to spy on nursery age youngsters by the Race Relations Act 2000.

More than a quarter of a million children have been accused of racism since it became law, she said.

Writing in Prospect magazine, she said: ‘The more we seek to measure racism, the more it seems to grow.

‘Teachers are now required to report incidents of racist abuse among children as young as three to local authorities, resulting in a massive increase of cases and reinforcing the perception that we need an army of experts to manage race relations from cradle to grave.

‘Does this heightened awareness of racism help to stamp it out? Quite the opposite. It creates a climate of suspicion and anxiety.’

There’s an old saying: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” Convinced that racism is everywhere, these multicultural loons are tarring thousands of young children as little proto-fascists. Are they now to be watched throughout their school years? Counseled against the dark racist thoughts that lurk ever within them? Taught to suspect the culture and the parents who must have instilled these hateful prejudices in them? Why not just take them away from their parents and indoctrinate raise them in community creches?

Maybe, just maybe, if a three-year old doesn’t want to eat curry, it’s because he doesn’t like it, not because he hates Pakistanis.

Dear British educators: WTF??

(via theblogprof)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Big Green and the enviro-statist agenda – updated!

October 1, 2010

Readers of Public Secrets know that I’ve been highly critical (and contemptuous and mocking) of the anthropogenic global warming movement and its silly thesis that mankind is turning this planet into a Steam Bath of Doom. But there’s a larger environmental movement than just the global warming sector, and its goals are ambitious. Far beyond what we would think of as prudent conservation and good stewardship of the land, water, and air, the broader environmental movement seeks the centralization of authority over the environment (and thus us) in Washington and in transnational regulatory agencies. It is well-funded (often with our tax dollars), it is politically powerful, and it is a danger to our prosperity and liberty.

PJTV has begun a series that looks at the environmental movement. Hosted by Joe Hicks, it examines who the players are, where they get their money, and what their goals are. I think it’s well-worth watching for an alternative and critical point of view:

I’ll post follow-up episodes as they appear on PJTV’s YouTube channel.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

UPDATE: I missed this until late today, but apparently some eco-fascist group in Britain made a short film to convince people of the need to combat global warming… by showing children who doubt the AGW truth being blown up. Graphically and messily. You can read all about it at Hot Air, but Iowahawk has the best take on it. James Delingpole calls this a massive “own goal” for the Green Statists. Just amazing.


You can have your paycheck when we’re done with it

September 20, 2010

It’s annoying enough to have the government force employers to withhold money from one’s paycheck, but the new government in the UK wants to take it one step further. Under a new proposal, employers will send employees’ paychecks to the government, first. Then, when they’re done with it, the government will give what’s left to the employee:

The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)  stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.

If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

And this from a Conservative government? Obviously the word means something different on the other side of the Atlantic than it does here.

Fausta points that this is how foreign employers pay their workers in … Cuba. The company gives the government the check, and Havana gives the campesino what’s left. Some may wonder what the substantive difference is between this and normal withholding. In my opinion, the difference is huge: while the government takes a cut under the withholding system, the check is still a matter between the employer and the worker. Under the Cuban-British model, the worker becomes dependent on the central government for his money, no matter where he works – or if he works at all, given welfare. It’s another way of turning a free citizen with his own property -in this case, a paycheck- into a ward of the state.

I can sympathize with the desire to make tax collection more efficient in order to get the money the government is owed, but maybe HMRC should consider something radical, such as a low-rate flat tax that will leave more money in the hands of the citizen, who will then use it to generate economic activity and, in turn, increased revenue for the government. That pesky little Laffer Curve in action, again:

But that kind of logic is alien to the statist, whose answer to every problem is the expansion of government power and its further intrusion into every aspect of one’s life, inevitably hobbling individual liberty. What next? Simply declaring everyone to be an employee of the State Crown?

LINKS: Ed Morrissey points out the many practical problems of this proposal, such as giving government access to everyone’s bank accounts. Power Line asks “Whose money is it?

UPDATE: Dan Mitchell calls it “Orwellian.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


An infantilized society

September 7, 2010

The economic troubles in Europe are leading to public unrest, as EU governments try to pare back their bloated public sectors, in some cases trimming wages and benefits, in others by delaying access to them. In France, plans to save the national pension system by raising the retirement age from 60 (!) to just 62 has lead to a massive strike of over one million people:

French strikers disrupted trains and planes, hospitals and mail delivery Tuesday amid massive street protests over plans to raise the retirement age. Across the English Channel, London subway workers unhappy with staff cuts walked off the job.

The protests look like the prelude to a season of strikes in Europe, from Spain to the Czech Republic, as heavily indebted governments cut costs and chip away at some cherished but costly benefits that underpin the European good life — a scaling-back process that has gained urgency with Greece’s euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout.

In France, where people poured into the streets in 220 cities, setting off flares and beating drums, a banner in the southern port city of Marseille called for Europe-wide solidarity: “Let’s Refuse Austerity Plans!” The Interior Ministry said more than 1.1 million people demonstrated throughout France, while the CFDT union put the number at 2.5 million.

(…)

French protesters are angry about the government’s plan to do away with the near-sacred promise of retirement at 60, forcing people to work until 62 because they are living longer. The goal is to bring the money-draining pension system back into the black by 2018.

As debate on the subject opened in parliament, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the plan was one “of courage and reason” and that it is the “duty of the state” to save the pension system. He has said the government won’t back down, no matter how big the protests.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon reminded the French that it could be worse: In nearly all European countries, the current debate is over raising the retirement age to 67 or 68, he said. Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67, for example, and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

That sense of perspective was missing from many of the French protests, where some slogans bordered on the hysterical. One sign in Paris showed a raised middle finger with the message: “Greetings from people who will die on the job.”

Nothing like Gallic hysterics, eh?

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at this: statist societies like France and much of the EU use ever-expanding government-provided benefits as bribes to buy social peace, making dependents out their citizens and, in effect, infantilizing them. It’s no wonder, then, that the public then throws a tantrum when the state is forced to cut back.

But before anyone indulges in some schadenfreude at French expense, bear in mind that President Obama and his progressive allies want to take us down this same statist, dependent, and infantilized social-democratic road. (And, to a lesser extent, big-government Republicans have been willing to accommodate them.) We’re already seeing that with the growth of public sector unions in the US and their outlandish benefits*.

While Europe seems to be in for a season of unrest, the problem isn’t yet so bad in the US and, importantly, many people agree that it is a problem in the first place. Hopefully we can make the necessary reforms before we have our own mass tantrums.

*(For the record, I’m a member of a quasi-public union, and apparently it’s one of the dumber ones; we’ve never received the over-the-top wages and benefits the other unions do. I tell ya, it ain’t fair…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


This just in: Dissent is no longer patriotic

August 18, 2010

I’m beginning to think Jonah Goldberg will have to add a new chapter or two to the next edition of his brilliant Liberal Fascism, just to cover Nancy Pelosi. In the wake of increasing opposition to the construction of a mega-mosque at Ground Zero, La Nancita has suggested that opponents should be placed under federal investigation!

“The freedom of religion is a Constitutional right.  Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.

“I support the statement made by the Interfaith Alliance that ‘We agree with the ADL that there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center.  At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.’

Wait a gosh-darned minute, here! Critics of the mosque are getting funded? Where’s my check? Jeez… Waiting

And does that mean you want to investigate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find out who’s funding him, Madame Speaker of the House?

Shall the Congress also investigate the two-thirds of New York City residents who also oppose the mosque? Or the nearly 70% of the nation?

Nothing like threatening a federal investigation of those making use of their right to free speech to reveal your inner statist, eh, Nancy?

Joe McCarthy would be proud.

LINKS: Power Line says the Speaker has forgotten how to listen.

UPDATE: Say, Madame Speaker: Since we’re in an investigating mood, how about we investigate that little land deal you and San Francisco Mayor Newsom have got going for Treasure Island? Should be real interesting…


Want to know why unemployment is staying high?

August 9, 2010

Michael Fleischer, the president of a New Jersey small business, provides the quote of the day to explain why unemployment is staying so high, and why businesses aren’t hiring:

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally’s pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally’s job each year.

You can read the gory details in Michael’s article, but that quote encapsulates the problem: government impositions in the form of health-care costs and other programs (and, really, it’s all a form of taxation, however they dress it up) increase the cost of each new hire to the business – it’s more than just salary. And the new burdens imposed by ObamaCare have, in Mr. Fleischer’s case, put the cost of hiring more employees beyond what it makes sense for his company to pay.

Hence, thanks to the progressive-statist program of President Obama and the congressional Democrats, the very forces that would work to lower unemployment are instead stifled. Is this what we voted for?

Thankfully, we can start correcting the mistake this November.

(via Sister Toldjah)

RELATED: For an excellent book on an earlier time when government’s anti-business policies kept people out of work, read Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man: a new history of the Great Depression.

UPDATE: MichaelW at QandO has the best summation of this situation:

…when the government continually raises the costs of doing business in the first place (or threatens to do so), the only ones who really survive are either the politically connected or the very wealthy (yes, they are often the same thing). That doesn’t have anything to do with building a better mousetrap, as it were, or growing the economy. And it certainly doesn’t do anything to raise everyone’s standard of living. Instead, all it does is reward those closest to the rule-makers, thus creating more competition to be closest to the King rather than satisfying the marketplace. It is exactly the sort of crony-capitalism we claim to detest.


Congratulations, San Francisco!

August 3, 2010

Not only have you captured both runners-up spots for Reason.TV’s Nanny of the Month, but you won the blue ribbon, too!  Tito, roll tape!

.

Well, done. Most impressive!  Applause

I can’t wait for the season finale: the thrilling showdown between Gavin “Brylcream” Newsom and New York City’s mega-nanny, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


Identity Quest: conservative, liberal, or libertarian?

July 14, 2010

Moe Lane comments on a debate at Reason about whether libertarians should ally with conservatives or liberals (or no one) in our continuing political free-for-all. While I’m uncomfortable with labels because people rarely agree on definitions, Moe provides a good example of why I consider myself a “conservative with libertarian leanings,” rather than a “Big L” doctrinaire libertarian:

When asked whether the government should be involved in something, the libertarian will default to “No;” the liberal, to “Yes;” and the conservative to “I don’t think so.”  What a lot of conservatives forget is that their answer and the libertarian answer is not quite the same; once a conservative is convinced that government intervention is acceptable or even laudable he will enthusiastically support it*.  And what a lot of libertarians forget is that while “No” and “Probably not” are not quite the same, “No” and “Yes” will never be the same; even in places where the results would be the same the process is significantly different**.  In other words: to a libertarian, a conservative is an ultimately unreliable ally (and vice versa).  But a liberal’s just going to be somebody who’s only right by accident.

Click through to see the reasons for the asterisks.

I don’t reject all government actions, programs, or regulations by any means, but I do have a healthy suspicion of them and a bias toward a) thinking the free market will often but not always do the job better and b) do so without running the risk of unduly restricting an individual’s freedom. To my mind, any action by government should be forced to answer the old question from WWII gas-rationing days, “Is this trip really necessary?”


Three reasons why the new financial bill is bull

July 3, 2010

For Reason.TV, Nick Gillespie walks us through the reasons why the financial regulation bill the Democrats are trying to ram through Congress doesn’t address the real problems with our financial system:

I’ve no doubt there are some good ideas in this bill … somewhere in its 2300 pages, but it’s failure to address core problems, such as the government’s continued attempts at using the financial system as a vehicle of social engineering, make it fatally flawed. It should be withdrawn or defeated, and work started on real reform.


When bureaucrats get bored

June 30, 2010

Boredom must be a real problem for bureaucrats, especially in the European Union. How else does one explain jackassery such as this?

EU to ban selling eggs by dozen

Shoppers will be banned from buying bread rolls or eggs priced by the dozen under new food labelling regulations proposed by the European parliament.

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

The Government appeared to have been caught out by the change, but yesterday Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, signalled Britain would now step in to prevent the rule being enforced.

MEPs last week voted against an amendment to new food labelling regulations that would allow individual states to nominate products that can be sold by number rather than by weight.

Individual countries are currently allowed to specify exemptions but the new rules under discussion make no such provisions.

The changes would cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds as items would have to be individually weighed to ensure the accuracy of the label.

That last should read “…needlessly cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds…” Sure, standardization has some benefits, but how much will EU consumer benefit as compared to the expenses born by the companies (which they’ll pass on to consumers)? Is it really worth it?

And why even bother? What pressing Union-wide need was there for this rule? Doesn’t Brussels have anything better to do? Doesn’t the European Parliament care about this further micromanagement of daily life by a distant bureaucracy?

I think we know the answer to that.

PS. And America is on the same path.

(via Dan Mitchell)


Don’t cry over spilled milk – call the EPA!

June 27, 2010

Yes, according to the EPA, cow’s milk is now classified as “oil:”

Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.

The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks. The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back.

“That could get expensive quickly,” Konkel said. “We have a serious problem in the Gulf. Milk is a wholesome product that does not equate to spilling oil.”

Remember that the next time you wonder why the price of milk has gone up. And it’s not that I don’t believe agricultural pollution can be a problem, but with the Earth vomiting tens of thousands of barrels of real oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, you’d think that the EPA would have more pressing matters to deal with, instead of spilled milk. Then again, if their boss isn’t worried…

But some politicians should be. This won’t play well in any big dairy state, not just Michigan, whether it’s California (“It’s the cheese!”) or Wisconsin, which has such large dairy industry that it bills itself as “America’s Dairyland” and where liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is in a tough reelection battle. It’s another intervention and expense imposed by a regulatory agency at a time when most believe government does too much and has too much power. And, as the party of government and the party pushing for a vast expansion of an already intrusive government, the Democrats are doing a bang-up job of turning the public’s suspicion into electoral anger.

Come November, they may be crying over more than a spilled glass of oil milk.

(via Legal Insurrection)


Why does President Obama hate poor kids?

June 25, 2010

Get a good education, get a better life. It’s been part of the American dream almost as long as there’s been an America. From the Irish and Italian immigrants in the East to Asian and Hispanic newcomers in the West, parents have worked their butts off so their kids could go to good schools and have what they themselves didn’t.

So why is it that President Obama denies the poor children of the District of Columbia that same path to a better life? Why did he kill a voucher-scholarship program that greatly improved graduation rates? Why did he act in the face of strong evidence to the contrary?

According to an evaluation released yesterday by the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) has “significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school.”  The same study finds that “parents had higher satisfaction and rated schools as safer if their child was offered or used an OSP scholarship.”

With these dramatic success indicators, it must be no surprise that DC OSP is the only federal education program that the Obama Administration is intent on killing.

Dr. Matt Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute reports:

  • “…students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate.  That’s 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn’t receive vouchers.  Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher.  Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren’t offered vouchers–and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!”

So, naturally, the Obama administration’s Department of Education killed the program. Why? Part of it is, of course, due to the progressive-statist philosophy that underlies the administration, the Democrats, and their allies in the teachers’ unions: government technocrats are best able to provide educational opportunity that reaches the most people and is “fairest” to all, rich and poor. That made some sense as a theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as efforts were being made to broaden the reach of education and improve quality through standardization. But, as the recent post-Great Society history of public education has shown, larger and larger public school systems are not providing uniformly good or even safe schools to our children. Indeed, as DC shows, they’re often miserable failures.

Another reason for Democratic and, in particular, the administration’s hostility to free-market voucher programs is the heavy influence of teacher’s unions as Democratic activists and donors: both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers give the vast majority of their donations to Democrats, as well as contributing workers to local campaign offices. In return they expect the Democrats to protect union fiefdoms, regardless of whether they’re actually providing a good education and preparation for a better future. This is the Chicago Way: groups over individuals, and whoever gives you the most money and support gets the payoff.

Facts and children be damned.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And isn’t it odd that the President’s children attend one of the toniest, most exclusive private schools in DC? One that the poor children of DC no longer have a chance to go to, now that Obama has killed the voucher program? Bet that makes parents in the District happy.


A conservative documentary? “I want your money”

June 24, 2010

If the trailer is any indication, it looks promising and funny:

A bit about the movie, from its web site:

Join filmmaker Ray Griggs in this documentary film I Want Your Money as he contrasts the two paths the United States can take using the words and actions of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. The film uses interviews from well-known public figures, experts, movie clips, dramatic portrayals, music, graphics and even comedic animation to tell the story in the plainest terms of the choice between the Obama and the Reagan views of the role of the federal government in our society. It also examines how these big government programs have been tried in the past at great moral and financial cost to the nation. California is offered as a case-in-point in understanding what economic challenges might face the nation, if we choose the larger government path. Finally, I Want Your Money is a call to action for those who care about the future of the United States.

I’ll see it, though I may be the only one in the LA area to do so.

(via The Jawa Report)


By Obama, you’ve made enough money!

April 29, 2010

Wrapped up as I was in the desperate efforts to protect the President from terrorist grannies, I missed this gem from his speech in Quincy, Illinois:

Excerpt via Ed at Hot Air:

We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.

That was not in his prepared remarks, and I’m sure TOTUS wasn’t happy.

Is there any clearer expression of the statism at the heart of this administration? Not only do Obama and the (Social) Democrats claim the power and the requisite wisdom to regulate broad swathes of the economy, but the President himself claims to know better than you when you’ve earned enough money, beyond which, we assume, one enters the realm of “unfair.”

It also shows (again) that he just doesn’t “get” capitalism or market economies. The promise of possibly earning more money is what encourages people to start a business, hire more people (Remember jobs, Mr. President?), and take risks. That incentive system, coupled with a relative lack of government interference,  is why our economy has been phenomenally successful. By saying “you’ve made enough,” you take away any incentive for people to work harder. Why should I or anyone risk capital in an investment, or take a job that eats up most of my time, if you are going to tell us we can only make so much from it? What’s next, wage and price controls a la Diocletian and Nixon?

And the arrogance! That a man who has never worked in private business, whose whole adult life has been in academics, non-profit, and government work should think that he knows how much a businessman or an investor should make in return for their effort and risk? A man who knows next to nothing about economics? How is this even in Washington’s purview?

How about trying to do the jobs the federal government is assigned, rather than everything it isn’t?


Nanny says “No salt!!”

April 20, 2010

I guess the FDA was feeling left out after the EPA decided that carbon dioxide was a pollutant and a public danger.  I mean, why shouldn’t they join the party and make themselves look ridiculous, too? But how best to do it… I know! Let’s regulate the salt you’re allowed to eat!

The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.

Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.

The legal limits would be open to public comment, but administration officials do not think they need additional authority from Congress.

Maybe they don’t need any additional authority (maybe), but they need a good dose of common sense. Processed foods are already required to list their ingredients; if someone has to monitor their sodium intake, then treat them as an adult and let them make those choices for themselves. We don’t need a multi-billion dollar program (Come on, you just know it will cost that much.) to pay for government regulators to guard us from the dangers inherent in the humble potato chip.

But there’s the problem: the essence of the progressive-statist mindset is exactly that you are not competent to decide for yourselves, that government has to watch over you, protect you from yourself. For the good of all, it has to treat you like a child. Snack foods, health care, how your money is spent… There is no end to Nanny’s need to, well, nanny you.

Of course, science really doesn’t enter into this decision: the consensus has been that salt is related to heart disease, thus giving the FDA its reason for action. Yet recent studies have called that consensus into question; the science may not be so settled. (via Hot Air) Not that this utterly disproves salt’s connection to heart disease, but it should give reasonable people pause before creating an expensive (and taste-killing) regulatory regime.

But Nanny isn’t reasonable.

LINKS: At Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson thinks the government has finally found its jobs plan. Fausta calls it lunacy.