(Centennial Fellow) President Barack Obama's $840 billion stimulus contained more than a million dollars to study erectile dysfunction, and yes, I know, any complaint will be identified as a war on men.That would be in addition to a Republican war on women as alleged by zanies not liking perfectly sound criticisms of Obama's health insurance mindlessness.Let's get serious, because there is a real issue here, namely that the runaway, reckless stimulus is part of an Obama agenda Europeanizing America and bringing us ever closer to a disastrous tipping point.It would be one in which our program bloat, romance with debt, smothering regulation and other governmental excesses get even more out of hand, creating a mess resembling what we now see most vividly in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.
Much of the rest of Europe is not that far behind, thanks to trying to give the public more and more with policies that leave businesses producing less and less. When escaping reality became impossible, officials tried timid austerity measures. In some elections this month, spoiled voters cast ballots as if the diet would kill them. It's actually governmental obesity that could prove fatal.America has long thought of itself as different -- an energetic, freedom-hugging land made splendidly successful by self-reliance and individual initiative. There has been a lot of truth in that description, despite an ever-growing federal government that is spending a fifth of a borrowed billion every hour, according to an article by columnist Mark Steyn in Commentary magazine.
That extravagance means our pursuit of happiness could become a run for survival.The Obama stimulus is part of the overkill. It included defensible provisions, indefensible hubris and unrivaled amounts of pork. The recently publicized research on erection dysfunction is laughably far from the kind of project that spurs quick economic recovery, and the stimulus has loads of similar stupidities.Estimates of stimulus benefits cannot possibly calculate the pluses of leaving more money in the private economy, and the Congressional Budget Office is among those worrying about long-term harm offsetting current advantages.Thanks not just to the stimulus, but to fervor for more spending generally when revenues are down, the debt has grown by $5 trillion under Obama. That renders us vulnerable to immediate danger on top of saddling our grandchildren with impoverishing repayments.Unfathomably, the president ignored corrective recommendations of his own debt commission, and this year offered a $3.8 trillion budget defeated 99-0 in a Senate vote that left Democrats making flimsy excuses for what was really a rejection of ruin.Ours is a president of spectacular negligence. A prime example has been his refusal to propose changes in Social Security, Medicare (beyond cuts that were not overall budget deductions) and Medicaid, even though those three entitlements and debt interest will consume all federal tax revenues as soon as 2025 if not restructured.Obama himself has acknowledged that something has to be done, but instead of doing it, created a new health care entitlement worsening the jam we are in by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.Obamacare malfunctions keep popping up. One is a tax levied on manufacturers of medical devices, causing some of them to give up plans for new factories and depriving Americans of still more jobs. And then there is the ending of insurance copayments for contraceptives, even though basic kinds are cheap, the poor can get them for free and those getting a break at the expense of everyone include millionaires and billionaires.You might remember that, during the health care debate, European systems were held up as the cat's meow, even though they themselves have a host of issues. Obama and Congress headed in that direction, ending up with a mishmash that ignored straightforward, relatively cheap alternatives.Sadly, this administration has a European cast of mind, and America will pay dearly if a second term eventuates.-------
Jay Ambrose was formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver. He is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow
(St. Petersburg, Russia) The French and Greek elections of May 6, 2012 signify the beginning of the end for the “Europe Project”. The competing visions of two remarkable Frenchmen- Jean Monnet and Charles De Gaulle- have been decisively resolved in favor of the latter. Nearly seventy years ago in the wake of two catastrophic world wars, Monnet became known as the “Father of Europe” by advocating a unified destiny for his battered continent. Monnet dubbed his idea the “Europe Project” and diplomatically described it as a scheme of limited economic and political cooperation. Less cautious souls spoke of a “United States of Europe”. The idea took its first serious form in 1957 as the “Common Market”, an economic linkage of six nations-France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg. Just a year later however with the election of World War II hero Charles De Gaulle as President of France there emerged a powerful alternative vision to Monnet’s supra national “Europe Project”. De Gaulle saw permanent reconciliation between France and Germany as the key to a peaceful European future. He also believed that mutually beneficial economic ties between the two ancient rivals were the best guarantee of that reconciliation. While De Gaulle’s vision allowed for carefully selected smaller nations to economically associate with the “Franco- German Core” he decisively rejected any arrangement that sacrificed the sovereignty of France. De Gaulle dramatically underlined his dissent from Monnet’s “Europe’s Project”- by rejecting British membership in the Common Market, withdrawing from the NATO Alliance, and establishing France as an independent nuclear power. De Gaulle and Monnet symbolized competing visions of Europe’s future and that debate between the ideas of nationalism and supra-nationalism has only grown sharper in the decades since the passing of both men. In the last quarter of the twentieth century events seemed to favor the dream of Monnet. The six member Common Market steadily expanded and eventually morphed into the twenty-seven member European Union (EU) we know today. The free trade agreements at the heart of the Union fostered steady economic growth as such agreements usually do. For the true believers in the “Europe Project,” however, economics was but a means to the end of political union. Though the bureaucrats who ran the E.U. from Brussels made steady progress insinuating their onerous regulations into the legal systems of member states, they were repeatedly frustrated by the inconvenience of democratic national elections where voters persistently rejected the centralizing impulse toward tighter political ties. Following two such embarrassing defeats at the hands of French and Dutch voters the proponents of the “Europe Project” concluded that the cause of political union was best advanced through means of a common E.U. currency to be known as the “Euro”. Thus was administered the “poison pill” that would bring about the ultimate ruin of the “Europe Project”. In theory the common currency and monetary policy would be the “rising tide that lifts all boats” with the weaker economies of Southern Europe being boosted toward the higher performance of Northern powerhouses like Germany with the desired side effect of ever tighter political union. From the beginning there was much Northern European skepticism with some E.U. members like Britain even refusing to adopt the common currency. When the world lurched into recession in 2008 that skepticism proved to be very well founded. Instead of the North lifting the South, the opposite happened i.e. the weak Southern economies (Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal) became an increasingly heavy dragging anchor on the North. Ever deeper mutual recrimination abounded. As they were forced to funnel “bail-out” money to the seemingly bottomless pit in the South, E.U. leadership became increasingly strident in demanding harsh austerity measures which provoked protests, riots, and collapsing governments in Greece and elsewhere. As pressures on the Euro ratcheted upward the key to sustaining the Europe Project was embodied by the strong personal partnership between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Both of them however faced growing political opposition questioning their leadership of E.U. The vital partnership ended when Sarkozy lost the Presidential Election to Socialist Francoise Hollande, who won by making promises that were politically popular but economically impossible. On the same day angry Greek voters revolted against the two major political parties who had agreed to the draconian budget cuts demanded by the E.U. leadership. So, where does the “Europe Project” stand today? There will be no stable Greek government in the foreseeable future. All political parties are demanding renegotiation of the terms of their “bail-out” which is simply a non-starter for the E.U. leadership. The departure of Greece from the Euro zone -once unthinkable- is now being discussed. Sharp policy conflicts between France and Germany are already emerging. Chancellor Merkel has lost her principal ally and is increasingly isolated within her own party. Reality is that Greece will never become Germany, and German voters will never tolerate permanent subsidies for what they understandably view as a “profligate” Southern Europe. Today we see giant demonstrations in Madrid, Rome, and Athens against what people view as “E.U. tyranny”. As Le Monde editorialized “All the passion in Europe is anti-EU”.
Long ago Charles De Gaulle observed, “People do not take to the streets on behalf of an abstraction”.
Today the “Europe Project” has become an abstraction, and though their grasp of economic reality may be flawed, the people of Europe have made clear that they do not like it. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events.
(Rome) If one would conjure in imagination what Gibbon called the “Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome” a worthwhile approach is to set sail upon Homer’s “wine dark sea” and in select ports of call contemplate with awe the visible Ruins of those mighty civilizations that are the foundation of our own. On a recent cruise, my wife and I did just that.
In the many centuries since Greece and Rome held sway over the known world visitors like Gibbon have come to view marble remains while parsing ancient texts and searching for clues to the fate of their own world.
In ironic fashion Athens and Rome are once again centers of intense worldwide interest, though not as progenitors of Western Civilization but rather possible contributors to its financial collapse.
Indeed, how times have changed. Places that produced leaders like Pericles, and Marcus Aurelius, now offer only Papandreous and Berlusconis. Peoples who once sent Captains like Alexander and Caesar to bestride the far corners of the earth now reach exhaustion mastering a sand pile called Libya.
At mid-point in our journey my ruminations on all this were enriched by the insights of an old English friend who I first met at Oxford in 1970. Paul, “a former naval person” retired from MI-5 (I think) and his ever elegant French wife Nicole now grow prize-winning roses at their lovely seaside cottage in Cornwall. We became close when our respective governments sent us to a summer “cultural exchange” in Communist Romania, then under the heel of the beastly tyrant Nicolae Ceasusescu. With wonderful English understatement Paul suggested that his only instruction from his sponsor was “Just be alert, old boy”.
The itinerary of this cultural exchange- wandering across Transylvanian countryside, Black Sea coast, Bucharest etc.- allowed ample time for idle conversation between like-minded individuals willing to civilly but enthusiastically criticize each other’s countries and leaders (e.g. Nixon & Heath) and generally pontificate upon all the great political questions of the day.
To be sure, Paul and I had our biases. He believed that his country would always be a major force in world affairs. I believed that my country would never be afflicted by that strange “civilizational fatigue” that seemed to be leaking into the bloodstream of much of Western Europe. During our recent struggling ascent up the slopes of Europe’s last active volcano-Mt. Etna in Sicily- we reached the rueful conclusion that we both had been wrong.
For those who love History roaming through Greece and Italy is a delight since they have so much of it crowded in very compact spaces. The entire flowering of Greek civilization took place in an area just a third the size of Colorado. In a single city- Florence- is the greatest concentration of Western Art in the world, and the finest museum-The Uffizi. Three giants of Western Art, Science, and Philosophy-Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli-are at rest in the same darkened Church. Nearby one can gaze upon Michelangelo’s David, arguably the most nearly perfect expression of Western Art anywhere in the world.
What Gibbon did for the Ancient World in his Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire (5 vols. 1776-1788) the German philosopher Oswald Spengler sought to do for the Modern World in his darkly prophetic Decline of the West ( 2 vols. 1918-1922) which argued that all cultures are subject to the same historically predetermined cycle of growth and decay.
Spengler wrote in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophically self-destructive First World War, the initial act of a European Civil War (1914-1945) which prematurely ended that continent’s global ascendance and inflicted a devastating spiritual wound upon the Western psyche that is unhealed to this day.
What one sees in Florence particularly and the Renaissance generally is an extraordinary amalgam of Greek, Roman, and Christian civilization the salient characteristics of which are the boundless dynamism, energy, and self-confidence that simultaneously produced the world’s greatest art, the birth of modern science, and unleashed the Age of Discovery.
The present generation must answer whether those characteristics remain in sufficient abundance to meet the stern challenges of this time of Doubt and Divisiveness. To find that answer, however, they will need the guidance of History, and the resource of Faith to first fully understand the question.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Human Events and Denver Post. He is a Fellow of the Centennial Institute in Colorado.
(CCU Faculty) In 2004 I taught Western Civilization and U.S. Foreign Policy as a Fulbright Scholar in Eastern Europe. My primary duties were at the largest state university in Belarus, as well as at their Institute of International Relations. While there I was contacted by George Soros’ Invisible College. It is one of several Invisible Colleges in European capitals, each funded by the Soros Foundation. It allowed students from both the State University and the Institute of International Relations to take courses and transfer them back to their other schools. Several of my students at the other institutions were at the Invisible College and one of them likely recommended me to them. I had the feeling that the students at the Invisible College were there by special invitation, being groomed for a particular purpose in the field of International Relations.
I was asked to repeat a presentation, which I had given at one of the other colleges, on how Globalization could bring prosperity to their country. My primary metaphor was that the stones in the wall which had divided East from West during the Cold War could be used instead to build bridges between East and West. That this country, which stood at the crossroads between East and West, could benefit by being a center of trade between Russia and the West. I encouraged the students to be more international in their scope and find some way in which they could help raise the standard of living in their country. It was received well by the Invisible College, and I was invited to return.
I was not assigned a topic for my second presentation, but when I suggested the foreign policy of George W. Bush they were interested. Apparently, I agreed with them on the importance of economic globalization, but I was soon to discover that we disagreed on the Global War on Terror. In that second presentation the following week I stressed the importance of America’s role in both Afghanistan and Iraq, that the world needed a police force, and that neither the U.N. nor the E.U. were up to the task. Since tyranny should not be tolerated, and there should be no safe haven for terrorism, America had to remain strong and vigilant in order to insure global peace and stability. At the end of my presentation I was ushered quickly out the door and was never invited back.
Over the past few years I have often reflected on my visits to the Invisible College. At the time I only knew Soros as a wealthy and successful currency trader, but wondered why he was so interested in spending so much of his fortune training young people for the new global economy. I have now become convinced that he has a broad reaching agenda for the world, and that he is training a cadre of young scholars for a specific purpose. What that purpose is, I am not quite sure. That is why I had resisted publishing anything on the topic. However, Glenn Beck has recently focused on George Soros, and has his own ideas on what Soros wants. All I can do is add my own experience to the public discussion.
('76 Contributor) As any visitor to Cuba will tell you, slogans like "Hasta la victoria siempre" (towards victory, always) or "Socialismo or muerte" (socialism or death) are dotted here and there all over the Caribbean island for fear that the long-suffering local population might lose sight of the ill-fated goals of the communist revolution that took place there under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1959. The way things are going in France right now, pockets of little Cubas are very likely to sprout up all over the country as the summit on climate change in Copenhagen next month looms larger and larger. I personally know of one such Cuban-like ideological treadmill: the High School in Lyon, France’s second-largest city, where I am completing my third year as a teacher of Anglo-American Studies. About two months ago, straight from the French Department of Education came a diktat to the effect that all public schools in the country had to organize teaching activities aimed at promoting so-called environmentally-friendly sustainable development, i.e. socialism. I have been asked to participate. Needless to say that I have sustainably declined.
One of the ideas some of my colleagues have come up with though is to translate the speeches President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are expected to make in Denmark next month, and to flash up bits of the speeches on large TV screens dotted here and there all over the school for fear that the students might lose sight of the ill-fated goals of the green revolution that is currently taking place in France under the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy. With so much hot air coming out of the screens, I guess temperatures will rise exponentially all over the school and melt what little critical thinking is left in the French education system. As the episode illustrates, descriptions of President Sarkozy as a conservative are misleading. On global warming, as in many other policy areas, Sarkozy is just about as conservative as Newt Gingrich sitting on a couch with Speaker Pelosi touting misguided bipartisan efforts to save the planet. The green revolution currently going on in France is being every bit as destructive of individual freedom and responsibility as the ominous events of 1789 there, or, for that matter, those in Cuba more than 150 years later. In other words, welcome to the new land of scorching propaganda, brainwashing, intellectual goose-stepping and, I almost forgot, youth duly decked out in Guevara accessories and apparel as the latest fashion dictates. Are you sure you want to be next, America?
The author is a French citizen with a PhD in political science who formerly lived in Colorado.
The left in this country has made much of the big electoral victories that the Democrats won in 2006 and 2008 — and for good reason. Not since 1977, when Jimmy Carter swept to victory along with huge Democrat majorities in the House and Senate, has there been such lopsided partisan rule in this country. With Al Franken seemingly a lock to win the Minnesota Senate seat, the Democrats are on the verge of a 60 vote “supra majority” that is virtually filibuster proof. The immediate future seems to all be swinging the left’s way, and all the things that come with it are now a foregone conclusion: major health care reform, tax increases, deficit spending and a spate of intensive, restrictive environmental regulation.
But will it last? As we know, Jimmy Carter’s 1977 victory gave way in just four years to the Reagan Revolution — and though Barack Obama is much more politically sophisticated than was Carter, a former Georgia peanut farmer who was poorly schooled in the ways of Washington, there are many similarities thus far between the two presidencies. Carter took over after a period of eight years of Republican rule and in the wake of an unpopular war and scandal; his campaign was based on a promise to “change” Washington — to clean up government and restore the nation’s image in the world. The economy he inherited was suffering from high unemployment and high inflation — and Carter’s typical “tax and spend” policies made both worse. He oversaw the expansion of government with the creation of the Departments of Energy and Education, instituted price controls and rationing on energy, oversaw the bailout of a Detroit automaker (Chrysler) and pursued Middle East Peace by promoting the cause of the Arab states over those of Israel.
But it is not a lost cause, for as Carter gave way to Reagan, Obama’s left-wing policies and programs may lead to a new conservative revolution. In fact, there are now signs from Europe that the purported “death of conservatism” has been greatly exaggerated. As the BBC reports, in European Parliament elections this weekend it appears that Center-right parties have made major gains:
“Centre-right parties have done well in elections to the European Parliament at the expense of the left. Far-right and anti-immigrant parties also made gains, as turnout figures plunged to between 43 and 44%.
*The UK Labour Party, Germany’s Social Democrats and France’s Socialist Party were heading for historic defeats.
*French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP trounced socialist opponents, while greens from the Europe-Ecologie party also made gains
*German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing centre-right grouping lost ground but finished ahead of its rivals. The Social Democrats, Ms Merkel’s partners in the grand coalition, saw their worst election showing since World War II
*In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition is ahead of the socialist opposition, with 36% of the vote
*In the UK, the governing Labour Party is expecting a serious defeat, gaining its lower share of the vote for a century
*Spain’s governing Socialists were slightly behind the opposition Popular Party, according to partial results
*Poland’s governing centre-right Civic Platform has gained ground at the expense of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party
*Early results show Portugal’s ruling Socialists dropped a massive 18 percentage points, losing out mainly to Greens and far-left parties
It is no surprise, of course, that the UK Labour party under the inept leadership of Gordon Browne is in trouble, but the general performance of Center-right parties elsewhere shows that the leftward swing of Europe is now at a low-ebb. The victories in recent years of Sarkozy in France, Berlusconi in Italy and Merkel in Germany has put Center-right leadership in power in the three largest European states; should David Cameron of the Conservative party in the UK sweep to power in the next general election sometime in 2010, it will be a clean sweep. Granted, conservatism in Europe is of a different sort than that in the U.S., operating as it does within an extensive social democratic framework. But the fact remains that Europe is showing a fatigue with the kind of leftist socialism that has been in vogue there over the past decade.
Will the same thing happen here? Will America reject the big government policies of Obama, Pelosi and Reid in 2010 and 2012? Or will it take longer for the fatigue associated with big government, over-reguation and high taxation to set in?
My guess is that it will. Whatever Obama’s personal popularity, the fact remains that America is essentially still a center-right country that generally dislikes both big government and high taxes. It won’t be long until the honeymoon associated with the economic crisis of 2008-09 to run its course; Obama will soon own the deficit spending we are embarking on, and when Americans get a taste of Canada-style health care (and taxes), it won’t be pretty.
It took Carter to give us Reagan. Obama will give us another historic opportunity to move the nation back toward individual liberty and economic freedom.