Graduates, heed Jefferson, not Obama

Thomas Jefferson said to keep a close eye on government and others chimed in that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Phooey, says President Barack Obama. He recently told graduating college students in Columbus, Ohio, to ignore those thus intervening in their snooze time.

“Unfortunately,” he said in a commencement address at Ohio State University, “you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems,” and maybe he’s right. Maybe some of those students did study the founders who told us government is necessary — but watch out.

“Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works,” Obama said. “‘They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Jefferson, who helped instigate this brave, creative, unique experiment, remained sufficiently wary of what could lurk around the corner to notice that our second president, John Adams, had betrayed the First Amendment with assaults on a free press. Jefferson ran against him and became our third president, helping to curb an egregious excess that was hardly this republic’s last.

Today, an equally clear betrayal of a Constitution that aims to limit government is the deployment of 165,000 pages of regulations as a way to keep Americans from making their own decisions.

Some of these rules obviously do some good, even as others shrink liberty, tie it up and sit on it. Not a few of them stifle our economy and others threaten ordinary citizens with prison for performing such seemingly legal acts as fixing clogged toilets in a home for retired military employees. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, an engineer performing this good deed ran afoul of an environmental rule through a perfectly innocent act.

He now has a criminal record.

A bipartisan congressional task force is addressing this business of criminalizing so much so stupidly and, I might say, tyrannically, but don’t get excited about the possibilities of Washington otherwise retreating from its regulatory binges.

The Obama administration took an awful record from the Bush administration and made it worse. It added to the economic cost of regulations by more in one year — 2012 — than happened in the combined first terms of both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, according to a report by the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.

This administration’s regulatory overkill is coming our way from an Environmental Protection Agency that itself poses threats to our future, new consumer rules that make our market less free and Wall Street regulations that some top critics think do nothing to improve anything and do much to make things worse.

And by the way, here comes more Obamacare.

We’re talking about gobs of new taxes, scary new unaffordable budget costs, higher insurance premiums, health care perplexities of all kinds and so many unintended consequences surrounding us that defense may be impossible.

Your president — who did ask the Ohio State students to involve themselves in the governing process — calls this self-rule, but understand that no member of Congress probably had more than the vaguest understanding of a 2,000-page measure that is being translated into many thousands more pages of regulations by essentially unaccountable agencies. And understand, too, that Obama doesn’t really care about self-rule, anyway. His thing is Obama-rule.

After all, this administration of his simply rewrote a Bush-era education law and stopped deportation of young illegal immigrants without required authorization from another branch of government known as Congress.

It has also gummed up the economy through spendthrift policies, delivering the worst recovery from a recession since World War II. Growth is a trickle of what it should be, jobs are in hiding, we now have the highest poverty rates in half a century and median income is down 5.6 percent from the beginning of the recovery in June 2009.

Was enactment of the pork-ridden, project-delayed, silliness-inundated stimulus tyranny? Maybe not, but it’s a vivid illustration of how Obama and his cronies have endlessly overreached through hubristic federal government that someday really, truly ought to give prudence a chance.

Rescue, my friends, resides in the vigilance Obama fears.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. Email SpeaktoJay@aol.com.

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