Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Big Government, Personal Liberties, and the Far Right

In these days of omnipresent whining by the far right pundits and blogggers concerning the threat of “big government”; it’s important to remind them of the history of their leaders. Though this may appear to be yet another attack on the Bush administration; that is not the objective. The premise of this article is the propensity of those from the far right to assail any move made by the present administration that they deem to be a threat to their personal liberties. All the while; conveniently forgetting or ignoring legislation that was enacted prior to President Obama and the Democrats gaining control.

In Howard Fineman’s book The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country; he speaks of former President Bush in this fashion:

"From the start, he was a federal-power man. His signature domestic initiative, the 'No Child Left Behind Act' called for the most aggressive expansion of the federal role in 40 years…This proposal, which the Republican controlled Congress enacted in 2001, called not only for setting national test standards, but for a regulatory regime to oversee what had been a state responsibility: elementary and secondary education."

This legislation was advocated by a president who hailed from Texas. One would be hard pressed to find a state that defends its right to sovereignty more than Texas: the possible exception being Vermont.

To further emphasize my point; one need only look at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force. While the energy companies complained about states having the right to block their oil and gas lines; they urged the government to nullify the rights accorded to the individual states. “Not surprisingly, the group adopted the companies’ view. It was not surprising in part because both Cheney and Bush agreed with them. Four years later, Congress wrote the measure into law.” Correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure some will), but I don’t recall any outrage voiced from the far right concerning this blatant example of government intervention.

The events of 9/11changed the way all Americans felt regarding our previously held belief that we were undeniably safe at home. The World Trade Center bombing in 1993 may have alarmed some but it appeared to have been long forgotten. This opened the door for still more “chest thumping” by our government.

"The events of 9/11 led the President and Congress to erect a vast new edifice of federal bureaucracy in the name of security. The relationship between the FBI and state and municipal police agencies, long a delicate and contentious one, changed fundamentally after 9/11. Successive versions of the Patriot Act gave federal authorities, from the FBI to the NSA, dominion over investigative and arrest powers that once belonged to the locals."

For anyone to even suggest that these powers have not been abused is absurd. It’s as if the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover is in our midst. Again, where was the outrage?

I could cite other examples such as the passage of a bill that gave the president the power to order the individual states’ National Guard into action: a power long held by the states. Of course, this new power was neatly cloaked in a 439 page defense bill. This little maneuver usurped a 200 year old law. But I digress (again). The point of all this is while the far right bitches and moans about “big government” and the threat of socialism; they seem to forget the posturing of the former administration.

I would like to know what difference there is between the present administration’s desire to reform a deeply flawed health care system and the complete takeover of the educational system by its predecessors. What is the difference between the government’s intervention in the auto industry and and enacting laws that enable oil companies to run their lines wherever they please? I anticipate, welcome, and encourage answers to these questions. Perceptions vary as do ideologies and that is what separates us from other countries. Before I close, I feel it is important to note that the book I derived much of my information from was endorsed by that iconic right winger, Newt Gingrich. “In an impressively thought provoking, original approach, Fineman revisits the great defining arguments that will deepen your understanding of America.”