I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Obama the demigod comes down to Earth
While questions persist about whether any grand bargain reached by the principals could have actually passed in the Tea Party-dominated Congress, Woodward issues a harsh judgment on White House and congressional leaders for failing to act boldly at a moment of crisis. Particular blame falls on the president.
“It was increasingly clear that no one was running Washington. That was trouble for everyone, but especially for Obama,” Woodward writes.
Inside story of Obama’s struggle to keep Congress from controlling outcome of debt ceiling crisis
Washington is populated with what is essentially a permanent class of feudal media elites, politicans and lobbyists, experts and staffers who are inclined to be self-referential and and self-reinforcing insiders. Washington has its own circuit of events, balls, and dinners that tend to draw the same insular crowd to every event. Most of these people are delightful, but they are frequently disconnected from the real world, and a surprising number have never have had a real job outside of politics.
“Do not be deceived by all that talk of delegates and floor speeches: This is a convention of the media, by the media and for the media. There are some 15,000 representatives of the media here for the convention, and only about 5,000 delegates. This mathematical imbalance means most journalists spend their time with other journalists at events sponsored by corporations and hosted by media organizations for the purpose of entertaining advertisers and promoting themselves to each other.”
On the surface, our government is made up of three branches—the executive, judicial and legislative. But the real story of how Washington works is under the surface. Below the three brances of governemt are the three roots of careerism—parochialism, tradition and party. These roots run deep and are cracking the foundation of our republic.
“…the gulf between Republicans and Democrats has never been wider. Partisan polarization now presents a potentially insurmountable barrier to governing for whoever wins the White House in November. “
Again, if [Admiral] Michael Mullen is correct that our debt is our greatest national security threat, doing nothing is a recipe for mutually assured destruction.
When Republicans mentioned their policy plans at all, it was mostly to peddle standard bromides of tax cuts and smaller government, as if these are the answer to everything. Their ideas for school choice and “opportunity scholarships” for children stuck in failing schools sound appealing, but only for the tiny fraction of students to which they apply. With no serious ideas to renew upward mobility, and a budget plan that perversely undermines it by slashing preschool and college aid for poor youths, the entire pitch, on closer examination, seemed a hollow exercise in nostalgia.
Unfortunately, the Democrats who kick off their convention in Charlotte Tuesday night, will do only marginally better. To be sure, Democrats will say their passion is to ensure that the circumstances of one’s birth do not determine one’s destiny. But given President Obama’s proposals, the outer limits of Democratic ambition are unequal to today’s challenges.
The president won’t insist on extending high-quality preschool to every poor child, for example, something nations with greater upward mobility routinely do. He won’t mention, much less propose to remedy, this country’s unique and shamefully unequal system of school finance, which dooms poor children to the least qualified teachers and shabbiest facilities in the country.
While the president will talk a good game when it comes to improving college affordability, nothing he proposes will alter the fact that a year’s tuition at public college now consumes a quarter of median family income, while at private colleges the figure has jumped beyond 50 percent. And even as the president takes credit for modest increases in the maximum value of Pell Grants available to help defray these costs, he won’t point out that in 1976 this maximum grant covered 72 percent of costs at a typical public college, while today it covers only half that much.
Simply put, the president’s current plan is to leave public colleges half as affordable via federal aid as they were under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
An acceptance speech is not a State of the Union laundry list of specific proposals. Its role is to set out a vision of the country’s future path. Mr. Obama was correct that he and Mr. Romney have dramatically different visions of government’s role, and that the Republican prescription of tax cuts to address any woe has left the country in terrible shape. Mr. Romney has been inexcusably vague in outlining his program, fiscal and otherwise, and he did nothing to mend this deficiency in his acceptance speech. But Mr. Obama’s speech also fell short — of his own proclaimed standards.
A convention without corporate sponsors?
Democrats vowed to put on a ‘people’s convention’ paid for with small donations. But big-name money was persistently present in Charlotte.
By Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times
September 6, 2012, 8:22 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Democratic Party leaders began planning the 2012 national convention, they vowed to put it on without the help of corporations, lobbyists and political action committees who have traditionally helped finance the multiday extravaganzas, relying instead on small donations to pay for a “people’s convention.”
But corporate money maintained a persistent presence here this week.
“Thank you to all of our corporate sponsors,” read a large white banner at the CarolinaFest street fair that kicked off the convention.
It listed 16 companies, including AT&T, Bank of America, Coca-Cola and UnitedHealth Group; they were among those who together gave at least $11 million to a nonprofit organization called New American City set up by convention organizers to handle the street festival, media welcome party and delegate receptions.
Unlike a separate committee that aimed to raise $37 million for the production of the convention itself, New American City was allowed to accept direct corporate, PAC and lobbyist money.
“We told the [host] committee, from the beginning, that we wanted to participate in any way that we could,” said Peter Covington, vice chairman of the global law and lobbying firm McGuire Woods, which sponsored both CarolinaFest and a kickoff party for the media held at a sprawling music venue.
“We really did step up to make sure that Charlotte showed well,” he said. “It was our commitment to making it succeed, without regard to the political part.”
The convention committee itself also had corporate backing. Although the companies could not give directly to it, they could make in-kind contributions — Xerox, for example, gave printing and supplies worth $150,000, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Democratic officials insisted they met their self-imposed standard of financing the convention without the help of special interests, arguing that the activities put on by New American City were separate from the convention itself.
“Even though it was quite challenging — it made it more challenging to meet our budgetary needs and took a little bit longer than any of us were comfortable with — we are so proud that we made sure that this was the most open and accessible and inclusive community-oriented convention in history,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said as delegates buzzed around her in the Charlotte Convention C
enter on Wednesday. “People know this is a convention they own, that they have a piece of this campaign.”
Political parties are banned from accepting corporate money for their quadrennial gatherings, a Watergate-era reform instituted after a scandal surrounding the 1972 Republican convention, when the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. offered $400,000 to help bring the event to San Diego at the same time the company was trying to get the Nixon administration to drop antitrust charges.
Since 1976, the two major parties have received public funds to put on the events — this year, $17.7 million each.
But neither sticks to that budget, thanks to a loophole created by the Federal Election Commission in 1977, when it decided that the conventions could be produced in part through unlimited donations to a local host committee.
That’s brought in a gusher of cash for increasingly lavish events. Four years ago, organizations such as corporations and unions gave 86% of the $61 million Democrats raised for their convention in Denver.
“We have gone entirely full circle,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for the campaign-finance watchdog group Public Citizen.
Holman credited Democratic convention organizers for their “noble efforts” this year, but said new legislation was required to truly keep special interests at bay.
Charlotte leaders did not know about the rules when the city was chosen to host the event. Host committee co-chair Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, had already secured commitments of around $11 million from locally based companies to help pay for the convention before the party announced that corporate, lobbyist and PAC money would not be accepted, said Rogers spokesman Tom Williams.
Those companies donated instead to New American City, along with other corporations later recruited by Rogers.
“He certainly built on that $10 to $11 million, certainly brought in more from other companies nationwide,” Williams said. Rogers also worked to secure donations from individuals, who could give up to $100,000 to the convention committee.
“He put a lot of time into it,” Williams said. “It’s a different way to do it.”
The rules may have made it more challenging, but they did not keep major corporations from participating. Among the donors to New American City listed on sponsor signs were Time Warner Cable, U.S. Airways and Wells Fargo.
“As part of our civic leadership and consistent with prior presidential election years, we supported the host committee in Tampa and also joined other companies headquartered in Charlotte to do our part to help make the city successful,” said Scott Silvestri, spokesman for Bank of America, which gave an undisclosed sum.
The political action committee of the public relations giant Hill & Knowlton — whose U.S. operations are headed by former Bush White House advisor Dan Bartlett — gave $18,000 to both New American City and the Tampa Bay host committee, as the Charlotte Observer first reported.
And Charlotte business executives were some of the biggest boosters of the event.
“Here, you have a national platform for people to see Charlotte, to see it’s not a provincial city, but a thriving, diverse city,” said Jeffrey Merrifield, a senior vice president at Shaw, an energy, chemicals and infrastructure company that gave to New American City and also helped host a bash for the North and South Carolina delegations at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The convention also put a spotlight on local industries, he noted.
“We are a part of a major effort here to demonstrate that Charlotte has become a real energy hub for the United States,” Merrifield said. “We wanted a platform for people to understand that.”
Capitol Dome Is Imperiled by 1,300 Cracks and Partisan Rift
WASHINGTON — To the myriad indignities suffered by Congress, including stagnant legislation, partisan warfare and popularity on a par with petty criminals, add this: the Capitol’s roof is leaking, and there is no money to fix it.
Needed Capitol dome repairs should not be a political issue
By Editorial Board, Published: August 29
THE ROOF of the Capitol — the iconic dome — is badly in need of repair. Years of inclement weather have caused hundreds of leaks; water seeping through the pinholes and cracks wreaks havoc on the decorative elements that make the dome unique. Putting off needed repairs is never a good idea — as many a homeowner has found out the hard way. So let’s hope Congress, steward of this precious national structure, has the good sense to undertake its timely repair.
“The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation. It’s a public safety issue,” Stephen T. Ayers, architect of the Capitol, told the New York Times in a recent article detailing its dire state. An impasse between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate over the fiscal 2013 budget has ensnared funding for the needed repairs. About $20 million has been spent on soon-to-be completed repairs to the section of the dome that surrounds the base of its original foundation, but repair work on the rest of the exterior will cost $61 million more.
The House voted this year to cut the funds as part of its efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit; the Senate Appropriations Committee voted just before the August recess to provide the money, but there’s been no vote on the appropriation (or, apparently, plans for one) by the full Senate. Unable to agree on a budget, congressional leaders recently reached a deal to fund government programs at roughly current levels through March and will try to pass a short-term spending bill that likely would not include the $61 million.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) assured us that “everyone supports fixing the Capitol dome” and expressed confidence that a solution will be found. But the sooner the architect of the Capitol is appropriated the funds, the sooner Mr. Ayers’s office can start putting out bids for the work that everyone agrees is needed and, if delayed, will undoubtedly cost more. Why risk further damage to the dome or possible dangers to public safety?
Mr. Boehner should take seriously the request of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who chairs the committee that oversees the Capitol complex, and include the funds in the interim spending measure expected to come before Congress next month.
Dodd decries hyper-partisanship in Senate farewell speech
Congress officially declared ‘dumber’ than years prior because politicians are speaking down to constituents
A new study has quantified a problem that many political pundits have been complaining about by reporting that Congress has gotten collectively dumber over the past seven years.
By analyzing trends in speech patterns and public statements, educational group The Sunlight Foundation determined that members of Congress are speaking, on average, on the same level as a sophomore in high school.
Growing wealth widens distance between lawmakers and constituents
Major parties aren’t interested in solving nation’s problems
By Cal Thomas
Tribune Media Friday June 8, 2012 6:09 AM
In his 2007 bookThe Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800, historian Jay Winik writes that among Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, none “believed in political parties, which they feared would lead to ‘rage,’ ‘dissolution,’ and eventual ‘ruin’ of the republic…”
The latest poll from the Pew Research Center, “Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years,” seems to indicate that the American people have come around to their way of thinking.
The poll, writes The New York Times, found that “the share of self-identified Republicans has declined over the last two decades to about 24 percent of the country, from about 31 percent. The share of Democrats has stayed about steady — to 32 percent, from 33 percent — while the share of independents has risen to 38 percent, from 29 percent.”
And while “Americans of different races are no more polarized in their political views than they were 25 years ago,” suggests The Times, the poll indicates that “Republicans have moved farther to the right — on economic issues, at least — than Democrats have move to the left” and the parties “appear to have lost some of the people who were closer to the middle of the political spectrum and retained those closer to the extremes.”
In short, more Americans are ditching the big two political parties, leaving hardliners behind. The result? Political stagnation. So much for well-reasoned debate and consensus. So much for moving the country forward.
What appears to frustrate voters is that not enough members of either party seem capable, or interested, in solving our problems. Instead, their primary concern appears to be achieving and holding onto power and the perks of office. Democrats answer the problem of increasing debt with more debt. Republicans want to reduce the size and cost of government, but won’t make meaningful cuts. The media perpetuate the gridlock by mostly ignoring solutions, focusing instead on the political horse race and the names politicians call each other.
A major reason for government’s inability — even unwillingness — to repair its own dysfunction is that we are still living off the inertia of government’s central role during the Great Depression, and later “The Great Society” in which government presented itself as everyone’s savior. Personal responsibility for one’s life and accountability for wrong decisions took a back seat.
A Time for Governing: Policy Solutions from the Pages of National Affairs, a new book compiled by the quarterly journal , contains essays that address credible solutions to our major economic problems that nearly everyone, regardless of party affiliation, acknowledges must be solved for a stable American future.
In his essay “Beyond the Welfare State,” National Affairs editor Yuval Levin addresses the heart of the problem: “Human societies do not work by obeying orderly commands from central managers, however well-meaning; they work through the erratic interplay of individual and, even more, of familial and communal decisions answering locally felt desires and needs.”
Levin adds, “In our everyday experience, the bureaucratic state presents itself not as a benevolent provider and protector, but as a corpulent behemoth — flabby, slow and expressionless, unmoved by our concerns, demanding compliance with arcane and seemingly meaningless rules as it breathes musty air in our faces and sends us to the back of the line.
“Unresponsive ineptitude is not merely an annoyance. The sluggishness of the welfare state drains it of its moral force. The crushing weight of bureaucracy permits neither efficiency nor idealism. It thus robs us of a good part of the energy of democratic capitalism and encourages a corrosive cynicism that cannot help but undermine the moral aims of the social-democratic vision.”
It will take more than the election of a new president and Congress to fix this. It will require a new way of thinking — which is really an old way of thinking — by “we the people.”
MARK HIGDON (HIGGS50)
So this columnist has finally discovered that the two major political parties are merely rival syndicates competing for power at the exclusion of all other competitors, and that any apparent disparities in their “platforms” are merely contrived–and very flexible–marketing differentiation. I have just one question: Did Cal Thomas write this, or Rip Van Winkle? If the former, where has been the past 50 years or so?
Too Big To Jail: Wall Street Executives Unlikely To Face Criminal Charges, Source Says
New banking standards cost low-level workers their jobs
Old arrest records cited for many terminations
1:15 AM, Aug 27, 2012
Wells Fargo fired Richard Eggers, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran and family man, July 13 after discovering he was arrested 49 years ago for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a laundry machine in tiny Carlisle, Iowa. / Andrea Melendez / The Register
The Des Moines Register DES MOINES, IOWA — Richard Eggers doesn’t look like a mastermind of financial crime.
The former farm boy speaks deliberately, can’t remember the last time he got a speeding ticket and favors suspenders, horn-rim glasses and plaid shirts. But the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran is still too risky for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which fired him on July 12 from his $29,795-a-year job as a customer service representative.
Egger’s crime? Putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine in Carlisle on Feb. 2, 1963.
“It was a stupid stunt and I’m not real proud of it, but to fire somebody for something like this after seven good years of employment is a dirty trick when you come right down to it,” said Eggers of Des Moines. “And they’re doing this kind of thing all across the country.”
Big banks have been firing low-level employees such as Eggers since the issuance of new federal banking employment guidelines in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines in February.
The tougher standards are meant to weed out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes, such as identity fraud or mortgage fraud, but they are being applied across-the-board thanks to $1 million a day fines for noncompliance.
Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally because of the rules, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney with Higbee & Associates in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the banking workers regain their eligibility to be employed.
“Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face,” Buchanan said.
The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and some other misdemeanor arrests.
New rules have eliminated exceptions for expunged crimes and certain minor offenses and expanded the categories of employees covered, Buchanan said.
Critics point out that big banks have insulated top executives from criminal accountability by signing multimillion-dollar federal settlements in which they admit no wrongdoing.
On the same day that Eggers was fired, Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market capitalization, paid $175 million to the U.S. Justice Department to settle allegations it had targeted black and Hispanic homeowners for sub-prime loans.
“On the face of it, these situations seem unfair,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “The public is right to question why top executives aren’t being held accountable, especially when banks themselves are using federal regulations to justify firing rank-and-file workers.”
Wells Fargo confirmed Eggers’ termination.
“We are operating in an environment where we’re facing new regulations and a heightened level of scrutiny on all our activities,” said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust. “The expectations that have been placed on us and all financial institutions have never been higher.”
Bank of America has embarked on a similar firing binge to shed any employee convicted of a criminal offense involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering, employment attorneys say.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provides a waiver process employees can follow to demonstrate they’re still fit to work at a bank despite a past criminal conviction. There is also a process for automatic waiver that works more quickly but is limited to people who were sentenced to less than year of jail time and never spent a day locked up. Eggers, who was jailed two days, doesn’t qualify.
Buchanan says the big banks typically handle the waivers for executives and mid-level employees, but low-level workers like Eggers are given an FDIC phone number and sent packing.
Most low-level workers who are fired after a background check don’t bother to seek a waiver, lawyers say. So the actual number of people losing their jobs could be much higher.
Yolanda Quesada, 58, of Milwaukee was fired from her customer service job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in May for a 40-year-old shoplifting offense. She’d been working there five years and was making $33,000. She said she stole work clothes as one of 12 children in a poor family. “They never let me say what happened, explain myself, nothing,” Quesada told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Eggers got a chance to explain himself to company officials after they received the results of his criminal background check from a Florida company called First Advantage. He was fired anyway.
The computerized report obtained by First Advantage listed Eggers’ crime as “fraud.” However, records in the Warren County Courthouse confirmed his account of the 1963 incident. The files say he was arrested for “operating a coin changing machine by false means” and convicted of that charge.
Sam Walker, a retired University of Nebraska at Omaha criminal justice professor and police accountability expert, said Eggers and Quesada could work at most law enforcement organizations despite their misdemeanor arrests because police take into consideration how long a job applicant has been a law-abiding citizen, he said.
“The vast majority of people who have some interaction with police as teenagers mature out of it,” Walker said. “To fire someone for something like this that occurred 40 or 50 years ago is just ridiculous.”
By JENNIFER BURNS
Published: August 14, 2012
Palo Alto, Calif.
EARLY in his Congressional career, Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin representative and presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, would give out copies of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents. He described the novelist of heroic capitalism as “the reason I got into public service.” But what would Rand think of Mr. Ryan?
While Rand, an atheist, did enjoy a good Christmas celebration for its cheerful commercialism, she would have scoffed at the idea of public service. And though Mr. Ryan’s advocacy of steep cuts in government spending would have pleased her, she would have vehemently opposed his social conservatism and hawkish foreign policy. She would have denounced Mr. Ryan as she denounced Ronald Reagan, for trying “to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.”
Mr. Ryan’s youthful, feverish embrace of Rand and his clumsy attempts to distance himself from her is more than the flip-flopping of an ambitious politician: it is a window into the ideological fissures at the heart of modern conservatism.
Rand’s atheism and social libertarianism have long placed her in an uneasy position in the pantheon of conservative heroes, but she has proved irresistible to those who came of age in the baby boom and after. They found her iconoclasm thrilling, and her admirers poured into Barry M. Goldwater’s doomed 1964 presidential campaign, the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute. After her death, in 1982, it became even easier for her admirers to ignore the parts of her message they didn’t like and focus on her advocacy of unfettered capitalism and her celebration of the individual.
Mr. Ryan is particularly taken by Rand’s black-and-white worldview. “The fight we are in here,” he once told a group of her adherents, “is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” If she were alive, he said, Rand would do “a great job in showing us just how wrong what government is doing is.”
Rand’s anti-government argument rested on another binary opposition, between “producers” who create wealth and “moochers” who feed off them. This theme has endeared Rand, and Mr. Ryan, to the Tea Party, whose members believe they are the only ones who deserve government aid.
Yet when his embrace of Rand drew fire from Catholic leaders, Mr. Ryan reversed course with a speed that would make his running mate, Mitt Romney, proud. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he told National Review earlier this year. “Give me Thomas Aquinas.” He claimed that his austere budget was motivated by the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which holds that issues should be handled at the most local level possible, rather than Rand’s anti-government views.
This retreat to religion would have infuriated Rand, who believed it was impossible to separate government policies from their moral and philosophical underpinnings. Policies motivated by Christian values, which she called “the best kindergarten of communism possible,” were inherently corrupt.
Free-market capitalism, she said, needed a new, secular morality of selfishness, one she promoted in her novels, nonfiction and newsletters. Conservative contemporaries would have none of it: William F. Buckley Jr. criticized her “desiccated philosophy” and Whittaker Chambers dubbed her “Big Sister.”
Mr. Ryan’s rise is a telling index of how far conservatism has evolved from its founding principles. The creators of the movement embraced the free market, but shied from Rand’s promotion of capitalism as a moral system. They emphasized the practical benefits of capitalism, not its ethics. Their fidelity to Christianity grew into a staunch social conservatism that Rand fought against in vain.
Mr. Ryan has attempted a similar pirouette, but it is too late: driven by the fever of the Tea Party and drawing upon a wellspring of enthusiasm for Rand, politicians like Mr. Ryan have set the philosophy of “Atlas Shrugged” at the core of modern Republicanism.
In so doing, modern conservatives ignore the fundamental principles that animated Rand: personal as well as economic freedom. Her philosophy sprang from her deep belief in the autonomy and independence of each individual. This meant that individuals could not depend on government for retirement savings or medical care. But it also meant that individuals must be free from government interference in their personal lives.
Years before Roe v. Wade, Rand called abortion “a moral right which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved.” She condemned the military draft and American involvement in Vietnam. She warned against recreational drugs but thought government had no right to ban them. These aspects of Rand do not fit with a political view that weds fiscal and social conservatism.
Mr. Ryan’s selection as Mr. Romney’s running mate is the kind of stinging rebuke of the welfare state that Rand hoped to see during her lifetime. But Mr. Ryan is also what she called “a conservative in the worst sense of the word.” As a woman in a man’s world, a Jewish atheist in a country dominated by Christianity and a refugee from a totalitarian state, Rand knew it was not enough to promote individual freedom in the economic realm alone. If Mr. Ryan becomes the next vice president, it wouldn’t be her dream come true, but her nightmare.
Jennifer Burns, an assistant professor of history at Stanford, is the author of “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.”
Steve B USA
Ayn Rand’s most persuasive portrayal of people is that perseverance, personal responsibility and leadership are needed in every society. No community can survive without those who accept personal responsibility and lead the way for others. Her ideas about unfettered capitalism being the great savior of society are defective.
In reply to Mark Plus Aug. 15, 2012 at 9:47 a.m. Recommended108
Ilene Bilenky Littleton, MA
I read all of Ayn Rand’s books at a formative age (is there any other time? I still say *no o ne* has read all of John Galt’s final speech). Who wouldn’t like to be a too-rich, too-thin woman with flat hips who wore gowns the color of water and ice and stuff and who always had two, if not three, very hunky guys who were waiting forever for her.
Then I grew up.
Saw her speak at the Ford Hall Forum in 1974. She had the gold dollar sign on her lapel. It was the full sway of liberal-y Boston college days. Someone in the audience said, “What would YOU do about welfare mothers?” She said, “Why should I do anything, they’re not my problem.” There were a a lot of cheers. I thought, “Yes, but…”
Aug. 15, 2012 at 9:59 a.m.Recommended260
Steve Kurtz Miami
Everyone seems to ignore the fact that the capitalists in Atlas Shrugged end up forming a commune. That’s how that story ends.
Aug. 15, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.Recommended386
Why does this surprise us? The Ryans are cafeteria Catholics, too. So their coming-out party as cafeteria Objectivists is nothing shocking. Of course, the best quote in this piece is by Mr. Romney: “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he told National Review earlier this year. “Give me Thomas Aquinas.” You don’t want Thomas Aquinas, Mr. Romney: there are far too many dangerous positions in his writings for the G.O.P. that selected you as its candidate.
Aug. 15, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.Recommended178
Big government on the brink
By Robert J. Samuelson, Published: April 10, 2011
We in America have created suicidal government; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have. But government can’t easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government’s very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest.
Few Americans realize the extent of their dependency. The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans’ benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies. The census list doesn’t include tax breaks. Counting those, perhaps three-quarters or more of Americans receive some sizable government benefit. For example, about 22 percent of taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction and 43 percent from the preferential treatment of employer-provided health insurance, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
“Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything,” writes the eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson in a recent collection of essays(“American Politics, Then and Now”). The concept of “vital national interest” is stretched. We deploy government casually to satisfy any mass desire, correct any perceived social shortcoming or remedy any market deficiency. What has abetted this political sprawl, notes Wilson, is the rising influence of “action intellectuals” — professors, pundits, “experts” — who provide respectable rationales for various political agendas.
The consequence is political overload: The system can no longer make choices, especially unpleasant choices, for the good of the nation as a whole. Public opinion is hopelessly muddled. Polls by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago consistently show Americans want more spending for education (74 percent), health care (60 percent), Social Security (57 percent) and, indeed, almost everything. By the same polls, between half and two-thirds of Americans regularly feel their taxes are too high; in 2010, a paltry 2 percent thought them too low. Big budget deficits follow logically; but of course, most Americans want those trimmed, too.
The trouble is that, despite superficial support for “deficit reduction” or “tax reform,” few Americans would surrender their own benefits, subsidies and tax breaks — a precondition for success. As a practical matter, most federal programs and tax breaks fall into one of two categories, each resistant to change.
The first includes big items (Social Security, the mortgage interest deduction) whose benefits are so large that any hint of cuts prompts massive opposition — or its specter. Practical politicians retreat. The second encompasses smaller programs (Amtrak, ethanol subsidies) that, though having a tiny budget effect, inspire fanatical devotion from their supporters. Just recently, for example, the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns defended culture subsidies (“an infinitesimally small fraction of the deficit”) in The Post. Politicians retreat; meager budget gains aren’t worth the disproportionate public vilification.
Well, if you can’t change big programs or small programs, what can you do? Not much.
If deficits were temporary — they were certainly justified to temper the recession — or small, they would be less worrisome. That was true for many years. No more. An aging population and uncontrolled health costs now create an ongoing and massive mismatch between spending and revenue, even at “full employment.” The great threat is a future debt crisis, with investors balking at buying all the Treasury bonds the government requires to operate. So President Obama and Congress face a dilemma: The more they seek to defuse the economic problem of too much debt, the greater the political risks they assume by cutting spending or raising taxes.
The package to prevent a shutdown barely touches the prevailing stalemate. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’sproposed 2012 budget forthrightly addresses health spending but doesn’t make any cuts in Social Security. Ryan’s plan would ultimately gut defense and some valuable domestic programs; it wouldn’t reach balance until about 2040. Compared with Democrats, however, Ryan is a model of intellectual rigor and political courage. Obama would run huge deficits from now to eternity; the Congressional Budget Office has projected about $12 trillion of added debt from 2010 to 2021 under his policies. Obama urges an “adult” conversation and acts like a child, denying the unappealing choices.
Government is suicidal because it breeds expectations that cannot be met. All the partisan skirmishing over who gets credit for averting a shutdown misses the larger issue: whether we can restore government as an instrument of progress or whether it remains — as it is now — a threat.
After Sept. 11 and two wars, no way for GOP to defend tax cuts
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have waged a long fight in trying to agree on a budget plan to slash federal spending and avert a government shutdown.
Running in the red: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
By Lori Montgomery, Published: April 30, 2011
The nation’s unnerving descent into debtbegan a decade ago with a choice, not a crisis.In January 2001, with the budget balanced and clear sailing ahead, the Congressional Budget Office forecast ever-larger annual surpluses indefinitely. The outlook was so rosy, the CBO said, that Washington would have enough money by the end of the decade to pay off everything it owed.
Running in the red: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt
Voices of caution were swept aside in the rush to take advantage of the apparent bounty. Political leaders chose to cut taxes, jack up spending and, for the first time in U.S. History, wage two wars solely with borrowed funds. “In the end, the floodgates opened,” said former senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who chaired the Senate Budget Committee when the first tax-cut bill hit Capitol Hill in early 2001.
Now, instead of tending a nest egg of more than $2 trillion, the federal government expects to owe more than $10 trillion to outside investors by the end of this year. The national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.
Any politican, from either party, who compares an opponent to a Nazi, is despicable, vile and vuulgar…
Outrage as top Democrat official compares Paul Ryan to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels
Lies: The Chairman of the California Democratic Party, John Burton, compared Paul Ryan to Joseph Goebbels, one of Adolph Hitler’s closest associates
In the hot seat: The Chairman of the California Democratic Party, John Burton (pictured in 2009), is taking heat from the Obama campaign for his highly charged comments
Dick Harpootlian Compares Nikki Haley To Hitler’s Mistress Eva Braun [UPDATED]
What this colossus could teach today’s political pygmies about facing up to harsh realities
By DAVID STARKEY
PUBLISHED: 16:50 EST, 17 August 2012 | UPDATED: 16:50 EST, 17 August 2012
Late one night, Winston Churchill and a young fellow MP were leaving the House of Commons when Churchill called his colleague back to have a final look at the debating chamber before they headed home.
It was the spring of 1917, in the darkest days of World War I, a moment of crisis both for Churchill personally, and for the nation. Though still an MP, he was out of office having resigned from the Cabinet after a demotion; and Britain seemed on the edge of defeat by Germany.
But Winston — not for the last time — was indomitable. Above all, he drew strength from the darkened Chamber itself. ‘Look at it’, Winston said to his companion. ‘This little place is what makes the difference between us and Germany.
‘It is in virtue of this that we shall muddle through to success and for lack of this Germany’s brilliant efficiency leads her to final disaster.’
‘This little room,’ he concluded with a fine Churchillian flourish, ‘is the shrine of the world’s liberties.’
Churchill was right. The Commons protected the world’s liberties with the eventual defeat of Germany in the Great War, and it did so again in World War II — even though German bombs had reduced the Chamber itself to rubble.
But it’s an open question as whether Churchill would be right at the moment.
Today, the threat comes in the form of the rejuvenated authoritarian regimes of Russia and China. They have bottomless reserves of cash, huge natural resources and, in the case of China, a ferociously efficient industry which looks certain to submerge the all-but bankrupt economies of the West.
It comes in the form of Brussels, with its anti-democratic adherence to the collapsing euro, which is stoking enmity between nations and threatening to drag Britain into a depression that will mean hardship for decades.
The question is where are the great politicians — the Churchills of today — who are prepared to speak out and tell the truth about these threats to our future?
Of course, we cannot directly compare our current economic woes and the rise of the East with the terrifying march of Nazi Germany. But at a time of deep economic crisis and the muscle-flexing of Communist China, we need inspired political leadership as much as ever.
Is there any member of today’s political class who can provide it, and safeguard us through what will be a very turbulent period? I’m not holding my breath.
Yes, Churchill was a one-off. But, in contrast to politicians today, he was prepared to speak out and give voice to hard truths — however unpopular they might be — about our predicament.
As I explained in my recent television series The Churchills, it was Winston who came up with the idea of a world struggle between democracy and dictatorship during the terrible inter-war years of the Twenties and Thirties, as Fascism in Germany was taking hold. He spoke out, often alone, about the threat facing the country as Hitler gained ever more power.
His underlying theme was truth, and the gap between the smooth words and high sentiments of the pacifists and appeasers in Britain, and the brute reality of what was happening in Germany.
‘I cannot recall any time,’ Churchill told the House in November 1932, ‘when the gap between the kind of words statesmen used and what was happening … was so great as it is now.’
Stop the lies and obfuscation, he pleaded. ‘Tell the truth to the British people … They may be a bit offended at the moment, but if you have told them exactly what is going on you have insured yourself against complaints and reproaches which are very unpleasant when they come home on the morrow of some disillusion.’
Churchill valued democracy because it allowed him to speak unpopular truths. But the fact is that he did not start out as a plain-speaking politician. He was always a great talker, perhaps the supreme talker in English history, with Dr Johnson as his only possible rival. He talked — by dictation — his way through his prodigious output of books. He talked in his office, dictating the great memoranda which determined the course of World War II.
Above all, he talked for Britain’s very life in the great Commons speeches which carried the country through Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, and pointed the way to victory.
‘You ask, what is our aim?’ he declaimed in his first speech after becoming Prime Minister in May 1940. ‘I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.’
Yet for many years in the Commons, until around 1930, he was a supreme example of the windbag tendency, albeit a sparklingly gifted one, that we all associate with Westminster. He was sneered at as ‘a half-breed American, whose main support was of inefficient but talkative people of a similar type’.
So why and when did he change? In 1929 Winston, out of senior office and short of money as always, signed a lucrative contract to write about the life of his ancestor, John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough and founder of the family fortunes.
Marlborough is Britain’s greatest military leader and, in a career that bears a striking resemblance to Winston’s own, became, in his 50s, the generalissimo of a European Grand Alliance that broke the hitherto irresistible power of Louis XIV’s France; ended, for a century, French schemes for Continental domination; and set Britain on the path to world empire. Researching and writing this huge four-volume work plunged Winston into a world both like and unlike his own.
Like, because a new would-be Continental hegemony like that of France in Marlborough’s day was arising in the shape of Hitler’s Germany. Unlike, because Thirties Britain, riddled with defeatism on the right and pacifism on the left and centre, seemed determined to bury her head in the sand and do nothing about it.
Winston, wrestling with the problems of historical truth in his biography, determined to apply the same lessons to his own time. The result was the series of great speeches in which, almost alone, he warned the Commons of the dangers of British disarmament in the face of a newly aggressive Germany.
It was because Churchill’s opponents in the Commons had lied about the threat from Germany, or at any rate pandered to an illusion, that they were so discredited when World War II broke upon a shocked nation. And it was because he had told the truth — and continued to tell the truth about Britain’s dire plight, in which he had nothing to offer but ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ — that Churchill enjoyed his unique moral authority as the wartime Prime Minister.
So what lessons can we learn in our struggle to meet the challenges of today?
We have just lived through our own ‘low, dishonest decade’, as W. H. Auden called the Thirties, as the illusions of the New Labour Years were brutally exposed by the financial crisis of 2008 and thereafter.
The illusions that we could pay ourselves more and work less; that we could have lavish welfare spending and low(ish) taxation; that we could retire earlier and live longer and that — if all else failed, at either a personal or a national level — we could always borrow our way out of trouble. But there has been no Churchill to guide us out of the mess — only Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Osborne. They are in power now. But they have none of Churchill’s right to say ‘I told you so’ because they were silent about and thus complicit in Gordon Brown’s debauching of the public finances.
Even so, they could have redeemed themselves by following in Churchill’s footsteps and being honest about the extent of the mess we found ourselves in. Instead, when they took power, they tried to present ‘the cuts’ as the only solution — and never mind growth.
The attempt has failed, as the recession drags on and on. And they have failed with it. Nor is it only economic policy, important though that is. Back in the Thirties, Churchill saw the dangerous gap he identified between words and action as applying only to the right approach to Nazi Germany. It was a question of life and death. But it was a single area of policy.
Now the disjuncture between truth and deception distorts the whole spectrum of political debate. Wherever you look — devolution, mass immigration, race relations, school standards — the gap between what politicians claim is happening and what people actually experience in their own lives has widened to a chasm.
The chasm is widest of all on Europe. Membership of the European Union was presented to the electorate as the panacea for our supposed ills.
Instead, it has turned out to be a fundamental and probably irreversible betrayal of the primary principle of Churchill’s whole life and career: that no foreign power should ever be able to tell the British people what to do.
The British people know this, and they do not like it. But which mainstream politician will admit the fact? Or, indeed, any fact? Modern politicians are allergic to fact. Facts are awkward and knobbly things. Facts puncture the comfortable bubble of illusion. Politicians much prefer soft soap and ‘spin’.
Spin sounds a jolly word. But let us, like Churchill, call things by their proper names. Spin is deceit. And when it is systematic, as it has been since Alastair Campbell’s licensed reign of terror in Whitehall, it becomes government by organised lying. No wonder politicians rank even below bankers in the identity parade of public infamy. And no wonder that when one breaks rank, like Boris Johnson, and does or says something natural or off-the-cuff, he reaps a disproportionate reward: post-Olympics, Boris only has to trip over his shoes laces to be hailed a future prime minister.
But why (despite his own best reproductive endeavours) are there so few Borises? Part of the explanation lies in the dearth of talent and personality among his fellow politicians. But there is another, more worrying failure: our own.
For Churchill’s willingness to tell the truth was predicated on his view of us, the British people. ‘They are a tough people, a robust people,’ he declared, who were able to bear home truths and make the consequent sacrifices.
Is that any longer true? Is not the reason that politicians lie and spin because they have deduced, quite reasonably, that we will not accept the truth — and that we will not accept it because the consequences for our comfortable lives are simply too painful?
If that is so, and in my darker moments I fear it is, then the substance of our glorious history, of which Churchill both wrote and made some of the most celebrated pages, is over.
For the politicians and functionaries who make a living out of the Brussels system, none of this much matters. Human nature being what it is, people can always interpret events as a vindication of what they already believed. The French even have a phrase for it: déformation professionnelle, the construction of your opinions around your professional interest. But while the elites twist every new development into an argument for deeper integration, their peoples have seen through the racket.
The case against Europe: One MEP reveals the disturbing contempt for democracy at the heart of the EU
By DANIEL HANNAN
PUBLISHED: 17:04 EST, 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 04:08 EST, 17 August 2012
Over 13 years as an MEP, Daniel Hannan has witnessed first hand how Brussels works. Now he has written a forensic analysis of why it’s rotten to the core. His devastating critique should be required reading for every politician.
There is a popular joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being undemocratic.
It’s absolutely true – and, believe me, it isn’t funny. Or, if it is, then the laugh is on you and me.
Democracy is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper.
It also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of common affinity and allegiance.
It requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a unit with which we the people can identify.
Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ – a state that must compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of patriotism.
In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to purchase votes through public works schemes and sinecures.
Lacking any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their electorates.
And that is precisely what is happening in the EU.
One way to think of the EU is as a massive vehicle for the redistribution of wealth – though not in a way that many of us would consider fair or beneficial.
Taxpayers in all the states contribute money to Brussels through their national taxes.
The bureaucrats then use this huge revenue to purchase the allegiance of consultants, contractors, big landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, charities and municipalities.
In other words, all the articulate and powerful groups they rely on to keep themselves in employment.
Unsurprisingly, the people running the EU have little time for the concept of representative government.
The (unelected) President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, argues that nation states are dangerous precisely because they are excessively democratic.
‘Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong,’ he claims, without a hint of irony.”
The plain fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by some oversight, but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national nature.
The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.
Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is even more terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many supporters of the EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and vaguely admit that something ought to be done about it.
But the democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole project.
The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially the populist strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism.
They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in the hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot box.
They understood very well that their audacious scheme to merge Europe’s ancient kingdoms and republics into a single state would never succeed if each successive transfer of power from the national capitals to Brussels had to be approved by the voters.
They were unapologetic about designing a system in which public opinion would come second to deals stuck by a bureau of wise men.The EU’s diffidence about representative government continues to this day.
When referendums go the ‘wrong’ way, Eurocrats simply swat the results aside.
Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Ireland against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and Ireland (again) against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. Their governments were all told just to go away and try again.
When France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, the verdict was simply disregarded.
As an MEP at the time, I well remember the aftermath of those last two votes.
One after another, MEPs and Eurocrats rose to explain that people hadn’t really been voting against the European Constitution at all.
They had actually been voting against Anglo-Saxon capitalism or the French leader Jacques Chirac or against Turkey joining — anything, in fact, except the proposition actually on the ballot paper.
As in any abusive relationship, the contemptuous way in which Eurocrats treat voters has become self-reinforcing on both sides.
The more voters are ignored, the more cynical and fatalistic they become.
They abstain in record numbers, complaining — quite understandably — that it makes no difference how they cast their ballots.
Eurocrats, for their part, fall quickly into the habit of treating public opinion as an obstacle to overcome rather than a reason to change direction.
To get around the awkward lack of enthusiasm for their project, the Euro-elite of Brussels claim the people are being misled.
If only they weren’t hoodwinked by Eurosceptic media barons and whipped up by unscrupulous nationalists, if only there could be an informed and dispassionate election campaign, then the people would surely see that deeper integration was in their interests.
But, the argument goes on, because people are unable to make an unclouded judgment, Eurocrats are therefore entitled — indeed obliged — to disregard their superficial desires in pursuit of their true preferences.
In his final interview as prime minister, Tony Blair stated: ‘The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.’
Got that? According to Blair, we don’t want our politicians to do as we say: we want them to second-guess our innermost, unarticulated desires.
From the point of view of the politician, this is a remarkably convenient theory. Not all Eurocrats are cynics. There are some committed Euro-federalists who believe it is possible to democratise the EU without destroying it.
Their ideal is a pan-European democracy, based on a more powerful European Parliament.
The European Commission would become the Cabinet; the Council of Ministers would become an Upper House, representing the nation states; and the European Parliament would become the main legislative body.
Give MEPs more power, runs the theory, and people will take them more seriously.
A higher calibre of candidate will stand, and turnout will rise.
Pan-European political parties will contest the elections on common and binding manifestos. European democracy will become a reality.
The problem with this idea is that it has already demonstrably failed.
Turnout for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament was a dismal 43 per cent – compared to 65 per cent in our 2010 general election, a figure that was itself considered embarrassingly low.
In other words, less than half the population could be bothered to vote – despite voting being compulsory in some member states and Brussels spending hundreds of millions of euros on a campaign to encourage turnout.
One of its gimmicks was to send a ballot box into orbit – the perfect symbol of the EU’s pie-in-the-sky remoteness.
The plain fact – which Brussels chooses to ignore – is that over the past 30 years, the European Parliament, like the EU in general, has been steadily agglomerating powers.
Yet people have responded by refusing to sanction it with their votes.
Turnout at European elections is far lower than at national elections for the obvious reason that very few people think of themselves as Europeans in the same sense that they see themselves as British or Portuguese or Swedish.
There is no pan-European public opinion, there is no pan-European media. You can’t decree a successful democracy by bureaucratic fiat. You can’t fabricate a common nationality.
But MEPs respond to this by blaming the electorate.
They demand better information campaigns, more extensive (and expensive) propaganda. Europe matters more than ever, and, they argue, voters must be made to see it!
It never occurs to them to infer any loss of legitimacy from the turnout figures, nor to devolve powers to a level of government — the nation state — that continues to enjoy proper democratic support.
On the contrary, those nation states find themselves in danger of being subverted by the Brussels machine and its sympathisers.
Ireland used to have exemplary laws on the conduct of referendums, providing for equal airtime for both sides and the distribution of a leaflet with the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ arguments to every household.
When these rules produced a ‘No’ to the Nice treaty in 2001, they were revised so as to make it easier for the pro-EU forces to win a second referendum.
Henceforth, the free publicity would be divided up in proportion to each party’s representation in parliament.
And since all Irish parties — except Sinn Fein — were pro-Treaty, impartial information was replaced by State-sponsored propaganda.
Worse, the result was that all subsequent Irish referendums, not just those to do with the EU, are fought on an unbalanced basis.
There are many other examples of Brussels’ influence undermining the democratic processes of its member countries in order to sustain the requirements of European integration. Croatia dropped the minimum threshold provisions in its referendum rules in order to ensure a result in favour of joining the EU in 2011.
When the president of the Czech Republic declared his reluctance to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law, senior Brussels Eurocrats called on their Socialist allies in the Republic to threaten the President with impeachment, even though he was trying to stick to a promise he had made to his people in the run-up to his election.
Meanwhile, in Britain, successive party leaders have had to abandon their pledges of a referendum on one aspect or another of the EU. Each such betrayal damages their credibility with the electorate, yet it seems they are prepared to pay that price for the sake of Europe.
However, British party leaders have got off lightly compared to others.
In Ireland, the ruling Fianna Fail party found its support slump from 41.6 to 17.4 per cent in last year’s general election, as voters turned against a government that had meekly agreed to the EU’s loans-for-austerity deal, turning Ireland into a vassal state.
Meanwhile, Greece and Italy suffered what amounted to Brussels-backed coups as elected prime ministers were toppled and replaced with Eurocrats.
In Athens, George Papandreou’s mistake was to call for a referendum on Greece’s austerity deal – a move which was to prompt fury in Brussels where, as we have seen, the first rule is ‘no referendums – unless we can fix the result’.
Papandreou was not a Eurosceptic. On the contrary, he fervently wanted Greece to stay in the euro. His ‘sin’ was to be too keen on democracy, and so he was out.
Silvio Berlusconi, too, got on the wrong side of the EU. His pronouncement that ‘since the introduction of the euro, most Italians have become poorer’ was factually true, but sealed his fate.
The European Central Bank’s sudden withdrawal of support for Italian bonds, verbal attacks from other EU leaders and a rebellion by Europhile Italian MPs combined to see him off.
Both Papandreou and Berlusconi were already unpopular for domestic reasons — just as Margaret Thatcher was when EU leaders and Conservative Euro-enthusiasts brought her down in 1990.
Had any of these leaders been at the height of their powers, they would not have been vulnerable.
Nonetheless, to depose an incumbent head of government, even a wounded one, is no small thing. It shows the hideous strength of the EU.
With Papandreou and Berlusconi out of the way, Brussels was able to install technocratic juntas in their place — unelected administrations called into being solely to enforce programmes which their nations rejected.
The most shocking aspect of the whole affair was that so few people were shocked.
The Brussels system was undemocratic from the start, but its hostility to the ballot box had always been disguised by the outward trappings of constitutional rule in its member nations. That has now ceased to be true.
Apparatchiks in Brussels now rule directly through apparatchiks in Athens and Rome. The voters and their tribunes are cut out altogether. There is no longer any pretence. In place of democracy, we now have the tyranny of a self-perpetuating, self-serving elite, all wedded by self-interest to the European project.
They are, it must be said, a worried and tetchy bunch. Ever since 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution in 2005, the Eurocrats in Brussels have been noticeably defensive. They have given up trying to win round public opinion. Their primary interest is keeping their well-paid positions.
Before those ‘No’ votes, they could convince themselves that Euroscepticism was essentially a British phenomenon, with perhaps a tiny off-shoot in Scandinavia.
Now, they know that almost any electorate will reject the transfer of powers to Brussels. So they concentrate on wielding power in the way they know best — through influence and money.
It is a shock to discover just how extensive the EU’s reach is. Take its claim in 2003 to be ‘consulting the people’ about the draft of a new constitution by inviting 200 ‘representative organisations’ to submit their suggestions.
Every single one of them, I discovered, received grants from the EU. If you scratch the surface, you find that virtually every field of activity has some EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration, whether it be the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby or the European Cyclists’ Federation.
These are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds. They are, in most cases, creatures of the European Commission, wholly dependent on Brussels for their existence.
The EU has also been active in spreading its tentacles to established charities and lobbying groups within the nation states. The process starts harmlessly enough, with one-off grants for specific projects.
After a while, the organisation realises that it is worth investing in a ‘Europe officer’ whose job, in effect, is to secure bigger grants.
As the subventions become permanent, more ‘Europe officers’ are hired. Soon, the handouts are taken for granted and factored into the organisation’s budget. Once this stage is reached, the EU is in a position to call in favours.
When he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made a great song and dance that it was backed by a whole range of independent organisations including the NSPCC, One World Action, Action Aid and Oxfam.
Yet every organisation he cited was in receipt of EU subventions. In a single year, Action Aid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam had among them received €43,051,542 (£33,855,355).
Can organisations in receipt of such colossal subsidies legitimately claim to be independent? Hardly surprising that they should dutifully endorse a treaty supported by their paymasters.
In much the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change.
It pays the WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters. It pays the European Trade Union Congress to demand more Brussels employment laws.
The EU hoses cash at these dependent organisations, who then tell it what it wants to hear. It then turns around and claims to have listened to ‘The People’.
And here’s the clever bit: millions of workers linked to these groups are thereby drawn into the system, their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European project.
Meanwhile, big businesses see a way of manipulating the EU system for their own purposes, grasping that they can achieve far more in the Brussels institutions than they could from administrations whose legislatures are dependent on public opinion.
Between 2007 and 2010, the EU banned several vitamin supplements and herbal remedies and subjected others to a prohibitively expensive licensing regime.
The reaction from consumers to this attack on alternative medicines was overwhelming as millions of Europeans found that an innocent activity they had pursued for years was being criminalised. I can’t remember receiving so many letters and emails on any question in all my time in politics.
It turned out these new restrictions were pushed strenuously by big pharmaceutical corporations.
They could easily afford the compliance costs; their smaller rivals could not. Many independent herbalists went out of business, and the big companies gained a near monopoly.
The lesson here is that whenever Brussels proposes some apparently unnecessary rules, ask yourself, who stands to benefit?
Nine times out of ten, you will find there is a company or a conglomeration whose products happen to meet all the proposed specifications anyway, and is using the EU to its own advantage.
Thus are businesses, as well as charities, drawn into the Euro-nexus.
Thus are powerful and wealthy interest groups in every member state given a direct stake in the system.
These days, the EU’s strength is not to be found among the diminished ranks of true believers or the benign cranks who distribute leaflets for the Union of European Federalists.
Nor, in truth, does it reside primarily among the officials directly on the Brussels payroll.
The real power of the EU is to be found in the wider corpus of interested parties – the businesses invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques from the Common Agricultural Policy; the local councils with their EU departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and professional associations; the charities and the NGOs.
Here is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as public opinion or democracy.
Extracted from A Doomed Marriage by Daniel Hannan, published by Notting Hill Books at £12. © 2012 Daniel Hannan. To order a copy (p&p incl) call 0843 382 0000 .
The REAL migrant scandal? Politicians still pretend we control our borders – when the truth is Brussels won’t let us
Directives: The real intention of the European system appears to be to undermine any sense of national identity