Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).
America's Growing Government Class
The latest unemployment figures are again depressing, but not for the usual reasons. They provide further confirmation of Barack Obama's fundamental transformation of America, specifically through his creation of a growing government class.
The numbers show a massive increase in government jobs created over the last five months - 621,000, to be exact, dwarfing private-sector job growth. Those new government jobs account for a staggering 73 percent of overall job growth. In all, 21 million citizens now work for government, out of 143 million employed in America, or one in seven Americans.
The vision and policies and programs of President Obama and "progressives"/liberals are rapidly generating a new government class. The current class - the one that re-elected Obama - comprises of federal workers; of state, county, and municipal workers; of employees in public-sector unions; of Americans collecting food stamps, welfare, and unemployment benefits; of those looking to government for healthcare; and more. They don't all vote Democrat, of course, but many do. And Democrats desperately hope many more will. Incredibly, there is even a rising group of young women suddenly demanding that Uncle Sam (i.e., taxpayers) pay for their contraception and abortions.
Most remarkable, this new class of Americans constitutes a huge and expanding segment of the population (and voters) who are becoming not merely dependent upon government but dependent upon Democrats. The more dependent this group becomes, and the more it enlarges, the more it redounds to the political enshrinement of liberal-Democrat politicians.
All of these segments of the citizenry - or, perhaps, constituencies - have steadily expanded over the last 100 years of progressivism/liberalism, and have surged under Barack Obama. Under Obama, there are a record 48 million Americans on food stamps, up from 32 million at the start of his presidency. The welfare rolls have exploded. Unemployment has not only increased but remains stuck and stagnant, with the actual unemployed around 15 percent and rising. Not only does the number of federal workers continue to balloon, but so do employees joining public-sector unions beholden to Democrats: SEIU, AFSCME, teachers organized through the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Writing on this phenomenon, my colleague, Dr. Marvin Folkertsma, observes that roughly half the population receives some form of aid from the federal government, a figure that will utterly explode once Obamacare takes full force.
It goes without saying that this is disastrous for the literal solvency of the republic, but it's good news for those hoping to expand the boundaries (and collective dependency net) of progressivism/liberalism.
So, where does this leave us as a republic? Well, in very deep trouble. Most of those in the new government class become rapidly conditioned to their reality. Easily lured into their situation, they will be easily prompted into vociferously defending their position - especially those in unions. They will defend their status with ferocious loyalty when the right buttons are pushed by liberal-Democrat organizers and agitators (and their media allies) who benefit from their votes.
Ronald Reagan said the only guarantee of eternal life in this world is a government bureaucracy. He was correct, especially once the bureaucracy is unionized; ditto for the bureaucracy's programs and goodies. We will not be able to undo Obamacare; trying to do so will be like unscrambling eggs. Look at Britain's National Health Service; it is the third-rail of British politics. Even Margaret Thatcher couldn't touch it.
Ironically, Margaret Thatcher might offer the lone glimmer of hope. America four years from now will look increasingly like Britain circa 1978-79, when the electorate had enough and somehow awakened and hired the Iron Lady, who took on the government class. In the United States, however, it will not be easy. We will need a leader with the combined skills and determination of Thatcher or Reagan, who will be demonized unlike any American heretofore. Moreover, we will need that leader soon. If this isn't halted quickly, America as we know it is over.
How long? We have four years at best. Think about it: How many more Americans over the next four years will be employed and unionized by government; collecting food stamps, welfare, and unemployment; looking to government for healthcare, for contraception, and more? And they will be further trained to believe this is the norm and their natural right, and that anyone standing in the way is a monster.
It may already be too late. The federal government under Obama is hiring 103 new government employees per day, with nothing stopping them. These new additions to the government class will populate areas like Northern Virginia, turning Virginia (politically) into another Maryland, which dutifully pulls the lever for Democrats every four years.
Well, Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America, and now we're getting it.
Slouching from Gomorrah: Remembering Robert Bork
It has been a couple of weeks since the death of Robert Bork, which occurred shortly before Christmas and didn't really get the news coverage that Bork merited.
Bork died at age 85. In 1987, he became a national headline when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court. He was a judicial conservative, a "strict constructionist." He warned about the road America was embarking upon in neglecting its Constitutional principles, and saw doom and gloom ahead. He was grimly pessimistic about America generally, dreading modern liberalism's grip on the nation. Liberalism, Bork insisted, was pushing America toward decline. We were headed to hell in a hand-basket. A decade after his failed confirmation, Bork authored a bestselling book tellingly titled, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.
Bork had seen liberalism up close and full throttle - and at its open-throated angriest. During his unsuccessful confirmation hearings in 1987, he was plainly smeared. He was hysterically and unfairly portrayed by radical abortion feminists and the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy as an abuser and assaulter of women - a Neanderthal, a kind of political/cultural gargoyle. Liberals demonized Bork and railroaded his nomination, ushering in a whole new incivility and politicization to the judicial nomination process. Liberal journalists literally dug through Bork's trash looking for anything to attack the man; they went to the nearby video store to find out what he rented.
"Hmmm," they rubbed their hands together hopefully, "Any X-rated flicks, Judge Bork?"
Alas, that wasn't Robert Bork's universe. They learned that Bork had an affinity not for pornographic film but for "Fred and Ginger" movies.
"Hah," they hissed, "What a square!"
The left's assault on Bork was unhinged, a precursor of behavior to come with later judges they disliked, particularly pro-life judges. Liberals were so nasty to Bork that the man's name has become a verb: When liberals today vilify a conservative Supreme Court nominee, like a Clarence Thomas, we say that the nominee has been "Borked."
The tributes to Bork at the time of his death revisited this sordid history. But none, to my knowledge, focused on the area where, sadly, I believe he was most prophetic - namely, his pessimism about American life and culture.
I never met Bork to discuss that pessimism, but a former Grove City College student of mine did. It was about 10 years ago. I was speaking at Ave Maria University School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My former student, Mark, was there. He was taking a class that semester with Judge Bork. He shared with me a dose of the usual Bork cynicism. Looking to buoy Bork a bit, my student optimistically told the judge that America's future looked good because of promising demographics. He noted that committed evangelicals and orthodox Roman Catholics were having lots of children, whereas secular leftists were not. Surely, he assured Bork, this boded well for the culture, or at least the kind of culture Bork desired.
"No, no," disagreed Bork. The judge conceded the positive demographics but noted that most of these evangelicals and Catholics send their kids to colleges dominated by these secular liberals, where all the ideals and values the youngsters learned at home and at their churches is rapidly undermined in four years - with the faithful parents unwittingly paying for the undermining. In short order, these conservative Christians support abortion and gay rights.
"We're doomed," Bork assured my student. America was on the road to Gomorrah.
Unfortunately, I think Robert Bork was exactly right.
For today's liberals, who call themselves "progressives," support for abortion has morphed into forcing fellow taxpayers to pay for it - and they plainly smear those who think otherwise as favoring a "war on women." Their support for gay rights has morphed into gay marriage - with accompanying vitriol slung at anyone who disagrees.
Robert Bork was a man ahead of his time.
Judge Robert Bork, rest in peace - far away from the shores of Gomorrah.
President Obama and the "Intelligence Brief" Scandal
The last few weeks have produced many intriguing political moments, but none as shocking as the revelation that President Obama has been absent from the vast majority of his daily intelligence briefings.
According to a study by the Government Accountability Institute, Obama failed to attend a single Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in the week leading up to the recent anniversary of 9/11 and the chaos that erupted in the Arab world. The mere fact that we were approaching 9/11 was a crucial enough reason to attend not one but all the briefings. President Obama attended none.
Worse, this is apparently nothing new. Obama attended only 43.8 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For this year, he attended a little over a third.
This is stunning, and there's no excuse for it.
Washington Post columnist, Marc Thiessen, who worked for President George W. Bush, pressed NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor for an explanation. Thiessen reported:
Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is "not particularly interesting or useful." He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions. "I actually don't agree at all," Vietor told me in an e-mail. "The president gets the information he needs from the intelligence community each day."
That's simply the White House covering for the president.
Similarly, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the PDB charge as "hilarious." No, no, said Carney, the president "gets it every day." By "it," Carney was apparently talking about the intelligence briefing papers, not the actual meetings.
Pro-Obama journalists happily accepted Carney's explanation. CNN posted Carney's comments under a photo of a pensive Obama sitting at an intelligence briefing.
Sorry, but, once again, there's no excuse for this, especially in the post-9/11 world. George W. Bush not only didn't miss the PDB but actually expanded it to six meetings per week.
Consider, too, the case of Ronald Reagan, who liberals, ironically, portrayed as an uninformed idiot who didn't pay attention in meetings or read anything.
Reagan, in fact, attended the daily intelligence briefing. I could lay this out at length, but here I'll offer just two Reagan sources, both still living, who can speak to this:
One source is Herb Meyer, special assistant to CIA director Bill Casey in the 1980s. Meyer told me:
Of course Reagan attended all those daily briefings. And after the briefers returned to CIA headquarters, Bill [Casey] would meet with them just to be sure the president (and Haig & Weinberger) got answers to whatever questions they may have had. In short, it was a very - very - serious business.
Another source is Bill Clark. Clark was Ronald Reagan's right-hand man in foreign policy. As his biographer, I know Clark well. He is 80 years old and lives in California. Clark told me this about Reagan and the PDB:
Bill Casey would, by courier, send the President's Daily Brief each morning at about 5:00 a.m. to our war room downstairs in our [National] Security Council. . . . It would be delivered to the president in his residence before he came over [by 7:00 a.m.] . . . . He'd write questions all over the margins about things that weren't clear in the briefing. And, of course, the agency [CIA] would come down with further explanations.
Clark recalls how Reagan craved that regular morning update. He would read it and then they would meet. Reagan ate up these briefings. He asked questions of his advisers. He probed for ideas. Reagan attended the briefings and used them as presidents should.
When Reagan finished his presidency, after two terms, genuine freedom and democracy were surging all over the Communist world.
As for President Obama, if he's in the process of finishing his presidency, after one term, he's facing a surge of radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Can any of that be blamed on Obama's failure to attend these routine briefings? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly can't help.
In fact, as Marc Theissen and the Government Accountability Institute have noted in follow-up stories, Obama is now suddenly attending his daily briefing. That's no doubt a response to political criticism. But could it be - on the heels of the eruptions in Libya and Egypt, which Obama initially blamed not on pre-meditated terrorism but a video - that maybe President Obama feels like he might have been missing something?
Reverend Rubio? The Media Begins Its Attack on Marco Rubio
In a recent interview, Senator Marco Rubio, effectively the Republican front-runner for 2016, was asked, "How old do you think the Earth is?"
It's a question of utter irrelevance to the country's status and whether Marco Rubio would be a good president. Rubio's answer was excellent:
I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that.
To any sensible person, this was a perfect response. Who could object?
Well, an editor for the New York Times - that flagship of faith and reason - judged Rubio's response "ludicrous." A writer at the liberal Slate, who no doubt Googled first, claimed authoritatively: "Our planet was formed 4.54 billion years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it's because he's uninformed or stupid."
Ah, yes. I'm sure everyone at Slate knows the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
As for myself, if someone asked me that question out of the blue, I couldn't answer. I've been a scientist, an agnostic/borderline atheist, and ultimately a Christian. I've taught Sunday School, lectured at colleges, collected data at top research labs, and everything in between. I've published in scientific and political journals. I know, as Marco Rubio does, that theologians dispute this.
In fact, anyone with a serious, sincere interest in this question knows this. But, of course, the question wasn't asked to Rubio out of serious, sincere interest; it never is when posed to a Republican.
Marco Rubio needs to understand two things at play here: 1) these types of questions will only get worse as he continues to campaign for president; and 2) these are not earnest questions. No, these are political booby-traps set by political partisans who work as journalists. They are used to try to caricature conservatives as extremists.
I recall a painful example when George W. Bush first became Texas governor. Bush was known as a committed Christian who had a late-in-life conversion. For the secular liberal media, this meant that Bush was a "fundamentalist." For liberal journalists, it also meant an opportunity.
And so, one journalist asked the governor if Jews get into heaven. Taken by complete surprise, Bush fumbled his answer. Afterward, he thought long and hard about it, and consulted Billy Graham. The next time Bush got the question he was ready. It was December 1999, when he was running for president, and when his opponent, Al Gore, wasn't (of course) getting asked any such questions by the liberal media. Bush's answer was a good one:
[I] understand that people communicate with God and reach God in different ways. . . . Obviously there's the big issue between the Christian and the Jew, the Jewish person. And I am mindful of the rich traditions and history of the Jewish faith. And I am mindful of what Billy Graham one time told me: for me not to try to figure out - try to pick and choose who gets to go to heaven. . . . Billy Graham said, "Don't play God." I don't get to determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. That's not me. Governors don't do that.
That's a really good response: "Governors don't do that." They "don't play God." They don't decide who goes to heaven.
Marco Rubio wasn't asked that same question, at least not yet, but his answer might be the same: "Sorry, man, I'm not playing God."
In fact, here's a further response Rubio might consider more generally:
Look, let's be honest: We both know what you're trying to do. You're trying to trip me up. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a minister. I don't want to be one, and the American public doesn't want me to be one. Let's stick to issues that concern people. And one more thing: Are you asking these same questions to any Democrats? Are you?
Rubio should say it calmly, gently, and with a smile - but emphatically. He is running for president, and not running for reverend. He wants to be President Rubio, not Reverend Rubio.
Unfortunately, for Rubio, like all conservative Republicans who seek the presidency, it will be open season on his beliefs. Republicans are badgered on their faith in ways that liberal Democrats plainly are not. For the media, it's the same old double standard. I hope Marco Rubio refuses to tolerate it. *