Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:11

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Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

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).

Clintons' Progress: Bill and Hillary Clinton Embrace Gay Marriage

Bill and Hillary Clinton have endorsed gay marriage, completely reversing their support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton calls herself a "progressive." It's funny, I wrote an entire book on Hillary Clinton, and never once heard her call herself a "progressive."

Well, that's just as well. The progressive tag fits best. After all, that's what she and other liberals are doing: they are ever evolving, changing, progressing along to something. Their positions are forever in flux, with the only commonality being that they favor more government centralization to handle perceived injustices. The evolution across issues is so vast, so unceasing, that no progressive can tell you where they will stand years from now. They merely know they're progressing.

The marriage issue is an excellent case in point. No progressive 100 years ago could have conceived of gay marriage. In fact, merely a decade-and-a-half ago, the entirety of the Democratic Party supported traditional marriage, codified under law. And yet, Democrats turned on a dime in faithful obedience to Barack Obama's mountaintop-message sanctifying gay marriage a year ago.

Obama promised "change" and "fundamental transformation." His faithful supporters roared approval, projecting upon his blank screen whatever they had in mind. In Obama's mind, this included bestowing unto himself the monumental ability to literally redefine marriage, granting himself and his government a power heretofore reserved for the laws of nature and nature's God.

As for the Clintons, consider their change, their fundamental transformation, their progress on this bedrock issue:

As noted, in 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. The Arkansas Baptist stood for marriage as always understood.

As for Hillary, the lifelong Methodist was firmly in the camp of not rendering to government the ability to redefine marriage. Her youth pastor and mentor, the Rev. Don Jones, once said: "She is for gay rights. . . . But I think both she and Bill still think of heterosexuality as normative."

Yes, they did. Campaigning for the Senate in 2000, Hillary insisted:

Marriage has historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.

In 2003, she reaffirmed: "marriage . . . should be kept as it historically has been." She continued that position throughout the 2008 Democratic primaries.

Alas, jump ahead to last March, where Hillary proudly proclaimed:

LGBT Americans are ... full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes gay marriage.

Gee, what happened?

Well, if you're confused, you need to unravel the illogic of progressive ideology. By progressive thinking, the Hillary and Bill of, say, 5, 10, 15, or 50 years ago were not finished progressing. This should also mean that the Clintons were in fact wrong at each way-station in their journey to today's progressive "truth" on marriage. Thus, too, it should mean that every Democrat who agreed with them was wrong. Current progressive ideology asserts that only current progressives are currently "right" on marriage.

Are you with me?

But here's the kicker: How can the Clintons - or any modern progressive - know they're right now? How do they know they've progressed to the "correct" point on marriage? Progress, after all, never stops progressing.

And so, for progressives, where's their next redefinition in the ongoing process of redefining marriage? Does the evolution end with one man and one woman, or one man and one man, or one woman and one woman? Why could it not next progress to one man and multiple women? Could it involve an adult and a minor? Could their evolving redefinition include first cousins or a parent and child? Could it include multiple heterosexuals or homosexuals in single or even joint or group spousal relationships?

The answer: progressives, by their very definition, cannot answer you.

We do know, however, that progressives are happy to do with marriage what they do with everything: hand it over to the federal government. Render under government what is government's. And what is government's province? It's anything progressives decide.

As for Bill Clinton, who once assured us "the era of big government is over," he's on board for the grand project.

Progressives might disagree with conservatives, but at least they know where conservatives stand: we look to tradition, to Biblical law, to Natural Law, to time-tested things worth conserving. We see marriage best as it has been since the Garden of Eden. We can tell you our end-goal, our ideal. Progressives cannot.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a train-wreck of an ideology, with literally no end to its havoc. It is currently careening into the most fundamental building block of human civilization: the family.

The Progressive Income Tax Turns 100

Maybe it's a measure of progressives' refusal to look back, to always move "forward." Otherwise, they should be celebrating right now. In fact, President Obama and fellow modern progressives/liberals should be ecstatic all this year, rejoicing over the centenary of something so fundamental to their ideology, to their core goals of government, to their sense of economic and social justice - to what Obama once called "redistributive change."

And what is this celebratory thing to the progressive mind?

It is the progressive income tax. This year it turns 100. Its permanent establishment was set forth in two historic moments: 1) an amendment to the Constitution (the 16th Amendment), ratified February 3, 1913; and 2) its signing into law by the progressive's progressive, President Woodrow Wilson, October 3, 1913. It was a major political victory for Wilson and fellow progressives then and still today. By my math, that ought to mean a long, sustained party by today's progressives, a period of extended thanksgiving.

President Obama once charged that "tax cuts for the wealthy" are the Republicans' "Holy Grail." Tax cuts form "their central economic doctrine." Well, the federal income tax is the Democrats' Holy Grail. For progressives/liberals, it forms their central economic doctrine.

As merely one illustration among many I could give, former DNC head Howard Dean and MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell were recently inveighing against Republican tax cuts. Dean extolled "what an increase in the top tax rate actually does." He insisted:

. . . that's what governments do - is redistribute. The argument is not whether they should redistribute or not, the question is how much we should redistribute. . . . The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody. . . . It's government's job to redistribute.

What Dean said is, in a few lines, a cornerstone of the modern progressive manifesto. For Dean and President Obama and allies, a federal income tax based on graduated or progressive rates embodies and enables government's primary "job" and "purpose." They embrace a progressive tax for the chief intention of wealth redistribution, which, in turn, allows for income leveling, income "equality," and for government to do the myriad things that progressives ever-increasingly want government to do.

And so, in 1913, progressives struck gold. The notion of taxing income wasn't entirely new. Such taxes existed before, albeit temporarily, at very small levels, and for national emergencies like war. The idea of a permanent tax for permanent income redistribution broke new ground. The only debate was the exact percentage of the tax. In no time, progressives learned they could never get enough.

In 1913, when the progressive income tax began (and the first 1040 form, with instructions, was only four pages long), the top rate was a mere 7 percent, applied only to the fabulously wealthy (incomes above $500,000). By the time Woodrow Wilson left office in 1921, the great progressive had hiked the upper rate to 73 percent. World War I (for America, 1917-18) had given Wilson a short-term justification, but so did Wilson's passion for a robust "administrative state."

Disagreeing with Wilson were the Republication administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, his immediate successors. Along with their Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, they reduced the upper rate, eventually bringing it down to 25 percent by 1925. In response, the total revenue to the federal Treasury increased significantly, from $700 million to $1 billion, and the budget was repeatedly in surplus.

Unfortunately, the rate began increasing under Herbert Hoover, a progressive Republican, who jacked the top rate to 63 percent. It soon skyrocketed to 94 percent under another legendary progressive, F.D.R., who, amazingly, once considered a top rate of 99.5 percent on income above $100,000 (yes, you read that right).

Appalled by this was an actor named Ronald Reagan, himself a progressive Democrat - though not for much longer. Reagan often noted that Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto (1848), demanded a permanent "heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Indeed, it's point 2 in Marx's 10-point program, second only to his call for "abolition of property."

The upper tax rate wasn't reduced substantially until 1965, when it came down to 70 percent. President Ronald Reagan took it down to 28 percent. And despite claims to the contrary, federal revenues under Reagan increased (as they did in the 1920s), rising from $600 billion to nearly $1 trillion. (The Reagan deficits were caused by excessive spending and decreased revenue from the 1981-3 recession.)

The upper rate increased again (to 31 percent) under George H. W. Bush and under Bill Clinton (39.6 percent). George W. Bush cut it to 35 percent. Barack Obama has returned it to the Clinton level of 39.6 percent.

Here in 2013, 100 years henceforth, the wealthiest Americans - the top 10 percent of which already pay over 70 percent of federal tax revenue - will be paying more in taxes this year than any time in the last 30 years. For progressives, this is justice. But it is also bittersweet: As progressives know deep inside, it still isn't enough. For them, it's never enough.

To that end, my enduring question for progressives is one they typically avoid answering, especially those holding elected office: In your perfect world, where, exactly, would you position the top rate? I routinely hear numbers in the 50-70 percent-plus range.

Democrats like President Obama complain about Republican "intransigence" in raising tax rates but, truth be told - and as any liberal really knows - if it wasn't for Republican resistance, progressives would rarely, if ever, cut taxes. America would remain on a one-way upward trajectory in tax rates, just like under Woodrow Wilson and F.D.R., and just as it has been in its unrestrained spending for nearly 50 years. Like their refusal to cut spending (other than on defense), progressives are dragged kicking and screaming into tax cuts. They need high income taxes for the government planning and redistributing they want to do; for Obama's sense of redistributive justice.

This year, the progressive income tax turns 100. For progressives, getting it implemented was a huge triumph. Their success in making it a permanent part of the American landscape is a more stunning achievement still.

Remembering Herb Romerstein - Death of a Cold Warrior and National Treasure.

Every human life is special, unique, unrepeatable - to borrow from Pope John Paul II. Every loss of life is a loss. Some losses, however, seem larger, leaving a void no one else can fill. When some people go, too much goes with them. That's undoubtedly the case with the loss of Herbert Romerstein, who died this May after a long illness. With Herb's passing, we lose not only a good guy, but a vast reservoir of knowledge that is not replaceable. If only we could have downloaded the man's brain. Alas, we could not, and our knowledge of the 20th century is suddenly less than it was.

Herb knew the Cold War and Communist movement unlike anyone. He understood it because he lived it and breathed it. Born in Brooklyn in 1931, he himself had been a Communist, having joined the Communist Youth League before becoming a card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA). He broke ranks over 60 years ago, the final straw being the Korean War, which made clear to him that he was dealing with inveterate liars, whether in Korea, Moscow, or among Communists on the home-front. He went on to become one of America's best anti-communists and most respected authorities, regularly testifying before Congress. He became a chief investigator for the House Committee on Internal Security. In the 1980s, he joined the Reagan administration, where his full-time job at the U.S. Information Agency was to counter Soviet disinformation, a duty for which few were so well-equipped or enthusiastic. He relished the role of taking on professional Soviet propagandists such as Georgi Arbatov and Valentin Falin. Later, he did the highly touted analysis of the Venona transcripts, which he published as The Venona Secrets.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot do justice to how this translated into action. I never tire of listening to stories from Herb's longtime friend Charlie Wiley on how they penetrated the Communist-run World Youth Festivals in the 1950s, or challenged a Soviet official successfully spooning the Party line to open-mouthed progressives at the All Souls Church in New York, or tossed a wrench into this or that meeting of Communist youth leaders. Guys like this were one-of-a-kind who lived life to its fullest. They were warriors - unafraid, cheerful, colorful, Cold Warriors.

I first met Herb Romerstein in June 2005. I was writing a book on Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War, which became The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. I was nearing the end of the manuscript when I got a remarkable email from Marko Suprun, whose father had survived the 1930s Ukrainian genocide perpetrated by Stalin. I didn't know Marko, but he brought to my attention a stunning document, a highly sensitive May 1983 letter from the head of the KGB, Viktor Chebrikov, to the head of the Soviet Union, the odious Yuri Andropov. The letter concerned a secret offer by Senator Ted Kennedy that, in effect, sought to undermine President Reagan's security policy and perhaps his reelection bid. It allegedly came from Soviet archives in Moscow. I embarked upon a long process of confirming the letter's authenticity. I exchanged emails with Walter Zaryckyj, who had turned the document over to Marko for translation. Walter immediately recommended I contact Herb Romerstein. If anyone could confirm this, it was Herb, said Walter, describing Herb as a "national treasure."

I talked to Herb and he assuaged me. "Don't worry," he assured. "It's real. Take it to the bank."

I spent the next few months confirming what Herb had told me from the outset. Yes, it was real.

This began a partnership and friendship. Herb loved the fact that I was a Cold War researcher half his age and planning to do more, including a book on Cold War dupes - a unique category of Cold War individuals that Herb knew too well. He took me under his wing, eager to provide counsel on anything related to the Cold War. Having access to his mind was like having the Library of Congress, the FBI files, the Soviet archives, Daily Worker microfiche, thousands of congressional reports, and CPUSA holdings all rolled into one, retrievable by a quick phone call or email from my BlackBerry. The process would go something like this: "Hi, Herb. A question on Arthur Miller: Did he ever join the Party?" The response was instantaneous:

In 1956, Arthur Miller testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. They published his Party application card. You can find it in the official report on the hearings. He wrote for New Masses: the Daily Worker loved him. . . .

We would meet in-person (less often, unfortunately) during my visits to Washington to do research. Herb introduced me to the Soviet Comintern Archives on CPUSA. He showed me how to use them, helped me get my library card - covering all bases. I fondly remember when he first introduced me to M. Stanton Evans. We spent hours at Stan's office one summer afternoon going over everything imaginable on Soviet penetration of the Roosevelt administration and other vital areas in the 1930s and 1940s. We also had lunch at the Hawk n' Dove on Capitol Hill, a favorite place of Herb's and Stan's.

Why their interest in me? Because, as they openly admitted, they were getting old and "wouldn't be around much longer." They were hoping I would be. There weren't many of them left. I was one of a very small few to whom they might pass the torch.

Fittingly, on my desk right now is a copy of Herb's final work, Stalin's Secret Agents, co-authored with Stan Evans. It's a superb must-read. We've waited years for the book's material on Alger Hiss alone.

Certain Herb aphorisms related to the Cold War stick in my mind, resounding there in the sound of his scratchy, whispery voice:

I asked him if there was a particular group of Americans most susceptible to being duped by Communists. His immediate answer:

The Religious Left, Paul, especially from the mainline Protestant denominations. They were the biggest suckers of them all.

And what of American Communists, especially those who went so far as to join CPUSA? Said Herb: "They were loyal Soviet patriots." As Herb knew, they were dedicated first and foremost to Mother Russia. CPUSA members "were not the useful idiots," not the "suckers;" they were not the dupes. Quite the contrary, said Herb:

They were fully aware of exactly what they were doing. They manipulated the useful idiots on behalf of Soviet interests.

Another:

From 1919, when it [the American Communist Party] was formed, to 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed, it was under total Soviet control.

And then there were his judicious warnings about this or that suspected Communist:

Be careful, Paul. That guy was not a Communist. He was a fellow traveler, to some degree - a dupe - but not a Communist. And the other guy, he was a small 'c' communist who never joined the Party.

That last warning holds a crucial lesson very revealing of Herb Romerstein and his work: He was no bomb-thrower. He was the epitome of responsible, informed, anti-communism. He was careful about drawing the necessary lines of distinction between a liberal, a liberal anti-communist, a genuine progressive, a closet Communist masquerading as a "progressive," a socialist, a small "c" or big "C" communist/Communist, a Party member or non-Party member, and so forth. He never wanted to falsely accuse anyone. I doubt his detractors on the left will pause to credit him for such prudence. For many on the left, every anti-communist rightly concerned with Soviet agents or agents of influence was merely another burgeoning Joe McCarthy.

Herb Romerstein was anything but. And he wanted those of us who follow in his footsteps, or who are concerned about Communism still - and about truth above all - to be likewise as careful and thoughtful. Perhaps our best tribute to Herb's memory would be to do our best to expose what he exposed and remind Americans and the world of what he reminded.

Herbert Romerstein was indeed a national treasure: A happy warrior who fought the good fight, and left the wrong side for the right side. Well done, my friend. Rest in peace. *

Read 3994 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:11
Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

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