2009-11-20 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

The Morning After
by Stuart W. Mirsky

It's no secret these days that the Obama administration leans left. On every crucial issue, from dealing with al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism, to the environment, to health care, to the administration's handling of our overseas adversaries, the president and his advisors have come down hard on the left side of the political divide.

This has been brought home, most recently by the revelations about those surrounding the new president which, after some eleven months in the White House, no longer seem quite so new.

Former White House Communica - tions Director Anita Dunn is only the most recent of President Obama's associates to have her left leaning sympathies put on display. After leading the charge to demonize and isolate Fox News for its alleged failures to do "real news" (the network runs many opinion programs with a conservative slant and highlights conservative opinion on its straight news shows), Dunn resigned abruptly, shortly after a video clip surfaced showing her expressing admiration for, of all people, former Chinese Communist dic tator and widely acknowledged mass murderer Mao Tse T'ung. Ouch! What is this administration thinking of in its hiring practices and who are these people they keep bringing in - to the White House?

Although Dunn was expected to step down at year's-end anyway, her abrupt departure appears accelerated. But, we're assured by the administration, it had nothing to do with her recent missteps. "I'm not known for going rogue," Ms. Dunn recently told a broadcast network reporter when asked if the attacks on Fox News she spearheaded had been orchestrated at her level alone. As Dunn's comment reminds us, President Obama isn't someone who takes direction from his subordinates or who lightly cedes authority as his predecessor often seemed to do.

What you see in this administration seems to be what you get, and what we got with President Obama is nothing less than a massive tilt to the left.

In the wake of eight years of a tired Republican administration that ended with a fiscal crisis of historic proportions, American voters chose to repudiate the conservative ap p ro ac h - once identified with the Reagan Revo - lution, handing government, whole hog, to the Democrats. In part Repub - licans have mostly themselves to blame, having lost sight of the principles of small government and fiscal conservatism with which they had once been identified while in power. But American voters must blame themselves, too.

Of course, not all Americans are unhappy with the sharp leftward turn. A solid minority of American voters are on the left side of the political spectrum, nor is that reprehensible since most on the left hold their views with at least as much sincerity as those on the right — or in the center.

Being on the left largely amounts to favoring bigger and more robust government because of a belief that it takes a government to solve big probl Indeed, it's a normal human response to turn to government.

This has a long tradition in human history, from the time of the ancient Egyptians, to the Persians and the Romans and the Incas, right up to the Communist and fascist experiments of the twentieth century.

Today big government mostly takes the form of the largely benevolent bureaucrat-heavy social welfare states of modern Europe though today's Persia (now called Iran) and other authoritarian regimes continue the darker side of the tradition.

But even if big governments are often well positioned to take care of their populations, there's an unavoidable downside. Bigger government means increasing government involvement in our lives, with the government telling us what we can and can't do, as well as more government spending and, of course, higher taxes to support that spending.

Dependence on big government and the consequent loss of personal freedom and higher taxes (while seeming rather abstract compared to the goo- dies delivered to our virtual doorsteps by government programs) also tend to sap individual initiative while dragging down economic activi ty.

Bigger government also red uc es gov - ernment accountability as bureau - crats build their bailiwicks and fiefdoms on public monies while insulating themselves from most outside scrutiny. As a result bigger government tends to be both inefficient and costly.

In this country we have tried, historically, to strike a balance in the size of our government though the general trend, since 1776, has undeniably been toward bigness.

The country we have today is not the one our founders left us, nor could it be, given the growth and changes we have seen in the last two hundred-plus years.

Nor is it likely we could ever go back to that small scale, agrarian society with its many inequities and inequalities — or that most of us would really want to.

The question, though, is how far in the other direction which leads toward bigger and more intrusive government should we allow ourselves to go?

The election last year, which placed the nation entirely in the hands of those who desire bigger government, reflected a sense among voters that capitalism and the restrained government that favors it have been indelibly tarnished.

It's not just that President Obama is manifestly a man of the left (which he is) but that voters gave him the kind of majorities in Cong ress most presidents can only dream of.

But if voters are now having a "morning after" moment as they watch the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress pull out the stops on our national debt, if Americans are now finally waking up to the implications for our nation of an economy larded with ever swelling bureaucratic burdens and costs that outrun, by leaps and bou nds, any reasonable expectation of paying for them, then it's not too soon to start thinking about the next election cycle. Unfortunately it's not inconceiva - ble that it could already be too late. rockirreg@aol.com

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