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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Transformation of the American Republic

“Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.” — Article II, Section 9 of the Communist Manifesto

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont were sent by the French government to study the American prison system. In his later letters Tocqueville indicates that he and Beaumont used their official business as a pretext to study American society instead. They arrived in New York City in May of that year and spent nine months traveling the United States, studying the prisons, and collecting information on American society, including its religious, political, and economic character. These studies became the basis of his 1840 book “Democracy in America.” In that book he wrote about the growing power of a central government :

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

How prophetic Mr. de Tocqueville was.

Tocqueville believed that the Puritans established the principle of sovereignty of the people in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The American Revolution then popularized this principle, followed by the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which developed institutions to manage popular will. While Tocqueville speaks highly of the America's Constitution, he believes that the mores or "habits of mind" of the American people play a more prominent role in the protection of freedom. Those mores being:

  • Township democracy
  • Mores, Laws, and Circumstances
  • Tyranny of the Majority (Federalist No. 10)
  • Religion and beliefs
  • The Family
  • Individualism
  • Associations
  • Self-Interest Rightly Understood
  • Materialism

This is a far cry from the writings of Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto, published a mere 8 years after Democracy in America.

Mark Levine writes if his latest book The Liberty Amendments:

What was to be a relatively innocuous federal government, operating from a defined enumeration of specific grants of power, has become an ever-present and unaccountable force. It is the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor. Moreover, with aggrandized police powers, what it does not control directly it bans or mandates by regulation. For example, the federal government regulates most things in your bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen, as well as the mortgage you hold on your house. It designs your automobile and dictates the kind of fuel it uses. It regulates your baby’s toys, crib, and stroller; plans your children’s school curriculum and lunch menu; and administers their student loans in college. At your place of employment, the federal government oversees everything from the racial, gender, and age diversity of the workforce to the hours, wages, and benefits paid. Indeed, the question is not what the federal government, the question is not what the federal government regulates, but what it does not. And it makes you wonder—how can a people incapable of selecting their own light bulbs and toilets possess enough competence to vote for their own rulers and fill out complicated tax returns?”

The illimitable regulatory activity, with which the federal government torments, harasses, and coerces the individual’s private and economic behavior, is the progeny of a colossal federal edifice with inexhaustible energy for societal manipulation and change. In order to satisfy its gluttonous appetite for programmatic schemes, the federal government not only hurriedly digests the Treasury’s annual revenue, funded with confiscatory taxes on a diminishing number of productive citizens, but desserts on the wealth not yet created by generations not yet born with unconstrained indebtedness. And what havoc has this wrought.

The federal government consumes nearly 25 percent of all goods and services produced each year by the American people. Yearly deficits routinely exceed $1 trillion dollars. The federal government has incurred a fiscal operating debt of more than $17 trillion, far exceeding the total value of the annual economic wealth created by the American people, which is expected to reach about $26 trillion in a decade. It has accumulated unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs exceeding $90 trillion, which is growing at $4.6–6.9 trillion a year. There is not enough money on the planet to make good on the federal government’s financial obligations. Hence, the Federal Reserve Board has swung into action with multiple versions of “quantitative easing,” which is nothing more than the federal government monetizing its own debt — or buying its own debt—with a combination of borrowing, issuing itself credit, and printing money amounting to trillions of dollars. Of course, this has the eventual effect of devaluing the currency, fueling significant inflation or deflation, and destabilizing the economy at some future point.

But like the laws of physics, there is no escaping the laws of economics. As these fiscal and monetary malpractices escalate, for there is no end in sight, the federal government will turn increasingly reckless and demanding, taking an even harder line against the individual’s accumulation of wealth and retention of private property. For example, when the federal income tax was instituted one hundred years ago, the top individual income tax rate was 7 percent. Today the top rate is about 40 percent with proposals to push it to nearly 50 percent. There is also serious talk from the governing elite about instituting a national value-added tax (VAT) on top of existing federal taxes, which is a form of sales tax, and divesting citizens of their 401(k) private pension plans. Even the rapaciousness of these policies will not be enough to fend off the severe and widespread misery unleashed from years of profligacy. Smaller nations such as Cyprus, Spain, and Greece provide a window into the future, as their borrowing has reached its limit. Moreover, unable to print money, their day of reckoning is either looming or arrived. Therefore, bank accounts, other investments, and wealth generally are subject to governmental impoundment, sequester, and theft. The individual’s liberty, inextricably linked to his private property, is submerged in the quicksand of a government that is aggregating authority and imploding simultaneously.

What, then, is the answer? Again, Tocqueville offers guidance. Looking back at the Constitutional Convention some fifty years afterward, he observed that

“It is new in history of society to see a great people turn a calm and scrutinizing eye upon itself when apprised by the legislature that the wheels of its government are stopped, to see it carefully examine the extent of the evil, and patiently wait two whole years until a remedy is discovered, to which it voluntarily submitted without its costing a tear or a drop of blood from mankind.”

It is asking too much of today’s governing masterminds and their fanatical adherents to reform the product of their own fatuity — that is, the continuing disassembly of the American Republic.

“During the ratification period, the Federalists repeatedly assured the Anti-Federalists and other skeptics of the proposed federal government’s limits. For example, Madison argued in Federalist 14,

“In the first place it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws: its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.”

In Federalist 45 he insisted:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

In Federalist 46, Madison asserted that:

“The powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Union; and that all those alarms which have been sounded, of a meditated and consequential annihilation of the State governments, must, on the most favorable interpretation, be ascribed to the chimerical fears of the authors of them.”

Madison’s declarations were not unique among the Constitution’s proponents but rather were commonplace. And without these assurances — and the additional pledge that the First Congress would offer amendments to the Constitution further ensuring that individual and state sovereignty would be safeguarded against the new federal government (what became the Bill of Rights, including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments) — the Constitution would not have been ratified. Thus, the Constitution, drafted by delegates who were sent by the states to Philadelphia in 1787 and ratified subsequently by delegates in the state conventions, preserved the decisive role of the states in the American Republic.”

It requires emphasis that the states established the American Republic and, through the Constitution, retained for themselves significant authority to ensure the republic’s durability. This is not to say that the states are perfect governing institutions. Many are no more respectful of unalienable rights than is the federal government. But the issue is how best to preserve the civil society in a world of imperfect people and institutions. The answer, the Framers concluded, is to diversify authority with a combination of governing checks, balances, and divisions, intended to prevent the concentration of unbridled power in the hands of a relative few imperfect people.”

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the U.S., was, until Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama came along, considered as the worst president in U.S. history. But Jimmy Carter, to his credit, in 1976, did say, "I am not going to use the federal government's authority deliberately to circumvent the natural inclination of people to live in ethnic homogeneous neighborhoods. I think it is good to maintain the homogeneity of neighborhoods if they've been established that way." So chalk one up for Carter.

Too bad (for us) that Obama can't (or won't) say the same. Obama, through Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is pushing "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing," (AFFH) a program to "allow the feds to track diversity in America's neighborhoods and then push policies to change those it deems discriminatory."

Guess who gets to decide if discrimination is present. Why, HUD, naturally. This is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The AFFH  (FR-5173) states:

“Through this rule, HUD proposes to provide HUD program participants with more effective means to affirmatively further the purposes and policies of the Fair Housing Act, which is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act not only prohibits discrimination but, in conjunction with other statutes, directs HUD's program participants to take steps proactively to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities for all. As acknowledged by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and many stakeholders, advocates, and program participants, the current practice of affirmatively furthering fair housing carried out by HUD grantees, which involves an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice and a certification that the grantee will affirmatively further fair housing, has not been as effective as had been envisioned.

This rule accordingly proposes to refine existing requirements with a fair housing assessment and planning process that will better aid HUD program participants fulfill this statutory obligation and address specific comments the GAO raised. To facilitate this new approach, HUD will provide states, local governments, insular areas, and public housing agencies (PHAs), as well as the communities they serve, with data on patterns of integration and segregation; racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; access to education, employment, low-poverty, transportation, and environmental health, among other critical assets; disproportionate housing needs based on the classes protected under the Fair Housing Act; data on individuals with disabilities and families with children; and discrimination. From these data, program participants will evaluate their present environment to assess fair housing issues, identify the primary determinants that account for those issues, and set forth fair housing priorities and goals.

The benefit of this approach is that these priorities and goals will then better inform program participant's strategies and actions by improving the integration of the assessment of fair housing through enhanced coordination with current planning exercises. This proposed rule further commits HUD to greater engagement and better guidance for program participants in fulfilling their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. With this new clarity through guidance, a template for the assessment, and a HUD-review process, program participants should achieve more meaningful outcomes that affirmatively further fair housing.”

This is will be the final act of Obama’s desire to transform the American Republic into the Communist dream of his father. As stated in Article II, Section 9 of the Communist Manifesto:

“The combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.”

This would blend all neighborhoods into the communal society Barack Obama and his henchmen on the left desire. Of course certain neighborhoods would get a pass. They would be the neighborhoods where the elite reside. After all socialism is for the people not for the socialist — the elite are made of finer clay.

The AFFH program will require HUD to try to remedy what it considers segregation and discrimination in neighborhoods through data collection and the use of a massive database.  Data from this so-called "discrimination database" will be used with transportation and infrastructure planning, housing financing policies, and zoning laws to alleviate what HUD deems as discrimination and segregation.  Just what America needs: another government database.  Can anyone say "NSA"?

According to HUD, AFFH will "provide HUD program participants with more effective means to affirmatively further the purposes and policies of the Fair Housing Act, which is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968," which "directs HUD's program participants to take steps proactively to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities for all." Just like Marx proposed.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan introduced this plan in July at the NAACP convention. Donovan said:

“Unfortunately, in too many of our hardest hit communities, no matter how hard a child or her parents work, the life chances of that child, even her lifespan, are determined by the zip code she grows up in. This is simply wrong.” (See my blog entitled Another Infringement From The Administrative State.)

HUD and Donovan are reverting to the old and well-worn Progressive/Democrat/Liberal playbook of comparing apples with oranges in an effort to get their way, to try to gather data that will support their position so HUD (and Obama) can act as it desires, to impose his will upon us.

HUD blames poverty on zip codes, something that studies have not supported, rather than other socio-economic factors that studies have shown to contribute to poverty. For example, Dr. David Hilfiker, in his book Poverty in Urban America: Its Causes and Cures, says: "Causes of poverty are always multiple, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing. It is the combined, intertwined effect of these various factors that is so intractable." Hilfiker lists several causes:

  • Racial Discrimination: "the history of discrimination helped to create the ghetto environment."
  • Segregation: "Continuing, imposed, severe segregation of African Americans from the rest of society is the single most important cause of urban black poverty"
  • Education: "Because elementary and secondary schools are primarily funded through local taxes, cities with large numbers of poor people have fewer resources per child and are therefore less able to fund decent education" (emphasis in the original).
  • Health Care: "Poor people, therefore, cannot afford to purchase insurance on their own, so they remain uncovered, spending significant percentages of their income on doctor or emergency room visits, especially if they have young children."
  • Criminal Justice System: "Since ex-cons find it much harder to get jobs, the impact of the criminal justice system on poverty is doubly harsh."

Whether you agree with Hilfiker or not is not at issue here. The fact is, Hilfiker's list does not include zip codes. For HUD, it's all about the acquisition of power and for Obama it’s the transformation of the Republic and the elimination of private property.

Hilfiker concludes by stating, "As long as ghettos exist, most of the people who live there will be poor." Gosh, I didn't realize that ghetto-creating segregation was imposed on anyone. Did I miss something here? I thought that imposing segregation was unlawful. I guess that AFFH, by imposing HUD's will, will be able to eliminate ghettos one zip code at a time. Imposing segregation: bad; imposing AFFH: good. Or so HUD thinks. Consistency is not one of HUD's strengths.

Of the AFFH program, Edward Pinto, of the American Enterprise Institute, said:

“This is just the latest of a series of attempts by HUD to social engineer the American people. It started with public housing and urban renewal, which failed spectacularly back in the 50's and 60's. They tried it again in the 90's when they wanted to transform house finance, do away with down payments, and the result was millions of foreclosures and financial collapse.”

For HUD, history and past performance doesn't count. As Thomas Sowell stated:

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

And from Rob Astorino, of the Westchester County Executive (the head of the executive branch of the Westchester County NY government), we get this perspective:

“What they [Donovan and HUD] are trying to do is to say discrimination and zoning is the same thing. They are not. Discrimination won't be tolerated. I won't tolerate it. Zoning though, protects what can and can't be built in a neighborhood.”

As Marilyn Assenheim writing in the Patriot Update states:

“The Imperial President has seized another chunk of our freedom…again. Loss of freedom begins with baby steps. Perhaps when one’s high-water usage toilet is confiscated in favor of “water saving” models that must be flushed three times to do the same job as one flush from the original. Then, suddenly, we find that government mandated healthcare is now the law of the land. Involvement is mandatory and is being governed through the yet-to-be-fettered IRS. Failure to participate results in escalating fines which become usurious, rapidly. Now, here comes the regime’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. If you think where and how you live is exclusively up to you, think again.

The Lyin’ King (Barack Obama) will not be satisfied until every man, woman and child in the nation has had their freedom squashed under his rapacious thumb. HUD has taken community organizing nationwide and no one is immune. Call AFFH what it is; it is: The Lyin’ King’s recreation of America. The steps aren’t tiny anymore.”

We are losing our freedoms one step at a time. AFFH is just the latest manifestation of that loss.

On a tangential note, where do Carter and Obama rank as presidents? Interestingly, in a poll conducted by Siena College (2010), and published by US News and World Report, two hundred thirty eight presidential scholars ranked Barack Obama as 15th. But the poll's validity can be questioned, as the scholars ranked Obama as 6th in imagination, 7th in communication ability, 8th in intelligence, and 10th in ability to compromise. I guess that the "presidential scholars" were hand-picked by Siena College for their ability to ignore what Obama is currently doing and provide the rankings it sought. I certainly would recommend passing on Siena College for a college education. By the way, the poll ranked Carter 32nd.

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