Conservative Books: New Energy in Age of Obama

Having never before worked in conservative publishing when conservatives were so clearly “in the opposition” as we have been since the election of Barack Obama, I have been fascinated to see the new energy animating this particular sector of our troubled economy in 2009. Big conservative bestsellers follow on each others’ heels, and there’s a new wealth of interesting conservative writing to choose from. Here are 10 books sure to fascinate, energize, and inform.
Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses
by Timothy P. Carney
Regnery, 2009
Publication Date: November 30, 2009

Investigative reporter Tim Carney digs up the facts about who’s really profiting from the statist economics of the Obama administration — and exactly how they’re going to get rich from the same government bloat that is beggaring the rest of us. President Obama poses as the champion of ordinary decent Americans against the evil insurance companies, fat-cat pharmaceutical manufacturers, and such alleged polluters as big oil and coal. But Carney has compelling evidence that the President is willing to make deals with business every time, if that’s how he can get more government control over the economy — and thus over all our private lives. The bad news is that to preserve our liberty and property we’re going to have to fight not only the big-government leftists in office, but also the corrupt rent-seeking businesses that collude with them. The good news is that this book supplies powerful ammunition for those battles.

Carney (full disclosure: a personal friend whose economic insights have changed my understanding of how government grows) has discovered the Four Laws of Obamanomics: Rule #1 The Inside Game: The more our Democratic President and Congress micromanage our economy, the more opportunities appear for big companies with expensive lobbyists to write the legislation in their own favor. (You did know lobbyists are now writing our laws, right?) Rule #2 The Overhead Smash: Established companies can afford a huge regulatory burden more easily than start-ups can. So it makes sense for them to lobby for their own industries to be overregulated—to drive their competitors out of business. (This kind of overregulation also leads to some appalling unintended consequences. For example, that it’s now illegal to sell children’s books at yard sales unless they’ve been subjected to a scientific test to determine their lead content. That’s a result of legislation championed by the very company that had recall millions of toys imported from China because of dangers from lead paint.) Rule #3 Gumming the Works: A regulatory scheme so invasive that it cripples the economy is “the equivalent of raising the basketball hoop to 20 feet at half-time: It protects the lead of whichever team is ahead.” Rule #4 The Confidence Game: Government regulation acts as a stamp of approval that encourages consumers and investors to forgo their own due diligence. (Think government endorsement of the rating agencies that branded all those subprime mortgage investments AAA.) “In brief,” says Carney, “Obamanomics boils down to this: Every time government gets bigger, somebody’s getting rich. This book names the names.”

Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government
by Glenn Beck
Threshold, 2009

This latest conservative mega-seller is packed with Glenn Beck’s trademark in-your-face challenges to the accepted liberal pieties. It’s based on the premise that makes Beck’s TV show stand out: that the best way to win political arguments is a command of the facts — whether about economics, about the disastrous history of progressive policies, or about the principles of the Founders.

Beck has quickly become the latest lightning rod for both liberals and Nervous Nellie conservatives. The same folks who are embarrassed about Sarah Palin’s death panels think Beck also goes too far. But, as less squeamish conservatives including Mark Steyn and Jonah Goldberg have pointed out, Beck (just like Sarah Palin on the healthcare debate) is a remarkably effective critic of the Obama Administration. Ask Van Jones.

Sure, there are legitimate criticisms of Beck. But the moment when our President is wrecking our national credit and driving us into bankruptcy, appointing a self-styled (recently ex-)Communist and a proponent of “queering elementary education” to positions overseeing jobs and school safety, and attempting to socialize American medicine is hardly the time to be wringing our hands about the paranoid style in American politics. Let’s save that discussion for some time when they’re not really out to get us.

A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit
by Mike Huckabee
Sentinel, 2009

Mike Huckabee, the Mr. Christmas of the 2008 presidential campaign, returns to his signature theme in this collection of stories from the Christmases of his life. These homespun and typically American stories — at least, they would have been typically American back in the days when Christmas wasn’t controversial — provide timeless lessons in such old-fashioned American virtues as thrift, honesty, duty to family and the importance of religious faith.

The stories are packed with material both sublime and ridiculous. Huckabee paints a self-deprecating picture of his Snopes-class Arkansas ancestors and tells how his parents finally discovered his bad habit of opening and playing with his Christmas presents early: Young Mike unwrapped a suspiciously muddy football one fateful Christmas morning. But Huckabee also remembers how his uncle died of cancer in his parents’ home — cared for by the family, including the teenaged Mike Huckabee. And about his first Christmas after his marriage — under the shadow of his wife’s cancer diagnosis. Mike Huckabee is still a serious contender in presidential politics. Read this book to get to know him better.

Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy — and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them
by Peter Schweizer
Harper, 2009

The world’s economy nearly collapsed in 2008 because of greedy businesses that had been deregulated by the Bush Administration, right? Far from it, shows Peter Schweizer in this review of the real history of the financial crisis we haven’t emerged from yet. Unbridled capitalism was emphatically not the problem in the housing market. As Schweizer shows, the federal government made one disastrous intervention after another into mortgages and home ownership.

Through the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, government was working overtime for decades to get Americans into houses that, most unfortunately for us all, many of them had no business buying because even with all the government help, they simply could not afford them. The rate of home ownership has now slipped back down from its inflated all-time high, and the collateral damage has been incalculable. But disturbingly, Schweizer shows, the architects of this ruin have learned nothing from the disaster they caused. They’re still busily paving more roads to future financial hells with their ever-fresh good intentions.

The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution 1980-1989
by Steven V. Hayward
Crown Forum, 2009

The second volume of Steven Hayward’s magisterial account of the Reagan Revolution addresses Reagan’s years as President. There’s deep and fascinating detail about the actual inner workings of the Reagan Administration: the staffing decisions, the personalities and the jockeying for power within the administration, the policy fights, the opportunities seized and chances missed. There are tantalizing “might have beens.” Apparently the decision not to re-open the question of Social Security was made very early on and with little deliberation. Besides his very readable retelling of the facts, Hayward has a controversial argument to make about the unfinished Reagan Revolution. He’s concerned that Reagan, because of his remarkable personal talents and attractive sunny conservatism, pushed the conservative movement in a populist direction. What we need now, Hayward argues, is a new, serious constitutional conservatism that might complete the counterrevolution that Reagan began.

End the Fed
Ron Paul
Grand Central, 2009

Congressman Ron Paul, quondam presidential candidate and nearly full-time critic of the Federal Reserve, lays out the case against our nation’s central bank. It’s a case we should would do well to give a hearing to at this time, as the Fed’s role in the ongoing financial crisis is debated — and proposals are put forward to give it even more power to oversee financial institutions.

The Fed hasn’t done a great job of keeping the value of our money steady over its 96-year history. In fact, since 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was created, the dollar has lost 95% of its value. That looks much like the federal government is stealing our money gradually, at just the speed we’ll put up with. But it’s worse than that. The Fed’s easy money policy (inevitable because of political pressure) has created bubbles, distorted markets, discouraged savings, and guaranteed that investment goes just where it shouldn’t—into worthless mortgage-backed securities, for instance. So what do we need the Fed for? Ron Paul is almost certainly never going to be President of the United States, but he’s succeeded in attracting public notice to a question that is overripe for our attention.

Life after Death: The Evidence
by Dinesh D’Souza
Regnery, 2009

G. K. Chesterton pointed out in the early 20th Century that while the champions of science may scorn religion for proposing hard-to-believe dogmas — the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth — those same materialist proponents of modern science insist that we disbelieve obvious facts from our own experience: that we have free will, that human beings are more than the sum of the chemical reactions in our bodies. Now Dinesh D’Souza takes on the 21st-Century proponents of this “reductive materialism,” marshaling both the scientific evidence and the philosophical arguments for life after death. If you’re ready to consider the issue on its merits, this book is a good place to start.

D’Souza’s investigation ranges over a wealth of material: near-death experiences, the evidence of modern physics, the fine-tuning of the universe for life, and the philosophy of Kant and Schopenhauer. In D’Souza’s capable hands, topics that could be heavy going are a pleasure to read about. What happens to us after we die, D’Souza points out, is a question of crucial importance to each of us, but it’s judged unworthy of our attention according to the “Enlightened People’s Outlook” that dominates our media and educational institutions. 

Still Standing: The Untold Story of My Fight against Gossip, Hate, and Political Attacks
by Carrie Prejean
Regnery, 2009

The latest (and certainly the most gorgeous and charming) casualty of the campaign to brand all opposition to “gay marriage” as offensive prejudice tells her side of the story in this engaging memoir. Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009, lost the Miss USA pageant because she gave the wrong answer to the marriage question posed by pageant judge Perez Hilton. Prejean’s answer was neither judgmental, mean-spirited, nor extreme. In fact, she went out of her way to soften her position: “Well I think it’s great.… We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family I think I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised.” In the days after Prejean’s loss at the pageant, it was widely noted — even by NPR — that her stated position was essentially the same as Barack Obama’s.

But that wasn’t good enough. Because Carrie Prejean chose to be “Biblically correct” instead of “politically correct,” she was instantly out of the running for Miss USA; found herself cold-shouldered, and worse, by the Miss California team she relied on for support; was called filthy names by one of the pageant judges; saw her medical history appear on the Internet and ultimately lost her Miss California title. It’s an object lesson for the rest of us. The campaign to redefine marriage is on a collision course not just with what many of us believe, but with our right to say what we believe without finding ourselves outside the pale of polite society and acceptable speech. Carrie Prejean didn’t pick this fight. She wasn’t a political activist, just a beauty pageant contestant. She was put in a position where she had to choose: Say what she believed and give up the crown she’d worked and hoped for, or lie to please her judges. She chose to tell the truth. Read this book to learn how Carrie Prejean was dragged into a culture war she never meant to fight, and why she’s “still standing” strong.