There’s a common thread running through the three big Washington stories this week. The first one actually took place in Osawatomie, Kansas, where President Obama laid out a remarkably straightforward case for the replacement of free-market capitalism with benevolent fascism.
Scary word, “fascism,” but it has a specific political meaning, distinct from Nazism or any of the other bloody horrors it has spawned: the authoritarian direction of privately-owned capital. The means of production are not owned by the public, as in communism, but the owners are subjected to strategic direction by a benevolent central government, which takes a far more active role than merely enforcing impartial laws against theft and fraud.
Of course, the President, like the growing body of liberal enthusiasts for the New Fascism - which many of them openly admire in its Chinese incarnation – expresses this as a desire to impose cosmic “fairness” and protect the Little Guy from predatory forces. The word “fair” was deployed seventeen times during the Osawatomie speech. On the other hand, here is Obama’s crude caricature of the people who object to ever-growing State control, and the corresponding recession of economic liberty:
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes - especially for the wealthy - our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.
This is nothing new. Barack Obama has been pushing the “freedom has failed” narrative since the government-created subprime mortgage crisis exploded in 2008. The difference is that we have a great deal of context to measure his assertions against. He’s been in charge - with power that would make the leftist critics of George Bush’s “unitary executive” gasp in horror, if they had a shred of intellectual honesty – for several years now. During the first two years of his Administration, his party had total control of Washington. He’s spent more money than any other President, and oceans of new regulations have spilled forth.
Furthermore, Obama’s platform has always been built upon the notion of wise government shepherding private capital. He spends a lot of time pandering to the Occupy Wall Street crowd these days, but he was Wall Street’s chosen candidate in 2008, the biggest recipient of their campaign contributions. He routinely presented himself to Big Business as their technocratic ally. The entire premise of the Obama “green energy” disaster, to the extent it was anything better than massive graft paid to top campaign contributors, was that awesome green energy companies needed a hand from Big Brother Obama to get their marvelous technologies off the cold free-market ground, for the long-term benefit of all.
Obama didn’t nationalize Solyndra, did he? No, the government did not assume operational control of these noble pioneer industries. In fact, many control mechanisms were disabled in order to push those vital subsidies through. A strategy was set, and government force was deployed to over-ride the judgment of the market... through everything from handing bags of taxpayer cash to favored corporations, through punitive measures against the politically disfavored fossil fuel industry. In short: a relatively "soft" fascism, of precisely the variety Obama rhapsodized in his Osawatomie speech.
And it didn’t work, did it? In fact, its failure may be unprecedented in American history. Which brings us to the other two stories this week: the testimony of former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine and Attorney General Eric Holder before Congress.
Both men stand accused of, at a bare minimum, serious deficiencies of managerial oversight… and both of them responded in the same way. Corzine said he “simply did not know” where the missing $1.2 billion of MF Global client money went, and pointed out that such a large company has a huge number of transactions, so it was hard for him to keep on top of things.
For his part, Holder said the Justice Department is huge, a lot of stuff is going on, and the Attorney General doesn’t have time to read a lot of his email. In a comment that will probably haunt both Holder and his White House superior for a while, he responded to allegations of perjury by saying, “Well, if you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that would be considered perjury or a lie.”
So, to bring this all together, we have the President making the case for deploying vast amounts of coercive force against private citizens who have committed no crime, in the interest of achieving a philosophical notion of “fairness.” The free market, which he illogically declared “has never worked,” is not flawed because of outright criminality, but because it’s callous, unfeeling, and short-sighted... at least compared to Obama and other benevolent political rulers. This situation could not be immediately addressed by a simple code of impartial laws; instead, an endlessly growing level of State control is eternally required to bring the maximum benefit to all.
At the same time, Corzine and Holder were demanding strict legal proceedings to demonstrate nothing less than absolutely criminal misconduct on their part, and were not in a mood to answer any other criticism. Corzine’s a private citizen now, but he’s deeply tied to the President’s party, was a prominent economic advisor to the White House, and was often discussed as the next Treasury Secretary. During his days in the Senate, he was the co-author of some of the very laws he is accused of breaking.
Holder is a member of the Administration, and was essentially making the case that merely saying “I take responsibility” is good enough to deflect any further consequences. He has clearly stated that only the legal procedure of impeachment will remove him from office. In an earlier age, not so long ago, “taking responsibility” for a massive and bloody failure like Operation Fast and Furious would have necessarily involved careers ending, or else both Holder and his boss would have been public laughing stocks.
So, help me understand the reasoning here: is ineptitude grounds for the deployment of legal and coercive force, or not? The free market didn’t perform up to Obama’s expectations, so he claims the right to shape and control it, with no real limits to the amount of power (including expenditures, taxation, and regulation) involved. But for such as Corzine and Holder, only the narrowest legal definition of criminal behavior is good enough to trigger any lasting consequences. It seems likely this defense will crumble for Corzine long before it does for Holder, because only the latter is currently a member of the almighty government… and that will make all the difference in the world.
I think we can all agree that criminal offenses should be prosecuted. Who decides when failure will be prosecuted, and who gets to define failure? If you’re not a member of the government, or at least a prominent figure in the ruling party, there is only one system in which you have some say in those decisions… and it’s the one Barack Obama declared all-out war against in Osawatomie this week.