How can the centralized State accumulate unlimited power, while still retaining the outward form of a democracy? This question has been the obsession of the American Left for over a century. The answer lies in subduing the middle class, which is always the deadly enemy of statism. Middle class voters have the numbers to secure electoral victory, coupled with an appreciation for the value of capital. They are sensitive to collapsing stock values, rising consumer prices, high unemployment, and the other typical consequences of decayed economic freedom.
To subdue the middle class, it must be made dependent upon the State. Middle class voters must, at some critical juncture, voluntarily relinquish a terminal amount of their economic freedom. The trick is keeping them quiet while the State passes the event horizon of growth.
Three crucial techniques are needed to get the State past the point of no return. First, an open-ended mission is needed. It must be possible for the State to define the terms of this mission, so that no one can ever say it has been completed, or that the State has failed. Every totalitarian government in modern history has adopted the same mission Barack Obama now openly declares: the quest for “fairness.”
Fairness is the perfect goal for an open-ended mission, because no one can ever firmly define what “fairness” would mean. At what point are the Evil Rich “paying their fair share?” Can it be expressed as a percentage of their income, a ratio of the total national income they command, or a share of the nation’s total tax burden? None of the above. No formula will ever be presented. The number of people who receive benefits in excess of the taxes they pay, or who pay no income tax at all, will never be factored in.
Furthermore, the acolytes of the total State can easily change the terms of any discussion of “fairness.” For example, each dollar earned by the Evil Rich is taxed numerous times: as corporate profit, as a capital gain, and again as income. By limiting the discussion solely to personal income, statists can complain that a billionaire is somehow paying a lower tax rate than his secretary – even as they refuse to provide us with the actual rates paid, or discuss how they were calculated. Trust them: it’s not fair. It never will be.
The second key to the unbounded State lies in convincing the populace that government power should not be limited by arbitrary rules. This is very important, and the American Left has enjoyed considerable success. The idea that a centuries-old Constitution, written by colonial slave owners, should restrain the enlightened modern State is routinely ridiculed. Note how the transcendence of the Constitution is also the subject of vigorous attack, by ridiculing the religious beliefs of the Founders. You don’t actually have to be religious to accept the concept of unalienable rights which are not granted by the State, and therefore cannot be compromised by the government… but if you can be persuaded to view this as a religious belief and recoil from it, you become much easier to rule.
For example, Senator Barbara Boxer, during an appearance with Al Sharpton of MSNBC on Tuesday night, openly ridiculed the notion that First Amendment religious protection should trump the demands of ObamaCare.
Prompted by the recent controversy surrounding Obama’s command that the Catholic Church must pay for contraception, Sharpton thought it was silly for the almighty State to tolerate individual employers deciding their religious beliefs “violate your right to be insured.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Boxer agreed. “Let’s use an example. Let’s say somebody believes that medicine doesn’t cure anybody of a disease but prayer does and then they decide no medicine.”
See how this works? That silly, ancient, arbitrary powdered-wig injunction that Congress must “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” should not be permitted to restrain the superior wisdom and compassion of our ruling class.
In a similar vein, why should separation-of-powers doctrine and arcane Congressional procedures be allowed to thwart our noble President from installing a “consumer protection” super-Czar, even though the President’s own party has routinely used those procedures to block recess appointments for many years? The American public has come a long way toward accepting the notion that power requires only justification, not authorization.
Finally, it is necessary to persuade the middle class to think of itself as poor. Simple logic must be abandoned, in favor of soothing promises. The depth of its compassion must be the only yardstick by which the State is judged.
A fascinating example of this occurred on Tuesday, when President Obama sallied forth to demand the extension of his “payroll tax cut,” which is actually a $225 billion raid on Social Security funding. Obama described this program as putting $40 per paycheck in the pocket of average Americans, and insisted there is no honorable reason why anyone could possibly oppose extending it, or even question its virtue.
Obama said that “allowing this tax cut to expire would make people’s lives harder right now,” and cited a number of reasons… including high gas prices. “If we start seeing significant increases in gas prices, losing that $40 could not come at a worse time,” he inveighed, citing a local Washington, D.C. entrepreneur who said he was worried about being able to afford gas for his drive to work.
Thus speaks the High Gas Price President, whose policies have done more to cripple American energy than anyone except Jimmy Carter. Gas prices have risen an incredible 83 percent on his watch, and he never misses an opportunity to thwart domestic energy production, even as he pours taxpayer billions into foolish “green energy” payoffs to his big contributors. This is the President who stands athwart American industry yelling “Stop!”… and now he dares to cite the results of his own failure as a reason his demands must be obeyed. You can’t take that Obama “payroll tax cut” away! People need that to pay for Obama’s high gas prices!
As with almost everything Obama says, it’s not just annoying, it’s objectively and demonstrably untrue. Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner ran the numbers, and found that Obama’s no-growth energy policies are costing the average American $1,010 per year in higher gas prices. There’s an excellent chance Obama will bring us $5 gas this summer, which would boost the cost to $1,899 per year. Meanwhile, the benefits of the Social Security raid are capped at $1,000 per year. Obama will nevertheless take credit for not quite “solving” a problem he personally created.
The politics of extending the “payroll tax cut” are supposedly irresistible. Nobody wants to “raise taxes on the middle class” right now. Can you imagine a point in the future that it will ever be a winning proposition to oppose another extension for that extra $40 per paycheck?
Of course not. The middle class has been conditioned to think of itself as poor, and therefore dependent on whatever crumbs Washington tosses them. The unbounded State beckons. We’re almost there.