Posted on | September 28, 2013 | 76 Comments
“The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into tax-payers and tax-consumers.”
– John C. Calhoun, Disquisition on Government, 1848
The current phony crisis, in which Sen. Harry Reid has declared that the House must approve the Senate’s spending bill or else the government will shut down, has inspired The Atlantic‘s James Fallows to an extravagant exercise in rhetorical excess:
In case the point is not clear yet: there is no post-Civil War precedent for what the House GOP is doing now. It is radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government, and its departure from past political disagreements can’t be buffed away or ignored. If someone can think of a precedent after the era of John C. Calhoun . . . let me know.
This is as absurd and inappropriate as it is ignorant. To find a recent precedent, we need only go back to the 1990s, when the budget impasse between the new Republican majority in Congress and President Clinton led to a (partial) government shutdown. Or, really, we might consider the extraordinary process by which Reid and Nancy Pelosi shoved ObamaCare through the legislative grinder — “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it,” as Pelosi infamously said — as more truly “radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government” than anything Republicans in Congress are doing now.
Having deliberately ignored the made-for-TV dramatics, I am not the least alarmed by this phony crisis, which is neither particularly new nor remotely frightening. Democrats and their comrades in the media (Fallows was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter) are dishonestly characterizing opposition to ObamaCare as “extremist,” per se.
This is the exact opposite of truth: It is ObamaCare itself that is truly “extremist,” a measure that could only be rammed through Congress with late-night arm-twisting sessions. Were the 34 House Democrats who voted against ObamaCare in March 2010 “extremists”? Or were the millions of voters who elected a Republican House majority in the 2010 mid-term landslide “extremists”?
James Fallows is a partisan Democrat who evidently does not even read conservatives, and who declares illegitimate any reporting that takes seriously the claims of the president’s Republican opponents:
As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on. . . .
For examples of coverage that plainly states what is going on, here is a small sampling: Greg Sargent, Derek Thompson, John Gilmour (on why Ronald Reagan believed in compromise), Jonathan Rauch, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Andrew Sullivan (also here), Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Dan Froomkin. On today’s Diane Rehm show News Roundup, panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party’s internal crisis.
Only those who share the partisan Democrat views of James Fallows, in other words, are avoiding the “failure of journalism.”
Fallows would have us believe that “what is going on” is not a routine exercise in budget brinksmanship — something to which we have become accustomed as a ritual of divided government — but rather an “internal crisis” exclusive to the Republican Party.
In other words, Democrats are not responsible for anything, Democrats have no obligation to consider the views of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the duly elected representatives of taxpaying citizens, because . . . well, why, really?
Perhaps James Fallows considers the illegitimacy of Republican opposition to ObamaCare self-evident or perhaps, more likely, he expects all his readers to share his partisan Democrat views, and thus also expects them to accept without question the intended putdown of his comparing conservative Republicans to John C. Calhoun.
As the cited passage from Calhoun’s Disquisition demonstrates, however, the South Carolinian who served as Secretary of War (1817-1825) Vice President (1825-1832) and Secretary of State (1844-45) was quite a profound political thinker. Lincoln biographer Thomas L. Krannawitter has called Calhoun “a public intellectual of the highest order . . . renowned for his public oratory . . . a remarkable man, and a uniquely gifted American politician.” Calhoun saw in the successive crises of the 19th century evidence of a dangerous tendency toward the centralization of power in Washington, so that control of the national government conveyed to the party in power an authority that was effectively unlimited. Calhoun articulated the doctrine of States’ Rights as a check on this unlimited authority. Calhoun’s doctrine has been disparaged because of its association with slavery and racial segregation, yet we can trace its historical origin to the Founding Fathers themselves, in a context having nothing whatever to do with slavery or race.
It was Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who, in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99, invoked the authority of the states to declared the Alien and Sedition Acts null and void. If we examine that crisis, we see that supporters of the Adams administration’s pro-British policy in foreign affairs had in essence sought to outlaw dissent — an odious restriction on First Amendment freedoms.
The next crisis came during Calhoun’s vice presidency, when the so-called “Tariff of Abominations” was passed. Calhoun authored the “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,” which condemned the tariff act as “ imposing duties on imports — not for revenue, but the protection of one branch of industry at the expense of others,” declaring the measure “unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive, and calculated to corrupt the public virtue and destroy the liberty of the country.” This was a matter not just of policy, but of philosophy, because Calhoun saw that the protectionist measure involved using federal power in ways not contemplated by the Founders, nor consented to by the states in ratifying the Constitution. By gaining a majority in Washington, certain interests sought to enrich themselves through the exercise of federal tax policy, and this abuse was the result of a centralizing tendency that negated the Constitution’s limitations on federal power, converting it “into a great consolidated government, with unlimited powers.”
Well, here we are in 2013, eh?
Nearly $17 trillion in debt – $16,955,657,321,974 as of noon today – we have added nearly a trillion dollars a year (more than $1.8 billion per day) to the national debt every year since 2008, and it is this endlessly escalating debt that keeps bringing us to these budget crises.
There were no such conflicts during the first two years of Obama’s presidency for the simple reason that he took office when Democrats held an irresistible majority in Congress and could enact whatever policies suited them, including not only ObamaCare, but also a wasteful “stimulus” that added roughly a trillion dollars to the national debt in one fell swoop while doing nothing to restore economic prosperity.
America’s problem, as complex as it may sometimes seem, is really quite simple: We have a federal government with too much power, that spends hundreds of billions dollars more per year than it collects in revenue, and which spends that money to support a system of entitlement programs that is bankrupting us, as well as a regulatory bureaucracy that stifles economic growth. An ever-increasing national debt caused by annual federal budget deficits is the result of Democrat policies that favor the endless expansion of entitlements and bureaucracy, even while they refuse (for the sake of political convenience) to enact the taxes that would be necessary to eliminate the deficits at present spending levels.
Democrats know damned well that the kind of tax increases necessary to generate another $1 trillion a year in federal revenue would strangle the U.S. economy and generate a political backlash. Therefore, Democrats like James Fallows deceptively claim that it is opposition to their policies — and not the policies themselves — which are the cause of our nation’s fiscal problem, and to silence all who speak out against Democrat policies by labeling opponents as “radical” and “dangerous” extremists.
James Fallows (Harvard ’70) is a fool whose only purpose in life is to support the endless errors of the Democrat Party, and to whom truth is always subordinate to partisan interest. Fallows has never been anything but a pretentious hack, as his latest enthusiastic eruption of wordy nonsense should make clear to anyone who had not previously recognized Fallows for the eminent fool he truly is.
And, of course, John C. Calhoun was a Democrat.