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An April 14 op-ed by Norman J. Ornstein, “The great ‘socialist’ smear,” argued that to those “outside the partisan and ideological wars,” it is “bizarre” to accuse the Obama administration of “radicalism, socialism, retreat and surrender.” I was among those he cited, for having called Barack Obama “the most radical president in American history” and describing the goals of the left and its methods of operation as a “secular-socialist machine.”
In fact, Ornstein has it exactly backward. It is only from the perspective of the cultural elite that the left-wing governing of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team could be seen as moderate.
Arthur Brooks, who is the president of the American Enterprise Institute (where Ornstein and I both serve), has analyzed years of Gallup data to show that America is largely (70-30) a center-right country. Polling by American Solutions, a citizen action network I founded in 2007, shows that on issues such as producing more American energy, cutting taxes to create jobs, balancing the budget by cutting spending, English as the language of government, and more, Americans oppose the views of academic elites by 75 to 85 percent. And a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 52 percent of Americans think the Obama administration’s actions are leading America more toward socialism (38 percent disagree).
It was precisely my effort to place the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team in some historic context that led me to conclude that this is, indeed, a secular-socialist machine. While clarity may make some uncomfortable, such language is appropriate in explaining a movement of big government, high taxes, big bureaucracy, massive deficits and huge debt run from a politician-centric system of power.
Consider these examples of each key word:
“Machine”: Getting $787 billion from Congress in February when no elected member had fully read and understood the economic stimulus package. This is behavior worthy of the Chicago political machine. If no elected officials know what is in the bill, how can someone assert that this was an act of self-government?
“Machine”: Rejecting the will of the American people expressed through town hall meetings, tea parties, polls and elections by ramming through an unpopular 2,600-page health-care bill. The moment of real clarity came after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special Senate election, when by every traditional American measure the Democrats should have stepped back and said to voters, “I hear you.” Instead, their actions said: “Your voice and vote do not matter.”
“Socialist”: Creating czar positions to micromanage industry reflects the type of hubris of centralized government that Friedrich von Hayek and George Orwell warned against. How can a White House “executive compensation czar” know enough to set salaries in multiple companies for many different people? Having a pay dictatorship for one part of the country sets the pattern for government to claim the right to set pay for everyone. If that isn’t socialism, what word would describe it?
“Socialist”: Violating 200 years of bankruptcy precedent to take money from bondholders and investors in the auto industry to pay off union allies is rather an anti-market intervention.
“Socialist”: Proposing that the government (through the Environmental Protection Agency or some sort of carbon-trading scheme) micromanage carbon output is proposing that the government be able to control the entire U.S. economy. Look at the proposals for government micromanagement in the 1,428-page Waxman-Markey energy tax bill. (I stopped reading when I got to the section regulating Jacuzzis on Page 442.) If government regulates every aspect of our use of power, it has regulated every aspect of our lives. What is that if not socialism?
“Socialist”: Nationalizing student loans so that they are a bureaucratic monopoly. This will surely lead to fraud on the scale we see in Medicare and Medicaid, from which more than $70 billion per year is stolen.
“Socialist”: Expanding government mortgage intervention to 90 percent of the housing market.
“Secular”: Describing America’s promise as a “secular country that is respectful of religious freedom,” as Obama did last April, is an act of willful historical revisionism. The United States was founded as an intensely religious country that believes our rights come from God, including the right to worship as our conscience dictates. The Founding Fathers forbade the establishment of a national religion to protect individual rights of conscience but understood that public life would reflect the religious nature of the American people. This understanding of America’s promise is far more tolerant of religion in the public square than the secular purge that we have seen since the Supreme Court outlawed school prayer in 1963.
“Secular”: Appointing David Hamilton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. That Hamilton had previously ruled that opening legislature sessions with sectarian prayers is unconstitutional is further evidence of this anti-historical secular outlook.
Although its actions may seem like “centrism” to some, the Obama-Pelosi-Reid system is clearly a secular-socialist machine. And Obama is the most radical president in American history.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.
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