What the Heck Is Going On?

April 23rd, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist, military historian, and expert on ancient warfare.  He also writes on contemporary politics.  He’s a registered Democrat and a political conservative (yes, that’s possible, but it requires actual thinking).

Hanson wrote a column today that perfectly expresses the confusion and frustration I’ve felt over the past few months as I’ve watched events unfold.  It’s like George Orwell has risen from the grave and is writing the script for current events. 

Some conservatives won’t like this column because it criticizes Republicans.  Liberals probably won’t even read it because they refuse to expose themselves to ideas that differ from Democratic Party orthodoxy.  However, I would encourage everyone to read this column no matter what ideological straitjacket they’ve laced themselves into.

A few examples of the contradictions and blatant “newspeak” and “doublethink” reflected in American politics today, as reflected in Hanson’s column:

…almost all the old familiar benchmarks of modern American life seem to be going by the wayside….

Bill Clinton balanced his last budgets but raised taxes. George Bush increased deficits but cut taxes. But now taxes, spending and deficits soar all at once. We are lectured that prior reckless federal spending and borrowing got us into this mess—but now are told that even more federal spending and borrowing will get us out of it. …

Nonsense is passed off as wisdom. Those who caused the financial meltdown walked away with millions in bonuses while taxpayers covered the debts they ran up. The big-spending government claims it may cut our annual $1.7 trillion deficit in half by 2012—but only after piling up trillions more in national debt.

In our Orwellian world, borrowing to spend what we don’t have has been renamed “stimulus.” Those who pay no federal income taxes—almost half of Americans—can somehow be promised an income tax “cut.” In the new borrowing of trillions of dollars here and trillions there, billions of dollars now sounds like pocket change.

When Americans turn to their political parties for answers, they are even more confused. Populist Democrats such as Sen. Chris Dodd and President Barack Obama took more AIG campaign cash than did pro-business Republicans. …

Yet conservative Republicans during the Bush administration ran up the debt and increased federal spending far more than did liberals under Bill Clinton. A Republican president has not balanced a budget since Dwight Eisenhower did it over a half-century ago.

When our president references the 19th and 20th centuries, he apologizes for American sins but stays silent about the United States defeating Nazis, fascists, Japanese militarists and Soviet communists. The world hears contrition about Americans dropping the bomb to end World War II but never remorse from those responsible for Darfur, Grozny or Tibet.

I mean, really—what the heck is going on?


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13 Responses to “What the Heck Is Going On?”



  1. What the Heck Is Going On? |

    […] Original post by Opinion Forum […]


  2. WAT |

    The corruption/greed of our country is what has happened. It’s just horrid. And most of us are pretty powerless to do anything about it.


  3. Brian |

    Greed has always existed. It is greed, the desire to fulfill our wants, that motivates us all to get up and go to work every day. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing when one is willing to engage in unethical activities in order to obtain those things.

    If by “corrupt” you mean “tainted” or “spoiled”, I would have to disagree with you. There are certainly some people in this republic that are uncivilized, but the overwhelming majority of us are civilized. Otherwise, we’d already have anarchy.

    On the other hand, if by “corrupt” you mean there are legislators, judges, and bureaucrats that can easily be bought and sold, I would largely agree with you.

    Corruption in business can only really exist with the approval and collusion of the government. This sort of corruption has become so common that few even notice it any more. For example, in NYC, you are free to start a new taxi cab company with the proper permit obtained from the city. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the number of these permits (called medallions) that NYC will issue. And as a matter of fact, they are all issued. So if you really want one, you will have to buy an existing cab company that already has one.

    I wonder why no US Attorney has ever tried to prosecute the NYC officials and the cab company owners there under RICO or some other set of federal statutes, because there is certainly no new competition allowed in the game, and there is certainly no competition allowed within the game – cab fares are set by the city government.

    I’m only picking on the NYC cabs because it was the first that came to mind. There are any number of cherry set-ups like this, and none of them exist without the approval of government, the force of law to make it so.


  4. Kevin |

    Bill Clinton balanced his last budgets but raised taxes. George Bush increased deficits but cut taxes.

    If only reality were that simplistically stripped of context.

    What resulted in each case? The American economy boomed following Clinton and went into a tail-spin following Bush.

    But now taxes, spending and deficits soar all at once.

    But why? Where’s the context? Unlike both Clinton and Bush, Obama has inherited an economic crisis of epic proportions. That’s not to say that his solution is perfect or even correct – history will judge him as remorselessly as it judges every President.

    We are lectured that prior reckless federal spending and borrowing got us into this mess—but now are told that even more federal spending and borrowing will get us out of it. …

    Again, where’s the context? Hundreds of Billions of taxpayer dollars were poured into Bush’s Folly (aka Operation Iraqi Freedom) by Bush and his NeoCon sycophants. Such that one small sliver of the impact has been a Kuwaiti economy that has benefited substantially because of it. Is Mr. Hanson unable to grasp the profoundly different economic implications of pouring such massive amounts of taxpayer dollars into FOREIGN economies versus pouring massive amounts of taxpayer dollars into our DOMESTIC economy? Or did he deliberately omit context because it would undermine his own frame?


  5. Brian |

    Tom, spot on. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the Japanese apologize for Pearl, Bataan, Malaysia-Burma Railroad, Nanking. Never heard any Russian contrition for Budapest or Prague (or anything else, for that matter). No mea culpas from Mexico on how they treat refugees from Guatemala.

    Click to hear Gordon Sinclair give his now famous radio address from 1973. It seems to me that our current CIC is one of the people that Sinclair was ranting about.


  6. Brian |

    Kevin, no nation can tax its way to prosperity. If it were possible, then this republic should be the most impoverished nation on earth, and Cuba one of the wealthiest.

    But, that still ignores the fact that if we had lawful money rather than legal tender, we’d probably not be having this discussion to begin with.


  7. Kevin |

    Seriously, Brian? This republic should be the most impoverished nation on earth? Really?

    Riddle me this.

    And while you’re at it, riddle me why our personal income tax rates were s-i-g-n-i-f-i-c-a-n-t-l-y higher between the late 40s and late 60s when this nation sky-rocketed to the top of the world economic heap. By your dogmatic rationale our economy should have shriveled. Ideological straitjacket indeed.


  8. Brian |

    There are a variety of reasons why we had such economic growth back then, and taxation hindered the phenomenal growth that we did have. We also had ridiculous taxation during the Great Depression, taxation and government spending which deepened the recession. If not for WWII, FDR and Keynes might well have destroyed this republic as we know it.

    The Baby Boom, advances in engineering and technology, and more widespread and better education contributed to the economic growth in that era, not taxation and/or government spending.

    Yes, indeed. An ideological straight jacket. If taxing and spending were the key, then why hasn’t Europe led the world for the last 80 years? Why aren’t we being crushed by the likes of France, Canada, and Australia? Call it socialism, egalitarianism, or anything else, it simply does not do what it is purported to do.

    But, even if it did, I would rather be poor and free than wealthy and bound.


  9. Kevin |

    It’s only you anti-taxers who ever talk about taxing and spending as “the key” as if nothing else matters. Oddly enough, you do it two paragraphs after wanting to appeal to things OTHER THAN taxing and spending when your dogma appears on the verge of imploding.

    Why cite France, Canada (on the top 10 list of most competitive global economies this year @ #10) and Australia? Why not cite oh… I dunno… Denmark (#2 on the most competitive global economies), Sweden (#4 on the list) or Finland (#6), all of whom have far higher tax rates (as % of GDP) than we do? Aren’t any of them “socialist” enough for you to mindlessly demonize?

    For that matter, why don’t you cite Mexico which has a MUCH lower taxation rate (as % of GDP)? Surely Mexico is closer to your anti-tax nirvana than any other remotely industrialized nation… if indeed reduced tax rates is the panacea you and your deceitful conservative bretheren portray it as.


  10. Tom |

    Well, I’m going to sit this one out. I agree with some of what each of you are saying.

    Hanson’s point, I think, was that things have seemed unstuck for a long time, and it’s getting worse. Words don’t mean what we thought they used to mean, even political parties often aren’t what we thought they were or believed they should be. Too often, what was good is bad, and what was bad is good.


  11. doris |

    I would rather be rich and pay huge taxes and still have lots left over, than penniless and pay no taxes. If that were true Brian, then you wouldn’t work and would not pay any taxes????? We have to pay taxes to have roads, bridges, oh, such things, like unimportant schools, for example, for which I gladly pay.

    The thing is, to pay as little as you can legally do, and give charity to ones you deem fit to help, n’est pas????? No one would gladly pay for all the things taxes pay for and we would all be swimming creeks and driving on dirt paths, plus, yeah, it blows to pay a lot of taxes, but just remember, you make more money to spend on goats, pigs, rabbits and such, and you pay higher taxes the more you make. Sometimes you have to pay to play. 13, huh? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. lol


  12. Brian |

    I am not opposed to use/sales taxes, excises, duties, and the like. What I am vehemently opposed to is taxation on income and property taxes.

    In both of the taxes to which I am opposed, we are asked to believe that contradictory ideas must simultaneously be true. It would be immoral and unethical of me to show up on your front step, screw a pistol in your ear and demand money of you. It would be equally immoral if I showed up with several friends to do the same thing. It would still be immoral if my friends and I took a vote to hire someone do the same thing. And it would be immoral still if a great group of us voted to give such power to any level of government.

    As far as property goes, I either own it or I do not (mortgages/liens notwithstanding). If I own it, then no one else may morally lay claim to it.

    So we are left with the insane, contradictory position of declaring theft immoral/unethical, yet sanctioning it as just at the level of government.

    Kevin, if you are so convinced that Denmark and the rest are such wonderful places, perhaps you should consider a move rather than imposing your contradictory morals on me.


  13. doris |

    So, then, Brian, you are in favor of the fair tax law? I am, I think this would be right, you purchase, you pay taxes, I like that idea. We wouldn’t have income taxes, or property taxes, as I understand it, I would vote for that. In Denmark, I thought they had really high taxes, but still all of them are happy?I don’t get it. Some reasons for tax are good, some downright stupid.


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