Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration as 40th president of the United States occurred 25 years ago, on January 20th, 1981. At the time, I was in the audience with my mother, listening intently to the loud speakers some distance away from the West End of the White House. On special leave from West Point, having been a part of Reagan’s youth—and no one had excited young people to politics like he had, at least not since Kennedy—I had worked in a volunteer capacity for this day since 1976. Indeed, I had been in the audience too at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City in ’76, the youngest one there, my trip having been sponsored by the youth organization for Ford—when Ford won the nomination, and Ronald Reagan stole my heart. I share this with you, in order to convey a sense of the historical, as well as an individual connection to it. Your connection may or may not be as personal, as regards Reagan and his Inauguration, but we all do live in time and are shaped and influenced by the currents of history. At times, we are even privileged to swim against the tide, and maybe to feel the tide as it changes. The Reagan Revolution was a great moment in history, and I am prideful merely to have been alive at the time.
I am mindful, however, that the Reagan Revolution has not been completed, at least not to the full extent, as I understood it then. Now let me state, that there are disagreements within the conservative movement, in terms of just what this Revolution entailed. But I was a student of politics at the time and listened to what Reagan said. I cannot agree that Reagan would have supported the runaway spending in Washington, and the concentration of power in the federal government. He would no doubt have supported the War on Terrorism, possibly even before 9/11. He probably would have supported the invasion of Iraq, although we cannot know how his execution of that war would have differed. In no wise, however, would he have refrained from using his veto to cut out Republican or Democratic pork. It is hard to imagine we could have doubted his intent to nominate conservative judges, especially after an election mandate to do so. He would not have sanctioned the trade of sacred American rights, in a cynically named "Patriot Act"—without sunset provision or oversight—for a parcel of Executive perk and privilege, and the shirk of responsibility to live according to the rule of law, including the organic law of the Constitution. The Reagan Revolution also has not succeeded to the extent of redressing the imbalance of power between the States and federal government, effectively restoring federalism. "New Federalism" was something the modern conservative movement talked about and promised to do, from Goldwater to Nixon to Reagan. Somehow that notion was high-jacked in the ’90s by a conservative nationalist and crusading zealotry to keep and hold power, instead of returning it to the people, in order to administer the Welfare State simply "better" than liberals. Conservatives would spend money on better things, in other words, but with the same level and national prerogative of control. Fascism is perhaps better than communism, but if neoconservatives have more or less implemented Reagan’s vision abroad (which I’m not prepared without serious caveat to say they have), they have failed in the most miserable fashion to restore self-determination and meaningful freedom to the people at the State and local level.
Self-determination and meaningful freedom at the State and local level does not include Republican sponsorship of a mega-state that subsumes everything to it. It does not sanction the transmogrification of avowedly conservative political platforms to the embrace of extra-constitutional powers, because ends do not justify the means—at least not to free peoples. The "conservative" Congress and President have essentially adapted Franklin Roosevelt’s own sleight of hand: speaking in tongues, to convince the American people they need rights not found in the Constitution—the right to a job, to food and to clothing, to medical care and to an education—all guaranteed by the federal government. These things are of course vitally important, necessary for life or the quality of life in fact, but they are the province of free minds, free markets and free men. They are not to be had or sustained from a guaranteed dole out, levied and redistributed as all things are by the federal government, breaking the backs of productive and working citizens. If you want to subsidize education or healthcare, find a constitutional way (through tax deduction, tax credit, or facilitation of choice) to do it. Top-down bureaucratic control of matters that are essentially local or private or both, is not what the Founders had in mind. It isn’t what the Reagan Revolution was about either. To paraphrase Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, Michigan, the importance of things like education, food and medicine have been known to practically any fool since the start of civil society. The question is how these things should be provided! The Founders practiced the art of constitutional government, under which government is limited and people have the right to provide for themselves. Under this system one gets more food, more medicine and more education than under bureaucratic rule. One also gets his liberty under the law—which is, as yet, an unfulfilled promise of the Reagan Revolution 25 years later.
Wes Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary.
Samuel AlitoWith the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings concluded, Judge Samuel Alito appears headed for confirmation as the replacement for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Efforts by Senators Kennedy, Schumer and Biden to derail the Alito nomination at the Senate hearings turned out to be counterproductive, and the full Senate is expected to vote on the Alito nomination before the end of the month. A Senate filibuster by Senate Democrats appears highly unlikely at this point. Even Time magazine is acknowledging that Judge Alito is likely to be confirmed and that the hearings were not helpful to the Democrats: "The best the Democrats can say about the hearings now is that they’re glad so few American were paying attention."
Chris BellLeading abortion-rights supporters in Texas announced their support yesterday for Chris Bell in the Democratic primary race for Governor. The signers of the endorsement letter included: Liz Carpenter, former LBJ aide; Sarah Weddington, attorney in the Roe v. Wade case; Molly Beth Malcolm, former Texas Democratic Chairman; "Sissy" Farenthold; and Peggy Romberg, former lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. (To read the full letter of endorsement from the 12 women advocates for abortion rights, click here. )
The letter attacked Bob Gammage, Bell’s major opponent, for voting on the pro-life side when he was a member of Congress. On his web site, Chris Bell compares Gammage’s votes on the abortion issue with the positions of Congressman Henry Hyde, the longtime leader of the pro-life forces in the U.S. House of Representatives (link here).
Gammage’s campaign was quick to respond by claiming that Bob Gammage was just as supportive of abortion rights as Chris Bell.
The dispute highlights one reason why the Democratic party has become a minority party in America. Being strongly in favor of abortion rights has become a litmus test for any Democrat aspiring to run for President or almost any Democrat who runs for statewide office. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt and Jesse Jackson originally were opposed to taxpayer funding of abortions. But, they all reversed their position on the abortion issue as they reached for higher office and as the Democratic position hardened on the abortion issue. Isn’t that the reason why Senate Democrats are giving Samuel Alito such a hard time – because they believe he is opposed to abortion?
Obviously, Chris Bell thinks this is an issue that works for him in his primary race against Gammage. And, Bob Gammage must think so too. Otherwise, his campaign would not have been so quick to say what a strong supporter of abortion rights Bob Gammage is these days.
The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.
~ James Madison
The Washington political scandals dominating the news in recent weeks may be disheartening, but they cannot be considered surprising. We live in a time when the U.S. government is the largest and most powerful state in the history of the world. Today's federal government consists of fifteen huge departments, hundreds of agencies, thousands of programs, and millions of employees. It spends 2.4 trillion dollars in a single year. The possibilities for corruption in such an immense and unaccountable institution are endless.
Americans understandably expect ethical conduct from their elected officials in Washington. But the whole system is so out of control that it's simply unrealistic to place faith in each and every government official in a position to sell influence. The larger the federal government becomes, the more it controls who wins and who loses in our society. The temptation for lobbyists to buy votes – and the temptation for politicians to sell them – is enormous. Indicting one crop of politicians and bringing in another is only a temporary solution. The only effective way to address corruption is to change the system itself, by radically downsizing the power of the federal government in the first place. Take away the politicians' power and you take away the very currency of corruption.
Undoubtedly the recent revelations will ignite new calls for campaign finance reform. However, we must recognize that campaign finance laws place restrictions only on individuals, not politicians. Politicians will continue to tax and spend, meaning they will continue to punish some productive Americans while rewarding others with federal largesse. The same vested special interests will not go away, and the same influence peddling will happen every day on Capitol Hill.
The reason is very simple: when the federal government redistributes trillions of dollars from some Americans to others, countless special interests inevitably will fight for the money. The rise in corruption in Washington simply mirrors the rise in federal spending. The fundamental problem is not with campaigns or politicians primarily, but rather with popular support for the steady shift from a relatively limited, constitutional federal government to the huge leviathan of today.
We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. It's time to reconsider exactly what we want the federal government to be in our society. So long as it remains the largest and most powerful institution in the nation, it will remain endlessly susceptible to corruption.
BOCA RATON, Fla., Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- According to data released today by Foreclosure.com, 91,905 foreclosed residential properties were available for sale in the United States during December -- an increase of 12.7 percent from November. The total number of new foreclosures listed for sale in December -- 24,124 -- increased 7.7 percent from the prior month. These increases mark the highest month-to-month increase of both new and total foreclosures since March 2005.
The South region of the U.S. -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- led the country with a 17.4 increase in new foreclosures from November to December and a nine percent increase in new foreclosures. The Midwest region showed the second highest percentage increases, followed by the Northeast and West regions.
"The relative stability of U.S. foreclosure inventory ended in December," said Brad Geisen, president and CEO, Foreclosure.com. "With lending institutions closing their books at the end of the year, it is somewhat common for the foreclosure inventory to rise. It is premature to predict that December's inventory indicates a foreclosure crisis in the U.S.; however, this rise in inventory, which is higher than in recent years, should be closely monitored as 2006 begins."
Geisen continued, "If factors such as waning investor confidence in the housing market, high interest rates and a weakening sellers market continue, it is very likely that foreclosure inventory will remain high in the early months of 2006. Regardless of what happens in the first quarter, the current foreclosure inventory represents a very strong buyers market for investors and individuals."