The musings of a useful idiot (Thomas Sowell): Is the US Now on the Slippery Slope to Tyranny?

I try to not be overly partisan here in the blogosphere or even in life.  I like to keep my objectivity as when one is engaged in partisan battles it becomes very difficult to do that mainly because you’re constantly on the offensive or defensive.  That tends to create a bunker mentality and you can’t see the entire battlefield to observe what all the players are doing if you’re holed up in the bunker. 

Clearly, everyone doesn’t operate that way.  As a matter of fact, there are some who want to create and draw the partisan battle lines to keep the war up front and center in everyone’s hearts and minds.  This largely is the objective of the republican party and has been over the last 20 years, but acutely so beginning with George W. Bush.  Everything must be reduced down to a culture war in the most base terms possible.  The idea is to create the emotions of panic and anger so the pot is constantly stirred.  I don’t know what sort of concoction they have in the pot, but it’s certain to be a bitter destructive brew.

They all have talking points, but they’re not the sort of points that would foster a reasoned rational discussion.   No, these are the sorts of talking points that poison the entire atmosphere while fostering irrational behaviors. 

A few months ago, Obama went to speak before the congressional republicans at their retreat shortly after Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts.   During the speech, he suggested that their characterization of him as a “socialist” left them very little room to work with him as once their constituents were riled up over him supposedly being a “socialist” , the fear of a backlash from the very same constituents would prevent them from working with him.  It’s apparent to me that this is something that republican party knew and their plan was to never work with Obama but to subvert everything he did.  This even after Obama tried to bend over backwards early on to build a bi-partisan coalition.

Now we have a useful idiot, Thomas Sowell, weighing in on the BP disaster co-signing with republican congressman Joe Barton.  Barton apologized to BP for Obama’s “thuggery” in securing a $ 20 billion reserve for the gulf victims.  Sowell now is accusing Obama of being Nazi-like for the same reason. 

There are statements that people make that one can disagree with, but you might be still willing to listen to other party as their dissent was at least intelligent.  I believe that intelligent dissent presents a learning opportunity. On the other had, there are statements that are so egregiously stupid, that you’re inclined to never listen to what the offending party has to say about anything else.  Sowell’s piece falls into the latter category.

This country has some serious problems, many of which don’t emanate from the left right paradigm per se but from the overall breakdown of government and morals of the people–  the same sort of rot that set in to bring down Rome.  The solution to our problems lies outside of the liberal/conservative/right/left box.  People like Sowell like to keep the level of debate within that box as a distraction. That’s the case generally with the republican party.  Their objective is to have everyone in his bunker and remain distracted from the real issues of the day.     

Previously, I asserted that the BP deal was needed by both Obama and BP as both were being assailed and both needed to rehabilitate their images.  The reserve of $ 20 billion and not capping their financial commitment was wise as this company may seek protection in the bankruptcy courts if this disaster winds up being as widespread as some think.  There’s nothing Nazi-like about that and there’s certainly nothing that violates the constitution in that.  The bottom line is no matter what Obama does on this (or anything else), the republican party is determined to oppose and undermine it.   There a few solutions generated when accusations of Nazism and socialism rend the air, but again that’s not the objective of those who are making those calls.

 

Is the US Now on the Slippery Slope to Tyranny?

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.

Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

“Useful idiots” was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.

In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

The president’s poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP’s oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated.

But our government is supposed to be “a government of laws and not of men.”

If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.”

Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government.

And, without constitutional government, freedom cannot endure. There will always be a “crisis” — which, as the president’s chief of staff has said, cannot be allowed to “go to waste” as an opportunity to expand the government’s power.

That power will of course not be confined to BP or to the particular period of crisis that gave rise to the use of that power, much less to the particular issues.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt arbitrarily took the United States off the gold standard, he cited a law passed during the First World War to prevent trading with the country’s wartime enemies. But there was no war when FDR ended the gold standard’s restrictions on the printing of money.

At about the same time, during the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law “for the relief of the German people.”

That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people — indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others.

If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it.

The man appointed by President Obama to dispense BP’s money as the administration sees fit, to whomever it sees fit, is only the latest in a long line of presidentially appointed “czars” controlling different parts of the economy, without even having to be confirmed by the Senate, as Cabinet members are.

Those who cannot see beyond the immediate events to the issues of arbitrary power — vs. the rule of law and the preservation of freedom — are the “useful idiots” of our time. But useful to whom?

http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=537967&p=2

  • http://withintheblackcommunity.blogspot.com Constructive Feedback

    Brother Greg L:

    Again your analysis proves rather disappointing.

    Dr Thomas Sowell DID NOT use the references to Nazi Germany or Hitler in a gratuitous manner. It appears that any sort of such a reference, even for dispassionate comparative purposes is off limits in your world.

    You call Dr Sowell, a distinguished author a “useful idiot” because he dared to make note of what President Obama and his Progressive compatriots in the US Congress, activist communities and unions are doing? Please.

    In my analysis of Obama’s tactics I believe him to be an “ideological bigot”. He makes attacks on corporations for the same gratuitous reasons that Ronald Reagan made attacks upon “Welfare Queens”. Their respective bases of power LOVED IT and wanted them both to “put the boots on the necks of them bastards” and “kick their asses”.

    I would love for you to demonstrate to me the point in time in which President Obama attempted to have a bipartisan agreement. More to the point I would love even better if you showed when he told his ATTACK DOGS to back off? This is the bigger indictment. Often times while Obama is above the fray he has his Congressional or Chicago based henchmen attacking at the knee caps and groin area respectively.

    I take it that you didn’t hear the cries to have BP’s assets confiscated?
    These same people did not see that the Mexican government’s state owned oil company claimed sovereign immunity and capped their payments at $100M when they had their spill 30 years ago? So much for the government being benevolent in its concern while the greedy corporateers seek to pollute and run.

    I beg you or anyone else to show that Joe Barton was saying that “BP had no liability and should not pay”? Instead he was saying that the $20B abstraction from them was a further attempt to “keep a boot on their necks.”. Think about the amount of complaints against the promptness of allocating funds from FEMA, Greg L. WHO should we turn to to strip money away from them and have an escrow fund so that the public’ s interests are met?

    Just imagine the next time that a trucking company’s load of chlorine or a train derailment by CSX takes place. Will you support this standard that a pot of money must be put into escrow by the “offending company” Greg L?

    Better still – not one dime of this money that is paid out will prevent a soul (and their trial attorney) from filing massive lawsuits against BP for their damages.

    I have respect for the integrity and intellect of Dr Sowell who has a large library of books, many of which serve as important references in university economics courses. Is the best that you can do is to call him an “idiot”?

    I could expect as much from Black Diaspora, but you?

    • Greg L

      “Again your analysis proves rather disappointing. Dr Thomas Sowell DID NOT use the references to Nazi Germany or Hitler in a gratuitous manner. It appears that any sort of such a reference, even for dispassionate comparative purposes is off limits in your world. You call Dr Sowell, a distinguished author a “useful idiot” because he dared to make note of what President Obama and his Progressive compatriots in the US Congress, activist communities and unions are doing? Please”.

      Dr. Sowell has continued a long line of “talking points” that commenced with the McCain campaign. Those talking points coming from the republican party have largely been along the lines of using the terms “Nazi”, “socialist”, “communist” and similar terms when expressing opposition to the administration. I don’t consider that reasoned debate or dissension and I’d expect better from someone who is supposed to be a scholar. Are we really to believe that Obama (or anyone for that matter) would be so effective and so powerful to bring a democracy that’s existed for nearly 300 years to the door of jack booted Nazism in a mere 18 months with the congress holding up appointments and resisting him at every turn? Either Obama deserves praise for being an efficiency expert or the opposition are a bunch of slackers.

      These sorts of statements are beyond the pale CF and really don’t advance any sort of reasonable political discourse about the very serious problems we face. If Sowell has a problem with the BP deal, I disagree, but I can accept a reasoned dissent. For him to dismiss it as Nazism is idiotic and out of character for someone who is supposed to be an eminent scholar. I’ll have to stand by my characterization of his article.

      In my analysis of Obama’s tactics I believe him to be an “ideological bigot”. He makes attacks on corporations for the same gratuitous reasons that Ronald Reagan made attacks upon “Welfare Queens”. Their respective bases of power LOVED IT and wanted them both to “put the boots on the necks of them bastards” and “kick their asses”.

      Come on now CF. This is the same Obama who pushed through a treasury secretary who managed the bank bailouts started by the previous administration. This is the same Obama who couldn’t stand up to the banks and the whole moral hazard notion of “too big to fail”. This is the same guy who oversaw along with the fed all the purchasing of toxic assets that the taxpayer ultimately on the hook for. This guy isn’t “attacking” any corporations. He isn’t taking anyone to the “mat”. He’s largely holding his finger in the air and moving in the direction the political winds are blowing and that’s precisely what he did with BP. Until a groundswell of anger came up, he really wasn’t planning on doing much of anything.

      I take it that you didn’t hear the cries to have BP’s assets confiscated?
      These same people did not see that the Mexican government’s state owned oil company claimed sovereign immunity and capped their payments at $100M when they had their spill 30 years ago? So much for the government being benevolent in its concern while the greedy corporateers seek to pollute and run.

      CF, this is not apples and apples. BP has spilled 10 times the amount of oil and still has bankruptcy as an available option which they very well may take. Given the Mexican experience, it makes even more sense to get a commitment out of them, although it’s uncertain whether they could abrogate this agreement if they filed bankruptcy. Moreover, it’s not like they’re laying out $ 20 billion in one fell swoop. They’re only paying in $ 5 billion this year and will pay in $ 4 billion each year for next four years until the money is fully paid. The question here is what would BP have paid in the absence of this agreement. This deal probably lines up with what they projected that they would have had to pay out annually anyway to remediate the gulf. So what’s the difference? A written commitment to pay out what they were likely going to pay out anyway. This is hardly thuggery or Nazism. You can’t place a boot on someone’s neck to force them to pay what they were going to pay anyway.

      What the real problem? BP’s problem and what Sowell, Barton and their other paid talking heads are likely yelping about is the open ended nature of the commitment. In other words, they can’t cap their obligation at $ 20 billion. Again, BP has legal remedies available to it if it chooses to pursue them. Moreover, they didn’t have to sign the Obama deal, they could have fought and resisted. I’m not so sure how that would have worked out for them from a PR standpoint, but saying no was available to them. They said yes, so all this whimpering through paid surrogates needs to stop and they need to get on with taking care of business.

      • http://withintheblackcommunity.blogspot.com Constructive Feedback

        Greg L:

        I am starting a new tact in my expose’ against Street Pirates.
        Underlying much of this debate is the notion that “corporations are not humans” AND “an authority who makes threats against an individual is an oppressor”.

        To give you a preview of my juxtaposition I plan to commandeer all “Street Pirates” into a corporation named “Street Pirate Oil Company Bank, Inc”. Thus those individuals who are rather accepting of threats used against corporations, banks and oil companies should have their apprehensions about threats made to individuals put to rest.

        Thus as Obama and others voice the words that when used by the oppressors were called “unjust” – he and other liberals should be heartened that words used against corporate street pirates are above the belt.

        !) Keep our boots on their necks.
        2) I can figure out who’s ass to kick
        3) We are going to get every single penny that we had to spend upon your reckless behavior back from you

        Brother Greg L – while ANY of these statements, if used, by an authority figure against an INDIVIDUAL would bring attack among the progressive circles to that authority – REGARDLESS of what the individual has done……………………………..these same thought leaders take in this anti-corporate speech and accept it as a statement of government strength in support of our societal position.

        Now we can have the ‘Street Pirate Oil Company Bank Inc” treated as the corporate Welfare Queen and subject to verbal slight without having to worry about going awry of anyone’s notions of what an authority figure should say.

        Stay tuned.

      • http://twitter.com/HollyPearl Holly Pearl

        To answer your rhetorical question: YES! Many DO believe that Obama’s repertoire of propaganda has been “so effective and so powerful to bring a democracy that’s existed for
        nearly 300 years to the door of jack booted Nazism in a mere 18 months
        with the congress holding up appointments and resisting him at every
        turn” and YES AGAIN, most believe “the opposition are a bunch of slackers.”

        I think this capitulates the point precisely. Well done.

        • http://theafricanamericanclarioncall.com Greg L

          Holly, my apologies for the late reply here.  Generally, what Obama needs to be criticized for is totally missed by the right.  In the meantime, the things they do criticize him on are untrue and a total distraction from the real issues with Obama.  The main casualty in that is our democracy.  

  • http://ishtarmuz.wordpress.com ishtarmuz

    I agreed with you save your last last two points about the use the word Nazi not being useful and your use of the term useful idiots. I think the reverse comparison is quite apropos in regard to Sowell’s comments: http://ishtarmuz.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/are-glenn-beck-sarah-palin-and-thomas-sowell-taking-the-u-s-down-a-slippery-slope-to-tyranny/

    That being said, how can Sowell’s faulty Nazi comparison be any worse than his ignorance on the true origin of useful idiots?

  • Greg L

    That being said, how can Sowell’s faulty Nazi comparison be any worse than his ignorance on the true origin of useful idiots?

    The real casualty here is reasonable political discourse as that robs us of a mechanism to influence policy such that it aligns with reality. Sowell and folks like him seek to preempt that and in doing so will rob us of the very liberty they claim to protect. Given our current economic crisis, being able to have a discourse outside of the “talking points” is critical.

  • Correction

    Sowell simply compared the political tactics of Obama to the political tactics of Hitler. That comparison says NOTHING about Obama’s character or the merits of the actual policy he is pursuing, it only speaks of the strategy he is undertaking to accomplish what he wants. If someone calls Obama a socialist or a communist, you don’t seem very interested in hearing what evidence they have to present to back their claim. You simply dismiss it as an impossibility, a trait that marks the cl0se-minded. 

    A classic fallacy which you also argued here is that: “On the other had, there are statements that are so egregiously stupid, that you’re inclined to never listen to what the offending party has to say about anything else.”This is likewise a way to dismiss a host of arguments from someone without one trace of logic or evidence. For an extreme example, let’s go back to Hitler. He may have been an evil man bent on murdering millions of people, but that doesn’t mean that when what he had to say about public speaking is any less valuable or reliable, as he was one of the most gifted public speakers of his time. This rhetorical tactic has also been pointed out by Sowell repeatedly in his books, you should read some of them before you dismiss every single argument from a person because of once stance you find displeasing. 
    You’re misrepresentation of Sowell’s argument with the use of verbal virtuosity such as “Nazi-like” – implying that Sowell has compared Obama as a person, his moral values, or specific political objectives, to Hitler is such a skewed argument that you’re the one that can’t be taken seriously. Sowell compared how Obama and Hitler build/built political support, and  THAT’S IT. If you want to dismiss everything else that a respected and distinguished scholar has to say off of an absurd comparison you’ve conjured up in your head, go ahead. You’ll continue to wall in the close-mindedness of those pursuing some vision that doesn’t align with any factual reality that the rest of us factor into our daily lives.

    • http://theafricanamericanclarioncall.com Greg L

       Perhaps a review of the fact situation is in order as it seems in your headlong rush to defend Sowell, that those somehow escaped your attention.  The specific comparisons Sowell makes  in described Obama’s policies as Nazi like are related to BP’s cost of remediating the gulf after a spill that created legal liability anyway.  At the outset, Obama did nothing and only moved to get an agreement with BP after he held his finger to the air to see which way the political winds were blowing.  Those winds gathered steam primarily because of increased clamor from the public to do something about the livelihoods that were lost due to BP negligence not to mention the environment damage.  The main issue that Sowell and others on the right have an issue with is the fact that the $ 20 million commitment wasn’t capped and for that, Obama is a Nazi.   That deal BP cut with Obama is likely far less than that which would have been awarded in a jury trial had that occurred and had there been a jury award,  I suppose that Sowell would have compared the jury to Nazis.   I stand by my original characterization of Sowell’s comments as egregious stupid.

      Having said that however, there are some things that Obama and his administration have done that could be characterized as Nazi-like–such as the recent National Defense Authorization Act or the proposed interventions in Syria and Iran, but  Sowell and his army of sycophants fall strangely silent here.  I suspect that they’re okay with this as it fuels the favorite industry that pays their salaries; that industry being the military industrial complex. 

      The problem with people like Sowell and you is that your ire is very selective as is your supposed concern over the erosion of constitutional rights.

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