A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF
We have been involved in numerous wars during our long history. The Civil War literally pitted brother against brother. Later, and with varying degrees of fanfare, Lyndon Johnson declared us to be in a "War on Poverty," a "war" that continues to this day; Richard Nixon declared us to be in a "War on Crime," also an ongoing war that later became known as the "War on Drugs;" George W. Bush declared us to be in a "War on Terror;" Barack Obama recently declared us to be in a "War on Women," even as he bumbles on in a seemingly endless shooting war in Afghanistan.
But the war that will ultimately prove most destructive is the war that gets the least recognition. We have brought this one on ourselves by allowing the burgeoning, metastasizing growth of the administrative, regulatory state. In this way we have turned ourselves into A Nation At War With Itself, a war that, by design, will have no end.
Take the War on Poverty. In some mysterious fashion, despite having poured Trillions of dollars into this War over some forty-eight years, we are told that the number of people now living in poverty is at an all-time record. How can this be? For the government, easy:
At its inception, we took great liberties with the definition of "poverty," declaring it to mean a condition wherein one's "income," not material wealth, is below a certain percentage of everyone else's income. Further, income means a paycheck (if one gets a paycheck). It does not include numerous government assistance checks, allowances, debit cards, etc. So today, when billions of people in Kenya and other "developing" nations live in shacks with dirt floors and burn animal dung for cooking, the third world definition of "poverty" is still much what it was in 1964, while our definition includes people with air conditioned single family homes, flat-panel TV's, cell phones, and one or more cars.
Yet the war on poverty grinds on, with all of the "essential" agencies, bureaus, commissions, and departments, state and federal, and the enormous number of well-salaried and pensioned employee cubicle-fillers, with the furniture, computers, telephones, and more than a few fleets of motor vehicles "required" to process the taxpayers' dollars, filtering them down to a fraction of their initial worth before passing them on to our "poverty" population in their debit cards.
One clue to the intended permanency of these wars is that in 1964 President Johnson requested Congress to make the Food Stamp Program permanent, and an obliging congress did so. The Department of Agriculture, with the typical accuracy of a government agency, "estimated that participation in a national FSP would eventually reach 4 million, at a cost of $360 million annually." Today "participation" has reached 47 million, and now costs us about $82 Billion a year.
Whether or not there was a serious hunger problem in 1964 to necessitate such a program, we are now told that "the nation’s most serious nutritional problem” is obesity, which is "especially rampant in low-income neighborhoods." Could there be a connection here? And now, believe it or not, we the taxpayers are paying for professional advertising to induce more people into the Food Stamp Program.
N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg, as annoying as he normally is, requested permission from U.S.D.A. to bar food stamps for purchase of "soda and other sugary drinks." U.S.D.A. said . . . anyone? No! Not surprising, since they had previously denied Minnesota permission to prevent food stamp recipients from buying junk food. U.S.D.A. is persuaded by the argument that fighting obesity requires us to "increase the purchasing power of low-income residents so that they can buy food that is more nutritious." In other words, they would be able to afford the hugely expensive good things like fruits and vegetables instead of having to subsist on the dirt-cheap potato chips and junk food.
So, instead of agreeing to a few sensible restrictions on the fattening-up program, stay tuned for the official establishment and enormous staffing of a federal anti-obesity bureau.
The same scenario applies with the other "wars" mentioned above, although the wars on drugs and terror have the additional effect of very directly diminishing our liberties. We must now carefully weigh every word we put in our emails, lest the authorities are eavesdropping; and no knock SWAT team raids replace ringing someone's doorbell to inquire about a past-due education loan.
According to a June 6, 2012 FEMA report, "Since 2001, federal, state and local governments have built a network of specialized teams capable of interdicting and disrupting a variety of imminent threats. . ." including, inter alia, 5,400 SWAT teams. Since the war on crime was launched more than 25 years before, with billions of taxpayer dollars pouring from federal to state and local coffers for crime fighting, it is fair to assume that there were already quite a few SWAT teams before the building of the next 5,400 began in 2001.
Obama now says the essential next step for economic recovery is for state and local governments to hire lots more "first responders." And the FAA has approved the plan whereby the defense department will give state and local law enforcement tens of thousands of aerial drones, to silently patrol the skies over all 50 states.
While the wars discussed above were meant to be metaphorical "wars," we seem to be arming our administrative and civilian agencies to the teeth in order to perform their various ministrations. Would it occur to anyone that the Department of Education would need a SWAT Team? Would it make any sensible person feel better to be told that the SWAT Team was officially fielded by the Department of Education's Office of Inspector General?
Our "Justice Department" does not have the resources to find out who has been leaking highly classified security information to the New York Times, putting U.S. defense assets at serious risk, but they have all the resources they need to spend years pursuing Roger Clemens for allegedly obstructing Congress on details of his stellar baseball career. And despite the money and manpower poured into the Clemens case, the elite prosecution team did not get an all-star result: the first time they actually managed to get their case to a jury, ordinary citizens quickly acquitted Clemens on all six counts.
Finally, in another wartime skirmish, the Forest Service battles the Border Patrol: In 2011 in Olympia National Forest, a Forest Service officer came upon a Hispanic couple who appeared to be illegally harvesting plants. He soon discovered that they didn't speak English, and since he didn't speak Spanish, he did a terrible thing: he called the Border Patrol for backup and translating.
Strangely enough, the Department of Agriculture, the parent entity of the Forest Service, went after its own employee. After a protracted "hearing" produced a wide-ranging 40-page "ruling," it was determined that the Forest Service officer had violated the Hispanic couple's civil rights. Despite a formal agreement between Forest Service and Border Patrol to back each other up, and the obvious fact that Spanish language skills are much easier to come by in the Border Patrol, this sort of atrocity will no longer be tolerated.
The Border Patrol has not yet decided what to do about the absurd "ruling." But we would seem to be left with only three choices: 1) Throw up our hands and declare open borders; 2) require every employee of every federal agency to become fluent in Spanish; or 3) stay tuned for the official establishment and enormous staffing of a federal language-translation bureau.
Unfortunately one can only touch the surface of this topic. No wonder our congresspersons do not even pretend to read the multi-thousand page bills they churn out.