The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call “Progressivism.” Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck. The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette.Aside: Elsewhere in the speech he makes a few minor errors.
Progressivists say there are no enduring ideas of right or wrong. Everything is “relative” to history, so our ideas need to change. Progressivists say the Founders’ Constitution including its amendments, with its principles of equal natural rights, limited government, and popular consent is outdated. We should have a “living constitution” that keeps up with the times.
Progressivists invent new rights and enforce them with a more powerful central government and more federal agencies to direct society through the changes of history. And don’t worry, they say. Bureaucrats can be controlled by Congressional oversight.
Would you like an example of how successful Congressional oversight is? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (or GSEs), underwrote trillions of dollars in junk mortgages. Year after year their officials and others from HUD, Treasury, and other agencies who supervise them marched up to Congress for hearings.
Red flags were raised. The oversight committees had other priorities and dismissed them out of hand. With the housing market already tanking, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said: “This ability to provide stability to the market is what, in my mind, makes the GSEs a congressional success story.”
Less than 18 months later, the ‘market-stabilizing’ GSEs went belly-up due to their shoddy business practices, collapsing the mortgage credit industry and sparking the worldwide financial meltdown. No one knows the ultimate cost to the taxpayers but it will be gigantic.
If Congress can’t control what a few mortgage finance bureaucrats do with your dollars, why would anyone trust Congress to control what tens of thousands of bureaucrats will do with your health?
They began by passing the first Stimulus, a taxpayer giveaway to their favorite special interests. The price tag was $862 billion. They pushed through a second stimulus bill that cost you another $18 billion.
Let’s see: since 4 million Americans have been unemployed since they passed these “stimuli,” that averages $220,000 per job lost. Think about that. Democrats can’t even put people out of work without spending near a trillion dollars!
Just to return to where we were at the end of 2007, 8.4 million jobs have to be created. To reduce unemployment to its pre-crisis level of 5 per cent by the end of President Obama's term, our economy needs to create 247,000 new jobs per month. But we are headed in the wrong direction … except in one field: the government is growing at breakneck pace in expanding federal payrolls.
Although millions of private sector jobs have been lost since the recession began, Washington is on track to add about 275,000 more people to the public payrolls – a whopping 15 percent increase. And we aren’t talking minimum wages here. More federal workers make over $100,000 than those earning $40,000 or less. The average government worker’s salary in 2009 was 21 percent higher than private sector salaries. The average federal worker’s compensation package, including benefits, was nearly $120,000 in 2008, twice the private sector at $60,000. One study shows the private sector benefit package averages $9,900 while the federal package averages almost $41,000.
Now the Administration wants Congress to privilege federal workers by writing off their unpaid student loans after ten years. People in productive private sector jobs would keep paying for twenty years. Progressivists would really like everyone to work for the government.
For example, he suggests that Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson would disapprove of today's Progressives in the Federal Government, which is wholly mistaken. Both believed absolutely in the centralized control of business and their policies are indistinguishable in essentials from those Obama, Pelosi, Waxman, and the rest are pushing.*
But those are quibbles. The whole speech is well worth reading.
Anyone who has been wistfully longing for the return of Ronald Reagan — I'm not among them, but we could do far worse — may just be seeing that in Congressman Ryan. Regrettably, he appears to have no plans to run for higher office in 2012.
[Hat Tip Robert Costa, NRO.]
*For those interested in detailed evidence, read Woodrow Wilson's The New Freedom, or Teddy Roosevelt's What is a Progressive? in Dr. Ronald Pestritto's excellent anthology American Progressivism: A Reader.