Tag Archives: Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008

The Pain of Bain Will Always be the Same

I don’t know why but I have been amazed to see the Romney campaign turn into a total train wreck this week.  I really didn’t expect it but to me it looks like the wheels seem to be coming off with the continuing and expanding revelations of Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital. Documents from Bain signed by Romney point to a real possibility that Romney is not telling the whole story about his activity as owner, CEO and sole stockholder of Bain. These include filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission interviews, statements and even the paperwork for his residency for his 2002 campaign for the office of Governor of Massachusetts all of which point to him being less than honest in how he represents that time. Likewise there are the issues of Swiss and Cayman Islands bank accounts and unwillingness to disclose more than last year’s tax records.

Thus it was hard not to shake my head in amazement when Romney went of five different networks to say that that he “left any responsibility whatsoever, any effort, any involvement whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999.”  What got me was not just the words, but his facial expressions and body language, it was not believable.

One can think what they want of President Obama. One can call him an Anti-American Atheist, Communist, Socialist, Liberation Theology loving, pork eating, beer drinking Moslem. One can oppose every one of his policies.  One can even believe that he is the son of a Vulcan explorer and an earth mother that was beamed from Kenya to Hawaii so he be President and through the UN bring about a treaty that would cause the earth to cede its independence to a United Federation of Planets in a future alternate universe and one can vote against him for a multitude of reasons but one cannot ignore that Romney has serious character issues that are red flags that his supporters should pay attention to before they come back to haunt them.  Simply put I think anyone who fought against the Romney nomination and now backs him simply because he is not Obama is in for trouble.

Now nobody should be surprised by how the script is playing out. In fact almost every opponent of Romney’s in the GOP primaries warned us of this. They ran the anti-Bain commercials, they talked about Romneycare they pointed out every chink in the armor of a Romney campaign and got carpet bombed by Romney for doing so. In fact some even called Romney a “liar.” The problem was that none of them had the money or organization or the support of Wall Street and the Multi-National corporations that Romney had and his PACS destroyed them. He took no prisoners.

Rick Perry was blasted out by Romney early but he made these comments:

“I happen to think that companies like Bain Capital could have come in and helped these companies if they truly were venture capitalists, but they’re not — they’re vulture capitalists.”

“While you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation. … You failed as the governor of Massachusetts.”

“If you are a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina to tell you he feels your pain. Because he caused it.”

“I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he’d have enough of them to hand out.”

Rick Santorum, arguably the most populist of the Republican candidates and the only one that mounted a real challenge to Romney said that Romney was “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” 

Santorum also said:

“If Mitt Romney’s an economic heavyweight, we’re in trouble, because he was 47th out of 50 in job creation in the state of Massachusetts when he was governor. He may have had some success at making money for himself and his partners at Bain Capital, and I give him a lot of credit for doing so, but that’s a very different thing than going out and creating an atmosphere for people to create — that create jobs.”

Newt Gingrich got off the Romneyvation early and got blasted but he tore some holes in Romney’s campaign:

“I just think he ought to be honest with the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points, and I think he ought to be candid. I don’t think he’s being candid and that will be a major issue. From here on out from the rest of this campaign, the country has to decide: Do you really want a Massachusetts moderate who won’t level with you to run against Barack Obama who, frankly, will just tear him apart? He will not survive against the Obama machine.”

“We are not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs while it forecloses on Florida and is himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while he tries to think the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together and understand what this is all about.”

Michelle Bachmann said:

“He can’t beat Obama because his policy is the basis of Obamacare. The signature issue of Obama is Obamacare. You can’t have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It’s too identical. It’s not going to happen.” 

“He’s been very inconsistent on his positions. He’s been on both sides of the abortion issue, on both sides of the issue with same-sex marriage … he was for the TARP bill, the $700 billion bailout and the global warming initiatives.”

Former Utah Governor, Ambassador to China and fellow Mormon said of Romney:

“I think Romney will show leadership on the economy, but on the trust deficit, I don’t see a whole lot of leadership.”

And the only GOP candidate still in the hunt, Ron Paul ran this ad:

“Mitt Romney can’t fight against Obamacare because he supported the same mandates and government takeovers as governor of Massachusetts.  Romney can’t stand up against more bailouts because he supported them. He can’t lead the charge to shrink the government because he has grown it. Romney’s record is liberal and putting him up against Obama is a recipe for defeat.”

By the way did you notice that none of these people are Democrats? That should speak volumes.

One of two things are going to happen and please do not say that you were not warned. Either the wheels will continue to come off and Romney’s campaign will blow up leading to a defeat in November. That may also impact Congressional races because people may be so disgusted by their candidate that they don’t show up. They may not vote for Obama but they will not support Romney.

The other possibility is that hatred for Obama will cause people that cannot stand Romney to vote for him anyway and that he will win the election. Obama haters will rejoice until they realize that they voted in a man who still remembers what they said about him and only sees them as a means to the become President. They are simply votes to be bought and the bottom line is all that matters.  That is his history as a businessman and governor. He may not be a good politician but underneath that perfect head of hair he is a ruthless businessman, just asked those that ran against him in the GOP primaries this year.

When that happens those that opposed and denigrated Romney during the primaries should not expect for Romney to treat them well.  This is especially true for the Evangelicals who just a couple months ago were calling Romney a member of a religious cult.  Romney will govern based on what he wants, not what they want. Instead of four years of a lame duck Obama administration they will have either have Romney for eight years or end up with a different Democrat in the White House in 2016 and it will destroy the Republican Party.

Alan Keyes, who I never agree with made a comment that while I may not completely agree with probably needs to be heeded by religious conservatives whose hatred of Obama has driven them into Romney’s camp. If they believe like Keyes that Obama is evil then they need to look at what the results of their hatred of him may bring about:

 “As I tried to point out in 2008, the lesser of evils is still evil. No matter how such an election turns out, people content to choose between Satan and Beelzebub have made clear their willingness to let things go to hell. Moreover, the nature of their choice is so clear to them that they practically boast of the passionate hatred that impels them to it. With this practical boast they become the willing, proud accomplices of the very evil they profess to hate.”

People need to be careful what they ask for because they just might get it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary

An Unnecessary Condition of Affairs

“The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.” Robert E. Lee

I am always attracted to military leaders with a tragic and honorable history, men who maintain honor and humanity even when the nations that they serve was on the wrong side of history.  There have been such men in almost every war and I admire them even in defeat more than I do those that win victories at all costs and in the process lose their souls. This puts me in a select minority and minorities are not always appreciated we tend to make people uncomfortable just by existing. Since I have been threatened by threatened by Neo-Nazis, called weak, a heretic, apostate and sometimes worse by fellow Christians even being tossed from my former church for now being “too liberal” I am now officially used to this even when it comes from friends Romans and countrymen and the occasional nutty European, Asian or Islamist from abroad.

Today we stand at a political divide not seen since the days leading up to the American Civil War but it didn’t have to come to this had our political and corporate leadership been responsible and acted with wisdom the past 40 years or so. Robert E Lee a man unquestioned integrity was torn by his desire to see the Union preserved and his allegiance to it and his loyalty to his own family and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Lee is a tragic figure a true man of courage, faith and decency, a man of moderation who maintained a profound respect and love for the United States even while leading the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  He had his flaws as well but on the whole he was one of the truly great men in American history. When the war was lost he was an advocate of reconciliation between the deeply divided North and the conquered South.

In an age of bitterness brought about by defeat and the repression of the draconian measures of Reconstruction Lee was a man that understood that as Americans it was necessary to put aside bitterness.  After the defeat he was accosted by a woman professing her hatred of the North. His reply to her would be a good start for all of those today who hate their fellow Americans be they Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Tea Partiers on the basis of political ideology and the raw quest for power.  Lee said to this woman “Madam, don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.”

Unfortunately among certain parts of the electorate the Government of the United States is detested and some even call for revolution if not at the ballot box if need be by violence.  The rhetoric is certainly pointing that direction as conservatives and liberals alike turn up the heat on this witches cauldron that our country has become. Compromise is considered anathema by both sides especially by the Tea Party movement and the fact is that we are at war with ourselves the national fabric is broken even worse than or economic state or moral state.  We may not be shooting at each other yet but unless we see some kind of national decision by all Americans to stop the political fratricide and work together to solve the problems that have been festering for decades it may come to down to bullets and the tragedy will be worse than that of the Civil War because despite the tragedy of it some good did come, the end of slavery and an understanding of being Americans rather than simply New Yorkers or Virginians. Lee writing about the war said “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”

This political fratricide is in large part due to the manner in which our politicians, political parties and even religious institutions are the servants of multinational corporations and financial groups. When everything comes down to it all of these institutions are deeply subservient to the whims of special interests especially multinational corporations and financial institutions.  It is no wonder that leaders as diverse as Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Napoleon Bonaparte recognized the threat that they pose to nations and in the case of the United States to democracy itself. Jefferson wrote “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Roosevelt noted quite rightly, much to the chagrin of his fellow Republicans “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of today.” While Napoleon cut to the heart of the matter when he wrote “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”

Yet in the midst of our political fratricide there seems to be one special interest group above all which always seems to win even when the people of the country suffer. That group is the multinational corporations and financial institutions.  It doesn’t matter what party is in power they somehow come out with a big fat profit margin and get treatment that regular people could never hope to get. Now since the Supreme Court has ruled that big corporations (and labor too) now have no limits on what they can contribute to political campaigns you can bet your ass that politicians of all ilk’s will be suckling lucrative money milk from the tits of these corporations which will dispense billions of dollars to political campaigns in the coming year and a half leading up to the 2012 election.  We expect this of Republicans and Democrat but rest assured my friends that even Tea Party candidates will line up for their turn in order suckle at this tit to keep their newly acquired offices or gain more in the coming election. Such is the nature of politics in our fair country.

Meanwhile both parties dither about a budget that if they had been doing their jobs would have been completed months ago had Nancy Pelosi bothered to submit a budget for 2011 while Speaker of the House.  Now about three months into the new Congress both parties are posturing on the next year’s budget all the while the government lurches toward a shutdown of unpredictable consequences.

Yes we have to deal with the mess that these same people of both parties aided and abetted by their special interest group supporters have made over years to get us in this mess. Administration after administration and Congress after Congress have kicked this can down the road and now they have kicked it and the country into the ditch. Now something has to be done and Democrats seem loathe to step up to the plate and take political risks  while Republicans, particularly the Tea Party leadership are acting like the Jacobins during the French Revolution even threatening even their own party leadership if they don’t get everything that they want. All seem to ignore the fact that the vast majority of the country just wants both sides to figure the damned thing out and fix the problem for real even if it means personal sacrifice rather than seeing these people pursue the policy of mutually assured destruction.

Why does this seem so personal to me? Let me tell you. When I came back from Iraq after seeing the results of unbridled hatred in that country and having travelled in the Balkans after the Yugoslav Civil War I became frightened when I saw politicians of both parties speaking with the same invective as I saw in those countries. Nothing like seeing the effects of a real live shooting civil war to give one pause when political enemies threaten to cross that same line in this country.  Don’t dismiss this out of hand. For years certain pundits, politicians and preachers on both sides of the political chasm have been dehumanizing their opponents and once people are no longer seen as human it is very easy to resort to violence against them. Just take a look at the ordinary Germans who took part in the extermination of the Jews under the Hitler regime.

Am I forgetting something here? Yes I almost forgot, in 2008 we saw the housing crisis in which the very institutions caused the crisis were bailed out by both President Bush and President Obama with Congress willing and lovingly joining in to approve billions and billions of dollars for them. This included huge amounts of money which went to foreign financial institutions. Meanwhile regular people had their home value and credit slashed even as unemployment skyrocketed and in the following years we have seen the same banks seizing the foreclosed homes in record numbers while millions of others now owe far more on their loans than their homes are worth. It’s a great deal for the banks. Approve loans for people who will have a hard time repaying them, crash the economy have the government bail you out and then take the homes and sell them while still collecting the cash from the unfortunate former owners. Well to quote a great line from the Roman Empire segment of Mel Brooks’ classic comedy History of the World Part One

Leader of Senate: All fellow members of the Roman senate hear me. Shall we continue to build palace after palace for the rich? Or shall we aspire to a more noble purpose and build decent housing for the poor? How does the senate vote?
Entire Senate: F*** THE POOR!

It’s funny how a comedy from the late 1970s offers such remarkable political and social insights for us today. But then Teddy Roosevelt said of the Roman Republic as a warning to us back in 1903 “The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.”

Well if these present rulers don’t get their act together parts of the government will shut down and your military which is currently involved in four wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the nearly forgotten War on Terrorism in lots of places that the media doesn’t mention will not get paid. Ain’t that a hoot?  But mind you as military personnel try to salvage the wars that our politicians have plunged us into we still serve even if we won’t get paid.  Yet when push comes to shove we are cast aside by the political ruling class for their short term political gain.  I remember a quote of Robert E Lee which speaks volumes on this subject. Lee was besieged at Petersburg, his haggard and outnumbered Army deprived of food, ammunition and replacements was dying in the cold mud of the trenches when he went to seek help from the Confederate Congress. After his visit he remarked “I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.”

Seems that nothing really changes, does it? This unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides. When will we ever learn?

God help us all,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, laws and legislation, leadership, Military, philosophy, Political Commentary

Our Bottom Line is our Honor: Padre Steve Talks About Wall Street

“It was the mystical dogma of Bentham and Adam Smith and the rest, that some of the worst of human passions would turn out to be all for the best. It was the mysterious doctrine that selfishness would do the work of unselfishness.” G.K. Chesterton

The United States is one of the most religious of Nations especially in what we worship. I’m not talking about God her I’m talking about money. The High Priests of this religion are those that run the financial institutions as well as much of what is sometimes described as “American” business. The bottom line is their honor and profit their goal.

I tell you what there is no such thing as an “American” Banker, Investor, Broker or President of any major corporation based in the United States they are men and women without a country with their only loyalty being their profits and what benefits their bottom line. The truth is as Napoleon Bonaparte said so succinctly “Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”

This has never been in more evidence than today.  The situation has been worsening since the end of the Cold War when under the name of “Free Trade” financial institutions and multinational corporations based in the United States have been selling us short once they figured that they could do better elsewhere like in Communist China as well as Third and Second World countries controlled by tyrants and despots who couldn’t give a damn about human rights.  Mind you that for many years it was American money, the American people and military power that enabled them to prosper particularly in the days when Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt maintain protectionist policies that actually helped them and the country at the same time.

The United States was never stronger than when we practiced protectionism. It benefited out people as well as businesses.  But when people like Teddy Roosevelt saw things that business did which were criminally irresponsible either in the treatment of workers or the environment business cried foul and it has been that way ever since. All “good” conservatives and libertarians have worshiped at the foot of the God of Capitalism and its prophets and the sacred doctrine of Free Trade.

The end of the year numbers are out and it looks like Wall Street and Major U.S. based corporations are doing quite well thank you while doing everything that they can to avoid being good citizens to the people of this country that made them what they are. Profits are up as are stocks and Wall Street is living high on the hog despite having made a mess of things to the point that the American Government had to give them our money, and lots of it to stay solvent and not crash the entire economy. It is as Thomas Jefferson once said “I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” To be blunt “American” financial institutions have raped this country and now that they are done with us are willing to take our money, use our military to protect or even enhance their operations overseas are willing to throw us under the bus because they can make more money elsewhere.

Well it seems that there is happiness in Mudville or shall I say on Wall Street as the year end numbers roll in.  Unfortunately for many Americans those profits won’t benefit this country.  Unemployment remains high, our personal and government debts are skyrocketing and deficits are killing the country while good paying technical and industrial jobs are moved overseas as supposedly American business shutters their U.S. production centers.  Meanwhile business and financial leaders carp about the United States not being a “friendly corporate environment” with “too much government regulation” and too many “powerful unions” as the reason for them to invest elsewhere.  Little things such as safety, the environment and even God forbid the lives of the people that work for them are of little concern, if the citizens of the U.S. or any other country decide that they want a bit more control of such issues then they are thrown under the bus by the financial institutions and corporations. If the U.S. Government asks them for anything it is “screw you” we’ll move to India where incidents what happened like the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India don’t matter too much and Communist China which does its damndest to violate the human rights of its own people and run roughshod over its neighbors.

Andrew Jackson, perhaps the last President with the guts and moral principles to stand up to the likes of such people said:

“Every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add… artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.”

What Jackson said then is just as applicable now. Nearly every law that is passed in Washington is full of loopholes and benefits for the rich who then after bankrupting the country have the nerve to complain about government social programs. Usually they say that caring for the poor is the voluntary responsibility of individuals, churches and private charities which on principle I agree with, but on the whole is not practical because the need is too great mostly due to the power of the financials and the incompetence of government agencies.

The attitude of these supposedly “American” financial institutions and corporations seems to be all about “Free Trade.” The sad thing is that the moniker of “Free Trade” is somewhat Orwellian if you ask me.  The reality of “free trade” is that these interests should be able to do whatever they want, however they want without anyone being able to regulate them of tell them what to do.  In reality their carping about this not being a “business friendly environment” is them dictating to us that they should be able to operate for free from here while trading wherever they want without any responsibility or return to the country and people that made their success possible in the first place.  I would argue it is the financial houses and multi-national corporations based in the United States that are the real power in the world and that they have used us up and are now in the process of dumping us like they have so many World powers before us.

Napoleon saw this and said: “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. The late Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler said back in 1933 concerning the way that financiers use the government, in particular the military to advance their interests:

“I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

Let’s fast forward on this while American soldiers get killed by Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, many made with the assistance of Iranian agents the Treasury Department granted over 10,000 permits for U.S. corporations to trade with Iran with you guessed it my friends, some of the Largest U.S. banks reaping the profit.  This has been going on for years and while the bulk of such trade is limited to food items like Louisiana Hot Sauce it has also included deals which allowed other U.S. corporations to trade with Iranian companies that are suspected of involvement in terrorism or weapons proliferation.  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/12/23/report-treasury-okd-business-iran/#ixzz19SAQIwIu Pardon my ignorance but isn’t that like blood money when our troops die from Iranian assisted attacks?

Don’t worry though, we are in good company as such people have done the same to those that came before us as well, just look at Britain, once business bled her dry they cast her aside.  You see my friends our government doesn’t really control anything. It is the corporate and financial elites that run the country and dare I say the world.  James Madison saw it coming noting that “History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance.”

Financial institutions and many multinational corporations have acted in the most unseemly of fashions literally bankrupting nations and individuals while they continue to prosper and it seems that they can never get enough.  Great Americans have warned of the dangers of the financial elites controlling both national as well as private lending institutions. In fact if you look at the leadership of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department there is an almost incestuous link between them and Wall Street. Dwight Eisenhower talked about the danger of the “military-industrial complex” but that threat is nothing compared to the control that those that come out of Wall Street Investment Banks have over the nations’ economic and monetary policy and over the legislators that supposedly exercise oversight of such institutions. Thomas Jefferson noted that:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

While Andrew Jackson lectured the leaders of the 2nd Bank of the United States before (probably unwisely) withdrawing U.S. assets from the Bank and eventually destroying it:

“Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves.”

I think that even though Jackson’s decision hurt the economy which resulted in the Panic of 1837 but his reasons were sound:

It concentrated the nation’s financial strength in a single institution.

It exposed the government to control by foreign interests.

It served mainly to make the rich richer.

It exercised too much control over members of Congress.

It favored northeastern states over southern and western states.

Banks are controlled by a few select families.

Banks have a long history of instigating wars between nations, forcing them to borrow funding to pay for them.

Now tell me what has changed in this? If I hadn’t said that Jackson used these reasons to abolish the Second Bank of the United States one might think that I am talking about Wall Street and the Federal Reserve.  Let’s see….it looks to me like the only people getting rich are the Wall Street financiers and those that they favor. It seems that foreign nations, particularly the Chinese Communist have us by the balls holding a huge amount of our debt.  It seems that Congress under both Democratic and Republican control is in their power and will do anything that they want in order to “help the economy” but in reality secure their own power and I could go on but won’t.

Now I’m sure that some of my conservative friends and readers will label me as a liberal or Socialist but I’m not, I just want to see those that benefit from the security that our military provides and the hard work of Americans just actually start helping our side rather than looking to their our filthy money grubbing interests. Some things never change do they?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under economics and financial policy, History, laws and legislation, Military, national security, philosophy

The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

Hitler presides over the Reichstag during the passage of the Enabling Act

Sometimes in crisis nations enact laws that in the heat of the moment sound quite good. In fact the writers of such laws usually don’t have bad intentions, they react to a crisis enact laws to safeguard society from the events of the crisis which usually included widespread political, social and economic disruption.  In 1919 with the country engulfed in economic, social, political crisis that had evolved into what amounted to a civil war Germany added an article to the Weimar Constitution.  That article was Article 48 and read as follows:

Article 48 of the German Constitution of August 11, 1919:

If public safety and order in Germany are materially disturbed or endangered, the President may take the necessary measures to restore public safety and order, and, if necessary, to intervene with the help of the armed forces. To this end he may temporarily suspend, in whole or in part, the fundamental rights established in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153

During the turbulent history of Weimar Article 48 was used by the Socialist President Friedrich Ebert who had to guide the country through the collapse of the monarchy, the humiliation of Versailles, the period of hyperinflation as well as an attempted takeover by those who wanted to implement a Soviet government as well coup attempts from the political right.  After Ebert’s death in 1925 Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected President and during the economic, political and social crisis brought about by the Great Depression invested the conservative Chancellor Heinrich Brüning with the powers of Article 48, something that he also granted to Brüning’s successors Franz von Papen, Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler.

Under Hitler it was invoked after the burning of the Reichstag, the German Parliament building an event which was very likely executed by the Nazis themselves while blaming the Communists.  It was issued in the following manner:

ARTICLE 1. In virtue of paragraph 2, article 48, of the German Constitution, the following is decreed as a defensive measure against communist acts of violence, endangering the state:

Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty [114], on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press [118], on the right of assembly and the right of association [124], and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications [117], and warrants for house-searches [115], orders for confiscation as well as restrictions on property [153], are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Following this the Reichstag passed a law called the Enabling Act. This law gave the President unlimited power which Hindenburg ceded to Hitler.  When Hindenburg died in 1934 the offices of President and Chancellor were merged in the person of Adolf Hitler. This is the text of the Enabling Act legislation:

The Enabling Act of 1933

The Reichstag [the lower house of parliament] has passed the following law, which is, with the approval of the Reichsrat [the upper house], herewith promulgated, after it has been established that it satisfies the requirements for legislation altering the Constitution.

ARTICLE 1. In addition to the procedure for the passage of legislation outlined in the Constitution, the Reich Cabinet is also authorized to enact Laws referred to by Articles 85 Paragraph 2 and Article 87 of the constitution. (Article 85 outlined the process by which the Reichstag and Reichsrat approved the Reich budget. Article 87 restricted government borrowing.)

ARTICLE 2. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet may deviate from the Constitution provided they do not affect the position of the Reichstag (low house of Parliament) and the Reichsrat (the Upper House). The powers of the President remain unaffected.

ARTICLE 3. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet shall be prepared by the Chancellor and published in the official gazette. They come into effect, unless otherwise specified, upon the day following their publication unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government. (Articles 68 to 77 stipulated the procedures for enacting legislation in the Reichstag.)

ARTICLE 4. Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which concern matters of domestic legislation do not require the consent of the bodies participating in legislation. The Reich Cabinet is empowered to issue the necessary provisions for the implementing of these treaties.

ARTICLE 5. This law comes into effect on the day of its publication. It ceases to be valid on 1 April 1937 or if the present Reich government is replaced by another.

The Enabling Act was passed by a majority of the Reichstag by a vote of 441 to 96. The Communists had been banned and had no representation, the center and right cast aside their reservations and voted for it and only the Socialists led by their Chief Otto Wels voted against it.  For their trouble most of the Socialist deputies would be imprisoned, go into concentration camps or have to flee the country.

Some leaders of religious groups that initially supported the Nazis rapidly discovered that they had made a deal with the Devil. As Martin Niemöller said:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
.

In times of crisis people seek security and stability and are often willing to sacrifice constitutional liberties to do so.  Unfortunately when a people and nation willing abrogate their constitutional rights and protections by legislative action or executive order in the name of security and safety they ensure that they will lose all. The German political parties that voted in favor of the Enabling Act included cultural and religious conservatives.  Most of these people feared a potential Communist takeover and continued political and economic instability more than surrendering their rights and freedoms.

Unfortunately it is my belief as well as that of many civil libertarians on both sides of the political divide that we have set the stage in this country for a totalitarian state.  Our legislature passes massive bills which none have read that are so Byzantine that no one can understand them which often give nearly unchecked power to unelected bureaucrats in government agencies and often serve to grant more power to the Executive Branch at the expense of Congress, the Courts and State governments.  Such legislation passed under conditions where people believe a crisis exists includes the Patriot Act of 2001, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010.  Most of the people that voted for these laws certainly believed that they were doing the right thing, but all contain provisions that give unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats unheard of power over the daily lives of Americans and contain provisions that sacrifice individual rights and liberties. There are numerous other examples which in conjunction with Presidential Executive Orders and Directives, some public and many secret that provide the Executive Branch willing to use them almost unbridled power.  Under normal conditions no President would attempt take full advantage of such powers nor would most people accept such a power grab, but history shows that under emergency or crisis conditions people and legislatures willingly surrender liberty for supposed security.

In Weimar Germany the catalyst was the fear of Communist takeover in the midst of economic crisis that created the conditions by which non-Nazi citizens and political parties surrendered their liberties. In the wake of the attacks of September 11th 2001, continued terrorist threats, two wars, economic crisis, the collapse of the housing market and the ineffectiveness of government leaders at the Federal and State levels the United States in a place where many people may accept an authoritarian or totalitarian regime so long as we are safe and the economy gets back on track.  Instead of a Communist threat we have a Muslim extremist terrorist threat. Instead of the Great Depression we have a world economy on the brink of collapse. People are fearful; millions are going bankrupt or losing their homes and jobs and more seem to be willing to surrender freedom just to be safe and have some semblance of an orderly society again.  You really can’t blame people for wanting a return to an America where it is safe and the economy is doing well there is nothing evil in that desire. Unfortunately history shows that there are those that will exploit people’s fears and longings to gain unbridled power and once they have it will stop at nothing to keep it.

In 1933 the German people surrendered their rights and freedoms for the promise of safety, security, economic recovery and a return to national greatness.  The question that I have to ask is will the people of the United States of America do the same in the next few years?  I think the answer is obvious.  It will only take a successful terror attack on the United States Homeland, an economic collapse or a government shutdown to force the issue. People will demand results and will welcome whoever can deliver those results.  We have already shown what people will accept in order to travel by commercial air and from that it is but a small step to accepting such measures in the rest of life.  Get ready folks it will be a joy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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