FRONT ROYAL, VA — The always inspiring Father George Rutler recalled some helpful history the other day:
There was a time … when schoolboys memorized, among other famous classical lines, the expression: "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam." It was the exasperated call, in the second-century B.C. Senate of the Roman Republic, for the conquest of Carthage in what is now Tunisia. "Furthermore, I say that Carthage must be destroyed." The senator Cato the Elder ended each of his speeches that way, so that it became an inside joke, and his fellow senators chanted it along with him as a kind of ritual.
History has a habit of rhyming, as Mark Twain observed, and Father Rutler's reminiscences bring to mind Representative Robert Fleming Rich of Pennsylvania, one of my father's favorite stalwarts of the U.S. Congress during Roosevelt's New Deal.
Unlike most of his colleagues, Rich was a realist. As the New Dealers — intent, apparently, on prolonging the Great Depression as long as possible — brought up one spending bill after another, Mr. Rich would ask to be recognized. "Mr. Speaker," he would roar, "where are we going to get the money?"
It was such a constant refrain that the other members of the House would often join in like a Vaudeville chorus — alas, only in jest: they knew where they would get the money – they would print it.
Of course, when Rich was elected to the House, the national debt was seventeen billion dollars. Now it is $17 trillion.
That is a thousand times higher than it was in 1928.
The "TEA Party" — the acronym stands for "Taxed Enough Already" has had enough. They and their children — the future taxpayers of America — are being stuck with the bill, and they don't like it.
That's what the "shutdown" was all about. The "TEA Party" — the acronym stands for "Taxed Enough Already" has had enough. They and their children — the future taxpayers of America — are being stuck with the bill, and they don't like it.
It is no surprise that the Tea Party's ire rankles both Washington's bipartisan establishment and the federal bureaucracy. Yes, they share an abiding disdain for the taxpayer, but they seethe with contempt for the irate taxpayer.
We are told that federal employees treated visitors to parks and monuments as abusively as possible during the shutdown. But why? After all, the Congress immediately passed legislation to pay them in full for the days they had spent at home.
Unfortunately, their brutish swagger comes naturally. There are several "root causes" of this pathology, but, like envy and the lust for power, they are rarely acknowledged in public, for fear of reprisal from the usual suspects.
First, Government schools and government-friendly media have habituated several generations of Americans to trust government and to obey it — even to revere it. With the rise of the Tea Party and its roughshod rejection of Big Brother, the emperor has found himself groping for his clothes.
Emperors don't like that.
Second, that reverence has imparted to the bureaucracy the notion that, as a friend put it years ago, "the I.Q. of the average government employee goes up by twenty points on the day he is hired."
Thus the bureaucrat feels as superior as the government does. In the parlance of the public school, he feels very good about himself. He has high self-esteem — completely unearned, of course.
Third, the bureaucrat lifer depends on the complacent taxpayer to supply his nest egg. When the exasperated taxpayer threatens to make an omelette, the bureaucrat bristles: now the taxpayer is the enemy who wants to deprive him of his job, his pension, and most especially, the power, status, and prestige conferred upon him by his position of authority.
That power can strike at random. You could be next. After all, Boston lawyer Harvey Silvergate argues that every American commits, on average, three felonies a day.
But so does the government. High crimes and misdemeanors are rampant in the executive branch, but Team Obama flouts the law, confident that complaisant U.S. attorneys and Justice Department officials will not prosecute them.
And Congress won't either. In a corrupt justice system, it can't.
Obama learned from Bill Clinton a dirty little secret: if the Executive Branch multiplies its scandals by a factor of ten or even a hundred, the number of congressional oversight committees does not rise commensurately. How are a couple of intrepid committee chairmen to deal with a tsunami of executive crimes?
Government schools and government-friendly media have habituated several generations of Americans to trust government and to obey it — even to revere it.
Add to that the bureaucracy's obstinate refusal to cooperate with Congressional subpoenas, and the Congress has no other power than the one it has neglected to exercise for years: stop funding the criminals.
Article One of the Constitution is clear. But the Constitutional Law professor in the Oval Office doesn't want Americans to know it. He wants the public to hate the Congress – which means, in effect, to hate the Constitution.
GOP partisans struggle to pin the tail on the Democrat Donkey, but Obama's excesses often merely mimic those of his predecessor.
George W. Bush enunciated the principle early on: "You're either with us or against us," he said two months after 9-11.
A two-minute video from the GOP's 2004 convention aptly captures Team Bush's focus on fear, designed both to legitimize his massive expansion of domestic government power and spending while intimidating his critics. Obama has simply kept the party going, eschewing rational discussion in favor of a variety of emotions which he masterfully manipulates to expand his power while bringing his congressional opponents to their knees.
A Brazen Bureaucracy Intent On Plunde
Six months ago a Washington Post reporter visited Mantua, a sylvan Northern Virginia suburb populated by stately homes selling in the $750,000 – $1 million range. "Almost everyone" in Mantua works for the federal government, said the Post, and they were mad: federal budget cuts meant that their "paycheck [wasn't] so secure any more."
Reality seldom breaks in to Mantua. Everyone interviewed there thought very highly of himself and his government work. This just made their contempt more intense. One asked to remain anonymous "because of his high-level security clearance." Of course, two million of his colleagues have those clearances as well, but he still thought he was special:
"It's an extremely threatening and highly insulting condition to find myself in," he said. "It's one thing to hear the constant negative drumbeat directed at federal workers from people outside Washington. It's another thing to have the threat of denial of livelihood."
Tears all around, I'm sure. But curiously, concern for the livelihood of the taxpayer never came up.
...the bureaucrat feels as superior as the government does. In the parlance of the public school, he feels very good about himself. He has high self-esteem — completely unearned, of course.
The callous hauteur is contagious: the Post crows about D.C.'s skyrocketing real-estate market, as well as the District's new status as a "Boom Town," even as it weeps for the suffering Mantua millionaires.
Admittedly, that's pretty rank, but it's actually the international bureaucracy that takes the cake.
Consider Christine LaGarde, the international bureaucrat who runs the International Monetary Fund. Her schoolmarm pout was all over the Obama media during the shutdown, unctuously lecturing Americans on their irresponsibility.
Unmentioned was how a U.S. default would directly affect Ms. LaGarde. She makes some $550,000.00 per year, yet she pays no taxes to anyone, anywhere, according to an investigation by London's Guardian.
No wonder she's worried: the U.S. is the IMF's largest subsidizer, and folks at the Heritage Foundation think that the IMF should be "downsized," having long since outlived its usefulness.
The smug LaGarde struck back: her agency recently proposed that "advanced countries" raise taxes on "the highest-income people and their assets."
According to the Guardian, LaGarde's well-fed apparatchiks want to milk us for more. "Legal loopholes deprive the [U.S.] Treasury of roughly $60 billion in receipts," they write.
After all, they could use that money much more wisely than the stingy U.S. taxpayer does.
When LaGarde sings, her fellow bureaucrats, domestic and foreign, join in the chorus: "The taxpayer must be destroyed!"
Meanwhile, if the U.S. actually gets serious about budget cuts, Ms. LaGarde might have to retire to Mantua. At least she could commiserate there with her fellow bureaucrat millionaires.
From Under the Rubble archives
From Under the Rubble is copyright © 2013
by Christopher Manion.
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Christopher Manion is Director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae™, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College. This column is sponsored by the Bellarmine
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