Ronald Reagan was probably the last really great leader to serve as president of the United States. Although disdained and considered a dangerous ideologue by most elites while he was in office, history has given him a pretty good verdict. Reagan restored growth, won the Cold War and, when circumstances forced him to, even stabilized a Social Security system that was on the brink of collapse.
Even among Reagan fans, however, his environmental record rarely gets much credit. Many of my fellow conservative Reagan fans are dismissive of environmental concerns and a roughly equal proportion of environmentalists are disdainful of the conservative goals that Reagan himself emphasized.
This is a shame, because Reagan’s record on the environment, although far from perfect, is a pretty good model for a conservation agenda that just about everyone should embrace. As I describe in the Weekly Standard, the Reagan administration took major steps to end subsidies for environmentally destructive activities, pushed for and negotiated a smartly designed agreement to phase out harmful chlorofluorocarbons and did a good job balancing conservation, recreation, and resource extraction on public land. This agenda saved money while still making very real environmental progress.
Nick Gillespie of Reason TV recently sat down with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who is one of the new libertarian-minded Republicans in the Congress, to discuss a number of issues, ranging from his support of the Keystone XL and his opposition to expansive government surveillance and the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal that was passed earlier this year.
On Keystone XL, which was recently approved by the House, Massie explained that he voted to support the project because he “thought that the government was trying to hold up the project.
“I sit on the committee that marked up the bill, and so I got a chance to hear the amendments that the Democrats offered,” explained Massie. “They had some good points, but most of their amendments were designed to kill the bill. I wish they had offered amendments that were actually constructive.”
Gillespie asked about passing more laws to protect Americans from onerous and overreaching proposals like CISPA and other forms of government surveillance. Massie said that Congress doesn’t really need to pass new protections because the Constitution already protects the rights of Americans.
“A lot of what I see Congress grapple with here is the introduction of new technology into society and trying to resolve that with existing laws. I don’t necessarily think we need new laws, we need to respect the Constitution,” Massie told Gillespie. “So just because we have a new type of technology like the Internet or drones, for instance, doesn’t mean that all of our constitutional rights have to go away. As Congressmen we have be sure that they’re preserved even with the advent of new technology.”
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 24% of Americans believe that the welfare is the main reason for persistent poverty:
Two decades after President Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” Americans blame government handouts for persistent poverty in the United States more than any other single factor, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday.
Given a list of eight factors and asked to choose the one most responsible for the continuing problem of poverty, 24 percent of respondents in the poll chose “too much government welfare that prevents initiative.”
Whether Americans are too dependent on government was a flashpoint of the presidential campaign last year, and shrinking government has been a focus of the Tea Party movement, which has risen since the election of President Barack Obama.
“Lack of job opportunities” was the second most popular answer, at 18 percent, followed by “lack of good educational opportunities” and “breakdown of families,” with 13 percent apiece.
The other four options in the poll, in descending order, were “lack of work ethic,” “lack of government funding,” “drugs” and “racial discrimination.” Eight percent of respondents said that all eight factors were equally responsible.
It’s not surprising that a tough economy reduces job prospects for those who are willing and able to work. Many Americans want to work, but job opportunities are hard to come by. But too frequently there are many who rather live off the forced generousity of taxpayers than go out and work for a job.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a program called PRISM to collect “metadata,” under a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, to spy on Americans’ phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime.
These revelations are nothing new, actually; we are just now getting the details. A YEAR AGO, Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) reported at WIRED’s Dangerroom:
“On at least one occasion,” the intelligence shop has approved Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to say, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while it was collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
At the time, Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez elaborated:
“The standard procedure for FISA surveillance is that “large amounts of information are collected by automatic recording to be minimized after the fact.” The court elaborated: “Virtually all information seized, whether by electronic surveillance or physical search, is minimized hours, days, or weeks after collection.”
Since the sequester took effect in March, the White House has been quick to claim that lagging job growth is a result of the these very modest cuts to spending growth. In Obamanomics, government spending and deficits are virtues. But last week, Conn Carrol pointed to a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco making the case that tax hikes — not spending cuts — are to blame for the poor economic recovery:
Why is the Obama recovery the weakest recovery since the Great Depression? According to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, it is not because the federal government failed to borrow and spend too little during the height of the economic downturn.
In fact, the San Francisco Fed reports that “federal fiscal policy was unusually expansionary during the Great Recession” thanks largely to the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009. As a consequence, federal government saving in the recession fell faster—that is, the deficit grew faster—than our historical norm would predict.”
Looking ahead, however, the Fed does see fiscal policy slowing growth, but not, as liberals would have you believe, due to spending cuts:
The number of bizarre, outrageous, infuriating, and baffling stories flooding the news cycle over recent weeks is so surreal that one could be excused for thinking the online parody site, The Onion, had somehow taken over the mainstream media. The stories provide more compelling evidence as to why big government is dangerous to not only liberty, privacy, and constitutional rights, but to plain common sense. Some stories stoke fear about the rising tyranny of big government, as if they were ripped from the pages of George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984, while others show a level of such confounding incompetence that one wonders why we ever feared such idiots seizing control of the reins of power.
The truth is somewhere in between. While it is clear that there are those within the upper echelons of government that have conspired to seize power and spy on their fellow citizens, it is also clear that the majority of the abuse inflicted by government on those it “serves” comes from the crushing weight of a federal bureaucracy that is fully entrenched with little fear of being fired; wielding power over their fiefdoms and their helpless subjects therein simply because they can. Here are just a handful of the stories we’ve heard of late, each one a testament as to why every American should fear the enormous and metastasizing power of government in our lives, and why we should all fight to take a chainsaw to the size of government, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation:
The audit released last month by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General indicated that senior IRS officials were notified of the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups in June 2011. However, Reuters reported on Friday that an IRS official in the agency’s embattled Cincinatti office accidentally alerted the entire Tax Exempt Division office in Washington of the targeting nearly a full year earlier:
A misfired email from a U.S. Internal Revenue Service employee in Cincinnati in July 2010 alerted a broad group of Washington IRS officials to the heightened scrutiny being given conservative groups, according to an interview the IRS worker gave congressional investigators.
The interview transcripts, reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, provide new details about Washington IRS officials’ awareness of the scrutiny given to groups seeking tax-exempt status using terms like “Tea Party” or “patriot” to flag applications.
The transcripts show that in July 2010, Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS official in Cincinnati who was coordinating “emerging issues” for the agency’s tax-exempt unit, was corresponding with Washington-based IRS tax attorney Carter Hull.
She was asked to summarize her findings in a spreadsheet and notify a small group of colleagues, including some staff in the Washington tax-exempt unit. She sent an email that month to a larger number of people in Washington by accident.
“Everybody in D.C. got it by mistake,” Hofacre said in the transcripts. She later clarified that she did not mean all officials but those in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements unit.
Most Americans now know that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to spy on their phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime. While this may be a new revelation to most, this sort of abuse of the PATRIOT Act has been going on for some time.
Let’s take a look back for a moment. Back in 2007, the Washington Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had conducted an internal audit of agency national security investigations and found more than 1,000 potential violations of the law or agency rules:
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.
Much like the 2008-2009 economic crisis caused sales of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to spike, the revelations that the NSA is obtaining the phone records of millions of Americans has led to a surge in sales of George Orwell’s book, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Originally published on June 8, 1949, the book tells the story of a dystopian society led by Big Brother that is rife with war and government surveillance. Ironically, the 64th anniversary of the book’s release came just a couple of days after the NSA scandal became public knowledge.
Charlie Spiering noted this morning at the Washington Examiner that sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four had jumped by 69%, according to the Amazon “Movers and Shakers” list. He updated the post a little later this afternoon to note that sales are now up by 91%.
As has been said frequently since the NSA scandal broke — Nineteen Eighty-Four wasn’t meant to be an instruction manual. With the datamining the records of innocent Americans, the IRS’s targeting of groups whose only crime is to disagree with the administration in power, the prevalence of cameras in our cities, and the ridicule towards anyone who believes that big government is a threat to our liberties; it’s hard for one not to believe that we’re living in Nineteen Eighty-Four right now.
Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Privacy advocates and surveillance experts have suspected for years that the government was using an expansive interpretation of the Patriot Act’s §215 “business record” authority to collect bulk communications records indiscriminately. We now have confirmation in the form of a secret order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to Verizon — and legislators are saying that such orders have been routinely served on phone carriers for at least seven years. (It seems likely that similar requests are being served on Internet providers — increasingly the same companies that provide us with wireless phone services).
Some stress that what is being collected is “just metadata”—a phrase I’m confident you’ll never see a computer scientist or data analyst use. Metadata—the transactional records of information about phone and Internet communications, as opposed to their content—can be incredibly revealing, as the recent story about the acquisition of Associated Press phone logs underscores. Those records, as AP head Gary Pruitt complained, provide a comprehensive map of reporters’ activities, telling those who know how to look what stories journalists are working on and who their confidential sources are. Metadata can reveal what Websites you read, who you communicate with, which political or religious groups you’re affiliated with, even your physical location.