Two Steps Forward

Lenin famously described his strategy for communist domination as "one step forward, two steps back." Of course, by that he did not mean to suggest steps of equal length. The step forward was a lot more like two large steps, and the two steps back were more or less symbolic, designed to diffuse opposition.   

Clearly, in the past two years, the United States has moved two giant steps in the direction of socialism. We have seen the redistribution of hundreds of billions of dollars, the seizure of major industries by the state, the re-emergence of a hardcore welfare state, the virtual nationalization of health care, the takeover by regulation of the energy and financial sectors, and much more. This resurgence of state control has been accompanied by the new power of labor unions, environmental lobbyists, tort lawyers, and state bureaucracies. But now, having reached the limit of what the public will stomach, the Leninists who run the Democratic Party see that it is time for two baby-steps back.

Those steps back are taking the form of a new suggestion of inclusiveness and bipartisanship (even of openness to business interests), talk of repeal of some parts of the health care bill, talk of making some parts of the Bush tax cuts permanent (after the election, of course), and talk of a balanced budget (pay-go once again). As this list suggests, the step back is nearly all talk-talk in the midst of an election campaign designed to preserve Democratic majorities.

The steps back, in other words, are not an actual retreat. They are merely talk. As soon as the election is over, the strategy of moving forward will resume -- this time in the lame-duck session of Congress. There, those who have been voted out of office or retired knowing they were headed for defeat will attempt further steps forward, and there will be nothing to restrain them. Card check, cap and trade, tax increases on small business owners, confiscatory death taxes -- all of it is being readied for a whirlwind session that resembles a medieval dance of death, which, for the more radical members of Congress, is what it will in fact be. The dying majority of radical Democrats, celebrating one last time, in an orgiastic love-fest of uncontrolled spending.

Nancy Pelosi, in fact, has already announced her intention to pass huge tax increases in the lame-duck session. This is the meaning of her September 28 announcement of her intention to "extend middle-class tax cuts this year." That sounds great, unless you make over $200,000, plan to make $200,000 sometime in your lifetime, operate a small business or aspire to, or expect to inherit more than a million dollars or a home in Manhattan or Los Angeles or a stock portfolio or retirement account that your parents have put together over a half-century. If any of these conditions apply, you can expect to pay a lot more in taxes thanks to the lame-duck session.

Not only that, but as long as Obama is in office, it will be impossible to repeal any part of the liberal love-fest. The steps forward of the past two years, plus the steps planned for the lame-duck session, will remain in place for at least another two years, and the longer this legislation remains in place, the harder it will be to repeal.

That, too, is part of the Leninist strategy. Once an industry is nationalized, or an entitlement extended, it is politically difficult to reverse. Once the public has become accustomed to socialized medicine, paid for at someone else's expense, as they suppose, it is difficult to return to a private-payer system, no matter how superior the care under the private system. So it goes with health care, energy, financial services -- each takeover engenders its own constituency with its own vested interests, lobbyists, media supporters, and voting blocks. It becomes easier to leave new programs in place than to repeal them.

In this way, government power and tyranny will have taken not two, but four steps forward by the time the new Congress is sworn in. And we will have to live with the result for at least two more years. In light of this, the only conservative objective that makes sense is a root-and-branch assault on the size of government. Once conservatives control Congress and the White House, hopefully in 2012, nothing less than a total makeover will be acceptable.

The first step, but only the first, will be to take four steps back. But four steps back is just the beginning. What is required is a return to a pre-FDR-sized government -- a federal budget of no more than 3%  of GDP. That was the size of government that prevailed during America's first 150. As hard as it is to fathom, the federal government through much of our history operated quite well on one percent of GDP. President Lincoln governed through the greatest crisis of our history with a White House staff of 25.

Much of that reduction in spending would have to come in cuts to entitlement spending. For generations, Americans have been led to believe that entitlements are, as the name suggests, sacred rights that cannot be modified. But as Thomas G. Donlan wrote in the October 4 issue of Barron's, entitlements "are as much under the purview of Congress and the president as any other bridge to nowhere." The only reason they have not been controlled, and cut, is that politicians lack the will to cut them.

Return to a 3% federal budget would unleash the same explosive growth that America saw during its first century and a half. Simply by cutting the size of government, we would see prosperity on an unimaginable scale, with jobs and a better standard of living for all. That new direction for America would heal the damage of Obama's four steps forward and a lot  more -- the four steps forward of Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Carter, and Clinton. The only way to restore the country to health after the damage of the long march toward socialism is to slash the federal budget, eliminate entire departments of government, and return to the nation's tradition of small government and citizen democracy.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture and politics.
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