The Progressive Reality Is Here

wellThe Republicans are feeling confident these days. The slow-motion debacle of Obamacare promises to keep that albatross around the necks of the Democrats at least through next year’s midterm elections. The IRS, NSA, and Benghazi scandals are still simmering, and any day new information may emerge that puts them back on the front page. Obama’s disapproval rating is at 53.4%, according to the RealClearPolitics average of 11 polls. The Republican Party’s approval numbers are still lower than Democrats’, but they are trending up while the Dems are moving down.

The recent budget deal passed in the House supposedly augurs well for the Republicans as well. Many see the bipartisan agreement to fund government spending for two years as a tactical victory that takes the bad public relations of a government shutdown off the table, thus keeping the focus on the Obamacare disaster. Growing more confident, the “establishment” Republicans are marginalizing the Tea-Party “extremists” who generate so much bad press for the GOP. Or as the Huffington Post gloated, House Speaker John Boehner “was at least declaring war on the well-funded agitators” who “jumped the shark” by opposing the deal.

The Republicans may have achieved a tactical victory, but only time will tell if it translates into taking back the Senate and the presidency. But even if they do, it is still unlikely that they will achieve any meaningful reforms that can reign in the federal leviathan, seriously reduce metastasizing debt and deficits, or fix the looming disaster of unfunded entitlement liabilities. For the fact is, the Progressive vision now a century old has won the political debate over the power and goals of the federal government.

The Progressive agenda starting with the administration of Theodore Roosevelt is now political reality. The Constitutional idea of a limited federal government checked and balanced by Congress and the sovereign state governments––the obstacles to Progressive ambitions to guide the evolution of the nation toward greater “social justice” and fiscal equality––is now a distant memory. Most people assume that the job of the fed is to “solve problems” through a vast bureaucracy of technocrats. The notion that state and local governments, or the institutions of civil society perhaps should have the responsibility to “solve problems,” gains little traction among the mass of citizens, especially when it comes to mitigating the slings and arrows of human existence.

As a result of this assumption, the size and coercive concentrated powers of the federal government at the expense of state governments and individuals alike have grown to an extent that would have shocked the Founders. As of January 2012, the federal government employed 2.3 million workers, excluding military personnel, at a cost of $200 billion a year. Total federal spending in 2013 was $3.5 trillion, a 40 percent increase over the last decade. Equally significant is the intrusive, coercive regulatory apparatus that has followed this expansion of the federal government. In 2012, the Federal Register, which publishes proposed new rules andfinal changes to existing rules, comprised 78,961 pages. The Code of Federal Regulations, which publishes general and permanent rules and regulations, totaled 174,545, with over one million individual regulatory restrictions. Just the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed in 2010 is up to nearly 14,000 pages of rules––and is only 39 percent complete. The Competitive Enterprise Institute puts the total cost of complying with all these rules and regulations written by anonymous, unaccountable federal bureaucrats at $1.8 trillion. As Robert Nisbet writes in his invaluable book The Present Age, “There isn’t an aspect of individual life, from birth to death, that doesn’t come under some kind of federal scrutiny.”

This expansion, moreover, has come under Republican administrations as well as Democratic ones. The Environmental Protection Agency’s some 7000 rules cost $353 billion a year. Just six proposed new rules could cost between $36 and $111 billion, according to the EPA’s own lowball estimate. The legislation establishing the EPA was signed by Richard Nixon. Or take Social Security Disability Insurance. The number of workers receiving disability insurance has increased from 2.9 million in 1980 to 8.8 million in 2012. In 2013 SSDI will cost around $150 billion, a trend that will leave the program insolvent in 2016. This increase is mostly the result of the loosening of medical eligibility requirements to include more subjective conditions such as mood disorders and musculoskeletal problems. This change was legislated under the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984. That legislation was signed into law by Ronald Reagan. More recently, George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2006, which will cost $549 billion between 2006 and 2015.

The last three examples demonstrate that bigger government has been driven by a relentless expansion of entitlement spending both by increasing the number of recipients of existing programs, and by creating new ones. But as everyone knows, spending on entitlement programs is on a path to national bankruptcy due to 76 million Baby Boomers retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day. In 2012, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other health spending made up 45 percent of the $3.6 trillion budget, with another 19 percent going to federal employee retirement and benefits, veterans’ benefits, and anti-poverty programs such as food stamps and welfare. Add in the costs of servicing the $17 trillion in debt necessary for financing all this largesse, and by 2050 just health care entitlements alone will consume every dollar of federal taxes.

Here too Republicans, when they haven’t been creating new programs, have at best attempted to cut back increases in spending, rather than holding spending flat or reforming programs to decrease spending. As for questioning the existence of such programs, that is the fast track to political suicide. Indeed, just recommending modest reforms will bring down on any politicians charges of heartless indifference to the old and poor. Just ask Paul Ryan, whose 2012 budget that called for entitlement reform earned him a starring role in an attack ad in which he pushed a granny in a wheelchair over a cliff.

Finally, all this largesse is funded by a federal income tax that is a mechanism for the redistribution of property that troubled critics of democracy from the ancient Greeks to the American Founders. The U.S. has one of, if not the most, progressive tax rates of the world’s 24 richest countries. This progressivity of U.S. income taxes results in a redistribution of wealth from higher income to lower income citizens, even taking into account payroll and state taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, “The typical family in the lowest 20 percent in 2012 (with market incomes between $0 and $17,104) pays an average of $6,331 in total taxes and receives $33,402 in spending from all levels of government. Thus, the average amount of redistribution to a typical family in the bottom quintile is estimated to be $27,071. The vast majority of this net benefit, a total of $21,158, comes as a result of federal policies.” The top 20 percent, on the other hand, paid $87,076 more in taxes than it received in government spending, while the top one percent paid $867,473 in taxes and received $55,078 in spending. In 2012, about $2 trillion was distributed via entitlement programs and tax credits from the top 40 percent to the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers.

The truth is, we all have become a “nation of takers,” as Nicholas Eberstadt documents in his important book. We all consider normal a gigantic federal government of bureaucrats and technocrats whose job is to redistribute property in order to finance a vast network of entitlement spending from which most of us benefit either directly or indirectly. Beneficiaries of these programs have powerful lobbies that monitor and punish any politician who dares challenge this status quo. Just consider how easy it has been to marginalize the Tea Party as racist extremists, the only political organization calling for the return to the limited government of the Constitution, the reigning in of unsustainable debt and deficits, and the reform of entitlement programs so that only the truly needy are served. The existence of a vast constituency for government handouts has enabled this demonization of the only people crying “Iceberg ahead!”

Other Republicans may believe that once they return Congress and the Presidency to the Republicans––something they say the polarizing Tea Partiers make difficult, if not impossible––then they will turn to addressing the coming debt-deficit-entitlement crisis. Perhaps they are right. I hope they are right. But history gives us little hope that they will achieve anything other than a slow-down of the disaster. Not because they are “establishment” insiders or liberal wolves in conservative sheep’s clothing, but because not enough American people are ready yet to face reality and accept the sacrifices we’re all going to have to make to right our fiscal ship. Until then, the Progressives will keep winning no matter which party is in power.

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  • WarriorClass III

    Civil war is right around the corner and Obamacare has moved us far closer to that corner, and the Republicans are making sure we stay that course.

    • @CamelotK

      No it certainly is not.

  • Fred Glass

    Don’t these overwhelming numbers suggest a trend by the relentlessness of their duration to be much deeper and beyond the scope of politics?

  • Lanna

    More people are ready than could possibly be imagined!

  • joshuasweet

    the people will have no choice in the matter as the democrats continue to line their own pockets destroying the nation at every level they can.

  • steve b


  • tagalog

    A Federal Registry that contains a million regulations is too much law. This kind of runaway regulation MUST be stopped.

    • lyndaaquarius

      I read that 80,000 new regs/laws are imposed on us yearly. That’s almost one million in a 10 year period.Two million in 20 years and so on. Must be stopped is so right.In a generation,Americans will be enslaved to whims of government.

  • CurmudgyOne

    Impeach Obama. That’s the first step.

  • PhillipGaley


    Well for one thing, inthat, to add liquidity to the economy, we don’t go out and moil for precious metals, governmental addition is how it is to be done—the natural exception as to how that governmental addition is to be done being honesty, . . . the Solyndra bankruptcy to benefit cronies was one of many examples to the negative. So, yes, monetary liquidity has to be added and, should be done at the lowest level, . . .

    And, “right our fiscal ship”?

    Well, inthat, the national fisc is dependent upon what the individual knows and does, the individual—thence to the nation—is first depressed and ultimately destroyed for lack of inspiration and knowledge: As the foundation for productive activity, then, shop and home-ec training must needs be put back into the schools, . . .

  • veeper

    This (local, State, federal) is the government the Founding Fathers wrote against and warned Americans about.

    Present day Americans have sat back and given their country, their freedom and the birthright freedom of future Americans away.

    They have been to busy to bother with saving it…….

    • Drakken

      Ole Heinlein was right, veterans of the armed forces are the only ones responsible enough to be citizens in a Republic.

  • Red Baker

    The National Bankruptcy Machine – the federal government – is by far the biggest problem the nation faces. Young people are the natural constituency of conservative reforms, yet Republicans have completely yielded those voters to the Democrats.

    Republicans ought to address young voters especially with such facts. For example, since only about 45% of workers pay a net income tax, the portion of national debt for each one of them is about $274,000, and still rising at about $10,800 per year.

    Surely even Republicans can get people’s attention and win their votes which such dire news.

    • zoomie

      very good … some one else did the math.

      it’s such an easy figure to get, i wonder why it isn’t used more often. it’s so much easier , i guess, to just get lost with a number like 17 trillion.

  • Randy Townsend

    Brilliant (’cause I’ve been saying the same thing since Bush II took office). It’s apathy and support of the Marxist principles espoused by the left that is winning. People don’t know the history of the founders or the intended function of the federal government and most don’t care. Congress is reelected at a rate of over 90% – they do not fear the voters. Professional politicians are the rule, not the exception. The media is an advocacy arm for the Dim party. The country is splitting in a way not seen since Vietnam and it’s getting more pronounced. Soon, the right will act like the left and when that happens, WarriorClass III is correct – it won’t be a verbal disagreement.

    • Drakken

      If these idiot leftard progressives and profession politicians keep effing with the veterans they just might find themselves running for their lives from the torches and pitchforks.

  • Donald Sensing

    I wrote just after the election last year that it’s ridiculous for Republicans to keep saying that America is basically right of center. It is not. This is a leftwing nation from coast to coast.

    • lyndaaquarius

      So,Hillary is inevitable,you say?

      • Donald Sensing

        2016’s election will be neither free nor fair. Obama has spent five years ensuring that Democrats and no one else controls voting down to precinct level from now on. It does not matter whether Hillary is the nominee and it does not matter who gets the Republican nomination. The Democrat will win.

        • lyndaaquarius

          haven’t Dems lost alot of elections over the last 5 years?

          • Notalibfool

            They haven’t lost enough.

  • Bellerophons_Revenge

    The biggest wealth transfer system isn’t from the rich to the poor, it’s from the middle class to the rich.

    Ethanol tariffs, subsidies and mandates cost the average American a fortune to drive their cars. The wealthy corn farmers of Idaho do quite well with this mass wealth redistribution.

    Boeing executives and stockholders benefit from the Export Import Bank. 80% of the Bank’s business consists of below market rate loans made to foreign airlines to purchase Boeing aircraft.

    Sugar tariffs guarantee big incomes to sugar farmers but more importantly, they force the substitution of high fructose corn syrup which, again, benefits wealthy corn farmers.

    The Fed, by keeping interest rates absurdly low, protects wealthy banks when they make bad loans and keeps housing prices high.

    Virtually every one of the government’s myriad subsidy programs transfers wealth from the middle class to the rich. That’s why the rich support Democrats and make huge political contributions to defeat Tea Party candidates. The Chamber of Commerce came out swinging against the Tea Party long before Boehner did.

    • Fritz

      That is another form of wealth transfer, corporatism, and it is a huge problem, but not so much because of the total dollar amount of cash changing hands but because it corrupts the economy. You have politicians, and bureaucrats appointed by politicians, making decisions about which businesses or industries get money and which do not, and who wins and who looses. As Solyndra has show, government is far from being the best judge over what looks like a good business proposition, solar energy isn’t reliable enough even in the sun belt states. These practices should discontinue immediately, including the agriculture subsidies, given how many votes they actually represent it just does not make any sense even from the prospect of buying votes.

      • Bellerophons_Revenge

        I agree about corporatism. It hurts the economy by moving goods and services from efficient uses to less efficient uses. Free markets tend to maximize efficiency. When force is introduced into a market productivity inevitably suffers.

        Purchased votes are more dependent on when the purchase is made rather than the number of votes. That’s why the Iowa caucuses are first in the nation.

        Interestingly, three different candidates won the Iowa caucuses. First it was Romney, then it was Santorum but the candidate who actually took away the largest number of Iowa delegates was Ron Paul. However, the only thing that mattered was Romney’s initial win. From that point on he was basically the man to beat.

  • Brianinberthoud

    Obama is the most successful progressive president since FDR. Although these two are the only self identified progressives. He governs according to Rules for Radicals and destroys America by Cloward and Piven.


    “The [Establishment] Republicans may have achieved a tactical victory, but only time will tell if it translates into taking back the Senate and the presidency.
    But even if they do, it is still unlikely that they will achieve any
    meaningful reforms that can reign in the federal leviathan, seriously
    reduce metastasizing debt and deficits, or fix the looming disaster of
    unfunded entitlement liabilities.”

    And here Thornton encapsulates the trouble with the Republican Establishment – it cannot and will not reign in Leviathan. Thornton castes most of the blame on the people, but the truth is that while many in the electorate have become corrupted, the even greater problem is the unwillingness of the Establishment to fight the Left on principle. The Establishment doesn’t really care to know how bad the problems the Left has created are; they’re only really interested in holding office so they can feel like big shots. The only way this country can be saved is if Conservatives take control of the GOP from the Establishment and then really take the fight to the Democratic Left.

    There is a civil war within the Republican Party, and by itself that’s a good thing. But we Conservatives must come out on top, and Boehner and Ryan have outmaneuvered us this time. Let’s hope there are repercussions felt by both men.

    • @CamelotK

      Extremist teapartiers will lose. Extremism always loses.

      • Gerald Michael

        No it doesn’t; leftist extremism always wins in California. What planet do you come from?

  • tanstaafl

    It’s been a long, long time coming
    I know, I know a change is gonna come.

  • Donald J DaCosta

    What America has allowed itself to become through indifference, apathy and ignorance is exactly why Progressives have succeeded in implementing policies that will be extremely difficult to change in any fiscally responsible manner. America is no longer the land of opportunity to achieve, to compete to the best of one’s ability, to prosper; it is a land of opportunity to acquire the benefits of what they’re convinced they’re entitled to from their government benefactors. A land of embittered dependents convinced they have a right to survive on the backs of their more affluent, hard working, fellow citizens, though most likely do not see it in those terms.

    While the success of liberal, socialist, progressive policies requires fundamental changes in human nature, their success in creating a society largely dependent on handouts demonstrates that these radicals have a firm
    grip on human nature as it is and is likely to remain despite their best efforts.

    Where Americans once prided themselves on their fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness they now expect the right to Social Security, Medicare parts A, B and D, Obamacare (whatever that turns
    out to be), extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, disability insurance, home ownership, free cell phones, etc., etc. Once these “rights” are granted they quickly become firmly entrenched in the public mind as entitlements. According to Mr. Webster, “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).” Try and take any of these or any created between now and November 2016, away from the targeted groups and you are, politically speaking, dead meat.

    This is definitely not a problem that will be solved by a republican landslide in 2014 and 2016. It will require a massive reorientation of a decades long and very successful campaign by the left to create the American culture of the 21st century and a massive assault on socialism by highlighting its history of failures, its inherent and fundamental weaknesses and false premises vs the far superior if still imperfect free market, free enterprise, competitive, American capitalist system and its reliance on personal freedom, limited government, limited regulation and a strong national defense.

    The adults will have to take over and will, for a very long time, be a minority. The liberal, socialist, progressives are relying on this not being possible. They have a very long and patient view of a distant horizon. Human nature being what it is and their success in exploiting it, may very well succeed in turning the most technically, economically, militarily powerful and beneficent nation on the planet into a third world basket case.

    • lyndaaquarius

      Millions of Americans who took our nation’s foundational principles for granted have awakened to the precious and very fragile blessings of Liberty.We have Obama to thank for this awakening. Now,we too “have a very long and patient view of a distant horizon”. We’re hungry to secure our freedoms.The really true,hard core Progressives are , in reality, a very small minority. American Patriots are a very large and growing majority. We won’t become a third world basket case. Now that we know, we won’t allow it.Your article is so,so good! thank you.

      • Donald J DaCosta

        I so hope you’re right, much admire the positive attitude and hope you’re young enough to make a difference. I share your love for this country.

      • TheOrdinaryMan

        “We won’t become a third world basket case…we won’t allow it.” Fine, but how are “we the people” going to get candidates in office who will de-fund or dismantle these insidious entitlements, and begin to pay down some of that $17 trillion debt? I hate to tell you, but the Progressives aren’t a small minority at all. Did you see what happened to Ken Cuccinelli in the Va. Governor’s race this past November? A textbook example for this article. The establishment Republicans didn’t support him, and the Democrats had the libertarian candidate in their hip pocket. Thus we have a Progressive Governor for the next 4 years.

        • lyndaaquarius

          I was encouraged by how close Cuccinelli did come.Of course,the Progressives are big in Northern Virginia and his victory came before the horrors of Obama started to really rear its ugly head.I support the Tea Party and I send $$$ to SarahPac,Sarah Palin’s Pac.I do think that the tide has turned against Obama and his suffocating agenda.There’s also a real shaking out of the power in the Repub party and that the upset in November 2014 will be absolutely huge. The left always overreaches and it brings them down. Happening again now.

          • TheOrdinaryMan

            Let’s hope you’re right…and work for it to come true!

          • lyndaaquarius

            I think we need to talk up our principles without fear or in spite of fear,pray with a clear vision and a determined mind ,write checks[SarahPac and the David Horowitz freedom center are my recommendations] and get involved in organized get out the vote groups. Keep focused on victory,November is around the corner.

        • Geoffrey_Britain

          “how are “we the people” going to get candidates in office who will de-fund or dismantle these insidious entitlements”

          We the people can’t do it at the Presidential level, the 2012 election after 4 years of complete incompetence by Obama proved that. We can’t do it at the State Senatorial level as Cuccinelli in the Va. Governor’s race proved.

          But we CAN do it at the House of Representatives level. And the House controls the purse. What has kept the House from stopping the growth of the Entitlement and regulatory State in its tracks is the collaboration of the GOP leadership, which is beholden to its big donors, who do NOT want a return to limited government an unregulated capitalistic market forces.

          Elect enough Tea Party members to the House and they can block the raising of taxes, refuse to raise the debt and block the predictable move to impeach Tea Party members of the House.

          That would stop the left cold and force the Federal government to operate within a budget.

    • @CamelotK

      Total & complete garbage.

  • Geoffrey_Britain

    The problem is multifaceted and multi-layered. Besides the elements the author mentions, we have half the public invested in the entitlement state. We have a moribund economy, that hasn’t the jobs to provide to the public, if we start to cut back on entitlements. A depression, certain to result from cuts in federal spending will impact America far more than did the depression of the 30’s because we no longer have the manufacturing base we once had and, a service economy depends upon a certain level of employment. It has a tipping point, where poverty becomes a self-reinforcing death spiral. None of this is accidental, the left has calculated, engineered and facilitated these circumstances.

  • winstons

    Time to re-read J. Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”.

  • Ellman48

    I have been convinced more and more in each year of Obama’s regime that only a major calamity will wake up enough Americans to realize that leftist progressives are destroying this nation because we cannot keep increasing poverty levels and entitlement programs at the same time that the rich get richer while the middle class is being annihilated. Socialism will not bring utopia. It never did and never will, regardless of how those dependent on it may feel today.

    • Gerald Michael

      Don’t hold your breath. Many thought 9-11 would result in tighter border controls and more careful immigration laws. Didn’t happen. Things are now worse in many ways.

  • oneteedoffpatriot

    America will only be saved by a tremendous loss of blood and that will never happen. Down the drain we go.

  • cacslewisfan

    Wow. I think many people are sensing a coming disaster. I was in a sporting goods store yesterday, and I have never seen such a huge crowd buying guns, ammo, retractable batons, knives, you name it.

  • @CamelotK

    There are no “scandals” still simmering; Only in the fevered, self delusioned, right wing mind. There never were any “scandals.” And it’s not “socialist” to pay taxes to give others a chance. It’s a debt that is owed to the American society. Period. Acknowledge other people’s value, or move. Your alternative is to continue being humiliated. You lose.