Jim Clyburn: Personification of a Degraded Party

The third-leading Democrat in the House sees the bloated welfare state as an ideal worth striving for.

Seventy-year-old Democrat James Clyburn has been the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 6th congressional district since 1993. He also has served as House Majority Whip since 2007, making him the third-ranking Democrat in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. When the new Congress convenes in January 2011, Clyburn will retain a #3 leadership position – “Assistant Minority Leader” – among the now-minority Democrats. As one of the most influential political figures in the country, he merits the closest scrutiny of the American people – particularly in light of the fact that his politics are those of Democratic Party orthodoxy writ large.

A member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Clyburn, in the longstanding tradition of the CBC and the political Left, has cultivated an uncanny ability to spot white racists lurking menacingly around virtually every corner. For instance, when former President Bill Clinton likened Barack Obama's 2008 Democratic primary victory in South Carolina to then-candidate Jesse Jackson's primary victory there twenty years earlier, Clyburn concluded that Clinton's remarks were embedded with a racist intent to diminish Obama's achievement. “When he [Clinton] was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar,” said Clyburn. “I think black folks feel strongly that that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation.”

When South Carolina's Republican governor Mark Sanford formally rejected federal earmarks for his state early last year, Clyburn alleged that Sanford was a racially insensitive elitist: “He [Sanford] happens to be a millionaire. He may not need help for the plantation his family owns, but the people whose grandparents and great-grandparents worked those plantations need the help.”

In February 2009, Clyburn offered this assessment of why Sanford and three other southern white governors were opposing President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package: “The governor of Louisiana expressed opposition. [Louisiana] has the highest African-American population in the country. Governor of Mississippi expressed opposition. The governor of Texas, and the governor of South Carolina. These four governors represent states that are in the black belt. I was insulted by that. All of this was a slap in the face of African-Americans.”

In March 2009, when Governor Sanford compared Obama's massive stimulus spending to the disastrous fiscal policies of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Clyburn characterized the governor's remarks as “beyond the pale.” When reporters subsequently asked Clyburn if his use of that phrase was intended to imply that Sanford’s comments had racial overtones, the congressman replied: “I’m sure he would not say that, but how did he get to Zimbabwe? What took the man to Zimbabwe? Someone should ask him if that’s really the best comparison.… How can he compare this country’s situation to Zimbabwe?”

After Rep. Joe Wilson infamously shouted “You lie!” during President Obama's September 9, 2009 address outlining his healthcare-reform proposal to a joint session of Congress, Clyburn again sniffed the pungent stench of racism. Claiming that he had always tried to “look past” Wilson’s “membership in some groups that call into question his feelings about his whole notion of white supremacy,” Clyburn said: “Joe Wilson has worked very hard to cultivate a sort of choir-boy image, but I think that most people realize that there’s something else going on with him.”

In Clyburn's calculus, even a refusal to dutifully swallow the fantasy of manmade global warming qualifies as evidence of racism because, as the congressman explains, “African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change economically, socially and through our health and well-being.”

Clyburn's unwavering leftism manifests itself not only in such reflexive charges of racism, but also in the congressman's voting record on a wide range of vital issues. A devoted fan of the bloated welfare state, Clyburn, early in his legislative career, voted against a 1995 bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs. In addition to limiting welfare aid to five years per family, this bill barred states from giving cash assistance to children of unmarried teenagers; to families that had given birth to additional children while on public assistance; to any person who had fraudulently sought to obtain benefits in more than one state; and to fugitive felons, parole and probation violators, alcoholics, and drug addicts. But alas, Rep. Clyburn thought all these stipulations were bad ideas. The following year, he voted against the landmark Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which caused welfare rolls nationwide to shrink by more than 50 percent, as millions of formerly dependent people were moved successfully into jobs where they were able to earn their own way instead of being the wards of American taxpayers.

Clyburn also thought it was a bad idea in 2003 to place even minimal new conditions on welfare eligibility. Thus he voted against a proposal to raise the work requirements, from 30 hours per week to 40, for individuals receiving public assistance. By contrast, boondoggles requiring absolutely nothing of their beneficiaries are just dandy in Clyburn's eyes. In 2006 he voted Yes on a $70 million amendment to fund 10,000 Section-8 housing vouchers. Two years after that, he voted in favor of yet another spending bill to revitalize public housing – despite the fact that the U.S. already had more than 80 federal housing programs operating on an annual budget exceeding $30 billion.

Just as Clyburn is willing to funnel billions of other people's dollars toward redistributive welfare and public-housing initiatives, so is he ever-eager to pour rivers of cash into a public-education system that has scarcely proven to be worth its weight in dirt. In 2007 he voted in favor of a bill – stuffed with more than 2,200 earmarks totaling nearly $1 billion, and funding nearly five-dozen programs that were duplicative or had proven ineffective – allocating an additional $10.2 billion to federal education and HHS projects. Two years later, he voted Yes on a proposal to spend $40 billion for the modernization, renovation, and repair of “green public schools.” Every year since 2005, Clyburn has received a perfect rating from the National Education Association, the largest American labor union, the leading engine of leftist indoctrination in the public schools, and a major funder of Democratic candidates and causes.

By Clyburn's reckoning, only the enlightened Washington elite are qualified to determine how American children ought to be educated. Thus in 1997 the congressman voted against permitting certain federal education funds to finance vouchers that would enable low-income families to send their children to private schools rather than to dismal, failing public schools. The following year, Clyburn again voted against federally funded vouchers for impoverished children in Washington, DC, a city whose schools are the very embodiment of fiscal waste and academic incompetence.

In classic leftist fashion, Clyburn has consistently sought to balance increased federal handouts – that is, for everything other than school vouchers – with ever-escalating taxes levied against the citizens who are forced to bankroll his pet projects. Viewing government spending as the one-size-fits-all solution-of-choice for all manner of economic woes, in January 2009 Clyburn voted in favor of the infamous $825 billion stimulus package whose main achievement has been to saddle future generations with yet another layer of utterly unsustainable, crushing debt. Six months after that, he voted Yes on $192 billion in additional “stimulus” spending – again based on the planted axiom that the government, rather than the private sector, holds the key to economic recovery. As a result of Clyburn's unbridled tax-and-spend policies, in 2008 and 2009 he received the lowest possible ratings (ranging from 0 to 1 percent) from Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Fair Taxation, and the National Taxpayers Union – organizations that seek to eliminate wasteful federal spending and excessive taxation.

Tax cuts, of course, have long been anathema to Rep. Clyburn. In April 1995 he voted against a five-year, $189 billion tax-cut proposal. Six months later he rejected a bill aimed at reducing the federal deficit by lowering taxes and cutting social-welfare spending. In March 2000 he voted against a five-year, $46 billion tax cut for small businesses. Three months after that, he voted down a proposal to phase out estate and gift taxes over a ten-year period. In May 2001 he cast his ballot against President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax-cut plan. In May 2003 he voted against a $350 billion federal tax cut. In April 2005 and again in June 2006, he voted against proposals to permanently repeal the estate tax (a.k.a. the “death tax”). In November 2005 he voted against a bill calling for a $49.91 billion reduction in federal spending over a five-year period. One month later he rejected a similar five-year proposal for $56.1 billion in federal spending cuts as well as tax reductions on capital gains and dividends. In May 2006 he voted against a four-year, $69.96 billion tax-cut bill.

Most Americans understand that their country's economy and national security are closely tied to U.S. dependence on foreign oil, much of which is imported from regimes overtly hostile to American interests. Nonetheless, Clyburn – under the rubric of environmental concerns – has consistently opposed measures aimed at increasing the nation's energy self-sufficiency. In October 1995 he voted against a proposal to open the Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration. In October 2005 and June 2006, he voted against the construction of new oil refineries. In May 2006 he voted against a proposal to provide funds for offshore oil exploration along the Outer  Continental Shelf. That same year, he voted in favor of maintaining a quarter-century moratorium on oil and gas drilling in “environmentally sensitive” offshore areas. Then, in 2009 he voted Yes on enforcing cap-and-trade limits on CO2 “global-warming pollution,” even though growing industrial giants like China and India adamantly refused to abide by the same restrictions because of the disastrous economic impact they would have.

One of the left's more noteworthy traits is its rejection of the notion that America has a right to enforce its immigration laws, defend its borders, and preserve its culture – to say nothing of its obligation to spend taxpayer dollars with at least a modicum of restraint. In these regards, Clyburn has long personified leftism's ideological core. In July 1994 he voted against barring illegal aliens from receiving benefits and aid under FEMA's emergency food and shelter programs. In March 1996 he voted in favor of an amendment designed to permit illegal immigrants to receive public-welfare assistance. Six months later he voted in favor of a bill to increase border-patrol personnel and adopt other measures designed to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the United States. In May 2004 he voted against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment. In December 2005 and September 2006, he voted against the construction of some 700 miles of fencing along America's southern border. And in September 2006 he voted against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants.

Whenever a national security-related policy decision needs to be made, Clyburn can be firmly relied upon to take a position that compromises the safety of Americans – usually in the interest of “civil liberties” protections. In September 2006, for instance, the congressman voted against the use of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror – preferring instead to grant such defendants all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal-court system, where the standards that restrict the admissibility of evidence are considerably tighter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals. That same month, Clyburn rejected an amendment authorizing the government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives. In August 2007 he voted against a bill permitting government anti-terrorism investigators to monitor foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States. He reaffirmed this position in June 2008, when he supported a bill specifically prohibiting this type of surveillance. In another noteworthy vote, in July 2002 – just ten months after the 9/11 hijackings – Clyburn opposed a proposal to permit airline pilots to carry firearms for the purpose of defending their aircraft against acts of violence or terrorism.

Similarly, Clyburn's approach to the war on terror has reflected not even the barest glimmer of  leadership. In June 2006 the congressman voted against a resolution which stated that it was not in America's national-security interest to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. In May 2007 he voted in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center. In July 2007 he voted to begin dramatically reducing the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq within the next nine months, regardless of conditions on the ground.

One of Clyburn's more significant war-related votes was his February 2007 opposition to President Bush's so-called troop “surge” — the ultimately pivotal and dramatically successful deployment of some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers to Iraq. Clyburn cast his vote against this measure just two months before Senator Harry Reid, the Democrats' most recognizable voice of dispirited capitulation, would publicly state “that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything.” In an August 2007 interview with the Washington Post, Clyburn was asked what his party would do if General David Petraeus, the commander in charge of the surge, were to issue a report that the new strategy was working effectively. Recognizing that such a report would inevitably impede Democrats' efforts to garner congressional support for defunding the war, Clyburn said: “Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that.”

James Clyburn – like Pelosi, Reid, and Obama – represents precisely what is wrong with the Democratic Party today. He considers massive government spending – funded by a crushing tax burden – to be the cure for virtually every social and economic ill that plagues America. Moreover, he views the United States as a fundamentally unjust nation where white racism continues to run rampant. This essentially negative vision of the country leads Clyburn, as it by-and-large leads all leftists, to reject the notion that Americans have a right to defend their borders, or to cherish their culture, or to keep most of the money they earn, or to educate their children as they see fit, or to make use of the vast natural resources that exist within the nation's borders, or to mete out harsh and swift punishment against bloodthirsty terrorists, or to win wars decisively rather than abiding by politically correct rules-of-engagement and issuing constantly updated forecasts of projected troop-withdrawal dates. As such, Clyburn is a perfect fit to serve as a high-ranking leader of a political party that has become thoroughly degraded.