Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Contract with America?

Whatever Happened to the Contract with America?

Dick Armey

BOTH THE CREATION of the Contract with America in 1994 and its subsequent abandonment can be explained in terms of the conflict in government between what I call legislative entrepreneurs and legislative bureaucrats. In 1994, when we wrote the Contract, entrepreneurs were strong. Today, as most of the time, bureaucrats are running things.
By legislative entrepreneur, I mean a person who has a set of principles and is willing to take risks on its behalf. A legislative bureaucrat, by contrast, seeks only to perpetuate the current situation with the motive of remaining safely in office. The fact that legislative bureaucrats are usually in command reminds me of Armey’s Axiom Number One: “The market is rational. The government is dumb.” I know the former to be true as someone who has studied economics. I know the latter to be true as someone who spent a long time in Congress.
One of the greatest entrepreneurial moments in the history of human government was the writing of our Constitution. America’s Founders understood clearly what it means to accomplish a goal on behalf of ideas and principles that rise above self-interest. George Washington might have become our king, but chose not to. His governing idea was that government is our servant because we are inherently free. It is an idea too many in government today forget.
In politics, every great enterprise eventually falls into the hands of what I call legislative bureaucrats. This explains the ongoing debate in Congress today over whether we even need to pay attention to the Constitution, and over whether the government’s power should indeed be limited, as our Founders believed, to upholding liberty. It has fallen now to future legislative entrepreneurs on the conservative side of the aisle to revive that central concept of America.
There have been only three great moments of pro-Constitution entrepreneurship in my adult lifetime. The first of these was the presidential campaign of 1964, when Barry Goldwater tried courageously to remind the nation why our Founders thought it vital to limit government. Needless to say, Goldwater suffered a landslide electoral defeat. But he galvanized the modern conservative movement, which rose from the ashes of his failed campaign.
The second great moment was Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980—this one wildly successful—which was run, like Goldwater’s, on a consistently principled platform of limited government. Reagan’s election inspired me and many other conservatives to run for office. And the eight years following can largely be characterized as a struggle between constitutionalists who wished to restore limits on government and the always more numerous bureaucrats, both in the executive departments and in Congress. Fortunately, for most of his presidency, Reagan and his allies prevailed. But when George H.W. Bush took office in 1989, riding Reagan’s coattails, the bureaucrats began taking over again, and the Reagan Revolution had almost completely dissipated by the time Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.
The third great political moment in my lifetime was the Contract with America in 1994. In the run-up to the congressional elections that year, Hillary Clinton had been touting her government-run, command-and-control health care plan and scaring the devil out of the American people. The Republican leadership decided to capitalize on this terrible plan, seeking to seize power for the sake of implementing pro-Constitution policies. And the idea worked: Republicans took control of Congress that year in dramatic fashion, largely due to the Contract with America.
Those of us who signed on to the Contract were devoted to rolling back government as much as we could. The biggest success of those years—and a superb example of legislative entrepreneurship—was welfare reform. President Clinton vetoed it twice, but we saw it through, and it has worked marvelously well. It became such a great success, in fact, that Clinton eventually claimed it as the best idea he ever had! The lesson here for limited government conservatives is that they must not be afraid to dare.
Ever since the successes of the Contract with America, the balance in our government has moved slowly but surely from entrepreneurship back to bureaucracy. One day I found myself in a House leadership meeting, and I realized that we were coming to town each week and doing things we weren’t supposed to be doing. We justified this by telling ourselves that we needed to hold on to the majority in order to do the things we should be doing.
In the end, the Republican Congress—in the two or three years leading up to the Democratic victories in 2006—had utterly forsaken its commitment to liberty and limited government, with the often active acquiescence of the White House. This brings me to another one of Armey’s Axioms: “If it’s only about power, you lose.”
The Republican majority, having forgotten the lessons of 1994 and having committed themselves only to the next election, not only failed their country but lost their power.

 Dick Armey is the chairman of FreedomWorks. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma and taught at the University of Montana, West Texas State University, Austin College, and the University of North Texas. Elected to Congress in 1984, he was the principal author of the Contract with America in 1994 and served as U.S. House Majority Leader from 1995-2003. Dr. Armey is the author of four books, including, most recently, Armey’s Axioms: 40 Hard-Earned Truths from Politics, Faith, and Life.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on January 27, 2008.

Copyright © 2011 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Real Cost of Regulation

The Real Cost of Regulation

John Stossel,

 When I started 30 years ago as a consumer reporter, I took the approach that most young reporters take today. My attitude was that capitalism is essentially cruel and unfair, and that the job of government, with the help of lawyers and the press, is to protect people from it. For years I did stories along those lines—stories about Coffee Association ads claiming that coffee "picks you up while it calms you down," or Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Company ads touting the clarity of its product by showing cars with their windows rolled down. I and other consumer activists said, "We've got to have regulation. We've got to police these ads. We've got to have a Federal Trade Commission." And I'm embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that these regulations make things worse, not better, for ordinary people.
The damage done by regulation is so vast, it's often hard to see. The money wasted consists not only of the taxes taken directly from us to pay for bureaucrats, but also of the indirect cost of all the lost energy that goes into filling out the forms. Then there's the distraction of creative power. Listen to Jack Faris, president of the National Federation of Independent Business: "If you're a small businessman, you have to get involved in government or government will wreck your business." And that's what happens. You have all this energy going into lobbying the politicians, forming the trade associations and PACs, and trying to manipulate the leviathan that's grown up in Washington, D.C. and the state cap-itals. You have many of the smartest people in the country today going into law, rather than into engineering or science. This doesn't create a richer, freer society. Nor do regulations only depress the economy. They depress the spirit. Visitors to Moscow before the fall of communism noticed a dead-eyed look in the people. What was that about? I don't think it was about fear of the KGB. Most Muscovites didn't have intervention by the secret police in their daily lives. I think it was the look that people get when they live in an all-bureaucratic state. If you go to Washington, to the Environmental Protection Agency, I think you'll see the same thing.
One thing I noticed that started me toward seeing the folly of regulation was that it didn't even punish the obvious crooks. The people selling the breast-enlargers and the burn-fat-while-you-sleep pills got away with it. The Attorney General would come at them after five years, they would hire lawyers to gain another five, and then they would change the name of their product or move to a different state. But regulation did punish legitimate businesses.
When I started reporting, all the aspirin companies were saying they were the best, when in fact aspirin is simply aspirin. So the FTC sued and demanded corrective advertising. Corrective ads would have been something like, "Contrary to our prior ads, Excedrin does not relieve twice as much pain." Of course these ads never ran. Instead, nine years of costly litigation finally led to a consent order. The aspirin companies said, "We don't admit doing anything wrong, but we won't do it again." So who won?
Unquestionably the lawyers did. But did the public? Aspirin ads are more honest now. They say things like, "Nothing works better than Bayer"—which, if you think about it, simply means, "We're all the same." But I came to see that the same thing would have happened without nearly a decade of litigation, because markets police themselves. I can't say for certain how it would have happened. I think it's a fatal conceit to predict how markets will work. Maybe Better Business Bureaus would have gotten involved. Maybe the aspirin companies would have sued each other. Maybe the press would have embarrassed them. But the truth would have gotten out. The more I watched the market, the more impressed I was by how flexible and reasonable it is compared to government-imposed solutions.
Market forces protect us even where we tend most to think we need government. Consider the greedy, profit-driven companies that have employed me. CBS, NBC, and ABC make their money from advertisers, and they've paid me for 20 years to bite the hand that feeds them. Bristol-Myers sued CBS and me for $23 million when I did the story on aspirin. You'd think CBS would have said, "Stossel ain't worth that." But they didn't. Sometimes advertisers would pull their accounts, but still I wasn't fired. Ralph Nader once said that this would never happen except on public television. In fact the opposite is true: Unlike PBS, almost every local TV station has a consumer reporter. The reason is capitalism: More people watch stations that give honest information about their sponsors' products. So although a station might lose some advertisers, it can charge the others more. Markets protect us in unexpected ways.

Alternatives to the Nanny State

People often say to me, "That's okay for advertising. But when it comes to health and safety, we've got to have OSHA, the FDA, the CPSC" and the whole alphabet soup of regulatory agencies that have been created over the past several decades. At first glance this might seem to make sense. But by interfering with free markets, regulations almost invariably have nasty side effects. Take the FDA, which saved us from thalidomide—the drug to prevent morning sickness in pregnant women that was discovered to cause birth defects. To be accurate, it wasn't so much that the FDA saved us, as that it was so slow in studying thalidomide that by the end of the approval process, the drug's awful effects were being seen in Europe. I'm glad for this. But since the thalidomide scare, the FDA has grown ten-fold in size, and I believe it now does more harm than good. If you want to get a new drug approved today, it costs about $500 million and takes about ten years. This means that there are drugs currently in existence that would improve or even save lives, but that are being withheld from us because of a tiny chance they contain carcinogens. Some years ago, the FDA held a press conference to announce its long-awaited approval of a new beta-blocker, and predicted it would save 14,000 American lives per year. Why didn't anybody stand up at the time and say, "Excuse me, doesn't that mean you killed 14,000 people last year by not approving it?" The answer is, reporters don't think that way.
Why, in a free society, do we allow government to perform this kind of nanny-state function? A reasonable alternative would be for government to serve as an information agency. Drug companies wanting to submit their products to a ten-year process could do so. Those of us who choose to be cautious could take only FDA-approved drugs. But others, including people with terminal illnesses, could try non-approved drugs without sneaking off to Mexico or breaking the law. As an added benefit, all of us would learn something valuable by their doing so. I'd argue further that we don't need the FDA to perform this research. As a rule, government agencies are inefficient. If we abolished the FDA, private groups like the publisher of Consumer Reports would step in and do the job better, cheaper, and faster. In any case, wouldn't that be more compatible with what America is about? Patrick Henry never said, "Give me absolute safety or give me death!"

Lawyers and Liability

If we embrace the idea of free markets, we have to accept the fact that trial lawyers have a place. Private lawsuits could be seen as a supplement to Adam Smith's invisible hand: the invisible fist. In theory they should deter bad behavior. But because of how our laws have evolved, this process has gone horribly wrong. It takes years for victims to get their money, and most of the money goes to lawyers. Additionally, the wrong people get sued. A Harvard study of medical malpractice suits found that most of those getting money don't deserve it, and that most people injured by negligence don't sue. The system is a mess. Even the cases the trial lawyers are most proud of don't really make us safer. They brag about their lawsuit over football helmets, which were thin enough that some kids were getting head injuries. But now the helmets are so thick that kids are butting each other and getting other kinds of injuries. Worst of all, they cost over $100 each. School districts on the margin can't afford them, and as a result some are dropping their football programs. Are the kids from these schools safer playing on the streets? No.
An even clearer example concerns vaccines. Trial lawyers sued over the Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus Vaccine, claiming that it wasn't as safe as it might have been. Although I suspect this case rested on junk science, I don't know what the truth is. But assuming these lawyers were right, and that they've made the DPT vaccine a little safer, are we safer? When they sued, there were twenty companies in America researching and making vaccines. Now there are four. Many got out of the business because they said, "We don't make that much on vaccines. Who needs this huge liability?" Is America better off with four vaccine makers instead of twenty? No way.
These lawsuits also disrupt the flow of information that helps free people protect themselves. For example, we ought to read labels. We should read the label on tetracycline, which says that it won't work if taken with milk. But who reads labels anymore? I sure don't. There are 21 warning labels on stepladders—"Don't dance on stepladders wearing wet shoes," etc.—because of the threat of liability. Drug labels are even crazier. If anyone were actually to read the two pages of fine print that come with birth control pills, they wouldn't need to take the drug. My point is that government and lawyers don't make us safer. Freedom makes us safer. It allows us to protect ourselves. Some say, "That's fine for us. We're educated. But the poor and the ignorant need government regulations to protect them." Not so. I sure don't know what makes one car run better or safer than another. Few of us are automotive engineers. But it's hard to get totally ripped off buying a car in America. The worst car you can find here is safer than the best cars produced in planned economies. In a free society, not everyone has to be an expert in order for markets to protect us. In the case of cars, we just need a few car buffs who read car magazines. Information gets around through word-of-mouth. Good companies thrive and bad ones atrophy. Freedom protects the ignorant, too.
Admittedly there are exceptions to this argument. I think we need some environmental regulation, because now and then we lack a market incentive to behave well in that area. Where is the incentive for me to keep my waste-treatment plant from contaminating your drinking water? So we need some rules, and some have done a lot of good. Our air and water are cleaner thanks to catalytic converters. But how much regulation is enough? President Clinton set a record as he left office, adding 500,000 new pages to the Federal Register—a whole new spiderweb of little rules for us to obey. How big should government be? For most of America's history, when we grew the fastest, government accounted for five percent or less of GDP. The figure is now 40 percent. This is still less than Europe. But shouldn't we at least have an intelligent debate about how much government should do? The problem is that to have such a debate, we need an informed public. And here I'm embarrassed, because people in my business are not helping that cause.

Fear-Mongering: A Risky Business

A turning point came in my career when a producer came into my office excited because he had been given a story by a trial lawyer—the lazy reporter's best friend—about Bic lighters spontaneously catching fire in people's pockets. These lighters, he told me, had killed four Americans in four years. By this time I'd done some homework, so I said, "Fine. I'll do the exploding lighter story after I do stories on plastic bags, which kill 40 Americans every four years, and five-gallon buckets, which kill 200 Americans (mostly children) every four years." This is a big country, with 280 million people. Bad things happen to some of them. But if we frighten all the rest about ant-sized dangers, they won't be prepared when an elephant comes along. The producer stalked off angrily and got Bob Brown to do the story. But several years later, when ABC gave me three hour-long specials a year in order to keep me, I insisted the first one be called, "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" In it, I ranked some of these risks and made fun of the press for its silliness in reporting them.
Risk specialists compare risks not according to how many people they kill, but according to how many days they reduce the average life. The press goes nuts over airplane crashes, but airplane crashes have caused fewer than 200 deaths per year over the past 20 years. That's less than one day off the average life. There is no proof that toxic-waste sites like Love Canal or Times Beach have hurt anybody at all, despite widely reported claims that they cause 1,000 cases of cancer a year. (Even assuming they do, and assuming further that all these cancer victims die, that would still be less than four days off the average life.) House fires account for about 4,500 American deaths per year—18 days off the average life. And murder, which leads the news in most towns, takes about 100 days off the average life. But to bring these risks into proper perspective, we need to compare them to far greater risks like driving, which knocks 182 days off the average life. I am often asked to do scare stories about flying—"The Ten Most Dangerous Airports" or "The Three Most Dangerous Airlines"—and I refuse because it's morally irresponsible. When we scare people about flying, more people drive to Grandma's house, and more are killed as a result. This is statistical murder, perpetuated by regulators and the media.
Even more dramatic is the fact that Americans below the poverty line live seven to ten fewer years than the rest of us. Some of this difference is self-induced: poor people smoke and drink more. But most of it results from the fact that they can't afford some of the good things that keep the rest of us alive. They drive older cars with older tires; they can't afford the same medical care; and so on. This means that when bureaucrats get obsessed about flying or toxic-waste sites, and create new regulations and drive up the cost of living in order to reduce these risks, they shorten people's lives by making them poorer. Bangladesh has floods that kill 100,000 people. America has comparable floods and no one dies. The difference is wealth. Here we have TVs and radios to hear about floods, and cars to drive off in. Wealthier is healthier, and regulations make the country poorer. Maybe the motto of OSHA should be: "To save four, kill ten."
Largely due to the prevalence of misleading scare stories in the press, we see in society an increasing fear of innovation. Natural gas in the home kills 200 Americans a year, but we accept it because it's old. It happened before we got crazy. We accept coal, which is awful stuff, but we're terrified of nuclear power, which is probably cleaner and safer. Swimming pools kill over 1,000 Americans every year, and I think it's safe to say that the government wouldn't allow them today if they didn't already exist. What about vehicles that weigh a ton and are driven within inches of pedestrians by 16-year-olds, all while spewing noxious exhaust? Cars, I fear, would never make it off the drawing board in 2001.
What's happened to America? Why do we allow government to make decisions for us as if we were children? In a free society we should be allowed to take risks, and to learn from them. The press carps and whines about our exposure to dangerous new things—invisible chemicals, food additives, radiation, etc. But what's the result? We're living longer than ever. A century ago, most people my age were already dead. If we were better informed, we'd realize that what's behind this longevity is the spirit of enterprise, and that what gives us this spirit—what makes America thrive—isn't regulation. It's freedom.

John Stossel joined the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 in 1981, and began his critically acclaimed series of one-hour prime-time specials in 1994. He has received 19 Emmy Awards and has been honored five times for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club. Among his other awards are the George Polk Award for Outstanding Local Reporting and the George Foster Peabody Award. Mr. Stossel is a 1969 graduate of Princeton University with a B.A. in psychology.
The following is an abridged version of Mr. Stossel's speech delivered on February 20, 2001, in Fort Myers, Florida, at a Hillsdale College seminar. 

Copyright © 2011 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tea Parties and the Future of Liberty

The Tea Parties and the Future of Liberty

Stephen F. Hayes

Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Within a month he signed a $787 billion “stimulus package” with virtually no Republican support. It was necessary, we were told, to keep unemployment under eight percent. Overnight, the federal government had, as one of its highest priorities, weatherizing government buildings and housing projects. Streets and highways in no need of repair would be broken up and repaved. The Department of Transportation and other government agencies would spend millions on signs advertising the supposed benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I saw one of them on Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C. It boasted that the federal park would be receiving a generous grant to facilitate the involvement of local youth in the removal of “non-indigenous plants.” In other words, kids would be weeding. We need a sign to announce that? And this was going to save the economy?
Then there was American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project number 1R01AA01658001A, a study entitled: “Malt Liquor and Marijuana: Factors in their Concurrent Versus Separate Use.” I’m not making this up. This is a $400,000 project being directed by a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The following is from the official abstract: “We appreciate the opportunity to refocus this application to achieve a single important aim related to our understanding of young adults’ use of male [sic] liquor (ML), other alcoholic beverages, and marijuana (MJ), all of which confer high risks for experiencing negative consequences, including addiction. As we have noted, reviews of this grant application have noted numerous strength [sic], which are summarized below.”
So what were those strengths? “This research team has previous [sic] been successful in recruiting a large (>600) sample of regular ML drinkers.” Also, “the application is well-written.” Well-written? With three spelling mistakes? But who am I to judge? As for the other strength, there is no question that the team’s recruitment had been strong. But is that really a qualification for federal money? After all, they were paying people to drink beer!
These same scholars were behind a groundbreaking 2007 study that used regression analysis to discover that subjects who got drunk and high were more intoxicated than those who only abused alcohol. The new study pays these pot-smoking malt-liquor drinkers at least $45 to participate. They can buy four beers per day for the three-week project—all of it funded, at least indirectly, by the American taxpayer.
Perhaps not surprisingly, when President Obama visited Buffalo in May, he chose to highlight other stimulus grants. On the other hand, he could have pointed out that the beer money goes right back into the economy. Think of all those saved or created jobs! In any case, the findings of this new study are expected to echo those of the first study, which found: “Those who concurrently use both alcohol and marijuana are more likely to report negative consequences of substance use compared with those who use alcohol only.” Reading results like this, I tend to think that those who concurrently get drunk and high are also far more likely to believe the stimulus is working.
And have I mentioned that the estimated cost of the stimulus was later increased from $787 billion to $862 billion? That’s a cost underestimate of nearly ten percent. Anyone in private business who suddenly had to come up with ten percent more in outgoing funds than previously anticipated would likely go out of business.
All of this set the stage for a revolt. The accidental founding of the Tea Party movement took place in February 2009, when CNBC commentator Rick Santelli let loose a rant against the stimulus package, and in particular the proposal to subsidize what he called “the losers’ mortgages.” He proposed a ceremonial dump of derivative securities into Lake Michigan, and a few hours later a website popped up calling for a Chicago Tea Party. The video clip raced around the Internet, and it was soon clear that many average Americans were furious about the massive new spending bill and the plan to subsidize bad mortgages.
The stimulus was bad, but by itself it was probably not enough to sustain an entire movement. This is why the larger context matters: Under President Obama, federal spending has been growing at an unprecedented pace. We are adding $4.8 billion to the national debt every day. The long-term viability of Medicare and Social Security isn’t merely uncertain—as so many analysts would have us believe. In fact, their failure is a sure thing without structural changes. By adding a massive new entitlement with the health care bill, we are simply going to go broke faster. Americans understood much of this even before Mr. Obama was elected.
Consider this story from the recent presidential campaign: In July 2008, Republican nominee John McCain stopped in Belleville, Michigan, to par-ticipate in a town hall. After several friendly questions, he took one from Rich Keenan. Wearing a shirt with an American flag embroidered over his left breast, Keenan told McCain that he would not be voting for Obama. But then he said: “What I’m trying to do is get to a situation where I’m excited about voting for you.”
The audience laughed, and many in the crowd nodded their heads. Keenan explained that he was “concerned” about some of McCain’s views, such as his opposition to the Bush tax cuts and his views on the environment. Keenan allowed that he was grateful that McCain had begun taking more conservative positions. But he concluded: “I guess the question I have, and that people like me in this country have, is what can you say to us to make us believe that you actually came to the right positions? We want to take you to the dance, we’re just concerned about who you’re going to go home with.” The audience laughed again. McCain laughed, too, but then he grew serious: “I have to say, and I don’t mean to disappoint you, but I haven’t changed positions.” He defended his vote against the Bush tax cuts and, at some length, reiterated his concerns about global warming. Later, he went out of his way to emphasize his respect for Hillary Clinton and boast about his work with Joe Lieberman, Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy.
I talked with Rich Keenan after the town hall. He described himself as a conservative independent. He said he often votes Republican but does not consider himself one. He added, “I do think that there are millions of Americans out there like me who are fairly conservative, probably more conservative than John McCain, and I think a lot of them are concerned about what’s going to happen if he does get elected.” Keenan was right. There were millions of people out there like him—conservatives, independents, disaffected Republicans, and many of them stayed home on election day. These people form the heart of the Tea Party movement.
In recent years, the Republican Party has seen its approval levels sink to new lows. In 2005, 33 percent of registered voters told Gallup they considered themselves Republican. By 2009, that number was 27 percent. The number of voters who identified themselves as independent showed a corresponding rise. But what’s interesting is that over that same time-frame, the number of voters self-identified as conservative stayed relatively constant: 39 percent in 2005 and 40 percent in 2009. (Self-identified liberals constituted 20 percent of respondents in both 2005 and 2009.) So even as the number of self-identified Republicans declined and the number of self-identified independents grew, the number of self-identified conservatives was constant. Of course, it’s too simple to postulate a one-for-one swap, but the trend seems clear. The Tea Party movement arose in an environment in which a growing number of Americans believed neither party was voicing its concerns.
All of this has liberals in the mainstream media and elsewhere flummoxed. At first they were dismissive. Think of the footage of Susan Roesgen of CNN going after Tea Party enthusiasts at a Chicago rally, suggesting they were irrational and stupid. And consider a few of the many other examples:
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wrote: “The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction—the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day—and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies—is calibrated not to inform but to incite.”
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz said: “I believe that the Tea Partiers are misguided. I think they are racist, for the most part. I think that they are afraid. I think that they are clinging to their guns and their religion. And I think in many respects, they are what’s wrong with America.”
Actress Janeane Garofalo: “This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. These are nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks.”
Comedian Bill Maher: “The teabaggers, they’re not a movement, they’re a cult.”
Perhaps the most stunning comment came from prominent Democratic strategist Steve McMahon: “The reason people walk into schools and open fire is because of rhetoric like this and because of attitudes like this. The reason people walk into military bases and open fire is because of rhetoric like this and attitudes like this. Really, what they’re doing is not that much different than what Osama bin Laden is doing in recruiting people and encouraging them to hate America.”
We’ve seen this before. On November 7, 1994, the Washington Post ran an article about the loud, hateful fringe on the right: “Hate seems to be drifting through the air like smoke from autumn bonfires. It isn’t something that can be quantified. No one can measure whether it has grown since last year, the 1980s, or the 1880s. But a number of people who make their living taking the public’s temperature are convinced it’s swelling beyond the perennial level of bad manners and random insanity. It’s fueled, they say, by such forces as increasingly harsh political rhetoric, talk radio transmissions, and an increasing sense of not-so-quiet desperation.” The next day, Republicans took Congress.
Are today’s Tea Party supporters on the radical fringe? In a National Review/McLaughlin Associates poll conducted in February, six percent of 1,000 likely voters said that they had participated in a Tea Party rally. An additional 47 percent said they generally agree with the reasons for those protests. Nor is the Tea Party movement “monochromatic” and “all white,” as Chris Matthews claimed. Quite the contrary: the National Review poll found that it was five percent black and 11 percent Hispanic.
Perhaps that poll could be dismissed as the work of a right-leaning polling firm and a conservative magazine. You can’t say that about the New York Times and CBS. Their poll, which has a long history of oversampling Democrats, found that Tea Partiers are wealthier and better educated than average voters. It also found that 20 percent of Americans—one in five—supports Tea Parties. That’s an awfully big fringe.
Other polls confirmed these findings: a Washington Post/ABC poll found that 14 percent of voters say the Tea Party is “most in synch” with their values; 20 percent say Tea Parties are “most in tune with economic problems Americans are now facing.” The most interesting poll, in my view, came from TargetPoint Consulting, which interviewed nearly 500 attendees at the April 15, 2010, Tax Day rally in Washington, D.C. Here are some results:
Tea Partiers are united on the issues of debt, the growth of government, and health care reform.
They are socially conservative on the one hand and libertarian on the other, split roughly down the middle.
They are older, more educated, and more conservative than average voters, and they are “distinctly not Democrat.”
This new information complicated the mainstream media’s narrative about the Tea Party movement. This was not a fringe. Nancy Pelosi, who had earlier dismissed Tea Parties as “Astroturf”—meaning fake grassroots activism—revised that assessment, telling reporters that, in fact, she was just like the Tea Partiers.
This brings us to the present day. The president’s approval ratings are low, and Congressional Democrats’ are even worse. Members of the president’s party are not only running away from him in swing districts, but even in some relatively safe ones. Many analysts are suggesting that control of the House of Representatives is in play, and perhaps even that of the Senate.
This dissatisfaction flows directly from the president’s policies and those of his party. It is not simply “anti-incumbent,” as many of my press colleagues would have it. This voter outrage—and it is outrage, not hate—is specific and focused: Americans are fed up with big government and deeply concerned about the long-term economic health of their country. The stimulus was unpopular, and most Americans do not believe it’s working. Obama’s health care plan was unpopular when it passed. The American people understood the rather obvious point that it wouldn’t be possible to cover 30 million additional people, improve the care of those with insurance, and save taxpayers money, all at the same time.
Does all of this add up to big Republican gains in November? Not according to the mainstream media. The Boston Globe’s Susan Milligan recently wrote: “The Tea Party movement is energizing elements of the Republican Party and fanning an anti-Washington fervor, but the biggest beneficiaries in the mid-term elections, pollsters and political analysts say, could be the main target of their anger: Democrats.” CBS News reported the same thing just a few days later. What nonsense! I think there is little question that the Tea Parties—and the enthusiasm and energy they bring—will contribute to major Republican gains in November.
One final point: For many Tea Partiers, the massive and unconstitutional growth of government is the fundamental issue. But I think there’s something deeper, too. After her husband had won several primaries in a row in the spring of 2008, Michelle Obama proclaimed that for the first time in her life she was proud of her country. It was a stunning statement. It also foreshadowed what was to come: Since Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he has devoted much of his time to criticizing his own country. He apologizes for the policy decisions of his predecessors. He worries aloud that the U.S. has become too powerful. He has explicitly rejected the doctrine of American exceptionalism.
And this is not mere rhetoric. For the first time ever, the U.S. is participating in the Universal Periodic Review—a United Nations initiative in which member countries investigate their own nation’s human rights abuses. The State Department has held ten “listening sessions” around the U.S. during which an alphabet soup of left-wing groups aired their numerous grievances. These complaints are to be included in a report that the U.S. will submit to the United Nations Human Rights Council. It will be evaluated by such paragons of human rights as Burkina Faso, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, and Cuba.
When President Obama spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, he declared that a world order that elevates one country or group of countries over others is bound to fail. So he’s changing that order. If his domestic policy priority is the redistribution of wealth, his foreign policy priority seems to be the redistribution of power.
Most Americans don’t agree with the president’s priorities. And many of these Americans are now active in the Tea Party movement, a movement that has succeeded in starting a serious national conversation about a return to limited government.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and a FOX News Contributor. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Reason, National Review and many other publications. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America and Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. His great-great uncle was a president of Hillsdale College and many of his relatives have attended Hillsdale, including two grandparents.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered on June 6, 2010, during a Hillsdale College cruise from Rome to Dover aboard the Crystal Symphony.

Copyright © 2011 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Redistribution of Wealth

The Federalist Society presented this panel discussion on Redistribution of Wealth at the 2009 National Lawyers Convention on Thursday, November 12, 2009. Panelists included Prof. Richard A. Epstein of New York University Law School; Mr. Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO of Forbes Inc. and Editor of Forbes Magazine; Prof. Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School; Mr. Andrew L. Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit as the moderator.


Federalist Society Video


Federalist Society Video

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Can the United States Survive Health Care Reform?"

"Can the United States Survive Health Care Reform?"

The recent health care bill represents what is likely to turn out to be the most comprehensive health care reform ever, Medicare included. Yet many of its provisions were included in the last minute without serious discussion or debate. And those provisions that have been in all versions of the bill since the outset are likely to have profound, if unintended consequences. In this talk, Professor Epstein will explain why he thinks that the combined weight of these many programs is likely to produce a major implosion in health care services in both the short and the long run. He will also discuss the opportunities lost on health care reform, all of which involved some program of market liberalization with respect to such key matters as interstate competition for insurance, government mandates, and medical licensing and malpractice.

Presented by Richard A. Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law

Richard Epstein: No, You Won't Be Able to Keep Your Current Healthcare

Richard Epstein, professor of law at The University of Chicago, discusses the current proposal for healthcare reform.

He points out inconsistencies in what is been promised and what is in the bill, and makes suggestions for a more efficient health care system. - Columbia Law School

Richard A. Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, is the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Epstein is also, as of 2007, a visiting professor of law at NYU Law School.

Law professor Richard Epstein criticizes healthcare reform proponents' claims that Americans who are already insured will be able to keep their current plans. This promise, he fears, is a "giant sham."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NYU Law Journal of Law and Liberty, Professor Richard Epstein

This talk addressed the attitudes toward interpretation that should be taken with constitutional, statutory and contractual materials and argue that the underlying linguistic problems should drive the analysis, and that efforts to tailor rules of interpretation to institutional settings may be useful dramatic flourishes, but in the end only detract for understanding how and why language works.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The History of Austrian Economics with Israel Kirzner

Israel Kirzner, Emeritus Professor of Economics at New York University, presented his lecture 'History of Austrian Economics' during the Advanced Austrian Economics Summer Seminar in Irvington, NY.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Natural Law In Ancient and Modern Guise 4-1-10

The Federalist Society's Georgetown Student Chapter presented its Seventh Annual Lifetime Service Award to Professor Richard A. Epstein on April 1, 2010. Prof. Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University Law Center opened the event and Prof. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz also of the Georgetown University Law Center introduced Prof. Epstein. Prof. Epstein's address was titled "Natural Law in Ancient and Modern Guise".

In this Exploring Liberty lecture, Richard Epstein gives a quick outline of his “simple rules”— six conditions that he says provide the groundwork for the emergence of a civilized society.

Epstein is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University as well as an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute. He is the author of Simple Rules for a Complex World (1995) and Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism (2004), among many other books.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Economic Freedom & Quality of Life

Economic Freedom & Quality of Life

Economic Freedom and Quality of Life is a short, informative video centered on the ideas of economic freedom and the societal benefits it produces. The video helps explain what economic freedom is and why it's key to improving society.

Watch Episode Two: Economic Freedom and America Today at

EconFreeEconFree's channel

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Meaning of Liberty During the American Founding

The Meaning of Liberty During the American Founding

Brad Birzer, Professor of History at Hillsdale College, lectured at the Freedom University: History Summer Seminar. In this video Dr. Birzer discusses the "Meaning of Liberty During the American Founding".   Donate to this organization


Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Truth About Monopolies and Anti-Trust Laws

The Truth About Monopolies and Anti-Trust Laws   

Mark Hendrickson lectured at the Freedom University: Current Events Summer Seminar. In this video Professor Hendrickson discusses monopolies and anti-trust laws.

Mises Institute Media misesmedia

Mises Institute Media

Friday, February 17, 2012

Austrian Economics: Praxeology, Supply, and Demand

Austrian Economics: Praxeology, Supply, and Demand  

In this lecture from the FEE Summer Seminars Anthony Carilli, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Study of Political Economy at Hampden-Sydney College, discusses the Praxeology, Supply, and Demand. Praxeology is the science of Human Action. 

FEETV                  Donate to FEE

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Great Boom and Bust

On June 21, 2011 Ben Powell, Associate Professor of Economics at Suffolk University, lectured at the Freedom University: Current Events Seminar. In this video Ben discusses the Housing Boom and Bust.   FEETV

 Donate to FEE

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Is “Austrian Economics”?
From Slate Magazine

What Is “Austrian Economics”?

And why is Ron Paul obsessed with it?