Among the cautionary tales here is that of the transcontinental railroad, subsidized by “massive loans” from the U.S. government that led to “massive fraud.” The whole thing, argues Leahy, could have been accomplished more efficiently, and with far less corruption, had it been privately financed. We all learned in school about the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869. But did you know that “as much as a third of the $100 million in federal loans” that had made that day possible “had been siphoned off into…private hands”? Or that “the workmanship and quality of materials used during the mad dash across the country” was so poor “that within four years almost every inch of track from Council Bluffs to Sacramento had to be pulled up and rebuilt”? Such was the consequence of “federal government involvement in the selection of winners and losers in business.”
After Wilson, it was all downhill. Herbert Hoover, who as Wilson’s “Food Administrator” imposed draconian rules on small farmers and as Harding’s Commerce Secretary asserted the government’s ownership of the airwaves and its power to license them to private broadcasters (a fascinating, maddening story), as president responded to the 1929 crash with extra-constitutional actions – wage controls, loans, subsidies, public-works programs, etc. – that only plunged the country deeper into Depression.
FDR, needless to say, was a watershed: “where Hoover stopped short of the last step toward economic fascism, Roosevelt boldly took it.” Leahy tells horror stories about small businessmen and farmers destroyed by New Deal bureaucrats. From FDR, he jumps to LBJ and the spectacular failure of the Great Society. But he underscores that this isn’t a strict Democrat vs. Republican issue. From Wilson onward, “Democratic administrations expanded government, and Republican administrations confirmed the expansion, despite political rhetoric to the contrary.” Ike consolidated FDR’s and Truman’s government expansion; Nixon did the same for Johnson’s. Indeed, Nixon did LBJ one better, introducing the EPA and imposing wage and price controls. Moreover, as Leahy reminds us, it was George W. Bush who signed the legislation establishing TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which squandered taxpayer money on bank bailouts.
Leahy’s book culminates in the passage of ObamaCare, the Stimulus Bill, and other laws epitomizing government overreach – and in the birth of the Tea Party, in which Leahy played a pivotal role, largely owing to his highly influential Twitter list. Those who have been convinced by the mainstream media that the Tea Party is a nest of racists and of people obsessed with social issues will be edified to learn that as far as Leahy and his Twitter followers are concerned, the movement is united around four ideas: limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and strong national defense. Period. (Leahy and company have deliberately left “traditional values” off their list because they differ among themselves on that topic.)
A few months ago, at a Florida town hall where the purported subject was jobs, Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson instructed her constituents: “Let us all remember who the real enemy is. The real enemy is the Tea Party!” Well, that clarifies things. Why not just come out with it, and admit that the real enemy – not only for Wilson, but for all other true believers in the legacy of the Great Society – is the Constitution?
Tea Party members who want to know more about the history of the ideas that inform their movement could not do better than Leahy’s book. As for those who don’t belong to the Tea Party – especially those who only “know” about it what the mainstream media have told them about it – they are hereby encouraged to open their minds and give Leahy’s book a chance. For many of them, I suspect, it will be an eye-opening lesson – not only in what the Tea Party is really about, but in the simple, straightforward, and still precious (if oft-violated) principles on which the United States of America was founded.
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