In previous writings I have noted that politicians of the Progressive stripe are ever on the scout for an issue or “problem” which can never be improved or mitigated, no matter how much money or effort is thrown at it. I call these Dream Issues, and have also suggested that the penultimate Holy Grail of politics is a problem which actually worsens in direct proportion to the amount of money spent on it.
One would think that serious political “leaders” would consider such quests ridiculous; but one would be wrong. Progressives, leftists and Democrats (but I repeat myself) have, for at least the past half-century, diligently pursued Dream Issues because they advance the leftist goal of ever-increasing spending and larger and larger government. Only continuing growth of government matters. Whether it achieves any worthwhile result is irrelevant in the leftist calculus.
By saying all this I don’t mean to imply that all governmental attempts to solve certain American problems were dishonest or corrupt. When FDR took the helm in 1933, the country was in a deep economic depression. The nation’s confidence had been shaken by failure of the financial system. Banks had speculated in stocks, on margin. When the markets crashed, many banks failed and millions of people lost their life-savings. People were living in cardboard shacks. Children were hungry. Thousands of men wandered coast to coast looking for work. Hope was in short supply. It was a real mess.
Into this landscape of despair strode (figuratively, at least) the confident figure of FDR – cigarette holder cocked at a jaunty angle – with a message of hope. Government would be the helper. It would put the country back together. All would be well. FDR declared, “The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself.”
FDR and his Brain Trust certainly intended to help the country and its people. Franklin Roosevelt did save the country from socialism and fascism. He was a great leader, but not necessarily a great economist. Nine decades on, economists generally agree that most of FDR’s programs not only didn’t end the Great Depression, but actually prolonged it. Rearming for global war – financed by massive government borrowing – actually restored our economic prosperity by putting people back to work.
The main product of the New Deal programs was bigger government. That fact did not escape the notice of progressives in the Democratic Party. The political success that growth afforded them was undeniable. Big spending and expansion of government – all under the rubric of “helping the little guy” – gave Democrats the presidency from 1933 to 1953, and complete control of the Congress for all but two years of that span. Wags called Republicans “the tax collectors for the Welfare State.” And an entire generation became convinced that control of government by progressive Democrats was the normal way of things.
Through six full decades – 1933-1993 – Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for all but a handful of terms. During that time, government grew at warp speed. I clearly recall the Federal budget hitting $100 billion in the late 1950s. Today it’s past $4 trillion – a growth of 4,000% in 60 years.
Ronald Reagan made a game try at controlling spending. He had a GOP Senate for 6 of his years, but never had a GOP-controlled House, where spending originates. He could never balance his budget because Fed Chairman Paul Volcker kept interest rates in the 15% range to fight inflation. During Mr. Reagan’s presidency the National Debt passed $1 trillion. Today it’s nearing $30 trillion – a growth of 3,000% in 35 years.
Out of the hurly-burley of New Deal and Great Society spending the Dream-quest became a fixture of progressive politics. I present brief descriptions of two instances of this in the following paragraphs. (In subsequent articles we’ll review additional examples.)
Federal provision of financial aid for needy families became a New Deal fixture during the Great Depression. The need was real because millions of people were out of work or had lost their retirement savings. Federal assistance was popular because an important facet of the American character is a dislike for seeing anyone starving – especially children.
World War II and the prosperous post-war period seemed to erase most of the serious need and genuine poverty from public consciousness. President JFK – a rich guy in his own right – favored broad income-tax cuts, which Congress passed after his death. With the economy booming, LBJ rolled out the Great Society, with the War on Poverty as its centerpiece.
The WoP significantly expanded welfare payments that were intended to lift poor families above the poverty line. This wasn’t a bad move, on its face, but one of its (possibly unintended) consequences was driving husbands of poor families out of their homes so their wives could receive “single-parent” welfare payments. Noted black sociologist Dr. Thomas Sowell says, “the black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, where most black children grew up in homes with two parents.” He observes that “…when blacks were just one generation out of slavery, the census data of that era showed that slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than had white adults.”
Sociologists now admit that Great Society welfare-initiatives essentially destroyed the black family structure which had survived slavery, secession, segregation, the Klan, and Jim Crow laws which denied colored people full participation in American culture for a century after the Civil War. Among Dr. Sowell’s statistical observations:1
- The 1960 census showed the first signs of a decline in black marriages;
- In 1980, 31 percent of all black first-born children were born to teenage mothers;
- By 1992, 54 percent-of all black children were living only with their mothers;
- From 1990 to 1994, 77 percent of first births to black women were premarital;
- In the 1980s and 90s, an absolute majority of those black families with no husband present lived in poverty;
- Less than half of black students graduated from high school in 2005;
- In 2009, 73% of black children were born to unmarried mothers;
- In many urban areas, the black illegitimacy rate is well over 80%.
These data tell progressive politicians that welfare to black families is not only a Dream Issue, but is actually approaching Holy Grail status. More welfare money thrown at black communities only produces more single-parent families, less initiative, poorer education-levels, and more misery.
Donald Trump’s booming economy produced the lowest black unemployment figures in 50 years. His determination to give every American a chance to work – including people of every color and ethnicity – was drawing widespread minority support and changing the political landscape. But he was wrecking progressives’ Holy Grail, so he had to go. Trump-haters threw in the kitchen sink to defeat him. Now we’re going to see if Joe Biden can restore welfare to the Dream status it has enjoyed for 60 years.
Climate became a political issue in the 1970s, when some very cold winters hit the eastern USA, where many news-reports originate.” In the winter of 1979-’80 the temperature fell to 10 degrees below zero at our house in a Maryland suburb of DC. Young fools were driving cars across the ice on the Potomac River. And the first iceberg in recorded history was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay.
This was it; the jig was up. We were all going to freeze unless we stopped blocking the sun’s rays with the CO2 emitted by our cars. Scientists and reporters started predicting a “new ice age. A Newsweek article of April 28, 1975 reported:
“There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically, and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now.
“The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard pressed to keep up with it. Meteorologists are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic.
A year earlier, Time had carried an article which warned:
“In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972, record rains in parts of the U. S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries.
“[Meteorologists] find that the atmosphere has been growing steadily cooler for the last three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. …the weather aberrations [meteorologists] are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.
“Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin’s Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight…”
The federal government was shoveling out billions in research-grants for scientists to study the cooling trend and recommend how it could be mitigated or stopped. Media reporters and pundits were hyping the scare, and scientists were clamoring to board the gravy train. It was going to be another Manhattan Project,2 said one breathless reporter, who somehow missed the irony of what that project led to.
Then, without warning, the cooling stopped and the earth’s climate began to warm. Egad! The cornucopia of money would be turned off. But never fear – without missing a beat, the warnings started going the other way. Warming was now the “existential threat” to the nation and to the whole earth. We were all going to fry. The oceans would rise and cover Manhattan. (Would that really be bad?)
As the new millennium dawned, the warming-scare was really rolling. Al Gore won an Academy Award for his scare-u-drama, An Inconvenient Truth, which featured his alarming “hockey-stick” chart of rising temperatures.3 We would all be toast, said Al, unless we drastically changed our lifestyles. No more fossil-fuels for heating, air conditioning and transportation. Republicans and Democrats were throwing billions into global warming research projects. A future of pedaling rickshaws and cooking over fires of dried buffalo doo-doo was forecast. Climate Al made a nice living peddling “green” products4 and his earth-on-fire shtick. Stopping global warming was the media’s cause célèbre. Sure, it would cost a bundle, but we could do it. And the government money was flowing like water.
But once again Mother Earth refused to cooperate. With big money on the table to combat global warming far into the future, the globe suddenly stopped warming. Some late-night comics cracked wise about the anti-warming efforts being successful, but this was not going to keep the dollars flowing. Almost overnight the scare changed from warming to “climate-change,” with the same culprit: too much CO2 was being released into the atmosphere. We had to stop it.
Politicians began to make climate-stabilization the cornerstones of their campaigns for office. In 2008 Barack Obama boldly promised that his election would mark the point when the oceans would stop rising and the planet would begin to heal. I don’t know how many voters bought those claims, but he was an attractive, well-turned-out candidate, and he got elected. I can find no metrics which measure how successfully he carried out those climate-stabilization promises.
Now we have elected another president who says climate-change is the greatest threat we face. He says we have to cut back on our use of fossil fuels, and he’s issuing orders to cripple our production of petroleum and natural gas. No doubt, he’ll hit coal-production soon. Thousands of people are losing their energy-production jobs, and the price of gasoline is on its way up. More expensive petroleum will hurt our economy, but none of it will affect whether or not the climate changes. It is all (as one pundit said) “Kabuki theater for moron voters and politicians.” Scientists are not agreed on: whether the climate is changing; what is causing it, if it is changing; or whether it’s necessarily a bad thing.
Meanwhile, climate-change is rounding the clubhouse-turn, on its way to achieving Holy Grail status. In theological history, there was only one Holy Grail. But this is a new day, and endless expenditure politics is a new religion. Until the American people rise up to banish that religion’s adherents, and stop the quest for issues which demand ever-increasing spending that buys only bigger government, nothing will keep them from eating up our substance and bringing the nation to ruin. They are our greatest existential threat.
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come on you like a robber and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10-11)
“Like a firebell in the night, it woke me and filled me with terror…” (Thomas Jefferson)
- See https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/03/the_decline_of_the_africanamerican_family.html
- The Manhattan Project, led by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, (1942-’45) was the USA’s crash effort to develop the atomic bomb.
- The “hockey stick” temperature-graph has been discredited as inaccurate and misleading.
- Al Gore’s net worth was estimated at $300 million in 2019.