"Power Corrupts:" Old Ideas Become New In the Era Of President Obama

Austin Hill

2/8/2009 12:00:57 AM - Austin Hill

The bad news is that it’s as ugly as many of us expected it would be.

The good news is that Americans are questioning it, and in many cases, rejecting it.

The “it” I’m referring to is the huge expansion of governmental power in Washington. It’s the kind of power that was promised from candidate Obama - - and, of course, it was promised to be all for our own good - - and is now been wielded by his fellow Democrats in Congress and by his administration. And for those who truly believe that government employees and agencies can and should solve all of one’s problems (and for those of us who actually know better), the first few days of the Obama presidency have been quite an eye-opener.

The government hand-out bill that’s currently being tossed around in the Senate - - the one that even Congressional members themselves only jokingly refer to any longer as an “economic stimulus bill” - - is a life-lesson in itself. The version of this bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi produced in the House of Representatives was so wasteful, so welfare-like, so “pet-project,” so “non-simulative” that even her fellow Democrats in the Senate found it to be distasteful, and declared after the House vote that they could not support it.

Only a few weeks ago, President Obama’s stated intentions of a “stimulus bill” were to devote an enormous sum of taxpayer dollars to repairing, enhancing, and expanding America’s “infrastrucutre” - - roads, bridges, public buildings, and so forth - - with the belief that this spending would create work opportunities, and thus, “stimulate” the broader economy.

Today, estimates indicate that a meager 3% to 7% of the roughly $800, 000,000,000.00 spending spree has anything at all to do with America’s “infrastructure.” Worse yet, the “infrastructure” projects that actually are stipulated in the bill are so misguided, even the New York Times was prompted last week to publish a story about how Japan’s two decades-long spending orgy on “infrastructure” has done nothing to boost it’s national economy.

It must be quite a heady experience to be a “governmental official” - - to be able to control so much of other people’s money - - and to be able to spend it as you see fit, even if it’s not the way you promised that you would spend it. And by every indication, much of the new Administration and Congress is made up of a special breed of person who is not only comfortable breaking promises, but is also skilled at ignoring the most inconvenient of laws.

Consider that no less than four such “officials” personally selected by President Obama to serve in his Cabinet have been embroiled in scandal, and most of these have been forced to step-down. The first to fall was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, chosen to head up the Department of Commerce, but then was discovered to be under federal investigation for allegedly granting government business contracts in his home state in exchange for campaign donations.

Then came the succession of three Cabinet nominees who, as it turned out, had all dodged the I.R.S. and had failed to pay their taxes adequately and on-time. Among this select crowd was, ironically, Nancy Killifer, the person chosen by President Obama to be the first-ever “Chief Performance Officer” of the U.S. Government, the person who would ensure our government’s “efficiency” and who would seek to eliminate “government waste.”

And of course, the irony among ironies - - there is our new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Mr. Geithner is the one scandal-plagued Cabinet nominee who did not withdraw his nomination merely because he failed to manage his personal finances correctly. Today, Geithner is the tax dodger who oversees the entire I.R.S.

Is the scandal, and corruption, and “conflict of interest” that is so flagrantly on display in Washington right now a phenomena unique to Democrats? Absolutely not! Republicans have known their share of such misgivings. At the very least, an intellectually honest person would have to admit that while Congressional Democrats may have begun the modern-day “art” of earmark spending, the Republican-controlled Congress of the Bush-era most certainly “perfected” the art.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans in this regard is, largely, a philosophical difference, but it is a profound difference nonetheless. Contemporary Democratic thought insists that as long as power is concentrated in the hands of the “correct people,” with the “correct ideas” about how to wield that power, then there is no limit to the goodness that government agencies and programs can bring about.

Historic Republican thought has, until recent years, insisted that increased concentrations of power in the hands of governmental agents tends to corrupt even the best of intentions.

Today, we have a President who believes that the U.S. Constitution is flawed, because of its focus on what government cannot do to U.S. citizens, rather than focusing on all the wonderful things that government CAN do for citizens. And he is well underway with his efforts to do many “wonderful things” to us all, even as his well-intended plans continue to go sour.

It is time for Republicans to return to their “historic” philosophical underpinning. America must re-discover a healthy skepticism of government’s “wonderful things.”