Bill Murchison

Up in the air (where it generally stays anyway) went the New York Times' snooty nose. Those conservatives, clucked the Times -- railing the way they do against the Obama administration's lurch toward "socialism"! And calling the president "Comrade Obama"! What -- so went the strongly implied question -- do we do with such folk?

How about, for starters, listen to them? They might be less wacko than the Times often considers people who disagree with the Times.

"Socialism," tightly defined, is outright government ownership. It is not, strictly speaking, socialistic to propose that government take over health care policy, redistribute income, prod the automobile industry to make particular kinds of products, and impose a carbon cap-and-trade regime to combat a problem, global warming, that few voters seem to worry about.

What, then, do we make of the budget that our fearless leader dropped on our heads the other day, with its announced deficit of $1.75 trillion? I'll tell you the bad news, then I'll tell you the good.

Our leader wants the country to be run by its national government. "Run by" isn't the same as "owned by. " The latter is inessential. A pliant Democratic Congress needs only direct the federal bureaucracy to direct states and private companies to act in particular ways -- to do particular things, to spend their money in particular ways. Theoretically the Constitution restricts government to the performance of particular duties. Alas, no one pays attention to the Constitution anymore, thanks mostly to the permissive U.S. Supreme Courts of past decades.

We approach, under Obama-ism, centralization of a sort unattempted here since, under infinitely grimmer economic circumstances, the first New Deal. Mr. Jefferson foresaw something of the sort. He warned, in 1821 that "When government … shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated."

Tocqueville seconded the motion: "a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform" would turn citizens into "a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." Don't bet against it when the administration is undertaking to calculate how much money you need -- and don't need.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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