Reflecting on 2013 and Looking Onward to 2014
Looking at the silver linings
Well it’s been a very eventful year. Started it out with a $hit sandwich deal. Then there’s the Paul filibuster, then immigration, then Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, then there was revelations on mass surveillance by the NSA, then there was Syria, then the Cruz filibuster and the Obamacare shutdown. Now we end 2013 with another $hit sandwich which ends the only spending restraint we have. I saw a column written by John Stossel on Fox Business and appeared on Newsmax as well. It’s entitled 2013 — A Bad Year For Libertarians. Stossel when he has it right really hits it out of the park every time.
This wasn’t a great year for liberty.
The government caused more than a few disasters.
Let’s start with Obamacare. It was supposed to “bend the cost curve” downward. The central planners had lots of time to perfect their scheme. For a generation, the brightest left-wing wonks focused on health care policy. The result? Soviet-style consumer service comes to America.
Then there was the government shutdown. The real disaster was the unnecessary panic over it. Zoos would shut down, and baby pandas would starve. The media made it sound like America might not survive even slightly limited government. They were happy to echo the politicians’ claim that there’s no wasteful or stupid spending to cut.
“The cupboard is bare,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “There’s no more cuts to make.”
Nothing to cut? Government spends $3.8 trillion a year!
Many Republicans are almost as eager to spend as Democrats, despite the difference in rhetoric between the two parties. About the only spending reduction Republicans accomplished in the past few years was the so-called sequester, which really happened by legal default because the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement. The sequester instituted cuts of about $85 billion a year, a mere sliver of that $3.8 trillion budget and a still smaller sliver of our $17 trillion debt.
Yet even those modest cuts will not happen now under the new congressional agreement.
Because some Republicans were upset the sequester made small cuts to the military’s budget and were fearful another partial government shutdown might hurt their chances in upcoming elections, they gave up the modest spending discipline the sequester imposed.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said conservatives who want to keep the sequester are “ridiculous.”
The Republican behind the new agreement, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was once called a fanatical budget-slasher who wanted to push Granny off a cliff. People talked about him reading Ayn Rand and being a cutthroat capitalist. But now, even he abandons the meager budget cuts that were already scheduled.
I suppose Republicans feel they have no choice. They face Democrats who will cut nothing. They hope to win the Senate next election and realize that spending cuts are not particularly popular with the general public.
Americans say they want less spending. But then they fight for farm subsidies, flood insurance and “economic development” schemes. Most federal spending funds Social Security, Medicare and the military. Even citizens who sound fiscally conservative, especially elderly ones, don’t want these things cut.
This was also the year we found out just how much the federal government spies on its own citizens. I annoyed my fellow libertarians by saying the privacy I lose to data mining seems a small price to pay for surveillance against terrorism. I posted a list of a hundred other things government does that upset me more. Some people responded by calling me a “traitor” and “LINO” (libertarian in name only).
Look, libertarians, I’m constantly angry at my government for lots of things, but I just can’t get worked up about data mining. My emails fly through the air. For all I know, my political enemies already read them.
It is upsetting, though, that the National Security Agency snooping goes far beyond what the government first claimed. President Barack Obama assured us the NSA does not read our emails or listen to our phone calls. But it turns out they sometimes do.
They say they only look for terrorists, and they won’t use the records to harass and punish their critics. But why would we trust that the same big government that spends $3.8 trillion a year, raids our homes looking for drugs and regulates almost every part of our lives won’t use its snooping powers to look into things other than terrorism?
Given the truth of Thomas Jefferson’s warning, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground,” I fear next year will be still worse for liberty.
To make it a better year, we can’t trust such a powerful government to restrain itself. We should cut back its duties to reduce its power.
I do think he has it very much right here, but I think we as libertarians can take a silver lining out of what was a prominently bad year for individual liberty and the constitution. On Obamacare, the major one is that more people are starting learn what government medicine actually looks like such as that in Canada and the UK with death panels and sub-standard care. So people are taking matters into their own hands and spending their own money for their healthcare and physicians are starting private clinics.
A prime example of this I’m happy to say is in my home state with the Oklahoma Surgery Center. Its founder Dr. Keith Smith along with others were frustrated with the insurance/government bureaucracy and took matters into their own hands. What was originally a mismanaged hospital has become a huge success story of free market medicine. The insurance monopoly didn’t like it much so they successfully lured away people to a limited extent.
Then starting several years ago the Surgery Center started posting prices online and the first patients to show up afterwards were Canadians (you hear that Michael Moore?). For as bad as Obamacare is, it’s only gasoline to a well burning fire. And all this year Dr. Keith Smith has been scoring interviews with all the major networks from John Stossel, CNBC, NYTimes and the Ron Paul Channel even. So more than ever now free market medicine is getting attention. Which is a good thing cause things only get worse with Obamacare as long as it’s around (which hopefully won’t be forever).
Then the NSA scandal made us ever more distrustful of government and this was while the Employer Mandate was being delayed. During the summer, Reps. Justin Amash a libertarian Republican and John Conyers a progressive Democrat both of MI wrote a bill which would reign in the powers of the NSA. The bill failed with the leaderships of both parties opposed, but only so narrowly. What’s interesting is the breakdown of the vote. Ninety-four Republicans voted yea and I forget exactly how Dems voted yea but they made up the majority of votes.
Most Republicans who voted for it have been in the House for less than 5 years while most of the Democrats who voted for it have been in there longer than 5. One of the Republicans strongly supporting the bill was Jim Sesenbrenner who was the original author of the Patriot Act saying the program was never meant to go this far. I give huge props to this guy for this. I think the NSA mass surveillance reveals ever more that progressive leftists and constitutional conservatives and libertarians have genuine common ground on a number of issues. Where this alliance will go is unknown but this very interesting to watch.
Then there was Syria which was more show case of the libertarian/left progressive alliance. I’m most certainly glad we did not end up going to Syria cause it would’ve just been another Iraq if not worse. What’s baffling about this is that Barack Obama who 11 years ago spoke out against going into Iraq as a State Senator sounded just like a neo-con (rather a neo-leftist). And yes John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Peter King and the rest of the happy interventionist likes were trumpeting the call for Syria. Bet they were incredibly embarrassed afterward.
There’s also some humorous tidbits like Obamacare bashing at the CMAs last month which was enjoyable as hell and represents a mark of shame not just Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius, but John Roberts for his head-up-@$$ maneuver in calling it a tax. Though he does have a chance of redemption with the Court now taking up the Hobby Lobby challenge to the birth control mandate and probably next year as well with the Pruitt lawsuit advancing through the courts steadily.
There’s a lot more to talk about, but there’s a lot in this diary as is. Going back to Stossel’s column he does have great and valid points about 2013. There’s been a lot of bad aspects and they deserve to be talked about. Though don’t ever despair my fellows. The fight for liberty shall continue into 2014 and beyond. We’ve got the midterms battle raging and it’s essential to elect as many libertyites as possible. Let’s go on.