Author Archives: Ron Lipsman

Tea Party Redux?

Nine months after the election of Barack Obama, the countryerupted in angry defiance to the radical left agenda that the new president waspursuing. The Tea Party movement was born. Spontaneous gatherings, raucous townmeetings and unexpected political candidacies emerged. The signature success ofthe movement was the recapture of the House of Representatives by Republicansin the fall of 2010. It is true that Obama managed to move the needle substantiallyto port in his first two years (e.g., Obamacare and Dodd-Frank). But one canonly imagine the ultra-hard left agenda that he would have enacted had theemergence of the Tea Party not thwarted his goals of cultural Marxism andeconomic socialism that he had in mind for the country, which he feels is so deeplyflawed.

Well, to the surprise of many, he was re-elected last fall.Today, Obama is an unrepentant leftist radical whose sole motivation is to turnthe House again – thereby enabling him to complete the radical transformation,which he envisioned in 2008, in his last two years. Will the Tea Partyre-emerge to again thwart those designs?

There are certainly signs of a re-emergence. Many people aremore incredulous – than they were last time – that the nation would install,and then re-install, an unprecedented radical leftist in the White House. TeaParty types did, and still do, see him as an existential threat to thecontinuation of the American Republic as a federal, representative, limitedgovernment, free nation. And once again, they are organizing, gathering and plottingcountermeasures to check Obama’s radical designs for the country. Will they succeed?

First, success might be too generous a word to describe the resultsof the 2009-2010 Tea Party movement. Yes it led to the capture of the House.But it didn’t stop Obamacare. It didn’t stop the ongoing retrenchment of the USmilitary and of US foreign policy. It didn’t stop the administration’sjuggernaut of regulatory strangulation of the US economy. And it didn’t stopObama’s attempted destruction of ‘dirty’ energy industries in the US.

Next, political lightning never strikes twice in the sameway. The current movement does not come close to matching the enormous outburstof spontaneous energy and righteous indignation that occurred last time. Theproblem of ‘the beast you know’ has reared its ugly head. And thepercentage of liberty-loving Americans who believe that the US has passed thetipping point – in its slide into a big government, Euro-style social welfarestate – has increased substantially. Those people are demoralized anddisinclined to join the Party.

So I hope that I am wrong. But I expect that the Tea Party renaissance that many are predicting for this fall will be a pale imitation of the original. We are stuck with our statist commander-in-chief for another three and a half years. The best that we can hope for is that the House remains in Republican hands and what limited thwarting of the Obama agenda that occurred in the last three years will continue. Even so, the more interesting question is whether it matters. Have we indeed passed the tipping point or is there yet hope for America to recover its heritage of liberty and opportunity, and to reassert its role as a beacon of freedom to the world?

This article also appeared in The American Thinker at:

Which Way the Wind is Blowing

How goes it for the American experiment? Not so well if one measures by three feature stories from today’s Wall Street Journal: “Tepid Growth Restrains Fed,” then “Branches of Military Battle Over Shrinking War Chest” and “In Newtown, Gun Permits Surge After Shooting.” In matters relating to the economy, national defense and civil society – arguably the three most important aspects of American life – the trends are not at all favorable.

The first article describes how the recovery from the now four-year old recession continues to be the weakest in modern history. It illustrates how the Keynesian methods adopted by the Obama administration have ensured the ongoing stagnation. One wonders if Obama’s minions understand this –i.e., are they doing it on purpose or are they just benignly misinformed?

The second article highlights the dramatically reduced state of our military and how continuing reductions – under the sequester as well as due to other intended policies of the Obama administration – have reduced our armed forces to dangerously low levels unseen since post WWI years. One wonders if Obama’s troops understand this – i.e., are they doing it on purpose or are their hands tied by events beyond their control?

The last article points out that, despite one of the most horrific acts of gun violence in American history and the resulting outcry in favor of gun control, applications for gun permits have soared in Newtown, Connecticut. Americans are arming themselves at unprecedented rates. Does this reflect a sense of safety and confidence in civil society by the American people? Surely not. Could it be that the Obama administration’s clumsy efforts to advance gun control, demonize gun owners and, not coincidentally, fan the flames of racial and “class” divisions  within American society have something to do with that lack of confidence? One wonders if Obama’s henchmen understand this or is his misguided notion of “social justice” blinding him to the true and historical nature of American society.

In so many ways, this American President is out of step with the people he leads and the society he represents. One wonders if Obama understands this! If the answer is no, then how could the country have been so blind as to re-elect him? OK, he was an attractive blank slate in 2008; but in 2012, his understanding of the nature of the American experiment had been on clear display for four years. If the American people still don’t understand Obama, then I have another article for them in today’s Wall Street Journal: “Obama’s Creeping Authoritarianism” by Daniel Henninger. Thereader will see therein that Obama understands these issues perfectly well and that he is using authoritarian, unconstitutional, aggressive methods to radically transform American society.


This piece also appeared in The American Thinker

Big Government is Swallowing the NGOs

Several amazing statistics are given in a recent Wall Street Journal article that details the extent to which the activities of the nation’s NGOs are now essentially controlled by Washington. It is one of the most remarkable features of the American experiment – more so than in any other nation – that our people spontaneously form robust civic, religious, charitable and educational organizations, which successfully address the people’s problems. This aspect of American life was already highlighted nearly 200 years ago by de Tocqueville. It has remained so throughout the generations and plays a key role in the United States’ ongoing quest to ensure liberty and prosperity for its people.

But, alas, the nation’s civic associations have been coopted by the federal government. This is an assertion that we sense is true by simply observing the landscape. The nation’s institutions of higher learning are increasingly dependent on Washington for funds and priorities. The public schools look to Washington for not only resources, but also for standards. Unfortunately, similar statements can be made about so many of our NGOs: arts societies, philanthropic entities, community organizations, aids societies, relief organizations, civic associations, business roundtables and on and on.

Now, James Piereson, in a remarkable piece entitled, HowBig Government Co-opted Charities, in the WSJ last week demonstrated the extent of the government takeover of America’s civic associations with some eye-popping statistics. Here are Pierson’s observations:

For much of U.S. history, nonprofits have operated as a check on government by providing private avenues to serve the public interest. Unfortunately, American charities—and more broadly, the entire nonprofit sector—have become a creature of big government. For decades, the U.S. government has administered research, welfare, housing and educational programs through a system of grants to state and local governments, colleges and universities, hospitals, research organizations, consulting firms and not-for-profit advocacy groups. In the past 50 years, federal spending has exploded 36-fold, to about $3.6 trillion in 2012 from $100 billion in 1962. Meantime, the number of federal civilian employees has expanded modestly in comparison—to 2.8 million in 2011 from 2.5 million in 1962. The reason the federal government can increase its spending without adding many employees is because it subcontracts so many of its functions to ostensibly private institutions. This system has gradually turned much of the not-for-profit sector into a junior partner in administering the welfare state.

In Europe, the Far East, indeed everywhere, the people – whether in democracies or dictatorships – look to the government to solve their problems and manage their affairs. It was the genius of the American people, from even before the Revolution, to look to themselves, not the government, to deal with their problems. Such an attitude is consistent with and fosters the spirit of limited government that is the hallmark of our revolutionary nation. If we abandon that spirit and our attitude reverts to that of our less free brethren in democracies around the world, then our system of limited government will fail. We will fall further into the abyss of “benevolent tyranny” that besets the nations of the European Union.


This piece also appeared in The American Thinker at:

The US is Weaker, Poorer, Less Free and Less Confident

Numerous articles have been written to justify (one or all of) the claims in the title of this piece. Such articles often cite key cultural and economic statistics measured against corresponding numbers from one or more decades ago. For example:

 • The size and capabilities of our military are shrinking precipitously and our ability to project power and respond to world crises has diminished significantly.
• Average family income has been stagnating for more than a decade, and arguably has actually declined.
• The population is increasingly constrained by government: in the products it can buy, the investments it can make, the jobs it is eligible for, even the words it can utter.
• Finally, we have a President who does not believe in American exceptionalism, who leads from behind and who – by virtue of his election and re-election –is emblematic of a nation, which increasingly believes that the warts in its history outweigh the good that it has brought to the world.

The points in the first three bullets have been bolstered by many authors with corroborating statistical data. Therefore, that is not my purpose here. Rather, my objective is to supply anecdotal evidence – some of which has gone unnoted – that lends credence to the claims of the title.

Weaker. How is the US a weaker nation than it was 10, 20 or 50 years ago? Let me count the ways! The Middle East is spiraling out of control and we have lost any ability to influence, much less control events there. Obama promised to play nice with every Middle Eastern despot (except those named Mubarak, who actually was playing nice with us). Today Obama is held in contempt by all of them. Iran thumbs its nose at his entreaties to suspend their nuclear weapons program. His precipitous withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan prevent us from solidifying the precious few gains that we achieved in those arenas, and probably consigns the people there to subjugation by anti-Western thugs. Russia and China build up their arms and increasingly treat the US like a former superpower. Tin pot dictators in Latin America do likewise. I could go on, but here are two little, if at all, noted aspects of our weakened state. Whereas during and after Reagan, virtually all of Latin America had adopted democratic, free market regimes and liberty was on the march, today one country after another is reverting back to statist, socialist, anti-Western dictatorships. They no longer see the US as a role model for their societies. The light from America’s lamp grows dim. The other little noted manifestation of a weakened America is that the US now imports a dramatically higher percentage of its food. Just check out the local supermarket: all the “fresh” fish is from Southeast Asia; the fruits and vegetables are from South America and even Europe; and an amazing amount of the canned and bottled foods are from all over the globe. We used to fret about OPEC cutting off our oil or China calling in our loans. How about some nasty third world thug cutting off our food supply!

And that’s just foreign affairs. The internal structure of our country is also less firm than it used to be. The culture is disintegrating: the out of wedlock birth rate has skyrocketed; the birth rate itself is falling; cohabitation supplants marriage – which institution itself is crumbling; millions of abortions are performed; assisted suicide is increasingly tolerated; religion is under attack; as is the traditional family. And we are all “bowling alone.” But again, here are two less noted manifestations. First, the nation is seriously contemplating granting amnesty to 10 – and perhaps as many as 30 – million illegal aliens. This is not a sign of internal strength. It reflects a failure to enforce our laws and an inability to protect the sanctity of the nation. The second manifestation, while often articulated, is commonly referred to as a problem or crisis, but not as a sign of the inherent weakness of our society. Namely, our thoroughly dysfunctional federal government with its attendant inability to address our most serious domestic problems is indeed a symbol of our country’s weakened state. Our debt, deficits and entitlement programs are out of control and threaten to bankrupt the nation. But our government spends its time on climate change, diversity and obesity – reflecting a serious weakness in the fabric of our nation.

Poorer. This development is painfully self-evident. Yes, there is still a startling amount of wealth in the US and our standard of living remains high. But the signs of diminished financial stature abound. The national debt is a monster that is threatening our economy and portends fiscal calamity before long. All of our governments, from municipal up through State and Federal, have spent and continue to spend vastly beyond the revenue that they take in. Municipalities and counties have gone bankrupt. States will follow soon – and the federal government will not be far behind. Then there are the untold, and often uncounted, unfunded liabilities these entities bear such as employee and retiree pensions and health benefits. These represent trillions of dollars in obligations that have no collateral backing. The “economic recovery” that we are experiencing is the weakest the nation has ever endured. College graduates have diminished prospects; young and even middle aged children are forced to take up residence in their parents’ domiciles. In fact, in general young people today almost never live as a well as their parents do or did at the corresponding age.

Now here are two items, little noted, that signal the declining wealth of the US. Income disparity has increased. The rich may be getting richer and although the poor may not be getting poorer, they are certainly not getting any richer. A declining middle class is not a sign of a country enjoying increased prosperity. The marriage rate continues to decline and the average age of first marriage goes up. The fertility rate, which held steady for a long time at roughly replacement, has now declined markedly in the last decade. Fewer young people paying for overly generous entitlements to more old people is not a recipe for national prosperity – just ask Japan.

Less Free. In principle the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution and historical traditions remain ours to enjoy. But it is absolutely without question that these freedoms are under assault from a perhaps benignly intentioned but increasingly powerful, ever expansive, unresponsive – and in places corrupt –federal government. Liberals may choose either to ignore this or actually believe that we are better off for it, but they cannot deny that the average citizen today is constrained in infinitely more ways by the federal government than his ancestors were a few generations ago. Books have been written describing the ways. (For example, the recent and ongoing IRS scandal is emblematic.) But here are a few that have not played a prominent role in that litany:
• A classic feature of American freedom has been the boundless capacity to form organizations and associations to address civic needs. This characteristic – unique to American society – was already evident to de Tocqueville nearly 200 years ago and remained strong for generations. No more. Here is some poignantly relevant data from a recent Wall Street Journal article by James Piereson.
For much of U.S. history, nonprofits have operated as a check on government by providing private avenues to serve the public interest. Unfortunately, American charities—and more broadly, the entire nonprofit sector—have become a creature of big government. For decades, the U.S. government has administered research, welfare, housing and educational programs through a system of grants to state and local governments, colleges and universities, hospitals, research organizations, consulting firms and not-for-profit advocacy groups. In the past 50 years, federal spending has exploded 36-fold, to about $3.6 trillion in 2012 from $100 billion in 1962. Meantime, the number of federal civilian employees has expanded modestly in comparison—to 2.8 million in 2011 from 2.5 million in 1962. The reason the federal government can increase its spending without adding many employees is because it subcontracts so many of its functions to ostensibly private institutions. This system has gradually turned much of the not-for-profit sector into a junior partner in administering the welfare state. 
The government has swallowed the civic organizations of America. We are no longer running our own affairs; the government is.
• The phenomenal growth of surveillance and monitoring has been noted, but this constraint on our freedom is not just limited to the NSA monitoring our phone calls. The streets are full of surveillance and speed cameras, our internet trails are tracked and our financial transactions monitored. Privacy is a thing of the past; our freedom is curtailed because so many of our private actions are observed and recorded.
• Mind control. The left has taken control of all the opinion-forming organs of American society: the media, universities, foundations, libraries, seminaries, the educational system, the legal profession and so on. The population, especially the kids, are literally brainwashed with a statist point of view. But the vast majority doesn’t even realize it. They are programmed like robots and make no attempt to formulate their own ideas. Not exactly the hallmark of a free people.
• The quaint notion of a free press is gone. The press is in the tank for the left. Therefore it does not perform its most basic function envisioned for it under the Constitution – to act as a watchdog and check on government malfeasance. For example, it not only permitted, it abetted the election of Barack Obama – the most manifestly unqualified candidate ever to ascend to the presidency. When the press does not perform its assigned function, our freedom is jeopardized. The Founders understood well that the people’s freedom is critically dependent on a free press. That is why they put it in the First Amendment.

Less Confident. Polls show decreasing optimism in the populace about the future of our country. People are pessimistic and fatalistic about the prospects for their children, the economy and their nation. In the past Americans were an upbeat people, always confident – perhaps unreasonably so – about the country’s ability to solve its problems, move forward toward more liberty and prosperity, and to fulfill its destiny as a light unto the nations. Increasingly we don’t know what our destiny is nor do we care. We are no longer that beacon of freedom, that shining city on the hill; we’re just another country – like France or Argentina. Ugh! One of the unnoted signs of declining confidence is the increasing prevalence of a nihilistic outlook among the nation’s youth.

Alas, a rather bleak picture. One might argue that America has faced equivalent crises in the past. It was arguably poorer during the Great Depression; probably weaker during the early 1800s; perhaps less free during the Civil War; and likely less self-confident in the mid 1800s leading up to the Civil War. But we never experienced all four phenomena at once as we do now. Has America passed its zenith? Are we in an irreversible path to decline? Has the time for the American experiment expired well before the 500-year expiration date that we traditionally anticipated?

Well to those of us who believe in American exceptionalsim, in the uniqueness of the American experiment in limited government, and that America has been a force for good in the world, the above developments are very dismaying. Our country was founded upon an idea – unlike all the other nations of the Earth whose existences stem from: geography, language, ethnicity, colonialism, religion, tribal identity, etc. The American idea is that free men and women can govern themselves and in so doing be: free, prosperous, strong and at peace. Moreover, our freedom is a natural right, bestowed by Nature or God and not by any government or ruler. Indeed, the government’s main job – in a real sense, its only job – is to secure the rights enumerated in our Constitution by enforcing the laws that express the consent of the governed.
The federal and most state and local governments, with the tacit approval of the people, have been increasingly violating the precepts of the preceding paragraph for several generations. As our Founders envisioned, the result is a country that is poorer, weaker, less free and less confident. The only way to reverse the tide and extend the life span of the American experiment is to reign in the government.
This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

It’s Time to Junk Oslo

Abba Eban once famously referred to the 1967 borders between Israel and its Arab neighbors as “Auschwitz Borders.” By that, Eban – hardly a right-wing hardliner – understood them to be a prescription for Israeli death and destruction. With Israel confined to those borders (at one point less than 10 miles wide), the Arabs controlled the mountain ranges that dominate all of Israel’s population centers as well as the region’s water supplies. Thankfully, Israel has not agreed to return to the Auschwitz borders.

But twenty years ago, Israel did agree to what I shall call the “Oslo Final Solution.” In an act of monumental stupidity, Israel invited the PLO and its genocidal wannabe leader, Yasir Arafat, to set up shop in the so-called West Bank as a prelude to ceding the area to him. In effect, Israel was agreeing to eventually return to the Auschwitz borders.

Events since the infamous handshake on the White House Lawn (between Arafat and Rabin) have demonstrated conclusively that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria (the biblical names for the West Bank area) would indeed represent an enormous, and likely irreversible, step toward the Arab-envisioned final solution to the Arab-Israel conflict – namely, the destruction of the Jewish State. The Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza have resulted in enhanced Arab aggression and intransigence, and provide an unmistakable model for the horror that would rain down on Israel should Fatah/Hamas take control of Judea and Samaria.

Despite the self-evidence of this assessment, Israeli leaders continue to pursue the chimera of a “two-state solution.” Several (but especially Barak and Olmert) have offered the Palestinian Arabs virtually all that they might have expected under the Oslo accords. But in their blind hatred for the Jewish State, in their revealing lack of interest in setting up a new state of their own and in their undying expectation that the Jewish state cannot hold out indefinitely, they have spurned the offers and continued to pine for the great Gotterdammerung that they expect must inevitably occur.

It is time for Israeli leaders – indeed for the whole nation – to recognize the futility of Oslo, declare it a dead letter and pursue a completely different path. It is time for Israelis to recognize reality, stop acting like they lost all the wars that they have won, and initiate a new strategy.Toward what goal? Well, the goal depends on the aspirant:
• The Arab/Muslim world seeks the destruction of Israel and the diminution (by death, expulsion and dhimmitude) of the Jewish population in “Palestine.”
• People in non-Middle Eastern nations friendly to Israel – e.g., the United States – would like to see a bona fide peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs, followed by mutual trust, normal relations and prosperity for both.
• Most of the rest of the non-Muslim world feels a distinct distaste for Israel – ranging from blatant anti-Semitism to misguided appropriation of blame – and would be content to see Israel vanish from the scene if it would bring calm to the region.
• Israel and most of world Jewry want the nation to experience freedom, prosperity, a robust civil society and a vibrant Jewish life. It would be preferable if all of that were to occur in the context of peace with its neighbors. But if not, the goals of freedom, economic development and a thriving civil society and Jewish life far outweigh the desire for tranquil relations with its neighbors. Israel has proven that it can create and sustain a successful society, even while it remains at war with its neighbors. If the Arabs refuse to make peace, so be it. Israel’s primary goals remain: freedom, economic development, a civil and just society, and the flourishing of Jewish life.

Nothing I can say will dissuade the Arab/Muslim world from its genocidal intentions toward Israel. And sad to say, history has shown that no non-suicidal Jewish/Israeli policy will appease its non-Muslim opponents. History also reveals that while much of Israeli policy is motivated by its desire to please its friends around the world, the results have often endangered the State. I believe that if Israel focused instead on its own needs – for freedom, economic development, civil society and a flourishing Jewish life – it would not only not lose its friends, but actually enhance its relationship with those nations that seek the same goals for their own societies – well, at least the first three of the four.

So what are Israel’s options? It can continue to perform the same ridiculous Oslo dance that it has choreographed for the last twenty years. It should be evident that such a course of action is pointless, fruitless and dangerous. Israel could also “surrender,” i.e., unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Anyone who believes that this would not be a suicidal act is hopelessly naïve. What Israel should do is abrogate Oslo, cite its right to do so because the Palestinians have repeatedly and flagrantly violated their obligations under the accords, and declare itself sovereign in Judea and Samaria.

Now it can do this in two ways: (i) offer all the Arab residents Israeli citizenship or (ii) not. Either way, Israel will be condemned, vilified and its incorporation of the disputed territories will not be recognized internationally. But consider the Golan Heights. Israel annexed it 30 years ago and met with the exact same kind of reaction as I just described. But today – especially in light of events in Syria in the last two years – who doesn’t doubt the wisdom of the move? The Golan is part of Israel and soon the world will recognize it as a fait accompli – if it doesn’t already. It may take 50 years, but the world will eventually accept the new borders of Israel when it finally recognizes that it is the only sensible course of action.

The choice on Arab citizenship is tricky. The temptation is to allow the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria to keep their Jordanian passports and not offer them Israeli citizenship. To do that will lend credence to the current, but bogus charge that Israel is an “apartheid state.” To have more than 20% of a population as permanent resident aliens is not a tidy state of affairs. But, critics argue, the alternative course is far worse. Granting citizenship would render Israel 2/3 Jewish and 1/3 Arab. Moreover the balance would shift to 50-50 or worse within a generation. It would then either be impossible to retain the Jewish character of the state or it would truly become a state in which a near or actual majority was deemed second class citizens.

But here’s the place where conventional wisdom is wrong. The demographics have shifted dramatically in the last generation. The Arab fertility rate has plummeted (from approximately 9 children to roughly 3.5) and the Jewish rate has grown steadily (to slightly over 3) – to the point that the rates are virtually equal. Moreover the trend continues and so even with annexation and citizenship, the breakdown might be more like 75/25 in a generation.

Well one could argue that even a 25% Arab minority – with or without full rights – poses a threat to the Jewish character of the nation. Perhaps. But that is the issue that should be debated; not which minuscule pieces of land should be swapped in a fictitious peace agreement between Israel and Fatah that is never going to happen.

Israel needs to break out of the grip of the Oslo Final Solution. If the Jewish nation would openly and seriously contemplate and debate the application of Israeli law to Judea and Samaria, then the grip would be broken. Only then might the Arab world consider accepting the existence of a Jewish state in its midst and abandon its homicidal dream of absorbing or obliterating it.
This essay also appeared in The American Thinker at: