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Combating Progressivism

by Bryan Björnson
Issue 149 – February 3, 2010

There is a belief in the political movement known as liberals – or better, progressives – that our government is the solution to our country’s problems. That is the antithesis of what our Founding Fathers believed. Our Founding Fathers had a strong dislike for too much government. They joined together to rid themselves of an oppressive government. An oppressive government that the liberals, the progressives have not only bought back but seek to enlarge far beyond the level of oppression that caused our American Revolution. The British government had imposed on them taxes that they thought were too high. “No Taxation without Representation!” Sound familiar? It should. It was a rallying cry for our American Revolution.

To understand why liberals are wrong in their support of big government we should take a brief look at that revolution, its causes and the arguments for it being fought. Let’s start with our Declaration of Independence. In that document there is a sentence that is extremely important. A sentence that is often overlooked. A sentence that states how much the 56 men who signed it disliked big government. That sentence is; “He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.” If you change the word “He” to Congress what Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776 could be written today! It is not what someone who believes that big government is the answer to all of our country’s problems would write. Our Declaration of Independence is a condemnation of oppressive government.

Also in that radically revolutionary document, our Declaration of Independence is our Founding Fathers’ pledge to risk everything they had. Here’s how Jefferson wrote it.  “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.” Those who pledge all that they have to rid themselves of a big and oppressive government, if they are successful, are not going to create a big oppressive government to replace it!

Our American Revolution like any other war had its problems. Shortages of supplies, food and pay for the soldiers were the biggest problem. Our American Revolution had more than its share of those problems. Those shortages almost caused our soldiers to give up. They didn’t because another one of our Founding Fathers wrote a pamphlet that helped rally our soldiers. It reminded them of the oppressive government they were fighting against. The author of the pamphlet, Common Sense, was Thomas Paine. In it is a sentence that is another example of our Founding Fathers’ dislike, their hatred for big government. Here is Paine’s opinion on government; “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” That would not be the opinion of those who think or want a big government. It is not the opinion of those see government as the answer to all of our country’s problems.

The opinion that government is a necessary evil is not the opinion of the people who have been in control of our government for many decades. It is the exact opposite of what our Founding Fathers believed. Why has this changed? What has caused the people in our government to think they must be involved in every aspect of our daily lives? Do they think we are less competent in running our own lives than Americans were in the past? Why does our government believe that Americans must be protected from themselves? Life has become more complex and the world has gotten smaller but Americans are no less intelligent, no less capable of fending for themselves than they ever have been. So why has our government grown so dramatically over the last several decades?

The cause of the growth is due to the way our government has been funded. Historically our government had been funded by tariffs and excise taxes. The money raised by excise taxes and tariffs was not all that much, which is fine because a small government doesn’t need much money. In 1861 our government instituted an income tax to pay for the War Between the States. That law was amended in 1862 and the changes of the revised law were later to become part of the XVI Amendment. The 1862 income tax law was very much like to todays with its list of deductions and a progressive rate of taxation. It also introduced the practice of withholding taxes from a person’s paycheck. By 1872 the income tax was abolished. (If it has happened before it can happen again!)

The income tax created by the 1862 law was to be paid mainly by the “rich”. To tax people just because they are rich is contrary to what America is all about. The taxes that caused our American Revolution were not only on rich people. The idea that if you are rich you owe more in taxes is not an American idea. It is a bad idea because it gives our government the power to decide who is rich and how much they must pay in taxes. That is not a power our Founding Fathers would have wanted our government to have!

But in politics bad ideas don’t die. Their supporters just refine and repackage them until enough politicians are convinced they are a good idea. Who brought back the bad idea of an income tax? Who refined and repackaged the bad idea that eventually became the XVI Amendment? Who convinced Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify the XVI Amendment? It was a political movement known as the “Progressives”. Their ability to pass and get the XVI Amendment ratified was an example of how the shift in people’s attitude towards the size of our government began. By giving our government the power to tax everyone’s income people began to look to our government as the solution to our problems. People don’t agree to buy something unless they think it will work. The XVI Amendment is our agreement to buy a government that we think can solve our problems.

The idea that our government is the solution to all of our country’s problems wasn’t one that achieved instant acceptance with the ratification of the XVI Amendment. To have an income tax was one of many ideas that the progressives used to shift our attitude towards our government and pave the way for our reliance on Washington, D.C. Some of the other ideas were the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 and many other regulatory agencies. While in theory these agencies do good things they are contrary to the idea of limited Constitutional government.

The progressives’ views of our government’s duties are is the opposite of what our Founding Fathers were. This is what John Burgess, a leading progressive, wrote about government. “The most fundamental and indispensable mark of statehood was the original, absolute, unlimited, universal power over the individual subject, and all associations of subjects.” That is not a description of freedom. That is a description of tyranny! This was and is the goal of the Progressive movement. They want absolute, unlimited, universal power centralized on Washington, D.C.! If that is what our Founding Fathers had wanted why did they bother to risk everything they had to fight our American Revolution? Progressives and their belief in government solutions to all of our country’s problems are un-American and definitely un-Constitutional!

What other political movements sought absolute, unlimited, universal power over the individual, over the people? Two of the most violent, murderous, tyrannical political movements in the history of man fascism and socialism! These political fraternal twins are responsible for deaths of an estimated 100,000,000 people. Progressivism is their American cousin.

From William Jennings Bryan to Barack H. Obama many an American politician has said that he or she was a Progressive. They will, of course, deny that their Progressives views are akin to socialism or fascism. But when their policies their programs increase our government’s size and its power over the individual that is socialism or fascism. For when the size of our government progressively increases our freedoms progressively decrease. Politicians should not be judged by their words. They must be judged by their actions. Do they, or have they, supported the progressive shift of power from our local and state governments to our Federal government? Have they voted for a progressive income tax rate? If they have they are progressives. Do they believe that government programs will solve all of the problems in our country? If they do they are progressives.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a progressive. He is the political godfather of the current Progressives in America. Here is a quote of FDR’s that shows his belief in progressivism and not a belief in freedom. “The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.” Compare that to the quotes made earlier by our Founding Fathers. Would our Founding Fathers write our Constitution to be a set of rules for our government that could be stretched however our President wanted them to be? Men who believed in, men who risked everything they had to create a limited government would not write an “elastic compilation of rules of government.”

Prior to World War II progressives in America openly admitted their admiration for fascism. In 1934 Roger Shaw a progressive writer for the magazine The North American Review described the New Deal as “Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” Or as Rexford Tugwell the economic policy advisor for FDR’s Brain Trust wrote in his diary about Il Duce the man who coined the word fascism, Benito Mussolini, had done “many of the things which seem to me necessary.” Once WWII started FDR had to convince people that his Progressivism was different from its European cousin, fascism. He was able to do this by being a stalwart opponent of the Nazi’s racist fascism. The genocide committed by the Nazis helped fool people into believing that FDR wasn’t a fascist. During World War II the US defeated fascism by allying with socialism. Socialism was the form of progressivism that FDR believed in. Socialism is the form of progressivism that is now our government’s modus operandi.

Currently an economic crisis, very much like the Great Depression, is adversely affecting our country. What is Pres. Obama suggesting to end this economic crisis? What FDR and the Progressives did in their attempt to end the Great Depression. Those ideas didn’t work then and they are not working now! But as with FDR and the Progressives people have been convinced that the free market failed and drastic measures are needed. It is not the market that has failed. It is the fascist/socialist ideas of the Progressives that have failed. The Progressive idea of government bailouts, nationalizing companies, and coming soon the largest government programs yet, government run health care, and Cap & Trade, make FDR look like a conservative! Presidents Bush and Obama have stretched our Constitution beyond FDR’s wildest dreams. The Progressive’s version of an elastic set of rules for our government is to say that our Constitution is a “living document”.

If our Constitution is a living document then like the horror movie from 1958 The Blob it will eat our freedom. The “living document” must eat something to survive and freedom is its favorite meal. What will The Blob, what will our government do when it has consumed all of our freedom? Do we want to find out?

Or do we want to start reducing our government’s appetite for our freedom? How do we go about putting our government on a diet? How do we kill The Blob and return to the limited government that our Constitution was a blueprint for? That can be done by the mechanism to control our government that is in our Constitution. We have done that a total of twenty seven times. Since 1795 we have amended our Constitution seventeen times. (The first ten, our rapidly disappearing Bill of Rights, were ratified on December 15, 1791) That is an average of one amendment every twelve and half years. We even ratified one Amendment to repeal a previous Amendment; the XVIII Amendment was repealed by the XXI Amendment. There are two others that need to be repealed, the XVI (The income tax) & XVII (The direct election of US Senators) Amendments. Both of them were written passed and ratified because of the power of the progressives. The amendment process was intended to be a slow and difficult one. Yet the XVII was ratified just three months after the XVI was. (February 3, 1913 and April 8, 1913)

To hasten the drive to repeal the XVI Amendment it would help to repeal a law passed thirty years after it was ratified, the 1943 Current Payment Tax Act (CPTA). This law returned our government’s power to deduct taxes from a person’s paycheck as it had been done with the income tax that was abolished in 1872. It changed our taxes from being paid once a year as they had been to being paid every time we get paid. On April 15th we don’t pay our taxes we simply determine how much we have either over or underpaid. Many people overpay and then think they are getting a great deal when our government refunds their money to them. Why anyone would willingly give our government an interest free loan by overpaying their taxes is an example of how our attitude towards our government has changed. By repealing the 1943 CPTA the interest free loans we give our government would stop. People would learn and realize how much they actually pay in taxes and what percentage of their income goes to pay their taxes.

Making government bureaucracies, bigger, intrusive, and oppressive is easy. Making them smaller, less intrusive, and less oppressive is not. To do so almost requires a second revolution!

Bryan P. Björnson is a Madisonian liberal who believes that our Constitution was and is a blueprint for limited government and must be restored as the law of the land. To achieve this goal he has founded the A1S8 Society LLC.

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