As Egyptians half a world away ponder what kind of government they want to live under, Americans must also ask themselves the same question in the wake of Barack Obama’s latest State of the Union Address. Although his salmon joke got a few (undeserved) laughs, few commented that it came just after President Obama “proposed a “major reorganization of the government.” Although he promised to make America “more competitive,” he provided astoundingly few details about what this would look like. So, Americans must ask ourselves: Do we really want to see a major restructuring of the government under Barack Obama?
We Do Big Things Government
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As part of his theme that “We do big things,” Obama told the little people they “need to think bigger. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.”
He began by getting his history wrong. “We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV,” he claimed. Actually, the last major reorganization of the government was in 2002, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, which consolidated 22 separate agencies. Yet federal bureaus told to work together after 9/11 continue to wage turf battles nine years later.
Richard Nixon, too, reorganized government. Casper Weinberger, Nixon’s budget director, told The Washington Post, “Nixon sort of thought that by the stroke of a pen he could do it, but then Watergate came and destroyed his leverage.” Obama, too, is determined to make law with the stroke of a pen. He claimed in his address, “I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.” But if it does not, much of it may be eligible to be implemented by executive order. After all, it has been done before. Leaving aside the objectionable nature of his (likely) means, what ends will they secure?
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Obama’s Idea of Success: Prying Into Your Medical Records
Obama gave some indication by praising the federal government’s role in promoting electronic medical records. “Now, we have made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste,” he said. “Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse.” However, electronic health records open patients to the threat of hackers. More disturbing, a vast array of organizations already have access to patients’ “private” medical information. The greater fear is that ObamaCare may one day use these records to deny coverage to the unfit.
As this author has noted, the process usually begins with the government constricting individuals’ private health choices over what they eat or drink. The USDA recently tested a new program giving food stamp recipients an extra 30 cents for every dollar they spend on fruits and vegetables, while others have tried to ban recipients from purchasing soft drinks.
The government has already begun to hector potential health care liabilities for being out of shape. Last November, the Flagstaff Unified School District in Arizona weighed and measured schoolchildren, sending home letters to the parents of the overweight or obese in an effort to shame them into whipping their children into shape. The Associated Press reported, “School district Superintendent Barbara Hickman said the educators will recommend good nutrition, exercise and a visit to a physician, but it’s up to parents to decide what they want to do.”
But when dealing with state force, what begins with a nudge often ends with the cat o’ nine tails.
The Obama administration has stated “preventative medicine” will play a substantive role in reducing the costs of ObamaCare. What if these parents do not take action? Can the school district place children who eat in the cafeteria on a special diet heavy on greens and devoid of desserts? Can it enroll them students in extra, compulsory physical education? If the children continue to lose the battle of the bulge, can children’s services remove them from their parents’ homes on the grounds their families are endangering their health? In fact, that has already happened – here and around the world.
Japan has already taking punitive measures against adults who do not lose weight. In April 2008, Japan passed a law requiring doctors to measure the waistlines of all citizens aged 40-74 who are covered by public health care. The New York Times reported, “the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets” for their employees’ weight loss. Private companies “must get 10 percent of those deemed metabolic [overweight] to lose weight by 2012, and 25 percent of them to lose weight by 2015.” For instance, computer maker NEC alone faces $19 million in fines if it fails to meet its fitness check-up. Companies are thus leaning on their employees to lose weight – or take medication. Those deemed over the limit “will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight.” If they are still overweight after another six months, “those people will be steered toward further re-education.” Of they may be medicated. In 2007, “Akio Inoue, 30, an engineer carrying 238 pounds on a 5-foot-7 frame, was told by a company doctor to lose weight or take medication for his high blood pressure.” The government turned a deaf ear to medical experts’ concerns about overmedication.
How would this play itself out in America? Could doctors (who become government employees under a single-payer health care system) have their Medicare payments cut for every overweight patient in their care? Could the feds sue McDonald’s or Pizza Hut employees for selling pizzas to the obese, rather than cutting off the corpulent like a rummy at last call?
Lest this sound too far-fetched, remember Science Czar John Holdren, who advises President Obama on a wide range of issues, wrote in his book Ecoscience, “it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society…If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility.” (Emphasis added.)
As C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
TSA Scanners and Pat-Downs
Obama gave an insight to his ideas of government intrusion with another (unfunny) joke in his address. He claimed significant “investment” in “high-speed rail” could “allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car.” Obama quipped, “For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.” That the president chose to crack wise about a process legal scholars believe should be considered a form of sexual assault – and over which Jesse Ventura is suing the government – is disquieting. Moreover, Obama’s TSA brought scanners into bus stations late last year; pat-downs will not be far behind.
A Microchip in Every Dustbin and an Internet ID in Every Computer
Obama’s other innovations give reason for pause. As this author has noted, part of the stimulus funds went to placing microchips in trash bins in Dayton, Ohio. Obama administration officials have also discussed creating an internet ID that could log every website readers visit. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke explained the government is taking this measure to “enhance privacy.”
(More) Government Propaganda
The president provided one concrete detail in his speech: “Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history.” This promise sounds dubious coming from the same candidate who promised he “will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.” That became his first broken promise, only nine days into his presidency.
In fact, his proposed website could be worse than nothing at all. Just last year, Obama made the same promise about stimulus spending, and he did in fact create a web portal. Last year, Rep. Darrell Issa released a 36-page report which documented how that website, Recovery.gov, “became a taxpayer-funded tool to promote false and misleading propaganda to support the Democrat-backed stimulus.”
Only in our present media environment could a president discuss freezing government spending at their highest levels in generations, reorganizing our American system of government, undermining the privacy of our medical records, and setting up another government propaganda website while being hailed as an increasingly pro-business “centrist.”
Although the president is promising a massive reorganization of the entire government, the media seem remarkably incurious about the details. It seems clear no one involved in the invasion of privacy and heavy-handed tactics described in this essay – let alone the many abuses not covered – should be given carte blanche to rejigger the structures of governance. Neither should a man with such contempt for this nation’s unique history. Insisting his subjects continue the regime of hope-and-change, he claimed, “That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves.” On the contrary, for two centuries Americans have harkened back to their founding, and revered and revived the wisdom contained in its founding documents.
That process is underway again today with the Tea Party movement. And it is the greatest obstacle to the government Obama hopes to erect – and the greatest advocate for the one he hopes to erase.