April 25, 2020
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Two Remarkable Columns from Pat Buchanan
Patrick Buchanan has been writing a national column for decades, and almost always he is “ahead of the curve,” prescient in his comments, even prophetic in his warnings and admonitions. Too often sidelined by some as a “master of nostalgia,” or lamenting the passing of “the good old days,” or crying wolf, he has continued fearlessly in both his books and columns.
And most of the time he has been proven right.
Over the years, since at least his feisty autobiographical 1988 Right from the Beginning—which was far more than an autobiography, but a recovery roadmap for an America swiftly succumbing to the tentacles of managerial Big Government and globalism—he has outlined in his successive volumes both what he sees as wrong, what afflicts America (and the civilization we inherited), as well a pathway out of the progressivist feculence, the putrid bog that threatens to suffocate us and extinguish our beliefs, our traditions, and our hopes.
In recent days amongst the literally hundreds of published scribbles addressing the COVID-19 epidemic and its far-reaching effects here in America and across the world, Pat has authored several short essays which, again, say much with an economy of words; but which raise critically important issues for us in the midst of this pestilence not only for our personal physical well-being, but for our essential liberties.
I pass on two of his recent essays, both raising significant questions about what faces us. The answers to the queries and concerns he raises must come soon for indeed our future depends on them.
What Will Be the New American Cause?
By Patrick J. Buchanan Tuesday - April 21, 2020
After the Great Pandemic has passed and we emerge from Great Depression II, what will be America's mission in the world?
What will be America's cause?
We have been at such a turning point before. After World War II, Americans wanted to come home. But we put aside our nation-building to face the challenge of a malevolent Stalinist empire dominant from the Elbe River to the Barents Sea.
And after persevering for four decades, we prevailed. What, then, did we do with our epochal victory?
We alienated Russia by moving our NATO military alliance into the Baltic and Black Seas. We launched bloody, costly crusades for democracy in the Middle East that, invariably, failed. We exported a huge slice of our manufacturing capacity and economic independence to a coddled China.
Historically, blunders of such magnitude have undone great powers.
Even before COVID-19, Americans had begun to realize the folly of decades of mindless interventionism over matters irrelevant to our vital interests. "Unsustainable" was the word commonly associated with our foreign policy. But if our foreign policy was unsustainable during President Trump's economic boom, with unemployment at record lows and a bull market to rival the Roaring '20s, can an interventionist foreign policy be sustained after the losses of this major depression we have induced to kill the pandemic?
If the Democrats win in November, we know their priorities: national health insurance, carbon taxes, the Green New Deal, open borders, amnesty, reparations and wealth redistribution to reduce social and economic inequality — an agenda costing trillions of dollars. And Democrats will be looking at the defense budget as a slush fund to finance this new progressive era.
If the Republicans win, given the influence of hawks and Neocons among the party elite, interventionism may get another run in the yard. Having been exposed as naive beyond belief for their indulgence of China from the Bush I days to 2016, some Republicans are looking to make amends by casting China in the Soviet role in Cold War II.
There is talk on Capitol Hill of refusing to pay off U.S. bonds that Beijing holds and of suing China for the damages done by the coronavirus, as China failed to alert the world the pathogen was loose. Americans should think long and hard before defaulting on U.S. government debt and consider the consequences if we open a door to claims against sovereign nations for past sins.
Iraq was invaded in 2003 to force it to give up illicit weapons of mass destruction it did not have. Baghdad could have a case in international court against America for the unprovoked war waged against that country.
While the U.S. appears determined to bring back manufacturing — especially of products critical to the health, safety and defense of our nation — there seems to be no stomach among the public for a war with China.
But again, with the democracy crusades now repudiated, what is America's cause, what is America's mission in the world? Preventing climate change, say our liberal elites. Yet, even before the pandemic, global warming ranked near the bottom of national concerns.
The situation in which America will find herself after the virus passes and depression lifts will be almost unprecedented. We will have the same treaty obligations to go to war on behalf of dozens of nations in Europe and Asia and at the same time, we will be running deficits on the order of $3 trillion a year with a shrunken economic base.
Does it matter to us if Russia is led by an autocrat not unlike a Romanov czar, that Hindu nationalism wields the whip hand in India or that Hungarians have rejected Earl Warren's ideas about liberal democracy?
In recent decades, the U.N. General Assembly has seemed to resemble the bar scene in "Star Wars." But is how other nations choose to rule themselves any business of ours, if those nations do not threaten us?
In the 19th century, when the Hungarians had risen up against the Hapsburg Empire and sought U.S. intervention, Henry Clay opposed it:
"Far better is it for ourselves ... and for the cause of liberty ... that we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore, as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of falling or fallen republics in Europe."
Not only President Trump's preferences but also events seem to be driving us toward such a destiny.
To borrow from the title of historian Walter A. McDougall's classic work, America's future is as “a promised land, not a crusader state.”
The One Certain Victor in the Pandemic War
By Patrick J. Buchanan Friday - April 24, 2020
"War is the health of the state," wrote the progressive Randolph Bourne during the First World War, after which he succumbed to the Spanish flu.
America's war on the coronavirus pandemic promises to be no exception to the axiom. However long this war requires, the gargantuan state will almost surely emerge triumphant. Currently, the major expenditures of the U.S. government, as well as a growing share of total federal spending, are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. None of these programs will be curtailed or reduced this year or next. And if the Democrats win in November, the nation will likely take a great leap forward - toward national health insurance.
Republicans are calling for a suspension until 2021 of payroll taxes used to finance Social Security and Medicare. While that would provide an economic stimulus, it would also blow a huge hole in federal revenue and further enlarge the deficit and national debt.
Even before the virus struck with full force in March, that deficit was projected at or near $1 trillion — not only for fiscal year 2020 but for every year of the new decade.
The next major item of the budget is defense, considered untouchable to the Republican Party. Hence a confident prediction: This generation will never again see a budget deficit smaller than $1 trillion. Indeed, the $2 trillion lately voted on to save businesses and keep paychecks going to workers will lift the deficit for 2020 above $3 trillion.
As of March 1, 2020, the nation was at full employment, with the lowest jobless rates among women and minorities in our history. Less than two months later, 26 million Americans are out of work. These workers will soon begin picking up unemployment checks, a new burden on the federal budget, to which will be added the cost of expanding food stamps, rent supplements and welfare payments.
Though Harvard, with its $41 billion endowment, was shamed into returning the $8.7 million in bailout money coming its way, does anyone believe the stream of U.S. revenue going into higher education will ever fall back to what it was before the pandemic? As for that $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, is it more likely that vast sum will be paid back by those who incurred the debt, or that it will be piled atop the federal debt?
Congress has already voted to bail out our stressed hospitals.
Now, standing patiently in line for their bailouts, are the states — and America's cities and counties. These governmental units are virtually all certain to face falling tax revenue and expanded social demands, leading to exploding deficits. Their case: You bailed out the businesses and the hospitals. What about us? When does our turn come?
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, anticipating the mammoth bill for bailing out states and cities, has suggested that governments be allowed to use bankruptcy laws to write down and write off their debts.
Probably not going to happen. Recall what happened when President Gerald Ford told New York City that Uncle Sam was not going to bail out the Big Apple. "Ford to City: Drop Dead!" was the famous headline splashed across the front page of the New York Daily News. Ford recanted but did not recover. His perceived callousness in the face of New York City's crisis — though that fiscal crisis was entirely of the city's own making — factored into his defeat by Jimmy Carter.
Donald Trump is not going to give Red State governors facing gaping budget deficits because of the coronavirus crisis the wet mitten across the face. For his political future will be decided by those states. Still, the cost of bailing them out promises to be enormous and to create a precedent for bailouts without end.
Then there is the clamor, already begun, from, and on behalf of, the Third World. The IMF, World Bank and the West, it is said, have a moral obligation to replace revenue shortfalls these nations are facing from lost remittances from their workers in the developed world. There is talk of hundreds of billions of dollars in monetary transfers from the world's North to the world's South.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist once famously declared: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
What is more likely to be drowned in that bathtub is the philosophy: "That government governs best which governs least." What is more likely to be drowned in that bathtub is the philosophy that champions small government, the primacy of the private sector, a belief in "pay as you go," and that "balanced budgets" are the ideal.
Call it Robert Taft conservatism. Today, it appears irrelevant.
Indeed, the one certain victor in the coronavirus pandemic war will likely be Big Government. As John Donne wrote, "No winter shall abate this spring's increase."