Notes From the Conservative Underground is an ongoing section here at America’s Right, featuring the written manifestation of Ron Glenn’s observations on the conservative movement, gleaned from sources found everywhere between short-wave radio to mainstream commentary, between random discourse with concerned everyday Americans to planned discussions with people and officials plugged into grassroots organizations nationwide. Off-beat? Perhaps. Funny? Sometimes. Boring? Never.
It has been reported all over the news over the past week that Larry Summers will be leaving–jumping out of the sinking ship like so many others in the White House?–as the Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama. Summers, as we know, is a very smart and very controversial figure in the world of politics and economics. I have heard Larry Summers described in glowing terms and have heard him described as one of the greatest criminal economists of his generation because of his ties to the whole derivatives mess. This may not be surprising since all people of power have their admirers and their enemies, but Larry Summers is of particular importance.
As much as any contemporary figure, he is the classic representative of how a great deal of modern politics functions. He worked in the Clinton administration, became the president of Harvard University, resigned in a controversy after insisting that inherent distinctions between the genders could be a factor in why fewer women succeed in mathematics and science, went back to work in government for the Obama administration, and now intends to return to Harvard University in the Economics Department. Many who work in government now have the capacity to move back and forth between universities, the government, and the private sector. When all is said and done, this is a way to amass a personal fortunes.
People in my business always remark, “well, that just shows you that he knows what he is doing.” Unfortunately, it also shows just how little separation there is now from the men and women who run the economic policies in America and the major banking and investment interests that have the largest single stake in what the government does. In short, who does Larry Summers represent when he serves in government? He has a finger in every pie: academia, government and business. He was paid in one year, for example, $5.2 million by a Wall Street firm that made use of his expertise only one day out of a week.
That being said, I think there are two much more important points to be made.
First of all, men like Summers never have to run for public office. Instead, they are always appointed through political channels. They do not have to explain themselves to the American public. Instead, they work at the behest of those who hired them, which in the case of Larry Summers on this particular go-round were members of the Democratic Party. They gain their powers from their positions at the top of the political pyramid, giving their advice behind closed doors. When former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, Jr. was questioned before Congress, for example, he gave the impression that he had never been forced to explain himself to anyone in his life before that testimony. Larry Summers certainly gives the same impression. To paraphrase a quote about the communist secret police under Joseph Stalin: “They run the country, but no one knows who they are.”
Secondly, Larry Summers is very much a part of an academic world that equally escapes the majority of Americans and is held in the highest regard by the elites. All fields of study, including economics, have core issues that are at the heart of the disputes within those fields. In order to understand these controversies one has to be trained in that field and versed in its historical background. I found this out in my own life through my wife’s interest in anthropology; she subscribed to some professional journals on the subject and when I took a look at them on my own I understood almost nothing. When I asked her for some help, she would always say, “you need to first understand the dispute this writer is trying to settle.”
I have seen Larry Summers give lectures before other economists, and he is certainly a person who is in the heat of academic disputes which are well outside the interests of the average American. Economics is heavy on theory and jargon with an overlay of advanced math. Most of us need to have these academic concepts reduced down to simple explanations (such as “America needs economic stimulus”). Since Americans, for the most part, do not ultimately understand much of what Larry Summers and his academic associates are arguing about, how do we judge him?
Frankly, I do not know the answer to that problem. At this point Larry Summers is being proclaimed by the left as the man who saved America from a total economic catastrophe. Without him, they say, things would be really bad. But how does the average American know if this is true?
The answer lies in the concept of “Trickle-Down Academics.” Issues are debated at the top academic tiers, at places like Harvard, and the resulting conclusions of these debates trickle down to the lowly public. It is the secular gods of light shining their light on the darkness of the common man.
Hide Your Pickled Cucumbers
The Internet is full of reports that say Senate Bill S 510, otherwise known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, is heading for a vote soon after Congress comes back into session after the mid-term elections. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on the bill just two days ago.
I live in a rural area, and this bill is not well received. While it is touted as a bill designed to improve food safety, in reality it is likely to cause severe problems for small, home farms.
The price of food and the safety of food has caused a great many in rural communities to grow their own food. To self-sustain. This bill would place, on anything produced at home farms, regulations similar to those seen by organizations as enormous as Tyson Chicken. [Immediately, I see a Commerce Clause problem brewing, as I cannot imagine a court of law deciding that a small, home farm is touching upon interstate commerce enough to justify federal action. -- Jeff]
The key to this is food centralization. If food is produces and distributed in a centralized fashion, the government would–in theory, at least–have much more control over its quality. However, this also gives the federal government a lot more control over the food supply. Where I live, if there were no grocery store for a month, I could easily purchase enough meat and produce from local farmers so as to sustain myself and my family; if those farms are eliminated through excessive regulation, and the grocery store were similarly shuttered, I could be starved out rather quickly.
Some might think that my insinuations of government control of the food supply is an overreaction. Those people would be wrong. One only need to look at the story of the Holodomor, and the ongoing debate regarding whether the starvation of millions in the Ukraine during the 1930s was a natural catastrophe or engineered genocide, to see the potential.
Oh, What to do With the Women of America?
After our move this year, I live close to the state of Kentucky, and just this past weekend reports exploded all over the local newspapers that Rand Paul is now in a statistical tie with his Democratic Party opponent in the fight to be elected to the U.S. Senate this November. As of this morning, in fact, the Real Clear Politics average has Paul topping Democrat Jack Conway by 6.7 points, with Rasmussen showing Paul beating Democrat Jack Conway by 11 points, while other polls have him leading by anywhere between two and seven points.
Paul, it seems, is America’s most visible Tea Party-backed candidate, with Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware somewhere perceptionally close behind.
Nevertheless, one particular newspaper I skimmed last weekend attributed Paul’s success in particular to the Democratic Party’s appeal to the women’s vote. By statistics, political outlook and history, women are considered to be at the core of leftist philosophy in America. There are a great many reasons for this, but one reason to consider very seriously is that women have a tradition in American culture of being schoolteachers, health care workers, and child raisers. Meanwhile, the federal government has assumed a larger and larger role in furnishing education and health care and providing for the general well-being of children. Unlike many men, who tend to look at the price tag before assessing whether the shoes match the outfit, women are generally more in favor of government involvement regardless of the cost.
I recall hearing an interview with a pollster many years ago who said that women in America believe, far more than do their male counterparts, that they will need outside help to raise their families because of circumstances over which they have no control. Since our nation finds itself in bad economic times, many women may very well refrain from casting their vote in favor of someone running on a platform which includes the scaling back of government benefits — i.e. the repeal of ObamaCare.
Personally, I hope that this election cycle proves once and for all that conservatism is not merely the ideological home of middle-aged white men, but that women everywhere can understand what makes a country–like a family–strong.
Somehow, unfortunately, I’m not so certain that such a mentality applies to Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. They were the only remaining Republican turncoats during the vote on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–Specter, the third GOP vote, is no longer in the GOP–and rumor has it that they will both follow Specter’s lead and defect to the Democratic Party once the November elections have run their course.
The announcement of Larry Summer’s apparent pending resignation has raised an interesting issue. Summers is known for writing economic articles on the idea that extended unemployment benefits raise unemployment, and has reportedly said publicly that such benefits should be limited in order to provide people with the requisite motivation to get back to work.
Obviously, this was not listened to by the Obama administration. It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the future, should the Republicans once again gain control of the House of Representatives.