Old Beliefs Die Hard

July 25, 2012

It is very difficult coming to the realization that something or someone you truly believe in, have revered and defended for a long time, and have dedicated your life to following is not what you thought it was and might even be the exact opposite of what you appreciated about it.

For me recently, I have had to come to grips with the fact that former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was not the hero I revered for a long time.  See, I grew up in Pennsylvania and followed his winning teams every year.  His success was abundant while all along running a squeaky clean program with no recruiting violations and a good graduation rate.  To top it off, we shared an ethnic heritage (Italian) which became a source of personal pride.

Then the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal hit.  My world was shattered.  How could Coach Paterno only inform his superiors at the University when he was told that his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was caught showering with a young boy in a university locker room?  How could he not blow the whistle loudly to put an end to the carnage and bring a deviant to justice?  I mean, Paterno was the moral bastion of college football.  As an educator, he would never forsake the well-being of youngsters in order to protect a friend and/or his football program.

But, it’s true.  Paterno did not do all that he should have and many more young boys were abused at Penn State facilities by Jerry Sandusky as a result  This realization has negated close to 40 years of hero worship.  Joe Paterno made more than a mistake; he allowed a tragedy to continue.  He was not the moral bastion I naively thought he was.  It was tough and a long process, but he is no longer a hero.

Thus, I can now empathize with folks who need to come to grips with their wrongheaded thinking that government is the great solver of our problems.  Take the so-called “War on Poverty”(1) programs launched under Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.  Supporters would argue that it was the right thing to do at the right time to eradicate poverty.  However, close to 50 years and $15 trillion later, the poverty rate has barely budged going from about 15 percent to 13 percent.  In fact, poverty was on a steep decline for five years preceding Johnson’s programs.  His “War on Poverty” halted that decline and stabilized the poverty rate in the low teens.  But if you listen to advocates of the federal social safety net, you’ll hear how without federal largess the problem of poverty would be more acute.  They just can’t bring themselves to accept the realization that federal welfare programs are wasteful, debilitating, and ineffective.

Of course, the best example from recent history where government policy has been wasteful, debilitating, and ineffective is the economic policies of the current administration.  The same folks that can’t admit to themselves that the War on Poverty was a failure are now defending the Obama Administration’s policies as if they have been successful in bringing about recovery from the Financial Crisis of 2008.  After trillions have been spent and interest rates kept at rock bottom lows for the last four plus years the unemployment rate has never fallen below eight percent.  In fact, the real unemployment rate (U6 which includes discouraged workers) is 15 percent and on the rise. Most embarrassing for the President is the fact that more people went on Social Security Disability than got jobs in June.

To be sure, there are many more examples of government intrusion gone wrong.  The greatest of which is Roosevelt’s New Deal because it prolonged the Great Depression through the 1930s.

So, with such a track record of failure, why is it that advocates of big government cannot bring themselves to realize that their philosophy is bankrupt and wrongheaded?  One reason is emotional.  They think with their hearts and not their heads.  They are so fixated on helping others and believe they may need the same kind of help someday, that they forsake logic and experience for empathy and generosity (of other peoples’ money of course).

Another reason is socialization.  There are so many Americans who rely on the federal government for one reason or another that it is hard to find many that are willing to bite the hand that feeds them.  Take college professors and the mainstream media (MSM) for instance.  Very, very few are willing to go against the Establishment line for fear of losing grant money, being denied tenure, or losing the interview or even their jobs (remember Helen Thomas?).  These are the societal elites that most Americans get their information from (many times academics appear on the MSM).  It’s no wonder many Americans lack basic economic knowledge.  They have been bombarded through the years with the party line instead of the truth.

At the end of the day, it’s brutal being challenged let alone acknowledging that what you have believed in for a long time is poppycock.  I know – I lost a long-time hero recently.  It is a tough and long process but one that needs to be undertaken by those that cherish big government intrusion in our economy.  It needs to be undertaken so the widespread suffering resulting from big government intrusion in our economy seizes.

Article first published as Old Beliefs Die Hard on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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Romney Foreign Policy Would Make Americans Unsafe

July 16, 2012

It is no surprise that the main issues of this election cycle are chronic high unemployment, massive budget deficits, and rising health care costs.  Mired in an economic downturn for close to five years now, many commentators agree that the outcome of the presidential election hinges on who voters believe can best manage the economy.  Unfortunately, neither of the major party candidates are capable of managing the economy effectively (by essentially getting the government out of it) as the American electorate once again has a choice between Establishment Front Man #1 and Establishment Front Man #2 for president.

Also unfortunate is that economic issues are overshadowing foreign policy this election cycle.  Obama’s record is in this area is horrendous.  Unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries, threats and intimidation toward others, illegal detentions, the killing of innocence, and the murder of American citizens without due process of law are hallmarks of the Obama Regime.

But, from the looks of things, a potential Romney Administration would be even worse foreign policy wise.  Not only has he surrounded himself with a bunch of warmongering advisors from the Bush years, he has through other appointments and actions indicated that he will be the most pro-Israel American president ever.  Why is that bad?  Because molding American foreign policy around the needs of Israel is contrary to American interests – more about that in a bit.

Recently Mitt Romney announced he would travel to Israel to meet with government officials there.  He will also hold a $60,000 a plate fundraising dinner while in Jerusalem.  This all comes on the heels of his super PAC receiving a $10 million contribution from casino magnet Sheldon Adelson.  This is the same Sheldon Adelson who is vehemently against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian mess, who called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist, and who expressed regrets that his own military service was done in an American uniform and not an Israeli.

Now, on the surface, this all seems so political.  After all, there are a lot of Jewish and Evangelical Christian voters in several swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.  Romney’s trip to Israel will be a positive for these groups.  But, aren’t there a lot of Italian, Irish, and Polish voters in those states as well.  Why not pay a visit to the ancestral homelands of those groups in an effort to endear yourself to them?  It is because Mitt Romney knows the political payoff wouldn’t be as great in terms of fundraising and political activism.  And because it is so great with the advocates for Israel, they will expect a lot from a Romney Administration.

If Romney’s junket to Jerusalem and his acceptance of Adelson’s largess aren’t bad enough, at an elite gathering of Romney supporters in Utah recently he boasted that he receives briefings from Israeli officials on Middle East developments.  And then there is Romney’s extremely pro-Israel national security team.  It includes hardliners like Walid Phares and Dov Zakheim.  Even as more drone attacks in Pakistan have been launched and been deadlier under Obama than Bush, Zakheim recently penned an article entitled, “Obama’s Drone War has Actually Not Gone Far Enough.”  Make no mistake about it, Romney getting briefings from the likes of Zakheim and Israeli officials does not guarantee that he will be getting unbiased, balanced intelligence.  How can we expect him to make good decisions?  Let’s not forget the last time a president got bad intelligence from biased advisors – we went to war for a decade looking for the allusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So, returning to the question, why is it bad for America if Mitt Romney gets elected president and is the most pro-Israel leader in our history?  It is because it makes us less safe as a people.  Whether Israel carries out a military mission with our blessing or even worse we carry it out on Israel’s behalf in the Middle East, our public image is damaged and groups like al Qaeda use the event to fanaticize young Muslims to commit Jihad.

Additionally, Israel and the United States have different priorities in the Middle East.  Israel thrives on Arab disunity and instability for her own security.  If Arabs are quibbling with each other than they are distracted from harming Israel.

On the other hand, the United States is better off with peace and stability in the Middle East due to our continued dependence on the region’s oil supplies.

This is by no means an endorsement of Obama for reelection.  He has proven himself incapable of doing the right things with regards to the economy and foreign affairs.  Instead it is calling attention to the disastrous foreign policy that Mitt Romney will bring with him to the White House if he is elected president.  This all leaves Americans with no real choice when it comes to voting in November.  But we should be used to that by now, given that our choices are always Establishment Front Man #1 and Establishment Front Man #2.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina