Taxation Without Representation

Taxation Without Representation

    To say that this Committee for the Constitution has not repeatedly warned of the repetitive violation of the original intention of the Constitution for nearly a decade in articles such as  A New Birth of Freedom, Lies and Deceptions to Attain Political Power, Taxation Without Representation, The New Frontiers, Enemies Foreign and Domestic, The Imperial Presidency, The Biggest Scandal in U.S. History, and the Declaration of Independence 2010, to name but a few of the more recent, is a gross understatement. Executive branch tyranny, judicial activism, and the Congressional failure to uphold their oaths of office have robbed us of our freedoms and taxed us without representation. What Chief Justice Roberts has effectively done is placed the responsibility back where it rightfully belongs – on us, American citizens. We have elected those who knowingly and willfully violate the Constitution, and Congress and legislatures have failed to remove the judicial tyrants afflicting us. “Tolerance is the enemy of justice.” 


Too Many Broken Promises in Obamacare

Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) almost called Obamacare’s individual mandate a tax, stopping mid-word to call it a “penalty”. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and other spokespersons echoed this talking point. This is in spite of last week’s Supreme Court ruling that deemed the mandate unconstitutional under both the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, but ruled that it could stand as part of Congress’s authority to “lay and collect taxes.”

Dubbing the individual mandate a tax saved the President’s health care law, but it’s a concept that President Obama himself has strongly denied. In a 2009 interview, President Obama argued that his individual mandate was not a tax increase, stating, “I absolutely reject that notion.”

But after last week, President Obama must now admit it’s a tax or admit the mandate is unconstitutional. It’s can only be one or the other.

The mandate is in fact a tax, and it’s just one of many new taxes that hit the middle class in Obamacare. Lo and behold, another broken promise. President Obama claims that the mandate is holding people responsible, keeping with that spirit, here’s a reminder of the other promises the President and his health care law are responsible for breaking:

Promise #1: “Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.”

Reality: The individual mandate is far from alone on Heritage’s lengthy list of Obamacare’s new taxes and penalties, many of which will heavily impact the middle class. Altogether, Obamacare’s taxes and penalties will accumulate an additional $500 billion in new revenue over a 10-year period. Yesterday, a senior economist for The Wall Street Journal revealed that 75 percent of Obamacare’s new taxes will be paid for by American families making under $120,000 a year. Among the taxes that will hit the middle class are the individual mandate, a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning, and an increase of the floor on medical deductions from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income to 10 percent.

Promise #2: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”

Reality: Research continues to show that as many as 30 percent of employers will dump their employees from their existing health care coverage. The Administration itself has admitted that “as a practical matter, a majority of group health plans will lose their grandfather status by 2013.”

Promise #3: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits—either now or in the future.”

Reality: As Heritage analysts explain, “A close examination of what [the Congressional Budget Office] said, as well as other evidence, makes it clear that the deficit reduction associated with [Obamacare] is based on budget gimmicks, sleights of hand, accounting tricks, and completely implausible assumptions. A more honest accounting reveals the new law as a trillion-dollar budget buster.”

Promise #4: “I will protect Medicare.”

Reality: A Heritage Factsheet shows the various ways Obamacare ends Medicare as we know it, including severe physician reimbursement cuts that threaten seniors’ access to care and putting an unelected board of bureaucrats in charge of meeting Medicare’s new spending cap.

Promise #5: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”

Reality: Obamacare does not accomplish universal coverage; it leaves 26 million Americans without insurance. Moreover, Heritage research outlines 12 ways that Obamacare will increase premiums instead of reducing health care costs. Requirements that plans allow young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage and offer preventive services with no cost sharing are already leading to higher growth in premiums.

When polled, 70 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of the individual mandate. It’s doubtful that calling it a “tax” will dramatically change their opinion. Now that Obamacare and its broken promises remain the law of the land, it’s up to the American people to see to it that the law is ultimately repealed by Congress. Then, they can move forward with real reform that puts patients’ needs first.


Obamacare and New Taxes: Destroying Jobs and the Economy

By Curtis Dubay
January 20, 2011


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)[1] imposes numerous tax hikes that transfer more than $500 billion over 10 years—and more in the future—from hardworking American families and businesses to Congress for spending on new entitlements and subsidies. In addition, higher tax rates on working and investing will discourage economic growth both now and in the future, further lowering the standard of living.


PPACA[2] contains 18 separate tax increases that will cost taxpayers $503 billion between 2010 and 2019.[3] Three major tax hikes make up nearly half of the new revenue raised by PPACA:

  1. Section 1401 imposes a 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans. This new tax will apply to health plans valued in excess of $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Those thresholds will grow annually by inflation plus 1 percent. The tax takes effect in 2018 and is projected to raise $32 billion by 2019.
  2. Section 1411 increases the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) portion of the payroll tax. This provision will increase the employee’s portion from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent for families making more than $250,000 a year (and for individuals making more than $200,000). Combined with the employer’s portion, the total rate will be 3.8 percent on every dollar of income over $250,000 when the tax hike takes effect in 2013.
  3. Section 1411 also imposes a new payroll tax on investment. This tax provision applies the new higher 3.8 percent Medicare tax to investment income—including capital gains, dividends, rents, and royalties—and is scheduled to become effective in 2013. Together, the Medicare tax hikes will raise $210 billion between 2013 and 2019.

Table 1 lists all of the tax increases in PPACA.



As a result, the tax hikes in PPACA will slow economic growth, reduce employment, and suppress wages. These economy-slowing policies could not come at a worse time. PPACA tax increases will impede an already staggering recovery.

They Will Slow Economic Growth and Destroy Jobs . Taxes transfer money from productive private hands to the less efficient public sector. A politicized allocation is less efficient than market-based allocation because political decisions do not consider the highest-value use of resources, while the private sector considers such issues and therefore does a better job of assigning resources where they will contribute the most to economic growth.

They Will Discourage Work and Savings. Congress must levy high tax rates to take more Americans’ money, and this has a number of negative implications. Higher tax rates decrease the incentives for individuals to work and save more, both of which are essential for economic growth. Additionally, high rates discourage individuals from working harder and saving larger portions of what they earn. Combined, these two effects impede economic growth and reduce the number of jobs that businesses would have created had tax rates been lower.

They Will Not Reduce Deficits. Higher taxes never close budget deficits because, in the short run, Congress will spend all of the extra revenue it receives from higher taxes. Congress always spends every dollar of tax revenue it raises and however much it can borrow from credit markets. In the long run, the extra revenue will dissipate as individuals adjust their behavior to minimize their tax liability. The only way to close deficits is to cut spending and align it with how much revenue the tax code typically raises.

A New Direction

All tax increases have negative economic effects because higher taxes take resources from the productive hands of the private sector and transfer them to the wasteful hands of politicians. Higher taxes also lessen the incentives for individuals and businesses to engage in activities and behaviors that expand the economy and create jobs.

The tax code is a severe drag on the economy and is badly in need of fundamental reform. Ideally, a revised tax code would adhere more closely to the well-known flat tax. This new tax system would tax all wage and salary income at one rate and provide for only minimal deductions, credits, and exemptions. Tax reform is not an excuse to raise taxes. The new tax code would raise the same amount of revenue as the current system but in a more efficient manner in order to enhance economic growth.

Curtis S. Dubay is a Senior Analyst in Tax Policy in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

[1]Congress cannot build sound market-based health care reform on the foundation of a flawed health care law. Therefore, the health care law must be repealed in its entirety.

The House of Representatives has taken a major step towards full repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA—otherwise known as “Obamacare”). Until full repeal occurs, Congress must continue to focus on the core failures and consequences of PPACA and block its implementation to allow time to achieve repeal and lay the groundwork for a new market-based direction for health care reform.

[2]Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Public Law 111–148, and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Public Law 111–152.

[3]Joint Committee on Taxation, “Estimated Revenue Effects of the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 4872, the ‘Reconciliation Act of 2010,’ as Amended, in Combination with the Revenue Effects of H.R. 3590, the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”),’ as Passed by the Senate, and Scheduled for Consideration by the House Committee on Rules on March 20, 2010,” March 20, 2010, at (January 14, 2011).

The biggest scandal in U.S. history

Ann Coulter Letter

The biggest scandal in U.S. history

By:Ann Coulter

    Forget executive privilege, contempt of Congress, “fast and furious”, how many documents the government has produced and who said what to whom on which date.

    The Obama administration has almost certainly engaged in the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country, not counting the results of Season Eight on “American Idol”.    Administration officials intentionally put guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, so that when the guns taken from Mexican crime scenes turned out to be American guns, Democrats would have a reason to crack down on gun sellers in the United States.

    Democrats will never stop trying to take our guns away. They see something more lethal than a salad shooter and wet themselves.

    But since their party was thrown out of Congress for the first time in nearly half a century as a result of passing the 1994 “assault weapons ban”, even liberals know they’re going to need a really good argument to pass any limitation on guns ever again.

    So it’s curious that Democrats all started telling the same lie about guns as soon as Obama became president. In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced to reporters on a trip to Mexico: “Since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that weaponry (used by Mexican drug cartels), comes from our country, we are going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place.”

    As she sentimentally elaborated on Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren show: “The guns sold in the United States, which are illegal in Mexico, get smuggled and shipped across our border and arm these terrible drug-dealing criminals so that they can outgun these poor police officers along the border and elsewhere in Mexico.”

    Suddenly that 90 percent statistic was everywhere. It was like the statistic on women beaten by their husbands on Super Bowl Sunday.

    CBS” Bob Schieffer asked Obama on “Face the Nation”: “It’s my understanding that 90 percent of the guns that they’re getting down in Mexico are coming from the United States. We don’t seem to be doing a very good job of cutting off the gun flow. Do you need any kind of legislative help on that front? Have you, for example, thought about asking Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons?”

    At a Senate hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said: “It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors . . .  come from the United States.”

    And then, thanks to Fox News – the first network to report it – we found out the 90 percent figure was complete bunkum. It was a fabrication told by William Hoover, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), and then spread like wildfire by Democrats and the media.

    Mexican law enforcement authorities send only a fraction of the guns they recover from criminals back to the U.S. for tracing. Which guns do they send? The guns that have U.S. serial numbers on them. It would be like asking a library to produce all their Mark Twain books and then concluding that 90 percent of the books in that library are by Mark Twain.

    You begin to see why the left hates Fox News so much.

    Obama backed away from the preposterous 90 percent claim. His National Security Council spokesman explained to Fox News that by “recovered”, they meant “guns traceable to the United States”. So, in other words, Democrats were frantically citing the amazing fact that almost all the guns traceable to the U.S. were . . .  traceable to the U.S.

    Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that even if the percentage is inaccurate, the “vast majority” of guns seized in crimes in Mexico come from the United States. And he should know, because it turns out he was sending them there!

    Apart from the guns Holder was giving them, this was an absurd claim. Most of the guns used by drug cartels are automatic weapons — not to mention shoulder-fired rockets — that can’t be sold to most Americans. They are acquired from places like Russia, China and Guatemala.

    Right about the time the 90 percent lie was unraveling, the Obama administration decided to directly hand thousands of American guns over to Mexican criminals. Apart from the fact that tracking thousands of guns into Mexico is not feasible or rational, the dumped guns didn’t have GPS tracing devices on them, anyway. There is no conceivable law enforcement objective to such a program.

    This is what we know:

(1) Liberals thought it would be a great argument for gun control if American guns were ending up in the hands of Mexican criminals;

(2) They wanted that to be true so badly, Democrats lied about it;

(3) After they were busted on their lie, the Obama administration began dumping thousands of guns in the hands of Mexican criminals.

    We also know that hundreds of people were murdered with these U.S.-government-supplied guns, including at least one American, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

    But let’s look on the bright side. The BATF was originally going to ship warheads to Iran until realizing the explosions might disable the tracking devices.

    (Contrary to more Democrat lies, there was no such program to dump thousands of guns in Mexico under George W. Bush. The Bush administration did have a program that put GPS trackers on about 100 guns in order to actually trace them. That operation was ended almost as soon as it began because of the lack of cooperation from Mexican officials. You may as well say Holder’s program was “started” by the first cop who ever put tracer dye on contraband.)

    No one has explained what putting 2,500 untraceable guns in the hands of Mexican drug dealers was supposed to accomplish.

    But you know what that might have accomplished? It would make the Democrats’ lie retroactively true — allowing them to push for the same gun restrictions they were planning when they first concocted it. A majority of guns recovered from Mexican criminals would, at last, be American guns, because Eric Holder had put them there.

    Unfortunately for the Democrats, some brave whistleblower inside the government leaked details of this monstrous scheme. As soon as Congress and the public demanded answers, Holder clammed up. He just says “oops!” and accuses Republicans of racism. 

Protect and Defend Or Tyranny and the Imperial Presidency

Protect and Defend Or Tyranny and the Imperial Presidency
by Matthew Spalding

     The United States was born when rebellious colonists declared their independence from an imperial ruler who had vastly overstepped his bounds. “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” they wrote in their Declaration of Independence.

    Today’s presidency lacks the regal air of George III. But imperialism is back, in a big way.

    Last week, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum instructing U.S. immigration officials to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to create a policy scheme contrary to existing law, designed to implement legislation that Congress hasn’t passed.

    The President himself has admitted he doesn’t have the authority to do this. “The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works,” he told Hispanic activists last year. “That’s not how our democracy functions.”


    We can now see before us a persistent pattern of disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision-making without—and often in spite of—congressional action.  This violates the spirit—and potentially the letter—of the Constitution’s separation of the legislative and executive powers of Congress and the President.

    Examples abound:

  • Even though the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the President’s cap-and-trade plan, his Environmental Protection Agency classified carbon dioxide, the compound that sustains vegetative life, as a pollutant so that it could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.
  • After the Employee Free Choice Act—designed to bolster labor unions’ dwindling membership rolls—was defeated by Congress, the National Labor Relations Board announced a rule that would implement “snap elections” for union representation, limiting employers’ abilities to make their case to workers and virtually guaranteeing a higher rate of unionization at the expense of workplace democracy.
  • After an Internet regulation proposal failed to make it through Congress, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would regulate the Web anyway, even despite a federal court’s ruling that it had no authority to do so.
  • Although Congress consistently has barred the Department of Education from getting involved in curriculum matters, the Administration has offered waivers for the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for states adopting national education standards, all without congressional authorization.

    Likewise, the Administration has often simply refused to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress:

  • Since it objects to existing federal immigration laws, the Administration has decided to apply those laws selectively and actively prevent the state (like Arizona) from enforcing those laws themselves.
  • Rather than push Congress to repeal federal laws against marijuana use, the Department of Justice (DOJ) simply decided it would no longer enforce those laws.
  • DOJ also has announced that it would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act or defending it from legal challenge rather than seeking legislative recourse.

    On Tuesday, the President invoked executive privilege to avoid handing over some 1,300 documents in an ongoing Congressional investigation.  The Supreme Court has held that executive privilege cannot be invoked to shield wrongdoing.  Is that what’s happening in this case? “Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more,” Heritage legal scholar Todd Gaziano writes.

    Earlier this year the President crossed the threshold of constitutionality when he gave “recess appointments” to four officials who were subject to Senate confirmation, even though the Senate wasn’t in recess. Gaziano wrote at the time that such appointments “would render the Senate’s advice and consent role to normal appointments almost meaningless. It is a grave constitutional wrong.”

    There is no telling where such disregard may go next, but the trend is clear, and it leads further and further away from the constitutional rule of law.

    The President has unique and powerful responsibilities in our constitutional system as chief executive officer, head of state, and commander in chief. Those powers do not include the authority to make laws or to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore. The President – like judges or Members of Congress – takes an oath to uphold the Constitution in carrying out the responsibilities of his office.

    Indeed, the President takes a unique oath, pledging he “shall faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” We [don’t] need a new Declaration of Independence, and [but] we [do] need a President who will defend and vigorously exert his or her legitimate powers, recognizing that those powers are not arbitrary or unlimited.

 Dr. Matthew Spalding is the Vice President for American Studies and Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation. He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths. 

[edited by the CftC]

Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Richard Vedder
Professor of Economics, Ohio University

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on May 10, 2012, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

            FEDERAL STUDENT financial assistance programs are costly, inefficient, byzantine, and fail to serve their desired objectives. In a word, they are dysfunctional, among the worst of many bad federal programs.

            These programs are commonly rationalized on three grounds: on the grounds that assuring more young people a higher education has positive spillover effects for the country; on the grounds that higher education promotes equal economic opportunity (or, as the politicians say, that it is “a ticket to achieving the American Dream”); or on the grounds that too few students would go to college in the absence of federal loan programs, since private markets for loans to college students are defective.

            All three of these arguments are dubious at best. The alleged positive spillover effects of sending more and more Americans to college are very difficult to measure. And as the late Milton Friedman suggested to me shortly before his death, they may be more than offset by negative spillover effects. Consider, for instance, the relationship between spending by state governments on higher education and their rate of economic growth. Controlling for other factors important in growth determination, the relationship between education spending and economic growth is negative or, at best, non-existent.

            What about higher education being a vehicle for equal economic opportunity or income equality? Over the last four decades, a period in which the proportion of adults with four-year college degrees tripled, income equality has declined. (As a side note, I do not know the socially optimal level of economic inequality, and the tacit assumption that more such equality is always desirable is suspect; my point here is simply that, in reality, higher education today does not promote income equality.)

            Finally, in regards to the argument that capital markets for student loans are defective, if financial institutions can lend to college students on credit cards and make car loans to college students in large numbers—which they do—there is no reason why they can’t also make student educational loans.

            Despite the fact that the rationales for federal student financial assistance programs are very weak, these programs are growing rapidly. The Pell Grant program did much more than double in size between 2007 and 2010. Although it was designed to help poor people, it is now becoming a middle class entitlement. Student loans have been growing eight to ten percent a year for at least two decades, and, as is well publicized, now aggregate to one trillion dollars of debt outstanding—roughly $25,000 on average for the 40,000,000 holders of the debt. Astoundingly, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt.

            Nor is it correct to assume that most of this debt is held by young people in their twenties and early thirties. The median age of those with loan obligations today is around 33, and approximately 40 percent of the debt is held by people 40 years of age or older. So when politicians talk about maintaining low interest loans to help kids in college, more often than not the help is going to middle-aged individuals long gone from the halls of academia.

            With this as an introduction, let me outline eight problems with federal student grant and loan programs. The list is not exclusive.

(1) Student loan interest rates are not set by the forces of supply and demand, but by the political process. Normally, interest rates are a price used to allocate scarce resources; but when that price is manipulated by politicians, it leads to distortions in the use of resources. Since student loan interest rates are always set at below-market rates, too much money is borrowed for college. Currently those interest rates are extremely low, with a key rate of 3.4 percent—which, after adjusting for inflation, is approximately zero. Moreover, both the president and Governor Romney say they want to continue that low interest rate after July 1, when it is supposed to double. This aggravates an already bad situation, and provides a perfect example of the fundamental problem facing our nation today: politicians pushing programs whose benefits are visible and immediate (even if illusory, as suggested above), while their extraordinarily high costs are less visible and more distant in time.

(2) In the real world, interest rates vary with the prospects that the borrower will repay the loan. In the surreal world of student loans, the brilliant student completing an electrical engineering degree at M.I.T. pays the same interest rate as the student majoring in ethnic studies at a state university who has a GPA below 2.0. The former student will almost certainly graduate and get a job paying $50,000 a year or more, whereas the odds are high the latter student will fail to graduate and will be lucky to make $30,000 a year.

Related to this problem, colleges themselves have no “skin in the game.” They are responsible for allowing loan commitments to occur, but they face no penalties or negative consequences when defaults are extremely high, imposing costs on taxpayers.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, federal student grant and loan programs have contributed to the tuition price explosion. When third parties pay a large part of the bill, at least temporarily, the customer’s demand for the service rises and he is not as sensitive to price as he would be if he were paying himself. Colleges and universities take advantage of that and raise their prices to capture the funds that ostensibly are designed to help students. This is what happened previously in health care, and is what is currently happening in higher education.

(4) The federal government now has a monopoly in providing student loans. Until recently, at least it farmed out the servicing of loans to a variety of private financial service firms, adding an element of competition in terms of quality of service, if not price. But the Obama administration, with its strong hostility to private enterprise, moved to establish a complete monopoly. One would think the example of the U.S. Postal Service today, losing taxpayer money hand over fist and incapable of making even the most obviously needed reforms, would be enough proof against the prudence of such a move. And remember: because of highly irresponsible fiscal policies, the federal government borrows 30 or 40 percent of the money it currently spends, much of that from overseas. Thus we are incurring long-term obligations to foreigners to finance loans to largely middle class Americans to go to college. This is not an appropriate use of public funds at a time of dangerously high federal budget deficits.

(5) Those applying for student loans or Pell Grants are compelled to complete the FAFSA form, which is extremely complex, involves more than 100 questions, and is used by colleges to administer scholarships (or, more accurately, tuition discounts). Thus colleges are given all sorts of highly personal and private information on incomes, wealth, debts, child support, and so forth. A car dealer who demanded such information so that he could see how badly he could gouge you would either be out of business or in jail within days or weeks. But it is commonplace in higher education because of federal student financial assistance programs.

(6) As federal programs have increased the number of students who enroll in college, the number of new college graduates now far exceeds the number of new managerial, technical and professional jobs—positions that college graduates have traditionally taken. A survey byNortheasternUniversityestimates that 54 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed or unemployed. Thus we currently have 107,000 janitors and 16,000 parking lot attendants with bachelor’s degrees, not to mention bartenders, hair dressers, mail carriers, and so on. And many of those in these limited-income occupations are struggling to pay off student loan obligations.

Connected to this is the fact that more and more kids are going to college who lack the cognitive skills, the discipline, the academic preparation, or the ambition to succeed academically. They simply cannot or do not master well much of the rather complex materials that college students are expected to learn. As a result, many students either do not graduate or fail to graduate on time. I have estimated that only 40 percent or less of Pell Grant recipients get degrees within six years—an extremely high dropout or failure rate. No one has seriously questioned that statistic—a number, by the way, that the federal government does not publish, no doubt because it is embarrassingly low.

Also related is the fact that, in an attempt to minimize this problem, colleges have lowered standards, expecting students to read and write less while giving higher grades for lesser amounts of work. Surveys show that students spend on average less than 30 hours per week on academic work—less than they spend on recreation. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa show in their book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, critical thinking skills among college seniors on average are little more than among freshmen.

(7) As suggested to me a couple of days ago by a North Carolina judge, based on a case in his courtroom, with so many funds so readily available there is a temptation and opportunity for persons to acquire low interest student loans with the intention of dropping out of school quickly to use the proceeds for other purposes. (In theNorth Carolinastudent loan fraud case, it was to start up a t-shirt business.)

(8) Lazy or mediocre students can get greater subsidies than hard-working and industrious ones. Take Pell Grants. A student who works extra hard and graduates with top grades after three years will receive only half as much money as a student who flunks several courses and takes six years to finish or doesn’t obtain a degree at all. In other words, for recipients of federal aid there are disincentives to excel.

* * *

            If the Law of Unintended Consequences ever applied, it is in federal student financial assistance. Programs created with the noblest of intentions have failed to serve either their customers or the nation well. In the 1950s and 1960s, before these programs were large, American higher education enjoyed a Golden Age. Enrollments were rising, lower-income student access was growing, and American leadership in higher education was becoming well established. In other words, the system flourished without these programs. Subsequently, massive growth in federal spending and involvement in higher education has proved counterproductive.

            With the ratio of debt to GDP rising nationally, and the federal government continuing to spend more and more taxpayer money on higher education at an unsustainable long-term pace, a re-thinking of federal student financial aid policies is a good place to start in meetingAmerica’s economic crisis.

RICHARD VEDDER is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Economics at OhioUniversityand director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He received his B.A. from NorthwesternUniversityand his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the Universityof Illinois. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Investor’s Business Daily, and is the author of several books, including The American Economy in Historical Perspective and Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.

Immutable Law and Marriage

Human life is only possible within the context of enduring moral laws and principles that liberate all human beings to their true humanity. Constantly  and inescapably constrained and limited by immutable Law, same-sex marriage and all human imaginations and desires to the contrary will always fail to bring true freedom. True freedom is only found within the bounds of God’s intention.


    Why does same-sex marriage make sense to so many people? The momentum toward the full legalization of same-sex marriage seems to intensify with every passing month — or even faster. The moral divide in this nation is now seen most clearly in the distance between those for whom marriage is exclusively heterosexual and thus a settled issue and, on the other hand, those who honestly see the legalization of same-sex marriage as a moral mandate required by justice.

    Given the venerable status of marriage and its universally established heterosexual character — at least until very recently — the burden of argument falls on the need to explain how such a movement for a moral revolution gained credibility, cultural mass, and momentum. How did this happen?

    A culture does not consist only of ideas and ideologies, but no culture exists without them. Given the complexity of any culture, a comprehensive map of these ideas, moral intuitions, and philosophies is impossible to create. Nevertheless, some patterns are clear enough. We can trace the acceptance of same-sex marriage to at least three major ideas that have been shaping the modern mind for some time — and are held to some extent by both social liberals and conservatives.

A Progressivist Understanding of History

    One of the ideological engines of our social revolution is the idea that history reveals a progressive liberation of peoples who have suffered oppression. In this view of history, one prejudice after another has fallen as we have come to terms with the demands of justice. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    In other words, history reveals an inevitable, though tortuously long, arc toward justice and fairness. Over the course of history, innumerable superstitions and prejudices have been discarded. Slavery, once considered a social and economic necessity on both sides of the Atlantic, was overcome in Western democracies. Women demanded and were granted the right to vote. The world of Jim Crow gave way to the world of racial integration and civil rights. The mentally disabled are no longer put away in asylums. The Irish and Italians, once oppressed as the unwashed and unwanted immigrants of the Gilded Age, have risen to prominence in every arena of American life. America has elected its first African-American President. History marches on.

    For obvious reasons, the movement to normalize homosexuality attached itself to this idea of historical progress. This was a natural and inevitable development, and those who formed the strategy for this movement used the most powerful tools at their disposal. The progressivist vision of history was there for the taking, and the gay rights movement took it up with enthusiasm.

    Americans are naturally drawn to this understanding of history. It plays to our belief that our generation is in some way morally superior to the generations who preceded us. Liberals feast on this understanding of history and make it their main argument in any number of debates. But conservatives are shaped by this narrative, as well. Conservatives accept the undeniable fact that history, both long and short, tells a story that we should celebrate at countless turns.

    But the problem with the progressivist understanding of history is that it cannot stand alone. It cannot be the only narrative. There has to become means of identifying what is truly a manifestation of oppression and what is a structure necessary for human flourishing. If the only story we have is the narrative of liberation from oppression, then, as Karl Marx understood, all that remains is an unstoppable revolution that dissolves all bonds of relationship, kinship, tradition, and moral order. Should children be liberated from the authority of their parents? Should all prisoners be liberated from their cells? Should human beings be liberated from the obligations of family and kinship?

    The progressivist understanding of history must be checked by a recognition that liberation from oppression is not the only true and compelling narrative. The affirmation and preservation of moral obligations and commitments must be the companion narrative. But, in order to understand why so many among us see something as morally revolutionary and socially subversive as same-sex marriage to be something to demand and champion, consider the fact that many of our friends and neighbors see same-sex marriage as only the next logical step in overcoming prejudice and discrimination. It is the only story they know, and it is powerful.

A Radical Individualism

    Paired with the progressivist understanding of history is a vision of individualism that is virtually unprecedented in human experience. An affirmation of the importance of the individual is written into the fabric of modern thought. Our understanding of human rights, of individual liberty, and of personal responsibility are central to the American self-consciousness. Add to this the fact that the rise of the therapeutic worldview has recast human experience as a continuous project of individual self-discovery and self-definition.

    But, if individualism was central to the American experience from the beginning, the current form of this idea is far more radical than previous generations could imagine. The current form of individualism includes the claim that we can define ourselves even in terms of gender and sex. This individualism is titanic in its reach, producing what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton once described as the “Protean Man.” We demand the total right to define ourselves.

    Once again, we must recognize that the opponents of same-sex marriage have also been drinking heavily at the springs that feed this powerful idea. Many conservatives have bought into their own form of expressive individualism, taking refuge in the structures of social order only when convenient, bending moral codes to our own individualistic demands, forfeiting moral obligations when they conflict with our favorite project — ourselves.

    The control on the destructive force of expressive individualism is the reality of moral obligation and the goodness of true self-knowledge. As Christians know — and must always remember — we are known before we ever emerge to know. Our Creator knew us before we even came to be, and he established our identity before we came to know ourselves. True happiness can come only by embracing with gratitude the identity we are given by the Creator. This idea — now reaching even to sex and gender — is anathema to the modern mind.

The Claim of Moral Autonomy

    Throughout most of human history, moral principles were considered to be objectively true and inviolate. The universe was understood to be ruled by a moral law established by a divine Lawgiver and Judge. That understanding has given way to the belief that most, if not all, moral principles are the products of social construction — we make them up as we go along.

    While most criticisms of moral relativism are directed at individual conduct, on the larger scale, the entire society is increasingly convinced that moral principles must give way to new understandings, findings, and insights. When this idea is added to the progressivist understanding of history and the radical form of modern individualism, we have a recipe for moral revolution.

    And, as with the other ideological factors we have considered, this one is also affirmed, to some degree, by both liberals and conservatives. There can be no doubt that some understandings of moral principle were indeed shaped by prejudice and ignorance, leading to great human suffering. Laws against interracial marriage were prime examples of this prejudice, and there are many others. Fear of minorities, including homosexuals, has led to scapegoating and hatred, cloaked in the language of moral rectitude. These things must give way to moral progress and be denounced with moral fervor.

    But, once again, not all moral principles are examples of oppression. To the contrary, human life is only possible within the context of enduring moral laws and principles that liberate all human beings to their true humanity. This is where those who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose it face each other across a huge gulf of understanding. One side sees a moral mandate to liberate marriage from its heterosexual limitation. The other side sees natural marriage as a liberating, God-given institution for human flourishing. There is precious little shared ground in this debate.

    Same-sex marriage is not an idea that emerged from a vacuum. The project of normalizing homosexuality has deep roots and ideological momentum. The elites, the entertainment culture, the news media, and the educational establishment celebrate all three of these ideas as central to the modern experience and as ideological propulsion into a better future.

    So, when we wonder how it came to be that so many among us now favor same-sex marriage, we must remember that, to some extent or another, virtually all of us have embraced the ideas that make such a moral revolution thinkable. And ideas, as Richard Weaver famously reminded us, have consequences.

    Unfortunately, constantly  and inescapably constrained and limited by immutable Law, same-sex marriage and all human imaginations and desires to the contrary will always fail to bring true freedom. True freedom is only found within the bounds of God’s intention. CftC




What would you say if you learned that a member of the highest court in the land has spent the last 30 years openly advocating for the destruction of the U.S. Constitution and even went so far as to accept $20 million from Shariah Law proponents to accomplish her goal?That Supreme Court Justice is Elena Kagan.The year after Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office with the goal of restoring America to greatness; Elena Kagan penned a telling and disturbing senior thesis titled “To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933.” In that body of work, Kagan lamented that “a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States”; and that,” no “radical party” had yet “attained the status of a major political force.” Kagan went on to sound a rally cry for “those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America.”

Apparently, this was no mere college dalliance, as the Elena Kagan has spent the rest of her career working to remove the underpinnings of freedom and destroy the American Constitution from within. And Kagan’s grand plan has worked very well indeed.
After graduate school Kagan went on to become Dean of Harvard Law, where she removed Constitutional Law classes from the curriculum, and replaced those necessary and time honored classes with required studies of international law. And in what appears to be a game of using a mutual enemy’s resources to accomplish ones’ true objective, Kagan also accepted a $20 million grant from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – a noted Shariah Law proponent – to implement an “Islamic Studies” program.
Lest we think Kagan’s intentions are ancient history, take a look at her line of questioning when hearing the ObamaCare case last week.
Rather than question the thinly veiled socialist Trojan horse as an affront to our Constitution, Kagan almost seemed willing to defend ObamaCare and salvage the master plan to fundamentally change America into a new Euro-socialist model.By definition, our Supreme Court is charged with upholding, defending and preserving the United States Constitution. The Judges on the Supreme Court are meant to protect our freedom, not destroy it. To do otherwise is nothing short of treason.Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as an attempt to ‘overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].'”

Destruction of the Constitution is an attempt to overthrow and seriously injure America. Elena Kagan’s lifetime of actions lay bare a clear intention to subvert our Constitution and its founding principles, thereby rendering her UNFIT FOR DUTY as a Supreme Court Justice.

ObamaCare is not the end of the line. The Supreme Court will continue to weigh the constitutionality of numerous cases. The fact is that Elena Kagan is an activist judge with hatred toward the very document she is sworn to protect. As such, Elena Kagan must immediately be removed from the bench if our Constitution and America is to survive.

Defend America,
Alan M. Gottlieb
Chairman, AmeriPAC

Environmentalism and the Leisure Class

Environmentalism and the Leisure Class
This week President Obama handed down what may prove to be one of the most fateful decisions of his entire administration when he rejected the plan to build the Keystone XL Pipeline carrying oil from the tar sands of Canada to the refineries of Houston. The decision did not win him one new vote but was crucial in protecting his environmental flank. The movie stars and Sierra Club contributors were getting restless and had drawn the line in the sand.
In turning down Keystone, however, the President has uncovered an ugly little secret that has always lurked beneath the surface of environmentalism. Its basic appeal is to the affluent. Despite all the professions of being “liberal” and “against big business,” environmentalism’s main appeal is that it promises to slow the progress of industrial progress. People who are already comfortable with the present state of affairs — who are established in the environment, so to speak — are happy to go along with this. It is not that they have any greater insight into the mysteries and workings of nature. They are happier with the way things are. In fact, environmentalism works to their advantage. The main danger to the affluent is not that they will be denied from improving their estate but that too many other people will achieve what they already have. As the Forest Service used to say, the person who built his mountain cabin last year is an environmentalist. The person who wants to build one this year is a developer. …
It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else. Most people see the benefits of pipelines and power plants and admit they have to be built somewhere. Only in the highest echelons do we hear people say, “We don’t need to build any pipelines. We’ve already got enough energy. We can all sit around awaiting the day we live off wind and sunshine.”
Environmentalists have spent decades trying to disguise these aristocratic roots, even from themselves. They work desperately to form alliances with labor unions and cast themselves as purveyors of “green jobs.” But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus.

What really brings it into focus is the open rift that has now developed between the laborers’ union and the environmentalist movement.The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) left the BlueGreen Alliance on Friday, citing a disagreement with the group’s members over the Keystone XL pipeline. LIUNA, a vocal Keystone supporter, took aim at other unions for opposing the project. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement.

It is hard to understand how any union can explain to its members why it supports Obama’s job-destroying energy and economic policies, but it is has been a long time since many union leaders have taken their members’ interests seriously.

The comments above by John Hinderaker relate to an essay in the American Spectator by William Tucker with paragraphs included above. Tucker’s reflections recall remarks by Thorstein Veblen and were prompted by Obama’s decision to kill the Keystone pipeline. Tucker is the author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey.

Audit of the Federal Reserve Reveals $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

Audit of the Federal Reserve Reveals $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

The first ever GAO(Government Accountability Office) audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months due to the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which passed last year. Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator, and Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, led the charge for a Federal Reserve audit in the Senate, but watered down the original language of the house bill(HR1207), so that a complete audit would not be carried out. Ben Bernanke(pictured to the right), Alan Greenspan, and various other bankers vehemently opposed the audit and lied to Congress about the effects an audit would have on markets. Nevertheless, the results of the first audit in the Federal Reserve’s nearly 100 year history were posted on Senator Sander’s webpage earlier this morning.

What was revealed in the audit was startling:

$16,000,000,000,000.00 had been secretly given out to US banks and corporations and foreign banks everywhere from France to Scotland. From the period between December 2007 and June 2010, the Federal Reserve had secretly bailed out many of the world’s banks, corporations, and governments. The Federal Reserve likes to refer to these secret bailouts as an all-inclusive loan program, but virtually none of the money has been returned and it was loaned out at 0% interest. Why the Federal Reserve had never been public about this or even informed the United States Congress about the $16 trillion dollar bailout is obvious – the American public would have been outraged to find out that the Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks while Americans were struggling to find jobs.

To place $16 trillion into perspective, remember that GDP of the United States is only $14.12 trillion. The entire national debt of the United States government spanning its 200+ year history is “only” $14.5 trillion. The budget that is being debated so heavily in Congress and the Senate is “only” $3.5 trillion. Take all of the outrage and debate over the $1.5 trillion deficit into consideration, and swallow this Red pill: There was no debate about whether $16,000,000,000,000 would be given to failing banks and failing corporations around the world.

In late 2008, the TARP Bailout bill was passed and loans of $800 billion were given to failing banks and companies. That was a blatant lie considering the fact that Goldman Sachs alone received 814 billion dollars. As is turns out, the Federal Reserve donated $2.5 trillion to Citigroup, while Morgan Stanley received $2.04 trillion. The Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank, a German bank, split about a trillion and numerous other banks received hefty chunks of the $16 trillion.

“This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.” – Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

When you have conservative Republican stalwarts like Jim DeMint(R-SC) and Ron Paul(R-TX) as well as self identified Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders all fighting against the Federal Reserve, you know that it is no longer an issue of Right versus Left. When you have every single member of the Republican Party in Congress and progressive Congressmen like Dennis Kucinich sponsoring a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, you realize that the Federal Reserve is an entity onto itself, which has no oversight and no accountability.

Americans should be swelled with anger and outrage at the abysmal state of affairs when an unelected group of bankers can create money out of thin air and give it out to megabanks and supercorporations like Halloween candy. If the Federal Reserve and the bankers who control it believe that they can continue to devalue the savings of Americans and continue to destroy the US economy, they will have to face the realization that their trillion dollar printing presses will eventually plunder the world economy.

The list of institutions that received the most money from the Federal Reserve can be found on page 131 of the GAO Audit and are as follows..

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion ($2,500,000,000,000)
Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion ($2,040,000,000,000)
Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion ($1,949,000,000,000)
Bank of America: $1.344 trillion ($1,344,000,000,000)
Barclays PLC (United Kingdom): $868 billion ($868,000,000,000)
Bear Sterns: $853 billion ($853,000,000,000)
Goldman Sachs: $814 billion ($814,000,000,000)
Royal Bank of Scotland (UK): $541 billion ($541,000,000,000)
JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion ($391,000,000,000)
Deutsche Bank (Germany): $354 billion ($354,000,000,000)
UBS (Switzerland): $287 billion ($287,000,000,000)
Credit Suisse (Switzerland): $262 billion ($262,000,000,000)
Lehman Brothers: $183 billion ($183,000,000,000)
Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom): $181 billion ($181,000,000,000)
BNP Paribas (France): $175 billion ($175,000,000,000)
many many more including banks in Belgium of all places

View the 266-page GAO audit of the Federal Reserve(July 21st, 2011):

FULL PDF on GAO server:
Senator Sander’s Article:

A Final Update from Afghanistan – Pete Hegseth

A Final Update from Afghanistan

By Pete Hegseth January 19, 2012

The Endgame in Afghanistan

My first email from Kabul was entitled “First Impressions” and the caveats I used in that email remain unchanged. Afghanistan is such a dynamic place—layered with umpteen complexities, contradictions, mysteries, and unknowns—that a holistic understanding of the country, let alone the conflict (overt and covert), is nearly impossible. That said, over the past eight months I’ve had the opportunity to challenge my first impressions, test hypotheses, and attempt to understand the true nature of the conflict. This section represents my modest—if declarative—initial attempt at distilling what I’ve learned and making some observation about America’s eventual endgame in Afghanistan.

Rather than break down my assessment categorically as I did in previous emails, I will instead look at the war through a lens provided by an insurgency expert who visited us this past summer. His name is Gérard Chaliand and the day we spent with him was fascinating. In addition to authoring over 40 books on guerilla warfare, he has also been a participant/observer of over a dozen insurgencies around the world—including Afghanistan in the 1980s, and again during the current conflict. Listening to him was like sitting in a semi-circle around Yoda himself, absorbing the insight and knowledge of a rare specimen.

Mr. Chaliand visits Afghanistan yearly, but said his 2011 trip was his last. When asked why, he said, “Because I know how it will end. The Taliban control the countryside and are growing in support throughout the country by providing an effective underground government structure. The seeds of their return were planted long ago—much before Gen. McChrystal’s 2009 counterinsurgency strategy—and their ascension is now inevitable. International forces started doing the right things at ‘half past eleven’ and now it’s too late.”

While I certainly didn’t share his pessimism then, I’ve come to begrudgingly agree with his assessment today. The Taliban—by mitigating their negatives (brutality, ethnic exclusion, and overt association with Al Qaeda) and accentuating their perceived positives (swift justice, longevity, and ideological cohesion)—have gained and maintained a psychological grip on the Afghan population. While most Afghans, especially non-Pashtuns, do not want the Taliban to return (“hearts”) they are grappling with—and calculating accordingly—the looming reality that the Taliban will outlast U.S. forces (“minds”) and eventually challenge a weak, corrupt, and fractured Afghan government for control of the country.

This isn’t to say that we couldn’t affect a more advantageous outcome for the United States; of course if we got rid of the 2014 withdrawal deadline completely, were willing to truly remove Taliban and Haqqani safe-havens in Pakistan (we know where they are!), and purged the Afghan government of its most corrupt nodes we could “change the game” of this conflict. But for various reasons—be they domestic politics, a nuclear-armed Pakistan (a lesson for Iran, I would suggest), and a trepidation with undermining corrosive “Afghan sovereignty”—it is highly unlikely we will make the hard choices necessary to level the playing field. A bad outcome in Afghanistan isn’t inevitable, but in light of current realities, it is likely.

However, the policies we pursue in the coming years will impact the degree to which the outcome here is bad, or less-bad. Our commitment to training and mentoring Afghan security forces will be central to determining the future of this country. If we do it right—truly creating a multi-ethnic force that will defend the interests of most Afghans—it could be a vanguard against total Taliban control and a buffer against outright civil war. If we do it wrong or hurriedly, we’re merely indiscriminately (and heavily!) arming different elements of an Afghan Army that will eventually turn its guns on each other. In my opinion the later outcome is most likely, but not inevitable.

If you know me, I’m not one for pessimism, and certainly not interested in undermining the efforts of our troops in harm’s way. Afghanistan is nowhere near a John Kerry-esque “who will be the last American to die for a mistake?” situation. Our effort is noble, our cause just, and our military sharp. But at the same time, my sentiments are in keeping with most Coalition members over here—even if they’re unwilling to say it. We soldier on. We will fight until the end. But with our ear to the ground and our boots in the snow, we can feel the undercurrent in Afghanistan. As the clock ticks to 2014, we become more irrelevant as Afghans make decisions (hoarding, segregating, and hedging) regarding a post-American future in their country.

While I don’t like acquiescing to a “non-victory” in Afghanistan, we will have nonetheless achieved an outcome in Afghanistan that is an exception to the rule in the so-called “graveyard of empires.” From a historical perspective, whenever we “leave” we will be the first “invader” that left on our own terms—a not insignificant accomplishment. Thankfully, and necessarily, I’m fairly certain our commitment to Afghanistan will continue on a smaller and enduring scale—and in doing so we will have done everything we can to create the conditions for a friendly and capable (at least on paper) Afghanistan government to determine their own future. It may not end well, but it won’t be for a lack of U.S. effort, courage, and ingenuity.

As supporting evidence for these heavy-hearted assertions, I would first submit my previous two emails (here and here). My feelings on the fundamentally corrupt Afghan government, Pakistan safe-haven, the 2014 deadline, Taliban capabilities and more are clearly stated in those emails—along with facts and financial figures. However, I’d like to take one more, broad look at our mission in Afghanistan, as it currently stands in January of 2012. In doing so, I’ll use Mr. Chaliand’s closing statement to us as a framework for examination. He said, when looking at a counterinsurgency conflict, we must “Never believe your propaganda, always re-asses the facts, challenge assumptions, and don’t rely on wishful thinking.” Wise words, and a useful filter for analyzing our mission in Afghanistan.

“Never believe your propaganda”

The Coalition narrative (I don’t consider it “propaganda”, because we’re beholden to the truth—unlike our enemies) in Afghanistan is as follows: the “surge” summer of 2011 has inflicted serious damage on the Taliban, especially in the south. At the same time, we are aggressively pushing Taliban re-integration programs, training increasingly capable Afghan security forces, and working to improve local governance. But, as I’ve said before, only half of this is grounded in reality. Yes the “surge” has allowed U.S. troops to push the Taliban out of traditional strongholds in the south, significantly disrupting their operations. However, there is also evidence that, despite heavy casualties, the Taliban have been able to regenerate themselves quickly, maintain their military and shadow-governance networks, and are waiting us out.

More troubling is the fact that we have not seen the ripple effects we needed the surge to induce (as it did in Iraq). While re-integration numbers (fighters giving up the fight) are increasing, they still include very few Pashtuns, especially Pashtuns from the south. Most of the re-integrated fighters are from the north and west, places not known for Taliban support. Second—and more importantly—Afghan governance at the local and national level has not decisively taken advantage of the surge environment to improve capability and legitimacy. While there are great programs (like Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police) working to create the conditions for local governance, there hasn’t been—nor will there be—an Anbar-style tribal awakening like we saw in Iraq, largely because of the segmented and fractured nature of Pashtun society in modern Afghanistan. And without a legitimate government in Kabul and in the provinces, the chances for a stable outcome are minimal.

Another aspect of our narrative is that the 2012 “fighting season” (April to October) will be a decisive moment for our forces. We will increase our gains in the south, and degrade the Taliban enough to create the space for increasingly capable Afghan forces and a burgeoning government. There are three big problems with this. First, the idea of a “fighting season” is misleading. While violence is higher in the summer months, the non-violent aspect of this conflict doesn’t stop. When we’re not fighting (and sitting snug on our FOBs for the holidays), the Taliban continues to spread their influence through local dispute resolution, mobile Sharia courts (seen as increasingly legitimate by the people), and propaganda. Second, while we have achieved a critical mass of soldiers in the Afghan National Army, their ability and motivation to continue the fight when we’re not in the lead is still suspect (more on this below). Finally, it’s hard to overstate how damaging the 2014 deadline is in creating these outcomes. As the perception of 2014 gets closer, our influence—by point of fact—will diminish. The Taliban can stand back and wait us out because we told them how long to wait.

“Always re-asses the facts”

The fact is: facts are sticky in Afghanistan. And, depending on whom you’re talking to—especially amongst Afghans—they are always different, and oftentimes contradictory. So, rather than only talk “facts” now, I’d like to do a quick comparison between old facts and new realities.

Fact: In 2004, President Hamid Karzai was elected the President of Afghanistan, and seen as legitimate by wide swaths of Afghans as well as around the world. Reality today: Not only is the Karzai government corrupt and dysfunctional, it is already seen as illegitimate by most groups inside Afghanistan and as a complete money-pit to international donors. In fact, by any fair assessment, it can barely be called a “government” by traditional standards; it’s more like a ruling mafia. Bribery, nepotism, and blatant disregard for the rule of law and their own constitution are off the charts. The ruling elite are getting rich off international aid while regular Afghans scarcely see their lives improve. All the while, the Taliban exploit this fact through piercing propaganda. The end result is that we continue to prop up an Afghan government that is seen as increasingly illegitimate by the people; all the while hoping “peace talks” with the Taliban will provide an exit ramp for the war. The Taliban doesn’t want to work with the Afghan government, they want to replace it.

Fact: Since 2001 the United States has spent $456,000 an hour, every hour, on non-military developmental aid alone, and has spent even more on the military. Reality today: Afghanistan is an international donor state, almost completely reliant on international aid money to function. They have almost no tax base (save import taxation and . . . untaxed opium) and 97 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product is linked to foreign aid. We pay for their government and military, and have created financial realities that are completely unsustainable. Take, for example, the Afghan Army. This year we will spend $13 billion on training and equipping the Afghan Army, while the Afghan government will take in less than $2 billion in revenue. Some tough financial realities loom: either we cut spending and reduce the size of their Army or we continue to pay for it. The former would mean—for certain—the Afghan Army would eventually capitulate to the Taliban; the latter would mean we continue to pump billions into Afghanistan’s Army while we downsize our own (a bad idea, by the way). Not only is Afghanistan’s current situation unsustainable, but spending in the country for the past decade has distorted their economy and government more negatively than positively.

Final fact: In 2001, the United States was attacked by Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, where the Taliban granted them safe-haven. Reality today: Bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Taliban are wary of their association with Al Qaeda. Yes the groups still coordinate, but it’s not the rock solid alliance it was ten years ago. Vice President Biden recently said that “the Taliban is not our enemy.” I respectfully and adamantly disagree (as would, I suspect, the families of those U.S. troops killed by the Taliban). Any group openly fighting and killing our soldiers is our enemy. But the more important question is: Does the Taliban pose an existential threat to America and our interests? They might tell us during negotiations that they will swear off association with Al Qaeda, but just like the Iranian denial of nuclear weapons, we should not believe them. There isn’t a scenario where a radical and violent Islamic group taking control of Afghanistan is a good outcome. However, we can still salvage conditions where the Taliban are not able to utilize, or provide, substantial haven for radical Islamists with global ambitions.

“Challenge assumptions”

The largest and most dangerous assumption we make is that there is a nation called “Afghanistan” and a collection of people called “Afghans.” Neither is correct, but that assumption continues to fuel our push for a multi-ethnic military and government that holds sway inside the arbitrary boundaries of Afghanistan. Having spent time with Afghans from multiple backgrounds—Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras—it’s painfully clear that beneath the surface of the “we are Afghans” talk are true feelings of ethnic and tribal affiliations that supersede an “Afghan” identity. History, language, violence, custom, mistrust, and animosity separate these groups—and a flag, a national anthem (only in Pashto, which angers Dari speakers) a “government,” and a western-style Army are not enough to create a nation where none exists. I could tell story after story about this, but suffice it to say, this country is fragmented, and won’t unite in time to fight an ideologically cohesive, Pashtun-based Taliban movement.

In regards to the western-style Army I mentioned above, the assumptions we make with this force will have lasting, and potentially positive or negative impacts. Not only have we attempted to create a multi-ethnic institution that will represent all Afghans, but we’ve also built an Army in our image—with strong conventional capabilities and a Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, where none has existed before. We are producing new units at a rapid rate, recruiting from all backgrounds and then sending them to the Consolidated Fielding Center (CFC) in Kabul where multi-ethnic units are established and trained, before being sent to the field. There’s nothing wrong with that; but the problem is what happens after that on three fronts:

First, each new unit is given millions of dollars of brand new weaponry and equipment with minimal actual accountability. The kandak (battalion) commander is responsible for the equipment, some/much of which eventually ends up missing (and sometimes on sale in Pakistan). For example, a heavy weapons kandak leaves the CFC with approximately eighteen brand new 50-caliber machine guns and dozens of smaller-caliber heavy weapons and RPGs. I challenge you to walk into any National Guard armory in the States and ask how many functioning 50-caliber machine guns they have. They’ll probably pull out four beat-up 50-cals with rusting barrels, likely dated back to Vietnam. If things don’t end well, someone will use these weapons—and it might not be our friends.

Second, while units are formed as multi-ethnic entities, once they get to the field a slow, but deliberate self-segregation is starting to occur. Soldiers from the north try to get back to the north, and likewise for soldiers in the south. A Tajik ultimately wants to fight alongside Tajiks from his area, and likewise for Pashtuns and other groups. What you could end up having is a series of regional Armies with more commitment to their area then to “Afghanistan.” If things don’t end well, they will end up fighting each other—with weapons we have supplied them. On the flip side, if things move forward as we plan, these units will be a bulwark for the state. There are certainly many multi-ethnic units in the field fighting bravely together and doing great things. The question is, will this be the rule, or become the exception?

Third, even once the units are fielded—and assuming they are fighting for “Afghanistan”—we are currently making big assumptions about their capability to eventually independently operate and sustain their activities. With U.S. support—which includes things like logistical resupply, air support, and medical evacuation—many units currently do well in the fight. But if we take that away in 2013, ‘14, or ‘15—will they sustain the fight? And will they push into enemy territory? Many Afghan units have become accustomed to U.S. support, and may not be willing to fight an emboldened Taliban without the robust U.S. support they receive. They’re also accustomed to being paid well, while their Taliban counterparts fight for nothing. Our brave soldiers will mentor and train them to make them as capable as possible, but if they don’t develop their own systems soon, the Afghan Army house of cards could come falling down more quickly than anyone would like to admit.

Finally, I came to Afghanistan with the assumption that this battlefield is central to defending the United States. In the realm of perception and international opinion it is still very important; how we “finish” in Afghanistan will send strong signals to the rest of the world about whether we finish what we start. Recent events in Iraq make this plainly clear. However, the question is whether the cost in Afghanistan is worth the outcome? As my British colleague says, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I think seeing this through, while gradually drawing down, is worth doing. That said, larger and more strategically significant issues staring us in the face need to take a higher priority. We need to muster our political courage and confront our crippling domestic debt. (Did you know that, by 2015, just the interest payments on our debt to China will pay for its entire military?). We need to ensure our force posture and military might is capable of deterring a rising China. And we need to do what is necessary—including military action—to prevent a nuclear Iran (the fact that we can’t do anything in a nuclear-armed Pakistan should demonstrate that). There are obviously plenty of other challenges as well, especially at home, and spending money the way we are today in Afghanistan prevents us from confronting these challenges.

“And don’t rely on wishful thinking”

If you’ve read the previous two sections (and my previous emails), then I hope most of your “wishful thinking” has been stripped. That’s the point—we can’t wish our way to victory. Or as we say, “hope is not a strategy.” But we can look at the world the way it is and craft strategies to effect a more-desirable outcome. From where I’ve been sitting in Afghanistan, thankfully it’s clear that General Allen understands this; and as a result we’ve already seen (and will continue to see) a shift in our strategy from counterinsurgency to security force assistance. It’s a subtle, but important change. Instead of U.S. units taking the military lead in the field and trying to “partner” with Afghan units in the process, the lead responsibility will now fall to Afghans. Our soldiers will serve as embedded advisors, with 12-16 man teams embedded inside every Afghan unit, pushing the Afghan Army (and police) to the point where they can defeat the enemy on their own. U.S advisors will start with infantry units trained to clear and hold areas of insurgents and gradually shift toward support units, including helicopter units, logisticians, and other support personnel. This change makes complete sense and is the best strategy to securing a less-bad outcome for us.

At the same time, General Allen continues to talk about a post-2014 presence for NATO and the United States. This is extremely important as well. Both the Afghan Army and Taliban need to be convinced that we won’t just leave in 2014—but will instead maintain an enduring, and strategically significant, presence. The perception (as opposed to the reality) of 2014 is what is most damaging to our effort, and from General Allen and all elements of command, there is a clear effort to erode this perception. It won’t change overnight, but we must aggressively pursue a counter-narrative.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the ongoing “peace talks” with the Taliban (aptly placed in the “wishful thinking” section). It appears that both the U.S. and Afghan governments have approved a Taliban “office” in the country of Qatar, from which they can hold peace talks. Right now the Taliban is only talking to the United States, which angers President Karzai. In fact, the Taliban’s most recent pronouncement on negotiations rejected Karzai, his government and the Afghan constitution, which is not a promising starting point. From our side, there are talks of a prisoner exchange from Guantanamo as well as ceasefires, etc. The United States insists that the Taliban would have to forswear violence, stop harboring international jihadists, and recognize the Afghan government and constitution. It is highly unlikely they will agree to all three; therefore, which one would we be willing to cave on? If they keep their weapons, they’ll keep fighting; if they continue to harbor terrorists, then our entire effort is for naught; and if they won’t recognize the Afghan government, then they’re never join it.

I honestly don’t have the slightest idea how these talks will unfold, but we’re being shortsighted and “wishful” if we think they will provide a silver bullet for this conflict. I’m fearful the beltway intelligentsia, out of options and desperate for a rapid solution, will seize on this idea regardless of underlying realities. The Taliban will not be content to share power in good faith, and since they think they’re “winning,” they’re not likely to capitulate to our demands. Their negotiation strategy is based (again) on waiting until 2014 when the United States could be forced to compromise on the most important aspects of the post-2001 order in Afghanistan.

In the end, we clearly cannot abandon Afghanistan—pulling our troops out now would be a disaster. On the other hand, maintaining our effort at the current scope and cost is not commensurate with the benefits. The surge, led by the finest generals the American military has to offer, was the right approach; however, it was undercut from the outset when we told the enemy when we were going to leave. Having tried “more troops” (albeit, half-heartedly) and in light of political realities, the best course of action now is to continue drawing down our troops, bolster our advising mission, and emphasize our continued—if much scaled down—commitment to the outcome in Afghanistan. Despite our mistakes, we cannot abandon this mission lest we invite larger problems in the future. Going forward, a robust advising mission, along with continued targeted special forces raids, could be sustained in perpetuity with minimal cost and most of the benefit of our current presence.


Army Captain Pete Hegseth wrote the update above while in Kabul, Afghanistan and then Manas, Kyrgyzstan.

Racism: The Rhetorical Pacifier of Moral Qualms about Slavery

Thomas Jefferson is cited frequently in the historical scholarship on slavery because he spoke often and well about its moral and political implications. He eloquently expressed the self-acknowledged hypocrisy and ambiguity of the founding generation. He owned 154 slaves in 1794, freeing only 10% of them, and only after he died. He favored emancipation, but by buying slaves from their owners and preserving property rights. Both pro and anti-slavery forces laid claim to his writings for Civil War propaganda, with equal authority. . . .

Jefferson’s protectiveness of his way of life and property, helps to explain the era’s embarrassed hypocrisy about open violation of Revolutionary ideals. Justice Curtis hopefully argued in his Dred Scott dissent that the framers meant to act someday on their promises. . . .

The Constitution is an expression of the commitments of its framers and ratifiers — commitments to be developed and lived up to over time. . . .

The framers made a decision both to hold onto the idealism of the Revolutionary and Founding periods and to admit their own weakness and sinfulness. . . .

Tania Tetlow

Excerpted from: Slavery: a Crisis of Conscience , 3 Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 1-46, 6-16 (Fall 2001) (240 Footnotes)

The moral arguments condemning slavery so obvious to us today did not elude the founders. While it is comforting that the founders did not indulge in a practiced ignorance, the very consciousness of their choice indicts their involvement in the tragedies that followed. I start here by giving a very brief overview of the governmental decisions on slavery made during the founding period, sketching the historical debate on the strength of the practical and political barriers to emancipation, and then focusing on the rhetoric of the founders and their own descriptions of the necessity of their choices.


As the colonies struggled to define their nationhood, the framers of a new constitution found themselves confronting the issue which seemed both antithetical to the ideals of the recent revolution and essential to the perceived economic needs of some who threatened to refuse to join the proposed union. Most members of the Constitutional Convention shared a ‘tepid anti- slavery sentiment,’ and almost every framer outside of South Carolina and Georgia spoke in opposition to slavery. The unapologetic slaveholders of the lower South, however, threatened disunion if their ‘property’ rights and huge economic stake in slavery were not protected. Proslavery forces used arguments of economic self-interest tinged with cynicism about other rights. Charles Pinckney, a delegate from the deep South, opposed a Bill of Rights because, ‘[s]uch bills generally begin with declaring that all men are by nature born free. Now, we should *6 make that declaration with a very bad grace, when a large part of our property consists in men who are actually born slaves.’ The antislavery impulses of the majority would bend to the higher good of unification.

In return for greater national control over commerce and trade, northern states (which had legal slavery, although it was not so central to their economies) agreed to delay any potential legislation on ending the slave trade. Article V removed this provision from the realm of amendment for twenty years. Article IV, Section 2 provided for the returning of fugitive slaves. The framers also made their most infamous compromise: to count slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of both taxation and representation. The South’s demand to count its non-voting slaves as population to increase its voting power in the House was eclipsed only by its unwillingness to be taxed on these same people. Madison defended the compromise in the Federalist Papers somewhat reluctantly: ‘Let the compromising expedient of the Constitution be mutually adopted which regards [slaves] as inhabitants, but be debased by servitude below the equal level of free inhabitants; which regards the slave as divested of two fifths of the man. ‘ The national government never did levy a tax *7 based upon population, thus the three-fifths compromise served to aggrandize southern political power without costing its taxpayers a cent.

The framers refused to name slavery as such in the Constitution and instead referred to slaves as ‘person[s] held to Service or Labour.’ The framers’ reference to slaves as ‘persons’ shows both their willingness to recognize slaves as persons, and their embarrassment about naming the institution in the Constitution.

The issue of the slave trade quickly resurfaced in the first Congress. In 1790, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society submitted a petition seeking to levy the constitutionally allowable tax of $10 on the importation of slaves in order to discourage the slave trade. The House voted 43-11 to send the issue to a committee, which reported back that Congress did indeed have the power to regulate the slave As southern representatives filibustered on the issue, northern support slipped and the measure died.

During this debate, slavery apologists repeatedly invoked the agreement which forged the Union. Representative Smith described this agreement sarcastically: ‘We therefore made a compromise on both sides, we took each other with our mutual bad habits and respective evils, for better or worse, the northern states adopted us with our slaves, we adopted them with their Quakers. ‘ There was a threatening tone to the debate. Many representatives from the lower South promised their intractability on the issue, and elaborated on the length to which *8 they would defend themselves. When Representative Scott expressed his moral indignation at slavery and declared that if he were a federal judge, ‘I am sure that I would go as far as I could, ‘ Representative Jackson responded with a threat, ‘I believe his judgment would be of short duration in Georgia, perhaps even the existence of such a judge might be in danger.’

The upper South eased manumission laws in the 1780s, but quickly hardened them again in the 1790s after the revolutions in France, and especially, in Haiti. The specter of slave revolt terrified slaveholders often seriously outnumbered by their slaves. In 1787, the Northwest ordinance prohibited slavery in the Midwest, although it did not emancipate existing slaves. In 1807, after the delay mandated by the Constitution, Congress banned the importation of slaves. These limited steps effectively isolated slavery to the South and half of the Mid- Atlantic area.


Historians debate the feasibility of emancipation during the ideological glow of the post-revolutionary era and before the hardening of racial attitudes during the succeeding decades leading up to the war. It is tempting to believe that the moment of decision-making about national identity and ideals presented the best opportunity to avoid later disasters. Thomas Jefferson warned, without naming slavery, that ‘once that Revolutionary moment of collective determination passed, the people will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.’

*9 The historian Gary Nash argues that the Revolutionary period offered a moment of possible redemption for the founders. Antislavery feeling was at a pinnacle. The lower south was weak politically and represented very little population with which to threaten disunion; South Carolina and Georgia had no other viable options. After the Revolution, it was doubtful that any former colony would want to return to England’s control, and the threat from Indians and the neighboring Spanish colony of Florida should have ensured their reluctant acceptance of almost any condition to join the United States. Nash argues that various proposals offered at the time for a gradual purchased emancipation and resettlement of freed slaves in the west were feasible.

Other historians dispute these claims, casting serious doubt on the popular strength of antislavery rhetoric. David Brion Davis writes that the moment of emancipation could not have come with the revolution unless the slaves themselves had become involved as a significant military force. Historians, Davis argues, have too often underestimated the economic strength of slavery during the Revolutionary period, exaggerated the force of antislavery sentiment in the Upper South, and minimized the obstacles that abolitionists faced even in the northern states.

The nation stands condemned for lacking the collective determination to end slavery. For an individual assessing the possibilities of emancipation, however, the task must have seemed nearly impossible. The degree of federal power necessary to accomplish any kind of meaningful emancipation would have seemed unattainable and ill-advised to the founders. As an economic bulwark of half the country, its abolishment would have created a credible threat to the union.

These ‘what if’s’ play an important role in judging the types of choices made by our early government, but they depend for *10 proof on historical evidence of popular beliefs, political power, and economic possibilities, which I do not address here. Instead, I look to the rhetoric of the elite and the ways that they described their ideological plight through pragmatic concerns.


The moral struggle in the 1770s and 80s played out during an era of unusually conscious decision-making. The debate contained a remarkable degree of candid self-assessment, measuring the reality of slaveholding against the powerful rhetoric of freedom and equality. As Patrick Henry summed up the problem:

Would any one believe that I am Master of Slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by ye general Inconvenience of living without them; I will not, I cannot justify it. However culpable my conduct, I will so far pay my devoir to Virtue, as to own the excellence & rectitude of her Precepts & to lament my want of conformity to them. The political elite suffered an ethical crisis (or at least acute discomfort) because they knowingly violated the fundamental rights that they had so proudly fought for.

We tend to paint history with the broad brush of inevitability. We thus devalue the efforts and courage of those who fight for change, and lull ourselves into the belief that progress merely happens. ‘It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively.’ The founders chose slavery. We may understand their choice in terms of the economic, social, and political forces, that informed their decision, but recognizing ‘historical positivism’ is essential to accepting responsibility as a nation for the resulting allocation of burdens and benefits still now in place.


Thomas Jefferson is cited frequently in the historical scholarship on slavery because he spoke often and well about its *11 moral and political implications. He eloquently expressed the self-acknowledged hypocrisy and ambiguity of the founding generation. He owned 154 slaves in 1794, freeing only 10% of them, and only after he died. He favored emancipation, but by buying slaves from their owners and preserving property rights. Both pro and anti-slavery forces laid claim to his writings for Civil War propaganda, with equal authority.

Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence pilloried the King for vetoing colonial attempts to end the importation of slaves. It was struck out after objection from South Carolina.

[The King] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another. The omitted paragraph shows both Jefferson’s desire to put aside the slave trade with other imperially determined marks of tyranny and the fear of slaves, which would restrain him. Unfortunately for the historical force of his accusation against the English, however, the United States would wait to put off banning the slave trade for thirty years after Jefferson wrote this *12 document.

Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and the rhetoric of the Revolution, made masterful use of the language of ‘inalienable rights’ and equality, along with explicit complaints of the English ‘enslavement’ of the colonies. The hypocrisy of such statements did not escape notice; blacks themselves reminded the nation of the implications of the claim of fundamental rights.

Indeed, Jefferson seemed to understand the role slavery played in measuring the nation’s, and his, soul. He wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia:

Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange in situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! His fear arose both from the inevitability of divine retribution, and most of all from the possibility that the ‘exchange of situation’ might come by earthly means, as it did in Haiti and France.

Instead of urging action, however, he expressed the cautionary gradualism which would characterize the passivity of his position.

The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.–But it is impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history natural and civil. We must be contented to hope they will force their way into every one’s mind. I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of *13 heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than bytheir extirpation. Thomas Jefferson, unfortunately, counted himself among the believers in the inevitability of progress. ‘It is an encouraging observation that no good measure was ever proposed, which, if duly pursued, failed to prevail in the end.’ He wrote this to a young man concerned about the delay of real freedom, and counseled him against any immediate personal action. ‘I hope then, my dear sir, you will reconcile yourself to your country and its unfortunate condition.’ Jefferson did so.

While the historian Winthrop Jordan argues that racism accounted for Jefferson’s passivity (‘[i]t was neither timidity nor concern for reputation which restrained him. . .[but] genuine doubts’ about blacks,) David Brion Davis insists that Jefferson’s primary motive was a lack of courage, ‘icy caution,’ and the ‘genuine conviction that his power to do good depended on maintaining his reputation, or in other words, his social identity.’ This basic conservatism resulted from his obvious economic stake in slavery, the fear of drastic change, and fear of slaves themselves.

Much of Jefferson’s writing contains a palpable sense of fear. His vision of a new order was constrained by his recognition of the depth of black anger and the power of white racism:

Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expense of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. *14 Jefferson, as a slaveholder, understood the paralyzing fear of losing control of a slave filled with righteous anger. ‘We have a wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is on one scale, and self-preservation in the other.’ He took the idea of self-preservation very seriously, and cautioned, ‘if something is not done, and done soon, we shall be the murderers of our own children.’ He projected a Dostoevsky-like image of the wrongdoer trapped in a prison of guilt and fear, fed by his own knowledge of the fate he deserves. Jefferson could imagine no other path than to preserve his power over those he had so wronged.


Jefferson’s protectiveness of his way of life and property, helps to explain the era’s embarrassed hypocrisy about open violation of Revolutionary ideals. Justice Curtis hopefully argued in his Dred Scott dissent that the framers meant to act someday on their promises. But more cynical forces, the power of fear and the pull of interest, pointed the course of history elsewhere. A southern representative in the First Congress bluntly explained the interests involved, describing slavery as ‘so ingrafted into the policy of the southern states, that it could not be eradicated without tearing up by the roots their happiness, tranquility and prosperity–that if it were an evil, it was one for which there was no remedy, and therefore, like wise men, they acquiesced in it.’ Ideological inconsistencies that pit belief against personal wealth tend to bend belief.

Perhaps, as the historian Edmund Morgan suggests, slaveholders called so loudly for freedom from tyranny because they wanted never to experience what their own slaves did, creating ‘a special appreciation of the freedom dear to republicans, because they saw every day what life without it could be like. ‘ ‘Southerners,’ Jefferson wrote to the Marquis de Castellux, are ‘jealous of their own liberties but trampling on those of others.’

*15 The degree of utter ‘astonishment’ (as Patrick Henry called it), at the disparity between word and deed varied by the individual. George Washington, for example, spoke at times unflinchingly of the enslavement of Americans by the British. ‘The crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.’ But the hypocrisy of such remarks did not escape him, and he did free all of his slaves, if only upon his and his wife’s death. He announced in 1786, as the owner of 216 slaves, that he would never buy another. With some discomfort he bought more slaves, but tried through various technicalities to have others make the actual purchase.

Focusing on this moment of crisis about slavery requires us to face basic questions about the meaning of hypocrisy. Which do we judge more harshly– ignorance and racism or the conscious, agonized choice to do the wrong thing? Usually, we deem hypocrisy the worse sin. The continuing popularity of Justice Taney’s characterization of the founders as honest racists, not hypocrites, rests on the power of his argument that the founders were ‘incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. ‘ We want to believe Taney because it seems more important that the founders were consistent and true to their beliefs and yet read a whole people out of the human race, then to admit that their decision rested on ‘ye general Inconvenience of living without’ slaves.

Taney’s misreading of slavery’s role in the ideological roots of the country creates two somewhat paradoxical problems. His historical argument assigns too little blame, as if the political actors made their choices out of mere ignorance, and only passively evolving notions of humanity could and did lead to freedom. And it gives them too little credit for the strength of their commitments. Acknowledging a failure to live up to one’s values, while holding onto those values, is more brave and more *16 hopeful, than merely shifting the belief to fit the action. Racism represented the escape from guilt to which the nation would quickly turn, but this period of honest sinfulness says much both about the strength of the founders’ commitments and the weakness of their resolve.

The way in which the founders struggled with the interaction of their beliefs and actions reveals more than mere hypocrisy. The Constitution is an expression of the commitments of its framers and ratifiers–commitments to be developed and lived up to over time. True devotion to a commitment means both honest acknowledgment of its binding nature and a willingness to make careful choices that do not represent shortsighted selfishness. These commitments represent more than mere majoritarian expressions of will at a particular moment. They are promises to and by the ‘people’, the individuals who are to be governed by the nation.

The framers made a decision both to hold onto the idealism of the Revolutionary and Founding periods and to admit their own weakness and sinfulness. As Patrick Henry perfectly summed up, ‘However culpable my conduct,I will so far pay my devoir to Virtue, as to own the excellence & rectitude of her Precepts & to lament my want of conformity to them. ‘ In a perverse way, the founders’ hypocrisy shows how strongly they believed in inalienable rights. They were not yet willing to lie to themselves about the acceptability of slavery. ‘[I]nconsistency is a small price to pay for greatness.’ The contortion of belief represents the abandonment of its true fulfillment, while an honest violation can prove temporary.

Unfortunately, Jefferson helped to lead the march to racism, the rhetorical pacifier of moral qualms about slavery.