Sen. Ayotte Acted with Principle on Gun Vote
To say Sen. Kelly Ayotte has had an interesting past few weeks would be an understatement. But Ayotte wasn’t the only one in the spotlight.
The story of her recent vote on gun legislation became a story about our individual and collective political civility. In the aftermath of this very heated public discussion, it was clear that the only one who truly handled themselves with dignity was Ayotte.
Let us first start with the media. Very few members of the media pointed out that the proposed gun legislation would have done nothing to stop the tragedy of Newtown, the very incident that was supposed to be the catalyst for the new legislation. Few mentioned that the proposed gun legislation was a wish list that many on the extreme left had been trying to pass for decades. Some in Congress took the opportunity exploit the Newtown tragedy for their own legislative desires. If the finger of shame should be pointed anywhere, it should be at those serving in the U.S. Senate who were motivated by their own selfish goals, instead of being committed to those affected by illegal gun violence. Fortunately, Ayotte did not succumb to such childish behavior.
It became alarming when some in the print media in New Hampshire took an aggressive stand against what they perceived was Ayotte’s stance on gun control. Some even suggested the only way to achieve what they believed was meaningful gun control (clearly ignoring both sides of this issue) was to make sure Ayotte was not re-elected in 2016.
Aside from showing a great deal of arrogance, this opinion was quickly discredited just a few days later. We learned from the New York Times that shortly after the Manchin-Toomey vote, Ayotte was working with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on gun legislation. While some in the media chose to fan the flames of discontent, Sens. Ayotte and Gillibrand were calmly, away from the spotlight, working together in a bipartisan manner on meaningful anti-trafficking gun legislation.
Passions also ran high among the public. After hearing and reading some of the personal attacks directed at Ayotte, it was clear far too many people let their emotions, and not their intellect, drive their criticism.
Ayotte was first attacked by those on the right when she voted in favor of allowing debate on Manchin-Toomey to proceed. Some on the right immediately attacked Ayotte, calling her a “traitor,” and suggesting she should be primaried if she voted to allow the debate to occur. Ayotte knew the issue deserved an open discussion on the Senate floor. But very few offered her credit or support for going against the Republican Party on a whole, and exposing herself to the indignation of those on the right of this issue.
But whatever heat Ayotte may have felt from her base, it would not equal the wrath from those on the left. Encouraged by misreporting as to what the failed proposed gun legislation would have achieved, and more important, would not have accomplished, too many on the left resorted to vicious name calling, threats and harassment tactics.
Ayotte was falsely accused of being uncaring, insensitive, deceitful and not listening to her constituents. It is completely appropriate to disagree with someone, but when you unjustly attack them personally, you lose credibility. At no time during this period was Ayotte dishonest or insensitive to her constituents. It is appropriate to disagree with Ayotte’s position, but to impugn her character because of the disagreement is irrational.
Some of the more vile statements accused Ayotte of “having blood on her hands,” and said her vote was as if she had “pulled the trigger herself.” One of the more reprehensible statements was from a person who asked Ayotte if it would have mattered “if her children had been shot in one of the Newtown classrooms.” Some on the left are clearly comfortable with their own hate.
Lastly, there is the shameful spectacle by some at Ayotte’s town halls. Ayotte, unlike many politicians, still affords her constituents the opportunity to meet with her. These town halls were not just about her gun vote, but had been in the planning stages for some time to address other issues that her continents were concerned about. During a recent town hall meeting, Ayotte explained her vote on the Manchin-Toomey bill numerous times, but some in attendance chose to grandstand and infringe on the rights of others to ask questions about the failed economy, health care and Benghazi. Contrary to what some on the left might believe, although gun legislation is important, according to a recent Gallup poll, it is not a top priority for most Americans (contrary to the 90 percent poll pushed by the media, gun control legislation receives only 4-6 percent support as a top issue).
Ayotte chose to be the adult in this conversation, while too many resorted to partisan, political theatrics. Ayotte is a person of integrity and unwavering patience who has seen firsthand the devastating effects of violent crime. Agree or disagree with her, we are fortunate to have her as our senator, and maybe next time some of us should not be so quick to attack.
Jeff Chidester was raised in New Hampshire and has lived and worked in the Far East and Europe for extended periods. He is the host of New Hampshire Perspective, heard each Sunday at noon on 96.7 The Wave and WGIR AM 610.
Better alternatives to Obamacare
This is the last in a three-part series that focuses on why we should repeal Obamacare.
Obamacare is failing because it was poorly conceived and immediately eliminated other viable free-market or small-government/free-market solutions. If you believe we have already tried free-market solutions and they failed, you’re wrong.
America is more like Germany and France, which have public-to-private health care systems. Citizens in those countries are mandated to support the government-run system, but are permitted some private choices to either supplement the government plan (20-30 percent of French citizens choose this) or outright private coverage (more than 25 percent of German citizens choose this). But one must remember that though these countries rank high in overall system performance, the U.S. health care system still ranks the highest in responsiveness — without a doubt the most important factor to the patient and the medical team.
The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 permitted federal oversight of health care providers, leading to stifling regulation. Federal mandates put a wedge between medical professionals and their patients. None of these regulations truly helped to improve health care in America.
Some free-market, small-government solutions that must be considered include:
Untie health care insurance from the workplace, including the public sector. Health care should be portable and consistent, and ensure continual coverage for the patient. Both employee and employer will be free to negotiate higher salaries, and not worry about a benefit that is lost when the employee leaves the job. That does not mean the individual is left alone. The ability to purchase through a group plan (i.e., civic groups, alumni groups, churches and sport leagues) should not be limited. The larger the group, the larger the risk pool, which ensures coverage to almost everyone. Members could create a fund to cover other members of lesser financial means. Consistency is the key.
Open markets. We need to stop federal and state monopolies that don’t allow people to purchase across state lines. Preventing a person from buying quality coverage just because of their address is irrational. You do not improve the quality of care and reduce cost through restrictions that create limited markets.
Eliminate requiring “one-size-fits-all” plans. Let the customer buy the plan that best fits their specific needs. The needs of an 18- to 30-year-old male are not the same as the needs of a 50- to 70-year-old female. This ensures health care needs are met in the most cost-effective manner.
Enable Health Saving Accounts (HSA) to roll over, and remain tax-free and unlimited. Obamacare limits the amount and the potential rollover from year to year. There is no reason these accounts should be taxed during the life of the individual, nor should we put a limit on what is deposited. Additionally, we should allow the funds to be transferred from one family member to another upon death of the originator or in the event of a catastrophic health occurrence within the family. So long as the money is used to benefit the health needs of the family, why should the government care?
Vouchers and block grants. Those who cannot afford coverage can obtain a voucher to purchase the insurance they actually need. Just because a person is of lesser means does not mean they should be forced into substandard care or shouldn’t have control over their own health care needs.
Pre-existing conditions and high-risk pools. We would not tolerate a person buying fire insurance after the house burns down, and then demanding payment; nor should we create a health care system that permits people to ignore their health care responsibilities. Preventing lapses between insurance coverage and allowing for lifelong health saving accounts go a long way to eliminating missed coverage. Likewise, we have to be realistic about those who choose to participate in high-risk activities; whether some people want to believe it or not, there will be insurance companies that will cover those people, but the premiums will be high. Overcoming poor planning will provide reassurance when the crisis does hit. High-risk pools and pre-existing conditions are manageable, but are best left to the states.
Tort reform. Frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals contribute significantly to rising health care costs, with estimates as high as 20 percent of added health care costs caused by the legal system. These lawsuits also drive a wedge between the medical professional and the patient, and have driven quality medical professionals from the health industry.
I’m not opposed to the concept of single-payer health care, or universal coverage. But there are reasons why it’s impossible to implement on a national level. We are a diverse nation of more than 300 million. Sweden is the most successful at attempting to implement a single-payer plan. However, regulating health care for a nation of roughly 9 million people with a static and homogenized population is far less complicated than a nation comprised of people from all over the world. However, single-payer shows promise, if implemented properly at the state level. Oregon and Maine’s Medline Plus for Native-Americans have functioned well. Vermont’s new single-payer plan is still new and not fully tested, and some physicians have reported implementation issues. I have never been opposed to state-initiated plans. But why stop at the state level? Why not let counties, cities or towns offer plans to their citizens?
Simplicity is the key to success; complexity ensures failure. The federal government was not designed to deliver services and goods. Don’t let ideology prevent you from asking that Obamacare be repealed. Likewise, conservatives must also be open to possible small-government, free-market solutions at the local level.
There is a great line from the movie Spinal Tap: “There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.” Let us be clever and work on real solutions to fix the small issues within the American health care system.
Jeff Chidester was raised in New Hampshire and has lived and worked in the Far East and Europe for extended periods. He is the host of New Hampshire Perspective, heard each Sunday at noon on 96.7 The Wave and WGIR AM 610.
Obamacare on Life Support: Part II
Link to Columnist Page
“I just see a huge train wreck coming down.” — Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, April 17, 2013, commenting on Obamacare.
When one of the chief architects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, publicly expresses concern, it’s time to stop the train and build a new track.
Sen. Baucus joins a growing list of Democrats and Republicans who have lost faith in the successful implementation of Obamacare. Sadly, some on the extreme far-left are blinded by their own arrogance and self-interest to do the right thing and repeal Obamacare. But Obamacare was doomed to fail from the beginning because of three reasons: cost, confusion and confidence.
Cost. President Obama said Obamacare will “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” However, since the ACA was passed, average Americans have seen the cost of health care increase by $3,000, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Additionally, President Obama promised Obamacare would not add to the current debt crisis. Promises made while campaigning are easily broken when reality kicks in. Over the next 10 years, Obamacare is expected to cost no less than $1 trillion, based on recent CBO reports, and the CBO continues to revise those numbers. Even worse, recent Government Accountability Office numbers suggest $6.2 trillion will be added to our debt because of Obamacare. Folks, we are heading the wrong way.
But what about the private cost? I have already mentioned the impact to the average American with a private health care plan, so what about private business? Every day we read stories of how small businesses are reducing employee hours and laying off people to adjust to Obamacare. A recent Hudson Institute study indicates an estimated 3.2 million jobs could be lost because of Obamacare. The only saving grace is the 2.3 percent Medical Device Tax appears to be dead. It would have taxed medical devices such as pacemakers, wheelchairs and crutches. Medical device companies such as Stryker, Boston Scientific and Medtronic were looking at (and may still face) thousands of layoffs and the reduction of millions of dollars in medical research. The question begs to be answered: How was the Medical Device Tax actually going to improve health care?
Let’s not forget about all the “free” mandates that come with Obamacare. Free has to be paid for by someone, either the taxpayers or those who pay for their health care. One of the more disturbing factors regarding the free mandates is that the Obama administration never justified whether the mandates were necessary, or if the people receiving the benefits were capable of covering the cost themselves.
Confusion. What started as a roughly 3,000-page bill has grown into an more than 17,000-page monstrosity, with no end in sight. Simplicity is the key to success; complexity ensures failure. Patients, doctors, pharmacies, health care providers and the American public have no clue where to start. According to polls from Kaiser/Rasmussen and others, upwards of 68 percent of Americans have no idea how to engage Obamacare and how it will help or hurt them. A vast majority of Americans have not heard whether their state plans to set up health care exchanges or to expand Medicaid (a vital element of providing health care to those who cannot obtain health care elsewhere). Worse, both the federal government and individual states seem confused as well.
All the American public knows is that a major funding tax (the aforementioned Medical Device Tax) is being repealed, that $700 billion was stolen from the Medicare fund to prop up Obamacare, and upwards of 20 million people will lose their health care coverage by 2019 (CBO report). So much for another Obamacare promise (if you want to keep your health care plan, you can). Poor implementation, buried within 17,000 pages (and growing) of regulations has helped to create the “train wreck” called Obamacare.
Confidence. A lack of understanding of the true cost of Obamacare and widespread confusion has led to a complete lack of confidence. Like so many things in our country, most Americans are split on support of Obamacare. But the negative numbers support repeal. Confidence is further eroded when people like Sen. Baucus and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius used words like “train wreck” or statements like “more complicated than we thought” when talking about implementing Obamacare.
Do the American people want to see health care reform? Yes. Do they believe Obamacare is the answer? No. The American people want to see simple legislation to fix the weak areas of our health care system: cost and availability. Obamacare does neither. Completely overhauling a system for the benefit of 2.5 percent of the population, or roughly 8 million Americans, is unreasonable and will lead to a weakened health care system.
Next week we will discuss disciplined, free-market solutions that were never considered, but must be part of the discussion. The free-market may not be a magical solution, but Obamacare is a fairy tale with an unhappy ending.
Jeff Chidester was raised in New Hampshire and has lived and worked in the Far East and Europe for extended periods. He is the host of New Hampshire Perspective, heard each Sunday at noon on 96.7 The Wave and WGIR AM 610.
The taxman cometh, and his initials are BO (how appropriate, because most of these taxes stink to high heaven). Heritage complied a list of these wonderful little New Year surprise, and not just for the so called ‘rich.’ Here you go, enjoy the Lucky 13:
Tax increases the fiscal cliff deal allowed:
1. Payroll tax: increase in the Social Security portion of the payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent for workers. This hits all Americans earning a paycheck—not just the “wealthy.” For example, The Wall Street Journal calculated that the “typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year” will lose “an annual income boost of $1,000.”
2. Top marginal tax rate: increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).
3. Phase out of personal exemptions for adjusted gross income (AGI) over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).
4. Phase down of itemized deductions for AGI over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).
5. Tax rates on investment: increase in the rate on dividends and capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).
6. Death tax: increase in the rate (on estates larger than $5 million) from 35 percent to 40 percent.
7. Taxes on business investment: expiration of full expensing—the immediate deduction of capital purchases by businesses.
Obamacare tax increases that took effect:
8. Another investment tax increase: 3.8 percent surtax on investment income for taxpayers with taxable income exceeding $250,000 ($200,000 for singles).
9. Another payroll tax hike: 0.9 percent increase in the Hospital Insurance portion of the payroll tax for incomes over $250,000 ($200,000 for single filers).
10. Medical device tax: 2.3 percent excise tax paid by medical device manufacturers and importers on all their sales.
11. Reducing the income tax deduction for individuals’ medical expenses.
12. Elimination of the corporate income tax deduction for expenses related to the Medicare Part D subsidy.
13. Limitation of the corporate income tax deduction for compensation that health insurance companies pay to their executives.
Link to the original story, click HERE
This Week on the Expanded Edition of NH Perspective (96.7 the WAVE only) – 11:30am to 12:00pm: We will talk small business and charitable giving.
During the first half we are joined by Denis St. Pierre of Stonehouse Baking, Rte 125, Barrington, NH (http://www.stonehousebaking.com/) about his bakery and some of the things you will find when you walk into his shop.
During the second half of our expanded broadcast, we will talk to the volunteers at Gerry’s Food Pantry in Rochester, NH. With the holidays upon us, many us start thinking about how we can help our neighbors out, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. Gerry’s, located at 151 Wakefield St., Rochester, NH – 603. 330.3468 (Gerry’s Food Pantry – Sharefund)
Between 12pm to 1pm on WGIR-AM 610 and 96.7 the WAVE: We will talk with the NH Food Bank (www.nhfoodbank.org), and things we can do to help our neighbors.
During the last segment, Grant Bosse, from the Josiah Bartlett and NH Watchdog (http://newhampshire.watchdog.org/), will get us up to date of the NH Medicaid Expansion Options
One of the most irritating elements of a post-election are the pundits who’s first reaction is to say the Republican ‘need to change, and they need to adapt.’ With the Presidential election of 2012 in the books, the narrative that seems to be this years favorite talking point from ‘why the Republican Party is doomed’ pack of overpaid pundits………….Republicans hate Latinos, and they need to abandoned their principles. I hate identity politics, and hate that we have to talk as if our fellow Americans are different by virtue of their skin color or family lineage.
Heather MacDonald, from the Manhattan Institute, wrote an excellent article that talks about some of the reasons why the Latino community votes Democrat.
The call for Republicans to discard their opposition to immigration amnesty will grow deafening in the wake of President Obama’s victory. Hispanics supported Obama by a margin of nearly 75 percent to 25 percent, and may have provided important margins in some swing states. If only Republicans relented on their Neanderthal views regarding the immigration rule of law, the message will run, they would release the inner Republican waiting to emerge in the Hispanic population.
If Republicans want to change their stance on immigration, they should do so on the merits, not out of a belief that only immigration policy stands between them and a Republican Hispanic majority. It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation. Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election.
And California is the wave of the future. A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.
I spoke last year with John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in southern California, about Hispanic politics. “What Republicans mean by ‘family values’ and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things,” he said. “We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people.”
And a strong reason for that support for big government is that so many Hispanics use government programs. U.S.-born Hispanic households in California use welfare programs at twice the rate of native-born non-Hispanic households. And that is because nearly one-quarter of all Hispanics are poor in California, compared to a little over one-tenth of non-Hispanics. Nearly seven in ten poor children in the state are Hispanic, and one in three Hispanic children is poor, compared to less than one in six non-Hispanic children. One can see that disparity in classrooms across the state, which are chock full of social workers and teachers’ aides trying to boost Hispanic educational performance.
The idea of the “social issues” Hispanic voter is also a mirage. A majority of Hispanics now support gay marriage, a Pew Research Center poll from last month found. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate is 53 percent, about twice that of whites.
The demographic changes set into motion by official and de facto immigration policy favoring low-skilled over high-skilled immigrants mean that a Republican party that purports to stand for small government and free markets faces an uncertain future.
51% of those people that voted in the 2012 Presidential election put a check mark next to Obama (and Biden), and 48% next to Romney (and Ryan). That is what the Left considers a mandate, and Americans should just go with the flow. That is never going to happen, but those that oppose President Obama’s policies must do so with clarity and civility.
I am not saying with back-away from just indignation, but we need to take our time in explaining our concerns.
Resistance with Respect
By Ken Blackwell
Editor’s Note: This column was co-authored by Bob Morrison.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his fourth term, Kansas editor William Allen White, a staunch Republican, wrote: “We who hate your gaudy guts salute you.” President Obama: We have never hated your gaudy guts. And we acknowledge that a majority of our fellow citizens of this Great Republic have saluted you and conferred upon you for the second time the office of President of the United States. We thank God that more than 120 million Americans voted in a peaceful and orderly election. That alone is a wonder of the world. (You will pardon us, Sir, if we also thank Heaven for the Twenty-second Amendment, another legacy from FDR.)
Our favorite portrait of you is the inaugural cover of The New Yorker.] Over the past four years, we have written more than 600 columns singly and together about your administration’s policies. Throughout those years, we have kept the high promise of that Inaugural Portrait in mind. We have endeavored always to remember that you hold the office held by Washington and Lincoln. We believe that office deserves respect.
We also recall the amazing spectacle of millions of Americans attending your first Inauguration. We feel deeply what your taking the presidential oath must mean, especially to our fellow citizens whose ancestors survived the horrors of the Middle Passage. Those forebears came here in chains. For our fellow citizens of African descent, your rise to the presidency holds profound spiritual and historical meaning. With our fellow Christians, we share a belief in the redemptive value of suffering.
We must in all candor admit that we have opposed most of your policies. We believe your administration daily fails to recognize the God-given right to life. We assert that what was wrong in slavery, what was wrong in segregation, is what is wrong in abortion. It treats millions of humans as less than human. TIME’s Joe Klein admits that ultra-sound makes it “impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being.” Mr. President, your administration denies this reality every day. Abraham Lincoln said it well: “Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon.” President Obama: Are not unborn children so stamped?
We have also opposed your administration’s policy of refusing to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. One of these laws, the Defense of Marriage Act, you have flouted from the first days of your presidency. Now, we have seen voters in four states decide to permit same sex couplings to be recognized as marriages. Thirty-two states have voted to preserve true marriage. We will see what some call “marriage equality” only when Zero equals One. We are not surprised that some today hail Tuesday’s results as proving that Four is greater than Thirty-two.
True marriage benefits all and bashes none. It is the foundation of society.
The moving story of 10,000 more marriages being recorded in Tennessee in 1866 should be more widely known. Recently freed black couples came to Tennessee that year to have their slave marriages legally recognized. That’s how strong was the desire to preserve family life then. That’s how important marriage was for the black community. The breakdown of marriage among blacks, Hispanics, and whites has caused untold heartbreak for the nation. If you are against traditional marriage, Mr. President, you cannot have a successful administration. We will fight for this ideal with or without your support.
Your administration is paying billions to tormentors of Christians in a number of Muslim majority lands. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said that Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth. You were received with joy and admiration in Germany, Mr. President. We appeal to you to change your policies in your second term. Those who oppress neighbors who worship differently will never enjoy democracy. This must stop. You must cease taxing us to support treacherous allies who shoot us in the back.
We doubt you will be moved by our appeal. In your first term, you proved deaf to the cries of the oppressed of many lands. American blood has been shed and American treasure sunk in foreign entanglements that will result in neither freedom nor peace. And today, our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel, is in mortal peril. No president had been as hostile to Israel’s survival needs as you have been.
For the sake of our beloved country, we urge you to reverse your Mideast policy. Embracing regimens which have vowed to eradicate Israel, will bring nothing but blood and dishonor.
Finally, we pray for you, President Obama. We hope you and your family are kept safe from all harm. We believe that as we pray for you and for all those in authority, we are following God’s Word.
We pray, too, that you will remember President Washington’s words to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport. Washington wanted to see an America “where each shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May that be our America, too, Barack Obama.
Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at Townhall.com, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the new bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
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During our broadcast on October 27, 2012, we had an extensive conversation about the NH Constitutional Amendments Ballot Questions (1,2,3). Our guest, Rep. Danial Itse and former gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith, support all three ballot questions.
Below are the links or actual wording for each ballot question mentioned during the broadcast:
Questions 1-3 Wording
Question 1: Constitutional Amendment to Prohibit an Income Tax
Question 2: Constitutional Amendment related to rule making for the Courts
Question 3: To have a Constitutional Convention
The following ballot wording is from the NH Secretary of State (the order of questions 1 and 2 was changed):
2012 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT QUESTIONS
Constitutional Amendments Proposed by the 2012 General Court
1. “Are you in favor of amending the second part of the constitution by inserting after article 5-b a new article to read as follows: [Art.] 5-c. [Income Tax Prohibited.] Notwithstanding any general or special provision of this constitution, the general court shall not have the power or authority to impose and levy any assessment, rate, or tax upon income earned by any natural person; however, nothing in this Article shall be construed to prohibit any tax in effect January 1, 2012, or adjustment to the rate of such a tax.” (Passed by the N.H. House 256 Yes 110 No; Passed by State Senate 19 Yes 4 No) CACR 13
2. “Are you in favor of amending article 73-a of the second part of the constitution to read as follows: [Art.] 73-a [Supreme Court, Administration.] The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of all the courts. The chief justice shall, with the concurrence of a majority of the supreme court justices, make rules governing the administration of all courts in the state and the practice and procedure to be followed in all such courts. The rules so promulgated shall have the force and effect of law. The legislature shall have a concurrent power to regulate the same matters by statute. In the event of a conflict between a statute and a court rule, the statute, if not otherwise contrary to this constitution, shall prevail over the rule.” (Passed by the N.H. House 242 Yes 96 No; Passed by State Senate 19 Yes 5 No) CACR 26
Question Proposed pursuant to Part II, Article 100 of the New Hampshire Constitution.
3. “Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?”
Links to two Op-Eds in support of Question 2:
Question 2 — CACR 26 – Rep. Daniel Itse : GJOP
Question 2 – CACR 26 – Eugene Van Loan, former chairman of the Josiah Bartlett
Center for Public Policy: GJO2
Obamanomics: A White Shirt and Tie
by Jeff Chidester
The feeling of helplessness is one of the worst emotions each of us have felt at one time or another. Our inability to help ourselves or our fellow man creates a surge of uncontrollable anxiety and distress. None of us likes to admit our own vulnerability.
This morning I was in a local Wal-Mart, but I could have been in any store anywhere in our country. The store seemed empty, but it was also early in the morning, with only a few shoppers and one cashier.
I got in line behind a gentleman who appeared to be about my age (early 50’s), who seemed to be in good spirits as he smiled and chatted with the cashier. As he handed the cashier a white dress shirt and a clip-on tie, he said he would be paying with some cash and a debt card. He handed the cashier a few loose bills and change, then proceeded to swipe his debit card. It was declined.
The gentleman’s posture immediately changed, shoulders dipping and the smile leaving his face. He ran the card through again, and it was declined again. The cashier suggested that she manually enter the card number, at which time the gentleman decided to call his wife to see if there was a problem. Watching this unfold, my human nature got the better of me, and I became frustrated with the delay. There was only one cashier, so I waited. I could not help but overhear the gentleman’s conversation with his wife. He explained that he thought they had enough money in the account to buy the shirt and tie, and that he really needed it for “the job interview.” I could not hear what the wife was saying, but the gentleman replied, “No, that’s alright. I understand.” I have no clue what the wife told this gentleman, but as I watched him end the call I saw a person who had lost all hope.
The gentleman looked at the cashier, but did not say anything. It was if he had lost his voice. The cashier asked the gentleman what he wanted to do. He tried to talk, but no words came out. He just started to cry. Neither the cashier nor I knew what to say. I started to feel guilty because just a few minutes earlier I was frustrated at the delay. But now, standing before me was a man who was in absolute despair.
Not sure what to do, I touched the man’s shoulder and tried to reassure him that everything would be alright, and that the cashier and I would take care of the problem. I told the gentleman that I would like to help with the purchase of the shirt and tie and asked if he would mind if I did that. He shook his head no, but still could not talk. I watched as the tears welled up more, and I did everything in my power to hold back my own emotions
As the cashier canceled the sale, I introduced myself. The gentleman’s name was Ed. I asked Ed when his job interview was and with which company. He told me it was at 9 a.m. with a local auto-parts company. He said he’s been out of work for more than two-years and that this was his first interview in several months. As we chatted, I asked if he was interviewing for a job in his field. It turns out that Ed had run the parts department for a GM car dealership, but that he lost his job when the dealership lost its franchise license.
The cashier closed out the previous sale, and combined my order with Ed’s shirt and tie. Ed appeared to relax as we chatted. He explained that the job market is tough and hundreds of people had applied for the same job he was interviewing for, and that many of the applicants were overqualified. I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.
After paying for the shirt and tie, the cashier handed Ed the bag and he thanked both of us. Ed and I walked out of the store together, saying nothing. We headed for our cars and Ed thanked me again as we parted ways.
A slew of emotions flooded me as I was driving out of the parking lot. I was grateful for the chance to help him, but I also felt sadness, anger, and frustration. I reminded myself that I am blessed in so many ways, and I wanted to believe the only thing separating Ed from a job was a shirt and a tie. I prayed that he would get the job, but I also realize there would still hundreds of other applicants (some in worse shape than Ed) still out of work.
If a shirt and tie were all that was needed to get people back to work, this would be an easy problem to solve. Although the issues may seem complex, they really aren’t. We are better than this as a nation.
Communism > Marxism >Leninism > Progressivism > Socialism > Liberalism > Neo – Progressivism
The journey to absolute government dependency starts with one step, but also includes many great leaps. Prior to 2009, there were three great leaps of liberalism: The Great Society (President Johnson), The New Deal (President F. Roosevelt), and Democratic Progressive Reforms (President Wilson).
Woodrow Wilson: Godfather of Liberalism
It has become fashionable today for those who once called themselves “liberals” to refer to themselves instead as “progressives.” This is a phenomenon evident both among our politicians and among our intellectual class.
In the 2008 presidential primary campaign, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she was a “liberal”; she distanced herself from that term (which still seems toxic to much of the electorate) and described herself instead as a “progressive.” When pressed, she made clear that she meant by this term to connect herself to the original Progressives from the turn of the 20th century. Similarly, what is arguably the most prominent think tank on the Left today is called the Center for American Progress, which has an entire project dedicated to preserving and protecting the legacy of America’s original Progressive Movement.
Citizens who are concerned with the battle of ideas today must therefore endeavor to come to terms both with contemporary progressivism and with its foundational principles from the original turn-of-the-century movement. In order to understand both the Progressive Movement itself and its influence on politics today, there is no more important figure to engage than Woodrow Wilson.
Most are familiar with Wilson because he was the 28th President of the United States, a presidency most known for its stewardship of American involvement in the First World War and for Wilson’s failed attempt to sign America on to the League of Nations. Wilson also served a partial term as governor of New Jersey before becoming President in 1913.
Prior to his political life, however, Wilson was a prolific scholar and successful academic for over two decades; he was, in fact, the only professional political scientist ever to become President of the United States. And while Wilson’s presidency certainly helped to launch a variety of landmark revisions in the framework of American government (the Federal Reserve and the income tax, to name just two), the ideas that came from his academic work were even more influential on future waves of liberalism in the course of 20th and 21st century American politics.
Born Thomas Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia, on December 28, 1856, Wilson moved with his family several times during his youth as his father was a minister in Augusta, Georgia, Columbia, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilson attended Davidson College, studied at home for a time, and finally attended Princeton, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1879. He also attended law school for a year at the University of Virginia; and though he studied there only a year, he moved to Atlanta after completing his studies at home, passed the bar exam, and set up a law practice.
December 28, 1856, in Staunton, Virginia, to Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Jessie Janet Woodrow [Wilson].
Graduated from Princeton University in 1879, studied law for a year at the University of Virginia, and went on to get his Ph.D. in History and Political Science from Johns Hopkins University in 1886.
Married Ellen Louise Axson in 1885, with whom he had three daughters: Margaret Woodrow Wilson, Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre, and Eleanor Randolph Wilson. Ellen died in 1914, and Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt a year later. They remained married until his death.
- Professor at Bryn Mawr College, Wesleyan University, and Princeton University (1885–1902).
- Author, Congressional Government (1885), The State (1889), Constitutional Government of the United States (1908), The New Freedom (1912), and three histories.
- President of Princeton University (1902–1910).
- Governor of New Jersey (1911–1913).
- President of the United States (1913–1921).
- Leads the United States into World War I (1917).
- Negotiates the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ends the war (1919).
- Nobel Peace Prize (1919).
- Campaigns unsuccessfully for American membership in the League of Nations (1919).
February 3, 1924, in his Washington, D.C., home; buried at the Washington National Cathedral.
“The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us….”
Wilson, however, was most interested in public service, and the legal profession had simply been the means most obvious to him for a career in public service. This is why the actual practice of law quickly soured him on the profession. He was more interested, he said, in the ideas and principles behind the law, and so he entered the new graduate program in history and political science at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.
Hopkins had just been founded in 1876 for the express purpose of bringing German education and principles to the United States. In the decades before its founding, most Americans who wanted an advanced degree were going to Europe—and especially to Germany—to get it. Johns Hopkins quickly became influential in American higher education. It also became one of the ways in which the new German science of politics was imported into American politics with profound effect, and Wilson was among the most important figures in this movement.
While a student at Hopkins, Wilson wrote his first book, Congressional Government, which is still his best known academic work. Wilson’s professors subsequently allowed the book to count as his doctoral dissertation, as he soon learned that he needed the completed Ph.D. in order to advance in the Academy.
Wilson landed his first academic job, at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, in 1885, the same year he married the former Ellen Axson, with whom he would have three daughters. He quickly became dissatisfied at Bryn Mawr—his salary was insufficient, and he regarded his position as less than prestigious because all of his students were women—and moved on to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1888. Wesleyan was regarded as a better school; it encouraged scholarship by its professors, and while there, Wilson produced The State, his most comprehensive and penetrating treatment of the theory of government, in addition to several other important articles and essays on government and public administration.
This scholarship helped Wilson to establish something of a reputation in the fledgling discipline of political science, and he positioned himself to be appointed a professor at Princeton in 1890. He was eventually elected president of Princeton in 1902, propelled partly by a speech titled “Princeton in the Nation’s Service,” which outlined his vision for university-educated men to lead a newly empowered national administration. Wilson was given credit for modernizing Princeton; he established a graduate school and set up the preceptorial system—“a method of study whereby a small group of students meets in regular conferences with a faculty member”—that is still a distinguishing feature of the university.
It was also while he was president of Princeton that Wilson began going on solo vacations to Bermuda. Initially taken for health reasons, these vacations soon became occasions for Wilson to spend time with Mary Peck. The exact nature of the relationship between Wilson and Mrs. Peck has never been demonstrated definitively, though we do know that they had a long and affectionate correspondence and that their relationship was the cause of a rebuke from Wilson’s wife.
Wilson’s political career began to take shape toward the end of his Princeton presidency. He became known in Progressive circles as a reformer—he gave a series of lectures at Columbia University in 1907, which were published in 1908 as Constitutional Government in the United States, that helped with this reputation—and was recruited by the New Jersey Democratic Party to run for governor in 1910.
The machine bosses in New Jersey clearly sought to use Wilson in order to curry favor with the growing reform element in the electorate and calculated (quite mistakenly, it turns out) that Wilson could easily be controlled once in office. Instead, upon his election, Wilson stuck to his Progressive ideas and helped to enact a legislative agenda in 1911 that was a model for Progressives around the country. This record in turn vaulted Wilson into the 1912 race for the presidency, where both parties were looking to win over Progressive voters. The New Freedom, an edited collection of Wilson’s speeches from the campaign, remains one of the best-known expressions of Wilson’s brand of Progressivism.
Once elected President, Wilson helped to usher in the first wave of Progressive reforms that would later take full flower under the Administration of Franklin Roosevelt. While some assert that the expansion of the federal administrative state that originated in the Wilson Administration was due to the war mobilization effort, several key expansions came well before war mobilization was even on the horizon. Wilson, for instance, signed the national income tax into law in 1913 at the very outset of his Administration. In the same year, he pushed the Federal Reserve Act through Congress; early plans for this Act had envisioned a private board, but under Wilson’s leadership, the Federal Reserve was created as a government enterprise.
Furthermore, while Wilson had criticized Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 campaign for the latter’s adventurous approach to foreign policy, Wilson himself certainly did not shrink from American military intervention. He intervened in Vera Cruz in 1914 and ordered the American occupation of Haiti in 1915.
In spite of this willingness to use the military as a tool of American foreign policy, Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on the theme of keeping America out of the First World War, narrowly defeating Charles Evans Hughes. Shortly thereafter, Wilson led America into that war, launching the effort with his “war message” in 1917 and laying the basis for peace in the “Fourteen Points” a year later.
Wilson himself traveled to Europe to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, and the end of his presidency was marked by his desperate attempt to secure ratification of the treaty and what he considered to be its central accomplishment: the League of Nations. It was on an exhausting speaking campaign on behalf of the League that Wilson suffered a stroke in September of 1919, becoming largely debilitated for the remainder of his presidency. His second wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, whom he had married in 1915 after Ellen’s death a year earlier, managed presidential affairs for the remainder of his term, and Wilson died in Washington, D.C., on February 3, 1924.
Critique of the Founding
While volumes of biographies have been filled with details of Wilson’s life—and especially of his time in public service—it was Wilson’s political ideas that made the most lasting mark on American political life. These are ideas that helped to shape the profound challenge offered by the Progressive Movement to the basic political principles that undergirded the American constitutional order.
Progressivism—certainly as expounded by Wilson—understood itself as presenting a rationale for moving beyond the political thinking of the American Founding. A prerequisite for national progress, Wilson believed, was that the Founding be understood in its proper historical context. Its principles, in spite of their timeless claims, were intended to deal with the unique circumstances of that day.
This interpretation of the Founding ran up against the Founders’ own self-understanding, as Wilson well knew. This is why much of his scholarship is devoted to a radical reinterpretation and critique of the political theory of the Founding. Wilson understood that the limits placed upon the power of the national government by the Constitution—limits that Progressives wanted to see relaxed if not removed—were grounded in the natural-rights principles of the Declaration of Independence. This meant, for Wilson, that both the Declaration and the Constitution had to be understood anew through a Progressive lens.
Wilson therefore sought a reinterpretation of the Founding—a reinterpretation grounded in historical contingency. To the Founding’s ahistorical notion that government is rooted in an understanding of unchanging human nature, Wilson opposed the historical argument that the ends, scope, and role of just government must be defined by the different principles of different epochs and that, therefore, it is impossible to speak of a single form of just government for all ages. This was a self-conscious reinterpretation, as Wilson even suggested that the Declaration ought to be understood by excluding from it the foundational statements on equality and natural rights contained in its first two paragraphs. In a 1911 address, Wilson remarked that “the rhetorical introduction of the Declaration of Independence is the least part of it…. If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.”
It was this assertion of historical contingency over the permanent principles of American constitutionalism that animated the main tenets of Wilson’s political thought. It is also the view that today pervades academia, where the idea of a permanent standard of right has been replaced by the ideologies of multiculturalism and “value-neutral” positivism.
Briefly put, those tenets rest on a coupling of historical contingency with a faith in progress. Wilson believed that the human condition improves as history marches forward and that protections built into government against the danger of problems such as faction therefore became less necessary and increasingly unjust. Ultimately, the problem of faction is solved not by permanently limited government, as it had been for the Founders, but by history itself.
In contrast to the permanent self-interestedness that the authors of The Federalist, for instance, believed to be at the heart of human nature, Wilson believed that history had brought about a fundamental unity in the public mind and that the problem of faction had been overcome due to an historical evolution in human nature. As a result of history’s achievement, he reasoned, government will not be a threat to the individual that has to be checked; rather, the state ought to be an organ of the individuals in society—“beneficent and indispensable.” It makes no sense, Wilson wrote, to limit government in an effort to protect the people from the very manifestation of their own organic will. This need to unfetter the state so that its scope can become whatever the current historical spirit demands means undoing the various institutional limits that early American constitutionalism had placed on state power.
Wilson’s affinity for an historically contingent perspective on American government—one in which government was not grounded on certain unchanging truths about human nature but would instead evolve to fit ever-changing historical circumstances—can be seen from his earliest days of thinking about politics. During his legal education and then as a professor of jurisprudence, Wilson applied his evolutionary view to the question of how the law should be taught, adopting the approach of what is now called legal realism. Law, under this approach, is not so much a study of forms as it is a study of how the law evolves in response to changing historical realities.
This approach also helps to explain Wilson’s love for the British constitutional system, in which the role of government is not laid out in a single written document but instead comes from an ever-evolving set of laws and judicial precedents that are contingent on historical progress. It is not an exaggeration to say that Wilson was infatuated with the British system of government, and it is clear that he was deeply influenced by the celebration of Britain’s flexible constitutionalism offered in The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot, a leading liberal realist of the second half of the 19th century.
As a teenager and then in college, Wilson loved to read and remark upon the biographies and essays of great parliamentary statesmen, and he particularly enjoyed the speeches of Edmund Burke and John Bright. This experience is what seems to have led him, as a college senior, to write an article, “Cabinet Government in the United States,” proposing that the American separation-of-powers system be replaced by a parliamentary model. It was published in a prominent journal, and its ideas later found a place in Congressional Government, which excoriated the American Congress for its shortcomings when compared with the British parliament.
When Wilson himself entered government, he brought his cynicism about the separation of powers with him, seeing the chief executive (whether governor or President) as a kind of prime minister—not just an executive, but a legislative leader too. This is a perspective, of course, that is the standard view among American political scientists today. During his campaign for governor of New Jersey, Wilson even raised eyebrows by pledging to become an “unconstitutional governor,” by which he meant that he had no intention of keeping to the role outlined for the chief executive under the separation of powers. This was a pledge that he kept as Governor Wilson behaved very much like a prime minister in moving key pieces of Progressive legislation through the New Jersey legislature.
For Wilson, the separation of powers was the source of much of what was wrong with American government. As opposed to a democratic system that would efficiently translate the current public mind into government action, the separation of powers system, as Wilson understood it, was designed to protect the people from themselves by throwing up as many obstacles as possible to the implementation of their will. Such a system served only to impede genuine democracy, which Wilson wanted to restore by breaking down the walls between the branches, allowing them to work in close coordination for the purpose of constantly adjusting public policy to the current public mind.
Wilson’s animosity toward the separation of powers was at the heart of his various proposals not only for a cabinet or parliamentary form of government in the United States, but also for energetic popular leadership and broad administrative discretion. In general, he saw the separation of powers as fundamentally contrary to his understanding of government as a living, organic extension of the people’s own will.
After the fashion of today’s complaints about “gridlock” in Washington, Wilson argued that the separation-of-powers system was both inefficient and irresponsible. Separation of powers was inefficient because it prevented government from solving the problems of modern life in a coordinated way; instead, the various organs of government were busy attacking and struggling against one another. It was irresponsible because the system made it difficult for the government to implement new public policy, even when the new policy reflected a clear new direction in public opinion. Unlike parliamentary government, where changes in public opinion could very quickly effect a change in government and a change in policy, the separation-of-powers system prevented just that kind of responsiveness.
Progressive Political Ideas
Based on his objection to the separation of powers and his general objection to the Founders’ understanding of government, Wilson put forth a series of institutional proposals designed in one way or another to overcome the fixed notion of politics that is at the heart of limited government.
Wilson’s institutional substitute for the Founders’ separation of powers is best understood as the separation of politics and administration. The idea of separating politics and administration broadly defines the different institutional arrangements suggested by Wilson in his scholarship, although the specific institutional means for achieving this separation changed as his thought developed from his earlier to his more mature intellectual works.
Wilson’s separation of politics and administration also brings us to a fundamental paradox in his thought. His vision of government seems to be one in which the unified will of the public has a much more direct role to play in politics than the Founders had envisioned. Yet politics, while increasingly democratized in Wilson’s thought, also becomes much less authoritative. The emphasis in government shifts to administration.
The implications of this shift are profound: Consent of the governed comes in the realm of traditional politics. The disparagement of politics in favor of administration moves the focal point in government away from popular consent and into the hands of unelected “experts.” Such a shift marks the origin of American government today, where more policy is made by bureaucracies than by elected representatives.
The key to Wilson’s separation of politics and administration was to keep the former out of the latter’s way. Administration is properly the province of scientific experts in the bureaucracy. The competence of these experts in the specific technological means required to achieve those ends on which we are all agreed gives them the authority to administer or regulate progress unhindered by those within the realm of politics. Persons or institutions within politics can claim no such expertise.
Wilson’s understanding of politics and its separation from administration requires a transformation in traditional American thinking on legislative and executive power. Wilson proposed such a transformation, which can be seen in his commentaries on many different facets of American government. While a short essay precludes a discussion of most of these, the best example can be found in Wilson’s vision for transforming the American presidency.
The presidency became for Wilson a principal means by which the limits placed on government by the separation of powers could be transcended. His new institutional vision for the presidency required the President to look beyond his constitutionally defined powers and duties. Instead, Wilson urged that the President concentrate on his role as the embodiment of the nation’s popular will. In modern times, it was more important for the President to be leader of the whole nation than it was for him to be the chief officer of the executive branch.
Wilson contrasted the President’s duties as “legal executive” to his “political powers,” advocating an emphasis on the latter as a means of using popular opinion to transcend the rigid separation-of-powers structure of the old “Newtonian” constitutional framework. As opposed to remaining confined to the constitutionally defined powers and duties of his own branch, the President’s role as popular leader means that he must, as the embodiment of the national will, move Congress and the other parts of government to act in a coordinated way.
The President’s new role in Wilson’s institutional plan is based on the President’s connection to public opinion. It is the duty of each President to adapt himself to the needs and interests of the day. The President is uniquely situated to adapt himself to changes in the public mood because he is the only official with a true national mandate through a nationwide election. The President “is at once the choice of the party and of the nation.” The President “is the only party nominee for whom the whole nation votes…. No one else represents the people as a whole, exercising a national choice.” The President is the “spokesman for the real sentiment and purpose of the country.”
Wilson emphasized the person of the President, not his office. It is the man himself and his personality that come to embody the national will. “Governments are what the politicians make them,” Wilson wrote, “and it is easier to write of the President than of the presidency.” This is why a President’s expertise in public affairs is not as important as his having a forceful personality and other qualities of popular leadership.
What America needs, Wilson wrote, is “a man who will be and who will seem to the country in some sort an embodiment of the character and purpose it wishes its government to have—a man who understands his own day and the needs of the country.” As an embodiment of the public will, the President can transcend the government and coordinate its activities. This is why it is wrong to limit the President with the traditional checks of the Constitution. The President is “the unifying force in our complex system” and must not be relegated to managing only one branch of it.
Many instances throughout Wilson’s academic and political careers demonstrate this focus on popular leadership. He was, as a young man, obsessed with nothing so much as the art of rhetoric. Not only did he delight in reading the speeches of great parliamentary orators, but he was also trained in rhetoric by his father, a minister who would put young Woodrow in the pulpit of his church when empty and have him practice delivering speeches. He participated in many debating activities while a student at Princeton and later, when he became president there, became increasingly convinced that leadership meant both having a unique ability to see the path of history and possessing the rhetorical art to convince others to follow this vision. Such a belief helped launch him into the presidency at Princeton, but it also caused him much trouble at the end of his tenure when he persisted in several plans—the abolition of the eating clubs, which still flourish at Princeton today, to cite just one example—for which there was insufficient support.
The most famous instance of Wilson’s overconfidence in his own righteousness and rhetorical powers of persuasion, of course, was his failed attempt to secure ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. Seemingly unconcerned with the constitutional necessity of winning over the Senate, Wilson embarked on a desperate attempt to go over the heads of Senators on a national speaking tour once it became evident that the constitutional requirement for ratification was going to be more than a simple formality. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the stress of this effort contributed to the President’s stroke and subsequent incapacity at the conclusion of his second term.
Democratized political leadership was, however, only part of Wilson’s vision for reforming American government. He had great faith, as has been said, in the possibilities for national administration. He wrote enthusiastically as a young man about the contribution to national affairs that could be made by himself and others who, like him, had elite university educations.
Yet the political corruption of the day caused Wilson to revolt against institutions such as Congress, which seemed incapable of legislating for the national good due to its being mired in self-interested electoral politics. Wilson thus envisioned a new kind of national administration—largely removed from popular consent and charged with making the policy requisite for national progress—that could be staffed by university men like himself, as opposed to the political operators of low character who populated the back rooms of Congress.
Because administration somehow had to be liberated from the constraints of politics if national government were ever to become an instrument of progress, Wilson’s most serious academic work focused on developing a new approach to administration. It is, in fact, fair to say that Wilson is in no small measure responsible for launching the discipline of public administration in the United States and for articulating the principles behind the modern administrative state with its sprawling web of agencies.
In doing so, Wilson relied heavily on European sources for his study of administration, precisely because his desire to liberate administration from politics and give it robust powers over the details of legislation was a novelty to American constitutionalism. Wilson placed administrative power and constitutional power on entirely different planes, and it is this sharp distinction between constitutional politics and administrative discretion that differentiates him from those earlier American thinkers who had also placed great importance on national administration.
Wilson explained that administration “stands apart even from the debatable ground for constitutional study…. Administrative questions are not political questions.” This is why he had to admit that it is difficult to conceive how one might place administrative discretion of the sort he had in mind within the traditional constitutional order: “One cannot easily make clear to every one just where administration resides in the various departments.” He made a great effort to explain that his vision of administration was very different, because he believed that the quality of administration had been degraded by those who had conceived of it too narrowly—that is, conceived of it within the confines of the constitutional executive.
Wilson’s entire claim to charting new territory in his famous “Study of Administration” essay rests on this difference with the traditional understanding of administration. The problem with the old understanding, from a Wilsonian perspective, was that it still left Congress with the primary responsibility for legislating. In Congressional Government, Wilson even complained that the greatest problem with Congress was that it spent too much of its energy on the details of legislation when it should instead delegate the bulk of legislating to the administrative agencies that were expert at it.
It is in this way that we can see the influence of Wilson—and of Progressivism generally—on yet another central feature of American political life: Policymaking today, in many areas of national concern such as the environment, health care, and financial regulation, is done primarily by agencies within the bureaucracy to which Congress has delegated broad swaths of legislative authority. Recent battles ranging from rules for greenhouse gas emissions to benefits that must be covered by private health insurance plans have been fought not primarily in Congress, but in or against administrative agencies that are exercising the power given to them by Congress.
This reality leaves us to ponder the legacy of Wilson and the Progressive Movement: If their aim was to democratize American politics—to bring political institutions closer to the people whom the Founders had allegedly distrusted—then how can this be squared with their argument that most decision-making in government ought to be done not by the people’s elected representatives on the basis of consent, but rather by administrators shielded from electoral influence who govern instead on the basis of a claim to expertise?
—Ronald J. Pestritto is Graduate Dean and Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College.