The Era of Big Government Is Not Over

Guitar raids, Texas "justice," and other depressing scenes from the 2012 presidential campaign


President Barack Obama's big jobs speech last night was long on rhetoric and short on useful specifics. But then who expected anything different? Despite lofty pledges to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy," this is still the same president whose administration has prosecuted, harassed, or otherwise mistreated law-abiding businesses in the midst of an economic downturn.

Consider the federal government's misguided lawsuit against Boeing. In April the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged the airline manufacturer with illegal actions "inherently destructive of the rights guaranteed employees" after Boeing decided to open a new production line for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft in South Carolina instead of building near its existing Dreamliner production facility in Washington state. According to the government's theory of the case, Boeing opened up shop in right-to-work South Carolina in order to punish its unionized Washington workers for going out on strike.

Except there's no evidence those union members have suffered any harm from Boeing's decision—in fact, the company has been adding union jobs in the Evergreen State. Meanwhile, the 1,000 recently-hired workers in South Carolina will be unemployed if the government succeeds in forcing Boeing to "operate its second line of 787 Dreamliner aircraft assembly production in the State of Washington," as the NLRB complaint demands. So much for putting people to work.

Then there's the recent federal raid on the guitar manufacturer Gibson over allegations of illegally importing wood. "Can you imagine a federal agent saying, 'You're going to jail for five years' and what you do is sort wood in the factory?" Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz told The Wall Street Journal after the government's heavy-handed August 24 raid. "I think that's way over the top." Indeed it is. According to Gibson, the wood seized last month by federal agents had all been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a respected nonprofit environmental watchdog that promotes "sustainable forest management" around the world by providing its stamp of approval to legal products that meet "the highest social and environmental criteria." The left-wing group GreenPeace recently recommended the FSC's "rigorous third party certification system" as one of its "Solutions to Deforestation." Wasn't the White House going to encourage green jobs?

Not that Obama's leading competitors have been looking much better. Among the low points in Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate was the overwhelming support among the candidates for the creation of a massive fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. "The whole fence, 2,600 miles?" asked incredulous Telemundo host Jose Diaz-Balart, who was brought out to moderate the immigration segment in a strange and none-too-subtle act of broadcast tokenism by MSNBC. "Yes," declared former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "We got to have a fence."

Not surprisingly, only libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul saw anything distasteful about a bunch of self-described limited-government conservatives endorsing such a sweeping act of federal power. "A barbed-wire fence with machine guns," Paul said, "I don't believe that's what America is all about."

It's also worth contrasting today's GOP hostility to immigration with the more libertarian attitudes of an earlier electoral season. In a memorable 1980 primary debate between Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the two candidates not only agreed that America's immigration laws should be liberalized, they actually tried to outdo in each other in supporting a more open border. As Reagan put it:

Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems [with Mexico]. Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then while they're working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back they can go back and they can cross—and open the border both ways.

But perhaps the ugliest moment in Wednesday's debate came when Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his state's controversial record of 234 inmate executions over the past decade. "Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might be innocent," moderator Brian Williams asked. "No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all," Perry declared.

So much for maintaining a healthy skepticism towards government power. Even George W. Bush, who is nobody's idea of a pacifist, admitted during the 2000 presidential campaign that "some of the hardest moments since I've been the governor of the state of Texas is to deal with those [death penalty] cases." Bush was right to take the matter so seriously. Of the last five death row exonerations from DNA evidence or other means around the country, three of those wrongly convicted men had been sentenced to die in Texas. It would be foolish to think they were the only innocent men who ever ended up on death row in the Lone Star State.

Yet as Reason Contributing Editor Radley Balko has observed, Perry has long refused to acknowledge even the possibility of error in his state's death penalty regime, including in the controversial execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man now widely believed to have been innocent. "Perry was confronted with the possibility that the government over which he presided may have abused it's most awesome and sacred power," Balko wrote. "And instead of skepticism of government, he showed deference…. Instead of exposing and demanding accountability for a possibly historical government error, Perry used his own power to keep himself and his constituents ignorant, lest they begin to question whether government should have such power."

Fourteen months remain in the 2012 campaign and a clear and depressing theme has already emerged: The era of big government is not over.

Damon W. Root is an associate editor at Reason magazine.

NEXT: Obama's Ugly Record of Job Promises

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  1. “The Era of Big Government Is Not Over”
    And you thought it was???

    1. Bottom Stories of the Day

    2. Unfortunately, the Republicums are like the Demoncraps; maintain the status quo regarding the imperial power of the State while making chin music regarding size of the ruling authority.

      What may be somewhat of an optimistic perspective on the situation; is that the Citizen Taxpayers of the USA now seem to be repulsed by the idea of “a bigger, better government”.

      Since all the front running Republicums and the incumbent Demoncrap are busily engineering our controls; the Citizen Taxpayers do not seem to be interested in either flavor. Third Party anyone?

      1. While I agree that both major parties do indeed suck, when I see commenters using variations on the names of the parties to create new derogatory terms, I tend to think a little less of the commenter. That approach is so played out, and is often the preferred method of those that don’t have anything substantive to say.

        1. Nonsense.

          One does not exclude the other. Derogatory terms and well reasoned arguments can go hand in hand. For you to complain about such trivialities would sooner imply that you are the one that does not have anything substantial to say.

          How about you take responsibility for your own remarks instead of trying to act like the forum’s response police?

        2. Agree totally on that one, I think ex-liberal-conservative Michael the Savage Wiener got that ball rolling, but I find it to be more juvenile than anything.

          Also agree both parties suck. The R’s are the same social/economic engineers the dems are and hold the same contempt for the constitution, the only real difference is one reads bibles instead of communist manifestos.

  2. Let’s build a wall around Texas while we’re at it.

    1. I guess that’s one way to stop the flow of jobs out of the other states and into Texas.

      1. Doubt it. As long as oil is above $80 per barrel, the “Texas Miracle” will continue.

        1. You don’t read much, do you?


          1. An oil boom doesn’t mean jobs for just the oil sector. ALL employment benefits from a major sector boom. More oil money means more jobs for waitresses, dog walkers, baristas, cab drivers — you name it. Do you think all the employment growth in Detriot in the 1950’s was in the auto sector? Do you think all the employment growth in the Silicon Valley was in the IT sector?

            How do you think Texas would be doing right now if oil dropped back down to $40 a barrel?

            You don’t think much, do you?

            1. “However, take the energy sector completely out of the equation and Texas is still growing faster than any other state. This indicates to us that the energy sector is not a single sector saving Texas from the same economic fate as the rest of the states. It’s not hurting, but Texas would still be growing like a weed without it.”

              1. Yes, and if you took the auto industry “completely out of the equation” in the 1950’s, you’d still have surprising job growth in Detroit. Big mystery!

                1. There are tons of R&D companies in Houston and Dallas, part of a fairly thriving tech sector down there. People aren’t relocating to Texas to flip burgers and bar tend; wages have been rising there at the 6th fastest rate in the nation.

                  Also, and I’m surprised this hasn’t come up, but higher prices per barrel doesn’t mean the oil industry is expanding. Has the energy sector in Texas grown at any significantly faster rate in the past 10 years than the previous 40?

                  1. Texas has lower costs and is a better place to raise a bunch of kids than, say, California. Unfortunately, the quality of life in a city like Houston or Dallas is crap compared to most California tech communities. TANSTAAFL.

  3. Yah,but Damon W. Root is a moron.

    1. Leave his religion out of it Max.

    2. No, you’re a moron.

  4. You know, even the Soviets had their Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika, realizing that they needed some market to steal from.

    1. Always with the intellectual stuff, why can’t you make fart jokes and puns like a good commenter?

      1. Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika” is Russian slang for “gaseous nonsense released from the ass of the body politic.”

  5. The most depressing thing about the 2012 election season (2008 too FWIW) is that the Reason and Cato “libertarians” just want to sit around and snipe, rather than getting behind the only Presidential candidate to poll 10% nationally who even remotely resembles a libertarian for President in my entire middle-aged life.

    No wonder the L party can’t ever get traction in the polls. Their eggheads think their policies won’t ever be accepted by the US voter. They should change the name of the magazine to “radical” if they do not consider libertarian rationale to be reasonable.

    1. Don’t be too depressed. I’ve sent money to both Paul and Johnson.

      1. Same here. Johnson seems utterly hopeless, though he’s acting as though he’s making some progress in New Hampshire, so we’ll see I guess. I just wish he could get back in to the damn debates.

        1. Yeah… what the fuck is this letting Huntsman in, but not Johnson?

          1. When you find the answer let me know.

    2. Yeah, because if Cato and Reason would just fall in line, Ron Paul would be the president now. That’s why.
      I just don’t get these Paultards. Reason seems plenty supportive of Paul to me.

    3. Reason and Cato are “radical”?


      No they’re not. They are libertarian libertines, whereas Ron Paul is a libertarian conservative. They support some of him, but would really like to see him dress in pink and join in on the Gay Parade, while touting abortion as a good thing and promote entirely open immigration policies under all circumstances, as well as “diversity” and “multiculturalism”.

      Reason isn’t “radical”, unless political correctness is “radical”.

      1. So I guess you still believe that your real estate and investment capital can exist separately from the right to your own body. Libertarianism doesn’t demand that you like everyone, but if you think your rights can exist while the rights of people you don’t like are violated, you’re in for even more unpleasant surprises. Even Ayn Rand stated in no uncertain terms that social and religious conservatives “…can only help to disintegrate thought, to discredit capitalism, and to accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.”(Ayn Rand, from “Conservatism, an Obituary”) Conservatism: Pronounced DOA by the only true philosopher of the American “right,” 45 years ago.

      2. And this is why it pisses me off when Paultards start demanding all libertarians support them. Some of us value the right to not have a government bureaucrat legislate away one’s uterus, the right to dress in pink and march in a Pride Parade, and open and free immigration as much as the right to smoke pot.

        Ever since moron drooling conservatives saw “oh, low taxes and pot, sign me up,” the libertarian movement has become increasingly contaminated by right-wing authoritarian douchebags who demand fealty to their ideas while ridiculing the very people they demand support from.

        Enjoy your $50 million vanity campaign. It will fail just as surely as the Libertarian Party people you like to mock.

  6. Wait, is Balko still a Contributing Editor?

    1. It’s a job for life, like University President or Chrysler CEO.

  7. Yay! Two more years of paleos frothing at the mouth about the betrayal of OMG (T)Reason Fagazine.

  8. Me want to kick perry in the balls.

  9. I’m sure Gibson could clear things up by cutting a big check to the DNC.

  10. “The Era of Big Government is not over”. Yeah, that was definitely part of Obama’s message last night, especially that whole “where would we be” part. According to him, without our glorious big government there would be no roads, no schools, no commerce, no nothing.

    1. Where would we be without the wealth, technology, and peace created by our heretofore freeish market and small[er] government? We know what government has accomplished when in total control. Thousands of years of oppression terror, war, and poverty.

  11. A fence? Followers, let’s talk about fences.

    Conservatives tell us that a cabal of Marxist radicals are conspiring to overthrow the U.S., to undermine democracy, capitalism, the constitution. We hear that Obama and Eric Holder sell guns to organized crime in the U.S. and South America in order to destabilize the region, to prepare for a Marxist coup, to create the case for letting the UN take our guns. We hear that Obamacare was set up to fail in order to create a crisis of healthcare that would pave the way for total government control of our medicine.

    All these conspiracies. All these plots to take away our freedom. But not a word about this border fence. Learn from history, followers. Countries run by Marxist radicals had border fences too — and they weren’t to keep people out. Don’t let them use your fear of immigration to goad you into building the walls of your own prison.

    1. Very true, fences do work both ways. But by all accounts what fences do exist on our borders have been total failures. It’s a 2,300 mile border. Building a fence is just a waste of time, effort, and moeny.

    2. Border fences are always promoted by those who refuse to take away the prime reasons why immigrants may choose to come.

      Conservatives are supposed to be against guvmint benefits and programs (including minimum wage). Take those away, and you know for sure the only immigrants you get are those that are willing to work.
      And NOBODY with an ounce of reason should have a problem with that.

      1. I take your economic point but it is politically impossible not to treat an illegal in an ER or not to educate his children (at in-state rates, thank you Perry).

        I live in a small town with a federal prison and it is not uncommon for a Mexican national to ask for the longest prison sentence because it’s more comfortable in a Texas prison, and safer, than “free” life in Mexico.

        A lovely libertarian reason but politically impossible.

  12. Obama could have taken a few precious seconds to denounce this kind of shit:…..r_embedded

    …but he didn’t.

      1. *cricket noises*

        1. We didn’t see nothin’.

  13. “A barbed-wire fence with machine guns,” Paul said, “I don’t believe that’s what America is all about.”

    It’s depressing that the person who said this has no chance of being our next President.

  14. Really? The era of big government is not over?

  15. The era of big government will never be over unless real change–and the ability to profit in some way from it, if you’re a politician–comes to an end.

    That why kids need to be educated today–NOW. Check out The Conservative Teen for an alternative view of America and its politics.

    1. “….unless real change-and the ability to profit in some way from it, if you’re a politician comes to end.” [?] Well real change came to an end a long time ago,and the only change politicians seem to profit from is change for the worse. Try rephrasing this one, I think I know what you’re trying to say, but what it reads like is something quite different.

    2. I did check out your magazine. Lots of nice statist big government ideas, like federalization of the uterus, statutory discrimination against gays/lesbians, and big-government big wars in it.

      Nothing new nor particularly educating in it — just lots of big-government indoctrination to create a new generation of entitlement-minded right-wing foot soldiers.

  16. Big Government will not go away, because as we’ve seen, Big Business can’t survive without its bailouts and subsidies. When people finally get sick of rewarding corruption and incompetence with their tax dollars, and take it to the streets, Big Government will be there to protect the Big “moochers” and “looters”. Oh but wait, they have money, therefore they are “successful” and this society “rewards success!” They succeeded in taking your money, keeping it and not going to jail; they are our most productive citizens!
    “The belief that people get what they want,and what they deserve is most popular among those who have what they want, and believe they deserve it.” (William S. Burroughs)

    1. “The belief that people get what they want,and what they deserve is most popular among those who have what they want, and believe they deserve it.”

      No shit Sherlock.

  17. People find it shocking that it has been shown that there are innocent people on death row and it can be proved by DNA. People forget that DNA proves they didn’t do it. Without that, they would be, uh, dead. Use DNA as much as possible and if it says no, release him. If an innocent man was executed, that is tragic but is a failure of the system and not a repudiation of the very idea.

    I recall a guest-worker program with Mexico in the sixties; it seemed to work and work well. I liked it. The farmers liked it. But the reason for the wall is not to preclude Mexicans working here; it is to try to get control over the border, which is completely out of control. In South Texas isolated farmhouses are simply destroyed all the time if the owner ever leaves. The lands are trashed; everything stolen. The fence is to put order. People who are already illegal do not scruple to stop their illegality there.

    And let’s have another bracero program like the old one. That would help a lot. And it would be legal, unlike the illegals we have now, bankrupting border towns’ hospitals and schools, and it would give the Mexicans a deserved sense of worth, because it would be legal. And it would cut down immensely on the crime, and frankly having El Paso pay for the medical care of every single person in Juarez. Which they are doing now.

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