Oddly, progressives often say “yes” to this question, and have been doing so for almost a century now. At the United Nations, President Obama stated: “In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri—where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.”

Many listeners were jolted by the seeming comparison of a sad but unpremeditated killing in Ferguson with the Russian invasion of Crimea and the ISIS mass murder and beheading of those who disagree with them. According to Victor Davis Hanson, “Here is one of the staple dogmas of the Progressive mind: the sins and crimes of America that require apologies and reparations, even as the millions of dead, tortured, and imprisoned in other nations are shrugged off.”

In my own research on entrepreneurs, I’ve been surprised to hear progressives sometimes deplore the tactics entrepreneurs sometimes use as “greedy, immoral, and intolerable.” The passing of more laws is deemed urgent. But if thousands of immigrants cross our border illegally, or the food stamp rolls increase by 18 million people in six years—threatening to drown the nation in debt—progressives shrug their shoulders and focus on alleged improper behavior of businessmen.

When I wrote The Myth of the Robber Barons in 1987, some progressives told me regardless of the good done by John D. Rockefeller, his wealth should have been capped because it displayed too much inequality in society. Those progressive critics preferred Matthew Josephson’s book The Robber Barons, a progressive critique of the capitalists who pushed America into first place in the world economy. Josephson said of his book: “I have tried to give a candid description of their most ruthless actions, their conspiracies and their plunderings; for they accepted no ethics of business conduct.”

Josephson published The Robber Barons in 1934, and it became an instant bestseller. However, when the book came out, Josephson was in Russia at the time reveling in what he said were the wonderful accomplishments of the Soviet Union, which he said, “seemed like the hope of the world—the only large nation run by men of reason.” Josephson went on to say, “Before people pass judgment on Comrade Stalin they ought to come here and see his Works, his Opus Major, in many volumes with their own eyes. It is very impressive; and few other statesmen in all history have so much to show.”

Stalin, however, was starving millions of Ukrainians and sending thousands of others to the Gulag in 1934, the year Josephson uttered those words. When Josephson finally left the Soviet Union and returned to America, he lamented, “How can I continue to write books merely for a living, when the form of society in which I live is repugnant?”

Josephson’s question 80 years ago brings us to President Obama’s comparison of Ferguson and ISIS. How can progressives condemn problems in America with such vehemence and yet ignore, downplay, or explain away the worst horrors and the most striking personifications of evil the world has seen in the last century?

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“I don’t understand why my government finances my state-owned enterprise competitors in foreign countries. . . .” Thus spoke Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, who is frustrated with the billions of tax dollars the U.S. spends to help foreign governments compete with the U.S.

Anderson’s prime target is the Export-Import Bank, which was created 80 years ago to promote American exports through subsidies to help with financing. But if Delta Airlines has to buy its Boeing planes at retail, and other countries get them at discounts (through loans or gifts from Ex-Im), then American taxpayers are putting their own airlines at a disadvantage to help Boeing and various foreign countries.

The issue of whether or not to continue funding the Ex-Im Bank is supposed to come to a vote in the House in less than two weeks—but the vote is so politically charged it may be delayed until next year. Either way, it will be an excellent test of whether Republican congressmen are more loyal to corporate donors, who often want Ex-Im loans, or to helping tax payers and abiding by the Constitution. Which way the Republicans will go is not certain, but the debate within the party is intense.

Throughout the 80 year history of the Ex-Im Bank, it has usually been more swayed by politics than by sound economics. Boeing, which frequently receives more than half of Ex-Im’s loan guarantees, is a good example, From 1998 to 2005, Boeing received $33 billion in Ex-Im loans or gifts—more than half of Ex-Im’s total funds. Under President Obama, Boeing’s share of the Ex-Im pot has increased even more. In 2012, for example, Boeing grabbed 82.7 percent of all loan guarantees awarded by Ex-Im–$12.2 billion out of Ex-Im’s $14.7 billion total went to subsidize Boeing’s sales.

Boeing’s political contributions to the Obama administration, according to reporter Tim Carney, are strong. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, was a “management consultant” to Boeing and other companies after Obama became president. Bill Daley went from the Boeing board of directors to White House chief of staff in 2011. And when Gary Locke, Obama’s former secretary of commerce, was governor of Washington, he signed more than $3 billion to Boeing in state subsidies in one legislative session alone. For special help, Boeing hired as lobbyists Linda Daschle, the wife of former Democratic senator Tom Daschle, and the Podesta Group, co-founded by John Podesta, Obama’s transition director.

The crony capitalism here is alarming—and the Democrats exploit it as much as many Republicans do. If, as a nation, we ever go broke by defending ourselves or by feeding the poor, that is pure tragedy. But if we go broke giving foreigners our money to compete against us, that is pure folly. Let’s abolish the Ex-Im Bank.

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False Ideology

by Anita on September 1, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom

Seventy-five years ago today, Germany invaded Poland, plunging the world into war.

In the wee hours of September 1, 1939, Nazi soldiers brought convicts from German prisons – grimly referred to as “canned goods” – to the German-Polish border. The convicts were made to put on Polish army uniforms and then killed on the border.  Their dead bodies were “evidence” to the world that Poland had attacked Germany, giving Hitler a pretext for invading Poland.  Germans also took over a Polish radio station and, pretending to be Polish, briefly broadcast a threatening message to Germany to complete the deadly hoax.  As the sun rose on September 1, German troops rolled into Poland across a wide front.

I just finished reading an excellent book about the German army in eastern Europe and Russia:  In Deadly Combat:  A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front, by Gottlob Bidermann.

Bidermann offers the unusual perspective of serving in World War II as a member of a Nazi anti-tank crew in Russia and the Baltic states.  He was a teenager when the Germans pushed into Poland, but by July, 1941, he and his anti-tank unit were on their way to southern Russia to fight the communists.

Bidermann’s narrative makes plain that when the war began, he considered his fight to be a worthy struggle against the godless communism of Stalinist Russia.  German leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Goebbels had told the German people that communism must be defeated–it was the right thing to do. Biedermann and millions of other German believed them.

What Hitler didn’t point out was that he and his Nazi henchmen had reduced Germany to a dictatorship.  Individual rights had disappeared under the stifling control of Hitler’s centralized, big government regime.  And Hitler intended to do the same for the rest of Europe.

As the war continued, Bidermann became disillusioned with the goals and plans of the leaders of the German nation, primarily Adolf Hitler. He discovered that he was taking part in a war effort that was doomed to fail, due to Hitler’s maniacal plans.  By the end of the war, Bidermann realized that Nazi party hacks were part of his unit, not to fight the communists but to prevent any talk of anti-Nazi action or thought.

Bidermann had followed leaders who promoted a criminal ideology:   for the good of Germany, the rights of the individual must be trampled underfoot to implement evil Nazi plans.  By mid 1945, 50 million people had died during World War II, and Gottlob Bidermann was a prisoner of war in the Russian gulags.

What ideology do you follow today?  Is it based on facts or falsehoods about what will benefit society?

So many American leaders currently proclaim that big government is the answer to society’s problems, but the data doesn’t support this claim.  Usually, the more money that is spent by the government, and the more intrusive government policies become, more problems grow larger for the individual.  Obamacare is a prime example of this, but there are many others.  Government interference in drilling for oil continues as gasoline prices skyrocket.  In states where government red tape hinders new business start-ups, unemployment is higher and the population is decreasing because residents are moving to other communities to find work.

Seventy-five years ago, millions of Germans were duped by their leaders, with disastrous consequences.  Today as Americans, let us find the path that leads again to a lawful society with a strong economy.  The facts of history and the data of former successes are there to show us the way.

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Who is “on the wrong side of history,” progressives or conservatives? Progressives often insist they are “on the right side of history,” but their ideas failed 100 years ago.

Today, for example, progressives have opposed fracking and have halted the building of the Keystone Pipeline to bring cheaper oil from Canada through the United States. As a result, gas prices at the pump have been over $3.00 per gallon for years. One hundred years ago progressives also stopped the flow of oil. They used new antitrust laws to break up the Standard Oil Company; and, as a result, no American company had the venture capital to pursue the foreign drilling that might have prevented shortages today.

On taxes, President Woodrow Wilson gave us the first progressive income tax. He and his progressive friends said raising tax rates would not hinder investments. But the year President Woodrow Wilson left office, the U.S. had a top tax rate of 73% and unemployment had skyrocketed to 12%. Because of high taxes, entrepreneurs refused to invest, the national debt spiraled upward, and the number of Americans reporting $300,000 in income declined from almost 1,300 in 1916 to fewer than 250 in 1921. High taxes chased away wealth and stifled growth.

Today, progressives have recently raised tax rates on entrepreneurs, on capital gains, and on dividends—and they are surprised to see economic stagnation and record debt levels. What didn’t work a century ago is also not working now.

In foreign policy, progressives today shun commitments to promote stability in the world. President Obama has wanted to withdraw U.S. influence from the Middle East whenever possible. ISIS, President Obama insisted, was no serious threat; they were merely a junior varsity team trying to dress up like they were in the pros. When ISIS then began rampaging through Iraq and part of Syria, the president still preferred inaction. When they next beheaded James Foley, an American journalist, the president criticized this action, but then went back to another round of golf.

In foreign policy almost 100 years ago, progressives led the charge for isolationism after World War I. Senator Hiram Johnson, who ran for president in 1912 with Teddy Roosevelt, and Senator Robert LaFollette, who ran for president in 1924 on the Progressive ticket, believed that talk instead of action would abolish war forever. They supported the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by dozens of nations, which declared war to be illegal. The U.S. and other nations agreed to “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” When running for president in 1924, Robert LaFollette wrote in his Progressive Party platform that he “promote[d] firm treaty agreements with all nations to outlaw wars.”

The progressive idea here is that if a problem exists, we can pass a law and the problem will go away. In the real world, however, we often have negative unintended consequences. By everyone signing an agreement to outlaw war, for example, nations that knew better were lulled into complacency. Germany rebuilt its military in the 1930s with almost no resistance. Like ISIS, Germany could have been stopped early but progressives believed their rhetoric, they abhorred foreign intervention, and an evil threat to world order went unchecked.

For progressives to dismiss ISIS, or any other group, because it is “on the wrong side of history” creates two problems. First, even if true, it ignores the damage caused by inaction. Second, it assumes a “progress” in human affairs that our Founders did not assume. Human nature, our Founders believed, was not to be trusted. Power needed to be dispersed because even good people could not be trusted with much power. And ISIS today is similar to the Ottoman Turks almost 100 years ago who killed more than 1.5 million Armenians primarily because they were Christians. Evil never thinks it is on the wrong side of history.

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Sadly, the best and brightest of American high school students will be taking Advanced Placement (AP) United States history courses this fall.

I say “sadly” because the AP committee has expanded its History Standards, which will guide the teaching of this course to millions of students in the fall and in years to come. These revisions are distorted and biased; they stress America’s failures and overlook many ways this country made the world better.

Where do the New AP Standards go wrong? Let’s start with the issue of race, which dominates the Standards from beginning to end. Slavery is indeed reprehensible because it violates the natural right of every U.S. citizen to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And yes, early America–along with the rest of the world–legalized slavery. We do need to describe the damage slavery did in America, but we also need to explain clearly how slavery was abolished. The Standards never tell students that Christian groups were the impetus in both Britain and the U.S. to abolishing slavery. What a great opportunity for students to study strong Christians like James G. Birney, who twice ran for president, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”–the first book in our nation to sell one million copies!

Let’s look at slavery from another angle. The story of Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett, also absent in the Standards, is one of black and white working together on the Underground Railroad to fulfill the goals of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Garrett, a Quaker, sacrificed his own freedom, with a jail term, to help Harriet Tubman bring hundreds of slaves across the Delaware border into freedom in Pennsylvania. They were heroic, and can inspire high school students today. Instead of using slavery as a tool to depress students, and make them ashamed of their past, students can identify with black and white leaders like Tubman and Garrett who strived to make the Declaration of Independence a reality in our nation.

The authors of the new Standards see racism as a perpetual problem that has infected almost all American history. Even when race was a minor issue, the Standards make it a major one. The Mexican War, for example, was triggered first by Mexico’s refusal to pay its monetary debt to the U.S., and second by Mexico’s surprise attack on American troops north of the Rio Grande River.

The authors of the Standards, however, ignore both of these causes and focus more on racism: “Enthusiasm for U.S. territorial expansion, fueled by economic and national security interests and supported by claims of U.S. racial and cultural superiority, resulted in war [with Mexico], the opening of new markets, acquisition of new territory, and increased ideological conflicts.” In other words, according to the Standards we wanted more land, we thought we were racially superior to Mexico, and so we fought Mexico to get what we wanted. Not true, and all students–black, white, and Hispanic–should be taught real history, not political correctness.

The Standards, with their negative spin on American actions, miss the chance to address some of life’s big questions. For example, “How do we get along with each other in the world today?” During the 1930s, Japan and the United States had strained relations, and in 1941 Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Almost four years later, the U.S. prevailed and dropped two atomic bombs on Japan before that country finally surrendered.

Then the U.S. did something almost never done in human history–we offered the hand of friendship; Americans spent huge amounts of money rebuilding Japan. The result: Japan and the U.S. have been cordial allies and at peace with each other for almost 70 years. Then we did the same thing in West Germany (through the Marshall Plan) and broke the long cycle of hate that created World War I and World War II. Our kindness softened the hurt and hate in the world and gained us new friends.

The world had never seen that reaction before, and if we teach that story to students we can inspire them to love their country, improve it, and help preserve it for its role in the world in the 21st century. Sadly, the new Standards move students in the opposite direction. Why should Americans spend huge sums of taxpayer dollars to teach students to despise their nation’s history?

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Why Do So Many Know So Little About History?

by Burt August 14, 2014

The problem starts in the schools, and with the content taught (or not taught). If, for example, most high school students today don’t know when the Civil War occurred, or why it occurred, how will they understand what it accomplished? The Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school are important because they attract the best [...]

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Who Really Cares For the Poor?

by Burt August 7, 2014

The Wall Street Journal reported today (“Stimulus for Clunkers” Aug 6, p. A12) the financial and environmental failure of the president’s “Cash for Clunkers” program in 2009. It was touted as “very nearly the best possible countercyclical policy,” but instead it was costly and ineffective. Why do the good intentions of political do-gooders always seem [...]

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The Disaster That Was World War I

by Burt July 28, 2014

One hundred years ago today, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia–which soon engulfed Europe in World War I. A complex system of alliances among the countries of Europe meant that dozens of governments had declared war within a few days. Sadly, the Great War, as it was then called, is not much remembered today. But it [...]

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Let’s Celebrate Liberty!

by Anita July 15, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom      The 4th of July has reminded us about the importance of our liberty in this wonderful country.  We have a long history of independence and personal initiative.  Our forebears didn’t look to government as the answer for all problems.  Instead, most individuals discovered solutions in the free market and prized [...]

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Where Does President Obama Get His Ideas on the Constitution?

by Burt July 8, 2014

From the Progressives. And in particular from President Woodrow Wilson, who was president one hundred years ago. Wilson was the first president who explicitly attacked the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well. Here’s the story. Before he was president, Professor Woodrow Wilson taught history and politics at Princeton. He admired the idea of [...]

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