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Can this Administration be Saved?

April 10, 2017

Reports of infighting in the White House are focused on the increase in influence of the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter, Ivanka, and declining influence of “Old Right” entrepreneur and political strategist, Stephen Bannon.

In the middle is the President of the United States who was elected by offering something for everyone–for nothing–and the collapse of GOP leadership in the wake of the destruction of the GOP brand by George W. Bush, and eight years of destructive policies by a Leninist revolutionary ideologue.

Put in proper perspective, the rift between the top aides in the White House is child’s play to the disorder of the nation’s politics.

Abandonment of a philosophy of limited government and commitment to revival of Wilsonian “idealism” through imperial wars by George W. Bush had the effect of destroying development of new conservative leadership in the GOP.

All the aspiring GOP nominees in 2016, except Rand Paul and Donald Trump, were diminished by their loyalty to past Bush administration failures.  All expressed an itch to let loose bombs against radical Islamists and protect the innocent wherever in the world they were afflicted by their governments.  None had a sense of humor nor expressed exasperation with intrusiveness of government. And these were the Republicans.

Sure, they expressed a desire to reduce taxes and talked about deregulation–that’s the Republican brand–but none seemed to embody those ideas the way Ronald Reagan did.

Compared to Ronald Reagan, the entire senior class of GOP leaders are faux conservatives.

Now we have a faux Republican as President of the United States so totally at sea about how government operates that he has failed to fill top positions requiring Senate confirmation by brushing that duty off with the observation “we have too many people.”

Somehow formulation of American foreign policy was left in the hands of former South Carolina governor now Ambassador Nikki Haley who has assumed a vocal role in uttering what seems to be foreign policy positions.  U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is over his head in his role, but is placed into situations with foreign leaders without any institutional support or even one policy guru in his entourage.

On the domestic side, the President’s decision to hire wealthy men with business and investment banking experience has left the Supply-side economists sidelined. That is probably intentional. They had their run back in 1978 when Prop 13 made headlines and then began to become ‘doctrine’ for Republican politicians in 1980. Not any more.

Frankly, if this Administration is to be saved, we need to overcome the nation’s political crisis. That may require formation of a Conservative Party.

Maybe the Mercer’s will buy into that proposition.

Revisiting Mr. Wilson’s War

April 9, 2017

Tuesday, November 5, 1912 decided the course of American foreign policy for the next 105 years. On that day, Woodrow Wilson was elected because former President Theodore Roosevelt entered the contest with a third party bid and effectively killed President William Howard Taft’s chances for re-election. The Rough Rider is sometimes championed by political conservatives, but this willful act elected a minority President who used American military force in order to destroy balance of power politics.

That war was promoted as a war to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy. Instead, it destroyed the Russian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and created a vacuum for totalitarian communist and national socialist ideologies to become a force in world affairs.

On Monday, PBS will air a two part documentary on World War I.  The timing, in light of President Trump’s attack on Syria, is providential. We need to be reminded about World War I, the motivation of President Wilson, and the terrible consequences of American intervention in that war between European belligerents.

Close to forty years ago, I published a first of several essays that were critical of Woodrow Wilson. In 2004 I criticized George W. Bush for his revival of Wilsonian idealism and explained that as follows:

An amalgam of Wilsonian messianism, a belief in progress, and the expectation that international agreements will shape a New World Order of eternal peace came to define America’s foreign policy in the Progressive era, and the post World War II commitment to “Telling America’s Story.” These ideas became the hallmarks of the administrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, and William Jefferson Clinton, and contributed to the foreign policy failures of those administrations.  

 Not tiring of this subject, in 2015 I published an entire book taking Woodrow Wilson to task for his religion of democracy. No one person has contributed more to the disastrous series of wars that have plagued the United States since April 6, 1917 than Woodrow Wilson.


Let’s Make a Deal

April 8, 2017

The White House has moved quickly to repeal the former Administration’s executive orders, restrict Muslim immigration and commenced a series of high level meetings with foreign heads of state concluding yesterday with a meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China.

Few, if any nominations of key offices in Cabinet Agencies of the federal government have been made and, apparently, President Trump plans a lean administration of government focused on the White House and “advisors” sent to Cabinet Agencies who report directly to the White House.

The President of the United States has chosen to go around the organization of Departments of the U.S. Government that have grown like mushrooms since the New Deal and run things from his hip pocket, like a family business. His son-in-law and one daughter have been given key White House roles and President Trump settled in to govern the American government like a business, and many key White House appointments have been filled with former executives of a New York investment bank.

Acting intuitively and with little reference to established procedures, the President watches cable news programming, issues “Tweets” from his smart phone and ordered the Defense Department to carry out an attack on a Syrian military installation.

The President had seen footage of children, and even babies, who were killed by Syrians using Saran gas and decided that the U.S. had to respond.

That response was in the national interest, the President said, though no foreign or defense policies have been formulated to articulate what the President believes the national interest is. Moreover, using military force against the Syrian regime was not in the national interest a week or even three days ago.

Hold your breath. This is just the beginning of government by whim, maybe even a television series using real people and real military forces called “Let’s Make a Deal.”





Go to College, Get a Good Job

April 7, 2017

University Ventures,” an investment fund established to invest in higher education has been sidelined by regulations against for-profit education by the former Obama Administration. But, they’ve been publishing interesting articles on higher education

Today they’ve posted a story about earning a college degree in order to get a job. Here’s a summary of this study:

Half of the recent college grads… said they didn’t have to go to college to acquire the skills they needed for their current jobs, and 86 percent of them said they were learning things on the job that they didn’t learn in college… 75 percent of the employers surveyed said the diploma is an effective way to narrow the pool of applicants and speed up the hiring process.

That percentage of employers who “said the diploma is an effective way to narrow the pool of applicants” is a terrible commentary on the thinking of personnel officers in corporations.

Here’s why:

I gave a presentation about my new book, The Coming Death of American Higher Education, to an audience of conservatives at the Heartland Institute in Chicago. In the Q&A, one of the attendees asked why our corporations don’t get more involved in educating young people about economics and finance.

I told him about a meeting I had at “BB&T University,” that retired BB&T President John Allison made possible.

My purpose was to interest BB&T in offering a two-year Associate of Arts degree program in Finance and Banking for Junior/Senior high school students that would award the most successful students with employment as an entry-level teller. I offered to design the program, place it online, and attain national accreditation in four years.

The representative of BB&T University said, “we prefer college graduates because they know how to dress.”

Here’s what annual tuition, room and board, costs to learn “how to dress” at universities near BB&T University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Wake Forest         $51,400    Winston Salem State    $26,593

Piedmont International     $12,310     UNC School of the Arts    $13,027

That mindset, even today apparently, is representative of 75% of employers. They would rather have an applicant up to his ears in debt than develop an in-house, job specific, training program for prospective employees.

I argue in my new book that this can be turned around over ten years by assigning 5% of annual Title IV program subsidies to the states to administer in Block Grants.

Start now, and within ten years, the States will be directing those funds to support company training programs. My guess is that a subsidy of four hundred thousand dollars would have persuaded even BB&T University to offer entry level teller jobs to the Junior/Senior high school students of their account holders with the highest Grade Point Average in a two year course in Finance and Banking.

Gov. Moonbeam–Move Over

April 6, 2017

Jeff Bezos has announced launch of his space tourism venture, Blue Origin. Bezos has competition from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Stratolaunch Systems founded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace.

Elon Musk’s ambitions caught my eye in September of last year, and I argued that, in order to understand the drive for space tourism, we should read Walter MacDougal’s Pulitizer Prize winning Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776.

 MacDougall exposes undercurrents in Western intellectual culture to control nature that became embodied in America’s first space exploration that were organized by NASA. The will to power visible in the desire to control nature is a religious phenomenon.

Going as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, educated people sought alternatives to Christianity in Renaissance Hermeticism, magic, Rosicrucianism, and other variants of what Eric Voegelin called modern Gnosticism.

Bill Corrington, Bill Havard and I conducted a conference on Gnosticism at Vanderbilt University in 1978 that explored the Gnostic character of modernity. This phenomena has a history that I’ve explored in “Modern Political Religion,” Chapter 10, in my Development of Political Theory.

Bezos, Musk, Allen and Bigelow are the magicians of today’s anti-Christian culture and we should be thankful that they are spending their time and money on space travel and not American politics. One political space cadet is enough.

Bring in the Adults

April 6, 2017

Barack Obama, a trained Marxist/Leninist, governed by executive order and other ways by which Presidents freely make policy without Congressional oversight. Obama didn’t even confer with Congress and, yet, was elected to a second term.

Hapless Republicans responded to Obama’s election in 2008 by nominating a liberal, former Governor of Massachusetts, with no emotional or political ties to the political base of the GOP and then ceded control of the GOP to a celebrity businessman from New York.

The GOP controls the U.S. Congress, but is led by a former Congressional staff person from Wisconsin who knows where the men’s rooms are, but not how to lead a national political party and a Kentucky moderate with no discernible political principles.

They are supported by a donor class of Republicans motivated to achieve their personal economic interests.

Though a return to the limited government established by the Constitution of the United States would place the United States on a necessary course of fiscal restraint at home and rejection of imperial foreign policies, only the Freedom Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives affirms that commitment.

Is it time to form a national Conservative Party? I asked that question in October of last year, and I think that question should be revived.

Reasons against doing that were made in 1967 when the Conservative Party of New York was founded by William F. Buckley, but political conditions in the United States have changed dramatically since then.

Back then there was a national two party tradition dominated by the GOP and Democrat Party.  Today the GOP is controlled by a New Deal Democrat, the Democrat Party is engaged in the politics of identity, transgender rights, and feminism, a GOP dominated Congress is divided into factions and has no fixed center. As a consequence the nation itself swings from extreme Left to a Republican Party with no fixed principles.

Dr. Angelo Codevilla describes our present predicament as follows:

America’s founders, steeped in history as few of our contemporaries are, were acutely aware of how easily factional enmities deliver free peoples into the hands of emperors. America is already advanced in this vicious cycle. The only possible chance of returning it to republicanism lies in not taking the next turn, and in not following one imperial ruler with another.

In other words, it’s time for the adults to assert control.

Another College’s Struggle

April 4, 2017

In September 2016, the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, NY admitted its first male students. CNR officially became “coed.”

I taught at CNR in the early 1970s when it began a transition from a Catholic Liberal Arts women’s college to a college for adults affiliated with a New York Labor Union, a school of nursing and a Liberal Arts college.

Catholic women’s colleges were challenged in the 1960s by the admission of women students to traditional all male Catholic colleges and universities. Some women’s college became co-ed, others ceased operation, and others like CNR chose to become secular institutions.

“In the good old days,” CNR had the advantage of a classical liberal arts curriculum, low teaching loads and proximity to New York City. Enrollments were modest and declining, but the college developed something called the School of New Resources with a labor union. Any member of the union would be accepted for admission and New Resources enrollments, and income, soared. The parent college stabilized its finances and remodeled an old castle on campus for modern faculty and commercial use.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the Ursuline order that founded CNR had no interest in preserving the college’s Catholic character and accepted state subsidies through something called the “Bundy Aid” program.  Significant income was generated by simply divesting the College of all Catholic affiliations, maintaining a secular Board of Trustees and no longer teaching required courses in Catholic theology.

Some members of the Ursuline order–the older “nuns”–understood that this was a turn for the worse, but the Ursuline order depended on the survival of the college. Survival was a motive for making changes, but CNR might have kept its Catholic identity by simply “going coed.”  The Ursuline leadership, however, was committed to a feminist ideology and prided itself on supporting women–though for what purpose was quite vague. Chapter 6 in James Tunstead Burtchaell’s The Dying of the Light exposes the secular notions of the Ursuline administrators at CNR in the 1960s and 70s.

In other words, an easy way to assure the college’s survival and its Catholic character was available in coeducation. That action was not taken until 2016 and enrollments soared. Unfortunately, the college’s financial officers were negligent and permitted a deficit to grow to more than $30 million. With few resources to cover those losses, the college faces closure.

One might say, “It serves them right,” but by 2016 those Ursuline nuns who “went bad” were long gone, the college president was a lay woman who was forced to resign, and the Board of Trustees is covering its petard by placing the blame for financial malfeasance on financial officers no longer employed at the College of New Rochelle.

But for the College’s location in New Rochelle,  “45 minutes from Broadway” made famous by George M. Cohan’s 1906  musical, CNR would be gone. It still has a chance of survival–though burdened by debt far beyond its means–and might become something better than it was before the financial crisis. We might pray for that to happen, but why pray for a secular college with nothing going for it other than its location?