One gi­ant leap back­ward

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

‘Waste any­thing but time.” That was the motto of the teams be­hind NASA’s Apollo mis­sion. That spirit has long since evap­o­rated. To­day’s NASA is pulled by a mil­lion mis­sions, from im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion and spin­ning off more prod­ucts like Tang to its lat­est call of duty: telling Mus­lims how good they are at math.

NASA chief Charles Bolden re­cently told Al-Jazeera TV that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama charged him with three cru­cial mis­sions: 1) “help re-in­spire chil­dren to want to get into sci­ence and math”; 2) “ex­pand our in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships”; and 3) “per­haps fore­most” Bolden ex­plained, Obama “wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Mus­lim world ... to help them feel good about their his­toric con­tri­bu­tion to sci­ence ... and math and en­gi­neer­ing.”

We’ve gone from “waste any­thing but time” to “waste ev­ery­thing, es­pe­cially time” in about a gen­er­a­tion.

Lib­er­al­ism is caught in some­thing of a Catch22. Un­der Obama, lib­er­als are de­ter­mined to rein­vig­o­rate the rep­u­ta­tion of govern­ment, to prove that only the state can get im­por­tant things done. That is why the Gulf oil spill, for in­stance, is so vex­a­tious for the White House and its lib­eral sup­port­ers. Why can’t the govern­ment be more nim­ble, more re­source­ful?

It was one thing when the feds failed af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, lib­er­als rea­soned, be­cause Bush didn’t like govern­ment. That was not only un­true, it over­looked the fact that the per­ma­nent govern­ment bu­reau­cracy is on lib­eral au­topi­lot. Re­gard­less, Obama is dif­fer­ent. He loves govern­ment; he sees it as the most noble of call­ings. That’s why he wants to make stu­dent loans much cheaper for kids who go to work for the govern­ment, and it’s why he wants govern­ment jobs to pay so much bet­ter than pri­vate sec­tor ones.

Ac­cord­ing to con­tem­po­rary lib­er­al­ism, the govern­ment is the con­trol room of so­ci­ety, where prob­lems get solved, where in­sti­tu­tions get march­ing or­ders, where the oceans are com­manded to stop ris­ing. In­sti­tu­tions must sub­scribe to the pro­gres­sive vi­sion, all oars must pull as one. We are all in it to­gether. We can do it all, if we all work to­gether. Yes, we can.

I call the phe­nom­e­non the “lib­eral Gle­ich­schal­tung.” Gle­ich­schal­tung is a Ger­man word bor­rowed from elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing. It means “co­or­di­na­tion.” The Ger­man Na­tional So­cial­ists (Nazis) used the con­cept to get ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion to sing from the same hym­nal. If a fra­ter­nity or busi­ness em­braced Nazism, it could stay “in­de­pen­dent.” If it re­jected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ide­ol­ogy. Mean­while, ev­ery branch of govern­ment was charged with not merely do­ing its job but ad­vanc­ing the of­fi­cial state ide­ol­ogy.

Now, con­tem­po­rary lib­er­al­ism is not an evil ide­ol­ogy. Its in­ten­tions aren’t evil or even fruit­fully com­pa­ra­ble to Hit­lerism. But there is a lib­eral Gle­ich­schal­tung all the same. Ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion must be on the same page. Ev­ery agency must ad­vance the lib­eral agenda.

And that is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nim­ble, fo­cused, prob­lem-solv­ing govern­ment is un­done by the re­al­ity of hy­per­mis­sion creep. When ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion is yoked to an over­ar­ch­ing phi­los­o­phy or mis­sion, its ac­tual pur­pose can be­come an af­ter­thought. In 2005, vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers from all over the coun­try of­fered to help with Ka­t­rina’s af­ter­math. But FEMA sent many of them to At­lanta first to un­dergo di­ver­sity and sex­ual ha­rass­ment train­ing (which most al­ready had).

Such ex­am­ples are ev­ery­where. What is po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness other than the gears of the lib­eral Gle­ich­schal­tung? The fi­nan­cial cri­sis was wors­ened be­cause Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac be­came tools for lib­eral so­cial en­gi­neer­ing. Let’s not even men­tion pub­lic schools.

The White House is de­ter­mined to be a great friend (i.e., ser­vant) to the unions, so ev­ery­thing from the stim­u­lus to the au­tomaker buy­out to the Gulf spill must first pass union muster. Re­mem­ber those vi­tal, “shovel-ready” weath­er­iza­tion jobs the stim­u­lus was sup­posed to pay for? The La­bor Depart­ment de­layed them for nearly a year while try­ing to fig­ure out how to com­ply with pro-union “pre­vail­ing wage” rules for each of more than 3,000 coun­ties.

Lib­er­al­ism has be­come a cargo cult to the New Deal, but many of the achieve­ments of the New Deal would be im­pos­si­ble now. Just try to get a Hoover Dam built to­day.

The pres­i­dent likes to say “if we could put a man on the moon” we can do any­thing, from so­cial­iz­ing medicine to aban­don­ing fos­sil fu­els. That’s non­sense on stilts for a host of rea­sons. But it’s also ironic, given that we can’t even put a man on the moon any­more. Not when NASA’s fore­most pri­or­ity is boost­ing the self-es­teem of chil­dren and Mus­lims.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.