By John F. Di Leo -
Reflections on Barack Obama's legacy...
While there is nothing particularly “happy” about warfare, some aspects are even more distasteful than others. There must be shooting in battles; there must be conquest of land; this is what warfare is made of. But some tactics go too far… such as mines.
In the 1990s, for example, the Ottawa Convention sought to put a global end to the use of mines – both land and sea varieties – an aspect of warfare that still costs several thousand lives per year worldwide, even long after the wars in which they were used have ended.
In warfare, the value of a mine is, of course, the fact that it can be left behind, without an army or navy contingent remaining in place to operate it. You just sow mines in a bay or harbor, or plant landmines on a valuable territory or along a border, and nobody dares return there without quickly becoming a casualty. Often horrific, but tactically advantageous. Sometimes justifiable if you're the one on the right side in the war in question. Particularly horrible if you’re not.
But the biggest problem with mines is what happens after the war is over. Since mines have no expiration date, they remain a danger forever, decades after peace treaties are signed. There are still mines, dating back to WWII and other conflicts of half a century to a century ago, long-forgotten, awaiting the day when an innocent fishing trawler or pleasure boat, construction crew or vacationing family on a hike, will stumble into them with fatal consequences.
Politics is a Minefield
In United States politics, one could argue that there are two kinds of political actions that an administration implements. There are the ones that are easily reversed by the next administration… and those that are very difficult or even impossible to overturn, continuing to raise monkeywrenches in the future, foiling or at least slowing the ability of future administrations to accomplish their agendas.
If one administration raises a fee, the next can reduce it. If one congress raises a tax rate, the next can reduce that too. A law can be overturned by another law; an executive order can be overturned by an executive order.
But there are minefields as well, and that’s the challenge of the hour:
Before we continue, we should proudly acknowledge that this can be a good thing. Though Barack Obama didn’t use the term “minefield” when he spoke of the Constitution, he was certainly notably derisive of it throughout his two terms in the Oval Office. He complained that the Constitution held back his ability to do things – and sure enough, many of his administration’s most destructive efforts were successfully stymied by court challenges that cited specific lines of our 229-year-old Constitution. Every line of that magnificent document remains a well-placed mine, blowing up the treasonous efforts of modern statists to transform America into a socialist autocracy.
But today, at this moment, as the Obama administration finally recedes into the dustbin of history, the minefields that he and his appointees have planted must be our concern.
Just as the Carter era Community Reinvestment Act was a mine that blew up the housing sector in the 2000s after the Clinton administration activated it, just as the reasonable “General Welfare” clause of the Constitution has been reinterpreted by rogue politicians and courts throughout our history to justify any government expansion they desired, the Obama administration has consciously planted thousands of mines in the American political and social theaters, to do damage in the future, long after they’ve left the scene.
There are thousands of distinct, individual mines that the Obama nomenklatura has planted in our landscape, from newly created bureaucracies to civil service appointees who are exempt from firing… from barely noticeable regulations in minor agencies to lifelong appointees in the federal courts, who can never be ejected except by individual impeachment.
These constitute, arguably, the most severe damage that the Obama administration has done, because so many of these are so difficult to undo. For example:
The Minimum Wage: Nineteen states saw minimum wage hikes in 2017 alone. Numerous big cities have passed huge increases in the minimum wage, as much as doubling the federal minimum rate… all accomplished with the political leadership of the bully pulpit of the outgoing president.
No matter what tax rate cuts, regulatory reforms, and trade measures a new administration may institute to spur the economy forward, the ensuing economic boom will miss those regions with this doubled minimum wage. This destructive choice is a barrier to entry for dozens of industries that would otherwise happily arise. And since these hikes were not legally mandated by the outgoing president, the incoming president can do nothing to undo them.
The undeliverable promise of prosperity through minimum wage statute is just a land mine… sitting out there, languishing, quietly dooming their own jurisdictions and hobbling the national recovery.
Foreign Policy: Before leaving office, Mr. Obama attempted to engineer a foreign policy crisis with Russia, by ejecting some forty Russian diplomats from the country on the basis of unproven allegations of low-level spying on some partisan campaign personnel. Fortunately, Russia didn’t rise to the bait, and the new administration can begin to repair that diplomatic relationship. Much harder, however, is what to do about the multilateral foreign policy errors of the past eight years, the many times in which the USA, in concert with our allies, started wars or picked the wrong side in civil wars.
Obama led western Europe in an unnecessary war against Libya, toppling a defanged power in favor of dangerous terrorism-sympathizers. Obama’s people have encouraged a vile disinvestment movement in higher education to drive a wedge between college students and our support for Israel. Obama joined with Western Europe to institute sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, sanctions which hobble our own economic activity while Crimean status remains in stalemate. Obama’s apparatchiks designed an illegal giveaway deal with Iran to enable their nuclear weaponry desires and to empower and finance their terrorist support.
Obama’s administration spurred a misnamed “Arab Spring” – an insult, incidentally, to the brave anti-communists of Prague from whom the term was borrowed – leading to a terrorist takeover in Egypt (thankfully overturned by General el-Sisi), and empowering the growth of ISIS, Boko Haram, and so many other such groups.
A new administration in Washington cannot, with an edict or speech, remove the territory that such enemies have gained, or undo the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been lost. These foreign policy disasters are mines as well, human tragedy that can never be redeemed.
Rogue Agencies: The Obama administration used the power of the federal government to support and even initiate lawsuits that have planted destructive, and even insane, ideas in both the public and private sectors. It was collusion between the Department of Education and the Department of Justice that forced public high schools like Illinois’ High School District 211 to institute policies in support of the concept of “transgenderism” – inserting a costly burden of the construction of new locker rooms and bathrooms, even jeopardizing the ability of schools to field sports teams without fearing lawsuits that would once have been dismissed as frivolous, but which now have precedent to allow them to clog up the courts and waste precious tax dollars. Just as today’s public schools cannot afford multimillion dollar renovations to change their locker rooms, they can’t spend the same money fighting such suits in the courts. Such agency activism, from inspiring individual lawsuits to inventing whole entitlements and bureaucracies like Obamacare, is a sea of mines through which we must now navigate.
Eight Years Flat: Over these past eight years, under a normal economy, in the normal pre-Obama world – whether Democrats or Republicans were in charge – there were always courageous entrepreneurs starting new businesses… there were always lots of start-ups and spinoffs and so forth. They may have had a rough start during recessions, maybe with better odds in some years and worse in others, but these start-ups were there to take off like a rocket when the recessions ended.
This isn’t the case today. Thanks to Obamacare, the FDA’s oppressive new testing and labeling requirements for food, the IRS witch-hunt against small businesses with traditional values, the EPA and Department of Energy war against coal and oil exploration, and so many similar attacks and unnecessary complexities that the federal government has placed in the path of the private sector… entrepreneurs have been suppressing their own entrepreneurship in record numbers. The daring haven’t dared; the creative haven’t created.
These people are still out there, and hopefully they’ll be inspired to jump in once the water is warm again… but these flat eight years have taken their toll.
Businesses that should have been growing, employers that should have been hiring, office and manufacturing space that should have been producing rent, and materials vendors that should have been supplying parts to these start-ups… all these have simply not existed, because of eight flat years.
Never since the Great Depression has there been such a dearth of new starts. The recovery will come, but it will have a lag, for this reason. It’s like having to plant seeds and wait for them to germinate, where in past economies there were already small plants in place, already growing and just needing a little sun, rain and fertilizer for a chance to bloom.
Land Grabs: It would appear that the Obama administration has gone on a buying spree, but they never actually paid for any of the land they’ve taken. This administration has greatly expanded our federal lands, to the point that the US government now “owns” over half of many of our states… about 90% of Nevada, for example. The Bureau of Land Management alone controls an eighth of the nation’s land, through national parks, federal refuges, national monuments, and so forth.
This reduces the opportunities for businesses and private investors to develop land and businesses, to employ people, to provide tax-paying activity for the city, county, state and federal governments, in fact! Repatriating such land, once grabbed, is a difficult process. It can be done, but it’s hard, and takes years. Just since November’s election, in two months they have seized 1.3 million acres from Utah, another 300,000 acres from Nevada, and more. The administration has grabbed 865,000 square miles of land over the past eight years… and that’s on top of all the land that the feds already controlled before Mr. Obama arrived in office.
Land in the government’s hands simply isn’t as productive as land in private hands. When a country desperately needs economic growth, when 95 million people need jobs, when investors need their retirement funds to prosper… tying up over an eighth of the country in Washington DC’s untouchable “preservation mentality” is hardly a prescription for progress.
Some readers may recall a splendid British television series from the late 1970s starring Anthony Andrews, called “Danger: UXB”, telling the tales of the Un-Exploded Bombs units of the British government.
They had two duties: to both respond to reports of bomb or mine sightings, and to seek them out on their own wherever they suspected bombs and mines might have been left from past battles, airdrops, or other hinted likelihoods… and then to disable or detonate them harmlessly, to the extent possible. A wonderful television series… and it showed that even in the hands of the most talented experts, this is a very dangerous job.
Today, as we look forward to a new administration in Washington, we find ourselves with a need for an Un-Exploded Bomb unit in our own government. Both the next administration and the congressional leadership need to work together to identify and disable the thousands of regulations, the thousands of planted employees, the thousands of legal precedents and bureaucratic interpretations, that have been left in place to hamstring all efforts to bring America economic growth and a return to Constitutional governance.
The examples listed above are just a drop in the bucket, just a very short list of samples of what we will face as we go forward.
The DoJ spurred the evil Black Lives Matter movement with its takeovers of city police forces and its refusal to prosecute certain criminals… but even when a new Attorney General cleans house in the DoJ, the BLM chapters and the carnage they’ve wrought in our cities will remain in place.
The EPA and Dept of Energy have driven coal mines and other energy businesses out of business… but even when their regulations are revised and the malicious cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries are replaced, the businesses that closed are still closed and non-productive, the towns those mines and oil wells once supported are still ghost towns today, and the low-level federal bureaucrats who happily regulated them are still civil servants, who still believe in the poppycock of Global Warming and Ozone Holes and all the other pseudo-science that the Left has used to socialize our nation for years.
Non-enforcement of immigration laws can be ended, and a wall can be built… but eight years of non-enforcement has caused the numbers of illegal immigrants to swell well beyond the 20 million estimated just a few years ago. These illegal aliens continue to be a burden on law enforcement, on the schools, on our healthcare system, and on our employment numbers, until we can get them to self-deport or otherwise find a solution.
Political appointees can be fired… but federal judges and civil servants will survive a nuclear war along with the cockroaches.
So here we are, at the dawn of a new era, with so many mines to discover and disable, all over the country and all over the world. The havoc wrought by the Obama administration will not be quickly or painlessly undone. This errant president has indeed practiced an even more destructive strategy than even his detractors could have imagined.
Best wishes to all in the incoming administration. The trials of Hercules were a walk in the park compared to the projects that must now be undertaken.
Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is an international trade compliance trainer and transportation professional, actor, writer and family man, based in Chicagoland for most of his life. He served as County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party in the mid-1990s, but has been a recovering politician for almost twenty years (though, as with any addiction, you’re never really cured from this one).
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