Blowin’ in the Wind

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

And how many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

From “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

© 1962 Warner Brothers Inc; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

Note that the song was copyrighted in 1962, years before Command-and-Control became the dominant ethos of political elites. Back in 1962 Dylan could ask “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see”? He knew he was stirring some consciences while shaming others.

But since then, shame has gone out the window. As has the idea of telling or recognizing the truth. Now we have “My truth”. We have pregnant people and birthing people, not mothers. We have people “Who identify as…”. 

Remember the violence of the summer of 2020? That was when we had “mostly peaceful” protests. Or the violence of January 6, 2021? Republican wordsmiths quickly tried to re-characterize it into a patriotic rally that got a little too enthusiastic. Then there was the suppression of the Hunter Biden story shortly before the November 2020 elections, wherein the NY Times, the Washington Post, Google, Twitter and Facebook just pretended not to see.  

Then there was the breathless coverage (“the walls are closing in”) of the phony Steele dossier—a brazen lie that the Democrat—Media complex marketed for years as if it were gospel truth. Not to mention the adoring coverage Dr. Anthony Fauci received even though he is an admitted liar and his agency, the CDC, proved to be inept even on its best day.  

Add to all this the crime wave that is now engulfing the nations’ cities; a crime wave that is directly attributable to the campaign to defund the police along with the refusal by some big city prosecutors to enforce the law.  On the subject of refusing to enforce the law, let’s not forget the Biden Administration’s carte blanche refusal to enforce laws that regulate the border. 

And let’s not leave out the continuing collapse in public school enrollment coupled with a surge in homeschooling and private school enrollment. Add to that an inflation rate precipitated by out-of-control spending that has been financed in good measure by the Feds’ reckless expansion of its balance sheet. 

As if that were not enough, the Congress decided to spend even more on a green energy bill that is mostly corporate welfare. It will have a negligible effect, if any, on global warming but that was never the point.  The point was to Do Someting, no matter how stupid. Needless to say the bill passed on a straight Party line vote before heading off for Biden’s signature.  

But let’s not stop there. After deciding to hand out a minimum of $500 billion to a valued constituency (young upscale voters) via student loan forgiveness, which he had no authorization to do, a few days later Mr. Biden actually said “…me and my Democratic friends (sic) on the Hill are working to expand and protect [Social Security]”. Expand an insolvent program. Just what we need. Then before resting, he called the Republicans “semi-fascists” whatever that is supposed to mean.

Mr Biden has been busy in foreign policy too. After assuring Americans that a withdrawal from Afghanistan would not bring about a precipitous collapse in that country, the withdrawal did precisely that. The United States abandoned thousands of Green Card holders to their fate, al-Qaeda re-established itself there, and Taliban rule was re-instituted just as it was before. Mr. Biden called the evacuation an “extraordinary success”. 

In the meantime the Administration continues to be played by Iran as it seeks to re-open the nuclear deal abandoned by President Trump, originally negotiated by President Obama. For its part Iran has attempted to assassinate John Bolton on US soil, and has made it clear that it wants UN nuclear inspectors removed. And, oh yes, since Iran refuses to speak to the U.S. directly, the U.S. has to use a go-between for the negotiations. That go-between is none other than Russia.

That is the very same Russia that invaded Ukraine in February of 2022—6 months after we abandoned Afghanistan. As it now stands we have funneled over $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine. But nowhere have we heard a word about what our goals and objectives are; nor have we been told what would constitute success. We are just in the business of pouring money into Ukraine without defining what the end game is. Meanwhile, after the sanctions we placed on Russia, they are taking in substantially more energy revenue than ever before because of rising prices. 

The war appears to be frozen in place and Europe, dependent on Russia for energy, is beginning to feel the crunch which will only intensify as long as the war continues. This is a consequence of Europe’s strategic dependence on Moscow which is a direct result of its attempt to convert to a green energy economy. It is an attempt that is doomed to failure, and one that the US is foolishly trying to implement as well.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that roughly everywhere you look there is obvious policy failure. Crime is exploding, inflation is soaring, economic growth is beginning to stagnate, the schools are failing to educate. In foreign policy the US has attempted to placate rivals like Iran while leaving allies confused about our resolve. In Ukraine we allowed ourselves to be trapped in a no-win situation. And we have not yet even begun to have a serious conversation about the position of the US vis-a-vis China. 

And yet, despite the blindingly obvious failures of the progressive  policy regime, we continue to be bombarded with the same propaganda over and over again, without a hint of reflection, thoughtlessly delivered by the mainstream media. But the failures and are blatant and the defense of the indefensible gets more and more implausible, insistent and hysterical on a daily basis. 

These policy failures are all linked by a reliance on command-and-control, bureaucratic group-think and what is surely a vain attempt to rule from the top down rather than accept the reality of the impossibility of doing so successfully. All of which depends on the willful blindness of citizens who would rather conform to current fashion than to ask the hard questions.

Which sends us back to the question Bob Dylan asked back in 1962. “Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head, And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

That is a question that still needs an answer 60 years on. 


About Those Student Loans…

In the run up to the November midterms, does anybody really believe that the Democratic Party generally and the Biden White House in particular, are making good faith arguments for their policy positions? If so, it may be worth considering the recent Biden decision to unilaterally cancel student loans up to $10,000  and Pell grants up to $20,000. 

For years Democrats argued (correctly, if a bit sanctimoniously) that then President Donald J Trump had no respect for the rule of law, and that he eviscerated norms necessary for the proper functioning of civil society. And what did President Biden and his party do to re-establish the rule of law and democratic norms? They continued in Trumpian fashion, to trash both the rule of law and democratic norms. 

There is for instance, no one this side of sanity who actually believes that Mr. Biden acted lawfully when he announced the cancellation  of student debt in the best tradition of Tammany Hall. It is blindingly obvious that Biden had no legal authority to do what he did. None. Zero. Nada. The hired guns who will be paid paid to argue that he does have that authority will be laughed out of court if the case ever gets there. 

Effectively, Mr. Biden just proceeded to spend about $500 billion without even a hint of Congressional authority, thus doing violence to the separation of powers that is the at the heart of our Constitutional order. In so doing, absent a stinging rebuke from the courts, he has managed to change financial market expectations for  government, for academic institutions and for consumer behavior—and  not in a good way.

What are the likely consequences of the Biden decision? Well, for one, universities will raise their prices to capture the lion’s share of the newly minted $500 billion subsidy. Government will borrow an additional $500 billion to pay for it. And student-consumers will have an incentive to delay paying off their loans on time, betting that another round of loan cancellations will be right around the corner. This will simply encourage the production of more bad behavior, which is to say moral hazard.  

And that’s just the beginning. Why would we stop at college loans? Why not cancel already heavily subsidized home mortgages? Or car loans? Or credit card debt? Or small business loans? What makes college loans so special compared to those other forms of debt? Perhaps it’s because of the urgent need for more gender studies majors. 

All of which brings us back to the question in the first sentence of this essay. Does anybody truly believe that Biden and the Democrats are making their arguments in good faith? When they passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, they did so on a Party line vote while dismissing the idea that it would increase inflation. But by March of 2022 the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released a paper that estimated the inflation impact of the American Rescue Plan was about 3 percentage points. 

By that time the Democrats, with some notable exceptions like Larry Summers who was far ahead of the curve, were arguing that inflation was merely transitory. But after having increased spending by $1.9 trillion, they then decided to raise tax rates which they implausibly claimed would raise $300 billion in tax revenue. The effect, they argued, would be to —wait for it—reduce inflation. And a few weeks after that, Biden decided to cancel about $500 billion in student loans on the books, thus increasing aggregate demand which will of course be financed by more borrowing. 

So in sum they argue that (A) $1.9 trillion in spending, financed by borrowing and the Fed’s printing press had no effect on inflation. However, they go on to argue that (B) a tax increase on the order of $100 to $300 billion will lower inflation. But (C) an increase of $500 billion in spending and borrowing to finance the student loan give-away will have no effect on inflation. Got that?

Why would anybody take these people seriously?  More to the point, how can anybody believe that they are making good faith arguments? Clearly they are not, unless the underlying assumption is that they are hopelessly, invincibly ignorant. Unfortunately there is an awful lot of evidence to suggest that there is more than a grain of truth in that proposition.