Social Security Disaster

By Walter E. Williams

Politicians who are principled enough to point out the fraud of Social Security, referring to it as a lie and Ponzi scheme, are under siege. Acknowledgment of Social Security’s problems is not the same as calling for the abandonment of its recipients. Instead, it’s a call to take actions now, while there’s time to avert a disaster. Let’s look at it.

The term was derived from the scheme created during the 1920s by Charles Ponzi, a poor but enterprising Italian immigrant. Here’s how it works. You persuade some people to give you their money to invest. After a while, you pay them a nice return, but the return doesn’t come from investments. What you pay them with comes from the money of other people whom you’ve persuaded to “invest” in your scheme. The scheme works so long as you can persuade greater and greater numbers of people to “invest” so that you can pay off earlier “investors.” After a while, Ponzi couldn’t find enough new investors, and his scheme collapsed. He was convicted of fraud and sent to prison.

The very first Social Security check went to Ida May Fuller in 1940. She paid just $24.75 in Social Security taxes but collected a total of $22,888.92 in benefits, getting back all she put into Social Security in a month. According to a Congressional Research Service report titled “Social Security Reform” (October 2002), by Geoffrey Kollmann and Dawn Nuschler, workers who retired in 1980 at age 65 got back all they put into Social Security, plus interest, in 2.8 years. Workers who retired at age 65 in 2002 will have to wait a total of 16.9 years to break even. For those retiring in 2020, it will take 20.9 years. Workers entering the labor force today won’t live long enough to get back even half of what they will put into Social Security. Social Security faces Ponzi’s problem, not enough new “investors.” In 1940, there were 160 workers paying into Social Security per retiree; today there are only 2.9 and falling.

Some politicians claim that Social Security has a huge trust fund and is in good health. An uninformed public and a derelict news media don’t challenge that lie. Back in August, politicians were in a tizzy over raising the federal debt limit. In an effort to frighten seniors, President Barack Obama said in a CBS interview, “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on Aug. 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” Here’s how we reveal the trust fund lie: According to the Social Security Administration, it has a trust fund with $2.6 trillion in it. If those were real assets, then the Social Security Administration could have mailed checks out regardless of what Congress did about the debt limit. The reality is that the Social Security trust fund consists of government IOUs that have no real value at all and probably are not even worth the paper upon which they are printed.

I believe that a person who is 65 years old and has been forced into Social Security is owed something. But the question is, Who owes it to him? Congress has spent every penny of his Social Security “contribution.” Young workers have no obligation to be fleeced in order to make up for the dishonesty and dereliction of Congress. The tragedy is that most seniors just want their money and couldn’t care less about whom Congress takes it from.

Here’s what might be a temporary fix: The federal government owns huge quantities of wasting assets — assets that are not producing anything — 650 million acres of land, almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States. In exchange for those who choose to opt out of Social Security and forsake any future claim, why not pay them off with 40 or so acres of land? Doing so would give us breathing room to develop a free choice method to finance retirement.


Freedom Is Not Free

By Thomas Sowell

There may be something to the claim that all people want to be free. But it is a demonstrable fact that freedom has been under attack, usually successfully, for thousands of years.

The Federal Communications Commission’s recent plan to have a “study” of how editorial decisions are made in the media, placing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices across the country, was one of the boldest assaults on freedom of the press. Fortunately, there was enough backlash to force the FCC to back off.

With all the sweeping powers available to government, displeasing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices could have brought on armies of “safety” inspectors from OSHA, audits from the Internal Revenue Service and many other harassments from many other government agencies.

Such tactics have become especially common in this administration, which has the morals of thugs and the agenda of totalitarians. They may not be consciously aiming at creating a totalitarian state, but shameless use of government power to crush those who get in their way can produce totalitarian end results.

The prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza for contributing $20,000 to a political candidate, supposedly in violation of the many campaign finance laws, is a classic case of selective prosecution.

Thugs who stationed themselves outside a polling place in Philadelphia to intimidate white voters were given a pass, and others accused of campaign finance violations were charged with misdemeanors, but Dinesh D’Souza has been charged with felonies that carry penalties of years in federal prison.

All of this is over a campaign contribution that is chicken feed, compared to what can be raised inside of an hour at a political fundraising breakfast or lunch.

Could this singling out of D’Souza for prosecution have something to do with the fact that he made a documentary movie with devastating exposures of Barack Obama’s ideologies and policies? That movie, incidentally, is titled “2016: Obama’s America,” and every American should get a copy of it on a DVD. It will be the best $10 investment you are ever likely to make.

It doesn’t matter what rights you have under the Constitution of the United States, if the government can punish you for exercising those rights. And it doesn’t matter what limits the Constitution puts on government officials’ power, if they can exceed those limits without any adverse consequences.

In other words, the Constitution cannot protect you, if you don’t protect the Constitution with your votes against anyone who violates it. Those government officials who want more power are not going to stop unless they get stopped.

As long as millions of Americans vote on the basis of who gives them free stuff, look for their freedom — and all our freedom — to be eroded away, bit by bit. Our children and grandchildren may yet come to see the Constitution as just some quaint words from the past that people once took seriously.


Should We Obey All Laws?

By Walter E. Williams

Let’s think about whether all acts of Congress deserve our respect and obedience. Suppose Congress enacted a law — and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional — requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month. Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution’s commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents and accidents affect interstate commerce. Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting a runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish?

A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say, “Williams, you’re wrong this time. In 1859, in Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 constitutional.” That court decision, as well as some others in our past, makes my case. Moral people can’t rely solely on the courts to establish what’s right or wrong. Slavery is immoral; therefore, any laws that support slavery are also immoral. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

Soon, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare, euphemistically titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There is absolutely no constitutional authority for Congress to force any American to enter into a contract to buy any good or service. But if the court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, what should we do?

State governors and legislators ought to summon up the courage of our Founding Fathers in response to the 5th Congress’ Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Led by Jefferson and James Madison, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 were drafted where legislatures took the position that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. They said, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government … (and) whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.” The 10th Amendment to our Constitution supports that vision: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In a word, if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, citizens should press their state governors and legislatures to nullify the law. You say, “Williams, the last time states got into this nullification business, it led to a war that cost 600,000 lives.” Two things are different this time. First, most Americans are against Obamacare, and secondly, I don’t believe that you could find a U.S. soldier who would follow a presidential order to descend on a state to round up or shoot down fellow Americans because they refuse to follow a congressional order to buy health insurance.

Congress has already gone far beyond the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. In Federalist No. 45, Madison explained: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” That vision has been turned on its head; it’s the federal government whose powers are numerous and indefinite, and those of the state are now few and defined.

Former slave Frederick Douglass advised: “Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”


Our Nation's Future

By Walter E. Williams

Our nation is rapidly approaching a point from which there’s little chance to avoid a financial collapse. The heart of our problem can be seen as a tragedy of the commons. That’s a set of circumstances when something is commonly owned and individuals acting rationally in their own self-interest produce a set of results that’s inimical to everyone’s long-term interest. Let’s look at an example of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon and then apply it to our national problem.

Imagine there are 100 cattlemen all having an equal right to graze their herds on 1,000 acres of commonly owned grassland. The rational self-interested response of each cattleman is to have the largest herd that he can afford. Each cattleman pursing similar self-interests will produce results not in any of the cattlemen’s long-term interest — overgrazing, soil erosion and destruction of the land’s usefulness. Even if they all recognize the dangers, does it pay for any one cattleman to cut the size of his herd? The short answer is no because he would bear the cost of having a smaller herd while the other cattlemen gain at his expense. In the long term, they all lose because the land will be overgrazed and made useless.

We can think of the federal budget as a commons to which each of our 535 congressmen and the president have access. Like the cattlemen, each congressman and the president want to get as much out of the federal budget as possible for their constituents. Political success depends upon “bringing home the bacon.” Spending is popular, but taxes to finance the spending are not. The tendency is for spending to rise and its financing to be concealed through borrowing and inflation.

Does it pay for an individual congressman to say, “This spending is unconstitutional and ruining our nation, and I’ll have no part of it; I will refuse a $500 million federal grant to my congressional district”? The answer is no because he would gain little or nothing, plus the federal budget wouldn’t be reduced by $500 million. Other congressmen would benefit by having $500 million more for their districts.

What about the constituents of a principled congressman? If their congressman refuses unconstitutional spending, it doesn’t mean that they pay lower federal income taxes. All that it means is constituents of some other congressmen get the money while the nation spirals toward financial ruin, and they wouldn’t be spared from that ruin because their congressman refused to participate in unconstitutional spending.

What we’re witnessing in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and other parts of Europe is a direct result of their massive spending to accommodate the welfare state. A greater number of people are living off government welfare programs than are paying taxes. Government debt in Greece is 160 percent of gross domestic product. The other percentages of GDP are 120 in Italy, 104 in Ireland and 106 in Portugal. As a result of this debt and the improbability of their ever paying it, their credit ratings either have reached or are close to reaching junk bond status.

Here’s the question for us: Is the U.S. moving in a direction toward or away from the troubled EU nations? It turns out that our national debt, which was 35 percent of GDP during the 1970s, is now 106 percent of GDP, a level not seen since World War II’s 122 percent. That debt, plus our more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, has led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade our credit rating from AAA to AA+, and the agency is keeping the outlook at “negative” as a result of its having little confidence that Congress will take on the politically sensitive job of tackling the same type of entitlement that has turned Europe into a basket case.

I am all too afraid that Benjamin Franklin correctly saw our nation’s destiny when he said, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”


Future Generations

By Walter E. Williams

Is there any reason for today’s Americans to care about what happens to tomorrow’s Americans? After all, what have tomorrow’s Americans done for today’s Americans? Moreover, since tomorrow’s Americans don’t vote, we can dump on them with impunity. That’s a vision that describes the actual behavior of today’s Americans. It would be seen as selfish, callous and ruthless only if it were actually articulated. Let’s look at it.

Businesses, as well as most nonprofit enterprises, by law are required to produce financial statements that include all of their present and expected future liabilities. On top of that, they are required to hold reserves against future liabilities such as employee retirement.

By contrast, the federal government gets by without having to provide transparent and honest financial statements. The U.S. Treasury’s “balance sheet” does list liabilities such as public debt, but it does not include the massive unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and other federal future obligations. A conservative estimate of Washington’s unfunded liabilities for the year ending in 2011 is $87 trillion. That’s more than 500 percent of our 2011 GDP of $15 trillion.

Former Congressmen Chris Cox and Bill Archer have written an article — “Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt,” The Wall Street Journal (November 26, 2012) — pointing out our dire economic straits. They say, “When the accrued expenses of the government’s entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.” Let’s analyze that.

Washington would have to collect $8 trillion in tax revenue, not to pay off our national debt and have reserves against unfunded liabilities, but just to avoid accumulating more debt. Recent IRS data show that individuals earning $66,000 and more a year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2011, corporate profit came to $1.6 trillion. That means if Congress simply confiscated the entire earnings of taxpayers earning more than $66,000 and all corporate profits, it wouldn’t be enough to cover the $8 trillion per year growth of U.S. liabilities.

Given this impossible picture, the message coming out of Washington, especially from our leftist politicians and the news media, is that we solve our budget problems by raising taxes on the rich. If Americans were more informed, such a message would be insulting to our intelligence. There are not enough rich people to satisfy Congress’ appetite.

In 2011, Congress spent $3.7 trillion. That turns out to be about $10 billion per day. According to IRS statistics, roughly 2 percent of U.S. households have an income of $250,000 and above. By the way, $250,000 per year hardly qualifies as being rich. It can’t even buy a Learjet.

Households earning $250,000 and above account for 25 percent, or $1.97 trillion, of the nearly $8 trillion of total household income. If Congress imposed a 100 percent tax, taking all earnings above $250,000 per year, it would bring in about $1.9 trillion. That would keep Washington running for 190 days, but there’s a problem because there are 175 more days left in the year.

The profits of the Fortune 500 richest companies come to $400 billion. That would keep the government running for another 40 days, to mid-July.

America has 400 billionaires with a combined net worth of $1.3 trillion. If Congress fleeced them of their assets, stocks, bonds, yachts, airplanes, mansions and jewelry, it would get us to at least late fall.

The fact of the matter is there are not enough rich people to come anywhere close to satisfying Congress’ voracious spending appetite. The true tragedy for our future is that there are millions of uninformed Americans who will buy the political demagoguery and treachery that our problems can be solved by taxing the rich.


Why the 2nd Amendment?

By Walter E. Williams

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: “The British are not coming. … We don’t need all these guns to kill people.” Lewis’ vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.

Alexander Hamilton: “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed,” adding later, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says “the representatives of the people”?

James Madison: “(The Constitution preserves) the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

Thomas Jefferson: “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, which inspired our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, said, “To disarm the people — that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

Rep. John Lewis and like-minded people might dismiss these thoughts by saying the founders were racist anyway. Here’s a more recent quote from a card-carrying liberal, the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey: “Certainly, one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. … The right of the citizen to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.” I have many other Second Amendment references at http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/quotes.html.

How about a couple of quotations with which Rep. Lewis and others might agree? “Armas para que?” (translated: “Guns, for what?”) by Fidel Castro. There’s a more famous one: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.” That was Adolf Hitler.

Here’s the gun grabbers’ slippery-slope agenda, laid out by Nelson T. Shields, founder of Handgun Control Inc.: “We’re going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily — given the political realities — going to be very modest. … Right now, though, we’d be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal — total control of handguns in the United States — is going to take time. … The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal” (The New Yorker, July 1976).

There have been people who’ve ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government. Military might isn’t always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth — Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today’s Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels.

There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.


Bit by Bit Strategy

By Walter E. Williams

There’s a move on to prohibit Washington’s football team from calling itself “Redskins,” even though a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision said that it has that right. Now the name change advocates are turning to the political arena and intimidation. The NCAA has already banned the University of North Dakota from calling its football team the “Fighting Sioux.”

This is the classic method of busybodies and tyrants; they start out with something trivial or small and then magnify and extend it. If these people are successful in banning the use of Indian names for football teams, you can bet the rent money that won’t end their agenda. Our military has a number of fighting aircraft named with what busybodies and tyrants might consider racial slights, such as the Apache, Iroquois, Kiowa, Lakota and Mescalero. We also have military aircraft named after animals, such as the Eagle, Falcon, Raptor, Cobra and Dolphin. The people fighting against the Redskins name might form a coalition with the PETA animal rights kooks to ban the use of animal names.

Another example of the strategy of starting out small is that of the tobacco zealots. In 1965, in the name of health, tobacco zealots successfully got Congress to enact the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. A few years later, they were successful in getting a complete smoking ban on planes, and that success emboldened them to seek many other bans. The issue here is not smoking, but tyrant strategy.

Suppose that in 1965, the tobacco tyrants demanded that Congress enact a law banning smoking in bars, in workplaces, in restaurants, in apartments, within 25 feet of entrances, in ballparks, on beaches, on sidewalks and in other places. Had they revealed and demanded their full agenda back in 1965, there would have been so much resistance that they wouldn’t have gotten anything. By the way, much of their later success was a result of a bogus Environmental Protection Agency study on secondhand smoke. I’d like to hear whether EPA scientists are willing to declare that people can die from secondhand smoke at a beach, on a sidewalk, in a park or within 25 feet of a building.

During the legislative and subsequent state ratification debates over the 16th Amendment — which established the income tax — the political task of overturning the Constitution’s prohibition of such tax was considerably eased by political promises that any income tax levied would fall upon only the wealthiest 3 to 5 percent of the population. Most Americans paid no federal income tax, and those earning $500,000 or more paid only 7 percent. In 1913, only 358,000 Americans filed 1040 forms, compared with today’s 140 million. That’s the rope-a-dope strategy. To get the votes of the masses, politicians start out small and exploit the politics of envy by promising that only the rich will be taxed.

In 1898, Congress imposed a temporary federal excise tax on telephones as a revenue measure during the Spanish-American War. At that time, only the rich owned phones. Soon nearly all Americans owned phones. Both the rich and the poor paid the telephone excise tax. Congress repealed this “temporary” Spanish-American War tax in 2006. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman had it right when he said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”


Distrusting Government

By Walter E. Williams

Our nation’s founders recognized that most human abuses are the result of government. As Thomas Paine said, “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.” Because of their fear of abuse, the Constitution’s framers sought to keep the federal government limited in its power. Their distrust of Congress is seen in the governing rules and language used throughout our Constitution.

The Bill of Rights is explicit in that distrust, using language such as “Congress shall not abridge,” “shall not infringe,” and “shall not deny.” If the framers did not believe that Congress would abuse our God-given, or natural, rights, they would not have provided those protections. I’ve always suggested that if we see anything like the Bill of Rights at our next destination after we die, we’ll know that we’re in hell. A perceived need for such protection in heaven would be an affront to God. It would be the same as saying we can’t trust him.

Other framer protections from government are found in the Constitution’s separation of powers, checks and balances, and several anti-majoritarian provisions, such as the Electoral College and the two-thirds vote to override a veto.

The heartening news for us is that state legislatures are beginning to awaken to their duty to protect their citizens from unconstitutional acts by the Congress, the White House, and a derelict Supreme Court. According to an Associated Press story, about four-fifths of the states now have local laws that reject or ignore federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and identification standards for driver’s licenses. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed a measure threatening felony charges against federal agents who enforce certain firearms laws in his state.

Missouri legislators recently enacted the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which in part reads that not only is it the right of the state Legislature to check federal overreaching, but that “the Missouri general assembly is duty-bound to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles which constitute the basis of the Union of the States, because only a faithful observance of those principles can secure the nation’s existence and the public happiness.”

The bill further declares that the Missouri General Assembly is “firmly resolved to support and defend the United States Constitution against every aggression, either foreign or domestic.” The legislation awaits Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature or veto.

Both lower houses of the South Carolina and Oklahoma legislatures enacted measures nullifying Obamacare on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional intrusion and violation of the 10th Amendment. You might say, “Williams, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Obamacare constitutional, and that settles it. Federal law is supreme.”

It’s worth heeding this warning from Thomas Jefferson: “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

Jefferson and James Madison, in 1798 and 1799 in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, said, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government … and whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

In other words, heed the 10th Amendment to our Constitution, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That’s the message state legislatures should send to Washington during this year’s celebration of our Declaration of Independence.


Student Indoctrination

By Walter E. Williams

The new college academic year has begun, and unfortunately, so has student indoctrination. Let’s look at some of it.

William Penn, Michigan State University professor of creative writing, greeted his first day of class with an anti-Republican rant. Campus Reform, a project of the Arlington, Va.-based Leadership Institute, has a video featuring the professor telling his students that Republicans want to prevent “black people” from voting. He added that “this country still is full of closet racists” and described Republicans as “a bunch of dead white people — or dying white people” (http://tinyurl.com/lve4te7). To a student who had apparently displayed displeasure with those comments, Professor Penn barked, “You can frown if you want.” He gesticulated toward the student and added, “You look like you’re frowning. Are you frowning?” When the professor’s conduct was brought to the attention of campus authorities, MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said, “At MSU it is important the classroom environment is conducive to a free exchange of ideas and is respectful of the opinions of others.”

That mealy-mouthed response is typical of university administrators. Professor Penn was using his classroom to proselytize students. That is academic dishonesty and warrants serious disciplinary or dismissal proceedings. But that’s not likely. Professor Penn’s vision is probably shared by his colleagues, seeing as he was the recipient of MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003. University of Southern California professor Darry Sragow shares Penn’s opinion. Last fall, he went on a rant telling his students that Republicans are “stupid and racist” and “the last vestige of angry old white people” (http://tinyurl.com/185khtk).

UCLA’s new academic year saw its undergraduate student government fighting for constitutional rights by unanimously passing a resolution calling for the end of the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.” The resolution states, “The racially derogatory I-word endangers basic human rights including the presumption of innocence and the right to due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.” No doubt some UCLA administrators and professors bereft of thinking skills helped them craft the resolution.

The New York Post (8/25/11) carried a story about a student in training to become dorm supervisor at DePauw University in Indiana. She said: “We were told that ‘human’ was not a suitable identity, but that instead we were first ‘black,’ ‘white,’ or ‘Asian’; ‘male’ or ‘female’; … ‘heterosexual’ or ‘queer.’ We were forced to act like bigots and spout off stereotypes while being told that that was what we were really thinking deep down.” At many universities, part of the freshman orientation includes what’s called the “tunnel of oppression.” They are taught the evils of “white privilege” and how they are part of a “rape culture.” Sometimes they are forced to discuss their sexual identities with complete strangers. The New York Post story said: “DePauw is no rare case. At least 96 colleges across the country have run similar ‘tunnel of oppression’ programs in the last few years.”

University officials are aware of this kind of academic dishonesty and indoctrination; university trustees are not. For the most part, trustees are yes men for the president. Legislators and charitable foundations that pour billions into colleges are unaware, as well. Most tragically, parents who pay tens of thousands of dollars for tuition and pile up large debt to send their youngsters off to be educated are unaware of the academic rot, as well.

You ask, “Williams, what can be done?” Students should record classroom professorial propaganda and give it wide distribution over the Internet. I’ve taught for more than 45 years and routinely invited students to record my lectures so they don’t have to be stenographers during class. I have no idea of where those recordings have wound up, but if you find them, you’ll hear zero proselytization or discussion of my political and personal preferences. To use a classroom to propagate one’s personal beliefs is academic dishonesty.

Vladimir Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” That’s the goal of the leftist teaching agenda.


Are Guns the Problem?

Every time there’s a shooting tragedy, there are more calls for gun control. Let’s examine a few historical facts. By 1910, the National Rifle Association had succeeded in establishing 73 NRA-affiliated high-school rifle clubs. The 1911 second edition of the Boy Scout Handbook made qualification in NRA’s junior marksmanship program a prerequisite for obtaining a BSA merit badge in marksmanship. In 1918, the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. established its own Winchester Junior Rifle Corps. The program grew to 135,000 members by 1925. In New York City, gun clubs were started at Boys, Curtis, Commercial, Manual Training and Stuyvesant high schools. With so many guns in the hands of youngsters, did we see today’s level of youth violence?

What about gun availability? Catalogs and magazines from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were full of gun advertisements directed to children and parents. For example, “What Every Parent Should Know When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun” was published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The 1902 Sears mail-order catalog had 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped. For most of our history, a person could simply walk into a hardware store, virtually anywhere in our country, and buy a gun. Few states bothered to have even age restrictions on buying guns.

Those and other historical facts should force us to ask ourselves: Why — at a time in our history when guns were readily available, when a person could just walk into a store or order a gun through the mail, when there were no FBI background checks, no waiting periods, no licensing requirements — was there not the frequency and kind of gun violence that we sometimes see today, when access to guns is more restricted? Guns are guns. If they were capable of behavior, as some people seem to suggest, they should have been doing then what they’re doing now.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not just laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society, not restraints on inanimate objects. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The benefit of having customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. In other words, it’s morality that is society’s first line of defense against uncivilized behavior.

Moral standards of conduct, as well as strict and swift punishment for criminal behaviors, have been under siege in our country for more than a half-century. Moral absolutes have been abandoned as a guiding principle. We’ve been taught not to be judgmental, that one lifestyle or value is just as good as another. More often than not, the attack on moral standards has been orchestrated by the education establishment and progressives. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws are needed to regulate behavior.

What’s worse is that instead of trying to return to what worked, progressives want to replace what worked with what sounds good or what seems plausible, such as more gun locks, longer waiting periods and stricter gun possession laws. Then there’s progressive mindlessness “cures,” such as “zero tolerance” for schoolyard recess games such as cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians, shouting “bang bang,” drawing a picture of a pistol, making a gun out of Lego pieces, and biting the shape of a gun out of a Pop-Tart. This kind of unadulterated lunacy — which focuses on an inanimate object such as a gun instead of on morality, self-discipline and character — will continue to produce disappointing results.