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As Long as We Remember...

April 1, 2009

And Atlas Wept

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In a move that has given many pause, last Sunday the administration of President Barack Obama ventured boldly into the latest worrisome intrusion into the nation’s private sector by firing Rick Wagoner, General Motors’ chief executive officer.


This is but one of a series of troubling events that paint a bleak picture. The Obama administration has no fear whatsoever of solving the nation’s economic woes by reckless profligate spending, protectionism, strengthening efforts to unionize workers and further introducing government control of private sector enterprise and our nation’s means of production.


All the more disconcerting is the dynamic that the firing of Mr. Wagoner has been roundly cheered by our populist comrades as the populist rhetoric assailing our nation’s financial sector has continued to spiral out of control.


For those who may cheer the exit of Mr. Wagoner, please put this incident into the larger context of the government seizing control of several of our nation’s financial giants.


It was just last week that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled plans that facilitate the draconian regulation and ultimate seizure – or nationalization – of financial institutions as deemed by the government to be necessary, or in the national interest.


He said that the nation's economic crisis demands bold action. Hmmmm, this appears to be a recurring theme.


Keep in mind that President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, last November prophetically expulsed the current populist mantra: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … It's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”


In his radio address March 14, President Obama reiterated that rhetoric when he rallied the faithful by urging the masses to “discover the great opportunity in the midst of great crisis…”


Nevermind that it was congressional regulations and mandates that forced banks to provide mortgages to unqualified individuals that remains as the core cause of the current economic chaos.


To put this deeply involved labyrinth of troubling events into further perspective, consider this: the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae essentially means that the government now owns the vast majority of all the nation’s homeowner mortgages.


In a collateral series of events, could it be that the Obama Administration trivializes the collapse of Wall Street as insignificant because ultimately the current administration wishes to emphasize the use of government capital to fuel the national means of production instead of private capital?


Moreover, do not overlook that the current Obama budget proposal for 2010 involves enormous – if not bankruptcy-inducing – spending, historically crippling national debt-to-asset ratios, increased taxes on individuals that maintain the nation’s pool of risk-venture capital, increased taxes on charitable donations and capital gains and money to stockpile for future plans to nationalize health-care.


All of which, of course, takes more money away from individuals and gives it to the government, which – in turn – increases the national population’s dependence on government for jobs, education, homes, banking, cars, quality of life, and well-being.


Keep in mind the other concurrent administration initiatives to silence the dissent offered by conservative talk radio, and efforts to unionize the nation’s workforce by denying secret ballots.


The government firing of Mr. Wagoner brings back bad memories of the last foreboding attempt by the government to nationalize key components of American industry under the guise of gaining control of an economic crisis.


If you will recall, it was on April 8, 1952, that President Harry Truman seized control of our nation’s steel industry. This stunning intrusion into the private sector came after the contract between the United Steelworkers and the steel companies expired December 31, 1951, and the failure of  ensuing months of negotiations.


President Truman acted in the context of the specter of an economically crippling labor strike as the Korean War raged on – and a desire to protect the unions, a key component of the Democrat Party base.


In the end, the unpopularity of President Truman at the time precipitated a backlash and the courts eventually helped the nation regain its sanity.


One wonders what would have happened if President Truman were to have been as popular as say, a President Obama? Hmmmm.


Do not overlook that in the midst of the recent uproar over the AIG bonuses – that in the end was revealed to have been facilitated by the very members of Congress feigning outrage. The Obama Administration vowed to look into how to break the contracts, however loathsome and anathematic, that provided the bonuses.


Yet, not one word has ever been put forth by the administration to investigate the breaking of the union contracts that are bankrupting the auto manufacturers. Instead, it fired the chief executive officer.


To understand all of this much more thoroughly, it may be helpful to read Yaron Brook’s Wall Street Journal essay from March 14, “Is Rand Relevant?”


Mr. Brook reminds us that it was in Ayn Rand’s classic “Atlas Shrugged,” that she told the “story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis.  Sound familiar?”


Pundits, who wish to promote the idea that President Obama does not know what he is doing, are doing all a disservice. Any research into his background reveals that he is eminently capable, competent, and intelligent, if not brilliant, well educated, and highly motivated – and he knows exactly what he is doing.


The better question remains: Do those who believe in a different future for our nation know what we are doing? Silly theatrical “Tea Parties” and childish name-calling isn’t going to cut it.


If Ayn Rand were to alive today, her sequel would be titled “And Atlas Wept.”


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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