In the superb, Tony-winning Best Play All the Way — now at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater — Tony-winning Best Actor Bryan Cranston brilliantly portrays President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In this comedy-drama tour de force, LBJ works furiously to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, later, launches the War on Poverty.
While a nearly three-hour play necessarily misses a few things, All the Way seems to epitomize Great Society liberalism: Fight discrimination, fund social programs, shower, repeat. As for the general public, if you want to eat lunch, heat your home, or watch baseball, knock yourself out; Washington has fatter fish to fry.
LBJ likely would be appalled, however, with the scope of modern liberalism. Far beyond even his expansive definition of Big Government, Obama and his ilk try to choreograph every step of American life. There seems to be no detail too minute nor any activity too obscure to avoid what today’s liberals crave more than anything else: control.
“Control over the economy. Control over our health care. Control over the government. Control over our lives,” Terrence Scanlon, president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., recently wrote. “That’s what drives their every move in politics and in public policy. They’ll settle for nothing less than total control over virtually everything in this country.”
Modern liberalism has little to do with sticking up for the little guy or comforting the poor. It’s all about telling people what to do — around the clock. Amplifying the efforts of the often busybody Bush administration, Obama has replaced Uncle Sam with a giant millipede whose spindly limbs reach everywhere. Each aspect of American life, regardless of size, and each spot on the map, regardless of distance, has become fair game for Washington’s intrusion — usually in the most costly and high-handed fashion possible.
‐The recently released Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions is to red tape what trailers are to motion pictures. Every six months, via this document, 55 different federal departments, agencies, and boards preview their coming attractions. The Energy Department, for instance, is producing 80 new rules, such as: “Energy Conservation Standards for Wine Chillers,” “Energy Efficiency Standards for Automatic Commercial Ice Makers,” and “Test Procedures for Ceiling Fans.”
The 182 regulations in the Commerce Department’s pipeline include “Fishing Vessel Capital Construction Fund Procedures,” “Pacific Coast Whiting Fishery for 2014,” and “Red Snapper Allocation.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is developing 132 new regulations, including “Rulemaking on the Definition of Solid Waste.”
‐“The distinctive look of San Francisco street signs goes back farther than just about any of us,” Victoria Nguyen wrote in SF Bay. That beautiful city has plenty to offer, including its big, tough, manly street names. They appear on signs with bold, strong, black capital letters on a white background. POWELL. MASON. SUTTER. TAYLOR. JONES. UNION. HYDE. These signs are sui generis, which makes them worth visiting San Francisco to savor.
But hurry, because Obama and his Washington know-it-alls are stamping them out, along with others across America, all the way to New York City.
These locally designed and revered signs are being replaced with thin, wimpy, effeminate ones in caps and lower case; the confident SACRAMENTO is becoming the timid Sacramento. As one website reader lamented: “Looks like Anywhere, USA. Another SF tradition gone with the wind.”
Even worse, despite federal claims to the contrary, these new signs are harder to read at a distance, largely because the new letters are so small. So, what, really is the point of this exercise?
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s 816-page, 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires cities to spend their own taxpayers’ dollars not on teachers, cops, and firefighters but on Washington’s deadly dull signs, all produced in a boring and generic font called Clearview.
“Our street signs have worked perfectly well for 100 years or more,” Milwaukee alderman Bob Donovan told USA Today. “I think it’s just the federal government run amok. If they don’t have far more important things to deal with, they’re not doing their job.”
‐The EPA dislikes the wood-burning stoves that heat some 12 million U.S. homes. So it is requiring that new stoves be 80 percent cleaner, a truly fanciful objective. If you live in a rural area — far from the natural-gas grid — good luck warming your house, especially since propane nearly has doubled in price, thanks to the brutal winter.
‐A group of parents in Plymouth, Mich., raised some $15,000 in private money and built a new set of bleachers for the local high school’s boys’ baseball field. The new, stadium-style seats offered comfort and improved sightlines.
“Foul!” yelled the umpires at the U.S. Department of Education. This new, privately financed structure violated Title IX, they complained, since the girls’ softball field had no such renovations. So did Washington’s bleachercrats demand similar benches for the girls’ diamond? Incredibly, the feds ordered the school to yank out the new seats overlooking the boys’ field.
“The world is divided into two groups,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson remarked on Fox & Friends. “One group looks at the situation and says, ‘Let’s improve the girls’ field. Let’s make it as nice as the boys’ field.’ The other group says, ‘Let’s destroy the boys’ field.’ This is a metaphor for how this administration operates. They want to bring equality to the country. Rather than making the poor richer, they make the rich poorer.” Carlson added: “It’s like, ‘You’ve got a broken leg, then I’m going to break my leg. Now we’re equal.’”
‐Brewers and ranchers have had a lovely arrangement for decades. The fermented grains that make beer happen settle in barrels once the good stuff gets poured off. Rather than dump this residue, they sell it to cattle farmers. The cows love this brewing byproduct. It fills their multiple bellies and likely gets them buzzed, to boot.
This symbiosis is just too much for the Food and Drug Administration, which is mulling new ways to force brewers to clean their spent grain before delivering it as livestock feed. The unproven risk that something might go wrong is just way more than what the feds can tolerate. So new regulations threaten to hike costs and frustrate those who bring us suds and steaks.
‐Likewise, the FDA has decided that, after centuries of doing so safely, artisanal cheese makers no longer can be trusted to use wood planks to age cheese. The Dairy and Egg Branch of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition fears that the wood planks might let bacteria multiply. Of course, there are good bacteria, without which digestion would be impossible. Some cheeses produce such benign bacteria, which make them delicious. Try explaining that to the FDA’s germophobomaniacs. Maybe they should fret instead about hospital infections, which kill some 103,000 Americans annually. Wood-aged cheese cannot claim such a death toll.
‐First lady Michelle Obama’s effort to police government-school cafeterias is backfiring badly. Local-school administrators are pinned down by federal rules that govern caloric intake, whole-grain content, and whether “vegetable subgroups” are “dark green, red/orange,” or just “starchy.” Consequently, unimpressed kids dump unappetizing food by the ton.
The Chicago Tribune quoted a suburban parent exasperated by Washington’s micromismanagement of what kids eat in Wheeling, Ill. — 727 miles away from the White House. Said George Marquez: “The government can’t control everything.”
Alas, Obama & Co. are working feverishly to prove George Marquez wrong.
Rather than focus on a few, core, constitutionally authorized functions (e.g., national security, a justice system, easing interstate commerce, and protecting individual liberty), Team Obama and too many in Washington, D.C., are beyond hyperactive in living our lives for us. It’s a wonder that the feds let anyone visit the bathroom unsupervised. (Not so fast! Washington controls even the water capacity of toilets.) Paradoxically, the more that Big Government attempts, the less it actually accomplishes.
Americans must tell the federal government to back off — big time.
Open defiance of such federal idiocy likely will grow more widespread, as well it should. So, if the immeasurably wise in Washington mandate the removal of perfectly fine school bleachers or wood cheese-aging planks, then federal agents can show up and personally pry them out of commission. The victims of such federal abuse, in turn, should invite the news media to chronicle this boneheadedness and educate the American people on how their tax dollars are being put to such idiotic misuse.
Perhaps if the feds actually had to perform this tomfoolery publicly, rather than merely order it, they might stop from sheer exhaustion.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.