Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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President Bill Clinton's Legacy: Expanding Incompetent Federal Bureaucracy and Tyranny

  • Growing and reckless free-spending federal bureaucracy and tyranny during the administration of President Bill Clinton over the past eight years was the topic examined on the Oct. 1 broadcast of The SPOTLIGHT's weekly call-in talk forum, Radio Free America.

    The guest was widely-published investigative reporter James Bovard, whose work has the distinction of having been denounced by (among others) the FBI director, the secretary of commerce, the secretary of agriculture, the secretary of housing and urban development, the White House AIDS czar and the chiefs of the Equal Employment Oppor tunity Commission, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

    An edited transcript Follows. Questions by Valentine are in boldface. Bovard's responses are in regular text. The comments by a listener phoning in are in italics.

Your book documents the many failures of the federal government during the Clinton years. Let's start off with Americorps.

This is one of Clinton's proudest programs and a major part of his legacy. Clinton claimed that this was going to be a volunteer program to help the non-profit volunteer sector. It turns out that just about everyone involved is paid and a lot of them are paid better than in jobs they could have gotten in the private sector. Let's just say that there's not a lot of heavy lifting involved here.

The program was supposed to be something along the lines of the Peace Corps but for solving America's domestic concerns.

Yes, it was the same idea and the same model.

Is it fair to say that they took people off the public welfare rolls and put them to work on the federal payroll working for Americorps?

It's not all that way. There are a large number of people on this program who have gone to college and some of them are relatively talented, but what Americorps does in some cases is to go out and take welfare recipients, make them Americorps members and then send them into the classrooms to teach reading and that hasn't worked out so well.

This new bureaucracy must have cost a pretty penny.

It's the usual pouring of money down a rat hole. I traveled around this country a little bit. I went down to Mississippi and there you find an Americorps program going door to door, trying to persuade people to accept food stamps. There are many people who out of pride, or perhaps other reasons, have not gone on welfare, but Americorps is out there, and this one program set a goal of persuading 75 percent of those who are eligible for welfare but who are not on welfare to sign up for food stamps.

So the program isn't what we might expect?

It's working fine as far as the media coverage is concerned. The media coverage on this has been very positive.

Are we, the people, getting our money's worth?

As usual, no. This is a federal program, so the odds of the taxpayer getting their moneys' worth are not very good in this very kind of situation.

Speaking of taxpayers, you have looked into the IRS. Clinton promised to clean up the IRS. What did Clinton do with the IRS?

President Clinton has worked hard to preserve all its powers. He has been one of the biggest champions of the IRS. Congress passed a law in 1998 to enact some mild reforms, but President Clinton is now trying to claim that, first of all, the IRS had no problems before that and secondly, that the problems were solved by the bill. It's the usual contradictory stuff. But the IRS is still a danger. It still has far too much power. The federal tax code is still an absolute mess. It's still a very dangerous situation for the average taxpayer.

Your research found that there is a 10-year-backlog as far as recording payments by some taxpayers.

Yes, this is from an investigation that the General Accounting Office did. They found earlier in 2000 that there were tax payments made in the late 1980s that had not gotten credited to the right ac counts and a lot of taxpayers had grief as a result of that. The IRS is still very sloppy and still giving out a lot of bad advice to people as to how to follow the law.

You've studied federal affirmative action programs and mandates.

Yes. There are a lot of bizarre mandates that have come down from the federal government for affirmative action relating to the federal personnel work force. When you see what the feds are doing with their own work force, you can get an idea of what they will be requiring for the private sector, once they've broken the ground.

In one case the U.S. Forest Service was criticized for not hiring enough female firefighters. Then, when the forest service administrators advertised for new firefighters, you point out, they actually said that only "unqualified" applicants could ap ply.

That's the federal government at its best. The major reason in this case is that female applicants tended to fail the strength test. Firefighters have to be strong, but I guess most of the female applicants couldn't pass the test. So you ended up with a very bizarre affirmative action program which, typically, did not care about the danger of forest fires.

We had, this past year, one of the worst years for forest fires. However, the federal affirmative action plan for the firefighters even said, as you point out, that only applicants who did not meet job requirement standards would be considered for hiring.

It's ugly, but this is what they have been doing as far as quotas and affirmative action since 1993. Clinton has been a very strong backer of the Equal Employ ment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights functions of the Labor Depart ment. They've gone after a lot of federal contractors. There is a lot of nasty stuff out there.

Many people are concerned about the potentially dangerous powers of the Federal Emergency Manage ment Agency (FEMA).

I've seen quite a few postings on the Internet on this. However, it's kind of hard for me to have much fear of FEMA because I've seen how they operate. I've talked with a number of folks who work there. FEMA is the kind of agency that George Wallace was talking about when he talked about HEW bureaucrats who could not park their bicycles straight. FEMA is not very savvy.

You've given FEMA as the number one example of the "nanny state."

Yes, what Clinton has tried to do is to train people to have their hand out for a government benefit and that's what FEMA does. They go out and beat the bushes to get as many people as possible to sign up for federal benefits. He's changed the concept of what "disaster" is. Today, a snowstorm in Buffalo could constitute a "disaster."

You've pointed out that if a tile fell off the roof of a school in California after an earthquake, the school would immediately be eligible for all sorts of federal funds under FEMA.

It gets very expensive very fast.

The "war on drugs" is a boondoggle and a power grab, too.

It's tragic to see how the feds have used the "war on drugs" to expand their power over almost everybody and most of the people they have expanded their power over are non-drug users.

It's almost as if the war on drugs is a pretext to seize far more power over everybody. It's had a terrible effect on the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment has been gutted. The Fourth Amendment puts restrictions on government searches, but those are pretty much no longer in effect.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has created a lot of problems by giving housing away.

This is what they have been doing since the 1960s. HUD has a section 8 rental program that gives subsidies to people. Under their new rules, a welfare family in San Francisco can get up to $2,100 a month to pay for its rent. A welfare family in San Jose can get up to $2,500 per month. HUD is willing to pay up to $1,800 a month for a family to live on the island of Nantucket or on the island of Maui.

It's a two-class system they are trying to create: those who are subsidized versus everybody else. HUD has had one fiasco after another for decades. There is no evidence that this agency has any learning curves. It's simply an agency that has to be abolished.

What about Clinton's war on the Second Amendment?

Clinton was, by far, the most anti-gun president in American history. I tried to go through all the speeches and interviews where he talked about guns and he has never once mentioned anyone using a gun for self-defense. About the only positive mention he has made of guns is about target shooting and deer hunting. It's obvious that Clinton doesn't think guns are bad: just guns in private hands. Clinton seems to believe that people's safety comes from a gun in the hands of a government agent.

What are your feelings about the actions of the federal government at Waco and Ruby Ridge?

They are still being covered up. There's still a major effort by the Justice Depart ment and the FBI, and probably by Treasury and the ATF as well, to try to stop Americans from finding out what happened. There have been all these self-investigations by the government and every time the government says "There were a few little problems here and there, but trust us, it's all fixed."

The Danforth Report was the greatest Waco whitewash. John Danforth was known as "St. Jack" when he was in the Senate since he was so sanctimonious.

In his report he said that he hoped that his report would help restore the American people's faith in the government and that it would help restore the government's faith in the American people. Regarding this whole notion that the Danforth Report on Waco would restore the government's faith in the people -- it's clear, if you watch the videotapes of Waco, that the federal tanks smashed into that building. Yet, Danforth speaks as if it was some sort of crime for the people to doubt the government. The government has changed its story eight or ten times by now.

In the case of Ruby Ridge, it was frightening the way the federal authorities went after Randy Weaver and his family, but it was a great credit to the state of Idaho that when they took the case to the jury that the people of Idaho stood up and refused to convict Weaver and Kevin Harris of the charge of murder.

That was a case that had a huge impact on civil liberties both in Idaho and elsewhere in this country. I wish there were more Americans who had courage like those people who were on that first Randy Weaver jury in Idaho.

Here's Geneva, a caller from Cali fornia:

I'm curious to know if your kind of people don't think there should be any government help for the poor. This is what it sounds like to me.

Something that I have tried to make clear is how often the government has harmed the people it claims it is trying to help. Something that people don't want to talk about is how taxation has done so much to hurt the working class and the middle class in this country.

I agree with that.

This is something that the media wants to sweep aside. There was even a New York Times article recently that criticized people who have been critical of the IRS and it referred to the "phantom rogue IRS agents," suggesting that it's nonsense that IRS agents had ever acted wrongfully.

Private charity is far more effective and beneficial in helping people lift themselves and provide for themselves and get on the right track in life.

Geneva, do you really believe that the government, through HUD and all its scandals and debacles, has really helped the poor people?

Yes, I do.

How can that be, when HUD has ripped off the whole country?

Because, I have to say only one thing to you people. When you stop the flow that is going out of this country to other nations ...

Are you talking about foreign aid? We're against foreign aid and GATT and NAFTA and the way they export American jobs.

My understanding is that the Bible says that there has to be some welfare for the poor and downtrodden.

We're not against helping the poor. Before the government got into it, private agencies took much better care of the downtrodden than the government has. I guess you're just going to have to continue with your opinion of us.

I think my opinion is just as good as yours.

You have a right to your opinion. But I'm telling you something: we have lost more with the corruption in the name of helping the poor than we have been helping the poor. Read James Bovard's Feeling Your Pain and then call me back and tell me he's wrong. Your book shows that government is intruding in every single area of our lives.

It's gotten a lot worse under Clinton. Certainly many of the bad things he's done were started by earlier presidents, including George Bush, but things have gotten worse.

Unfortunately, most Americans are not paying attention. It seems like our society is being split into two groups: those who work for a living and those who vote for a living, because there are so many people on the government payroll.