Editor’s note: The recent threats from White House proxies to Bob Woodward—a journalist who didn’t toe the line—are serious and must be considered so. Comparisons to Nazi Germany are always risky, but with the huge number of unprecedented steps this administration has taken, historical context can be helpful. The article below, published in July of 2010, asks some of those questions. How accurate is it two years later? How much has come to pass? What has happened at all? What has gotten worse?
by JANET LEVY
In 1933, Hitler began a systematic attempt to eliminate opposition and bring about conformity with the Nazi agenda. Using the policy of Gleichschaltung or “Synchronization,” he consolidated his authority within the Reich bureaucracy and key aspects of German culture and life using propaganda, intimidation, appointments of Party loyalists and new laws and directives. Hitler employed the services of an invasive police force and seized control of schools, labor unions, the military, media, the arts, churches, social service organizations and recreational clubs.
Similarly, the United States is currently undergoing widespread economic and political change under the Obama administration which is using a series of extensive actions and techniques that, but for intent, bear a striking resemblance to steps taken in pre-war Germany. In the space of a year, the administration, which campaigned on a platform of “hope and change” and publicly avowed support for the redistribution of income in the notorious “Joe the Plumber” interchange, has begun sweeping programs utilizing a system of czars, costly spending plans, takeovers of entire industries and a proposed seizure of the healthcare and energy sectors. In this way, the administration has increased the size, power and jurisdiction of the federal government. It has also maintained unprecedented control of the media and the message, encouraged “spontaneous” content from children singing Obama’s praises on the Internet and begun legislation to secure government control over broadband and the Internet.
America would do well during this time of economic and political upheaval to keep close watch on the measures taken by the administration to ensure that our free-enterprise system and our personal freedoms are not overwhelmed by the zeal for change that characterized prewar Germany and led to Hitler’s national socialist dictatorship.
Germany’s Widespread Change
The legal basis for Hitler’s national socialist dictatorship was founded on two pivotal decrees – the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act. They eliminated potential political dissidence and the danger posed by a competing Communist ideology.
The Reichstag Fire Decree laid the foundation for the arrest of members of the Communist Party and paved the way for their elimination as a political threat. The decree arose after a fire of unknown origin occurred in the Reichstag (German parliament) chambers in February 1933. Hitler capitalized on the fear of civil unrest and the anxiety Germans felt after the fire as they demanded government intervention to protect against the perceived threat to their safety, lives and property. The Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, created in response, suspended the civil liberties and habeas corpus rights guaranteed in the Weimar Constitution.
Making use of the chaos manufactured by an alleged Communist threat, the decree essentially ushered in martial law in Germany. The Reichstag Fire Decree provided for the imprisonment of opponents of the Nazis, the suppression of anti-Nazi publications and the removal of legal restraints on police action.
Three weeks later, the Enabling Act, euphemistically named the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Nation,” granted Hitler and his Cabinet the authority to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag. It also rescinded the constitutional requirements of majority support and political bargaining between coalitions. In addition, the Enabling Act sanctioned the immediate passage of any legislation contrary to the Constitution without Reichstag approval.
Shortly after the passage of both the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act, political parties, except for the Nazi Party, were banned. Hitler was granted the power of life and death over all German citizens with no political parties, no elections, no freedom of speech or assembly, no freedom from invasion of privacy and no protection from the government. Furthermore, through false promises of protection of religious liberty, Hitler signed an agreement (the Reichskonkordat) with the Vatican to preserve Roman Catholicism in Germany, which boosted his standing among the world’s nations.
Today, the administration, which took office amidst fears of economic ruin, has similarly undertaken broad remedies that bear watching for the danger they pose to our individual liberties and economic system.
Moving forward with the agenda to transform America, over 40 czars have been appointed with sweeping powers. The appointment process enables the administration to avoid the public scrutiny and rigor of the confirmation process required of Cabinet appointees. These unelected, unaccountable political appointees, many of whom contributed the presidential campaign, have unchecked power to write, implement and enforce laws and regulations. They are endowed with the privilege to create their own taxpayer-supported bureaucracies and develop their respective spheres of influence. The czars created so far include Muslim outreach, cars, the border, climate, GITMO closures, executive pay and health.
Czars are problematic because they answer only to the president, increase the power of the executive branch, are beyond the reach of the legislative and judicial branches, and eliminate check-and-balances enshrined in our Constitution. Congress has no power over czars and is shut out of the nation’s decision-making process. In effect, the czar system creates a shadow government, neutralizes Congress and eliminates government “for the people, by the people.”
As was done in prewar Germany, fears of economic unease have been used to justify widespread changes. Citing the need for economic revival and job growth, the White House has systematically embarked on a plan of economic restructuring with unprecedented government intervention in the free enterprise system. The financial crisis, occurring conveniently the same time as the election, has led to continuing bank and financial institution takeovers and has been extended to determining executive salaries and bonuses. In a statement of revealing intent, Obama announced “We have a once in a generation chance to act boldly, to turn adversity into opportunity, and use this crisis to transform our economy for the 21st century.”
Plans to restructure the American economy appear to be having a devastating effect with massive spending bills, mandatory socialized healthcare under threat of fines and imprisonment, restrictive and punitive energy policies, global taxation and industry takeovers. Particularly alarming is the rise in government spending. From 1947-2008, government spending hovered around 15-20 percent of the gross national product (GNP). With the so-called stimulus plan and other spending programs, government spending is projected to increase to 28 percent of GNP in 2009 and 40 percent in 2010. This represents a doubling of government spending in two years and will usher in a new era of socialism and big government in the United States.
With unemployment at 10 percent – though some economists argue unemployment is actually closer to 20 percent – a major crisis looms. Many wonder if fears about the financial crisis are being manufactured to justify federal regulation of industry and the economy. With billions in spending to expand government programs, the takeover of entire industries, skyrocketing unemployment and prohibitive taxation, chaos could well be the by-product of such policies, permitting the government to step in and seize complete control over the country. This kind of well-orchestrated, precipitated crisis will seal the government power grab and be the catalyst needed to transform America into a socialist country. In the words of Rahm Emanuel, quoting from the Saul Alinsky playbook, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Added to the dire economic situation is the attempt to nationalize healthcare and legitimize the much-debated “science” of global warming, both further adding to America’s already untenable debt load. Government-run healthcare has been engineered to gain control over all life and death decisions faced by Americans and eliminate the right to privacy in the process. Government panels will determine treatment options and ration access to physicians, procedures and medications according to federal budget constraints and government-determined criteria. If passed, this program will represent the very first time that the federal government has required citizens to purchase anything.
As for the proposed cap and trade legislation and the Kyoto protocol, global warming regulations will significantly add to the tax burden of Americans and American industry by putting the country at the mercy of the demands of underdeveloped countries. If these proposals become law, the cost of carbon-based energy will become prohibitive and more jobs will be shifted offshore as a result. Additionally, global warming laws will dramatically add to the cost of carbon-based energy use, reduce American sovereignty and could lead to global governance. In fact, greenhouse gas restrictions will result in the largest tax increase in our nation’s history.
Controlling Media and the Message
Coupled with its installation of a shadow government and interference in the free market economy, the Obama administration has attempted to control the media and the message, exert undue influence on students and been severely censuring of any dissent or disapproval. Efforts to influence the message have gone so far as directing the work of federal arts grant recipients, fact checking of a comedy routine and proposed legislation to regulate broadband Internet access. Meanwhile, criticism directed at Obama and his agenda is frequently countered with accusations of racism.
Former White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn, who stepped down amidst controversial statements about her reverence for Mao Zedong, the murderer of 70 million Chinese, admitted publicly the administration’s intent when she said, “Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control.”
Dunn criticized Fox News as “opinion journalism masquerading as news,” while White House aides admitted their official strategy was to aggressively confront critics and marginalize and delegitimize dissent. Fox, characterized as not a “legitimate news organization,” was to be treated as an opponent that represented the voice of the Republican Party. Conservative talk show hosts were labeled as entertainers and were accused of fomenting hatred with their dissenting commentary.
As for the indoctrination of children by the Obama administration, the Internet is rife with videos of students as young as first graders singing praises to the president. Students have been encouraged to write poems, perform rap songs and participate in dramatizations about Obama, whose picture and books are featured prominently in classrooms and school libraries. For the very first time, a president addressed students nationwide at the beginning of the school year. Even five-year-old children were encouraged to write letters to themselves explaining how they could help Obama and teachers were told to “build background knowledge about the president” by reading books about him and using language that tended to glorify him.
In August, an infamous White House call to recipients of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants was recorded and exposed on the Internet and by selected media outlets. The video disclosed the quid pro quo of political support through artistic expression expected of grantees. Apparently the stimulus bill included millions for NEA grants. With plans to connect administrative objectives to cultural actors, the administration granted funding of more than $1.2 million per recipient to individuals who would agree to endorse health care reform. During the White House-initiated call, artists were enlisted to use their creative talents to advance the president’s political agenda. Following the call, members of the arts community released statements supporting the health care bill.
When Saturday Night Live performed a recent comedic sketch ridiculing agenda items that Obama has yet failed to accomplish, CNN subjected the comedy writers to a “fact-check.” CNN newscaster Wolf Blitzer referred to the portrayal as unkind and questioned the veracity of casting Obama as a do-nothing president. As the actions of past presidents and politicians have provided comedic fodder for entertainers from time immemorial, this level of censure was viewed as highly unusual.
Charges of racism have abounded with any criticism of Obama and his policies no matter how legitimate. Tea Party protesters opposed to increased taxation without representation were deemed racist. Those opposed to nationalized healthcare and cap and trade have also been dismissed as racist. Any dissenting views no matter how rational are labeled as “hateful beliefs” held by “right-wing extremists.” Former president Carter stated that “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward” Obama is due to his race.
A proposal affecting Internet regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is designed to create a bureaucratic structure to control content delivery. Requirements are to be set in place so that broadcasters meet federally specified “public interest” obligations to “enhance public discourse” by featuring access to a variety of groups and opinions. If enacted, this would represent direct government policing of the flow of information from providers to consumers and raises concerns about privacy and first amendment infringements.
With out-of-control spending and entitlement program growth, plans for drastically increased taxation, centralized government control of the economy and intolerance for dissent, is the administration hell-bent on remaking America as a socialist nation? Are we precipitously moving away from the free enterprise system that has guaranteed our freedoms, bolstered our leadership in the world, spurred our competitiveness and sustained our representative government? This period in American history certainly appears reminiscent of Gleichschaltung in Nazi Germany and features many similar governmental actions. If we fail to be vigilant and recognize the parallels, could this be the death knell for our constitutional republic?