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Judd Gregg: Liberals play with words, truth

When did all these folks on the left become “progressives,” and what does it mean?

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These are questions that deserve a little discussion because we are no longer being governed by various varieties of liberals but rather by folks who call themselves “progressives,” a label that is enthusiastically disseminated by their allies in the press such as The New York Times and NPR.

These people’s purpose in governing is to redistribute wealth.

This has been announced in a rather brash, but at least forthright, way by the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. It is also the goal, albeit less explicitly stated, of the tax policies of President Obama.

The term for this in an earlier era would have been “socialism.” So why not use that word?

The answer is, obviously, political.

Socialism as a term is not all that attractive. It does not score well in focus groups.

Also, the actual track record of socialism is abysmal and in many cases horrific. If one looks at the last century, the leaders who instituted the most massive cases of genocide in history were all socialists of one vintage or another.

Lenin, Stalin and Mao — and, one can argue, Hitler also — came to power calling for the redistribution of wealth as the core of their purpose. They used the popular support this position engendered to transform their followers and their nations into the most repressive and destructive in modern history.

Socialism naturally leads to this type of tyranny because at the base of socialism is the genuine belief that you can arbitrarily take from others their property without their consent in the name of a greater good as defined (ironically enough) by a few.

Of course, the core of the American Revolution was the issue of the rights of individuals to their property, and the need to protect that right in the face of a government that would take it without their consent.

Property and liberty go hand in hand. Socialism at all levels, and certainly as practiced in the extreme, does not accept or respect this fact.

Also, as has been pointed out with devastating effectiveness and accuracy at least since the time of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, socialism demeans individual identity.

It undermines economic growth as it discourages, and in many cases actually counters, the initiatives necessary on the part of individuals to be productive and generate growth.

Thus one can understand why it is that people in office, and those who support them, especially in the intelligentsia, would not want to be tagged with the epithet of “socialist.”

However, in this whole exercise in misdirection you have to respect one person.

I am not thinking here of de Blasio or his minions in the media. Rather that respect should fall to the quirky but refreshingly honest senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Vermont has always been a different place. At one time, Vermont and Maine were the only states to vote against Franklin Roosevelt as president.

More recently, it has undergone a political sea-change brought about largely by an influx of people who are seeking the alternative lifestyle of a bucolic state.

These folks made their transit from places like New York and Connecticut up the river to the Green Mountain State. For the most part, these people were and are traditional liberals on all things. But they have chosen to take their feet to a place where there are no rush hours — a good choice, by the way, if you can afford it.

Now speaking for them is Sanders. He does not try to focus-group his thoughts or his ideas or his identity. He calls himself a socialist. He is a socialist. And he is damn proud of it.

The press still has a problem with this and insists on calling him an “independent.” He did not run as an independent. He ran as a socialist and won as a socialist.

This brings us back to those other folks who call themselves “progressives.”

It is their cause to redistribute wealth in the name of social justice.

It is a practice that history teaches us does not work. It results in a retardation of economic growth, a reduction in the standard of living for the majority of people who are subjected to it, and an undermining of liberty as defined by the right to protect one’s property.

There should be an acknowledgement here that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck.

Those people who adhere to this worldview are socialists, not progressives. Folks should own up to the term and wear it as a badge of pride, just as Sanders does.

They should then try to explain to the American people why a political philosophy that has such a disastrous historical track record should become the guiding principle for our nation.

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.