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NAPOLITANO: Four more years to crush personal freedoms

Second term may deliver authoritarian we fear

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Only in America can a president who inherits a deep recession and whose policies have actually made the effects of that recession worse get re-elected. Only in America can a president get re-elected who wants the bureaucrats who can't run the Post Office to micromanage the administration of every American's health care. Only in America can a president who kills Americans overseas who have never been charged or convicted of a crime get re-elected. Only in America can a president who borrowed and spent more than $5 trillion in fewer than four years, plans to repay none of it, and promises to borrow another $5 trillion in his second term, get re-elected.

What's going on here?

What is going on is the present-day proof of the truism observed by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who rarely agreed on anything in public: When the voters recognize that the public treasury has become a public trough, they will send to Washington not persons who will promote self-reliance and foster an atmosphere of prosperity, but those who will give away the most cash and thereby create dependency. This is an attitude that, though present in some localities in the colonial era, was created at the federal level by Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, magnified by FDR, enhanced by LBJ, and eventually joined in by all modern-day Democrats and most contemporary Republicans.

Mitt Romney is one of those Republicans. He is no opponent of federal entitlements, and he basically promised to keep them where they are. Where they are is a cost to taxpayers of about $1.7 trillion a year. Under President Obama, however, the costs have actually increased, and so have the numbers of those who now receive them. Half of the country knows this, and so it has gleefully sent Mr. Obama back to office so he can send them more federal cash taken from the other half.

It is fair to say that Mr. Obama is the least skilled and least effective American president since Jimmy Carter, but he is far more menacing. His every instinct is toward the central planning of the economy and the federal regulation of private behavior. He has no interest in protecting American government employees in harm's way in Libya, and he never admits he has been wrong about anything. Though he took an oath to uphold the Constitution, he treats it as a mere guideline, whose grand principles intended to guarantee personal liberty and a diffusion of power can be twisted and compromised to suit his purposes. He rejects the most fundamental of American values -- that our rights come from our Creator, and not from the government. His rejection of that leads him to an expansive view of the federal government, which permits it, and thus him, to right any wrong, to regulate any behavior and to tax any event, whether authorized by the Constitution or not, and to subordinate the individual to the state at every turn.

As a practical matter, we are in for very difficult times during Mr. Obama's second term. Obamacare is now here to stay; so, no matter who you are or how you pay your medical bills, federal bureaucrats will direct your physicians in their treatment of you, and they will see your medical records. As well, Mr. Obama is committed to raising the debt of the federal government to $20 trillion. So, if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives goes along with this, as it did during Mr. Obama's first term, the cost will be close to $1 trillion in interest payments every year. As well, everyone's taxes will go up on New Year's Day, as the Bush-era tax cuts will expire then. The progressive vision of a populace dependent on a central government and a European-style welfare state is now at hand.

I argued during the campaign that this election was a Hobson's choice between big government and bigger government. Regrettably, this election addressed how much private wealth the feds should seize and redistribute and how much private behavior they should regulate, rather than whether the Constitution permits them to do so. I have argued that we have really one political party whose two branches mirror each other's wishes for war and power. Despite all these realities, it is still unsettling to find Mr. Obama back in the White House for another four years. This sinking feeling comes from the knowledge that he is free from the need to keep an eye on the electorate and it comes from the terrible thought that he may be the authoritarian we have all known and feared would visit us one day to crush our personal freedoms.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of "It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom" (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

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