Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why the GOP Must Stand Firm on "Tax Cuts for the Rich"

There is much more at stake in the coming political battle over extending the Bush tax cuts than a mere few percentage points of someone's tax bracket. The Left knows that whatever additional revenues flow to the government from a raise in the top tax bracket from 35% to the pre-Bush 39.6% level will be minuscule compared to the deficit. They don't care, because they're looking to fry a much bigger fish.

To understand what is at stake, we must look at the numbers. The Democrats' assault on "the rich" has taken the form of singling out the "top 1%." That is their symbol and rallying cry.

Remember that the percentage of something is relative to the hard numbers. In relation to any fixed number, the total quantity always equals 100%. If you have 100 marbles of varying sizes in a jar, the total equals 100%. If you take the largest one and shave it down so it is no longer the largest, you still have 100%; except that now the next largest one, which then becomes the largest, is not quite as large as the previous largest marble. You now have a smaller "top 1%." Continue with this process, and eventually all of the marbles are cut down to the size of the smallest--i.e., no more top, middle, or bottom 1%.

The same is true with regard to taxpayers in an industrial economy.

If every dollar of the "rich" that falls into the category of the highest 1% of income were redistributed away, reducing the taxpayers "take-home" pay below that magic threshold--effectively discouraging anyone from earning money above a certain level--the total number of taxpayers will still equal 100%. But now the next highest level of income--what was the previous 99th percentile--becomes the new “top 1%.” If their "surplus" wealth is confiscated, then the next level of income becomes the “top 1%,” and so on.

But the Left doesn't want to take it all, just a "fair share," you say? Think again. There was a time when the highest rate in America was 91%. Then came the Kennedy/Reagan tax cuts, which brought the top rate down to 28%. The rates have bounced around since then, settling at the current top rate of 35%. But make no mistake, the Left has been itching to reverse the Kennedy/Reagan tax regime, and their 1% strategy is their means. If the premise that the top 1% should be singled out for special, higher taxation is accepted, the Left will always have someone to go after. Just as the process by which we reached today's massive welfare state was a long-term, incremental process, so it will be with regard to the tax issue. As long as there is any income “disparity” whatsoever, there will be a “top 1%” to exploit--and it will be.

The logical endgame of Obama’s anti-1% crusade is a society of universal economic, rather than legal, equality; that is to say, of universal poverty--a jar full of small marbles. Then, a new top 1% will have arisen; a top 1% comprised of rulers over a command economy. This is why the Left is so feverish about the relatively inconsequential 4.6% rise in the top rate that excluding "the rich" from extension of the Bush tax cuts would engender. The Left's “top 1%" strategy fits neatly into its collectivist worldview. It is an egalitarian assault on virtually any productive person with an income above bare poverty levels. Obama’s vision is not new. It has a name. It is nothing less than a “soft” brand of Marxian communism.

How, then, will the Republicans respond? There is only one way to stop this game: Attack the principle behind it--which, really, goes to the heart of the fundamental battle between individualism and collectivism. If the Republicans cave in on taxing the rich, they will have handed the Left a "gift that will keep on giving." Once the principle that the highest earners can be singled out for discriminatory taxation, what's to stop the Left from going back to the 1% well time and time again?

There are many policy areas in which the GOP can and must halt its retreat, and draw a firm philosophical "line in the sand." It must use this battle to take a firm stand for real tax fairness--extend the tax cuts for everyone, or no one, the polls be damned. The long-term philosophical stakes are high in the coming tax battle. That is a good place to draw that line.

Related Reading:

My Challenge to the GOP: a Philosophical Contract With America

In the Spirit of Compromise, How About a Flat Tax?

Global Wealth "Redistribution" for Global Poverty: The Egalitarian Ideal, by Ari Armstrong

Friday, September 28, 2012

Obama's Shameful Pandering

Here is the opening sentence in my latest post at The Objective Standard blog:

The Obama Administration is running ads throughout Pakistan condemning and apologizing for the video that allegedly sparked the anti-America riots across the Middle East, including the sacking of the U.S. consulate in Libya and the murders of the American ambassador and three other U.S. Citizens.

Read the rest of Obama's Apology vs. Responsibility Regarding the Libyan Murders.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mitt Romney: Obama Lite

My latest post at The Objective Standard blog is up. If you want a good hint at why the Romney Republicans have been so ineffectual against the Democrats, and why an election that should be an uphill climb for Obama has him appearing to be the likely winner, read Romney vs. Romney on Coercive Wealth Redistribution.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some Timely Advice from Ayn Rand on "How to Judge a Political Candidate”

Writing on the 1964 presidential campaign, Ayn Rand  offered this advice on “How to Judge a Political Candidate”:

If [a candidate’s] stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay or stop the march toward statism?

By this standard, one can see why Barry Goldwater is the best candidate in the field today.

No, he is not an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism—this is one of the contradictions in his stand. Like all of today’s political figures, he is the advocate of a mixed economy. But the difference between him and the others is this: they believe that some (undefined) element of freedom is compatible with government controls; he believes that some (undefined) government controls are compatible with freedom. Freedom is his major premise.

Rand’s advice is timely today.

It is not necessary or realistic to wait for the perfect laissez-faire capitalist ticket. We only need one that offers enough pro-freedom material to work with.

Clearly, in 2012, the Obama Democrats embody statism. The Romney/Ryan ticket is not nearly as strong for freedom as the Dems are on statism. Still, the Repubs generally lean more toward freedom, or at least a delay of statism. And Ryan is an open admirer--albeit a qualified admirer, but an admirer nonetheless--of Ayn Rand. (Note: this is not to imply that Rand would see it this way.)

Given the GOP ticket as the only viable choice for liberty advocates, we must strenuously promote the pro-freedom elements of the Republican ticket and platform, and of the party in general. And we must just as strenuously expose their anti-freedom contradictions, particularly on the issue of morality, so as to—as Craig Biddle advises—“constantly pressure them to move as far right as possible.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On America's "Social Contract," the Source of Individual Character, and Romney's 47%

The flap over Mitt Romney's 47% comments continued, with the NJ Star-Ledger editorial board declaring that, because of that comment, Romney "can't be trusted with the presidency." They offered several choice opportunities for rebuttal activism. Here are a few excerpts, and my comments:


The next president, whoever it is, will have to strike a tough balance. He will have to be both hard-nosed and compassionate. He will have to impose painful spending cuts, while protecting the social contract that promises a decent life for those who play by the rules.


There is not and never has been any socialist "social contract" in America. This is a devious myth dreamed up by the Left to empower government. America promises the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness and well-being, and the individual liberty to act to achieve it by productive labor and voluntary free trade with others. There is and never were any "promises of a decent life" of material benefits provided by others, only of a life free from human predators out to take what property you have earned. There was never any guarantee of an equal starting point in life, where everyone is "born on third base," or even the same base. Equal opportunity, in America's ideals, is a political, not an economic, term. It means equal legal protection of everyone's rights to live and to set and pursue his own goals.


   “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” [Romney] said.   That is the view of a man who has spent too much time cloistered among like-minded conservatives, believing in a myth they have spun about the winners and losers of this country. In this view, the rich are the virtuous job creators whose success is an outgrowth of their superior character. It is galling to hear this from a guy who was born on third base...

This reference to character could be a back-door slap at Ayn Rand. If it is, it's a misrepresentation. In any event, here is my response:

I don't know of anyone who ever said that "the rich are the virtuous job creators whose success is an outgrowth of their superior character." Superior ability and judgement? Yes, and it's true that most people who grow rich in this country create plenty of jobs along the way. But character is not measured by how much money a person makes, and I never heard of anyone who ever made that claim. It is not the amount of money that indicates superior character, but that a person makes the money he lives on. A person of virtuous character understands that he must take responsibility for himself, live by his own judgement, and understands that his own need in not a moral claim on the lives and earnings of others. The independent self-supporting man of moderate means and the man who earns a fortune are moral blood-brothers. Those who expect and demand handouts from others are moral inferiors.


Romney misses a lot. He needs to get out more often and see that millions of Americans who receive food stamps, or college scholarships, or free health care are taking responsibility for their lives. Almost all of those getting this kind of help are either working, studying or retired. The problem is not that they lack virtue. They just don’t have much money.

There's some truth to this, even though there are a lot more parasites out there than the editors acknowledge. As Ari Armstrong notes over at The Objective Standard, "Romney is wrong in assuming that, just because someone takes government handouts, that person necessarily shares the entitlement mentality or advocates forced wealth transfers. For many Americans living under today’s rights-violating government, it is practically impossible not to receive some sort of government handout."

I left these comments:

Romney is wrong about the 47%. Many do not have an entitlement mentality. And many in the other 53% do. That's why corporate welfare exists, like the GM bailout and NJ's solar subsidy scam. The problem is that the welfare state turns honorable people into "takers." I collect Social Security "benefits," which will never match the value of what was taken from me in taxes over my 45 year working career. I'll soon be forced onto Medicare. But both programs are funded by younger workers, not the recipient's accumulated lifetime "contributions," which were funneled into some else's pockets. The best gift any senior can bestow on his grandchildren is to fight for the phaseout of both programs.

The whole welfare state is corrupt, as is any human endeavor that begins with theft. It is not the goals of these programs, but the means, that is evil. SS, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Pell grants--the whole un-American mish-mash--should be phased out and abolished. They violate the real American social contract--that each person owns his life, has the right to live and act upon his own judgement, keep the rewards of his own work--and that we respect each other's rights to do that. This is the very practical ideal that drew tens of millions of poor immigrants to these shores in the first 150 years after Independence, and that built this country.

I acknowledge that I am voting for Romney, because he is not Obama. But I am under no illusions. Don't expect this Republican ticket to muster the moral courage to take such an uncompromising stand against collectivism. They are watered-down welfare statists. I don't know why the editors are so worked up. Whoever wins, the welfare state can't lose in this election.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is Romney Really on the Political Right?

In a recent column, the NJ Star-Ledger's Tom Moran pointed out what he believed was an inconsistency in the Romney/Ryan ticket:

   [Mitt Romney's] mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, used his prime-time speech to underscore the compassion at the heart of their campaign.
   “We have responsibilities, one to another — we do not each face the world alone,” he said. “And the greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”
   It is enough to make your head explode after hearing what Romney was saying behind closed doors, telling wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims” and expect the government to provide free housing, health care and food.
   “My job is not to worry about those people,” he said. “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Moran goes on to point out that Ryan's own budget contradicts his statement, because it presents a real threat to all these [social welfare and safety net] programs. Moran goes so far as to say Romney/Ryan are "going after" veterans and "the poor." 

These are pretty strong words, considering that the Ryan budget would run projected deficits until at least 2040. It's hardly a serious attack on the welfare state.

Moran concludes with some political advice for the GOP: If they want to save themselves, they must move to the political middle--presumably from the Right.

   If Romney loses this election, which is growing more likely, it will be interesting to see how the party reacts. Clinton was able to move Democrats to the middle in 1992, in part because the party had lost three presidential elections in a row.
   If Republicans blow this one, despite the bad economy, will they move to the middle as well? And if so, who will be their Bill Clinton?

I left the following comments:

For the Romney/Ryan ticket to "move to the middle," they would have to move Right. Romney is for redistribution, despite his denials and ignorant rhetoric about the 47% (who [as Ari Armstrong points out] don't all have an entitlement mentality). Romney recently said "I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help those that are in need." Taking from some to give to others based on a standard of need is the very definition of wealth redistribution. Ryan's comments about "responsibilities" is the very moral foundation of government redistribution programs and could be attributed to Obama word for word.

Both morally and practically, Romney and Ryan are welfare statists--albeit ones that favor slightly lower taxes and some modest restraint on government spending than the Obama camp. If moving to the middle means moving Left, that just shows how far the political middle has moved Left, and how far down the road to totalitarian socialism, and away from capitalist freedom, we have traveled. 

When the GOP renounces the creed that says "the greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak," and instead embraces the moral ideal that each individual has a moral right to his own life and property so long as he respects the same rights of others to their lives and property--and that the government must never impose any unchosen obligation on anyone to financially support anyone else--we'll know that we have a true advocate on the Right.

Another recent move that belies Romney's Right-Wing credentials is his claim that he would keep parts of ObamaCare, including the pre-existing conditions mandate. To keep that would of course necessitate keeping the individual mandate. This is not surprising, given that Romney's Massachusetts plan is the model for ObamaCare.

Related Reading:

Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It

Political "Left" and "Right" Properly Defined

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Individualism vs. Collectivism, Profit vs. Non-Profit, In the Education Debate

In response to my comments on a letter in the NJ Star-Ledger published in my blog posts of 8/21/12 and 9/6/12, I received these thoughtful words:

   While zemack's post is certainly eloquent, it represents a fundamental ideological difference in what "society" is. Zemack, while it's certainly an argument for a more "individualistic" lifestyle, I think your views on education are entirely selfish. Any notion of making the education of our youth a "for-profit" or "free market" field is ludicrous. While educational resources are a business, education itself is not (and shouldn't be). When schools can manage a budget surplus, that money does not go to shareholders or CEOs or board members as "profit". It's reserved for the school--renovations, supplies, technology, supplementary programs, etc. 
   What I find really appalling is how your suggestions will stratify the system. Students with special needs and under-performing students need inclusion with students that are better motivated or better-equipped. In turn, those "higher" students become role-models and learn the value of teamwork. Additionally, when a higher-performing student helps tutor or assist their peers (a strategy educators call "peer instruction"), those higher-performing students tend to internalize the information much more efficiently. Studies have shown that students with special needs will--in general--have more growth when in a classroom with general ed students of differing abilities. This is called the "Least Restrictive Environment", meaning that lumping all of the "poor" students together harms the students. So, if you remove the "better" students and leave the "worse" ones, you're significantly impacting the chances for the students you leave behind. While you may be able to live with that, I cannot.     As a parent, you have plenty of ways to impact your child's education that don't involve merely "money". You probably exist in a district with an elected school board. Do you participate in those elections? Do you attend school board meetings? Do you submit proposals for enrichment or accelerated programs in your schools? Are you rallying other parents to fight for the dismissal of a particularly bad teacher or administrator? If you absolutely must remove your child from the school (mainly as a safety issue), I know several districts with selective-enrollment, magnet, or advanced schools. Have you explored those?  
   Obviously, you're a parent that cares. That's good. Your child will statistically do better because of that support. However, what about parents or children that don't share your compassion for their own education? Are they out of luck? When you actively take money out of public education (the "kitty", as you call it), you weaken the system to the point of being ineffective for everyone. The neighborhood school continues to suffer, cause a larger exodus, which compounds the problem.    When you go down the road of privatization, schools can create whatever guidelines they deem suitable. In Chicago, more students have been expelled (and have voluntarily left) from charter schools than neighborhood schools. I've seen students "counseled out" of a charter school because they've broken some of the minor rules like gum-chewing in the building.     If all that still keeps you in your current mindset, you're welcome to move to a neighborhood with a lower property-tax rate and use those savings to move your student into a private school. I, on the other hand, will do my best to make sure that every student has an awesome education, not just those with the motivation or the money.     Again, your mindset is a very individualistic one. I don't share that mindset. While you may cry "status quo", I say that I willingly acknowledge that I have a stake in what happens to those around me.

I found Hybridactor's "stratify the system" comment interesting, because it is indicative how collectivism corrupts the human mind. To stratify means "to form or place in layers" or, in "sociology, to arrange or place in hierarchical order, especially according to graded status level." What would one call placing children in grades levels (1 through 12) according to age? What does one call periodic grading of students (A, B, C, etc.) according to how well they kept up to some predetermined level of educational competence? The collectivist premise in the term "stratification" is evident, and it is evident that stratification is a term that logically applies to central planning, not free markets. The individual is the only human entity that exists, and each individual is metaphysically an end in himself. When left free, people form bonds based upon common values, not some planner's numerical formula. 

I left the following reply: 

Hybridactor: Thank you for a thoughtful and respectful response, and for not questioning my motives. I grant you the same benefit of the doubt—that of being “a parent who cares (although in my case, a grandparent who cares). 
Yes, there is a “fundamental ideological difference” between our viewpoints. It is between individualism and collectivism—a word that you don’t use but which your views imply. Of the two, individualism is the moral view, because it reflects the supreme value of each individual by respecting his right to think and act on his own judgment without forcible interference from others. Collectivism is the opposite, and by that very fact destroys any possibility of the kind of mutually beneficial, benevolent coexistence you obviously value (as do I), because it necessarily pits people against one another, each group trying to force its values on others. Unfortunately, you’ve chosen a contradictory position; that forcibly subordinating the individual student to some collective grand design can somehow lead to a superb education for each individual. 

No, I do not participate in school board elections and meetings—on principle. The system is all about force, and I have no appetite for forcing my educational values on others. It’s easy to say you want to “make sure that every student has an awesome education.” But to “make sure” implies force; that you are omniscient and know for sure what every child’s needs are; and that you have the right—through government surrogates—to impose your will on others. I believe in the individualist educational philosophy of Maria Montessori. Does that give me the right to impose the Montessori System on others? No, despite the fact that I believe almost all children—most emphatically including most special-needs children—can benefit. I’ve chosen instead to fight for the rights of every parent and educator to pursue their own values, act on their own ideas, and cooperate and contract by mutual consent. (BTW, the educational environment you describe in paragraph 2 sounds strikingly like a Montessori school environment. But cooperation, as Montessori understood, is only workable and morally valid when it is voluntary. Individualism in no way precludes working together.) 

Yes, individualism is selfish, in the noble and proper sense of the word: that is the very nature of thinking for oneself, and acting on one’s own best judgment. A true individualist would renounce force in his dealings with others, and replace it with respect for the other person’s rights. That’s all I ask. That’s why a free market is noble; “free” means absence of predatory force. There is no “leaving behind”—or for that matter, holding back—of any student in a free market, because no one is forced into any collective marching in lockstep. It is not noble to sacrifice any individual to the dictates of any group or collective, which is only made up of other individuals.  
This is no mere abstract debate. The “fundamental ideological difference” is the difference between force and the absence of force—the basic moral societal alternative—and the two alternatives of human association have real consequences for real people.  

One last comment: Hybridactor writes "Any notion of making the education of our youth a 'for-profit' or 'free market' field is ludicrous." The "free" in "free market" means freedom from forcible interference from others (or government). The question is, what right does anyone have to forcibly interfere with others' educational or contractual choices? If parent A voluntarily pays educator B $5000 to teach her child for one year, and the educator satisfactorily delivers those teaching services at a cost of $4500, the educator has made a $500 profit. What right does anyone have to stop them; i.e., to make the tranaction non-profit? A free market is not "made." It is the absence of "making": It is leaving people free.

He continues: "While educational resources are a business, education itself is not (and shouldn't be). When schools can manage a budget surplus, that money does not go to shareholders or CEOs or board members as 'profit'. It's reserved for the school--renovations, supplies, technology, supplementary programs, etc."

The crucial difference between government schools and private education is force; government collects its revenues by force, while private schools must depend on voluntary payment. Hybridactor obviously holds a Marxist premise when it comes to profit, believing that profit is merely an excess charge arbitrarily plopped on top of the tuition charge. But profit is a discipline that holds prices in check. A private educator must price his services according to market conditions, which includes the ability and/or willingness of its customers to afford the price. The profit is earned by delivering services at a cost that is lower than the market price. So, the profit motive tends always to keep costs and thus prices in check. Government schools are burdened by no such discipline, which is why the cost of public schools is exploding and the quality is at best mediocre. 

The private school profit, which is by no means guaranteed, is the reward for successfully delivering educational services that both satisfies the parents and that the parents can afford. Profits shared with investors is their reward for risking their money on the successful operation of the schools--money that taxpayers are not forced to put up.

Related Reading:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

225 years ago, on September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention ended and the Constitution of the United States of America was signed. This day is officially known as Constitution Day.

It was also an occasion for one columnist to declare that the US Constitution is "broken." The New Jersey Star-Ledger's Tom Moran writes:

   Kids in America are taught to venerate the Constitution, almost as if it were the word of God.
   And that’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson feared. He believed it was flawed, that experience would teach each generation new lessons and that it should be redone every 19 years.
   But Jefferson lost the argument. And so the Founders signed a Constitution 225 years ago tomorrow that is an impregnable fortress, firmly set against the forces of change that Jefferson welcomed and almost impossible to amend.
   Does that make sense? Haven’t we learned valuable lessons over the past few centuries about how democracies thrive, and how they stagnate? In a day when our federal government is so dysfunctional, shouldn't we at least consider fundamental changes?

University of Texas Professor Sanford Levinson is advocating a series of such fundamental changes to the US Constitution, which Tom Moran discusses in his recent NJ Star-Ledger column. Levinson's proposals include instituting a direct popular vote for president and measures to greatly weaken the checks and balances that limit the power of any one branch of government. In essence, Levinson's purpose, according to Moran, is to expand the power of majority rule and break Washington's political "gridlock," which has made our federal government "dysfunctional."

Moran approvingly cites Thomas Jefferson who, as Moran strongly implies, would welcome these constitutional changes, or any changes suited to any generation.

Before we discuss ways to expand the power of electoral majority rule so as to enable the government to get more done, we need to have a conversation about what the government's proper job it is to do.

The American constitution's basic function is to limit government's power to the protection of individual rights. This is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint for the constitution. Any discussion about the constitution has to begin with the Declaration--which, incidentally, was written by Thomas Jefferson.

The Founders did not intend to create a democracy, despite Moran's devious attempt to smuggle in that premise. They created a constitutionally limited republic protective of the liberty and rights of the individual. They understood that  government presupposes individual rights. So the constitutional discussion must begin with the questions: What are rights, and what is the proper function of government?

As the Declaration states, every individual possesses "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Since productive work is the only means of sustaining one's life and achieving happiness, it's obvious that the Founders understood--including in Jefferson's own words--that property rights are among those rights. The Declaration then states "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." Rights are sanctions to freedom of action, not a claim on the lives and property of others or a government guarantee of material well-being and happiness. Notice that the constitution does not authorize government to redistribute private wealth.

Today, the fundamental principles upon which the constitution rests have been largely abandoned, opening the door to the piecemeal progression toward unlimited totalitarian government. Consequently, our best protection against further encroachments on individual rights--and it's a weak protection--is political gridlock. I can't think of anything more dangerous to America's future than to begin tampering with the basics of the constitution in today's cultural environment. Before we consider unshackling majority rule, we must rediscover our Founding principles, roll back the regulatory welfare state, and provide ironclad guarantees that no one's rights be alienated by majority vote.

The Founders did not intend to replace absolute monarchy with absolute majority rule unrestrained by the principle of individual rights. As Jefferson said, "the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." The Founders were not primarily concerned with giving the people the right to vote. They intended to liberate the people from predatory government, whether monarchistic, theocratic, or democratic.

Related Reading:

On a Revisionist's Proposal to Upend the Declaration of Independence

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Government Investment" = Money Laundering

In "Obama's Right: Business Needs Government Investment," NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor writer Barbara Wolfe wrote:

   President Obama is right when he says small businesses have been built because of government investments, not solely by the hard work of the business owner. The Romney campaign has taken his comment — "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen." — out of context.
   Consider the investment made by the government in the 1980s to create the internet. Since then, major companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon and many others were launched by entrepreneurs, who have created thousands of jobs and made billions of dollars. But these businesses required the internet. So, who built these businesses? Mark Zuckerberg did not build the internet, and he never could have built Facebook without it.
   Romney is the candidate who doesn’t understand how the economy really works, because he refuses to acknowledge the important role that the government has always played in nurturing the private sector.

Here are my comments:

There is no such thing as “government investment,” as Barbara Wolfe thinks. The money government “invests” is private money taken by force of taxation, and then handed out to private individuals who do the work. The government produces nothing, by its basic nature as an instrument of legalized force.  
In regards to the internet, infrastructure, basic research and development, and other “investments,” the government is nothing more than a political money laundering operation. The only reason it can operate its laundering mechanism is because of the wealth generated by private individuals working, creating, and trading in an environment of relative economic and political freedom. It’s absurd to believe that if government hadn’t taken over those fields, we would have no research, roads, or internet. The government didn’t create the people who built them, or the people who earned the money that funded them. It merely usurped the rights of the people who did earn it to spend and invest their own money as they see fit.  
Obama got one thing right, though. Government does perform one vital function; ensuring the “unbelievable American system” of individual rights, including property rights—however imperfect—that enabled a thriving private economy. That is key, as noted in the Declaration. History is dominated by dictatorships of all stripes, so if government can create wealth, history would have been one long economic boom. Instead, history is dominated by grinding, relentless poverty—including today in third world countries—except to the extent where capitalistic freedom exists.  

Yes, many businessmen like Zuckerberg owe a debt of gratitude to the people who built the internet, who in turn owe a debt of gratitude to people who created electrification and the fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydro power that makes its mass generation possible, who in turn owe a debt of gratitude to other achievers that came before, and so on and so on. There is a hierarchical structure to industrial progress and each contributor deserves full credit for what he/she contributed to that structure—i.e., the part that he built—and we as “consumers” owe a debt of gratitude to them all. But let’s give credit to whom it belongs—productive people and free enterprise—not the political money launderers. Wolfe should learn basic economics, so she could learn how the economy really works.  

As to the idea that Obama's comments were taken out of context, I recommend re-reading the speech in its entirety. But here is the relevant section:

     There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)
     If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
     So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.  (Applause.)
     So all these issues go back to that first campaign that I talked about, because everything has to do with how do we help middle-class families, working people, strivers, doers -- how do we help them succeed?  How do we make sure that their hard work pays off?  That’s what I've been thinking about the entire time I've been President.

While by "you didn't build that," by "that" Obama was referring to government programs, his ridicule of "hard working" and "smart" people makes clear that he believes luck is the predominant factor in business success. The proper application of one's intelligence and work through good judgement and choices--not to mention one's character, values and goals--have no reality in Obama's worldview.

Obama's "together" theme is one of an ant colony, where all people are indistinguishable from one another. It is not one of individuals each possessing a unique character performing his work and being paid according to his own abilities, ambitions, and contributions to a cooperative effort geared to a common goal.

Related Reading:

Obama's Way vs. the American Way

"More Prosperity" of "Shared Sacrifice"

"You Didn't Build That"--Obama's Ode to Envy

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Money-Makers" vs. "Money-Appropriators"

In a recent NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor, a correspondent took to task a columnist's misrepresentation of Ayn Rand on an important issue; the relationship of success to moral virtue. Kevin Belanger wrote in his opening paragraph:

I recently finished reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand for school. I believe its message has been misrepresented by columnist Eugene Robinson (“Romney-Ryan: A campaign out of balance,” Aug. 14). The novel does not, as Robinson suggests, equate capitalist success with moral virtue. It denounces money-grubbing and power-hungry individuals. 

Belanger went on to describe the difference between Howard Roark, Rand's hero, and Peter Keating, Guy Francon, and Gail Wynand. His conclusion: "Rand’s message is clear: Men who dedicate their lives to money and prestige are trumped by men who dedicate themselves to their principles."

I left the following comments:

Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan has understandably brought Ayn Rand into the forefront of the political campaign. Ryan has named Ayn Rand as an inspiration (although he has disavowed her philosophy of Objectivism). That being the case, it is important for all thoughtful people to make an honest effort to understand Rand. 
The best way to understand her is to read her books. So I was glad to see Kevin Belanger’s effort to set the record straight in regard to Rand’s views on money by reference to her novel “The Fountainhead.”  
Rand’s novels are the best place to start, but Rand’s non-fiction work is also a good source. For example, her essay The Money-Making Personality in the book “Why Businessmen Need Philosophy” distinguishes between the two very different types of personalities cited by Belanger. Here is an excerpt from that essay: 
“Prospectors looking for gold know that there exists a mineral which deceives the ignorant by its brilliant glitter: they call it fool’s gold. A similar distinction exists between the real producers of wealth and the pseudo-producers… 
“Most people lump together into the same category all men who become rich, refusing to consider the essential question: the source of the riches, the means by which the wealth was acquired.” 
Rand called the real producers “money-makers” and the fool’s gold pseudo-producers “money-appropriators.”  
Here is a link to the free audio version of Rand’s essay: 
It’s also worth reading "Francisco’s money speech” (from Atlas Shrugged): 

Related Reading:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Left's Continuing Fit over "Citizens United"

Here is the opening sentences from my latest post at The Objective Standard blog:

   Under the pretense that so-called “super-PACs” would “drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” President Obama “proposed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2-year-old Citizens United decision . . . which paved the way for today’s unlimited political expenditures by political action committees.”
   But Obama’s rationale is a straw man.

Find out why in Obama Urges Amendment to Overturn the First Amendment.

Related Reading:

Free Speech vs. Freedom of Speech

Are Media Corporations Next

Free Speech, Not Disclosure, is the Main Issue

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Truth About Robin Hood

In a recent NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor, Walter A. Korfmacher praised the paper's 8/20/12 editorial,     A Moral Choice on the Ryan Budget. He concluded:

It is clear Ryan is no fan of Robin Hood. On the contrary, the Ryan budget would take money from the poor in order to give money to the rich.
Korfmacher apparently doesn't know the difference between  earning money and not earning it--between a thief and his victims. I left the following comment:

Actually, Walter A. Korfmacher, Ryan is more of a fan of Robin Hood than Obama—the real Robin Hood, that is. The real Robin Hood is not the Robin Hood of today’s legend. Robin Hood lived at a time when looting rulers got rich by robbing the poor masses. He was a champion of justice and property, taking from the looters and giving back to their victims. 
Today’s Robin Hood myth stands for something entirely different—something sinister and evil—taking from those who earned it against their will and giving the loot to those who didn’t. Today, except for criminals and government favor-seekers, money is made through productive work and trade. One man’s riches do not come out of another man’s hide, but by enriching others—by providing life-enhancing products and services to others in exchange for their money. This is self-evident every time you trade your dollars for something you didn’t yourself produce, or put in an honest day’s work for pay. 
Ryan at least has some respect for the victims of today’s version of the looting ruler—the welfare statists. By attempting to slow down the runaway redistribution of wealth from the productive to the non-productive, Ryan is taking a page from Robin Hood’s reverence for justice and property rights. It’s time to kill the evil Robin Hood myth, and hail the real Robin Hood. Though far from perfect, I’ll be casting my vote for Romney/Ryan. It’s by far the better moral choice

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged

Russell Crowe vs. the Real Robin Hood

The Real Robin Hood Never Robbed the Rich

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Truth About "Trickle Down"

A NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor by Herb Gordon takes aim at Romney's tax rate and Bain Capital:

   Do you think it is fair that an employee pays a higher tax rate than an employer? The tax break was supposed to “trickle down” to new jobs and never did when President George W. Bush endorsed it. Now, the GOP is proposing larger tax breaks for the rich for another “trickle down.”
   When Mitt Romney was CEO at Bain Capital, people lost their jobs due to bankruptcy while he and his investors walked away with millions. 

Here are my comments:

Question for Herb Gordon: Should employees be free to quit a job to pursue better life opportunities, like a better paying job? Or should they be chained for life to the same job? If your answer is free to quit, you are a hypocrite. A business owner has a much moral right to fire an employee as the employee has to quit, and for the same reasons. Private equity firms like Bain make millions by growing good businesses, turning around struggling but sound businesses, and dissolving less viable firms and reallocating the capital to more promising businesses and technologies. Their motives are the same as the employee who quits for a better paying job elsewhere—to make more money. Successful private equity firms like Bain are economic heroes because their wise investments lead to better products and services, more jobs, and more overall prosperity. They are moral heroes because they make money by their own reasoning minds, which leads to wealth-producing, life-enhancing results. 
Anti-capitalists ridicule free market policies as “trickle down,” but here’s another question: How much of what you buy with your money did you produce yourself? There are none as blind as the self-blinded. Look around you. Everything your money can buy is provided by someone else’s productive intellectual and physical work, investments, and pursuit of money and profit. If you think that flood of wealth is a “trickle,” then try putting your money under a mattress, stop spending, and see where your life goes without it. And while you’re at it, quit that job that someone else provided, since you’ll no longer need the money. 

As to taxes; no, they are not fair. Better would be a single flat rate so that all taxable income is treated the same, and tax increases and tax cuts are shared equally by everyone regardless of total income. It’s time to end discrimination based upon income.  

Related Reading:

"Greed" is a Two-Way Street

Distorting Words for Political Gain

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Modern-Day George Wallaces in Reverse

In response to the letter by Kristina Tomaino I recently addressed, I posted this comment:

"The most comprehensive charter study performed to date, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, demonstrated charter schools were twice as likely to produce underperforming students in traditional public schools and underserve special-needs populations.” [--Kristina Tomaino]
I’ve seen this argument against charter schools before—most recently in a column by James Florio—and it deserves special attention for the evil that it exemplifies—the sacrifice of virtue to lessor or non-virtue.  
It is morally perverse to shackle motivated parents and children to the level of the worst students. Whether the underperforming students are the fault of the teachers, parents, the students themselves, or some combination—or due to problems beyond anyone’s control or fault—is irrelevant. To hold any child back to the level of an inferior is so unjust that it boggles the mind that anyone would embrace such a course of action.  
Getting their kids out of schools they deem bad for them should be every parent’s top priority. Parents who seize an opportunity to get a better education for their children should be lauded and free to do so. The kind of mentality that would block them for the sake of “underperforming” or “special needs” students is not motivated by any kind of concern for better education or children’s welfare. They are motivated by pure hatred of the good, the insignia of collectivism.  
Opponents of parental choice and freedom are modern-day George Wallaces in reverse; standing in the schoolhouse door—not to keep children out, but to keep them in. 

And received this response from:

Oh, zemack. You have got to be kidding me. So no politician, Republican or Democrat, has ever used the term "invest" to talk about using taxpayer money? You're semantical issue illustrates your overall bias. Charter schools are not the answer, and the Charter school approval process in NJ is a disaster to say the least. Some charter schools have a place, particularly in high poverty areas, but Christie, Cerf, Duncan, Rhee, etc. talk about them like they are a silver bullet. Virtual charter schools are just about the biggest scam I have ever seen. We all know there is a real push from corporate education "reformers" trying to get a piece of the public education kitty. That is the reality of modern education "reform". Anyone who knows anything about education knows that Charter schools disproportionally serve the student population. Of course it is easier to educate children when there are less special-need children to educate. And what about the kids left behind? What's the plan for them? Duncan points to the fact that kids in poverty in Massachusetts on average perform better than those in Georgia as proof that "poverty is not destiny" and therefore to fix poverty you need to fix education. What he fails to acknowledge is that ALL students on average do better in Massachusetts than in Georgia. It's time to start working with real educators, not billionaires with no education experience, to get real reforms to improve educators. Putting the blame on teachers, like zemack chooses to do, is shameful and unproductive.
My answer:

The fact that you think words are mere semantics is a tip-off. Real educators take words and definitions seriously, rather than use them as tools of obfuscation. Another tip-off is your reference to the need for “a plan for them.” Every child—gifted, special needs, or anywhere in between—is an individual with his own unique character and needs deserving of his own advocate—namely, his parents (or guardians)—with the freedom to act for the best interests of his child. If you’re really serious about “leaving no child behind”—a collectivist slogan if ever there was one—you’d want to dissolve the “public education kitty” and leave parents free to spend their own money on their own children’s education as they judge best. What we don’t need is another man with another grand plan funded by the public kitty. 
I never said charters are a silver bullet or “the answer” (although the tremendous parental demand for them is a good indication of the changes we need). Nor do I “put the blame on teachers.” Quite the contrary: I want the education field liberated so educators can bring us the kind of diversity of ideas that can meet the diversity of children’s needs. My “bias” is individual rights and free markets. Yours is obviously the central planners and the stifling status quo. I repeat: To establishment defenders who find this idea horrifying, I ask: Why do you fear parental freedom and competition in a free market? Don’t you think that parents would voluntarily choose your schools, and voluntarily pay for them? If not, then what moral justification do you offer to support forced government schooling? If so, why do you need it?   

And the conversation continues:

See, you actually prove a point for me: When parents are motivated, kids do better. What about the kid who doesn't have a motivated parent putting them into a charter school? What about that kid? (Also "No Child Left Behind" is a government pipe dream lingo) The problem is when parents are MIA, which happens quite frequently in high poverty areas. And I challenge your assertion that there is "tremendous parental demand" for charters. Can you back that up? The reality is the majority of parents already have choice. If you don't like your schools, you are free to move to another district. In fact, many people move to NJ just because of the school systems. Why are we using the high-poverty, low-achieving districts as the impetus to change education EVERYWHERE in NJ? Outside of those Abbott districts, NJ ranks near the top in the world in education. BTW, who has been controlling those Abbott districts for decades now? The state itself. Do you really think turning it over to for-profit private entities is the solution?

Reactionary defenders rarely challenge my basic arguments. Instead, we get the argument from collectivism: "NJ ranks near the top in the world in education." To which I answer, so what? If the schools are so great, why the fear of parental choice? No answer to such queries is ever forthcoming. Here are my posted responses to a few of his queries:

While I don't believe charter schools are any kind of silver bullet, the parental demand for good charters is real: 
"Do you really think turning it over to for-profit private entities is the solution?" 
That's not the point. The point is, what right does anyone have to force people to turn their money over to government schools, including charter schools? 
"The problem is when parents are MIA, which happens quite frequently in high poverty areas." 
Ok, there are irresponsible parents, for sure. How does that justify hampering responsible parents, or their kids? This argument is a red herring--or worse, as I've said.