Pitting us against each other
By WALTER E. WILLIAMS
President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have led increasingly successful efforts to pit Americans against one another through the politics of hate and envy. Attacking CEO salaries, the president -- last year during his Midwest tour -- said, "I do think at a certain point you've made enough money."
Let's look at CEO salaries, but before doing so, let's look at other salary disparities between those at the bottom and those at the top. According to Forbes' Celebrity 100 list for 2010, Oprah Winfrey earned $290 million. Even if her makeup person or cameraman earned $100,000, she earned thousands of times more than that. Is that fair?
Among other celebrities earning hundreds or thousands of times more than the people who work with them are Tyler Perry ($130 million), Jerry Bruckheimer ($113 million), Lady Gaga ($90 million) and Howard Stern ($76 million). According to Forbes, the top 10 celebrities, excluding athletes, earned an average salary of a little more than $100 million in 2010.
According to The Wall Street Journal Survey of CEO Compensation (November 2010), Gregory Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, earned $87 million, Oracle's Lawrence Ellison ($68 million) and rounding out the top 10 CEOs was McKesson's John Hammergren, earning $24 million. It turns out that the top 10 CEOs have an average salary of $43 million, which pales in comparison with America's top 10 celebrities, who earn an average salary of $100 million.
When you recognize that celebrities earn salaries that are some multiples of CEO salaries, you have to ask: Why is it that rich CEOs are demonized and not celebrities? A clue might be found if you asked: Who's doing the demonizing? It turns out that the demonizing is led by politicians and leftists with the help of the news media, and like sheep, the public often goes along.
Why demonize CEOs? My colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell explained it in his brand-new book, "The Thomas Sowell Reader." One of his readings, titled "Ivan and Boris -- and Us," starts off with a fable of two poor Russian peasants. Ivan finds a magic lamp and rubs it, and the jinni grants him one wish. As it turns out, Boris has a goat, but Ivan doesn't. Ivan's wish is for Boris' goat to die. That vision reflects the feelings of too many Americans. If all CEOs worked for nothing, it would mean absolutely little or nothing to the average American's bottom line.
For politicians, it's another story: Demonize people whose power you want to usurp. That's the typical way totalitarians gain power. They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was Maximilien Robespierre's promoting hatred of the aristocracy that was the key to his acquiring more dictatorial power than the aristocracy had ever had. In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks. In each case, the power gained led to greater misery and bloodshed than anything the old regime could have done.
Let me be clear: I'm not equating America's liberals with Robespierre, Josef Stalin and Hitler. I am saying that promoting jealousy, fear and hate is an effective strategy for politicians and their liberal followers to control and micromanage businesses.
It's not about the amount of money people earn. If it were, politicians and leftists would be promoting jealousy, fear and hate toward multimillionaire Hollywood and celebrities and sports stars, such as LeBron James ($48 million), Tiger Woods ($75 million) and Peyton Manning ($38 million). But there is no way that politicians could take over the roles of Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and LeBron James. That means celebrities can make any amount of money they want and it matters not one iota politically.
The Occupy Wall Street crowd shouldn't focus its anger at wealthy CEOs. A far more appropriate target would be the U.S. Congress.
Wall Street Protesters Half Right
What's there to say about Occupy Wall Street? The answer isn't so simple. Some complain about taxpayer bailouts of businesses. Good for them. In a true free market, failing firms would go out of business. They couldn't turn to Washington for help.
But many protesters say they're against capitalism. Now things get confusing. What do they mean? If by "capitalism" they mean crony capitalism (let's call it crapitalism), a system in which favored business interests are supported by government, I'm against that, too.
But if they mean the free market, then they are fools. When allowed to work, the market has lifted more people out of the mud and misery of poverty than any government, ever.
The protesters are also upset about income disparity. Here again we should make distinctions. To the extent the country's income disparity is the result of crony capitalism, it's bad.
Yet even if America had a true free market, there would be income disparity. It's a byproduct of freedom. Some people are just more ambitious, more energetic and more driven, and some have that ineffable knack of sensing what consumers want. Think Steve Jobs.
But it shouldn't matter if the income gap between you and rich people grows. What should matter is that your living standard improves.
Your living standard many not have improved lately. Over the past decade, median income fell. But that's an aberration largely caused by the bursting of the real estate bubble. Despite Wall Street protesters' complaints about rich people gaining at the expense of the poor, the poorest fifth of Americans are 20 percent wealthier than they were when I was in college, and despite the recession, still richer than they were in 1993.
And income statistics don't tell the whole story. Thanks to the innovations of entrepreneurs, today in America, even poor people have clean water, TV sets, cars and flush toilets. Most live better than kings once lived -- better even than the middle class lived in 1970.
Some protesters say they hate the market process that makes that possible. They call rich people "robber barons." That term was used by American newspapers to smear tycoons like Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. But Vanderbilt and Rockefeller were neither robbers nor barons. They weren't barons because they weren't born rich. They weren't robbers because they didn't steal. They got rich by serving customers well. As Burton Folsom wrote in "The Myth of the Robber Barons," there were political entrepreneurs, who made their fortunes through government privilege, and market entrepreneurs, who pleased consumers.
Rockefeller and Vanderbilt were market entrepreneurs. Vanderbilt invented ways to make travel cheaper. He used bigger ships and served food onboard. People liked that, and the extra customers he attracted allowed him to lower costs. He cut the New York-Hartford fare from $8 to $1. That helped people.
Rockefeller was called a monopolist, but he wasn't one. He had 150 competitors -- including big companies like Texaco and Gulf. No one was ever forced to buy his oil. Rockefeller got rich by finding cheaper ways to get oil products to the market. His competitors vilified him because he "stole" their customers by lowering prices. Ignorant reporters repeated their complaints.
In truth, Rockefeller's price cuts made life better. Poor people used to go to bed when it got dark, but thanks to Rockefeller, they could afford fuel for lanterns and stay up and read at night. Rockefeller's "greed" may have even saved the whales. When he lowered the price of kerosene, he eliminated the need for whale oil, and the slaughter of whales suddenly stopped. Bet your kids won't read "Rockefeller saved the whales" in environmental studies class.
I have at least found some common ground with some Wall Street protest supporters. Joe Sibilia, who runs the website CSRWire (Corporate Social Responsibility), told me, "You can't have an environment where people are betting on financial instruments with the expectation that the government is going to bail them out."
So we agree that Wall Street bailouts are intolerable. Now we just have to teach our progressive friends that truly free markets work for the benefit of all.
Obama does something right
The White House announced we're putting boots on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa. President Obama notified Congress that he's sending about 100 combat-equipped troops to advise African forces on how best to kill or capture (but hopefully kill) one of the truly hideous villains breathing today, Joseph Kony, and destroy his militia cult, the Lord's Resistance Army.
And Obama is absolutely right to do it.
The news was so sudden, unexpected and just plain odd that the reaction from both left and right has been hurried and confused. Many claims are simply wrong. For instance, the LRA is not a "Christian" militia. The LRA routinely burns down churches and slaughters the congregants, but usually not before raping and mutilating them.
Kony is a classic example of the charismatic terrorist cult leader. He blends indigenous witchcraft with bits of Christianity and Islam (soldiers pray the rosary and bow to Mecca) to brainwash his uneducated, terrified flock of hostages and child soldiers, many of whom were forced to murder their own parents.
Here's a graphic passage from a 2006 report from Christianity Today on the LRA:
"Under threat of death, LRA child soldiers attack villages, shooting and cutting off people's lips, ears, hands, feet, or breasts, at times force-feeding the severed body parts to victims' families. Some cut open the bellies of pregnant women and tear their babies out. Men and women are gang-raped. As a warning to those who might report them to Ugandan authorities, they bore holes in the lips of victims and padlock them shut. Victims are burned alive or beaten to death with machetes and clubs. The murderous task is considered properly executed only when the victim is mutilated beyond recognition."
It's also worth noting that Obama is acting in compliance with a bill unanimously passed by both houses of Congress in 2009, which called for the president to take steps to "mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord's Resistance Army."
A Soviet future is closer than you might think
The most amazing aspects of the accelerating American submission to the state are: 1) how matter-of-fact we are in contemplating massive government interventions, such as President Barack Obama's latest stimulus "jobs" plan, and 2) how virtually no one notices the blatant Marxist overtones. When someone does, a la "Joe the Plumber" at the end of the 2008 campaign season, he or she is mocked off the stage.
President Obama demonstrated how this is done in January 2010 when, during an unusual White House meeting with congressional Republicans about his pending health-care legislation - another massive government intervention into the private sector - he declared: "If you were to listen to the debate, and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think this thing was some Bolshevik plot."
I remember cringing when a smattering of applause arose from the GOP ranks, as though some Republicans actually believed the president had delivered a punch line revealing the absurdity of considering "Obamacare" a government apparatus for seizing control of the lives of citizens - which it is. And that's no joke.
I wish any Republican had replied: "Not necessarily a 'plot,' sir, but a program that is indeed 'Bolshevik' in conception, design and purpose nonetheless. Government control of private sector activity, as the American people well know (or should), is aptly described as 'Bolshevik' - or Marxist, socialist, collectivist, statist and, for that matter, fascist, too. Indeed, nationalized health care was one of the first programs enacted by the Bolsheviks after they seized power in 1917."
But, no. Among the many deep psychological factors repressing such a factually devastating response is pure historical ignorance. This isn't entirely our fault. That is, the truth about Bolshevism and closely related creeds barely makes it into our curricula - another Bolshevik plot, if you ask me. Indeed, the shocking intelligence history of communist plotters who secretly sabotaged our government barely dents our understanding of history even now, some 20 years after secret archives in Moscow and Washington opened, somewhat, to disgorge incontrovertible proof of pro-Soviet agents operating in the highest reaches of power.
But if nationalized health care is a demonstrably Bolshevik program, "stimulus spending" is what you might call a genuine Bolshevik plot. Why? One of the Kremlin's greatest agents you probably never heard of played a leading role in introducing stimulus spending as a macroeconomic policy for the first time in U.S. history during the Franklin D. Roosevelt years.
The agent's name was Lauchlin Currie, and, as M. Stanton Evans writes in his indispensable 2007 book "Blacklisted by History," he ranks "among the most influential Soviet agents ever in the U.S. government, if only by virtue of his portfolio in the White House dealing with affairs of China." Currie, an administrative assistant to FDR, was instrumental in the U.S.-government-wide communist plot to turn China red.
But that's not all he did. Currie pops up in nine KGB cables translated by American cryptographers in what is known as the Venona Project, which became public in 1995. From these and other archival sources we have learned that Currie passed secret documents and shared sensitive political intelligence with Soviet spymasters. Equally as damaging, Currie used his stature as a senior Roosevelt aide to shut down investigations into the activities of other American traitors operating inside government.
While I haven't seen mention of Currie's economic activities in KGB documents, how does stimulus spending sound now on discovering that this bona fide Soviet agent was its leading proponent? In "Roosevelt, the Great Depression and the Economics of Recovery" (University of Virginia Press, 2005), Elliot Rosen, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers, writes: "The initial rationale for public expenditure as a stimulus to the economy was provided by Currie, who won a wide and influential audience in the Roosevelt administration." As assistant research director for the Federal Reserve, his position before moving to the White House, "Currie provided an economic rationale" for deficit spending. "Wartime aside," Rosen writes, "no precedent existed for budget unbalance." Not surprisingly, another Currie project was to push for the "abandonment of the concept of annual budget balance."
So that's where balanced budgets went, and stimulus spending came from. Think of it: One agent of communist influence in high places, and the U.S. economy was revolutionized.
If only Americans could learn to recognize a Bolshevik plot when they see one.
Mormons and evangelicals getting on better these days
The newfound dialogue between Mormons and Evangelicals has left the melee in favor of the gentleman's war. While it can get messy and sticky at times, the general tenor of the battle seems wholly improved and marks a significant thaw in their relations.
For example, in his chapter on Mormon theology, Mosser notes: "One has failed to appreciate Mormonism's distinctiveness if one can classify it as Christian without qualifications." I believe this is a definition that most Mormons would agree with.
And the dialogue continues. Just this month, Stephen Webb, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College published an extraordinary article examining the Mormon faith. He writes: "Mormonism can be a controversial topic for many non-Mormon Christians, but I have come to the conclusion that no theology has ever managed to capture the essential sameness of Jesus with us in a more striking way."
Much more HERE
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