Equality Versus Liberty
President Barack Obama says income inequality is "dangerous ... the defining challenge of our time." The pope is upset that capitalism causes inequality. Progressives, facing the failures of Obamacare, are eager to change the subject to America's "wealth gap."
It's true that today, the richest 1 percent of Americans own a third of America's wealth. One percent owns 35 percent!
But I say, so what? Progressives in the media claim that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.
But that's a lie.
Hollywood sells the greedy-evil-capitalists-cheat-the-poor message with movies like Martin Scorsese's new film, "The Wolf of Wall Street," which portrays stock sellers as sex-crazed criminals. Years before, Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" created a creepy financier, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, who smugly gloated, "It's a zero-sum game. Somebody wins; somebody loses."
This is how the left sees the market: a zero-sum game. If someone makes money, he took it from everyone else. The more the rich have, the less others have. It's as if the economy is a pie that's already on the table, waiting to be carved. The bigger the piece the rich take, the less that's left for everyone else. The economy is just a fight over who gets how much.
But this is absurd. Bill Gates took a huge slice of pie, but he didn't take it from me. By starting Microsoft, he baked millions of new pies. He made the rest of the world richer, too.
Entrepreneurs create things.
Over the past few decades, the difference in wealth between the rich and poor has grown. This makes people uncomfortable. But why is it a problem if the poor didn't get poorer?
Progressives claim they did. Some cite government data that show middle class incomes remaining relatively stagnant. But this data is misleading, too. It leaves out all government handouts, like rent subsidies and food stamps. It leaves out benefits like company-funded health insurance and pensions, which make up increasing portions of people's pay.
And it leaves out the innovation that makes life better for both the rich and poor. Even poor people today have access to cars, food, health care, entertainment and technology that rich people lusted for a few decades ago. Ninety percent of Americans living "below the poverty line" have smart phones, cable TV and cars. Seventy percent own two cars.
But hold on, says the left. Even if the poor reap some benefits from capitalism, it's just not "fair" that rich people have so much more. I suppose this is true. But what exactly is "fair"?
Is it fair that models are so good-looking? Why is it fair that some men are so much bigger than I, so no one will pay me to play pro sports? It's hardly fair that I was born in America, a country that offers me far greater opportunities than most other countries would. We Americans should be thankful that life is not fair!
Freedom isn't fair, if fair means equal. When people are free, some will be more successful than others. Some people are smarter or just luckier. Globalization and free-market capitalism multiply the effect of smarts and luck, allowing some people to get much richer than others. So what? Inequality may seem unfair, but the alternative -- government-forced equality -- is worse. It leaves everyone poor.
Opportunity is much more important than equality, and there is still income mobility in America. People born poor don't necessarily stay poor.
Pew research shows 58 percent of the kids born to the poorest fifth of families rose to a higher income group. Six percent rose all the way from the bottom fifth to the top fifth.
Sixty-one percent of kids born to the richest fifth of families fell from that group, and 9 percent fell all the way to the bottom.
Opportunity requires allowing people to take risks and make changes. We won't always like the outcomes. But over the long haul, we're still better off if people are free to strive and fail, or maybe -- reap big rewards.
Ideology vs. Reality
French President Francois Hollande has been confronted by the glaring light of reality -- sort of.
On New Year's Day, as his massive tax increases began taking effect, Hollande, a member of the Socialist Party, admitted that taxes in France have become "too heavy, much too heavy."
Indeed, as of Jan. 1, French households now must contend with a new value added tax on many goods and services and, writes International Business Times, "French companies will be required to pay 50 percent tax on all employee salaries in excess of 1 million euros. ... The effective tax rate will amount to 75 percent." Unemployment, which Hollande promised to reduce, has risen to nearly 11 percent. Some companies and wealthy people have left France in search of business-friendly environments. More will surely follow unless Hollande's rhetoric is followed by actual tax reductions.
Hollande's head-on collision with reality is reminiscent of President Bill Clinton's remarks in 1995 at a campaign fundraiser in Houston: "Probably there are people in this room still mad at me ... because you think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too."
Neither Hollande (so far), nor Clinton, followed up on their remarks by cutting taxes. Like many other politicians, these men tried to have it both ways.
The next political leader who will be forced to adjust his left-wing ideology to reality is the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, who has proposed a tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K education. He, too, thinks raising taxes on the successful is the way to prosperity for the poor. He should pick up the phone and ask Hollande how that is working for him, as Hollande's approval ratings are sinking faster than President Obama's. Even better, he might recall Calvin Coolidge's remark: "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong."
Penalize success and prosperity and you get less of it. Subsidize bad decision-making by giving taxpayer money to the poor, and you may well undermine initiative and personal responsibility and create new generations of poor people.
The left in America and France have gained political power by appealing to voters' emotions, but when they achieve power their ideology harms the very people who voted for them when these well-intentioned programs prove unworkable. This presents conservatives and Republicans with an opportunity, as well as risks.
Liberals are allowed to be as ideological as they wish, and the major media and too many among the unfocused public will mostly support them. The left is never told they must compromise their ideology when reality proves them wrong, or "work with Republicans and conservatives" to achieve common goals. That is the trap liberals set for conservatives, who are repeatedly told they must compromise their principles if they hope to win elections, but whose squishy politics then become as unappealing as cold oatmeal.
Here is the path Republicans and conservatives must take if they not only want to win, but bring positive change to the country. Instead of debating feelings and ideology with the left (territory on which they almost always lose -- recall "compassionate conservative"), conservatives should hold their opponents accountable. Are their policies producing the results they claim? Is the record debt good for the country? Are agencies performing as their charter demands, and should their budgets be reduced or the agency eliminated if it can't show results? Every government agency and program should be regularly required to justify, not only its budget, but its very existence.
Americans typically hate waste. It is why as children most of us were told to clean our plates because somewhere in the world there were hungry people. Requiring the left to prove their programs and policies are producing outcomes at reasonable cost would shift the debate from ideology and good intentions to reality. This is where conservatives have a distinct advantage if they will embrace it.
Obama vs. the Little Sisters
By the bizarre logic of the White House, the nuns are part of the “war on women.”
It takes some doing to get embroiled in a court fight with nuns who provide hospice care for the indigent. Amazingly, the Obama administration has managed it.
Its legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor is the logical consequence of Obamacare’s conscience-trampling contraception mandate. The requirement went into effect January 1, but Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a New Year’s Eve injunction against enforcing it on the Little Sisters.
They are Catholic nuns who follow the doctrinal teachings of the church and therefore oppose contraceptive and abortive drugs and sterilization, all of which Obamacare mandates that employers cover in their insurance plans. Given the ongoing delays, waivers, and exemptions associated with the law, it would seem natural simply to let the Little Sisters go about their business of pouring out their hearts for the sick and dying.
But this is a fight the administration won’t walk away from. For this White House, it is a matter of principle. And the principle is that the state trumps the convictions of people with deep-held religious beliefs.
When the contraception mandate first caused an uproar, the administration contrived a so-called accommodation for religiously oriented groups (actual churches have always been exempt). But whoever crafted it had a sick sense of humor. The very same document by which a group registers its moral objection to contraceptives and abortifacients also authorizes the insurer to cover them for the group’s employees. What the accommodation gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.
The Little Sisters refuse to sign such a document. They happen to be in an unusual situation because they get their insurance from another religiously affiliated organization opposed to contraceptives and abortifacients, so it may be that these drugs don’t get covered no matter what. But the Little Sisters can’t be sure of this — the regulations are complicated and subject to change.
Regardless, they don’t want to sign. They want no part in authorizing coverage of contraceptive or abortive drugs. Enthusiasts for the mandate scoff. What the nuns are objecting to, they insist, is just a piece of paper.
Just a piece of paper? So is a mortgage. So is a wedding certificate. So is a will. How would the board of directors of NARAL react if the government forced them to sign a “piece of paper” tacitly condemning contraception or abortion? Would they shrug it off as a mere formality?
The Little Sisters deserve deference. Their religious sensibility is different from — and, one hazards to say, more finely tuned than — that of the mandarins of President Barack Obama’s administrative state. In a dispute over what their conscience tells them to do or not to do, the Little Sisters are better positioned to know than anyone else.
Besides, who is harmed if the Little Sisters don’t provide contraception coverage? They are a voluntary organization. They aren’t imposing their views on anyone. Who, for that matter, is harmed if a secular organization run by people with moral objections to contraceptives and abortifacients refuses to cover them? Employees are still free to go out on their own and get contraceptives, which are widely available. If this sounds like an outlandish imposition, it is what people managed to do throughout American history all the way up to last week.
The contraception mandate has always had a strong ideological impetus. Opponents of the mandate “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius notoriously declared in 2011. “We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war.” By this bizarre way of thinking, a small congregation of nuns that cares for the most vulnerable is somehow complicit in a war on women’s health.
Instead of respecting the moral views of the Little Sisters, the administration hopes to grind them under foot by force of law. For shame.
There is an argument here that Obama would be wise to drop the contraception requirements for Catholic organizations. It would get the Catholic church off his back.
Convicts Vote Democrat: "According to a new study in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, most convicted criminals register as Democrats. In fact, Breitbart reports, “The study found that felons registered Democratic over Republican by a six-to-one margin in some states, including New York, where 61.5% are Democrats and only 9% GOP. Another fact discovered was that 73% of the felons who would vote would vote Democrat.” They add, “The study said there are 5.8 million eligible voters in jail,” the majority of which are young black males. There's one thing the Left can always count on: support from criminals. Because pickpockets have to stick together.
The progressives’ Achilles’ heel: "Progressives (i.e., liberals in the corrupted meaning of the term) love to portray themselves as lovers of the poor. That’s what they use to justify their never-ending, ever-growing welfare-state and regulatory programs. But as we libertarians have repeatedly shown, the welfare state and the regulated economy actually constitute an enormous attack on the freedom and well-being of the poor."
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