Thursday, September 24, 2015

The New Left: Envy, Resentment and Hate

John C. Goodman

Bernie Sanders is angry. Who is he angry at? Rich people. Why rich people? That’s not clear.

At Liberty University, Sanders complained about a small number of people who have “huge yachts, and jet planes and tens of billions” while others “are struggling to feed their families.” In Madison Wisconsin, Sanders called for a “political revolution against greed.”

So what’s the connection between people who have “tens of billions” and people who are “struggling to feed their families”? For the most part it’s a positive one. In a capitalist system, people get rich by meeting other people’s needs. Because some people are rich, other people find it easier to feed their families.

Take the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. When I was a student at Columbia in the 1970s, I remember a friend showing me a fantastic hand held device. It could add, subtract, divide and multiply. And it only cost $400. Today, I can sit in bed with my lap top, which in 1970 dollars cost less than $400. I can buy and sell goods on eBay, conduct personal banking, purchase airline tickets, book hotel rooms and even work the New York Times crossword puzzle – in large part because of Bill Gates.

Take the world’s richest woman, JK Rowling. When she wrote the last Harry Potter book or helped on the last Harry Potter movie was she making anyone worse off? Was she taking food out of the mouths of babes? Or was she bringing entertainment and pleasure to millions of people?

Is Bill Gates greedy? There’s no evidence of that. He is giving all his money away in ways that are curing diseases that kill children all over the world. More generally, I have never met a truly creative person who was motivated by greed. But even if greed were the motivation, we need more of it – as long as it’s meeting our needs.

So what’s Sander’s complaint? Here are his own words:  "99 percent of all new income today (is) going to the top 1 percent.”

In 2007, "the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income," which is "more than the entire bottom 50 percent."

"Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."

When Sam Walton was alive, he was one of the world’s richest men. Yet he wore blue jeans and drove a pickup truck. No one in Bentonville, Arkansas even knew he was rich until they read about it in Forbes. Is Walmart making it harder or easier for people to feed their families? You be the judge.

Behind the rhetoric on the left, there is one persistent theme, always implicit, never explicit. Leftist rhetoric is designed to encourage people to believe that the reason they are poor is  because other people are rich.

And this kind of rhetoric is not confined to politicians who know nothing of basic economics. Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs and other well-known economists are just as guilty. They invariably imply that “all property is theft,” a staple of barn yard Marxism. Yet, on rigorous examination, this idea is silly. Most of the people on the Forbes 400 list are self-made or next generation of self-made billionaires.

Writing in the Dallas Morning News, Cullen Godfrey asks: why do we demonize billionaires?

"They didn’t steal our money. They earned our money by providing us with the things that we want and that make our lives better. The Forbes 400 list includes names such as Oprah Winfrey, filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Phil Knight (Nike), Elon Musk (Tesla), Charles Schwab, Ralph Lauren and Michael Ilitch (Domino’s Pizza). Of course, there are those with inherited wealth, but the vast majority on the list are first-generation, self-made billionaires, and those with inherited wealth have, as a rule, been excellent stewards of their good fortune."

Like Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour Party leader in Britain, Bernie Sanders is appealing to our worst instincts. His is not the message of compassion and love. His is the message of resentment, jealousy and hate.

What would he do? Tax capital. He hasn’t given us a figure, but if he goes along with the 90 percent income tax rate favored by Paul Krugman or the 80 percent rate proposed by Thomas Piketty, Bill Gates may never have been able to start Microsoft. Sam Walton may never have given us Sam’s Club.

As I wrote at Forbes earlier this week, the left is intellectually bankrupt. While appealing to our basest emotions, they have no real solutions to any real problems. In fact, their “solutions” would almost certainly make the poor more poor.

There is, however, a proposal from the right of the political spectrum: tax consumption rather than saving, investment and capital accumulation. As I wrote previously:

"[W]hen Warren Buffett is consuming, he’s benefiting himself. When he’s saving and investing, he’s benefiting you and me. Every time Buffett forgoes personal consumption (a pricey dinner, a larger house, a huge yacht) and puts his money in the capital market instead, he’s doing an enormous favor for everyone else. A larger capital stock means higher productivity and that means everyone can have more income for the same amount of work. So it’s in our self-interest to have very low taxes on Buffett’s capital. In fact, capital taxes should be zero. That means no capital gains tax, no tax on dividends and profits — so long as the income is recycled back into the capital market.

We should instead tax Buffett’s consumption. Tax him on what he takes out of the system, not what he puts into it. Tax him when he is benefiting himself, not when he is benefiting you and me."



British National Health Service Stops Paying for Lifesaving Drugs

Britain’s government-monopoly (single-payer) health plan, the National Health Service (NHS), has announced plans to stop paying for the most innovative, lifesaving drugs:

    "More than 5,000 cancer patients will be denied life-extending drugs under plans which charities say are a “dreadful” step backwards for the NHS.

    Health officials have just announced sweeping restrictions on treatment, which will mean patients with breast, bowel, skin and pancreatic cancer will no longer be able to receive drugs funded by the NHS.

    In total, 17 cancer drugs for 25 different indications will no longer be paid for in future.

    Charities said the direction the health service was heading in could set progress back by centuries.

    The Cancer Drugs Fund was launched in 2011, following a manifesto pledge by David Cameron, who said patients should no longer be denied drugs on cost grounds.

    Drugs which will no longer be funded include Kadcyla for advanced breast cancer, Avastin for many bowel and breast cancer patients, Revlimid and Imnovid for multiple myeloma, and Abraxane, the first treatment for pancreatic cancer in 17 years."

This is the second round of cuts this year. All in all, reimbursement for 25 drugs used by about 8,000 patients has been cut off.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising. In a functioning health insurance market, these drugs would be reimbursed because they are very expensive and are used by a very small proportion of patients suffering from cancers with few other treatments. In other words, exactly the situation that calls for insurance.

In a system run by politicians, the incentives are upside down and unfair:

    The financial ability to pay is determined not by premiums paid, but by the government’s overall budget.

    The number of patients does not comprise a large enough interest group to cause politicians to prioritize their interests.

    There is no way to legally enforce the so-called “social contract” (as opposed to an actual insurance contract, which courts would enforce) that the politicians and bureaucrats promote to convince us to trust them.

Note, also, that Britain is home to leading pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKine and AstraZeneca, and world-class academic pharmaceutical research. They should be able to make strong arguments for their contribution to good-paying jobs and economic growth. Unfortunately, the perverse incentives in a government-monopoly, single-payer health system are too strong to be overcome by even the best arguments.



Trump, Carson and the Islamic Controversy

Over the last several days, the Leftmedia have worked themselves into a tizzy over two particular presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, following comments that were made — and not made — about Muslims. It’s one of those “gotcha” moments when a candidate must choose between speaking what he believes, dodging the question or simply not saying anything. Regardless of how the candidate answers, they will catch heat for it, primarily because they are Republicans.

During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a questioner accused Barack Obama of being a Muslim, of not being American and stated, “We have [Muslim] training camps growing where they want to kill us, that’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”

Trump didn’t respond the way many in the Leftmedia thought that he should have. He didn’t rebut the questioner’s accusations about Obama’s religion or citizenship. (After all, Trump himself once questioned Obama’s citizenship.) Instead, Trump answered the question vaguely, stating, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and a lot of people are saying that and saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

To be sure, Trump could have answered the question better, and he could have taken the bait to address the man’s accusations. But he didn’t — or rather, deliberately chose to ignore the accusations from the man because he foresaw the media onslaught that would surely follow. In his own words, Trump told ABC News, “If I would have challenged the man … to put it mildly the media would have accused me of interfering with that man’s right of free speech. … A no win situation, do we agree?”

Perhaps Trump could have responded to the man’s accusation by recalling Hillary Clinton’s own veiled Obama-is-a-Muslim claim in 2008, or reminding voters of Obama’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in which Obama mentions “my Muslim faith.” But Trump didn’t address it, and the media are having a field day.

None of this is to say that Obama is a Muslim. But his claim that he is a Christian is just as far fetched. Obama spent 20 years attending the “church” of the Marxist black liberation theology-spouting Jeremiah Wright. It’s far more likely, based on his actions, rhetoric and narcissism, that he worships himself, and will say or do whatever is politically expedient.

As columnist David Limbaugh writes, “It’s true we can’t know for sure what’s in a person’s heart, but we can observe his statements and behavior. … This is not a man with a track record of authenticity.”

“You will recognize them by their fruits,” Jesus said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Carson stirred up controversy following an interview because of what he did say.

Keeping this question in context with Trump not correcting a questioner, when asked if a president’s faith should matter, Carson responded, “It depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.” He added that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

He answered the question, but it clearly wasn’t what “tolerant” leftists wanted to hear. The Leftmedia have tried for more than a decade to convince Americans that Islam is the Religion of Peace™, so how could Carson say such a thing? Is he an Islamophobe? No, he just happens to understand that Sharia law, which is part of Islam, is inconsistent with the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy offers an outstanding explanation:

“Islam’s sharia is a code premised on the principles that Allah has prescribed the ideal way for human life to be lived; that people are required to submit to that prescription; and that Islamic governments exist to enforce that requirement. Our Constitution, to the contrary, is premised on the principles that we are free to choose how we will live; the laws we make are not required to comply with the principles of any religion; and that government is our servant, not our master.”

McCarthy further notes that Islam should be understood by public figures as both a religion and an all-encompassing political-social ideology. And that’s the very reason why Carson answered the question the way he did. Sharia law is the antithesis of the Constitution. It’s also why when Carson was asked if he would consider voting for a Muslim for Congress he replied that it would “depend on who that Muslim is and what their policies are.”

For Carson, if a practicing Muslim’s political ideology reflects that of the Constitution, rather than Sharia law, then that person is eligible for office. If not, then there is no place in American politics for them.

Of course, there is no Muslim running for president. But Americans should welcome this debate as we consider what it takes to sit in the executive seat of constitutional government. Remember what that is?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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