Over on the Denver Post's "Gang of Four" blog where I contribute, I regularly receive comments that range from the absurd to the ignorant to the insulting (not that I care) from liberal commenters. Following is a blog posting I wrote in response to two particular comments which represented some of the "big lies" being espoused by the American left today.
One of my favorite aspects of contributing to these pages is the frothy exclamations by liberal commenters regarding everything from my understanding of economics (or lack thereof), my writing skills (or lack thereof) and, of course, their excellent understanding of political economy (backed, no doubt, by a degree in comparative literature or cell biology.)
While I have substantially cut back on the time and energy I spend reading and responding to those comments (I find them to have as little value as they claim to find in my writing, not surprisingly), every once in a while a comment shows up that demands response.
There are two such comments in my immediately preceeding article about Barack Obama's "overt socialism" which I find worth not only responding to, but responding to in a full posting.
So here goes...
In response to "NearDenver" (who liked his/her comment so much it was posted twice), who postulates that in order to be consistent I should consider Ronald Reagan a socialist:
It is something between a straw man and an outright lie to argue that "paying the same tax rate as under Reagan" is what Obama wants to cause to happen and is something that those of us who admire Reagan should support.
Yes, the maximum rate under Reagan was higher than the current maximum rate during much of his presidency. But it was MUCH higher before Reagan, and it ended at 28%.
According to the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis, "The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 was the biggest tax cut (and biggest tax bill) of the 1968-2006 period."
Under Reagan, the top tax rate dropped from 70% to 50% (in 1981) to 38.5% (in 1987) to 28% in 1988 at the end of Reagan's term.
So yes, there was a rate higher than the current rate during Reagan's term, but Reagan spent 8 years cutting taxes and left us with the lowest top marginal tax rate since 1931.
Reagan couldn't wave a wand and magically cut taxes from 70% to 28% all at once. He had a Congress to deal with. But the idea that he (or those of us who think Reagan was a pretty good president) would support raising rates to some rate that happened to exist at some point before the end of his presidency is ludicrous.
This is not to say that Reagan's presidency was perfect by any stretch. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 certainly had its faults, for example. But again, the claim that Obama just wants to raise tax cuts to Reagan-era rates is somewhere between intentionally misleading and an outright lie.
And second, in response to mkap, who (along with others) argues that I don't know what "socialist" means:
You are correct that dictionary definitions of socialism don't tend to mention a highly "progressive" (i.e. punative of success) tax system.
But instead of going to a dictionary, let's go to the man behind the curtain, the man whose views so many American liberals unknowingly put forward because they have no understanding of the history of political economy. And that man is Karl Marx.
Marx saw socialism as an intermediate stage between capitalism and communism.
As part of that transition plan, as written in the Communist Manifesto, is "A heavy progressive or graduated income tax."
So, if you want to tell me that I'm wrong for calling Obama's "Spread the Wealth" policy socialist, I'll agree as long as you'll agree to call it communist.
In 2006, the Cato Institute awarded The Milton Friedman Prize for advancing Liberty to Mart Laar, the former president of Estonia. His acceptance speech is truly remarkable, though you have to listen through a fairly heavy accent. (Note: the video requires RealPlayer.) There are a couple of great lines in the speech:
"Ronald Reagan was once asked what is the difference between a Marxist and an anti-marxist. (He answered) a Marxist is who have read the books of Karl Marx and an anti-marxist is who has understood them."
"I'm so sorry looking on the western world to see this Marxist thinking so developed, still. Because progressive taxation is the grand idea of Karl Marx.
My friendly and not-so-friendly liberal commenters spend a lot of time assailing me and even assailing the Denver Post for having the temerity to allow a capitalist write on these pages. But at the end of the day, they never refute my arguments with facts, only with erroneous sound bites they must gather from MSNBC and The Nation. Sadly, these commenters prove that Bryan Caplan is right: "democracies work well in giving voters what they want but unfortunately, what voters want isn't particularly wise, especially when it comes to economic policy."
For a longer discussion of this subject, please see my article at HumanEvents.com
This morning, on NBC's Meet the Press, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President.
On the plus side for Obama, he cited "intellectual curiousity", rhetorical ability, and a better choice of running mate.
While he had many good things to say about McCain, he criticized him for not having a coherent response to the current economic turmoil and for his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. More than seeming opposed to McCain, however, Powell was opposed toward what he sees as a continuing rightward shift in the Republican Party (in part personified by Palin's selection), including being very critical of "senior members of the Republican Party" wondering aloud whether Barack Obama is a Muslim. (This is an issue on which I've written before, with my view being that calling Obama a Muslim is a huge loser, and a very stupid tactic, for Republicans.)
Some will argue that Powell chose Obama because they're both black, but I don't think that's true. I think it's clear that Powell really likes John McCain and I don't think race was much of a factor in Powell's choice; he certainly says it wasn't.
In the end, I believe Powell's endorsement was predictable based on the issues that Powell said he cared about during the Meet the Press broadcast: Education, increasing aid to poor foreign nations, making America appear to be less interested in acting unilaterally, and a few other issue positions which would would expect to hear more from a liberal than a conservative, although education is a big issue for conservatives as well. The real give-away, though, was Powell's statement that he was afraid of the appointment of two more conservative Supreme Court justices, as would likely happen under John McCain. For someone who is afraid of the next Roberts or Scalia, an endorsement of anyone other than Barack Obama would be quite a surprise.
I've been pretty tough on John McCain lately for his scattershot, lackluster campaign. It's had no compelling or consistent theme, and McCain has let Obama and other Democrats get away with outright lies about the cause of our current financial turmoil, in part because McCain-Palin has stupidly played a populist theme of "Wall Street greed" rather than the proper balance of "Democrat corruption of Fannie Mae" and "personal responsibility".
In any case, "Joe the Plumber" seems finally to have gotten the gears unstuck in the heads of McCain and his handlers. Joe Wurzelbacher pointed out what many of us have been saying for months: Barack Obama is a socialist who will raise taxes, impede free trade, and destroy our economy.
In campaign stops this weekend, McCain has used the energy of Joe the Plumber and Obama's own words ("spread the wealth around") to finally get to the most important theme of the election: Democrats are dangerous for the economy, and this Democrat more than most.
Again, it goes to the self-destruction of the GOP brand that Democrats are more trusted than Republicans on economic issues, but I believe that trust is shallow and fragile...and will soon be broken whether or not Obama wins, as he remains likely to do.
But if there's anything that could give McCain a chance to win, it's to keep focusing on the far-left anti-American economic views of Barack Obama. Obama's words handed McCain an automatic weapon which McCain needs to keep firing.
Even if it isn't enough for McCain to win, it might be enough to save a few GOP candidates for the House and Senate who are running on platforms of fiscal responsibility.
Republicans need to keep the vision of Joe the Plumber in everything they do for the next 4 years. They need to get back to being the party of Reagan, to supporting limited government, liberty, low taxes, and controlling the growth and intrusiveness of government into our lives. Only by doing that can they recapture the trust of the American people on economic issues...which are, most of the time, the most important issues we face.
As Robert Novak put it, "God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes. If they don't do that, they have no useful function."
At some point, even someone as dense as John McCain must come to realize that's true...and that the average American believes it.
McCain should, as I said in my note yesterday, beat Obama over the head with Joe the Plumber every day until the election. Talk about Obama's economy-destroying tax plan and health care plan and antagonism to free trade. Stop wasting time with "energy independence", especially as an answer to a question which has nothing to do with energy. Oil prices are half of what they were 6 months ago and energy is not at the front of people's minds now. It's all about the economy and jobs. The sooner McCain decides he must stick to that theme the better chance the Republican Party has of keeping Democrats from 60 seats in the Senate...an outcome I care far more about than whether McCain himself wins or not.
Obama sees the current situation as a chance to be the second coming of FDR. FDR's "New Deal" made our Depression deeper and longer than it otherwise would have been and was our first serious experimentation with socialism. It took two generations just to get partially over the New Deal, though we're still left with the disastrous welfare state mentality FDR brought to us. Obama could, especially with 60 votes in the Senate, bring us a repeat of the New Deal disaster.
I don't think much of John McCain and he's run a terrible campaign for all but a few weeks since his nomination was secured in the primaries. But if he can get it through his thick head that The Plumber Effect is the answer, we may yet survive the next four years.
It's not a well-kept secret that John McCain has run a terrible campaign, that he's repeatedly missed opportunities to accurately attack Obama and Democrats, and that Sarah Palin is a mixed blessing at best.
Certainly, his campaign has had a little more life in the last few days than in the prior few weeks, but it's probably too little, too late, as McCain's favorable ratings have declined substantially among Americans. This partly shows that he's run a bad campaign, and partly shows that Americans are, on average, idiots about politics and even more so about economics.
What is becoming clearer is that McCain's weakness is a huge problem for Republican Congressional and Senate candidates. Politico.com reports that the Republican National Committee is looking at borrowing $5 million to help fund the campaigns of Senate candidates who are seen as vulnerable.
It's a remarkable indictment of everything Republican: the damage to the GOP brand, the inability of the party to communicate the message that the housing crisis was caused in large part by Democrats, and the error in nominating John McCain (and, in retrospect, in his not selecting Mitt Rommney as his running mate as most people had expected.)
Unfortunately, for those of us who care much more about liberty and limited government than in the results for a particular political party, it's hard to care very much. The only reason I care at all about McCain is that Obama will be a disaster and McCain's anti-coat-tails will harm some really good candidates like Bob Schaffer and John Sununu.
Here's an excellent editorial from Investor's Business Daily regarding Barack Obama's recent strategy of pretending to have some conservative instincts:
See "Feinting Right", IBD Editorial, 10/16/08
I'm told that John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics is airing tonight (10/17) on ABC's "20/20" at 10pm ET.
It promises to be quite interesting and informative, so I'd encourage you to watch and tell your friends.
It's an issue I've mostly stayed away from because I don't want to appear to be a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. But the question just won't die:
Is Barack Obama a "natural born Citizen" as required by the Constitution to be eligible to be President?
In response to questions along these lines, the far-left DailyKos web site posted this article which purports to show a "Certification of Live Birth" for Barack Obama.
Numerous analyses of the document have shown it to almost certainly be a forgery. One of the most complete looks at the document can be found here:
And here's another interesting article pointing to the problems with the document put forward as Obama's birth certificate:
In August, attorney Phillip J. Berg, a long-time Democrat and former Deputy Attorney General for the State of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asking that the court order the defendants, including Obama, the DNC, the Federal Election Commission, among others, to produce the following:
1. A certified copy of Obama’s “vault” (original long version) birth certificate;
2. Certified copies of all reissued and sealed birth certificates of Obama in the names referred to in the caption of this lawsuit;
3. A certified copy of Obama’s Certification of Citizenship;
4. A certified copy of Obama’s Oath of Allegiance taken upon age of majority;
5. Certified copies of Obama’s Admission forms for Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School; and
6. Certified copies of any Court Orders or legal documents changing Obama’s name from Barry Soetoro to Barack Hussein Obama.
The entirety of Berg's First Amended Complaint can be seen here:
Berg's description of what he believes and why he filed suit can be seen in the following YouTube video:
As I've discussed this with friends who are truly fascinated by this story, I must admit that I'm somewhat skeptical...or more than somewhat...that this will play out the way they hope and believe.
Maybe this theory is the reason Hillary is still trading almost 2% on betting sites to be our next president.
Despite my skepticism, I have my fingers crossed that what seems even to me like a far-fetched idea...complete with predictions of Hillary Clinton (whom I don't like, but I'd prefer to a President Obama) being our next president and Barack Obama resigning from the Senate, may come true.
If you're interested in my review of the film "An American Carol", please have a read at the following link:
The following letter was written by Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute, in response to an article in the Wall Street Journal which Bast believes has sinister implications...and I agree.
At Moment of Truth, Where was Dagny Taggart?
By Joseph L. Bast
The front page of today’s Wall Street Journal carries a story titled “At Moment of Truth, U.S. Forced Big Bankers to Blink,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122402486344034247.html. In the quarter century I’ve been reading the Journal, I’ve never read a news story that was more disturbing.
The article describes the Monday, October 13 meeting between government regulators and top executives from nine of the nation’s largest banks. “On one side of the table sat Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, flanked by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Benanke and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.”
“On the other side sat the nation’s top bank executives, who had flown in from around the country, lined up in alphabetical order by bank, with Bank of America Corp. at one end of the table and Wells Fargo & Co. at another.”
The government officials most responsible for causing the financial crisis ordered the bankers to appear at this meeting, with no explanation of the purpose of the meeting. (“Come on down, we’ll tell everyone at the same time,” Paulson reportedly told Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack.) Isn’t that an astounding thing for a country that thinks of itself as a democratic capitalist society? What if Mr. Mack had said “no thanks”? Would he have been arrested? But as you’ll see in a moment, there was little chance of that happening.
“As the meeting neared a close, each banker was handed a term sheet detailing how the government would take stakes valued at a combined $125 billion in their banks, and impose new restrictions on executive pay and dividend policies.” The bankers were told “they weren’t allowed to negotiate. Mr. Paulson requested that each of them sign. It was for their own good, and the good of the country, he said, according to a person in the room.”
My mind reels. A command appearance before government regulators was followed by a command surrender (not a “request”) of autonomy by the nine biggest banks in the U.S. A forced “sale” of preferred shares to the government was ordered in return for billions of newly minted dollars from the Fed with instructions that it immediately be loaned out to “thaw” the frozen credit markets.
Surely this wasn’t happening in America. The very notion of bureaucrats telling business leaders what they must do “for their own good, and the good of the country” makes me want to throw up. Preposterous. By what authority? How would they know? What conceit!
How did America’s leading bankers react? Did they laugh in the regulators’ faces, tear up the “term sheets,” and storm out of the room? Did they hold press conferences condemning this high-handed and obviously unconstitutional attempt to intimidate and steal private assets? Not exactly.
“Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack, whose company was among the most vulnerable in the group to the swirling financial crisis, quickly signed.” Thank you, Mr. Mack, for being first in line to sell out your customers, your business, your country, and maybe a 250-year history of economic and political freedom.
There was apparently a brief moment during the meeting when freedom’s hope raised its hand in protest. “During the discussion, the most animated response came from Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich, say people present. Why was this necessary? He asked. Why did the government need to buy stakes in these banks?”
Thank you, Mr. Kovacevich, for at least asking the right questions. But by the end of the meeting, he too had signed the “term sheet.” Too little, too late.
Missing from this meeting was someone willing to play the role of Dagny Taggart, Ayn Rand’s heroine in “Atlas Shrugged,” who saw government incompetence, corruption, and moral bankruptcy all around her and vowed not to join other businesses in capitulating to it. Like Mr. Kovacevich, she would have challenged the need for another government bailout. More than that, she would have challenged the bureaucrats’ right to call such a meeting, to make such demands, and most especially to claim the moral high ground by claiming to speak on behalf of the “good of the country.”
“My ‘term sheet’ is the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution,” Dagny Taggart might have said by way of a conclusion. “If you really want to solve this financial crisis, and not just expand your budgets and power, you have to do just one thing: Get the hell out of my way.”
It’s a sad day for global capitalism that none of the bankers at Monday’s meeting had the nerve to say what Dagny Taggart might have said. If there is a glimmer of hope, it is that capitalism has never relied for its survival on the courage or convictions of the few – not political leaders, and especially not a few bankers, however big their financial empires might be.
The left is trumpeting the current financial crisis as “the end of capitalism.” Neocons fire back that the crisis was the result of government failure, not market failure. Notice the failure to engage, though. Both sides can be right.
A long train of government policy mistakes led to the financial crisis, but the capitulation by business leaders to the demands and claims of government officials has turned what could have been a contained and short-term economic problem into a genuine threat to the very survival of capitalism, and with it, of democracy.
# # #
Joseph Bast is president of The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit research and education organization based in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's stunning how little the press is covering Barack Obama's overt socialism as expressed in response to a question he received from a plumber near Toledo, Ohio on Sunday.
Plumber Joe Wurzelbacher had a conversation with Obama that included the following exchange. (Some of Wurzelbacher's lines may have been in a different order...it's hard to piece together...but this is the essence of it.)
JW: "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes about two hundred and fifty, two hundred and seventy, eighty, thousand dollars a year. I'm getting taxed more and more for fulfilling the American Dream. You're new tax plan is going to tax more, isn't it?"
BO: "It's not that I want to punish your success. It's just to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
Here's the heart of the conversation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoqI5PSRcXM
"Joe the Plumber" spoke to Fox News' Neil Cavuto. Cavuto asked Wurzelbacher "Did (Obama) win you over?" to which the plumber responded:
No. Not at all. The answer actually scared me even more. He said he wants to distribute wealth...that's kind of a socialist viewpoint. You know, I worked for that. It's my discretion who I want to give my money to. It's not the government to decide that I make a little too much and so I need to share it with other people.
The dominant liberal media has absolutely refused to cover this most direct statement yet of Obama's truly socialist views.
A search of Google News shows coverage by Fox News, MarketWatch, a few conservative sites, the Christian Science Monitor, and some small-market news outlets. The story at CBS News' web site remarkably mentions Wurzelbacher's question but leaves out the key part of Obama's answer. And the ABC News story, which has a much more complete set of quotes by both men, including a lot of Obama attempting to justify his socialism, only seems to have been written because John McCain brought up Obama's statements at a campaign stop.
If John McCain doesn't beat Obama over the head with this repeatedly during tonight's debate, he'll deserve to lose even more than he already does.