Ray Bradbury on JFK, Ronald Reagan and Sensible Economics

From Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews by Sam Weller
(Brooklyn NY: Melville House, 2010), 170-171.

WELLER: Do you consider yourself conservative, liberal, or moderate?

BRADBURY: You mustn’t put labels on people. This is what is important: Somebody somewhere along the line had to give the taxes back to the people. Roosevelt never did it, Hoover never did it. They could have cured the Depression in 1932 when my father was out of work for ten years. My father suffered. They should have given him back his tax money. Nobody thought of that, and nobody did anything. Kennedy was the first to experiment with it. The year before he died, there were a few experiments with giving the taxes back, but there was never the chance to really experiment fully, and he died. So it was never mentioned again until Reagan came along and cut the taxes, and then we began to get jobs. When he came into office, there were millions of people unemployed. He lowered taxes all over the United States and created millions of jobs. . . . So Reagan’s experiment worked. That’s not being conservative, that’s not being anything except sensible.

WELLER: Sounds to me like fiscal conservative thinking.

BRADBURY: No, no. No labels. I don’t believe in them.

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Some Thoughts on Taxation and Enslavement

“All the fiery rhetoric of the Founders was directed at a ‘tyrant’ who taxed his subjects at a rate of about 3 percent. Today, we in ‘the land of the free’ are taxed at about 50 percent when you add federal, state, and local taxes. What kind of government would do this? A dictatorship would.” —Doug Newman, Christian libertarian blogger

“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.” —Benjamin Franklin

“The average American family head will be forced to do twenty years’ labor to pay taxes in his or her lifetime.” —James Bovard, Lost Rights

“Taxes consume half the family budget. Medieval serfs only gave a third to the lord of the manor. Serfs were slaves; what does that make us?” —Anonymous

“Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities.” —Robert Nozick, Harvard philosopher

“In levying taxes and in shearing sheep, it is well to stop when you get down to the skin.” —Austin O’Malley

“Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.” —Robert A. Heinlein

“The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.” —Ayn Rand

Whoops, Wrong Again, Professor Dawkins

Last night (Friday, November 2), I tweeted the following:

@RichardDawkins says Mormons are too stupid to be president. Is David Harold Bailey too stupid to be rocket scientist? http://www.wnd.com/2012/10/richard-dawkins-anti-mormon-self-delusion/

(Bailey is a mathematician and computer scientist with a B.S. from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stanford. He was a NASA computer scientist for fourteen years, and currently works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.)

I hardly expected a response from Professor Dawkins himself, so I was surprised when Professor Dawkins tweeted back:

@AnswersAuthor I doubt he believed in the charlatan Joseph Smith’s magic hat, or that Native Americans are Jews.

Well, I’m not a Mormon and I’m no expert on LDS doctrine. I don’t know anything about a magic hat or Jewish Native Americans—so for now, I’ll have to take Professor Dawkins’ word that these are tenets of LDS faith.

But so what? If Mitt Romney is mentally unfit to be president simply because he’s a devout Mormon, then Kevin Rollins was mentally unfit to be CEO of Dell Computers; Jon Huntsman, Sr., was mentally unfit to be a plastics entrepreneur and philanthropist; J. Willard Marriott and J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., were mentally unfit to run the Marriott hotel empire; David Neeleman was mentally unfit to run JetBlue, David Harold Bailey was too stupid to be a NASA scientist, and on and on.

Since these devout Mormons were all highly intelligent, high-achieving individuals, that would seem to obliterate Professor Dawkins’ argument. I have never heard Professor Dawkins ever offer a single scrap of evidence that Mitt Romney made crazy, irrational policy decisions as governor of Massachusetts or CEO of the Olympics. If there were such evidence to present, I trust Professor Dawkins would have eagerly presented it.

It’s obvious to me that Professor Dawkins’ argument against Governor Romney is specious and irrational, based on atheistic prejudice, not fact and reason. The evidence for high-achieving, successful Mormons flatly and definitively contradicts Richard Dawkins attacks on Governor Romney. So I tweeted back:

@RichardDawkins Mitt’s Mormon beliefs haven’t prevented him from balancing budgets. Obama’s Keynesian beliefs are killing the economy. #Fact

After sending that tweet, a thought hit me: Professor Dawkins had offered a testable, falsifiable hypothesis. He had said that, in his opinion, it was highly unlikely that mathematician and NASA computer scientist David Harold Bailey seriously believed in Mormon doctrines, which Dawkins characterized as belief in “the charlatan Joseph Smith’s magic hat, or that Native Americans are Jews.”

So I decided to google it—and in 0.39 seconds I had my answer. I immediately tweeted a second reply to Professor Dawkins:

@RichardDawkins Whoops, Prof, you’re wrong again. David H Bailey has a website harmonizing science & LDS theology: http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/ 

As of this writing, I’ve received no reply.

I guiltily confess I felt a bit gleeful when I composed that tweet. But it is so much fun to be right.

___________________________________

For a more thorough discussion of Professor Dawkins anti-Mormon views see my blog piece, “Does Atheism Make You Stupid?” or the related commentary piece at World Net Daily.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

___________________________________

UPDATE, Monday, November 5:

On November 3, Richard Dawkins tweeted, “Bishop Romney really IS Mormon in the full batshit doolally sense.” The eminent professor apparently thinks all he has to do is mock Mormon belief and it somehow proves that Mitt Romney is crazy. But Professor Dawkins hasn’t proven anything.

The only way to prove Dawkins’ thesis is to go over Romney’s record as governor and CEO of the Olympics, and unearth some crazy “batshit” Mormon-induced decisions and policies Romney initiated. If no such decisions and policies can be found, Dawkins’ claim cannot be substantiated.

The mere fact that Mitt Romney holds a religious view that Richard Dawkins deems to be “batshit” and “doolally” proves nothing. The government at all levels is populated by religious believers of all kinds, and all of those believers embrace doctrines Dawkins considers “batshit.” Yet these government leaders somehow manage to function quite effectively nonetheless.

Professor Dawkins needs to show that the religious views of Mitt Romney have actually, demonstrably prompted disordered behavior. He has never offered a scintilla of evidence to support such a claim. And if there is no evidence to that effect, then those religious ideas must be deemed harmless, even if they seem like “batshit” to the esteemed professor.

Fact is, one could easily make the case that Mormon values of hard work, honesty, humility, personal responsibility, and so forth actually make Romney more qualified as a leader than a non-Mormon. You will never see a devout Mormon on welfare, for example. Why is that? It’s because Mormons believe in self-reliance and in taking care of their own.

Whatever Professor Dawkins may think of “magic hats,” much of what is admirable about Mitt Romney appears to come from his Mormon moral and ethical principles. You can’t just say a person has a religion you think is “batshit,” and therefore he’s unfit for office. You must provide evidence that those beliefs have made him dysfunctional as a leader. Absent such evidence, Professor Dawkins is only spouting anti-Mormon bigotry.

Frankly, the only dysfunctional behavior I observe is that of the hysterical biology prof who tosses around terms like “batshit” and “doolally.” It is sad to witness Professor Dawkins’ intellectual meltdown.

Does Atheism Make You Stupid?

“If there is any consistent enemy of science,
it is not religion, but irrationalism.”

Stephen Jay Gould

Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, fancies himself to be “bright.” In a 2012 interview with Playboy magazine, the interviewer asked, “Is there a better word for a nonbeliever than atheist?”

“The word ‘bright’ was suggested by a California couple,” Dawkins replied. “I think it’s rather a good word, though most of my atheist friends think it suggests religious people are ‘dims.’ I say, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ [laughs]”1

(For more information on the Brights movement founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, see the Wikipedia entry on the Brights movement.) 

(See also Professor Dawkins’ own article on the Brights movement at Edge.org.)

Richard Dawkins, a British subject, is so pleased with himself and his self-proclaimed “brightness” that he feels emboldened to speak out on the American election, calling Mitt Romney a “massively gullible fool” whom no thinking person should vote for, based purely on the fact that Romney subscribes to the Mormon faith. Reporter Raf Sanchez of Britain’s London Telegraph explained Richard Dawkins’ views on Romney:

“No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours.

The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church’s belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill.

Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. . . . “Could you really vote for a man who thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?” he said.2

(Read the entire report at the Telegraph website.)

Let’s consider Dawkins’ central question: “No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?”

Well, any truly informed, thoughtful, rational person would have to answer YES. We Americans have been presented with a binary choice, Obama or Romney. And voting for Barack Obama is simply not a rational option for any informed, thinking individual.

President Obama has produced a four-year record of abject failure. There were 2.7 million long-term unemployed when he took office; there are 5 million today. Middle class income has fallen almost $4,000 under Obama, from $54,962 to $51,002. Gasoline prices have more than doubled under Obama, from $1.85 a gallon to $3.86. Home values have dropped 11 percent, health insurance costs have risen 23 percent, college tuition rates have risen 25 percent, the number of Americans in poverty has risen from 39.8 million to 46.2 million, up 6.4 million. We’ve gone from 32 million to 47 million people on food stamps under Obama—up 46 percent. The consumer price index has increased 9.1 percent. The federal debt has soared from $10.6 trillion to $16 trillion, a 51 percent increase. And the United States has dropped from first to seventh place in global competitiveness. That is the most massive record of failure since the Great Depression.

There’s a reason why Barack Obama has failed so spectacularly. He believes in a superstition that is infinitely more pernicious and destructive to our society than any Mormon doctrine. Barack Obama is a Keynesian, and history has shown that Keynesianomics has never worked, not once, in the entire history of mankind. And logic tells us why it cannot work: the core idea of Keynesianomics is the economic equivalent of trying to raise the level of a swimming pool by bailing water out of one end and pouring it into the other.

Only the private sector can create wealth. Government can print money, but money isn’t wealth, and government cannot create wealth. So when the government tries to “stimulate” the economy through government spending, it is only injecting money it has already taken out of the economy through taxing and borrowing. That’s bailing water out of one end of the pool and pouring it into the other—and that’s why the massive Obama stimulus package, the biggest Keynesian stimulus experiment in the history of mankind, failed utterly. It did not increase the net amount of wealth in the economy.

(For a historical lesson in why Keynesianomics has not and cannot ever work, read “The Kennedy-Reagan Truth vs. the Obama Delusion” by this author.)

The superstitious economic fantasies of Barack Obama are destroying the American economy, harming generations of Americans, plunging the American republic into an unrecoverable tailspin of debt, and threatening the global economy with meltdown. The massively gullible fool in this race is President Obama, who clings to a false religion of redistribution and “trickle-down government.”

I’m not a Mormon and I do not believe in Mormon doctrines. But history shows that Mormon people are clearly able to engage in rational, productive, socially responsible activities.

Some of the greatest business minds of our times have been Latter-Day Saints, including former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, plastics entrepreneur and philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Sr., hotel executives J. Willard Marriott and J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., and JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Journalist Jack Anderson and motivational writer Stephen R. Covey were Mormons. Celebrated science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, as is Ken Jennings, who won a record 74 straight matches on TVs Jeopardy quiz show.

Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, was a devout Mormon. World-renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon Russell Marion Nelson is Mormon. Howard Tracy Hall, the inventor of synthetic diamonds, and Robert B. Ingebretsen, a pioneer developer of digital sound and robotics, were Mormons.

NASA computer scientist David Harold Bailey and NASA astronaut Don Leslie Lind are both Mormons. So was theoretical chemist Henry Eyring; he probably would have won the Nobel Prize for his transition state theory of chemical reactions if not for Dawkins-style anti-Mormon bias at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

So I ask you, Professor Dawkins, are all of these people “massively gullible fools” who ought to be disqualified simply because of their religion? Personally, I would trust a Mormon over a Keynesian any day of the week.

Professor Dawkins, there is much that I admire about your work. I have read and enjoyed your writings, especially The Selfish Gene. I even have a few nice things to say about your massively flawed screed The God Delusion. I love your invention of the concept of the meme, and I use it all the time.

But when it comes to economics and politics, I’m sorry, sir, but you are not “bright” at all. Your atheism has blinded you to facts and reason. It has made you stupid. It has even made you (to purloin a phrase) a massively gullible fool.

Notes

1. Chip Rowe, “Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins,” Playboy, August 20, 2012, http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/8/20/playboy-interview-with-richard-dawkins#.UE-E8FGri9K.

2. Raf Sanchez, “US Election 2012: Richard Dawkins calls Mitt Romney ‘Gullible Fool’ over Mormon faith,” The Telegraph, September 9, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/us-election/9532199/US-election-2012-Richard-Dawkins-calls-Mitt-Romney-gullible-fool-over-Mormon-faith.html.

The Kennedy-Reagan Truth vs. the Obama Delusion

In his book The New Reagan Revolution, Michael Reagan examined six great economic crossroads of the 20th and 21st centuries. These six critical junctures in the history of the United States serve as economic laboratories to test two contrasting economic theories. One theory consistently produced economic expansion and sustained growth. The other theory invariably produced failure and misery. Here are Michael Reagan findings:

1. The “Forgotten Depression” of January 1920. During the last year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the economy nosedived. GNP fell 17 percent; unemployment soared from 4 to almost 12 percent. This was the “Forgotten Depression” of 1920. Wilson’s successor, Warren G. Harding, came into office and immediately cut tax rates for all income brackets, slashed federal spending, and balanced the budget. Long before the world ever heard of Ronald Reagan, Harding practiced “Reaganomics.”

“President Harding applied the principles of Reaganomics,” Michael Reagan observed, “even though Ronald Reagan was at that time a nine-year-old boy living in Dixon, Illinois. Harding was not following an economic theory. He was following common sense. He treated the federal budget as you would treat the family budget: When times are tough, cut spending and stay out of debt. Harding also treated his fellow citizens with commonsense compassion: If folks are going through tough times, government should ease their burden and cut their taxes.”

The Harding recovery was astonishingly rapid, beginning just half a year into his presidency. Unemployment fell to 6.7 percent by 1922, and to 2.4 percent by 1923. Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge, maintained Harding’s program of low tax rates, balanced budgets, and limited government. The Harding-Coolidge era of prosperity became known as “the Roaring Twenties”—a time of soaring prosperity, stable prices, and boundless optimism.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Reaganomics works.

2. The Great Depression. Coolidge was succeeded by Herbert Hoover. In the eighth month of Hoover’s presidency, the stock market crashed—the infamous Crash of 1929. Many factors led to the Great Depression, but the Crash was the precipitating event. Hoover had failed to learn the lessons of the Harding-Coolidge years, so he responded by raising taxes (hiking the top marginal rate from 25 to 63 percent), imposing protectionism (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act), and boosting government spending by 47 percent, driving America deep into debt. Hoover’s actions worsened the Depression. A defeated Herbert Hoover bequeathed a ruined economy to Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR took office at a time when 25 percent of the nation’s workforce was unemployed. He, too, ignored the lessons of the “Forgotten Depression,” and doubled down on Hoover’s failed tax-and-spend policies, applying the economic theory known as Keynesianism (after British economist John Maynard Keynes). The Keynes-FDR approach involved deficit spending, soak-the-rich tax policies, and big-government make-work programs (the New Deal). FDR and a compliant Congress hiked personal and corporate income tax rates, estate taxes, and excise taxes.

Michael Reagan wrote, “From 1937 to 1939, the stock market lost almost half its value, car sales fell by one-third, and business failures increased by one-half. From 1932 to 1939, the U.S. racked up more debt than in all the preceding 150 years of America’s existence. By early 1939, as the Great Depression was in its tenth year, unemployment again climbed past the 20 percent mark.”

Many Americans credit FDR with “getting America through the Depression.” In reality, FDR’s policies prolonged the Depression. In a time of catastrophic unemployment, Roosevelt made it prohibitively expensive to hire people, making a terrible human tragedy even worse. While thousands of U.S banks failed under FDR’s policies, across the border in Canada, not one bank failed—because Canadian banks were not hamstrung by FDR’s foolish over-regulation. In FDR’s Folly, historian Jim Powell questions the disturbing FDR legacy:

Why did New Dealers make it more expensive for employers to hire people? Why did FDR’s Justice Department file some 150 lawsuits threatening big employers? Why did New Deal policies discourage private investment without which private employment was unlikely to revive? Why so many policies to push up the cost of living? Why did New Dealers destroy food while people went hungry? To what extent did New Deal labor laws penalize blacks? Why did New Dealers break up the strongest banks? . . . Why didn’t New Deal public works projects bring about a recovery? Why was so much New Deal relief spending channeled away from the poorest people?

In May 1939, a demoralized and defeated Henry Morgenthau, FDR’s treasury secretary, told the House Ways and Means Committee, “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . After eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

Many people mistakenly believe that World War II lifted America out of the Great Depression. Not true. What WWII did was take 12 million men out of the workforce and send them into war, which ended unemployment. But all the other signs of a damaged economy remained during the war: low stock prices, depressed private investment, and depressed consumer demand.

Roosevelt and his successor, Harry Truman, had a post-war plan to impose an even bigger Second New Deal after the war. Fortunately, Congress refused, and chose instead to cut taxes and cut spending—the same commonsense “Reaganomics” approach that had produced prosperity during the 1920s. The result: a post-war economic boom from the late 1940s through the 1950s. Had FDR and Truman gotten their way, the country would have slipped right back into recession if not a second Great Depression.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianomics fails, prolonging economic hardship and misery, while Reaganomics works again.

3. The Recession of 1960 and 1961. When John F. Kennedy came into office, he faced a jobless figure of 7.1 percent. Wanting the economy to keep up with the growing workforce, JFK addressed the Economic Club of New York in December 1962 and proposed a bold notion: “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. . . . The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”

Those are the words of John F. Kennedy—and he was preaching Reaganomics. Kennedy was assassinated less than a year later, but his successor, Lyndon Johnson, lobbied hard for the JFK tax cuts, and he signed them into law in 1964. As a result of JFK’s Reaganesque economic plan, the economy experienced a dramatic 5 percent expansion and personal income increased by 7 percent. Gross national product grew from $628 billion to $672 billion, corporate profits by an explosive 21 percent, auto production rose by 22 percent, steel production grew by 6 percent, and unemployment plummeted to 4.2 percent—an eight-year low. The Kennedy-Johnson tax rate cuts produced a sustained economic expansion for nearly a decade.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Reaganomics works again.

4. The Recession of the 1970s. This recession began in November 1973 under Nixon and ended (technically) in March 1975 under Gerald Ford—a 16-month recession. According to the graphs and charts of the economists, real GDP was on the rise by the spring of 1975, yet unemployment and inflation remained painfully high throughout rest of the 1970s. Americans continue to suffer joblessness amid spiraling prices after the recession officially ended.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan narrowly lost the primary race against Gerald Ford. Reagan was convinced that he knew how to solve the long and painful recession of the 1970s, but he was forced to watch from the sidelines as Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter—two befuddled, clueless Keynesians!—battled each other for the White House. On October 8, 1976, at the height of the presidential race between Carter and Ford, Reagan outlined the principles of Reaganomics in a syndicated newspaper column entitled “Tax Cuts and Increased Revenue.” He wrote:

Warren Harding did it. John Kennedy did it. But Jimmy Carter and President Ford aren’t talking about it. The ‘it’ that Harding and Kennedy had in common was to cut the income tax. In both cases, federal revenues went up instead of down. . . . Since the idea worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations before, who’s to say it couldn’t work again?”

Reagan had majored in economics at Eureka College and had spent years studying the great free market economists such as Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations), Friedrich Hayek (The Road to Serfdom), and Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom). While Reagan’s opponents ignorantly wrote him off as an “amiable dunce,” it is clear that Reagan correctly and insightfully diagnosed the ailing economy of the 1970s. Unfortunately, Reagan would have to wait more than four years for the opportunity to put his prescription into practice.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianism fails again.

5. The Jimmy Carter Stagflation Recession of 1980. After Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January 1977, he inflicted the failed FDR-style Keynesian approach on the country—an approach which says the federal government can spend its way to prosperity. The result of Carter’s policies was an economic disaster called “stagflation”—slow economic growth coupled with the misery of rampant inflation and high unemployment.

By the 1980 election, America under Carter was in a full-blown recession. The American people had suffered years of double-digit interest rates, double-digit inflation, and double-digit unemployment, plus blocks-long lines at the gas station. Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in a landslide. Newsweek observed: “When Ronald Reagan steps into the White House . . . he will inherit the most dangerous economic crisis since Franklin Roosevelt took office 48 years ago.”

Reagan moved confidently and quickly to slash tax rates and domestic spending. Under his leadership, the top marginal tax rate dropped from 70 percent to 28 percent. Michael Reagan described the results:

Tax cuts generated 4 million jobs in 1983 alone and 16 million jobs over the course of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Unemployment among African-Americans dropped dramatically, from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. . . .

The inflation rate fell from 13.5 percent in 1980 . . . to 3.2 percent in 1983. . . .

The Reagan tax cuts nearly doubled federal revenue. After his 25 percent across-the-board tax rate cuts went into effect, receipts from both individual and corporate income taxes rose dramatically. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, revenue from individual income taxes went from $244.1 billion in 1980 to $445.7 billion in 1989, an increase of over 82 percent. Revenue from corporate income taxes went from $64.6 billion to $103.3 billion, a 60 percent jump.

This was the fulfillment of the “paradoxical truth” that John F. Kennedy spoke of in his 1962 speech: “Cutting taxes now . . . can bring a budget surplus.” Both JFK and Ronald Reagan predicted that lower tax rates would generate more revenue. This “paradoxical truth” worked exactly as predicted.

At a White House press conference in 1981, President Reagan took reporters to school, explaining that the principles of Reaganomics have been known for centuries. Lower tax rates invariably bring more money into the treasury, he explained, “because of the almost instant stimulant to the economy.” This principle, Reagan added, “goes back at least, I know, as far as the fourteenth century, when a Moslem philosopher named Ibn Khaldun said, ‘In the beginning of the dynasty, great tax revenues were gained from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, small tax revenues were gained from large assessments.'”

The principles of Reaganomics have been proved true—and Keynesian theory has been exposed as a fraud once more.

6. The Obama Recession. To be fair, what I call “The Obama Recession” actually began under George W. Bush, triggered by the collapse of the housing bubble. I think it’s fair to call it The Obama Recession because, when Barack Obama took office, he threw $814 billion of stimulus money at the recession (plus billions more in corporate bailouts, “Cash for Clunkers,” Solyndra-style green energy boondoggles, and other prime-the-pump schemes). He promised to jump-start the economy and hold unemployment below 8 percent. This was weapons-grade Keynesianism, practiced on a scale never before witnessed in human history. After spending so much money on the “cure,” Obama now owns that recession.

If Keynesian theory works at all, the Obama stimulus plan should have completely turned the economy around. But the stimulus plan—officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—not only failed to make a splash, it didn’t make a ripple. Even after the government pumped nearly a trillion dollars of borrowed money into the economy, unemployment nudged up toward the 10 percent mark. Today, unemployment is officially below 9 percent—but the actual jobless rate is much higher.

In 2010, the Population Reference Bureau calculated the workforce to be at just over 157 million people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 131 million jobs in America. That would leave 26 million people jobless—or about 16 percent of the total workforce. But it gets worse: Many of those jobs are just part-time jobs, and many people hold two or more of those jobs, so the actual jobless number is certainly far higher than 16 percent—maybe 20 percent or higher.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianomics fails catastrophically.

Unfortunately, the high priests of the Keynesian religion refuse to see the light. President Obama clings to his delusional Keynesian faith, insisting that all we have to do is throw more money at the economy with another stimulus bill! That is economic insanity. Former Reagan aide Peter Ferrara wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The fallacies of Keynesian economics were exposed decades ago by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Keynesian thinking was then discredited in practice in the 1970s, when the Keynesians could neither explain nor cure the double-digit inflation, interest rates, and unemployment that resulted from their policies. Ronald Reagan’s decision to dump Keynesianism in favor of supply-side policies—which emphasize incentives for investment — produced a 25-year economic boom. That boom ended as the Bush administration abandoned every component of Reaganomics one by one, culminating in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s throwback Keynesian stimulus in early 2008.

Mr. Obama showed up in early 2009 with the dismissive certitude that none of this history ever happened, and suddenly national economic policy was back in the 1930s. Instead of the change voters thought they were getting, Mr. Obama quintupled down on Mr. Bush’s 2008 Keynesianism.

Keynesian theory is every bit as superstitious as believing in astrology or a flat Earth or the good-luck powers of a rabbit’s foot. The facts of history are beyond dispute. The old Keynesian superstition has failed every time it was tried. But Keynesian fundamentalists like Barack Obama continue to live in a state of denial.

We know what works. Nearly a century of economic history proves it. Now we need a president and a Congress with the common sense to apply the lessons of history to the economic crisis of today.

An Unmitigated Disaster for America

The SCOTUS decision on Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster for America. Here’s why:

1. IT INVENTS A NEW, EXPANDED DEFINITION OF THE POWER TO TAX. Roberts firewalled the expansion of the Commerce Clause, but redefined a mandate as a “tax.” Now the Left no longer needs the Commerce Clause to do anything it wants. Leftist social engineers can run (and ruin) our lives via the Tax Clause.

The constitutional power to tax has never before been used to control private behavior, only to fund functions of government. Roberts INVENTED a huge new cudgel that the government can use to oppress and bully the people. Government WILL use it against us in ways we do not now imagine.

Libertarian attorney Jacob Hornberger rightly a called the Constitution “a barbed-wire entanglement designed to interfere with, restrict, and impede government officials in the exercise of political power.” That is the Founding Fathers’ view. By contrast, Roberts took it upon himself to EXPAND federal power in a previously unheard-of direction.

John Yoo of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law has a great Wall Street Journal piece called “Chief Justice Roberts and His Apologists.” Here’s an excerpt:

Justice Roberts’s opinion provides a constitutional road map for architects of the next great expansion of the welfare state. Congress may not be able to directly force us to buy electric cars, eat organic kale, or replace oil heaters with solar panels. But if it enforces the mandates with a financial penalty then suddenly, thanks to Justice Roberts’s tortured reasoning . . . the mandate is transformed into a constitutional exercise of Congress’s power to tax. . . . Justice Roberts may have sacrificed the Constitution’s last remaining limits on federal power for . . . a little peace and quiet from attacks during a presidential election year.

2. REPEAL AND REPLACE IS A LONG SHOT. A friend of mine confidently told me, “No worries. We’ll win the election, and Obamacare will be repealed and replaced by the next administration.”

First, I’m not confident Mitt Romney will win. He has a limitless capacity for unforced campaign errors.

Second, even if he wins, it’s unlikely Obamacare will be dismantled. No government program, once established, has ever been dismantled in the history of the republic. Ronald Reagan couldn’t fulfill his promise to dismantle the Dept. of Education, even though it had been established just a year earlier by Jimmy Carter. The forces against repeal will be brutal. I don’t think Romney and Boehner really believe they will “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but it does make great election-year rhetoric.

Our best chance of dismantling this unconstitutional, oppressive socialist scheme was in the Supreme Court. Now that chance is gone.

3. ROBERTS’ RATIONALIZATION TWISTS THE CONSTITUTION. Some apologists for Chief Justice Roberts suggest that he crafted this tortured decision in order to safeguard the reputation and stature of SCOTUS. If so, then he protected SCOTUS at the expense of the nation and the Constitution. The best way to safeguard SCOTUS is to safeguard the Constitution. By concocting a transparently phony rationale that a mandate is a tax, Roberts got friendly media coverage, but did violence to the Constitution. If Roberts crafted this rationale in order to improve the reputation of SCOTUS, he’s lost his perspective on why SCOTUS exists.

4. WE CAN’T RELY ON ANTI-TAX SENTIMENT. Some have suggested that if people don’t like being taxed to pay for Obamacare, they can simply vote to change Congress.

Problem: We’ve reached the tipping point where anti-tax sentiment in America is a minority position. Most Americans pay no income taxes, and have every reason and incentive to vote increased taxes on those who do pay. Voters won’t vote to change Congress if they like getting freebies from the government at the expense of fellow taxpayers.

What about people who can’t pay the Obamacare mandate “tax”? The rest of us will pay it for them. The middle class will get soaked, as usual.

5. THE FOUR DISSENTERS ON THE COURT MAKE A COMPELLING CASE THAT THIS IS A DISASTROUS DECISION. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito wrote:

To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. Judicial tax-writing is particularly troubling. . . . The Constitution requires tax increases to originate in the House of Representatives . . . the legislative body most accountable to the people. . . . We have no doubt that Congress knew precisely what it was doing when it rejected an earlier version of this legislation that imposed a tax instead of a requirement-with-penalty. . . . Imposing a tax through judicial legislation inverts the constitutional scheme, and places the power to tax in the branch of government least accountable to the citizenry.

The devastating logic of the dissenters trumps the slippery reasoning of Chief Justice Roberts. This decision is a complete disaster, and I have very little confidence it can ever be undone.

Wisdom about Wealth, Poverty, and Freedom

“We have no right to judge the rich. We do not believe in class struggle but class encounter where the rich save the poor and the poor save the rich.”
—Mother Teresa

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”
—Milton Friedman

“The care of every man’s soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.”
—Thomas Jefferson

“Tariffs, quotas and other import restrictions protect the business of the rich at the expense of high cost of living for the poor. Their intent is to deprive you of the right to choose, and to force you to buy the high-priced inferior products of politically favored companies.”
—Alan Burris

“The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer the people become.”
—Lao Tsu

“The higher entry standards imposed by licensing laws reduce the supply of professional services … The poor are the net losers, because the availability of low-cost service has been reduced. In essence, the poor subsidize the information research costs of the rich.”
S. David Young

“Liberals believe government should take people’s earnings to give to poor people. Conservatives disagree. They think government should confiscate people’s earnings and give them to farmers and insolvent banks. The compelling issue to both conservatives and liberals is not whether it is legitimate for government to confiscate one’s property to give to another, the debate is over the disposition of the pillage.”
Walter Williams

“Politics is the art of obtaining money from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.”
—Anonymous

“Somehow, the fact that more poor people are on welfare, receiving more generous payments, does not seem to have made this country a nice place to live – not even for the poor on welfare, whose condition seems not noticeably better than when they were poor and off welfare. Something appears to have gone wrong; a liberal and compassionate social policy has bred all sorts of unanticipated and perverse consequences.”
Irving Kristol

“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
John Henry Boetker

“When democratic governments create economic calamity, free markets get the blame.”
—Jack Kemp

“The historical debate is over. The answer is free-market capitalism.”
—Thomas Friedman

“If there are still honest-smart men and women within those old and noble traditions, they should think carefully, observe and diagnose the illness. They should face the contradiction. Discuss the conflation. And then do as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and many others have done. Choose the miracle of creative competition over an idolatry of cash.”
—David Brin

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
C. S. Lewis

“Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer.”
—Ludwig von Mises

Floatin’ ‘Round the Sun, Lookin’ for a Handout

Surfing the Twitterfeed this morning, I came across a revealing tweet—revealing in that I’m amazed that grownups really do engage in such childish thinking. I’m reproducing that tweet below. Because of the hypercompressed 140-character limit of a tweet, the original message took some effort to read, so I’ve decompressed it for ease of reading:

“Do you really believe we’re supposed to work 8 to 14 hours a day to live on a planet that floats around the sun in this vast universe?”

I tweeted back:

” To restate: ‘The universe owes me a living.’ Defies ancient wisdom. Good luck w/ that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper .”

Good luck with that, Grasshopper.

It’s discouraging to realize how many people in this world have no concept of how human civilization functions. Things like wealth, food, transportation, computers, smart phones, and the other accoutrements of our culture do not simply pop into existence because our planet “floats around the sun in this vast universe.”

All of these things exist because people work, create, sacrifice, invest, and produce. Productive people make it possible for us to enjoy the benefits of civilization. Willfully nonproductive people—those who are able to be productive but choose not to—are a drag on the economy and a detriment to society. (Obviously, a compassionate society takes care of those who are mentally or physically incapable of work, so I’m not referring to those who, through no fault of their own, are incapable of being productive.) 

Wealth doesn’t simply exist. It doesn’t fall out of the sky. It doesn’t come from nowhere. Wealth must be created, and wealth is created through work. If you think the universe owes you a living, you are profoundly ignorant. And if you, an able-minded and able-bodied human being, are not doing your part to create wealth for the benefit of yourself, your family, and your society, then you are a parasite, living off the productivity, creativity, and industriousness of others.  

So the answer is yes, I really do believe you’re supposed to work 8 to 14 hours a day to live on this planet. That is real-world wisdom. Defy this ancient wisdom at your own risk.

France is Scroomed and So Are We

The Armstrong and Getty Show, April 23, 2012, Hour 3 (Podcast), Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty:

Jack: In France, everybody is running on the “what can I give you more of” platform, including Sarkozy. So, unlike all the other countries that got the message, “Hey, we’re broke, they’re rioting in the streets, we’ve got to tighten our belts, the good times are over,” France is completely ignoring that in their presidential election and all the candidates are running on the platform of, “Oh, you want to lower the retirement age from 65 to 62, I want to lower it to 58!” “Oh yeah? Well I want to make it 52! And I want to have a million more teachers on the government payroll.” They’re all running on the bigger government, the “give-people-more-stuff” platform. This guy, François Hollande (of the French Socialist Party), who beat out Sarkozy yesterday, wants to tax the rich, anyone who makes €1 million or more, 75 percent.

Joe: That seems fair.

Jack: The guy to the left of him, who got beat out, wanted to tax the rich—who he defined as anyone making more than €500,000—at a rate of 100 percent.

Joe: Now, that’s confiscatory.

Jack: And he just barely got edged out. And he was advocating a tax of 100 percent of everything over €500,000.

Joe: How much effort does he think people are going to put into making money and to create jobs and to grow companies, if the government is going to confiscate 100 percent of their earnings? Screw you. To hell with you, France. If the Germans invade again, we’re just going to watch TV. We’re just going to say, “I don’t hear anything, I don’t see anything,” achtung!

Jack: It’s an interesting idea. Because if I make $500,000, and every dollar over that I make, the government gets all that, there are only a couple of options. You’d figure out a way to cheat and hide it somehow, or you’d hire somebody to pretend they’re you and take part of your business. You’d have to do something like that.

Joe: Well, you’d find a way to deny the government that revenue. And the vast majority of people would just not put in the effort anymore.

You know, the free market has lifted more people out of poverty than anything conceived of by man, bar none. But everyone wants to do away with it in the name of “fairness.” You want fairness? Let the market work.

Jack: “A Country in Denial” was the article in The Economist. By ignoring their economic problems, France’s politicians are making it impossible to solve those problems. Everybody still thinks the party is not over. You can still just give people stuff, promise them anything, let them retire early, it’s amazing! It’s really quite amazing.

But you know, we’re more or less there in the United States. We’re in not quite as dire a situation as France, because our economy is so good. But we are headed in that direction, and we are still acting like nothing was wrong.

Joe: Okay, here’s the calculation that politicians are making. If you don’t deal with politicians as often as we do, you can’t conceive of how cynical they are. The calculation they make is, “Will the ess hit the fan, will the disaster happen during my term?” And if the answer is no by as little as a day, then they will continue doing politics as usual, the pandering, the income redistribution, the overspending—unless it’s going to happen on their watch. And literally, if it’s one day after their power is no longer an issue to them, then they don’t care, they don’t care.

They are beating the hell out of our children and we’re letting them.

Jack: The vast majority of politicians are cowards who just want to hang onto their job while they’ve got it.

Joe: And a majority of Americans don’t pay income tax anyway, so it doesn’t really seem like an issue to them.

It’s the human beast. It’s an ugly, ugly beast. The human beast is capable of unspeakable selfishness and evil. Once in a while, you know, once every couple hundred years, some great thinkers come together to design a government that somehow staves off the ugliness of humanity long enough to build a great culture. But sooner or later, We the People figure out a way to screw the pooch and ruin it. And we’re about there—scroomed.*

[*Note: Scroomed is an Armstrong & Getty term. Derivation: Screwed + doomed = scroomed.]

Jack: France, which is further down the road of being scroomed then we are, the guy who currently leads to become the next president of France, is running on, “I’m going to move the retirement age from 65 to 62, and taxing people who make over €1 million at a rate of 75 percent.

Joe: Wow, that’s a kick in the baguette.

Parasitic Government

Charles Krauthammer, from Special Report with Bret Baier, Monday, April 16, 2012, about the House hearings on the GSA spending scandal:

“What Representative Cummings said was quite interesting because he said it’s a basic tenet of government that it’s not your money. It’s the taxpayers’ money. But he’s missing the point. It’s a basic tenet of human nature that if you’re spending other people’s money you’ll be less careful than you would than with your own. And that’s the central argument against big government.

“Apart from the content of the programs or the objective of the programs, it’s a fact that the government exists—parasitically—on the money of the taxpayers, and everything it spends is something that’s been sucked out of the private economy. And intrinsically, that money being spent by a bureaucrat rather than by the person who originally had the money, is going to be spent with more negligence, and more waste, and more disregard for the ultimate good than if it were in the hand of the private citizen.

“That’s why Obama will suffer. The Obama administration isn’t responsible for [the GSA Las Vegas spending scandal]. This undoubtedly happened in Bush years and other years. It’s intrinsic. However, Obama and the Democrats are the party of government who believe in expanding it, have expanded it, and want it to continue to expand. The Republicans are the party of smaller government. And as a result, when government does crazy things that are offensive to the people who support it, it will hurt the party of government. It will hurt Obama.”