By John F. Di Leo -
It began quietly enough.
A talking head on television would say it’s unfair to expect the robust economic boom of the 90s again; we had the “peace dividend” to thank for it, and it’s not like the Soviet Union is going to fall again. Or a columnist reminds us of the invention of the modern computer in the early 80s, and then the arrival of the internet age in the 90s; such technological breakthroughs were a once-in-history occurrence; they’re responsible for the booms we remember, nothing else.
Or some caller on the radio, aged and experienced, with opinions fortified by a lifetime of drinking the kool-aid, sagely reminds host and callers alike that “in my day, the boom was the result of ending World War II… we can’t, and shouldn’t, hope for a thing like THAT again!”
And it all seems innocent enough. Thoughtful. Reasonable. Because economic booms just “happen” – they aren’t the result of anything we’ve done, they’re wonderful good fortune, nothing more. Like finding a silver dollar on the pavement in a walk in the park; it’s all just good luck. Be grateful for it, but don’t think there’s anything that the government can do to create a boom, or to help one along. That’s what we’re told, by the serious, practical, realistic commentators of the Modern American Left.
These helpful analysts are telling us – in column after column, commentary after commentary – that we need to settle into a “new normal:” one of paltry job creation, massive unemployment, an end to the family farm and the small business, an end to class mobility, even.
We’re told to no longer expect to climb from poverty into the middle class, or from the middle class into wealth. Those days are over for good, we are told. But that’s okay, don’t complain or worry; the elites will soften this fall. The elites will stabilize everything (as long as we vote for them), so you don’t mind this end to the American Dream. The elites – the Modern American Left – will ensure that the poor get good healthcare and education (making sure that somebody else pays for it, of course), and then you’ll have nothing to complain about.
These pundits, analysts and deep thinkers are therefore cleverly attempting to justify a function that they never could manage to justify before.
A century and a half ago, when they said “let’s have food stamps and housing assistance for the poor,” the public would say “No, welfare is bad for you. Let’s help them climb out of poverty instead; they’ll do better on their own than they’d ever do with such welfare!” But after a century of agitation, and, frankly, a century of nurturing dependency, we are now at the point where it is indeed believable that there are whole groups who can never pull themselves up on their own. We now need a welfare state, because we’ve built a generational addiction to welfare.
This is nothing new in society, only in governance. It’s dictatorship by addiction: just like the neighborhood drug pusher who started people out with free samples, the government is always there to address a problem that the government itself caused… quite intentionally.
The Truth of the Matter
Economics is not a science of formulas and statistics. Economics is a human science, the study of human choices and the affect on society of those choices. The end of a war, the invention of a computer, the establishment of a means of communication could either be ineffectual or helpful or even unhelpful, depending on whether the power of government is used to channel them, enable them, or impede them.
Every state in the union has the same access to computers and internet today; every state in the union has access to libraries of information. In this telecommuting age, businesses in every state could be staffed with the same talent from around the world.
So why is it that California, home of the most beautiful weather on earth, is dying, as employers flee like caribou being chased by lions? Why is Texas, home of heat, humidity, and poisonous snakes, enjoying the economic boom of record-setting new business starts and existing business growth?
Why is Illinois, centrally located and blessed with fertile land, the world’s largest airport, and an architecturally unparalleled business center, bleeding jobs like a colander bleeds water? The jobs aren’t ceasing to exist; they’re fleeing… moving to Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas and Louisiana.
The challenge to the “new normal” crowd is this: Why aren’t all states suffering equally? If the new normal is blight and despair, why are some states refusing to play along?
Because in fact, there IS no “new normal.” Because the Left’s argument that the current eight-year recession (don’t call this a recovery; it’s anything but!) was utterly unavoidable, and the Democrats are doing the best that can be done, so don’t hold them to the expectations to which we’ve always held past administrations, is simply hogwash.
In the 19th century, Marxists came up with the idea of the Marxist Dialectic – the belief that human history marches inexorably toward socialism, so we should all just accept it and move on. Marxists claim that there is only one road – and it is the one Friedrich Hayek rightly called “The Road to Serfdom.”
But we do NOT need to accept this path. We can leave this path and choose a different one, at any time. We have an opportunity to change our path every two years, with state and federal elections. All we have to do is elect enough of the right pilots, and we can steer this ship back onto the right course.
Want a new normal? Fine. Let’s take the new normal of the 1790s, when Alexander Hamilton’s brilliance steered a young country out of the Revolutionary era’s depression with sound money and the rule of law. Or the new normal of the 1980s, the huge growth period that not only ended the Carter recession, but also spurred an economic boom that extended even beyond Ronald Reagan’s two terms. Why shouldn’t we demand that one? If we’re going to have to accept a new normal, why should we accept the awful economy of the Obama years?
The Great Cover-Up
The Obama administration has been the center of the greatest economic cover-up in American history. We have had panics and booms, recessions and recoveries, for as long as we’ve been a nation. But Barack Obama and his team have attempted something never done before: to take a crippling recession and call it a recovery.
Think about that. The four-term Democrat president of the 1930s and 40s saw the Depression extend all the way into World War II. He kept trying socialist schemes that never worked – he never actually learned from his failures – but at least he admitted that it was still a depression.
Jimmy Carter admitted the economy was suffering a recession in his era; you couldn’t deny the double digit inflation and double digit interest rates. His ego blamed it on malaise, instead of his own policies, but at least he admitted that it was indeed a recession.
Bill Clinton was cleverest of all; he admitted to a recession that was already ending as he took office, then claimed credit for good numbers that resulted from the Gingrich Congress’s programs. Clinton enjoyed a good economy because Congress voted conservative programs over Clinton’s own, then he proudly claimed responsibility where they succeeded.
But now we have the two term presidency of Barack Obama. The recession under which this presidency began – caused more by the 2007 Democratic Congress than by any error of Bush II – never ended, since the Obama administration started out swinging death blows at the economy immediately upon their arrival. Stimulus after stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, Obamacare – this presidency reads as a long litany of abuses that, if applied to an individual, would be classified as the kind of tortures banned by the Geneva Convention.
So the Left has had make the case, for over six years, that this disastrous economy IS actually a recovery, as convincingly as they possibly could, as a lying actor's character does on stage, when he sneaks a glance at the audience to ask himself “are they buying it?”
The administration leaves energy and food out of the inflation calculations, so they can claim there’s no inflation. They no longer count long-term unemployed in their unemployment numbers; they instead only count the short term jobless. They no longer report tepid new business starts in the news, so as that number has plummeted, it has done so in a vacuum.
So it is that we hear a recession described as a recovery, a nation with 90 million outside of the workforce being sold to the voters as “a boom time, considering.” They trumpet the good numbers, such as they are – a strong stock market, a reduction in new jobless claims even as longterm jobless are not improving – and they sell it, convincingly to many, as something to rejoice.
With a century of data to view since the dawn of the progressive era in American politics, there is no longer any cause for debate about what works and what doesn’t. We can easily see patterns, at both the state and national levels, that leave no doubt about the real effects of economic policies.
What works is a combination of low tax rates, low government spending, minimal government regulations, and the rule of law. Everyone knows it. This is proven every time it’s tried, whether by Texas and Louisiana and Wisconsin in recent years, or by the national government under wiser presidents in times past, from Washington to JFK and Reagan.
What doesn’t work – what makes things worse, no matter how hard they try – is the toxic mix of socialist fixes:
- The idea that high government spending will spur further activity. In fact, all it does is starve worthy pursuits to feed unworthy ones.
- The idea that a massive government provides stable employment for the otherwise unemployable. In fact, all it does is ensure that people who might otherwise be productive in the private sector are not, and raise the cost of government to an unsustainable level.
- The idea that regulations provide a level playing field to look out for society’s best interest. In fact, we passed that stage generations ago; recent regulations wipe out whole industries as ever-more-cockeyed theories are worshipped by the regulators, from anti-Western multiculturalism to gender fluidity to global warming.
- The idea that the rule of law can and should be dismissed in favor of modern fads and moral equivalency. In fact, the risk of being shut down for one’s first amendment beliefs has become a major deterrent to the establishment of small businesses, which are normally the engine of growth in any economy.
- The idea that tax rates don’t matter if the things on which tax dollars are spent are “worthy ones.” In fact, taxation is destructive, not only because of its act of theft from the individual, but because of its act of starving the economy of the fuel for growth.
The Obama Era’s Economic Legacy
The Obama administration’s entire course can be read as an economic treatise on what not to do.
Healthcare: Obamacare has raised costs exponentially, closed hospitals and clinics, driven professionals out of the medical field, made it harder for medical students to ever earn enough to pay off their student loans, made it impossible for many to obtain health insurance, and made it much more costly for those who have it because of premiums and deductibles. Not just because it was done badly, but because it was done at all; the government simply shouldn’t be micromanaging something that the Invisible Hand can manage so much better.
Energy: The Democratic Party’s misguided drive toward energy transformation – oppressing existing energy sources while attempting to spur unproven dream energies of the future – has used tax dollars to reward criminality and driven hundreds of thousands out of work, while raising the cost of energy to both commercial and residential consumer in the meantime. They have closed hundreds of coal plants, refused permits for pipelines, shut off whole regions to needed oil and gas drilling. And for what? In pursuit of the discredited and disgraced theory of global warming. Billions of borrowed tax dollars have evaporated as crony loans and gifts were given to new energy firms like Solyndra, firms already in the process of being figuratively boarded-up while cashing those billion-dollar government checks.
Automobiles: Cash for Clunkers was marketed as a way to get broken-down old polluting vehicles off the road, and spur purchases of newer and more efficient automobiles. But what did it do? It mostly paid foolish people to destroy perfectly good used domestic cars to buy newer and less comfortable imports, usually for minor fuel efficiency gains! People who had always bought domestic cars before were now literally paid by our own government to switch to Japanese and Korean imports (nothing against Japanese and Korean imports, of course, but should our government be purposefully subsidizing them?).
Immigration: The Dream Act and its cousins in immigrant enforcement changes marketed themselves as ways to legalize and honorably absorb poor people innocently excluded from the light of day by tragedy or by the choices of their parents or grandparents. But what has the administration’s illegal transformations' effect been, in practice? Inviting millions of unchecked foreigners into the country – not the desirable skilled and unskilled workers who share our American values, but frequently diseased and criminal elements arriving to suck up our welfare benefits and spread illegal drugs and gang activity throughout our cities! Some 2500 Americans per year are killed by illegal immigrants, either intentionally through murder or unintentionally through reckless driving. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are robbed, raped, assaulted, or otherwise victimized by the parade of criminal illegals and drug dealers that the Obama administration has invited in. And millions of Americans are displaced in the workforce as this imported competition depresses wages, adding massive costs without commensurate positives to the economy of any kind.
We could go on and on. This is the true history of the Obama Administration and the entire Pelosi-Reid era of modern Democrat policies. Every program they’ve put forth, big and small, has been destructive in both ways predictable and ways shockingly unpredictable. Even without looking at their foreign policy and social policy blunders – which add human suffering on a grand scale on top of the same level of failure – this period has put America on a road to decline in class mobility, in standards of living, even in normal interpersonal relations.
So what is a Democrat partisan to do, if he cannot bring himself to admit the error of his ways and convert to the freedom philosophy that is America’s birthright? He denies. He spins. He tries to dream up some way of finding some good in this path of destruction.
So we have Obama singing the joys of working fewer hours because it enables you to pursue your art. We have the Atlantic publishing a cover story warning of “A World Without Work!” and listing the many misguided souls who actually favor such a future. And we have press reports saying that we should just get used to two percent annual growth, that it’s a new normal. Nothing to worry about. Try to find a silver lining, and get over it.
In fact, though, it’s all just spin, nothing more. In fact, we could enjoy an economic boom again. This nation could, and should, be growing at a four to five percent clip. We know how to do it; we know what we need. We just need an administration at the helm committed to a true course correction... to stopping the government from always standing in the way of natural economic growth.
Here’s a new normal that we can all favor: an electorate that asks every politician where they stand – for statism or for freedom? – and never again votes for anyone whose rhetoric and actions are statist. Never.
America’s legacy was to be the limitless potential afforded by limited government. We must return to that legacy if our nation is ever again to survive and prosper.
2016 can’t come a minute too soon.
Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and trade compliance trainer. Having come of age in the 1970s and 1980s, he remembers the transformation of the nation from a scared, stagnant country into a dynamic economic power again, and he knows to credit Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and the Grace Commission for it… because our economic boom came from Reaganism, not from some random combination of luck and dialectic, as the Left incredibly pretends.
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