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Having rolled back the landmark economic reforms of the sixties (the war on poverty) and those of the thirties (labor law, agricultural price supports, banking regulation), its leaders now turn their guns on the accomplishments of the earliest years of progressivism (Woodrow Wilson’s estate tax; Theodore Roosevelt’s antitrust measures). With a little more effort, the backlash may well repeal the entire twentieth century.
THIS IS A REVEALING book about what is happening in American politics today, though in none of the ways intended by the author. For one thing, as the above quotes show, it reveals that the lefty Democrat base of Obama, Dean, and Pelosi is not living in the real world. Now that the conservatives have “smashed the welfare state,” why is it that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is at record levels for each program, the highest in history, with the three programs now slated to lead over the next 35 years to the Federal government doubling in size relative to the economy (GDP)? Having rolled back the War on Poverty, why are we still spending close to $700 billion each year on means-tested welfare programs, more than we spend on national defense? Add up Federal, state and local spending on education, and you will find that total is higher than spending on national defense as well, at record levels, higher than ever.
American corporations now suffer the second highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. The top 1% of income earners now pay 40% of all income taxes, almost twice their share of the national income. It is the Democrat Left that wants to roll back historic labor law reforms, seeking laws to deny workers their longstanding right to secret ballot elections on unionization, which would allow union thugs to beat them, literally, into publicly signing cards to recognize union control over their jobs. The latest farm bill was for $300 billion, even though farmers earn more than the national average, with most of that taxpayer money actually going to the richest agribusinesses. Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of antitrust was rolled back almost 30 years ago now, based on extensive academic research in the 1970s showing that the original version of antitrust during the “progressive era” was mostly emotional nonsense. Robust antitrust law now focuses on actual restraints of trade, such as price fixing.
Frank also reports to us that conservatives in Kansas had cut state taxes so “compulsively through the nineties” that “the only route remaining” for the state government “is the one conservatives have insisted we take all along, on the state as well as the national level: government, that hated entity, will simply have to wither away.” The Tax Foundation reports that Kansas has the 25th-lowest tax burden among the 50 states.
In 250 pages, the book never actually gets around to arguing for its essential foundation that free-market economics is contrary to the interests of the working class. It simply assumes that point, as revealed on the first page, where Frank recounts a discussion with a friend about an “impoverished” Great Plains county that had voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2000. “How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?” his friend asked. End of discussion. Frank saw that as a brilliant insight into political economy to open his analysis, indeed, “the preeminent question of our times.”p>More is revealed when Frank later explains his personal story a about how he came to embrace the Left’s understanding of class and economics (Marxism). Frank grew up in a prosperous, though not rich, family in the Mission Hills area of Johnson County, Kansas, the elite, rich, upper-class suburb of Kansas City, the richest in all of Kansas. As a youth, he was a patriotic, free-market conservative on his high school debate team. But in college, the Left turned him with the argument that all his supposed reasoning and theories regarding the wonders and success of the free market were merely self-interested rationalizations for the wealth he was born into. Frank writes, br> /p>
The theories of the universe that I had developed so painstakingly…were but fantasies that arose directly from my particular perch in life. Here was I, a Mission Hills lad, growing up in one of the regional arcadias of American capitalism…and what I had managed to do was invent a romantic justification for precisely the system of social arrangements that had made Mission Hills possible.br> He quotes from the old progressive writer William Allen White, recognizing himself as “a cocksure lad who never suspected that his political ideas were derived more from his fortunate social position than from reason and learning….Being what I was, a child of the governing classes, I was blinded by my birthright!”
So the Left successfully used white guilt to convince Frank to drop all reasoning, logic, and common sense as self-interested claptrap, and to embrace the Left and socialism, on faith. In other words, it was like a religious conversion. That is why he and others on the Left never argue for socialist, neo-Marxism, they simply assert it as self-evident, because for them it is a religion adopted on faith, not a matter of economic analysis. That is why they are often so mean and personal rather than advancing a reasoned discussion of ideas, because they are engaged in a religious war, not an academic seminar debating the possibility that their religion might be false.
I RECOGNIZE the trick well. The Left tried to use it on me at Harvard. I laughed it off. I came to Harvard looking for the best arguments for socialism, the Left, and modern liberalism. Instead of offering me reason and logic, they tried to browbeat me with guilt. I wasn’t buying it. I went to Harvard believing in both Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand. Despite the dominant Left’s best efforts to the contrary there, today I still believe in Jesus, and Von Mises, and Hayek, and Friedman, and Mundell, and Laffer, not to mention Locke, and Jefferson, and Nozick. What the naive Left, represented by Frank, fails to recognize is that socialism, Marxism, indeed, the liberal “welfare state,” are all merely a “romantic justification,” a “self-interested rationalization” for the aggrandizement of government power and the true ruling classes. That is why for so long all the tin pot dictators of the Third World tried to pass themselves off as Marxist revolutionaries.
Of course, my parents didn’t give me much of a foundation for liberal guilt. Both high school dropouts, they achieved a good measure of prosperity by hard work, surpassing my grandparents, who never finished grade school. But my mother could only dream of places like Mission Hills. They all became lifelong Republicans, starting in 1952, seeing the Democrats as just putting more burdens in their way.
It is Frank who unfortunately missed the 20th century. For what it demonstrated is the utter failure of socialism, Marxism, and all the fantasies of the Left. West Germany versus East Germany, South Korea versus North Korea, Japan versus China, the United States versus Soviet Russia, Miami versus Cuba, capitalism produced vast wealth and prosperity, the Left and its socialism produced utter failure. That is why today the supply-side revolution, tax cuts, privatization, deregulation and free trade are sweeping the world, not because the working class has become confused by abortion, gun control, and gay rights.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?