Two Roads Diverged in America: The Occupiers vs. the Wagon-Pullers
Last week we attended a function in Dallas honoring retired U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, whose life as a public figure and servant was highlighted in a presentation by U.S. Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling, and retired U.S. Representative Dick Armey.
Near the entrance to the event were 4 police officers corralling approximately 40 “Occupy” protesters who were waving signs and yelling chants with messages along the lines of “Jobs not Cuts,” “I want a job,” and “No Cuts.”
My guess is that the Dallas Occupiers chose this event because Congressman Hensarling sits on the Super Committee that is tasked with finding spending cuts in the federal budget. This Committee was one of the outcomes of the vote to increase the U.S. debt ceiling, and it is the crucible in Washington for the battle between the forces that want to rein in federal spending and balance the budget, and those seemingly determined to do the opposite.
Back to this Dallas event.
Among the great stories shared about Senator Gramm was one familiar to many in the political world, but illustrative both of his character and of the character much needed in Congress today. Elected to the U.S. House as a Democrat from Texas in 1978 and 1980, Gramm co-sponsored legislation in 1981 that implemented President Ronald Reagan’s enormously successful economic program, which included cutting non-military spending and taxes, and increasing military spending.
Gramm was re-elected to the House as a Democrat in 1982, but decided to switch parties that year, so he voluntarily resigned from the U.S. House in January of 1983 to let his constituents decide if they wanted Republican representation. He campaigned in a special election for the seat he had just vacated, and was re-elected to the House as a Republican, the first Republican to represent that district. He later served as a Republican Senator from Texas from 1985 until 2002.
Gramm’s educational background (he has a Ph.D. in Economics) and professional experience as a Texas A&M Economics professor, likely formed the basis for his apparent assessment that federal spending in the 1980’s was too high, and was unjustifiable and unsupportable given that the only way the government has any money to pay for entitlement and any other spending programs is by taking money from the successful, the working people, the job-creators, the taxpayers.
Or, as he colorfully put it, there were too many riding in the wagon that is the American economy, and too few pulling it. His childhood experience of being raised by a mom who was a widow and needed to work two jobs to make ends meet, gave him real-life familiarity with the difficulties of growing up in non-affluent America.
Back to the protesters.
There are some items of common ground between those at the Gramm event and the Occupiers. Many agree that the government should not bail out financial institutions, that the economy is in deep trouble, and that the unemployment rate is too high. America needs jobs. How we get them is the big point of disagreement.
The confusion/ignorance that causes the Occupiers to think that maintaining high levels of federal government spending will increase their chances of finding jobs speaks volumes about the fact that America has a deplorable system of providing basic education about how jobs are created in a free-market economy. Academia from elementary school through college appears to have abandoned the effort to teach how America became the most prosperous nation on earth.
As a result, too many Americans, including the Occupiers, don’t connect the dots. They just don’t see that employers who know they’ll have to pay higher taxes necessarily know that if their business stays flat or declines, they will have less income after paying their taxes. So in a down economy, those employers will act to preserve their capital, which may mean they will be forced to lay-off workers, certainly means they will not hire new employees, and almost certainly means they will not be of a mind to risk capital to create new businesses (and jobs). The Occupiers just don’t get it: higher taxes and higher tax rates=fewer jobs. They don’t know that the spending cuts they oppose will help create jobs.
Underlying the Occupiers’ message is their apparent perception that it is government’s responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money so the Occupiers can find jobs. Other Occupier demands from around the country smack of that economically ignorant premise that government can fix all problems with new programs and spending, all financed by a seemingly endless source of funding, new and higher taxes.
Take the latest example, Obama’s proposal to re-do the college loan program, in essence largely reducing the obligation of the recipients to re-pay their loans. What a great idea—borrow money for college and the government will protect you so you don’t have to pay all of it back! Sounds great to the economically ignorant and to the recipients (but I repeat myself). But as with all “free government programs,” the college loan money comes from the pockets of the taxpayers, the successful, the job-creators, the employers. The economic circles as always are intertwined.
The Occupiers are echoing President Obama’s core redistributionist message, and it’s a message of insult to the unemployed and to those he has alternatively labeled the “poor,” and the “middle-class.”
The plain English translation of Obama’s big government, “redistributing the wealth” policies is that he sees most Americans as incapable of making their way in life, too irresponsible to spend within their means, and ultimately, as helpless as children to care for themselves, so he and his big-government cronies will need to do everything for them.
Conceding the power to government to care for us is conceding the power to control us. Beyond that, this political ideology ignores the real-life fact that economic status is not a stagnant fact. People change jobs, change careers, choose to forego income to raise children, choose to risk capital and sometimes succeed and more often fail, so that people move within the economic classes throughout their lifetimes. A free market economy is inherently dynamic. And that’s a good thing.
Contrasting Senator Gramm’s “wagon-riders vs. wagon-pullers” message with the Occupiers’ “Big government needs to find me a job” message reveals the core of the political debate in America today.
Creating a growing group of citizens whose livelihood depends on the government continuing to provide ever-expanding entitlement program benefits, funded by taxing the shrinking group who work and earn money in the private sector, is the primary political goal of the Democrat Party in America today.
Too much of what they advocate is too close to socialism, too close to the big-government control that emerges from a system that penalizes success and advocates dependence, that redistributes the fruits of our successful labors. And while these young Occupiers think that they are advocating for their economic futures, they need only study the outcomes and futures suffered by those who live in socialist-leaning and full-on socialist and communist countries to figure out that they do not want the future those systems bring. In a word, they bring tyranny.
All of this means that it is incumbent on the Republican Party leadership and on the Presidential candidates in particular to give strong voice to the free market message. They need to draw the circle, connect the dots: increasing government programs and spending takes money out of the employers’ pockets that could be used to create jobs.
Tax and spending cuts=more private sector jobs.
Back to Senator Gramm’s decision to switch parties nearly 30 years ago.
Where are the similarly brave Democrats today? Some have switched, and more are apparently contemplating doing so. But do all still running for re-election to the U.S. House and Senate as Democrats support the redistributionist policies Obama embraces? Do they support the Occupiers’ message that government must find them jobs? The Democrat Party did not used to be so Far Left as their Party leaders are today. The broad swath of Democrat voters in America were not and are not that Far Left, but they need to hear the voices speaking up for free markets and freedom that will only come from the Republican side.
Because if we come to the time when more Americans are riding in the wagon than pulling the wagon, the wagon will stall out, and the economic progress of our nation will come to a halt. Then only truly coercive government action can make anything move. And we are too close to that already.