Tuesday, December 31, 2013
When President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing in 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong -- with his Marxist revolution, Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution -- had achieved an equality unrivaled anywhere.
That is, until Pol Pot came along.
There seemed to be no private cars on Beijing's streets. In the stores, there was next to nothing on the shelves. The Chinese all seemed dressed in the same blue Mao jackets.
Today there are billionaires and millionaires in China, booming cities, a huge growing middle class and, yes, hundreds of millions of peasants still living on a few dollars a day.
Hence, there is far greater inequality in China today than in 1972.
Yet, is not the unequal China of today a far better place for the Chinese people than the Communist ant colony of Mao?
Lest we forget, it is freedom that produces inequality.
Even a partly free nation unleashes the natural and acquired abilities of peoples, and the more industrious and talented inevitably excel and rise and reap the greater rewards. "Inequality ... is rooted in the biological nature of man," said James Fenimore Cooper.
Yet for many people, from New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to President Barack Obama to Pope Francis, income inequality is a curse in need of a cure, as there is today said to be an intolerable measure of such inequality.
But let us first inspect the measuring rod.
Though a family of four with $23,550 in cash income in 2013 qualified as living in poverty, this hardly tells the whole story.
Consider the leveling effect of the graduated income tax, about which Karl Marx wrote glowingly in his "Communist Manifesto."
The top 1 percent of U.S. earners pay nearly 40 percent of U.S. income taxes. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent. The top 50 percent pay more than 97 percent of income taxes. The poor pay nothing.
Surely, trillions of dollars siphoned annually off the incomes of the most productive Americans -- in federal, state and local income and payroll taxes -- closes the gap somewhat.
Secondly, though 15 percent of U.S. families qualify as poor, measured by cash income, this does not take into account the vast assortment of benefits they receive.
The poor have their children educated free in public schools, from Head Start to K-12 and then on to college with Pell Grants. Their medical needs are taken care of through Medicaid. They receive food stamps to feed the family. The kids can get two or three free meals a day at school.
Housing, too, is paid for or subsidized. The poor also receive welfare checks and Earned Income Tax Credits for added cash.
In the late 1940s, our family had no freezer, no dishwasher, no clothes washer or dryer, no microwave, no air conditioning. We watched the Notre Dame-Army game on a black-and-white 8-inch DuMont.
Among American families in poverty today, 1 in 4 have a freezer. Nearly half have automatic dishwashers. Almost 60 percent have a home computer. About 2 in 3 poor families have a clothes washer and dryer. Eighty percent have cellphones.
Ninety-three percent of the poor have a microwave; 96 percent a color TV, and 97 percent a gas or electric stove. Not exactly les miserables.
Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation added up the cost in 2012 of the means-tested federal and state programs for America's poor and low-income families. Price tag: $927 billion.
There are 79 federal programs, writes Rector, that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training and targeted education to poor and low-income Americans.
"If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than sufficient to bring the income of every lower-income American to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, roughly $44,000 per year for a family of four."
Then there are the contributions of churches, charities and foundations.
Where in history have the poor been treated better?
Certainly not in the USA in the 1950s or during the Depression. Why, then, all this sudden talk about reducing the gap between rich and poor?
A good society will take care of its poor. But envy that others have more, and coveting the goods of the more successful, used to constitute two of the seven capital sins in the Baltimore Catechism.
At Howard University in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared, "We seek not just ... equality as a right ... but equality as a fact and equality as a result."
Yet the only way to make people who are unequal in talents equal in rewards is to use governmental power to dispossess some and favor others.
Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming:
"The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced ... to a single principle."
Get people to believe you are seeking the utopian goal of equality of all and there is no limit to the power you can amass.
Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) recently expressed his puzzlement over the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In between incoherent ramblings and fragmented sentences, the congressman explained that the tea party is a “cult” group that suffers from an apparent “illness”.
“Politics is (sic) changing for me at this late age, to have to deal with a cult-type of group of people,” said the man who recently allocated millions of taxpayer dollars to a New York library named in his honor. (Maybe he’s speaking out of jealousy?)
“When a handful of people [I assume he is referring to the tea party coalition in the House of Representatives] can control a larger number of people, to repeal a law that has been passed by the House, the Senate, and declared constitutional by the courts - and they campaign on the issue that it should be repealed- this is past Civics 101. This is illness,” said the Congressman who has inexplicably remained in office since 1971. (Whoa…Talk about mental illness!)
Watch the video of the congressman taking a stab at coherent political dialogue:
Well, Mr. Rangel, since you brought it up, maybe we should discuss a little about Civics 101: Obamacare’s individual mandate, judged by the Supreme Court to be amassive tax increase rather than a mandate for commercial engagement, was ruled Constitutional (hat tip to John Roberts)… But there are many other legal challenges pending against the 2,700 page bill and the tens of thousands of regulations that have yet to be fully implemented. Oh… And “Constitutional” does not mean “good” or “well-advised”. Regardless of a few Supreme Court rulings, Obamacare remains a burden on economic vitality and individual liberty.
Of course Rangel’s a congressman… So we clearly can’t expect him to grasp American politics with any degree of adequacy. In addition to stumbling over a butchered sense of civics and constitutional law, the honorary* congressman (*I’m assuming no-one votes for this guy on purpose) took a couple of shots at the tea party.
Apparently the tea party is a “cult”… I always thought of it more as a collection of like-minded individuals who have banded together (almost like a “party” of some sort) for political clout… Ya know, like the Democrat party, the progressive movement, the Republican Party, the Communist Party, the Libertarian Party, the conservative movement, the constitutional movement, or for that matter any other faction of American political ideology in the last 200 years. I mean, heck, it’s not as if the tea party has routinely re-elected a man who used taxpayer funds to build a conference center, public service center or library in his own honor(Ahem*Rangel*ahem). Now that would be cult-like.
Then there’s Rangel’s laughable assertion that repealing laws is an illness; a statement that deserves a prominent spot on the liberal-lunacy highlight reel of 2013. I’m willing to bet there were plenty of Jim Crow era laws that deserved repeal. And I find it hard to believe that most of America was mentally ill when it decided to repeal the 18th Amendment, thus ending prohibition.
In fact, if mental illness is to be judged by traditional metrics, the case could be made that supporters of Obamacare are the ones suffering in today’s political climate. How else can it be explained that they think handing healthcare over to the same folks who run the DMV, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration will somehow improve things for average citizens? I mean, it’s not as if the government has excelled at everything else it attempts to regulate into perfection. (Education, finance, mortgages, student loans, retirement assistance, etc… Do we need to continue with this list?)
While the most recent utterances from one of America’s career-congressman are relatively inconsequential (much like his censure for ethics violations), they illustrate a growing trend in American politics: The belief that small government advocates are radical, dangerous, and mutinous to government action.
Well, the same thing was said about small-government advocates in the 18thcentury… So, I guess Rangel is putting the tea party in good company. The self-obsessed (and ethically challenged) New York Democrat might have just given the tea party quite the compliment. After all, if he is the poster-child for “sanity” in DC, I guess I’d like a few more crazies to get elected in 2014.