In a recent edition of Imprimis, Hillsdale College’s monthly effort to educate America, Frank Buckley wrote about “Restoring America’s Economic Mobility.” He referenced Marx and Engels, who were working from the perspective of the world’s history of class struggle. America didn’t fit the description, because in reality, in America, historically we were not pigeon-holed into classes. This is the reason why Marx believed that America would not be a good candidate for communism. He said that the classes “already exist” but that they were (in his time) in constant flux, with Americans moving from one level to the next and back again. Only with rigid classes, such as Europe that developed over centuries, could the people be marshaled into the struggle that he anticipated would result in the establishment of communism.
America, as he said, was supposed to be immune since we have not developed these rigid class strata. But, Buckley posits, this is changing. In fact, it has been changing for a century now with increasingly calcified classes.
In the America of the 19th Century, we were the land where anyone – a poor factory worker or sharecropper or a newly landed immigrant from Italy, Ireland, or Eastern Europe – could see his children and grandchildren aspire to the highest political office, academic esteem, and vast wealth – or any level on that trajectory. It was the “land of opportunity.” Some naive Americans still believe this: that their children will have a better life than they, and their grandchildren better still. But, this is not the America we know in the 21st Century.
Today’s America, Buckley asserts, is becoming stratified; less and less movement is occurring from one “class” or economic level to another. His statistics bear this out: in fact, England, noted for its inflexible class structure, is rated by Pew at 0.5; meaning that if a father earns $100,000 more than the median his son will earn $50,000 more than the average for his contemporary group. Denmark, at the other end of this spectrum has a rating of 0.15; meaning that there is considerable movement within that nation with respect to economic levels. America is at 0.47, or almost the same as England. This comes as a shock to many of us who have grown up in the old “Main Street” of America, land of the free, home of the brave. Canada, which we have long considered traditionally more “class-conscious” is rated at 0.19 indicating a great deal of economic movement of its people.
All of this might seem a dry discussion of statistics and theory, but it is of considerable importance when we look at how we are now being governed. (Note: I did not say “how we govern ourselves,” for we are increasingly feeling as though we are not in control of our own national destiny, nor of our own futures or families’ futures.)
America has grown a “ruling class” or “governing class.” Unless we are part of that elite, we no longer believe that our children will do better economically than we. What has happened?
Buckley references our economic stagnation in recent years. Our jobs are being lost to overseas competitors. Our unemployed languish while our wealthy increase their margin of wealth by exporting jobs by relocating their facilities. They have always found ways of tax avoidance, so this too sets them apart. Yet, these “business leaders” are applauded for their bottom line. The bottom line, after all, is the measure of success in business. Unfortunately, little or no thought is given to America’s “bottom line.” This has caused the development of an economy where we have only top-tier executives and moguls and service workers and bureaucrats – we manufacture virtually nothing.
What does all this have to do with government policy?
It should be crystal clear to anyone willing to look. Why would any business go offshore? Why leave behind a reasonably safe, secure location, and a native workforce for the many places where a business must deal with foreign governments, barely trained workers, language and culture barriers, security issues, and the many problems encountered in foreign lands? Because in America we have taken a road leading to economic calcification.
We have adopted socialism. When we impose impossible regulations on development and use of our resources through ridiculous and senseless regulation by the EPA, micromanaging farms and industries by regulating “bodies of water” such as irrigation and drainage ditches or watering or cooling ponds; when we mandate steep minimum wages that employers cannot sustain; when we institute national health care paid for by employers, and fine them if they exceed 50 employees without paying for this health care; when we impose crippling taxes on small businesses and their employees; and when we pit business owners against their own religious teaching or conscience we create a climate wherein a business cannot compete in our own country – we destroy our economy. Government costs all this and it cannot produce anything.
Even our education system comes into play in this dance of death. We demand higher and higher nominal levels of education for less and less demanding work. We have driven up the cost of this education at all levels and in all regions through government underwriting student loans. We doubled down on this by making ALL student loans government loans, eliminating any choice or competition there.
By involving the government in higher education we have driven up all peripheral costs, as well. Textbooks have no business being $100 apiece; they likewise have no business being rejected as “obsolete” the next semester, thus removing the possibility of students saving money by buying used and still useful textbooks or students mitigating their costs by recovering some of the expense.
Buckley refers to America’s “two-tiered” education system: we have excellent schools for the wealthy and the worst of the worst for middle-class and poor Americans. While we have this divide there will be no progress toward economic flux. This is setting the class divide in concrete. We should be asking ourselves, “Who, exactly, is against school vouchers and other free-market options, including home school, for education?” The answer is, “Everyone at the top, regardless of party affiliation.”
You won’t find the children of Barack Obama attending Washington D.C.’s festering public schools. Amy Carter was probably the only White House child to be sacrificed to that, to use the phrase of Irish educator and patriot Patrick Pearse, “murder machine.” These are pestholes of incredible putridity, as are most public schools in our cities. How can we encourage inter-class movement with this factor? Our colleges are much the same. Other social ills come into play partly through our schools – acceptance of single motherhood, for one.
Nothing is as sure to guarantee advancing poverty into the next generation as children without a father. Yet, our culture is encouraging this through social programs, media, and schools. And yet, we are observing the 2016 election with two Eastern Seaboard liberals, duking it out over which one will provide the most lavish government-funded day care, who will drive the minimum wage up higher at McDonald’s, who will advocate for “green energy” programs to bilk us of our tax dollars while penalizing our Main Street businesses, who will grow the federal government ever larger, ever more all-encompassing, and who will be the first to step in and usurp state government. It is a real contest. Even the Libertarians are competing here.
When you hear about “cultural diversity” at the expense of religious freedom you are hearing a code word for worsening the business climate. When you hear about jacking up the minimum wage, or about government daycare, or forced paid maternity leave, you are hearing about a plan to penalize employers of American workers, thus driving jobs overseas. If you penalize utilities and other entities which provide us with the resources to conduct business, then you penalize business. When you impose tariffs in a futile attempt to drag jobs back by the scruff of the neck and imprison them in America, all you are doing is discouraging people from participating in the American economy. This is top-down, ham-fisted, wrong-headed economic tampering.
What works is freedom in education by allowing parents a choice in education through various plans; like vouchers, home school, and charter schools. This will put the factor of competition to work where it is desperately needed. We need to get the federal government completely out of the realm of education. This will put our colleges and our students on the free market system, as well. We can avoid the fruitless hiking up of costs that students will be paying throughout their adult lives at the expense of other economic contributions. Without improving education we cannot expect to improve our economy.
We need a business climate that permits entrepreneurs to start up and small businesses to grow. This means lower taxes, getting away from regulating business, and imposing mandates for everything from daycare to healthcare to paid time off. It means to stop trying to stifle people’s 1st Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. It also means getting out of the business of regulating our utilities to death, and/or subsidizing bogus “green energy” fiascos like Solyndra, as well as less discussed abuses like sugar beet, corn, and wind subsidies. Let the market take care of these and provide legitimate incentives.
Let us return to sanity in our immigration, halting it entirely until our actual unemployment figures show a need for it. Then, admitting only those who are healthy who can be expected to assimilate, and those who will not be displacing American workers – not just add for the sake of “diversity.” Too many crony capitalists have cashed in on immigration, using cheap labor at the public’s expense. Too much public money is being spent housing “refugees” and other “new Americans,” providing them with education, healthcare, and even cars. “Family” should not be the criteria for immigration into our country. The ability to serve American interests should be the only criteria.
Lastly, we need to take these measures to end crony capitalism (which is the opposite of real capitalism). Phony business developers have been using government to funnel cash into their own bank accounts. They use laws intended to protect the public (bankruptcy and eminent domain) to line their own pockets. Our judges are letting them get away with it. Our lobbyists are in on the public spending party. Is it any wonder why Americans are becoming poorer and the gulf between rich and poor is growing?
We need to reject candidates who are okay with government spending. Our tax dollars are increasingly going toward interest on the national debt while the very public programs we are going into debt for are crippling our businesses and our ability to participate in our own economy.
Corrupt politicians meanwhile tell us it is the fault of “China.” We need to see through this curtain and take a good hard look at who is behind it manipulating our economy. We need to take America back. Freedom is the essential ingredient which has made America a great economic powerhouse. Not tax-funded boondoggles. Not big government.
We need to re-institute the freedom that once made us a great nation. Its absence is what has weakened us. It isn’t China’s or India’s or Brazil’s fault. It is ours. We must own it and recognize that when we let the government do it for us we all lose.
We were promised only freedom. When we had it we created wealth. We are obligated to promise and deliver this freedom to our children and grandchildren. If we persist in socialism we will end with totalitarianism, and every totalitarian nation in history is evidence why we should reject it.