Romney picks Ryan; Krauthammer hits the bullseye


Congratulations to Mitt Romney on his wise choice of running mate, Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. While he may not have the star quality of a Newt or Sarah, Mr. Ryan seems to have the intelligence and prudence the country needs. We need his discipline. During the past few presidents’ terms, it’s clear that heavy government spending did not equate with robust economic growth.

Look around the world. More government bureaucracy and higher taxes do not produce prosperity for the average citizen. Greece is bankrupt, and I hear young people in Italy live with their parents till they’re in their 30’s (and not necessarily by choice). In Israel, the average person lives more downscale than their equivalents in the U.S. (modest apartments rather than houses, mostly). The countries where higher-tax, bigger-government systems work best seem to be places like Sweden, but those are much smaller than the U.S., and much more homogenous in terms of population. Also, they are comprised of people who by and large agree with a more socialistic approach. That approach seems to offer something along the lines of more government assistance from early childhood, through adulthood and old age, in exchange for higher taxes and less business opportunity.

I suppose if you are not a great risk-taker and not don’t want to build a business, and if your dreams do not require abundant material resources, life in such a country might work fine for you. (You’d also be better off if you are patient. My friends in Israel have exposed me to a bit of the labyrinthine bureaucracy that must be dealt with to do anything from have a phone line installed to see a doctor. I can only imagine what it must take to start or maintain a business there).

The United States, with generations of go-getter types having come here, as well as the Protestant work ethic (yes, to echo Mr. Romney, culture matters), is not the right match for socialism, at least not in my opinion. Even if one does not object to a socialist economy (and although it is not what I would want, I can see that it might have an up side for some folks), there is the real question of whether it would even work here or just eventually, like Greece’s, collapse. I think that, like any inherently more cooperative system or enterprise, by definition the parties involved have to be in agreement to participate.

In other words, if the system requires a high degree of individual compliance in order to function, and at least half the country does not want it, it seems like it would be fraught with serious problems. Sort of like a marriage in which one partner is reluctant about the whole thing from the get-go; because it requires giving up a certain amount of freedom in exchange (theoretically anyway) for the rewards of receiving more care, etc. (well it’s not a perfect analogy, but)…the point is, it requires giving up freedom–freedom to control the lion’s share of your own earnings, freedom to take risks such as deciding whether you want health insurance — in exchange for knowing that if you get sick, you’ll be provided for, etc. But if half the population does not want to give up that freedom, it seems to me a recipe for ongoing discord.

Clearly, Mr. Obama is, if not a pure socialist, fully desirous of taking the country in a socialist direction. No one who could declare, as he did in a recent speech to business-owners about the wonders of government, “you didn’t build that,” could be a capitalist. The point he was trying to make, I think, is that we are all inter-dependent and the idea of total independence from government is an illusion. Fair enough.  But it would be one thing to point out that those who drive the engines of private business rely on infrastructure supplied by government. It is another to declare to entrepreneurs, about their businesses: “You didn’t build that.” It would be like holding up a novel penned by a best-selling author and saying that, because she didn’t cut down the trees that produced the pulp to make the paper, “You didn’t write this.” Ridiculous.

Enter Mssrs. Romney and Ryan. They speak to us like grown-ups and explain that this recovery is going to take some belt-tightening (Mr. Obama, in contrast, with his hope and change, seemed always to appeal to the child in each of us). But presumably the voters are voting-aged, and should be able to get the basics. Charles Krauthammer laid it out brilliantly today here.  To quote a snippet: Mr. Obama has overseen “the worst recovery in U.S. history, 42 consecutive months of 8-plus percent unemployment, declining economic growth — all achieved at a price of another $5 trillion of accumulated debt.”

Krauthammer also expertly parses the recent Obama small business speech: “‘You didn’t build that.’ Real credit for your success belongs not to you — you think you did well because of your smarts and sweat? he asked mockingly — but to government that built the infrastructure without which you would have nothing.”

That is shocking, and leads me to suspect the President does not understand what it takes to build and run a business. (Anyone who has been close to a successful business owner knows that running one’s own business is a Herculean task requiring huge amounts of dedication, creativity, and ability to withstand pressure and personal risk). Indeed, President Obama has it reversed. The infrastructure of this country–the bridges, the tunnels, the roads, the beautiful national parks–we owe to the enterprising people–the laborers, and also the captains of industry–who drove the engines. Without the profit motive, there would have been no American colonies to govern in the first place. There would certainly be no skylines, no White House, no Broadway, no Hollywood, no South Beach, no Santa Monica pier, etc.

Self-interest drives most individuals, and nations. Progressive thought–including government regulations and oversight–have an important place. So do unions, because they temper drives that, with no regulation, can produce horrors such as slavery, abuse of workers, and the over consumption of resources. But in governing, it is vital to respect the engine of our free system – capitalistic self-interest.

The country’s generous safety net, as well as the fact that most healthy young people here don’t require government aid, remain the status quo because no one has placed a drag on that engine – yet. The reason generous entitlement programs can continue to exist is because prosperity exists, born of American enterprise, which is business.  While the President attacks the success of Mitt Romney, who spent decades helping to run businesses that created work for thousands of people, the Obama Administration simply cannot get unemployment below eight percent.

What he and his supporters don’t seem to understand is that, when people don’t have to pay for things themselves, they take and use more, and work and otherwise contribute less. And that means less for everybody in the end, including future generations.

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