This is a Tax Freedom Day Rally speech from April 15, 2012 in Medford, Oregon.
This is a Tax Freedom Day Rally speech from April 15, 2012 in Medford, Oregon.
This is a Tea Party speech from April 15, 2011 in Grants Pass, Oregon.
From a historical perspective, America is still a young nation, yet we seem to have undergone an accelerated cycle of ascendency and decline. After rising from a handful of colonies to the richest and most powerful nation in the world, our country is now declining at an alarming rate under a collapsing economy and a culture of complacency and entitlement.
The rapid rise of this nation was due to a fortunate combination of abundant natural resources, a free market that provided opportunity for everybody, and a strong work ethic that was deeply ingrained in our culture. People immigrated here from all over the world seeking opportunities that uniquely existed here. – They didn’t come because they wanted a handout. There were no handouts. — They just wanted an opportunity to work hard, and to be compensated at fair market value for their industriousness and ingenuity. They were willing to struggle and sacrifice to carve out a better life for themselves and their descendents. That’s why they came to America.
That model worked exceptionally well. America prospered and flourished. We were the first nation ever to have a true middle class. – But then something changed, and we underwent a sudden phase shift from hard-earned ascendency into meteoric decline. What happened to our nation?
I see a direct correlation between the decay of the proud work ethic, upon which this nation was built, and the rise of the credit/entitlement culture. What does credit have to do with a sense of entitlement, or with the loss of our cultural work ethic? Let’s take a look at the moral hazard engendered by easy credit.
When somebody wanted to buy something, but couldn’t afford to pay for it in cash, they used to have to save up for it. Department stores had layaway plans, where a person could put an item on hold while they paid it off. They’d pay a little each month until it was paid in full and, when they made that final payment, they’d go to the store and proudly bring their new possession home. It was very clear how long it took to earn the money it cost to purchase a particular item, and people had to make tradeoffs based on what they could afford.
Then came credit cards. The idea was that you still pay a little every month, but you don’t have to wait until it’s actually paid off to take possession of it. Whatever you want, you can have it now, whether you can afford it or not. And, as long as you make a minimum payment each month, you can keep charging and charging and charging, with no immediate consequences. There’s no longer a clear relationship between what you buy and how long it takes to earn the money to pay for it. And, when you max out one credit card, you get another (usually with a higher interest rate).
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the ratio of household debt to income for the average American family is 122% . That means the average American family spends 22% more than they earn. Clearly, that is not sustainable for even one household – let alone an entire nation. Most Americans are maintaining a much higher standard of living than they can actually afford. And now that the credit market is tightening up, they will no longer be able to sustain it. Inevitably, most of these people will see themselves as victims because they feel entitled to the standard of living to which they’ve become accustomed, — even though they’ve spent most of their lives living way beyond their means.
Some blame the credit crisis on the lenders. That conveniently absolves individuals of taking responsibility for their own actions, and further promotes the entitlement mentality that got them into this untenable situation. To reward the “victims” by bailing them out at other people’s expense further compounds the moral hazard.
A recent publication by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that almost 43% of Americans don’t even have a retirement savings account. Among those who do, the median amount of their retirement savings is $2,000. That won’t go very far these days.
It used to be part of the culture that everybody set aside a portion of their income, throughout their earning years, to save for their retirement. People routinely sacrificed conveniences and luxuries to build up a “nest egg” so they wouldn’t have to live out the remainder of their lives scraping by at a bare subsistence level. Regrettably, it seems that is no longer part of our culture. Since the Social Security program was introduced during the Great Depression, the subsequent generation of baby boomers never felt it necessary to save for their own retirement. After all, Daddy Government had relieved them of that responsibility by deducting money from every paycheck and setting it aside for them. So why should they bother to save?
Social Security is now officially projected to run out of money by 2037, and it could be a whole lot sooner. So what will happen to all these people who spent their entire lives living beyond their means, who have no savings and no retirement income? They will face a devastating reality from which they’ve been shielded all their lives. They are not entitled to the standard of living to which they’ve become accustomed. Daddy Government is broke, and cannot come to their rescue.
At least they’ll have fond memories of all the lattes, junk food, trinkets, and fads on which they squandered their money instead of saving for their retirement.
But how were they supposed to know? Everybody else was doing the same thing! – And that’s exactly why our once-great nation has fallen into bankruptcy, financially and morally. Because everybody was doing the same stupid thing, and it never occurred to them that they’d someday have to take responsibility for themselves.
The reactions I’ve gotten to my Tea Party speech are varied. Some people seem to think I was saying we should all be good little Republicans and vote for whomever “they” put on the ballot. One person actually thought I was advocating taking up arms against our government. (Not sure how he got that…)
Let me clarify my intent. If we truly want to take our country back, and restore it to the Republic that our founding fathers intended, we need to do it within the framework established by our founding fathers. That means we do it by voting. Voting alone is not sufficent, however. We need to get actively involved.
Setting aside wishful thinking, and acknowledging the reality of our two-party system, if we want to effect change in our government, we need to control one of the two major parties. The Democrat Party has already been spoken for by socialists; we’re not going to get much traction there. The Republican Party was originally founded on the same principles on which the Tea Party movement is founded. It seems reasonable to believe we have a chance of restoring that party to its true, legitimate roots.
I believe the Republican Party has betrayed the principles on which it was founded, and has been betraying them for years. I’m by no means suggesting that conservatives should fall in with the party line. I’m saying the opposite. Conservatives should be the ones defining the party line. The party line (platform) is formulated by the members who actively participate as PCPs and delegates. It’s very easy to become a PCP, and the PCPs elect the delegates. If we want to take back the party, we have to do it from within. That means registering Republican and working as grass roots activists within the party to rebuild it from the ground up.
As individuals, whether it makes more sense to register Republican or third party depends on the goals we want to achieve. If our goal is to find other idealistic people who all agree with us, we’re more likely to achieve that goal in a third party, because it’s a smaller, more narrowly focused group. If our goal is to actually change our government, and truly take our country back, the very quality that makes third parties effective in achieving the first goal makes them unable to achieve the second. We need massive numbers to achieve change in government.
If we can concede that we will always have some differences, but work together on the common goals that are most important to all of us, we can stop this country’s slide toward socialism and actually turn it around. But it takes a willingness to focus on the core goals that unite us (small government, less regulation, lower taxes) and a willingness to set aside (at least temporarily) the issues that divide us. And it takes a willingness to commit some of our time and energy to the worthwhile effort of taking our country back.
The idea of taking up arms against our government seems to have an appeal to some people. As a realist, I’m very much aware that, no matter how many weapons we might stockpile, we cannot outgun the mightiest military the world has ever known. Military technology has come a long way since 1776. In fact, the government wouldn’t even need to send in the military to quell a rebellion today. They could just shut down the power grid. That’s reality.
I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t stockpile weapons. I’m just saying it won’t help us save our nation. However, if it should come to pass that we do actually lose our country, then a stockpile of weapons could come in very handy. But, by that point, our nation would already be irretrievably lost, along with the ideals and principles upon which it was founded. I hope and pray it never comes to that.
When the U.S. was a developing nation, we expended our efforts and capital in developing the infrastructure for industry. Our government provided incentives for the development and extraction of natural resources to be used as raw materials to build, not just products, but a thriving national economy. — And that’s exactly what China and other developing nations are doing today.
But, today, the U.S. is doing the opposite. Increasingly, over the past several decades, our government has been restricting the extraction of natural resources and dismantling the infrastructure for industry. Overregulation, combined with exorbitant and ever-increasing union demands, has succeeded in driving much of our industry offshore. If we want to recover our economy, we need to reverse that trend.
The recently published White House Plan to Revitalize Manufacturing, which focuses on federal funding for “green” technology R&D, is not likely to have a significant impact on our national productivity. This administration is thoroughly beholden to the unions and environmental lobbies. In true Chicago style, this administration has used the stimulus package to pay off political debts and, from every indication, will continue the trend of dismantling the economy in favor of political correctness and payback.
Every nation has a historical trajectory. This nation has apparently passed its apogee, and is now in decline. We no longer have the drive to overcome. We’ve become complacent and, instead of striving for ever greater industrial innovation and economic strength, we are focused myopically on the niceties that developing nations cannot afford to consider.
The problem is, there’s no such thing as stasis. A nation, a corporation, a species, an individual, must either advance or decline. That’s nature. And, as we sink into complacency, whining effetely about our declining economy, there will be others advancing to take our place as the dominant world power, industrially, economically, and (eventually) militarily. That’s a historical inevitability. The same pattern can be observed throughout nature and the history of civilizations. The only question is when.
At this point, we could still reverse that trend by, once again, becoming a developing nation ourselves — one can always develop further, if one is motivated to keep striving — but we, as a nation, lack that motivation. We’re apparently content to rest on our laurels as we sink into national senescence while other countries, like China, rise up on the international horizon. The world is always changing. It’s the nature of all things. The only question is, will we, as a nation, go gentle into that good night? Or will we rage, rage against the dying of the light? (Apologies to Dylan Thomas.)
Unfortunately, I believe I know the answer to that rhetorical question. History is being written even as we go about our daily lives. You can see it in our relations with other nations, as we make concessions that cede our sovereignty in so many minor ways. Stepping back and observing from a historical perspective, we see a once-great nation, that no longer has the will to sustain its rank as the leader of the free world, stepping aside and leaving the field open to whoever will step up and take its place. Sadly, there’s no way to choose our successor. Once we step aside, we can only watch and hope for the best. And if we don’t like the way the world is shaping up in the post-American era, we will just have to suffer the consequences.
The United States rose up from a handful of rebellious colonies to become the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Why? Because we led the world in production. For 200 years, America delivered the goods.
But, in the 1970’s, all that suddenly changed. For the first time in history, the U.S. started having trade deficits. That means our net consumption exceeded our net production. And, every single year since 1975, our nation has consistently consumed more than it produced. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not sustainable.
The depressing truth is America is no longer a world leader in production. We are trailing the pack. We are now a debtor nation, and our biggest creditor is China. — What the hell happened? And how will we ever recover? And, the more disturbing question is, what will happen to America if we don’t?
If we ever want to restore America to its proper place in the world, the first thing we need to understand is why we no longer have a productive economy. It’s pretty simple, really. — Because we no longer produce. Why not? – If we take a good hard look at the nature of production, maybe we can figure that out. The three key elements of production are capital, labor, and raw materials.
First, you need capital for research and development. To develop a new product that meets a real need in the marketplace takes a lot of research. It may take many years to develop. Research and development is extremely expensive, and there’s no guarantee of success. There has to be an enormous potential return on investment to justify that kind of risk.
That kind of return on investment is what our current administration refers to as “excessive profits.” And they have this notion that “excessive profits” should be punitively taxed. When government puts a lid on the potential for return on investment, what happens? The investors take their capital and invest it someplace else, — someplace that welcomes production, and wants to build up their economy and provide employment for their population. (Unlike the United States, it would seem.)
The second thing you need for production is raw materials. No matter what you want to produce, you need some combination of raw materials to produce it, whether wood, paper, metal, glass, fiber, or petroleum products. All raw materials come from the earth; they don’t come out of the air, or some genius’ imagination, or the printing presses at the Federal Reserve. They all come out of the ground, either through timber, mining, or agriculture.
Here, in Southern Oregon, we live in one of the richest areas in the country, in terms of natural resources. We’re rich in timber. We’re rich in minerals. But, if this part of the country is so rich, why is it so poor? Why is unemployment so high? Because we’re not allowed to use the natural resources with which we’re abundantly blessed. Overregulation, and the endless environmental litigation it has spawned, has all but curtailed the timber and mining industries, — the very industries that provide raw materials for every sort of production on which our economy relies. And the overregulation doesn’t stop there. It’s hobbling the manufacturing industries, too.
The third thing required for production is labor. We’ve actually got a surplus of that. Look at our unemployment numbers, nationwide. Private sector jobs are steadily declining because our industries are stymied by excessive regulation and punitive taxation. So how does our government address that issue? It tries to replace the jobs lost due to declining production by creating new jobs in the public sector.
The trouble is those jobs do nothing to restore our national productivity. Public sector jobs and service jobs don’t create any new wealth. They just swirl money around in the economy. And, as that money swirls around, more and more of it leaks out to other countries, as we buy foreign-made products because we can’t or don’t produce enough at home.
As the real wealth leaks out of our economy, the Fed prints up more and more new money, which only dilutes the value of the money we already have in circulation, leading to higher and higher inflation. As long as we consume more than we produce, there is no way to add real value back into our economy, and our currency will continue to lose whatever value it has. We must restore production to have a sustainable economy.
This country was founded on the sacred principles of liberty and freedom. Not just individual freedom, but economic freedom. America became a world leader because America delivered the goods. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. We have to stay solvent to preserve our liberty. If our economy fails, we’ll lose our freedom. Stifling production smothers the economy. And that’s what our government is doing.
Contact your Congressmen and Senators and tell them we want our economy back. Government can’t solve this problem. Government is the problem.
If you wanted to come up with a plan to undermine the economy of the most prosperous and successful nation on earth, how would you go about it?
The first thing you’d have to do would be to debase the underlying value system that provides the foundation for prosperity. That is, the value system to which the founders of this nation, and many generations of immigrants who came here seeking opportunity, subscribed. The core of that value system is the belief that you do not deserve anything you have not earned.
The first step would be to condition the populace to believe that prosperity is bad, that anybody who makes more than a modest income must be evil (or at least dishonest), and that nobody really deserves to be rich, no matter how much they contribute to the economy or how many opportunities they create for others. The rich, by definition, are always a minority, since the term itself implies someone who has substantially greater wealth than the average person. All that’s usually needed to turn the many against the few is a sense of grievance.
Fostering a sense of grievance can be accomplished by promoting the notion that everybody, by virtue of their very existence, is entitled to basic sustenance, such as healthcare, food, shelter, etc. This attitude can be cultivated by establishing a system of bureaucracies (paid for almost entirely by the rich) that provide free handouts to everybody else, while nurturing a sense of perpetual resentment among the people receiving the handouts toward those who provide the wherewithal to satisfy their ever-increasing expectations.
The many are not generally aware that nearly 90% of the income taxes that sustain our government, and all the services “it” provides, are collected from the top 20% of income earners. And, if the many were aware of that, do you think they’d feel like saying “Thank you”? Not likely. Because they’ve been conditioned to believe that the rich don’t deserve their wealth, and that they, the beneficiaries of all those taxes paid by the rich, deserve that money more than the people who earned it. What did the beneficiaries do to deserve it? Nothing. But they exist, and therefore they’re entitled to things they cannot afford, so the money should be taken from those who can afford it and redistributed to them.
Having undermined the cultural values that provide the basis for a prosperous economy, by fostering a culture of dependency on ever-expanding government services, you now have popular support for the next step, which is to penalize production. You do that by regulating industries to the point where the cost of doing business is too great to justify the returns, forcing businesses to either downsize, go bankrupt, or relocate offshore. That increases unemployment, creating an even greater dependency on government services. At the same time, it reduces production so there’s less wealth to tax, and less money coming into the system to support the ever-increasing demands.
At that point, you’ve got a self-perpetuating cycle, with ever-increasing demands on the system and ever-diminishing resources from which to draw to provide for them. To add fuel to the firestorm, you can use the increasing demands as an excuse to raise taxes on the remaining top producers even more, driving more employers out of business or offshore, creating an even larger non-productive class, and further accelerating the drain on the system…
But why stop there? At this point, the economy is so unstable, it can be toppled with ease. To finish it off in style, all that’s required is to spend like a drunken sailor. Get the nation so far in debt to hostile foreign powers that they won’t accept our IOUs any more. Print up fiat money and dilute our currency to the point that the whole world loses confidence in it and the G20 proposes a new international monetary standard. Then distract the citizens by holding contests in Congress to see who can spend money the fastest, and call it a “stimulus plan.”
At that point, the death spiral reaches critical mass. That’s where we are today. How did we get to this point? Well, it could just be a combination of entropy, ignorance, and well-intentioned idiots. Or it could be that there are those who actively seek to undermine our economy to bring our nation to its knees. For what purpose? That depends on who’s pulling the strings. I concede that this begins to sound a little paranoid from someone who usually dismisses conspiracy theories. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that anyone, especially the leaders of our nation, are stupid enough not to realize they’re doing the exact things required to accelerate the collapse of our already destabilized economy. And, if they’re not stupid, then they must have a reason for what they’re doing.
Responsibility isn’t something people are born with. It’s learned. It’s learned by prioritizing, making tradeoffs, weighing the benefits, costs, and risks of alternative courses of action, and dealing with the consequences of one’s decisions.
When an overprotective parent spoils their child by shielding them from hard lessons, or gives the child whatever it wants so the child will love them more, they fail to instill in the child a sense of responsibility. Instead they encumber it with a false sense of entitlement to whatever the child desires. Later, the child is faced with a rude awakening when thrust into a world where it has to compete with others who are accustomed to making hard choices and working for the things they desire.
Once a sense of entitlement is engrained in someone’s belief system, it’s difficult to overcome. Developing a sense of responsibility is counter to their conditioning, and they cannot easily grasp the notion that they are really not entitled to anything they haven’t earned. When something doesn’t come easily, instead of getting fired up with a sense of determination to work harder and make the necessary sacrifices to achieve their goal, they feel resentful that it isn’t provided for them. Whatever nominal effort they put into it seems like it ought to be enough. They feel a deep sense of personal injustice that they can’t have things that other people have, oblivious to the tradeoffs and sacrifices others have had to make to acquire those things.
In the real world, nobody is entitled to own a house. If you can’t afford a house, the responsible thing to do is to work and save and sacrifice until you can afford to buy one. By encouraging people to buy houses they really can’t afford, the government sets them up for failure later on when the house payments become a burden they cannot sustain. And when that time comes, the “homeowners” won’t consider that, until their mortgage is paid in full, the house isn’t actually theirs. Instead, they’ll feel entitled to the house in which they’re living, and deeply resentful of losing it.
A person who buys a house incurs a responsibility. If they’re shielded from the full impact of the responsibility they’re incurring, by making it easier than it would be (in a free market) for them to assume it, it gives them a false sense of security and makes the responsibility seem lighter than it is. That is not a wise thing to do. And the current economic crisis is a perfect illustration of that folly. Yet the government is going down the same path again, with the FHA taking on the role once played by AIG.
This is just one of many examples of the government fostering an entitlement mentality in its citizens. Perhaps, like the parent who spoils their child in an attempt to buy its love, politicians see this as a way to buy votes. But, like overprotective parents trying to make life easier for their precious dumplings, when government shields people from the onus of personal responsibility, it does not strengthen them; it weakens them. And it not only weakens the individual beneficiaries of the government’s largesse, it weakens the entire economy, and the underlying moral fiber of our nation.
For years, our government has been actively encouraging people to become less and less self-reliant. By the same token, it has been making us more and more dependent on government. The flip side of dependency is control. The more dependent one is on another, the more control the other has over them. Perhaps the underlying motivation is not so innocent as politicians trying to buy their constituents’ love. Perhaps it’s far more insidious.
The current crisis in our nation is not just an economic crisis. It has far broader implications. The only way out of this crisis is to bring about a fundamental change. — Not the kind of change that accelerates the crisis, leading to ever more weakness, dependency, and state control, but a return to the once deeply-held values that made this country great: personal responsibility, individual sovereignty, and economic freedom.