California Rust Belt?
October 21, 2010 Leave a comment
Election day is less than two weeks away, and political ads are saturating California’s airwaves. And since both Democrats and Republicans have exhausted their brand credibility in recent years, candidates are reluctant to even mention their party affiliation. But the discerning listener need only catch a few buzz words to know who’s who.
Anytime I hear an ad slamming Wall Street bonuses, billionaire tax breaks, or Texas oil companies, I know to vote the other way. Castigating big business and playing up class war are the bread and butter of liberals and Democrats. They proclaim that some big, wealthy person or corporation does not have your best interests in mind. The implication is, then, that some Democrat will be the altruistic champion of your cause. But Democrats have no incentive to be responsive or responsible; they have a lock on unions, youth, academics, and self-perceived victim groups. As Amity Shlaes reminds us in The Forgotten Man, they have been working with the same basic backscratching coalitions since FDR’s 1936 reelection. This unpleasant fact aside, altruism is not something we should be looking for in a candidate anyway. As Ronald Reagan said, the ten most dreaded words in the English language are, “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
What then, is the answer? Mutual self-interest. Adam Smith observed more than two centuries ago the synergistic effects when two people agree to cooperate not on the basis of need or compulsion, but willingly and in their own interests. With the exodus of talent and capital, and our overextended public liabilities, its time for Californians to stop buying the idea of a free lunch.
In debate and in ads, Jerry Brown harps on Meg Whitman for advocating an easing of taxes on billionaires as if she was only looking out for herself. And in a local U.S. House race, an ad for Jerry McNurney accuses David Harmer of helping out his “Wall Street buddies.” These allegations don’t bother me one bit, because I know that we need business friendly policies here in California. We don’t have the luxury to be envious, jealous, or spiteful against high-income earners. They provide the jobs, they put their capital on the line, and they get milked by Federal, state and local taxes. Their money does not go into some vault they swim in like they were Scrooge McDuck. Through stocks, bonds, or directly, productive people reinvest their money in productive enterprise to make even more money. And that’s where we can hope to benefit with new private sector jobs–only if our state’s policies are lucrative enough to attract those investments.
Its time for Californians to wake up from the deadly myth that big business and high-income earners can be tapped without limit for progressive causes. If we vote in people like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, we can turn the corner and keep California from becoming the newest Rust Belt state. But if we fail in that measure, you might as well pack your bags for North Dakota.