As Barack Obama scrambles to eviscerate key sections of his own signature health care law, he and other Democrats are trying to shift voters' focus to another issue — income inequality. Unfortunately, the solutions they advocate are pitifully inadequate or painfully perverse.
Start with the minimum wage, which some Democrats see as an election-winning wedge issue in 2014.
True, raising the minimum wage polls well. But does anybody really care much about it? Few minimum wage earners are heads of households; many more are teenagers earning spare cash.
Most economists agree that a higher minimum wage costs some low-skilled workers their jobs. And the economic redistribution it produces, from fast-food consumers to fast-food employees, is pretty minimal.
Another Democratic policy is to continue extending unemployment benefits. The intellectual argument for this is stronger. Ordinarily, extended benefits tend to discourage the unemployed from looking for work. Their skills atrophy, and finding a job later gets harder.
But in the current new-normal economy, with record long-term unemployment, there simply haven't been enough job openings for many of the unemployed. Many Republicans look open to a compromise on this issue.
In any case the redistributionist effect will be only minor and, if robust economic growth returns, temporary.
One Democrat who argues for greater change is University of Arizona political scientist Lane Kenworthy. He believes the nation is and should be headed to a European-style welfare state, with the government taxing and spending 10 percent more of gross domestic product than at present.
Kenworthy would transform unemployment benefits into wage insurance, would start early education at age 1 and would vastly expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
That's progressive economic redistribution, but with a catch. For as Kenworthy admits, you can't get the money for this just by raising taxes on very high earners: "The math simply doesn't work."
So he looks to a federal consumption tax, like Europe's value-added taxes. That would mean shifting from the current progressive income tax toward a more regressive European-style tax regime, with middle-income workers subsidizing non-workers.
Other proposals floated by Democrats, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for substantially increased Social Security benefits, would have similarly perverse effects. Social Security is already on an unsustainable trajectory. Increased benefits would, in time, require higher taxes on the young, who have negative or minimal wealth, to finance payments to the elderly, who tend to have significant net worth. This echoes the Obamacare provision that limits premiums on the old and sick to no more than three times the premiums on the young and healthy. Is it really progressive to have the young subsidize the old?
Another left-wing Democrat, incoming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, wants to raise income tax rates on those earning $500,000 to pay for universal preschool for the city's children. That would certainly amount to economic redistribution, but to whom? Research over the last 50 years shows that Head Start and other publicly financed pre-school programs have no lasting positive effect on learning.
What de Blasio's proposal would do is to put a lot more unionized teachers on the city payroll. The redistribution here goes from the very rich to the public employee unions and their allies in the Democratic Party.
Liberal pundits are hailing de Blasio and his politics as a harbinger of the political future and a return to the liberal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and his political ally New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. But in 1944, the heyday of FDR and La Guardia, the five boroughs of New York City cast 7 percent of the nation's votes. In 2012 they cast only 2 percent of the national vote.
It's interesting that New York, which has had more liberal and redistributionist public policies than almost anywhere else in the nation over those 68 years, also has one of the nation's highest rates of income inequality. High tax rates and high housing costs (exacerbated for many years by rent control) have squeezed middle-class families out of New York. They have migrated in the millions to lower-tax, lower-housing-cost places such as Florida and Texas.
The Obama Democrats did reduce economic inequality somewhat by raising the top income tax rate back to 39.6 percent. The proposals they're talking about now are either small potatoes, or moves to have the working middle-class subsidize non-workers or the young to subsidize the old — redistribution, but not very progressive.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
To The Daily Sun,
Charles Montesquieu writings were recommended reading by our Founding Fathers such as John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
"Let us therefore lay down a certain maxim: that whenever the public good happens to be the matter in question, it is not for the advantage of the public to deprive an individual of his property — or even to retrench the least part of it by a law or a political regulation." — Charles Montesquieu.
For a century and a half, William Blackstone's legal writings were final authority in American courts, after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. He wrote: "So great moreover is regard of the law for private property that it will not authorize the least violation of it — no, not even for the general good of the whole community."
John Adams had this to say: "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the Law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."
John Jay was an original chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and authored the Federalist Papers. He stated: "It is the undoubted right and unalienable privilege of a citizen not to be divested or interrupted in innocent use of property..."
Adam Smith, an economist whose writing were well read by the Founding Fathers, wrote: "As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce."
James Wilson — a signer of the Declaration, signer of the Constitution and original U.S. Supreme Court Justice — stated that the American government was created to "acquire anew security for possession or recovery of those rights to... which we were previously entitled by the immediate gift or by the unerring law of our all-wise and all-beneficent Creator, including the right of property", and that "every government which has not this in view as its principle object is not a government of the legitimate kind."
Honorable J. Reuben Clark, Jr., formerly solicitor for the Department of State, Under-Secretary of State, Ambassador to Mexico and considered for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court had extreme warnings for the safety of our country when he left the State Department. The warnings became more intense following our enrollment in the United Nations. His writings and speeches attempted to raise the alarm over the ever creeping cancer of this godless organization. That our sovereignty would dwindle and our freedoms would gradually be chipped away. If he were alive today he would rightly be able to say "I told you so".
The United States government has no authority outside of strictly expressed functions within the text of the Constitution. No civilization has advanced as fast and far as this nation. We may in our time see the end results of treasonable actions that have been playing out for at least a hundred years.
In 1992, President George Bush signed the document recommended in Agenda 21, the U.N. Conference on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro. Agenda 21 recommends "all countries...translate Agenda 21 into national policies and programs.." Executive order 12852, signed by Bill Clinton, created the president's Council on Sustainable Development. "Consensus process" makes it look as if the people determined their own results to a predetermined plan. "Visioning process" also gave the illusion of the will of the people.
Chapter seven of Agenda 21 is the final goal. HUD, DOT and the EPA pays out grants for the implementation of this horrible scheme to bring us under the control of this godless empire called the U.N. Whatever terms they use, sustainability, green-lining, Wildlands Project U.N. Biodiversity Treaty, it is to bring us under their control, The World Government. The EPA has been groping to place under federal control all land within 500 feet of any waterway. Check the Constitution and you will notice they have authority to own very little land. Nor is there authority for a federal police force. And still we are being over run with bureaucracies more intimidating than the crown's red coats. The red thread of communism has been gradually weaving their tyrannical ideology into our lives for quite some time. Isn't it time to fight back? Their visioning projects is not our projects.
Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) sees these schemes for what they are. Are we so stupid that we need outsiders with federal money (our money) to scam and manipulate us away from our lands and place bureaucrats to hover over us with their clipboards, codes and oppressive rules.The America I knew is dieing. Hopefully enough sane people will rise up to revive it.
Gene F. Danforth
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:14
To The Daily Sun,
In response to the recent article and letter in the paper concerning the Gilmanton Fire Department,I would like to make the following observations:
Why are the selectmen relying on a warrant article from 2004 — a 10 year-old article? If the voters are important, why are selectmen preventing them from speaking out now?
Why are the Selectmen violating RSA 154:5, which gives the authority to the fire chief to manage the department?
Why has a $10K reduction in budget now become a $20K reduction?
Of course such a reduction cuts services. Of course such a change in policy is a way to micromanage the Fire Department. Of course this is personal attack on the fire chief. Of course personnel will feel undervalued and move on. Of course the fire chief's comments in his letter explain why the new policy is flawed.
I disagree that the selectmen are "acting in the best financial and public service interest of the town". I believe that the new policy is detrimental and dangerous. What if the Fire Department is not there when you need them?
If there are any complaints about the Fire Department, I have never heard them. In fact my personal experience is that the department is very efficient and professional and responds quickly to calls for service.
The selectmen should reconsider this policy adjustment, comply with the law, restore funding to the department, and allow the fire chief to do the job that he was hired to do.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:09
To The Daily Sun,
Electricity. It's everywhere. Where you live, where you work, where you shop, where you eat, where you play and where you pray. We depend on it to see, we depend on it to eat and we depend on it to heat.
Raising prices on electricity is like raising prices on gasoline or health care. I view electricity as an on/off switch but some view it as a necessity to live.
So, when I hear that electricity costs are about to rise year over year — as our government suggests. I expect things to be a lot worse.
Over the past year, you've heard me talk about how our electricity cost will rise — due to the development of wind turbines in this state.
(Remember, they'll be placed "in our state" to pass electricity to southern states at our expense.) I've told you how this is bad for our monthly bill. But what about everything else...like: mom and pop stores, schools, municipalities, churches, ice rinks, sporting events, concerts, hotels, restaurants, non-profits groups?
Utilities are a big share of expenses at these small places, and it's what makes the little business owners cry at the end of each month.
Businesses pass those expenses down to the consumer and municipalities, non-profits and churches suffer directly as a result. It's a struggle — a struggle that can alter our community.
So, ask yourself these questions: Would you mind paying more in taxes? Will you donate more money to churches or non-profits? Will you consistently donate school supplies? Will you start volunteering at non-profits? What will you do to help alter the costs?
I ask these questions because this is what southern states already do. Massachusetts towns have enacted a "pay to play" policy in schools for sports, music, arts, etc. Is that the model N.H. residents want to follow?
Are we ready to jump in their boat? Many of you moved up here to get away from that rat race... right? Or you make fun of it while watching the nightly news...right?
I look at wind turbines as having tentacles that reach deep into so many facets of our rural life: municipal, recreational but also economic.
It's not only about non-profits, it's also about business profits, jobs and a way of life. Remember an electricity bill hardly misses it's monthly destination and someone has to pay it...or the lights go out.
This is a lot bigger than just your monthly electrical bill.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:00
To The Daily Sun,
Belatedly, please allow me to thank the private motorists who stopped to render assistance at my December 9 accident on Route 3, just south of Plymouth.
In particular, my thanks goes out to the young man who tried to tow me out and lost his trailer hitch in the process. He refused to offer my reimbursement. The offer still goes if he has changed his mind.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 10:42