By Tim Dunkin
Buried among the torrent of uninformed platitudes, class warfare rhetoric, and generally false assertions about his own record in his recent State of the Union address was Barack Obama's little "gem" of a bon mot, where he said he wants every American to have a "fair shot." What he meant by this, of course, was that we should steal from the wealthy and successful, the people who create jobs, and spread it around to everybody else, because this is "fair." Apparently it's fair to force one group of people to give up their time, talent, labor, creativity, and energy for the benefit of all those who don't bother to expend any of these things to improve their own lives and the lives of their families. Unfortunately, the only thing Obama and the Democrats have "spread around" is debt, despair, and economic misery.
It occurs to me that instead of giving Americans a fair shot, what Obama and his cadre of leftist Democrats have been doing is giving America a "Dropshot."
A little background is perhaps in order. Operation Dropshot was the codename for a strategic contingency plan developed by the US Department of Defense in 1949 (and declassified in 1977, after it was long since rendered obsolete) involving a hypothetical Soviet invasion of the West in 1957. The military and strategic aspects of the plan are interesting, from a historical perspective: they basically acknowledged that for the first year or so, the US and her allies would find themselves reeling, before regrouping as the industrial might of America became fully mobilized for the war effort. Eventually, the plan calls for the invasion of the USSR itself, the successful conquest of Moscow, and the demilitarization and deindustrialization of the Soviet Union, permanently removing its great power status. Dropshot acknowledged that the limited use of nuclear weapons would occur, but given the state of technology when the document was crafted (this was before the development of ICBMs, long-range bombers were the only feasible delivery system), they would play a relatively minor role (well, as minor as nukes can play…) relative to conventional strategic bombing and boots-on-the-ground invasion. Of importance, however, is the fact that had a Dropshot-type war actually occurred, it would have entailed a significant amount of damage to the industrial and economic infrastructures of both the US and the USSR, as industrial areas were one of the primary targets for bombing, both conventional and nuclear.
In addition to the outright destruction of factories, roads, refineries, ports, and the rest, one commenter has also suggested some quite plausible allohistorical conjectures about what the effect of such a war would have been on the US after even a successful prosecution of such a defensive war. As the commenter points out, while World War II was an economically invigorating war, due to the fact that it enabled the use of a lot of idle industrial production that had been sitting around doing nothing during the Great Depression, the same would not be the case for the Dropshot War. Instead, it would have drained us, bleeding the economy dry of every bit of excess production that could be devoted to the war effort. Even if we won, we'd have been bled white, and would have had to rely on drastic economic controls that would be very difficult to remove, even after the war. In short, the result would have been the implementation of a more or less permanent command economy in the United States (since this would, again, be what "got us through the war"), with the resultant economic stagnation, lack of creativity and innovation, and a generally lower material standard of living than was actually seen in real life. While being a victorious nation, we would have been a much poorer and sluggish one as well.
What's saddening, however, is that this is exactly where Barack Obama and his cronies would, and will, take us if they ever get back unhindered control of the levers of government. Essentially, Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, as devastating to the American economy as World War III would have been.
Think I'm exaggerating? Think again.
Obama just recently killed the Keystone pipeline – a moneymaker that would have brought in thousands of high-paying jobs in the petrochemical industry, as well as providing a steady source of non-Middle Eastern oil (the lifeblood of any industrial economy) for American industry and consumers. As a result, we lose all those jobs (equivalent to how many factories being bombed to smithereens?), as well as continuing to see fuel prices steadily rise over the long haul, which in turn will lead to more layoffs and shutdowns as businesses adjust to increased transportation costs. The consumer will have to shell out more of their hard-earned dollars on fuel costs, instead of being able to save them (which aids capital-driven investment) or spend them (which provides a market for manufacturers and service providers).
This poorly thought out decision on the President's part – a result of his weakness and susceptibility to pressure from Big Green – isn't the only way in which our government has been putting the screws to the energy industry. The EPA has been systematically hindering oil exploration in America, and has been consistently throwing up roadblocks to the ability of companies to use what reserves we already have – something which goes far beyond the controversy over ANWR. Several fields in West Texas and New Mexico have been shut down, with no sound reasons given. We continue to be unable to drill in shallow waters off our own coasts – easily accessible and safely obtained (unlike the sort of deep wells represented by the Deepwater rig – itself forced to drill out so far and so deep by EPA meddling, so we really have the government to thank for the Gulf Coast oil spill). Our government continues to hobble the ability of utility companies and industry to exploit our clean coal reserves. Instead, we waste valuable taxpayer monies on "green" failures like Solyndra and Ener1, which have basically served only to funnel money to Democrat contributors. All together, we see that the Obama administration has not only been hobbling new job growth directly in the energy industry, but has been dampening the economy through higher energy costs, making real recovery less and less possible as time goes on. In other words, Obama and his redistributionist lackeys are turning America into a stagnant dud.
Then you have the efforts made by the EPA, and the Obama administration in general, to cripple job growth and economic prosperity in other sectors. For instance, there is the recent shutdown of uranium mining in Arizona: the short term effect is thousands more jobs lost in that state; the long term effect will be that the price for processed uranium for nuclear power plants will go up, making power generation more expensive, and thus raising the electric bills for anyone – business or residential consumer alike - whose power company relies on nuclear power. Coal and oil aren't the only targets in Obama's effort to deindustrialize the United States. This is just one example of the unprecedented efforts by the executive branch of our federal government to circumvent any congressional controls and to directly involve itself in the workings of industry in America. Even Roosevelt made a pretense of using his compliant Congress to effect the changes he wanted. Obama's executive agencies simply act on their own accord to hinder, harass, and harm private industry and private property.
Let's not forget, of course, the deadening effects that Obamacare has already had on the economy, and will continue to have should it not be repealed. Private sector employers continue to be reluctant to hire because of uncertainty about the impact this legislation will have on corporate bottom lines. Couple that with the new taxes and new regulations that will be imposed as a result of various provisions within that law, and you see that corporations and small businesses are simply not, and will not, take very many risks in making new hires.
This pattern is similar to that of the Great Depression. Whenever it seemed like the economy might be starting to recover, whenever the unemployment rate began to drop and businesses starting to expand, Roosevelt and his creatures in Congress would impose another round of taxes and regulations which would stifle the incipient growth and would cause another spike in the unemployment rate. Obama and the Democrats have been doing much the same – impose more laws, more regulations, more taxes, more fees, more fines, more intrusions, more uncertainty in the business climate. Is it any wonder that were still seeing tepid, pathetic job "growth" and economic stagnation?
All in all, we're seeing the current administration drop bombs on our economy that are just as devastating as any the Soviets might have used. When your policies force factories to close, driving them overseas, and creating layoffs by the hundreds of thousands, that's economic damage equivalent to that created by war. When your actions create such economic uncertainty that most businesses hold off on hiring indefinitely until a more favorable climate emerges, that's the doldrums that will characterize a command-style economy in which growth and expansion are controlled and clamped down.
Now, some Democrat propagandists may try to argue that the economic difficulties started with the Bush administration and were inherited by Obama. They may further try to contend that the President has been "creating jobs," and might try to point to the recent slight drops in the unemployment rate and the miniscule job growth that has been taking place recently. Fine, let's take a little closer look at these claims, with some context provided.
First, conservatives and Republicans should acknowledge that under George W. Bush, large increases in both social spending and federal debt did occur, which probably helped to contribute to the economic downturn that started in 2007. Of course, as I've pointed out elsewhere, this was not the result of conservatism, but of a Republican president abandoning fundamental principles of small government and economic soundness. Further, let's keep in mind who controlled Congress for the final two years of Bush's administration – the Democrats. Remember, Congress (specifically, the House of Representatives) is the source of all appropriations and spending bills – so while the President may have some effect on overall spending and debt, Congress is really the prime mover in this regard. With this in mind, please observe this graph of US federal government debt since 2000. While Bush ran fairly hefty deficits, we still see that by 2007 (the last year in which we were operating under a Republican-crafted budget), the deficit was almost eliminated. Starting in 2008, the first full fiscal year under a Democrat-controlled Congress, the deficit suddenly spiked to its largest extent at any point in Bush's tenure in office. Notably, that was the year where we saw TARP and other bailout efforts taking place – on the Democrat Congress' watch. And of course, under Obama and a Democrat Congress, the deficit quickly ballooned, dwarfing anything seen during Bush's eight years in office.
Corollary to this is the fact that it was after the Democrats regained control of Congress that the economy turned down and went into recession. This is to be expected. With Democrats in control, social spending massively increased, as did the burden of regulation on businesses and industry, since Bush went along with everything the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted (remember, he did not veto a single bill during his entire second term). Admittedly, the economic record with respect to regulation and spending of Bush and the Republican congresses from 2000 – 2006 was not good. However, when the Democrats got into office, any pretense at fiscal responsibility went out the window. Businesses can observe when the regulatory and fiscal burdens that government places upon them are likely to increase, and they will adjust their future business strategies accordingly. When they sense that they're going to be slammed by government regulation, taxation, and inflation caused by deficit spending, they will not be as likely to expand and make new hires, and are more likely to move their operations overseas to more business-friendly locations. That is what happened after the Democrats took Congress back in 2007, and it accelerated after Obama entered office in 2009, which is why unemployment spiked to almost 10%. Compare that to the time-averaged unemployment rates seen in 2006 and 2007, 4.3% for both years. A single full year of Democrat control of Congress was enough to start the unemployment ball rolling downhill fast.
Now, what of the claims by Democrats and other leftists that Obama has actually been creating jobs? Well, again, we see that there needs to be some context. Looking back to Bush's administration, we see that even with the spike in unemployment that hit right at the end, the overall Bush record was a net creation of 4.7 million jobs during his administration. The first year of the Obama administration – with its "stimulus" spending, passage of ObamaCare, and the rest, saw an overall net loss of 4.9 million jobs. In other words, one year of Obama wiped out the previous eight years' aggregate job creation. Further, we see that small but steady job creation only really started after the Republicans took back control of Congress in 2011. Retaking Congress sent the message to businesses that at least the Democrats would no longer have a completely free hand to destroy the business environment, and businesses could finally retrench and start thinking about long-term growth once again. However, even with this, job growth has been extremely lackadaisical. Small monthly gains, many of which end up only being temporary. For instance, the news media rolled out the cheerleaders in March and April of 2010, trumpeting that the economy had added over 400,000 jobs! Great – except that they were temporary jobs created by the Census bureau to cover the decennial need for canvassers and the like. Not so loudly proclaimed was the loss of these jobs later in the year, leading to a few months of consistent net job losses, rather than gains. One suspects that the recent gain of 200,000 in December is similar, as it likely consists mostly of seasonal hiring to cover commercial need for Thanksgiving and Christmas help.
The long story made short, however, is that when Democrats control Congress, we saw job losses and economic contraction. Once the Republicans got back into control of the House that controls appropriations, businesses are beginning to slowly but surely add jobs and think about growth once again.
Therein lies the issue – as much as Democrats and leftists might try to spin it, their simple answers for simple minds simply won't do the job of addressing what really needs to be done to kickstart the economy back into motion.
If the truth were really to be told, conservatives (I wish I could say "Republicans" here) are the ones who really want to give Americans a fair shot. They want to do so by the tried and true method of getting government out of our way, and allowing us each to have the greatest degree of unhindered opportunity to pursue our dreams. That is what economic liberty is really about – unshackling the American people to pursue their ambitions because it is the right thing to do. Freedom is right – regulation, overtaxation, redistribution, and economic retribution are wrong.
If we want to talk about fairness, then it's time to really get the discussion about that word back to where it belongs: fairness in opportunity.
It is infantile and ridiculous to have a conversation about "fairness" that centers on the inherently unfair actions of theft and redistribution. It isn't "fair" to use the police powers of the state to steal from one person to give to another – really, that is just as much crookedness and cronyism as kickbacks and bribes are. Any person who uses the government to enrich themselves without working for it, while stealing from an actual productive person is little more than a crook.
It is fair, however, to remove roadblocks to personal improvement and entrepreneurship that are created by the government and which hinder individuals from being able to act on their desires to create, build, and grow. Fairness in opportunity is the key to economic freedom, and economic freedom, in turn, is key to prosperity and security. Hence, real fairness would remove the regulations on businesses that tie up so much capital in red tape and bureaucracy, and would instead allow them to grow their businesses and hire more workers. Real fairness would allow the best person to be hired for the job, regardless of their race or gender, instead of imposing quotas in hiring. Real fairness would let real people keep their money so that they could improve themselves through education and personal initiative, instead of taking that money away from them so that they can often only barely make ends meet. Real fairness would get the government out of the way, so that people could be whatever they can make of themselves. Real fairness that gives every American a fair shot at being all they can be is what would give economic prosperity.
It's also fair, however, that if you won't use the opportunities afforded to you, if you choose to make bad decisions in life that hold you back, then you won't get to where you'd like to be. With real fairness, with equality in opportunity, comes choices – which can be for good or bad. Making the wrong choices in life does not, however, give you the right or the moral sanction to demand "fairness" in the form of demanding that the government take from somebody else and give to you what you wouldn't work for yourself. You have no right to try to empower the government to "punish" big businesses or the rich or the middle class or whoever else you might feel envious of for achieving more than you chose to achieve.
Real fairness is conservatism. It's time for conservatives to wrest back the discussion from the Left and start making the case for our economic program in terms of entrepreneurship, opportunity, freedom, and fairness of opportunity. We can't simply rely on staid arguments about tax rates or complaints about spending and debt. We can't simply talk about the things we'd cut or get rid of. We have to go further, making the positive case for economic liberty that rests on the fact of liberty, made available to every American who will use it.