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Works and Days

Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging

August 18th, 2011 - 1:37 pm

Regulations Are Not Just Right-Wing Talking Points

But talk is talk and even the specter of crushing national debt is still not enough to sucker-punch our Atlas into bending a bit. But absorbing one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and putting new multi-thousand-dollar per worker regulations and obligations on employers to ensure government-run health care for their employees? Add that worry to the new Dodd-Frank regulations that add millions of collective hours of unproductive busy-work. Recall support for card check, and the reversal of the Chrysler creditors — and employers start to connect the dots. They see emerging a Regulator-in-Chief who thinks business is mostly collecting easy profits off the backs of exploited workers and from a clueless, exploited public. Still think that is hyperbole? Ask Boeing why at a time of unsustainable trade deficits, high unemployment, and fierce competition with Airbus, Obama has unleashed the NLRB to shut down a billion-dollar plant. Ideology trumps reality every time.

Energy Matters

Trying to stop shale oil exploration in the West might be an abstract issue on page nine of the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps we can get by without ANWR. Americans can forget now that Obama wanted cap and trade to pass the Senate and to become law with his signature. Maybe there are oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico that we can afford to forget about. California just possibly can import gas and oil without tapping all of its off-shore wealth. The new proposed Canadian pipeline in isolation might seem problematic. OK, now and then we should worry about the environmental downsides of fracking.

But all this together? The country simply has been given too many chances, and now the energy bill is mounting. Businesses really have concluded that Obama was once serious when he warned that energy prices would “skyrocket” and coal companies would be “bankrupt” trying to generate electricity under his new proposals. The tens of billions in “stimulus” that went, in sweetheart fashion, to solar and wind “industries” did not produce “millions of green jobs” but a few zillion-dollar megawatts of electrical production.

Taxes Are Not Investments

A couple of suggestions that tax brackets might need to be adjusted would slide off the backs of most business people. Perhaps we can even smile at Barack Obama’s new arbitrary $250,000 divide — above which those who make good money now pay 60% of the aggregate income taxes and are slurred with not paying “their fair share,” while 50% of American tax filers below pay no income taxes and are promised that they “won’t see one penny in new taxes.” That nearly every discussion on the debt ceiling was introduced by Obama with the euphemism “new sources of revenue” and “investments” was only a little alarming.

Yet once again, add up all the 31 months of tax-hike demagoguery. Those who hire finally got it into their collective heads that they were not merely not liked and to be overregulated, but to be further taxed as well — not in a conciliatory manner as contributing to the nation’s welfare, but in punitive fashion as if they were culpable for making profits in the first place.

Academics Don’t Know a Hammer From A Wrench, a W-2 from a 1040

Van Jones and Anita Dunn were pathetic distractions. Eric Holder was simply a deer-in-the-headlights member of the liberal apparat. Timothy Geithner seems clueless. Few will watch another silly video from Hilda Solis or pay much attention to the latest strange pronouncement from Janet Napolitano. Steven Chu’s dreams of gas prices reaching European levels and California farms blowing away due to global warming or Sierra snowpacks disappearing by now are merely boring.

But still again, total all of those ravings up — and without a CEO, farmer, or small businessperson in the bunch? The best that could be said from these appointments is that they raise ambiguity: are they (a) just starry-eyed, clueless academics and technocrats on sabbatical from tenured perches in universities, foundations, and bureaucracies, or (b) are these hard-core soldiers in the Obama army that is intent on making us more like the Belgians and Greeks?  Both and more still?

A Thankless Job

The private sector has now begun collating Obama’s public statements, the political significance of hyper-debt, the force of his new regulations, the constant talk of higher taxes, and the array of strange appointees.

On the one hand, our Atlases are productive, entrepreneurial people who appreciate the singularity of the American experiment and the opportunity to profit and thrive, even when coming out of a severe recession. Real opportunity, they know well, is often best found in crises, not just in continued prosperity.

But on the other hand, they are deeply worried that the rules of the game are changing for only the second time in American history and that they are unliked, targeted and to be punished for being successful. The result is not that the private sector is fleeing the U.S. (where would one go?). Nor are entrepreneurs and go-getters shutting down their businesses that they have built from the ground up.

Instead, what we are witnessing is a sort of shrug, a pause, best summarized millions of times over as something like “I’m hoarding cash, hunkering down, and am going to wait this bad bunch out.”

So the globe is tottering as the tired-of-it-all American Atlas has finally sorta shrugged.

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