PJ Media

The Messiah That Failed

Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.”

Barack Obama Sr.

Recently I introduced my friend John to the marvel that is Mark Levin. Known as “the Great One,” Levin is perhaps the most cranial talk show host in America. His program runs on reason and he demolishes leftist spin with zeal and conviction. I assumed my friend would esteem him as much as I do, but this did not turn out to be the case. John turned off the podcast upon hearing Levin call Barack Obama a “Marxist.” My friend concluded, “That guy’s a nut.”

Regrettably, his response is not unusual. Fifty years of social conditioning has convinced the general public that those who speak out against Marxism, communism, and socialism are deluded redbaiters and McCarthyists. History is not popular and few are aware of the contents of the Venona Cables. They were released in 1995 and proved that acute concern over Soviet espionage during the Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower administrations was fully warranted. The political left’s hold on our universities — as evidenced by schools like Bard naming a visiting professor’s chair after Alger Hiss — ensures that there will be no reediting of a narrative penned by the agent’s fellow travelers.

The discrediting of anyone who mouths “Marxist” or “socialist” is indicative of the left’s victory in the culture war. What we once termed the “counterculture” has become mainstream society. Most of us were exposed to a plethora of Hollywood films and journalistic exposes that fingered rightists as the villains behind the blacklists, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the idea that the Communist Party USA was financed by the Russians due to its effectiveness as an espionage apparatus. Thus, many independents become alienated when conservatives speak of the connection between socialism and the Democratic Party. It evokes visions of crotchety old senators taking hits from flasks while spouting conspiracy theories.

For this reason, those of us on the right must work to redress the situation and the rewards for doing so are infinite. The interplay between socialism and statism must be carefully elucidated because winning over moderates and the undecided is the only way we can establish political majorities in the future. While the Democratic Party does not directly advocate transferring “the means of production from private ownership to the ownership of organized society, to the state” (Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis), their individual legislators occasionally make the mistake of doing so.

The argument about whether or not Barack Obama — behind the media hype and his own vapid rhetoric — is actually a Marxist is irrelevant. As with everything concerning the Illinois senator, we may never really know what the twentieth-first-century Zelig truly thinks, or even comprehends, about economic issues. What’s essential is for our side to identify his statism — i.e., that he looks to the government to aggressively interject itself into all sorts of situations and become the savior of the people. The editors of Investor’s Business Daily argued that his policy proposals reek of “social-microengineering” and include “free” college tuition and job training along with “universal” national service, health care, preschool, and 401(k)s.

Regardless of the candidate’s intentions or machinations, his victory could turn America into a socialist state. In 2008 we now stand on the brink of the public sector overwhelming the private sector in terms of power, size, and importance. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, government expenditures comprise 36.6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is an increase from last year’s figure. Unlike with taxpayers, the federal government has no interest or need to balance its budget and next year the shortfall is expected to be $482 billion. With the Leviathan taking more and more, it will not be long before the economy contracts and individuals earn less and less. Obama as president will raise top marginal tax rates on earnings, capital gains, and dividends. He has opposed several free trade agreements and “history teaches us that high taxes and protectionism are not conducive to a thriving economy.” A Democratic victory in November will vastly accelerate our decline.

Many of the pseudo-liberals I know would passionately deny being socialists. No doubt they would be telling the truth, but their misunderstanding of the nature of government and taxation is what causes them to overlook statism’s relationship with socialism. Professor George Lakoff described their mindset when he observed: “Taxes are what you pay to be an American, to live in a civilized society that is democratic and offers opportunity, and where there’s an infrastructure that has been paid for by previous taxpayers. … Taxes are your dues — you pay your dues to be an American.”

His stance is widely shared by Democrats but Lakoff’s talking point has nothing to do with real life. The argument is fallacious because no Republican ever proposes that the tax rate be reduced to zero. Thus, taxes being “dues” is immaterial. Proclaiming otherwise is akin to walking up to a flood victim and suggesting that he cheer up because “water is necessary for life.” The man would stare at you as if you just admitted to gargling with lysergic acid each morning. Making known the life-giving properties of water in that particular situation is conceptually no different from pretending that the need for essential services somehow justifies a three-billion-dollar federal budget.

That Uncle Sam is entitled to something is universally conceded, but the crucial question is one of degree. The Democratic Party is appallingly quiet when it comes to verbalizing what percentage of our wages should belong to the government. Under Lakoff’s parameters, 36 percent is acceptable but no mental barrier exists to keep it from reaching 50, 70, or even 99 percent. Further, if taxes are but a worthy tariff on civilization, then why wouldn’t true believers approve of the expropriation of everything we have?

To leftists, asking such questions is insensitive and a sign of unsophistication. When one prefers sound bites to substance, percentage requests are simply brutal, whereas quips like “taxes are what you pay to be an American” might symbolize nothing but brim with delicious nuance.

The relationship between today’s Democratic politicians and socialism can be discerned in their silence regarding threshold. What morphs a free economy into a socialized one? They have no idea. Frankly, they think it impolite to ask, but they’ll tingle when Barack Obama looks to the government to solve … everything. Four to eight years of hope, change, and intrusions into the economy will cause our combined GDP expenditures to surpass the 50 percent mark.

Unfortunately, some champions of liberty like Ludwig von Mises are no longer with us, but his words from the 1940s resonate and tell us more about our future than anything printed in the newspapers of today:

The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau, what an alluring utopia! (Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy.)

Progressives reliably label statism as being “new,” but there’s nothing novel about handing your earnings over to the government. The Democratic nominee is a self-proclaimed “citizen of the world” so he should be the first to recognize that socialism resulted in misery everywhere it was tried. The electorate would be wise to skip reading The Audacity of Hope and familiarize itself instead with The God That Failed.