When I hear the word “contract” I
reach for my revolver think of two unique definitions — formally, a legally binding mutual agreement made between two or more parties, or idiomatically, an attempt to hire an assassin to kill one or more of your enemies.
This past week, we were treated to a classic liberal class envy screed by Prof. Elizabeth Warren, who recently declared her candidacy in the race to choose a Democrat who will oppose current Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown in the 2012 elections. During her talk, which targeted the wealthy (specifically those who own manufacturing businesses) as irresponsible because they allegedly balk at paying their fair share of taxes, Warren made the following statement:
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Houston … we have a problem here. Exactly which “underlying social contract” is she referring to? By definition, a social contract implies mutual consent on the part of citizens and their government, whereby both parties agree to adhere to common rules in order to establish a safe and just society. The key to a valid social contract is, without question, mutual consent. And therein lies the problem with Prof. Warren’s ideas.
The “underlying social contract” for the United States of America is our Constitution. It has a very clear purpose – to limit the power of government and to empower the individual. It does this by establishing a well regulated government along with a well regulated military and judicial system. Over the years things have been added — mail delivery, schools, roads and bridges, distribution systems for electricity and safe drinking water, Social Security, etc. — and even though we may criticize the mechanics of individual programs, the overall intent to promote the general welfare of the people has been clear. Therefore, these expansions of government activity have been largely supported by the American people.
But ever since World War II, and even more so since the 1970’s, there has arisen a class of politically active intellectuals and elites who sincerely believe that their definition of what constitutes a contented, fair, and economically secure society is vastly superior to the type of traditional goals and values held by working class Americans of average education and modest economic means. One of the major areas targeted by these progressive elites is wealth/income inequality. As self-appointed saviors of our society, one of their top priorities is to confiscate money from those who have unfairly accumulated excess wealth and, in the words of Megan McArdle, “spend [that] money on projects that they think will be more valuable than the equivalent usage in the private sector.” In other words, they believe it is their duty to empower the government at the expense of the individual.
And this is where “mutual consent” starts getting problematic. More from Elizabeth Warren:
You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
Huh? By making an obviously spurious claim that “the rest of us” (i.e. everyone but the wealthy) were the ones who paid for our public services, is Prof. Warren trying to claim that wealthy Americans are resentful about paying for roads, schools, and emergency services, things that virtually all of us have depended on — and supported — for well over a century? I think so. And she is doing it because she is trying to manipulate her audience into being angry at “the rich” because they don’t appear to feel guilty, when they damn well should be. Her manipulation cleverly avoids the real reason why many Americans are truly concerned about the taxes we pay.
And that reason can be summarized in a neat little rule – As the size and cost of the Federal government increases beyond what was originally outlined in our national social contract (The Constitution), the mutual consent of the people diminishes proportionately.
The Elizabeth Warrens of the world simply do not want to recognize this fundamental rule, partly because their actions over the past forty years have contributed greatly to its axiomatic truth, but mostly because acknowledging it would essentially de-legitimize their efforts to hijack our social contract and, in the words of President Obama, “fundamentally transform” America into a nation that primarily reflects their vision of an ideal society. The more power they grab, the less mutual consent they have, and the more illegitimate their efforts become. So they try to flip the issue around, taking genuine discontent with wasteful and inefficient government spending and recasting it as discontent with government in general. They have become masters at using this tactic to intimidate voters by threatening to drastically cut essential services if the public at large should decide that they are paying too much money in taxes.
Of course essential services aren’t the problem. The plain truth is that it does not take $3.8 trillion a year to maintain safe roads, or to provide a worthwhile education to our children, or to have top-notch emergency responders. Even if you throw in the military, the justice system, environmental resources management, transportation, disaster relief, workplace safety, entitlement programs like Social Security, and other services that a majority of the people support, implemented efficiently and funded at an essential operations level, you still wouldn’t even be close to the amount of money the government is currently spending. The American people know this. And we are also angry over the fact that during the 2008 election the Democrats never bothered to mention that they were planning to increase Federal spending by 30% or expand our national debt by nearly 40% in only two years, or that they would shove their 2000 page “health care reform” monstrosity through Congress over the loud objections of a clear majority of the American people and without any support from Congressional Republicans.
“Mutual consent”? Don’t make me laugh.
The Tea Party and other recent movements founded on principles of fiscal conservatism or libertarianism recognize that our government has largely been hijacked by progressive elitists who despise democracy and government checks and balances, and who have managed to strategically position themselves to rule our nation via regulation and executive orders. It goes without saying that these elitists believe that they have the moral authority to expand government in any direction and by any amount that they choose, and to take any amount of money that they deem to be “fair” from individuals and businesses and invest that money in the government, because such an investment will promote the “common good” far more effectively than if individuals or businesses were allowed to keep and spent their own money.
The rest of us, on the other hand, see the government created by these elites as bloated, wasteful, inefficient, and corrupt. Far from being wise managers of the nation’s wealth, government bureaucrats are easily duped by slick song-and-dance men who are long on politically correct ideology, short on sound financial planning, and masterfully deceptive about their own greed – Fannie Mae, General Motors, and Solyndra are only three out of a myriad of examples. Political lobbying has become a billion-dollar industry which, along with barrels full of campaign cash offered by wealthy Americans seeking the ear of influential lawmakers, has essentially shut anyone but the very rich and powerful out of the legislative and rule making processes. Factor in the super-sized influence of liberal special interests such as organized labor, which proudly serves as an advocate for a clear minority of Americans at the expense of the rest, and once again we need to ask – “Where is the mutual consent”?
Which brings us back to Elizabeth Warren. Professor Warren, paying for our share of essential government services is one thing; being forced to fork over more and more of our hard-earned money to pay for a wasteful government that grows increasingly larger and more powerful without mutual consent between itself and its citizens is another. I think most Americans understand this. It’s too bad that you don’t.
Make sure you also read this response to Prof. Warren by a factory owner –
“You built a factory out there? Good for you.” ‘Built a factory’ is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.
Read the whole thing.