What Happened to the Party of JFK?
In his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, newly elected president John F. Kennedy said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The Democratic Party in the twenty-first century has strayed very far away from that uplifting sentiment. New York Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quoted in the New Yorker Magazine (March 29, 2022) as saying about the lack of progress in implementing President Biden’s progressive agenda, “But if we decide to just kind of sit back for the rest of the year and not change people’s lives — yeah, I do think we’re in trouble.” But I don’t want Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, or anyone else in government, to change my life. I want to be able to change my own life if I wish.
I find it insulting to think that the government has a right to change my life or feels that I am not capable of changing my life on my own. Progressives think they are smarter than other people and that they know what is best for you better than you do. Most college professors are progressive. They think that because they are smart and have a lot of letters behind their name, their ideas on governance are derived from the cogitation of their frontal lobes. They are wrong! They are slaves to the fast-thinking intuitive part of our brain (as described in Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow), just like everybody else.
If they were using their slow thinking frontal lobes, they would use the scientific method to test the many hypotheses they develop on how to make our lives better. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels assert that communism as described in their writings was “scientific socialism.” But the essence of the scientific method is to develop a hypothesis on how something works and then test the hypothesis against empirical evidence to see if that evidence supports or disproves the hypothesis. But there is no evidence to prove that socialism or progressive policies based on socialist notions are true.
In fact, all the evidence shows that socialism does not work. Every country that has attempted to become socialist has descended into tyranny and oppression before collapsing into economic disaster while making everyone in the country miserable in the process. That is why the currently popular progressive theory, Critical Race Theory, rejects the notion of empirical evidence and justifies its hypotheses based on narratives or storytelling (which is why Critical Race theory is a bunch of hokum that does not stand up to rational analysis).
And that is also why many progressive policies that have such good intentions end up with disastrous results. The War on Poverty dreamed up by President Lyndon Johnson to help poor people, in general, and black people, in particular, has had a marginal impact on the poverty rate but a devastating impact on the culture of the working poor, in general, and poor black people, in particular.
President Biden’s recently released budget for fiscal 2023 continues the lurch away from the ideal that President Kennedy expressed. It is loaded with things that government can do for the people while the people, apparently, don’t have to do anything. Not for themselves or the country.
President Biden is claiming that he has reduced the deficit more than any other president, but that was because government spending to fight the Covid pandemic greatly increased the deficit, reaching 12.4% of GDP in fiscal 2021. But the total deficit in his budget proposal still exceeds a trillion dollars or 4.5% of GDP. And he further projects deficits in excess of a trillion dollars and over 4.4% of GDP for the next ten years. But programs that are supposed to be fully funded by payroll deductions, I am talking about Social Security and Medicare, have a combined deficit of $716 billion in the 2023 budget and much more going forward. Other so-called mandatory programs that are not funded by payroll taxes such as Medicaid will add another trillion and a half dollars to the deficit in 2023. Add in almost $400 billion for interest on all the debt needed to fund these shortfalls in welfare programs and the deficit for these programs is nearly three trillion dollars in the president’s budget.
The expenditures needed to actually run the federal government and also to defend our country come to around $1.7 trillion and would be fully covered by the almost three trillion dollars the government expects to receive from individual and corporate income taxes. In government-speak these constitutionally mandated expenditures are called discretionary expenses while all the welfare and transfer payments not contemplated in the Constitution are called mandatory expenditures.
If all of these trillions of dollars actually helped poor people to escape poverty and to become productive citizens contributing to the general welfare of the country, it might be a worthy endeavor. But the fact is that they don’t. The proof of this is President Biden’s assertion that so much more assistance is needed. Poverty levels have barely moved since the start of the War on Poverty. In fact, they came down more substantially prior to these government programs.
Having worked for many years in developing countries, I have seen billions of dollars of foreign aid dissipated in the vain attempt to raise those countries out of poverty. The countries that actually rose out of poverty did so with little or no foreign assistance. The same is true for the people in America. Black people made more progress while subjected to discriminatory Jim Crow laws than they have since the War on Poverty. Poor immigrants continue to come to America and thrive through education and hard work with little or no assistance. We need to develop programs that give poor people of all colors the tools they need to succeed, not free stuff that keeps them dependent on government assistance.
To help fund existing programs and also new programs (even though as we have just seen they do not work very well), President Biden is proposing a “Billionaire’s Minimum Income Tax,” a plan similar to one proposed by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for whom Joe Biden was supposed to be an alternative. It busts the chops of the progressive left that entrepreneurs who start off companies in their garage and build up huge businesses while holding on to some of their ownership are reluctant to fork over a portion of that ownership to government so that progressive politicians and bureaucrats can spend that money as they see fit.
Recently, Elizabeth Warren affirmed her support of the president’s billionaire’s tax plan saying, “Yes Jeff Bezos. I am looking at you.” Well Jeff Bezos has done more for me than Senator Warren or President Biden. Excuse me a minute, my Apple watch is telling me that my Ring camera at the door has spotted a delivery from Amazon. Well, I am back with my package, where was I? About Jeff Bezos, he and his company have done a great deal more to improve my life than the US government. It is true that he pays very little income tax, his official salary at Amazon is only $81,000. He didn’t build his enormous fortune with a savings account at the local bank paying less than one percent interest. 90% of his wealth, estimated by Forbes at around $200 billion, comes from his ownership of Amazon stock (he owns about 10.3% of the company). But his stock holdings wouldn’t be worth anything if Amazon didn’t have sales of $470 billion and employ 1.1 million people in America (and another half million elsewhere). The company and all those employees pay billions in taxes to the government.
And if a billionaire whose wealth is tied up in the shares of the company he founded loses money (on a mark-to-market basis) because the price of the publicly traded shares declines, would the government owe him (or her) a tax refund? Seeing as how Mark Zuckerberg has lost around $30 billion this year, he would technically be due a tax refund of around $6 billion if the Billionaire’s Minimum Income Tax was fair.
But the Billionaire’s Minimum Income Tax is not designed to be fair. It is designed to be confiscatory because socialists and progressives believe that the only way a person can build a net worth over a billion dollars is by exploiting the labor of others (another concept developed by Karl Marx called the Labor Theory of Value).
Luckily, the Billionaire’s Minimum Income Tax is so difficult to implement that many European countries have given up on wealth taxes (which is what it is). It is also probably unconstitutional. And Democrats Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema have said that they oppose such a tax. So why is the Biden Administration pushing this tax plan now? They want to go through the motions of trying to get the tax passed so that they have people to blame for depriving suffering Americans of needed entitlements prior to the November elections.