Who Built This Country, Joe?
In his recent speech to a joint session of Congress (actually a disjointed session of Congress since Covid protocols prevented about two-thirds of the members of Congress from attending) President Biden asserted, “Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.” I understand the use of hyperbole in speeches of this nature, but President Biden’s statement is untrue and misleading.
For one thing, Wall Street perhaps didn’t build this country, but it sure helped to build it. Wall Street financed the intercontinental railroads, the steel mills in Pittsburgh, the textile mills and foundries. Wall Street helped to transform America from an agricultural backwater into an industrial powerhouse. And you could also say that government did not build this country. For most of the nineteenth century the best thing that government did was to stay out of the way of the private sector.
And the middle class didn’t build the country either nor did the unions. It was big business and the banks that put the middle class to work. You see, Wall Street, Main Street, the middle class and the unions (along with farmers, teamsters, healthcare workers, first responders and many others) must work together to build a country. Building a country is a team effort. Wall Street and big business are not the enemies that the progressive left would have you believe. They are part of the team and played an important role in building this country.
You need to understand that former President Trump and President Biden share a similar vision, but that vision is actually a myth. Their vision is that the 1950s were an idyllic time for America where middle class executives commuted to their houses in the suburbs and unionized auto workers could afford a hunting cabin in the woods for deer season. It was a time when American industry dominated the world and CEOs paid taxes with a top rate of 90%.
But the 1950’s were an anomaly. US industry made up 50% of global GDP, partly due to our industries but also because much of the industrial capacity of the rest of the world had been destroyed in WWII. Protected by two huge oceans, our homeland was virtually untouched by the conflict. And blacks and Hispanics did not share in the 1950s prosperity and the unions made sure that minority workers were kept out of the unions. Despite high marginal tax rates, federal receipts as a percent of GDP have been virtually unchanged since 1950.
The 1950s cannot be recreated. Prior to the pandemic, President Trump was partially successful in reducing unemployment and increasing wages but only by goosing the economy with an unsustainable amount of deficit spending. And President Biden is likely to be only partially successful in expanding employment of unionized blue-collar workers with his American Jobs Plan. The nature of blue-collar work has changed. In 1953 it took 10.1 man-hours to produce a ton of steel, in 2018 it took 1.5 man-hours. Employment of steel workers declined from 650,000 to 143,000 even though we produce the same amount of steel. The workers in today’s steel plants are not burly guys hauling red-hot ingots, but computer programmers. President Biden claimed that 90% of the jobs he will be creating will not need a college degree and most won’t even need an associates degree. That’s magical thinking.
All the green jobs that President Biden is promising to laid-off pipeline workers are dependent on technology that doesn’t exist yet. He is banking on more technological change in the next 10 years than in the last 50. But technological advancement doesn’t work like that. Innovation doesn’t dance to the government’s tune. It is true that DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) discovered the Internet – but by accident. It took private sector entrepreneurs to bring us the Internet we now utilize.
And in all the trillions that President Biden wants to spend, he did not mention nuclear energy once. But his call for clean energy does not work without a reliable source of energy (as compared to the unsteady reliability of renewable energy sources) and the only sources for such reliable energy are coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is the only resource we have that does not produce carbon dioxide.
All these trillions of dollars that President Biden wants to spend will do little to increase the productive capacity of the United States. Little of the Covid relief bill addressed the pandemic. Most of the money was spent as a shot gun blast of checks to all Americans as well as other liberal priorities instead of helping those hurt most by the pandemic. The same is true of these new plans. Little goes to infrastructure. Lots goes to transfer payments and special interests. And his plan to pay for all this is not a shift of taxation to corporations and the wealthy, but an overall increase of the tax burden on the economy that will hamper economic growth for decades to come.
Pollster Frank Luntz noted on CNBC’s Squawk Box that President Biden’s speech would be viewed favorably by the American people (and gushingly by the mainstream media). But ultimately it was a very divisive speech. He is setting up class warfare. Main Street versus Wall Street. The middle class versus the one percenters.
As the Wall Street Journal opined, “The White House talking points pitch this in the smothering love of the welfare state: “making care affordable”; free medical and family leave; “free education”; two years of “universal pre-school”; “invest in the care workforce.” Subsidies and millions of new care givers, all licensed and unionized, will nurture you through the challenge of earning a living and raising a family.” It is not sufficient that the poor be dependent on the government, He also wants the middle class to be dependent on government. As Rahm Emmanuel stated, President Biden wants to change the “center of gravity” of government programs.
If you think about it, President Biden’s trillion-dollar plans are an insult to the American people. It is an expression of the contempt elites have in their low expectations for the American people. He and the Democrats believe that the American people are incapable of taking care of themselves. More than that, it is all because of Wall Street and the one percenters working against you. They are your enemy, and the government will protect you from them.
Can’t anyone see how wrong this is? The Chinese Communist Party seeks to control its people through force, but the Democrats want to control the American people with handouts and freebies. How can we be a world leader with such a passive people? How can we be strong enough to compete with China with so many unproductive workers? How can we escape poverty if the government incentivizes babies for unwed mothers?
All these plans President Biden spoke in his speech to Congress (the Covid relief plan, the jobs plan, the family plan) are designed to replace the rigors of ordinary life with government care. To relieve people from the burden of living a productive life and taking care of themselves and their families. Sleep well little children. Nanny is here to protect you.