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Roger Simon says be happy you’re not Binyamin Netanyahu.
Who would want to be Benjamin Netanyahu? As the prime minister of Israel he has a dreadful calculus to make: Is Barack Obama sufficiently serious about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons? …
… He is staring at an American election that must give him fits. Were Barack Obama – the man who said those “flattering” things about him to ex-French President Sarkozy – to be reelected in November, the Israeli PM’s hands might be tied in a myriad of ways with a myriad of threats.
His window to act is now. One can only wish him luck.
David Harsanyi says create wealth, not jobs.
… the context of President Obama’s remark is simple: He believes that public-sector jobs are a vital measure of economic growth. This is the prevalent view from the left these days. “Everybody knows that government creates jobs,” lied Sen. Sherrod Brown recently. Liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne quipped that when conservatives say “government doesn’t create jobs,” “the riposte should be quick and emphatic: ‘Yes it has, and yes, it does!‘” (And really, how can anyone argue with that kind of ironclad logic?)
It’s ironic that the same people pushing unsustainable job growth find the process of wealth creation so unsightly. Not long ago, Obama and others on the left were busy attacking private equity, claiming that some people are good at “maximizing profits” but that that’s not always “good for businesses or communities or workers.” (Actually, it almost always is.)
But pumping money into public-sector unions is always good for businesses, communities and workers? Obama is peddling a “jobs” bill right now that features one pinch of protectionism, one pinch of feel-good veteran help and a few hundred cups’ worth of wealth-sucking, union-growing debt inducement. Can anyone name a single policy proposal by his administration that even pretends to clear the way for private-sector wealth creation?
In context, the entire focus of the president is warped — not simply because he underestimated the health of the private sector but because he believes that any other sector matters when talking about the economy. It doesn’t.
Michael Barone says the president makes a mistake listening to rich liberals. Pickerhead says, “Keep it up. Barry, suits us fine.”
Who does Barack Obama listen to?
Not Republican politicians. Evidently weeks go by between his conversations with House Speaker John Boehner, who determines what legislation comes to the House floor.
Not Democratic politicians. We have it on good authority that he seldom talks to Democratic members of Congress. Lyndon Johnson used to be on the phone constantly, cajoling and inveigling but also on the alert for shifts in opinion.
Speaker Tip O’Neill walked around the Capitol, asking member after member, “What do you hear?” In contrast, Obama, a former adviser told Vanity Fair‘s Todd Purdum, “is a total introvert. He doesn’t need people.”
But there is one group of people Obama has to listen to: the people who give him large sums of money. He recently attended his 150th fundraiser. That’s more than the number attended by the last four presidents put together.
Obama has seen enough Architectural Digest-type interiors in Park Avenue triplexes and Beverly Hills mansions, and on the block in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, where every house is owned by a billionaire, to develop an expertise in Louis XV walnut commodes and Brunschwig & Fils fabrics.
He’s also had plenty of chances to absorb the advice of the kind of rich liberals who like to give money to Democratic presidents. And the evidence that he has taken some of that advice is his initiatives on three controversial issues, each of which involves serious political risk. …
Matthew Continetti reviews Road to Freedom by Arthur Brooks.
Will Smith was about to be surprised.
It was mid-May, and the actor was appearing on French television to promote his latest blockbuster. The host wanted to hear the Fresh Prince’s thoughts not only on Men in Black III but also on American tax rates. “I have no issue with paying taxes and whatever needs to be done for my country to grow,” Smith said. “So I will pay anything that I need to pay to keep my country growing.”
Even the 75 percent top rate proposed by the newly elected French president François Hollande, the host asked? Smith’s movie-star grin contorted in disgust: “Seventy-five?” he said. “Yeah, that’s different.” He looked from side to side, perhaps wondering if President Obama was lurking off-camera to punish him for such apostasy. “That’s different. Yeah, 75. Well, you know, God bless America.”
Will Smith reacted viscerally because a top tax rate of 75 percent offended his sense of justice. It might be right, in his view, for the government to take 30 or 40 percent of a rich person’s earnings, but taking 75 percent would not be right at all. It would be wrong. Unjust.
One of the virtues of Arthur Brooks’s new book on the morality of free enterprise is that it supplies empirical support for Smith’s intuitive reaction. The Road to Freedom is personal and idiosyncratic, filled with autobiographical asides, references to the author’s wife and children, corny jokes, and the occasional pop culture allusion. But it also has a serious intent. Brooks attempts to prove, scientifically, the “moral legitimacy of free enterprise” by testing whether the system “enables people to flourish,” whether it is fair, and how it “treats the least fortunate in society.” He argues that free enterprise passes all three tests, and he makes a good case.
Consider human flourishing. Ex–panding on arguments he made in The Battle (2010), Brooks says that high tax rates are wrong not only because they damage the economy, but also because they violate the principle of earned success. You are more likely to be happy, he observes, when you create “value with your life or in the lives of others,” and the happiness of the people ought to be the goal of any society that aspires to morality. …
… Work is what takes us from learned helplessness or dependence to earned success and independence. Through public policy, governments and societies affect how much we work, and for what reason, and for whose benefit. Government can pay us not to work, or it can tax our labor and incomes and investments to such an extent that we do not work harder on the margin. Not only do we make less money; we lose some of our sense of self-worth. We lose our right to labor, and to the benefits of our labor. Jefferson, Lincoln, and Reagan understood: Governments that assert a claim to a citizen’s property will have no trouble asserting a claim to his conscience as well. It cannot be a coincidence that the Obama administration, which wants to “spread the wealth around,” also coerces religious institutions to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to employees. In both cases, Barack Obama believes his vision of the good trumps the equal rights of others.
Read The Road to Freedom for its explication of earned success, its definition of meritocratic fairness, and its moral commitment to using free exchange to improve the lives of the destitute. But don’t forget that the moral truths that animate this admirable book, and others, cannot be found in economics or statistics or social science. They are found in the individual dignity of every human being, and in the natural equality of man. Will Smith’s ability to pursue happiness does not depend on our 35 percent top tax rate. It depends on the depth of our commitment to the vision of the Founders.
Jeff Jacoby says the end is near for public sector unions.
In retrospect, there were two conspicuous giveaways that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was headed for victory in last week’s recall election.
One was that the Democrats’ campaign against him wound up focusing on just about everything but Walker’s law limiting collective bargaining rights for government workers. Sixteen months ago, the Capitol building in Madison was besieged by rioting protesters hell-bent on blocking the changes by any means necessary. Union members and their supporters, incandescent with rage, likened Walker to Adolph Hitler and cheered as Democratic lawmakers fled the state in a bid to force the legislature to a standstill. Once the bill passed, unions and Democrats vowed revenge, and amassed a million signatures on recall petitions.
But the more voters saw of the law’s effects, the more they liked it. Dozens of school districts reported millions in savings, most without resorting to layoffs. Property taxes fell. A $3.6 billion state budget deficit turned into a $154 million projected surplus. Walker’s measures proved a tonic for the economy, and support for restoring the status quo ante faded — even among Wisconsin Democrats. Long before Election Day, Democratic challenger Tom Barrett had all but dropped the issue of public-sector collective bargaining from his campaign to replace Walker.
The second harbinger was the plunge in public-employee union membership. The most important of Walker’s reforms, the change Big Labor had fought most bitterly, was ending the automatic withholding of union dues. That made union membership a matter of choice, not compulsion — and tens of thousands of government workers chose to toss their union cards. …