The Republicans spent their week in Cleveland talking about terrorism and the lack of jobs around the country. Democrats spent much more energy in Philadelphia talking about confiscating gun rights and letting men in my daughter’s bathroom. Curiously, the Democrats did spend a lot more time talking about God than the GOP did.
On Wednesday night, President Obama gave a stirring address that, in part, was the Republican response to Donald Trump. In part it was a stirring defense of progressivism. But like Bill Clinton totally skipping the year 1998 in his speech, Barack Obama totally skipped over the lack of economic growth during his entire tenure in office. Yes, unemployment is down. But that has more to do with people giving up looking for jobs than with new jobs being created.
Along the way, when Democrats were not talking about taking away guns or trying to justify the murder of police or ignoring the growing terrorist threats at home and abroad, they stuck to a common theme. The Democrats have discovered a new right. It is the right of people to live a certain lifestyle at a certain income if people work forty hours a week.
It sounds like a wonderful idea. Why shouldn’t Americans be guaranteed a certain level of income for hard work? If you disagree with the idea, you might just be a cruel and heartless person. Well, put me in the cruel and heartless camp. The bumper sticker idea will have long range and terrible consequences.
First, life is not fair. The Democrats are championing this idea to gloss over the fact that their ideas have caused economic stagnation. Instead of allowing the private sector to thrive, they just want to raise taxes from the successful and give to those who are not successful. But life is inherently not fair. Some people will always have better jobs and some people will make better life choices.
Second, this is welfare disguised. By the 1990s — when Bill Clinton was president — we learned that some people could get comfortable living on a welfare check and checked out of work. Their children spiraled into a cycle of dependency and poverty. In Genesis, God put Adam and Eve to work in the garden. There is something soul nourishing about work. When we all get to Heaven we will all have jobs. Getting people comfortable not working sucks their souls away and destroys their families.
But putting people to work and guaranteeing them a lifestyle does much the same. It encourages complacency and saps the desire to get ahead for many people. The reality is that many people can be given incentive to smother their ambitions. Guarantee a roof over their heads, enough money for cable television, and watch as they never strive to do better. Then watch as their children, likewise, accept complacency.
Frankly, it is more immoral to set a floor of income and lifestyle below which someone cannot fall because it provides too many disincentives for too many people to never even try to get off the floor. Democrats claim we should do this for moral and compassionate reasons. The reality is that we should avoid doing it for moral and compassionate reasons.
The well-worn saying about teaching a man to fish versus giving him fish plays directly into why this new idea is terrible. In addition to it being completely outside the history of the world and terrible economics, it will create a new culture of dependency.
Third, we do not have the money. When Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty the national debt was less than $360 billion. By the time President Obama leaves office it will be $22 trillion. Taking from the successful to redistribute to those at the bottom of the economic ladder sounds compassionate and caring. But it will break the bank and take away any incentive for the top to keep generating tax revenue and the bottom to ever get off the floor.