Em­power pri­vate busi­ness, not U.S. bu­reau­crats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

In 1952, Shep­herd Mead wrote a lit­tle book called “How to Suc­ceed in Busi­ness Without Re­ally Try­ing.” In 1961, it be­came an award-winning Broad­way mu­si­cal. It’s an in­struc­tion book about how a young man with lots of drive and cun­ning can rise from the mail­room to the top of the com­pany. One of the songs from the mu­si­cal, sung by the main char­ac­ter, J. Pier­re­pont Finch, is “I Be­lieve in You.” Finch sings it to a mir­ror.

To­day that song might be reti­tled “I Be­lieve in Gov­ern­ment.”

Pres­i­dent Obama de­liv­ered his lat­est speech on job cre­ation and the econ­omy Dec. 8 at the lib­eral Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

As with all of his speeches, this one was loaded with first­per­son ref­er­ences and blame of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion for Amer­ica’s eco­nomic trou­bles. Ap­par­ently Ge­orge W. Bush has fi­nally re­placed Her­bert Hoover as the Democrats’ fa­vorite whip­ping boy. The presi- dent again claimed his Re­cov­ery Act has “cre­ated jobs and spurred growth.” He got the “act” part right. The facts tell a dif­fer­ent story about re­cov­ery.

ABC’s Jake Tap­per an­a­lyzed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s claim to have saved 1 mil­lion jobs when that as­ser­tion was made at the end of Oc­to­ber. Mr. Tap­per wrote, “The ‘ma­jor­ity of funds’ came from state gov­ern­ments be­cause [stim­u­lus] dis­trib­uted the money in block grants to the states. What did the states do with the money? They did save jobs, but pri­mar­ily bu­reau­cratic jobs. States used the money to tem­po­rar­ily pa­per over bud­get gaps which would have forced lay­offs of state em­ploy­ees, which should have been a nec­es­sary step in slim­ming down state-level spending.”

At Brook­ings, the pres­i­dent said, “My eco­nomic team has been con­sid­er­ing a full range of ad­di­tional ideas to help ac­cel­er­ate the pace of pri­vate sec­tor hir­ing. We held a jobs fo­rum at the White House that brought to­gether busi­ness own­ers, CEOs, union mem­bers, economists, folks from non­prof­its, and state and lo­cal of­fi­cials to talk about job cre­ation.”

He might as well have as­sem­bled a group of sci­en­tists to dis­cuss how wa­ter is made. The com­bi­na­tion of two parts hy­dro­gen to one part oxy­gen is learned in Chem­istry 101. The way to cre­ate jobs is to al­low busi­nesses to make suf­fi­cient prof­its so they can af­ford to hire more work­ers and man­u­fac­ture more “wid­gets.” If busi­nesses must pay more in taxes to gov­ern­ment and more in health care costs, there will be less profit and fewer em­ploy­ees. Why is that for­mula so dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand?

Union and state work­ers don’t cre­ate jobs. Nether do economists and non­prof­its. Non­prof­its ex­ist be­cause peo­ple and com­pa­nies have enough money left over to con­trib­ute. If the donors are mak­ing less, they will con­trib­ute less, and non­prof­its, like for-prof­its, will lay peo­ple off, or not hire new em­ploy­ees.

The pres­i­dent also wants to “in­vest” in in­fra­struc­ture and “cre­ate jobs” by giv­ing peo­ple “in­cen­tives” to pre­vent their homes from leak­ing heat in win­ter and cool air in sum­mer. Hasn’t that been tried in pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions? And the pres­i­dent wants to give tax in­cen­tives so em­ploy­ers will hire work­ers. But the “in­cen­tives” are mi­nus­cule com­pared to the salary and ben­e­fits it would cost an em­ployer to hire some­one.

The pres­i­dent would achieve real suc­cess by cut­ting taxes, elim­i­nat­ing un­nec­es­sary regu- la­tions and lib­er­at­ing the free en­ter­prise sys­tem to do what it does best: cre­ate prod­ucts and ser­vices peo­ple will buy so that com­pa­nies will hire peo­ple.

That has al­ways been the for­mula that has pro­duced a strong Amer­i­can econ­omy. Gov­ern­ment pro­duces lit­tle that peo­ple want to buy. Gov­ern­ment mostly takes from those who pro­duce. Gov­ern­ment can spread wealth, as this pres­i­dent is at­tempt­ing to do — but it can’t cre­ate wealth. So by spread­ing wealth rather than al­low­ing wealth to be cre­ated, the re­sult is less wealth to spread.

Why can’t lib­er­als un­der­stand this? It is be­cause this pres­i­dent and much of his ad­min­is­tra­tion have never punched a time clock or run a busi­ness.

The eco­nomic power of Amer­ica is in Amer­i­cans, not in gov­ern­ment.

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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