Carville, Rove, and Eastwood – Political Masterminds

20121004-161626.jpgThe Great Communicator he wasn’t. I’ve always been impressed by President Obama’s ability to deliver a stirring speech. But the first presidential debate between him and Governor Romney put the President in the worst possible light. I really got the feeling he didn’t want to be there, and that he wasn’t all that prepared. There were no major gaffs by the President, though I did think the time when he asked Jim Lehrer to change the topic was about as close as it gets to asking Regis to Phone-a-Friend.

Romney on the other hand, was more aggressive than I’ve seen him. He looked like he was ready to pounce, loaded with ammunition, and willing to use it. I don’t think the President was prepared for this. I think he thought he and Romney would both give stump speeches, highlight their differences, and move on. But the Professor took a beating from the Millionaire while their wives and millions of others looked on. It never got nasty, but it did the one thing the President was hoping to avoid. It made Romney look presidential, and made the President look like an empty suit.

Tough Love from Tampa

I remember when W. ran for president in 2000 on the platform of Compassionate Conservatism. The idea was that Republicans would embrace many of the social programs that helped the needy while still maintaining their free-market orientation. It was supposed to be a way to win an election, help the poor, and still scale back government. It worked on the first count. I’m not sure about the second. The third was a terrible failure. Let’s face it. We are in big trouble with our national debt. Compassionate Conservatism didn’t help. Hope and Change made it worse.

The self-evident problem is that we spend more money that we have. A lot more. Even if we embraced the President’s proposal to tax the richest 1% of Americans at a higher rate, it still doesn’t close the gap. Either we start taxing many more people at a much higher rate, or we come to the conclusion that we can’t sustain this any longer. Having spent last week watching the RNC convention in Tampa, I’m hopeful we might have turned a corner.

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Mr. Alger, Please Report to Central Planning…

President Obama, who has no experience in the private sector, believes that running a successful business is a collective enterprise.  The President recently told a group of supporters in Virginia that people who are successful in business didn’t make it on hard work and determination alone.  To the contrary,  their success is owed in part to the Government, which provides roads, bridges, teachers, and a helping hand. In short, the President said “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” 

What the President is trying to say is that Government is partly responsible for successful business ventures, and as such, it has a right to partake in the financial rewards.  This worldview bothers me on three levels.  First, Government already benefits from the success of businesses by collecting part of their earnings in taxes.  The President would like to take a little more, and raise that tax rate, to compensate for Government’s helping hand.  Second, when businesses fail the Government is nowhere to be seen.  Most small business ventures don’t make it.  The Government will let the entrepreneur take all the risk, but only partakes of  the success, sort of like the bad in-law who only shows up to eat the Thanksgiving meal but never helps prepare it or clear the table.  Last,  it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how free markets work, and what makes America great.    Across the country, men and women sacrifice their time, risk their financial futures, and strain their personal relationships,  for a chance at a better life.  They create jewelry stores and  coffee shops out of nothing.  They do this because they want better for themselves and their families.  Their success doesn’t cost me anything.  Nor do I claim that I am part owner because I pay taxes for roads and bridges that facilitate commerce.   I’m happy for them.  The President, and some of his supporters, somehow feel jilted. 

Government creates nothing.  What is does provide is a blank slate by staying out of the way and letting people reap the rewards of their dreams, labor, and sacrifice.  People still come from all over the world, like Horatio Alger of yesteryear, for a chance at the American Dream.  For the President to claim that roads and bridges and political stability entitle the Government to take credit for a successful business venture is like saying that because public schools teach kids to read, Government is responsible for the success of Harry Potter.   Its nonsense, and most of us understand that.

I’m not sure where the President developed this mindset, but he might be better off reading more Horatio Alger and less Harry Potter.  Even in the end, young Harry had to leave the fantasy world and come home.