Elizabeth Warren is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts. She has elicited praises from liberals for her comment that “no body got rich on their own.” She added “part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that (your profits/ earnings) and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Jeff Jacoby retorts in his Boston Globe article Professor Warren’s ire – 9/28/11
Warren’s words reflect the infatuation with government and condescension toward private initiative that have been such hallmarks of the Obama presidency. Her eagerness to minimize the entrepreneur’s achievement while exalting the role of the public sector may win cheers on the Left, but it puts her sharply at odds with mainstream voters.
By overwhelming margins, Americans think well of small businesses and those who create them — Gallup found last year that 84 percent of respondents had a positive image of “entrepreneurs,” and 95 percent felt positive toward “small business.” The public’s view of government, by contrast, could hardly be worse: In a poll out this week, 81 percent of Americans — a record high — express displeasure with their government. Last month, respondents ranked government dead last among 25 business and industry sectors.
Of course that doesn’t mean that some government isn’t necessary. Warren’s implication that Republicans or conservatives who decry “class warfare” are unwilling to pay for roads, schools, or police and fire protection is childish. Not even the most libertarian Tea Partier, never mind a moderate like Brown, wants to zero out basic public services. Warren doesn’t need to hector factory owners, imaginary or otherwise, into acknowledging that they benefit from highways and police departments, or that those benefits need to be paid for.
What’s a lot harder to explain is how they benefit from the kind of government incompetence that can turn a $2.8 billion Big Dig project into a $22 billion Big Dig scandal. Or from government loan guarantees thatsquander fortunes on Solyndra and other ventures in “green” crony capitalism. Or from vast government entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, with their trillions in unfunded obligations andunsustainable costs. Or from government subsidies for airports nobody uses and broadcasters that can support themselves.
And even a Harvard law professor — at least one who aspires to the US Senate — has to realize that most entrepreneurs get rich only when they create value for others.
Yes, there is an “underlying social contract” on which civilized society depends. But there are two sides to that contract — and more to its terms than just taxing away ever-bigger “hunks” of wealth from people who succeed. When 81 percent of Americans are fed up with their government, and when that government already spends far beyond its means, is it really the risk-takers of the private sector who deserve Professor Warren’s ire?
One of the tricks played with the truth is a false choice. The choice is not between no taxes and high taxes. It is childish to propose otherwise. We all know taxes are necessary for property protection and infrastructure and some social services. But to assume that the government can spend whatever amount it desires as part of the social contract is intellectually false. To assume that half the people should pay no taxes is equally shallow. To ignore the reality that higher taxes can reduce both economic growth and government revenues is economically ignorant. And to assume that paying people money they did not earn for long periods of time will not disrupt our social fabric is morally blind.