The Trouble with Giving Speeches
Only a week after the president's state of the union speech, which included much about re-invigorating American innovation (spurred of course by massive government investment) The Washington Post reported that America's 3rd largest maker of solar panels is eliminating 800 jobs here and re-locating its factory to China.
Now, there are spurts of innovation that are likely only accomplished with the government leading and funding the parade; the space program comes to mind. But these should be few and far between, not the intended foundation of the entire economy. The Obama Idea that everything emanates from and requires the parental hand of government, and must be supported by government spending is so long ago and thoroughly discredited it's akin to suggesting tribal rain dances to avert global warming.
Under Obama, the biggest 'change' has been capital stampeding from the marketplace in search of parking places - from mattresses to gold bricks to corporate reserves - anywhere but America. Banks are exiting the small business marketplace, starving the real energy of job creation of fuel.
And the greatest of all assets and drivers of economic growth, optimism, is in hiding.
Even ultra-liberal comedian-slash-pundit Bill Maher is making fun of the plethora of 'America's Stimulus Money at Work' orange signs dotting roadsides everywhere - with no hard-hat wearing, shovels-in-hand work crews actually doing anything. Where, Maher moaned on this week's show, are the construction cranes? What he and Obama don't grasp is that money shoveled out of Washington never works very well at getting construction cranes set up and people put to work. To be fair, there is one gigantic Government Works Program that does provide a lot of jobs and threatens to provide more, which I'll get to in a minute.
Obama walked over to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the other day and lectured business leaders about their obligations, chastised them for hoarding capital and exporting jobs. 'Get in the game!' he exhorted them.
What the president doesn't get is that they are very much in the game as it is played and must be played: deploying assets where they can do the most good for their owners. They are doing what they must in the face of mushrooming actual and threatened regulatory expansion, new and additional taxes tacked on to the sky-high corporate tax rate, and the fact that the very act of hiring someone is an increasingly dangerous and expensive act. America is being made, by the day, less accommodating to business and capital. Neither stern lecture nor motivational speech alters that.
In fact, this little episode reveals the single, biggest, overriding and underlying problem with the Obama administration: he thinks speeches solve problems.
For the record, that one government scheme that has a track record of creating and sustaining jobs in the public and private sector is our criminally Byzantine, productivity crippling tax system. Were it ever legitimately reformed and simplified, legions of private sector accountants and tax lawyers would need to find honest and productive work, and, of course, the enormous IRS empire would be dismantled, sending its army in search of work as well.
This is why all talk of tax reform is fantastical, not because of the chief excuse; that a flat tax or sales tax in place of income tax would disproportionately tax the poor. Henry Bloch of H & R Bloch is out plugging a book and making that argument on talk shows.
But this deep concern for low income earners hasn't stopped anyone from laying tax upon tax and raising taxes on cigarettes. A pack a day smoker earning $15,000 a year pays a much higher percentage of his income in those taxes than does a pack a day smoker earning $50,000 - horribly unfair. And if Michelle has her way, you can count on similar taxes on evil fast food, disproportionately impacting lower income consumers. State lotteries are also a way to tax people too poor to otherwise be taxed. Don't be fooled by the fairness blathering. Our tax system is as horrid as it is and will get worse because it is the only successful government-based provider of jobs in both public and private sectors.
A true revival of the American economy will begin with two political changes: rejection of the idea that government can tax, spend and decree us into prosperity or innovation, and two, the even more mystical belief that speeches equal solutions.