Sunday, November 30, 2014

Progressives Against Progress

In 2009, Democrats hoisted another trillion dollars of debt onto our descendants in a cynical attempt to "create" jobs. The so-called "stimulus" bill is what happens when politicians see a crisis as an opportunity to buy patronage with other people's money. The bill was not passed to spur economic activity and reduce unemployment and it certainly didn't. Barack Obama admitted as much with his Gruber-like mocking of the fools who bought into his "shovel-ready" sales pitch.

Both "public servants" and capitalists are motivated by their own self-interest. The former connive to separate property from its proper owners and use the proceeds to pay tribute to their (the politicians) benefactors. The latter seek profit-making opportunities by offering goods and services that people need and want, which in turn results in economic growth. Contra Hillary Clinton, the only job-creators are corporations and businesses. At best, government is a grateful bystander and at worst, a job destroyer. One of the most grating of campaign promises, made by Democrats and Republicans alike, is the commitment to create jobs. The only effective job-creating policy is to let free enterprise operate with a minimum of regulatory oversight. That way, jobs are created, and living standards improve, at no cost to taxpayers.

The Keystone Pipeline, (speaking of shovel ready), is a prime example of a privately funded, employment producing, economically and environmentally beneficial project that wouldn't cost us a dime. But it's opposed by the "green" lobby which pays for the election of Democrats. The result is the project gets shelved indefinitely, oil gets shipped by the far more environmentally hazardous rail car and oil tanker, and the Canadian government begins planning for an alternate pipeline, one that transverses its country, avoiding the U.S. altogether.

Opposing the beneficial and the successful is a defining characteristic of the left. Even an industry as mundane as retail has come under attack. Kevin Williamson's latest column examines the breathtaking hypocrisy of "social justice" warriors who protest Wal-Mart, an American corporation that has had an overwhelmingly positive global impact. Among its notable achievements has been making the poor less poor. Aside from providing employment for vast amounts of people - 1.3 million in the U.S. (almost 1% of all people employed in the country!) and 2.2 million worldwide, many of whom are not highly skilled or educated, it sells affordable necessities to low income customers.

It is remarkable that Wal-Mart, a company that makes a modest profit margin (typically between 3 percent and 3.5 percent) selling ordinary people ordinary goods at low prices, is the great hate totem for the well-heeled Left, whose best-known celebrity spokesclowns would not be caught so much as downwind from a Supercenter, while at the same time, nobody is out with placards and illiterate slogans and generally risible moral posturing in front of boutiques dealing in Rolex, Prada, Hermès, et al.


If economic “exploitation” means making “obscene profits” — an empty cliché if ever there were one — then Wal-Mart and the oil companies ought to be the good guys; not only do they have relatively low profit margins, but they also support millions of union workers and retirees through stock profits and the payment of dividends into pension funds. By way of comparison, consider that Hermès, the luxury-goods label that is a favorite of well-heeled social justice warriors of all sorts, makes a profit margin that is typically seven or eight times what Wal-Mart makes, even though, as rapper Lloyd Banks discovered, its $1,300 sneakers may not always be up to the task. If Wal-Mart is the epitome of evil for selling you a Timex at a 3 percent markup, then shouldn’t Rolex be extra-super evil?


A few weeks ago, I was very much amused by the sight of anti-Wal-Mart protests in Manhattan — where there is no Wal-Mart, and where, if Bill de Blasio et al. have their way, there never will be. Why? Because we’re too enlightened to let our poor neighbors pay lower prices. The head-clutchingly expensive shops up on Fifth and Madison avenues? No protests. Rather, they were bustling with the same class of people behind the protests, people busily accumulating — or at least making like Holly Golightly in the window at Tiffany’s.


Ironically, the anti-Wal-Mart crusaders want to make life worse for people who are literally counting pennies as they shop for necessities. Study after study has shown that Wal-Mart has meaningfully reduced prices: 3.1 percent overall, by one estimate — with a whopping 9.1 percent cut to the price of groceries. That comes to about $2,300 a year per household, savings that accrue overwhelmingly to people of modest incomes, not to celebrity activists and Ivy League social-justice crusaders.

Read it all here.

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