Obama's Sterilized Society

Chalk one up to President Obama.  He's got a 2-month extension of payroll tax cuts in the teeth of opposition from those wascally Wepublicans, so that two months from now we can have the fight all over again.

I suppose that the president's chief objective in this vicious little fight was to remind the voters which of the two parties was the Stupid Party.  Count me as stupid, too.  I thought that the FICA payroll taxes were sacred to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and could not be touched.

We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.

So, Mr. President, when you start monkeying around those taxes aren't you desecrating the holy Trust Fund?  And once the holy of holies has been violated, doesn't it lose its totemic power to reduce Republicans to 98-pound weaklings? 

Imagine the wailing and the gnashing of teeth if President Bush had pulled a trick like this.

But at least you are tacitly admitting that the crushing taxes that Democrats have laid on the brow of labor are a problem.  That is progress.  For if swingeing taxes on wages are bad during a halting recovery, why are they any better at any other stage in the business cycle, Mr. President?

I've suggested elsewhere that many marginal small businesses thrown up their hands with all the taxes and regulations and gone "off-the-books."  That way the employer doesn't pay the 35 percent markup to FICA, unemployment, and workers' comp.  The employees benefit too.  They can collect cash wages and government welfare benefits at the same time.  That's what I call win-win, and game theorists call a "positive-sum" game. For the players.

But you and I are above all that, Mr. President.  You can cop a reference to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and I can quote Ludwig von Mises with the best of them.  So let's talk ideas.

The government insurance programs like Social Security, unemployment,  and worker's comp. are terrible ideas, because they sterilize the workers' savings.  Here's what I mean.

If I contribute to Social Security starting as a twentysomething, my accumulated balance is useless to me until I retire.  Same with unemployment: useless unless I lose my job.

Hey, who cares?  At least the money is there when I need it.

No, Mr. President.  You just don't get it.  When a worker saves money for a rainy day, he does not segregate the money into "retirement" or "job loss," he knows the money is available for any purpose.  From the point of view of Americans looking for jobs, one such purpose is a very important one: starting a new business.

In most stories about successful businesses, a common theme is that the startup capital often comes from the founder's home equity.  Right now, of course, with upwards of 40 percent of mortgages underwater, very few entrepreneurs can get the capital to get started.  No home equity, no startup.  No startups, no economic growth.

Now imagine if our budding entrepreneur could borrow money from his Social Security account, or his personal unemployment fund, because they were genuine savings that each worker owned and could borrow against.  Imagine if the savings of the workers of America weren't sterilized in government trust funds being spent by some damn politician on crony capitalist investments like wind turbines.  The economy would now be expanding briskly and you, Mr. President, would be looking forward confidently to reelection.

In my view, the sterilized savings problem is merely a poster boy for a bigger problem, that liberalism and the welfare state sterilize everything that moves.  The outstanding fact about human society is its fecundity.  The economy is millions of people exchanging goods and services, serving themselves by serving others.  Society is millions of people influencing each other morally and culturally, adjusting every day the social and cultural norms in the light of everyday experience and timeless wisdom.  Family is millions of people exchanging tokens of love and hope and bringing jillions of bouncing babies out into the world.

But liberals like you, Mr. President, are opposed to all this.  You want the economy sterilized and regulated by experts; you want society sterilized and equalized by bureaucrats; you want families sterilized, er, "planned" to save the world from "overpopulation," and you privilege sterile sexual couplings by promoting "birth control" and "gay marriage." 

We will pull up here, and not mention the sterility of modern architecture, because that would be going too far.

It all boils down to this: Conservatives are pro-life and fecundity.  Liberals are pro-choice and sterility.

Never mind your class war, Mr. President.  Let's have a war on sterility.

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.usAt americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.