Soaking The Rich… Again

Carlos Watson argues that the solution to our fiscal problems is to tax the living daylights out of the “rich” in the hopes of making up for a $5 trillion hole in our national finances.

That solution will not work.

For one, there aren’t enough “rich” people to make up for the current deficit. We could raise taxes to 99% and not came close—and then the rich people would either cease to be rich, or get their assets out of the country faster than you can say “Nancy Pelosi.” What you would have would be capital flight on a truly nightmarish scale.

In order to make up that kind of shortfall, you would not have to tax only the Bill Gateses or Warren Buffetts of the U.S.—you’d have to start taxing everyone who makes a decent living. Our professional classes are already taking a huge hit in this economy—engineers and lawyers are applying for $10/hour jobs because of the economic downturn. If we start taxing them, they will buy less, they will use less services, and the ripple effect will continue right on down the line. It will make the economy worse rather than better.

Taxing the “rich” isn’t going to solve this mess, nor is more government intervention. The sad state of our economy is due to too much government intervention and far too much debt, both public and private. In order to fix this mess we all need to start spending in line with our realistic priorities and not spending money we don’t have.

Taking more money from people with their heads barely above water and giving it to an irresponsible government is not a solution for this economy; it is economic suicide.

Capping Prosperity, Trading It For Poverty

As the media fixates on the death of Michael Jackson, Congress stands ready to enact the largest and most regressive tax hike in history in the guise of “cap-and-trade.” Jim Lindgren explains why this bill is so dangerous:

The cap-and-trade bill, if passed by the Senate and actually implemented over the next few decades, would do more damage to the country than any economic legislation passed in at least 100 years. It would eventually send most American manufacturing jobs overseas, reduce American competitiveness, and make Americans much poorer than they would have been without it.

The cap-and-trade bill will have little, if any, positive effect on the environment — in part because the countries that would take jobs from US industries tend to be bigger polluters. By making the US — and the world — poorer, it would probably reduce the world’s ability to develop technologies that might solve its environmental problems in the future.

Cap-and-trade is a joke—it is a policy that has already failed in Europe and in virtually guaranteed to fail here in the United States. By giving in to the demands of radical environmentalists, Congress is preparing to take our current recession and plunge it into depression.

As the media focuses once again on celebrity, the advent of the next Great Depression comes closer. Cap-and-trade is terrible policy enacted for foolish reasons, and we will all pay the price for it if we allow it to pass.

Some People Just Don’t Get It

Bill Maher flaunts his ignorance once again over the issue of the Tea Party protests. Like many who live in a comfortable cocoon of left-wing orthodoxy, Maher fails to understand that the reaction to the Obama Administration is about matters of substance. Maher rants:

t’s been a week now, and I still don’t know what those “tea bag” protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who’s going to win “American Idol.” But it wasn’t tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that’s when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because … well, nobody knows. They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Even though they’re not quite sure what “it” is. But they know they’re fed up with “it,” and that “it” has got to stop.

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

Mr. Maher, here is what “it” is, in a way that even you can understand:


This is what President Obama is doing to this country. Former President Bush was fiscally irresponsible enough, but what Obama is doing is sheer madness. Trying to use government to fix the economy will not work. The bailouts are failing. The housing market is still in the toilet. Lenders are still holding back. If that isn’t a reason to be worried about the future, then it is time to pull your head out of the sand and look at the numbers.

When it was politically convenient, liberals pretended to care about the effect of massive deficits on the future of America. Now that Obama is in office, who cares about a few trillion here or there?

The Tea Party movement is not a partisan movement. There is great anger at the GOP for not leading on the issues of our time and allowing government to grow out of control during their tenure in office. This is a protest based on principles: in fact, it is a protest based on the classically republican principles that the United States should have a limited federal government of enumerated powers.

Maher, like many, think that just because Obama won an election, that means his policies are 1) popular and 2) right for the country. Neither are true. Winning an election doesn’t vindicate your policy prescriptions now any more than it did in 2004. Obama’s ham-handed handling of the economy, his Quixotic campaign against the Bush Administration on torture, and his constant prostrations before America’s enemies from Iran to Venezuela all demonstrate how radical he truly is. His popularity is being supported by a fawning media and a public that is hardly paying attention. Obama’s gotten the same honeymoon that most new Presidents get. But in time, his star will fade, as all Presidents do.

When that happens, the arrogance of Mr. Maher may come back to bite him. Politics in America is cyclical, and given the radical course that President Obama has set for this country, it may well be the Tea Parties that get the last laugh.

You Can’t Squeeze Blood From A Turnip

E.J. Dionne does what Democrats love to do, except when running for public office: call for a massive increase in American taxes. Again, he demonstrates the fundamental flaws in the Democratic understanding of basic economics:

He’s right that a large share of any increase should hit those who enjoyed the biggest income gains over the last decade. But in the end, no politician (with the possible exception of libertarian Ron Paul) is willing to cut the budget enough to contain the deficit without a general tax increase down the road.

Every budget analyst knows this, and every politician knows that it’s far easier to bemoan deficits in the abstract than to risk spending cuts or tax increases that hurt sizeable groups of voters. “There are no more low-hanging fruit,” says Tom Kahn, the staff director for the House Budget Committee. “The low-hanging fruit have already been picked. Any tax increase or spending cut is going to trigger opposition from somewhere.”

In an ideal world, Obama would come right out and say we’ll need broad-based tax increases. But that would be suicidal right now. Witness the reaction to his effort to put a 28 percent ceiling on deductions. His proposal would affect only 1.2 percent of taxpayers, yet even that idea is about to die in Congress.

Dionne is correct in one aspect: just raising taxes on the “top 5 percent” isn’t going to do anything. President Obama could raise the top marginal tax rate to 99% and still never get nearly enough money to pay for his additional proposed spending, no less the entire federal deficit. The idea that raising the top marginal tax rate from 36% to 39% will be anything more than a tiny drop in the bucket compared to Obama’s radical spending plans is ridiculous. Even combining that with removing payroll tax caps, limiting deductions, etc., won’t nearly be enough.

So, is a broad tax increase the answer? Dionne suggests yes. But that answer is self-evidently incorrect. Exactly what is going to be accomplished by adding to the tax burden of the American people in the middle of a recession that is precipitously close to becoming a depression? Where is the average American member of the middle class going to get the extra money to pay off Uncle Sam’s never-ending appetites? People are already cutting back on their spending—raising taxes would cause them to cut back even more. When the economy is already having problems with paradox of thrift, why would policymakers try for a plan that would reduce consumer activity even more?

The root of this whole problem was bad policy. We let everyone get over-leveraged, homeowners, banks, and even the government. Now, instead of tightening their belts, our “leaders” in Washington D.C. are trying to find every inventive new way they can to spend even more money. Dionne is also right in that just nibbling away at the margin will not do it—we have to re-evaluate the massive and virtually uncontrolled growth of government.

Raising taxes and having government “invest” that money will not work. Government is subject to the political process, which virtually guarantees waste. If anyone thinks that Congress will rationally allocate money based on the national interest, then they have a fundamentally irrational faith in government unjustified by facts or common sense.

Raising taxes is simply not the answer. In a time when the American people are cutting back, losing their jobs, and losing their homes, it is grotesquely irresponsible for government to demand even more of their hard-earned money—they don’t have the money to give. The argument that somehow the government will spend its way out of this recession is completely unjustified. Those who think that we should follow the example of FDR had better hope the Europeans start slaughtering each other so we can bomb them to rubble and then help them rebuild—it was World War II and not the New Deal that finally ended the Great Depression. We do not have the ability to spend our way out of this—and all Dionne would have us do is feed the beast more.

What needs to be done? For one, we need to re-evaluate our view of what government does. Nearly all of our current problems can be traced to government intervention. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cook their books because they (and everyone else) knew that they were “too big to fail” and if anything went wrong, Uncle Sam would bail them out. For all the talk about how it was deregulation that caused this mess, the reality is that the less heavily regulated industries are doing better than the most heavily regulated ones. The idea that banks were living in some kind of libertarian paradise and government wasn’t watching everything they did is completely wrong. The banking industry was, and is, heavily regulated. The problem was that the big players (Countrywide, for example) could “buy” Congress and get them to pass laws and rules favorable to them.

The answer is to make sure that this kind of capture can’t happen again. The best way to do that is to make sure that Congress can’t rewrite the rules to line their own pockets. That means not only tougher ethics reform in Congress, but also preventing Congress from being able to screw around with the nation’s economy. Everyone treats this as a demand problem—but it’s really a supply problem. If Congress could only do so much to regulate the industry, there would be no incentive for companies to spend billions on influence peddling. There would be no point to doing so—even if they wanted to, Congress couldn’t stack the deck in their favor.

That means restricting the power of government, except in making sure that companies act transparently. The government does have some need to interfere with the market, but what we are seeing now is when government substitutes the “wisdom” of someone like Tim Geithner for the judgment of the market—quite literally making Geithner the one who gets to make all the rules. Even if Geithner were an unqualified genius, this sort of concentration of power is dangerous.

What we need is less government, not more. What we need is the development of the private sector, not more reliance on government employment. What we need is less of a tax burden, not more. We need a government that does a few things and does them well, not a government that tries to do everything and ends up failing more often than not.

Dionne is wrong at the core of his argument—the level of government spending is unsustainable, and we can never raise taxes enough to cover the difference—and if we tried it would further depress the economy. We cannot keep hoping that the same top-down solutions will work. We cannot just assume that substantive entitlement reform is off the table.

This nation is at a crossroads. We can either continue to spend our way into bankruptcy or we can start looking at alternatives. Raising taxes only makes things worse. We cannot blindly put our faith in government, but must look back to the basics of what makes our economy strong: hard work, a government that promotes opportunity, and a government that is small but effective. The more we stray from those basics, the harder things will be in the future.

Weapon Of Mass Wealth Destruction

Bloomberg has a deeply critical piece written by Kevin Hassett arguing that Obama has declared “war” on American business. This may seem like hyperbole, but the evidence bears it out:

Imagine that some hypothetical enemy state spent years preparing a “Manchurian Candidate” to destroy the U.S. economy once elected. What policies might that leader pursue?

He might discourage private capital from entering the financial sector by instructing his Treasury secretary to repeatedly promise a brilliant rescue plan, but never actually have one. Private firms, spooked by the thought of what government might do, would shy away from transactions altogether. If the secretary were smooth and played rope-a-dope long enough, the whole financial sector would be gone before voters could demand action.

Another diabolical idea would be to significantly increase taxes on whatever firms are still standing. That would require subterfuge, since increasing tax rates would be too obvious. Our Manchurian Candidate would have plenty of sophisticated ideas on changing the rules to get more revenue without increasing rates, such as auctioning off “permits.”

Now, Obama is no “Manchurian Candidate”, but he is doing everything he can to bring the economy into depression. His policy goals will continue the already unprecedented destruction of American wealth that has resulted since his elections. The markets, looking ahead to the Obama Administration, have reacted with panic. They see the future wealth-destroying effects of higher taxes, more government intrusion into the markets, a socialized system of health care, and a reckless “cap and trade” system that will push energy prices sky-high.

The markets are seeing Obama clearly for what he is: a weapon of mass wealth destruction.

If Obama wants to restore the economy, he would restore the engine of American prosperity: American business. Yet through higher taxes and more unnecessary and unneeded regulations, the Obama Administration has already put itself out as strongly anti-business. Small business owners are already trying to do whatever they can to get through the next four years, and that means continuing to stockpile rather than sell and cutting as many jobs as we can.

I have always said that liberalism will always fail because its premises are wrong. Obama has barely started to enact his agenda, and already the results speak for themselves. Into Year Two of the Obama Recession, it’s going to be very hard for the left to blame the previous President for the bad economy—not that they won’t. But the reality will be that Obama’s policies will not create wealth, they will destroy it. We will all suffer due to this reckless experimentation. What we are seeing in the markets is a clear-headed response to Obama’s policies—and the markets will continue to sink unless this nation changes its current, disastrous course.

Atlas Is Shrugging

The U.S. economy shed 598,000 jobs in January, the worst job loss since 1974. There is no doubt that the U.S. economy is in a state of crisis. Our government is only making it worse.

It is more than mere coincidence that this huge job loss occurred in the same month that President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The Ledbetter Act basically means that employers can be sued for “paycheck discrimination” years after the events occurred. In Ms. Ledbetter’s case, the alleged discrimination happened so far ago that the supervisor involved had not only left the company, but died. This Act, instead of making things “fairer” for employees, puts a massive burden on employers who now have to worry about lawsuits stemming from events decades old.

This is what the business environment will be like under the Obama Administration. There will be more regulations and those regulations will be written by representatives of big industries and radical special interests. There will be higher taxes on everything from corporate income taxes to personal income taxes to the estate tax, and there is a strong possibility of a carbon tax that will raise prices on every single good that needs shipping. The web of regulations, higher taxes, and the way society is treating the very idea of entrepreneurialism is making American business falter.

The result: more lost American jobs.

This “stimulus” bill will not help. It will give hundreds of billions to political contributors, and barely anything to American small business. Big business, the ones with the lawyers and lobbyists, have already gamed the system. The Democratic Party has no room for the interests of American small business, even though their employees are half of the American workforce. The situation for American small business will be dire: not only will there be more taxes, more regulation, and more self-righteous condemnation from Washington, but the credit markets are still tight. Unless you’re in a field that will be the recipient of government spending, like health care or road construction, forget hiring employees, you have to cut expenses to the bone right now.

American jobs are being lost because we are punishing the people who create them.

President Obama and the irresponsible Congressional Democrats are pushing this recession into a depression. Their wrong-headed pro-government economic policy is turning America into a banana republic. It is crucial that they be stopped.

Atlas is shrugging, and the world is at the brink of tumbling right off.

A Case Study In Why Higher Taxes Hurt People

Minesota has the second-highest business property tax rate in the United States. In a time when the retail sector is already taking a pounding, this additional burden is forcing retailers to abandon the state. World Market, one of my favorite stores, is one of the retailers pulling out of the state entirely.

I’m sure all the wonderful “government services” purchased with those tax dollars will help. Myself, I’d rather that business stay open and those people who work there have their jobs.

The central reason I’m not a liberal is because the idiocy of taxing businesses to death to expand the government dole is so transparent. We need jobs, not handouts, and right now our government is strangling us to death in red tape and drowning us in a sea of debt.

Bush’s Legacy

Tomorrow, George W. Bush rides off into history. The left is breathing a sigh of relief, their Emmanuel Goldstein is gone (although soon they will find another). Bush leaves an unpopular President—but so did Harry S. Truman. In many ways, Bush and Truman have had similar trajectories. Both began their terms in a time of war, and both made unpopular decisions. Like Truman, Bush will likely be vindicated by history. The narrow-mindedness and ravenous partisanship of Bush’s critics will become less and less relevant as time goes on, and a more fair-minded exploration of Bush’s legacy can begin.

George W. Bush has been systematically turned into a monster by the media. Bush the man has been obscured.

As a point of disclosure, I am only partially a fan of the President. His performance after September 11 was a masterstroke. The decision to invade Iraq was the correct one based on what was known at that point in history. At the same time, Bush’s second term was a disaster. When the President nominated the comically unsuitable Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, it was clear that Bush’s instincts for loyalty had become a flaw rather than a benefit. It was Gen. Petraeus and Sen. McCain that pushed for the surge against a recalcitrant Rumsfeld and Bush. The surge is what won the war in Iraq, and Bush only belatedly endorsed it. The Katrina disaster should not have been laid at Bush’s feet, but putting Michael Brown as the head of FEMA was unquestionably bad judgment. Bush’s tax cuts helped restore the U.S. economy and created millions of jobs. His wasteful spending and statist policies hurt the economy.

Where Bush has failed the most is where he abandoned conservative principles. The left wants to paint him as a radical conservative activist. The truth could not be more radically different. Bush dramatically expanded the size and scope of the federal government. He pushed for a massive increase in entitlement spending under Medicare Part D. He dramatically increased federal spending at nearly all levels. Hardly a fan of deregulation, it was under Bush’s watch that the ill-considered Sarbanes-Oxley bill was passed into law, a bill which dramatically increased the regulation of business. The picture of George W. Bush as laissez-faire radical could not be further from reality.

At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts helped keep the 2001-2003 recession from deepening. They helped America create millions of new jobs. Without them, it’s likely that Bush would never have been reelected. Those tax cuts put money back into the hands of working Americans. While Bush’s economic policies were flawed at best, it was not because of the tax cuts, but because of too much emphasis on state action.

The war in Iraq remains controversial, and will for some time. It seems quite possible that the Hussein regime systematically misled the entire world into believing that they had WMDS. It seems quite possible that the Hussein regime was lying to itself about what it really had. That is unsurprising for an dysfunctional autocracy like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. What did not happen is some sinister conspiracy to “lie” about WMDs to settle some personal score or gain access to oil. The Bush Administration weighed what evidence it had and made a decision based on that evidence. The evidence turned out to be deeply flawed. But the image of a Bush Administration hell-bent on war that was discarding mountains of contradictory evidence has no basis in reality. If Leon Panetta tells President Obama that a country has WMDs and terrorist ties and there is a “slam dunk” case for it, the same principle should apply. A President should never give the benefit of the doubt to this nation’s enemies. A President’s job, first and foremost, is to act on the evidence available and act decisively. President Bush did that, and President Obama should do the same.

This war against Islamist terror will continue. The supposed excesses of this war have led to an America that has not suffered another attack, no less a greater one than that visited upon us on September 11, 2001. We are not living in a fascist dictatorship, the Constitution has hardly been shredded, and our civil liberties remain. The hysteria and fear over this war came less from the President and more from his critics. Yet one unassailable fact remains: we have not been attacked since that fateful day. The plans of terrorists have been foiled, their leaders captured or killed, their hideouts destroyed, their money supply imperiled. Modern terrorism is sui generis, and the Bush Administration responded not be repeating the failed methods of the past, but by treating it as the serious threat it was. Did they always get it right? Of course not, but no Presidency could have been expected to. In facing an evolving and dangerous threat, this Presidency did what it could to keep this country safe. After the attacks, it seemed almost assured that we would be attacked again, and harder. Today, those attacks almost seem like a distant memory. We have the vigilance of the Bush Administration to thank for that. For all the flaws of their approach, it worked.

George W. Bush has been systematically turned into a monster by the media. Bush the man has been obscured. Yet George W. Bush is hardly an unfeeling monster. He is not the caricature that he has been made to be. That he has not defended himself is curious, but perhaps he does not think it his role to do so. Instead, the real George W. Bush is a complex character, motivated by an abiding sense of loyalty and faith, but also harmed by those same instincts. Hardly the unfeeling party-boy of the media’s funhouse-mirror image, the real President Bush is the man who would go to Walter Reed and comfort injured vets, rarely making a media event out of it. If we are to learn anything from the past eight years, we must first move beyond the crude image of President Bush painted by an ideologically homogenous media and see the real George W. Bush.

Sadly, it will likely be years before that happens. But history will judge the 43rd President of the United States with far less ideological rancor than there is now, and when his legacy is remembered it won’t be through the distorted lens of a partisan media, but with the hindsight of history. With that hindsight, the legacy of George W. Bush may be far different than what we would think. Like Truman, Bush may be remembered as a President who did what was right, but not what was popular.

Clinton’s Fictional Gas Tax Plan

Sen. Hillary Clinton is pushing her own version of a summer “gas tax holiday”—except that her plan would end up doing absolutely nothing to help consumers. Sen. Obama has been attacking her plan (and McCain’s) as an effort to “pander:”

On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was asked repeated to name an economist who supports her plan to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax. Either she could not or chose not to. “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,” she said, presenting her tax hike plan as a way to life the burden of soaring gas prices off middle class Americans.

Rival Barack Obama has called the plan, which is also backed by Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, Sen. John McCain , “a pander” that won’t solve the high cost of gas. Asked about the gas plan in his interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Sen. Obama, D-Ill., framed the proposal as a “classic Washington gimmick.” “You’re looking at suspending a gas tax for three months. The average driver would save 30 cents per day for a grand total of $28,” claimed Obama.

Although Clinton did not offer her own estimate as to how much relief the holiday would provide, she did try to distinguish her plan from McCain’s. “Senator McCain has said take off the gas tax, don’t pay for it, throw us further into deficit and debt. That is not what I’ve proposed. What I’ve proposed is that the oil companies pay the gas tax instead of consumers and drivers this summer.”

So, what Sen. Clinton proposes is that the oil companies pay the gas tax instead of consumers—and somehow those costs won’t end up getting passed right back to the consumers in the form of higher oil costs. No wonder Sen. Clinton doesn’t want to listen to the advice of people who actually understand economics.

Sen. Obama’s criticisms over the tax aren’t too far off—it is questionable how much a gas tax holiday would actually help consumers, and from a policy standpoint it’s also questionable whether we really want the government encouraging people to use more gasoline than they might this summer.

The Clinton gas tax plan takes the flaws of the McCain plan and magnifies them. At least the McCain plan would actually lower gas prices, while the Clinton plan would just pass the costs right back to consumers. The Clinton plan is definitely a pander—it panders to consumers by pretending to lower gas prices and it panders to anti-corporate sentiment by pretending that the oil companies will take the costs.

Clinton keeps demonstrating that when it comes to economic matters, she’s absolutely clueless—and the fact that she doesn’t want to listen to economists when she formulates economic policy should serve as a reminder why she and the other Democrats not qualified to be deciding this nation’s economic policies.

Barack Obama Versus Alexis De Tocqueville

Armed Liberal, an Obama supporting blogger, has one of the more interesting takes on the whole Obama “bitter-gate” flap from a liberal perspective:

Here’s another thought: Obama believes that the people he’s discussing – poorer, gun-owning, church-going economic left-behinds in rural America are bitter and negative toward government because it hasn’t delivered.

There’s an alternate hypothesis, which is that they don’t think it’s supposed to. That there are a solid body of Americans who believe – with whatever justification or historical validity – that government’s role is to leave them alone. I’ll bet that people who believe those things tend to migrate away from major cities or never move to them, tend to go to church a lot, believe in guns, and in American culture. They are – wait for it – culturally conservative.

I think liberals can reach them, should reach them, and must reach them. I think they can because I think there are ways to reframe the ‘values’ issues that have divided us, and because I think that there is a key issue to bridge – the perceived value of what those poorer, gun-owning, church-going folks in small towns actually get from the government. . . .

I’ve asked for a long time what, exactly the Democratic Party has done in the last 20 years for a typical 35-year-old single mother who works as an administrative assistant in a big city. The answer: not a hell of a lot. Not anything I can think of.

To that I’ll add the question of what the Democratic Party has done in the last 20 years for the 35-year-old son of a factory worker who manages to get temp manufacturing jobs, alongside his wife, and tries to support his three kids doing it. He’s getting by because his dad had a great retirement plan and equity in his house. To him, the government wants to close his hunting areas to protect spotted owls, let his 14 year old daughter get an abortion without his consent, and charge him more and more for the priviledge.

So in a way, I’m agreeing with Obama – without the cultural baggage, which may be devastating to his candidacy.

Armed Liberal is doing something that the Democrats have failed to do—and that is take people who don’t agree with them seriously. That is something that Barack Obama isn’t able to do—because he has absolutely no cultural connection to Middle America. Obama’s statement about “bitter” voters was one of those rare moments in American politics where a candidate does something absolutely fatal: says what he or she actually believes. Obama’s appeal is all about the rhetoric of “hope” and “change” and other empty terms, but Obama’s substance is that of a man of the left. His statement was one in which the “hope” façade briefly slipped and the real Obama slipped through.

Barack Obama really does believe that the reason why cultural conservatives vote the way they do is because they’re “bitter” and they need to be shown the way. That attitude is arrogant and condescending to those who don’t share that viewpoint—but to those who agree, it’s “truth.” It’s the same argument that George Lakoff has been making for years—if one just “reframes” the issues, then Democrats will win the heartland.

It is, unsurprisingly, wrong. The left never really gets America. They don’t understand that cultural conservatism isn’t a recent backlash, but it’s the default state of American political life. Barack Obama, while a very educated and erudite candidate, should probably read some Tocqueville before spouting off again. The values of those Pennsylvania voters isn’t an aberration from the “real” American electorate, it is the real American electorate. Those Pennsylvania voters are the descendants of the largely Scots-Irish frontiersmen and women who settled this nation in the first place. They, for lack of a better term, are America 1.0—the people who made this country what it is.

Obama is from another culture entirely. The reason why he fails to understand the voters of the American Midwest is he has absolutely nothing in common with them. He doesn’t share their culture, their philosophy, their worldview, and he certainly does not share their view of government.

Armed Liberal gets it right: Pennsylvania voters do see government as a problem rather than as a source of all solutions. The problem is that the Democrats aren’t going to change that by promising more government solutions. It isn’t about getting “value” from government—although that is important—it is that every time that the power of the state is increased, the power of the people is necessarily decreased. They don’t understand that opposition to Big Government isn’t pig-headed obstructionism, but it’s entirely pragmatic. They don’t get that there’s a reason while Middle America would rather get help from their neighbors and their churches than from a government agency. They don’t understand concepts like subsidiarity (which even though most Middle American voters don’t know the term, they understand the concept) and how important it is to have solutions that are close to the people rather than diffused to Washington. This country was founded on the principles of limited government by and for the people, supported and enriched by an innumerable array of voluntary organizations. That is the America of Alexis de Tocqueville and Andrew Jackson, and that is the America that still represents a key plurality in American politics today.

Barack Obama is a very intelligent person, a fantastic orator, and certainly someone who cares for people. He is also from a culture that is relatively alien to traditional American values. Despite all the passion from his supporters, the cold, hard reality remains that Barack Obama will never be President of the United States. He can’t reach out to Middle America because he is not of Middle America, and he doesn’t understand the culture of Middle America. His rhetoric of “hope” and “change” may enthrall those who see American culture as drastically needed a realignment towards “progressive” values, but to those who have a justified suspicion of putting all one’s trust in government, his message does not resonate.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder also gets it wrong. It’s quite fascinating to me to see progresive commentators make arguments such as this:

At his San Francisco fundraiser, Obama was sketching out a variation of the Thomas Frank argument about working class voters who seem to choose candidates whose policies cut against their economic interest. In Obama’s version, working class voters in the Midwest have been inured to promises of economic redress because both Democrats and Republicans promise to help and never do; since government is a source of distress in their lives, they organize their politics around more stable institutions, like churches or cultural practices, like hunting. The outlet for their economic duress is in lashing out, in giving voice to their grievances; In Obama’s formulation, Republicans are especially eager and willing to exploit cultural trigger points.

What Ambinder and most of the modern-day progressives keep failing to understand is that churches and cultural practices existed before the current economic downturn, before the Rust Belt existed, even before the Industrial Revolution reached the New World. The key mistake that Ambinder, Obama, and the rest make is assuming that cultural conservatism only exists because government hasn’t done enough for people—as though there’s something intrinsically wrong about not wanting more and more government services. They completely forget that this country was founded upon a justified skepticism and distrust of government—and far from being an aberration, the attitudes of Middle American voters are more true to the American tradition than their pro-government progressivism is.