Wise government policies nurture an environment where the American dream can grow.
Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio published their prescription for reviving the American dream. They are right to focus on the dream. They are wrong in their understanding of American history and the role government can play in restoring and fostering the dream.
In an 872-word argument titled “How to revive the American dream,” the words “free” or “freedom” never appear. That’s a clue.
They open with a chilling refrain: Opportunity for success for most Americans is hopeless. All but the rich are falling behind because the “game is rigged.” Their diagnosis: You can’t improve your situation by your own talents or effort. Their prescription: Don’t leave freedom in the hands of citizens. Only a massively larger central government, run by people like them, can help you.
Respectfully, this has been the claim of every person in history who has ever sought to gain enormous power through government control over the daily lives of their fellow citizens.
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They say the American dream is nearly dead because the game is rigged. If so, your talent, hard work and dedication can’t help you, and your freedom to choose your own path in life isn’t worth much, is it?
And if the situation is hopeless, the change has to be dramatic. “Bold” is their word. They aren’t trying to sell common-sense reforms. They are selling an entirely new American system that fundamentally changes the relationship between central government leaders and you. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the government is to secure freedom. Warren and de Blasio’s government would take your freedom in order to protect you from freedom’s harmful effects.
Their misreading of American history is frightening. The American system of free people and free markets created more opportunity and prosperity for more citizens than any economic system in human history. Most countries have tried to copy our economic model.
Take China. Thirty years ago, the Chinese government abused and controlled every aspect of the lives of its impoverished people. The Chinese middle class did not exist. In the last two decades, the Chinese have moved from a totally government-controlled economy toward freer markets, and more than 300 million Chinese citizens now comfortably belong in the world’s middle class. Unfortunately, the Chinese government still allows egregious abuses of law and its people, but the old model was a complete disaster.
The Warren and de Blasio answer for strengthening the American middle class would move us toward the old Chinese economic model. They propose having the government dictate wages, overtime, vacation and leave policies, child-care requirements, and how much men and women are paid. They would dictate tuition levels for colleges. While decrying cronyism, they want a central government empowered to decide which companies are “fair,” and only those would receive funding for research and development. According to them, rather than allowing a business to succeed — or fail — on its own merits, government should pick the winners and bail them out with the public’s money when they fail.
They oppose free markets. Instead, they’d create “fair rules” in the marketplace. Let’s cut through the code words here. They don’t want you to be free to make economic decisions. Instead, they want the power to decide what is “fair” for you. Nowhere in their list of new government services and controls is any mention of a cost to us. We’re to believe only Bill Gates and a few of his friends would pay.
Except we know that isn’t true. The cost of their policies would be paid in more debt, taxes and fewer jobs. Have they learned nothing from watching Greece?
Warren and de Blasio aim their argument for a massive expansion of federal power at the goal of helping the middle class. The great American middle class was not created by government policies. Their prescription would crush working families and small business — the engine of the American dream.
The debate here isn’t between a more powerful central government versus no government and a dog-eat-dog world where the strong eat the weak. A fair read of American history shows that wise government policies nurture an environment where the dream can grow through actions, such as funding of public infrastructure, scientific and technological research, and public education. And government regulation plays a necessary role in keeping America safe.
To build their case that America today is in need of radical change, Warren and de Blasio make the incredible claim that America used to invest in our kids and in policies to build a strong middle class, but “we don’t anymore.” What are those government policies? Social Security, Medicare, free public education. We don’t invest in these policies anymore? Spending for these programs has risen from $195 billion in 1980 to just under $2 trillion today.
If Warren and de Blasio limited their argument to the need for government assistance to help the poorest and weakest in our society, there wouldn’t be a debate. I would agree with that. But that is not their claim. They claim that a massive expansion of federal power would help the families in the middle. Their prescription requires middle America to surrender freedom. In exchange, they say government control would improve our situation in life more than exercising our own freedom will.
Warren and de Blasio’s prescription is for killing the American dream rather than reviving it.