Friday, October 30, 2009

Nice Noonan

Peggy Noonan: We're Governed by Callous Children -

The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes. The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.

It is a story in two parts. The first: "They do not think they can make it better.
I agree. I was around in '78-'82 and I think Peggy calls it perfectly:
I talked this week with a guy from Big Pharma, which we used to call "the drug companies" until we decided that didn't sound menacing enough. He is middle-aged, works in a significant position, and our conversation turned to the last great recession, in the late mid- to late 1970s and early '80s. We talked about how, in terms of numbers, that recession was in some ways worse than the one we're experiencing now. Interest rates were over 20%, and inflation and unemployment hit double digits. America was in what might be called a functional depression, yet there was still a prevalent feeling of hope. Here's why. Everyone thought they could figure a way through. We knew we could find a path through the mess. In 1982 there were people saying, "If only we get rid of this guy Reagan, we can make it better!" Others said, "If we follow Reagan, he'll squeeze out inflation and lower taxes and we'll be America again, we'll be acting like Americans again." Everyone had a path through.
I think I had a special seat, because I voted for Carter, listened to the "malaise", started reading about this thing called "conservatism" that my schooling had never exposed me to and then hoped that Reagan was right. I also got to watch while in '80-'82 the country was in worse shape than now and the majority of my college friends and even many of the people at were were "sure we had made a mistake with Reagan". BUT, BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats were "sure they had an answer that could return the country to prosperity". Now we don't. I really don't know anyone other than maybe BO himself that truly believes in BOnomics. We are going to borrow prosperity from the Chinese? Seems pretty doubtful to even the most optimistic.

I talked with an executive this week with what we still call "the insurance companies" and will no doubt soon be calling Big Insura. (Take it away, Democratic National Committee.) He was thoughtful, reflective about the big picture. He talked about all the new proposed regulations on the industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress "are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area." The executive said of Washington: "They don't understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who've said to me 'I'm done.'" He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, "They don't understand that if they start to tax me so that I'm paying 60%, 55%, I'll stop."

He felt government doesn't understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings. Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue. But of course they're human, and they can become disheartened. They can pack it in, go elsewhere, quit what used to be called the rat race and might as well be called that again since the government seems to think they're all rats. (That would be you, Chamber of Commerce.)
Peggy doesn't know the half of it. The left could care less about any thoughts of "motivation", I believe that many more of them than anyone realizes would just as soon put the "tax cows" in big concentration work camps right now. Why can't the "disenfranchised" just be awarded what they want? Isn't it "selfish" of someone that studied hard, built skills and is marketable to not make as much money as possible so it can be handed to those that didn't develop any skills and have no intention of doing so?