There is something eerily similar to the behavior of politicians competing for votes and that of divorced parents competing for the love of a child. There are two strategies deployed in this endeavor. Tear your competitor down with insults or build yourself up through gifts. With either approach there is little daylight between Democrats and Republicans. With Trump’s recent speech directed at working women we see that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is in degree, not kind. Both are quite willing to violate the rights of the individual upon the altar of compulsory collectivism, because you know, feelings. Trump promises six weeks of paid leave for working women. Clinton promises twelve weeks of paid leave for anyone caring for someone. Why so stingy though? It’s not their money after all. Why not promise a year of paid leave? Or two, or ten? Oh, that’s right, because of course we all know there are thresholds of cost that no business could bear. Let’s be reasonable after all. So in the pursuit of reasonableness our wise overlords-to-be dial back the burden-meter until some, but not all, business could manage to survive. Since only 12% of companies currently provide paid family leave we can draw the reasonable conclusion that this is a fairly expensive benefit. Were it not expensive then naturally every business would provide it (duh). And what adjective describes somebody that can afford really expensive things? That’s right: wealthy! So what kind of sorting might we expect to see if a large expense is imposed on large and small businesses alike? That’s right – smaller businesses will shut down leaving only the larger wealthy ones behind. Likewise the (artificial, government imposed) barrier to entry for new competitors will be so high that none will pass. I can almost understand Trump proposing this. As a large business owner it confers a competitive edge to his corporate interests. But the Democrats, those supposed champions of the “working men and women” leading the charge against the evil one percenters, they are in fact giving those ultra-uber rich businesses the greatest benefit imaginable: eliminating sources of competition. The irony is I’m sure Bernie would have supported a similar mandate while remaining blind to the fact he’s helping the very businesses he decries.
Such mandates further the goal of augmenting dependency on the state by slowly dissolving agency of the individual. The state views the employee as being too weak and stupid to make the best decision for themselves. If an employee would prefer more pay and less leave time, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer a higher wage in exchange for flexible working hours, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer having a job at lower wages vs. having no job at all, that’s not allowed. Mandated paid family or maternity leave is no different than a mandated minimum wage (i.e. price fixing). All benefits boil down to a monetary cost. If you mandate paid leave (the seen benefit), then you’re going to have to pay for it by subtracting from somewhere else (the unseen loss). That could be the rollback of non-mandated benefits, smaller bonuses and raises, or fewer workers hired. The last is most insidious as it leads to increasing unemployment despite no one losing their job. It further increases the work-load (and stress) on existing employees. When that happens many would gladly trade a lower wage for a smaller workload and less stress – but – that’s not allowed because children can’t make those sorts of decisions. Only the parents – the state – are wise and responsible enough to make those kind of decisions. Thank you wise and omniscient Dear Leader.
Politicians are by and large disingenuous peddlers of envy, fear, and blame. Once having convinced their customer (the voter) to swallow that message they then proceed to sell them the cure: hope. And naturally they are the only ones that can turn that hope into a reality. The formula is simple: You: Things are not as I would like them to be in my life or I’m afraid of what the future will bring, Politician: This is not your fault, it is caused by [insert despised group du jour], you are not in control of your life, they are. You: Wow, I feel so much better now knowing that I’m actually a victim and bear no responsibility for my life, finally someone has given me hope that things will improve. The Politician: Yes they will improve, but I need you to help me make that happen for you, only I can save you from those that are keeping you down. If you grant me unlimited authority over your life not only will I fix your problems but I will presume such a grant of authority entitles me to force others who happen to live near you to succumb to our will.
The most successful candidate is the one who effectively deliver that formulaic message. To be clear, one can be elected without following this approach. But as soon as someone sets up this model, they are virtually guaranteed to come out on top. Witness both Trump and Sanders, two politicians who are deftly employing this message. Trump peddles fear of “aliens” coming here to steal our jobs lower our wages and put people out of work. His message is rooted in the idea that basically anyone who is not American is causing America to not be “great” anymore but he’ll fix that and make American great again. Yes, because tariffs, price controls, embargoes and all manner of trade protectionism have worked so well in the past at improving the American economy (Smoot-Hawley Tariff anyone?) Price controls do nothing but enrich the few at the expense of the many.
And Sanders – he lays the blame for every societal ill at the doorstep of the evil 1%, or 5%, or 10% who are of course causing everyone else to be poor by hoarding all the money. Even though the math doesn’t work, he continues to insist that if only we raise taxes and make them pay “their fair share” that will fix everything. He decries high tuition rates and insists “free” tuition will fix that problem – ignoring the fact that tuition rates have increased at a rate 5x the rate of inflation over a time frame exactly mirroring when the federal government increased its support of higher education through grants and loans. Colleges increased tuition in the wake of a wave of “free” government money. What do you imagine will happen to tuition when a tidal wave of money enters the system? No, I’m sure no one will raise tuition if Bernie’s plan went into effect.
In the final analysis Trump and Sanders and everyone else are all the same. Their messages may differ in substance on a few minor points, but the structure of the message is uniform. They all propose to initiate violence against those that disagree with them (since if they agreed they would of course willingly do what was asked) in order to force them to comply with their ideas. Both sides obfuscate the violence behind a curtain of euphemisms. When you see words like “should”, “impose”, “must”, and “ask” uttered by a politician simply substitute those words for the phrase “send men with guns to threaten them until [they do as we desire]”.
So here’s a Bernie quote, “We’re going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation” becomes “We’re going to send men with guns to threaten traders to hand over money if they engage in Wall Street speculation.” And Trump “[For] every car … that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35-percent tax” becomes “[For] every car… that comes across the border, we’re going to send men with guns to force you to hand over money otherwise other men with guns won’t allow the cars to cross this imaginary line in the dirt.”
They are all the same. Anyone who supports the State as a means to improving their position in society vis-a-vis politicians supports the idea that violence or the threat of violence against peaceful people who disagree with us is a legitimate way to accomplish social or political goals. Oh wait, that’s also the definition of terrorism.
Constructive comments are welcomed to this paper or at gregmorin.com. Follow me at @gregtmorin