OPEN LETTER TO BARACK OBAMA ON HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY “A PROMISED LAND” Part 1 On the 57th anniversary of JFK’s passing: By the way Democrats today would claim JFK was guilty of encouraging “rapacious capitalism” because he signed legislation that was one of the most sweeping cuts of taxes in American history. Marginal tax rates were cut 30% over two years, and corporate tax rates were reduced!

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November 22, 2020

Office of Barack and Michelle Obama
P.O. Box 91000
Washington, DC 20066

Dear President Obama,

It was 57 years ago today that lost JFK in Dallas. Just like you I was 2 years old at the time, and all I know of him is what I read in the history books. However, he was a very much different kind of Democrat than the ones we see today.

Star Parker recently wrote:

Kennedy said, “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Reading over Kennedy’s words from that time, one can barely recognize the country he was speaking to. Nor is Kennedy’s Democratic Party, whose mantle he carried, recognizable compared with what it has become today.

Today, amid the politics of blame, grievance, and victimhood, it has been all but forgotten that the Democratic Party once delivered a president who spoke about national service and self-sacrifice.

Here’s how Kennedy opened that address: “The world is very different now. … And yet, the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

When Kennedy spoke those words, in public school, American children were still allowed to read from the Bible and pray.

Abortion was illegal.

Seventy-five percent of American adults ages 18 and above were married, compared with 50% today.

A little over 5% of American babies were born to unwed mothers, compared with over 40% today.

The national debt stood at 53% of the gross domestic product, or GDP. The Congressional Budget Office projects national debt will reach 98% of GDP this year, 107% of GDP by 2023 (the highest in the nation’s history), and 195% by 2050.

The legislation that most defined Kennedy’s short presidency was one of the most sweeping cuts of taxes in American history. Marginal tax rates were cut 30% over two years, and corporate tax rates were reduced.

The result was a surge in the economy and revenues to the federal government. As reported by Cato Institute scholar Alan Reynolds, federal revenues rose 29% over the four years following those tax cuts.

END OF QUOTE FROM STAR PARKER ARTICLE.

By the way Democrats today would claim JFK was guilty of encouraging “rapacious capitalism” because he signed legislation that was one of the most sweeping cuts of taxes in American history. Marginal tax rates were cut 30% over two years, and corporate tax rates were reduced.

I wrote you over 700 letters while you were President and I mailed them to the White House and also published them on my blog http://www.thedailyhatch.org .I received several letters back from your staff and I wanted to thank you for those letters.

I have been reading your autobiography A PROMISED LAND and I have been enjoying it.

Let me make a few comments on it, and here is the first quote of yours I want to comment on:

I recognize that there are those who believe that it’s time to discard the myth—that an examination of America’s past and an even cursory glance at today’s headlines show that this nation’s ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism, and that to pretend otherwise is to be complicit in a game that was rigged from the start. And I confess that there have been times during the course of writing my book, as I’ve reflected on my presidency and all that’s happened since, when I’ve had to ask myself whether I was too tempered in speaking the truth as I saw it, too cautious in either word or deed, convinced as I was that by appealing to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature I stood a greater chance of leading us in the direction of the America we’ve been promised.

I don’t know. What I can say for certain is that I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind.

You talk about “rapacious capitalism” and you know rapacious means “aggressively greedy or grasping.” Let me respond with the words of Milton Friedman who comments on this issue of greed and capitalism:

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman – Where Are These Angels?

by Michael

Phil Donahue: When you see around the globe, the mal-distribution of wealth, a desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries. When you see so few “haves” and so many “have-nots.” When you see the greed and the concentration of power. Did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed is a good idea to run on? 

Milton Friedman: Well first of all tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on Greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who is greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. 

The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. 

In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about – the only cases in recorded history – are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. 

If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

Donahue: But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system…

Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the Communist commissar rewarded virtue? You think a Hitler rewarded virtue? You think – excuse me – if you’ll pardon me – do you think American Presidents reward virtue ?

Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout ?

Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest ? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us ? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that.


Capitalism Wins

I’ve always been puzzled by those who criticize capitalism (“it’s unfair!” and “it’s coercive!”) and urge its overthrow or replacement.

I actually agree with them that markets can be harsh, especially in the short run (think of the damage to the typewriter industry when personal computers exploded on the scene).

But the critics are unable to suggest a successful alternative to capitalism.

This is why I keep reissuing my challenge for them to identify a single nation that has ever become rich because of big government.

Needless to say, my left-wing friends have never provided an answer.

(Some of them say the Nordic nations and other countries in Western Europe are relatively rich, and that’s true, but I point out that those jurisdictions became rich in the 1800s and early 1900s when government was very small.)

By contrast, we have lots of evidence that modern prosperity is the result of free markets.

And so long as we give capitalism enough breathing room to function, we’ll get even more prosperity in the future.

Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, in a columnfor Bloomberg, debunks the notion that capitalism is failing.

Use of the term “late capitalism” has exploded during the past decade… Capitalism may have once delivered broad prosperity, the critics argue, but now the system serves to entrench the elite. …Now is an odd time to argue that capitalism is broken. Only 35 U.S. workers out of every 1,000are looking for jobs but unable to find them — the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in a half-century. The rate at which people in their prime working years hold jobs is higher than it has been in over a decade. …The level of inequality is high, but this is an odd decade to bemoan its rise. …from the beginning of the Great Recession, when criticism of capitalism became much more common, to 2016 (the last year data are available), inequality actually decreased by 7 percent.

Here’s the part of the column that is most interesting.

…critics of modern capitalism seem to be confused about the market’s ability to distribute benefits. …In a 2004 paper, the economist and Nobel laureate William Nordhaus concluded that “most of the benefits of technological change are passed on to consumers,” not the innovators themselves. Using data from 1948–2001, his model suggests that innovators capture only 2.2 percent of the total social value they create. Applying a back-of-the-envelope calculation using Nordhaus’s result to Bezos suggests he has created $5.4 trillion in value for the rest of society. A team of economists…recently attempted to measure the benefit of several new digital services that are free to consumers. …The typical U.S.-based Facebook user in their study values the social networking site at $42.17 per month. …Because they are free, these services are not well captured in current national income statistics. Brynjolfsson and his coauthors calculate that the benefits from Facebook alone would have added between 0.05 and 0.11 percentage points to the annual growth in U.S. gross domestic product growth starting in 2004. …Capitalism has delivered significant increases in purchasing power for typical households. The phrase “late capitalism” suggests that capitalism is spent and exhausted. It isn’t.

Interestingly, the academic researchers confirmed the insights provided in this video.

Though it is helpful to have some rigorous evidence to confirm how free enterprise has made our lives better.

The Wall Street Journal recently editorialized about the blessings of capitalism.

…deregulation and tax reform unleashed a surge of business investment…which has drawn workers off the sidelines and raised wages. …wages for the bottom 10% of earners over age 25 rose an average 5.9% annually compared to 2.4% during Barack Obama’s second term, according to the latest demographic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. …Less educated workers have also seen the strongest gains. Wages have risen at a 6.1% annual clip for workers over 25 without a high school degree and 3.9% for those with some college—both about three times faster than during the second Obama term. …Socialism-loving young people are getting the biggest pay raises. Wages have increased on average 5.8% annually for teens, 4.4% for 20 to 24-year-olds and 4.8% for 25 to 34-year-olds during the Trump Presidency. …Forty million fewer people last year lived in households receiving government assistance than in 2016, and the food-stamp rolls have shrunk by 9.5 million over the past three years. Reduced government dependence is a social good far beyond the lower costs to taxpayers. …Between 2016 and 2018 the number of taxpayers earning less than $25,000 declined 5% while increasing 8% for those making between $100,000 to $200,000 and 13.9% for those making more than $200,000, according to IRS data.

Here’s the graphic that accompanied the editorial.

By the way, I always warn never to over-rely on short-term economic data.

Yes, the recent numbers look good, but what if they are – at least in part – the result of a monetary policy-driven bubble?

That wouldn’t be an argument against better tax policy and better regulatory policy, of course, but it might mean some of the gains are illusory (much as the good economic news in 2006 now looks rather hollow considering we now know the country was in the midst of a Fed-created bubble).

This is why I prefer to look at multi-decade comparisons. And when you compare market-oriented nations with statism-oriented countries, it becomes very obvious that capitalism is the only way to deliver broadly shared prosperity.

P.S. Regarding capitalism vs. statism, here’s the best-ever tweet.

P.P.S. And here’s the best-ever counter-tweet.

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

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