In my house, we now measure time in loaves; specifically, loaves of whole wheat, rye and oatmeal sourdough. Currently, the exchange rate is running about 3.5 days to the loaf. I’m 14 loaves into flattening the curve. Now, if I could just flatten my stomach. I’m currently using an extension cord from our Christmas lights as a belt.
The good news is (and that’s a relative term) the curve appears to be flattening. The bad news is, so is capitalism.
What an irony. A disease that likely originated in a wet market in China, a communist country, has done to America what ICBMs could not: turn us into the world’s largest socialist economy.
Recently, billionaire investor Leon Cooperman told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” the coronavirus crisis will change capitalism forever and that taxes will go up. “When the government is called upon to protect you on the downside, they have every right to regulate you on the upside,” Cooperman said. “So, capitalism is changed.”
No riots, no storming of the palace, certainly no elections. With a wave of municipal, county, state, congressional and presidential hands, businesses have been shuttered, the economy torpedoed, retirement savings depleted, careers terminated, a way of life ended, all with only a few poorly spelled cardboard signs in protest.
Meanwhile, we clamor for more, with life-long libertarians asking, “Where’s my check?” Which brings us to how we got here: “Government money.”
If I had a dime for every time the phrase “government money,” “government funds” or “the government is paying for …” appeared in the news or on people’ lips, I’d be as rich as the government apparently is.
Here’s a quick refresher course: The government pays for nothing. We pay for everything. Government money is always your money.
I’m not a libertarian. I believe government has legitimate spheres of influence, including putting its thumb on the scale to correct injustices, both legal and economic. You may feel otherwise. It has been forever thus in America, all the way back to Hamilton and Jefferson. Still, what we see today is Woodrow Wilson cubed, FDR squared and not even in his wildest dreams could Lyndon Johnson imagine the power-shift that has taken place in the past month.
Many folks on the right believe this is all part of a master plan: a Saul Alinsky/George Soros/(insert your least-favorite liberal here) ideological takeover of America’s economy, the end of private property and private wealth. The reality is much more complex than that.
Late in life, John Adams was asked about the American Revolution. He said the real revolution had happened long before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. “The revolution was in the minds of the people,” said Adams.
Another revolution has taken place in the minds of the people. We expect the government to make us whole, to fix every mess, from potholes to pandemics. When disaster strikes, few believe a bake sale or TV concert is going to save us, despite the best efforts of John Legend, Oprah and Taylor Swift.
There are a third of a billion Americans today, the majority crammed into dense urban centers that require accommodation and cooperation rather than rugged individualism and self-reliance the way rural residents must live. What’s right for Southern California may not be right for North Dakota. Unfortunately, viruses don’t read maps. Opening Georgia while keeping California closed is like letting people pee in one part of the swimming pool.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, how much government do we want and at what cost?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested the blue states should declare bankruptcy, that the red states are “tired of bailing out blue states.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo countered by reminding McConnell New York sends $166 billion more to the feds than it gets back, while Kentucky, McConnell’s state, takes out $1 billion more than it puts in. “Your state is getting bailed out, not my state,” said Cuomo. This may sound familiar to old San Fernando Valley secessionists.
The Golden Rule still rules in the Golden State and every other state, county, city, town and hamlet: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” When government “spends” money, or “bails out” X, Y or Z, it empowers politicians, attaches strings, advances agendas, and pros are expected for quids.
If that’s what we want as a people (and I do) that’s what we’ll get, but we should never forget it’s our gold that’s being spent.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.