Commentary

Is it possible to tax only the rich and leave everyone else alone? I have met and talked with many politicians, mostly when they were out speaking for their suppers just as I was. I repeatedly spent backstage time with four former U.S. Presidents, policy wonks like Bill Bennett, military leaders like Gen. Colin Powell and even a couple flaming liberals including Mario Cuomo. Some smart, some not. But never have I encountered any as obtuse and ignorant about business and economics as a former vice president from a Democrat administration who, out of courtesy, I won’t name. But you... continue reading
Little did Joe the plumber know that Barack Obama was just scratching the surface when he answered Joe’s question with a desire to “spread the wealth around.” A new discovery of a 2001 radio appearance by Obama has thrust socialism into the national spotlight despite the media’s best efforts to avoid doing just that. In a Jan. 18, 2001, interview on Chicago public radio Obama talked about the limitations of the Supreme Court and how it had “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”... continue reading
Sen. John McCain’s adviser, Carly Fiorina, coming off a controversial tenure running Hewlett-Packard, has been widely quoted as ill-advisedly but accurately observing that none of the candidates, McCain included, are capable of running a Fortune 500 company. I would be reluctant to put any in charge of a small business either. I advise over 20,000 small business owners directly, over 1 million indirectly, and I can’t imagine recommending hiring any of these four. But if we must hire two of these, and we must , then let’s think it through as best we can. This will be doing more than... continue reading
“It’s the economy, stupid.” That little James Carville nugget from the 1992 election is as true now as it was then. With Wall Street more of a roller coaster than an investment vehicle, ordinary Americans are worried about their future as they watch the markets shake, rattle and roll toward November. More than half of Americans said in a September 2008 CBS News/New York Times poll that the economy and jobs are the most important issues in the presidential election. The mainstream media are feeding voters’ fears as they have done throughout the campaign – talking about an economy “in... continue reading
Where were you when the lights went out on Wall Street? On Friday, Oct. 10, the first day the Dow dropped below 8,000 before crawling barely above that at close, a friend and I were in Atlantic City on a guys’ vacation. We went to Il Mulino for dinner – the clone of the famous New York City restaurant at Trump Taj Mahal. We had imported cheeses and sausages and imported truffles shaved over two types of pasta for appetizers. The truffles alone were $71. I had veal Osso Bucco with risotto. He had a veal chop hand-pounded thin, lightly... continue reading
America has always valued success. But at the same time, we’ve had a love affair with class warfare. Big businessmen – railroad tycoons, bankers and cattlemen – became easy targets for our discontent. Wealth, success, power could be summed up as one of the Seven Deadly Sins – greed. It’s ironic that we complain about one such sin and celebrate another – envy. Over time, railroad men morphed into Wall Street men, railroading poor working people. Henry Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life” got a makeover and became Gordon Gekko of “Wall Street.” And the go-go ’80s became defined by... continue reading
Ludwig von Mises in a classic 1927 book, Liberalism , wrote that government intervention in markets would lead inevitably to unintended consequences that resulted in further government intervention. The current financial difficulties are the result of a series of government actions that has culminated in vastly expanded government intervention in the credit markets, which may provide short-term relief but is dangerous in the long run. It is difficult to correct a problem when the cause of the problem is misunderstood. The presidential and vice-presidential candidates have all said that “Wall Street greed” has led to the financial mess we are... continue reading
What a week! Capitol Hill battles over the bailout. Wall Street tumbles. Anchor John Roberts tells us “economists are now warning of a new recession.” Oops. That last bit comes from May 2004 – right as the recovery from the previous recession was getting into full swing. John Roberts was an anchor, but he plied his trade with CBS instead of his current CNN role. What I meant to say was how the media warned us of the coming recession. It was Sharyn Alfonsi on CBS “Evening News” for New Years day. “With big business struggling, unsteady interest rates and... continue reading
We got a harsh reminder this week that “Dow” can be a shortened form of the word “Down.” Way down. Monday, the Dow dumped 777 points, a near-7-percent drop. The media that had hollered about economic problems when there were none, finally have something to hold on to. “Crisis,” “mess,” “meltdown.” The ways journalists describe Wall Street carry more impact as financial markets are passing scary and continuing into worse territory. While politicians and businessmen are the ones trying to fix the problems, journalists are left describing them to everyone. It isn’t easy. Journalists don’t agree if they should take... continue reading
Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children by Philip and Alice Shabecoff. Hardcover. 368 pages. Random House. List price $26.00. There’s a cartoon that ran in the New Yorker a couple of years ago. Two cavemen are sitting cross-legged, looking puzzled. One of them is saying, "Something's just not right – our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet nobody lives past thirty." It is possible that one of those cavemen represents the ancestor of Philip Shabecoff, the former New York Times environment correspondent... continue reading