Posts tagged ‘Herb Stein’

Does the Left Really Believe this?

When I see statements like this, I am left to wonder whether folks on the left really believe this, or if it is just throwaway political rhetoric which no one really expects intelligent people to believe (key passage in bold):

But how are people dealing with these drops on their own today?
Mostly by going into debt. As I show in my book, median household debt
as a share of income for married parents was more than 125 percent of
income in 2004. The economist Herb Stein once said, "If something can't
go on, it won't." And the debt hemorrhage of the American family simply
can't go on.

If the returns of rising risk add up to the ability to borrow more
to dig oneself out of short-term holes (thus digging a deeper long-term
hole), then I think we can safely say that most Americans would be
happy to give up the returns to obtain greater security.

But here's the kicker: We can provide security and help our
economy. Just as businessmen and entrepreneurs are protected against
the most severe economic risks they face to encourage economic
investment and growth,
we are most capable of fully participating in
our economy, most capable of taking risks and looking toward our
future, when we have a basic foundation of financial security.

How are businessmen and entrepeneurs protected?  By who?  I own and run my own small business, and I have yet to encounter
anyone who has given me any help or succor in our bad years. Or good
years. I don't even get covered by the minimum safety net type stuff my
employees have (workers comp, unemployment) without paying extra out of
my own pocket, which they don't have to do.

This is exactly the kind of throwaway absurdly false statement that
makes it impossible for me as a small business owner to take anyone on
the left seriously
, however much I am attracted to them for their
position on a variety of social and war issues. I am sure that this is
the type of statement that most of his readers on the left nod their
heads to, sure that all of us business owners are all dialed into the
fat life somehow via the government, when in fact I spend most of my
life dealing with the myriad of government-required wastepaper that
makes it nearly impossible to run a business at all.

  I am certainly willing to believe that there are certain Fortune
100 companies that recieve all sorts of government rents -- Steel
companies, in the form of protectionism; Wal-mart, in tax abatements
and eminent domain handouts; ADM, in the form of ethanol subsidies;
tobacco companies, in the form of government roadblocks to new

However, these type of large politically connected corporations make
up about .001% of the total mass of corporations. And, entrepeneurs,
unless they are already rich and powerful from a previous business,
never get any breaks and in fact often face government roadblocks set
in place by powerful incumbents with political pull. I am all for
eliminating these coporate welfare handouts and incumbent protection
schemes. Before you scream aha! remember that 3 of the 4 government
rent recipients I listed as examples are beneficiaries of programs from
the left side of the aisle.

I discussed this risk-shift concept in more depth here.  One thing I didn't mention in the previous article was the author's attempt to tie household debt to income risk.  I skimmed the book and didn't see any
empirical linkage between rising income uncertainty and household debt.
I am willing to believe they both went up at the same time, but
correlation is not equal to causation. Ten years ago, when folks
lamented rising household debt, it was an issue of personal
responsibility and having the discipline to live within one's means.
Are we past that now? Is debt really going to be added to the list of
things nowadays that are-not-my-fault?

Update:  If he is referring to stuff like this, I share his outrage.  But it doesn't justify his general statement.