Let Them Eat Pie; Nancy Sarowski’s Latest Advice

david-lee-pie-face2This is my second installment of addressing the so called conservative voice of Petoskey, Nancy Sarowski, who the Petoskey News-Review seems so enamored of that they made her opinion piece the lead editorial in their July 2, 2013 edition.  This says a lot more about the lack of editorial integrity of the News-Review than it does of Ms. Sarowski.  She has proven herself week after week of being unable to make a well supported argument.  She simply spouts platitudes praising conservatives and ripping liberals.  But her arguments are about as deep as the water in a dry creek bed.

Why does the News-Review insist on giving her space in their paper?  If we can all agree that problem solving involves at least a cursory understanding of the other sides’ positions, why does the News-Review promote Ms. Sarowski’s vitriol?  What are they hoping to gain with this intellectually dishonest strategy?

This week, Ms. Sarowski wades into the dangerous waters of economics…waters in which she would surely drown if my metaphor was real water.  Let me see if I can summarize her argument:

“Keep your hands off my stash.”  Got it.

She uses the idea of a piece of pie to wrongly assert that liberals view distribution of wealth as a zero-sum game.   She argues that people who wonder about the huge disparity of wealth in this country are lazy and only seek to have government take money from the rich and give it to the poor.  She even goes on to argue that the ultimate goal of liberal Americans is to have every person have exactly the same amount of wealth.

There’s more, but like me, you probably need a minute to suppress your gag reflex.

Now mind you that at no point in her diatribe does she cite any liberal voice.  She creates unsupported claims by her imaginary liberals and they she shoots them down with imaginary arguments.   If this was a real crime scene instead of simply an intellectual crime scene, there would be a policeman issued with every newspaper to inform you to “Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.”

I read a lot of economists.  I have never read one from any spot along the political spectrum who argues that growth is bad.  Even at the height of the Leninist Soviet Union, there was a realization that economic growth was a national priority.   True, the Soviets had a big problem with the legacy of czarist Russia that saw so much wealth in the hands of so few while millions of people lived in virtual slavery, but that was not an argument against growth.  We all know that the Communist idea of equal distribution of wealth and the stifling of innovation was an abject failure.    Forcing people to live without economic freedom has never worked, and no modern liberal economist or politician argues for these ideas.  Yet Ms. Sarowski would have you believe there’s a Commie under every bed.  Again.

She rips taxation and eminent domain without any regard as to how ANY country could run without these two things.   Do we have canals, harbors, freeways, bridges, airports, military bases, ports, bike trails, parks, etc. without eminent domain?   Do we have a military, an education system, a banking system, roads, police, food inspection, etc. without taxation? These simple questions are apparently too much for Ms. Sarowski to address.

As her pretzel logic continues to unfold, she takes a curious twist.  Somehow she ties “financial conservatism” (whatever that is) to solutions to problems in our education system.   As you know from last week, she’s really hung up about how students dress.   She now argues that financial conservatives realize that dressing appropriately leads to a better education.   And then she rips Michelle Obama for calling on students to work in their communities instead of chasing big corporate money, making some vague argument about curriculum issues.   So apparently working for the common good is anathema.    It gets worse.

Without any regard to any data, and flying in the face of all evidence, she moves on to say that the financial conservative believes wages should be set based only on a person’s skills.  She claims, in defiance of ALL historical data that businesses, left to their own devices, “will pay generous wages for a job well done.”   She needs to pick up a book and read how workers were treated in the late 1800’s after unions were crushed with the help of the government.  She needs to look at the steel towns, the lumber towns, the mining towns, the plantations, the sweat shops, the textile mills, the railroads, etc. that dotted our country before the dawn of the Progressive Era.  There’s no space here to detail all this, but if anyone believes the trusts of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were rewarding workers based on their efforts, they have a serious gap in their sense of reality.

Ms. Sarowski is peddling the false notion that anyone can become a millionaire if they are just willing to work hard enough.   The problem is that in America, that is the fourth most common way to become a millionaire after inheritance, stock market investment, and lottery winners.   Selling the idea that you should  keep your mouth shut, work hard, and you’ll get yours eventually is exactly the kind of argument you would expect only people who already have stuff to make.  It’s no coincidence that the correlation between wealth and political conservatism is so strong in this country.

Sadly, a lot of people who can least afford to support our current economic system refuse to see how their votes are hurting themselves.   If you preach a message of hate and fear like many conservatives do regarding our president, many people are going to fight for the status quo which is keeping them poor.   I remember listening to a news story after the 2008 election.  The reporter was re-visiting many of the small towns she worked during the election to see the reaction of folks after President Obama defeated John McCain.   She walked into a diner in Oklahoma.    Oklahoma was decidedly anti-Obama before the election and things apparently hadn’t changed much by the time the reporter walked into that diner.  She interviewed a man at the counter about his views on the new president.   His disgust was obvious.  When questioned about why he disliked the President so much, he said “because he’s going to take everything I have and give it to other people.”   The reporter said something like, “But you’re in your sixties, you haven’t worked in years, and you live in a trailer that has no running water.  Exactly what is the President going to take from you?”   And the man (apparently with a straight face) said, “Sure I have nothing now, but when I get rich, he’s going to take it.”

Now please note that nowhere in my argument will you find any anti-growth platitudes.   The liberal economists I read all argue strongly for GNP growth.  The President argues for GNP growth.  The Senate argues for GNP growth.  We may disagree as to how we’re going to make the pie bigger, but no one in our government argues for slowing growth.  (Well, except of course the ultra-right and shortsighted folks screaming for a balanced budget amendment.   They are actually arguing for shrinking the economy by a disastrous amount, but that’s another argument for another day.)

The real argument between conservatives and liberals is about income distribution.  Historians have adequately documented the political and economic disasters that await countries where income disparity is drastic.  As the United States continues to punish the poor and reward the rich, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.  With that growing gap will come political unrest, a clampdown on liberties, and eventually some catastrophic event that will force us all to embrace the idea that America is built upon more principles than “keep your hands off my stash.”  Our Constitution calls for a country whose foundation includes a commitment to justice and a commitment to the common good.  These aren’t liberal demands, these are American demands.    Apparently as long as Ms. Sarowski has her pie, she isn’t particularly concerned what other people are eating.   (Uh-oh, did I just make a Marie Antoinette reference? We all know how that turned out.)

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