In fact, North Carolina’s motto, Esse Quam Videri, which is translated to “to be rather than to seem,” comes from Cicero. He wrote, “Not nearly so many people want actually to be possessed of virtue as want to appear to be possessed of it.”
Sanders called attention to a new book, The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe against Liberal Compassion, by William Voegeli. A review in the National Review summarized its thesis as, “The do-gooder is concerned less with the happiness of the objects of his pity than with the perfection of his own self-image. . . . That [the politics of kindness] is also, in certain cases, toxic to those whom it is intended to help is beside the point, for its purpose is not to lift up the struggling poor man, but to soothe the conscience of the anxious rich man.”
Fueling the argument that “cause” is a double entendre in government, Sanders on more than one occasion has referred to a graph tracking the poverty rate in the United States since World War II. For a decade, the rate fell steadily from about 32 percent to 17 percent. Then, when government declared war on poverty in 1965, the curve flatlined, and that’s with spending $1 trillion a year on antipoverty programs. Sanders is among economists who believe the trend would have continued to improve without government’s “help.”
Government produces nothing, and so it adds nothing to economies. It only forces transfers of wealth, a practice that necessarily introduces inefficiencies. Pundit Greg Gutfeld recently explained the concept as growing the pie rather than switching the pieces around. Sanders quoted the late Nobel laureate Gary Becker’s words from a conference at the Vatican, “The greatest beneficiaries of capitalism are those at the bottom of the income ladder. That’s why I favor capitalism. Were that not the case, I would not be in favor of capitalism. Milton Friedman feels the same way.”
Author Henry Grady Weaver argued the human lot through most of history has been one of hunger. John Hood, in The Heroic Enterprise: Business and the Common Good, summarized Weaver’s thesis. “The mainspring of human progress was freedom itself. The United States, by allowing the most individual freedom to produce goods and services and sell them to consumers for profit, had unleashed the greatest degree of invention and ingenuity, resulting in social benefits for all.”
Burt Folsom, author of New Deal or Raw Deal?, thinks high-ranking federal leaders are aware of what they’re doing. He faults the education system for lauding people who are generous with other peoples’ money, regardless of whether expenditures fix problems or have harmful byproducts.
He claims programs instituted under the FDR and LBJ administrations were more for giving federal dollars to political supporters than solving social problems. “Franklin Roosevelt, is considered a ‘great’ president in the textbooks because of his intention to help the poor, not because of his result of economic stagnation and double-digit unemployment throughout his first two terms as president. In the Emergency Relief and Construction Act, the first federal welfare program, Illinois – a key swing state for FDR – received $55,443,721 and Massachusetts received zero.”
Albeit anecdotal, Folsom recalls a warning issued to a WPA worker that one of his research assistants uncovered. It read, “You are either on the WPA or employed in some government department and by virtue thereof you owe a duty to the [Democrat] Party to do your part in making the canvass. Failure to do your active share will be reported to our county chairman, and you may find your position in jeopardy.”
Addressing some of the tangled layers of irony in the Progressive agenda, Sanders has written that Moral Monday, “takes advantage of undereducated, low-wage workers by convincing them to walk off their jobs and protest for wages that would put them out of work (that is, if walking off the job hadn’t already . . .).”
It also, “tries to fore people to travel further and pay higher prices rather than do business at local low-priced retailers, who it accuses of exploiting them by offering them groceries at affordable prices when other grocers can’t or won’t do it despite people in the community pleading for it.”
North Carolina’s poor spend anywhere from one-tenth to one-third of their income on electricity. Sanders says it is a necessity by today’s standards, and the poor don’t care how they get it. The way to drive prices down is to make it more abundant, and rather than letting a big utility have a monopoly, it makes sense to allow alternative sources to compete for market share. Fracking, he argues, is just as alternative as solar.
Many poor are forced out of work by government certification requirements. It was considered crazy when the state decided the preservation of law and order was threatened by ladies braiding hair without an expensive paper go-ahead from government. Yet it is the natural tendencies of government bodies to continue to seek more and more activities to certify for revenue.
On the living wage movement, he argues merchandisers serving low-income populations with inexpensive products, like McDonald’s and Walmart, will likely cut employee hours to maintain their payroll budgets. Unfortunately, competing against lifting wages is another progressive agenda: Obamacare. To avoid providing cost-prohibitive benefits packages, employers are now forced to cut hours below 30 per week. They’re also raising prices, which is causing them to lose business and further constrict the purchasing power of the working poor.
So, in order to stay in business, McDonald’s is exploring automating its cashiers. It has already done so in some European locations.
Sanders wrote, “A movement that cares about the position of fast-food clerk earning $15/hr. would not be affected by a transition to automated tellers. [Adherents] would declare victory with the forced wage increase and move on to their next ‘moral’ cause of growing government power, with self-righteous indifference to that one’s unintended negative consequences, too.”