We’d hardly know a real leader if we saw one

One point that probably deserves further mention about last week’s Dead Kennedy Funeral Parade was the behavior of the press, which wept and moaned and gnashed its collective teeth with nary a soul saying “Enough, already,” as though the corpse of a Pharaoh was headed for its final hoedown with the sun god. I’m surprised they didn’t decide to embalm the guy so people could troop past and touch the yellowed cadaver like they’ve been doing with Vlad “The Impaler” Lenin for the past 70 years.

It was all further evidence that statism has become something close to a national religion, the subtext being that great things can be accomplished only through the giant wealth transfer schemes now underway in Washington. Oh, woe is us! Who will loot our paychecks now?!

Did anyone notice an equivalent outpouring of grief and tribute when free-market economist Rose Friedman died in California on Aug. 18? When we lost Murray Rothard or Friedrich Hayek or Ludwig von Mises? “Who?” the puzzled TV viewers ask.

A typically anonymous cyber-poster, apparently confusing me with someone who has authority over the people who send out obituary notices on the AP wires or who decide which ones will run in the Review-Journal, asks why “my own newspaper” ran no substantial obituary on the recent death of Dr. Robert Spinrad, who while at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center during the 1970s and ’80s helped commercialize such technologies as personal computers, laser printers, and ethernet LANs.

Beats me, but thanks for helping make my point. Practically every month dies some entrepreneur or industrialist whose hard work improved our lives far more than Ted Kennedy ever did, giving us better, safer, more convenient, less expensive cell phones, car engines, satellite TVs, microwave ovens, refrigerated delivery of year-round produce — you name it.

Do we see wall-to-wall 24-hour TV coverage of the funeral parades of these giants of American capitalism, weeping throngs encouraged to wait in line to touch the holy corpse as it lies in state, endless paeans to their goodness? Of course not. Our well coiffed media dismiss such characters as mere “corporate greedheads,” who get no credit for their achievements because they were motivated by “mere profit” … while Ted Kennedy apparently went about his work in a saffron robe, sitting out on the sidewalk with a begging bowl each evening in hopes someone would toss him a few scraps for supper.

“Education reform”? Not that the mandatory government youth internment and propaganda camps (“public schools”) weren’t already counterproductive, but the “No Child Left Behind” law that Teddy helped pass should really be called “No Motivated Student Shall Excel.” Miring inmates and staff alike in an impenetrable mire of testing and “teaching to the test,” this “bi-partisan” abomination finishes the job of converting the schools from an enterprise where the most gifted and talented were encouraged to move ahead quickly, into a stultifying mire where the gifted go insane with boredom (till they learn relief is as close as a reefer in the girls’ room) while the entire enterprise focuses on elevating the marginal performance of the most reluctant and under-motivated internees in the room, many of whom — you can’t make this stuff up — are literally brain-damaged.

This is the proudest triumph of Ted Kennedy, the Harvard cheat?

“Protecting the rights of the little guy”? Ted Kennedy never met an unconstitutional victim disarmament law that he didn’t race to embrace like a campaign worker on Rohypnol. Maybe he hoped if we could just get rid of all the guns, no one would ever again assassinate a president, the way John Kennedy had Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother ousted and assassinated (the very next day, and were Jack and Bobby ever surprised!) in early November of 1963. (That IS the presidential assassination you were thinking of, right?)

Teddy even played a major role in ushering onto the Supreme Court the woefully underqualified “affirmative action baby” Sonia Sotomayor, who favors the kind of racial quotas that allowed her to advance ahead of better qualified jurists, and who further insists there is “no individual right to keep and bear arms.”

But there’s a problem with the “Oh, he’s only terrified of firearms because of his family tragedies” rationale. In Washington, D.C., where private citizens can’t carry any kind of firearms and there’s supposedly a “no exceptions” rule that anyone carting a machine gun into the Capitol goes to jail, what happened when one of Ted Kennedy’s mercenary bodyguards, Chuck Stein (not a government agent) was arrested in January of 1986 for carrying two Uzi submachine guns and a pistol, plus a modest 146 rounds of ammo, into the Capitol building, asking “Where can I check this stuff?”

The senator explained it was all a misunderstanding, and was able to get Stein released without charges and rearmed in time to accompany the senator on his scheduled overseas jaunt — despite the fact that for Stein even to possess the machine pistols in his own home in the District of Columbia was a crime.

With the Kennedys, the milling throngs were expected to cheer as they doled out sharply curtailed “rights” and handouts to the little guy — while it was unlimited special privileges for the Kennedys and their pals, all the way.

Leadership? Imagine for a moment Ted Kennedy had really stopped to contemplate what kind of future he was leaving our children, and had then decided to use his wealth, his power, his prestige to undertake one truly great act of leadership.

I know it’s far-fetched. I know it “could never have happened” — helping make my point about just how lacking we are in real leadership in Washington, in an era when a man as morally weak as Ted Kennedy can be lionized as the “conscience of the Senate.”

But imagine for a moment that Edward Kennedy had stepped before the TV cameras a year ago and stunned the nation with a simple, eloquent speech:

“Good evening. Some of us come to the end of our roads unexpectedly. Others of us receive a final blessing; we’re told we have a few months to put our affairs in order.

“I’ve led a rich life. I’ve also made plenty of mistakes in my 76 years; I’m deeply sorry for them. But I got to thinking, is there one last thing I should still do, to help the country that has done so much for me and my family? I think there is.

“I’m a legislator. That’s what I know how to do. So I’ve been working with a few members of the lower house, from both sides of the aisle. Tomorrow they’ll introduce on my behalf a bill we call the Economic Freedom and Prosperity Restoration Act.

“My family has remained wealthy and powerful for most of a century, not because I’m any great shakes as an investor, but because our wealth is protected in an immortal, tax-proof family trust. Most Americans can’t set up such trusts today; the IRS changed the rules years ago.

“I’ve also remained wealthy because I pay very little income tax. Families with old money can arrange things that way, while the most productive of our fellow Americans today — the kind of who actually invent and design and manufacture things — have no such advantages; they’re taxed to the hilt.

Make no mistake, the graduated personal income tax is evil — it’s unfair, it’s unequal, it loots from the most hard-working, productive Americans precisely that wealth they would otherwise invest in the private sector, creating good-paying new jobs. Instead, that money gets seized by the government, by me, and then I and my compatriots redistribute far too much of it to people who may be needy, but who do far less to advance our economy and our society. That’s gone way out of balance.

“We’re going to change all that.

“The Economic Freedom and Prosperity Restoration Act is in thee parts.

“First, it changes tax law to allow any American family to set up an immortal, tax-free trust, just like the ones the Kennedy family and the Rockefeller family enjoy.

“Second, it repeals the federal personal income tax. Gets rid of it completely. From 30 days after this bill is signed, no American employer will withhold any more income tax; no American will file another 1040 form; everyone gets to keep their own money, just as the Kennedy family always has.

“The income tax currently provides about 30 percent of federal income. My colleagues will ask ‘How are you going to pay for that?’ What a terrible way of looking at things. All Americans have family members who have already paid the final price for freedom, just as my brothers did. That bill has already been paid. Americans are free as a birthright. They don’t have to ‘pay for’ their economic freedom.

“But it’s true enough we’ll have to reduce federal spending, by a large amount and permanently, to make this work. So the third part of the Economic Freedom and Prosperity Restoration Act calls for reducing next year’s federal budget two two-thirds of the size of this year’s. No gimmicks, no accounting tricks, no moving more things ‘off budget.’ A one-third cut, which will still leave us with a much larger federal government than when John Kennedy took office, than when Richard Nixon took office, than when Ronald Reagan took office.

“Time to close the Departments of Labor, or Agriculture, of Energy and Education and Health and Human Services, for starters. None existed a century ago; none are authorized in the Constitution.

We’re also going to have to turn to our actuarially bankrupt Ponzi schemes, Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. No more minor tinkering. For all Americans younger than 50, we need to end Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security immediately. Send them a modest check in partial compensation for what they’ve paid in to date, urge them to invest it — since there’ll be no benefits when they retire — and set them free. Their paychecks will jump by at least 30 percent. The economic stimulus should be huge.

Meantime, for those currently retired, and those aged 50 and older today, the programs will continue as they are. No current retiree’s benefits will be cut. Benefits for those retiring in subsequent years will have to be reduced, in keeping with the amounts still flowing in.
That means that by 2050, our great socialist experiments of Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security will be at an end. Americans will once again be a free people, un-numbered, with no obligation to tell the government where they work or how much money they make.

“Those kinds of schemes paralyzed and crippled the Soviet Union. We don’t need them here.

“Thank you very much; God bless a free and prosperous America.”

An “impossible” speech? Any of 99 remaining senators or a handful of House members with similar high profiles could give it tomorrow.

They won’t, because they’d be trading away a career’s worth of wealth, power and prestige, in a battle of uncertain outcome, for the good of the country. That would take leadership.

2 Comments to “We’d hardly know a real leader if we saw one”

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    Another good article, Vin. Thanks.

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