Thomas Sowell

In an election campaign in which not only young liberals, but also some people who are neither young nor liberals, seem absolutely mesmerized by the skilled rhetoric of Barack Obama, facts have receded even further into the background than usual.

As the hypnotic mantra of "change" is repeated endlessly, few people even raise the question of whether what few specifics we hear represent any real change, much less a change for the better.

Raising taxes, increasing government spending and demonizing business? That is straight out of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The New Deal was new then but it is not new now. Moreover, increasing numbers of economists and historians have concluded that New Deal policies are what prolonged the Great Depression.

Putting new restrictions of international trade, in order to save American jobs? That was done by Herbert Hoover, when he signed the Hawley-Smoot tariff when the unemployment rate was 9 percent. The next year the unemployment rate was 16 percent and, before the Great Depression was over, unemployment hit 25 percent.

One of the most naive notions is that politicians are trying to solve the country's problems, just because they say so-- or say so loudly or inspiringly.

Politicians' top priority is to solve their own problem, which is how to get elected and then re-elected. Barack Obama is a politician through and through, even though pretending that he is not is his special strategy to get elected.

Some of his more trusting followers are belatedly discovering that, as he "refines" his position on various issues, now that he has gotten their votes in the Democratic primaries and needs the votes of others in the coming general election.

Perhaps a defining moment in showing Senator Obama's priorities was his declaring, in answer to a question from Charles Gibson, that he was for raising the capital gains tax rate. When Gibson reminded him of the well-documented fact that lower tax rates on capital gains had produced more actual revenue collected from that tax than the higher tax rates had, Obama was unmoved.

The question of how to raise more revenue may be the economic issue but the political issue is whether socking it to "the rich" in the name of "fairness" gains more votes.

Since about half the people in the United States own stocks-- either directly or because their pension funds buy stocks-- socking it to people who earn capital gains is by no means socking it just to "the rich." But, again, that is one of the many facts that don't matter politically.

What matters politically is the image of coming out on the side of "the people" against "the privileged."


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate