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Gov. Perry and the Ponzi Scheme

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So much for the spirit of we're-all-in-it-together, which prevailed, more or less, at the 9/11 commemorations.

The next day, President Barack Obama showed up in the White House Rose Garden to propose financing his presidential comeback by picking the pockets of his opponents.

The president said some $400 billion to finance the tax cuts he wants should come from limiting itemized deductions enjoyed by the filthy rich, as he seems to define them: families earning more than $250,000 a year, not to mention those perennial favorites in the Obama lexicon, oil companies, hedge funds and owners of corporate jets.

The liberal principle of creating wealth by transferring it to others remains intact -- reminding us why liberal administrations rarely create wealth. They enact tax and spending policies that take up Peter's time and energy by devising ways of minimizing the conveyance of his money to Paul.

The president, meanwhile, laid some of his deep economic analysis on us: "We've got an economy that's full of uncertainties now."

Gee, you reckon? Like the uncertainty pertaining to the issue of when the federal government will realize and address the magnitude of the obstacles its policies pose to economic growth?

Not for a while, it seems. Companies store up the cash -- estimated at $1- to $2-trillion -- they have earned while awaiting the signal that it's safe once more to risk and invest. Obama's continued posturing about the supposed immunity of "the rich" is evidence that, no, it's not yet safe to back up an idea with cash.

If money brings out the worst, as well as, occasionally, the best, in many people, Washington, D.C.'s, great treasure trove of taxpayer money (now representing a quarter of the economy) is a case study in moral ruination. The capital's sense of entitlement to our money is endless.

Take Social Security, which Gov. Rick Perry called "a Ponzi scheme" -- meaning it bets on the come, paying present beneficiaries with the earnings of future ones, whom it proposes to support with proceeds from even more remote beneficiaries.

Perry got in trouble with commentators, including conservative ones, for denigrating a retirement system on which many Americans profoundly rely. When you get down to it, the rhetorical immunity Social Security enjoys in political debates is evidence that the wealth transfer system, as expounded by Obama, has a place, if a controversial one, in many hearts. Obama can get by -- to an extent -- with enjoining "the rich" to fork over to "the poor" because the idea of so acting has a pedigree going back at least to the Depression. That the idea might be inefficient rarely enters the minds of its advocates.

Take Social Security, once more, again identified as a Ponzi scheme by the Keynesian economist Paul Samuelson and other non-conservatives (Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online obliges us with the chronology.) Under Social Security, you take from those who have -- present-day workers -- and give to those who don't have because the government took from (set ital) them (end ital) 30 and 40 years earlier.

Today, the system, we shouldn't be greatly surprised to hear, is running out of money. Too few new Americans are coming on the scene, thanks to life choices such as abortion. Nor conspicuously, can the economy support as many workers as we need to pay all those now retired, or soon to retire. At such a juncture, the authorities caught up with Bernie Madoff. Which is no problem when it comes to Social Security, in that the authorities themselves are running this snatch-and-hand-over scheme. Who's going to stop the authorities? The voters? Not until enough of them understand what's gone wrong here.

Perry's description of Social Security may not have been artful, politically speaking, but it does get us talking, which is what, we as a nation, are reluctant to do when it comes to the economic principles that we live by. That's what we need now -- talk and more talk.

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