Peggy Noonan Has a Funny Definition of the Free Market
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I might have a new favorite comedian; Nate Bargatze.  He left me in stitches recently at one of his shows here!

Since he works clean, my girls’ mom and I thought they might like the family bits in his act.  When we watched one of his specials, I was reminded of his take on common core math: “a new math they invented, no heads-up.” 

Incidentally, I saw him on the same night Peggy Noonan’s latest hit the pages of The Wall Street Journal.  I was struck by some similarities in logic.

Her column was an adaptation from her “A Time for Choosing” speech at the Reagan Library.  It was basically her advice to Republicans on how best to present themselves as an alternative to the woeful meltdown of all things Democrat the last couple years.

She extols the virtues of embracing immigrants, and makes some good suggestions, like how the GOP should stand against “excessive regulation.”  But she trips up a bit on some facts and figures.

In the same breath that she urges a defense of “free markets,” she implores the GOP to “make peace with the welfare state.  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security … have been a positive good.  Make them stronger.”

Interestingly, the word “tax” is found nowhere in this excerpt.  It’s not a stretch to assume that cuts are out of the question for her as a tool for “undergird(ing) them.” 

Does that mean she supports raising the payroll tax as did the namesake of the venue where she spoke?  Does it mean lifting the cap of what earnings are taxable, like Democrats want to do now?  The speech itself holds no further clues.

It goes without saying the harm that would come from the former.  Raising taxes on income never helps any situation anywhere.  It hurts our ability to support our families, to save for the future, and to enjoy life.    

The same applies to the cap.

Currently, our yearly earnings are free of social security taxes after almost $150,000.  Some may feel that’s not fair, but a couple things come to mind. 

Those higher-earning individuals/households are the ones able to give the most muscle to a push into new frontiers.  They have a greater ability to invest in new companies, new technologies, maybe even their own venture. 

Plus, though the reasoning behind the origins of the cap is unclear, one can conclude that the higher-earning individuals have retirement and contingency planning on surer footing.  It makes less sense to tether them to an inferior alternative. 

The same can be said for government health insurance programs. 

The very nature of insurance, when consumers do not see the full cost of a service, is inflationary.  Add in a sloppy, politically-driven entity like the government, and a “positive good” is the last thing we get. 

Unfortunately, such utterances aren’t all that surprising.  Running counter to the facts is quite another.

Though she criticizes former President Trump for fostering “cultish … followers,” she mimics a similar line about U.S. manufacturing.  While he lumped it in as an example of “American carnage,” she claims “the end of” it as one of “many rugs pulled from under … voters.”

That’s just not true.

Manufacturing was on a solid rise upward until the recession of 2008-2009.  What’s likely clouding that view is that it happened as the employment within was falling

But shouldn’t we be happy when we can produce more with less input?  Doesn’t that free us up to pursue other interests?  Incidentally, manufacturing started sliding a bit when the former president raised tariffs, and erected more barriers to trade. 

Perhaps this is one of those “bedeviling” dichotomies that “mature and serious … Republicans” who “actually want to help the country … will talk about,” as she hopes.

Rather than bowing to the lack of “political will,” maybe they should stand with conviction and principle when promoting more individual control over social security.  Or at least display the logic of bringing it in line with longer life expectancies. 

After all, the programs nominally bankrolled by our payroll taxes, along with the aforementioned “welfare state,” are the main-drivers of Uncle Sam’s profligacy. 

Yet, it’s only “Democrats … spending new trillions without care” that is a problem, not the money “it’s going to take” to “train government to conservative ends.”

It’s telling that when she cites the “crises of our time,” there’s barely a mention of the freedoms that were stripped away starting in the spring of 2020, using the coronavirus as the scapegoat. 

The trillions in spending she bemoans were triggered when citizens were deprived of their ability to support their family with a job.  It has continued with the lingering “excessive control” and mandates. 

A free market would be liberated from all this. 

The prosperity that has proven to follow such loosening up on Americans renders government spending beneficial only for pro-government politicians, bureaucrats and activists.  They’re the only ones not kept down by such largesse. 

That this seems to “bedevil” the ruling elite would be comical if it weren’t so sad and infuriating.

Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute for Objective Policy Assessment, policy director at InfuseSA, a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society, and is a former candidate for San Antonio city council.  He can be reached via email or Facebook

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