Hurt Is Not A Do-Nothing

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Editor, The Herald:

I feel compelled to take issue with several points made in a recent letter to The Herald. Rep. Robert Hurt said that businesses are not hiring because they are fearful of government regulations and higher taxes. To counter that assertion, the letterwriter cites a column by Paul Krugman. I looked up that column by Krugman in which he cites not studies, but a paper by economist Lawrence Mishel, who in turn cites studies. These studies are interesting, but they miss the point. They study past regulations such as environmental regulations. Business leaders are not fearful of past environmental regulations, but rather they are fearful of future regulation such as Obamacare. Much of the past regulation pales in comparison to the requirements of Obamacare. Combine this with the growing attitude among the Left to end capitalism and we see that business leaders have every reason to be fearful.

I would have to disagree with Rep. Hurt when he says that government cannot create jobs. Indeed, government has created hundreds of thousands of government jobs. That is part of the problem. Now the letter mentions highways and bridges. Yes, we need those things because they help keep the productive sectors of the economy running, but they are not themselves productive in the same sense. The jobs we need are manufacturing jobs. We can build all the highways and bridges we want, but it is for no purpose unless we have the manufactured goods to move to market on them. We have to ask ourselves, what is our greatest need right now, new bridges or more manufacturing jobs? Imagine that you know that you need new linoleum for the kitchen floor, but last night a tree fell on your house, punching a large hole in the roof. You don't have enough money for both, so which are you going to do, fix the roof or buy the linoleum? Bridges are nice, but we need manufacturing jobs.

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My greatest disagreement is over his account of Elizabeth Warren's comments, which he misrepresents. When Warren “cheered” for those who start new businesses, she was speaking sarcastically. (You can see the video for yourself on YouTube. Search for Elizabeth Warren on Debt Crisis.) The letter writer tells us that Warren reminded the business leaders that they moved their goods to market on roads that “we all” paid for. If you watch the video, you will see that that is not what Warren said. She said that the goods were moved to market on roads that “the rest of us” paid for, implying that the businessmen did not help pay for the roads. In fact, Warren strongly emphasizes that you moved your goods to market on roads that the rest of us paid for. She very clearly makes a distinction between “us” and “you.” Ironically, in the same video Warren says that this is not class warfare. Watch the video yourself. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, who are you going to believe, Elizabeth Warren or your own lying eyes?

Furthermore, Warren is careful to mention only highway construction, education, and police and fire protection. These are government expenditures with which few would disagree. However, we are not in the mess that we are in because we built too many highways or hired too many firefighters. These areas account for only a tiny fraction of government spending. If government would limit itself to its proper functions, then we would have more than enough revenue for these things. Warren was careful not to mention federal entitlement programs, which are what are bankrupting the country. Maybe she forgot.

I emphatically agree with the letter when it says that “we're all in this together, and we have to agree to contribute to our common enterprise.” That is why I believe that every wage-earner should pay at least a nominal federal income tax. Why should nearly half the population pay no federal income taxes at all? When I see surveys that say that 40% (or whatever percentage) of the people favor higher taxes, I think “of course,” because they are not paying those taxes. Why wouldn't they want someone else to pay more? That percentage would be far lower if everyone paid at least a nominal amount because then we would, in fact, all be in this together.

The letter closes by calling Mr. Hurt an obstructionist and a do-nothing, but it failed to give any evidence to that effect. On the contrary, Mr. Hurt has been quite active and effective. He has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills, many of which protect jobs and cut wasteful spending. The Republican House has passed a number of budget bills, all of which have been killed by the Democratic Senate. Indeed, since Obama was elected in 2008, the Senate has not passed a single budget bill, even though the law requires that they do so. Who exactly are the do-nothings? Who exactly are the obstructionists? It is not Robert Hurt.

Robb T. Koether

Prince Edward