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Plundering of the American taxpayer

Posted: December 18, 2008 6:33 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2008 4:55 a.m.
I was recently talking with a friend about Washington's (the Democrat-controlled House and Senate) latest approach to solving all our problems with the massive automaker bailout legislation.

He tried to explain the reasons that some Republicans, like our current president, could consider supporting this bill. His explanation went something like this:

"It's not new money! It will be a restructuring of the money Congress already appropriated for the auto industry that was to aid them in efforts to green up their production vehicles."

I thought about this seemingly logical proposal. It does make sense that Congress could redirect money that has already been set aside for this purpose, and in so doing would not be adding any more cost to the taxpayer.

However, after re-engaging my capitalistic brain, I realized this is just one more way of taking that same hard-earned money from the American taxpayer; moving it through the same bloated, inefficient bureaucratic system; and giving it to the same group of people who, for whatever reason, cannot sell their products for a real profit.

I realized my friend's argument didn't hold water... Money that has already been taken from the American taxpayer, to give to the Big 3 automakers to assist them with the cost of making their cars environmentally friendly, will now be used by the automakers for basic operating expenses.

Or, more accurately, Congress legally plundered our hard-earned tax dollars to force publicly owned companies, personally responsible for their own success or failure, to produce vehicles that conform to Congress's mandated environmental standards.

Since they haven't gotten around to that yet, they'll switch direction (sometimes referred to as a sleight of hand) and use the money to keep the carmakers in business - something the Big 3 seem totally incapable of doing by themselves.

Hmmm. Sounds like a bunch of "gobble-de-gook," as my granny used to say!

The notable French economist Fredreic Bastiat addressed this "gobble-de-gook" in his brilliant little book "The Law" that he penned in the early 1800s as a response to his observations of the ongoing failures of government-manipulated economies.

He was disgusted by what he saw at the time and throughout history as an ever-growing encroachment by the few upon the many by the means of what he called "legalized plunder." When describing this legalized thievery, Basitiat said:

"(Man) can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

"But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

"Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain in itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

"Imagine now that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection (bail out), or encouragement the law (government) takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few - whether farmers, manufacturers (such as automakers), ship-owners, artists, or comedians."

Basitiat goes on to explain the detrimental effects on a society that has allowed the law itself to legally plunder (or in today's vernacular) steal from the many (taxpayers) and give to the few.

I believe Bastiat's premise perfectly describes what we are seeing today by our American lawmakers - namely our Democrat-controlled Congress.

The simple fact is this: Government cannot create wealth; it can only seize/plunder and redistribute it. While we, as Americans, believe there is a valid role for government in our society, we should always be examining any proposals that require government to give to a few by taking from the many.

Just as I am writing this piece, I see that our own Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon has voted against the auto bailout proposal.

Thank you, Buck! If you have time, there's a friend of mine I'd like you to talk to.

Lynn Vakay is a Santa Clarita Valley teacher. "Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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