BOOK REVIEW

Left Wing Orthodoxy and the Fiction of Big Government

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin’s new book, Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future, provides an excellent way to get up to date on the worst political problems facing us today. It is somewhat of a follow up to his previous book, Liberty and Tyranny, but it is not necessary to have read that one first.

Addressed to Millennials, he reveals how dire the economic situation has become for them. A record 30.3 percent of young adults currently live at home with a parent. Their economic future is far more bleak than previous generations. The findings are so alarming this book should be required reading for every student in high school and college.

Levin brings up some jarring facts about how bad government taxation, spending and income redistribution has become. Economics professor Walter Williams found that nearly 75 percent of today’s federal spending “can be described as Congress taking the earnings of one American to give to another through thousands of handout programs, such as farm subsidies, business bailouts and welfare.” Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, observes, “There was a time when the purpose of taxes was to pay the inevitable costs of government. To the political left, however, taxes have long been seen as a way to redistribute income and finance other social experiments based on liberal ideology.”

The country is out of money to spend. Boston University economics professor Dr. Laurence J. Kotlikoff testified before the Senate Budget Committee this year and said the country is already broke, in fact, “it may be in worse fiscal shape than any developed country, including Greece.” Only 62.9 percent of those eligible to work in the labor force are working currently, lower than any time since 1979.

Levin explains why Congress votes in favor of special interests so often, such as subsidies to farmers. Members of Congress “will hear almost nothing from the public at large on such a narrow issue. Therefore, the interests of the vocal minority will receive more weight than the interests of the majority.”

He reveals how insolvent Social Security has become. “In 1940, there were 159 workers for every beneficiary.” By 2010, that number had dropped to 3, and by 2030 will decrease to only 2.2 workers. He explains how the word “insurance” to describe Social Security “is a fiction.” Same with Medicare. Both Social Security and Medicare “are actually worse than a Ponzi scheme” since young people are forced to pay into a program they will never reap the benefits from. Medicare is full of waste, with close to $50 billion in improper payments for fiscal year 2013.

Obamacare “is not financially viable.” Premiums increased for consumers by 11-to-12 percent, with much higher increases in some states: “Delaware and California, for example, had 100 percent and 53 percent increases, respectively.” As happened with Medicare, Obamacare is not going to contain costs. When Medicare was implemented, it “caused a 37 percent increase in hospital spending.” The early results of Obamacare are already showing “a spike in visits to ERs for medical treatments.” The  reimbursements to doctors accepting Medicare are so low that many have not been able to keep their practices afloat.

In order to deal with these rising costs, Obama once cruelly “suggested to The New York Times that he did not believe his aging grandmother should have had expensive hip replacement because she did not have much longer to live.”

Levin reveals that public school teachers receive salaries comparable to those similarly skilled in the private sector, yet due to more generous fringe benefits, they actually receive 52 percent higher compensation. Only Luxembourg and Norway spend more per child on education than the U.S., yet the U.S. is below the middle of the pack of children in 65 countries that were tested by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Additionally, “adjusted state SAT scores have declined by an average of 3 percent.”

At the same time, college costs keep increasing. The cost of a college degree has risen 40 percent since 2001, with 71 percent of those graduating owing an average of $29,400 in student loans. It is the “fastest-growing type of indebtedness in the country” and 41.4 percent of those under 35 have student debt. Meanwhile, universities are paying employees generous salaries; “the average per-hour cost for employee compensation for college and university workers was $44.82.”

The left-wing orthodoxy sustains its monopoly at the most prestigious schools in higher education through an “incestuous network of graduates from the top departments in different fields who hire fellow alumni.”

In Plunder and Deceit, Levin covers illegal immigration, pointing out that one problem today different than in the past is “there is no period of assimilation between immigration flows.” Immigrants have been coming to America without interruption for the past 40 years. “U.S. immigrants and their U.S.-born children now number approximately 80 million persons, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population.” Of them, 28 percent are in the country illegally.

He refutes the notion that illegal immigrants take jobs Americans won’t do; “citizens in ‘high-immigrant occupations’ have a much higher unemployment rate than citizens who work in jobs with a smaller percentage of immigrants.” Levin points out the irony that U.S. policies allowing endless waves of illegal immigration have led to an inequality gap between rich and poor.

Proponents of more immigration argue that we need more immigration for STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering or math). However, according to Lindsay Lowell from the Economic Policy Institute, “for every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job.” Meanwhile, major tech companies have been slashing tens of thousands of jobs and wages have remained flat since the late 1990s. Perhaps most jarring of all, although 5.7 million more immigrants are working in recent years, 127,000 fewer native-born citizens are, and “immigrants have accounted for 100 percent of employment growth.”

Even the libertarian Milton Friedman, who has favored open-ended immigration, stated, “[I]t is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare…” The Heritage Foundation found that illegal immigrant households “received $24,721 per household in government benefits and services in FY 2010.” At the same time, they paid only $10,334 in taxes. The Heritage Foundation estimates the “lifetime cost of these benefits to the United States Treasury at $1.3 trillion.”

The “poor” in America don’t go hungry. The Heritage Foundation studied data from the Department of Agriculture, and found that fully half of the poor live in single-family homes or townhouses. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person, and the vast majority of housing is in good repair. The average poor person has “sufficient funds to meet all essential needs and to obtain medical care.”

Obama “creates the impression that those who earn the minimum wage are largely heads of households and sole providers for their families.” Levin refutes this, showing that many minimum wage earners are young and single and in their first jobs. He quotes a hotel employee who is worse off because of Seattle’s SeaTac area increasing the minimum wage to fifteen dollars per hour. The man lost his 401k, health insurance, paid holiday vacation, overtime, free meals, and now receives less in tips. Ironically, day laborers in California, where the minimum wage is not regulated but competitive, receive more than eleven dollars per hour.

Levin strikes back at criticism of fossil fuels, citing research from University of Chicago history professor Dr. Kenneth Pomeranz, “the technical developments of the Industrial Revolution were not attainable without ‘plentiful coal and the easing of other resource constraints made possible by the New World.’”

The federal government is growing so massively that in “2014 alone, the executive branch issued 3,541 regulations, comprising 79,066 pages of the Federal Register.” Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe observed that when the Obama administration failed to get climate legislation through Congress, the EPA forced it through by passing regulations, even though not authorized by Congress. Levin refers to the environmental movement as built on “a foundation of junk science and emotionalism.”

How is the left able to accomplish these obviously downhill changes in society? Levin cites a prescient observation made by philosopher and author Ayn Rand in her 1971 book, Return of the Primitive — The Anti-Industrial Revolution. She noted that the statists were cleverly changing their method of attack since it wasn’t working: “Instead of their old promises that collectivism would create universal abundance and their denunciations of capitalism for creating poverty, they are now denouncing capitalism for creating abundance.”

Levin concludes that much of the problem comes down to this, “Many fellow citizens perceive living and prospering at the expense of others as both a financial entitlement and right.” Unfortunately, he astutely observes, “The rising generation seems wedged in its own contradictions.” Mark Levin’s Plunder and Deceit is highly informative and well worth reading.


Rachel Alexander is the founder of the Intellectual Conservative and an attorney. Ms. Alexander is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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