Quotable Walter E. Williams

Walter Williams is a veteran, a professor of economics at George Mason University, a syndicated columnist, a fill-in host for Rush Limbaugh and an author of eight books. Williams has one of the finest minds in America as you’re about to see as you read these quotations.

20) How many times have we heard “free tuition,” “free health care,” and free you-name-it? If a particular good or service is truly free, we can have as much of it as we want without the sacrifice of other goods or services. Take a “free” library; is it really free? The answer is no. Had the library not been built, that $50 million could have purchased something else. That something else sacrificed is the cost of the library. While users of the library might pay a zero price, zero price and free are not one and the same. So when politicians talk about providing something free, ask them to identify the beneficent Santa Claus or tooth fairy.

 

19) During the first Reagan administration, I participated in a number of press conferences on either a book or article I’d written or as a panelist in a discussion of White House public policy. On occasion, when the question-and-answer session began, I’d tell the press, “You can treat me like a white person. Ask hard, penetrating questions.” The remark often brought uncomfortable laughter, but I was dead serious. If there is one general characteristic of white liberals, it’s their condescending and demeaning attitude toward blacks.

 

18) Legality alone is no guide for a moral people. There are many things in this world that have been, or are, legal but clearly immoral. Slavery was legal. Did that make it moral? South Africa’s apartheid, Nazi persecution of Jews, and Stalinist and Maoist purges were all legal, but did that make them moral?

 

17) Households earning $250,000 and above account for 25 percent, or $1.97 trillion, of the nearly $8 trillion of total household income. If Congress imposed a 100 percent tax, taking all earnings above $250,000 per year, it would bring in about $1.9 trillion. That would keep Washington running for 190 days, but there’s a problem because there are 175 more days left in the year.The profits of the Fortune 500 richest companies come to $400 billion. That would keep the government running for another 40 days, to mid-July.

America has 400 billionaires with a combined net worth of $1.3 trillion. If Congress fleeced them of their assets, stocks, bonds, yachts, airplanes, mansions and jewelry, it would get us to at least late fall.The fact of the matter is there are not enough rich people to come anywhere close to satisfying Congress’ voracious spending appetite.

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Trickle Down and Tax Cuts

By Walter E. Williams

Dr. Thomas Sowell’s “‘Trickle Down Theory’ and ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich'” has just been published by the Hoover Institution. Having read this short paper, the conclusion you must reach is that the term “trickle down theory” is simply a tool of charlatans and political hustlers.

Sowell states that “no such theory has been found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories.” That’s from a scholar who has published extensively in the history of economic thought. Several years ago, Sowell, in his syndicated column, challenged anyone to name an economist from any economic school of thought who had actually advocated a “trickle down” theory. To date, no one has quoted any economist who ever advocated such a theory. Trickle down is a nonexistent theory. Those who use it simply argue against a caricature rather than confront an argument actually made.

President Barack Obama recently criticized Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for trying to sell a tax plan, which he called “trickledown snake oil.” Criticizing tax cuts as trickle down is a way not to confront the argument; however, there’s empirical evidence about the effects of tax cuts. Sowell shows that during the Warren Harding administration, in 1921, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon advocated tax rate cuts, which were enacted into law by Congress. Afterward, there was rising output; unemployment plummeted; and the resulting higher income produced greater federal tax revenues, even though the tax rate had been lowered (see: The Great Depression). There were somewhat similar results in later years after high tax rates were cut during the John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

The facts about the 1920s tax rate cuts are unmistakably clear for those who bother to check the facts. In 1921, when the tax rate on people earning more than $100,000 a year was 73 percent, the federal government collected a little more than $700 million in income taxes, of which 30 percent was paid by those earning more than $100,000. By 1929, after the tax rate had been cut to 24 percent on incomes higher than $100,000, the federal government collected more than $1 billion in income taxes, of which 65 percent was collected from those with incomes higher than $100,000.

In 1962, Democratic President John F. Kennedy pointed out that “it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now.” Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush made similar arguments, and the tax rate cuts had the effect of stimulating economic growth while increasing federal tax revenue and shifting a greater percentage of the tax burden on to wealthier individuals.

One very insightful part of Sowell’s paper is the discussion about what Mellon called the “gesture of taxing the rich” — namely, tax-exempt securities that he tried unsuccessfully to put an end to. Tax-exempt securities and other tax breaks are valuable tools in the politics of class warfare and envy. Politicians have it both ways. They get votes by raising taxes on the wealthy — or threatening to do so — and at the same time provide the wealthy with a way out of high taxes through tax-exempt securities. This explains how President Obama can raise tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Hollywood millionaires and Wall Street’s rich and powerful. “Tax cuts for the rich” demagoguery is simply the height of deceit perpetrated on gullible people and useful idiots.

You can bet that the White House has people reading every bit of the news, including this column and Dr. Sowell’s article. You can bet some people in the news media will read it, as well. Despite the facts that Sowell has marshaled, they will continue to use trickle down theory and “tax cuts for the rich” demagoguery, even though they now have hard evidence to the contrary, because they can count on widespread gullibility and inability to do critical thinking.

There Ought to be a Law

by: the Common Constitutionalist

I’m not one for proposing & enacting new legislation. In my opinion, America has too many laws already. Most could be repealed without the general population even realizing it. The repeal of many of them would have little effect on our lives.

That being said, I recently reprinted a column from one of my heroes, Walter E. Williams; economist & occasional fill in host for El Rusbo.

In the article he explains the problem with federal spending; that every congressman & senator in Washington tries to take as large a piece of the federal pie home to his or her district. He describes their political success as how much “Bacon they can bring home”.

Williams then goes on to explain how & why this spending is simply unsustainable, but understands their attempt at legitimizing the taking. It would sound good for a bit, but what would be the point in refusing the money. If they don’t take it home, someone else will, so why not grab it.

You may link to this article here

That got me thinking. There ought to a law! Wow, never thought I’d say that, but in this case, there ought.

So, I hereby propose a new bill: If a congressman or senator is bold enough to refuse money from the feds for his or her state, the amount they refuse cannot be spent elsewhere. If they have the courage to decline federal funds, the amount they forebear would automatically be deducted from next years budget.

A stand-alone government website would be established to keep score of every congressman and senator, as it were. Every dime they took for there state as well as what they refused. There would be no where to hide.

I believe many conservative lawmakers would be happy to refuse federal graft if they thought it could make a difference to do so. Presently, as described above, there is no benefit.

A lawmaker could triumphantly return to their district with the rightful claim that he or she actually did cut the budget by X amount instead of the current excuses of why it can’t be done, or worse, the shady lies that it is being done, when they know it is all accounting gimmickry.

There would be no need for committees, or dimwitted chamber speeches. It would be automatic.

Would it balance the budget? Nope. Would it decrease our deficit or debt? Only fractionally.

What it may do is begin to change the mindset of congress, that one man really can make a difference and if enough of them jumped on the bandwagon, it could very well have an impact.

It would also be a great campaigning tool. A big spender would be a lot easier to spot and thus run against.

Point of No Return?

by: Walter E. Williams

Our nation is rapidly approaching a point from which there’s little chance to avoid a financial collapse. The heart of our problem can be seen as a tragedy of the commons. That’s a set of circumstances when something is commonly owned and individuals acting rationally in their own self-interest produce a set of results that’s inimical to everyone’s long-term interest. Let’s look at an example of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon and then apply it to our national problem.

Imagine there are 100 cattlemen all having an equal right to graze their herds on 1,000 acres of commonly owned grassland. The rational self-interested response of each cattleman is to have the largest herd that he can afford. Each cattleman pursing similar self-interests will produce results not in any of the cattlemen’s long-term interest — overgrazing, soil erosion and destruction of the land’s usefulness. Even if they all recognize the dangers, does it pay for any one cattleman to cut the size of his herd? The short answer is no because he would bear the cost of having a smaller herd while the other cattlemen gain at his expense. In the long term, they all lose because the land will be overgrazed and made useless.

We can think of the federal budget as a commons to which each of our 535 congressmen and the president have access. Like the cattlemen, each congressman and the president want to get as much out of the federal budget as possible for their constituents. Political success depends upon “bringing home the bacon.” Spending is popular, but taxes to finance the spending are not. The tendency is for spending to rise and its financing to be concealed through borrowing and inflation.

Does it pay for an individual congressman to say, “This spending is unconstitutional and ruining our nation, and I’ll have no part of it; I will refuse a $500 million federal grant to my congressional district”? The answer is no because he would gain little or nothing, plus the federal budget wouldn’t be reduced by $500 million. Other congressmen would benefit by having $500 million more for their districts.

What about the constituents of a principled congressman? If their congressman refuses unconstitutional spending, it doesn’t mean that they pay lower federal income taxes. All that it means is constituents of some other congressmen get the money while the nation spirals toward financial ruin, and they wouldn’t be spared from that ruin because their congressman refused to participate in unconstitutional spending.

What we’re witnessing in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and other parts of Europe is a direct result of their massive spending to accommodate the welfare state. A greater number of people are living off government welfare programs than are paying taxes. Government debt in Greece is 160 percent of gross domestic product. The other percentages of GDP are 120 in Italy, 104 in Ireland and 106 in Portugal. As a result of this debt and the improbability of their ever paying it, their credit ratings either have reached or are close to reaching junk bond status.

Here’s the question for us: Is the U.S. moving in a direction toward or away from the troubled EU nations? It turns out that our national debt, which was 35 percent of GDP during the 1970s, is now 106 percent of GDP, a level not seen since World War II’s 122 percent. That debt, plus our more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, has led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade our credit rating from AAA to AA+, and the agency is keeping the outlook at “negative” as a result of its having little confidence that Congress will take on the politically sensitive job of tackling the same type of entitlement that has turned Europe into a basket case.

I am all too afraid that Benjamin Franklin correctly saw our nation’s destiny when he said, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

Law vs. Morality

 Liberty-loving Patriots Have a Duty to Disobey Unconstitutional Laws

By: Walter E. Williams
(One of my Heros & favorite Limbaugh fill-in host)

Let’s think about whether all acts of Congress deserve our respect and obedience. Suppose Congress enacted a law — and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional — requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month. Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution’s commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents and accidents affect interstate commerce. Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting a runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish?

A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say, “Williams, you’re wrong this time. In 1859, in Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 constitutional.” That court decision, as well as some others in our past, makes my case. Moral people can’t rely solely on the courts to establish what’s right or wrong. Slavery is immoral; therefore, any laws that support slavery are also immoral. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

Soon, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare, euphemistically titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There is absolutely no constitutional authority for Congress to force any American to enter into a contract to buy any good or service. But if the court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, what should we do?

State governors and legislators ought to summon up the courage of our Founding Fathers in response to the 5th Congress’ Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Led by Jefferson and James Madison, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 were drafted where legislatures took the position that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. They said, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government … (and) whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.” The 10th Amendment to our Constitution supports that vision: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In a word, if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, citizens should press their state governors and legislatures to nullify the law. You say, “Williams, the last time states got into this nullification business, it led to a war that cost 600,000 lives.” Two things are different this time. First, most Americans are against Obamacare, and secondly, I don’t believe that you could find a U.S. soldier who would follow a presidential order to descend on a state to round up or shoot down fellow Americans because they refuse to follow a congressional order to buy health insurance.

Congress has already gone far beyond the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. In Federalist No. 45, Madison explained: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” That vision has been turned on its head; it’s the federal government whose powers are numerous and indefinite, and those of the state are now few and defined.

Former slave Frederick Douglass advised: “Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”