Damming the Rising Tide

The ghost of Teddy Roosevelt rose up last week during Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. One hundred years ago, Roosevelt called for a strong central government to protect the people from the greed of corporate America.

This past week, Obama used similar language to argue for larger government programs and more centralized control over the economy while blasting corporations for greed that has caused the current economic depression.

Countering the Republicans’ call for greater economic freedom, Obama said “Their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening them.”

Teddy Roosevelt, Rough Rider, imperialist and famously known as a “trust buster” set the course for modern day big government. His anti-monopoly legislation broke up such large businesses as Standard Oil. However, as Jim Powell noted in his Forbes article, “Obama and Teddy Roosevelt: Both Progressives, Both Clueless on the Economy”, “in Theodore Roosevelt’s America, output was expanding, and prices were falling: the opposite of what one would expect if monopolies were pervasive.”

Mr. Powell goes on to cite the period’s rising economic output and falling consumer prices that fueled a period of unprecedented economic growth. “He demonized successful investors and entrepreneurs, imagining there wouldn’t be any adverse consequences.” Powell said.

Big business is an easy target because large corporations report billions of dollars in revenues each quarter. It is easy to think that a business is greedy because it generates large sums of money, especially in comparison to the average worker’s paycheck. Like Roosevelt, today’s Democrats blame businesses for making so much money and the Republicans for wanting to help them make more. What Obama and the Democrats never say out loud is that workers are employed because businesses are successful.

It is not only direct hiring that benefits workers. It is the additional jobs generated to support a successful company and the money that these businesses generate. The Democrats deride this as President Reagan’s “trickle down” economics but a better way of saying it is Jack Kemp’s phrase “a rising tide raises all boats.”

The Middletown NY Times Herald-Record carried an article on Sunday, December 11th, about the impact of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Bethel Woods is located on the grounds of the famous 1969 Woodstock Festival (the festival was held in Bethel NY, not the actual town of Woodstock, which is in a different county). In the six years that Bethel Woods has been opened, it has grown to be the seventh largest attended amphitheater in the world, with over 183,000 tickets sold in the first nine months of this year. But the real crux of the article is the growth of all of the other businesses that has formed around the success of the Bethel Woods enterprise.

The Record cites hotels filling up, restaurants opening, store traffic increasing, new landscaping businesses, increased tourism and more county tax revenue. According to the Record, Bethel Woods alone drew over 224,000 people to its shows and exhibits. Quite the crowd for a county whose permanent population is not much over 75,000.

This is what a successful business does. It makes money for itself and in the process it makes money for people who support it. A strong core business creates jobs that results in more people working, not only directly for the corporation but in countless supporting ways.

Bethel Woods’ impact on a small, rural county in upstate New York is just an example of how strong businesses that are free to develop their market impact the economy. Now picture this going on across the nation, whether it is an oil company drilling in North Dakota or a movie being filmed in Hollywood. Then picture the Democrats and Obama stepping in to stifle these businesses, causing the loss of all of the related jobs.

Would you rather hear the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt saying “bully for you, Barack” or would you rather have a job?

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