I’ve already briefly mentioned a recent quote of President Obama speaking in Quincy, Illinois, but this quote deserves more attention:

We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy. [emphasis mine - CM]

I read that, and I heard the whiny voice of a distressed child crying out, “That’s not fair!” I’m sure you can supply your own mental image of some child who has uttered those words. President Obama, in this unteleprompted comment, is telling the nation that it’s just not fair that someone is making more than “enough money” when there are people who are not.

But try as I may, I can’t find any clause in the Constitution that identifies as the role of the Executive, or even of the federal government, to make sure that life is fair. It simply isn’t his place to tell Americans that they’ve made enough money.

P.J. O’Rouke wrote the following at the end of his book Eat the Rich talking about fairness. At 20 years old, the whole book is still well worth reading. *plug* *plug*

Fairness is a good thing in marriage and at the day-care center. It’s a nice little domestic virtue. But a liking for fairness is not that noble a sentiment. Fairness doesn’t rank with charity, love, duty, or self-sacrifice. And there’s always a tinge of self-seeking in making sure that things are fair. Don’t you go trying to get one up on me.

As a foundation for a political system, fairness my be no virtue at all. The Old Testament is clear on this point. The Bible might seem an odd place to be doing economic research, especially by someone who goes to church about once a year, and only then because that’s when my wife says the Easter Bunny comes. However, I have been thinking — in socioeconomic terms — about the Tenth Commandment.

The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, etc. Fair enough. But then comes the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

Here are God’s basic rules about how we should live, a very brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts, and right at the end of it is, “Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.”

What is that doing in there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose, as one of them, jealousy about the livestock next door? And yet, think about how important to the well-being of a community this Commandment is. If you want a donkey, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t bitch about what the people across the street have. Go get your own.

The Tenth Commandment sends a message to socialists, to egalitarians, to people obsessed with fairness, to American presidential candidates in the year 2000 — to everyone who believes that wealth should be redistributed. And the message is clear and concise: Go to hell.

And it applies to our current socialist and egalitarian president who is obviously obsessed with fairness.

After getting home last night, I did a little link chasing until I stumbled across an article of leftist coveting posted by Les Leopold on the Huffington Post website titled “The Forbes 400 Shows Why Our Nation Is Falling Apart.”

It’s great to know that during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans, according to Forbes, actually increased by $30 billion. Well golly, that’s only a 2 percent increase, much less than the double digit returns the wealthy had grown accustomed to. But a 2 percent increase is a whole lot more than losing 40 percent of your 401k. And $30 billion is enough to provide 500,000 school teacher jobs at $60k per year.

Collectively, those 400 have $1.57 trillion in wealth. It’s hard to get your mind around a number like that. The way I do it is to imagine that we were still living during the great radical Eisenhower era of the 1950s when marginal income tax rates hit 91 percent. Taxes were high back in the 1950s because people understood that constraining wild extremes of wealth would make our country stronger and prevent another depression. (Well, what did those old fogies know?)

Why use President Eisenhower as the benchmark? Leopold could have chosen the highest tax rate of 94% which fell 1944-1945, but that would be mentioning Democrat Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Instead, he chose a Republican. Gee, I wonder why he chose a Republican instead of the higher rate under two previous Democrats.

So, were taxes that high in 1944-1945 and again from 1951-1963 because “people understood that constraining wild extremes of wealth would make our country stronger and prevent another depression”? Really? So the high taxes from 1932-1986 made the country stronger, so we didn’t get affected by the recessions of 1937, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1958, 1960-61, 1969-70, 1973-75, 1980, and 1981-82? Golly, good thing the government was confiscating 50-94% of the wealthiest Americans’ incomes during that time, or we’d have really been up poop creek without an implement of movement!

Quite simply, a tax is a punishment, so a tax on income is a punishment for earning money. When the government punishes an action, like earning money, the people respond by doing less of it. So Leopold thinks a massive income tax makes the country stronger by encouraging people to work less, and that’s a good thing? And here I thought the whole depression/recession thing is what you get when there is a reduction in the productivity of the nation. Well, what does this old fogy know?

Had we kept those high progressive taxes in place, instead of removing them, especially during the Reagan era, the Forbes 400 might each be worth “only” $100 million instead of $3.9 billion each. So let’s imagine that the rest of their wealth, about $1.53 trillion, were available for the public good.

What does $1.53 trillion buy?

It’s more than enough to insure the uninsured for the next twenty years or more.

It’s more than enough to create a Manhattan Project to solve global warming by developing renewable energy and a green, sustainable manufacturing sector.

And here’s my favorite: It’s more than enough to endow every public college and university in the country so that all of our children could gain access to higher education for free, forever!

Ah, the classic liberal dream of “I could spend your money better than you can.” Maybe, just maybe, Leopold could spend the money with far more wisdom than the 400 Forbes billionaires, but he misses one key point: their money is not his to spend. But Leopold has become successful in breaking the Tenth Commandment:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:17 [emphasis mine - CM]

Other people’s money most certainly falls under that part of not coveting anything that is our neighbor’s. Now it’s true we can play the game of imaging just how much better we could spend another person’s money, but at best it’s just so much mental masturbation since it gives us a nice feeling, but nothing productive actually happens. But playing this game has a bad side leading to feelings of jealousy, rage, and calls for the confiscation and outright theft of other people’s money “for the common good.” Walter E. Williams sums it up well in his book More Liberty Means Less Government on page 182 of my copy.

Liberals are about control. Jealousy is their powerful instrument for the politics of envy. By getting us to covet that which belongs to our neighbor, we in turn give them the power to confiscate what are perceived as ill-gotten gains of others and pass it around. In the process we all wind up being less free, less prosperous, and less moral and become a nation of thieves engaged in the attempt to live at each other’s expense.

Leopold waxes on about the warm and pleasant feeling his mental wankfest grants him as he contemplates the theft of other people’s money. He says that “please let’s not call it socialism,” and he’s right. There is a much better term for the progressive tax he lusts after, and that word is Marxism. After all, a progressive tax is the third of Marx’s Ten Planks proposed in his Communist Manifesto.