Over the age of consensus and praying for gridlock

Leading American political satirist and author P.J. O'Rourke delivered the annual lecture to the Centre for Independent Studies in Auckland last night. Here's an extract of his talk

We live in democracies. Rule by the majority. Rule by the people. Fifty per cent of people are below average in intelligence. This explains everything about politics. Not that we'd want to live in a country ruled only by the best and brightest. That would be too much like being married to Cherie Blair.

So we have to keep supporting democracy. Even when democracy acts up the way it's done in Russia, Pakistan and the American presidential election.

Long term there's only one thing that gives me hope as a right-winger - the left wing. It's going to be hard to do a worse job running America than the Republicans did, but the Democrats can do it if anyone can.

The left is the party of government activism - the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, slimmer, taller, and take a dozen strokes off your golf game. The right is the party that says government doesn't work. And then they get elected and prove it.

The US Government is going to take over the American car industry. I can predict the result - a lightweight, compact vehicle with a small carbon footprint using sustainable alternative energy.

When I was a kid we called it a bike.

America has wound up with a charming leftist as a President. And this scares me. Not because I hate leftists. I don't. I have many charming leftist friends. They're lovely people - as long as they keep their nose out of things they don't understand. Such as making a living.

When charming leftists stick their nose into things they don't understand they become ratchet-jawed purveyors of monkey-doodle and baked wind.

They are piddlers upon merit, beggars at the door of accomplishment, thieves of livelihood, applauding themselves for giving away other people's money.

They are the lap dogs of the poly sci class, returning to the vomit of collectivism. They are pig herders tending that sow-who-eats-her-young, the welfare state.

They are muck-dwelling bottom-feeders growing fat on the worries and disappointments of the electorate. They are the ditch carp of democracy.

And that's what one of their friends says.

Also, a charming leftist President scares me because what if Obama really does turn out to be a "uniter, not a divider"?

This could mean an end to partisan bickering and result in politicians of all stripes working together to solve national and international problems. Then we're really screwed.

America needed a Republican president because America has a Democratic Congress. Republican president, Democratic Congress - this means gridlock. I love gridlock.

The worst thing in politics is "bipartisan consensus". Bipartisan consensus - that's like when my doctor and my lawyer agree with my wife that I need help.

The global economic meltdown is bringing droves of these consensus-builders to office. (And I, for one, am over the age of consent.) What does this busy-body type of politician intend to do with all the consensus that's being built?

And we have to remember that it's not just a financial crisis that we're facing. There's Iraq. And the war in Afghanistan. North Korea. Darfur. Pakistan producing more history than it can consume locally.

If Obama is anything to go by in the new style of crisis leadership, I am not reassured. First, he appoints a Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who thinks "foreign affairs" means her husband is overseas.

So far, the best Barack Obama has been able to do by way of an Iraq policy is to make what I think of as the high school sex promise: "I'll pull out in time, honest, Honey."

Obama has committed more troops to Afghanistan. But for what? For whatever the Nato allies want, I guess. Great. Obama is going to decide what to do in Afghanistan by waiting to see what France does. Although waiting to see what France does may not be such a bad idea.

Whatever direction France is pointing - toward Nazi collaboration, communism, existentialism, Jerry Lewis movies, or running for cover in Afghanistan - we can go the other way with a clear conscience.

Ending the recession by stopping taxes

So what are our national leaders up to?

Well, I can't speak for yours. But I've been keeping an eye on mine.

The first thing President Barack Obama does is a US$700 billion economic stimulus. Wasn't that the last thing President George W. Bush did?

US$700 billion Bush financial bail-out plus US$787 billion Obama stimulus package plus a US$3.6 trillion federal Budget - add all that together and it equals ... More money than there is.

The 1 trillion, 487 billion dollars that America is spending on the financial bail-out plus the economic stimulus package is equal to more than a year's worth of US individual and corporate income tax payments put together.

Which raises the question: instead of a bail-out and a stimulus, why not no taxes for a year? Zero. Stop taxing us!

Would this be an economic stimulus? Uh, yeah. A stimulus? Comparing no taxes to what the Obama Administration is doing is like comparing Viagra to Tylenol PM.

But, no taxes? This will never fly.

Why not? Because no taxes - that only puts money in the pocket of people who pay taxes. Politicians can't buy votes like that. People don't love a politician for giving them their own money that the politician just snatched. This is like running off with a man's wife and expecting him to thank you when you drop her home the next day.

Robin Hood didn't steal from the rich and give to the rich. Likewise, politicians who pretend that they're Robin Hood have to give tax money to people who don't pay taxes.

And do you know how many people pay taxes, statistically speaking? None.

Let me give you a little math on this. The annual US federal Government expenditure is close to US$3 trillion. There are about 300 million Americans. Federal expenditure is something like US$10,000 per year per person.

So an American family of four is getting US$40,000 a year spent on it by the federal Government. Which means this family of four would have to be paying US$40,000 a year in federal income tax just to break even.

After using all possible income tax deductions plus the customary amount of cheating on taxes, that means a family income of over US$160,000 a year. Which makes this family among America's wealthiest families - in the top 5 per cent.

Give my figures a plus or minus 5 per cent margin of error and you see that, statistically speaking, nobody pays taxes. We're sponges. And the G20 remedy for this recession is like the medical treatment back in the days of Adam Smith - apply more leeches!

- NZ Herald

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