Vail Daily letter: Freedom before equality
August 15, 2014
Rev. Van Ens’ commentary (Aug. 10) regarding equality and liberty is elusive, quite circuitous and inconsistent with the facts. Interspersing his contrasting views with former classmate David Brat (who upset Eric Cantor in the Virginia Republican primary) was interesting but primarily a distraction.
Rev. Van Ens believes “that the expansion of federal power enhances a free market for all” and “when equality and freedom are joined, the many prosper instead of the elite few.” Really? If this vision were correct why are the following facts about our current big government true? One, the true unemployment rate that considers those who have departed from the workforce and are no longer seeking employment has risen dramatically during the past six years, now estimated at 18 percent by the Department of Labor. This rate may be even worse since many jobs are now “part time” vs. “full time. Two, even with the current focus on income redistribution, the spread in income inequality has widened. This observation is especially true in minority communities. The poverty level has hovered at approximately 15 percent for three years running. Three, in spite of the federal stimulus plans and low interest rates, the median household income level has dropped 8.7% from 2007 to 2012. Four, our society has become progressively more dependent on governmental programs with the rise in disability rates, food stamp programs and Medicaid expansion.
If these concerns are not enough, consider the reality of the classic failures of government run programs including the ACA roll out, the debacle involving the VA health care system, and of course the financial loss of $5 billion recently reported by the U.S. Postal Service in spite of $66 billion dollars in annual revenue (2013).
Rev. Van Ens also advocates an “economic freedom that thrives when those who prosper practice an equitably shared abundance.” What exactly does that statement mean? Al Gore and Joe Biden apparently had not received this message based on their paltry charitable contributions reported in their publicly disclosed IRS returns. Unfortunately, Rev. Van Ens believes that the government should determine the sharing of abundance by taxation that punishes productivity. In the USA, for example, the top 1 percent pays 37 percent of our taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay only 2.4 percent. More amazingly, 47 percent of Americans pay zero income tax.
I suspect we all agree that a safety net program is essential to provide for those who actually need such assistance. Safety net programs need monitoring since creating a culture of dependency that includes able bodied persons often results in a loss of individual self-worth and induces a downward health spiral (mental and physical) that has been shown to result in premature death.
Rev. Van Ens could have shortened his dissertation considerably by simply publishing Milton Friedman’s classic quote: “ A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
Dan M. Spengler