What’s the “Real” Real?

By Patrick F. Cannon

I am indebted to David Brooks of the New York Times for pointing out in a recent column that Capitalism isn’t entirely the bogeyman that the left would have you believe. I have written about this before, but it’s worth repeating.

While free-market Capitalism is largely responsible for lowering abject poverty around the world, let’s just concentrate on the United States, which leads the world in economic development, a leadership – despite the naysayers – which is increasing. Thus:

  • In 1990, we were neck and neck with Europe and Japan in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; now we’re clearly  ahead.
  • The US accounts for 58 percent of the GDP for the G-7 nations, up from 40 percent in 1990.
  • Per person income in the US 30 percent higher than in Europe, up from 24 percent.
  • Labor productivity here increased by 67 percent since 1990, compared to 55 percent in Europe and 51 percent in Japan.
  • And despite China’s amazing economic growth, the US has maintained its 25 percent share of global GDP.

The national unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, about as low as it’s likely to be (it’s 6.6 percent overall in the European Union, with Germany’s the lowest at 5.7). Even inflation – largely driven by excessive government largess during the pandemic – has been reduced to 4.98 percent from last year’s high of 8.54 percent.

Much is made of the poverty rate, which probably averages about 13 percent over the last few years. The rate is based on reported income. For a family of 4, in 2021, it was set at $26,500. If this were all that family had to live on, it would be pathetically low, but it’s not. At a minimum, you could add the earned-income tax credit, food stamps, free school lunch, housing assistance, job training, and the additional benefits provided by local governments and non-profits (like food banks). You’re probably tired of me pointing this out, but the top ten percent of earners are paying for 90 percent of the social spending that has increased from 14 to 20 percent of GDP since 1990.

Even our cultural life would be poorer without Capitalism. Governments at all levels provide minimal financial support for the arts, with the bulk of the funding for our museums, orchestras and universities coming from wealthy individuals and corporations. My relatives in the Pittsburgh area will know how much they are indebted to the Carnegie, Mellon and Heinz families. A similar list for Chicago would be much longer.

While Capitalism has bestowed incontestable benefits on our economy, it’s not perfect. There have been abuses that have caused serious harm to the country. Only the government can prevent these, but it has been historically negligent in doing its job. Even when it does, instead of sending corporate leaders to jail, it lets them off the hook and fines the companies instead. Which leads me to the bad news.

While Capitalism just keeps rolling along, our politics are about as bad as they could be. Absent a miracle, it looks like we might once again have to choose between Trump and Biden in 2024. Think about that. In one poll, only 41.3 percent of Americans think Biden is doing a good job; and 38.3 percent actually look upon Trump favorably.

No wonder only about half of our countrymen and women think of themselves as Republicans or Democrats. In my own Illinois, the Republican Party has more or less self-destructed, leaving us with the Democrats who have failed to solve – or even confront – the serious problems that plague us. In addition to an extremely low credit rating, and massive pension debt, Illinois also has the fifth highest unemployment rate. It’s also losing population. People not only vote at the ballot box, but with their feet. And who really believes the criminal justice system is working?

Thank God the economic system keeps rolling along. We know there will be occasional recessions, but the general trend is up. Remember when everyone was afraid automation would put everyone out of work? And all those immigrants would steal jobs from real Americans? Sure you do, because they’re still saying it..

Copyright 2023, Patrick F. Cannon

3 thoughts on “What’s the “Real” Real?

  1. The prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch is disheartening. If Biden wins, we will continue to have a “non compos” government run by an administrative state, only with Kamala Harris as the face of it. If Trump by some unlikely quirk wins, it will be four years of ceaseless acrimony and chaos with a lame duck at the helm. God help us!

    The Dems’ strategy is to get the moribund hologram Biden through the primaries and past the convention to an easy election against Trump. The aim here is to get Harris installed at some point when Biden will step down, and at the same time prevent any other candidate (Sanders, Warren, Kennedy among others) from gaining advantage. For they know the brainless Harris would have no chance in an election without Biden clearing the way for her, and she is the one person they know they can easily control to do what they want, as they are doing now with Biden. It’s a cynical strategy.

    The Republicans look as passively hapless as ever. They have no strategy. They don’t seem to care who is president, as long as they have a seat at the table. They are making no effort whatsoever to get Trump out of the picture and give some of their younger, more capable talent (De Santis among others) a chance to make their case with the electorate. Mind boggling.

    Sometimes I think if the country were not so prosperous we would not tolerate all the nonsense we deal with to dominate our politics. Problem is, we can afford to be stupid. At least for now.

    Liked by 1 person

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