Professor Fails Entire Class: Obama Socialism? The Cringe…

Wow, a brave professor teaches the reality of President Obama and his agenda…

You’ve seen it somewhere on the internet or spammed to your email.  A Professor fails his entire class to illustrate Obama’s Socialism flooded cyberspace many years ago and has multiplied into numerous versions.  One of the first that I saw designated the subject area as Economics and the school as Texas Tech University.   Later versions have stipulated that the story should be read as a parable to teach a simple lesson.  Most versions tend to imply that the “Left,” “Liberals,” “Democrats,” or “Progressives,” are “upset,” “mad,” and “furious” about this “truthful” example regardless of if it took place or is a parable.

One of the recent reincarnations being cited appears in the Independent Journal Review as written by Wayne Dupree.  One potential reason for this particular citation is the inclusion of this passage.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read on this experiment:

1 ) You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2 ) What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3 ) The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4 ) You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5 ) When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

The piece concludes with this quote:

“What I am reading now is liberals, progressives or those that dismiss the STORY because it’s a scenario and not real. They can’t cope with the real truth that you can’t move poor people into prosperity by legislation from Washington, DC.  Government doesn’t have the authority to take from Citizen A and give to Citizen B to make things even.

Can you think of a reason for not sharing this on Twitter or Facebook?  Neither could I.”

Some observations:

Without conducting any formal research, I just started pondering this “real truth” that I should share on Twitter or Facebook. Obviously the first thing to come to mind is that the story represents communism and not socialism. For many people, however, there is no difference between the two ideologies. Still, it is difficult to find any governmental or economic system which could be thought as “pure” in regard to all the existing “isms.” Many lean toward one direction or the other, but various other “isms” are intertwined within aspects of the specific systems.

With the obvious aside and not wanting to argue based on semantics, I decided to assume that the story represented a true example or parable. Looking at the “5 best sentences,” however, I’m not mad, furious, but actually confused as I try to “cope with the truth.”

Could someone identify for me a single proposal that “legislates” the wealthy out of prosperity, and the poor into prosperity?

I’ll admit that it’s one of those arguments always tossed about, so just for the sake of argument let’s assume that it has actually been proposed.

One call yell “strawman” here, but I’ll stipulate that this comparison to professional sports is in fact unequal since someone is likely to point out the difference in a team sport versus individual grades.  Consider, however, that in some sports, teams have a salary cap and pay a luxury tax or receive other penalties if their expenditures on players’ contracts exceed that cap.

  • Do the teams with the highest payrolls always when the championship or have the highest winning percentage?
  • Are the teams with the lowest payrolls always the worst?
  • In the drafting of amateur players, by design in what order do the teams pick the individuals they wish to sign to a contract?

Whether it works or not, efforts are made to increase parity by offering advantages to the smaller markets and to the weakest teams to build themselves into champions.

If one wants to argue based on individuals instead of teams, here is a quick scenario.

  • Person A has $100
  • Person B has $10

If some tax were levied on each person equally at 50 percent, which individual is left in a better position?

Sure Person A has paid $50 for the tax, but they still have $50, while Person B who has only paid $5 now has $5.

Let’s create an inequality by keeping the tax rate at 50 percent on Person A but lowering it to 10 percent for Person B.

Now Person A has $50 while Person B has $9.

In either case has one been taxed or “legislated” out of prosperity and the other into prosperity?  The person who began with more remains with more following the legislation whether treated equally or unequally.

Now here is the kicker to really drive the argument home.  The above simple fictional scene is ludicrous.  There are many factors which need to be taken into account, and a one size fits all type of program or solution does not work.  The difference, however, is some realize how nonsensical the proposition above is because regardless of where one stands on any “prosperity” ladder in the United States of America, in some way, shape, or form every individual has benefitted economically because of pieces of legislation and others have seen their economic resources lessened because of legislation.  The reality is that no piece of legislation is going to either provide or deplete resources equally across the board for every single individual even if they are on the same rung of that ladder.

I’m merely speculating here but…

  • What if all income, regardless of how acquired, were taxed at the same percentage?
  • If all of your income is salary from working 60+ hours per week whether in some sweat breaking physical labor or migraine inducing desk job, why is that money taxed at a higher rate than some monies earned by investing, passed down, or in other manners?
  • Why are there so many “write offs?”

I am generalizing so no need to point out the multitude of “wrongs” with those 3 questions above.  My point is that regardless of whether one is rich, poor, or on any rung of an economic ladder, the most honest individual in the world cannot know without some degree of doubt that he or she actually paid all they owe in taxes in our current system.  Likewise, the biggest crooks and cheats cannot know for certain if they have twisted the numbers and found and widened all the loopholes possible to receive the greatest tax offset or return whether they deserve it or not.

Flat taxes and consumer taxes may appear to be solutions on paper, but in reality our economy is too complex for such proposals to work effectively.  (That’s a topic for another posting).  At some point clarity must be brought into the tax code, although bringing that clarity will not be easy from a political standpoint because if done correctly everyone will experience both joy and anger with the changes.

2 ) What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

This proposal always disheartens me because we have all received things without working for them.  Regardless of whether we knew the individuals or not, we have all benefitted by the sacrifices, blood, sweat, and tears made by others before us.  For example, those roads we drive and walk upon were not built by us.

Sadly, the generation of Americans who defeated NAZI Germany and Japan in the Pacific during the Second World War is passing away.  We did not retain our freedoms and protect our ways of life. That generation did.  Anything that you or I own, we may argue that we paid for that piece and thus earned it by the profits of our work, but think about it just a bit more.  Did we pay the salary of everyone involved in making that item?  Did we pay for the factory or for the storefront?  The Industrial Revolution helped bring what was once only affordable to the most affluent into the lives of those many rungs removed from that level on the prosperity ladder.

People try to hark on the “You Didn’t Build That.”  It is catchy for political fodder. Even so I’ll argue that even if I did in fact build that, I did so because someone before did something which allowed me to have that opportunity. Someone taught me something that made building that possible. Of course I might claim credit.  I might enjoy that credit, but it is true that no individual is an island unto themselves.  We have all been and will continue to be influenced by events near and far, past or present.

3 ) The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

In many ways this proposal is much like the second. I think about the Homestead Acts where the government gave land to individuals who were willing to work and improve that land. To do so our government took the land upon which the Native American Indians lived, and forced those individuals onto reservations. At one stage in the American mindset, land west of the Mississippi River was once considered fit only for Native American Indians. Fit them alone, but that changed when others wanted that land. Even those reservations upon which the Native American Indians were forced became desirable to outsiders with discoveries of mineral deposits.  I think of the slaves, the indentured servants, the immigrant workers, who provided the labor but had the spoils of that labor usurped by others. I think of what our government took from the Nisei. The list seems endless.

Sure one can argue that restitutions were made, but those court cases at times took generations. Some people argue oppression today, but we whine and cry like babies if we are told that we cannot display a sign or say a word. What would we do if the government actually came and herded us up like cattle and took every material possession we had? Argue your 2nd Amendment rights which by the way resulted from what others long before our generation accomplished, but think about your arsenal compared to that of the standing military or even local law enforcement. Nobody will be coming to your rescue, and even if you wanted to dial 911 what good would that do?

Compare our attitudes to that of the generation of the Second World War and the First World War. 

  • What did some Native American Indians whose ancestors had been dispossessed do for all of us while wearing the uniforms of the armed forces of the United States of America in both wars?
  • Think about those Nisei who comprised the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and their actions in the European Theater during the Second World War?

I understand what people are saying about government having to take to give, but I would just like someone to point out a single example of any government who is able to provide without taking in some manner. Honestly, can anyone provide an example of anything that gives without needing something in order to provide whatever it gives? It’s a double standard in that most people who make this argument mean that government should not take from them, but that it is OK for that government to take from someone else.

4 ) You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

Here I guess the lesson must be that in order to become wealthy, one should “put all their eggs into a single basket.”  Do not divide your wealth by diversifying investments.  It’s all or nothing.  I wonder how many people in banking and finance recommend that lack of diversifying approach.

Look I’m a Louisiana boy, born and reared.  Like or dislike history or the state, and even though he died half a century earlier, my generation saw the effects and heard truths, untruths, and legends of the Kingfish, Huey P. Long. I’ve read the good and bad, blatantly biased in one direction or the other, and especially those biographies which do everything possible to be balanced about the Kingfish.  Once, merely by great timing, I met a librarian at LSU who assisted Professor T. Harry Williams with his research in writing his biography of Huey Long.  Many outside the state may not be familiar, but there are many myths and legends with varying degrees of truth about some of the events in Professor Williams obtaining documents for his research which made the librarians memories fascinating.

I know many of the noted scholars of the Long family, and have met many of the others through the years.  I cannot even make an estimate of the number of times I have stood at the location of Huey’s assassination.  When conducting research at the state library and when I worked at the Capitol, I typically brought my lunch from home and ate in the shade on one of the benches near the Kingfish on the grounds.

I note the above because I would call myself familiar with the life and history of the Kingfish.  Now I might be mistaken, but Long’s idea of Share Our Wealth never went into effect.  Every Man a King but No One Should Wear a Crown (except for the Kingfish), never happened and still hasn’t as far as I know.  I don’t believe that Francis Townsends plan went into effect either, although both individuals did influence a few of FDR’s decisions.

5 ) When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

On this one, I find it difficult to decide on a starting point.  If I were trained in the area of psychology, I might argue from the ideas of social compensation and social loafing.  For those not familiar with the terms, please use any search engine to find examples.  Many explanations from the most rudimentary to academic and professional scholarship exist in numerous locations.

From the historical perspective, I might consider that oversimplification used in survey level Early US History courses.  Before the military battles of what would become known as the American Revolution , one can generalize and state that One third of colonists favored seeking independence from England; One third of colonists favored remaining loyal to the English crown; and One third of colonists were undecided or had no real preference.  If one doubts those numbers, which do vary according to region and is truly an oversimplification, one need only to look at the feelings of the majority throughout the 1st Continental Congress and for a significant portion of the 2nd Continental Congress to confirm the idea of differing positions.

Since I am not a psychologist, but a barefooted boy from the strawberry fields of Livingston Parish hidden away in an adult body of a History Professor, legislative analyst, and political pundit currently residing just outside of DC, I’ll rely upon that farm boy reasoning because it may be the most relevant.

In one way, the statement seems applicable to a team.  If considered as a team, when someone is ill, injured, in foul trouble, or just having a bad game, in order to succeed the other members of the team need to take up the slack.

Of course if one wants to reverse the original argument back to one of individualism, then why do those working choose to stop?  I still haven’t seen an actual proposal that redistributes what those working already have.

Actually, I believe that everything I have heard and read always refers to redistribution and not distribution.

I wonder then if the original distribution was equal or did certain individuals gain more than others and perhaps even took from others. 

I’m not sure as which label believers in the “socialism” or “communism” classroom story or parable might affix upon me, but I do dismiss the story or parable as inaccurate, so I do have a couple of concluding questions for those who believe the story or parable is true or accurate.

  • During the previous distribution or distributions did the government take from some to give to others?
  • Did everyone just quit following the initial, other early distributions, or redistributions which took place later?

While history cannot predict the future, it might give us some ideas on how to make the present better to help create a better future.