Our View: Epstein: Progressives’ ‘one-two punch’

Posted: November 27, 2012

While Susan Estrich (see editorial above) examines President Obama’s skewed vision of “fairness” from a visceral, gut-level perspective, Richard Epstein of the Hoover Institution wrote an entire book — “Why Progressive Institutions Are Unsustainable” (Encounter Books) — about this progressive impulse.

The progressive, or statist, agenda, Mr. Epstein maintains, hits society — particularly the economy — with a “one-two punch.” The jab, as it were, is the sort of niggling and enervating regulation that impedes the entrepreneurial spirit, thus slowing the economy and job creation. Second, through taxes targeting the wealth creators, “it imposes extensive and counterproductive programs of redistribution that cannot be supported by a stagnant economy and a shrinking productive wealth base.” That is the proverbial haymaker.

But progressives, whether they fail to connect these dots of their own making or simply do not care, then see the need to load up again. Again to quote Mr. Epstein, “As that base gets smaller, the demand for a stronger safety net induces yet another round of transfer payments and makes the tax burden heavier and the rate structure more progressive. The new redistributive tax regime in turn exerts greater negative pressures on production levels.”

The result? An economy spinning inexorably downward as the needs of the safety net increasingly broaden. Or, to put it in Thatcherite terms, the progressives are running out of “other people’s money” to expend on utopian whimsy.

This, to us, sounds more like a maddening “do-loop” from which the economy (and the nation) cannot extricate itself than a “one-two punch.”