Steve Pearlstein’s Straw-Men On Steroids

President Obama is notorious for frequently making  straw-man arguments – i.e. saying or implying that your political opponents make a certain argument or think a certain way, when in fact they do no such thing.

Is there an award for Straw-Man Columnist of the Year? If so, then the Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein should take top honors.

His column today was one insult after another to job creators. Yes, the disdain for job creators, of all people, is even explicit in the column’s title: “I am a Job Creator: A Manifesto for the Entitled”.  Huh? Such an anti-business person writing a column in the Post’s business section? That’s like having a creationist write a column for the Science & Evolution section.

He says job creators feel “entitled” to all sorts of things such as:

I am entitled to a duty of care and loyalty from employees and investors who are owed no such duty in return.
I am entitled to operate my business free of all government regulations other than those written or approved by my industry.
I am entitled to load companies up with debt in order to pay myself and investors big dividends — and then blame any bankruptcy on over-compensated workers.
I am entitled to contracts, subsidies, tax breaks, loans and even bailouts from government, even as I complain about job-killing government budget deficits.

He lists dozens of wacky notions like that, providing absolutely no evidence of such attitudes. Not only do his targets of criticism not feel entitled to those things, but the assumptions behind all of those things are wrong as well. One often finds writers such as Pearlstein who try to overwhelm their critics by making accusation after accusation but never backing any of them up, hoping that their critics will be drowned out in all the noise. In opinion articles, you’re supposed to state a thesis and use evidence to prove that thesis. But he has dozens of little bite-sized theses, with no proof for any of them, because if you tried doing that you’d quickly realize they’re full of holes.

It’s impossible to rebut all of his accusations without writing a 10,000-word paper, so let me just focus on a few (which I shared in the comments section of his article):

Pearlstein is demonizing job creators again. Steve have you ever considered how hard it is to start a business and figure out how to bring in enough revenue to even pay one employee let alone pay yourself? It’s frightfully hard – which is why 99 percent of the people – presumably including yourself – never even bother trying.

You see, business owners and the other private-sector people you speak of get their money through wealth creation. They create something of value provided to other people who voluntarily exchange their money for it. The only private-sector folks who get their money by wealth coercion – not creation – are trial lawyers, who you probably never demonize. And of course, the people who get actual entitlements from the government obtained that money through wealth coercion as well. (If people financing those entitlements don’t pay their taxes, law enforcement will come a calling, with the use of force if necessary).

You speak of poor quality of private sector service versus government sector services. Steve when you have to sell something and lose your shirt if you don’t, you’re highly motivated to provide good service. In the government, by contrast, if you provide subpar quality service, the coerced money keeps a coming, so little motivation there. Just compare the lines at the post office with the lines at FedEx. Or just ask the former Soviet Union.

You speak of government-provided services like transportation infrastructure and education that business people use. The irony, Steve, is that government-provided entitlements are crowding out those traditional government services. Entitlements now make up two-thirds of the federal budget, up from one-third a few decades ago. They’re on track to reach 75 percent of the federal budget in a decade or so, squeezing out funding for roads and bridges and education and the like. When, Steve, was the last time you sounded the alarm about that? In fact, you’re probably among those who support every new entitlement program that comes along, in addition to resisting any “cut” (actually decrease in the rate of growth) in entitlements. You’re part of the problem of entitlements crowding out traditional government services, Steve, not the solution.

Moreover most business owners aren’t bigwig executives that you caricature. They’re small business owners trying to make ends meet and trying to pay their taxes. You know what happens when they’re a little late in their taxes? The penalties are enormous – the feds milk small business owners big time when that happens. Often makes one not even want to be in business.

Ever wondered why unemployment has been so high for the past four years? Because of people like you in and out of government, demonizing business owners.