Atlas Is About to Shrug

Physicians are not generally thought of as businessmen, and many are not. But most of us are true cottage industries — a one man or woman show with payroll to meet, buildings to purchase, books to balance. As a physician, I usually confine my comments to medical topics and let the political pundits weigh in on matters in their lane. But listening to the heavy hitters discuss the election outcome, I have not heard the real reason for the Democratic victory — that we as a nation may have reached Ayn Rand’s tipping point.

I have heard too many explanations: McCain lost because people hate Bush. He lost because of Iraq, or the economy. He lost because conservatism is too strident, or because of Palin. Republicans haven’t enunciated their case. McCain was not a true conservative, Republicans have moved too far to the left, or maybe too far to the right.

But the answer is more fundamental — most Americans do not understand the system that feeds them. 50 percent of Americans pay 97 percent of taxes, while the other 50 percent contribute only 3 percent. Most in the latter group pay nothing at all. Beyond their lack of tax liability, these 50 percent do not run businesses, they do not sign the front of the paycheck.

As consumers rather than producers, they do not build anything, invest in business ideas, grow food, provide a service, or in any way contribute to the real product output of America. They do not know what it takes to balance the books. Most American voters today do not have a real shareholder’s stake in the free market capitalist economy that is America’s foundation.

Among the other 50 percent — those who do pay the vast majority of taxes — there are those who work for the government, a group that that has grown exponentially in the last 30 years. These people are not business owners, AND they have a vested interest in the growth of government. Of course, this group includes the politicians themselves — most of whom have no experience at running their own business but want to run yours. There are also the talking heads and Hollywood bigwigs, news reporters, and professors. They may pay taxes, but when is the last time Sean Penn had to worry about the budget of any project rather than his own salary?

There are the anomalies such as Warren Buffet, who presumably does understand business but thinks we should be taxed more. Like a few others of his financial class, he lives in that rarefied strata where no economic policy could affect his ability to send his kids to college. 70 percent taxation doesn’t even dip into his champagne budget. (Of course, his “unearned income was taxed at the capital gains rate of 20 percent when those of us working all night for our income were taxed at the higher rates).

Most truly small businessmen know that, when we vote for a school bond or a library bond, our profit margin is lessened by the increased tax burden. But a welfare recipient, or someone below the magic 50 percentile, is not hurt. A businessman who spouts anti-American sentiment may see his income plummet (witness Dixie Chicks). But a university professor spouting Marxism or anything he wants is not immediately affected by his words, because his salary is guaranteed by the taxpayer.

In my small city, small businesses are already letting people go, and I know of several businesses planning on shutting their doors completely depending on the policies that come out of the Obama administration. Not one college professor, unionized teacher, social security recipient or government worker is likely to be downsized

I hope I am wrong. But if right, and we have reached a tipping point, where the people who produce real products and services are outnumbered and outvoted by those who do not, then we can only wonder how long it will be before Ayn Rand’s prediction comes true and the lights really do go out.