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Jewish World Review July 30, 1999 /17 Av, 5759

Walter Williams

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Stupidity is the problem --
I'VE DISCOVERED what might be the root cause of many of the nation's problems. It hurts me to my heart to own up to it; but a large percentage of Americans are either misinformed, stupid or both.

You say: "Whoa there, Williams. This time you've gone too far!" Let's look at it.

Fox New Opinion Dynamics conducted a survey. On July 16, the results were reported on its web site by Fox News reporter Dana Blanton. One question asked: "Some people say the government has plenty of money of its own and it should be spent on programs. Other people say that the government has no money except that which it takes from citizens in taxes. Which do you believe?"

Thirty-nine percent of the respondents said the government has no money except what it takes from citizens in taxes. Eleven percent said neither or they weren't sure. But get this: 50 percent said the government has plenty of money of its own.

Since government can't spend what it doesn't first take, the correct answer is government has no money except what it takes from its citizens in taxes. But what about that 50 percent of the American people who believe that government has plenty of money of its own? These are the people big-spending politicians love.

Politicians can convince these people that any elected official wanting to hold down spending for Medicare, food stamps, welfare, you name it is mean-spirited, uncaring, niggardly and possibly a racist. After all, if government has plenty of money of its own, what else could explain why a politician would want to limit or cut government spending?

This 50 percent of Americans will always vote for the politician who calls for more spending. That's even more probable considering the fact that roughly 40 percent of all households pay no federal income taxes at all.

Let's speculate on how it is possible for such a large percentage of Americans to have a Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy vision of government. The most flattering explanation has to do with one of my criticisms of the Reagan administration, when it boasted that its tax plan removed the lowest of income-earners from the tax rolls. I disagreed because doing so would create a natural spending constituency for politicians. After all, if you pay no federal income tax, what do you care about federal spending? You might just believe that since you're receiving lots of government goodies -- and not paying anything -- that, yes, the government does have plenty of its own money.

A more worrisome explanation is there's a carefully crafted conspiracy. In order to control people, they must first be made dumb. These 50 percent of Americans, who believe that the government has plenty of its money to spend for programs, demonstrate just how successful our education establishment has been in creating Americans who can't or won't think.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if teacher lesson plans promoted the idea that government has plenty of its own money. Otherwise, how is it possible for a person to have a high-school diploma or college degree and have a Santa Claus vision of government?

I'm an optimist. I'm hoping that the Fox News survey has chosen an unrepresentative sample of the American people or made some other sampling error. But that, I'm afraid, might be wishful thinking.


07/23/99:Problem profiteers
07/16/99:The vanishing poor
07/09/99: State sovereignty
07/02/99: America's theater of the absurd
06/25/99: Corruption of language
06/18/99: Asian excellence, American mediocrity
06/11/99: Reining in the EPA
06/07/99: Minimum wage, maximum folly
05/27/99: An armed citizenry and liberty
05/19/99: Blaming the past
05/14/99: General principles
05/06/99: Confronting unpleasantries
04/29/99: Permissiveness costs
04/23/99: South Africa: after apartheid
04/19/99: A time for truth
04/12/99: Population and poverty
03/31/99: Moral hazards
03/24/99: Right to be left alone?
03/17/99: Why Congress can't be trusted
03/10/99: Racial profiling
03/03/99: Equality before the law
02/24/99: Population control nonsense
02/17/99: Congressional contempt
02/11/99:Blooming fur tyrants
02/05/99:More money, better education?
01/27/99:Absurdity, brazenness and hypocrisy reigns
01/20/99:Economics 101
01/13/99:A wrongful celebration
01/06/99: Economics of predation
12/30/98: Things I wonder about
12/23/98: Unseen crime costs
12/21/98: How to become rich
12/09/98: Advancing national decadence
12/02/98: The Civil War wasn't about slavery
11/24/98:What's happened to us?
11/20/98:Tragedy in black neighborhoods
11/11/98:Family debasement
I11/04/98: Is it them or us?
10/28/98: Where are the poor?
10/21/98: The budget surplus hoax
10/15/98: Where union power lies
10/08/98: Race and sex in the military
9/29/98: Can Clinton run the economy?
9/25/98: Liberals and the constitution
9/17/98: Clinton and future presidents
9/11/98: Donate or sell organs
9/03/98: Common Sense vs. Experts
8/26/98: Mother Nature's unfairness
8/24/98: The pretense of superiority
8/13/98: Yours or mine?
8/05/98: I do my job well, so that means I can....
7/29/98: Education production

©1999, Creators Syndicate