Strangely enough, with all the rhetoric directed at which presidential candidate is better qualified to "save the middle class," few in the media have asked just what it actually takes to do so. The short answer is economic growth. Candidates Romney and Ryan get this, even if the president does not. But how exactly does one conjure up growth?
The short answer, again, is that one produces goods and services that consumers prefer over those of others. In a free market, the supply of goods increases, the quality improves, and the price goes down. All consumers are better off, assuming they are able to compete in the marketplace.
This is the classic case for free markets articulated by Milton Friedman in his book and television series Free to Choose. Friedman understood that competition is the lifeblood of every successful society, and especially so in an era of global competition. If the Chinese can produce quality sweaters at lower cost than American businesses, consumers will be better off purchasing their sweaters from China. If Americans can produce corn or timber more cheaply than the Chinese, the Chinese would be advised to purchase these goods from America.
There are many obstacles to free trade, but in the long run, a nation that produces goods and services of good quality at a low price will thrive. Other nations will purchase its goods and make available competitively priced goods in return. Living standards will rise for all who compete in the free market.
The problem is that President Obama does not share this view of markets. In fact, he is implacably opposed to free-market capitalism altogether. During the past four years, his administration has placed extraordinary obstacles in the way of competition. He has nationalized the nation's health care system and imposed a government single-payer option on tens of millions of Americans, coming into effect after 2013. He has forced large banks to operate under severe regulations and to plan business strategies according to Dodd-Frank rules that have not even been finalized. He has forced national regulation on energy companies that historically have been regulated at the state level and that should continue to be regulated at that level. He has driven private competition out of the student loan business. He has taken over large segments of the automobile industry and mandated unprecedented regulations, including unrealistic CAFE standards, on all. And on and on, dragging down one sector after another.
As a result of the president's assault on free markets, America has become less competitive.
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