At the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference last week, Sen. Pat Toomey defended capitalism because of its inherent goodness (no, really):
“Think about what being middle class in a free enterprise society means,” he continued. “It’s not just phones but smart phones. Not just a computer, but high speed internet access and often an iPad. It’s not just a car but its two cars, and they’re safer and more fuel efficient and more durable than anything you could buy just 10 years ago. Thanks to a free market competition, everything we need constantly gets better and becomes more affordable.”
Except housing, food and fuel. But whatever.
He went on to use the case of David Fosbury to describe perfect capitalism, since Fosbury revolutionized high-jumping using the rules already in place, and therefore was able to reinvent the wheel, if you will.
Bill Gates, too. The senator described Gates as “one of the most successful capitalists of all time.” He then noted that while he respects Bill Gates’ decision to give his wealth to charity after he’s dead, that money likely won’t do as much for humanity as he did while he was alive.
“I’ll go out on a limb and say Bill Gates did more for anybody in a capitalist venture than he ever will in giving away all the profits he reaped,” Toomey said.
Capitalism, he continued, isn’t just the best form of economics there is—it’s basically all there can ever be, the world’s best hope, because it is the best, no matter what. Capitalism relies on everyone to have a strong initiative and lift themselves up, all the time, and it rewards those who invest in themselves, he said.
Especially if you somehow manage to “lift yourself up” with a corporate boot on your neck. Just sayin’! Plus, the massive student loans you took out in an effort to lift yourself up, yet you went sadly unrewarded. Hmm.
“It is an empirical fact that capitalism helps the poor and reduces poverty so much better than a hand out,” he said. “It’s no accident that as capitalist nations enrich themselves, life improves, the life expectancies rise and the infant mortality rate falls.”
Of course, the infant mortality rate here in the USA, that mothership of capitalism? Not so hot. Our rate is almost double that of socialized countries like Norway.
Which is why, when a friend who’s married to a Norwegian called me the other night, and told me she was thinking of moving to Norway for the year after her baby’s born because of the paid parental leave, I urged her not to wait. After all, her insurance won’t kick in until Nov. 1. “What happens if you have a premature baby?” I said. “Here in the U.S., most policies won’t cover anything but routine medical care for the first 30 days after birth. You could be talking a quarter of a million dollars, enough to bankrupt you.” (She’s pregnant by IVF and she’s older, which puts her into a high-risk category.)
“Why wait? Go soon.”
She told me she was worried because Norwegian hospitals aren’t all modern and shiny like the U.S. “That’s marketing,” I said. “Remember, medicine here is for profit. In other countries, they put that money into the care. If anything, your baby will be safer there.”
Of course, now that I’ve read this speech by Pat, I’m obviously going to have to call her back and tell her to stay here, because I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel.