Born American, but in the wrong place

People with a mission to save the earth want the earth to seem worse than it is so their mission will look more important. — P.J. O’Rourke

One of my favorite true stories is about a family who escaped Communist Hungary and immigrated to the United States. They had suffered first under the Nazis and then under the Communists. The father had seen his own father sent to a Communist gulag for the great crime of owning a small American flag.

The beginning of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 gave the family some hope that tyranny would finally be overthrown. But when the Soviets crushed the revolution just two weeks later, the father determined it was finally time to leave. The parents first decided to ask their children if they agreed. The son, Peter, responded, “With my father I am willing to go to hell.” Later he recounted, “My father informed me that our destination was not ‘hell’ – we were already there – but someplace rather its opposite: America.”

“Why are we going to America?” Peter asked. His father answered, “Because, son, we were born Americans, but in the wrong place.” That phrase, “born Americans, but in the wrong place” has always stuck in my mind.

America is not just a place; it is an idea. As Harry Truman said, “Being an American is more than a matter of where you or your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal.” Truman was echoing the words of Lincoln who believed that the statement in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” is the principle “that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.”

For most of 200 years – indeed for most of 400 years – people all over the world have known that America was the land of freedom, born on the idea that all men were created equal, and that all have a natural right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

When the Schramm family escaped to Austria they were given temporary asylum while various embassies interviewed them for permanent asylum. The man from the German embassy extolled the virtues of their welfare state. The Schramms would have an apartment, a car, and a guaranteed monthly income. William Schramm declined the German’s offer. He wanted the blessings of liberty in America.

The Schramms did make it to America – on Christmas Eve, 1956. After processing in New Jersey, they settled in California, where both parents immediately went to work doing manual labor. In two years, they had saved enough to open a small restaurant. The entire family worked at the restaurant, they thrived, and a few years later moved to a larger restaurant.

Like many Americans, the Schramm family started with nothing, worked hard, took advantage of the opportunities that freedom gave them, and they prospered. Son Peter loved to read; he studied, and eventually became a Professor of History, ironically teaching native-born Americans about America. He explains:

“I tell them that they are among the fortunate of the earth, among the blessed of all times and places. I tell them not only that their country is the most powerful and the most prosperous nation on earth, but also that it is the freest and the most just. Then I tell them how and why this is so. I teach the principles from which these blessings of liberty flow.”

Dr. Schramm’s words were written in 2007. Are we still the most prosperous nation? Millions of people have given up looking for a job. The labor force participation rate is the lowest since 1979. Poverty is the worst since the mid-1960s. Median family income is down for four straight years; the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. GDP growth is a paltry 1.7%. This is the worst recovery in 70 years.

Not coincidentally, the United States’ rank in the Index of Economic Freedom has dropped every year since 2006. We have fallen from “Free” to “Mostly Free”. Less freedom produces less prosperity, lower life expectancy, less happiness, and fewer human rights.

Income mobility has also worsened. Throughout our history, there are countless stories of Americans moving from rags to riches. Ordinary people had the freedom to do extraordinary things. People like Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, and Steve Jobs started from humble beginnings and created entire industries .

Today, millions of kids are trapped in schools that are so corrupt and ineffective that half the children drop out before they graduate and half those who do graduate are functionally illiterate. They will never get a decent job or a shot at the American dream. Millions of other kids and adults are trapped in an entitlement system that keeps them on the edge of poverty. If they try to improve themselves, to learn skills, work longer, they lose benefits and end up worse off.

In the coming months we will talk about how good policies will lead to greater prosperity and greater opportunities for all. And we’ll talk about how bad policies are destroying jobs, keeping people poor, and killing any hope that they might do better.

Regulation kills jobs

Government policies are stifling young, hungry entrepreneurs,” says Andy Pudzer, CEO of CKE Restaurants. Worst among these is ObamaCare.

About 40% of Mr. Puzder’s employees are part-time and therefore exempt from ObamaCare’s coverage mandates. “That percentage of employees will probably go up. … Through attrition, three full-time employees go away and you hire four part-time employees who basically have the same hours.”

As government raises the price of hiring living workers, by raising the minimum wage and mandating higher benefits, companies find it more efficient to replace humans with machines.

Mr. Puzder also expects fast-food restaurants to deal with ObamaCare by replacing workers with kiosks. “You’re going to go into a fast-food restaurant and order on an iPad or tablet instead of talking to a person because we don’t have to pay benefits for any of those things.”

Pudzer’s company is expanding rapidly and now has “3,300 restaurants in 42 states and 28 foreign countries.” It plans 300 new restaurants in the “business-friendly” state of Texas.

One place it is not planning to expand is California because “California is not interested in having businesses grow.” Compare how long it takes his company to get a building permit. In Texas, it takes 60 days; in Los Angeles, 285 days.

California’s cumbersome labor regulations have forced the company to “fire managers who don’t report their work hours because they present a legal risk.” He tells the fired managers “to go to Tennessee or Texas, where we’ll rehire them and they’ll learn entrepreneurial skills.”

Corporations based in California are increasingly moving “where labor and the cost of doing business are cheaper. The ultimate victims are middle-class entrepreneurs, like restaurant managers, and the low-skill workers they employ.”

Government stifles creativity, kills jobs

A mother has a good idea, starts a business out of her home, grows it to 22 states, then bureaucrats tell her it might be illegal.

A man develops cutting-technology to remake the taxicab experience. Customers like it, drivers like it. The company has expanded from San Francisco to 30 cities in 10 countries, and has provided hundreds of thousands of rides. Regulators keep trying to kill it.

These are just two examples of excessive regulations that kill jobs. (See also Regulations kill jobs and the economy and The cost of regulations)

Gov. Bobby Jindal gave a superb speech to the RNC

Bobby Jindal gave a superb speech to the Republican National Committee meeting in Charlotte, NC, last Thursday. Here are some extracts:

America is not the federal government.

In fact, America is not much about government at all. In America, government is one of those things you have to have, but you sure don’t want too much of it…kind of like your in-laws.

At present we have one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can expand it, and one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can get it under control.

It’s a terrible debate, it’s a debate fought entirely on our opponents’ terms.

In addition to Washington, there are a bunch of outlying areas we call states, but they are pretty much just adjuncts of the federal government.

This is not the idea of America. But…this is what America will become if we do not reorient our way of thinking right away.

We also must face one more cold hard fact – Washington is so dysfunctional that any budget proposal based on fiscal sanity will be deemed ‘not-serious’ by the media, it will fail in the Senate, and it won’t even make it to the President’s desk where it would be vetoed anyway.

The truth is nothing serious is deemed serious in Washington.

Instead of worrying about managing government, it’s time for us to address how we can lead America… to a place where she can once again become the land of opportunity, where she can once again become a place of growth and opportunity.

If our end goal is to simply better manage the disaster that is the federal government, count me out, I’m not signing up for that. It’s not a goal worth attaining.

Which of you wants to sign up to help manage the slow decline of the United States of America? I sure don’t. That’s what we have Democrats for.

We must lay out the contrast between liberalism’s top-down government solutions and our Bottom-Up real world philosophy.

We believe in creating abundance, not redistributing scarcity.

When it comes to education — let the Democrats extoll the virtues of our hopelessly antiquated one-size-fits-all factory schools where the child follows the dollars.

Meanwhile, let us feature the success of child-centered education solutions that meet the needs of the digital age, education where the dollars follow the child.

No, the Republican Party does not need to change our principles…but we might need to change just about everything else we do.

We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.

We must quit “big.” We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear.

We can either go down the Government path or the American path.

We believe freedom incentivizes ordinary people to do extraordinary things and that makes America an exceptional nation.

The genius of America is that our strength and power and growth come from the individual actions of our people.

We must shift the eye line and the ambition of our conservative movement away from managing government and toward the mission of growth.

Related: Gov. Jindal delivered a great speech to the Republican Party’s winter meeting Thursday that bears reading in full. Jindal sets up our current politics as a war of two ways of thinking: the American Way and the Government Way. Down the American Way lies prosperity through individual liberty, entrepreneurship, and limited government. Down the Government Way lies more central control over more of our lives coming at Americans from Washington. Republicans should be the party of the American Way, while Democrats are already the party of the Government Way.


Over the past four years, prosperity has increased around the globe, while it has remained stagnant in the United States, the Legatum Institute reports. As a result, the Institute ranked the United States 12th out of 142 countries on its 2012 Prosperity Index, putting the country outside the top ten for the first time.

The Legatum Institute finds that a decline in entrepreneurship and economic opportunity, rather than slippage in education, health, safety or personal freedom, is to blame.


RELATED:PROSPERITY: US DROPS OUT OF TOP TEN Consistent with this finding is the fact that for the first time in history, the average Canadian is wealthier than the average American. Canada has a conservative government, and they have passed us like we are standing still. Which we are, at best.