Jason Hartman talks with Bill Whittle, host of Afterburner, regarding poverty levels in the United States and the strategies that undermine democracy and free markets. Bill’s opinion is that America has the richest poor people in the world, versus countries like Africa, where millions of people live in dire poverty, with starvation and lack of healthcare. Bill discusses how everything people in the U.S. have ever needed in life is present at birth, including food, side effects to lasix shelter, and healthcare. There’s no need to want for anything. Yet people accept their lot in life as the natural order of things. With history on his side, Bill Whittle challenges widely held misconceptions about politics and society. Frequently asking the difficult ethical questions, Bill attempts to underscore conservative values and philosophy through logical reasoning. Bill Whittle is a writer, pilot, and TV editor who lives and works in Los Angeles, where he hosts Afterburner on PJTV.
Narrator: Welcome to the American Monetary Association’s podcast. Where we explore how monetary policy impacts the real lives of real people, and the action steps necessary to preserve wealth and enhance one’s lifestyle.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the podcast for The American Monetary Association. This is your host, Jason Hartman and this is a service of my private foundation, The Jason Hartman Foundation. Today we have a great interview for you, so I think you’ll enjoy it. And comment on our website or our blog post. We have a lot of resources there for you, and you can find that at AmericanMonetaryAssociation.org or the website for the foundation which is JasonHartmanFoundation.org. Thanks so much for listening and please visit our website and enjoy our extensive blog and other resources there.
Start of Interview with Bill Whittle
Jason Hartman: My pleasure to welcome Bill Whittle to the show. He is the host of Afterburner and the creator of the Rich Man Poor Man video that I saw that was extremely enlightening. And he just has a lot of interesting perspective on society, on history, on social issues and political issues, and really kind of debunks a lot of widely held misconceptions about politics and society. So, it’s just gonna be a great pleasure to talk to Bill today. And Bill comes to us from Los Angeles today. How are you, Bill?
Bill Whittle: I’m doing great. Thanks very much for inviting me.
Jason Hartman: Good. Well, my pleasure. I love your work. Friends have sent me videos.
They’ve circulated around the social media, Facebook, and so forth, and very enlightening. Tell us what your perspective is. You can start with the Rich Man, Poor Man video if you want. I mean, that was just a very enlightening video I thought.
Bill Whittle: Well, thank you. I’d done one a little bit earlier, maybe a month or two earlier. The Afterburner videos are the ones I do at PJ TV and I did one independently. It’s a firewall series called Eat the Rich. And they’re kind of connected.
The Rich was based on some statistical work done by a brilliant guy on our team named Iowahawk. He’s the funniest guy on the internet and he’s a hot rodder and he just loves to tinker with cars but he’s also a mathematical genius. And basically, in Eat the Rich, he looked at what the federal budget was, about $3.6 trillion which turns out to about $10 billion a day. And so in Eat the Rich what he did was he looked at the fact that if we spend $10 billion a day and if progressives tell you I cheated off of Michael Moore saying that there’s tons of money in America to spend, it’s just that the rich are holding it all. So if you take a look at the fact that if you take all of the combined profits of Exxon Mobil and Walmart, the two most evil companies in the world, that’s $40 billion dollars. . .
Jason Hartman: And you’re saying that sarcastically, of course.
Bill Whittle: Of course. $40 billion dollars, that runs the federal government for 4 days. So that gives you from January 1st at midnight to January 4th if you take every penny of their profits. And looking at the world that way, take all of the money that the top Forbes 400 have and that buys you maybe 23 days of federal spending or something. What it does is it takes a look at the fact that if you were to take everything from everybody you might be able to run the federal government for one year, at which point you would have nothing left, nothing. The spending is out of control.
And when they justified the spending, the reason they used to justify the spending is always the poor. We have to help the needy, we have to help the poor, we have to do this as poor people are starving in America and all this other. . .
Jason Hartman: And really what they should be saying is we have to buy votes so I can get reelected and maintain power and expand my bureaucracy in my power base. That’s really what they’re doing.
Bill Whittle: So what they do is they hand out benefits to a country where half of the people don’t pay income tax, so they’re buying their votes. And the justification that they use to inflict it on the other half is need. This is how socialists always work. They always talk about the need.
Now, I’m not particularly bragging about this – this is not anything to brag about. But just so people are aware of this, I’ve been dirt poor for a fair portion of my life and I had to decide whether I was gonna pay the electric bill or the rent for years and years and years. So I’m not unsympathetic to this position. I mean, it can drive you fully mad just worrying about things. I’ve been there and know what it’s like. But when you get down to an actual analysis of what the definition of poor in America is, you realize that the progressives are using this idea, this Dickensian idea of people have to decide which one of their children they want to sell so they can find a crust of bread to eat for the night.
And in Rich Man Poor Man I took a look at data gathered about the state of poor people in America. And, again, not saying their life is cushy or easier or anything. It’s never good to not have enough money. But with that said, you find out that 82% of all Americans have air conditioning and I think it’s 76% of poor people do. 31% of average American households have a game console like an X-Box, and 29% of poor households do. So if 1 in 3 average Americans have a game console and 1 in 3 poor Americans have a videogame console, you have a different idea of what poverty is by the American definition. So we’re the first society in history to produce poor people whose primary health problem is obesity. That’s a remarkable thing if you think about it.
Jason Hartman: It is. A few years back I did Thanksgiving at a food kitchen, a soup kitchen, and I couldn’t believe that I was serving food and I was one of the thinnest people there. All the poor were coming in. Granted, I know that a lot of this is because it’s just junky food and bad nutrition, but most of it is bad habits. The point is there is enough food. I just couldn’t believe here I’m scooping out food for people that are far more obese than I am. And I just thought this was kind of ironic. It’s crazy.
Bill Whittle: So you have to ask yourself, in the west today, in America today let’s say, you have to ask yourself what poverty is. Is poverty a state of insufficient resources for you to be able to function as a human being or has poverty become a definition? And one of things I said in an essay many years ago is that if you have a club of billionaires, the guy with $900 million is a chump. He’s the poor guy at the table.
When you understand that the poorest Americans are wealthier than 90% of the rest of the world, and that includes places like Europe and Japan and China and so on. . .When you realize that statistically the living standards for the poorest Americans are better than they are for 90% of the rest of the world, you have to start asking yourself some fundamental questions. And one of the questions you have to ask yourself is, has poverty in its original meaning been eliminated. Because, as you will know, if you define poverty as the bottom 15% of any population, that can never be eliminated. By definition it can’t be eliminated.
Jason Hartman: Because there’s always a bottom 15. If the poorest people in say one of these oil rich countries have a net worth of $400,000 which they probably do, frankly, in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or something, I don’t know which one, but say they’ve got a high net worth, there are still people that have billions and multi-millions and deca-millions and centi-millions. So, certainly by definition there’s always a bottom 5% or bottom 15% of every strata.
Bill Whittle: And this is kind of the point that I’m trying to make. Again, with the caveat, I know what the left is and I know how they function and how they like to defame people. I’m not saying poverty in America is swell. I’m not saying it’s a wonderful condition. I’m not saying everybody should enjoy it. I’m not saying any of that. I’d like to see people have as much money as they need in order to achieve their goals in life. That would be my goal. That’s why I believe in free markets. But with that said, you begin to approach a definitional strategy of poverty that is based on a percentage of the population, not upon some objective need, some objective condition.
And I’m not launching a war on poor people. I’m not attacking them. What I am attacking is this idea that people who work hard for a living have to continue to make sacrifices. And you give up half of everything, half so far, of everything they make, to go to other people for the stated purpose of eliminating poverty when that poverty does not really exist in any meaningful sense anymore.
Jason Hartman: In the US. And of course it does exist around the world.
Bill Whittle: Of course. You go to Africa or you go even into Mexico, South America, you see grinding poverty, people starving to death in the millions in Africa all the time. And this kind of also breeds into the health care issue, not a bad turn of phrase there actually, because if you listen to European intellectuals, you just walk through an American street and you don’t know whether to step over the bodies of the starving or the bodies of the dying from their injuries or their diseases which go untreated because of lack of health care. And it’s simply not true.
The health care issue, the whole point of Obamacare was to take care of this vast unprotected group of Americans who don’t get any health care. That’s what they say. They have no health care. First of all, we all agree that 93% of the American population was covered and so that meant that 93% of our population had the best health care in the world. So what does that say about the 7% or the 6% or the 30 million or 40 million or whatever that number is? It says that those people have not bought health insurance.
But I was living without health insurance in those days and I ruptured a disc in my neck and they went in and gave me the surgery and it got written off which means that somebody who was more responsible than I was paid for that operation. Taxpayers of Florida paid for that operation. People who had their act together a lot better than I did paid for that operation. But it got taken care of. You don’t see people sitting outside of hospitals with broken legs or dying of tuberculosis because they don’t have health care. Those people are taken care of and the rest of America pays for it. And I have been doing my very best since the years since that incident to be as successful as I can, not only to take care of myself but to pay back some of that money through taxation and so on.
This whole thing is endemic, it’s a pattern. When you have half of the population that doesn’t pay anything, you have got a very, very, very dangerous situation because you’ve got the one thing that the [00:10:19] among others said would be the death of democracy when people realize they can vote themselves money out of the treasury, it’s all over. And when politicians pander to half of the population and say you guys don’t have to do anything other than vote for us, we’ll take it from rich people, sooner or later that’ll be 50% then 60% then 80% of the people don’t pay anything and the burden on the producers get higher and higher and higher. And then what happens? We all know what happens.
Jason Hartman: We all know what happens and what happens is called Michigan.
Bill Whittle: That’s beautifully said. That’s exactly what happens. Michigan happens. And Michigan means that the people who create wealth, the wealth creators either stop creating wealth, they just take their money and go and retire, or they go someplace else. And that’s what happens. And then people look around and go we can’t figure it out. It’s an utter mystery why Detroit is in ruins. It must just be bad luck.
Jason Hartman: And California’s about to become the new Michigan.
Bill Whittle: Watching California go from being the most innovative, free, dynamic society in the world to becoming the union of socialist soviet republics is the most heartbreaking thing that I have witnessed in my lifetime. It is just heartbreaking to watch this. It’s just unbelievable.
I’ll give you an example of California. A friend of mine has a nice pool deck but he wasn’t able to swim all summer because they were working on his pool. Pool was torn up all summer long. Why was the pool torn up? Well, the pool was torn up because apparently some girl one place, one time, was swimming at a pool and she got stuck at the bottom of the pool by the suction on the drain and she drowned. And so now every single pool in California has to have two drains, every single one of them. And some politician somewhere decide, well, we can’t let this happen again, obviously this epidemic that’s sweeping the nation of children being sucked to their deaths at the bottom of swimming pools by the unbearable vacuum of the drain.
So some guy passes a law and every single apartment complex in California has to spend 50 grand or whatever it takes to be compliant with this.
Jason Hartman: Bill, listen, I own a bunch of rental properties, and I remember I don’t like owning condos but I do have a couple of them in my portfolio. And then I have apartment buildings and a lot of single family homes which I like a lot. But condos are not my favorite. But I’ll just tell you I got a notice on that exact issue you’re talking about right now where the homeowners association sent out a notice to all the residents that they had to create a special assessment to update the pool drains because of that exact story, that exact accident.
The thing that happens here, certainly tragic, nobody wants anybody to die. But life, we just gotta understand life is fraught with risk. I’ve seen people’s little 2 year old children pass away of heart condition and another friend 25 years old killed by a drunk driver. I mean, it’s tragic but you can’t tell everybody they gotta stop driving. You just can’t solve every problem. I mean, that’s what it seems like the left doesn’t understand.
Bill Whittle: I’m really, really glad you mention this risk issue because I think if I had to stand as far back as I could stand and look at America from geostationary orbit here and try and put my finger on what is going wrong, American life has become asymptotic. And let me explain what I mean by that.
Jason Hartman: Does that mean the nanny state?
Bill Whittle: No, it’s a bigger issue than that I think. Everybody knows what an exponential curve is. It’s a curve that as you move to the right, as you advance in time, the rate of crime becomes ever steeper, and at infinity it becomes vertical. So, an exponential curve is one that rapidly, rapidly accelerates. The faster you go, the more numbers go up. An asymptotic curve is just the opposite. It’s one that starts out very steep and as you get further and further in time it starts to level out and level out and level out.
So what do I mean when I say American society has become asymptotic? In my father’s time or certainly in my grandfather’s time, if he worked hard his entire life and really did well and saved his money, he might be able to electrify his house. And electrifying his house means that he does not have to get up in the morning at 4 o’clock, march down to the well or the river with a bucket, pump that thing, carry water, water is heavy. . .Most kids sitting never had to carry any water – water is heavy. You don’t have to get up in the morning and chop wood because chopping wood takes a lot of work. I’ve chopped enough wood in a half hour to know that it will practically kill you. They don’t have to do any of these things.
So a man who worked hard his entire life could show real progress for that, right? Suddenly you have hot and cold running water and you have electricity and you have all these things like a toaster and an iron and maybe even a washing machine. And you’re making progress in life and you’re grateful for your progress.
What I mean by saying American culture today is asymptotic is simply this: If you’re 17 years old today in America, what does your life consist of? Well, you have 24 hour entertainment, 24 hour television, you have 24 hour games. You have absolutely unfettered access to all of the information available to the human race at any instant that you want it. Your electricity has never been off. You have all the food you could ever eat at any time of the day that you want it. And if there’s something special you want, you simply get in your car, which you’ve always had, and go get it. You simply go get.
And when I say go get it, that doesn’t mean you have to hike over mountains or go kill bears. You make a 5 minute drive and you go get it. Every single need that you’ve ever had as a human being that people have struggled for for millennia is present at your birth. You’ve never had to want for everything. If you’re a 17 year old in America, with virtual certainty you’ve never been cold, you’ve never been hungry, and you’ve never been in pain, not for more than a few minutes, not for the time it took to get you to the hospital or the medicine cabinet.
So the question is where do you go from there? What do you do to have any sense of accomplishment or improvement in life? I don’t know where you can go. You’re trapped under this asymptotic curve of prosperity that has given you so much that it becomes virtually impossible to improve on it. And the problem here is not that things are great – I love the fact that things are great. The problem is that people assume that this is the natural condition of life and that it can never change. So, when you get into a world where no one dies until their baby and when everything is supposed to be protected and all of your needs are met, no one has to deal with the idea of risk. If some kid is killed on a bicycle, then either we didn’t wear enough helmets or we didn’t have enough stop signs or we didn’t have enough this and we gotta improve this, we gotta have video cameras. It assumes that the world has become perfect and the world is never perfect, it never has been perfect.
The next video I’m gonna do as an afterburner has to do with this Rena Air Race crash. And my understanding is that Rachel Maddow and others have been calling for air races to be banned. And the reason they call for them to be banned is because they don’t go to air races. It doesn’t cost them anything to ban air shows because they don’t go to air shows. So, this is the great American pastime now is calling for the banning or the regulation or the removal or the destruction of things that we don’t do but we happen to decree are harmful to society because one person or two people or 12 people got killed. Well, we simply can’t have this. This has to be banned and eliminated.
Our response to people like Rachel Maddow to these people who live in skyscrapers in New York and talk about banning air shows because they never go to air shows.
Jason Hartman: They’re sort of like the academics. . .
Bill Whittle: Of course they are. Well, 12 people were killed at Reno. Of course that’s a tragedy and I’m not being callous to their loss. I’m not saying I don’t care about them – of course I do. But they assumed a risk when they went to that air show. And I’m sure all of them knew they assumed a risk. They assumed a risk when they drove to the air show. They assumed a risk the minute that they entered this world that something would happen to them. And the price of entering the world is that something could happen to you.
Jason Hartman: The only secure place is death.
Bill Whittle: Well, that’s what they want first really when you get right down to it. So when you get the people like Rachel Maddow who want to ban all these things, in the public interest of course, never for them, they never come out and say I don’t like this so we’re gonna ban, it’s “In the interest of public safety so that nobody else gets killed in air show, I think maybe we should ban air shows.”
Well, 12 people killed at Reno. Last time spectators were killed at the Reno air races was 47 years ago. My response to Rachel Maddow would be if you really want to ban thing that are killing people, if you’re all about the public safety as you claim and you really want to shut down these murderous things, well, why don’t we shut down something that murdered 600 people last year and 700 people the year before that and sometimes murders 1200 people a year, Rachel? If you really want to do something for the public safety, why don’t you ban New York City? Why don’t you just shut down Manhattan where 600-700 people are murdered every year.
If it’s really about public safety, why don’t you close your apartment where you live, lock up everything, leave it there, get on the last bus, blow the bridges and seal the tunnels and then we don’t have to worry about all those hundreds of people dying every year. And if that sounds a little ridiculous to you and a little absurd it’s probably because somebody’s talking about shutting down something that you actually enjoy. You’ll say, well, that’s the price of living in New York.
My response to that would be, well, that’s the price of watching airplanes fly at 500 miles an hour because you kind of enjoy that kind of thing. It’s assumed risk. It’s living like an adult and understanding that there are no guarantees and there are no receipts, that you’re not promised a life of 100 years of perfect health and longevity, interrupted only by a quick and painless death. No, that’s not how it works but that’s how we think it works, and that’s the American disease today.
Jason Hartman: Well put, definitely agree with you there. Bill, I want to go back to this issue of the rich and the poor for just a moment if you can. I love that video that you did, that you talked about initially, where you looked at the number of days we could fund the ridiculous out of control federal government. And we’re only talking about the federal government there, not all the states and municipal governments which add to the problem. There’s simply not enough money to take. The concept of let’s just tax all the people that fly private jets more and not understanding that of course a gulfstream jet costs somewhere around $50 million and very few people actually have those, what really the left is proposing, what Obama’s proposing is he’s saying tax everybody that makes over $200,000 a year. And if you live in California or New York or any expensive place, that ain’t much money by today’s standard.
And so there’s not enough to get. The taxing of the rich is not a solution because there’s just not enough to get first of all. And that’s what your video so beautifully illustrated. But, in addition to that, of course, and Reagan proved this I think very well, the more you tax, the more you suppress economic activity. And so you actually reduce the amount of money coming into government coffers with higher marginal tax rates.
Bill Whittle: They don’t care about that. Barack Obama was asked before he became president, if you could be proven, categorically he can be, that raising tax rates actually lowered federal revenues, would you still be in favor of it? And he said yes, because it’s not about the revenues, it’s about the equality.
Jason Hartman: That is a scary, scary response. It’s about the equality.
Bill Whittle: Let’s just look at what’s really there and let’s look at what these people say in their own words. It is not about raising revenues to provide services to people who need it. It’s not about grandmom’s social security. It is about wealth redistribution by people whose primary motivation in life is envy. That’s the first thing we need to understand. The president admitted it verbatim. I’m not putting words in his mouth. He said this. This is why the guy’s always on teleprompter because when he’s not on teleprompter he says what’s on his mind. And when he says what’s on his mind, people begin to go “Wait a minute now”. So that’s the first thing we need to understand.
The second thing we need to understand about this federal spending is it is an addiction. It is the greatest addiction of all. If you had a credit card in your wallet that had no limit and you never had to make payments on it, what would your life be like?
Jason Hartman: It would be wonderful.
Bill Whittle: It would be extravagant. When people talk about spending, the thing you need to ask them about the federal spending is this. . .People say we just need a little more money and then we’ll be able to pay for everything we want. You just ask them this. How much cocaine does a cocaine addict use? And the answer is all of it. They do all of it. There’s not a coke addict in the world who says, you know what, that’s enough. I think I’m gonna go to work for a while, I’ll put this away for a couple weeks and come back to this maybe on the 15th or something, they do all of it. It’s an addiction. These people are addicted. They will take every penny you have.
If they’re taxing you 50% now, then they’ll take 60 and 70 and 70 and then they’ll take 100. And, buddy, I have to tell you something. I remember when I was a young guy – I was probably 23-24 years old. I briefly dated this girl who was from Britain. Her father was a tax refugee from Great Britain and she was talking about the tax rates on her dad who was doing real well before he left. And she told me the story. I don’t know if it was true – she told it to me, it seems reasonable. And she said you know what they taxed my dad the final year before he left, what percentage of his income? I said what? She said 103%. I said that’s impossible. She said no it’s not. They took everything he made that year plus they took 3% of his earnings of that year from his savings.
Jason Hartman: Unbelievable, a wealth tax which Obama has pondered by the way.
Bill Whittle: Yeah. Where does this end? It never ends. Where does the democrat revenue line cross the spending line in the future? They never say because it doesn’t. They don’t understand it. They’re too stupid to understand the things that every single regular American understands and that is you cannot spend more than you take in over any length of time.
Jason Hartman: I say, Bill, that they’re not too stupid. They know exactly what they’re doing. And they’re simply either conspiring to bankrupt and destroy the country or they’re just sleep pandering to get more votes and maintain the power and kick the can down the road. It’s one or the other. They can’t not understand it. I mean, come on, this is just so beautifully simple.
Bill Whittle: Maxine Waters doesn’t understand it. I’m convinced that some of these people don’t understand it. She’s complaining why there are no jobs. . .These are her words, these are not my words. “If Barack Obama was not black, we would be marching on Washington with torches and pitchforks.” I think she said that verbatim.
Jason Hartman: Well, she’s the one who said no justice, no peace during the LA Riots encouraging violence.
Bill Whittle: There are a lot of people saying that. The thing that she said that is so indicative is there’s a person that doesn’t understand why there aren’t any jobs. She can’t figure it out. It’s another mystery. And then she says to banks if you do not comply with our will and basically forgive these mortgages, “We will tax you out of existence”.
Jason Hartman: Then there will be no loans and no banks.
Bill Whittle: When a representative of congress says you do what we say or else we’re going to tax you out of existence, what the companies in the private sector naturally and very intelligently do say to themselves is this: Here’s this threat looming out here. We better save every single penny we have because we never know when these idiots, these malcontents and these charlatans are going to put a gun to our head and tax us out of existence. So I don’t think we’re going to hire this new person or buy this new truck or open this new factory because we’ve already been threatened, we’re threatened every day by this administration by people who make us into villains and say we’re the source of all our problems and it’s those fat cats with their corporate jets, of course businesses are sitting on money. I would too. They’re waiting on this storm to pass. They’re waiting for some certainty.
And even more than these repressive tax rates and these unbearable regulations, the one thing that the private sector cannot abide is uncertainty. They don’t know. Nobody knows. For the first 2 months of its administration, when the Obama administration can come in and buy fiat, simply declare that Chrysler’s shareholders are not holding the papers that they thought they hold, that we just decided to come in and buy legal fiat, say no, the money that is owed to you is not owed to you anymore. We’re sorry.
Jason Hartman: We’re just going to give it to the unions basically.
Bill Whittle: It’s been done and tough luck for you. When that happens, we are now dealing with a very different kind of America. We’re not talking about liberals or democrats. We’re not talking about conservatives or republicans. We’re not talking about any of that anymore. We are talking about whether or not we are under the rule of law or whether we are a lawless society determined by the whims of the people in power.
Jason Hartman: We have a dictatorship.
Bill Whittle: When politicians can break contracts at whim, private contracts, when a politician can go in and declare it void legally, we no longer live under the rule of law. And then you live in the kind of world that is the third world. And it’s just a matter of time before the living conditions mimic the legal structure.
Jason Hartman: It’s a slippery slope, there’s no question about it.
Bill Whittle: And it’s a steep slope, too.
Jason Hartman: It sure is. Listen, I pretty much agree with you on all of this. I want to ask you a question and I want you to help me sort this out. I think conceptually you’re absolutely spot on. However, in today’s modern world of business with internet, with scalability, with lobbying of congress especially and the lobbyist scam which I think is a scam in a lot of ways, big corporations, the “evil rich” as the left likes to call them which I don’t think they’re evil, however I interviewed the author of Winner Take All Society. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book, but he is a professor and I like the concept of the book. I was interested in it. But when he got on my show he started talking about how the government needs to do more and regulate this and regulate that, and I thought oh my god, this is just going to be another disaster, right, if this happens.
But these big Wall Street companies, they’re not existing in a truly capitalist environment. They’re going and they’re lobbying the government to make laws that regulate them more. They go on TV and they say, oh, it’s too much government regulation. They’re playing both sides of the fence because what they’re doing is secretly they say regulate us more. And the reason they say that is because they know it keeps out competition. I’m not gonna compete and open up a brokerage firm or an investment bank and compete with Goldman Sachs any time soon. The entry is impossible. They’ve raised the bar so much that it’s not a fair playing field anymore and I really do think that.
Bill Whittle: You hit upon the economic system that is always kind of working in the background. But when you have this kind of political cronyism, this kind of basically lawlessness in terms of contract law, then what emerges it in its place rapidly is mercantilism. Some people call it crony capitalism. I never want to hear that word used again because it associates capitalism with this. It has nothing to do with capitalism. It’s the opposite of capitalism. Free market capitalism says that laws protect people against things like fraud and maybe insider trading and that’s it. But mercantilism is the use of Portico influence in order to set your business up for an advantage that it has no right having.
Let’s say GE for example. GE paid no income tax. How is that possible? Jeff Immelt is Barack Obama’s go-to guy. Wasn’t he given the medal of freedom? No, that was Warren Buffet. Another guy. . .
Jason Hartman: Another hypocrite, yeah.
Bill Whittle: I’ll talk about Buffett in a second. Here’s the guy who’s like the water carrier for the Obama foundation on the big business front. So GE is a massive company. And when Barack Obama was elected, I actually asked myself, I said how can these big businesses support the socialists? And it’s exactly what you said a moment ago.
One of the things GE makes is the MRI machines, magnetic resonance imaging machines, these medical devices. And it is a much tougher thing for GE to go out and try and sell 600 of these things to 600 different individual private hospitals than it is to pay a little money, get a little political influence and sell 1000 of them to the federal government. That’s one sale. And it’s not even a tough sale. And you don’t have to worry about competition because you bought the political influence. Then they write laws that say that this has to happen and there you go. They write laws that protect you against competition.
Mercantilism is the opposite of a free market. It’s not an outgrowth of the free market. It’s not a mutation. It’s not what the free market is. It’s the opposite of the free market. And when you think of all these images you have in the pop culture of capitalists, the fat cat guy you know with the top hat and enormous stomach, holding a sack of money, that image. . .
Jason Hartman: That’s Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Bill Whittle: The image, the monopoly guy image of the guy in the top cat and the waistcoat, the fat guy holding a big bag of money, was drawn by Thomas Nast back in the 1800 and it was done to represent the trusts, these mercantilist monstrosities that existed back at the time of Tammany Hall, which were all democrats by the way – just feel like I need to add that. But Tammany Hall was Boss Tweed in New York City. And at the end of the 1800s, It was open knowledge, it wasn’t secret, it was openly known. If you wanted to do $100,000 worth of renovations to a building in New York City under Boss Tweed, you had to come up with $100,000 to do the renovations and $100,000 to pay to the democratic political machine which went directly into Boss Tweed’s pocket.
It’s mercantilism. It’s this unholy alliance of an aneurysm of government regulation and private enterprise. So, yes, this is a problem with these big business guys, with these mercantilists. And I don’t know what the answer is. But when you got a guy like Warren Buffet saying they should raise taxes on me, they should raise taxes on me, I’m a billionaire I should be paying more. . .
You know what I found out? I found this out yesterday. Do you know what Warren Buffet’s take home salary is? His pay? His taxable income? $100,000.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, I had a feeling it wasn’t that high.
Bill Whittle: It’s $100,000. I make more money than Warren Buffet takes home. I am taxable, let me rephrase that. I don’t make a 100th of 1% of what Warren Buffet makes. But my taxable income is higher than his. He makes $100,000 in taxable salary because he has sheltered everything, and not just unfairly, it’s all done legally, but also because almost all of his money is through capital gains.
Jason Hartman: Let’s go see if Buffet is gonna start lobbying for a wealth tax. Like your ex-girlfriend there, let’s see if they can take 3% of his multi-billion dollars of wealth away every year.
Bill Whittle: Yeah, let’s see how he feels about that. And the fact that they’re not talking about that means Warren Buffet is an enormous hypocrite. He is a mercantilist. He is taking a position which sounds very noble, which endears him to be progressive. “I’m a billionaire, I think you should raise my taxes.” See, even the billionaires say that we’re not taxing him enough. Well, Warren Buffet makes $100,000 a year taxable income. He’s actually probably not paying any income tax. He’s certainly under Barack Obama’s magical $250,000 limit.
Jason Hartman: You’d think that Warren Buffet’s secretary is a pretty special person and he’s not paying her $100,000. I would think that’s a pretty high end secretary there to one of the richest men in the world.
Bill Whittle: This is how the whole thing works. It’s all about political influence. Leave business alone. And some people say oh you free market guys, you don’t want any regulations. That’s like saying I’m a football fan who doesn’t want any rules. Of course I want rules. I want rules about penalties, I want rules about out of bounds, I want the clock to stop when the guy runs out of bounds, I want a touchdown to be worth 6 points, but what I want is I want a touchdown to be worth 6 points every time. I want a field goal to be worth 3 points every time. I don’t want a referee to be able to throw a flag at a guy because he doesn’t like the way he looks at him. And I don’t want a referee to throw a flag at another guy because he doesn’t like orange – the guy wears an orange uniform. I want a limited set of consistent rules that are applied uniformly to everybody.
Jason Hartman: You mean like a flat tax? How’s that for an idea?
Bill Whittle: Yeah, how about that?
Jason Hartman: Steve Forbes, he got no traction. I remember I was in Russia and I was hanging out with a couple of Steve Forbes’s daughters and I asked what happened the last time he ran for president. They said it was just a complete media blackout. No one would cover him. He couldn’t get any traction. It sounds very much like Ron Paul and how he’s marginalized in the media and the guy has the support of the people. You just see it over and over. It’s unbelievable what happens and how they just don’t cover him. I don’t know if you saw the Jon Stewart video, which is actually pretty funny actually, about Ron Paul. You really should look that up. It’s mind-boggling, it really is.
Bill Whittle: Well, Forbes wasn’t covered because that idea, a flat tax idea, would destroy the democratic party. Forget the democratic party – it would destroy liberalism. If everybody were in this together and it wasn’t on how much you made but how much you spent – I don’t know whether it’s flat tax or fair tax, I lose track.
Here’s the thing. If everybody’s in it together, then everybody’s in it together. You don’t get to divide the country into tribes anymore and play them against each other. And for people who say that’s unfair, the rich should pay more, let me just ask you this. . .Let’s take an example that everybody can connect to.
Jason Hartman: The rich will pay more in a flat tax. They’ll pay 15% just like everybody else.
Bill Whittle: Let me take an example that most people can resonate with. When you’re standing in line at a grocery store on football Sunday and there’s a long line, it’s 15 people deep, and every single register is filled with people. And you’ve got all different kinds of Americans standing in line to go and get their stuff for their barbecue that day. No one for a second thinks that the guy in front of you should pay more of your grocery bill because he makes more money than you do. It never enters anybody’s mind. No one ever says I want to see your bank balance before you check out or maybe I should be paying for some of yours because you’re not doing as well as I am. Nobody thinks that way, but that’s what the income tax system is today. It’s a way of checking the wallet of the guy in front of you and if he has more money, then you take some of it. And if the guy behind you has less money, then he takes some of yours. No one ever thinks that way in public when you’re dealing with real people. It’s only when you demonize classes of people like these progressives are becoming expert at that people start thinking that way.
I think most people in a supermarket line would say, look, if there’s somebody outside the door who’s starving, every American who’s decent, just a genuine need, real hunger, there’s not a person in America that would walk by without chipping in. So with that said, why is it that we can all understand that when we go to a checkout line to get our Sunday groceries, it’s a question of, hey, this is my business. And if I’m buying T-bone steaks and you’re buying flank steaks, well, if you want T-bone steaks figure out a way to work a little harder.
Jason Hartman: Or sacrifice something else. Sacrifice a different part of your life. You don’t need the brand new Nikes.
Bill Whittle: If you’re texting somebody on your iPhone about how unfair it is that the guy in front of you has T-bone steaks while you don’t might be onto the nature of the problem here.
Jason Hartman: It’s very true. And it seems as though, as far as the unemployment issue, it seems like one way that you could just instantly increase employment is get rid of the minimum wage. Why doesn’t the free market dictate what we pay people? You see the left talking about how black unemployment is so high and teen unemployment is so high and teen unemployment is so high. And teenagers can’t get summer jobs.
How about taking away some of the regulations on the businesses? How about letting the businesses hire people for whatever people are willing to work for? In business, I only work for myself, really, because it’s my own company, but when I go negotiate with a potential customer, no one’s regulating how much that company should pay me for whatever I’m going to provide with them. It’s up to the free market.
Bill Whittle: Let me close my time with you today with a little personal story here. And I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal here. This is not unique to me. There are millions of people who have done what I’m about to tell you. This is the idea of America. And I didn’t know it in advance, it just occurred to me.
I was 12 or 13 years old, I got into astronomy in a big way. I just loved the idea of astronomy. And I saw a telescope that I wanted for Christmas. My dad said if you pay half, I’ll pay the other half – you can get it for your Christmas present. I said okay.
So, I got massively into astronomy and I moved to Miami. And then on a field trip I went to the Miami Space Transit Planetarium in 5th grade. And when I walked into that building, I could feel neurons being burned into my head. I was absolutely overwhelmed. I said this is it, this is what I want to do. So I was 13 years old, I went to the show and I came back that weekend, took a bus there, and said I really just would love to be a part of this and I’ll do anything you need. I’ll take tickets, I’ll sweep the floor. Sometimes people get sick because of the motion there – I’ll clean up the vomit. I’ll usher people to their seats, just anything, I just want to be a part of it. The first words out of their mouth was well we don’t have any money to pay you. We’re a museum and we’re very tight budget. I said you don’t have to pay me – I just want to be here.
And this was not a ploy on my part. This wasn’t like this is my secret master plan. I just wanted to be there. I wanted to do it. It was a field I wanted to get interested in. At some level, I did feel like if I can show them over the course of a year or so that I’m actually valuable, maybe they’ll find some room for me. So I went in and took tickets and did all that stuff that day, and they said, yeah, nice. And they never thought they’d see me again but I came back on Sunday and I came back the following Sunday. And, honestly, I had been there 4 or 5 times before they said we gotta pay this kid something. So they started paying me $2.50 an hour. I still have my first check. I think I have a check for $37.50 for 2 weeks work or a month’s work or something. But the point is they started paying me $2.50 an hour.
And then I started watching what these console operators did. And when there was an opportunity to do a show and nobody to run it, it was an emergency, I told them I know how to do it because I’ve been practicing on my own time, because I loved it. So they gave me an opportunity. And the short form of this, I was a planetarium console operator at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium when I was 14 years old and it’s only because I wanted it. I didn’t have any special connections, I didn’t have any connections. I just wanted it and I came in there every day and showed them that I wanted it.
And this is the thing our listeners need to understand. You’re a businessman, you know this in your bones to be true. People like that make businessmen almost weep. Businesspeople live their lives to find people like this. And when people ask me, gee, how do I succeed in the world, I say there’s only one thing you need to know. You don’t need a college degree, you don’t need this money, you don’t need this capital, you don’t need this personality. There’s one thing you need in the world if you want to succeed and it’s very simple. Whatever job it is you take, you make sure you get there a half hour before the boss arrives and you stay a half hour after he leaves. And don’t mention it, don’t say a word about it. You do this for 3 months and you are on your way.
Because people who run businesses, start businesses, love what they’re doing. They’re not in it for the money. Money’s great. I’m not aware of anyone who started a business because I want to make money, I just gotta find a business. People do things that they love. And when they see people who are on the team who really get it, who seem to love it too, that person will be on a rocket ship of promotion and success and there’s no way to stop them. And it’s just that simple.
Jason Hartman: Absolutely. There’s no question about it. That’s one of the great things about the free market, Bill, is that people preselect themselves for the things they most love. And the money comes as a result of them doing what they love and expressing their love to the world and providing great products and services. And that’s why we must at all costs maintain a free market system and capitalism.
This is a very intense time in history right now of this country. And I sure hope things work out correctly because it can go either way here.
Bill Whittle: And I think if this guy gets voted out of office and we see low regulations and a lower tax rate, we’re gonna see 7% economic growth in this country. There’s so much pent up growth that’s just waiting this thing out.
Jason Hartman: I know. And it’s just been great talking with you today. Your videos are fantastic. Where can people find them?
Bill Whittle: Well, I’m on every week at PJTV.com. It’s a membership based thing but they let you watch 10 of them for free. And if you’ve never been there, you might want to check it out. I do an afterburner series, a show called Trifecta with two of my good friends Steve Green and Scott Ott. And if you get on YouTube and search for “BillWhittleChannel”, pretty much all of my other videos are up there and Eat the Rich is there and a number of others. So that’s generally the best way to find me. And you can always go to BillWhittle.net.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Great websites, great resources, and phenomenal videos. So thank you so much, Bill Whittle, appreciate having you on the show today.
Bill Whittle: My pleasure. You take care now.
Narrator: The American Monetary Association is a nonprofit venture funded by the Jason Hartman Foundation which is dedicated to educating people about the practical effects of monetary policy and government actions on inflation, deflation and personal freedom. Our goal is to help people prosper in the midst of uncertain economic times. This show is produced by The Jason Hartman Foundation, all rights reserved. For publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate professional if you require individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own and the host is acting on behalf of The Jason Hartman Foundation exclusively.
The American Monetary Association Team
Transcribed by Ralph