Don’t Confuse Political Profiteers with Producers

WASHINGTON–“President Obama is pushing Congress to enact his Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, a bank tax that will fall on institutions that never asked for TARP money, never took TARP money, or already paid back TARP money,” write Don Watkins and Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Center.  “In promoting the measure, Obama is invoking widespread anger over bank bailouts, brazenly ignoring the fact that his punitive tax would punish businesses that eagerly fed at the public trough in the wake of the crisis as well as those that did not.

“Since the advent of capitalism, businessmen as a class have been denounced for the corrupt actions of a few political profiteers. It’s a distinction that gets special attention in Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ In the book Rand describes two opposite kinds of businessmen–those she calls the producers and the looters–deserving two very different assessments.

“Yes, it can sometimes be hard to tell the producers from the looters. As government becomes more entangled in our economic affairs, even the producers of the world are forced to lobby Washington–not to reap unearned rewards, but to protect themselves from the looters. (It’s no accident that before Microsoft came under antitrust fire, it spent virtually nothing on lobbyists, while today it spends many, many millions.) What’s more, many businessmen are mixed cases–part producer, part political profiteer.

“But however difficult it may be to classify individual businessmen, it’s crucial to keep the two categories separate when praising or condemning the businessmen who appear in the headlines and before congressional panels. If we don’t, it’s the looters who benefit and the producers who suffer.”