Margaret Sanger quotes about race and eugenics

This post contains a sampling of documented quotes by Margaret Sanger on the topics of race and eugenics. I say “documented” because (unlike most other Web pages citing Sanger) in each case I provide a direct link to scanned pages from the original editions of books she wrote featuring these quotes, which have been put online by a politically neutral academic library whose impartiality is unimpeachable; furthermore, I provide photographs of each quote in situ from her various books, along with accurate transcriptions.

The reason for these extreme steps is that one must be very careful when researching online the intersection of Margaret Sanger, eugenics and race, because her modern defenders (that is, Planned Parenthood and other “pro-choice” advocates) do everything they can to suppress and deny Sanger’s racism, while on the other hand her detractors (“pro-life” advocates) often cite abbreviated quotes from her in order to make it look like she was only racist against blacks — when in fact she was also racist against immigrant groups, other minorities, and “defectives” of any skin color, all of whom threatened what Sanger saw as the “purity” of the educated white middle and upper classes.

The following quotes are all taken from two of Margaret Sanger’s books: The Pivot of Civilization, published in 1922; and Woman and the New Race, published in 1920. There are countless other Sanger quotes about race and eugenics, not just in these two books but in many of her other books as well, not to mention various letters and essays of hers which have been preserved. The quotes you see here, therefore, are not a thorough examination of her views on these topics, but rather just a few verified examples which researchers, pundits and advocates on either side can use, cite, republish, download or link to freely.


The Pivot of Civilization, by Margaret Sanger (1922)
Available online here in its original format at Open Library
or as searchable text at Project Gutenberg.

That Margaret Sanger was an enthusiastic eugenicist, and that her beliefs were essentially racist (and classist), is beyond dispute. Take for example this random quote from pages 175-6 of The Pivot of Civilization:

“[Eugenics] sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of irresponsibility and imbecility? This is not such a remote danger as the optimistic Eugenist might suppose. The mating of a moron with a person of sound stock may, as Dr. Tredgold points out, gradually disseminate this trait far and wide until it undermines the vigor and efficiency of an entire nation and an entire race. This is no idle fancy.”


Sanger summarizes her guiding “Principles” on page 279, in which she declares that low-class children are “unwanted types” who “should never have been born”:

“Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly. People who cannot support their own offspring are encouraged by Church and State to produce large families. Many of the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble-minded; many become criminals. The burden of supporting these unwanted types has to be borne by the healthy elements of the nation. Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born.”


Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to counteract the influence of the typical “maternity center” of the day, whose pro-life advice to lower-class pregnant women

“…encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.”


The phrase “human waste” in the quote above was no fluke; in fact, Sanger made a habit of describing the lower classes (i.e. children of immigrants and minorities) as “human waste“:


Sanger’s reflexively low opinion of blacks can be seen on pages 131-2 of The Pivot of Civilization, where she first writes

“Evidence of racial and biological degeneracy are apparent to this observer”

and then goes on to approvingly quote another eugenicist who claims that factory work has degraded the intellect of the British lower classes to the level of (gasp!) “the African negro”:

“‘Compared with the African negro,’ he writes, “the British sub-man is in several respects markedly inferior.”

There’s no question that in this context “negro” is cited as the benchmark for racial inferiority, a degenerate state to which the white British man is unfortunately descending.


On pages 84-7 of Pivot, Sanger once again reveals her true opinions by using the example of a black family to illustrate how “feeble-minded” women contaminate society with their criminal offspring:

“Here is a typical case showing the astonishing ability to ‘increase and multiply,’ organically bound up with delinquency and defect of various types: ‘The parents of a feeble-minded girl, twenty years of age, who was committed to the Kansas State Industrial Farm on a vagrancy charge, lived in a thickly populated Negro district which was reported by the police to be the headquarters for the criminal element of the surrounding State….The mother married at fourteen, and her first child was born at fifteen. In rapid succession she gave birth to sixteen live-born children and had one miscarriage. …’”

The quote then goes on for several paragraphs to list how nearly all of the black woman’s children had become scourges on society:

“‘…The eighth, a boy who early in life began to exhibit criminal tendencies, was in prison for highway robbery and burglary. The ninth, a girl…had also been arrested several times for soliciting. The tenth, a boy, was involved in several deliquencies. … The twelfth, a boy, was at fifteen years of age implicated in a murder…’”

and so on for all sixteen black children. Sanger concludes,

“The notorious fecundity of feeble-minded women is emphasized in studies and investigations of the problem….Feeble-minded women constitute a permanent menace to the race….”

[Click on image to view full-size]


Woman and the New Race, by Margaret Sanger (1920)
Available online here in its original format at Open Library

In her 1920 tract Woman and the New Race, Sanger sometimes expressed the kind of deep racism typical of the era which was so thoroughly intertwined with her worldview that it usually didn’t even need to be mentioned because it was the starting point of the discussion.

For example, when talking about how large family sizes lead to illiteracy on page 38, Sanger casually describes white people as being of “pure stock” whereas the high rate of Negro illiteracy merits an “of course” which needs no further explanation:

“Moreover, there were in the United States in 1910, 5,516,163 illiterates. Of these 1,378,884 were of pure native white stock. In some states in the South as much as 29 per cent of the population is illiterate, many of these, of course, being Negroes.”


On page 31 of the same book, Sanger reveals a view of racial hierarchies which in modern terms would be deemed incredibly racist: At the bottom are “Negroes, Indians, Chinese,” all of whom count as “colored”; next comes not only anyone born outside the United States (mostly immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, as the text later reveals) but also their American-born children, all of whom still nonetheless count as “of foreign stock”; and at the top, needless to say, are Caucasians who have lived in the United States for multiple generations, who are “native white”:

Among our more than 100,000,000 population are Negroes, Indians, Chinese and other colored people to the number of 11,000,000. There are also 14,500,000 persons of foreign birth. Besides these there are 14,000,000 children of foreign-born parents and 6,500,000 persons whose fathers or mothers were born on foreign soil, making a total of 46,000,000 people of foreign stock. Fifty per cent of our population is of the native white strain.


The goal of birth control in Sanger’s view was to decrease the number of babies being born to “lower” types, while increasing the number of offspring produced by “the native white strain.” To this end, Sanger arranged to have one of her birth-control how-to manuals translated into Yiddish so that new Jewish immigrants could learn how to avoid pregnancy (and — the whole point — thereby limit Jewish population growth in the United States).


More quotes from Margaret Sanger expressing similar sentiments can be found throughout the two books cited above, as well as in one more of her books which is also available online:

The Case for Birth Control, available in its entirety here at Open Library


All images, quotes and text on this page are free to download and republish, with no restrictions.

My latest photo essay over at PJMedia:

.00001 Billion Rising: another failed mass movement


February 14 has rolled around again, and we all know what that means — right?

No, you silly, not Valentine’s Day. That’s heteronormative and has thus been condemned to the dustbin of history.

And no, it doesn’t even mean V-Day, the rape-themed anti-holiday invented to promote Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues. V-Day has gotten stale.

Instead, February 14 is now 1 Billion Rising day, Ensler’s new dance-oriented hijacking of her own V-Day which was itself a hijacking of Valentine’s Day. The thesis behind 1 Billion Rising is that if the world’s one billion rape victims all rose up en masse and danced every February 14, then rape would cease to exist because unicorns and rainbows.

I attended San Francisco’s second annual 1 Billion Rising event, one of many similar events held in cities around the world.


We gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall at 4 p.m. for the ecstatic festivities. Would we reach one billion participants and stop rape forever?

I had previously estimated the attendance at last year’s event as somewhere around two thousand. But the 2014 1 Billion Rising, as shown by this overall shot of the pitiful crowd I snapped from the behind the stage, was much smaller — a few hundred at most. This newspaper report says there were only 100 participants, while a more generous media estimate says “nearly 400″ at the high end, most of whom showed up late in the event to hear Black Eyed Peas rapper apl.de.ap spin records as the headlining attraction.

The event’s own official Web page reveals that only 71 people RSVPed, which seems about right, considering that well over half the people on hand were the organizers, performers, staff, volunteers, speakers and security.

Even an impromptu pillow fight flash mob, which happened at the same time as 1 Billion Rising just a short distance away in SF, drew a much larger crowd, driving home the point that Ensler’s depressing attempt to transform Valentine’s Day into a rant about rape hasn’t caught on, even in the most sympathetic political environment.

Organizers counter my dismissal by pointing out that the San Francisco event is only one out of “hundreds” of 1 Billion Rising events around the world, but even their own promotional video, shown here as part of a TV news report, reveals that most of those other events are even smaller.

1 Billion Rising? More like a few thousand, grand total, worldwide. The problem with overselling yourself with a grandiose name is that when you fail to meet your promise, you look foolish. And unimportant.


In the final analysis, like all “protest movements” 1 Billion Rising is selling a product — in this case the notion that rape and wife-beating are an emergency crisis that deserves more attention and money than other crises — and to sell any product in America you need pretty girls. Except in this case they aren’t draped over the hood of a sportscar or putting on the season’s latest fashions; instead, they’re chosen to stand on stage and hold the official signs. Yet since the entire ethos of 1 Billion Rising is to oppose the objectification of women, well…am I getting dizzy or are the fumes of cognitive dissonance filling the room?


Read the rest HERE.

On December 20, 2013, political pundit Ann Coulter was a guest on the Sean Hannity Show, a drive-time talk radio program broadcast nationwide, guest-hosted that day by Kirby Wilbur. Near the beginning of the show’s third hour, Ann Coulter said the following:

(Click here to download or listen to the mp3 [1mb, starting at 0:35].)

Look at their blind, passionate hatred for those on the other side — like George Bush. I mean you can go to this Web site zombietime which has the photos of effigies of George Bush being burned, being decapitated. They look at regular left-wing, anti-war, anti-Bush rallies: they sell hats, bags, backpacks that said “Kill Bush” on them. Can you imagine — I mean forget the reaction from the Left, can you imagine a conservative making up such a bag for Obama or Clinton? No — you oppose their policies; you don’t hate them with the hot hot hate of a thousand suns.

Ann was referring of course to this classic zomblog post:

Death Threats Against Bush at Protests Ignored for Years

(and also the related post Bush as Hitler, Swastika-Mania: A Retrospective).

Was Ann’s description of the posts correct? Well, mostly. For example, during the Bush era did leftist protesters overtly display messages that said “Kill Bush”? Yes, as the following examples taken from the post reveal:



Did the left-wing protesters depict Bush being decapitated? Yes:


Did they burn him in effigy? Yes:

And that’s just a tiny sampling — see the original post for countless more examples.

Where Ann was slightly off-base was her memory that the post showed people selling “hats, bags, backpacks” with these messages. That may have indeed happened, but I don’t have much record of that in the report itself: Instead, it seems that the vast majority of such death threats were individually crafted by the protesters themselves. Which, in a way, is actually worse than merely buying pre-made death threats — personally hand-making and then displaying a death threat is more significant and less legally defensible than buying one that someone else made for you.

That being said — there in fact were mass-produced t-shirts that said “Kill Bush”:

While it could have been the case that these were sold at protests (which is what Ann said), I don’t have a photographic record of that happening.

Even so: Thanks, Ann, for the mention!

If you want to download that day’s full Hannity show, it can be found here at Hannity.com (click on “Hour 3″).

(And thanks to zombietime reader Peter G. for bringing the clip to my attention.)

SF Protesters to Obama: Please Be a Dictator!

Now up at zombietime:

SF Protesters to Obama: Please Be a Dictator!

A teaser:


When Obama’s motorcade rocketed around San Francisco on Monday, very few locals even noticed his presence, and fewer still cared. The crowds awaiting him at each presidential fundraiser were by far the smallest I’d seen in over five years of covering his visits here. Ticket sales to at least one of the events were so sluggish that prices had to be lowered to fill the empty seats. Out in the street, rubberneckers and protesters had dwindled to the bare minimum. This is what happens when a hero disappoints: you don’t turn on him in anger, but rather just tune him out and move on to other interests.

Yet even with the small turnout, there was a theme amongst Obama’s protesters/supporters (supportesters?): They didn’t want him to change his political agenda — instead, they demanded that he assume dictatorial powers so that he could finally implement the radical plans with which they already agree. The message of the day was: Stop dilly-dallying around, Mr. President: Ignore the Constitution and just make The Revolution happen, as you promised!

That message would be disturbing enough all on its own, but it becomes much more disturbing when you suspect (as I do) that many of these pro-totalitarian protesters were astroturfed. In other words: Is the White House scripting/encouraging/guiding protesters on the left to beg him to become a dictator? So that later, he can explain, “I had no choice — the people demanded it!” Or is Obama simply telegraphing to his supporters that they should not be so disappointed when he throws in the towel and gives up even trying to achieve anything in his second term?

Let’s see what happened on Monday, and you can judge for yourself.

Click here to read the rest.


My latest report deconstructs the so-called “protest” outside Obama’s latest fundraiser:

Protesters greet Obama on S.F.’s Billionaires’ Row

(Cross-posted at PJMedia.)

A sampling, to whet your appetite:




It all culminated in this one sign, which of all the signs at the protest disturbed me the most. Yes, Obama really did say “Show me the movement. Make me do it.” (At least according to Michael Pollan, who quoted Obama while speaking at an environmental event in 2009.) In fact, a more extended quote from that speech might explain the motivation behind this entire protest:

Now, this agenda that I’m talking about, your own agenda, is not gonna happen just because we have a President and a First Lady who are sympathetic. That’s not how change comes. Change is much, much harder than that. Presidents cannot flip the switch and make things happen…. A friend of mine had occasion to have dinner with him and Michelle, and Obama made it clear that he got it, that he really did understand the issue, but he also said he didn’t think the time was right to push hard. He understood the forces arrayed on the other side and the great amount of political capital it would take to defeat them. … He challenged my friend, he said, “Show me the movement. Make me do it. Make me do it.”

…Now, that language, that language, “Make me do it,” is very interesting. Presidents have uttered that word – those words before. Roosevelt used them when he was being lobbied about certain issues. There’s a very interesting scene when Martin Luther King came to Lyndon Johnson and said, “We need this Voting Rights Act. You know, we need your help,” and Johnson turned to him and said, “I wanna do it. Make me do it.” He wasn’t just gonna do it. He needed to be made. He was telling Martin Luther King to get out in the street and make it happen.

Another example, President Clinton in 1993, he had a very difficult budget negotiation in Congress. He lost a lot. He moved way to the right and gave up a lot of his campaign promises to get this 1993, his first budget. And, at the signing of this budget, Bernie Sanders, the member of his caucus furthest to his left was there, and he came over to Bernie Sanders and he started pounding on his chest like this and he said, “Why weren’t you screaming at me? I needed you to be screaming at me, because then I could have brought you something.” So, as kindly as you feel towards Michelle and Barack, keep those lessons in mind.

Vilsack said something similar to a group of activists he met with just last month, “I need your help. Build a movement.” And he understands. Because the farm lobby is already organizing against him. So, we need to get organized. We need to flex our muscles. …

Now is not the time to savor the moment or rest. Now is the time to make Obama do it. Let’s show him the movement.

This explains how people who voted for Obama can be out in the street seemingly to protest “against” him. Turns out this whole protest was nothing more play-acting for the cameras, a group of faux protesters colluding with Obama to create a Potemkin “movement” which he can then cite as justification for making an unpopular decision he already wanted to make anyway. “I had no choice — there’s a mass movement against this pipeline! I must bow to the will of the people.”

The more I thought about this sign and its implications, the more disturbed I became. This explains not just today’s anti-Keystone pipeline protest, but also much of what has gone on in politics since 2008. It explains the media’s otherwise inexplicable glorification and attempted legitimization of the Occupy Wall Street movement; it explains the media’s desperate demonization of the Tea Party (so as to prevent the impression that it was a mass movement); it explains all sorts of outrages and protests and petitions and marches by the American far-left “against” a president whose agenda is identical to theirs. Every time the left erupted over some issue, I used to wonder, “Why are you complaining to Obama? He agrees with you!” Turns out that of course they all know full well that he agrees with them, that he and they are all on the same side. The purpose is not to change Obama’s mind, the purpose is to provide him with political cover to make bad or unpopular decisions, by fabricating hollow “popular uprisings” which he can then point to as indicative of overall public opinion.

My speculations were confirmed the following day when I read the only report of what was said inside the fundraisers, as quoted by the only “pool reporter” allowed into the events:

Steyer, who is a vociferous opponent of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a strong supporter of climate-change legislation, appeared to try to ease concerns that Obama wouldn’t keep the issue at the top of his agenda, as he has promised.

He is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about,” Steyer told the group in his home. “He has political limitations…so we really have an obligation to help him.”

Obama for his part, addressed climate change repeatedly in his remarks, which lasted 19 minutes, but never specifically mentioned the pipeline.

So it was just as I suspected: The protesters and Obama and his billionaire backers are all enmeshed, working in conjunction to achieve specific political goals — goals that would otherwise be unpopular with the general public. I realized that we out on the street were not protesting against the president’s agenda: We were part of the president’s agenda.

My latest photo essay is now up at zombietime:

Walk for Life 2013 vs. Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary

(Also cross-posted at PJMedia.)

If you’d like to comment on the essay, you can do so here.

A sample video from the action, to pique your interest:

Get your vaginal probe out of my vagina!
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Oh yeah, the truth hurts!
What are you teaching your little children? How to make women DIE???
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Get your vaginal probe out of my vagina!
Get your crucifix out of my vagina!
Get your vaginal probe out of my vagina!
That’s disgusting! What are you looking around for?
Vaginas!
Uteruses!
Get your crucifix out of my vagina!
Get your crucifix out of my vagina.
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Get your vaginal probe out of my vagina!
Get your vaginal probe out of my vagina!
Get the cross out of my…uterus.
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!
Oh, a t-shirt: We wouldn’t want you to learn anything!
Vaginal probes out of my vagina!
Get your crucifix out of my uterus!

Back in August, 2008, I travelled to Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention (at which Barack Obama was nominated). I produced and published many well-received and newsworthy reports of the convention…but for various reasons, none of those reports ever appeared at zombietime. In fact, they’ve never even been mentioned or linked on the main zombietime page.

Until now.

Although it’s about four and a half years after the fact, I’ve finally gotten around to compiling in one place a thorough list of all the reports I made in Denver in 2008. I’m posting links to them all here in one place for the first time, and I’ll link to this post from the main zombietime page, finally filling in the last missing section of what is supposed to be the “complete list” of zombie reports.

I hereby present:

All zombie reports from the Democratic National Convention, Denver, August 25-28, 2008


Live from DNC: It’s Zombietime! (Day 1) (August 25, 2008)

Live from DNC: It’s Zombietime! (Day 2) (August 26, 2008)

Live from DNC: Zombie Knee-Deep in Convention Chaos (August 27, 2008)

Zombie Witnesses a 9/11 Truth March at the DNC (Updated) (August 29, 2008)

Zombie’s Anatomy of a Video: Fabricating Police Brutality (August 31, 2008)

Zombie’s DNC Protest Roundup: 1968 Recreated? (September 2, 2008)

The Denver Games – Opening Ceremony (Aug 25, 2008)

Prisoners’ Rights “Recreate 68” Protest – Mini Report (Aug 25, 2008)

Update: Riot in Denver City Center (Aug 25, 2008)

Liveblogging from the Kos Tent with Dan Rather (Aug 26, 2008)

The Mosque in Denver’s Civic Center (Aug 26, 2008)

Biden to Boxer and Beyond – Celebrity-Hopping Convention Style (Aug 27, 2008)

Pro-Hillary March (Aug 27, 2008)

Scenes from a Convention (Aug 27, 2008)

The Democratic Convention Giant Puppet Parade (Aug 28, 2008)

I Went to Invesco and All I Got Was This Lousy Report (Aug 28, 2008)

9/11 Truth March at the Democratic National Convention (Aug 29, 2008)

Code Pink and Abortion Protesters Fail to Disrupt EMILY’s List Gala with Hillary, Michelle and Nancy (Aug 30, 2008)

Anatomy of a Video – Democratic Convention 2008 (Aug 31, 2008)

Denver – The Final Roundup (Sep 2, 2008)

My new post is up documenting the “Rally for Nudity” (just like it sounds) that happened in San Francisco last Saturday.

You have two choices:

The Full Uncensored All-Nude version at zombietime

…or…

The Prudish Censored No-Naughty-Parts version at PJMedia.

Choose your poison!


If you can’t handle this photo, choose the PJMedia version. If you want more like it, choose the zombietime version.

Sluts on Parade: SlutWalk SF 2012

My latest photo essay explores what happened at the 2012 SlutWalk in San Francisco:

Sluts on Parade: SlutWalk SF 2012

(Cross-posted at PJMedia.)

[Note: It's been a while since I've posted here, but that's only because I'm too busy posting at PJMedia and too short of time to always cross-post here at zombietime. To rectify matters, here's my latest essay:]


President Obama’s instantly infamous “You didn’t build that” speech is a major turning point of the 2012 election not because it was a gaffe but because it was an accurate and concise summary of core progressive fiscal dogma. It was also a political blunder of epic proportions because in his speech Obama unintentionally proved the conservatives’ case for limited government.

This essay will show you how.

When Obama implied at the Roanoke, Virginia rally that some businessmen refuse to pay for public works from which they benefit, he presented a thesis which, like a three-legged stool, relies on three assumptions that must all be true for the argument to remain standing:

1. That the public programs he mentioned in his speech constitute a significant portion of the federal budget;
2. That business owners don’t already pay far more than their fair share of these expenses; and
3. That these specific public benefits are a federal issue, rather than a local issue.

If any of these legs fails, then the whole argument collapses.

For good measure, we won’t just kick out one, we’ll kick out all three.

“Small Government” Is Not the Same as “No Government”

Progressives critique the fiscal conservative/Tea Party/libertarian position by purposely misrepresenting it as anarchy. When fiscal conservatives say “We want smaller government,” progressives reply, “Oh, so you want no government?”

“Government” in this particular discussion is shorthand for “communal pooling of resources for mutual benefit.”

Fiscal conservatives have never called for no government — that’s the anarchist position, and contemporary anarchism is actually dominated by extreme leftists, not extreme conservatives. Instead, fiscal conservatives clearly and consistently call for limited government, or for smaller government — but not for the absence of government altogether.

So when President Obama and his mentor Elizabeth Warren justify their call for tax hikes by pointing out that all entrepreneurs benefit from communal infrastructure, they’re committing the classic Straw Man Fallacy by arguing against anarchy — a position that their opponents do not hold.

Here’s the shocking truth: President Obama and Elizabeth Warren are correct — we all benefit from certain taxpayer-funded collectivist government infrastructure projects and programs. And here’s the other shocking truth: Therefore, we should limit government expenditures to just those programs. Why? Because most of the other government programs either

• hinder, constrict or penalize entrepreneurial activity; or
• benefit some people to the detriment of others; or
• waste money on bureaucracy, overhead or ill-considered expenditures that end up indebting the nation and by extension all Americans.

Below are videos and transcripts of Obama’s speech as well as the Elizabeth Warren speech that inspired it. First watch or read both speeches, and then we’ll list all of the programs that they both mention, and see what percentage of our taxes goes toward those programs.

Obama’s Speech

Here is Obama’s game-changing speech from Friday, July 13 in Roanoke, Virginia:

And here’s the transcript:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Warren’s Speech

And here’s Elizabeth Warren’s original 2011 speech, upon which Obama’s was based:

And the transcript:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

OK, now that we have both speeches in front of us, let us list the exact government programs and projects that Obama and Warren use to justify their position:

Education (Obama: “There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.” Warren: “You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.”)
Transportation (Obama: “Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” Warren: “You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.”)
Public Safety (Warren: “You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Obama: “There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.”)
The Internet (Obama: “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”)

…and that’s it.

OK. Fine. Let’s absolutely concede this point to Obama and Warren: There are some government activities that benefit us all, including business owners.

And for the sake of argument let’s just allow for a moment that the federal government is the best, most efficient and only supplier of these benefits. You win, Elizabeth and Barack.

But having conceded this central point, let us now ask the key follow-up question, which is the first leg of their three-point hypothesis: What percentage of the federal budget is devoted to these universally beneficial public works?

And if you’re a progressive reading this, you’d better get off the stool because it’s about to fall down.

The Numbers

Here is the Federal government’s budgetary breakdown for a recent fiscal year:

What percentage of this is devoted to education, transportation, public safety, and creating the Internet (i.e. basic research)?

I’m going to be as generous as possible to the progressive position and include ALL of defense spending in their column, since defense aids both basic research and public safety. Highways and roads are covered by the Department of Transportation. The Department of Education covers, well, education. And various other smaller departments — Department of Justice, National Science Foundation, etc. — contribute in varying degrees to public safety, research, and so forth.

Ready? Here we go:

Below is a list of all government expenditures, with Obama’s and Warren’s “public benefit” programs highlighted:

Social Security 19.63%
Department of Defense 18.74%
Unemployment/welfare/other mandatory spending 16.13%
Medicare 12.79%
Medicaid and SCHIP 8.19%
Interest on the national debt 4.63%
Health and Human Services 2.22%
Department of Transportation 2.05%
Department of Veteran’s Affairs 1.48%
Department of State 1.46%
Department of Housing and Urban Development 1.34%
Department of Education 1.32%
Other on-budget discretionary spending (1.8%): $149.67
Other off-budget discretionary spending (1.3%): $108.10
Department of Homeland Security 1.21%
Department of Energy 0.74%
Department of Agriculture 0.73%
Department of Justice 0.67%
NASA 0.53%
Department of Commerce 0.39%
Department of Labor 0.38%
Department of Treasury 0.38%
Department of the Interior 0.34%
EPA 0.30%
Social Security Administration 0.27%
National Science Foundation 0.20%
Corps of Engineers 0.14%
National Infrastructure Bank 0.14%
Corporation for National and Community Service 0.03%
Small Business Administration 0.02%
General Services Administration 0.02%
Other agencies 0.56%
Other off-budget discretionary spending 2.97%

So, let’s clear away the irrelevant government expenditures and list just the ones noted by Obama and Warren:

Department of Defense 18.74%
Department of Transportation 2.05%
Department of Education 1.32%
Department of Homeland Security 1.21%
Department of Justice 0.67%
National Science Foundation 0.20%

TOTAL: 23.4%

And that, of course, is being absurdly generous to the Obama position, since in reality huge portions of the defense budget, the Department of Education budget, and so on, have basically nothing to do with promoting public safety or educating workers. And let’s be even more generous and round that 23.4% up to 25%, or one-fourth of the budget.

So what Obama and Warren are really stating is this:

Only one-fourth of your federal tax dollars go to projects and programs that benefit the general public and entrepreneurs; the other three-fourths are essentially a complete waste, or are at best optional.

Which of course is exactly what fiscal conservatives have been arguing all along.

So yeah, I agree with Obama: Let’s slash the federal budget by 75%, and only fund services and programs that directly serve the public good.

The first leg of their argument has snapped, and the stool has toppled over. Since the essential programs aiding “the commons” are only a small percentage of an overall bloated budget, we don’t need to raise taxes to fund them.

And now for the second leg.

The Wealthy Already Pay Far More Than Their “Fair Share”

Are you ready for the happy news? If we stick to Obama and Warren’s “essentials only” budget, we can eliminate all taxes for 99% of Americans, and even lower taxes for the top 1%, and still have enough to pay for defense, transportation, public safety, education and all the rest. How? Because the top 1% of all taxpayers — the wealthy elite businesspeople who benefit from roads and schools and firefighters — pay about 37% of all federal taxes, far more than enough to cover the essentials, plus interest on the debt and plenty of extras besides.

Clonk. That’s the second leg hitting the floor.

Kicking Out the Third Leg: Education, Public Safety and Roads Are Covered by Local Taxes, Not Federal Taxes

The final component in Obama’s thesis is far and away the weakest, but for some reason few pundits have noted it. Obama and Warren have intentionally conflated local taxes with federal taxes. In most localities across the country, public education, police and firefighters, and street repair are primarily paid for by property taxes, local sales taxes, and state taxes. Federal grants can supplement local funds, but rarely is a school district or a police department propped up entirely with federal money.

So if we revisit Obama’s and Warren’s speeches, they’re actually making an argument for increased local taxes. And yet they and their audiences somehow imagine that the arguments given are a legitimate rationale for increased federal taxes.

As I said at the beginning of this essay, Obama has just unintentionally proved the conservatives’ case for limited government, and for decentralization and local control.

The stool is now in pieces on the floor. But I just can’t stop kicking.

Obama’s Fallacy that the Goal of Government Research Is to Benefit the Private Sector

“The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Now, everybody agrees that a great number of scientific and engineering breakthroughs have happened as a result of “government research,” primarily military research: not just the Internet but nuclear power, GPS systems, jet aircraft, and many more. But Obama is sorely mistaken in claiming that the Internet was created “so that all the companies could make money” off it. Actually, the Internet was created to facilitate defense-related research as well as to strengthen military command-and-control capabilities. It was most definitely not created “so that all the companies could make money,” as a very early ARPANet handbook explained:

It is considered illegal to use the ARPANet for anything which is not in direct support of Government business….Sending electronic mail over the ARPANet for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal.

Ooops.

In this instance as well as almost every other instance, government-funded engineering or scientific breakthroughs were originally and exclusively for military purposes; it was only much later that entrepreneurs came along and found a profit-generating and society-benefitting civilian use for military hardware.

Similar contravening facts undermine other aspects of Obama’s and Warren’s emotional arguments. Take transportation, for example. Prior to 1956, the vast majority of roads and highways and rail lines in the United States were built either privately, by local communities, or by states. It was not until the arrival of the Interstate Highway System in 1956 that the federal government became deeply involved in building roads — and even then, as with the Internet and most other massive federal projects, it was originally for defense, not for commerce.

But the highway system is by now already in place. And the cost of maintaining it and building whatever new highways are needed is a tiny fraction of our federal budget, far less than even 1%. And the business owners who benefit from roads are already paying more than enough taxes to cover their cost.

Rebuttal?

Progressives have been so intoxicated first with Warren’s speech and now with Obama’s that I’m not so sure they’re even aware that anyone has presented a criticism; progressives probably think that conservatives just avoid this whole topic because the entire arc of Warren’s and Obama’s line of reasoning is so convincing and devastating that it’s best to change the subject. But I predict that the pushback against this speech will grow so large that eventually word of it will reach the far left, and when that happens they may come back with the following retort:

Warren and Obama were just presenting a few examples, not a comprehensive list of public benefits from taxation. These were just off-the-cuff speeches, not policy papers. There are many other federal programs from which business owners benefit and toward which they should therefore contribute.

If so: Let’s see that list. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Did businesses benefit when in cities across the country HUD built massive housing projects which instantly turned into pre-fab ghettos?

Do businesses benefit when the EPA awards itself unilateral power to impose its interpretation of environmental laws, with no hearings and no warning?

Will businesses benefit when they are forced to abide by byzantine, onerous and expensive Obamacare regulations?

The progressive stance might be: “But we all benefit when everyone is healthy, when global warming is stopped, when children have high self-esteem, when no American goes hungry!”

But by this stage we’ve already passed from measurable physical benefits like roads to fire-fighting to vague claims about intangible potential benefits for which there is no proof. Obama said, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges” because the audience could understand a concrete example; he didn’t get up and say “Somebody invested in high self-esteem” because it would expose the slippery slope underneath this line of reasoning.

Should businesses pay enough taxes to support the nation’s basic physical infrastructure? Yes. Of course. And they already do. But should they pay taxes to fund every progressive social fantasy? That’s open for debate, and that’s not the point Obama and Warren were making. Overtly, at least.

We should thank President Obama for finally revealing the central justification for his economic policy. Now that we see what’s at the heart of his fiscal philosophy, we can demonstrate that he has only ended up proving the opposite of what he intended.

Others Debunking Obama’s Speech

This wouldn’t count as a comprehensive takedown if I didn’t note and link to some of the other pointed critiques of Obama’s speech. Here are some of the best, many of which cover points I didn’t even mention here:

- LauraW at Ace of Spades HQ

- Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club

- Paul Ryan

- Mitt Romney

- Rick Moran at PJM’s The Tatler