By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and latino America and asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
Barack Obama told us that after being elected, and his approval ratings and popularity soared as he vowed to end the old-style politics of division to unite the country.
He should have included, “There’s not a rich America and a poor America — there’s the United States of America.”
Instead, he chose to divide the nation based on income, and it is the worst possible way to do it.
It is always easy to believe that someone who has wealth achieved it through devious means.
Or, they inherited it and didn’t have to earn it on their own.
Great arguments to make to the masses, except the hatred and resentment that can emerge doesn’t necessarily end at the voting booth.
America is the land of opportunity, not the land of guaranteed success.
When we try to make the case that somehow the wealthy are hurting this nation because they are wealthy, that sends a bad, bad message.
It is the same message that permeates the educational system through social promotion — everyone passes to the next grade no matter how many classes they flunk.
It is the same message we send when everyone gets a ribbon, and there aren’t any winners or losers.
It’s the same message we send when we take individual photos out of the yearbook so that no one feels left out.
We don’t want to recognize success, because it might hurt someone’s feelings.
The problem is, we aren’t only trying to punish the rich by increasing their taxes, but we are also saying there is something wrong with being poor.
Being American never had anything to do with the size of a person’s bank account but the ability to chase any dream.
I have had friends tell me that there ought to be limits on how much a person can earn, that professional athletes are overpaid, and that a person can only spend so much money.
What a small vision.
If that were true, there would be no great stadiums built, no railroad companies, no billion-dollar airline industries, no huge meat packing companies, and no employees, because a person simply could not put together enough wealth to make it happen.
Banks wouldn’t be able to loan large amounts, because it would be placing too much wealth in the hands of a few.
The only way to achieve these things is through the ability to have big dreams, and to pursue them.
I’ll never own a billion-dollar stadium like Jerry Jones, but that doesn’t make him evil.
I’ll never own skyscrapers in Manhattan, but that doesn’t make Donald Trump evil.
I’ll never live off of interest income, but that doesn’t make those that do evil.
Those aren’t my dreams.
Villainizing the rich makes those that do not have as much resentful of those that do, and that class warfare tactic might win votes, but it comes at the cost of ripping the fabric of America apart.
There may be those that say it’s only 1 percent, they can sacrifice for the rest of us.
History shows it doesn’t stop there.
Let’s start with the French Revolution.
After the American colonies broke free from England in a political revolution that cost 14,000 lives, the French had a social revolution — rich against poor — and a million were killed.
It started out against the king and queen and their supporters. In the end, 5 percent of the population was dead, and the leaders of the revolution eventually turned on each other with the last drop of the guillotine separating the head of revolutionary leader Robespierre from his body.
But history has another example 100 years ago in Russia.
It wasn’t enough to remove the czar from power, although that is how the Bolshevik Revolution started. The working class rose up against their leaders first, and then went after the wealthy. And still, it didn’t stop there. The middle class were the next to go. In all, 9 million dead, all property nationalized in the name of the state, all bank accounts were taken over by the new “people’s government,” and churches were seized and closed.
Nine years after the start of the Russian Revolution, 20 percent of the population was dead.
Class warfare is an ugly business, and it has no place in America.
If there is an issue with a policy, let’s talk about the policy. Blaming a group of Americans starts down a dirty, bloody road. Saying a group of Americans is not doing their “fair share” is blaming that group for the woes of the nation.
Obama said it is “simple math” that raising taxes on the wealthy will solve America’s spending problem. But the analysis shows that you can take 100 percent of the annual income from the wealthy, and it only pays $900 billion of the $1.65 trillion annual deficit the government is currently creating.
Instead of villainizing the spenders, we villainize the earners.
Americans come in every shape, size and color. They also come with different levels of income. But we all have one vote each. And we also want to pursue our dreams and happiness, whether that is to own a yacht, send our kids to college or to stop childhood hunger in our community.
These dreams are not forced upon us by our government, but choices we make ourselves.
And one is not right and the other wrong.
Being American means being free to chase your dream, and you should not be a villain for having big dreams and be willing to make them come true. Nor are you a villain if your dream falls short.
Being a villain is those who stop dreaming and start blaming.