I hate being preachy. Well, I guess I don't totally hate being preachy, but it's not what I set out to do with any of these posts. But this post in particular is in response to a whole lot of angst out there about how the evil 1%, the government, or just the socio-economic system is keeping folks down. Occupy! is one of the best recent examples of the rabble voicing how unfair the system is. But is that an accurate assessment? Wall Street is no more responsible for our current economic situation than Main Street. Right and Left both blame the other for our predicament, but neither has done what's necessary to move our economy forward. It's obvious that pundits on both sides of the aisle love to blame scapegoats. One current favorite is the evil 1%. But this sort of language isn't helpful. In fact, it's downright catastrophic.
Two men for whom I have the utmost respect recently commented on this issue. Ken Fisher, investment guru, wrote an article in Real Clear Markets discussing how income equality is an altogether political invention. He highlights that while wealth distribution in America has broadened over the past few decades, across the board Americans are richer than they used to be. Income is not a zero-sum game--everybody can get richer simultaneously. Which, according to a recent CBO report, is what has happened. And Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), in a recent speech to the Heritage Foundation, outlined how class warfare weakens America. He highlighted a Treasury Department study, which found that from 1996 to 2005, roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom 20% of income earners moved to a higher bracket. Further, he noted the danger of believing--and endorsing--a system of class warfare. Namely, it fundamentally undermines the principles which make our country great. Those same principles that called (and still call) to generations of immigrants to come to America, work hard, and improve their lives. And when we give in to class warfare, when we believe that we are helpless against the system and require government to intervene on our behalf, we've sacrificed what's made us great.
My father's father was a trucker. He was often absent, and when he was home, he still wasn't the kind of father my dad deserved. My mother's father was a carpenter, and he worked hard to provide for his family, but still they struggled. Both of my parents grew up poor, and both wanted more than anything to give me a better life than they had. And, they did. I grew up without worrying about food, clothing, shelter, or want. They taught me, and I truly believed, that I could accomplish anything. Their past--my past--didn't limit them, it strengthened them. We all owe an unbelievable debt to our forebears. And we all face a choice--whether to work hard and contribute to society no matter what obstacles we must overcome, or to throw up our hands, quit, and ask for a handout. I'm pretty sure I know in which one my readers believe.