Quit Coddling the Rich. Quit Coddling the Poor. Quit Coddling Everybody.
As President Obama said in his recent "Jobs" speech, "Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self- reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world." Truthful words. Why, then, do so many in Washington operate as though we are weak and incapable of taking care of ourselves?
Our history is stuffed to the brim with stories of bravery and self-reliance. Our early ancestors braved the seas to come to America and start a new life. We fought the War of Independence so we could be our own nation and govern ourselves as we saw fit. We didn't need to be coddled by Britain -- and we did not want to be told what to do or how to live our lives. We did not want a government that required our enslavement. We wanted our freedom and the responsibility that came with it. We wanted independence.
Independence. Think of what that means. A common definition is freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others. I would be surprised if most Americans didn't agree wholeheartedly with every aspect of the definition.
This doesn't mean we don't feel a commonality with our fellow countrymen; obviously we do. But the most wonderful aspect of American freedom is that we voluntarily come together to help each other in times of need. Our country's common spirit is fueled by this voluntary bond: a sense of togetherness, shared values, and a common history; past, present and future. If we feel any sort of obligation or commitment to our fellow citizens, it has always been for the above reasons -- not a sense of governmental obligation or requirement. We have worked together towards common goals with respect for each other as equal citizens and partners.
Possibly the most special part of this American unity is that it pops up when needed, and not just at the national level. When a local community is hit by a flood or an entire region is hit by a hurricane, Americans from near and far can't wait to assist. A number of my friends in California who were chomping at the bit to get to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to lend a helping hand. And when tornadoes hit Joplin, Missouri, the evening news shows were replete with stories of selfless individuals who, even though they had problems of their own, were right there pitching in to help others. Local news programming frequently covers less noticeable events with the same impact, and, occasionally of volunteers who regularly put in their time to help with local causes during non-emergency times.
And need I mention 9/11? National unity soared after those tragic moments that are forever seared into our memories. For a while, divisiveness was forgotten and unity was the reality of the day.
Today, politicians, pundits and work-a-day citizens continually call for a return to that "unity," instead of the divisiveness that infects our country. Carl Cannon in an article recently posted on RealClear Politics laments the lack of civility in American politics. He quotes Richard Norton Smith as blaming our divisiveness on our "refusal to get serious, no matter what the challenge," implying that we put our political ideologies ahead of national interest. I disagree. It is precisely that both sides see their view of the national interest to be so important that it's worth fighting for. But with the advent of the internet and proliferation of the number of television channels available, the pot is constantly stirred heightening viewpoints and irritation in those who disagree. The airport, restaurants, you name it -- there is always a television with someone spouting their point of view. Contributing to this divisiveness is the fact that the MSM no longer has a lock on the news that's distributed. As a result, many more viewpoints are expressed other than those that were spoon-fed to us by liberal outlets year after year. (As an aside, you might want to read my blog post "Is Fox News Divisive? Well ... Sort Of.)
Despite all this, Americans still feel connected when necessary, as witnessed by the aforementioned examples. What worries me, however, is that the cement of our unity is under attack -- notably our historical philosophy of "rugged individualism and self-reliance." When we respect each other and see that the other guy is "doing his part," we help each other; and we do it with affection and a sense that we need to do it for them and for our own well being as well as theirs.Currently, the iconic concept of American generosity is under attack from a ravenous federal government that wants to take over our consciences -- both individual and collective -- and make decisions for us as to who pays and who receives, who wins and who loses, and who we are as a people.
Even well-meaning people like Warren Buffett are in on this. It is apparent he is a conscientious man given his promises of donations to charitable organizations. But even though he declares in his recent article Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway has striven to minimize its tax obligation. Why the disparity? Simple: Buffett would prefer to have a say as to where his money goes. I wonder if he would agree to pay more in taxes if he knew it was going to causes he doesn't support. I bet not.
I agree with Mr. Buffett: stop coddling the super rich. Stop coddling everybody, including the poor, the unions, the banks, General Motors, the ethanol industry, the solar industry -- anyone who is being coddled. Coddling has no place in a strong, capitalistic economy.
Capitalism and free markets have always been an important part of this voluntary pact. In America, self-support or convincing others to work with you or use your services provided your livelihood. Inventions, new ways of doing things to increase productivity, life-saving medical advances, and everything from developing the world's best agricultural techniques to home construction were a result of a system that was steadfast in rewarding people for their ideas, labor, investment of their capital, and for taking a risk.
Capitalism and free markets fostered an environment for people to choose their line of work if they had the basic skills and determination to be successful. Capitalism and free markets allow people to know the joy of being self-sufficient and viable, and foster a self-image of individualism and importance.
Capitalism undoubtedly was the driving force behind the greatest economic machine in the world. I believe in capitalism, freedom, and the responsibilities that come with the benefits. I do. I cherish it. I can't conceive of living any other way. And I know I am not alone.
Yet all we hear of these days from our Washington politicians, mostly Democrats, is how the government wants to destroy the most important aspect of our treasured culture: our requirement to ourselves and our fellow citizens that we pull our own weight and prosper or fail because of our own efforts. Choking regulations on business, taxing the people and entities that drive our system, and taking from the producers to give to the non-producers is threatening not only our economic well being, but our morality and our entire social order and conscience as well.
No, we shouldn't be coddling anyone. Everyone should pull their own weight. And anyone who does not should feel horrible about leeching off this great society. Instead, however, Washington has encouraged this belief that government is the answer to all our problems, whether it be GM's, a union's, or the guy who reuses to accept responsibility for his self-supporting productivity.
A common thread in President Obama's speeches is that despite our political differences, we are all Americans, and we are all in this together, yet his words are hollow because he doesn't understand the essence of America -- or because he does and wants to "fundamentally change" it. When he speaks his words, he means two things; that we should see things his way, and in a general sense that we should all be sharing everything. He calls on our history that we have always been there for each other, and that we have always pitched in together. I agree. Most of us agree. Where we disagree is in the interpretation of what those statements mean going forward. Mr. Obama and his fellow progressives believe we should be tethered together by governmental obligations. One of the main planks of progressive politics is to have government be the common bond between everyone. They would destroy many of the very things he touts as American. As an example, he wants to reduce tax deductions to charitable institutions. Why? He wants to take the money generous Americans give to churches and non-profit community groups and let the government receive it instead. He wants to decide who gets help and who does not. In short, he wants to take away the volunteer spirit that has been America, even as he touts volunteering as a good and beneficial thing. This can only reduce the amount that charitable entities receive -- mostly efficient, honest and effective organizations -- and instead leave it up to notoriously wasteful government agencies.
"No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been -- and always will be -- one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another." Precisely. Responsibilities to one another. Responsibility to do our best to take care of ourselves and not burden our fellow citizens, and to contribute to others when it is necessary.
"These are difficult years for our country, but we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment, let's get to work, and let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth." Obama stole my line. Of course, I would have meant it.