Obama's War on Greed

One can fairly imagine that as the now iconic photograph of the Occupy Wall Street protestor defecating on the side of a police car emerged, it surely created a pretty tense meeting of Barack Obama's political advisers.  You need not be a seasoned politico to know that overtly embracing a movement that is characterized by chants of "long live socialism" and "f*** the USA," syringe wielding maniacs threatening to infect everyone with AIDS, and speakers who call for a bloody, French revolution style Reign of Terror or who proclaim an unalienable right to have sex with animals, might not be the shrewdest move for a president who already suffers from the public perception of incompetence and immaturity.  Yet that's exactly what President Obama did, inexplicably, just a couple weeks ago.

Damage control commenced almost immediately with David Axelrod going on ABC's This Week to clarify that the part of Occupy Wall Street Obama agrees with is not the sexual anarchy and the public defecation, but rather the anti-greed strain espoused by a majority of the street dwellers.  The White House then embarked on another armored bus tour through the key state of North Carolina attempting to portray a culture war between the right's forces of greed and his altruistic brand of liberal redistribution.

This tactical political strategy is fatally flawed, however.  What is greed, after all, if it is not a moral problem?  And what political movement has committed itself over the last half century to a rigorous eradication of morality from the public square?  What political movement has championed the abandonment of Natural Law precedent in our courts?  What political movement has warred against public displays of religious virtue?  What political movement has vehemently protested the public embrace of an absolute, Real Morality by our elected leaders?  What political movement has sought to purge public school classrooms and curriculum of any acknowledgement of a personal accountability to some transcendent, eternal moral authority?  If there is a greed problem on Wall Street, Main Street, or any street, far from complaining about it, the left has no one to blame but itself.   It has been decades-old demands of liberals to abandon our Judeo-Christian morality that has bred and fostered the very self-indulgence they now seek to condemn.

Perhaps if these Wall Street malcontents would have spent a little less time intoxicating themselves on the potent cocktail of Marx and Alinsky and a little more time reading the words of our Founding Fathers, we wouldn't be in this mess.  Founders like John Adams who warned, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by religion and morality.  Avarice (greed), ambition...would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net."  In other words, the recipe for gluttonous corruption is not free markets or capitalism alone...but rather free markets and capitalism unrestrained by moral virtue.   It's why Adams saw it as the government's role to be about "the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness cannot exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed." 

But liberals knew better.  The seed of disassociation between faith and the public square that they sowed over a generation ago is now coming into full bloom.  As C.S. Lewis once characterized, they have made men without chests, and yet expect of them honor and virtue.  Moreover, in a perfect depiction of their own moral confusion, notice the suggested remedy to our greed problem that these leftists collectively advance: they rally in the streets demanding that government play the role of Robin Hood -- steal from those with wealth and redistribute it to the rest of us.  In other words, they answer greed with greed, practicing the very self-indulgence they protest.

If the Occupy Wall Street folks -- or anyone else for that matter -- are truly concerned about an increasingly greedy culture, they should recognize it is one of the potential pitfalls of a free society.  It's a risk that comes with the ability to succeed and prosper and can only be prevented in one of two ways: either by an oppressive state that will destroy the incentive to excel and thus spread misery (as every socialist regime has done throughout world history), or by embracing and promoting a public virtue based on Judeo-Christian ethics.

Conservatives like me would follow the wisdom of our Founders and choose the latter.  But as the chants of "long live socialism" echo through our streets, it appears certain that the left and their instigator-in-chief will not.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana. Email peter@peterheck.com, visit www.peterheck.com, or like him on Facebook

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