Despite the liberals' on-going generalization that the rich are the bad guys, I was recently reminded who the majority of the rich are in this country and how they reached that status.
As my family sat around the table after our Thanksgiving meal, my father brought out a yellowing aged piece of paper. He gently unfolded the long, thin sheet. "Being full of gratitude is one of the most important attributes in life." he said. "So many of the blessings we enjoy today are due to the hard work and choices of those who came before us." He then held up the paper for us to see.
The paper was a loan agreement my grandfather made with a bank in 1934. The loan was for $157.00 to grow cotton on 120 acres. Part of the loan agreement stated that the crop would be "grown and gathered by me and my family for the 1935 crop year." Collateral included 4 horses and their harnesses. Even though he had to borrow an additional $35.50, my grandfather and his family harvested the crop, paid the bank back, and never looked back as he went on to be a very successful cotton farmer and cattle rancher.
The perfect gift to my father for Christmas was framing the loan. What I was really framing, though, was gratitude for my grandfather, my father, and countless Americans like them. My family's story represents so many people, who just like my grandfather and like my father who followed in his footsteps, made this country great.
My family and I live in "fly-over" country. We are red staters; the people elitist politicians and "intellectual" voters try to brush off as naïve, country bumpkins. Okay, so we red-staters talk with a southern drawl. We are more often than not, licensed to carry. We think the best part of a football game, and Lord do we love our football, is the pregame flyover. But what really sets us apart is hard work, honesty, common sense, personal responsibility, and love of personal freedom. And along with love of freedom, we have the understanding that freedom gives us the guarantee to work for our dreams, but not the guarantee that they will come true. Hard work, along with God's help, are what we pin our dreams on.
My grandfather understood that. My father understands that. I pray that I do, and that I will pass that understanding along to my children. When they are grown, if my children ever have a sense of entitlement over a sense of a hard work ethic, then I have failed as a parent.
I serve on a school board where the ages of the trustees range from 60 something to 30 something. We are required by the state to do team training. The content of our training listed various characteristic traits of the different generations. One of the top traits of Generation Y, age 30 and under, was "entitlement."
I tried to imagine my grandfather feeling entitled. Frankly, it's not imaginable. Before he had enough money to start working farmland, he worked at a feedlot shoveling manure for $00.25 an hour. He eventually worked long enough and hard enough to own nearly 1000 acres of farmland along with 2 working cattle ranches. His hard work puts the entitlement generation to shame. I can say the same about my father. With common sense to match his muscle, he grew the business that his father started into something his father would be proud of.
Like so many of his generation, my father doesn't live off the government. But what is maddening is that the government wants to live off of him. My father is one of the "rich." He's in the over-$200,000-tax-bracket. The government wants to label him as the big, bad, stingy rich guy who thinks of no one but himself.
Being the big, bad, rich man that he is, my father not only works long hours, he also serves his community. He served on the local school board for ten years, was on the board at his church for over 20 years, and is currently on the board of a non-profit organization. Plus, the line on his tax return that lists charitable donations would most likely put most liberals' tax returns to shame.
My father doesn't have to talk about being compassionate because he lives compassionately. He doesn't have to talk about redistributing other people's wealth because he distributes his own wealth wisely. He hires people, he gives to people, and he stimulates the economy by spending some of his profit. In other words, he is a perfect picture of a successful capitalist.
Many years ago Alan Greenspan wrote, "Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtue, not vices. It is this superlatively moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon by means of preventative law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear."
Big government continues to goad the masses into class warfare by framing the rich as being too rich. As having it too good. As having it all and not sharing any of it. Yet, even us country bumpkin red-staters know what really happens when the rich get richer. We all benefit. In fact, around here we all hope that the "rich" farmers like my father get richer. Ask charities if they suffer or benefit when the rich get richer. Ask retailers what a bumper crop does for sales. They skyrocket. Red state farming communities, as do so many other industrial-driven communities, live by the stark reality of trickle-down economics.
The politicians running big government would most likely keel over if they ever had to do the physical labor my father does, yet they want increasingly more of his profits. In fact, they feel entitled to his profits. These same politicians, who couldn't balance a budget or run a profitable business if their lives depended on it, also want to increasingly regulate his business.
Big government is paradoxical. They need citizens to prosper and gain wealth to provide a tax base. Yet at the same time, the rich have a nasty little habit of taking care of themselves, which is the antithesis to big government. So in essence, big government will continue riding the coattails of the hard-working rich, all the while berating them for being rich. Therefore, leave it to a naïve redstater to send out a New Year's greeting to the rich that, if the government had any common sense, they would be sending out too. "Thank you, rich, for all the hard work that you do. Thank you for all the jobs you provide. Thank you for all the services and goods you provide. Thank you for all the spending you do. And may you get even richer in 2011!"