The most miserable school year of my life was the fourth grade in Nell Spencer's classroom at Fair Oaks Elementary School in Oakdale.
Poor Mrs. Spencer lost control of the class during the 1972-73 school year. She was utterly frazzled throughout the day. Some bad apples poisoned the class and daily they made sport of getting the best of her. They were unruly and she couldn't teach.
I was taught better not to join in. But I was shocked when I saw the last holdout, Kim Coffey stand up to her in defiance of her for the applause of the others who relished in the teacher's harassment. Even to this day I can see Mrs. Spencer, standing in disbelief, as she shook her head. I have never been so disappointed in a collective group of people in my personal life.
It was a lesson that an entire group of people can go sideways without reasoning about consequences.
The way society is going, I feel the same way I did in the fourth grade: A lot of good people are engaged in futile thinking when it comes to this whole notion of income inequality and the war on the successful.
I want a healthy economy just like the next American but our nation is polarized on how to make it happen. I believe that the economy becomes healthy when the market is allowed to flourish. How? By getting government off the backs of business and reduce taxes and create an environment where business expands, not retracts.
There's a whole mindset of people who believe in another way.
Leaders like Obama and Hillary Clinton have beat the drum so long that people think it's true that the rich didn't get theirs by hard work and only by breaking the backs of us lower echelon slaves. We continue to hear that the rich get richer by rigging the system in their favor, leaving the rest of us with bread crumbs. To save the American Dream, we're told that we need to fight inequality through tax hikes, wealth redistribution schemes, and a far higher minimum wage.
Not only is it not true, (10 percent of the top earners pay 68 percent of all federal taxes) that's all the entirely wrong way to think.
What if part of the problem with the economy is the war against successful people? What if taxes, redistribution and mandating that people get paid a certain wage is really only a scheme to help one political party stay in control? A big lie? Surely there is truth to an old saying of George Bernard Shaw: "A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul." Democrats will always be assured of support, in this Robin Hood practice, from the Pauls of this world are getting free money since Peter is the one who is paying for it all.
You needn't go far to find this ideology at work.
Let me use a press release from Lisa Pietro who is calling on Walmart to raise its wages in light of the recent news that Walmart stocks have plummeted to their lowest level in 15 years. She said Walmart's loss of business is due to "Walmart's heavy reliance on a part-time workforce and hiring temporary associates" which she feels leads to long lines and many out-of-stock items.
While I applaud her for seeking to remedy wages by appealing to the company and not the government, apparently the corporation doesn't feel the work is worth $15 per hour. Imagine how many full-time job Walmart could create if the government didn't impose all of their expensive mandates.
"I tell my grandchildren to stand up to their bullies - and I think we should stand up to ours," wrote Pietro to the Walmart CEO.
Whoa there. Walmart, a bully? I can't think of one time that Walmart dragged me out of my car on Mitchell Road and dragged me into their store to shop. (Fact I rarely shop at Walmart.) And I'm pretty sure that Walmart doesn't stick a gun to the heads of people on the street corner and say, "Come work for us or we'll make a canoe out of her skull!"
Pietro also writes how terrified she is that she could lose her job if she got sick or needed to take time off to care for a family member. There are few jobs in the world that would insulate a person from financial disaster if they got sick for a long time. That's just the way it works in life: If you don't work you don't eat (but, of course, in America we even feed those who refuse to work, don't we?)
News flash: Minimum-wage jobs were not meant to support families. Walmart is not the only place where jobs are available. People can improve their skills and find higher paying work.
Pietro gets down to the liberal mantra of attacking the successful, in this case the family behind Walmart, the Waltons. She suggests the Waltons give up a huge portion of their earnings so Walmart's 1.3 million workers can get a $5 an hour raise. The last raise I earned was nowhere close to $5 an hour. What troubles me is how people who get minimum-wage jobs feel they are entitled to pay that rivals salaries of what people of greater skills make. I would like to make more in my job but my company pays what my company pays. I can protest, stay and shut up or move on. It's my choice.
It's interesting that Pietro feels that it's the right thing for the Waltons to give up billions - money that is rightfully theirs - because "taxpayers are effectively subsidizing Walmart's low-wage business model whenever Walmart associates have to use food stamps or public assistance in order to survive." That's the same as a panhandler blaming those who refuse to dig into their pocket for why they are in the soup kitchen line. Like I said, there are other options in life.
Of course there is a lack of jobs in the country. It's because the state and feds have taken milked businesses dry and the jobs.
• The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported in 2014 that Obamacare will shrink the economy by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers-roughly tripling its earlier estimate of job losses.
• Just eight prominent regulations issued since the 1970s jeopardized more than 55 million jobs, according to the government watchdog group Public Citizen.
• Gov. Jerry Brown pleads for businesses to quit leaving regulation- and tax-heavy California, while acknowledging "we have lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes" and not intending to do much about it. Ask Farmer Brothers who just took business to another state to save $15 million per year.
Some refreshing reading has come out with "Equal Is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality," a new book by Don Watkins and Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. What's stifling opportunity in America, they say, is not income inequality, but political equality. Instead of the government protecting equal rights, it grants some people special privileges and shackles others with special burdens.
Whether it's cronyism, the minimum wage, a growing tax burden, or an out-of-control regulatory-welfare state, anyone who aspires to improve his own life by his own productive effort is finding that America is less and less hospitable toward success.
Those who innovate human progress are punished, which cripples the ability of those starting out at the bottom to rise to the top.
"The greater opportunities and outcomes enjoyed by some people don't hold others back - they make others' success easier," Brook believes. "What actually restrains opportunity is the arbitrary power we have granted the government: to intervene in our affairs, to pick winners and losers, to put roadblocks in the way of success, to hand out wealth and other special favors to whatever pressure group can present itself as the face of ‘the public good.' A free market is a fair market."
I came across a great explanation of why socialism doesn't bring anyone up. It's in the form of a video on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8O7V-WxWQ) that shows Ronald Reagan lecturing Barack Obama on income redistribution. Reagan uses a classroom setting to show how nobody prospers under socialism. Obama suggests all will work hard and "share everything." Reagan then calls for all grades on a test to be averaged and all students get the same grade. Everyone gets a B grade. Students who studied hard got upset while those who studied little were happy. On the second test "the students who studied little studied even less and the ones who had studied hard decided, since they couldn't make an ‘A' they wanted a free ride so they also studied less." The second test average was a D. By the third test, the average was F.
You don't get people on the bottom to rise up by tearing down the successful or vilify them. You get people upward by inspiring them with success stories.
No election in history will pit these two ideas more than the one next year when the strong government idea of Democrats (in all likelihood Hillary Clinton) meet head-to-head with Donald Trump's free market idea. Will be smart enough this time to make the right choice?
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org