There has been a lot said about Obama’s remarks over the weekend:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
First, it’s important that I point out that I am sick and tired of having to give this President the benefit of the doubt. (When there are many angry Americans calling him Socialist, you’d think he would work hard to avoid any appearance of socialist tendencies. But he just doesn’t bother.) What he was starting to say before he went off the rails, was that a lot of wealthy, successful Americans have an internal desire to give something back, because they know they didn’t get there on their own. Unfortunately Obama tripped over his nuts again and made it sound like they wouldn’t have gotten there at all if it weren’t for “Somebody else.”
What the President doesn’t seem to understand is that most successful people feel a sense of gratitude for their good fortune. And Obama’s right, it can be gratitude towards family members, teachers, mentors, partners, employees, or all of the above and a lot more (including luck). This is why these people give. They make donations to their churches and hospitals, they give to local non-profits, they volunteer for service activities, they provide financial support for community projects, … it’s a list that goes on and on. The point is that these successful people are giving back to their communities in many, many ways.
But this is where the President’s vision and mine diverge dramatically: The President wants to externalize your gratitude and use that money, the funds that you would donate to your chosen cause(s), to go to the Government who will decide how your money is then “invested.” And he thinks you’re selfish for not showing more gratitude for those who came before and created “the American system that allows you to thrive.”
It’s a bizarre worldview, where our leader insists that I ignore the taxes and fees that I pay to maintain my roads and infrastructure, forget the bills I pay for electricity and gas and maintenance on the infrastructure that delivers them, completely set aside my own contribution to my business’ success, and embrace the notion of additional taxation as donation to the Government that can do so much more with my money than I can, rather than directing my funds to my own community… Because I’m thankful. Wow. On so many levels, wow.
Most fundamentally, the people who would conflate charity and taxation understand neither. If President Obama wants people like me to stop calling him socialist, maybe he should spend a little time acting like something else.