Attitude Adjustments Needed

I was on the train ride home after my Sunday morning appearance on Fox and Friends, and sitting in the “quiet car”, which gives me time to think and reflect, or sleep. One of the things that hit me as I was recalling the comments made by my fellow panelists that morning about the inaccurately named, wrong-headed, government-expanding, union-appeasing and vote-buying $787 billion monstrosity called a stimulus package, is how successfully the political elites have brainwashed us about tax revenues and their role in spending them.

I made the comment at the conclusion of the segment that the administration would have been better off just cutting every man, woman and child in the United States a check and letting them stimulate the economy. For what it’s worth, that would work out to roughly $2,957 a person.

Our host indicated that the nice young woman sitting next to me was shaking her head in objection to my statement, and we would have to leave it at that. But I don’t think we should.

Her objection to my comment illustrates a complacent and dangerous attitude about the government’s use, more accurately their misuse and abuse, of tax dollars. I’m not willing to let it pass without establishing some basic facts that should inform any discussion we have about taxes and spending.

The most fundamental fact that government seems determined to erase from our collective memories is this: It’s our money. Say that out loud, and let it reverberate in the air for a moment, then say it again, louder and with more determination. IT’S OUR MONEY.

Not a single government employee, from the town clerk to the president of the United States, created the wealth that pays their salaries. If every private sector employee in America disappeared from the face of the planet tomorrow, they wouldn’t have two pennies to rub together to heat the Capitol building.

When I suggest that the money spent to date on the stimulus package would have been better off in the hands of the American people, I do so with the firm conviction that it belongs to us in the first place.

That is why the debate over the expiration of the tax cuts put in place by President George W. Bush is so maddening to me. They’re referring to the tax cuts as “welfare for the rich” and an additional burden on  the federal budget deficit, one that has to be “funded” through some kind of offset, which is a another word for reducing government spending.

Get it through your heads, people! It’s not welfare if it’s ours in the first place! A tax cut is letting people and businesses keep more of the money they earned through their willingness to take risks, their skills and knowledge, and their exertion. It’s not a government program, and it’s not an expense. IT’S OUR MONEY.

I know the concept of earned money is foreign to most liberals, who think people don’t deserve what they make because they won’t “do the right thing” with it, or it was fraudulently gained, or it is the result of some historical inequity. They are idiots.

If Michael Moore or Oliver Stone, Hollywood’s twin terrors of capitalism, think they are worthy of the money they’ve earned, more power to them. If they don’t think they deserve the money they’ve earned, then give it to charity or go seek counseling. But leave the rest of us alone.

I have read that the reason celebrities are virulently anti-capitalist is because they don’t consider what they do for a living to be worth the millions many of them make. To them, their good fortune is simply the result of luck, fate, karma or crystals, and there are professions out there, such as teachers and social workers, who offer more value to the world and should be paid accordingly.

To those celebrities, I say this: you were sleeping off a cast party during the lesson on principles of economics, assuming they teach economics in school anymore. Value is a subjective determination, and its definition is variable depending on who you ask. One man’s value is another man’s vanity.

Free enterprise is driven by people who create something the world wants, and the more the world wants it, the more of it people create, and the wealthier they become.

Both buyer and seller get what they want. The buyer wants what that person created more than the money in their hands. The seller wants the money in the buyer’s hands more than what they created. The exchange is made and everyone wins. The seller then takes the money and uses it to buy things created by others that they want more than the money they just earned.

It is an elegant system with limitless production capacity, both for wealth and material goods, because it capitalizes on the one thing for which humans are made; to create.

Capitalism is practical because it expands wealth and material goods so there is more for everyone who works for it. It is moral because it gives every human being the freedom to create and the opportunity to be rewarded for their creativity. Despite the liberal shibboleth of the rich benefiting at the expense of the poor, the facts show that wealth has increased for everyone, not decreased or remained static. The rich get richer and the poor get richer.

There is no coercion or involuntary action at work here, unlike the government when it uses its power to tax us and give our money to someone or something else not of our choosing.

That brings me to my second fundamental fact; neither government nor business are charities.

Our Constitution is clear on the role of government, and when government crosses the line from protector and enforcer to provider, they are breaking the law of the land. The fact they do so with impunity is more a reflection on what we have permitted out of fear and uncertainty. The renewed emphasis on the 10th Amendment by the Tea Party movement is perhaps a start toward reversing government's usurpation of roles designed for private institutions and individuals.

Similarly, people who think businesses ought to give more, or have more taken from them, to fund humanitarian causes or government aid programs fail to understand why they are in business in the first place.

A few weeks ago, AFL-CIO president and thug Richard Trumka - I don't use the term "thug" as hyperbole, given his history - blasted businesses for holding back on spending money, and therefore exacerbating the economic slowdown and the resulting unemployment numbers. Tell me, to whom is a business, a private enterprise, accountable? Is it government? Is it the labor unions? Is it "the economy" or some other broadly defined entity?

Or is it the shareholders, board of directors, and stockholders, which include scores of everyday Americans?

The purpose of business isn't to create jobs or boost the economy. That is a desirable outcome, but ultimately a business exists to turn a profit for its shareholders and stockholders. There is no other role for businesses than to create wealth. If demand for their products or services is down, or if the taxation and regulatory climate is unstable or uncertain, a business is obligated to cut expenses and mitigate risk to protect the people who own their stock.

Liberals who want to coerce government and business into performing acts of charity are notoriously stingy when it comes to personal investments in charitable organizations, according to multiple studies. Perhaps they ought to give more of their time, talent and treasure to charities and churches which are closest to the needs of the community, and deliver services more efficiently, and with greater compassion, because they're helping their neighbors.

My point is that every institution has a role, and when they step outside of those roles and stomp all over the prerogatives of another institution's role, systemic failure is guaranteed. Government protects and enforces, individuals and businesses create wealth, and families, communities, and houses of worship administer care.

One would think these highly intelligent people should understand how the world works, which brings me to my third point; "they" are not better than "us".

One of the attitudes I detected in the panel discussion was haughtiness, especially when I suggested the people could have stimulated the economy much more effectively than government. You could almost hear the "harrumphs!" as elites rejected the very notion that the unwashed masses could do anything better than them. "Why, they don't have the pedigree to make such weighty decisions!," they harrumphed. "Best to leave those to us!"

I see and hear it all the time - people who think that education or wealth or status or celebrity somehow makes them more qualified to speak and act on our behalf. Sometimes, their haughtiness leads to name-calling and mockery, and they can become downright mean. Yes, we can be mean, too - it's frustrating when people with power and influence, and their followers, look down their collective noses at you.

Remember this, however. Everyone falls. No one is protected from the troubles of this world, and prideful people are at a disadvantage when hard times come. Not only is their knowledge, intellect, station or fame useless, they have set themselves apart from their fellow man, and help won't be there when they need it.

We are in hard times right now, individually and as a nation. Those of us who wake up every morning thankful for another day of life, who work hard to serve our families, who reach out to neighbors in need, who put others before ourselves, who see in each other the very image of God - we are the ones who will save this country. While the elites try to manipulate forces that are beyond their control because they think they're smarter and better than God, if they even believe there's a God, it is humility, generosity and grace that will sustain the rest of us.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Those words govern my attitude toward others. Think about it. God prepared good works in advance for us to do. Then he set about designing each of us to do the specific work he prepared for us. That means each one of us has a God-given task that belongs to us and no one else. How can I possibly look down on God's workers? You are uniquely designed to do something I can't do, and no one can do what I can do. It is my acceptance of that fact that makes it easy for me to, in the words of the apostle Paul, "consider others better than yourself."

Consider what kind of nation we would have if we demanded good stewardship of taxpayer dollars by our elected officials because IT'S OUR MONEY, if government stuck to its role as a protector and enforcer, and let other institutions perform theirs, because neither business nor government are charities, and if we demanded the respect of our elites because "they" are not better than "us". It's time for us to change our thinking, and those of the people we designate as our public servants. Whatever it takes, our nation needs an attitude adjustment - today.