“Luck” vs. fortune
Last week, during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, President Obama justified his desire to raise taxes on higher-income Americans as follows: “If you’re lucky enough, and fortunate enough, and been blessed enough to be in the other two percent, the top two percent, you still get a tax cut for your first $250,000 of income. All we’re saying is after that, maybe you can do a little bit more to help pay down this deficit and invest in things like education that help our economy grow.”
It should be noted, before continuing, that Obama loves to play games with the income threshold for his tax hike plans. It’s only $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. The current definition of a “millionaire” is $200,000 of individual annual income, according to Democrat Party dogma.
Noticeably absent from Obama’s description of the Evil Rich was any mention of hard work, sacrifice, risk, or exceptional ability. Joel Gehrke of the Washington Examiner noted how neatly this fits in with the President’s infamous “you didn’t build that” speech in Roanoke, Virginia, in which he contemptuously dismissed “people who think, well, [success came] because I was just so smart” or “because I worked harder than everybody else.”
Obama countered that notion by saying, “Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there,” a train of thought that eventually chugged into You Didn’t Build That Station.
The Obama mindset views successful people in the private sector as lottery winners, a point he has repeatedly made in precisely those terms. He talks about how “lucky” they are, and forcefully argues against the notion that they have any exceptional qualities. They merely rolled the same government-provided dice as everyone else, and “won” big money with a lucky throw.
This is not a new idea. Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt caused a bit of a stir, over a decade ago, by declaring “those who have prospered and profited from life’s lottery have a moral obligation to share their good fortune.” Barack Obama is merely cribbing from the same notes, and taking the idea even further than Gephardt did, because in an era of wildly irresponsible government spending, it’s harder to sell taxpayers on the notion that we should give Big Government even more of our money to blow.
One of the reasons small business owners have been pushing back so hard against Obama is that they’ve been hearing this tired socialist rhetoric for decades. They remember the long hours of hard work, the personal sacrifices, and the daunting risks they took to build up their companies… and they know damn well that Barack Obama and Dick Gephardt were nowhere to be found during those late shifts and sleepless nights.
Dismissing success as nothing more than a lucky break is part of an intellectual framework that dissolves private ownership and erases the boundaries of the State. Politically favored companies that can’t find success in the free market are merely “unlucky,” and deserve a bailout to ease the pain of their lousy dice rolls. The successful, meanwhile, are obliged to tip Uncle Sam the Croupier as much as he wants. The greater Uncle Sam’s demands, the more urgently socialists must deny the importance of the work ethic, entrepreneurial courage, and personal ability that lead to success.
That is how “equality” completes its Orwellian transformation from equal treatment, to the forcible redistribution of equal outcomes. Fortune must be viewed as a randomly-awarded prize, instead of hard-earned property, in order for people like President Obama to more easily justify seizing it… as the repayment of a “debt,” instead of theft.