Class-Based Politics Poisons Public Discourse
Among the most troubling features of the American left’s message is its incessant, thoughtless, class-based demagoguery.
A common liberal view of the American Dream includes invidious narratives about who’s been cheated, by whom, how badly and why. Much of the essence of the liberal agenda is context-free, emotion-arousing grievance and envy.
Absolute terms — haves vs. have-nots, 1 percent vs. 99 percent — allow no middle ground, yet most Americans live somewhere in the middle.
Real third-world poverty is rare in America. So is extravagant wealth, but left-wing messages propagandize the polar extremes.
Most older Central Pennsylvanians were raised in modest circumstances in communities or neighborhoods housing working families supported by local service businesses, builders, retailers, manufacturers and agri-businesses.
Typically, antediluvian "99 percenters" like me reject the politics of envy.
Class-based politics poisons public discourse, but, more importantly, it damages young people, often irreparably, and diminishes America.
In 2008, candidate Barack Obama said, "I simply believe that those of us who have benefited most from this new economy can best afford to shoulder the obligations of ensuring that every American child has a chance for that same success."
Obama didn’t mean that successful Americans should mentor young people or that America must take practical measures to improve failed schools.
Obama meant that he would confiscate — and, indeed, is confiscating — the rewards of the efforts of the "more fortunate" to provide benefits for others, including many who are able-bodied, to redistribute wealth. That may sound fair, but it’s wrong.
The seeds of class envy are often sown early in life, an unanticipated outcome of progressive intrusion into public education.
An over-arching concern for building and nurturing children’s self-esteem can have negative consequences.
Exclusively positive reinforcement, poor discipline, grade inflation, unearned grade-level promotions and participation trophies for all competitors are well-meaning, but misguided strategies to avoid youthful angst and enhance self-esteem. Adulthood dispirits youngsters who thought they mastered everything.
Successful Americans still rely on others who share their lives — families, friends, co-workers, communities — but taxpayer-funded government handouts give recipients a false sense of independence without the spiritual anchors of personal satisfaction, mutual obligation and social responsibility.
If income inequality is a problem, it’s not that some people are wealthy, but that others are struggling – and their struggles are often created by government.
For example, government has institutionalized both dependency and parental neglect.
Public welfare policies have encouraged neglect by creating multitudes of parents unprepared for the role. Since "unwed mother" became a career choice, many children have suffered.
Victimized by lousy schools, harmful social engineering, job-killing policies and political self-interest, people who have been failed by progressive governments are those most likely to turn to government to sustain them.
Politicians oblige because government dependency provides large, demoralized voting blocs for elected class warriors who promise to redistribute wealth.
American jurisdictions with the greatest income disparities are "the places in which the progressive vision of government has reached its fullest expressions."
Liberals advocate reducing economic inequality by confiscating and redistributing the assets of top earners, while conservatives would reduce inequality by elevating the people at the bottom through economic growth and greater opportunity.
History, economics and social experience show that the best way to reduce income inequality, raise the living standards of the middle class and those at the lower end of the economic scale is not with partisan political spectacles or government handouts, but through policies that have grown our economy before.
Politicians who promise to solve problems of inequality by expanding social welfare programs and redistributing wealth aren’t serious about solutions. They’re part of the problem.
The real solutions to closing the income gap are education, work, marriage, personal responsibility – and economic growth.
Growth – along with the broad opportunities growth engenders — discredits the notion that individual success is a zero-sum game.
Equal opportunity is built into the American system. Though the equality of outcomes is not guaranteed, every able-bodied, sound-minded person who gets a meaningful education, lives a responsible life and works hard has a chance to do well.
Americans will always look after those who genuinely cannot help themselves, but responsible, intrinsically-motivated citizens understand that the things that enrich life and generate the most pride, that last in people’s lives and sustain them are the ones they achieve for themselves in an American system that provides every opportunity to succeed.