“All I want is what I . . . I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
—Kathy Steinberg as the voice of Sally Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas
We are surrounded by an unspeakable evil.
Seventy-one members of the House (16%) have been in Congress twenty years or longer; 46 Democrats, 25 Republicans. Sixteen of them (9 Democrats, 7 Republicans) have more than thirty years. Many of the names are familiar: Waters, Boehner, Pelosi, Hoyer, Waxman, Rangel, Conyers. Similarly, on the other side of the Capitol, sixteen Senators have more than twenty years’ tenure (and several of them served previously in the House). You know many of their names as well: Boxer, Feinstein, Reid, McCain, McConnell, Baucus, Hatch, Leahy.
That’s a lot of people who have been in the District a LOOOOONG time. And I don’t for one second buy that anyone stays in office that long out of some unquenchable thirst to serve their fellow citizens. The job comes with an enormous amount of cushy perks, prestige (or at least faux respect), and benefits. Pensions, lots of taxpayer-funded travel under the guise of “fact-finding,” and as I’ve reported previously, more than a few somehow manage to accumulate substantial fortunes while spending a lifetime in office. And as 60 Minutes reported over the weekend, some are dipping their personal snouts into their campaign troughs, as well.
And, of course, there’s also power. Naked power. No, they are not interested in serving you; they’re interested in serving themselves. They are motivated by two things, and two things only: (1) living well at your expense, and (2) ruling you.
Life is good for the ruling class in the District, and it’s a huge part of why you see a lot of the insanity there that you do. To maintain that sweet life, they have to keep getting themselves re-elected, and the easiest way to do that is to promise (and deliver) as much free stuff to as many people as possible. That’s why our national debt now stands at in excess of $17 trillion. That’s why the two single largest categories of federal spending (comprising nearly half the budget) are Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security—federally-subsidized medical care and retirement. That’s why we have 47 million people—one in six—on food stamps. That’s why the United States federal government is the single largest employer and single largest consumer on the planet.
And that’s why I sometimes refer to the District as The Beast.
So, in the interest of buying as many votes as possible, the progressives sponsor an endless string of spending programs, while the Republican establishment—every bit as vested in the same big-government machine as the Democrats, they just want to be in charge of it once in awhile—never offer more than token opposition. The outgo is never checked, but at some point someone has to pay for the orgy; the solution is never to cut back, but to tax—read: take—still more.
But that’s not the real evil.
The way government has sold this behavior pattern is to convince one group of Americans—usually couched in flowery talk about the “middle class,” or in the charitable language of ending “poverty”—that the other group has unfairly acquired more wealth than they, and that they’ve done so at the first group’s expense. The so-called “wealthy” have, simply by virtue of having more, cheated everyone else out of their fair share. It is from this mentality taught to us by the unholy symbiosis of big government and progressive academia that we get things like the “Buffet Rule” and all the Occupy nonsense.
But notice the perverse morality play at work here.
This “fairness” pitch inherently—and erroneously—assumes that there is only a finite pool of wealth. Only in a fixed wealth universe can we say that if I have a dollar it means you don’t, such that it’s unfair for me to have that dollar in the first place. In a world where there is only, say, $1,000 in total wealth, my holding $100 is necessarily to the exclusion of someone else holding it. I have for all practical purposes taken it from someone else. My ability to obtain those dollars is thus immoral, and subjects me to the guilt of having deprived others. And the greater my ability, the greater my guilt and the greater the measure of my associated moral debt.
On the flip side, that others do not have those dollars—their need—creates a corresponding moral claim upon me. The very fact that they do not have becomes a check drawn upon the bank account of my guilt, and it is a debt that can never be retired. This affords them a clear conscience in accepting the government’s largesse at my expense, because they’ve been taught that as the needers—as they who do not have—they have the moral high ground.
The problem with this moral code is that the zero-sum-if-I-have-it-you-don’t wealth universe upon which its logic rests isn’t the real world. The wealth I hold is not irretrievably drawn from a permanently static pool to the exclusion of all other holders. Put differently, the fact that I have is nothing to you, and has nothing to do with whether you have or don’t; I didn’t take it from you, I didn’t cheat you out of it, I don’t hold it at your expense, and the fact that I have it does absolutely nothing to prevent you from gaining as much for yourself as your effort and ability will allow.
To play off the old John Houseman pitch: I’ve made my money the old-fashioned way—I earned it.
What wealth I have has been accumulated, slowly over time, from wages I’ve been paid for my labor; from the minimum-wage jobs I held in high school and college, to the standardized test teaching I did in law school, to my positions as associate, counsel, and partner in private law firms, to the corporate position I hold today. At each juncture, I traded my labor to my employer in a free, voluntary, mutually-beneficial exchange for the amount my employer was willing to pay for it because my labor represented a good to him: something he needed for his business. My wages weren’t paid to me from a static pool, but instead were traded to me for what my skill and effort added to the pool of available wealth, because they enabled my employer to do something to further its own business; in the case of the law firms, to sell my effort to the firms’ clients, who needed that service in order to be able to conduct their own businesses.
This is what is known as “producing.”
What is so monstrously evil about the morality embedded in this entitlement mentality with which so many have been brainwashed is it has turned morality and human virtue upside-down. It has taken productivity—which should be a good thing—and made it immoral, because holding wealth, which is the measure of one’s ability to be productive, is a guilty debt owed to the rest of society as though you took it from them instead of added it to the global account. The greater your ability to produce—the greater your virtue—the greater your guilt, and the greater the debt you owe. But at the same time it has rewarded the lack of ability (or willingness) to produce—the less the virtue of adding to the universe of wealth—with the greater claim on that debt despite the fact (indeed, precisely because) it wasn’t earned. And all of this is bundled and sold with the fundamental lie of victimhood: that anyone who has wealth didn’t get there by virtue of the value added through their talent and effort, but only because they’ve stolen from a static account that should have belonged to everyone else.
Boiled down to its essence, this moral code teaches that you and your life are not valuable in and of themselves. Under this code, your only value and moral justification for existing is in your ability to produce wealth to be taken from you for the “needs” of others who do not produce. And it enslaves both sides of the equation: the needers to the addictive cycle of depending upon taking from others at the expense of the self-esteem that is born of self-sufficiency; the producers to the grindstone of supporting the weight of the needers, all the while their very ability to do so is branded as their shame. The former are forever parasites, the latter are forever victim-hosts, and neither realizes the fullness of human potential.
All to enable a permanent ruling class to live off you and wield power over you.
That is evil indeed.