From His Lips To Our Ears

Poor, poor Joe Biden. He thought he had the title of “Chief Gaffer” sewn up, with his seemingly-endless stream of stupid that comes out of his mouth. But now it seems that he’s being pushed aside — by President Obama.

But that’s because Joe forgot that in politics, “gaffe” doesn’t simply mean “saying something dumb.” In politics, there’s a special meaning — “when a politician inadvertently says something far more honest than intended.

And President Obama, especially when he goes off-TelePrompTer, has a remarkable habit of telling us not what he thinks we want to hear, but what he really thinks.

For example, his remarks about Wall Street:

We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.

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This has been spun by his apologists into how he meant that it’s bad to earn money dishonestly, that you should try to play fair, that you shouldn’t be deceptive and exploit those who have trusted you to be honest and honorable. But that simply isn’t what he said.

From my reading, those who work in the financial business are entitled to do well — but up to a certain point. Once they’ve made however much President Obama thinks is “enough,” they simply shouldn’t make any more.

Further, the purpose of the whole financial field is not to make money, to benefit themselves, to be as successful as they can. You know, like every other business in the country. No, the financial industry has a special responsibility: to make the overall economy better. Even, apparently, if it comes at their own detriment.

It’s an unpleasant fact of life, but there are businesses that do better when the economy tanks. Pawn shops, for one. Debt collectors and repo men. Auctioneers. Are they bad people because they gain when others lose?

In the financial world, most of them prefer a healthy economy. It’s generally a good thing for them — a growing economy presents more opportunities.

But they can’t just count on that happening, even though they can sway the general direction of the economy to some extent. Sometimes things go bad. And they’ve got to be prepared for those eventualities.

For financiers, it’s even worse. They are, by and large, publicly traded companies. And they have a legal and moral obligation to do well by their owners and investors. If they are presented with a choice between making money and helping the general economy, they damned well better not choose to lose their company’s money for the “common good.” They can be sued and fired for such actions — and have been.

But back to Obama. He seems to believe — as shown by this off-the-cuff remark — that there ought to be limits on success. That after a certain level of achievement, individuals ought to set aside further personal gain and instead devote themselves to the common good.

I happen to share that belief.

Where I differ with him, though, are in the details. I think that how they advance “the common good” ought to be left up to the individuals involved — after all, it’s their money and their efforts. If they think that the public is best served by them continuing to make big bucks and living lavish lifestyles, so be it. They gotta pay someone for all that champagne and fine clothes and fast cars and fancy toys, which means that money goes right back into the economy.

But the one thing about Obama’s “made enough money” remark that struck me was its familiarity. It was not in his prepared remarks, but it was entirely consistent with another off-the-TelePrompTer moment from the campaign, where once before Obama had let his mask slip and revealed more about his true beliefs than he intended: during the infamous “Joe The Plumber” incident.

Remember these words?

“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Again, I agree absolutely with Obama’s statement. It’s dead-on accurate. As President Kennedy once said, “a rising tide raises all boats.”

Where I differ with him is how that principle should be applied. I think that the most ethical way to “spread the wealth around” is to allow people to keep as much of their own money as possible, and let them distribute it as they see fit. Even if they piss it away, as so many of us would, that’s still pumped back in the economy — if I decide to buy a gold toilet seat lined with mink, that’s incredibly stupid. But I have to pay someone to make it, and that takes a hunk of money out of my idiotic hands and into the hands of people smart enough to give the customer what he wants.

Obama, though, seems to think that the best arbiter on how to spend our money is the federal government. He believes that politicians and bureaucrats are better equipped to disburse whatever money we have that goes beyond “enough” by their standards than we are. After, of course, they take their cut as “overhead.”

There are circumstances that they’re right. There are things that really ought to get funded that we can’t depend upon the general public to support adequately. National defense, for one. Certain sections of infrastructure, for another. Research into areas that don’t lend themselves to immediate commercial exploitation.

But that only covers a small fraction of federal spending. And there’s one point that is so blindingly obvious that it’s often overlooked:

The federal government has no money of its own. Every single penny that it has, is money it has taken from us.

President Obama seems to believe that the best way to improve the economy is for the federal government to decide who has “too much” money (based on factors such as how much they have, how they acquired it, and how they intend to spend it), take what the government deems as “excessive” as to how much they “need,” take their cut, and then distribute it in ways that they think “fairest.” And that is entirely consistent with his words and deeds.

I disagree.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a pretty wretched gene pool. I’ve got several medical issues that are related to bad genes. I think another sign of that is that I lack an “envy” gene. I don’t resent other people’s success. I don’t get angry when I see others prosper while I struggle. And I don’t want the government to “help” me or others by taking things from people who’ve done well.

Of all the pithy quotes I’ve heard or read over the years, the one that is almost always at the forefront of my mind is one from Gerald Ford:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

That truism has been proven over and over again, around the world. It seems that President Obama has never heard it.

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