Over the weekend, my colleague Rick wrote about a rather modest proposal to restore the notion of “shame” to those who depend on public welfare. It’s an interesting notion, and the debates over it have been most entertaining and enlightening.
But as I consider the matter, I find myself looking at the bigger picture. And it’s not a pretty one.
It was with the noblest of intents that people strove to strip the shame from welfare and public assistance. There are many who need such help through no fault of their own. But in protecting these, we have extended the cloak to many who simply don’t want to stand on their own, and hold a sense of entitlement that borders on pride in simply taking what is offered. Such as, say, the woman who insisted that if Obama was elected, he’d pay her mortgage. Or this fine fellow.
This is entirely congruent with the Cloward-Piven strategy for destroying the American social and economic system — increase public dependency until it reaches the breaking point, when more people are entitled to more public assistance than the nation can afford. Note that I’m not saying that this is what happened; I find it far more likely that Cloward and Piven were more prophets than conspirators, and simply saw the way the trend was going.
But there’s another aspect of this trend that I find even more troubling. And that’s how the converse is also coming to pass.
We’ve stripped most of the shame off of dependency, but we haven’t thrown it away. Instead, we’ve collected it, and now we are throwing it at the successful, hoping it will stick.
Demonizing the wealthy, the successful, the prosperous is practically a hallmark of the left. They thrive on finding wealthy people (as long as they aren’t liberal; they don’t necessarily have to be conservative, but it sure as hell helps) and trying to somehow shame and punish them. They seem to have no problems with rich people like George Soros, the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, or John Kerry (keep him in mind; he’s going to be my whipping boy soon). Rather, they need to go after ones like the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, Steve Forbes, Mitt Romney, Rupert Murdoch, and a bunch of others.
Let’s take a look at some of the “ostentatious” hallmarks of these evil rich people. They have private planes, luxury boats, and most often didn’t earn their wealth themselves. By the standards of the left, the most evil millionaire in America has to be John Forbes Kerry.
Kerry is from the Forbes family, but not one of the branches that had a lot of money. He was a Boston Brahmin, one of the elite, who decided early on that he’d make his mark in politics. He signed up for military service, knowing that it would burnish his reputation. It was during Viet Nam, so he enlisted in the Navy — where he would be least likely to see combat. He then volunteered for duty on Swift Boats, which were at that time safe duty. Then the Navy reconsidered, and Kerry found himself on the front lines. He collected his three Purple Hearts (at least one of them under seriously questionable circumstances) and got out in less than four months.
He then spun his “hero” status into a leading role in the anti-war movement, shoring up his credentials on the left. But he still needed money, so he parlayed his family name, war service, and anti-war activism into marrying a millionaire heiress who was willing to fund his political career. Alas, she wasn’t cut out for the role of Senator’s Wife, and Kerry had to choose between his career and his marriage. It was never any question — the two parted.
But Kerry had grown accustomed to the wealthy lifestyle, and living out of his car on and around Capitol Hill grew real old real fast. Fortunately for him, one of his friends in the Senate died in a plane crash, leaving a very wealthy widow who did like the role of Senator’s Wife. It was a match made in DC, and Kerry ended up trading a millionaire heiress for a billionaire heiress.
So here’s John Kerry — child of privilege, living high off the hog from the money his second wife inherited from her (Republican) first husband, replete with yacht (the “Isabel”) and private jet (the “Flying Squirrel”) and homes around the world. And he was so reviled by the Democrats that they made him their presidential nominee in 2004.
Oh, and yes, the Isabel was the yacht Massachusetts’ senior senator first registered in Rhode Island to avoid having to pay Massachusetts taxes.
But enough of kicking Kerry for now. Back to the point. The underlying presumption behind this “hang the rich” attitude seems to be that it simply isn’t possible for someone to achieve wealth and success without having done so at the expense of others. Liberal billionaires are forgiven, because they use their wealth to “atone” for their sins by “helping” the less fortunate. Others, though — they not only don’t want to apologize for their “sins,” they are often proud of them.
That’s where a good chunk of our society is today. We celebrate and rejoice in the dependent, while reviling the successful and prosperous.
A while ago I read something that really struck home: “Capitalism is the unequal sharing of wealth. Socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”
I find the former far preferable than the latter, and that so many disagree is a very disturbing fact.