A leading source of power for the Political Class is the ability to forcibly take money from those who have earned it and redistribute it to those who have not. This redistribution cannot withstand moral scrutiny, and in fact amounts to, in a word, theft. But the Political Class, in order to exercise power, needs this theft to continue. The Political Class needs, therefore, to convince itself and others, against both facts and logic, that theft is not theft.
Now, usually the most effective method for a thief to evade responsibility for his crime is to evade detection. But when evading detection is not possible because it is obvious to all that the thief has taken property from others, the thief might try to argue that the victim had no right to retain the property in the first place. This is the argument now being used by the Political Class to excuse its thievery. Specifically, leaders of the Political Class are asserting that successful people didn’t really earn their success, and so by implication, have no legitimate right to keep their own money.
As part of the Political Class’ campaign to delegitimize success, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren famously declared back in August 2011 that
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.” That sentiment was echoed a few months later by Barack Obama: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Recently, Obama doubled down on the notion that success is unearned by comparing successful people to lottery winners. “Society’s lottery winners,” he called them.
This comparison clearly disrespects peoples’ achievements because winning the lottery involves no hard work, inspiration, or significant risk-taking. All that is required is pure luck. Is that how people actually get rich, just pure luck?
Henry Ford got rich by revolutionizing the auto industry. Bill Gates got rich by revolutionizing the computer industry. Did those guys really achieve no more than someone who lucked out by purchasing the right scratch ticket?
Again, the object here is to undermine the right of people to keep their own hard earned money. If people get wealthy only by luck, then they can make no legitimate moral claim to their own money, and the government therefore is justified in taking the money in order to compensate those who are “unlucky.”
Here’s the context in which Obama used his lottery metaphor.
One of the ways of fighting poverty, he proposed, was to “ask from society’s lottery winners” that they make a “modest investment” in government programs to help the poor.
So Obama’s statement amounts to three terms: a verb (ask), a direct object (lottery winners), and effectively, an infinitive (to invest). Ask => lottery winners => to invest. The ‘lottery winners’ term is clearly objectionable and, indeed, offensive. The Great Thomas Sowell points out that also the other two terms are objectionable, and are in fact weasel words.
Since free speech is guaranteed to everyone by the First Amendment to the Constitution, there is nothing to prevent anybody from asking anything from anybody else. But the federal government does not just “ask” for money. It takes the money it wants in taxes, usually before the people who have earned it see their paychecks.
Despite pious rhetoric on the left about “asking” the more fortunate for more money, the government does not “ask” anything. It seizes what it wants by force. If you don’t pay up, it can take not only your paycheck, it can seize your bank account, put a lien on your home and/or put you in federal prison.
So please don’t insult our intelligence by talking piously about “asking.”
And please don’t call the government’s pouring trillions of tax dollars down a bottomless pit “investment.” Remember the soaring words from Barack Obama, in his early days in the White House, about “investing in the industries of the future”? After Solyndra and other companies in which he “invested” the taxpayers’ money went bankrupt, we haven’t heard those soaring words so much.
Obama’s anti-success rhetoric and weaselly euphemisms are indeed an insult to thinking and freedom-loving Americans. But since there are fewer such Americans nowadays, Obama’s appalling rhetoric works for him. As Sowell puts it:
The fact that most of the rhetorical ploys used by Barack Obama and other redistributionists will not stand up under scrutiny means very little politically. After all, how many people who come out of our schools and colleges today are capable of critical scrutiny?
And so the Political Class, led by the likes of Obama and Warren, continues its campaign of sophistry, intended to convince a venal and degraded American public that all money ultimately belongs not to the people who earned it, but to the government, which happens to be controlled by, very conveniently, the Political Class.
This sophistry seems to us deliberate, cynical, and disingenuous. But maybe we’re reading too much into it. Maybe Obama and Warren are just exhibiting the effects of psychological projection. Since Obama and Warren both got rich without producing anything of value, they think that’s how everyone gets rich.