You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

WILLIAMS: A bizarre and conflicting principle

- - Sunday, December 16, 2012


Right now, the president is demagoguing the rich, as he has been doing for his entire political career (which, come to think of it, actually isn't a very long time). That much is to be expected. What is disturbing, however, is that it seems to be working, and that people are buying it: He was re-elected largely by portraying Mitt Romney as rich, and therefore either biased or unqualified to have opinions about anything affecting the nonrich. It is the classic left-wing reductionism: You are where you came from, and what you look like.

President Obama is still campaigning, despite his re-election, this time to try to get people to pressure Congress into raising taxes on the rich. If they follow the president's plan, the government is expected to take in an extra $160 billion per year, which is about what we borrow every 10 days. In the face of all reality, he claims his intentions are not partisan, but "math."

To make matters more embarrassing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada opposes voting on Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner's "fiscal cliff" plan. Why? Does he not support the Democratic administration?

Our country has been redistributing wealth en masse for so long that we take it for granted that we do so, especially since half the country just voted for an even bigger government, an even more redistributive and coercive central power, and an even more comfortable safety net (by now it's more like a hammock). No matter that we can't afford these things, these people think: If reality gets in the way of our handouts, then so much for reality.

But it's always worth re-examining our principles, and asking why we do what we do.

How does one qualify for government assistance? Simply by needing it. It's a curious principle. To get something, you need only not have it. The less you have, the more you get. The less you do, the less you work, the more the workers will pay. In any economy, in any country, this is unsustainable. The evidence of this, of course, is that the richest country in history has, in a few decades, turned into the most indebted country in history.

Take, for example, the New York City man, Jeffrey Hillman, given $100 boots for free in a selfless and commendable act of charity by Officer Larry DePrimo. Mr. Hillman is already barefoot again, and, according to The New York Times, wants to get paid for the publicity of the story.

Or consider the Detroit council member who demanded a bailout in exchange for voting for Mr. Obama. Why should they be bailed out? Just because they want it?

A lot of people compare this to the Little League teams that give out trophies to everyone, no matter if they won or lost, or even played. But it is so much worse than that because this is a drain on productivity, the very thing that pays for this stuff. If we keep this up, soon we'll all be bootless.

It is dangerous to assume that all the rich are virtuous, and all the poor are lazy or spoiled. But it is equally foolish to assume the converse or the inverse. There are good people and bad people in all social classes.

But anyone with children will tell you that the old teach-a-man-to-fish cliche is universally true. We aren't teaching anyone to fish, even when we're subsidizing their education, which is just another freebie, just another reward for nothing.

Margaret Thatcher once said there is no such thing as society -- in other words, society is just another word for a collection of individuals. It is reducible to the individual. Similarly, there is no such thing as social class. Not only are social classes reducible to individuals, but by designating people as a "class," we create the false impression that everyone of a same semiarbitrary income level is in league together.

Fetishizing any class of people is absurd. Mr. Reid, the most obstructionist politician in the history of Washington, is always sanctimoniously prattling on about the middle class, and generations of left-wing writers have sung paeans to the under classes.

There is no reason to divide people up into groups like this -- the market doesn't, and ultimately, the market is the only cure for poverty.

Armstrong Williams, author of the book "Reawakening Virtues," is on Sirius Power 128, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan at, and follow him at Read his content on