Sunday, November 23, 2008
Steamboat Springs In the last days of the seemingly endless presidential campaign, Barack Obama showed up uninvited and unannounced at Joe the Plumber's residence in the battleground state of Ohio. In a few short minutes, the candidate apparently let his guard down after polls showed him to be a runaway winner Nov. 4. So, Joe wondered out loud, if Obama did indeed win, would his plans for soaking the "rich" preempt or neutralize his goal to buy the business in which he presently was only an employee? Or, put another way, shouldn't everyone be allowed to dream and work to become wealthy without being stigmatized for it? Obama's answer rang alarms across the country when he proclaimed that it was better to "spread the wealth."
Although the clanging of those bells was not enough to stop the juggernaut for his election, many saw it as one of the first real glances inside the thinking of this opaque potential president. Of course, for those paying attention during the first debates, one could have gleaned the same mindset from his reply concerning the capital gains tax. Why would he consider raising such a tax when the history of JFK, Reagan and Clinton had shown that this gave great incentive to accelerate economic activity while simultaneously bringing the government more tax dollars? The answer was startling. "In the interest of fairness," he began to drone on. When the questioner pursued the fact that these weren't theories but actual facts, he didn't back down a bit. He still would do it.
This is the mark of a true ideologue. It also is the antithesis of what this country is based on: equality of opportunity. Rather, the true liberal or socialist, choose your terms, says our goal is forced equality. Having spent a good deal of time in former communist countries, I can tell you firsthand the economic disaster that this inevitably brings with its killing off of initiative and entrepreneurship. Even worse to my mind, it disallows citizens to hope, dream and work harder to pursue their own vision of success. Self-actualization is out; conformity and mediocrity are in.
This isn't what the founders had in mind for America, folks. Conversely, it surely is what radicals such as Castro and now Chavez have in mind for their constituents. Go along, get along to become a small piece of the apparatus of the state and then : shut up! During my years of teaching democratic capitalism in the former USSR, I always emphasized that freedom has two parts: political and economic, because you don't call it freedom with only half of the equation. They are inextricable. We seldom talk about how debilitating it is to live under such conditions. It destroys you from the inside out.
Is this what Obama has in mind? Everything points that way. More government controls on virtually all business activity. Confiscatory taxation to mandate "fairness." The fact is that so few Americans understand how oppressive a government can be when this theory is institutionalized. You are then a pawn to the lowest bureaucrat on the totem pole, which is stifling. Further, it is a direct correlation to say that the more of our money they take in taxes, the less freedom we have. They will decide how to spend it, thank you very much.
Only 90 miles from our shores, we can witness the effects of such thinking and policies. Is Fidel sorry for the basket case Cuba has become after 50 years? No way. And who can complain? After all, we all get our own share of the wealth : er, that is, the misery.
Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips