Wealth Redistribution in the USA
By: Wayne Brown
This past weekend, I went out for a stroll in my neighborhood. As I walked along, I looked at the houses that made up the subdivision, the cars dotting the driveway, and the various indication of success strewn about each place. That is when the idea hit me that I was missing out on a great opportunity. Without further ado, I immediately went to work implementing a new plan to supplement my own existence here on earth.
My plan was a simple one. When I saw a house that looked a lot better and bigger than my own and had expensive cars parked in the driveways and garages, I immediately headed for the front door and rang the doorbell. I had already sized up what I wanted to say in my mind and after listening to the president and CNN, it all made perfect sense. I was in search of “my brother’s keeper” just as the president had spoken of in his Vermont speech on the Bible story of Cain and Abel.
When the person occupying my target house answered the door, I simply smiled and said, “Hello neighbor!” I then launched into my presentation without delay. It went something like this: “Thank you so much for answering my call, my name is Wayne Brown and I live just up the street in this neighborhood. Today I was out for a stroll and admiring all of the beauty of this fine neighborhood. In doing so, I could not help but admire the fine home which you have here and those beautiful high-dollar cars parked out on the drive. Your home is far more beautiful and larger than mine. It is also easy to see that it is far better groomed thus you must spend a significant amount of money on the landscaping and accessories. Now, I said all that to make a point. Perhaps, you heard the president’s recent speech on brotherly love which he made in Vermont. In the spirit of that fine speech, I have come to your door to ask that you voluntarily share some of your wealth with me so that I can have a home that looks much like yours along with some beautiful, expensive cars on the driveway. You see, according to the president, even though you earn a substantial living, it is just not right that you do not share that money with your neighbors so that we can all benefit from your success. Won’t you please share?
If you are wondering how much success I had with my plan, don’t waste your time. Some people were quite polite and suggest that I seek medical attention. Some asked me if those assigned to watch me knew that I was outside the home. Others, the rude ones, just slammed the door in my face and locked it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that asking my brothers for help would yield so little in terms of a response. Needless to say, I headed back toward my meager home empty-handed and disappointed that my neighbors did not see the world in the way that I did. It was then that I noticed the one house that had evaded my sight up to this point. Why it was glorious and I had to stop and give my pitch in the hope that at least one of my neighbors cared enough.
The gentleman who answered the door listened patiently to my pitch without remark or expression. He took it all in. Then, he ask if I had some time in my schedule which would allow me to come out on his patio and sit by the pool for a nice glass of home-made ice tea. I was elated and immediately answered that I had plenty of time for such activities. Wow…free tea! We made our way through the lavish home out to the backyard which was nothing short of Eden in its appearance. I was flabbergasted and envious that I did not have the drive or energy to create such an environment in my own backyard. Maybe this man would do it for me.
As we sipped the delicious peach-flavored ice-tea, the gentleman proceeded to review my request with me. He had listened perfectly and repeated exactly what I had said almost verbatim. I was impressed to say the least. Then as quick as Humpty-Dumpty fell off the wall, he asked me a question, “What is it that is wrong with you that stops you from being as successful as me? You don’t seem to have any physical disabilities or impediments which would keep you from work.”
I was caught off guard and realized that I had not anticipated or prepared such an answer. I stumbled about verbally then pointed out that I was physically fit but probably not as educated though I did possess a college degree.
The man laughed and pointed out that I actually was better educated than he had been in terms of formal education. He went to point out that he was the product of a share-cropper farming family. In his early teen years, he had been forced to drop out of school in order to help the family work the fields. When World War II came along, he volunteered and joined the Army paratroopers. At the initial launch of the D-Day Invasion, he and other members of his unit were dropped into France behind German lines and instructed to create a counter-offensive from the rear. To say they were out-numbered was an understatement. In the bloody fight, an exploding mortar round had sent hot shrapnel flying into his body severely wounding the man and almost clipping a main artery which would have left him dead on the battlefield. He survived but required months of rehabilitation to regain use of his right arm. When the war was over, he returned home only to find that things were as they were when he left and the cotton-fields lay before him as his future. His story was fascinating and I could not utter a word as he spoke.
The man went on to say that he rejected those cotton-fields and headed into the city to look for work. He became gainfully employed in a machine shop running a high-tech broom designed to sweep out the metal savings from the shop floor hour after hour and day after day. The job was not much better than working in the fields as the shop was hot and the machines were loud. But, he stuck with it and one day the boss offered him a chance at one of the lathe machines. He started off doing simple things but over time learned from the other machinists who worked about the machines on the floor. The work was detailed and difficult but he applied himself and gained all the knowledge that he could hoping to one day be the best machinist in the shop. The days turned into years and at some point, the man realized his goal. By then, he had devoted most of his young years to the machinist job.
The man who owned the shop decided to sell it and gave his best machinist an opportunity to buy it. It was a gamble, a big gamble with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt involved which would equate to millions by today’s standards. The man took his skills and went to the bank for help. Soon, he found himself in the role of ownership totally immersed in more debt than ever with less time than he had ever had to focus on the job of being a machinist. No, he had to hire people for that job for his time was taken up dealing with issues of business and government regulation compliance. He was no longer a member of the machinist union but now considered an enemy of it as he became an employer. He had payroll and profit to worry about by the hour and the mountain of debt associated with purchasing the business would be on his back for years and years to come. There were mouths to feed in terms of his employees needing a fair day’s pay. He had a lot of accountability and responsibility to the bank, his family, his employees, and himself. It was a very stressful time.
Over the years, the man continued to tinker as a machinist mostly in the afterhours of work. It was a hobby of sorts. It was during this time, that the man became interested in heat exchangers used in very larger commercial HVAC systems. There was opportunity to design a better mouse-trap there if someone could come up with an idea that exceed the performance of the current aluminum housing which tended to deteriorate rapidly but met the standards for cost in terms of pricing to the consumer for the HVAC manufacturers. The man began to play around with designs using light-gauge stainless steel. Over time, he perfected his design but in the process spent many hours away from his family life and home. Once the design was proven, he spent even more hours and money marketing it to the HVAC manufacturers. Finally, it all paid off and the contracts began to roll in. The man was able to expand his shop, add new employees, and give all of them a raise. The windfall from the initial sales allowed the man to pay off the mortgage on his business and for the first time in life, he was debt free.
Then came the day when one of the HVAC manufacturers decided that they wanted the business and the patent on the design. They made the man an offer that he could not refuse and bought out his business to operate under their corporate emblem. The man became wealthy with the payout and decided that it was time to retire and devote some time to his family. As he explained this, he then spread his arms about and said, “This is what we have to show for it all.” And, he asked me again, “What is it that has kept you from attaining a similar result?”
My answer had not improved. I had not attained his success because mainly I had not really tried. Nor had I really ever taken any risk. I had played it safe and settled in my comfort zone. Maybe my early life experience was part of the reason. I had never really known hardship growing up. In fact, I had most of the things that I wanted. After college, I went to work in a comfortable job for a comfortable level of pay thinking that I really had it made. Then I began to notice that others around me had more and I concluded that it just was not fair. Why should they have more than me? Why did they deserve it and not I? Why was life so unfair? Who would be my keeper and give me a leg up?
Now, I suddenly realized that those were not the questions I should have been asking. Now I realized that it was not the fault of others that I was where I was in life, far from it. The fault lay solely with me. Up to this point, I had looked at myself as a “victim” of the system being deprived of the success and reward which seemed to come to others and not me. Now, things looked different. Those people looked different and I realized that none of them had taken anything away from me in the process of attaining their own success. I also realized that I lived in a country where success had no limitations but was not rationed to anyone nor guaranteed. We all have the opportunity to pursue it and some of us maybe lucky enough to catch that butterfly. One thing I knew for sure, this man I had just shared a glass of peach ice-tea with was definitely deserving of the success he had achieved in life and in the process he had earned…no one gave it to him.
I headed back home with a new outlook and attitude. For the first time, I looked about me and saw my house and my car in a very different light. Somewhere, there was someone who thought my house and my car was better than theirs. They thought that I had achieved the success that they desired and deserved. I realized that they also thought that I, in the process, had taken something away from them. I became aware of how we let envy and ignorance rule our lives and our passions. For the first time, I was truly thankful for what I had and the fact that I had earned it. I then began to think about it in terms of someone coming to my door with the same pitch which I had used on my neighbors and I realized that I would likely be one who might be considered rude in my response. I had to laugh.
I also gained another perspective. The president’s message on Cain and Abel was not one that I could abide by nor was it the intent of the story in the Bible. Yes, we look out for our brothers and sisters and we offer a helping hand to those in need. It is part of the human experience and of the human compassion when we are not blinded by greed and selfishness. But, we don’t take from those who have earned it and redistribute it to others just because we have that power. There is nothing about that outcome which is right nor is the conclusion associated with it anywhere near correct. We cannot conclude that the success and achievement of one individual is wholly dependent on the misery and failure of another. That defines a limited success where the “pie” remains the same size no matter how many require a slice. That is not America…at least not the America I know. If it is the one which President Obama desires to introduce us to, then we need to rethink where we are going as a people. That message is clear.
President Obama may think that there is something angelic and good-intentioned about using the power of the office of president to take from those who have earned their achievements and success only to redistribute it in the name of buying admiration for him and his ilk. Redistribution of wealth has nothing to do with Cain and Abel in the sense of one helping another. It only makes use of the greed and envy which was apparent in the story and extends it into the present day. It is one more burning log on the fires of class envy which the president has elected to add.
We are long since passed the time when the federal government should be out of our lives. For far too long now the subjects of education, poverty, and environmental activism have been at our front door steps and the answer to all of them, according to our elected elite and the federal government, is to spend more money on them. The amount of taxpayer money already spent in those areas since LBJ was president in the 60’s is staggering to think about yet it is still the solution. That aspect alone should be enough to tell us that government is not the solution to our problems.
Government officials, especially those of this current presidential administration, are more than willing to sit there in Washington and create class divides, envy, and all out warfare in the name of accomplishing their agenda and as an aid to getting re-elected to office. People like Warren Buffett come in very handy in that case as few in the nation ever check to see where he stands with the IRS. Amazingly, these same people will gamble their entire future on their “gut” while ignoring the socialistic actions of this administration; while ignoring the president is surrounded by self-described socialist, Marxist, and Communist in the White House. They will also parrot the say statements which he makes including “the rich are not paying their fair share” while some of them pay no taxes whatsoever in terms of income. You don’t have to be rich to be a hypocrite.
The future of this nation hangs in the balance at the present. Whether we head deeper into the woods of Socialism or do an about face back into the sunlight of Constitutional respect is a choice that we, the people, can make at the present. That may not be the case in four more years, but if that is the way it turns out, we can only blame ourselves as a nation who let divisiveness and class envy fog their vision in terms of who they would vote for in the November election.
©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.
16 April 2012