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What is fair?

President Obama has a habit of throwing around the words “fair” and “Justice” but never defines what either means.  And on Saturday he was at it again, latching onto a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that indicated the incomes of the wealthiest Americans increased by 275% from 1979 to 2007, while the lowest income bracket only increased by 18% during the same period.   President Obama, true to form, is taking the populist approach attempting to gain leverage over Republicans in the budget and debt discussions.

So much of this “debate” centers around “equality”. The left makes the point that the wealthy getting wealthier to the extent they are while everyone else is getting wealthier to a much lesser extent or not at all is unfair; that there needs to be a more even distribution of the “country’s wealth”.  As if there were such a thing.  The “country” does not have wealth, individuals do and in a capitalist system where individuals have freedom to pursue achievement, there will be – by definition – unequal wealth distribution.   The “country” takes wealth from individuals in the form of taxes to carry out the specified functions directed by the Constitution.  Despite numerous instances where the President and Democrats have been asked to define “fair” and “justice” they have declined to do so.  To do so would place them in a position where once defined they could never again come to the well.  And come to the well again they must because the discussion from the left ignores one very important point.  We as individuals are responsible for our actions.  We’re responsible for whether we achieve or fail to achieve and we’re all individually responsible for the consequences of our life’s choices.  Those who have worked hard and achieved will most likely always do so, while those who haven’t worked hard and haven’t achieved will likely always continue to do so as well.  Even if it was agreed that the wealthiest strata of society should pay more in taxes the least wealthy would be no better off because their upward mobility isn’t controlled by anyone but themselves. 

The left would have you believe otherwise, insisting that those inner city youths who turned their back on an education and instead concentrated on their social lives or crime are still entitled to an equal slice of the “country’s” wealth.   And that their inability to achieve the type of upward mobility enjoyed by others isn’t a consequence of their own actions (or inaction) but rather is a consequence of lack of opportunity.  Completely ignoring a U.S. history replete with examples demonstrating otherwise.   How many immigrants have come to this country looking for opportunity they didn’t have elsewhere, with little more than the clothes on their back, and grew into titans of industry?  We all have the same opportunity to achieve but whether we individually rise to the occasion rests solely on our own shoulders and with no one else.

There are a number of points that could be argued in regard to the CBO study, but I personally feel they’re mostly pointless.  There simply isn’t any point arguing over the principles involved as I feel they’re all overshadowed by what I’ve already stated.  However I do want to point out one point that might not be immediately noticed.  The CBO report doesn’t indicate the percentage of individuals in the lower economic brackets who moved to higher economic brackets over the same period.   Even if it were only a 5% margin at the lowest economic bracket, progressing to a higher degree upward through the brackets, that alone would show the truth of my point.  I’m a perfect example of it.

I was born in a small town in the mid-west, the oldest child among a family of eight.  We were near the bottom of the economic pool with little disposable income to speak of and I grew up living in a 50 foot single-wide trailer on the outskirts of town.   I started working when I was 14 years old, working as many hours at odd jobs as I could until I was 16 and started working full time after school.  The fact that I and my siblings had new clothes for school or school supplies some years was due to the extra income I brought into the family.  Did I complain about it?  Certainly not because I believed then what I believe now.  Life isn’t “fair” and if that unfairness meant I had to work harder than some of my friends who were much better off than I, it meant only that I had to work harder.

I stayed out of trouble, stayed away from drugs, and graduated High School.  When I graduated I worked two jobs and didn’t go onto College for another 10 years.  But I never lost sight of the fact I intended to.  I kicked and scratched my way up and worked my way through college, taking my courses during the evenings and weekends learning the job skills I needed to achieve success in the job market.  Today I find myself in school again working toward a completely different degree field.  The take away?  I never gave up and I achieved upward mobility through determination and hard work.  Starting off with meager means does is not determinate of the means you can achieve later on in life.

So when I see people like President Obama beating the drum of socialism and equality it angers me to a high degree.  Not only because I understand the terrible individual price that logic has in store for those who look toward it as the solution, but also because what President Obama is really saying is that the challenges of my life didn’t matter.  Despite working harder to achieve, his belief is that I don’t deserve what I’ve earned.  President Obama is saying that despite working harder to achieve, that the individuals who dropped out of High School, got involved in drugs and crime, deserve some of my wealth.  President Obama is saying that those individuals are more important than my own family.

The old adage that you can’t cure stupid is as meaningful now as it has always been and particularly in this debate of fairness and equality.  Those with a drive to achieve will come to find success in life while those who don’t have that drive will instead look to people like President Obama to cure a malady for which there is simply no cure.

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