Seeking Optimism

At a recent large family outing I got cornered by a liberal Democrat who was lamenting the growing disparity between the rich and the poor and the bleak prospects for the younger generation. With the hard-earned lesson that one doesn’t seek converts in such settings, we steered off to the steep financial bifurcation in sports, music, and writing. Here is what I would have liked to say:

1. These things come and go. It helps to study the presidencies since World War II to see the impact of different policies, personalities, and management approaches. Particularly look to Eisenhauer, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton (with help from Gingrich) as leaders of energetic growth – and Carter and Obama as overseers of decline. Partisans and ideologues can parse the causes, but it is clear that America is strong enough to overcome an ineffective president who does not understand or appreciate the vitality of the free enterprise system.

2. We all want peace and prosperity, we just start with different approaches. Democrats, particularly of the Obama variety, start with “fairness”, wanting to build the social safety net with resources taken from those who have done well. Republicans want to provide the opportunity for all to rise, believing that society prospers when it captures the talents and initiative of all, without limits. Equal results versus equal opportunity.

3. On an individual basis, Rick Santorum had it right. We know the keys to a successful life:

– Get an education. Income levels jump and unemployment levels plummet when one gets a high school degree, and further again with a college degree.

– Get a job. Don’t expect to start as president of Google. Everybody in my family worked in restaurants at one time or another, learning self discipline, customer service, and the value of a dollar.

– Get married before you have kids. The hill is steep enough for moms and kids to not be part of the trend where half of today’s births occur in one parent families.

I doubt that any of this would have had an impact on a life-long San Francisco Democrat. Nor would adding data – Jimmy Carter’s 12 % inflation; Obama’s $17 trillion debt; Reagan’s 18% growth in after-inflation per capita GDP; the top 10 % currently paying 71 % of federal income taxes with 43 % of the income; the difference in growth in Red states versus Blue states. Maybe the history of the country’s transition from agricultural employment to industrial employment, to office employment, to the new information age would have fostered some optimism – so long as it wasn’t couched in terms of success of individuals and the free market system rather than the government’ accomplishment – as in “you didn’t build that.”

The next time I will bring the baby pictures.


In this week’s video the “Iron Lady” addresses the gap between the rich and the poor.

And as a bonus, a tribute to the other female world leader to die this week.


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