Obama Should Focus on Equalizing Opportunity – Not Results

Forget your self-help books like, 7 habits for highly effective people and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Heck, forget going to college, working hard, and even trying your best. Financial success is all based on one simple thing. You ready? LUCK. Luck is the most important factor when in achieving the financial comfort we all dream about. Shooting stars, four-leafed clovers, rainbows and horseshoes, those are more important than any amount of work ethic and education. It is for that reason we should redistribute the fortunes of the wealthy. After all, their wealth is all due to good fortune, isn’t it?

There always after MY lucky charms

Okay, enough melodrama. Clearly I’m being sarcastic. We all know that unless you’re playing the lottery, luck does not usually play a starring role in clawing your way into the top income bracket.

Take, for instance, legendary investor and third wealthiest person in the world, Warren Buffet. As a child he went door to door selling chewing gum and Coke. As a child he spent time in the regional stock brokerage to learn about the market and by age 11 had made his first stock purchase. By his sophomore year in high school he invested in a pinball machine and placed it in a barbershop, using his earnings to place more machines throughout town. This was the foundation of hard work and entrepreneurship that eventually got him into Columbia business school and made him an ultra-successful investor.

But that is not the President’s line. According to Obama “we need to end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, so that folks like me – who are extraordinarily lucky . . .”

Democrats, including Obama, have set aside the economic arguments in regards to tax cuts in favor of a debate over morality.

As liberal journalist Jonathon Cohn’s writes in The Moral Case for Soaking the Rich,

[T]his debate isn’t just about budget arithmetic. It’s about morality, too. And I’m not sure that part of the debate is getting the attention it deserves.

Cohn argues,

Almost by definition, people who are successful have benefited from some measure of good fortune. That fortune can take the form of obvious, material advantages–like access to advanced technology and good schools. Or it can take the form of more subtle, but still important, assets for moving forward in life–like good health or loving parents.

This is what he counts as luck? This is what he wants to tax? Do we really want to have a “good health” tax, or better yet, a “loving parent” tax?

What Cohn, and other liberal scholars have done, is to twist the traditional luck hypothesis. Previous iterations of the “luck” theory attempt to show that rich people got that way because they knew the right person or just in the right place at the right time. In that sense, they’ve grown more nuanced. They now say that the “luck” that they were talking about is growing up in a nurturing home, with good parents, and having the opportunity to go to good schools. These factors, they argue, increased the opportunities they had to achieve success.

And yet this is where their argument breaks down. They say that the problem is unequal (and thus, lucky) opportunities, but in terms of solutions, they want increase taxes on results. It seems to me that if you truly believe that rich people benefited from being lucky in their opportunities then you would attempt to equalize such opportunities. If we really want to debate morality, equalizing opportunity, not equalizing results, would seem to be the most moral course. In fact, penalizing people, through higher taxes, from taking advantages of beneficial opportunities seems to be sending the completely wrong message altogether.

Sadly, many Democrats have no idea how to improve opportunity. Worse, they fail to understand that attempting to equalize results actually deters society from self-correcting. As Lloyd Marcus explained in his article, Why I Am a Black Tea Party Patriot, “I witnessed the trap of government welfare. And why were so many around me angry and violent – despite getting free housing, food and healthcare?” He referred to a redistributive policies as reinforcing the “bigotry of low expectations.” Rather than government taxing the rich to give to the poor he argues that “true self-esteem comes form personal achievement.”

Redistribution based on taxing the rich ever-higher amounts does not reallocate luck, it allows us to continue to overlook the fundamental reform we need – evening out opportunity. In attempting to solve the problem they only further entrench one of its root causes.

So, to sum up my argument, if you want to become wealthy and successful, never cross a black cat…during a full moon…holding a broken mirror…on Friday the Thirteenth.  If that does happen, just spin around three times and throw salt over your left shoulder, then you should be fine.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director (hat tip Reiley Hooper)