To my ear, the most grating cliche of the Obama era is when he professes his love “those who work hard and play by the rules.” The core element of Obama’s philosophy is to screw those people over, good and hard, every chance he gets. What he really sees them as is chumps.
This is not new to Obama, of course. Every form of collectivism and redistribution is premised on punishing the law-abiding. It’s baked right into the cake. Before socialists can be generous to their preferred constituents, they have to take the resources away from their proper owners. The people punished by redistribution schemes have committed no crime, but they are fined anyway. In fact, they tend to be among the most productive members of society, but they are given absolutely zero credit for the immense social assets they provide through their free choices.
I don’t just mean charitable donations, although Big Government stooges don’t think very highly of those, either. Remember how much contempt was showered on super-wealthy Mitt Romney, even though he donated staggering sums to charitable endeavors, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of his hearty income? Not only that, but Romney actually put his shoulder to the wheel and personally involved himself in charitable endeavors, ranging from his effort to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an associate, to basically re-enacting the end of “A Christmas Carol” by showing up at Tiny Tim’s house with a turkey. None of that mattered the tiniest bit to the Left, which sneered in derision at the notion that Romney’s generous donations of time and money were admirable. All that mattered to them is that he made too much money, and didn’t give enough of it to the redistributive State. They even tried floating scurrilous rumors that he had cheated on his taxes for years, without the slightest shred of evidence, as part of their effort to pressure him into releasing his complete (and massive) tax returns so they could go shopping for something to embarrass him with. This enthusiasm for exposing the confidential tax information of politicians came to an abrupt end when well-heeled Democrats were asked for their returns in the 2014 midterms..
Leaving charity aside, the Left is absurdly unwilling to give Those Who Work Hard and Play By the Rules credit for the good they bring to society merely by getting up in the morning and doing their jobs, running their businesses, or making their investments. (Let’s call them “PBRs” for short, in honor of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the working man’s beer.) Collectivist ideology stipulates that absolute no credit must ever be given to freedom of choice as a source of national wealth. And yet, only the most blinkered fool would deny that the fruits of voluntary investment and commerce have improved the lives of the destitute, to a degree that simply boggles the mind. The virtual eradication of hunger from the industrialized world is but one of many such benefits. If you want to bring starvation back, put Obama’s hapless mega-government in charge of distributing food. The predictable result would be a huge new bureaucratic army of highly-paid Assistant Deputy Secretaries of Chow, another few billion added to the deficit, and more hungry people.
When it was time for the symphony of fraud known as ObamaCare to reach its crescendo, the PBRs got hosed. That insurance plan you liked, the one Obama promised endlessly would never be taken away from you, no matter what? Gone. The premiums Obama promised would go down? Blown through the roof, especially if you’re young and healthy. Your favorite doctor won’t see you any more. Much of this was done expressly to benefit other people the government decided were more deserving of the money and resources. As the Jon Gruber revelations have confirmed, a pack of lies were told to trick Americans into accepting this scheme, because Those Who Work Hard and Play By the Rules would never have agreed to the scheme, if they had known the truth. The law-abiding were once again penalized without trial, and if you’re in one of the states where ObamaCare premiums are skyrocketing, and you make enough money to miss out on those subsidies, you’re going to be penalized far worse than the fine you’d pay for most non-violent criminal infractions. (That’s true even before we talk about where the money for those ObamaCare subsidies is coming from.)
Obama’s coming wave of amnesty executive orders are another thumb in the eye of the PBRs. If you’re a low-income American worker who can’t find a job, you might as well give up now, because you’re about to have four or five million new competitors… and they broke the law to get into the U.S. job market. If you’re a legal immigrant who did the hard work of following a procedure that can drag on for years, and honorably earned American citizenship… well, those of us who want illegal immigration controlled respect you deeply, but Barack Obama thinks you’re a sap. You should have just strolled across the border and waited for your amnesty deal.
Another thing the collectivist state redistributes is opportunity, and here the PBRs get worked over in the most subtle, but far-reaching way. Anti-competition is a unique product only the Ruling Class can manufacture and sell. They sell it for a tidy profit, working with their favorite donors to cook up immense regulatory burdens that crush start-ups and stymie the growth of mid-level companies which lack political connections. The regulatory burden makes everything more expensive, sucking away our disposable income – our freedom – in a largely invisible framework of taxation. If you’re planning to Work Hard and Play By the Rules as an entrepreneur, get ready to discover that following the ever-changing rules is harder than working.
It’s hard to honestly declare yourself a PBR, even though you do everything right and have the best intentions as a productive citizen, because our code of laws is so huge and protean that nearly every one of us is a “criminal” in some technical sense. This is not merely a side effect of the Ruling Class’s efforts to reward its cronies with special tax and regulatory favors. It is part of a design that fuels the bogus moral argument for Big Government by framing the entire populace as a collection of hapless children, vicious predators, and unruly ruffians who might do God-knows-what to each other at any moment, if an army of state and federal officials don’t closely monitor their every action, and take a cut from every transaction. If you are unlucky enough to attract the full attention of the mega-State, you will quickly discover that your sincere determination to Work Hard and Play By the Rules counts for very little… because the government, taken as a whole, does not Work Hard or Play By the Rules.
There is no way to show proper respect to the PBRs without demolishing the vast edifice of activist government, busting it down to its original Constitutional conception as a neutral referee protecting universal rights. For the benefit of those who plan to keep reshaping society by discovering new “rights” and compelling everyone to fund them, a universal right is held by every citizen in equal measure; that means my claim to my property is as absolute as yours, regardless of how much property each of us owns. As it stands, no one can in good conscience say that a person who Works Hard and Plays By the Rules will find himself immune to aggressive government coercion, the volume of which has grown so much that the Ruling Class no longer bothers to conceal it. As long as you can be penalized even though you did nothing wrong, or held guilty of theoretical offenses you have not committed yet – according to some formula that says a certain percentage of people who look like you must be guilty – we live in a society where hard work is only conditionally respected, and playing by the rules is respected occasionally in word, but almost invariably punished by deed.