When I read about how angry Americans are, about how angry they are at Washington or at Wall Street, and how they want to turn the country on its head to work out their anger, I think of my beloved father, the late economist, Herbert Stein.
My father’s father was a skilled tool and die maker at Ford and at General Electric. They had not little money but they were not on welfare. My father, at 15, entered Williams College, the finest small college in America at the time. He worked at every job he could find. One of his jobs was to wash dishes at a fraternity that did not admit Jews. That was in the early 1930s.
When I asked my father, many years later, if he felt angry about that, he answered, “No. I felt happy that I had a job that allowed me to go to such a great college in the middle of the worst depression in history.”
He wasn’t angry. He worked. He became famous and gave my sister and me the finest educations there were, and then I worked, and my wife worked. And I got to send my son to a good school. I have a great life aside from overeating.
Many people became much richer than I am. I was endlessly and pitilessly discriminated against in Hollywood because I am a conservative.
I’m not angry about it. I am grateful every day that I get to live in this miracle of God that we call America. As Proverbs says, “Time and chance happeneth to all men,” and I eat too much.
So, I read about the men and women who are angry and I have a few thoughts.
Politicians are not going to solve your problems. In this country, right now, anyone who is willing to learn a skill, is in good health, is willing to move, and is willing to work can get a job. So, I don’t get the anger of the unemployed. In this country, in many states, right now we pay people more than most starting teachers earn to be unemployed. I don’t feel sorry for them sucking off the taxpayers’ purse and then demonstrating about how they’re mistreated.
Bernie Sanders may tax the billionaires more to pay for universal health care and I am totally with him on that one. But people who prefer to complain than to work are still going to be a mess.
I don’t get it when people say they demand to be middle class. No one has a right to be middle class. You’re supposed to work and save to be middle class. If you think that Donald Trump is going to wave a wand, build a wall, and make you middle class, you are in for a shock.
There are no magic bullets coming from Washington no matter who’s living in the White House. And you can tax Wall Street all you want but that Wall Street that Bernie hates so much is vital to raise capital, allocate capital, help you prepare for your retirement, and give you liquidity when you need cash. Raise taxes on the rich all you want. I’ve been pretty much drummed out of the club for wanting higher taxes on the rich. But, you tamper with the Wall Street machinery for raising capital and providing liquidity and retirement solutions at your peril.
As I’m writing this, though, I realize that I, too, am angry in fact. I’m angry at fifty years of pitiful mis-education that has failed to explain how great American freedom is. I’m angry at the crank teachers who teach that socialism, a totally failed system, a system that leads to tyranny, is a solution to humans’ problems. I’m angry, furious, at the PC lunatics in my state of California who have forbidden students to describe the USA as “the land of opportunity” or “a place where anyone can succeed…” because it might hurt the feelings of the people who have not succeeded.
In an effort to charm the people who are still (I hope) working their way up, or those too lazy to work at all, we are throwing away an honest description of this country and throwing away the most precious gift in the Constitution — Free Speech. Much worse, we are throwing away the great gift of gratitude.
The people who run down this country are not really to blame, though. They’re so mis-educated that it’s sick. It’s a sort of mental defect to look out at the freest, most prosperous large nation in the world, and say it’s rigged. How is it rigged? By making college students who took out loans pay them back? Don’t we all have to pay back our loans? Do you get your loans forgiven if you smoke a certain amount of pot?
How is it rigged? Because some people who took chances and built businesses are rich? That’s a good thing. It’s not rigging anything. That’s how life always works and if you really want to see wild disparities in well-being, try all powerful government societies.
We have it so good here in America. Not always and there are cycles and fluctuations. But overall, I just don’t get the anger — except at people who are too damned uneducated to realize how freaking amazingly good we have it here.
If we really believe any of the politicians’ promises about miracle cures, we are in for disappointment. If we throw this glorious country and our freedoms — especially the freedom to speak — away for a fantasy Marxist Utopia, it’s tragedy.
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