President Obama and Senator Warren: On the Same Collectivist Page

President Obama and Senator Warren: On the Same Collectivist Page by Peter Burrows 8/29/15

When campaigning for reelection back in 2012, President Obama said the reason people have become successful in America was due to more than hard work and brains.  There’s lots of hard working, smart people.  The real underlying secret to success is — drum roll please —- GOVERNMENT!

He wasn‘t quite so succinct: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (1)

A year earlier, just before announcing what was to be her successful run for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren made it crystal clear that the reason people get rich is because of  Government. (Always capitalize Government when writing about Progressives, for whom Government is God.) This is what she said to charges that asking the rich to pay more is class warfare:

“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well this is class warfare, this is whatever.’  No! There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You  hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”(2)

Of course, Warren didn’t mean “you take a hunk of that and pay forward.”  She meant Government is going to take a hunk of it, and a damn big hunk, because Government’s hidden subsidies did so much to help you.  In fact, the not so subtle message she and Obama are delivering is that since you didn’t build that, you really don’t own that. The Government does.

Unfortunately, this “socialism light” is good politics. Both Warren and Obama easily won their elections and Elizabeth Warren is being pushed to run for the presidency, if not this time, almost certainly within the next eight years.  This means that a significant proportion of the American electorate shares the Obama/Warren vision of how the world works, and that’s too bad because Obama and Warren don’t know how the world works.

Neither understands American exceptionalism. Neither understands that this exceptionalism is a direct result of a Constitution that was written to prevent the kind of government that has typified human society since the beginning of history, namely governments that owned the governed.  Our constitution switched that, building on the British example, but without the burden of a monarchy.  In America, the people owned the government. Revolutionary stuff indeed.

Furthermore, one of the functions of a government owned “by the people” was to protect the people’s property, whether that was the individual’s personal being or the individual’s  personal possessions.  This protection included protection not just from other individuals or from external aggression, but from the government itself, as set down in the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Thirteenth Amendments. (Although not the Sixteenth, which authorized taxes on incomes.) (3)


The Obama/Warren vision puts the government back on top.  When this happens, the private sector is stifled, if not smothered, and political leaders don’t have to go around saying “you didn’t build that” because nobody builds anything.  This is “progressive?”

(It’s amazing how the left has taken two wonderful words, liberal and progressive, and used them to describe a political philosophy that is neither liberal nor progressive. The clueless Republicans let them get away with it.)

Of course, a strong government supporting INDIVIDUAL rights is a requirement for individual achievement. Ask yourself, if all it takes is government –OOPS! Government — one would expect human achievements to be spread randomly throughout civilizations. So, where are the Russian, European, Asian or Muslim Googles, Facebooks, Hewlett Packardss, IBMs, Ubers, or for that matter, where are their Willie Nelsons, Wynton Marsalises, Dr. Ben Carsons, Steven Spielbergs, Oprahs etc, etc. ad infinitum?

This ought to be one of those “self-evident truths” the Declaration of Independence mentioned, but lying in the face of self-evident truths is something the left is good at and, once again, the clueless Republicans let them get away with it. For instance, for at least a half century it has been a mathematical fact that successful people pay an inordinate amount of the total collected by the Federal income tax.  So much so relative to the vast majority of citizens, that is it much more accurate to say they are the ones subsidizing society, not the other way around.  (Thanks and a hat tip to the great Thomas Sowell for that insight.)

At what point does the tax “fairness” advocated by the lefties turn into petty vindictiveness? I’m reminded of the old Russian joke where one of two peasants acquires a goat and begins to prosper. The other finds a magic lamp that when rubbed produces a genie offering anything the peasant wants. He immediately says, “Kill Boris’s goat.”

Not,  “Give me a goat, too.” Oh, no.  That would mean showing initiative. That would mean admiring Boris’s achievement, instead of envying it.

Socialism is built not just on an unattainable egalitarian idealism, but on the all-too-human traits of envy of the successful and mistrust of individual freedom. Socialism reflects the darker side of human nature.  “Capitalism” is the antonym of socialism, but it’s a poor word to use. It’s so impersonal.  Who wouldn’t prefer a “social” system over a cold “capital” system?  “Individualism” would be a better word than capitalism, but it has too many syllables to ever catch on.

One of the ironies in Warren’s statement above is that she says thanks to government protection, the business builder doesn’t have to worry “–that marauding bands would come and seize everything—.” That’s not true anymore.  The recent rioters in Baltimore were given the green light to do just that by the Democratic Mayor.(4) So, it’s OK for marauding bands to seize everything, at least if the marauding bands are composed of a politically protected class, in this case black Americans.

Marauding bands doing the seizing or the government doing the seizing: Makes no difference. I can see a future in which there will be nothing to seize in Baltimore, Ferguson, and much of America.  People learn not to waste their time creating assets when the government puts them in harm’s way.

Welcome to the world of Obama-Warren.

(1) WSJ 7/19/12 –
(2) Elizabeth Warren speech, August 2011 in Andover MA.’t_build_that
(3) In brief, the Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures–,” the Fifth against private property taken for public use  “–without just  compensation,” the Eighth against “excessive fines,” the Thirteenth against “involuntary servitude” except as a punishment for being convicted of a crime. One has to wonder how many taxpayers feel they are in involuntary servitude to support legions of people gaming the welfare system.
(4)  Press conference, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, 4/26/15.

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