"Don't tell me words don't matter."
-- Barack Obama
No, Mr. President, we won't. We agree with you.
Two years after candidate Barack Obama sculpted a passionate campaign speech around the importance of words, he has uttered a number of red-flag phrases that have given many Americans great pause.
He said he wanted to "spread the wealth around" -- as if that's the government's job in a free country. He said small-town Americans "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." More recently, he said, "Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower."
Whether we like it or not? We're No. 1, and we're not going to take it anymore?
Recently, Mr. Obama appears to have revealed his innermost thoughts again when he said this: "I do think at a certain point, you've made enough money."
Well, if words matter -- and you can't tell this president that "words don't matter" -- then that last statement says quite a lot. And it raises a ton of questions -- questions that go to the very heart of the American way, the American dream and the American system of governance.
First, it betrays a socialist bent more suited to a Latin American-style government.
It also reveals this man's thoughts as meandering miles afield from his constitutional duties. What possible business is it of the president of the United States how much money you legally and rightfully earn?
And please, Mr. President, let's be more specific:
- At what level does one reach that magical "certain point you've made enough money"? Does it differ for individuals, or is there a universal tipping point at which everyone has too much?
- Who decides what that level is? The government? At some point, will the IRS send you a letter giving you the rest of the year off?
- What should happen to someone who earns more than "enough"? Should the government take the "excess money" and "spread the wealth around"? Or should we just heap shame on someone so productive, so smart, so talented that he or she earns "too much"?
- The free market Mr. Obama claims to support establishes fairly well -- better and more honestly than any other system ever devised by mankind -- the worth of a man's skill and sweat. Was the market -- consisting of free people with the liberty of parting with their dollars in any way they see fit -- wrong in setting Bill Gates' worth? Was it wrong in determining Michael Jordan's value? Or Steven Spielberg's?
Just a few days before, Mr. Obama was touting the American dream. How dare he -- when he believes there ought to be a cap on it?
The American dream isn't, "I'd like a good job, house, family and an income where I make enough money, after which I hope the government will just take the rest." More than any other people in history, Americans feel it is their birthright to start companies and put their minds, hearts and souls into becoming all they can be. In the United States of America, the sky -- not some arbitrary government or societal cap -- used to be the limit. Not in Mr. Obama's world.
What would be the effect of saying "enough"? What would that do to human striving and creativity?
Local author Tripp Bowden quoted his old boss and mentor at Augusta National, caddy master Freddie Bennett, as saying, in golf lingo: Never let anyone tell you to lay up on a dream.
Sadly, the president of the United States just did.