Human Events Blog

Obama promises “shared prosperity”

In a Chicago fundraiser on Sunday, President Obama observed that “too many folks still don’t have a sense that tomorrow will be better than today.”  Of course, he didn’t mention that he’s the primary reason for that.  He just got finished telling American business owners that they’re not responsible for their own success, they should stop complaining because they’re doing fine, and he’s willing to throw them off the fiscal cliff of Taxmageddon if they don’t pony up more money to fund his agenda.

Obama’s economic policy rests entirely upon the notion that America’s days of bold entrepreneurship are forever behind it, and we must now be carefully protected and managed by an all-powerful government, lest we injure ourselves or the planet in pursuit of our ambitions.  As he put it in Chicago: “Do we go forward towards a new vision of an America in which prosperity is shared?  Or do we go backward to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place?”

It’s remarkable to see Obama still running against an empty White House, which has apparently been vacant while “this mess” of double-digit unemployment and crushing debt congealed around our ankles over the past three years.  But this idea of “shared prosperity” is more interesting to discuss, because it’s hogwash.  It’s one of the most dangerous delusions socialists have succeeded in foisting upon people.

Of course voters generally want the greatest possible number of people in the country to prosper, but that is mutual prosperity, not shared prosperity.  Obama’s presumption is that prosperity is a pie that can be divided into equal portions for every diner seated at the national table.  Naturally, he also implies that his opponents want to hoard “prosperity” instead of “sharing” it.

This is not a trivial point of semantics.  It captures the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.  Obama himself offered lip service to the former, by going on to claim he believes “we have to keep working to create an America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it here if you try.”

But it really helps if you’re a top Obama donor with a bankrupt solar energy company and a bottomless appetite for taxpayer cash, right?  He’s using the language of opportunity to disguise an agenda entirely concerned with unequal opportunities, in which the heavy thumb of government is placed upon many scales.  A President who has already blown trillions of dollars of our money, to choose winners and losers based on his ideology and the needs of his big donors, wants us to think he’s only interested in giving everyone a fair shake.  And of course, there’s the dark implication that Obama’s opponents want an America where it does matter what you look like, where you come from, or what your last name is.

Prosperity is only a product of equal opportunity, fair competition, and the pursuit of profit.  It is a function of choice and investment, not mandates and bailouts.  It grows from the discovery and exploitation of opportunity, not rigid obedience to a political agenda.  It flows from the pursuit of excellence – a difficult path that offers no guarantees of success.  It’s about capturing a prize, not accepting an allowance.

A high level of mutual prosperity comes when a great many people throw extraordinary talent and effort behind their endeavors.  They’re less willing to run that sort of race when they see someone like Barack Obama standing at the finish line, ready to confiscate their rewards.  No exercise of government power can ever replace the way free people challenge and inspire one another through competition.

Increasing the size of government diminishes the private sector, and takes us further away from the free and competitive environment that fosters the highest level of general prosperity.  It also chokes off the revenue stream that funds both charitable benevolence, and the government’s effective performance of its minimal sworn duties.  The charity of a strong private sector is worth far more to the downtrodden than Obama’s notion of “shared prosperity” – which works out, in practice, to the redistribution of misery.

It is a monstrous lie to claim that government can will some sort of smooth and level affluence into existence for all of its citizens.  It can’t even guarantee them subsistence, let alone the kind of wealth and success Americans have in mind when they think about “prosperity.”  Obamanomics is all about re-defining the term to mean food stamps instead of stock certificates.

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