Last week, I praised the president for “exposing the fake math of Obamacare,” and explained how the Affordable Care Act only penciled out because the federal government had agreed to shovel taxpayer money at insurance companies.
That brought the usual heaping helping of scorn from people who have grown up being taught that the main job of government is to take care of all the needs of the people who can vote you out of office.
My problem is I was born when people still thought the main job of government was to stay out of the way. An even bigger problem is that I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance” at a tender age and took its sage advice to heart.
All the readers who lambaste me as a heartless, horrible man must shudder in horror at the micro aggressions implicit in the words of the bard of Concord:
“… do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; —though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked Dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.”
Goodness! Even boorish Donald Trump would not dare to utter such words today. “Are they my poor?” Surely, John McCain would cast his thumb down on such a bold question, and the timid Republicans would circle the wagons with the Senate Democrats to either impeach Trump or burn him at the stake, take your choice.
But it was while re-reading Emerson that I came across the text for this week’s column:
“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”
Sadly, although Emerson’s argument is universal and assumes that “in every man’s education” there will come an enlightening moment when he realizes that “envy is ignorance,” we know from reading the Sunday papers that it ain’t necessarily so. We have letters writers — yea, senators! — in their 70s and 80s who believe instead that envy is bliss.
The latest example is the outrage over President Trump’s tax-reform proposal. The most damning argument made against the tax cuts contained therein is that Trump himself would benefit! Oh dear! Or as the New York Times wrote as the headline on a “news analysis” by Binyamin Applebaum, “Windfall would go to the wealthiest.”
Imagine that! A tax cut would benefit the people who pay the most taxes! And herein, we get to chapter two of the new textbook we are writing on “fake math.” The Democratic Party preys on the envy politics of those who resent the fact that they are expected to “toil” over their own little “plot of ground” while Trump (the dolt!) somehow — oh the injustice! —got Trump Tower as his lofty domain.
Isn’t it only fair that he should pay more taxes than you and me?
But wait a minute! He (and more importantly) his kind DO pay more taxes than the rest of us. In fact, as the Tax Policy Center has established, a whopping 44 percent of us don’t pay any federal income taxes at all. No, not the 44 percent at the top end of the income scale, but rather the 44 percent at the bottom — mostly the elderly, low-income households and young working families. Meanwhile, that hated, horrid “1 percent” at the top of the income ladder — those rich cats like Trump — would get a substantial tax cut, but isn’t that only fair since (according to Marketwatch) “the top 1 percent of Americans … pay 43.6 percent of all the federal individual income tax in the U.S.”?
How could the media, the Democrats and so many others distort the facts so badly, and get away with it? Jealousy mostly, I guess. Emerson thought a time would come “in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance,” but rarely if ever has Emerson been more wrong.
I suspect his argument falls apart on the question of modern education, which although it continues to be promoted as a social good seems in America instead to be a socialist failing. Look at the anti-free-speech movement at Berkeley. As someone once said, you can lead an aging hippy to his alma-mater but you can’t make him think.
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.