By Les Mason
To his credit, presidential candidate Obama never lied to us about his predilection for wealth distribution. He told Joe the Plumber that it was better to “spread the wealth around”. Most folks, as did I, thought it was simply benign campaign rhetoric. Little did we realize how serious he was.
Two years later, we find President Obama has surrounded himself with cabinet members, czars, advisors, and counsel that are all devotees of the redistributionist philosophy. As an example, Donald Berwick – the unconfirmed, recess appointment who will now run Medicare and Medicaid – is known to say things like, ”Any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized, and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.” Sounds good, in theory, right?
And, that is the whole point. Wealth redistribution is a theory based on flawed premise; one of many left-wing theories that are ostensibly rooted in compassion, or good intentions. But more realistically, redistribution is seldom about compassion, and almost always about control. Redistribution is seldom helpful, usually counter-productive, and often destructive. The theory ignores a stark reality – the element of human nature.
For the purposes of a quick thought experiment, let’s assume we’re all headed back to college this fall. We’ve enrolled in something like Basketweaving 101. Day one, our professor greets us with, “Beginning this year, everyone in each of my classes will receive the same final grade. Since the average grade under the old system was a D+, that will be your grade. In past years, a few students have received A’s in my classes, but many more have failed. I’ve concluded that it’s not fair that some succeed and some don’t. There is too much disparity between the haves and the have-nots. We’re going to spread the grade wealth around. You “A” students are going to have to share your grades with less fortunate students. Do not misunderstand, you will all still be expected to complete the course work, do it in a timely fashion, and submit a term paper at the end of the semester.”
Yeah, right. Like that’ll happen. How hard would you work under those circumstances? As a recovering slacker, I know what I would do…or not do.
Here’s a little secret about human nature. When half of the students realize that they don’t need to study because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half realizes that it does no good to study, because somebody else is going to get what they’ve worked for, the system becomes dysfunctional. No one studies. Everyone fails because the system fails.
The professor makes two faulty assumptions. First, that there aren’t enough A’s to go around and consequently only a select few can earn A’s. And, second, that the students who earn A’s do so through some quirky stroke of luck; some alignment of the stars.
Are there some students who truly need extra help? I’m sure there are. So, let’s get them tutors. After all, which is the more compassionate, simply giving someone a higher grade than they earned to keep them from failing, or helping them learn to achieve those higher grades on their own?
In theory, redistribution of wealth is said to “level the playing field” and should lift up those needing help the most. In reality, it enslaves both those needing help and those from whom the wealth is taken. Instead of a rising tide lifting all boats, it becomes a perpetual ebbing that grounds all boats. Instead of spreading the wealth, we only end up spreading misery.
Column author Les Mason is a small business owner in McPherson. He is a bi-weekly columnist for The McPherson Sentinel.