The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

RICH MAN, POOR MAN

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.  Rich is better.”

-attributed to Mae West et al.

We may or many not subscribe to the doctrines of Christianity but it would be hard to dispute one statement that Jesus made as anything other than absolute truth…

“The poor you will always have with you…”

Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7

A similar statement appears in the Gospel of John as well.  Are there any who can dispute this as fact as we look around us and see what we have made of our lives and our world?

As we enter the final phase of our Presidential election campaign, the “poor American” looks at the “rich American” with anger.  “Why should he be entitled to all that he has when I have so little?”  That same statement was made by the Bolsheviks as they looked at the lives of the Russian aristocracy and by the Revolutionists as they viewed the court of Louis XVI.

They accuse wealthy Americans as being “out of touch” and insensitive to their situation, hard-hearted and mercilessly grubbing yet more money and power.  There is probably some truth to that statement.  The group of the wealthiest Americans, including Warren Buffett, a staunch Obama supporter, who has pledged to give away half his wealth only contemplates doing so after his death, lending credence to yet another old saw, “You can’t take it with you.”

Czar Nicholas II and Louis XVI presided over a society into which through genetic accident they happened to be born to the right parents.  They had “good genes” and a lot of luck.  They held their positions through an accident of birth.  Of course, considering the untimely end that befell both, once can only wonder whether the luck they enjoyed was good or bad.

The American experiment, proposing that “All men are created equal…” was a drastic departure from the way in which Europeans or for that matter anyone anywhere else in the world viewed life.  Whether it was the African warrior, subject to the tribal chief or the Chinese farmer subject to the Emperor or the Japanese fisherman subject to the Shoguns, the concept of the equality of man was a new concept – and one which threatened the status quo.

This concept was so attractive to the poor and down-trodden that they made a pilgrimage to this new land in wave after wave, emigrating from their native countries to have a shot at the opportunity for a better life.  And by and large their lives were better in America than they would have been had they stayed in the land in which they were born.  But there were no free passes issued at our borders – no guarantees of success handed out to these immigrants.

They were given the opportunity but not the assurance to make something of themselves.   Many were successful – others were not.  And therein lies the problem of “equality,”  which might have been better phrased “equality of opportunity.”  And therein lies the rancor which rattles the chains of those in America who consider themselves poor and threatens the bastions of those Americans whom they consider rich.

So now we have embarked on a new plan – “wealth redistribution.”  In order to have true equality – we must all have equal resources.  There is only one minor problem with this program.  It doesn’t work.  If you question the truth of that statement you have only to look at people who became very wealthy, lottery winners, hip hop and rap stars, movie celebrities, sports icons, to see how so many of them have ended their lives tragically and no better off financially than before they acquired their money.

You see money doesn’t guarantee you happiness.  It merely guarantees you the opportunity to spend it foolishly or to do something constructive with it.  How you use it once it is in your possession is solely your choice.  And if you have made bad choices in life before you acquired wealth, it is likely you will continue to make the same bad choices, but will now have the ability to do so at a level which may well result in personal destruction.  The “Nouveau Riches” often become the “Nouveau Dead.”

It is interesting that our view on “equality” is selective in its focus.  Those who are being held up as the poster children for incarnate evil, people who have built businesses and acquired wealth as a result of their efforts, seem to enjoy that abusive distinction within a vacuum that many of us have created.  That view of equality doesn’t, for example, extend itself to our view of professional athletes.  In the interest of fairness, let’s consider MLB if teams were forced to be equal so that the playing field was even between each team.

With the World Series just over the horizon, I wonder how much interest it would hold for us given a revised sense of the “equality of all baseball players.”  So I have created a newer and far more equal scenario for the way in which professional baseball should be played.

First, there is the selection of members of the team.  We must ensure that there are no teams who have “star” athletes on them.  They, of course, are an aberration – far richer in talent than your average Joe, and they have a tendency to make the game much too exciting and provide an unfair advantage to the team who has him on their roster to the disadvantage of their opponents.  So we will not allow anyone who carries a higher batting average than .100 to play the game.

Second, should one of those equal and average players start getting too good, raising his batting average to .150, we will require that the team remove him from their roster and send him down to the minors for re-training.

Third, it seems unfair that there are pitchers who are better than others and as we know that this is an imperfect world, we must insure that we do not allow anyone to pitch a perfect game.  Therefore, the minimum requirement for our pitching staff will be that everyone must carry an ERA of at least 10.0.  Lower than that, back to the minors for re-training.

Fourth, we must eliminate private vendors from hawking their wares at the games.  They simply charge far too much for a “dawg” or a beer or peanuts.  Let the government be put in charge of concessions and subsidize them for those fans who want to come out and spend an afternoon enjoying a game.  After all, the fans are entitled, aren’t they?

Fifth, the high price of tickets to watch a game is outrageous and the profits go in the pockets of those “fat cat” owners who already have too much money.  Fortunately, this problem will soon resolve itself.  Since we’re now only employing mediocre players, we will only have to pay them (equal) but mediocre salaries.  And since the game will become extremely boring fan attendance will diminish.  Fewer people will stop watching MLB on television as well, thus reducing teams’ revenues (and owners’ profits).  Thus, based on the law of supply and demand, ticket prices will naturally decrease in an effort to fill as many seats as possible for what promises to be yet another “ho-hum” game.

This scenario has many benefits to it for those Americans who consider themselves oppressed by the current capitalist system.  It will make them feel good that now everyone has a shot at becoming a professional baseball player – including them.  It will have the effect of reducing the profits of those who are already wealthy, the team owners, thus making them feel good that they have struck out against the fat cats.  It will strike a blow at those rich companies which provide the junk food that we so eagerly consume at a ball game – reducing their profits as well.  While the game will become far less interesting, certainly it can’t be any worse than the reality television shows that the fans would  alternatively have viewed.

Truly, this will deliver to the world an updated version of that earth-changing American statement that “All men are created equal…”.   America will once again change thinking on planet earth with our new mantra, “All people are created mediocre .. and the more mediocre you are the better.”  (Just don’t get too much better).

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Comments on: "RICH MAN, POOR MAN" (2)

  1. My father went through the depression years and worked hard for every meal he was lucky enough to get in that period. That work ethic made him eventually successful in the corporate, sporting and political worlds here. He was constantly alarmed at an arising generation which expected governments to give them everything whether they worked or not. His worry was that when governments were incapable of supplying all those needs in an economic downturn then those who were not receiving those hand outs would eventually turn to crime. I believe he was spot on in his assessment.

  2. Let’s face it. By and large (and yes there are exceptions), the people who are on the public dole in America, Australia or anywhere else are among the most poorly educated of our populations. Their focus is on survival – however it may be achieved because that is all they have known during their lives. And without the refinement of the social graces probably have no moral issues with taking whatever they need to continue to live.

    I think your father’s concerns were exactly correct. I simply do not understand why more people don’t see this as the ultimate outcome.

    (I take that back. There are people who advocate that everyone should arm him or herself as a matter of their own survival should the ultimate failure of government to continue providing ever end).

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