Opinion | Morgan Liddick: The politics of envy and resentment
On Your Right
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new congresswoman from New York, continues to make it very difficult for her Democrat colleagues to pretend they’re not hell-bent on radically changing this country in ways that will make Maduro’s Venezuela look like a haven of reason and bliss.
Case in point: on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” last Monday, she once again delivered a main Democrat talking point: the rich are rich because you are poor. She opened with a breathtaking gambit for someone claiming an education in economics. “I do think that a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”
Yep, you read that right: people in Alabama get sick because people in New York are rich. Then, perhaps recognizing the quicksand she was walking into, she backpedaled: “It’s not to say someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral people. I don’t believe that.” Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, the Cuomos and even Nancy Pelosi must have breathed a sign of relief.
Or perhaps they and others like them were too dumbstruck to breathe at all. The idea that the poor exist because they have been despoiled, flimflammed or muscled out of their “rightful” share of wealth is an old saw from the grimy bottom of the progressives’ toolbox, tailor-made for today’s politics of resentment and envy. It comes from an era in which people thought there was only so much to go around and, if one had more than others, it must be because he had stolen the surplus from, well, you. So you deserved to get it back, and the progressives would help you get it; just vote for them and presto: “Every man a king,” with the evil rich carrying the can.
Just how risible this is can quickly be shown: Is the wealth of the Koch brothers ill-got? Hardly. They did not break into people’s homes in the dead of night and force them at gunpoint to buy toilet paper. They did not compel airlines to buy biofuels or gasoline producers to incorporate ethanol into their products. They did not strong-arm people to buy energy-efficient glass or Spandex or Stainmaster carpeting. They make good products that people want and the market rewarded them. Apparently, Ocasio-Cortez wishes to put an end to all that, because it is not “fair.” While Bill Gates’ wealth is fine, as likely as not because his politics comport more closely to hers. This is why we should think very carefully about allowing politicians to decide whether wealth is well- or ill-got. So take the following 10 seconds to decide whether the answer is “No,” or “Hell, no.”
But wait, there’s more. Ocasio-Cortez then opined: “I think it’s wrong that you can work 100 hours and not feed your kids. I think it’s wrong that corporations like Walmart and Amazon can get paid.” This raises obvious questions. Why is it anyone’s fault but yours if you made so little of your education that you have no marketable skills, or if — understanding that you had no prospects — you foolishly decided that having children would make things better? If Ocasio-Cortez is raising those questions, she is right to do so — but I don’t think she is. Similarly, both Walmart and Amazon are the result of considerable risks to their founders, and wise business decisions taken by their owners and managers since. They now offer an unprecedented range of goods at prices everyone can afford. Why should they not be rewarded for successfully satisfying people’s wants and needs?
Perhaps what Ocasio-Cortez wants is the equivalent of GUM, that former Workers’ Paradise Emporium in which unresponsive clerks dodged frustrated customers looking for unavailable goods after unbelievably long waits in line. Yes, socialism is the great equalizer: it makes everyone equally frustrated, equally miserable and equally poor. But it sounds good to the ignorant.
Perhaps reason and observation are too much to ask of Ocasio-Cortez, who has said there are $700 billion of misspent funds in a Defense Department budget of $716 billion. And whose offers of freebies to date total about $47 trillion — roughly 10 times today’s Federal budget. Who seems to think that the Earth will be murdered by global warming in 12 years. Among other howlers. And who doesn’t seem to understand that she was already given money to open a district office in Queens, so the government shutdown can’t be blamed for her failure to open one.
Maybe the fine folks of Queens elected her for comic value. God knows, they’re getting that. Problem is, so are the rest of us — and the laughter is bitter.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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