By Charlie Mitchell
OXFORD – Why do we let politicians and the press get away with this? For years, we’ve been told with increasing fervor that rich people are America’s problem and if only condemned for their miserly ways, we would have a better state and nation.
We’ve also been told it’s all those poor people (as if only poor people profit from government largess) who are grifting us to ruin.
Such divide and conquer tactics work are understandable in electioneering. It was certainly the storyline in November, with all the comments that “Republicans sign the front of checks; Democract sign the back.”
But it’s to the everlasting shame of the media that we don’t expose the sheer stupidity this thinking embodies.
America needs more rich people, not fewer. Mississippi is in especially short supply.
Rich people have the capital to invest in ideas that lead to jobs and more wealth for them and their employees.
That’s a good thing.
Too, rich people are far more choicy in where they put their money. Sure, some of their ventures fail. When they do they take the losses. (Contrast the batting average of state government when tries to pick winners and losers. Mississippi taxpayers faced the $21 million loss for the beef plant at Oakland and now face a $28 million loss for a solar equipment firm in Senatobia.)
Rich people don’t just invest their money in making more money. Quite the opposite. Look around you. There isn’t a town anywhere, small or large, where rich people or big companies haven’t funded parks, performing arts centers, sports facilities. They pay for youth leagues, donate choir robes and scholarships. Indeed, most of the “plusses” in communities are thanks to rich folks.
No doubt there are rich people who feed on their own greed, who are hard-hearted, mean-spirited, cheat on their tax returns and kick puppies. But even they support a lot of jobs building their mansions and luxury cars, dining in high-dollar restaurants, buying expensive clothes and visiting resorts.
If government isn’t going to own and run everything (Russia and China have both already tried and abandoned that notion), then some people will become rich. Deal with it. And don’t hate on them for their success.
Now for the poor.
Are there leeches? Yes.
Are there generations of families in Mississippi and elsewhere whose only skill is gaming every type of state, federal and federal-state program for every type of benefit and living pretty good while doing it? Yes.
But there are also those who, through no fault of their own, are dependent. Others have transitional needs. Don’t hate on them, either.
To bash the rich for being rich or to blame the poor for being poor and leave it at that – which is how most discussions most begin and end these days – is to pretend the state and nation have problems that can’t be fixed.
That’s just not true.
There are solutions.
There are solutions that don’t require taking away Richie Rich’s yacht and don’t require tossing granny from the rest home into the gutter.
But they cannot be achieved through sweeping generalities or, very often, through the standard, one-size-fits-all remedies government seems to prefer.
Solutions will require backbone, however. And that’s what’s missing. It will require telling a farmer who had a profitable year that he doesn’t also get a fat government check as a price support, too. It will require telling a person that he can’t use illegal drugs while on public assistance. It will require permanent elimination of any shopkeeper from the the food debit card program for cheating. And the same for any doctor or clinic caught padding the Medicaid and Medicare charges.
Solutions will require government to be miserly and show some respect for the dollars that appear, as if by magic, from the paychecks of workers as well as dividend income of those fortunate enough to invest.
All the blather about blaming the rich or blaming the poor is just that – blather. So find a rich person and offer a hug this holiday. Do the same for someone who is poor. The “fiscal cliff” is not the fault of either,
Be clear: The cliff is not a natural event. Congress created it. The people assigned to manage the money taken from the public have not been good stewards for a long, long time.
Now they want us to look at each other. We need to be looking at them.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.