By Jerry Fuhrman
"That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise."
-- Abraham Lincoln, 1864
"Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 1902
The election of 2006 is over. The dust is settling. The Democrats have won a decisive victory over their Republican opponents. The celebration begins. Power shifts. The platform takes shape. And, as if we learned nothing from the early '70s when the party then (and now) in power did its best to drive the wealthy among us into oblivion, and nearly destroyed the economy in the process, we find ourselves once again returning to the ugly politics of class envy.
It first arose here in Virginia. Just days after James Webb won an upset victory over Sen. George Allen, Webb wrote a commentary for The Wall Street Journal in which he brought us the shocking revelation that some in this country have accumulated great wealth while others haven't:
"America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1 percent now takes in an astounding 16 percent of national income, up from 8 percent in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes."
What Webb plans to do about this situation wasn't stated. But his having mentioned the tax code makes his intentions clear. Since the bottom 40 percent of wage-earners pay no federal income taxes, you can bet your life savings -- at least the portion that he doesn't intend to confiscate -- who it is Webb plans on going after. The detested rich.
Then there's Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel's call for the reinstatement of the military draft. Traditional arguments in favor of forced conscription revolve around the fulfillment of manpower needs in the most expedient, if ultimately detrimental (think Vietnam), way. But if you listen to Rangel's explanation, you come away with the understanding that his goal has nothing to do with improving the fighting effectiveness of our military; he simply wants Harvard and Yale students, those children of the pampered and pompous classes, to be dying in Iraq too. Feel the resentment:
"Am I raising the class issue? You bet your life I am. Am I saying that the affluent and those that are hooked up politically are excluded from serving? You bet your life."
Blind, seething rancor. And a jaw-dropping misunderstanding of how our all-volunteer military is incorporated. How does drafting the wealthy improve the military? To him it doesn't matter.
Closer to home, certain left-wing bloggers here in the commonwealth have taken up the cause too, not realizing the hypocrisy in their denouncing the war raging in Iraq and decrying the tragic loss of American lives, while at the same time demanding that the children of the rich share the experience. How depraved.
It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that the key difference between conservatives and liberals is in their attitudes toward the rich. Conservatives work to make everyone someday wealthy. Liberals work to destroy wealth.
I called a meeting of my sales team not long ago and in the course of my laying out the coming year's plan, I told each of them: I intend, if you do your part, to make every one of you rich. In so doing, of course, I intend to enrich myself. For having succeeded, the corporation to which we all answer will prosper. As will its shareholders. And the families of each shareholder.
As someone once said, "A rising tide raises all boats." This will only happen, though, if there isn't a tidal wave of class hatred sweeping over and capsizing us all.