American Spirit

By Louis Avallone


The road. Most people just want to get the show on the road. That’s usually where the rubber meets the road. Of course, it has often been said that, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. And the American poet Robert Frost wrote famously, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” But if the road to success is always under construction, maybe it will have a bigger tollbooth at the exit ramp now, if President Obama continues to have his way.

No doubt, by now, you’ve heard Obama’s “roads and bridges” campaign speech from last month, wherein he explained that successful people owed a “toll” for traveling along the road to success. He said, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Well, I’m not sure Obama understands how out of touch that thinking is with the hard-working, enterprising, and risk-taking spirit that is embodied in the American people…and the American dream. Or the notion that our country still offers equality of opportunity…and more so than any other country in recorded history.

These folks in Washington don’t understand that “big government” is not responsible for all business successes, even though Obama’s rhetoric makes it clear, for those who are successful, that they owe “big time” to “big government”.

Of course, “big government” can effectively close the doors to businesses, with its heavy hand, through higher (and higher) taxes, increasing regulations, and by dividing the country so that it pits the “haves” versus “the have nots”. We’ve seen the failed, predictable results of such policies, time after time: record unemployment, decreased consumer spending, plummeting home prices, and declining wages.

In all fairness, though, we should recognize that road and bridges, in high-income economies, are dramatically more advanced, than in middle and low-income economies. In fact, literacy, agricultural yield, and health care all improve with road density, or a more advanced road infrastructure, and this is true in nations all around the world.
Even the elder President Bush (41) acknowledged the significant, transforming value of our modern-day interstate highway system, which unites us economically, politically, and socially, as never before. President Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs that, “(i)ts impact on the American economy – the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up – was beyond calculation.

So, yes, Mr. Obama, roads and bridges are important (although well-meaning, and intelligent folks might disagree as to whether better roads and bridges lead to growth, or if it is the other way around). Arguably, the construction of a road by itself is not capable of developing a business, even though it may be a necessary element in doing so.

And we can also debate whether or not the so-called “successful” among us (that Obama refers to so often), need to pay more taxes, since many pay a disproportionately high level of sales, property, and income taxes to fund the construction of public roads and bridges already.

But of much greater concern is that the POTUS believes individual success is largely a product of luck, other people, and “big government”, instead of hard work, commitment, and ingenuity.

This is like a student who did poorly on a test in school, and then blames, the teacher, or the difficulty of the test, for their own poor performance. This nation was not founded upon a principle of luck or blame, but upon the notion that we can all influence our success. This is a work ethic that understands if any of us did poorly on a test in school, then it’s simply because we didn’t study hard enough, and nothing more.

Obama’s attribution of all good things to luck, or “big government”, is wildly out-of-step with most all Americans. In fact, only 14 percent of Americans believe that success is more a matter of luck, yet an overwhelming 63 percent of Americans believe that hard work usually brings a better life.

And speaking of a better life, and “moving on up”, it hard not to mention that Sherman Helmsley passed away last month. He was an accomplished actor who portrayed George Jefferson, first on All in the Family, and then later, on The Jeffersons. George Jefferson was the son of an Alabama sharecropper, whose father died when he was 10, and who worked as a custodian, while his wife, Louise, worked as a housekeeper. They moved into a “deluxe apartment in the sky”, as George’s dry cleaning business grew. George didn’t attribute all good things to luck, and he brought to life, the American spirit, that it takes “a whole lot of trying to get up that hill”. As viewers, we wanted them to get their piece of the “pie”; the American dream.

So, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like, if Obama could make a guest appearance on The Jeffersons, given Obama’s recent commentary on small businesses, and proceeded to explain to George, who started at the bottom, that “(i)f you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Oh lord. Weezie, you better get back in here. This isn’t going to turn out well.

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