No Class Warfare
In the 1910 oration on “The New Nationalism,” which Barack Obama alluded to on Tuesday, Teddy Roosevelt quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” Roosevelt commented, “It seems to me that, in these words, Lincoln took substantially the attitude that we ought to take.”
Barack Obama has committed himself to “spread the wealth around.” In a 2001 Chicago public radio interview, he said one of the “failures” and “tragedies” of the civil rights movement was that it had not “put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.” He lamented the fact that the Supreme Court viewed the Constitution as “a charter of negative liberties” and “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.” His FCC “Diversity Czar,” Mark Lloyd, who was vetted by Obama’s alter ego Valerie Jarrett, has said, “We’re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power.”
No Help for the Shiftless
The Republican Roosevelt said that, while his clarification may be “hardly necessary in Kansas,” he defined the requirements for those seeking government aid:
When I say I want a square deal for the poor man, I do not mean that I want a square deal for the man who remains poor because he has not got the energy to work for himself. If a man who has had a chance will not make good, then he has got to quit. And you men of the Grand Army, you want justice for the brave man who fought, and punishment for the coward who shirked his work. Is that not so?
He added, “Understand what I say there. Give him a chance, not push him up if he will not be pushed. Help any man who stumbles; if he lies down, it is a poor job to try to carry him.”
There was no complement to this in Obama’s speech, nor his presidency. He wishes to extend unemployment benefits virtually into perpetuity, and his appointees believe food stamps are the hallmark of healthy economic growth. He favors strong unions in industry and education, which often have the effect of preserving the jobs of those who do not wish to work as hard as their non-unionized counterparts. The closest modern complement to this sentiment came when Michele Bachmann told the Family Research Council (quoting II Thessalonians 3:10), “Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat” — and the liberal media turned that into a minor scandal.
No Special Privileges
TR said his “struggle for human betterment” aimed “to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity” for all Americans. That means, “First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned.”
In his day, the popular imagination saw special privilege embodied in the Robber Barons, whose monopoly industries — many of which were created through partnership with big government — stood unregulated. Today, it is government itself that best represents unearned power and prestige.
Obama instituted a government pay freeze after going on a spending spree of unprecedented proportions. USA Today estimated that federal workers earned twice as much as their private sector counterparts, and their compensation rose more than 400 percent faster than that of free market employees. To implement TR’s vision today, we must uproot bureaucracy and assure that a job funded by tax dollars is not significantly more attractive than a job that produces them.
Then as now, crony capitalism infested our political system. Roosevelt observed that “the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.” Would those words not apply to GE, Solyndra, labor unions, and the Green Jobs lobby that gave us the incandescent light bulb ban and the exploding Chevy Volt?
TR said, “In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.” As Obama has done with executive orders, regulations, lawsuits, and various forms of federal fiat; turning over partial ownership of a private company to the United Auto Workers; and filing lawsuits against the Arizona immigration act, as well as similar popular measures in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
To fully implement Theodore Roosevelt’s opposition to special privilege, we must end Affirmative Action policies in hiring, union membership, and college admissions. Teddy noted that during the Civil War, “The only complaint was when a man got promotion which he did not earn.” Instead, Obama’s Justice Department instructed colleges last week to consider race in school and college composition, ignoring the spirit of standing Supreme Court decisions against impermissible racial gerrymandering. He has offered a campaign of stealth reparations to correct for “our tragic history” as a nation of oppressors. In his apology and national indictment submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Obama whimpered, “The United States continues to address such disparities” as the fact that American Indians are less likely than whites to earn a college degree “to ensure that equal opportunity is not only guaranteed in law but experienced in fact by all Americans.” But any focus on “disparities” ignores the role talent, effort, discipline, and persistence play in academic achievement or wealth accumulation.
What Obama supports is not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome, and Roosevelt, along with all the presidents on Mt. Rushmore, reject it as un-American.