Bill Clinton was fondly referred to as our first Black President. Our truly first Black President, Barack Obama, has been called our first Hispanic President by some. By his words and deeds, President Obama has become our first European President.
Having studied our nascent period, our founding fathers were extremely desirous of not only creating a new country on a new continent, but also creating a society distinctly different than that of their European ancestors. They felt the class systems that existed in Europe inhibited the opportunities for individuals to reach their full potential.
Americans became proud of boasting leaders who came from humble beginnings in the fields of government and commerce. Every elementary school teaches of the log cabin roots of our most famous President, Abe Lincoln. The fact that early business titans such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller came from meager beginnings radiates through the business world.
President Obama has used this economic crisis to up-end our historic respect for the people who succeed in this society. During his campaign he made clear that he wanted to increase taxes on the most successful members of our country. He successfully pitted the masses against the top 5% of income earners by promising tax cuts for the remainder of the population. He never outlined that he wanted to limit the income of the top earners, but he has taken the AIG bonuses as his opening to attack high compensation for any corporate employees.
Don’t be fooled by the misdirection of his administration focusing on AIG employees. Obama and his party cohorts in Congress have it out for any highly-compensated corporate employees. The Congress has been attempting to do this for many years. These financials times have allowed Obama and some Democrats in Congress a window to severely restrict income for most corporate employees.
Listen to what the President emphasizes these days. If you discount the fact that he mainly focuses on our economy, there is no need for him to constantly bring up limiting compensation unless it is a passion of his. He mentioned it in his 60 Minutes interview. The real shocker was his out-of-nowhere comment in his public letter regarding the pending G-20 meeting. In a list of goals to achieve, the President states “the days of out-of-control compensation must end.” Rest assured no other American President has established a goal of this nature.
This is a purely European, class-warfare statement. Americans have never begrudged the success of people. It is a European attitude that pits the successful against those who are not in the same economic strata.
There has been a saying around for a while that defines the difference in outlook. The saying goes that when a European sees someone driving an expensive car, they ask why that person gets to drive that vehicle. When an American sees someone driving an expensive car, they say “I am going to get me one of those.” Americans don’t begrudge others’ success; they just want to join them.
Despite my trips to Europe, I was not quite clear that the Europeans actually thought so selfishly about others’ success. It became clear when I had the opportunity to meet Shel Talmy. Mr. Talmy came into my office for some financial help. You may be unaware of this man, but he‘s quite famous in the history of Rock and Roll. Mr. Talmy was the original record producer not only for The Who, but also for The Kinks. He had lived in England for over thirty years despite being American born. When I inquired as to why he had returned after all these years, he stated he could no longer handle the negative attitude of the Brits. He then launched into retelling me the parable about the car. Mr. Talmy could not handle the negativism any longer.
My German client expressed the same attitude. When we met her in her hometown of Munich, she expressed how much she missed the positivism of America. Questioning other peoples’ success is a quintessentially European trait.
Mr. Obama has become our first European President by buying into their attitudes about people’s success. His overture to the G-20 on limiting compensation appears to be an end run around the American people and their reluctance to prohibit other’s success. Maybe he believes if the G-20, largely populated by European leaders, goes along with his onslaught against higher-income folks, he will be able to fulcrum that through the Congress and the American people.
Our country has always been a place of limitless opportunity. If you achieve, you are rewarded. Though there are inequities, the system usually rewards the hardest workers and the risk-takers. It may not be a perfect system, but it has created 42 million jobs over the last 25 years while Europe has been stagnant.
Mr. Obama has achieved much despite his modest beginning. He now has a large home and a chauffeured-driven car. What he should aim for is everyone in America having the same opportunity. He should forget the European attitude and encourage people to want to get a Corvette. That is the America we want to keep and that is why our forefathers left Europe behind.