Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Strong economic growth is good, it makes people better off both today and tomorrow. An increase in prosperity today boosts optimism about future prospects. The current administration’s prescription for economic growth is putting more government money into the economy, and reaching into industry (insurance, banking, car manufacturers, credit card companies, and healthcare), in an attempt to boost economic activity and control the economy.

The overarching message is this: that average, everyday people are not able to make wise decisions about what is best for them, so let’s create more government structure and regulations and make decisions for them. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in an interview with Charlie Gibson regarding the budget that in the first 100 days the administration "began to put the foundation down to altering it fundamentally.” The new foundation is broad intervention.

How does the administration propose to pay for such broad intervention? By taking. Taking through increased taxes (one of the proposed funding strategies for Obama’s healthcare plan would be to tax people who currently have health benefits to pay for benefits for those people who do not), and taking from the future by increasing publicly held debt. Obama’s budget more than doubles the debt, from $10 trillion (in 2008 dollars) to $23 trillion in 2019.

But he’s wrong. Instead of figuring out how to take from others through taxes and debt, we should be figuring out how to make. We should encourage people to figure out how to start new businesses, create new products and provide services to others. People-driven advances, not government-driven.

What’s going to happen if our country moves down this path of taking - not making? People who were formerly hardworking and self-reliant will become soft, complaining, indolent. The economy will suffer, as will our people. Just look at Britain in the 1970’s.

It’s not just about economic growth – it’s about how it is achieved. Do we want our children to dream of working hard and being successful – or of finding the right way to tax, take or borrow from others? In my new book, “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours,” written with my father Newt Gingrich, Principle 2 is “Work Hard.” My life has created an appreciation of the value of hard work.

During my grammar school years, my father was a college professor who perpetually ran for Congress. My mother taught high school math. My first job (non-paying) was handing out bumper stickers and brochures for my father in shopping centers throughout the rural 6th district of Georgia. It was hard for people to turn away a 7-year-old girl asking to “please vote for my Daddy.”

After six years of campaigning (and losing twice), my father won. The last year he ran, he borrowed money so he and my mother could campaign full-time, while my grandmother stayed with my sister and me. We never went hungry, but there was not much money. My mother tracked our expenses down to the penny.

My first paying job was cleaning bathrooms at the First Baptist Church of Carrollton. A bit conflicted over whether to be proud that people noticed how clean the bathrooms were or embarrassed that they knew that I cleaned them for money, I was however glad to get a paycheck every two weeks.

My second paying job? A skating waitress at the Sonic Drive-In. The first day on the job I spilled a Strawberry Shake over a car. It was a rough start but I improved.

Working was never optional for me. In high school, I babysat, worked as a bank teller and scooped ice cream into cones. I saved much of what I made to pay for college (loans and my parents helped too). Once in college, I worked the switchboard answering calls before making my way to the fraternity court for fun.

Summers during college included working one, sometimes two jobs at a time, and saving money for the fall semester ahead. I graduated during the recession of the late 1980’s. Unable to find a job, I went back to school and earned my MBA in finance, accruing more debt.

I finished in 1990, tens of thousands of dollars in debt. But by now I had better credentials and the economy was doing better, too. I began working full-time as a valuation consultant and also began working toward earning the Chartered Financial Analyst Designation. After three years and many hours of study, I earned it. Since then, I have continued to work hard.

On a personal level, I have always found hard work to be good for the soul. It is good to be helpful, to provide service, to make products for others.

It is my belief that this is also true at the national level -- that we are best as a nation of makers, not takers.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.


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