In a Newsweek column titled "How Dems Can Win White House," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., opines about the difficulties that the Democratic Party has had in defining itself.
The senator wonders, enviously, how Republicans have been able to "identify issues that connected to their deeply held values," reduce them to a few words - eight according to Schumer - and communicate to the American people.
"What are our eight words?" the senator asks.
But Democrats have a very clear picture of who they are. And newly elected Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who his party picked to give their response to the president's State of the Union address, knows his party's message and communicated it clear as a bell.
Aside from the senator's criticisms about the war in Iraq, the entire substance of his thoughts about what is going on in our country was about differences in earnings. Specifically, about the differences in earnings between CEOs and the "average worker." "When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times."
So, Schumer, listen to your newly elected colleague. He has succinctly summed up what your party is about. I call it the politics of envy.
Wealth, of course, is produced by individuals going to work. Not by politicians getting them ticked off that their neighbor is making more than they are.
But the latter is what the Democratic Party is about.
Webb's remarks were an extension of a column he wrote in The Wall Street Journal shortly after he was elected in November. In that column, he talked about our country drifting "toward a class based system." And then, of course, contrasted minimum wage earners with the "average CEO of a sizeable corporation" who "makes more than $10 million dollars a year. . . ."
But do large CEO earnings say that we're now a class based society? Where do these guys come from?
How about the legendary and recently retired CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. His father was a train conductor. I think a survey of America's CEOs would show that most of these men, and women, come from middle class working families and got where they are through hard work.
How about Stan O'Neal of Merrill Lynch? O'Neal pulled in a whopping $48 million last year. Somehow, in Webb's "class based" society, this black man managed to become CEO of this Wall Street monolith.
Here's something about O'Neal's background from a profile in Fortune Magazine: "Raised on a farm in rural Alabama during segregation, he was educated in a schoolhouse built by his grandfather (a man who was born into slavery and whom O'Neal recalls with deep emotion)."
Regarding Webb's claims that most Americans are not participating in our thriving economy, the same Bloomberg news article reporting that Stanley O'Neal's $48 million payday was up 30 percent from the previous year, reported that the "five largest Wall Street firms paid their employees a total of more than $60 billion last year, up more than 32 percent from 2005. . . ."
All evidence I see is that Wall Street, a barometer of the nation's health, is booming, that the black grandson of a former slave is running one its largest firms, and that all the employees of the firms there are sharing equally in the boom.
But this message doesn't sit well when playing to envy, that base human emotion, forbidden by the Tenth Commandment, is your strategy for grabbing onto political power.
And why is Webb obsessed with $10 million CEOs, who actually are producing something (Stan O'Neal is in charge of a firm with 50,000 employees that produces $50 billion in revenue)? Why isn't he concerned about the 42 NBA players who earn more than $10 million? How about the top ten movie stars, all of whom earn well more than $10 million?
Where, of course, the Democrats' politics of envy mindset also takes us is to wonder about how the rest of the world might look at all Americans. The World Bank defines poverty as earning $1 a day. That means that a minimum wage earner in the United States earns 40 times as much as the world's poorest people.
How many people on this planet earn $1 a day? About 320 million. More than the whole population of the United States.
What we need, in this country, and around the world, is freedom and hard work. Not envy.
The problem of the party of Webb and Schumer is not communicating their message. It's having the wrong one.
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