Obama, pizza, and the forgotten man
By Michael M. Bates
Barack Obama has a special appeal to youth, as evidenced by the $4,600 campaign contribution he received from one 8-year-old boy. Sibling rivalry may have played a role as the kid's sister matched his contribution with her own to the Illinois Democrat.
Gallantly deciding he doesn't take money from admirers younger than 16, Mr. Ethical returned those payments. The fact this was done just as USA Today questioned them was, we can be certain, strictly a coincidence.
Recently at a North Carolina appearance, the senator denied press appeals to answer questions. Hadassah Jones, a 5-year-old Internet "correspondent," reacted to the rock star's refusal by turning on the tears, a stratagem the wily Mrs. Clinton may yet employ this campaign season.
The senator relented for the little girl. According to the Associated Press, Obama "suggested to the first-grader that wealthier people should help those who are less fortunate.
"We've got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money," Obama said. "If you had a whole pizza, and your friend had no pizza, would you give him a slice?"
You might at first believe that Barry, making an allowance for his listener, dumbed down his answer to blur the obvious distinction between voluntary charity, which is what he described, and a coercive welfare state, which is what he and other liberals advocate.
You'd be wrong. Many Democrats, maybe most of them, don't see a difference. Their rhetoric is infused with insinuations of moral superiority based on their stated intention to really, really help the less fortunate. That this assistance invariably comes from someone else is disregarded.
If Mr. Obama wanted to more accurately convey what liberalism is all about, he would have told the child:
"If you had a whole pizza, it's not really yours. The government has first claim on all your money and property. This is, as President Clinton once explained, because you might not use it right. And the government is here to make sure you do what's right.
"Remember when I told you we've got to make sure that people who have more help the people who have less? ‘Making sure' means using force when necessary. For people who won't willingly get with the program we have a special place; it's called jail, a bad place for bad people who can't afford presidential pardons.
"So we're going to take away quite a bit of your pizza and give it to someone else. It's remotely possible that person is your friend who has no pizza, but it's more likely you've never met the person. Maybe it'll be someone very hungry. Maybe it'll be someone very needy. Maybe it'll be someone who just doesn't want to work for his own pizza, but believes in his heart that he still deserves some. Heck, maybe it'll be an illegal immigrant, I mean, undocumented worker. They've got their rights, too.
"The point is: who gets it is none of your business and you have no right to know. Your job is to give up as much of your pizza as needed to show how compassionate we are. Surely we wouldn't want to be the only large, industrialized nation that doesn't guarantee free universal pizza to all its citizens.
"By the way, in addition to the pizza we'll give to someone else, we'll have to take another large slice. That's for administrative expenses. It's needed for the people who operate essential human services like pizza redistribution. Yet another slice will go for the fraud, waste and mismanagement that are a significant part of every large bureaucratic program.
"If there's anything left, it's all yours. Now don't you feel better knowing how many people you're helping?"
When liberals speak of government programs, they usually stop just short of identifying who will finance them. In her excellent Great Depression history, The Forgotten Man, author Amity Shlaes tells of an essay by 19th century philosopher William Graham Sumner, who observed:
"As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law proposes to determine . . . what A, B, and C shall do for X."
Ms. Shlaes goes on: "But what about C? There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X. What was wrong was the law, and the indenturing of C to the cause. C was the forgotten man, the man who paid, ‘the man who is never thought of.'"
All the forgotten men –and women – who've shouldered the burden for government extravagances from farm subsidies for millionaires to federal grants for the National Cowgirl Museum can find solace in Senator Obama's construct. They're just sharing pizza with a friend. What could be fairer?
Barry Goldwater ran on the slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right." With Barack Obama, in your heart, you know he's trite. Which helps explain why he's a rock star among Democrats.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the November 8, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.