Making the Choice

About two weeks ago, one of my colleagues sent me this cartoon:

A Democrat…

My immediate reaction was that, well, my colleague is a Republican.   But there’s a little bit more to it than that.

I know that giving to those who are ‘too lazy’ doesn’t work.  Despite the best intentions, it engenders laziness and corrodes personal honor.

But what happens when the world changes, and those who did not set out to be lazy find themselves in dire straits?  Unemployment is creeping up, and jobs are hard to find.  The eight-hour workday, for many, is a quaint relic of the past.  And almost every night on the news, there is a report of some large corporation or another firing a few thousand staffers.  For my part, I left my last job (and went into business for myself) because I was expected to give over my weekends for unpaid overtime, and was still in the doghouse with management for overrunning my budget.

Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for President, proposes to reduce taxes for most of us, while increasing taxes on those earning over $250k per year and closing corporate loopholes.  It doesn’t solve the real problem, but it helps.  One aspect of Obama’s plan is that more people in the lower income levels would actually receive a tax credit instead of paying Federal income taxes.

The New York Post calls that ‘welfare.’  Perhaps, but a refundable tax credit is not enough to live on; it’s just intended to make life a little easier.  As long as the tax credit is tied to some actual earned income, it’s not going to erode the value of work.

To take the contrary view, that of the Republicans, is to redefine ‘lazy.’  If you want to go out and work, even if it’s physically demanding, you’re still ‘lazy’ if you expect your employer, in return for your efforts, to take care of you through health insurance or other benefits, or you expect to be able to have a working life that allows you time for your own pursuits.

The major problem with this view is that most of us were not brought up to be entrepreneurs and be comfortable taking risks.  We may like the sensation of risk–such as one experiences when bungee jumping or skydiving–but those activities, with their redundant safety measures, are probably safer than crossing the street, and do not prepare us to manage risk in our lives.

While many of us may have set up lemonade stands when we were kids, I can’t remember taking a course in high school or college about the basic principles of business.  (There were courses in economics, which is not the same thing.)  And I wonder how our young people, who live in constant communication with each other with their cell phones and their computers, will adapt to the process of going into business for one’s self, which is intensly personal and involves, to a surprising extent, being able to keep secrets.

But that is what lies before us under the Republicans.   And in that direction, to take the zeroth-degree approximation, lies armed revolution: we will learn to be violent before we learn to be businessmen. Actually, we already know how to be violent, so it won’t be a big leap.

And that is why, despite my misgivings about Barack Obama, I will pull the lever for him tomorrow.

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