Now THAT'S Rich

So, let me get this straight: two multi-millionaires are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising to try to convince us that they’re in touch with the middle class. Wonderful. Talk about a catch-22. If a candidate is wealthy, they are accused of having no sense of what middle class America is dealing with, but if a candidate isn’t wealthy, then the chances of them making it in national politics is virtually non-existent.


So on one hand, there is John McCain, who married a wealthy woman and apparently owns more houses than he can recall. Well, I don’t despise him for his success. And on the other hand, we’ve got Barack Obama, who has raised so much money for his campaign that we almost need to break out another comma for the IRS report, and who, by the way, isn’t exactly poor himself.


Nope, still not offended.


Actually, to me, the bigger problem would be if a candidate WASN’T wealthy. After all, how am I supposed to support the economic plan of a person who couldn’t even build his own fortune. Do you go to Vegas and ask a homeless guy for tips on blackjack? How would you feel if the person who handles your 401k just had his car repossessed? I don’t understand how both candidates fight for recognition of their experience in every other aspect, but try to hide their experience in being wealthy. Why is "rich" a dirty word?


When the issue of wealth came up at the Saddleback Church Presidential Forum, both candidates were asked to define "rich". Barack Obama responded: “…If you are making $150,000 a year or less, as a family, then you’re middle class or you may be poor…”. As opposed to John McCain, who said; “…I think that rich should be defined by a home, a good job, an education, and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited.”


Both answers have merit and, yet, neither really speaks to the nature of the problem.


With all the focus on who has more, who earns more, and from whom and where they get their money, it seems like society has completely missed the point. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got, but what you do with it. Of all the definitions of rich offered on, the one I like the best is #15: “producing or yielding abundantly: a rich soil”. A million dollars is essentially a stack of paper until it is used to purchase something. Just having a big bank account doesn’t make you rich, producing something with that wealth does.


More than defining “rich”, I’d rather like to know what each candidate considers “excess”, or ask them to define “gluttony”. Before the Democrats complain about the McCain family fortune, I’d like them to tell me how many homeless families in Denver could have received shelter for a year had their convention run for just one less day. And before I listen to McCain boast of supporting small businesses, I’d like to know what would help an employer more, less taxes, or simply not having to compete with other companies who illegally employ undocumented workers, or overseas companies who essentially have an army of child labor at their disposal.


The war in Iraq is a polarizing issue, but I believe that this election will be won or lost by how a candidate addresses the current economic state of the union. Unfortunately for Obama, I think too many people fear that “shared prosperity” is just a verbal twist on socialism which more often makes everyone poor than anyone rich. And unfortunately for McCain, I think more people face problems paying for groceries today than can patiently wait for any monetary help from “trickle down” economics next month. And unfortunately for all of us, I think that the real solution to this problem is that we need to stop relying on the government and start helping ourselves.


We need to focus on being good neighbors and being supportive to our families, as well as our communities. A good person will offer more voluntarily than will ever be taken from them forcibly. And there is much less humiliation in asking for help publicly than suffering privately. Lending a neighbor a couple of bucks will go much further than filtering ten times that amount through a federal assistance program.


We need to stop supporting candidates who promise to solve our problems for us. We need to stop applauding speeches that blame our own shortcomings on the success of others. And we need to stop any and all expectation that this country owes us anything more than an opportunity. Money isn’t evil, but people who hoard wealth may be. People donating money rarely help others nearly as much as people spending time. And a person asking for help will get more than someone asking for cash.


I’m Bret Callentine, and I approved this message.

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Volume 4, Issue 18, Posted 10:56 AM, 08.26.2008