Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm takin' what they're givin' 'cause I'm workin' for a livin'

Before I throw out the Sunday Sacramento Bee, I often give it one last once-over to ensure I didn't miss any nuggets of wisdom or stupidity. This afternoon, I discovered an example of the latter. There was a letter to the editor which took columnist Daniel Weintraub to task about a column he wrote last Sunday, in which Weintraub opined that economically, Americans are better off now than they were ten years ago. Whether or not this is true is not what I am here to argue, nor am I here to argue with the letter writer's opinion, which is obviously that he disagrees with Weintraub. No, I simply wanted to point out a position held by the letter writer that many ignorant and envious people often share: unabashed class envy.

Here is the head-shaking part of the letter to the editor:
...So, if you are well-off, upper income and live in a suburb - or if you send your child to private school - then life is indeed better today. However, if you work for a living and send your children to public schools - it is time for a change.
Did you catch that? If you work for a living. So, if I am well-off, upper income, and live in a suburb, then I don't work for a living?

My wife and I are friends with a family here in the Sacramento area who fit the letter writer's smarmy description of "well-off". The husband is a podiatrist, the wife is a lawyer. They have three children (all of whom attend public schools, by the way). Both husband and wife put in long hours at their jobs as doctor and lawyer, and yes, because of their joint income, they live on a couple acres of land in a multi-story house in nearby Carmichael. But do they work for a living? You bet your ass they work for a living. The fact that they own more land than I, own a bigger house than I, and take a yearly vacation to Catalina doesn't bother me in the least. Just imagine the bills they faced after they graduated from medical school and law school, and the hell and long hours they endured in order to obtain their degrees.

Maybe I am tearing apart this quote from the letter a little too much when I also notice that when talking about where well-off people send their kids to school, the letter writer uses the word "child", but when talking about where people who "work for a living" send their kids to school, the letter writer uses the word "children". I guess he thinks that rich people are rife with only-children while poor people squeeze out puppy after puppy. Actually, I half-agree with the letter writer, but only half. When well-off families have three, four, or five-plus children, they can actually afford to do so. Who pays for the 17 children that a Russian family in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova is currently raising? I'll give you a hint: it's not the parents.

This whole line of thinking comes from the same poisonous school of thought that prompts those populist lefties out there to refer to "working families". The implication of course is that if you are rich, or simply well-off, then you don't work. A prominent Democrat from a few years back - former Missouri representative Dick Gephardt - was actually called on this "working family" bit a few years ago. While appearing with Brit Hume on Fox News during the 2000 election, Hume asked Gephardt for more clarification on what is a "working family". The Media Research Center took note of the clarification. Here is how the conversation went:
Earlier, Hume quizzed Dick Gephardt about the definition of "working family," a phrase frequently employed by liberals. Gephardt said it only means "If you work," leading Hume to ask: "If you work at all? So George W. Bush's family, that's a working family, right?" Gephardt agreed: "I think so." Hume replied: "And Bill and Hillary Clinton, the First Family, they work, right?" Gephardt went along: "I think so." Hume followed up: "Now, is there an income limit?" Gephardt: "No, no income limit. "Hume: "So you could be extremely rich, but as long as you still work, so Steve Forbes' family is a working family?" Gephardt decided: "Working is good."
Hmmm, do Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama work for a living? Just wondering.

Good Day to You, Sir

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