To: The President
From: Elizabeth Warren
Date: July 1, 2012
Re: Silencing The Opposition
Now that your reelection campaign is in full swing, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on how we can make sure that you are able to continue your work promoting Progressive policies—especially protecting entitlements from right-wing radicals.
I assume you will agree with me that one of the most irksome aspects of today’s debate is the spectacle of average Americans rebelling against our attempts to help them. It is simply bizarre that they would rather see more tax cuts for the rich than more generous health care or food stamp benefits for them and other struggling Americans. Even more troubling to me are the growing numbers who question the entire notion that government should be redistributing wealth.
It used to be enough to say that anyone who objected to expanding the entitlement state was greedy and selfish. We only had to accuse them of hating the poor or opposing fairness and they’d fold up like a cheap tent. But today? Today right-wing propagandists say that we are the ones being unfair—that we’re taxing hard-working American to feed a bottomless pit of need-based entitlement programs.
But I have figured out a way to put an end to this threat to our policies. What we need to do is point out that all the people objecting to “Big Government” have benefited from government largesse, and so they have no right to complain.
Late last year, I made that argument in a video that quickly went viral with our supporters. As I said there, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own—nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. . . . Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless—keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
In order to effectively execute this strategy, I’d suggest you target businessmen with something like “You’re so high and mighty—you think you built your own business—well, think again.” But you’ll need to be prepared for some of the objections Americans will raise to this kind of thing:
1. Some might object, “But don’t successful Americans pay most of the taxes that go toward things like roads? How does it make sense to say they owe even more when they paid a disproportionate amount?”
It’s best to keep this objection from arising. When talking about who pays for government services, be as vague as possible. Talk about the taxes “we all pay.” Or, even better, talk about how the rich use services “the rest of us foot the bill for.”
The real beauty of this argument, though, is that, since there is no way to tally up the value an individual has received from government programs, he is saddled with an undefined and therefore unpayable debt to society. We can take whatever we need to take, and he will not be able to complain because we let him keep “a big hunk.”
2. Some might object, “Does this really answer your critics? Don’t you still have to address their arguments against an out-of-control entitlement state?”
An argument doesn’t matter unless there is someone willing and able to make it. The only sort of person who could oppose our programs would be someone who earned his wealth and knew it. Where are those people? I don’t see them.
If any of them show their faces, my argument not only exposes them as hypocrites—they drive on the roads just like the rest of us!—it transforms their gratitude into self-doubt. The innovator of the past thought he could repay past achievers by building on and adding to their achievements—but today’s innovator will come to believe that touting his own achievement actually denies the achievements of those who came before.
3. “Isn’t this inconsistent with the Founding Fathers? Didn’t they say something about the government being the individual’s servant, not his master? Wouldn’t they have rejected the notion of a social ‘contract’ that a person is forced into regardless of his choice?”
Let’s be honest, Mr. President. You know as well as I do that the men who founded this country would want nothing to do with our policies. But no one reads the Founding Fathers today. If you tell Americans that the Constitution’s line about “the general welfare” means a welfare state, they’ll believe you.
This, nevertheless, is the real threat to our agenda. If the outmoded attitude that believes in rugged individualism and says to the government “Don’t tread on me” is still widespread in this country, we’re in trouble. Those people just will not accept what you and I know to be true: that what we need is more government spending and wealth redistribution, not less.
Thank you for your time and attention, Mr. President. Let us hope that we will both cruise to victory in November.