Of all of the myths that persist about wealth and work, perhaps the most stubborn is the myth of the working man; that stoic character who toils harder, grinds longer, contributes more, and is paid less than his presumptively non-working overlords.
Socialists, liberals, and Democrats claim to be "for" the working man – as long as it’s the union-represented working man. Capitalists, conservatives, and Republicans also claim to be "for" the working man, too – mostly they mean the tax-paying working man who owns a small business. Both claim the other Party is out to stick it to the working man, and both claim to be the working man’s only salvation.
Get real. Republicans and Democrats don’t care a dollop about the working man, the working woman, the working baby, the working mule, or the working space-alien. They care about votes; enough votes to win elections and secure political power. That is all they care about, and it is somewhere between incredibly naïve and completely delusional to think otherwise.
How about we start with dropping the class-warfare bullsnot; it is boring and tedious and this is not Germany in 1848. Do you think wealthy people don’t work? How do you think they got that way, or stay there? Why does Tiger Woods make tens of millions when the pro at the city course makes $50 grand? Because Tiger Woods works his ass off, hitting the practice range, hitting the weight room, hitting on barmaids…ok, that was uncalled for…but you see the point.
Tiger Woods doesn’t get paid millions because he is Tiger Woods; he gets paid millions because he plays like Tiger Woods. And he plays like Tiger Woods because he has worked at it harder and longer than the guy who plays like John Daly. Ditto Oprah, Bill Gates, villains-du-jure Koch brothers, Al Gore, and the millions of business owners who earn more than me because they produce more – more of the things that people want to buy. Don’t hate them, thank them.
I don’t generally talk about my own employer in my blogs and speeches, but I will share this observation from over 35 years in business: the working men (and women) who come in early, stay late, work on weekends, travel on their own time, and take on the toughest assignments are generally the highest-paid employees in the firm.
We do not work harder because we get paid more; we get paid more because we work harder and have been doing it longer. Not just work harder, but accomplish more; ultimately our earnings are determined by the value we add. Today is a Saturday, and the other folks who I saw in the office today were all upper-charts. This is pretty typical.
Several years ago I looked around at a meeting of our company’s executive team and here is what I saw: a pastor’s kid, a miner’s kid, a bartender’s kid, a laborer’s kid, two factory worker’s kids, an accountant’s kid, an air force brat. Not a single silver spoon baby around that big mahogany boardroom table. In my experience, this is the rule, not the exception – it is what makes America such a unique and great country. Upward mobility is the defining characteristic of capitalism, and the thing that socialists destroy along the way to making everyone equally mediocre.
When I was young and dumb and poor, I was jealous of the executives that had company cars and reserved parking spots with their names on them. One Saturday, as I was working a little OT on my $1.15/hour stockroom job and feeling sorry for myself, I noticed that the only other cars in the parking lot were the ones in the reserved places. When I asked one of those executives what it took to get to his station in life, he answered, "you are already doing it." That was the Saturday I decided to quit being dumb and poor; and yes, those are choices. The young part, sadly, is not.
Salomon Wilcots, the NFL football analyst and former player, put it this way to a caller on his radio program who complained about the unfairness of high salaries of football players compared to the wages of others who do physically demanding work: "If you want what I have, then go do what I did." Well, here’s what I did:
I got a second job, I went back to school, I took assignments that no one else wanted, I changed fields, I earned professional credentials, I changed employers and moved, I married once and married right, I was a volunteer firefighter, I changed fields again, I changed employers and moved again, I went back to school again, I went back to church, I got involved in charities and community organizations, I quit all my favorite self-destructive habits, I went back to school again, I mentored kids, I joined university boards and advised minority business associations, I moved two more times on transfers, I got active in politics, I ran for Congress, I started writing, and I still work more hours at 57 than 98% of the 27 year-old fast-trackers gunning for my job who will read this article. Not that it matters, but I have two ADA-qualifying disabilities, and I am not even the smartest guy in my family, let alone the world. Point being - I am not special.
So you know what I have to say to those who call me a greedy fat cat corporatist that doesn’t care about the working man? Screw you. I am a working man.
And here is some unsolicited advice: stay dumb and poor and bitter – it suits you. Wait around like some helpless kitten with its eyes shut tight and its mouth wide open hoping that a teat will appear from nowhere to keep it alive. Pray to your union to save you, or your Democrats to hug you, or your Republicans to liberate you. Stomp your feet, hold your breath, and covet, covet, covet. That is the path to success your leaders have laid out for you, so follow it blindly despite what you see plainly with your own eyes.
But enjoy your journey without me, friend, because I don’t have any more time to waste on you – I work. There are thousands of employees and family members who depend on me, tens of thousands more in the communities where we work and live who would suffer if we fail. Caring about them is a full time job, sorry.
And don’t you dare lecture me about the hard-working public servants in this state as if they were the only ones who ever put in a full shift. While my cane and I are knee deep in the mud of an underground mine in the Andes trying to sell equipment to keep our hardworking Midwest factories running, the trains over at Machu Pichu are packed with professors on sabbatical and public sector pensioners in their 50’s spilling pisco sours on their Birkenstocks. Talk to the hand.
Private sector workers produce all of the wealth that we share in this great nation. 93% of them have chosen to work free of union impairment. Those are the working people I care about; them and their children. And I care about them deeply enough to fight for their right to discover for themselves how high is up for them.
"Moment Of Clarity" is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment and order his new book, "Tooth Fairy Government."