One morning, I was cycling through the top news stories and I stumbled across this gem by artist Michael D’Antuono and there was an uproar about Obama’s image being painted in the likeness of Jesus. Without warning, a Fox News Alert interrupted my moment of adoration with a story about a raucous group of fundamentalist Christians storming a foreign consulate and killing a Libyan ambassador.
Personally, this painting doesn’t shock or offend me. I have been convinced that a large portion of Obama’s base have praised and adored him to near Olympian levels of worship, this latest rendition of Obama’s divine nature had simply reconfirmed my suspicions. If D’Antuono were to merge an image of Obama and the prophet Muhammad, then D’Antuono will have surely displayed a character trait few artists rarely exhibit… bravery. [Theo Van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Kurt Westergaard].
It was another painting of D’Antuono’s that drew my attention. It was a painting in which Mitt Romney and President Obama are engaged in two very time honored Halloween traditions; receiving and stealing candy. With stunning originality, Mitt Romney is dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags where he seems to have just cut the Trick or Treat bag of an oblivious young girl dressed as a witch thus relieving her of her candy. On the other side of the painting, you have President Obama dressed as Robin Hood and is generously giving another kid, dressed as a Hobo, his candy.
The artist gave this tag-line, “They say our personalities and values are pretty much defined by early childhood. This painting imagines what our presidential candidates might have been like as kids on Halloween. You have to decide this coming election: trick or treat?” –Michael D’Antuono
My initial gut reaction was concern for Mr. D’Antuono himself because, according to Hardball’s Chris Matthews, raising questions about President Obama’s childhood or how his worldview came to be, is racist. But this painting is an excellent illustration of how important definitions are and how dangerous they can be when applied incorrectly; especially for the purposes of political expediency.
On the surface, the painting strikes a chord of truth in most Americans who already
possess the preconceived notion that the Republicans are the Party of Rich and Democrats are the party of the working man and poor.
In short, many people believe the image or narrative that Republicans are the part of the rich and Wall Street, but in reality, the richest citizens of the United States are, in fact, liberals and/or Democrats. According to Forbes.com:
Bill Gates- Democrat.
Larry Ellison- Democrat.
And in 2008, whom did Wall Street support for the presidency? Then Senator Barack Obama.
This ability of simultaneously believing that Republicans are the party of the rich while
overlooking the wealthiest Americans are actually Democrats can be best explained by Gustave Lebon. a French social psychologist who studied crowds and mob mentalities. findings, it is a lot easier to believe the projected image or narrative than reality itself.
He wrote, “The obedience of crowds to suggestions–The images evoked in the mind of crowds are accepted by them as realities–Why these images are identical for all the individuals composing a crowd–The equality of the educated and the ignorant man in a crowd–Various examples of the illusions to which the individuals in a crowd are subject–The impossibility of according belief to the testimony of crowds–The unanimity of numerous witnesses is one of the worst proofs that can be invoked to establish a fact–The slight value of works of history.” He goes on to say, “A crowd scarcely distinguishes between the subjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images evoked in its mind, though they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact.”
What lies beneath the narrative of “Greedy Rich Republicans” and “For the Working Man Democrats” is that taxes equal charity. In a theological sense, charity (According to right wing website www.freedictionary.com) is theological virtue defined as love directed FIRST towards God but also towards oneself and one’s neighbors who are the objects of God’s love. From the secular point of view, charity can be summed up as something given to someone in need, for their benefit.
Taxes on the other hand, are defined by such charming words like required, fees or dues and levied. Based on definition alone taxes and charity may share similar objectives but the essence of the two is radically different. Charity, at its purest form is done out of a love for God, and therefore done for the things God loves. Taxes on the other hand are, at best, given out of obligation and, at worst, out of force and coercion.
A discussion about taxes in the United States can’t exclude the involvement of government, for it is government that imposes and collects these taxes. The painting in question is creating an image of love in action by setting up Obama as the one who will spread/share the wealth in the spirit of fairness and Social Justice. Many are allured by this image based on the narrative of greedy Republicans and selfless Democrats, thus drawing the viewer to the conclusion that President Obama and the Democrats are the party of the working class and poor.
“I think of Leonard Abess, a bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him,plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ““I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.””
What President Obama is trying to do with this story is to liken Leonard Abess’ generosity with Obama’s notion of spreading the wealth so that the less fortunate can have a more equal chance. But in interview conducted by Peter Robinson, economist Thomas Sowell dismantles President Obama’s notion of spreading the wealth.
Peter Robinson: … Listen to an exchange between Barack Obama and Joe Wurzelbacher, now known universally as Joe the Plumber. This took place on October 11th.
Peter Robinson: What do you make of that one?
Thomas Sowell: Oh, I think it is classical left ideology. By the way, he wants to spread Joe the Plumber’s wealth around, he is not spreading his wealth around…
Leonard Abess’ philosophy of generosity and President Obama’s philosophy on wealth spreading are incompatible. Abess, as granted by President Obama, “cashed out his company…and…gave it out…” It being his company, Leonard Abess had every right to cash out what was his and do with the wealth what he felt liked. It just so happened that he chose share his wealth with the people that helped him build his company up to where it was worth millions. For full context, Leonard Abess cashed out his company for $927 million. Abess felt that $60 million was appropriate. You might think he could have afforded more, but when YOU sell your share of your company for $927 million, YOU have the power to set what is fair. President Obama’s idea of wealth spending is through the use of the tax code. Abess’ generosity is rooted in a moral responsibility. President Obama’s method is rooted in coercion.
And how to best help our fellow man most effectively is what is at the heart of our political attitudes on entitlements and Social Justice. This painting would have you believe that President Obama and the Democrats using the power to the government as the primary vessel in spreading wealth to those who need it.
Milton Friedman is able to point out the fatal flaws in this belief that government should be the primary agent of aid to those less fortunate but saying that government, like any other inanimate object, has not responsibility to anyone but that people themselves have responsibility. Friedman said, “Using government to achieve these objectives means trying to do good with someone else’s money. And when you try to do good with someone else’s money, there are two basic flaws in the process. The first of those is that nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. And therefore you are going to have waste and ultimately fiscal catastrophe. But the second is that you cannot do good with someone else’s money unless you first take it away from them. And therefore, force, coercion, sending a policeman around to pick somebody else’s pocket is at the very heart of the welfare state. And the situation becomes one in which bad means corrupt the good intentions. When you try to use bad means to achieve good objectives, the end result is likely to be that the badness of means will triumph over the goodness of the objectives.”
The “waste” and “fiscal catastrophe” Mr. Friedman was warning us about back in the 70’s is the current financial crisis we Americans find ourselves in now? According to Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geitner spending on the major entitlement programs, plus interest payments on the national debt, will consume 92 cents of every dollar by the year 2020!
The left might think it is a social justice oriented party by funneling money into entitlement programs to help the less fortunate but when one wants to use other peoples’ money to do good, one creates a grand illusion in which the citizenry lives at the expenses of the other. People think they are emancipated from the burdens of life by voting for politicians that promise to help them, not realizing that these politicians have nothing to help them with that does not come from the pocket of another (#ObamaMoney). Many on the secular and religious Left likes to remind greedy white rich W.A.S.P’s about the many times the Bible mentions about helping the poor but then are remiss in sermonizing on the God’s admonishment on debt.
Author Mark Steyn beautifully holds both political parties to account for their culpability for leading us into this fiscal mess. He states that, “We spend too much. It’s not a revenue issue, it’s a spending issue. The United States joined the rest of the western world in voting itself a lifestyle it was not willing to pay for, and indeed can never pay for. When government spends on the scale that Washington’s gotten used to, it’s not a spending crisis – it’s a moral one. There’s nothing virtuous about ‘caring, compassionate, progressives’ demonstrating how caring and compassionate and progressive they are by spending money yet to be earned, by generations yet to be born. We are looting the future to bribe the present. Indeed, we’ve looted the future to such an extent, it’s no longer clear we have one…Increasing dependency, disincentivizing self-reliance, absolving the citizen from responsibility for their actions – the multi-trillion dollar debt catastrophe is not the problem, but merely the symptom. It’s not about balancing the books. It’s about re-balancing the structures of society.”
What he is hinting at is that when we break this moral of spending within our means like the government does, we are trying to tame the sin of debt into producing a blessing for the those less fortunate. Like Milton Friedman said, “The moral value of force triumphs over good intentions.” In no time, you prove Frederic Bastiat right in that, “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
One might think that this is a hit piece solely on the proponents of Social Justice through government means but the poison dart stuck in the heart of the matter is force and coercion through taxation. Whether it is unfettered entitlements for the less fortunate or unfettered entitlements for corporations that are friendly to whomever is in office, handing out money at the expense of someone else is doomed to failure. And America is in a very dangerous place financially in that a super power as big as we are will make a much larger crater when it crashes than a small country like Greece.
“These are serious times. Federal regulation accounts for 10 percent of GDP. That’s to say we take the equivalent of the entire economy of India or Canada and throw it down the toilet every year just in complying with federal paperwork. State and municipal regulation makes almost everything you do more cumbersome, including the basic right to earn a living. In the ’50s, one in 20 Americans required permission from the government to do their job. Today, it’s one in three. We’ve delivered a self-governing republic into rule by regulators, bureaucrats and social engineers. And as a result, we’re the brokest nation in history. Officially, we crashed through the $15 trillion debt point a couple of days ago — just a couple of days ago — and hit a new world record. No society in human history has ever owed as much as we do. We have to pay back $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing.” – Mark Steyn
This painting by Michael D’Antuono is not what is wrong with the financial crises we face as Americans, but the Robin Hood Myth (The philosophy of living at someone else’s expense) is what is driving us over the edge. Regardless of political affiliation, if you are of the mindset that government should be the primary source for social justice or corporate welfare, then you are voting in your notion of fairness with no regards to what it will cost to the citizens who have to foot the bill. This understandable as it is a thousand times more fun to philosophize than economize. It is easy to Rock the Vote for social or fiscal causes during election season but to stand for these causes requires absolutely nothing from you personally. You can champion for more federal aid but if you have not thought ahead to how much this will cost, then your sense of social justice is only skin deep.
So the end of the matter is this, the Robin Hood Myth does not work. You cannot do good with other people’s money. People have responsibilities to the poor, not the government. America is the only country that uses the word TRILLION which means that we are debts are due, the world is in trouble and there is not another multicultural democracy out there ready to take our place.