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Like shooting fish in a barrel

Sometimes it’s hard to find a topic to write about in this column, but this week it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Before I go much further, however, I must ask you do to a bit of reading.

An economics professor named Alex took exception to a column I wrote nearly three years ago entitled “A nation bursting with spoiled brats.” It would be helpful to read that column to understand the context.

Next Alex wrote me a lengthy email expressing his disagreements with the column. I’ve posted that email on my blog and ask you to go read it.

Now that you’re all caught up on the background, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly address Alex’s remarks. I cannot possibly fit my entire reply into the word limit of this column, so you can read the rest of my comments here.

First of all I would like to lay to rest Alex’s assumption that our family is “financially well off” and have never known “what it’s like to really struggle in poverty,” or that we’re “extremely out of touch with reality, especially with regard to urban life.”

I take perverse pride in pointing out that we live at the upper end of the poverty level by choice. Nearly 20 years ago we gave up our cushy jobs in the city (so yes, I’m familiar with urban life) and moved to the country. We gave up the security of a steady paycheck to embrace the freedom of frugality. So when Alex describes us as “financially well off,” it’s clear he’s speaking out of complete ignorance about our lifestyle. However I might suggest that those who dwell in the ivory towers of academia are the ones generally out of touch with reality. Just a thought.

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Alex writes, “I am concerned with your ignorant, insensitive and elitist rant vilifying less fortunate Americans (meaning less fortunate than you) that desire things such as free health care, affordable housing and food, and employment that pays a livable wage.”

Funny, I wasn’t aware that I was ignorant, insensitive, or elitist. But I do vilify the government push to provide “free health care, affordable housing and food, and employment that pays a living wage” because – drum roll, please – those things aren’t free and they’re not rights. How an economics professor cannot grasp this baffles the mind.

Alex seems obsessed that we live on 20 acres when other people are “forced to live in a cramped, dirty, overpriced apartment or tiny cookie cutter house & lot where the neighbors on both sides are so close they can hear everything you do in your own house and vice-versa.” Forced? Really? Who’s forcing them? And where does Alex live?

We bought our 20 acres in 2003 for far less than most people spend on a “cookie cutter house” on a tenth-acre city lot. We shopped for three years until we found a place we could afford. Our income is so low that we didn’t dare over-stretch our ability to pay the mortgage. By the way, our mortgage payment is $580 a month. What’s yours, Alex?

Alex makes many assumptions about my family history since I’m white and have “an American-sounding name.” He states my “ancestors probably have been here since the days of the colonial settlers.” Wrong again. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Poland, became American citizens, and anglicized their surname. My grandfather worked 16-hour days shoveling coal and cleaning toilets to provide for his children. To the end of their days, my grandparents spoke broken English but insisted their children never speak Polish. They wanted their kids to be Americans.

My mother was born in hideous poverty on the bayous of Louisiana to brutal alcoholic parents. She didn’t speak English until she started school. She spent so much time starving as a child that when she married at age 27, she only weighed 87 pounds.

My three brothers all married foreign-born, legally immigrated women. I have sisters-in-law from Russia, Taiwan and Korea. They all became American citizens, learned English and struggled to obtain their education and find jobs before meeting and marrying my brothers.

Alex wrote, “The number of people who come from nothing and succeed in escaping their life of struggle and poverty are in the extreme minority! … The system wasn’t designed for everyone to make it and be financially well off. … The game is fixed and most people don’t know the rules.”

Actually, Alex, we do know the rules … or at least what the rules should be. If you’ll read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they’re spelled out in black and white. If the government would stop interfering in things for which it has no constitutional authority, prosperity would once again come to our nation from those who embrace the opportunities to work hard and succeed through their own efforts – WITHOUT the fear that all their income or property will be seized by the government and redistributed without their consent.

Socialism will never, ever raise people out of poverty. But if people work hard, stay married, get a high school education, wait to have kids until they can afford them, and stay off drugs and booze, then their chances of long-term poverty are practically zero. Works almost every time.

Alex writes, “You think everyone in America has 20 acres of land, their own business and the same opportunities that a white American woman has. …” Interesting how Alex puts words in my mouth. I think everyone in America has 20 acres of land? Really? When did I say that? As for having “their own business” … well, if you want your own business, start one. As for the same opportunities that a “white American woman” has, everyone has those same opportunities as long as they’re willing to work hard and live frugally. Those opportunities are why my sisters-in-law immigrated. Two of those dear women aren’t white, but both started their own businesses because they could.

“What you label ‘socialism,'” wrote Alex, “I and many others call common decency and love for your fellow mankind. And you call yourself a woman of God? Do you think Jesus Christ would have spoken about the masses as arrogantly and insensitively as you have in your article? Do you think Jesus … would have denied someone food, water, shelter, or would have refused to cure their ailment just because they didn’t have money, were unemployed, had no skills, didn’t go to college, or were lazy?”

I would like to point out that Jesus was not in favor of putting a gun to people’s heads and forcing them to feed, clothe and house the “masses.” Jesus was about compassion and charity, not government goons and theft.

In conclusion, Alex encourages me to reply to his email as long as I have an “open mind,” can think for myself and “do not spew a bunch of conservative rhetoric.” This puts aside the fact that Alex’s mind is firmly closed, cannot think for himself and did nothing but spew progressive liberal rhetoric.

I’ve heard it said that liberalism is a mental disorder. Alex’s email confirms that concept. What’s scary is he is spreading that poison to another generation of young people attending his university.