My Turn: We all do better when we all do better

Published: 12/27/2020 3:07:26 PM

A recent letter on the matter of “equality” caught my attention. The basic gist of it was that our society hinges upon the idea of competition, that it motivates people to do better and succeed. That we should not expect anyone else to do for us, and if we want something it’s up to ourselves to work at it to reach our own goals.

Conversely, the writer states that those who have other opinions on this are possessed of a “participation-trophy mentality,” are consumers of communist propaganda and wish to live in a “socialist nanny state.”

This notion is a common conservative talking point. The beef that conservatives have boils down to “Why should I support (government program X), when those people should just go out and get what they want? I did!”

This attitude shows a complete misunderstanding of how the world works, as well as the conservatives’ inability for compassion or empathy for others who exist outside their sphere. They don’t understand the concept of a level playing field. Nor do they want to believe that other people may exist under vastly different circumstances. They are indifferent to the fact that other folks may find themselves in need or disadvantaged due to events outside their ability to control.

What must be understood is that it is impossible to compete in a 100-yard dash if one is placed an extra mile behind the starting line. You aren’t going to catch up to the pack, no matter how hard you try. No amount of old-fashioned elbow grease and pull yourself up by your suspenders mentality is going to make up that gap.

Basic inequities must be addressed. If all we say is “I got mine, I don’t care about yours,” then this country is doomed to a slow fade.

It may well be that even in this season of giving, one may not be swayed by the notion of kindness to others, charity and love. I will say to you that even so, it is still in your own best interest to support greater “equality.” Every decent CEO out there knows you need to invest in the infrastructure of your company to keep it going. As the adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” They know that they will get many times what they spent in return.

That is exactly what will happen here. If we invest in our infrastructure then we will all do better, including conservative naysayers. We need to invest not only in things like roads and bridges. We need to invest in our people. We need to invest in education. We need to create opportunity.

Ever since the beginning of the Reagan administration in the ’80s, there’s been a consistent parade of tax cuts and loopholes favoring the wealthy. Over time, the middle class has been shouldering more and more of the weight, while the rich have gotten fantastically richer. The aristocracy has returned.

How do we pay for the investment in our people? Tax the rich, of course! I know that is sacrilege to the conservatives, but I don’t know why (unless you are a Koch brother). We are not talking about taxing the average Joe. We are talking the 1 percent, the rich and the super-rich.

In case you think it’s unfair to target the wealthy, I will tell you that I won’t shed a tear for them, they’ll be OK. If they had 10 summer homes and now they can afford six summer homes, I think they’ll be all right. I know I would.

Too many jobs have artificially low wages that really only benefit the super-rich. When people start earning a real living wage and start to get ahead a little, they will spend money and start driving this economy again. We will all reap the benefits.

I too am disturbed by the participation-trophy mentality … as regards spelling bees. What we want is an equal starting point. This is not something one gets, for instance, when one is starting out their adult life saddled with upwards of a hundred thousand dollars in debt for higher education.

I contend that we will not be creating a lazy, do-nothing society that doesn’t want to work. If we create real opportunity, including jobs that earn a living wage, people will work. By nature, folks want to work.

We all do better when we all do better.

Tony Jillson is a resident of Ashfield.

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