On Equal Opportunities and Equal Outcomes: Essay for November 5, 2011

If you ask me, the Occupy movement has gone from preachin’ to meddlin’. This once cozy rabble of young adults, backed by forces both seen and unseen, has long past the annoying stage and is fast becoming anarchic. What once looked like campouts with pup tents and s’mores is rapidly becoming shanty towns with Molotov cocktails and mob violence.

I have frequently commented upon some of the common roots between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. Recent events have even more clearly defined the divergent paths that these loosely confederated organizations have taken to achieve political awareness and drive change. The Tea Party clearly emerges as the more rational and more mature of these movements while the Occupy movement emerges as the more dangerous.

I came across a descriptive chart on the internet this week that illustrates both the common roots and the distinctly different paths that these movements have taken. They were born from common concern that “We Have a Problem.” Government collusion with special interests created outrage. Government should not be picking winners and losers in our economy or place bets with our money. The bailouts of major industrial segments of our economy were wrong. Hallelujah, we took to the streets! But here is where the paths diverged.

The Tea party is looking to fix the system; the Occupiers want to break it apart. They disagree over the role of money in politics. Occupiers want to get money from politics; Tea Partiers want to get money out of politics. The Tea party wants to keep what they earn while the occupiers think people deserve everyone else’s money. Occupiers are arrested for violent behavior while Tea Partiers are accused of violent rhetoric. Perhaps the phrase that caught my eye the most was this one: Occupiers wish to replace the Constitution while Tea partiers wish to restore it.

The beauty of our Constitution lies in its protection of equal opportunity. It is silent on assuring equal outcomes. It is precisely why generation after generation of immigrants has come to America. We are the Land of Opportunity. To be sure, over our history we may have fallen short of consistently protecting that opportunity but we know that every governmental system that has attempted to assure equal outcomes has failed. There is an underlying obligation to take one’s unbridled opportunity and turn it into a favorable outcome through endeavor and industry.

This incessant whine of gimme-gimme is beginning to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. And much of this is coming from no less than the President himself. In an effort to spread Federal largesse to as many people as possible from all walks of life, the President has effectively offered to forgive student loans. Students would never be obliged to pay more than 10% of their income nor pay for a term longer than 20 years as long as they worked for non-profits or the government. That being the case, the government would pick up the remainder of the tab and indenture an entire generation to the government. Can special interest pandering get any more obvious than this?

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Federal government picked up my undergraduate expenses, too. In exchange, I became a Cold War naval officer and served for 8 years in order to fulfill my obligation.

I am proud to be associated with the Tea Party and people who share their values. Even my oldest daughter, one who is not easily confused with a Tea Party member, looks at the occupiers and says: “Why don’t they stop whining and just get a job?” She should know. She is of their age and perhaps has similar inclinations towards a more liberal view of social justice. What she cannot abide is the transfer of wealth and entitlement mentality of those who refuse to work. My daughter is employed by a non-profit and works a second job to make ends meet. She pays her bills, services her student loan (yes, she has one of those, too) and is planning her career. Like many, she is making do with what she has. Despite the gloomy economy that stalled her shortly after her graduation in 2007, she has a plan and executes it as circumstances dictate.

No doubt, these are tough times but they are not the toughest of times. Nor is it unusual for a crop of graduates to find themselves faced with formidable challenges. If this were 1942, prospects would be quite different for these children. Occupy Wall Street? How about occupying Berlin? Or Tokyo?

So we come back to that word again: obligation. It is an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment. How about it, you Occupiers? How about you pack up your tents and tidy up the area so we can have some green grass to enjoy come spring. It is time you began to expend your energies on making this a better country through engagement in the electoral process rather than through anarchy. The whole world is watching.

Press on.

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