Alexander's Column

The Problem With Rich Republicans

By Mark Alexander · Jan. 19, 2012
“As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature.” –Alexander Hamilton, 1788

I recently had a brief debate with a friend, who is a successful venture capitalist. Our debate was about the obligations associated with free enterprise capitalism. After all, history records that Liberty inevitably devolves into tyranny where rights are not balanced with corollary responsibilities.

I asserted that one of his partners, who amassed a great fortune from “payday loans,” had ethical and moral obligations attached to his wealth – as do we all. My purpose in positing that such responsibilities exist was not to stand in judgment of his business partner, though I believe “pay day” loans do some good and a lot of harm. My purpose was to suggest that, to sustain Liberty, each of us, no matter what our net worth, should discern and honor those obligations.

(If you are not familiar with “payday loans,” they are cash advances until the next payday, which include extremely high “fees” on top of interest, which combined, are equivalent to an annualized interest rate of more than 360 percent. Venders target mostly low income groups and many of these loans extended far beyond the next payday.)

My friend feigned SHOCK that I would suggest such responsibilities exist, given my unmitigated support for free enterprise, my fervent defense of the accumulation of wealth and my condemnation of Leftist class warfare politics. He acted as if the mere mention of such obligations was tantamount to supporting Democratic Socialism.

Of course, he knew better than to question my life-long devotion to Liberty, including first and foremost, my advocacy for Rule of Law and the foundational tenet of free enterprise which sustains our Republic. His reaction framed a false dichotomy that often emerges in response to the question of rights and responsibilities associated wealth – a defensive response.

There is an abundantly clear distinction between ethical and moral obligations according to the dictates of one’s conscience, and Leftist endeavors to enforce their interpretation of those obligations through implementation of socialist economic policies, the latter inevitably resulting in trickle-up poverty. But we must elucidate those differences, not obfuscate them.

What obligations are associated with wealth? Post Your Opinion

The failure of socialist doctrine was evident long before the word “socialism” became part of the common lexicon. In 1766, for example, Founder Benjamin Franklin wrote in “Management of the Poor,” “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Unfortunately, that lesson is lost on the Left today, as they endeavor to undermine the authority of our Constitution by replacing Rule of Law with rule of men, and enacting economic policies that are anathema to Liberty.

On the other hand, the relationship between wealth and Liberty has also been long known. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1788, “As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature.”

Unfortunately, that lesson is often lost on conservatives, who believe that our Constitution can survive the absence of ethical and moral obligations. But as John Adams wrote in 1776, “Statesmen…may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People… they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”

In the context of free enterprise, ethical and moral obligations, though subjective, are irrevocably linked to wealth and Liberty. How we respond to those obligations will, in large measure, determine whether our Republic can transcend the “Fatal Cycle of Democracy”: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to courage; From courage to Liberty (Rule of Law); From Liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage (rule of men).

Though my friend’s investment partner has the legal right to accumulate wealth making “payday loans,” that does not exclude ethical and moral questions regarding how he makes his money and to what benefit or detriment of others. He is free to make and dispense with his wealth as his conscience prescribes, as we all should be, but he is not free from his ethical and moral obligations as they pertain to the future of Liberty.

Too often, conservative leaders, like my wealthy venture capitalist friend, hide from mentioning wealth-related obligations for fear of offending those who butter their bread. But the average donation in support to The Patriot Post from our grassroots ranks is less than $50 – so we are not beholden to wealthy donors – that we would object to having more of them would. Moreover, many of the donations we receive are truly sacrificial, which calls into question why we don’t have more support from wealthy folks.

Unfortunately, too many wealthy Americans insulate and isolate themselves from the overarching ethical and moral dictates that inform the consciences of most our Patriot countrymen. They are content to let grassroots Patriots carry the burden of sustaining the Liberty foundation of free enterprise, and they do so at great expense to the future of Liberty.

Does the aggregation of wealth without acknowledging the corollary responsibility pose a threat to Liberty? Post Your Opinion

Of course, the question of what constitutes “rich” is subjective and varies widely across our nation – for everyone has more than someone. (It is worth noting that by the living standards of the majority of people on Earth, our “poor” are rich.)

Barack Hussein Obama, in his classist rhetoric, claims that couples earning more than $250,000 per year and individuals earning more than $200,000 are rich. In reality, however, a lifestyle that most people consider “rich” – living within gated communities; owning multiple homes; commuting in private aircraft, boats and expensive autos; recreating with other rich and famous folks (Obama’s lifestyle) – requires a much higher income and substantial net worth.

A well-kept secret is that there are plenty of rich on the Left, and because of the seductive nature of wealth and its influence on those who hold it, they have wealthy conservatives badly outnumbered. Inheritance welfare, like government welfare and dependence upon the state, has produced generations of Useful Idiots. In terms of their foundational character, liberals who are dependent on inherited wealth and welfare recipients who are dependent on the state for their sustenance don’t embraced self-reliance as the essential ingredient of a free society.

Unfortunately, too often there is little that distinguishes wealthy liberals and conservatives because both groups tend to be very disconnected with the grassroots Americans upon whom the are totally dependent. Of course, limo-liberals are burdened with the hypocrisy of holding great wealth while advocating socialist policies for everyone else, while conservatives advocate free enterprise. For the elitists on the Left, wealth is evil only when in the hands of those who hold opposing philosophies and world views.

Parenthetically, I should note that one of the wealthiest conservatives I know (net worth more than $500 million), is also one of the most humble people I know. He lives in a modest house (just one), drives a modest vehicle, and now retired, spends every day hard at work giving his fortune away to effective human service ministries. Fortunately, there are other notable examples of humble charitable philanthropy among conservatives.

So, what does all this have to do with Mitt Romney, a rich white guy who amassed millions as a venture capitalist, if he wins the Republican nomination?

Well, presidential elections tend to be decided by Independent voters in the gap between Republicans and Democrats, and that will be more true than ever in 2012. Thus, it is important to understand that the concentration of wealth in America concerns a much broader cross section of voters than just Leftist occupiers. According to reputable polling firms, a substantial majority of Americans are concerned about the aggregation of wealth, particularly of the “Wall Street” variety.

Obama and his Leftmedia sycophants have succeeded in elevating classism to equal standing with concern about the economy, blaming economic woes on “the rich.”

The recent criticism of Romney’s role at Bain Capital is a strawman, a classist proxy target for Obama if he opposes Romney. The fact is, neither Bain Capital nor Romney were, or are, heartless leveraged buyout liquidators. Under Romney’s tenure, Bain created more than 100,000 jobs. Romney has his faults, but he is no “vulture capitalist” as he has been labeled.

What concerns me more about Romney is that 26 of the 29 members of Congress who received the largest contributions from Bain executives since 2000 were Democrats. Indeed, Bain executives were major supporters of Weiner, Franken, Kerry and Kennedy. Of course, most of the money flowing from Wall Street to Washington supports Democrats.

Romney has politically leveraged his fortunes made at Bain by rightly claiming his business experience is a substantial qualification for the office of president. However, he needs to frame his wealth in the context of the obligations incumbent upon it. Unfortunately, to date, he has avoided doing so. He must acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns about the implications of wealth aggregation on Liberty, and the only way to defuse those concerns is to address them directly.

Can Romney win over Independent voters without confronting questions about wealth, head on? Post Your Opinion

Obama’s compulsory socialist solution for addressing those concerns was outlined by Karl Marx: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Historically, however, it is the voluntary Christian context for wealth that is most compatible with Liberty as “endowed by our Creator.” Long before the tyranny of statist Marxism emerged, a far superior framework for the ethical and moral obligations connected to wealth was outlined in the Gospel according to Luke, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

It is that context to which Romney subscribes (with the subscript of the Book of Mormon). Thus, he has the moral authority to discuss the obligations associated with wealth.

However erroneous, Obama’s classist rhetoric on economic disparity has been very effective, and will be central to his political strategy in the upcoming general election. Like a cruise ship captain who detours from his authorized course, the deviation from the constitutionally authorized course of Liberty and free enterprise, by Obama and his Leftist and Republicrat supporters in Congress, will sink our ship.

If Romney is the nominee, he must boldly make the distinction between the inherent moral and ethical obligations of wealth within the framework of Liberty, as opposed to Obama’s socialist agenda. His accumulated wealth is his “Achilles' heel,” and Obama will paint him to be the antithesis and adversary of “working Americans.” Romney will grease the skids for Obama to win the class warfare debate with Independents unless he frames that debate in the context of “rights and responsibilities.”

To be clear, Romney does not “owe” anyone an explanation or justification for how he made his wealth or how much he has accumulated, but if he wants to defeat Obama, he must disclose his financial records, and stop hedging. In the inimitable words of Samuel Adams in 1775, “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.”

Mr. Romney has released his 2010 tax return which indicated an income of $21 million and donations of $3 million, mostly to the Mormon Church. From a grassroots perspective, giving 15 percent of a $21 million income does not fall into the category of sacrificial giving, as in the Biblical story, “The Widow’s Mite” in Luke 21:2. One would think that Romney, knowing that his tax records would be an issue, would have given much more for charitable purposes in recent years, so as to at least feign great generosity. Perhaps enough Independents are prepared to vote against Obama, if Romney is on the Republican ticket, and overlook his meager giving in service to others.

Obama will, undoubtedly, make an issue of the fact that Romney paid less than 15 percent in capital gains taxes in 2010. However, one should note that capital gains taxes are paid on the remainder of corporate income, after it has already been taxed once, at 35 percent. So Romney’s effective tax rate is closer to 50 percent. That notwithstanding, Obama will twist Romney’s income and tax rate into prime fodder for class warfare.

The bottom line on “the rich” is this: Regardless of individual net worth, virtue related to wealth is shaped not so much by what we own, but by what owns us. This is universally true, regardless of your faith: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34) The real issue is not wealth, but stewardship of that wealth. Too many wealthy Americans of all political stripes live substantially isolated from the day-to-day realities of most our countrymen, and that is a great liability to the future of Liberty.

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248 Comments

Sandra Miller said:

It depends on how you use your wealth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:27 PM

James Rugg said:

Our founders exclaimed that the US constitution and Bill Of Rights would only work in a moral and Biblical Nation.Wealth without personal responsibility and compassion for others is not sustainable.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Ron Smith said:

Free enterprise is the American way. The socialists want what others have worked for so they don't have to work for anything.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Anna Wiley said:

The major part of the problem is spiritual. Our nation has adopted humanism, relativism, and every other ism to replace Christianity. Our leaders and people in high places do not seek God's guidance but do as they want without regard to consequences. Our downfall is prophetic and our lack of principals based on the ten commandments will be the demise of our country. Until we stop doing what is right in our own eyes, our nation will destroy itself from within.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Ray Sheehan said:

In a free society, does any class have legal obligations? Moral and ethical, of course, but a free society encourages hard work, thrift and investment. Socialist economies all have the same anti-incentive, what reason is there to give any extra effort if you achieve the same results as the slackard?

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM

The Texas Cooke said:

I care exactly as much for the poor as they care about what my family has to do to cope under a tax burben used to support their do nothing life styles....which is to say, nothing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Dave said:

"For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required." -- Luke 12:48

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:35 PM

One VA Patriot said:

Two things today:Mr. Alexander, you are so right-on concerning the conservative message being lost within the wealth-related rhetoric thrown toward Republican candidates and conservatives in general. But I suspect many conservatives and independents are now wise to that rhetorical shiboleth.The second thing I would like to mention is your timely, oh so timely use of metaphor: " Obama's classist rhetoric on economic disparity has been very effective, and will be central to his political strategy in the upcoming general election. Like a cruise ship captain who detours from the authorized course, Obama's detour from the course of Liberty and free enterprise authorized by our Constitution, with the help of Leftists and Republicrats in Congress, will sink our ship."Let us all begin righting this ship of state and let us not become the SS Costa Concordia!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Patriot in AZ said:

The problem with wealthy politicians is that they can essentially buy an office. Clearly we have seen how many good candidates have to suspend campaigns because they have run out of money. The fact that some of these same candidates may resort to obtaining money with promises to the big money donations for promises that are usualy not about the people's business but some shady payback deal or advancement of some lobbyist group agenda. E.G. SEIU. Romeny spent a large amount of his own money in 2008, yet McCain let his 22 million war chest intact when he gave the election to his "good man" opponent Mr. Obama. Money talks and priciples walk and it is time we consider term limits. It is a fact he that can afford the most ads has the edge.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Karl Holz said:

Accumulation of wealth is not wrong when those whom God has so blessed understand the eternal accountability (like it or not - believe it or not - is absolutely irrelevant) attached to that blessing. Example of wealthy Texas family leader who decided to reverse tithe - 90% to God's work and he kept 10% for his family comes to mind. He became reknown for having a "Midas Touch". Virtually everything he invested in made money like crazy. He knew he could never out-give God. Without this fundamental rock-solid understanding, great wealth becomes the camel that will not fit through the eye of a needle. Great wealth panders to our basest insecurities or exposes the image of our Creator in out lives.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Victoria DeLacy said:

When you watch the full length 28-minute You Tube video about how Romney destroyed the fortunes of others through his efforts at Bain, you see a heartless candidate who should not take the nomination of the party of compassionate conservatism. With Perry out of the race now, my vote goes to Iowa primary winner Rick Santorum for President this November!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Jim said:

Free enterprise, and liberty in general, is not the highest good; rather, it arises out of these Truths we hold to be self-evident, that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", the same one who gives and asks much of us."Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies."-John Adams

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Jon Delling said:

The uncompassionate use of accumulated wealth is a wrong that the rich need to address on their own consciences, definitely a biblical mandate. But the forcing of the rich to it's use is also as bad or worse since it is a usurping of the very authority of God over our lives, not to say the start of a slow death to any nation the tries to enact those controls.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Larry Elliott said:

Those with wealth, whether a large amount or only a bit more than 'average' have a moral obligation to those who are less fortunate. It's strange though that most conservatives contribute far more to charities of one kind or the other than wealthy liberals who believe that it's government's obligation to care or everyone.The individual is much better able to see who really needs help than the government who wants to give to everyone no matter why they might be in need. If someone is "less fortunate" because they're drunk, drugged, too lazy to work, or any similar excuse, well too bad.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Tom Berwick said:

Who defines what amounts to wealth? Am I wealthy simply because I have some savings, planned for my retirement, and am currently able to pay my bills? There are those who would claim that since my house is paid for that I am wealthy and should do more for those less fortunate. Then, there are those who might be fortunate enough to make one million dollars a year. Are they wealthy?I refuse to apologize for planning but I do not see it as my responsibility to care for those who do not. The definition of wealth seems to be a moving target and that those who I consider to be wealthy might not consider themselves to be so. The desire to share wealth should be a personal decision and not something mandated by some liberal bureaucrat.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM