In the Sunday edition of the NY Daily News, a columnist wrote that Christian Lopez was the "Dude of the Week" for returning Derek Jeter's 3,000 hit ball, which happened to be a homerun (for those that were out of the country or maybe in orbit when it happened). According to the writer, the act of returning the ball triggered debate inside the "Valley of the Stupid" and across media outlets. He also wrote about "morons" that were obsessed more with money than kindness. Chalk me up as one of those morons. In fact, I think the episode speaks to the greater narrative for the entire nation. Are we going to be a country of pity and punish or pride and prosperity?
I'm voting for the latter.
Last Thursday, I gave a speech at Marist College, and during the Q&A period afterwards the topic of Lopez came up and I said I thought he was a sucker and made a big mistake. The guy that brought up the subject mentioned all the stuff Lopez got and suggested there could be more goodies in store because of the noble gesture. The part about giving away a ball that is worth at least $250,000 might seem noble to some (half the kids at Marist agreed with me and the other half disagreed, while I'm told Red Sox fans are just confused about all the fuss), but it seems to me a combination of idol-worship and plain old stupidity.
Lopez has $100,000 in student loan debt and lives with his parents (from what I understand his girlfriend bought the tickets for the game that day). A quarter of a million dollars could have changed his life. Maybe he'll get that much stuff at the end of the day, or maybe Jeter will pony up a pile of cash, but if that's the case it will be the kindness of strangers or business opportunists that put money in the pocket of Lopez. It should have been the other way around. Lopez should be in charge of his own destiny. But, he settled for photo-ops with Jeter and free game tickets that will eventually cost him thousands of dollars in taxes.
Is this where our country is headed? Where the very thought of making money makes someone a moron. Derek Jeter pockets more than $20.0 million a year and the Yankees are the most valuable sports franchise in the United States. There are also professional sports teams without seasons yet because they are fighting over...money. If the heat of the moment got to the kid then that's one thing, he should say so and ask for the ball back. If he's going to allow people that make a great living tell him it's okay not to cash in on that lottery ticket that literally fell into his lap then he's a sucker. But, our country is the land of suckers.
There has always been this undercurrent linking being poor with some form of righteousness and nobility.
It's an insult to the poor to be complimented on how well they handle being broke and at the bottom of the economic barrel while not doing anything to change their circumstances. The poor in this country have been sedated into a zombie-like state where they simply aren't fighting hard enough to escape the clutches of poverty. There have been no riots, no protests, and no demands for real opportunity instead of more food stamps.
The very people that should be making noise are too enthralled with the President, so young people, black people, Hispanics, and unions aren't making demands that lead to real opportunities. Sure, they are on the tax-the-rich bandwagon, which does absolutely nothing to make them more employable or prosperous.
We live in a country where people that succeed are called villains and are blamed for the perils of the poor. I read somewhere over the weekend that the extension of the Bush tax cuts cost the federal government $238.0 billion, which would have provided 7 million full-time jobs lasting 12-months each. Not only is that so factually wrong, the premise is wrong, too. Jobs are created by a demand for a good or service. End users aren't demanding those goods and services because they are afraid the nation is heading in the wrong direction. Small businesses are doing the heavy lifting and have provided the overwhelming bulk of jobs during this recession (let's call it what it is). Those small businesses would be crushed if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.
What is Noble?
1. Distinguished by rank or title.
2. Pertaining to persons so distinguished.
3. Of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in a country or state; of or pertaining to the aristocracy.
The notion that Lopez made a noble gesture is also way out of bounds. Let's look at truly noble acts:
* 4,473 U.S. military members have died in Iraq since 2003, including 4 in July.
* 1,584 U.S. military members have died in and around Afghanistan, including 15 in July (and 3 the day Jeter hit that homerun).
* People that donated an organ on July 9 were noble.
* People that volunteer to teach kids how to read are noble.
* People that work two jobs to feed three children are noble.
* People that help little old ladies cross streets are noble.
I could play this game all day long.
We enter this week looking at the stretch run in the debt ceiling debate. For some it's a no-brainer, just borrow more money. For some, it's noble to be the largest debtor nation in the world in need of a constant string of loans from foreign countries to pay our bills. For some, it's okay that the smallest percentage of young adults are in the job market, ever. The 2012 election is looming as a referendum on how evil it is to become successful in this country and not give up large chunks of hard earned money so there is billions of dollars set aside for food stamps.
Christian Lopez is a young kid and he doesn't know better. Unfortunately, many young kids think socialism is a better economic system than capitalism. I guess so since you can allow chances to change your life be tossed away and still feted like a conquering hero. When someone finally does the math you can see socialism has no future. We can rip down and destroy job-creators and it will look good on paper for a long time, until it hits a brick wall. It's time to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. It's time to find and exploit opportunities rather than being on the other end exploited by the government and so-called bleeding hearts and their smug notion of how poor people should be noble and stay poor.
By the way, the tally of Americans on food stamps has climbed 37 straight weeks and is now north of 44,000,000. That's a lot of noble people. But, here's the good news according to those that think tossing away $250,000 is a good thing; food stamps help the economy. Check out government propaganda that says $5.00 in food stamps generates $9.00 in local economic activity. This "significant" boost to local economies sounds like trickle up economics to me. The program cost taxpayers $64.4 billion in FY10, up from $18.0 billion FY00. We are a compassionate country, but should the central economic policy be to bolster welfare and food stamp programs while gutting businesses all in the name of punishing the rich?
The country is headed in the wrong direction. From 1993 to 2000, government issued food stamps decreased from $24.0 billion to $18.0 billion. Were we a less compassionate country or was there great and truer prosperity? Yes, we need compassion, but not the constant pity-party being promoted on Capitol Hill.
It's all about the debt ceiling and the mountain of IOUs the United States is hooked on. I know the real deal about food stamps and how many people sell them so they can go to the nail salon. I used to buy food stamps from people on the street at 50 to 70 cents on the dollar, although during the height of the crack epidemic, I often got food stamps for 10 to 20 cents on the dollar. People can become addicted to handouts and pity. I think this is a chance for the nation to put down the debt pipe and face near-term pain for long-term freedom. In the meantime, everyone associated with the Administration continues to layer it on strong, calling for Armageddon if we don't stop borrowing.
Soon we will be a nation of Christian Lopez', throwing away our future for immediate gratification. We will need other nations to pity or exploit us to make it day to day.