For more than half my life I was a 99-percenter. I kept my first pay stubs in the news business to remind me where I came from and what was necessary in order to get where I am today.
In 1975, while working at a TV station in Houston, I wrote a letter to a friend in Washington complaining about my stalled career and low salary. "I will probably die here with my boots on, boots bought on a revolving charge and not fully paid for," I griped. My memory is not that good. He kept the letter and showed it to me a few years ago. We laughed.
At age 37, I was making $25,000 a year with few prospects of earning more. Suddenly things began to change. All the hard work and experience resulted in a better job and more pay.
As a young reporter, I interviewed many successful people. "Where did you go to college and what did you study?" I asked them. "What is your philosophy of life and work ethic?" Rather than envy them, I wanted to be like them.
This is what's missing from the envy culture of the movement known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Envy is greed's equally bad brother. Those who lack what they think they deserve lust after the money and property of wealth creators. They seem to know little of what used to be called the "work ethic."
Many in the OWS crowd are also deficient in their understanding of economics. There is not a single pie from which all must eat. Instead, life contains a recipe everyone can follow to make pies for themselves. The pies are not guaranteed to be the same size for all, but if the right ingredients are used, those pies can make anyone self-sufficient.
This is the great philosophical divide that liberal politicians have effectively used to gain power for themselves while dooming increasing numbers of their fellow Americans to a life of dependency, failure, and envy.
The recently failed debt commission contained elements of a poison familiar to many who have succeeded in life by their own efforts. Democrats wanted to tax the rich even more, but has a tax increase ever resulted in less spending? When the federal government gets more of our money, it doesn't suddenly become fiscally responsible. The more money it gets, often the more it spends.
In an America not long ago, we encouraged persistence. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" was a little saying I often heard growing up. Now it seems the message too many are sending and receiving is, "If at first you don't succeed, don't try again; turn to government (or a lawyer)."
I am thankful to live in a country that still rewards hard work, personal responsibility, and accountability. But that country, which was my role model as a young man, is rapidly fading into history. Human nature is such that a substantial number of people can be addicted to a government check if they choose not to work. But many of our grandparents taught us by example that the pursuit of success was a noble quest. Parents once bragged about what their children had become.
How many parents are bragging about their kids occupying cities and universities and fouling the ground and streets with human waste?
Bill Bradley, former Democratic senator and professional basketball player, once observed: "Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in."
We should be thankful for such truth. I would be more thankful if it were on the rise instead of in decline.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services Inc.