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Vail Valley Voices: Land of median opportunity

Sal Bommarito
Vail, CO Colorado

Are Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress attempting to redistribute wealth in the United States? If so, what are the ramifications to the affluent, the poor and those who hope to move up the social ladder through hard work?

Remember when America was known as “the land of opportunity,” a place to where people could immigrate and become rich? Foreigners used to say our streets were lined with gold.

Those in power have decided to equalize, or bring into balance, the inequities of our capitalistic system. Tax the rich, increase entitlements, give everyone health care, and enable all Americans to buy a home.



America has become the land of median opportunity.

If you are born in America, or immigrate to this country, you can increase your lot only up to the median point of economic status. If you work harder than most and exceed the median, you will be taxed and labeled greedy. You will be known as someone who only cares about material things.



Once upon a time, during my lifetime, in fact, everybody paid taxes. When I started to work after college and earned less than $10,000, I paid income taxes and FICA. Now, unless a person earns multiples of my starting salary, no taxes are payable.

In the mid-20th century, before unions got greedy, people who worked on assembly lines at General Motors made a good wage, and most municipalities were in fine condition. Now GM is bankrupt, a ward of the state, and every municipality is effectively bankrupt.

Municipal union members are outraged that layoffs are necessary and work rules must be changed. They fail to recognize that they are one of the principal reasons why these employers are on the brink.



And what about litigation? How many billions of dollars are wasted every year in the form of excessive jury awards? How much higher are our insurance premiums because people cheat, fake injuries and embrace “ambulance chasers.”

In recent years, Congress tried to artificially encourage homeownership in this country in a further attempt to increase the status of its citizens to the “median.” After all, you can’t get to the median unless you own a house.

The result was utter chaos. And somehow, Congress has pinned the housing debacle (which caused the financial meltdown) on fat cat bankers and the wealthy.

I have a news flash for everybody: If mortgage standards weren’t reduced to accommodate those who couldn’t afford a house, then we wouldn’t have had a financial crisis. In other words, congressional support of sub-prime lenders was the real reason for the economic crisis in this country, not the infamous Goldman Sachs-Abacus deal that the salty senator from Michigan referred to in his subcommittee.

Mediocrity and fewer incentives to achieve will result in a great societal change in America.

Parents, more and more, are encouraging their children to go to college. But why do it? Why take on school loans if the federal government is going to cap salaries and/or vilify people who earn high salaries while it wastes our tax dollars on inane entitlements?

There’s no sense in knocking yourself out. Just get a job when you’re 18 after high school and live a median life.

What’s amusing to me is that the most successful among us have become targets because they earn too much. By the way, very few people are paid a million dollars or more unless they earn it. I’m not aware of any giveaways in business.

So why aren’t successful people admired? I never met a person at any income level who was totally happy with his or her compensation. Rich people and poor people fight to be paid more every day in this country. It’s not like high earners are the only ones demanding more out of life.

And one last word: Every job in America is available to every person. There’s no caste system that precludes anyone from becoming a lawyer, doctor, movie star, athlete or even an investment banker.

But if you aren’t trained, educated or willing to work hard, accept the fact that you will never exceed the median.

Sal Bommarito is a novelist and frequent visitor to Vail over the past 20 years.


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