If the baby Jesus were born in the United
States this month, he would already owe $45,000 as his share of
the national debt, according to the Concord Coalition; and the
Wise Men in Washington would be hiking that amount to account
for his share of the new "tax cut compromise."
Forget the shepherds watching flocks at
night; they're on extended unemployment this year. Don't wait
for the original three Wise Men; they're in Washington defending
their right to their own gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Perhaps by Christmas Day there will be peace
in D.C., as the bipartisan angels agree on a package that
doesn't raise taxes, and even cuts payroll taxes that should be
funding the almost-bankrupt Social Security system, all the
while increasing spending with more money borrowed from the
Those citizens who aren't totally distracted
by Christmas shopping and decking the halls, hear mostly a
distracting debate about "taxing the rich" instead of "taxing
the new babies."
At first I was personally concerned, since I
consider myself "rich." I have a snug little home, a car, warm
winter clothes, enough food for me, the cat, the fish; and Chip
and I will have roast beast on Christmas Day just like the Whos.
Best of all, because of the values instilled
in me by my parents, I have no debt at all (except for my own
share of the country's $14 trillion, which I'm not going to
think about right now). Life is good.
Liberals do want to tax me more, but they
fortunately don't place me in their definition of "the rich,"
whom they really, really want to tax more because they hate and
envy their success.
The rich people I know earned their money by
providing goods and services, thereby providing jobs, and
investing in technological change that make our economy strong
and our lives easier. I consider myself fortunate to have known
such great entrepreneurs as Tom Flatley, Dick Egan, and Dee and
Alex d'Arbeloff, just to mention those who have passed on so you
won't think I'm soliciting a contribution from former
They either came here as immigrants or were
early-generation Americans, who built their businesses
themselves with ideas, hard work and an enthusiastic commitment
to the American Dream. They earned every cent they had,
voluntarily shared much of their wealth, and made the world a
better place because they lived.
Last week, Chip and I attended a memorial
service for another of the great "rich," Lovett Chase Peters,
who died Nov. 11 at the age of 97. "Pete" didn't begin his life
with money, but when he was 15 walked into Phillips Academy in
Andover and asked for admission. The dean recognized potential
and admitted him, then he went on to Yale and a long career in
the oil and gas industry, where he made his millions.
In 1966 he became president of Boston-based
Cabot Corp., which was an early supporter of Citizens for
Limited Taxation. By the time I went to work at CLT, Pete had
moved on to found Peters Associates. I'd meet him at various
events and we'd talk about political issues, especially his
priority of giving every child a chance at a good education.
He shared CLT's desire for school choice and
education vouchers, which he called creating "entrepreneurial
One day he took me to lunch to tell me about
an idea he had for a new think tank that would promote excellent
ideas for better government.
Probably like some others he consulted, I
thought that there was little chance that Massachusetts
government would be interested in excellent ideas, but I had
sense enough to keep my skepticism to ourselves. If I'd known
Pete better at the time, I wouldn't have been skeptical at all.
He founded the
Pioneer Institute in 1988, just in time for the Republican
governors, starting with Bill Weld, who were definitely
interested in excellent ideas. Though the concept of vouchers
was too dramatic for union-dominated Massachusetts, the concept
of entrepreneurial education got a solid start here with the
creation of charter schools.
This was one instance in which
bi-partisanship worked, as Democratic legislative leaders were
also concerned enough about the state of public education here
to take on the teachers' unions. Pete continued the battle for
choice right up until his death, and his Pioneer Institute will
carry on with this and other "better government" ideas.
One rich man with a dream, getting support
from other rich people, as well as less-wealthy Pioneer
supporters, and inspiring similar projects in other states, has
given a chance for success to thousands of children. Hallelujah!
I never envied Pete his wealth, nor do I
think there is something wrong with his leaving some of it to
his own children. He and his wonderful wife Ruth paid more in
taxes than most people pay, and used their self-made
"advantages" to do a lot more for many.
Without Pete having been rich, the
commonwealth would have been poorer. Let us cover him and others
like him in admiration and gratitude. Hallelujah!