Growing up in yesteryear America, there was any number of simple phrases intended to teach personal responsibility. “Save up for a rainy day” and “work hard to get ahead” were among them. The American dream itself was built on the notion that every American had the opportunity to create a better life for himself or herself and for his or her family.
The key word is opportunity. No one is guaranteed success. Hard work, a little luck and taking responsibility for one’s own actions are all part of the equation. If you work hard, you increase the likelihood of advancement. If you are willing to risk your own time and money on a business, you have the potential to reap great rewards. Conversely, if you put in little effort, take few risks and don’t play by the rules, you shouldn’t expect the same benefits as those who do.
Life isn’t always fair, of course. Sometimes tragedy strikes. Sometimes evil interferes. Sometimes things simply don’t go as planned, but by a large margin, those who work hard and play within society’s rules outperform those who don’t.
Except in Joe Biden’s America, where there apparently are no consequences for bad behavior.
President Biden announced last week that he is spending $36 billion of taxpayer funds to bail out a troubled Teamsters union pension plan projected to run out of money in 2025. A part of your paycheck will now pay for the Teamsters union retirement fund for the next 25 or 30 years.
The Teamsters have a long and storied history that includes alleged ties to organized crime and extorting small businesses. Over a thirty-year period, three different Teamsters’ presidents were convicted of various crimes and sentenced to prison terms. Should we be shocked that they’re running out of money?
Unions were formed and promoted because of their purported ability to get better pay, benefits and retirement plans for their members than individual employees might get on their own. Somehow in the midst of their alleged criminal activity, it appears the union failed to tend properly to the funds set aside for their members. Billions of dollars have been mismanaged so badly that the White House claims that without Biden’s helping hand, benefits would be cut for the roughly 350,000 truck drivers, warehouse workers, construction workers and others attached to the union by more than half.
If you worked for the union, the state of affairs is surely shocking and upsetting. If you work as a school teacher or policeman, the idea that you now have to pay for the sins of private union bosses is far more upsetting.
The unions didn’t play by the rules. The consequence? Everyone else is penalized. Charles Blahous of George Mason University says the Biden bailout encourages “more of the irresponsible behavior that got pensions into trouble in the first place.”
Sadly, this is the new normal. No one is held responsible for their own actions and choices anymore.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration, with great fanfare, announced what they called college debt “forgiveness.” Nothing is forgiven, but rather the debt is moved from those who chose to incur it to the American taxpayer. Maybe you already paid for your college. Perhaps you couldn’t afford to go. Either way, if Mr. Biden has his way, you’ll be on the hook to pay off billions in loans for people now reaping the benefits of their education. Doctors, lawyers and accountants will now all have less debt. Sadly, you’ll be picking up their tab.
The president says the typical undergraduate student with loans now graduates with nearly $25,000 in debt. He says there are 45 million student loan borrowers in total. What he fails to mention is no one forced any of those people to sign an agreement to repay. They made a calculated choice to invest in themselves, get an education and pay back the debt with interest. Now many of them, a college degree in hand, have decided they simply don’t want to pay it back.
Mr. Biden’s response? Okay, we will shift the burden to cops and teachers and every other tax-paying American. The White House repeatedly says, “No high-income individual or high-income household will benefit from this action.” yet a married couple making a quarter million dollars a year is eligible. Biden will reward the behavior of those failing to live up to their promise to repay. In doing so, we will encourage more irresponsible misbehavior.
On the US border, the facts are indisputable. Millions of people are entering America illegally. The law is clear, but the Biden administration has actively made every effort to ignore the problem and, in turn, ignore the law. Mr.Biden himself, who hasn’t visited the southern border at any time during his presidency, declared this week that “We have bigger issues to worry about.” as though a country of 330 million people can’t address more than one issue at a time. The willful disregard for U.S. immigration law as written penalizes those who follow it and rewards those who ignore it.
In 2020 America was producing enough oil, gas and other energy sources to completely cover our own energy needs. The Biden administration intentionally interrupted that, interfering in oil, natural gas, coal and other contributors to U.S. energy independence. The result damaged the economy, increased prices for nearly everything and left America begging for help. Mr. Biden, who had promised to make the Saudi Crown Prince a pariah, instead went hat in hand, begging for more oil. He was rebuffed. Now the president is trying to work out the details of getting oil from Venezuela to provide more for the American public.
American companies were penalized for providing a needed product to our own people. Mr. Biden weakened our nation by begging and being rejected in the Middle East. Now he is going to prop up a South American strong-man by buying his oil and shipping it from halfway around the world.
Once again, Americans are penalized for doing the right thing. A South American bad guy will be rewarded. Prices will be higher. American jobs will be lost. Up is down and down is up. The absurdity is epic.
Prosecutorial discretion is something that state and federal attorneys have traditionally used to recognize unique circumstances in rare cases. If someone unintentionally violated a local ordinance, area officials might choose not to prosecute. If you were driving 56 MPH in a zone with a limit of 55 MPH, it was unlikely you would be cited. In the strange world that we now live in, however, prosecutors have reinterpreted the meaning of discretion to overrule legislative bodies and simply ignore laws they disagree with.
In certain California jurisdictions, prosecutors announced they would no longer prosecute theft if the value of the stolen goods were less than $1000. The law on the books still made it illegal, but under the decree of left-wing prosecutors, a malcontent could go into a clothing or grocery store and take hundreds of dollars of merchandise with no risk of consequence whatsoever. Predictably, bad guys took full advantage, and many businesses simply had to close their doors permanently.
The bad guys broke the law. No consequence. The good guys who had risked their own time and money in a business suffered instead.
Actions have consequences. Unless they don’t. The Biden administration appears to believe that government money is the answer to virtually everything, failing to realize that it is actually your money. The money comes from you. You pay the bill. You’re going to pay for the corrupt Teamsters union. You’re going to pay student loans for doctors and lawyers. You’re going to pay in a variety of ways for the open borders Mr. Biden ignores and encourages. You’re going to pay more for gas, food and clothing thanks to the ridiculous energy policies.
Mr. Biden’s bail-out and forgiveness policies teach those who have acted irresponsibly that there are no consequences for their actions. Worse yet, it teaches those who play by society’s rules and try to do the right thing may well be penalized for doing so.
Humans are clever creatures. We learn rapidly. The more corruption is rewarded and the more “doing the right thing” is penalized, society will rapidly make a shift to seeking the rewards by whatever means necessary. In a world where no one is held responsible for their own choices, disorder and chaos are the inevitable results.
- Tim Constantine is a columnist with The Washington Times.