I had the honor and pleasure to speak at the second annual Constitution Day event in Las Vegas on Saturday and came away inspired but also depressed. Several local speakers told wonderful stories about America and living their dreams.
Dolly from the Philippines came to America thirty years ago seeking the dream. Dismissing the victimization rhetoric she heard in college about all the obstacles for women she focused on all the opportunities for everyone.
John became an American citizen last year and also borrowed $4,500 from a friend to open a printing shop. Not only did people tell him opening a business was bad but it was a recession and it was printing. Well, he has hired five workers and his business is growing. I hear smarty pants journalists and politicians mock Mitt Romney for saying "borrow money and start a business" as if it's impossible. People waste a lot of money on things they don't need and if there is a willingness to make small sacrifices then it's possible to start a business.
Pietro left Italy forty years ago, landing first in Canada but always wanting to be an American. He got a chance to live in Minneapolis but decided it was too cold and packed up the family for Vegas - a couple decades before it became a boomtown. He worked hard and now owns a restaurant. His English is still broken but when he said he felt sorry for people born in America because they don't realize how good they have it, I understood completely.
There are so many people out there grateful for America and yet many were not born in this nation. In the meantime pillars that made this nation the beacon for the world continue to be chipped away: God, family, individual effort and accountability, laws, rights and optimism.
I'll always remain optimistic for myself because I'm a dynamo. I never stop growing, dreaming and working. But, I'm crestfallen for my country, especially people at the lower end of the economic ladder. My sorrow comes from more and more Americans buying the line that somehow their success is limited by the success of others. Opportunities and prosperity are unlimited and we can all have a piece of the action. Not by punishing others and divvying up their earnings, but by working hard, working smart and keeping an eye on the prize.
It's part of an entitlement society to expect an easy life. Kids at Columbia and NYU hate the idea of driving a cab for a year until the job market improves and people that don't pay federal income tax demand those that pay millions cough up more dough so benefits, like free cell phones, might become more lavish. Years ago I met a European couple that chided me about Americans and said our poorest citizens live as well as their average families. It is true but isn't ordained and can't last forever unless we get it in gear. I don't hear talk of being great, I hear talk or deconstructing the upper levels of the economy, both individual and business, to create a super middle. That means fewer business starts, fewer inventions and a lesser lifestyle for all. It's already happening and could get a lot worse.
If only Dolly, Pietro and John could get all Americans to listen to their stories, especially young Americans. Of course those youngsters are too busy listening to Kanye rap that Romney pays no taxes. By the way, in addition to fear, intimidation and punishment one of the tricks toward building a nation of indifference toward individual success is to demonize those that have taken that road best. But it's not about billionaires - it's really about families moving forward and making a better life for the next generation through accomplishment.
Instead of ripping down businesses we should be sprouting them.
Best Way for Minorities to Claim the American Dream
Like marriage, families, homeownership and reading, Americans have given up owning a business. I suspect there are the same drivers for all of these things, from hopelessness to laziness to a desire for the least amount of responsibly possible. I would be halfway cool with that if all the people without the courage to try and build businesses weren't lighting torches to tear them down. I know for a fact the best way to achieve prosperity is to start a business or to be part of a start-up. It's harder work but greater riches and greater pride. It's a message all should believe, particularly those with the fewest uncles and grandfathers running big businesses.
Instead, start ups for the nation have collapsed.
The lack of new businesses stems from the same forces that have held back large businesses - forward -looking knowledge. You have to brace for what's coming down the road and down the road for business is an avalanche of taxes, rules, and limited rights.
Empire State Manufacturing Data
The state of manufacturing in New York is taking a dive for the worse and resides at levels that marked the bottom of the Great Recession three years ago. Businesses want to hire people and want to spend money on capital projects, both are not only signs of success but speak well of the future. Only 1% of manufacturers in the state said they hired much more than planned coming into the year. Maybe that's why those Robert DeNiro commercials designed to promote business in New York speak to achievements that happened one to two years ago.