NOTE: After writing this marathon blog post, I realize that most people who SHOULD read it, probably won’t take time to do so. The reason? It’s true and it’s too much information for them to handle and process.
In 2014 I lived the vast majority of a seven month period in South Florida and worked for a company that performed International Medical Billing and Collections services for hospitals and physicians. I worked with people from several countries–Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and more. I also lived in an apartment building next door to people from Russia, Holland, and other countries so I was exposed more than ever to International diversity. Keep in mind at that time I was a 44 year old, white male, raised in West Virginia as a Southern Baptist. Where I came from my background would seemingly be one of a hard-line Conservative Christian. What differs about my background is that my family and surroundings raised me to be kind and to love everyone just as a Christian should, regardless of things like skin color, nationality, religion, or other things that do not reflect on who they are as a person.
Every conversation I had with someone during my time there eventually turned to talking about their home country, what it was like growing up, and how they ended up in the United States. I asked most everyone I had this conversation with the same question. “Why did you come to America?” Every single one of them replied with the same answer, “Are you kidding? This is the greatest place in the world. You can be anything here, you just have to work.” In fact, just last week (August 2018) I met a man from Cuba who had been here since 1994 and he gave me the same answer and told me how much he loves America. For many people, and realizing many people have not had the opportunity to travel as I have, South Florida might as well be a different country. I have heard people say they felt like they were in a different country because they did not speak Spanish. However, my time in South Florida made me feel more Patriotic to my home country of the United States than any other time in my life. It was not all the previous 43+ years I had spent mostly in West Virginia and Kentucky around friends and family who are as Patriotic as I am that made me feel that way. It was being around a group of people who had come to America for the freedom to be whatever they want. They had come to America in search of Capitalism. A free trade society to make something of themselves.
Today, perhaps more than any other time in the history of the United States, more people are pushing for the implementation of Socialism. The arguments are confusing because (a) most of the arguments are not fact-based, but rather, are based on rhetoric, skewed information, and people who have never experienced the beauty of Capitalism and free trade economics and (b) there are many countries in the world which embrace Socialism, Communism, and other variations that depart from Capitalism. Why stay in the United States and fight rather than moving to a country that provides the very values that one supports? There are probably well over 100 countries one could move to freely. And the United States, being a free country, would let you go and even voluntarily denounce your U.S. citizenship. Problem solved.
To make a long story short, I grew up very poor in rural West Virginia. I remember times I was hungry as a child. Times we had cereal but no milk or went to relatives’ homes to eat. We did not really know we were poor growing up, we just knew other people enjoyed a lifestyle that we sometimes envied. Fast forward to October 1988 when I moved away from home to stay with friends to get a job just a few months after turning 18. I moved because where I had lived would have been a three mile walk to a bus stop and where I moved to was only about one and a half miles to a bus stop. I left with my clothes, my bed, and $50 cash as my only possessions. I started my first job 15 days later after spending every day applying and interviewing with anyone that would talk to me. I worked my ass off and learned everything I could so when the holidays were over I was kept on as a full-time employee and in less than a year I became the warehouse and service manager when another employee left. This was my first taste of Capitalism. My second taste came on my next job less than two years later when I was aggressive enough to sell a a security system and for that two-week period, I brought home almost four times the amount of my first ever paycheck.
In 1992 I graduated with my degree in Electronic Engineering and in 1993 my son was born and life really began for me. I was then working a full-time and a part-time job to make ends meet. I worked around 60-65 hours a week average and probably put in another 20-25 hours a week on my own time learning and growing professionally to further myself in my career. In late 1999 I was promoted to my first executive management position and less than two years later I left to start my own company. After building that company to around 25 employees and essentially being close to a millionaire on paper, I went through a divorce, had to sell my company, and lost almost everything when the economy tanked. I thought it would only take me a few years to build back my little empire but the economy was bad. Really bad. I consulted for investors for a while which is how I eventually landed in the position in South Florida. I did short term work for people who had many millions of dollars more than me and likely made millions in part from the work I did. I had no problem with it. We had an agreement for me to do work, I was paid for my work, and both parties benefited. Regardless as to who was to blame for the economic conditions I still knew I had the opportunity to build it back and I never stopped working.
After returning to Kentucky, life was seemingly in a downward spiral. I was unemployed and my wife and I did everything we could to make money to survive. In fact, our furnace died and I had to buy a used furnace and replace it myself because we were flat broke at the time. Our air conditioner also went out that summer and I had to repair it myself. My car needed a major repair so I rode a 150cc scooter to work for two months while a dear friend fixed my car for half what it should have cost. The hardships seem to come one after another. In 2015 started a YouTube channel and my intention was to build my social media following and use the income to pay for college tuition and get another degree. Through some strange twists of fate, I changed careers and started a new business with a couple partners. We grew the company from almost nothing to several dozen employees in less than two years and I am now on my way back to building what I had once lost.
In one of his YouTube videos Casey Neistat holds up his hands like you would when telling someone how big of a fish you caught and he basically says “You’re here (emphasizing one hand) and you want to be here (emphasizing the other hand). What is in the middle between where you are now and where you want to be is a lot of work.” Are there obstacles? Sure, there are often obstacles and most obstacles can be overcome. If you work hard today to be better than you were yesterday you will continue to improve your position and better yourself. Did I have help along the way? Sure, I had some help but not much. A friend co-signed for my first car loan ($2700 used car) and my oldest brother helped when I was in school and would be there for anything I needed. I also believe that if you do good and work hard, people recognize it and overall that type of help can be available to most anyone. No one handed me anything in life, I had to work for it and show what I was capable of.
One of the things that separates successful people is their work ethic and how hard they are willing to work to better themselves. I believe some people are indeed genetic freaks. They get up at 5am every day and run 5-10 miles before they go to work. Not me. I’d just as soon sleep until 8-9am, which gets harder as I approach 50 years old, but I work every single day, often times I work 16-18 hours a day for weeks at a time. Regardless of how much I actually work for the business, I continue to improve myself personally and professionally by continuously reading, learning, and growing. Have you ever seen a poster or picture of a fitness trainer that asks “How bad do you want it?” That poster means more than just exercise. It’s referencing your work ethic and how bad you want to get to your destination. If you work 40 hours a week and spend no time whatsoever further developing yourself, your skills, your knowledge, and who you are as a person, you are never going to get through that “lot of work” that is between where you are now and where you want to be.
You would be hard pressed to name another country on Earth where I could have the opportunity to not only rise from being poor to being successful just through hard work, but to also have done it twice in a lifetime. Are you successful in your professional life? Are you where you want to be? If you’re not then I’d ask how many hours you worked the past several weeks. I would also also how much time OUTSIDE of work on YOUR OWN TIME have you spent over the past several weeks to better yourself. The simple fact is that if you worked your hours and nothing more, you have nothing to complain about when it comes to bettering your life. All the opportunity in the world is before you and you are free to pursue it. But you have to do the pursuit.
Most of the battles in support of Socialism are based on certain principles:
- Rhetoric, where things sound like a good idea but actions speak louder than words. Economist Milton Friedman once said, “One of the biggest mistakes is to judge a government program by its intentions rather than it’s results.” Many things sound like a good idea such as redistribution of wealth, but the fact is that no method has been discovered to improve the lot of the ordinary masses that holds a candle to Capitalism. The countries that are worst off are those that depart from a free trade society. Now those in support are switching to using the term “Democratic Socialism” in an attempt to make it not sound so bad.
- Skewed facts, where information is used in misleading ways to lead people to believe certain ideologies. One recent statistic that was published showed the median income in the U.S. was $34,000 and that it’s $34,000 today but the price of bread in 1977 was $0.32 and is now $1.96. For those who do not take time to look into the facts, the median income number was adjusted for inflation but the price of bread was not. Very misleading for those spreading this type of propaganda to the weak-minded and quick to give knee-jerk reactions. I was involved in a very large study that collected data for the largest water contamination case health study ever performed so I know a little about statistics and slicing data. In most cases, data can be used in ways to show whatever result you want. When you simply say something that should involve data and statistics, those things need to be true and accurate. If you have not done your homework and covered the bases from different angles, don’t spread the propaganda. You’ll eventually get called out and made to look like a fool. The example below shows a mis-informed reply to a tweet and the colored notations are someone else pointing out that “Owen Watson” is basically spewing propaganda that doesn’t measure up to the posted statistic.
- Tugging at heart strings, where information like I described above are used to lure those knee-jerk reactions and induce anger over certain social issues. Are we a perfect society? No, not by any means. Socialism would level the playing field. It would level the playing field so everyone is at the bottom, not by lifting anyone up to the top.
The bottom line is that the United States of American has become the richest, highest producing country on the planet, roughly in the past 100 years of heavy industry while leaving the rest of the planet behind. The U.S. out produced China by almost DOUBLE. The GDP of the U.S. with approximately 325 Million people nearly out produces by double which has a population of more than 1.4 Billion people, that’s a 4.3 to 1 ratio for those keeping score. People vote with their feet. Are people trying to escape the poverty of Mexico to the come to the U.S. or are people leaving the U.S. for Mexico (other than those running from legal issues)? Are people trying to get from China into Hong Kong or from Hong Kong into China? You do not have to look very far to figure out that no other known method for progressing an entire country’s wealth and productivity can stand next to Capitalism.
I recently saw a post on Facebook that challenged CEOs to live on the wage of their lowest paid employee. I actually find both humor and irony in this statement. First, I have lived on low wages. My first job paid $4.25/hour (minimum wage at the time was $3.35/hour) and I found I could not make it so I worked hard to better myself and my life situation. Something I continue to do today. Second, if you reversed rolls and allowed the lowest paid employee to run a large corporation, it would likely be a matter of time before everyone no longer had jobs. Executive management positions come with experience, performance, leadership, and wisdom. Those traits do not happen just because you were born, you have to learn and earn them. So many things go into determining how much a company can afford to pay employees that if you have not taken time to understand the economics of a business and what’s required to even be in business, you should not be spreading propaganda.
Another false statement is that business owners and executive management put “profits over people” and it simply is not true in the vast majority of businesses. I once had to terminate an employee because they had made several mistakes and made one mistake so large it could have caused the company to go under. A few employees were not happy about the change and had expressed they did not feel the termination was fair because all they had seen was an employee working hard and trying his best. My view on the situation was that this employee had endangered the company. At the time we had more than 20 employees which meant we had more than 20 families we were responsible for on pay day each week. Anything that threatens the families in our business, regardless if the threat is a competitor, vendor, employee, or anything else, must be dealt with appropriately to protect the families of the business. Just because you have not had a conversation with the CEO of your employer or the owners of the company does not mean they don’t care. If you put yourself in their shoes and consider the pressure to keep a business operating and growing, you might gain a better perspective of their actions and priorities.
What does it mean to be poor in America? Here are some statistics pulled from this article.
- 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning
- Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks
- Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television
- Two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR
- Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
- More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
- 43 percent have Internet access
- One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
- One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo
Show me another country where the “poor” live this well and I’ll show you another Capitalistic society.
If anyone in the United States would prefer a socialistic society, again there are many countries they are free to move to without objection. Without the freedoms we enjoy under the United States Constitution which is what you would have in most countries, the ability to even speak out against the government would not be allowed. So it’s ironic those who push for Socialism are doing so under a Capitalistic society rather than just moving somewhere else where they could enjoy that lifestyle and environment, living conditions, health care, and employment conditions.
Oh, here’s a flag for you. Far too many people have died protecting what we have in America for anyone to be so disrespectful as to wish those freedoms did not exist.