Honoring one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, President Obama recently used the imagery and power of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy to legitimize protesters squatting in parks across the country.
A better symbol of the Occupy Wall Street movement comes from my parent's home country of Haiti. The image of Jean Bertrand Aristide telling Haiti's poor to "catch someone who does not deserve to be where he is" and "give him what he deserves" embodies the same spirit of class warfare being perpetuated by some of today's OWS protesters. The disastrous results of Aristide's campaign of hate should not be replicated in America.
My parents came to this country seeking opportunity. They wanted to do as King dreamed. They came to live out the true meaning of the creed that all men are created equal. They came to be judged by the content of their character.
Unfortunately, OWS, Obama and others have grossly mischaracterized equality of opportunity to mean equality of result. Throughout the month-long protests, we've heard terms like economic equality or income equality used repeatedly.
I reject the idea that King, a man who fought so hard for equal opportunity, would advocate to replace the American Dream with a socialist nightmare.
The notion that everyone, regardless of their own inputs, should receive the same outputs is foreign to the American way of life. This country's greatness and unprecedented wealth stem from the fact that hard work is rewarded.
But at the recent "Jobs and Justice" event in Washington, D.C., protesters complained that the poor, unemployed and homeless can't thrive unless government steps in to save the day. It's a familiar theme: government is both the problem and the solution. If incomes were equal, if there was no disparity, then everything would be fair. But it's simply not true.
When government takes from someone who earned and gives to someone who did not, government essentially penalizes productivity and incentivizes entitlement. While such policies may be justified in cases of extreme disability, they have a significant impact on economic output when applied more broadly. Taken to the extreme, such policies result in lower productivity and higher social spending than is sustainable in the long run.
Is the realization of King's dream a world in which everyone receives the same income regardless of the content of their character? Did King's famous statement mean that the nation's creed should include all men possessing equal things? Did King advocate the singling out of Americans by race or social class?
Let's set the record straight. Our capitalist system has created the most successful economy on the planet. Socialist systems have never come close to replicating the results produced in America over the long term.
The answer to our current economic problems lies in preserving the economic engine that made America what it is today. That engine has always been fueled by the rewards of the American Dream. Preserving that dream — the same dream King wanted for his children — requires an economy that rewards productivity. Income "equality," which rewards the productive and the unproductive in equal measure, is the antithesis of the American economic model.
Our system is far from perfect. We have a lot of work to do to revive a flagging global and national economy. But throwing out a system that has served us well for over 200 years is not the answer. We must work within the current economic model to address the challenges we face.
There is a place where people were told to fight one another in class warfare — a place where the public took to the street and ran all the businesses out of the country. That place is called Haiti — a place where there is no hope, no middle class and after a decade of class warfare, almost no rich. There is only poor.
The poor and unemployed need opportunities, not toxic rhetoric. Instead of turning against one another, we must stand united in the fight to rebuild our economy. Instead of emulating Haiti, where a president encouraged the poor to set fire to the rich as the crowd cheered, we must stand as one nation indivisible.
Mia Love is the Mayor of Saratoga Springs and a potential candidate in the 4th Congressional District.
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