In my medical practice, I often have the honor and privilege to meet and care for humble and hard-working folks who are not rich, who inspire me with the example of their lives, which often are not very easy. Most of the time, they do not even know how much I admire their courage in the face of difficult family challenges and economic pressures.
One such person is a rugged, stoic carpenter who, when discussing the difficult economy, opined that the rich should be made to give more money to the government. His premise was that this would lead to greater prosperity for the country and would help us to climb out of our current economic rut.
This conversation has led me to ask many patients of modest means who I admire greatly what they think about our economic difficulties and I am seeing a trend in their responses that troubles me - the sense that the achievers and producers in our society should be punished. Their wealth should be confiscated and redistributed in order to make for a more fair society.
There seems to be a resentment for success and achievement, not an admiration and a resulting inspiration that I always thought industrious Americans had. Successful business persons nowadays are labeled "fat cats" without considering that they may have toiled for years to achieve what they had.
I am uncomfortable with "class envy." Employers and employees are both necessary to make our economy work. But let us have the courage to recognize that the employers, the producers, the job-creators, the entrepreneurs, the risk-takers, the achievers who may be wealthy as a result of years of sweat, sacrifice and effort are the most important members of our economy and should be exalted, emulated and imitated.
James J. Di Maio, MD