Steven Pearlstein: I am… confused

Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Pearlstein takes to the Washington Post for a withering criticism of crony capitalists. Unfortunately, he proceeds to conflate them with proponents of free markets, and really anyone who dares to question liberal policies, to create a confusing mishmash of pronouncements.

I am a corporate chief executive.

I am a business owner.

I am a private-equity fund manager.

I am the misunderstood superhero of American capitalism, single-handedly creating wealth and prosperity despite all the obstacles put in my way by employees, government and the media.

I am a job creator and I am entitled.

No, you are a Washington Post columnist with a very flawed perspective about the role of government and its relationship to a free citizenry, whose misconceptions we’ll break down one at a time. 

I am entitled to complain about the economy even when my stock price, my portfolio and my profits are at record levels.

The message here? Shut up and enjoy the government benevolence. If in 2005, the owner of a real estate company had complained that the risky loans banks were being forced to offer by the Community Reinvestment Act were creating an environment that made him uncomfortable with investing more money, due to the instability he foresaw in the years ahead, would he have been criticized for complaining, instead of simply enjoying his record profits? Well, probably. But those criticisms would sure look short-sighted and foolish now.

I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize the government workers who provide them.

“You didn’t build that” strikes again. We the People are a gift from the current ruling party, an initial investment that justifies government taking future returns. With this unAmerican mindset, government is no longer seen as, at best, a guarantor of equal opportunity from which point all are free to succeed or fail on our own, or at worst a necessary evil. No, government is now a venture capitalist, We the People are the capital, and those who most take advantage of America the Beautiful must begin their Success acceptance speech with, “First of all, I’d like to thank the Feds, who made all this possible.” It is a subtle blackmail. Those educated people, paved roads, and rule of law you enjoy sure are nice, ain’t they? Would be a shame if anything happened to them, wouldn’t it?

I am entitled to complain about the poor quality of service provided by government agencies even as I leave my own customers on hold for 35 minutes while repeatedly telling them how important their call is.

Say what you will about Verizon customer service, but at least you have the choice to switch to AT&T.  Next time you’re frustrated at the DMV, good luck telling them you’re just going to get your driver’s license from Kinko’s.

I am entitled to inside information and favorable investment opportunities not available to ordinary investors.

Wait, I thought you were an investment fund manager, not Nancy Pelosi or Chris Dodd.

I am entitled to pass on my accumulated wealth tax-free to heirs, who in turn, are entitled to claim that they earned everything they have.

What’s the inverse of this? Government is free to take the money you’ve already paid income taxes on? Based on what principle? As for entitled heirs claiming merit… annoyance at arrogant trust fund babies should be a government concern?

I am entitled to use company funds to burnish my own charitable reputation.

And the president is entitled to use taxpayer dollars to burnish his own legacy? Here’s a fun game: Name one CEO who the public has an undeserved high regard for based on his company’s charity. Now name the number of buildings in West Virginia built with taxpayer funds yet named after former Klansman and Democratic Senator Robert Byrd.

I am entitled to provide political support to radical, uncompromising politicians and then complain about how dysfunctional Washington has become.

Is that really any worse than being entitled to write for a major newspaper while being completely unaware of the distinction between Republicans and Conservatives? Or crony capitalists and proponents of the free market?

Although I have no clue how government works, I am entitled to be consulted on public policy by politicians and bureaucrats who have no clue about how business works.

If no one has any clue about much of anything, maybe we should limit government’s influence in our lives as much as possible.

I am entitled to publicly criticize the president and members of Congress, who are not entitled to criticize me.

Correct. Politicians are our servants who we are duty-bound to keep in check.  Because we entrust them with the administration of lethal force, their criticism must be careful lest that power be exploited.

I am entitled to deny knowledge or responsibility for any controversial decisions made after my departure from the company, even while profiting from such decisions if they enhance shareholder value.

Correct again. You get to be like any employee who leaves a company but still owns some of its stock.

I am entitled to take credit for all the jobs I create while ignoring any jobs I destroy.

Wait a second… I didn’t realize this was 20 Questions. I figured it out! YOU’RE BARACK OBAMA!!!

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