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"Hey Atlas, Stop Shrugging"
Why does a profitable company get lectured by fools who are deep in debt and never ran a business?

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June 19, 2008

My cousin just sent me one of those pithy twists on a fable set to modern day issues. In this case it was a "turn-the-tables" story of the Grasshopper and the Ant. The original version attributed to Aesop describes an ant who works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

The libertarian moral is the focus on individual achievement, and less government interference help breed success for many.

The twisted version sent by my cousin takes on a current political theme on who to vote for in 2008, though the original "modern" version is attributed to Pittsburg talk show host Jim Quinn who wrote it in 1994, and has been making the email rounds since 2002 (See http://www.warroom.com/antgh.php.

Here is what I received:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green.' Al Sharpton stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, 'We shall overcome.' Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake. Liberal politicians exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share. Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government. A law firm represents the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges that were appointed from a list of single-parent welfare recipients. The ant loses the case. The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

As cute as this is, it is analogous to the recent pounding that oil executives took on Capitol Hill in May of 2008 by both Democrats and Republicans of the Senate Finance Committee asking why Exxon and all the other "Evil Oil Empire" folks dared to make a large legal profit from their businesses.

Congress: "Profitable Businesses Hurt America"

The New York Times reported on 9 June that Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Exxon’s annual profits increased from $11.5 billion to $40.6 billion in the past five years and there was no explanation for “why profits have gone up so high when the consumer is suffering so much.” Senate Democrats recently announced an energy package that would tax “windfall” profits of the five companies. They went on to report Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, accused the corporate executives of ignoring the plight of people suffering because of high energy prices. “Where is your corporate conscience?” he asked them. Furthermore the New York Times reported Senator Leahy of Vermont stating “The issue is simple, People we represent are hurting, the companies you represent are profiting.”

Politics - The "first" refuge of the non-Creative and Unimaginative Self-Important Megalomaniac

If you look at all the people on the Judiciary Committee conducting the inquisition (Patrick J. Leahy, Edward M. Kennedy, Arlen Specter, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Orrin G. Hatch, Herb Kohl, Charles E. Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, Jon Kyl, Russell D. Feingold, Jeff Sessions, Charles E. Schumer, Lindsey Graham, Richard J. Durbin, John Cornyn, Benjamin L. Cardin, Sam Brownback, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Coburn,) only three have ever started or ran a business. They are Herb Kohl from Wisconsin joined the family business and over the next 23 years helped expand Kohl's to include one hundred grocery and department stores. Kohl focused on philanthropic activities after selling the business in 1979 and purchased the NBA Milwaukee Bucks in 1985. Richard J. Durbin, started a law practice in Springfield, Illinois, Tom Coburn, opened a medical practice in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

So here we have a committee of politicians of whom only one has run a real business, pontificating to men of action about how their profitable businesses that employ tens of thousands of people is contributing to the suffering of so many Americans. This delusional arrogance is akin to telling Tiger Woods how to play a better round of golf AND how his past wins have demoralized bad golfers to the effect that part of his winnings should go to help provide free lessons to masses of unfortunate duffers (i.e. windfall profits tax.)

As of this writing, America is $9 Trillion in debt and Congress controls the purse-strings of America. I have never been employed by a poor person, and for all their collective personal wealth, those committee members except for Kohl has ever employed anyone or made any tangible contributions to the wealth of America.

My real disappointment is with the oil executives who fail, in front of the cameras in an open door committee session to point this out.

My advice to these and other business executives who truly keep this country running is...stop shrugging -- start punching. A good shot in the mouth may bring politicians back to reality. The energy problem will not be solved by the likes of mediocre politicians and government employees, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, or others who only thing in terms of absolutes.

So, will the grasshopper win? With the thinking of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it appears that the stupid and lazy have a right to inherit the earth.

In the film Things Change, Don Ameche recalls an alternate version where in the end, the grasshopper eats the ant.


"Politicians cannot create jobs or wealth.  Such is axiomatic to straight thinkers." -- Greg Perry


See all references to the Grasshopper and the Ant story at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper

If you still believe that the government can run a food business better than an ant, check out Ron Miller's Blog article at http://teamronmiller.com/reflections/?p=42

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