Op-EdAppeared in Townhall on December 1, 2011By Mike Whalen

Elizabeth Warren’s Upside Down Argument

Elizabeth Warren, liberal candidate for the senate in Massachusetts, recently declared that nobody succeeds on their own in the country. This is true. There are always many people involved in any success. But she took it one step further, stating that success is a gift from civilized society:

There is nobody in this country that got rich on their own – nobody. You built a factory out there; good for you. I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this – because of the work the rest of us did.

I’m an entrepreneur who started Heart of America Group with a little 100-seat restaurant in 1978 which has grown to over 30 hotels and properties; I thought I would educate Professor Warren a little bit.

One of my businesses is a 137-room hotel with a restaurant and banquet facilities. Last year this hotel paid quite a bit for roads, fire and police, and schools. Property taxes were $410,695, “pillow” taxes were $240,497 and sales and use taxes were $329,962. That’s almost $1 million before I pay the people that work at the hotel, the utilities, the payroll taxes at $183,232, or a nickel to the bank on their annual mortgage payment of $1,028,892 a year for twenty years. That $1 million of local taxes is before I pay any state or federal income taxes and multiple fees.

Doesn’t that sound like a “fair share” for a single, relatively small hotel?

In fact, Professor Warren’s argument is exactly upside down. My little hotel doesn’t drive on the roads, use the library or send kids to public schools. How do you think these things are paid for, by the household that pays $4,500 a year in property taxes and sends 2 kids to school at $12,000 per year?

Professor Warren refers to “the rest of us” as an equal partner in all our endeavors and the government as the way “the rest of us” gets our “fair share.” But “the rest of us” were not the ones that worked the 16-hour days, seven days a week that my wife and I did when we first started Heart of America Group. “The rest of us” were not the ones who had to give personal guarantees for bank loans that put everything we had at risk. Forgive me, but it appears to me that “the rest of us” are entitled to a lot, but did not put in any work or any risk.

Professor Warren turns America’s need for limited government, so not to live in the state of nature, into an argument that society at large has a claim on all the fruits of our labors. John Locke must be turning in his grave.