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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Helaine Olen and Ben Carson: The Extremes

Well, I found myself at both ends of the spectrum this week.  Reading Helaine Olen's Pound Foolish (#7 on Amazon's Business Books bestseller list) pushed me all the way to the far left, where it pounded away at the idea that financial planning couldn't possibly help the middle class attain a decent retirement what with the fact the national economy is pushing the middle class ever lower.  The government has to come to the rescue.

She beat up big time on some of the nation's top financial promoters, including Orman, Ramsey, Bach, Cramer, and especially Kiyosaki. She takes on the financial literacy movement and spends a lot of time on the idea that people, and especially women, can't prosper because their income is anemic and they have life events that disrupt any effort at securing a desirable financial future.

Then, as far right as you can possibly get, was the talk by world-renowned Hopkins pediatric surgeon Dr. Ben Carson at the National Prayer breakfast with President Obama present.

Republicans seized on this speech as a lecturing of the President.  I really missed that part of it--although granted, the President did look bored.  In terms of the lecturing, do people really believe that Obama doesn't know the deficit is big and the national debt is humongous?  Do people believe that he hasn't heard a proportional tax proposal a zillion times or the idea for a medical card at birth?  The right jumped on the speech as a springboard for a run at the Presidency.

Dr. Carson is an interesting, accomplished man.  He grew up in poverty, supported by a single mother who worked multiple jobs as a domestic and severely limited her two sons watching TV.  She required her sons to read books and write book reports which she somehow corrected without being able to read herself.

So there you go.  Just take personal responsibility, and some of the nation's biggest problems are solved.  Imagine what can be done with the 26% unemployment rate among teenagers, many of whom are in the inner cities, and high school dropouts if we can get their mothers to force them to read a book/week and write a book report.  In fact, I've got a better one:  suppose we can get the unemployed to work on doing a flying dunk from the foul line so that they can take Michael Jordan's route?

Dr. Carson says he will run for President if God asks him.  I know I'm stepping on toes, but that alone makes me nervous.  As I understand it, God told the terrorists on 9/11 to drive planes into the twin towers.  In fact, it was the very same God.  I believe there is a reason for separation of church and state.

For what it's worth, many make it from the middle class to the 1% high income class.  They work really, really hard to get there, Ms. Olen.  You can do it in this country.  I'm not saying it is easy.  And, Dr. Carson, they get help.  They use the G.I. Bill and get grants.  Lower proportional tax rates enable them to buy books for school and keep their car on the road.

The bottom line is Ms. Olen is an excuse-maker supreme and Dr. Carson is a personal responsibility advocate who accepts no excuse.  IMHO, the best path is between the extremes.


  1. Ben Carson wins hands down. Excuse making and other crutches for personal failure like quaint notions that only government assistance can create prosperity have long and checkered histories of failure all around the world. There is never enough of other people's money to solve the nation's or the world's problems, but it doesn't stop the elites from trying to make the case that this time is different.

  2. Great contrast between the two. I personally like with Ben Carson has to say.