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In today's political climate, a liberal Auntie Mame might say that life is a banquet, which the government must pay for, and that those who can't afford a place at the table should behave like it was an all-you-can eat buffet.

This is the view of Barack Obama. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Obama expounded on the economic policies he would pursue as president. Among other things, he is concerned about the "winner-take-all" economy where, he says, "the gains from economic growth skew heavily toward the wealthy." Actually, the gains from economic growth can skew toward anyone willing to work hard and make personal and family decisions that improve their chances for success.

This is boilerplate wealth redistribution, an economic philosophy at the center of the former Soviet Union. Obama and Democrats wish to embrace it now in order to make more people dependent on government, rather than encourage people to rely on themselves and the opportunity America offers to most citizens, even illegal aliens. Guaranteed equal outcome is socialism.

America was built on and sustained by a "can do" spirit. Today, too many are taught a "can't do" spirit. They are told that because of factors over which they have no control -- race, class, poverty -- it is impossible for them to do anything for themselves and so they must increasingly rely on government. Government doesn't cure poverty.

It merely sets up barriers that ensure that too many poor people will remain locked in poverty. They are encouraged to vote for Democrats, if they want to keep receiving "benefits."

In his classic work "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till."

How many read Emerson today in schools that graduate multitudes who can't read, write, or do basic math? Who teaches self-reliance? It's all about relying on government as our keeper.

America once was a country of overcomers. Today, we are not about overcoming. The successful are not studied to see how they succeeded.

Their stories of overcoming obstacles are not told, at least in their totality. If they are told at all, it is just the success and wealth part, not the part about how they got there. And then because they studied hard, didn't take drugs, developed character, learned business principles and succeeded, they are told their wealth must be taken from them by Barack Obama and his legion of envious thieves to spread around to those who made wrong decisions. Obama's economic doctrine subsidizes people who make wrong decisions and does little to encourage them to make right ones. Failure becomes an option, the flip side of success. One can make money either way.

Two observations from another era in which the word "entitlement" referred more to liberty than to someone else's earnings, ring true today. Both are from Calvin Coolidge. First, "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong" and "The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and in all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success, but to create conditions under which everyone will have a better chance to be successful."

Or, if you prefer, John F. Kennedy at a Nov. 20, 1962 news conference: "It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. . . . Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus."

Several members of the Kennedy family have endorsed Obama. Maybe someone will remind him of JFK's decidedly different approach to taxation, prosperity and a "can do" spirit.

Cal Thomas' column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. E-mail him at tmseditors@tribune.com.America once was a country of overcomers.

Today, we are not about overcoming. The successful are not studied to see how they succeeded.

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