President Obama’s 2013 budget, if passed, would be a financial disaster. But Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, points out something worse about this budget: it would be harmful to our national character.
According to Brooks, the budget fails the marshmallow test—this is a famous experiment in which marshmallows were placed on a table and children were told they could have one immediately or two if they waited fifteen minutes.
Interestingly, later studies revealed that the children who were able to wait the quarter hour for their marshmallows had SAT scores 210 points on average higher than the other group, were less likely to drop out of college, made more money and had fewer drug or alcohol problems. Message: people who can delay gratification are more likely to succeed. Brooks writes:
When we hear about successful entrepreneurs, it is always as if they had the Midas touch. A pimply college kid cooks up an Internet company during a boring lecture at Harvard, and before lunch he's a billionaire. In real life, that's not how it works. Northwestern University Professor Steven Rogers has shown that the average entrepreneur fails about four times before succeeding.
When asked about their ultimate success, entrepreneurs often talk instead about the importance of their hardships: early failures and bankruptcies, missed Little-League games, endless nights without sleep. They talk about almost losing their home and the strain all this put on their marriage. When I asked the legendary investment company founder Charles Schwab about the success of the $15 billion corporation that bears his name, he told me the story about taking out a second mortgage on his home just to make payroll in the early years.
Why this emphasis on the struggle? Entrepreneurs know that when they sacrifice, they are learning and improving, exactly what they need to do to earn success through their merits. Every sacrifice and deferred gratification makes them wiser and better, showing them that they're not getting anything free. When success ultimately comes, they wouldn't trade away the earlier days for anything, even if they felt wretched at the time.
The Obama budget seeks to prevent people from experiencing hardship. Nobody is asked to give up an entitlement. Public sector workers will get raises even though we face unprecedented national debt. Bought a house you can’t afford? President Obama wants to help you stave off foreclosure. Automobile companies must be protected from bad decisions made by their management or the unions.
But helping people shirk responsibility and avoid reality isn't cheap. The Obama budget pushes the price for all these things into the future, as the government tries to delay our Grecian moment by coming up with ever more creative ways to “vacuum more taxes out of the wealthy.”
It would be better to allow people to suffer the consequences of their actions or to learn to do with less help from the government. People rarely learn the easy way. I always like to say that I became a conservative because I came to the realization that it is my hard knocks that have taught me the most.
Liberals can’t stand the notion of paying the price for what we do—they want some abstract rich person to do it. You don’t learn anything that way.
And, eventually, you run out of rich people.