An important part of the Schultz backlash this week comes from many people believing it’s better to judge a country by how well it takes care of its citizens’ basic needs than by whether it enables a minuscule fraction of white men to become billionaires.
That’s not to say providing for all citizens and having billionaires are necessarily mutually exclusive. But in any good process you want to have defined goals and standards that you evaluate yourself by, helping guide you in making decisions. What matters most?
For too long, the “American dream” of anyone striking it big has been the de facto standard. This country needs a real dialogue about whether it should be. The resistance to doing anything to threaten that ideal has gotten in the way of making the care of all citizens a priority.
Safeguarding the “American dream” — the illusion of the self-made billionaire — above all else leads people in power to withhold crucial support from people who need it.
We need to call out this toxic idea that giving people help makes them less motivated, or that there’s some quality unique to “successful” people. It means recognizing that opportunities matter — and yes, that you as a “successful” person have been fortunate and even lucky.
Systems matter. Everyone knows it but many still pretend — when it’s convenient for them — that outcomes in life are independent of circumstances. It should be our job as a country to measure our success by whether we build systems that support everyone, not just billionaires.
Even for liberals happy to own the “socialism” label that gets thrown at them, redirecting the conversation to those priorities might be helpful. I do believe labels — and words, more broadly — matter. But we need to make sure we keep talking about what we want to do.
I recognize that this conversation is deeply rooted in racism and other forms of systemic discrimination. It can not be extricated from it. It is part of the discussion that I believe needs to happen, too.
This post is adapted from a Twitter thread.