Self-declared socialist and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders entered what his supporters must consider the belly of the beast on Monday. He spoke at the conservative evangelical Liberty University in Virginia. Some of those supporters sat in reserved seats, ensuring his remarks would be received with some applause.
Liberal and Democratic speakers at Liberty are not as rare as one might think. In 1983, Sen. Ted Kennedy visited and spoke about religious freedom, standing up for the right of conservative evangelicals to be heard in the public square. Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a message from Jerry Falwell's pulpit one Sunday morning. Donald Trump has also spoken at the school.
The reception to Sanders from Liberty students was more gracious than what conservative speakers usually get on liberal campuses, if indeed they are invited. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of giving the commencement speech at Rutgers University last year when students and faculty protested her involvement in the Bush administration's support of the Iraq War. In 1987, Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew as the commencement speaker at Lafayette College when the faculty voted 60-34 to protest her receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree. These were victims of what passes for diversity and pluralism on too many campuses.
Sanders' message at Liberty was familiar. He railed against "income inequality" and trashed the rich. His proposal to raise taxes, offer free health care and free college for all would cost $18 trillion, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. The central flaw in his socialist philosophy is that by penalizing success, you get less of it, along with less wealth to tax. And people who get free stuff often suffer diminished initiative and are robbed of a work ethic.
If the amount of available money were fixed (it isn't) and I took more than you did, that would be unfair, perhaps immoral, though Sanders' view of morality appears to stop at the abortion clinic door. Sanders said, "...I do believe that it is improper for the United States government to tell every women in this country the very painful and difficult choice she has to make on that issue. ... I believe in women's rights and the right of a woman to control her own body..."
What about the rights of the unborn? Pragmatically, fewer babies mean fewer future taxpayers for his socialist programs.
The lessons for building wealth are not a mystery. That doesn't mean everyone can earn a CEO's salary, but it does mean that by making right decisions one can live independent of government.
Here are mine. First, get married. Having a spouse and children is a prime motivator for wealth-building. Second, save and invest. Even small amounts with compound interest begin to produce wealth. Third, don't work just to pay bills. Like the poor, bills you will always have with you. Build enough wealth so the bills won't matter, assuming you live within your means. Fourth, find someone who is poor and help them learn and practice these principles, perhaps donating some of your time to assist with their wealth-building. Fifth, don't assume in our increasingly mobile and technological age that you will keep one job your entire life. Be ready to change jobs, and even move when you hit a ceiling. Consider starting your own business, which may seem challenging at first, but can produce more than just financial rewards.
There is a downside to wealth, mentioned by sages throughout history. King Solomon said, "Whoever loves money never has money enough" (Ecclesiastes 5:10) and the classic warning from St. Paul, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). As in all things, balance and moderation are best.
Republican presidential candidates should promote ways for people to escape poverty and for the middle class to climb the economic ladder. It is part of our history, though many may have forgotten, or never learned it in school. Building wealth built America. Tearing down the wealthy will lead to higher unemployment and economic collapse. That's what Bernie Sanders and other leftists refuse to understand.
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Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.