One aspect of The Forgotten Man is a discussion of the power phrase “the forgotten man” in American politics. Originally the term meant the average schmoe who is forced to pay taxes because a couple of do-gooders decide to do some good for the poor or other unfortunates. The “forgotten man” is not the tramp, who is right in front of us getting some food or cash, but the laborer or shopkeeper who had to pay for the food or handout. FDR used the term to promote his New Deal but now the unemployed guy was the “forgotten man.”
I thought about this the other day when a friend’s wife was praising Ted Kennedy as a paragon of charity and good will towards America’s young and unfortunate. It occurred to me that voting to spend other folks’ tax dollars is not necessarily an indication of personal virtue. A politician in a liberal state such as Massachusetts might do that merely in order to get votes and not out of any sympathy for the common man. As Ted Kennedy has spent virtually all of his personal wealth on personal consumption of mansions, private jets, women, booze, etc., any help that he has provided to Americans has come at the expense of the “forgotten man” paying taxes. Ted’s own contributions to charity have been minimal (source).
Let’s compare to Warren Buffett. Via his work at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has created tens of thousands of jobs. He has been responsible for a huge amount of new taxes, certainly in the tens of billions of dollars, paid by successful businesses, investors cashing in capital gains, and employees who took all of the jobs created at his companies. Buffett has spent a negligible portion of his $60+ billion in personal wealth on personal consumption, giving almost all of it away to charity.
Perhaps Buffet is “the forgotten man”. He creates jobs by the thousands. He pays taxes by the $billions. He consumes very modestly considering his means. Yet Buffett is not considered a hero here in Massachusetts, at least.