Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Meaning of Thanksgiving - Past and Present

The Meaning of Thanksgiving: Then and Now.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, the new Thanksgiving. It looks like the traditional Thanksgiving, but it’s not.

The Pilgrims held a feast in 1621 with the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate a successful harvest and the Pilgrims’ survival. The meal was simple by today’s standards. The cornucopia for the Pilgrims was the unlocking of the abundant resources of the New World.

The Pilgrims experimented with an early version of socialism, but soon recognized its failure. The famous phrase was “Each produced according to his ability, and each received according to his need.” They quickly learnt that some people become freeloaders if they can receive something without having to work for it, whereas selfish incentives maximized production. They did not call it capitalism at the time, but capitalism and the Native Americans saved the Pilgrims.

The American Spirit, the ethos of adaptation, self-determination, self-sufficiency and individualism evolved over the first 360 years of our existence – the key to American Exceptionalism.

The Wilderness was initially perceived as foreboding. As the British settlers on the east coast proved they could survive and then master the foreboding wilderness, they recognized the bounty of the new land. Nature’s bounty was a veritable cornucopia of resources to be taken, harvested, and reaped. And take Americans did.

Subsidence farming was the primary economic activity, but the resources were the attraction. The resources of the continent were open to exploitation. Conquering the wilderness unleashed the American Spirit, the drive of Americans, the drive of each generation of immigrants. America was the land of opportunity.
The American Spirit, the drive to conquer the wilderness, farm the Great Plains, settle the West, in short to span the continent, was ordained as each successive wave of immigrants caused the new immigrants and existing residents to move west. As Horace Greeley is famously said to have said  ‘Go West Young Man, go West,” or “Go West young man, go West and grow with the country.”

The keys were freedom and opportunity, which liberated the human spirit. The American immigrants fled the Old world, its sovereigns, feudal heritage, limited land, religious wars, and restrictions for the welcoming New World to start a new life.

The American people spanned the 3,000 mile long American continent in 220 years.  They conquered the eastern wilderness, crossed the Berkshires, Catskills, Appalachians, Alleghenies, Rockies, Sierras, and Cascades, tamed the great plains, bridged, ferried and forged the Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Ohio, Cumberland, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Platte, Sabine, Red, Colorado, and Columbia Rivers, settled the frozen Northern Plains, and survived the burning deserts of the Southwest.

Rivers were bridged, dammed, diverted, and tunneled. Mountains were cut, blasted, and tunneled. Wetlands were drained, filled, and dredged. Fossil fuels and minerals were mined, drilled or pumped. America was spanned first by explorers and mountain men, then by wagon trails, canals, steel rails, and finally asphalt.

The spirit of the pioneering settler was to live off the land – to settle it, to shelter, to farm it, to eat, to survive. The spirit of independence, that of self-reliance, became the spirit of Americans. It was the cradle of American exceptionalism.

We celebrated the master builder, the developer, the industrialist, the entrepreneur, the financier, the builders of America, such as John Jacob Astor, Charles F. Kettering, Thomas Edison, Henry Firestone, John D. Rockefeller, Robert Moses, Henry Ford, Henry J. Kaiser, William Mulholland, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Mellon.

President Washington issued his famous Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789. The purpose was to give thanks to God for “his care and protection of the People of this country.”

Thanks be to God for America’s greatness and exceptionalism.

President Roosevelt signed on December 26, 1941 a joint resolution of Congress  recognizing the fourth Thursday of November as the day of Thanksgiving.

The November 6, 2012 election results affirm the change in Thanksgiving. The theme is set by the Obama Campaign use of a composite Julia who owes all her success in life to President Obama.

We have become a people dependent upon the government. 47%, the famous 47%, of Americans receive benefits from the federal government. Some of the benefits, such as social security and Medicare, reflect reimbursements for taxes paid by the beneficiaries. Others, such as food stamps, reflect the compassion of the American people.

Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, children health insurance, agricultural subsidies, ethanol and green energy subsidies, food stamps, cell phones, housing subsidies, guaranteed and subsidized student loans, extended unemployment, disaster relief, PBS, Planned Parenthood, et al, add up, financially and in dependency.

Many of these programs are politically irrevocable.

The President wants to increase taxes on the producers, who really didn’t “make it,” to give to others.

An interesting statistic is that in 2007 almost 400,000 Americans claimed an income of $1 million or more, but that had dropped to around 268,000 in 2010. The President wants to substantially increase income taxes, to penalize the economic builders, and the so-called “unearned income” on dividends and capital gains. In short, he is also trying to penalize economic growth.

He will transfer their earnings, their shrinking earnings, to the less fortunate. The President must be ignorant of the basic economic thesis in Aesop’s Fables – Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. 

The reality is that voters validated the change in the American ethos from independence to dependence. We will become dependent upon the government for economic growth rather than the private sector. Look at how that worked out in the Soviet Union and Western Europe.

We are increasingly looking to the government to solve our problems.

For that the American people need to thank President Obama, the transformative President.

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