Liz Peek: Ocasio-Cortez, Warren spout anti-rich rhetoric – It’s proof they don't support the American dream

The American dream is under attack. High-profile progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., don’t believe in the American dream, and they don’t want voters to believe in it either.

What is that dream? It is the belief that no matter where you come from, no matter who your parents are or what they gave you, no matter your race or religion, you can lift yourself up and provide a comfortable and secure life for your family.

It is the belief that everyone in the United States has opportunity, and is free to make his or her own choices.

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It is Alber Elbaz arriving in the U.S. with only his hopes and dreams in his pockets, as he tells it, and going on to become the world-famous top designer at Lanvin. It is Elon Musk emigrating from South Africa (via Canada) and creating two of America’s great companies. It is Howard Schultz, growing up in a Brooklyn housing project and building Starbucks into an international giant.

It is also the Chinese doorman in Manhattan who barely speaks English but whose daughter is on her way to Harvard. Or the Egyptian taxi driver who has worked long shifts to put his daughter through medical school.

I’ve met so many people with these stories. They are living the American dream.

Though she is herself the embodiment of the American dream, emerging from a hardscrabble existence to become a U.S. senator, Warren maintains that people no longer have that same opportunity.

Americans disagree. Pew polling in 2017 found a whopping 82 percent of the country feels they have either achieved the American dream or are “on their way.”

Warren says the road is harder today, because billionaires and big corporations have “rigged” the system. In order to “level the playing field” she wants to tax wealth. She told Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” on CNBC: "I want these billionaires to stop being freeloaders. I want them to pick up their fair share."

Freshman Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, spouts the same anti-rich rhetoric. She also wants to raise taxes on the rich, pushing a marginal 70 percent income tax rate on the “tippy top.”

As to income inequality, it has yet to be shown that allowing people to get rich damages the prospects for those at the bottom of the ladder.

Do these women – or Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., or Kamala Harris, D-Calif. – ever wonder why people from all over the globe continue to knock on our door?

It is not because immigrants are looking for government handouts; it is because they know that in the United States they will be free to follow their dreams and succeed.

More than 1 million people each year choose to come and work in the U.S., starting a new life as permanent residents and receiving green cards. We also offer over 100,000 people per year employment-based visas. Among those considered, according to the State Department, are folks with “extraordinary ability” or who are “outstanding professors or researchers.”

I’m guessing those people, who presumably could succeed anywhere, don’t think the American dream is dead.

The argument from AOC and Warren is that the rich don’t pay their fair share, leading to towering income inequality. The tax data do not support that conclusion.

According to the Tax Foundation, in 2015, the top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39 percent) than the entire bottom 90 percent (29.4 percent).

The truth is that the U.S. has one of the most progressive tax codes in the world.

As to income inequality, it has yet to be shown that allowing people to get rich damages the prospects for those at the bottom of the ladder.

Schultz, under fire from Democrats for threatening to run for president, recently said: "We shouldn't get to a place where there are people yelling from the rafters that because you have been successful, you are a bad person and we're going to be punitive to you. That's, to me, the antithesis of the spirit of the country." Starbucks employs roughly 300,000 people; maybe Schultz deserves kudos instead of condemnation.

Instead of wanting to make rich people poorer, why don’t Warren, AOC and others with similar views try to make poor people richer? Why don’t they focus on the speedbumps that keep people from getting ahead in our country?

They could start by pushing for improving schools to provide improved educational opportunities for every child – regardless of where the child lives, family income, race or ethnicity.

In Baltimore, for example, one of the worst school systems in the nation, only 13 percent of grade school-age kids are considered proficient in reading. One review found that in 13 of Baltimore City’s high schools not one student was proficient in math. That is a disgrace.

Warren knows the importance of a good education but, like other liberals, she is loath to confront the politically powerful teachers’ unions.

Or maybe it’s time to get rid of the costly barriers to entry to certain jobs – like licenses and permits required by cash-hungry states that make it harder for young people to jump in. In 2017, former Republican Gov. Scott Walker cut decades of such red tape that had tangled up numerous professions in Wisconsin.

For instance, to become a cosmetologist prior to Walker’s reforms, the state had required applicants to have at least 1,550 hours of training at a state-licensed school or to complete an apprenticeship with a minimum of 3,712 hours of hands-on training and 28 hours of instruction, all of which could cost in excess of $20,000. No wonder kids get discouraged.

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A few years ago I interviewed a famous British-born magazine editor who has made her career in the U.S. I asked if she would retire in the U.S. or go home to England. She hesitated, and then said: “I’ve loved working here, because Americans celebrate success. These days, I’m not so sure.”

Neither am I.

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