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A Tale of Johnny and Tommy

It’s 1985.  One day, Mr. and Ms. Jones visit their child Johnny’s fifth-grade classroom.  While there they notice one of Johnny’s classmates, Tommy Smith, constantly complaining and throwing temper-tantrums about how many more toys some of his classmates have compared to how many toys he and his friends have.  And the Joneses are horrified when they observe Tommy forcibly snatching toys out of the hands and backpacks of his classmates in order to keep some of these toys for himself and to give some others to his friends.

That evening, Mr. and Ms. Jones – like all decent and competent parents – wisely and very clearly instruct Johnny that Tommy’s attitude and behavior are completely unacceptable.  “You are never, ever to behave like that, young man!” they tell Johnny.  He nods his head in agreement and promises never to be like Tommy Smith.


It’s 2015.  Tommy Smith is now a U.S. Senator.  Mr. and Ms. Jones visit the Senate chamber and notice their son’s former classmate in action on the Senate floor.  Tommy is there complaining loudly and theatrically about how many more dollars some of his fellow citizens have compared to how many dollars most other Americans have.  Being good “Progressives,” the Joneses smile at each other.  “Aren’t you so proud of Tommy?” Ms. Jones rhetorically asks her husband.  “Who would have guessed that that little spoiled and bullying brat that we warned Johnny about thirty years ago would be transformed into this noble, wise, and caring statesman?!”

Johnny (who I like to imagine earned an undergraduate degree in economics at George Mason University) is seated beside his parents.  He observes and listens in silence.  Then, finally, he turns to his parents as they finish their lavish praise of Sen. Tommy Smith and notes simply: “Mom, Dad: Tommy hasn’t changed one bit.  He’s still the same envious, uncivilized brute who you taught me to detest in elementary school.”

Johnny’s parents are befuddled.  What can their son be thinking to criticize, as he is, such a caring and progressive public servant?  They think to themselves how disappointed they are that Johnny is a mere accountant in a corporate office; they would be much more proud of him had he achieved the glory and influence of Tommy Smith.