Freedom: In voicing his feelings Wednesday about earned wealth, President Obama shone a bright light into the thought recesses of the far left. And what a dark and ugly place it can be.
During a two-day swing through Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, the president went off teleprompter and blundered into another Joe the Plumber moment, that unguarded instant during the 2008 campaign in which he told a potential small-business owner that he planned to spread the wealth around.
"Now, what we're doing, I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned," Obama said in Quincy, Ill. "I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money."
Remarks prepared for the occasion reportedly don't include the president's thoughts about how much money he'd let Americans make. But without the help of a teleprompter to carefully steer him away from his gut feelings, he wandered into a Marxist bramble.
It takes a certain kind of person to think he or she has or should have the moral authority to cap other people's incomes. Especially when that person and his wife somehow made $5.5 million in the first year of his presidency, a job that pays $400,000 a year.
In a free society, it's not the president or any other government official or branch that decides when someone has "made enough money," even if liberties are being lost in that free society. Incomes, with the exception of labor contracts won through coercion and union-favorable federal law, are decided by voluntary agreements between employer and employee. To limit what someone can legally earn is morally corrupt and economically foolish.
Envy, the urge to exercise authority over others and pandering to both of those baser instincts are staples of the political left and drive its agenda. Unfortunately, emotions tend to have consequences, and these feelings blind democratic-socialist eyes to the value of economic incentives.
What the left doesn't understand is that capping salaries through government policy destroys the motivation for Americans to develop products and services that enrich lives and expand our economy.
If the president is eager to regulate salaries, he might begin and end with the federal work force. Commerce Department data show that average federal worker compensation of $119,982 in 2008 was twice that of average private-sector pay ($59,909).
If he can't bring himself to spread federal workers' wealth around, he and the rest of Washington need to stay away from everyone else's income.
This is the land of liberty and opportunity, where state interference in private affairs is supposed to be intolerable.