File this one somewhere between oblivion and hypocrisy.
What else would you do with a guy who demands massive taxation and a European-style welfare state while he himself enjoys a $10 million nest egg he built through private industry and the free market? What else when the same guy tries to make a political statement against “shrinking the government” by taking the money he “saves” through tax cuts and, *gasp*, giving it freely to private charity!
After an initial backpacking and hiking trip across Europe at age 18, travel icon Rick Steves truly found a niche in the industry, worked his tail off, and provided a service that millions of people found helpful and enjoyable. “I’m over here, making mistakes, running down leads, and trying to assemble information so people who like my style of travel can get it right every time,” he says in an interview. He did it quite well.
And it made him quite rich.
“He has thirty travel guides that sell about half-a-million copies a year.” According to 60 Minutes, the business rakes in $20 million a year, and that was when it was only a 60-employee operation. It now has over 100, and produces over 50 travel guides, a TV show, radio show, and more.
Mr. Steves’s work has had a tremendous impact not only on his own bank account, but on that of many of the business he writes about. “Many European merchants work feverishly to get a recommendation in one of his books.” Steves’s comments about local destinations, the report rightly notes, can “make or break” that small business. One must ask, “Why?”
The most relevant part of that explanation boils down to the quality of goods or services that a small business provides. If it provides a poor experience, Mr. Steves will not give it a good review. Who wants cold food or a lumpy mattress, or a dull, uninformative tour guide?
This is nothing more or less than Steves himself did. He found a niche and filled it with excellent service—a service he continually works to refine and improve.
But one too many trips to Europe has left Steve a confused man. While he often boasts how his travels open new horizons and new attitudes, he seems actually quite darkened and narrowed by the constraints of European-style socialism.
Travelling down Socialism’s road
This is why Steves recently blogged and tweeted against something that has nothing to do with travel—unless you’re trying to pay for it, of course—and that is, the recent round of tax cuts in the U.S. Congress.
Here’s a nice lump of confused liberal for you:
More money than many Americans make in their entire lifetime. That’s what Congressional Republicans are voting to give me as a tax break.
That’s right: If Republicans in Congress get their way, I just saved a couple million dollars on the change in the inheritance tax alone. What about you?
Our government already spends more than it takes in, and this tax giveaway will make it worse. But that plays right into Congressional Republicans’ strategy to shrink the government: First, they cut taxes by $1.5 trillion (mostly benefiting the rich). Then, to balance the budget, they’ll claim that the only solution is to gut programs (such as Social Security and Medicare) designed to protect America’s poor and working class.
Is this really a huge plot by Republicans to “shrink the government”? One can hope. In the meantime, one has to ask what kind of progressive liberal this Steves character is anyway, if a mere percentage difference in inheritance tax alone will affect his personal nest egg by a cool couple million. I mean if he believes “the rich” should have been soaked to begin with, why is he sitting on a fat bank account reported to be worth about $10 million? That’s certainly far more than anyone’s fair share, is it not? Fork it over, then we can talk.
Steves preaches the line from the ever-emoting leftist activist preacher Jim Wallis, who as we recently discussed himself rakes in $200,000 in salary alone each year: “I believe a national budget is a moral document. It declares who we are as a nation.”
That being the case, one should ask him why we’re $19 trillion in debt to begin with, and climbing at a trillion or more each year. If that budget is “moral,” what is immoral? Sounds to me like our biggest moral problem is spending, not taxation. But that is what Steves and guys like him are most afraid to say.
Steves is afraid Republicans are only cutting taxes as a pretext to cut Social Security and Medicare (we can only wish)! He does not seem aware that Social Security taxes have been raised over twenty times since they were begun, and not lowered a single time. And for what? A system already borrowed from European-style socialism, which is failing, has trillions in unfunded liabilities, and is proven not to work.
Is this the type of moral document we need? Is this “who we are as a nation”?
Getting it right by accident
The funniest part of the whole story is how Steves thinks he’s going to teach these greedy tax cutters a lesson. He’s really going to show them. He’s just going to haul off and help the poor with his money anyway—through private charity!
So what am I going to do with all of the tax revenue Congressional Republicans want to save me? I’m choosing to provide, as an individual, what European societies would provide collectively: housing for otherwise homeless single mothers and their kids, helping to build senior centers, and paying the rent of our local symphony orchestra.
Bravo! It’s amazing that a liberal gets it right, even if accidentally, even if it’s only because he’s blinded by revenge. But it doesn’t make everyone happy. When Steves announced this on Twitter, one guy couldn’t help point out the tragedy of being pressured to give privately:
This is wonderful, Rick, but in the Republican warped mind it proves that the poor will be taken care of by private citizens. While in reality, you are a welcome and exceptional anomaly.
What a warped mind it takes to believe government should let us keep our money and give it to the need how we see fit? What a terrible world it must be when people actually meet each other’s needs willingly? Who wants to free up citizens to spread such love? Dangerous.
Steves is so stung by this criticism that he actually pointed out that he address the absurdity in his article. Here’s what he said,
While Republicans might argue that I’m proving their point — that charity from the wealthy will come to the rescue — I believe that such services should be paid for not by the odd millionaire who doesn’t have a taste for golf clubs and yachts, but collectively, through progressive taxation.
So now the truth comes out. This has nothing to do with truth or facts or logic. This has everything to do with Steves’s own ideological commitment to Socialism. “I believe that. . . .”
This has nothing to do with a belief in good will, but just the opposite: self-righteousness and elitism. Steve truly believes his charitable benevolence is an oddity, and that other millionaires are just greedy, self-indulgent, playboys. He’s responsible, but no one else is, apparently.
The truth about the power of freedom and charitable giving
The death blow to this view is that we have statistical proof that when Americans are left free, it is not only the odd millionaire, but everyone, including the middle class and even many of our so-called poor, who takes care of the truly needy among us.
According to the numbers, the amount of private charitable giving from American individuals alone (not including foundations, corporations, etc.) could easily finance the entire gross domestic product of those European Socialist nations like Sweden, Norway, or Denmark. I mean, let that reality sink in for a minute. Meanwhile, charitable giving in most European Socialist nations is so nonexistent that they have not even kept statistics on it for years.
Fact: Socialism kills charity. That is in part because a centralized welfare state destroys the natural bonds of affection that would otherwise develop between neighbors in society, and replaces loving your neighbor with a central state power. Now your needy neighbor no longer looks at you with hope and thankfulness, but with entitlement. Now you can no longer express yourself through love and affection, but must submit to mandatory government confiscation. Socialism and love cannot coexist. One must kill the other.
Socialism is theft. It is not only absurd and antichristian, it is destructive to society. Where liberals win this argument we will suffer. Where Republicans let it in, which is too often, we will still suffer.
What America needs is more freedom and less Socialism, more of our own money and less taxation. In fact, I will say that the current tax cuts are only wrong in that they do not go nearly far enough.
Instead of following Rick Steves’s bad ideas, we should instead follow his example: work hard, find a niche, save money, invest in business, make good products, provide good services, hire industrious employees, and work the long hours needed to achieve and perfect our goals. Then we should be free to take our own hard-earned money and give it away how we please, to what charities and causes we choose.
Part of what has made America great is that a guy like Rick Steves could get rich in the travel industry after being inspired while taking a hike in Europe. We’d all be much richer if he’d take a hike now, too, and take his political and economic views with him.