When Andy Puzder was 10, he went with his father, a Ford salesman, to deliver a new car to a wealthy customer. “Mr. Humphrey” lived in opulence on the east side of Cleveland. Puzder marveled at the treasure before him, the enormous house, the grand horse stables, the stunning view, the magnificence the likes of which he had ever seen before. Puzder remembers asking his father what this rich man did for a living. He was told that the man was a lawyer and owned his own business.
Puzder said that at that moment he thought to himself that he could do that, that he could be a lawyer. But maybe more importantly, he said, were the thoughts that he didn’t entertain during the experience.
“I didn’t think ‘he’s stealing from me, he’s a one-percenter,’” he recounted at a recent PRI-Lincoln Club luncheon in Los Angeles promoting his new book “The Capitalist Comeback.” Where others might have seen a robber baron prospering at his family’s expense, the young Puzder, who eventually earned a law degree and later became CEO of Carl’s Jr./Hardees, saw something wholly different.
“I didn’t feel like we deserved some of his money just because his guests — and indeed, his horses — had a nicer place to live than I did. That thought never even occurred to me,” he wrote.
“On the contrary, rather than thinking Mr. Humphrey had taken something from me, I wanted to know what I needed to do to get something for myself. . . . Luckily I lived in a nation where I could.”
When confronted with such wealth, far too many in the most affluent nation in history adopt a poisonous mindset. They allow envy to take root and generate bitterness. Their unbound jealousy obliges them to read Marx and then, charged with resentment, attack the only economic system that has both raised everyone’s standard of living and expanded liberty wherever it has been implemented. Rather than being the next Andy Puzder, they become an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former bartender who last month won the 14th congressional district Democratic primary in New York.
Ocasio-Cortez, the media’s newest darling, has labeled herself a Democratic socialist. She ran on a platform agitating for Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, a green New Deal, housing as a human right, and taxpayer-provided college. She is convinced that “the Zip Code one is born in determines much of their opportunity.”
Puzder didn’t let the Zip Code he grew up in, or the fact that his grandfather left a certain future as a European peasant, “a serf beholden to a landed aristocrat,” to take a chance on America, limit his thinking.
“It was through my father’s job that I was inspired to work even harder and go even further,” he wrote in the book subtitled “The Trump Boom and the Left’s Plot to Stop It.”
“There has never been another nation in the history of the world where a kid from a working-class family could even have the slimmest chance of reaching those heights.”
The road he chose was “neither glamorous nor easily traveled,” he said.
“But, unlike the world where my grandfather grew up, there was a road.”
Puzder’s book should be in the hands of every high school and college student in the country. After being assaulted for years by “educational” screeds and “scholarly” tirades against free-market capitalism, it’s the corrective they need.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.