Sitting here as someone who 20 years ago had a negative net worth of tens of thousands of dollars and now finds himself in ready striking distance of using two commas in the balance column, I honestly have no idea what the distinguished representative from the New York is talking about.
Way back in the year 2000, I was making just a touch over $30,000 as a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree. If you’re playing along at home, that’s in the neighborhood of $17 an hour or $1,154 per pay period. I started putting $25 every two weeks into a retirement account. That’s something like 2% of my salary at the time. As I changed careers, picked up raises, and got promotions over the years, the very first thing I did was increase that amount. If I got a 2% salary bump, at least 1% went towards invested savings. It got to be a habit – one that I still practice.
Plenty of times there were (and are) wants and needs I’d rather spend that cash on. There are a lot of things I have to pass on or defer to later because saving for the future is a priority. The tradeoff is that over the intervening two decades, that account I started with $25 has grown into something that a kid from “down the crick” could have never imagined possible.
I’ll never rank with the likes of Musk, Gates, Buffett, or the Koch brothers, but don’t think for a moment that capitalism somehow doesn’t work for “regular people.” I’m the son of a cop and a school teacher from a town in the middle of Maryland’s coal country. My parents divorced when I was a kid. I got my first formal job at 16 and had a laundry list of what today would be called side hustles to pick up extra cash long before that. No one talked about investments or savings or retiring before 65 back there and back then. That sounds just about as “regular” as anyone could be in this life.
In my estimation, capitalism has raised more people out of poverty in the last century than any other economic system devised by the mind of man. It’s what let me build the foundation for a future I couldn’t have dreamed of twenty years ago. Somehow, I doubt that whatever workers’ paradise Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has in mind to replace American capitalism would leave me in any way better off over the same time period.
The congresswoman is free to think whatever she wants, but I’ll keep standing with free markets and free people.