An American Thanksgiving Story

     Thanksgiving in America is a time of traditions – turkey and dressing, gathering around the table, watching football and seeing schoolchildren dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians, reenacting the first Thanksgiving. One of the most fascinating early American stories is the “sale” of Manhattan Island. The story goes that some Dutch colonists traded beads and other trinkets to the Indians for the land, acquiring the island for what amounted to $24 worth of goods.

     With our Westernized view of property – especially knowing how expensive Manhattan is nowadays – we struggle to understand how such a transaction could have occurred. Were the Indians taken in by the beauty of the beads the colonists offered? Did they understand they were giving up their rights to what would become a valuable piece of land?

     Unfortunately, it looks like history is repeating itself. But this time, it’s our new Congress offering trinkets to the American people in exchange for something of far greater value – our free market.

     Incoming senators and representatives from both parties have talked about sweeping changes that look pretty but will actually cheat American workers. Apparently many voters were mesmerized, because they handed over leadership to liberals who dangled a minimum wage hike and universal health care.

     The media helped out, as a third party admiring the promises and encouraging voters to take the gifts. The problem is that nobody explained to the voters the value of the ground they were giving up.

     The truth is, liberals in Congress aren’t going to stop spending. Shiny delights like universal health care don’t come cheap. Remember the tax cuts? They won’t be around for long, if liberals have their way. Both the media and politicians have convinced Americans our health care system is “broken” and that taking the marketplace out of the equation is the way to fix it. But sorry, we can’t afford that without taking more of your hard-earned cash.

     What’s particularly frightening is that the American people don’t seem to grasp the vital importance of a free market system – another system we can’t afford to see “broken.”

     When the people look to the government to take care of all their needs and wants – including health care, higher wages and even “affordable” high-speed Internet service – it appears all their worries are over. Unfortunately, it only guarantees things won’t be accomplished efficiently.

     When you interfere with the marketplace, it ultimately hurts consumers. When businesses are punished, the consumer suffers. And if the new leadership gets its way, America’s businesses are going to take a huge hit. There’s been widespread talk demonizing oil companies. Now liberals want to hit them in the bottom line by reducing their existing tax breaks and even pursuing the “windfall profits tax” that came up during days of higher gas prices.

     Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed a desire to meddle with prescription drug prices – in the name of consumers, of course. She doesn’t understand that companies can’t just lower prices to suit politicians.

     A free market allows businesses and consumers to make transactions with each other free of government interference. America’s market is becoming less and less free. The farther we go in that direction, the more of our other freedoms we will sacrifice.

     But when the free market is allowed to work – without punitive taxes weighing it down – it produces jobs and raises everyone’s standard of living. Take note: the unemployment rate now stands at 4.4 percent, a five-year low. Wages are growing, despite a media mantra to the contrary. The U.S. economy has yielded more than 6.8 million new jobs since August 2003, enjoying 38 straight months of job growth.

     How long will this last?

     If our elected leaders decide to tear down what American workers and businessmen have built together, it will be a tragedy. The effects might not be felt immediately, as all policies take awhile to trickle down.

     Investors are already noticing, though. For example, drug company stocks have fallen since the election. A Bloomberg News report cited meddling in prescription prices, business mergers, wages and trade among the worrisome items on the new Congress’ business agenda.

     The election is over, and voters now become constituents again. The only recourse we have is to make our voices heard to our new legislators – let them know we’re not interested in their paltry offering of beads. We must hold our ground and demand policies that keep our free market strong.

     Years from now, I hope we will look back at our “Manhattan” and see that we have maintained it wisely, rather than handing it over for flashy, and ultimately empty, promises.

Herman Cain is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc. and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company. He is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.