Charles Payne's charged argument with an OWS protester: "I took my opportunity!"

In case you missed this yesterday, it’s worth revisiting. In it, lefties (including the Super Rich Russell Simmons) parrot Elizabeth Warren: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.” But Charles Payne hits back with what essentially amounts to this: I did.

“I took it! I took it!” he says. “I took my opportunity!”

Payne doesn’t mean he became successful “on his own” in the conventional sense of the phrase: He recognizes the help  he received from other people, starting with his own family. Rather, he means he became successful “on his own” in the new sense Warren gave the expression: That is, he lived his life without looking to the government for a handout.

Later, Payne explains more fully: “I started my business in a one-bedroom apartment in Harlem with $10,000 I raised amongst myself and my family and friends. … So the point that I owe someone outside of my parents, my community, my God — that I owe you more of my credit for what I do when I get up every morning at four in the morning — is ridiculous. That’s crazy. You’re telling people they don’t have the power to empower themselves. That’s your message.”

In Simmons’ rebuttal, he refers to Payne’s independent approach as a penchant for isolation and even calls it “a sickness.” Is it sick to want to add value to society through a business and to generate an income for yourself in that process? To then pay taxes on that income to fund the functions of government as the top income-earners already disproportionately do? Elizabeth Warren’s tidy talking point neglects so much that is true of the “getting rich” process. In our country, it’s pretty safe to say, nobody “gets rich” without helping others along the way — even if inadvertently.

Conservatives don’t think “every man is an island,” as Simmons implied. But we do think every man is responsible for himself. We work inside out, operating on the basic principle of subsidiarity — that problems should be solved at the most local level possible starting with the self. For each of us, a time comes when self-reliance fails, when we turn to others for help. But, for a conservative, the federal government is the help of last resort, not the first — not least because government-run social programs often exacerbate the very problems they’re intended to fix. As Payne hinted, it’s an empowering, hopeful message — and one that is proven to make those who embrace it happy. What — doesn’t Russell Simmons want others to be happy?

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