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Susan Stamper Brown: Makers, takers and the ‘47 percent’

Firing a tile craftsman last week helped me to make sense of the undeniable divide between America’s “makers” and “takers” described in Mitt Romney’s sloppy “47” percent misstatement.

Although Romney’s message was lost in the chorus of complaints coming from media and the Obama campaign, the fact still remains: success is not a dirty word. When America’s citizens are successful, everyone wins — with the exception of those politicians who are chronically dependent upon the votes of government’s cradle-to-casket dependents.

To be sure, the more “makers” we have paying income taxes and creating jobs, the less people we have on unemployment and the more money we have to pay down our nation’s debt and provide assistance to those in need, especially during these tough economic times.

To his credit, the man I fired seemed to be making an attempt at being a maker, but there is something to be said about striving for excellence whatever your lot in life or vocation. My father once told me that when he was growing up, his hand-me-down patched pants were always clean and well-pressed. I must admit, the tile man having shown up to make a bid driving a dilapidated truck, donning messy clothes and toting a tattered scrapbook “portfolio” played to this conservative’s compassionate nature. I fell for his toothless grin and gave him the benefit of all my doubts. I had hoped my giving him this opportunity to make some money would serve as a helping hand-up to lift him to a better place.

Boy, was I mistaken.

It was not long after giving him an advance to cover his delinquent water bill (feel free to call me a sucker), coupled with a series of events including tardiness, extra-long lunch breaks and failing to provide proof of insurance — did I realize this guy was a mess, and I was going to be in one for hiring him. So, standing eye level to his chest, I pulled a Donald Trump and said he was fired. I had hired him because I felt sorry for him, and I fired him because I knew if I didn’t, I would soon be feeling sorry for myself.

One never knows what another person is going through, so it is always best not to judge, but at some point we must accept the fact that we can only do so much to help those who refuse to help themselves.

In truth, during this journey we call life, every last one of us will find ourselves caught up as victims of a circumstance outside our control. It is in our response that we discover who we really are, makers or takers. If we allow that circumstance to define us, we become forever the victim, or if we instead decide to define the circumstance as a lesson learned we will become a better version of ourselves.

Enter: The next tile man who showed up in professional attire to present his bid. His employees showed up on time, worked through lunch and late into the evening without complaint or excuse. They got the job done and provided excellent results, and everyone except the guy I fired is happy.

Despite what the lazy anti-capitalist crowd says when they complain about the rich getting richer, success is typically earned in this country. Ask the tile man who just left after taking photos of his work. He’s proud of what he does, because he’s good at it, and from the lowliest worker on his payroll to the blonde who hired him (because she hasn’t a clue about tile work) — everyone benefits.

That’s how you spread the wealth around.


Susan Stamper Brown writes about politics, the military, the economy and culture. Email her at