Carol Roth: AOC wrong on bootstrapping — she should celebrate it, not misinform Americans

One of the best parts of being an American is no matter your background, your challenges or any immutable characteristic you may possess, you have the opportunity at any point to forge a path for your and your family’s success. For the innumerable people who have done this despite incredible challenges, great odds or with a few dollars in their pocket, we call this “bootstrapping.”

But, earlier week, bootstrapping came under attack from a frequent detractor from success, numbers and general reality, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She lamented, ““It’s a physical impossibility to lift yourself up by a bootstrap … it’s physically impossible. The whole thing is a joke.”

While she may not like the way the metaphor’s use has been changed over time, the reality remains that bootstrapping is not a joke — it’s something that is a source of pride for Americans. But, she doubled-down on the backlash, trying to make her point using a statistic that 60 percent of the wealth is inherited.

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I countered this with facts, which is my go-to strategy. If the 60 percent inheritance stat is correct, that means that with $98 trillion in wealth in this country, if 40 percent was bootstrapped, that would be $39.2 trillion worth of first-generation bootstrapped wealth. That’s hardly something to scoff at, given that it’s more than 4.5 times the entire wealth of our neighbors to the north, Canada, and more wealth than every other country in the world except China.

AOC’s statements also ignore that the inherited wealth was, in fact, previously bootstrapped by previous generations. If you created wealth, whether it is a home, a family business or your bank account, wouldn’t you want the choice of what to do with It — such as passing it to your family —  vs. being forced to give it to the government?

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But, as facts don’t often sway people the way storytelling and emotions do, I instead asked people to share their stories on Twitter in this thread and under the hashtag #IBootstrapped.

The stories are beyond inspirational and show the American power and spirit better than any facts and statistics ever could. I haven’t individually verfied these stories but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of them. Allow me to share just a few highlights.

There is Sam, the editor of Twitchy.com, who said she lost her mom when she was young, never knew her father and was homeless for part of high school. She says she is, “Now a proud homeowner, corgi-owner, who’s saved for her kid’s college & will retire early. #IBootstrapped.”

Of the hundreds of stories, everyone had different backgrounds — some people were immigrants, some were from broken families. What they all shared was a belief in the American Dream and a willingness to work hard and persevere.  

Then there is Oscar, an immigrant from Central America (Socialist Nicaragua) who wrote that he came to America with $100. He says he is now a, “Homeowner, happily married and nice income. Conservative, Christian and Hispanic. Proud citizen of the exceptional United States of America. #IBootstrapped.”

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Kristin viewed her success and bootstrapping differently, saying the “Only thing I did was pull myself out of a pit of drug addiction with God’s help but #IBootstrapped nonetheless.”

Of the hundreds of stories, everyone had different backgrounds — some people were immigrants, some were from broken families. There were women and men of varying demographics, political beliefs and experiences. What they all shared was a belief in the American Dream and a willingness to work hard and persevere.

And, then, of course, there is the story of the young woman in her late 20s, raised by a mother who scrubbed toilets to make ends meet, who then herself went from earning tips as a neighborhood bartender to earning $174,000 a year, plus benefits, as a member of Congress, and who is sure to earn millions in the future with book deals, etc. This woman didn’t share her story on the hashtag, but she is, of course, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. An incredible story of bootstrapping in her own right, instead of inspiring others with her own example, she chose to push fear, victimhood and doom and gloom.

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Those on the far left like AOC, who seek to consolidate power and control, try to sell people fear instead of showing them opportunity, which is a damn shame, because the mindset of thinking you can or you can’t often makes all the difference in your success.

I encourage you to read the stories and to share your own stories of bootstrapping on Twitter and in the comments section below with the #IBootstrapped hashtag. The best way to combat the misinformation around opportunity in America is straight from the mouths of those who have bootstrapped their way to success.

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