I’m “self-made” except…

I usually like Frum, a Republican with an open mind. But today I gotta say he’s off the wall.

First, a disclaimer. I have paid, in my life, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in Federal income tax. I don’t regret it, or begrudge the government one penny. I paid my taxes happily, being reminded of something my maternal grandfather told me (and everyone else, many times). If you have to pay a lot in taxes that means you made a lot, so stop kvetching. And my grandfather, who was much more of an entrepreneur than I was, made his money at a time when the taxes were much higher.

This country saved his life. I am glad for that, because without his life, and my other three grandparents, and my parents, all of whom were born in Europe and came to the USA fleeing for their lives, I would not exist. I am a product of the greatness of the United States. The uniqueness. It’s exceptionalism. Our exceptionalism.

My family of immigrants placed a high value on education. And I got a good one. But my grandparents didn’t know from computers. For that I have to thank the University of Wisconsin and the US Department of Defense, which heavily subsidized my education. I had a personal computer, in 1978, because we had so much hardware in the Computer Science dept at UW that even first year grad students could have a computer. This was a huge deal at the time, before PCs or Macs. Having your own hardware was a rare thing. And it made a lot of experimenting and learning possible.

And I paid almost nothing for my computer science education. As has been explained many times, we got to use networks that were being created by the government. This is before Apple and Microsoft were born. IBM didn’t yet make a PC. This was before the entrepreneurial boom happened in the 80s.

So this idea of being self-made, if this is something we’re going to look at in the election of 2012 — great! Let’s really look at it. And then let’s do more of it. I love the boost I got. And I was glad to have a chance to pay it back. And I want to do more.

Let’s try open our hearts. Be more like the US that welcomed my family, and more like the US that decided to bet on my generation. The President was right, and if you were listening you know it. So stop the bullshit. Let’s be Americans and let’s do this right.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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