The Forgotten Man

Posted on October 5, 2017 by Robert Ringer


Now that everyone realizes that Trumpism is not just a passing fad but a clear and present danger to the D.C. Criminal Cartel, it’s time to examine just who the rank and file Trumpsters are.  What’s the common bond that unites them?  Taxes?  Healthcare?  Financial regulation?

I thought about this question as I was rereading Amity Shlaes’ landmark book, The Forgotten Man.  In it, she quotes Yale philosopher William Graham Sumner, who, in his essay by the same name clear back in 1883, explained the crux of the moral problem with progressivism as follows:

“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X.  Their law always proposes to determine … what A, B, and C shall do for X.”

Shlaes goes on to add:  “But what about C?  There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X.  What was wrong was the law, and the indenturing of C to the cause.  C was the forgotten man, the man who paid, ‘the man who never is thought of.’”

In other words, C is the guy who isn’t bothering anyone but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world, those whom power holders have unilaterally decided have been treated unfairly and must be compensated.

But in 1933, along came FDR who did a switcheroo on Sumner’s point by removing the moniker of “the forgotten man” from C and arbitrarily giving it to X — “the poor man, the old man, the laborer, or any other recipient of government help.”  It was politically quite clever, to be sure.

The first time FDR used the phrase the forgotten man, he was referring to the victims of the dust bowl in the 1930s.  Zap!  Just like that, Sumner’s forgotten man label was transformed into the exact opposite of what it was meant to be.

But today, I believe it’s the Trumpsters who represent Sumner’s forgotten man.  They are taxed and told what they must do and what they must give up in the way of freedom and personal wealth every time a new law is passed.  More than anything else, I believe this is the issue that bonds the Trumpsters together.

Put another way, it is not healthcare or any other single issue that the Trumpsters are most angry about.  It’s a plethora of issues combined that impinge on their individual liberty.

Above all, they are outraged that corrupt politicians and bureaucrats not only violate their God-given right to live their lives as they see fit, to rub insult into injury they dismiss them as “extremists.”  Collectively, the Trumpsters are today’s forgotten man.

In his essay, Sumner went on to say:

“All history is only one long story to this effect:  men have struggled for power over their fellow-men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others.  It is true that, until this time, the proletariat, the mass of mankind, have rarely had the power and they have not made such a record as kings and nobles and priests have made of the abuses they would perpetrate against their fellow-men when they could and dared.

“But what folly it is to think that vice and passion are limited by classes, that liberty consists only in taking power away from nobles and priests and giving it to artisans and peasants and that these latter will never abuse it!  They will abuse it just as all others have done unless they are put under checks and guarantees, and there can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics.”

Clearly, Sumner was a man of great insight.  He recognized the absurdity in assuming that the poor man is morally superior to the rich man.  This is where I believe sincere revolutionaries go wrong.  While their initial intentions (to help “the poor”) may, at least in their own minds, be well-intentioned, they begin with a false premise (that the misfortunes of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are a result of the evil actions of those who are more successful) and from there leap from one false conclusion to another.

Which is why politicians who pose as conservatives in order to get elected tend to take the McConnell-Ryan-McCain route and continually rush to the aid of their progressive Democratic pals.  I believe these philosophically lost souls do the bidding of the left because they have never given serious thought to the possibility that the very premise of progressivism is morally wrong.

As a result, they have no feeling for the (perceived) rich man.  In plotting their do-gooder schemes, he is easy to forget.  They see nothing whatsoever wrong with society’s sacrificing the liberty of wealthy individuals for the “public good.”

What gave birth to the Tea Party movement, and later the Trump movement, is the metastasizing of the forgotten-man syndrome.  As politicians long ago realized, there aren’t enough rich people to support all the X’s.  Thus, as the number of X’s (i.e., those who live off the surpluses of others) increases, a lot of A’s and B’s become C’s (the guy who isn’t bothering anyone, but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world).  And that is when they become candidates for joining the Trumpsters.

Put simply:  When A’s and B’s are transformed into C’s, they mysteriously lose their enthusiasm for new laws to help out X.  Put even more simply, they suddenly realize that they have become the forgotten man — and it is that realization that motivates them to become Trumpsters.

Republicans would do well to keep all this in mind as they devise a new plan for forcibly taking the fruits of the citizenry’s labor.  Tread carefully, Republicans, as you work on your “tax reform” plan, and remember that “the rich” have the same natural rights as “the poor.”

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

42 responses to “The Forgotten Man”

  1. Avery Horton says:

    As always, another masterpiece.

  2. Richard Lee Van Der says:

    Excellent insights here! I'm trying to remember the poem in which the poet wrote, "the poor dishonest people" instead of the usual "poor but honest" people. Honest and dishonest is a real mix, from my observations, not to be assigned to one category of persons! Excellent discussion!

    • Jim Hallett says:

      And, as I am sure you realize, poverty or wealth are completely unrelated to honesty. There are honest and dishonest people in both camps, despite all the chattering to the contrary.

  3. Heidi McCauley says:

    Thank you once again Mr. Ringer. A wonderful column.
    You have said it all. "When A's and B's suddenly realize they have been transformed into C's…voila! Trumpsters!
    A smart conservative politician will run with that quote. I hope Pres. Trump reads your essay today.

  4. Jim Plouffe says:

    Great explanation, insight, and thinking. As a small business owner for all of my life, I have felt forgotten for a long time.

  5. Daniel says:

    This may seem a bit of a stretch in relevance to most, but in reading this my mind went immediately to "Great Society" legislation and the "War on Poverty", the proponents of which conspired to help "the poor" at the expense, though not the behest, of others. One could argue that one ethnicity was disproportionately outside the realms of opportunity available to most others, and that subsidization has been advantageous to that ethnic group in particular. One could counter that civil rights legislation, judiciously and compellingly enforced, might well have produced similar, or even better, results, given that not only have trillions of dollars been moved around the board in the giant gov't shell game called the economy, but the productivity (not to mention skill development) of those subsidized has been forever lost. It might be interesting to you to know that one of the definitions of subsidize is "to secure the cooperation of by bribery; buy over" ( As surely as night follows day one can be assured that once ensconced in positions of power, those beneficiaries will consider least those unwilling benefactors whose sacrifice made the largesse possible. In fact they're investing considerable time and effort in vilifying those benefactors, ironically labeling them (us) as greedy racists. It is good that ethos, not race, is the measure of a man, and that those whose mission in life it is to divide us along racial lines are being exposed for their fraudulent agenda. Mr. Trump, with all his alleged flaws, may be our last best hope in exposing the charlatans. Expecting him, though, to turn the ship around, as it were, is unfair. One man, even a president, can't do it alone. It will take more than that. Still, one can hope.

    • Rick G. says:

      LBJ's Great Society was the biggest post-war disaster of all time. And we still haven't learned our lesson. Talking about pouring money into rebuilding our infrastructure only brings back bad memories of what happened during the sixties.

      • Daniel says:

        Yes; and we could delve into the "Climate Change" swindle; another masterpiece of leftist deception.

        • Angedur says:

          True that global warming exists, not true and much projection of what sort of climate change this will bring us. Hint, move a few hundred miles inland or so from the coasts.

  6. IHeartDagney says:

    While that does well illustrate the problems in our country is also over-simplifies these issues of taxation and charity. "X" can also be called the "forgotten man" or the "deceived man" because what "A" and "B" plot to "help" is not actually "help" but hinderance. And, what "A" and "B" acquire, in effect, is power. "A" and "B" become drunk on their power to steal from the middle class and "X" becomes slothful and loses all ambition to do anything but hold their hand out and cry for more. Many, who by some miracle do have more ambition, become inculcated in their life-long teaching that his "class" is down-trodden and deserving and go into government service to ensure that the largess of "C" never ends.

    It is a vicious cycle where the TRUTHS of taxation being THEFT and "Charity begins at home" becomes anathema to most people who live in the "Land of (so-called) Liberty".

  7. Scott Theczech says:

    Outstanding article sir! You use two words in this piece I would like to remind all of us to think about: checks and guarantees. As A and B continue to tinker with both of these elemental tools of managing unbridled power, C needs to be all the more aware and vigilant. This never ending tinkering with the Bill of Rights is meant to remove those guarantees from the mind of all. ..including C.

  8. Jim D says:

    Bang on assessment on Trump's popularity!

    The Left, in cahoots with the the MSM and swamp dwellers of all political persuasion, can only focus on Trump's missteps and rough veneer. They sit in consternation at why Trump's base still support him. They can't understand, because they don't have a problem with A, B or C in the above; and X is only a useful pawn in their game.

    Carry on Mr. Trump.

    • Jim D says:

      I'm sorry, that wasn't very clear. I should have written:

      "… they don't care a hoot re X, except that he/she is a useful pawn in their game. They don't care re C, except that C can help fund the "good deeds" that A & B want to do. And, A often takes advantage of B's goodwill, thinks that B is a "useful fool" in their game.

  9. larajf says:

    While we may still be The Forgotten (wo)Men, we are definitely Silent No More.

  10. Jon says:

    Isn't it interesting that the X's of this world were really helped LOCALLY back in the 1920s, 1930s and 40s? That process seemed to work quite well. Local churches and other charitable organizations seemed to function quite well. Furthermore, they knew the X's that really needed a helping hand.

    Then, starting with FDR's government-knows-best, we wind-up with today's out-of-control Welfare State where anyone can claim "help" from a slave-taxpayer. LBJ sealed our fate with his guns-and-butter plans.

    To their Credit, Clinton working with Gingrich did get the welfare-to-work program started but since then, no subsequent government agency or administration seemed to think it was worth continuing. Too busy buying votes?

    • Jean says:

      The "X"s were helped locally, and there was some discernment in allocating that help. When the community knew that Mr X was a hardcore alcoholic who spent every penny on booze, beat his wife and kids and stole, they DIDN'T give him money. They furnished food and clothing to the kids and wife, and in many cases, neighbors offered a place to stay for the innocents. The government essentially rewards bad behavior and enables poverty, as it doesn't regard those behaviors and choices that created the mess when giving out "benefits." I knew, for example, a drug addict who was receiving SSI. His only obligation was to visit a Medicaid-paid substance abuse counselor once a month in order to continue receiving SSI. There didn't have to be any results, just go in, have a 50 minute session and boom! Check was in the mail. He eventually OD'd after he got a large retroactive payment from the Social Security Administration and spent every penny on heroin.

  11. NotPropagandizd says:

    The problem of the Forgotten Man is that he/she has become utterly ENSLAVED, actually ENSLAVED, to perpetuate the comforts that are hard-wired to the benefit of the uber-rich and the government-systemically impoverished entitled.
    Think about that long and hard. ENSLAVED, literally, actually and in reality. ENSLAVED.

  12. Richard Lee Van Der says:

    WORST, I believe, is that huge numbers of the young are NOT being taught the best virtues in the home (while growing up),. If so, if true, where will THAT lead? And those who breed and beget most may determine future outcomes. What, then, is the likely outcome of THAT! I'm arguing from a false premise? I don't think so. (I will look down from Heaven and watch… LOL)

    • Rick G. says:

      You are so very correct, Richard. I am in total agreement with you.

    • Angedur says:

      BLM, antifa, bolvesheks, marxist and maoists and millionaire athletes in the top 1 per cent of wage earnings protesting the flag.

  13. Jean says:

    Interesting as well is the manner in which the left has corrupted the language. Those of us who would appreciate tax relief and lobby – either individually or collectively – our congress critters are categorized as members of "right wing special interest groups." But when has anyone properly classified those who benefit directly or indirectly from transfer payments – welfare recipients, illegals who accept free emergency room health care, university professors receiving government grants, PBS and NPR, social workers who administer every program under the sun – as members of "left wing special interests"? Maybe one of the things the Forgotten (wo)Men can do is reclaim the language.

  14. Rick G. says:

    I'm thinking of changing my comment-posting name on Robert Ringer's articles from "Rick G." to "C". No joking. I remember during the campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump said that for those who have been forgotten, they will be forgotten no more. Yes, I know Pres. Trump isn't perfect, no president has ever been. But he is far better than anyone else out there I have ever seen. Hopefully, he will be re-elected in 2020…….hopefully…….and then what after 2024? I continually fear that he is steering the American ship against the rising tides of socialism, euphemistically referred to as "progressivism". Actually, it should be renamed "regressivism". Assuming the world is not a nuclear graveyard (yet) because of Kim Jong Un, heaven help us, I see myself as having deserted AWOL the failed Republicratic Party, the Demopublican Party as Robert Ringer rightfully referring to it, and possibly a "cast out" from society, an orphan member of the Constitution Party, if it is still around, in what has become The United Socialist States of America. I sit here painfully typing out this lament while just having read on youtube that the Communist/Anarchist group, ANTIFA, is planning to overthrow the United States government and the "Trump-Pence regime" beginning November 4 this year. What the Hell is wrong with this picture?

  15. Rick G. says:

    I'm thinking of changing my comment-posting name on Robert Ringer's articles from "Rick G." to "C". No joking. I remember during the campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump said that for those who have been forgotten, they will be forgotten no more. Yes, I know Pres. Trump isn't perfect, no president has ever been. But he is far better than anyone else out there I have ever seen. Hopefully, he will be re-elected in 2020…….hopefully…….and then what after 2024?

  16. Marlena says:

    Richard, I totally agree with what you have written – the children of today are not being taught in the home the values that have withstood generations before us, but ARE being taught in schools the values (huh?) of the A's and B's. Can a child learn what is NOT being taught? And go to Heaven you very possibly will – but look down and watch? No. From what I have read Heaven is a place of peace and joy and happiness. If you can look down and watch the evil being perpetrated on this earth it could not make you happy or peaceful or joyous. You might as well stay here and be miserable.LOL

    • Richard Lee Van Der says:

      I wasn't being literal about "Heaven".I don't agree with a great deal of what I consider "Christian Mythology". I prefer the idea of relative states of Light and Dark in after-life, depending on one's "level of being". I am a philosophical mix. Too long to articulate here. Whether I can peek in after physical death, I will find out one of these years since I am 81 now. My be is that you, Marlena, have a good sense of humor. I like wit!

  17. Marlena says:

    And what is so scary is the children of today being taught and learning the Marxist way will be the leaders of tomorrow. Trump has his work cut out for him and I believe, God willing, he will do it. I am 100% a Trumpster! Go Trump!!

    • Richard Lee Van Der says:

      Yes, GO TRUMP! I just hope his "security" is double competent! Tho the VP appears to be good also, but there is only One Trump!

  18. TN Ray says:

    What a great essay. Defining the A, B, C's and X's simplifies the reasoning process. However seems like every issue spins out of control as emotions overwhelm intellect. I think Mark Twain remarked to the effect that there was no problem which Congress could not make worse. I am encouraged that Trump won the election and promised to lower taxes. But, I fear the treachery of Congress as the process moves forward. And the media circus will reek with emotional diversions to overpower reason and common sense. Seems like the C's (middle class tax PAYERS) always take it in the shorts when "tax reform" is implemented, while the rhetoric is quite the opposite.

  19. Marte says:

    Beautiful. We are united in a common desire to control our own lives, work without undue regulations, spend our own money, and give charitably to only those we choose.

  20. Harry Hagan says:

    As and Bs are not in any way for the altruistic good of X, and certainly not Cs, they collude only in their best self-interests, and will happily pit one group against another to achieve power, period. They make it their business to know everything about everyone in that same pursuit: absolute control and power. And when they attain it, they go after each other. Nothing new here.

  21. Andy Bromberg says:


  22. Angedur says:

    Time to stop taxpayer money of high schools and university's, limit student loans to a few grand a year with a lifetime cap of 12 grand. Make a one time write off of the 1.3 trillion of current student debt, add to the debt. This will help out quite a bit of the working class and lower middle class and free up quite a bit of money and stimulate the economy.

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    City Boast Of Constructing Residential Boondoggle!

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