By Rep. Darrio Melton
The American Dream is built on the principles of hard work and ingenuity. In today’s economy, though, these virtues are paying off less and less as more people are unable or unwilling to pursue their dreams.
The ability to create your own path–to start a business, to develop an idea, to capitalize on an invention–is a key part of what it means to be an American. We have the freedom to forge our own paths and create our own outcomes.
We tell our children to work hard, get an education and they will surely succeed. Yet we live in a nation where the odds are stacked against small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Let’s look at the example of a small-town pharmacy owner. The pharmacist worked his way through pharmacy school and returned home to open a small business. Opening a pharmacy meant that he would have to take out a huge loan for start-up, so he used his own home as collateral. He worked hard for years, taking on a huge risk for the opportunity to build a successful business and offer a valuable service for our community.
Then a large, corporate pharmacy wants to come to town. They promise new jobs, so the government rolls out the red carpet, offering tax incentives and infrastructure development.
So the community builds a new, large corporate pharmacy. Nobody puts their house on the line. The company has to pay very little for start-up. And they’re able to offer the same products at a lower price, making life much harder for our small-town pharmacist.
This pharmacist played by the rules. He worked hard and built a life, but the cards were stacked against him. So we have to shuffle the deck.
If we want our children to still have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, we must shuffle the deck that makes competition difficult for small business. We must give them the ability to turn their dreams into reality and pursue their goals. We must give everyone a fair shot. We must make it worth the risk.
Everyone deserves the right to charter his or her own path. Everyone has an unlimited amount of untapped potential, which we must allow them to pursue through ingenuity and innovation. We must make the American Dream more than just a dream.
We must reward our entrepreneurs for taking the risk–for stepping out and reaching for their goals. Nobody likes to play a rigged game–We must unstack the deck and shuffle the cards to revive our small businesses and rebuild the American Dream.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.