One of the most fundamental parts of the American Dream is that if you work hard and demonstrate initiative, there are no limits on what you can achieve. That vision drove pioneers to risk their lives settling the country, gave young men and women the inspiration to own a piece of land and begin farming it and drove countless entrepreneurs to start a businesses and create jobs.
I doubt that many, if any, of those people pursued their dream with the idea that, "I want to succeed some, but not too much."
But Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken joined several dozens of their colleagues in voting to say that yes, government needs to put limits on how much you succeed.
The occasion was an amendment offered by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a rising star in national politics with a fascinating background. His parents escaped Cuba and raised a family in south Florida as they watched Castro and his thugs enslave their country. The Rubio children were raised to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities available to them as Americans.
Rubio's amendment - known as the RAISE bill - would have put an end to one of the most peculiar features of American labor unions, which is their desire to LIMIT how much their members can earn.
Most people think of a union as something that attempts to help its members, but in many cases the unions work hard to prevent workers from realizing their full earning potential. About 80% of union contracts not only set a minimum wage, but a maximum wage as well. That prevents employers from rewarding workers who are more productive then their peers.
The precedent dates back to a 1967 case in which a construction company that was paying its union works $17 an hour offered to give everyone a raise to $18.50 per hour if certain performance goals were met. The union protested and the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company to rescind the offer.
Likewise, a New York hospital began offering small tokens of appreciation - $100 gift cards - to its best nurses. Again, the union protested and the NLRB ordered the practice stopped. Imagine that: A union collecting dues from you, in order to limit how much you can make.
I can't imagine why I - or anyone - would want to belong to an organization that put a cap on my earning potential, and Rubio's bill would have put an end to a union practice that seems to be the very antithesis of the American Dream.
But when the RAISE Act came to the floor, there were Klobuchar and Franken - taking orders from the union bosses who help fund their campaigns - voting to squash the dreams and aspirations of workers. The RAISE act went down, 45-54.
The union's perspective, of course, is that it is better off in an environment of enforced mediocrity, rather than one of sustained excellence. If workers found out that they can earn more by doing a little more than the bare minimum job requirements, that they can succeed on their own merits, they might decide they don't need to give their money to a union.
Doing the bare minimum is not the way for American workers to compete in an ever-challenging global economy, though "mediocre" does seems to aptly describe the job Franken and Klobuchar are doing as senators.