It's Time: Return of the Atlas Shrugged Guy

Chronicles of a man unhappy with his country's path

Nearly a year ago, just before Election Day in the Romney-Obama contest, I began receiving emails from a person I eventually referred to as the Atlas Shrugged Guy. The name of course referred to his threat-and-promise that if the American public returned Barack Obama to the White House, this man would, like Atlas Shrugged's John Galt, withdraw his labor and creativity from a leveling, confiscatory society that didn't realize its true dependence on its productive class.

You can read his series of explanations from last year, along with responses, support, and jibes from other readers, in the compendium here.

Since then people have kept writing in asking what became of the man and his threat. For months I just didn't get around to collecting his messages; as you will see, they are voluminous. But now I have, and my purpose is to provide an archive of an extended, detailed expression of what, as the shutdown fight showed, is obviously a significant point of view.

This post is extremely long. I don't expect anyone to read it in one crack. But it may be a useful political/cultural reference source about this element in our current politics.

The hard-line GOP forces in our latest shutdown fight felt that the Obama healthcare plan, and Obama policies generally, were such dire threats that extreme steps in opposition were justified. The man I'm quoting here was not recommending resistance, a la Ted Cruz, but withdrawal, a la John Galt; yet both responses spring from the shared sense that the country has become something alien to them.  You'll see the depths of that outlook expressed here.

For the record: From the start I have known the real name of this person, because he told me. I have figured out the location of the personal website on which he develops many of these same themes, and where he lives and what line of work he's in. (You'll see an exchange in which I reveal this to him.) I can't independently confirm what he says about his business plans.

Without further comment, here we go with the first tranche. Some of these overlap with ones I quoted before, but I am including the whole sequence. Meanwhile, we're heading off on another American Futures trip, to the far northeast.

November 3, 2012, three days before the election.

From: D….

To: James Fallows

Subject: What happens if Obama wins?

I will tell you what happens, I close my business of 10 years and lay off my employees. I am done. Thats what happens. You might consider me one of those know nothings but I am highly educated, run a high technology company with several very high paying positions and am very much steeped in US History and am a stalwart in the notion of individual liberty and self reliance.  Freedom and liberty built this nation, not parasites like Obama and ilk. Obama has never produce anything in his life. Nothing, zero. Yet he is qualified to lead? Really? I have worked for leaders and he is no leader.

The economy picking up is a joke. Really? Where? 100% debt to GDP and counting and for every job created 75 food stamp recipients?  I have never seen it this slow and a second Obama term will spell the end. The tax increases alone are enough for me to call it quits. Why, I make to much so pay more of my fair share? Maybe you should attempt to understand the concept of a S Corp and how it's income becomes, for tax reasons, my income. Hence while my income may look very good on paper the vast majority of my income stays as operating revenue. So much for the fat cat theory, no?

Why should I continue to work myself into the dirt just to have it confiscated to transfer wealth to a parasite class? The work requirement for welfare gutted, Obamaphones, the taxes in Obamacare alone are enough to throw in the towel.

This OP ED [in response to something I had written] is a fantasy of deranged and feckless liberal gibberish. What your now calling the mainstream is terminal unemployment and lower standard of living for all but then again, we all know that is the lefts dream right? After all, when your mentality is zero sum gain then making the rich poorer the poor become richer, correct? WHy let reality get in the way of your fantasy? Had the housing market, for example, been left to market forces without government intervention the housing bubble would have never happened but hey, another brilliant idea from the left. Good intentions are all that matter right?

Try this. Open a business, deal with all the headaches for a few years, payroll, taxes, permits, employees and then come back and explain to me how Obama has helped me?

You want jobs, you create them because I am finished. Atlas will indeed shrugand I have no clue whom you and other democrats think is going to pay the tab because there is no money left to burn.

Then again, for the left the end justifies the means. As Milton said;, "better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven?"

November 3, 2012. I wrote back asking if I could quote the note, and whether he really owned a business.

Yes I do own one. I started in 2002 in my spare bedroom and now have a payroll of almost 500k per year. I will close it if he wins.

November 5, 2012, after I had posted some critical comments from other readers, including one calling him a spoiled child.

I am glad to privately provide website, not publicly. I enjoyed the spoiled child comment best. Spoiled children usually work 60 to 70 hours a week? What the readers fail to grasp is that the market is shrinking. I will do just fine, I am highly skilled. What I don't want to deal with is declining growth and growth is revenue driven. I don't understand why people cannot grasp that we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending and regulatory problem.

Simply put, why should I work myself into the dirt for no return? This is, or was, my dream. Why is that suddenly something I didn't build nor deserve to reap reward from?

Maybe your readers should ask, whom are they to take the fruits of my labors? Is not creating jobs a form of sharing wealth?

I will gladly rebut anyone whom wished. One man said no and all of Rome trembled? I am no afraid to stand my ground....

 November 5, 2012, in further response to critical comments from other readers.

I just had a chance to sit and read this on large screen. Funny, I'm am to be burned at the stake? Spoiled child? 

I put myself thru college selling scrap metal and working. I have a degree in physics from Seattle University. I worked avionics and fly by wire systems and missile technology for 16 years and switched to embedded systems, gps and wireless telemetry (no not wifi, wifi is for pussies) for the past 10 with a emphasis on extreme ruggedization. We do research and development into new technologies and guess what funds that; r&d? Profits which apparently are now a resource better allocated by the geniuses in government than I.

The comments are mere bitter mockery. I treat my employees very well, the issue at hand is growth. Growth is fueled by profits, not regulation and taxation. The national issue is not taxes it is spending and over regulation. Maybe you and your readers could enlighten me as to the 18 tax cuts I got that I have no clue about?

Is it so unreasonable to advocate a government to leave me alone and live within its means? Is it necessary that to insure a few requires the control of a entire industry? Student loans are now the business of the federal gov? Really?

Since when is, or was, a college education assured? I paid me way, I am paying my children's way? I am the spoiled child? What but a child are you to expect, demand, I pay for secondary education?

No, I stand as a man whom is proud to know the virtue of hard work and thru work alone i expect to reap the wealth of my labors. Giving back implies I took something. I took nothing and created something. I feel no guilt, why should I?

Your readers can pound sand.

I stand by my assertions. I will be fine, will they? Maybe they should vote for the business guy? The business of America is business, isn't it?

I appreciate a chance to respond. So seldom does anyone do such.

November 6, 2012 -- election day, after I asked whether I could quote his latest comments.

Quote away. It is not as if I relish this thought of moving on but the decline in business is a reality I must, as a business owner, deal with. I didn't get here by being lazy nor stupid. What I am is tired. I made a promise to myself long ago that if it starts to decline I am not riding it down to the bottom. 

I should point out I am not opposed to a reasonable means tested safety net nor the usual responsibilities of govt. What I am opposed to is a ideology that promotes redistribution of wealth simply on some moving target of "fairness" and a debt that is unsustainable and that, despite claims of the pols, is not going to be fixed by taxing the rich.

If your down on your luck or cannot make it, that is one thing. However, a lifestyle generation after and after on public assistance is just plain wrong.

I could pontificate ad infinitum, we shall see tonight which vision for America prevails. 

November 6, 2012, as the returns came in.

FYI, just talked to a large moving company owner.... Said same thing I did. Read it and weep.... Atlas is indeed going to shrug. Enjoy poverty.

Shortly thereafter: 

Well looks like I am closing up shop. So be it. You wanted jobs, LOL, you make them. I will survive no matter what. It is sad, apparently our fathers died for nothing more than a check. Wow. My fathers died for liberty, you traded it for security. How does that feel? All those lives wasted on a generation of takers.....

We gave you a Republic, if you can keep it?

And then.

Lol looks like you we're right. I guess the concept of individualism has died. No problem, hope you enjoy socialism, it is probably best. After all, shared misery trumps unequal prosperity...

After the race was called:

Notices start tomorrow. Welcome to poverty...

November 7, 2012

Well, the beginning of the end.... I weep for what was, and fear for what we are becoming. If I wanted to live in a socialist nation then I used to have a choice.

So this is how freedom dies, to applause..... 

More after the jump. 

November 7, 2012.

It would appear my original email struck a chord with your readers, hence I am to be crucified as Spartacus lest I defy Mother Rome?

Perhaps in their souls they understand a shred of reality? I had not intended to seek 15 minutes of fame. All glory is fleeting and I prefer obscurity, In any event, I read the other business owners post and his thoughts had no relation to mine whatsoever. He was opining upon the social issues and the Republican party having social issue voters whom had led to this loss.

While I could weigh in on that big time (and the left does not vote social issues?) I shall give you the crux of my reasoning. In a nutshell, I was recently told by a very successful person, who's industry is slated for destruction, "tell me the rules and I will win". Social issues play no part in my decision processes.

My hopes for a Romney victory were rooted in his proven ability to balance budgets. Cash flow management is a key element of any business and Romney had a proven record of management of budgets and cash flow.

Agree or not, is this not the case? Managing cash flow means making tough decisions and often, as in my case, very scary ones. Do you not think I have walked way out on a limb before? Way out. I have risked it all before. Do then I not deserve to reap rewards for risk? Is not the right to succeed also the right to fail?

Without pointing fingers of blame, I had very high hopes that we would achieve a degree of political unity that would allow for adoption of a sound national fiscal policy, stability in the tax code and a reduction in the size and scope of government. The Obama administration and the democrat party has shown absolutely no propensity to address the deficit issue with any approach other than tax increases. The problem is math. No oddly complex math is needed, no genius. No Harvard grads in Unified Field Theory. A dime store calculator, IRS data and some historical data is all that is needed.

The democrat party appears stuck in the notion of static zero sum gain thought. Hence they imagine a world where they just carve off a larger chunk and the entire pie remains the same size. In reality when taxes become higher and higher the government essentially is competing with business for a smaller pie while the roles of non-producers expand.

Are you really entitled to a free cell phone? The economy is not static. I this a dynamic entity that reacts, like all dynamic systems to input.

We now know in no way that tax policy will be favorable to business.

Taxes are going up and going up a lot. What I find a tad amusing is that even the 10% rate goes to 15%, a 50% increase. I was not aware that the lowest rate was also deemed the rich. In any event, I still don't know the rules, do I? It will be months and months and in the mean time businesses languish in some inner circle of Dante's Inferno waiting to know which way to turn. Tell me the rules and I shall win?

The deficit is completely out of control and to think tax increases alone are going to solve it, in 10 or 20 years, is delusional at best.

We don't have 20 years. There is not enough revenue at 100% to control the debt. This means that the Obama administration looks at taxes not as a revenue stream but as a tool of social engineering. The Obama administration debt policy has been essentially, print money.

QE3, QE5, QE32, does it matter? At some point this insanity will manifest itself and nothing good can come from it. Inflation will strike and is not inflation a form of taxation? I knew in 2005 that housing would bust and I am a nobody. One merely look at historical home prices (inflationary growth) between 1800 and 2010 to see that market forces were not in play. It was unsustainable, no? Interest only loans, drive by appraisals, no risk to banks because the government backed it up with the, as one liberal told me, "the infinite wealth of the US". Infinity appears to be a finite number hovering now at about 16 trillion no?

So we now have a debt beyond comprehension. In fact, I am convinced that vast majority have no clue as to the magnitude of the numbers. It is staggering and I see no end in sight, do you?

Then, lets toss in Obamacare. We have a administration that is now set to "impose" upon the masses a medical system in which the primary focus is taxation and control. I have not managed to find a single accountant nor business owner whom has a clue what Obamacare means. I can tell you it means massive new taxes, massive fines, IRS agents, reporting requirements and regulation of an industry that has given us the finest medicines and care in the world. Now all that has changed and what are the rules?

So lets look at the three items. Taxes are going up meaning less revenue in an already depressed marketplace.

Increased taxes on investments so there is no place to have your saved money work for you.

The debt will come home to roost. It is a given, it is unsustainable.

Denial is the purview of fools.

Third, Obamacare. What are the rules? Why are they even needed?

In other words, I know not the rules in a nation in which the masses elect a man who has no clue where the creation of wealth stems. Where a majority now considers abortion and free access to birth control more important than individual liberty and sound fiscal policy. Yes, individual liberty, that apparently imaginary myth of the ages...

In the mean time I am left to sit and scratch my head and wonder, do I take risks in a world in which we are ruled by fools? Tell me the rules and I shall win. It is going to be a interesting ride. Systemic economic decline and collapse is not what I would wish for the future.

The good news for the left, well all be equal now won't we? Equally poor that is.

I appreciated the opportunity to weigh in. Maybe, should luck have it, I will end up somewhere along the Appian Way on a crucifix. In the mean time I hear Nero fiddles and Rome burns..

November 7, 2012. I pass along a request from an editor at another magazine to be put in touch with the reader.

LOL, I might after I handle the winding down. I am deeply committed to my employees welfare. I realize that caring and being a business owner is a oxymoron in the Obama world but I do. As such, I cannot address this until I have let them know my intentions and prepared for this. It would be wrong to do otherwise.... I have contractual obligations that require me to finish. I was prepared to let one go today but I decided, in rder to help him, we would finish some "specialized credentials" that will aid his search. Probably Feb before I am done with this.

I will let them know such, maybe my forte is not in business but opining? LOL, I never get a response. Now I am wanted in [the magazine]? Funny, since I read that mag.

I will advise. In the mean time, been up for 50 hours and counting. I take politics very seriously. I was raised by a simple man whom was the most wise in politics of anyone i have known. My Dad voted against Roosevelt because he said it was the path to socialism. Apparently, he was right.

I have been a little dismayed by all this, hard to accept your world is a antiquity to be cast aside for the ones we have been waiting for. Somehow I was Ok with picket fences and work as a virtue. I guess free shit is where it is at. Why work hard, were all equal now...

November 7, 2012. He writes asking why his messages have drawn such interest.

Might I ask, why did my responses stand out? I opine often, suddenly this. I have opined often, been published once. Is it because I took a stand?

I wrote back saying that his original note had arrived at the same time as one from another business owner, and I quoted them both as part of a pre-election roundup. I also said, "Many, many people doubt that you are a 'real' person. I have looked into enough of the company background to tell them that you are."

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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