Why are you a conservative? It seems like an easy question, but could you explain your beliefs in one succinct, powerful sentence? When Raji Manasseh was recently put on the spot, he did not hesitate.
“The reason I am a conservative is because I believe in the American people.”
While speaking with The Heritage Foundation, Manasseh displayed unbreakable confidence in his fellow citizens.
“We are smart enough to know how to spend our own money, smart enough to save, smart enough to educate our kids, and smart enough to make health care decisions,” Manasseh said. “The American people do not need the government telling them what’s good for them.”
Manasseh, 34, remembers hearing his parents praise the leadership of Ronald Reagan throughout the 1980s. His father, who grew up in India and moved to Jamaica before legally immigrating to the United States, particularly appreciated the 40th president’s strong stand against communism. As his parents discussed important national issues at the dinner table, Manasseh became fascinated with public policy.
“At a very young age, I was already following politics,” Manasseh recalled. “While I was being told why Reagan was great, I was also thinking for myself and starting to read more books.”
Manasseh credits professors at Wheaton College in Illinois for pointing him toward credible conservative opinion sources like the Wall Street Journal editorial page. While striving to become a doctor and even enrolling at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, plans suddenly changed.
“A lot of doctors were telling me that the industry was less about helping people and more about dealing with bureaucracy,” Manasseh said. “That wasn’t for me.”
Instead of making excuses or looking for handouts after his life changed course, Manasseh took his undergraduate degree into the business world and found an entry-level job answering phones at Goldman Sachs. Almost a decade later, he is a vice president and portfolio manager. While numbers dominate most of Manasseh’s thoughts during the day, he still thinks about how close he was to a life inside the medical industry.
“Health care is interesting because it’s the only consumer market not driven by supply and demand,” he explained. “Every time the government has tried to come up with a solution, it’s failed, and today’s attempts are no exception.”
Manasseh believes the federal government’s intrusion into doctor’s offices is symptomatic of a larger trend that accelerated when democrats won the White House in 2009.
“Whether it’s taking more power from states or local governments, the consolidation of powers are very concerning to me,” Manasseh said. “As people are closer to situations, they make better decisions.”
While President Obama has made hundreds of speeches on health care and the economy, Manasseh openly questions whether the administration is making an honest effort to confront threats to democracy.
“Why is there a timetable in Afghanistan? Why are terrorists being given Miranda rights? They are softening and trying to placate,” he said. “You can’t win brownie points from some of the worst people in the world.”
The Heritage Foundation was a natural match for the ambitious, hard-working young professional who wants his country to project strength. After meeting a Heritage Foundation employee through a friend, Manasseh attended a meeting and was eventually asked to join the New York City Area Committee. While helping develop the Young Presidents Club in the nation’s largest metropolis, Manasseh has a front row seat to the future of conservatism.
“Young people’s lives are crammed with activities and eventually family,” the father of two said. “While young people don’t always have the time to sort out every single issue, Heritage does a great job giving them the materials they need with a ton of intellectual capital behind it.”
Manasseh isn’t sure where his foray into the public arena will eventually lead. Yet he is certain about what most of his fellow countrymen will soon demand: a return to personal responsibility, limited government, and living within our means.
“Most people – even if they call themselves moderates – live their lives conservatively. We don’t bounce checks, we don’t want to rack up debt, and we don’t want to spend other people’s money.”