Column on What Members of Congress Should Tell American Voters

What Politicians Should Say
Tibor R. Machan
Here is what members of Congress should tell the voting public: "Ladies
and Gentleman, you asked for it and now you have got it, good and hard.
The bulk of you want both, a healthy economy and provisions for the needy.
The former requires economic discipline or, in personal terms, the strict
practice of the virtue of prudence. The latter demands giving those who
cannot afford homes, loans, etc., and so forth a substantial break. These
folks need to be provided, at taxpayers’ expense, with financial
support—low interest loans, forgiven debts, insubstantial collateral, and
the illusions that they can live the plush life but not earn enough to
afford it. "You may think that $700 billion is a big amount of money to
pay for the public policy that combines sound economics with extensive
support for those who otherwise would be left without the means to live
well. It is not, when you think in terms of a country with 350 million
people. While many are well to do, quite a few are not. Yet the policy
makers and their cheerleaders in the think tanks and universities all
demand everyone be living a satisfactory life. Egalitarianism is, in fact,
the dominant political philosophy at universities, think tanks, and among
the punditry. The top political philosophers, such as Martha Nussbaum,
Amartya Sen, Peter Singer, Peter Unger are all convinced that justice
demands that everyone live pretty much as if he or she had plenty
resources from which to fund the good life, at least economically. Elected
politicians follow the lead of these prominent thinkers by promising to
help everyone who needs it with ample government support. And they are
eagerly elected and then pass laws that try to square the economic circle
by having a country that promotes equal conditions for everyone while also
maintaining constant economic growth and development.
"But this is really impossible. In order to have everyone live more or
less equally well—with roughly the same benefits in health care,
vacations, education, amenities and so forth—those who are luckier and
more hardworking than the rest must also be taxed far more severely than
the rest which, in turn, discourages their eagerness for continuing to add
to their wealth. In other words, combining the philosophy of socialism
with that of capitalism is expensive and produces the kind of economic
fiascoes we are facing today. However, most Americans asked for this when
they voted into office the likes of Barney Frank who firmly believe in the
mixed economy.
"We just ask you please not to belly ache so much since the bulk of you
are surely getting exactly what you wanted. True, what you wanted amounts
to the impossible—a smoothly functioning economy along with an egalitarian
society. But people often want to have their cake and eat it as well, and
these days it seems most Americans fall into this group. They want small
government but also want the government to fund all kinds of projects they
favor, such as farm subsidies or guaranteed health insurance. You want
better paid teachers but also lower taxes. So why would it surprise you
that as a group Americans want to balance the budget but also provide
those who want it with cheap credit? You want a lean and mean federal
budget but also wish for higher federal deposit insurance backed by
taxpayers who may have to come up with the funds if the deposit holders
will not pay what they owe.
"So we are simply puzzled about why you think the government is acting
irresponsibly when, in fact, most of the voters insist government doing
just that when you cast your ballot and elect your representative. You
want to find someone to blame for all this, someone on Wall Street or in
Washington but, mainly, it is you all who are to blame, collectively as
well as individually. You want to live like a king but pay like a pauper.
That, dear citizen, is not possible and leads to just what you are
witnessing now. And there is no way out but to bit the bullet."

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