In case you’ve failed to notice, the politics of pandemics has unleashed a spending spree in America which is breaking every record in the book when it comes to our national debt.
But even without a debate surrounding whether we should give ourselves a $600 or $2,000 individual handout, we are racking up debt at a rate unimaginable to our forefathers. That we tolerate our politicians piling debt upon debt is not surprising. In fact, we are now a society with a motto that reads “we’ve got it coming to us.” Benjamin Franklin warned us.
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic.”
There are many warning trumpets of all sorts in contemporary America that are heralding the demise of our republican form of government. When it comes to economic issues, we have developed a lexicon of bromides that reflects our distorted wishful thinking about economic policy, one which seems to say we can spend endlessly without consequences. Let’s consider just four examples in the modern vocabulary of big spenders.
These terms are trite and unoriginal remarks designed to soothe or placate us as we carelessly justify spending ourselves into an ever-deeper hole. Take for example the phrase that we require “an economy that works for everyone.”
First, economies don’t “work.” People work. And in America that system is free enterprise where a person can engage in economic activity at will. It is false to say if you are poor you are denied that right. Our nation has countless people who have taken great personal risk to start and grow a business, often resulting in a plethora of jobs for other people they employ in the process. The users of this bromidic phrase have twisted it to suggest that the government is responsible to manipulate the economy to create success for everyone, regardless of the risk and effort by the individual.
This reflects a growing psychological trend away from equality of opportunity to equality of outcome. If such were the case, everyone would be an Olympian. We aren’t. Coupled with this drift toward manipulated outcomes is the notion that the government should spend our tax money to ensure those outcomes.
That is both unwise and contrary to our free enterprise system, one that enables people to be successful apart from the actions of our government. Nonetheless, we are treated — almost daily — to some talking head on television lamenting that we do not have an economy that “works for everyone.”
Another favorite bromide of profligate spenders is the phrase “the haves and have nots.” This is often invoked by politicians touting the false promise of equal outcomes as a way to make us feel guilty if we do not redistribute income to people who — frankly — did not earn it. The presumption is that all wealth belongs to all of us. It doesn’t. Wealth, your money, like your home, your car, your birdcage, is your private property. As such it should be the duty of government to protect us from those who would seize our property on the presumption that they know better how to use it than we do.
By invoking the language of “haves and have nots” the redistributionists of wealth seek to hornswoggle Americans into believing that charity does not begin in the heart of individuals, but rather at the hand of a confiscatory government. No one would argue that we have to open our spare bedrooms to anyone who comes along and claims it is theirs to occupy. That must always be at our volition, not by compulsion.
The use of the term “food insecurity” is a favorite of big spenders. To be sure, we need to help those who hunger. The government has a legitimate role in doing so. But by including the notion of “insecurity” in the equation, the supporters of government food subsidy programs have a floating standard to justify whatever cost it takes to create “food security.” What does that mean? In that sense, the variable standard becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where insecurity is whatever the spenders say it is.
Finally, the term “traditionally underserved communities” introduces yet another amorphous standard that means whatever it needs to mean to justify adding more debt to fund federal programs for those who don’t think they are getting as much from the government as they are entitled to receive.
Moreover, inserting the adverb “traditionally” ensures we are all reminded that those “underserved” have a claim to systemic discrimination by the “haves” over the “have nots.” It’s all hogwash resembling a self-licking ice cream cone, always fulfilling itself, no matter the cost.
So as a nation let’s embrace a New Year’s resolution. Let’s firmly reject deceptive bromides while embracing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
• L. Scott Lingamfelter, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2018), is the author of “Desert Redleg: Artillery Warfare in the First Gulf War.”
L. Scott Lingamfelter
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