THE BEST AND WORST JOB IN TOWN
Attorney Jonathan Emord
March 15, 2010
Let me define for you a very interesting job. Suppose you were offered a position in which you had no limits on the amount of money you could spend, and you also had no limits on the kinds of things you could acquire with that money. What a wonderful position that would be, right?
Now you may think the position not of this world, but it is. The position is that of a United States Congressman or Senator. I suspect that your skepticism comes from your view that money does not go on trees and that sooner or later someone will have to pay for all the lavish spending. You are right. To quote Margaret Thatcher, “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
Neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to get Thatcher’s message these days. They spend as if there is no tomorrow and, at current rates, there will be no tomorrow—at least not a tomorrow resembling anything like today. It will be an impoverished world in which the American dollar is not the reserve currency, in which the American standard of living plummets, in which the dollar is largely worthless, and in which the United States defaults on its debt obligations and sends world markets into a tail spin. It will be a world of deflation and depression the likes of which we have never seen.
So the ideal job of Congressman or Senator is not so ideal after all. While you get to spend other people’s money today on anything you want based on promises that you know can never be fulfilled, those whom you tax will have to pay for that spending one way or another later. Moreover, as the Beatles reminded us, “money can’t buy me love,” and so sooner or later those whom your grandiose designs delight will come to hate you when the bubble bursts. You will become like the character Montague Tigg in Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. Having sold your public on what is in fact a pipe dream, you will, upon proof of same, become despised by all who were fool enough to believe your promises.
The modern politician is a bit like an alcoholic (and some of them actually are). He or she always thinks that the spending habit is momentary and can be licked but cannot help but get back into the old groove again as soon as the first round of spending is over. They are in a state of denial, believing restraint possible tomorrow all the while partying today with wild abandon.
The world has yet to find a way to restrain this extravagance. Spending other peoples money is just so irresistible. Just as thieves will always be with us so will their kissing cousins politicians. The difference is that we throw in jail people who pick your pockets on the street, while we throw fundraisers for people who pick your pockets through federal taxation. The former we call crooks while the latter we call politicians but the perspicacious among us know that there is little difference between the two.
Now a few politicians see all this money going into government and coming out in spending that exceeds what goes in and find it all so impressive that they seek to apply it more directly to their own lives. When a billion here and a billion there is spent with such ease, who would notice a few million traveling aside into a single politician’s pocket? The more pious among them pass legislation to up their salaries, to give them greater perks, and to pay for lavish retirements. Some go farther, they actually pocket money in the form of bribes, misdirected campaign contributions, or misappropriation of public assets.
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Without meaningful restraints on government, a constitutional insistence on frugality, limited government, and rights protection, there is little difference between a politician and a thief. It should not surprise us, then, that those who would spend our money and beyond for pipe dreams are so often caught in acts of corruption in general. The nation may be in a deep recession but here in Washington the party goes on.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved