Dumb Politicians Won’t Get Elected


VoteHereSignBethelFellowshipSTP640Politicians can be progressives, liberals, conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, and right-wingers. They just can’t be dumb. The American people will never elect them to office. Let’s look at it.

For years, I used to blame politicians for our economic and social mess. That changed during the 1980s as a result of several lunches with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., which produced an epiphany of sorts.

At the time, I had written several columns highly critical of farm subsidies and handouts. Helms agreed, saying something should be done. Then he asked me whether I could tell him how he could vote against them and remain a senator from North Carolina. He said that if he voted against them, North Carolinians would vote him out of office and replace him with somebody probably worse. My epiphany came when I asked myself whether it was reasonable to expect a politician to commit what he considered to be political suicide — in a word, be dumb.

The Office of Management and Budget calculates that more than 40 percent of federal spending is for entitlements for the elderly in the forms of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing and other assistance programs. Total entitlement spending comes to about 62 percent of federal spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that entitlement spending will consume all federal tax revenue by 2048.

Only a dumb politician would argue that something must be done immediately about the main components of entitlement spending: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Senior citizens indignantly would tell him that what they’re receiving are not entitlements. It’s their money that Congress put aside for them. They would attack any politician who told them that the only way they get Social Security and Medicare money is through taxes levied on current workers. The smart politician would go along with these people’s vision that Social Security and Medicare are their money that the government was holding for them. The dumb politician, who is truthful about Social Security and Medicare and their devastating impact on our nation’s future, would be run out of office.

Social Security and Medicare are by no means the only sources of unsustainable congressional spending.

There are billions upon billions in handouts going to farmers, corporations, poor people and thousands of federal programs that have no constitutional basis whatsoever. But a smart politician reasons that if Congress enables one group of Americans to live at the expense of another American, then in fairness, what possible argument can be made for not giving that same right to other groups of Americans? Making a constitutional and moral argument against the growth of handouts would qualify as dumb.

Let’s examine some statements of past Americans whom we’ve mistakenly called great but would be deemed both heartless and dumb if they were around today. In 1794, James Madison, the father of our Constitution, irate over a $15,000 congressional appropriation to assist some French refugees, said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” He added, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill intended to help the mentally ill, saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity” … and to approve such spending “would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

Grover Cleveland vetoed hundreds of congressional spending bills during his two terms as president in the late 1800s. His often stated veto message was, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.”

If these men were around today, making similar statements, Americans would hold them in contempt and disqualify them from office. That’s a sad commentary on how we’ve trashed our Constitution.

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  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    “My epiphany came when I asked myself whether it was reasonable to expect a politician to commit what he considered to be political suicide — in a word, be dumb.”

    You call that an epiphany? My epiphany is that government work is supposed to be a public service. Politicians should no more be paid or worry about keeping their jobs, than servers in a soup kitchen should be paid or worry about keeping their jobs. A soup kitchen server who is paid for his work, and paid well, will eventually develop an incentive to make sure more people go hungry, no matter how altruistic his initial motives may be.

    Politicians should always do the right thing for the good of the Republic; not do whatever it takes to be reelected. They should have a productive career outside of politics, to which they can return when their time of service is over. This is not necessarily an argument for term limits as much as it is an argument against professional politicians. If a man is noble and serves the Republic well, there should be no arbitrary limit to his ability to serve.

    The professional politician is the bane of human society. As Chesterton wrote:

    “THE men whom the people ought to choose to represent them are too busy to take the jobs. But the politician is waiting for it. He’s the pestilence of modern times. What we should try to do is make politics as local as possible. Keep the politicians near enough to kick them. The villagers who met under the village tree could also hang their politicians to the tree. It’s terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged today.”

    • radicalrepublican

      Quite perspicacious of you; and quoting Chesterton? There is hope for the world after all….

  • http://scherado.blogspot.com/ scherado

    “The smart politician would go along with these people’s vision that Social Security [is] their money that the government was holding for them.”

    People who gave SS dollars to the State every paycheck are due what they gave PERIOD. There is no “vision” required. Mr. Williams has a ludicrous definition of “entitlement”, unless he means that those who handed their money to the Government are entitled to receive the return of it.

    The indignity here is a reaction to Mr. Williams’ blindness of the obvious solution: end SS income tax and pay the people who paid-in until they die. Duh.

    • alericKong

      The laws which mandated social security, and publications by the Social Security Administration reveal the myth of “paying into Social Security” or “it’s your money.” In fact it’s another tax and spend entitlement scheme, and it’s your money as long as legislators and administrators deems it so. Pretty soon it will go away. Check his earlier columns.

      • veeper

        it should go away…..

        unless congress pulls a “obamacare” on this issue and demand by law that everyone invest in a retirement fund or be fined….

        it is NOT governments place……

    • Sleeper

      Social Security given back to the individuals who actually were taxed is not an entitlement . The government took money from me for ever hour that i worked . The equal amount that was ‘contributed’ by my employer was in fact taken out of the amount that my employer paid me per hour .I never would have chosen to give that money to SS if I had a choice not to .
      When I retired because of a disability, I had my own small home and two rentals . I sold one rental and paid off the other because I did not know what my income would be . I was a truck driver .
      If none of my money had gone into SS I easily could have kept the second rental and probably had a third .
      When I die, SS payments to me will stop . On the other hand ,if SS was never taken out , I would now be enjoying rent from two and most likely three rentals . Plus I could leave that property to my kin .
      I do not want from SS an amount equal to what was taken from me , but rather 4 times that amount . That in real terms is what they took from me .
      I am not greedy nor do I feel entitled . I WANT MY MONEY BACK .

      • veeper

        actually, social security IS an entitlement…..nor is reasonable term unemployment.

        what is NOT an entitlement is welfare, food stamps, rent assistance, student loans, and any number of programs that one can get without any participation whatsoever…

        politicians lumped social freebies in with actual entitlements to give freebies credibility…..and protect them ……

  • Habbgun

    Every politician makes that argument. They then pave the way to something worse. Have they left the government better than they found it? Most likely no. Did they stay a short term or did they hang around decomposing past what a zombie would fine polite? They understand the realities because they know how to create them. The Tea Party is called dumb by both Dems and Repubs. They seem to attract people though.

    • jimi belton

      yes to that….We need to rise and vote out the appeasers like Bohner…and Johnny Issacson of Ga….pathetic pollies, Losers that slither their way into office and become career regrugs…

  • russp

    I think what Prof. Williams is saying is that the underlying problem is not politicians but rather the ignorance of the people who elect them. Tea Party people know how a government should be run, but many of them don’t seem to understand that we can’t force good government on an ignorant public. How can we overcome the ignorance? That’s the $64K question. It will not be easy. It may not even be possible.

    • Toa

      Especially since there are way too many people who so savor being ignorant; nothing matters to them except making it to the next party, m-a-a-a-n, and making themselves feel good by demanding entitlements, suing other people, etc..

  • Donald J DaCosta

    It’s a sad commentary on how Americans have allowed themselves to be “dumbed down.” As children most of us are taught to never take anything from strangers. As adults we’ve got our hands out saying gimme, gimme, gimme from anyone needing our votes. That what’s given is taken from our fellow citizens is either ignored or never enters the calculations.

    It’s the attitude that the government can create out of thin air whatever freebies it promises to deliver. No effort, personal involvement, achievement or responsible behavior required from the recipient. Only the need for basic, life supporting products and services as we have been “taught” is our inherent right as human beings.

    Sounds like ridiculous nonsense but the political ruling class perpetually promote this notion and it gets them elected………the will of the governed in action.

    Whatever happens, good or bad, it will be much deserved.

  • veeper

    The ONE and ONLY reason governments (city, county, state, federal) never have enough money and taxes keep getting higher is governments getting involved and spending money in places that government has absolutely no business or right to be involved….