Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Government Spending - Then and Now

I read a lot of history. I usually mark pages with a tiny bookmark if there's something I want to remember. Sometimes I go back and look through some of the things I marked. Sometimes after reading the marked pages, I forget what I marked. Sometimes I don't. A few months back, I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. It's about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and I highly recommend it. It's a great adventure story, and a great lesson about what Americans can do when we put our minds to it. It was only a brief time ago when we lived in a "can do" culture. Somehow over the past 40 or so years, we've slowly convinced ourselves that we can't and that even if we could, we're not worthy of doing it. That's a mode of thought that must change if we're going to survive as a nation, and if our nation is going to be worthy of survival.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. As we get closer to November's presidential election, both candidates are making big promises. If elected, they are going to be generous with government largesse. Except for Obama. He's going to be really, really generous. But then, if I had access to billions and billions of dollars of other people's money, and if I could get elected president of the United States by promising some of this money to - let's say "encourage" people to vote for me, I might be just as bighearted, giving money to my friends in this country, and maybe a few spare dollars to friends in other countries, and if the government hasn't actually collected that money yet, what's a few billion dollars more added to our national debt? Who's going to notice? And outside of a few party poopers, who's going to care?

Things weren't always this way. On page 62 of Undaunted Courage, Ambrose talks about the White House and how it was run under John Adams and then Thomas Jefferson.
. . . His salary was $25,000 per year - a princely sum, but the expenses were also great. In 1801, Jefferson spent $6500 for provisions and groceries, $2700 for servants (some of whom were liveried) $500 for Lewis' salary, $3000 for wine. And it turned out he had to buy his own horses; Congress, thinking it an outrage the government should pay for the president's horses, ordered that the ones Adams had turned over to Jefferson be sold. Adams was so mortified over this action, that he left town before the inauguration.
How do we go back to that? Or at least something resembling fiscal responsibility? Maybe we can't.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.
Alexander Tytler
That depressing quote however, should not keep you from voting. Like Abraham Lincoln said,
Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.

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At 12:40 PM, Blogger Humble wife said...

Interesting how far we have come from this sense of responsibility and honor.

Sadly both parties are so far out of touch I am unsure we can ever recapture this character.

Kidding...as a grassroots effort we can soothe the blisters by making our elected officials accountable. You know, by the example they hold in their personal life is to be critiqued, and judged. If they are to be in the office representing me, then I expect integrity, AND a tighter clasp on the purse strings.

Pop my little bubble went!!!!!! Oh to see the office as a place to build up our country instead of tearing it down. Now those were the days.

Hope summer is going well.
How is/was the trip for you daughter??

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Harry said...

Summer is fine. Not as many tutoring students as I'd hoped, but the economy in Michigan being what it is, I'm probably lucky to have any.

My daughter had a great time in Australia. The only down part was she fractured her finger surfing. She didn't let that slow her down though, and my wife and I were too amazed that our daughter, who can't be bothered to do much physical activity without a bit of coercion, actually went surfing - willingly - and she enjoyed it.


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