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Davy Crockett, the Constitution, and Charity

Posted by Tony Listi on February 18, 2008

Davy Crockett vs. Welfare

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig4/ellis1.html 

From The Life of Colonel David Crockett,
by Edward S. Ellis (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1884)

Crockett was then the lion of Washington. I was a great admirer of his character, and, having several friends who were intimate with him, I found no difficulty in making his acquaintance. I was fascinated with him, and he seemed to take a fancy to me.

I was one day in the lobby of the House of Representatives when a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support – rather, as I thought, because it afforded the speakers a fine opportunity for display than from the necessity of convincing anybody, for it seemed to me that everybody favored it. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose. Everybody expected, of course, that he was going to make one of his characteristic speeches in support of the bill. He commenced:

“Mr. Speaker – I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. This government can owe no debts but for services rendered, and at a stipulated price. If it is a debt, how much is it? Has it been audited, and the amount due ascertained? If it is a debt, this is not the place to present it for payment, or to have its merits examined. If it is a debt, we owe more than we can ever hope to pay, for we owe the widow of every soldier who fought in the War of 1812 precisely the same amount. There is a woman in my neighborhood, the widow of as gallant a man as ever shouldered a musket. He fell in battle. She is as good in every respect as this lady, and is as poor. She is earning her daily bread by her daily labor; but if I were to introduce a bill to appropriate five or ten thousand dollars for her benefit, I should be laughed at, and my bill would not get five votes in this House. There are thousands of widows in the country just such as the one I have spoken of, but we never hear of any of these large debts to them. Sir, this is no debt. The government did not owe it to the deceased when he was alive; it could not contract it after he died. I do not wish to be rude, but I must be plain. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much of our own money as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Like many other young men, and old ones, too, for that matter, who had not thought upon the subject, I desired the passage of the bill, and felt outraged at its defeat. I determined that I would persuade my friend Crockett to move a reconsideration the next day.

Previous engagements preventing me from seeing Crockett that night, I went early to his room the next morning and found him engaged in addressing and franking letters, a large pile of which lay upon his table.

I broke in upon him rather abruptly, by asking him what devil had possessed him to make that speech and defeat that bill yesterday. Without turning his head or looking up from his work, he replied:

“You see that I am very busy now; take a seat and cool yourself. I will be through in a few minutes, and then I will tell you all about it.”

He continued his employment for about ten minutes, and when he had finished he turned to me and said:

“Now, sir, I will answer your question. But thereby hangs a tale, and one of considerable length, to which you will have to listen.”

I listened, and this is the tale which I heard:

Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. When we got there, I went to work, and I never worked as hard in my life as I did there for several hours. But, in spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made homeless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them, and everybody else seemed to feel the same way.

The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done. I said everybody felt as I did. That was not quite so; for, though they perhaps sympathized as deeply with the sufferers as I did, there were a few of the members who did not think we had the right to indulge our sympathy or excite our charity at the expense of anybody but ourselves. They opposed the bill, and upon its passage demanded the yeas and nays. There were not enough of them to sustain the call, but many of us wanted our names to appear in favor of what we considered a praiseworthy measure, and we voted with them to sustain it. So the yeas and nays were recorded, and my name appeared on the journals in favor of the bill.

The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up, and I thought it was best to let the boys know that I had not forgot them, and that going to Congress had not made me too proud to go to see them.

So I put a couple of shirts and a few twists of tobacco into my saddlebags, and put out. I had been out about a week and had found things going very smoothly, when, riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly, and was about turning his horse for another furrow when I said to him: “Don’t be in such a hurry, my friend; I want to have a little talk with you, and get better acquainted.”

He replied: “I am very busy, and have but little time to talk, but if it does not take too long, I will listen to what you have to say.”

I began: “Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and – ”

“‘Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.’

This was a sockdolager… I begged him to tell me what was the matter.

“Well, Colonel, it is hardly worthwhile to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the Constitution to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest. But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.”

“I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.”

“No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?”

“Certainly it is, and I thought that was the last vote which anybody in the world would have found fault with.”

“Well, Colonel, where do you find in the Constitution any authority to give away the public money in charity?”

Here was another sockdolager; for, when I began to think about it, I could not remember a thing in the Constitution that authorized it. I found I must take another tack, so I said:

“Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.”

“It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week’s pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The Congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.”

I have given you an imperfect account of what he said. Long before he was through, I was convinced that I had done wrong. He wound up by saying:

“So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.”

I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

“Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it full. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said there at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.”

He laughingly replied:

“Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.”

“If I don’t,” said I, “I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say, I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.”

“No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.”

“Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.”

“My name is Bunce.”

“Not Horatio Bunce?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me; but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend. You must let me shake your hand before I go.”

We shook hands and parted.

It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.

At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.

Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.

I have told you Mr. Bunce converted me politically. He came nearer converting me religiously than I had ever been before. He did not make a very good Christian of me, as you know; but he has wrought upon my mind a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and upon my feelings a reverence for its purifying and elevating power such as I had never felt before.

I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him – no, that is not the word – I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if everyone who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.

But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted – at least, they all knew me.

In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:

“Fellow citizens – I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.”

I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation as I have told it to you, and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:

“And now, fellow citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.

“It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the credit of it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.”

He came upon the stand and said:

“Fellow citizens – It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.”

He went down, and there went up from the crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.

I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.

“Now, Sir,” concluded Crockett, “you know why I made that speech yesterday. I have had several thousand copies of it printed and was directing them to my constituents when you came in.

“There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week’s pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men – men who think nothing of spending a week’s pay, or a dozen of them for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased – a debt which could not be paid by money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it.”

Posted in American History, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Poverty, The Constitution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Capitalism, Catholicism, Morality, & Poverty

Posted by Tony Listi on January 25, 2008

http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=Teach%20the%20Churches

This is a video of an excellent lecture by Thomas E. Woods.

No Catholic (or Protestant for that matter) should be ashamed of whole-heartedly advocating free market capitalism and limited government. Conservatism and perhaps even libertarianism to some extent are eminently compatible with Christianity.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Foreign Aid, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Milton Friedman on Greed and Capitalism

Posted by Tony Listi on January 12, 2008

Every society runs on greed. It is inescapable. Attempts to legislate against mere greed make things worse. Political self-interest is no better than economic self-interest.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Economics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Income Inequality is NOT a Big Deal

Posted by Tony Listi on January 12, 2008

http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2007/11/forget-everything-youve-heard-in-media.html

http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/reports/incomemobilitystudyfinal.pdf

Forget Everything You’ve Heard in the Media About Income Inequality and Income Mobility

Here is the link to the full Treasury study “Income Mobility in the U.S. From 1996 TO 2005″ and here is an excerpt:

Using three different measures of income mobility that track changes in the incomes of a large sample of individual taxpayers over time, this study presents new evidence on income mobility over the decade from 1996 through 2005. Key findings include:

• There is considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy over the 1996 through 2005 period. More than half of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile between 1996 and 2005. About half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005.

• Median incomes of taxpayers in the sample increased by 24% after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Further, the median incomes of those initially in the lowest income groups increased more in percentage terms than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups. The median inflation-adjusted incomes of the taxpayers who were in the very highest income groups in 1996 declined by 2005.

• The composition of the very top income groups changes dramatically over time. Less than half (40-43% depending on the measure) of those in the top 1% in 1996 were still in the top 1% in 2005. Only about 25% of the individuals in the top 1/100th percent in 1996 remained in the top 1/100th percent in 2005.

• The degree of relative income mobility among income groups over the 1996 to 2005 period is very similar to that over the prior decade (1987 to 1996). To the extent that increasing income inequality widened income gaps, this was offset by increased absolute income mobility so that relative income mobility has neither increased nor decreased over the past 20 years.

In other words, almost everything we hear in the media about increasing income inequality, the disappearing middle class, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and the lack of income mobility is either flawed, deficient, incorrect, incomplete or wrong. The data show that:

1. There is significant income mobility up and down the income quintiles over longer periods of time, e.g. 1996-2005. Many of today’s poor are tomorrow’s rich, and many of today’s rich are tomorrow’s middle class or poor. The richest quintile is not a private club closed to new members, but a shifting, dynamic quintile composed of an ever-changing group of different individuals from year to year. Consider that 75% of the individuals in the richest group in 1996, the top 1/100th percent, moved down into a lower income group by 2005, making room for a completely different group of individuals in that super-rich category.

This is exactly the shifting pattern of quintile compositions that economic historian Joseph Schumpeter had in mind when he compared income distribution to a hotel where some rooms are luxurious, and others are small and shabby. The rooms are always occupied, but by a shifting, dynamic changing pattern of different people from day to day, or year to year. (Note: this paragraph is paraphrased.)

2. Real incomes are not stagnant, and the middle class is not disappearing. The real incomes of 2/3 of all taxpayers increased from 1996-2005.

3. The rich are not getting richer, and the poor are not getting poorer. The median incomes of those in the lowest income groups in 1995 increased more in percentage terms by 2005 than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups.

Posted in Economics, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Catholic Priest Denounces Govt Interference in Charity

Posted by Tony Listi on January 4, 2008

Rev. Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, takes on Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel during a Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing in 1995.

Posted in Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Solutions to Poverty

Posted by Tony Listi on January 4, 2008

Solutions to poverty – it starts with you. It is not the government’s responsibility to help people, its my responsibility. Its your responsibility. The solution to poverty starts with you. This is a counter-solution to the One Campaign, created by the Acton Institute.

Posted in Africa, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The “Living Wage”: A Short-Sighted Effort to Help the Poor

Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2007

The claim that workers would benefit if retail businesses larger than 95,000 square feet within Spokane, Washington, city limits paid wages anywhere from 135 percent to 165 percent of the state minimum wage is ill-founded, says Carl Gipson, director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy Center.

According to Gibson:

  • Most of the benefits of a living wage would go towards households that are not below the federal poverty line.
  • Living wage ordinances force the least skilled workers out of the labor market.
  • Economic evidence from other states shows there would be a net job loss within Spokane’s retail workforce.
  • Basing wages upon an employee’s need could drastically escalate labor costs.

“The idea of a ‘living wage’ is not a new idea, but our research shows it is a bad idea,” said Carl Gipson, study author and director for small business at Washington Policy Center.  “Proponents are attempting to impose price controls on labor in an effort to alleviate poverty.  It is a noble idea but one that is proven not to work. In fact, price controls will hurt those the regulation is intended to help.”

Source: “Mandated Living Wages: A Short-Sighted Effort to Help the Working Poor,” Washington Policy Center, December 3, 2007.

For text:

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/SmallBusiness/PRLivingWage.html

For study:

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/SmallBusiness/LivingWagePBText.pdf

For more on Minimum Wage:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=24

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Democrats wake up to being the party of the rich

Posted by Tony Listi on November 25, 2007

November 6, 2007

by Michael Franc
A legislative proposal that was once on the fast track is suddenly dead. The Senate will not consider a plan to extract billions in extra taxes from megamillionaire hedge fund managers.

The decision by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, surprised many Washington insiders, who saw the plan as appealing to the spirit of class warfare that infuses the Democratic party. Liberal disappointment in Mr Reid was palpable at media outlets such as USA Today, where an editorial chastised: “The Democrats, who control Congress and claim to represent the middle and lower classes, ought to be embarrassed.”

Far from embarrassing, this episode may reflect a dawning Democratic awareness of whom they really represent. For the demographic reality is that, in America, the Democratic party is the new “party of the rich”. More and more Democrats represent areas with a high concentration of wealthy households. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Heritage Foundation identified two categories of taxpayers – single filers with incomes of more than $100,000 and married filers with incomes of more than $200,000 – and combined them to discern where the wealthiest Americans live and who represents them.

Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats control both Senate seats.

This new political demography holds true in the House of Representatives, where the leadership of each party hails from different worlds. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, represents one of America’s wealthiest regions. Her San Francisco district has more than 43,700 high-end households. Fewer than 7,000 households in the western Ohio district of House Republican leader John Boehner enjoy this level of affluence.

The next rung of House leadership shows the same pattern. Democratic majority leader Steny Hoyer’s district is home to the booming suburban communities between Washington, DC, and Annapolis. It boasts almost 19,000 wealthy households and a median income topping $62,000. Mr Hoyer’s counterpart, minority whip Roy Blunt, hails from a rural Missouri district that has only 5,200 wealthy households and whose median income is only $33,000.

Income disparity – to use the class warrior’s favourite term – is greatest among the districts of lawmakers that lead each party’s campaign arm. Maryland senator Chris Van Hollen chairs the Democratic congressional campaign committee. With more than 36,000 prosperous households and a median income of nearly $70,000, his suburban Washington district even out-sparkles Ms Pelosi’s. In contrast, fewer than 5,000 such wealthy households are found in the largely rural district of his Republican counterpart, Tom Cole from Oklahoma. The median income there is only $35,500.

Democratic politicians prosper in areas of concentrated wealth even in staunchly Republican states such as Georgia, Kansas and Utah. Liberal congressman John Lewis represents more than 27,500 high-income households in his Atlanta district. The trend achieves perfect symmetry in Iowa. There, the three wealthiest districts send Democrats to Washington; the two poorest are safe Republican seats.

Soon this new political demographic may give traditional purveyors of class warfare the yips. To comply with new budget rules, liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are readying a tax increase of at least $1,000bn over the next decade. Ms Pelosi says she wants to extract all of this from “the wealthy”. When has a party ever championed a policy that would inflict so much pain on its own constituency? At what point will affluent Democrats crack and mount a Blue State tax rebellion?

Will we see the emergence of a real-life Howard Beale, the television anchorman played by Peter Finch in the movie Network ? Beale was disgusted with America’s deteriorating 1970s economy and culture. One night he snapped and implored viewers to get out of their chairs. “Go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!’ “

Or will Democratic voters follow a different cinematic lead, that of the fraternity pledge in Animal House? Perhaps they will accept these tax rises as a political and economic hazing and greet each new tax hike with: “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

Michael Franc is vice president of government relations for The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

First appeared in the Financial Times

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Christianity and Politics of the Poor

Posted by Tony Listi on November 18, 2007

Christianity is not meant to save society! I challenge anyone to show me a verse to support this crazed notion. This world and this life is not meant to be saved; a new world and new life is the promise of Christianity. “Salvation” for liberals is either extremely materialistic (Marxism) or of base feeling (self-esteem brought about by non-discrimination no matter what or approval of all Difference). There is nothing high-minded about it at all from a theological perspective. Marxism is a perverse caricature of Christianity!

Yet so many Christians mistake Marxism for the tenets of their own faith. It frustrates me to no end! (Perhaps this is Hillary’s problem.) Commitment to caring for the poor is miles apart from “economic justice” as conceived by liberals! Christian charity is a virtue and thus a free choice of the free will. “Economic justice” is coerced taxation and redistribution based on envy, a vice according to Christianity. It is not justice at all. Charity is a duty placed on individuals and the Church and commanded by God. This is something we render to God, not to Caesar! There is no contradiction between being economically conservative/libertarian and being a Christian. In fact it is just the opposite: liberal Christians abandon their Christian duty to care for the poor when they demand government do it for them.

Jesus sure did have a lot to say about the poor, including “”The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). Government cannot eliminate poverty! The War on Poverty was doomed to failure (and actually made things worse). Never once did Jesus say that the government should be the instrument by which Christians help the poor. His very example was one of personal service, not laying charitable duty at the feet of govt. Liberal Christians, Protestant and Catholic alike, are imposing their own political ideology onto the Scriptural text! ”We” as Christians, “we” as private individuals, “we” as civil society (as distinguished from govt) made up of a multitude of voluntary charitable and service organizations, “we the people,” should care for the poor. NOT “we” the govt.

Early Christians did NOT see their charitable work as a duty to the collective. They saw it as a duty to each child of God, to God himself. Christianity has social implications as does every religion, but they are secondary to the real message of the gospel that transcends earthly society. The economic justice of Marxism is nothing but legalized, yet still immoral, theft and thus no justice at all. Socialist solidarity is a perverse distortion of Christian love, which seeks the perfect balance between compassion and accountability. Social welfare is a perverse distortion of Christian charity.

As for Acts 4:32, it is a commune. But those Christians VOLUNTARILY joined the commune. It was not a political institution; it was a private religious organization. Moreover, I witnessed a Christian commune firsthand growing up: it is called a monastery. This biblical tradition is carried on in Catholicism, not Protestantism, as far as I can tell. Communism coercively reduces everybody to the lowly condition of a monk: poverty! But at least the monks get to voluntarily choose/vow poverty for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Sure, communism can work in America…if everyone is fine with being poor.

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

HAPPINESS AND INEQUALITY

Posted by Tony Listi on October 22, 2007

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=15163

The Democrats are correct that income inequality in America has increased over the decades, but their “egalitarian” attacks are misleading, says Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute,

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Gini coefficient,” in which zero indicates no inequality and one is perfect inequality:

-Over the past 40 years, the Gini coefficient in the United States has increased by a quarter, to .47 today from .39 in 1970.
-In European countries, Gini coefficients generally sit below .30, indicating substantially less income inequality.
Yet income is just one item of importance in the lives of Americans, says Brooks. There are many others — from love to faith to happiness — that we care about, some of them far more:

-For example, the 2004 General Social Survey’s measure of happiness generates a coefficient for the inequality of American happiness of .18 (using the Gini coefficient model), while the 2002 International Social Survey Program produces a coefficient of .20.
-Moreover, while the average happiness level in America has not changed much since the early 1970s (and remains above that of most of our European allies), the inequality in our happiness has fallen by about a point since then.
If greater income equality is our end goal, bringing the top down is as useful as bringing the bottom up, says Brooks. This is about as sensible as depressing the happy for the sake of the sad. There is no doubt the egalitarians among our politicians and pundits want the best for America. But to focus on inequality — and then only inequality in income — creates policies based on either rank materialism or raw envy. These motivations do little to inspire, and even less to lead.

Source: Arthur C. Brooks, “Happiness and Inequality,” Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2007.

For text:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119301749588666639.html

For more on Social Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=28

Posted in Economics, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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