What if you owned stock in a company that had lost money in all but four of the past 38 years? What if this company had taken on immense debt because your managers and directors had continued to increase expenses, even in the face of declining revenues? What if this company had last paid off its debt and balanced its books in 1835?
Let’s say you held onto the stock because the book value of the company continued to increase over the years, but now the company’s bond rating was devalued and its future prospects dimmed. Plus, what if your company’s managers and directors had so wedged themselves into power that there was little hope of removing them? How long would you continue to keep this stock? Not long, one would presume.
The problem is that the example above is not hypothetical. It is happening to 300 million shareholders, otherwise known as American citizens, and our sample company is not a company at all. It is the United States government. The managers and directors are the out-of-control congressmen and senators, in league with bureaucrats, all mulishly and arrogantly dedicated to a relentless expansion of the federal behemoth. While the hierophants in the mainstream media proclaim entitlements as the major cause of our budget crises, they don’t focus on the main those who really feel entitled: congressmen.
Our representatives feel entitled to make laws impacting every aspect of our lives. They feel entitled to live like kings and queens. They feel entitled to stay in office until the undertaker comes to cart them away. But, mostly, they feel entitled to spend our money as if it were theirs. It would be difficult to find a better illustration of this supercilious behavior than that which we see in the recent actions of the Vermont congressional delegation.
Vermont has always been a heteroclitic state. For years, its congressional delegation has included the only admitted socialist member of Congress, Sen. Bernard Sanders. The senior senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, has been in the Senate for donkey’s years – since the Watergate era. The lone congressman from the Green Mountain State is Peter Welch. As a delegation, these statesmen are ranked among the most liberal in Congress. Individually, each has gone to great lengths to proclaim their abhorrence of corruption in government, though usually only as it involves wealthy conservative or libertarian campaign donors. As far as spending our money, however, their record is not so pristine.
To find a government program disdained by the Vermont trio, one would have to look to defense and national-security expenditures. As for the other two-thirds of our federal budget, these lawmakers never met a program they didn’t love – with our money. Some have suggested that the state nickname in Vermont be changed from the Green Mountain State to the Red River State, in honor of the rivers of red ink these generous representatives have produced.
Not being satisfied with spending our future generations’ savings, these three intrepid legislators have decided to give almost a quarter million of our dollars to their staff in bonus payments. How would you react, were you the owner of that fictional company described above, knowing that not only is your company mismanaged and debt-ridden, but that the managers have decided to give their underlings $236,830 more of your money as a bonus? Bonus for what? Certainly not for doing their job well, since the company – that is, our nation – is floundering, in large part because of their brazen profligacy.
What makes their generosity with our money all the more meretricious, is that these three amigos are the most vociferous congressional petitioners seeking to limit bonuses in the private sector. Indeed, Rep. Welch is the main author of House Resolution 4426, the “Wall Street Bonus Tax Act,” which seeks to waylay bonuses taken by employees of companies that benefited from the Trouble Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
Does the honorable gentleman from Vermont not see the incongruity in limiting bonuses to mendicants at the TARP trough, while pushing bonuses for the enablers of the TARP trough? Do no red lights flash in the Green Mountain State that congressional aides receiving bonuses while millions of Americans cannot find work does not play well anywhere across the fruited plain?
The firm of Sanders, Leahy and Welch argue that they are in position to spend our money on bonuses because they are more frugal with salaries than other congressional offices. They should be lauded for limiting the amount they spend on staff, but when they soak up the savings by rewarding that same staff outsized bonuses, they should only expect opprobrium.
In days of yore, giants such as Daniel Webster roamed the halls of Congress. His writings and speeches ennobled the institution and our people, yet he did it all with no staff. Today, congressmen are too frequently vacuous simulacra of our great leaders of the past, backed by dozens of well-paid staffers, all conspiring to spend whatever money they can extract from hard working Americans on a myriad of feckless programs designed to satisfy special interests.
How far we have fallen.