By Mr. Curmudgeon:
Sen. Rand Paul put on quite a show for his Kentucky constituents. With a giant sweepstakes-like check held behind him, Paul announced he was returning $500,000 to the U.S. Treasury – the unused portion of funds allotted his Senate office for operating expenses. This triggered a spate of articles in defense of Congressional Democrats eager to justify the exorbitant costs associated with running their offices.
“Other senators scoff at all the chest-thumping,” said POLITICO of Paul’s generous Treasury give-back, “saying the money lawmakers are allocated each year allows them to address constituents’ needs and keep them informed about what’s happening in Washington.”
Louisiana’s Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Small Business Committee, told POLITICO, “If you sat at home and twiddled your thumbs and didn’t do anything, you could return all of it. It’s a balance between being effective and productive and being efficient, and still having something to turn back at the end of the year.” Of the $6.3 million given her office in 2009-2010, Landrieu returned “just 3.4 percent,” said POLITICO.
“It takes money to make money,” goes the old saying. In the case of big-government politicians, it takes lots of other people’s money to spend lots of other people’s money. This reminds me of the apocryphal tale concerning an 1830s meeting between Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett and his frontier constituent Horatio Bunce.
“The government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes,” Bunce told Crockett, “… If you have the right to give to one, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe …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.”
“The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things,” Bunce summed up, “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.”
The tale above strikes at the heart of modern Progressivism, and has its defenders seeing red.
“That Davy Crockett should encounter a proto-member of the militia in the 1830s is, of course very convenient for modern-day propagandists,” says author Darren Mulloy in his book American Extremism: History, Politics and the Militia Movement, “… the tale is perhaps less significant than the desire it evidences to identify with and receive legitimation from this key figure in America’s frontiering past. It serves as a telling final indication of the importance attached to frontierism with the militia movement.”
Of course, the Bunce fable is an instructive moral tale, similar to the story concerning a young George Washington’s confession after chopping down a cherry tree. “I cannot tell a lie,” the adolescent Washington proclaims in support of personal veracity. It’s therefore laughable that Mulloy suggests the Crockett tale in support of lawful, honest government is the sole demand of those who wish to do violence to the permanent administrative state.
But it highlights a central feature in attacks by Democrats and their minions in the press against the Tea Party and the handful of conservative Republican representatives sympathetic with the movement’s small-government aims: Any act, no matter how modest, that seeks to reduce the amount Washington spends is a knife through the heart of Progressive power.
The Crockett legend also tells of the frontier hero’s encounter with a ferocious bear. Having shot the forest monster to no effect, he fought the clawing beast with his knife, plunging the blade into the bear’s heart.
Money is the beating heart of Washington’s power. The Tea Party, like Crockett, seeks to pacify Washington’s snarling, big-spending beast.
Money, as they say, is power. Lots of other people’s money allows modern Washington Progressives to diminish lots of other people’s liberty.