“The problem,” the great economist Walter Williams told an audience Thursday, “is not the politicians. It is us.”
Williams, one of my heroes, spoke Thursday to a generally conservative crowd — people attending a Heritage Foundation event in Philadelphia. He lamented the political class’ eagerness to continually increase government services, programs and handouts. But the blame, he said, rests with voters who allow for it to happen and who even demand it.
For a candidate to turn down Big Government solutions is political suicide, he said, because the public expects politicians to support programs intended to help people; the public expects candidates to deliver results to their districts, even if it means using the power of the government to take from some to give to others. It’s morally wrong, but it’s become a staple of the American political system.
Note, even in Idaho some Republican politicians, like Reps. Kelley Packer, Luke Malek, Merrill Beyeler, Fred Wood and Paul Romrell, have vowed to do anything and everything to expand the welfare state. They want to add 78,000 so-called gap-population residents to the Medicaid rolls.
It wasn’t always like this. Williams spoke about James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, who once blasted $15,000 in congressional spending directed to help French refugees. Said Madison, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right of Congress expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
In other words, what right do politicians have, then or now, to take money from you and give it to someone else, even if the cause appears just? Williams points out that it would be illegal, for example, for you to forcibly steal money from your neighbor. Your illegal deed would not be lessened because you plan to use the stolen money to buy medicine for the needy. So why is it OK for government to take your money and give it to people for seemingly benevolent purposes? Adds Williams, lest you think government doesn’t use coercion and force to take money from you, try not paying your taxes and see what the IRS does to you.
At least in Idaho most voters don’t want or need politicians who promise the sun, the moon and the stars. Most don’t want more of their hard earned money to be taken from them in order to expand government entitlements. They want communities, charities, individuals, businesses and families to be at the forefront of solving problems and lifting people out of poverty.
Still, the majority of Idaho lawmakers condone theft by legislative act. They do so because they think voters support it. So, as Williams noted, it’s up to voters to prove they don’t, and that means asking the right questions before the May 17 election. The questions to ask of candidates include:
- Do you support my right to keep more of my hard-earned money? Will you oppose efforts to raise my taxes, fees and other government-imposed costs?
- Will you oppose efforts to expand the government welfare state, to free communities, churches, charities and families to solve problems and help the neediest among us?
- Will you oppose special interest deals that help some at the expense of others?
In Idaho, the answers to these and similar questions should be easy. We should be able to get it right, here in Idaho, where most politicians and residents profess to being conservative. To paraphrase Reagan, for the rest of the country we can become that shining city on the hill.