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    Wednesday, August 21, 2019-3:17:26P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Variations | Tragi-comic

THE government’s revenue collection depends mostly on the state of the economy. So now that the local economy has slowed down, we should expect to hear the same old concerns that were also raised in the not-so recent past when economic recovery seemed unlikely.

Of course if the economy recovers once again, and the government is collecting more revenue once again, we would hear, more or less, the same concerns aired in the past two years when the economy was still improving.

Happily, many of us have short-attention spans and are not particularly interested in the not-so recent past, especially if it can’t be Googled.

An American economics professor, Donald J. Boudreaux (who also has a law degree), recently noted that “political pressures compel Congress to expand so-called ‘entitlements’ during both economic good times and bad. ‘We’ve currently got lots of tax revenues!’ makes the case for buying votes with other-peoples’ money in the first case, while ‘We’ve currently got lots of people in need!’ makes the case for buying votes with other-people’s money in the second case. This political reality can be imagined away. It can be wished away. This political reality cannot, though, actually be made to go away.”

That is not a very inspiring thing to say to the young men and women out there who are interested in “serving the people” through politics. But many of them never listen to their elders anyway so I don’t think we’ll ever run out of aspiring “public servants.”

Commenting on what he describes as the latest tragi-comic spectacle in the U.S. political arena, which includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “crackpot scheme to ‘forgive’ most student loans and make college ‘free,’ ” Professor Boudreaux provided a summary of what passes for political discourse among the presidential candidates of what is reputed to be the “world’s oldest active political party”:

Candidate A: “Vote for me, for I will give you lots of stuff paid for by other people!”

Candidate B: “Vote for me, for I will give you even more stuff paid for by other people!”

Candidate C: “Vote for me, for I will give you yet even more stuff, paid for by other people, than is promised to you by my unimaginative opponents!”

Candidate A: “Nonsense! Vote for me, for here is even more of what I will give to you paid for fully by others!”

Candidate B: “Paltry! Vote for me and I will give to you twice the amount of free stuff promised by my opponents, and paid for — of course! — only by other people!”

Candidate C: “Bush league! Vote for me and I will give to you triple — nay, quadruple! — no, quintuple!! — the amount of stuff promised by my opponents — all of course paid for fully by other people!”

“So it goes,” the professor said. “And the media, the punditry, and the professoriate embarrassingly treat these power-mad charlatans as if they are worthy not only of respect but also of admiration.”

Of course, the other party is not far behind when it comes to pandering to voters. (One of the GOP’s campaign promises in 1928 was “A Chicken for Every Pot.” Its presidential candidate’s slogans included “Who But Hoover?” and “Hoover and Happiness or Smith and Soup Houses.” New York’s Catholic governor, Al Smith, was the Democratic bet.)

Remember the second U.S. presidential debate in 2012? A 20-year-old college student asked the candidates to “reassure” him and his parents about his post-college employment prospects. Did the candidate of the party-of-small-government seize the opportunity to lecture the student and the rest of the nation about the importance of grit, a strong work-ethic and other values and ideals that made America great? No. What the “conservative” candidate told the kid was, “I’m going to make sure you get a job.”

The democratic political process, says ex-hippie PJ O’Rourke, “is like the process of our children going through adolescence. There’s not much we can do to improve it and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We cannot, however, just declare ourselves to be apolitical any more than we can declare ourselves to be ‘aparental.’ Here are the car keys, son. Dad’s stash is in the nightstand drawer. Why don’t you take my ATM card while you’re at it? See you when you’re thirty.”

Democratic politics is the pits. But it is still preferable to despotism, however “pure of heart” and “enlightened.”

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