Billions and Trillions and Money, Oh My

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money… Everett McKinley Dirkson

Everett Dirkson was an Illinois politician who served many years in the United States Senate. He was an eloquent speaker and as Republican Minority Leader played a key role in gaining passage of national civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

His most famous quote (above) expressed his concern that government spent too much money. There is some evidence he never actually said those precise words… and less evidence he did much to prevent the growth of big government.

Dirkson, who died in 1969, would likely have a difficult time processing the size of the $2-trillion economic stimulus bill enacted by the federal government in March of 2020 in response to the coronavirus. It certainly is real money.

Let me stipulate right now that I don’t deny the good intentions of the legislation to help people facing medical and economic crises during the pandemic. Neither do I suggest that there isn’t a role for government in times of crisis and the need to spend large sums of money for those in need.

However, I was disgusted by the attempts during the creation of the legislation to throw every politician’s pet fantasy into the bill. Voter registration, bans on fossil fuels, support for art projects, a bailout for the post office, forgiveness of student loans, more money for public broadcasting.  Some of these things slouched into the final legislation.

The appalling debate brought two of the 10 Commandments to mind:

  1. Thou shalt not steal.
  2. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s goods.

There is much in the stimulus bill that is about caring for people and helping others. There also is much about income redistribution, which tends to spring from the violation of the 10th Commandment.

And to achieve this redistribution it is required that the 7th Commandment be violated on a massive, national scale. The government takes money from some people and gives it to other people. The politicians doing this stealing like to think of themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

The problem is, they need to better understand the story of the famous thief.  What he did was seize tax money unjustly taken by the government and return it to the people.

Our politicians do just the opposite; they take from the poor, via taxes, and pay for the pet projects of the rich and well-connected. The farmer struggling to keep the family farm in Iowa and the small-town grocer trying to make ends meet in Omaha are paying taxes to the government so politicians can give grants to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Robin Hood would be disgusted.

Everett Dirkson would have to change his quote: A trillion, a trilling there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.

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