Sen. Harkin: A “misallocation of wealth” is the problem. Like having too many greyhounds.

Hal Roach the Irish comedian would tell a joke that went like this (read it in your best Irish brogue):

Father Murphy was in rare form in the pulpit on Sunday, exhorting his parishoners to be more generous. “If ye have an excess, share with those who have naught,” he said. “It is the Christian thing to do.” To make an example of one of the exemplary local farmers he asked O’Toole to stand up. “O’Toole, if ye had ten cows, would ye not give two to poor O’Shaughnessy here, who has only one?” “I would, Father,” replied O’Toole.” Pleased, Father Murphy continued, “And if ye had 10 geese would ye not spare a few for McBride here, whose last goose just died?” “That I would, Father,” O’Toole replied. And Father Murphy pressed one more time, “And if ye had three greyhounds, would ye not give one to McEnchroe here who has none?” “I would not, Father.” Father Murphy was a little taken aback and asked O’Toole, “Why ever would ye not?” O’Toole quickly responded, “Because I HAVE three greyhounds!”

Democrat Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa thinks the problem is that the wrong people have the greyhounds, and the people who should have the greyhounds are the people who run our government.

I look at it this way: we’re the richest nation in the history of the world.  That kind of begs the question doesn’t it? If we’re so rich, why are we so broke?

Is it a spending problem?  No, it’s because we have a misallocation of capital, a misallocation of wealth.

All of this wealth that’s been built up by hard-working Americans has been accumulated into fewer and fewer and fewer hands all the time.

I tell you we’ve got to get back to a better, rationale [sic] system of revenues and spending in this country and back to our obligations. I just feel very strongly, that it’s not just appropriations that’s causing this problem.

It’s the lack of the revenue that we should be taking in to meet our obligations as a country.

In modified Hal Roach terms, the government, which has more greyhounds than anyone, doesn’t believe it has enough greyhounds, and that’s not because they run their greyhounds into the ground, it’s because you insist on keeping your greyhounds that you raised from pups.

Too many filthy rich people are holding too much wealth and Harkin doesn’t think the government is taking enough of it from them.

Okay, then.

The obvious solution is to confiscate the wealth of Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, the Koch Brothers, the Walton clan, Hizzoner Mike Bloomberg, and all the rest of the Fortune 400.

Problems with that: first, a bunch of them are Democrat donors (or office holders!) and would not likely be keen on Democrats proposing that their wealth be, erm, “reallocated.” Second, more practically, the entire combined net worth of the entire lot of them is only $1.37 trillion. Yes, I said “only” $1.37 trillion, because while that covers the budget deficit for one of Obama’s years in office (which reached $1.1 trillion in 2012), it covers nowhere near even half of government outlays in a given year, which in 2012 rose to $3.6 trillion.

And then, of course, since these folks would no longer have the wealth they once had used to create more wealth for themselves and others, you’ve killed the 400 geese that lay the largest golden eggs and undercut a whole swath of jobs their wealth formerly supported. Whose wealth are you going to confiscate in year two?

Perhaps Harkin is not proposing confiscating the entire wealth of these people. How much? Half? That won’t close the budget deficit. Three-quarters? That would close the 2012 deficit, but not future deficits under the Obama spending model, and it would financially cripple these folks nearly as much as taking all of their money. So we’re back to square one.

If Senator Harkin is serious about the misallocation of wealth and truly thinks many people can and should do with less, perhaps he can suggest starting wealth reallocation with government salaries. Starting, perhaps, with congressional salaries—representatives and senators. Set an example. Stand up to Nancy Pelosi and let her know that, even though the work legislators do has “dignity,” everyone has to do their part to rectify the wealth misallocation problem, legislators should lead by example, and daggonit, it’s the right thing to do.

Somehow I don’t think that’s what he meant.

The only sentence in there that is even semi-connected to reality is “I tell you we’ve got to get back to a better, rationale [sic] system of revenues and spending in this country and back to our obligations.”

No. Argument. There.

The problem is where Harkin would go with the meaning of the words “better, rational,” with regard to spending and taxes, and especially what he would mean by “obligations.” While our government may have promised all kinds of things to all kinds of people over the decades, if those things are dragging us underwater they cease to be obligations and they become liabilities. Our social safety net is not a suicide pact, it ought not be allowed to become one.

Happily, Harkin is retiring in 2014 so we only have a short time left with him.

And, ironically, if Harkin follows the lead of so many of his colleagues, he’ll move uptown from an office in the Hart Senate Office Building to a posh office on K Street, where he’ll make even more money as a lobbyist. (Money he would not, presumably, think it fair for the government simply to “reallocate.”)

Retired Greyhounds

Please don't let the government take us! They'll misallocate us!



  • Tim Shaughnessy

    The Senator should check his premise; we DO have a spending problem:

    Of course, admitting that means that he has to shoulder some of the blame (as we all do).

  • amylshaughnessy

    The Senator should check his premise

  • Chris R

    It is amazing that these failed, money-grubbing politicians then have the audacity to violate our religious liberty.

  • Frantastic1

    The government doesn’t have any greyhounds. We entrust them with our greyhounds so that we all can use them. As a Nation. For the good of ALL.

    You seem to have forgotten that.

    • chris scanlan

      that isn’t the role of the government, that is the role of your community. There is no reason for the government to be involved in every person’s life. It is meant to uphold the law. The rest is our responsibility.

      • Frantastic1

        Ok. Feel free to stop driving on our road, sending your children to our schools, using our emergency rooms, asking fire fighters and police to protect you and your house, or visiting our museums. I happen to like living in a civilized society. If you want to stop using the things that society provides, do that FIRST, then start complaining about your taxes.

        • chris scanlan

          Wow, way to completely exaggerate my point. Hmm, Ya of course that i want to live in a world without roads or medical care…why in the world would i want anything like that??!! Did you know that education and transportation infrastructure makes up only 5% of the total federal budget? Well I’m asking, and you should too, where does the rest of the money go? 44% goes to social security, medicare medicade etc. and other “safety net” programs.
          Now none of that 44% is an enumerated power of the government (not a necessary function). While its all great and good and convenient that the government does these things, that is not its role. That role of financially caring for the poor and the sick and the elderly is our responsibility. not the governments. So I say again, the rest is our responsibility as understood by our founding fathers and as dictated to us through our Church. So pardon me while I ignore your liberal propaganda and keep my feet planted firmly in reality.

    • Tom Crowe

      One cannot forget that which is not true.

    • Chris R

      Our politicians have misallocated capital on a larger scale than anyone. Not only with the failed massive stimulus, Solyndra, etc – but also by forcing misallocation of capital through EPA regulations and forcing banks to make bad loans with the hard earned money we deposited to home buyers who could not afford payments – triggering the entire financial meltdown. Government has a limited role to play, but politicians have taken over the investment banking industry, squeezed out the private sector, and failed colossally. Corporations now sit on cash or invest overseas until we force our government back into its proper role.

  • Greg Smith

    Tom ~ Quick question: On a policy basis, are you arguing against progressive taxation? Is your preferred alternative a flat tax or national sales tax. ~ Thanks, Greg

    • Tom Crowe

      Greg— I don’t think one has to argue against progressive taxataion or for/against any other taxation system to recognize the absurdity of Sen. Harkin’s statement. That was my point more than anything else. Our government takes in a certain amount of money every year. The government has operated as though it has no obligation to balance its books or be responsible with the money it takes in for many years. Before they start demanding more from the populous they ought to demonstrate some fiscal sanity.



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