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.
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.”)