Editorial: Once Again, It’s Easy to Be Generous with Other People’s Money

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How could someone say no to giving Mother Teresa a medal?

Not a single member of the House, all of whom had voted to spend the taxpayers’ money to fund this award was willing to personally contribute $100 dollars of his own money.

I oppose the Gold Medal for Mother Teresa Act because appropriating $30,000 of taxpayer money is neither constitutional nor, in the spirit of Mother Teresa who dedicated here entire life to voluntary, charitable work, particularly humanitarian.

During his time in the House of Representatives, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tx) had a voting record of philosophical consistency perhaps unmatched in recent congressional history. He sought to limit government at practically every turn and to uphold a strict interpretation of the Constitution. His refusal to compromise remains one-of-a-kind in a political system generally marked by groupthink on the part of members of both parties. (This is not to say that compromise is not valuable in politics. It is just refreshing to see someone always willing to stand by his principles). Many conservatives may now prefer his son’s approach. Although Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) may generally support similar principles, he is more inclined to work within the framework of the current system. Ron Paul’s desire to do away with an institution as entrenched as the Federal Reserve would require nothing short of radicalism.

However, it is perhaps the case that part of Ron Paul’s appeal was his radicalism, his role as often the only member of Congress to take issue with some of the most unquestioned conventions and incentives commonly bemoaned by a public that habitually assigns Congress an approval rating below 20%. It was not unheard of for the House to take a vote, and the final tally be 434-1 with the lone dissenting vote being that of Congressman Paul’s.

One example of Paul being the lone dissenter took place on May 20, 1997, when Congress passed H.R. 1650, which authorized “the President to award a gold medal on behalf of the Congress to Mother Teresa of Calcutta in recognition of her outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities.”

How could someone say no to giving Mother Teresa a medal?

Ron Paul, after being the only member of the House to oppose the award released a statement providing his explanation:

I oppose the Gold Medal for Mother Teresa Act because appropriating $30,000 of taxpayer money is neither constitutional nor, in the spirit of Mother Teresa who dedicated here entire life to voluntary, charitable work, particularly humanitarian.

Congressman Paul continued:

I invited each of these colleagues to match my private, personal contribution of $100 which, if accepted by the 435 Members of the House of Representatives, would more than satisfy the $30,000 cost necessary to mint and award a gold medal to the well-deserving Mother Teresa. To me, it seemed a particularly good opportunity to demonstrate one’s genuine convictions by spending one’s own money rather than that of the taxpayers who remain free to contribute, at their own discretion

Not a single member of the House, all of whom had voted to spend the taxpayers’ money to fund this award was willing to personally contribute $100 dollars of his own money.

There is more than a small minority of politicians going around touting their generosity and support for countless programs, the infinite number of so-called good causes, and demonizing those who prefer fiscal restraint. How can you deny school children access to flute lessons on the taxpayer’s dollar or people with physical disabilities extra subsidies for recreation and entertainment rather than just medical care? Milton Friedman, if he were still living, might say to them:

Of course, an egalitarian may protest that he is but a drop in the ocean, that he would be willing to redistribute the excess of his income over his concept of an equal income if everyone else were compelled to do the same. On one level this contention that compulsion would change matters is wrong-even if everyone else did the same, his specific contribution to the income of others would still be a drop in the ocean.

It may be an effective strategy for an elected official to score political points by touting how he is going to help this group and that group without considering where the money is coming from to support these so-called good causes. At times, it seems a platform of largesse sells better than promises of frugality with the taxpayer’s money.

Many Americans, including even fiscal conservatives, want, in the words of Bob Dole, “their government to do the decent thing, but not to bankrupt them in the process.” And as true as this may be, it does not diminish from the truth, too often forgotten by those tasked with allocating the hard-earned money of taxpayers, that it is so easy to be generous with other people’s money.

 

Articles authored or co-authored by Staff Editors.

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