The summer of 2010 is turning out to be a hot one – and not just because of the weather. The duration and depth of the recession, exacerbated by the high-tax, big-spending policies of the Obama administration, has led Americans to take a closer look at those who purport to “lead” us. We don’t much like what we see.
The problem? It’s the sense of entitlement, stupid. Democrats, who are in control of Washington, have long decried the excesses of “the rich.” President Obama has repeatedly called for “sacrifice,” meaning tax increases for those earning over $200,000 per year. In the meantime, his wife describes traveling to Denmark at taxpayer expense to lobby for the US Olympics as a “sacrifice” – long before setting off on the first of the eight vacations she is enjoying this summer (including one at a five-star Spanish resort).
Likewise, in 2008, Democrat Charles Rangel blasted corporations seeking to minimize their U.S. taxes, intoning that “[s]upporting America is more than about waving the flag and saluting — it’s about sharing the sacrifice.” Again, “sacrifice” was a synonym for taxation, and again, it doesn’t seem that Congressman Rangel was himself living by the terms he insisted on for others. He’s now been hit with a variety of ethics charges, including failing to report rental income from vacation property in the Dominican Republic and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income and assets on his financial disclosure forms.
But he’s not alone. Former Democrat Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle saw his nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services crater after it turned out he had failed to pay $128,000 in taxes. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner apparently sees no dissonance between his insistence on raising taxes on others with his own history of lapses as a taxpayer.
These are people at the pinnacle of government. But the mentality – one standard for “ordinary people,” the other for government leaders – apparently stretches all the way down. The California city of Bell – where the state senate, state assembly and Congressional seats are all held by Democrats – has recently been in the news. Remarkably for a town with a population of approximately 38,000 where the average salary is $29,000 per year, Bell’s city manager was “earning” $787,637 per year. In addition, he was collecting vacation and sick leave of more than 28 weeks per year, along with retirement, medical and other types of insurance, for a grand total of a whopping $1.5 million yearly in taxpayer-provided compensation. The city’s mayor – who recently endorsed a Democrat for state assembly – pronounced the city manager’s compensation to be justified.
All this high-handed behavior has outraged the American people – and rightly so. In a democratic republic, government employees are supposed to be the people’s servants, not their masters. Unfortunately, America is now ruled by a government class occupied by too many who are too far removed from the lives of those they are supposed to serve. Some, like Daschle and Geithner, benefit from a special set of rules reserved for the powerful and connected. Others – like the President– make plenty of money from the easy celebrity won through pursuit of public office. Yet others (like Rangel) use the power of their government positions to raise money for their own personal projects.
All of it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Americans, and disgraceful behavior is unacceptable from those in either party. But it’s particularly galling when it comes from Democrats, who routinely call for “regular people” to pay ever-higher taxes – all in order to subsidize a government populated by too many politicians who cash checks, courtesy of the taxpayer, with a nauseating sense of entitlement.