“Giving back” is a phrase often attributed to altruism. Giving back to the community; giving back to the church; giving back to those who helped you – these are just boisterous slogans that stand only for offering time, money, or labor to a specific party. This is not to say that offering remittance for a cause is, in itself, a bad thing. Charity is admirable, less it’s backed by nefarious means. One should always beware of the words “giving back” when they slink out of the mouth of an elected representative.
In the realm of politics, every sentence uttered is an act in mass deluding. “Help,” within the context of rapacious government, means distributive schemes by force. “Defense” entails the invasion of foreign lands at the behest of conglomerate interests. “Fostering science and the arts” is nothing more than insider bribes and payoffs in the name of human development. “Fairness” is quite possibly the most abused word in the state lexicon. When a pol speaks to legislating fairness, he is contemplating another foray in the grand plot of state pillage.
Most insolent to the art of applying metaphors is the barrage of appeals for a “national debate” on the latest trend in policy concerns. Politicians, media personalities, press commentators, and everyone else who makes up the chattering class of opinion givers, toss around the phrase as if it contains the blissful meaning they wish. “Having a debate” implicitly assumes Congress is a hall of stoicism, rich in discussion and philosophy over the proper role of state authority in human life. Instead, what we encounter is a monolithic structure that houses a cesspool of horse trading and little, actual discussion on the large hunks of typewritten paper called laws.
The conception that anything resembling “giving back” can occur by the good nature of political office holders is truly an affront toward basic sense. Recently, Prince Edward Island Senator Mike Duffy made good on his promise to return $90,000 that he previously claimed for a housing allowance. This payment was made possible by a stipulation that allows lawmakers to receive taxpayer money to establish residence in Ottawa. The allowance is supposed to apply only to those elected representatives living well outside the nation’s capital. An independent audit of Sen. Duffy’s finances may soon uncover his claim as fraudulent. Before the potentially embarrassing news breaks, the corpulent Senator is saving face and returning the money as his long-standing Ottawa residence would, in all likelihood, not qualify for the grant. Duffy pretends as if the sum he is returning is an atonement for committed sins. As a responsible gesture, it has the makings of someone ashamed to be caught in an adult version of having one’s hand halfway down the cookie jar.
Canadian government debt currently stands at $600 billion. $90,000 comes nowhere close to bridging the yearly deficit. It is not just a rounding error, but a quarter of a drop of water in an ocean of imprudent spending. The money returned will be spent elsewhere to fulfill the thieving obligations of some other state busybody. It began stolen, and will end stolen.
And don’t think for a second that meaningless behavior in fiscal responsibility is reserved for just the Great White North.
In the United States, where the national debt is more than tenfold its neighbors, the same kind of selfless effort to “give back” is replicated by members of both major political parties. Earlier this month, President Obama returned $20,000 of his own salary to the U.S. Treasury. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is generally considered one of the leading limited government advocates in Congress, recently gave back $600,000 of his office’s budget to the public chest. While both efforts were meaningless in a purely mathematical sense, different motives lay behind each payback. For Paul, the repayment was symbolic of his desire for government spending restraint. This would be respectable if the money wasn’t destined to go right out the door again. For the President, his was a showing of solidarity to fellow public servants following an imposed cut in the growth of government spending.
I can just picture Obama now: cowering next to his faithful band of pillagers; cold and distraught over the prospect of not receiving a bump in their bi-weekly amount of stolen loot. As these faithful government employees soil themselves over their paychecks, Washington plans to burn a greater amount of money than last year. The government cuts no spending yet the shrieks of austerity continue. Funny how the same class of people who wax off the fat of society’s productive efforts have convincingly played the victim card. Then again, the state and its agents have learned to specialize in deception; and butcher words when the situation proves worthy.
Considering the number of perks the president is gifted with on the taxpayer dime (constant security, travel, food, a large staff, a private airplane, accommodations for his family, a large residence), relinquishing $20,000 is a pittance. Yes, it might seem rather contemptuous to wave away large sums of money as insignificant. But taking account of the dismal state of Washington’s finances, you would be a patsy to see the “giving back” of a tax-financed salary to the Treasury as anything helpful. The paybacks were pure theater; the likes of which wowed standby adorners who find no fault in their favored party politicians.
Politicians, and their bureaucratic counterparts, are mostly a depressed bunch. Either they are chasing after the dragon of power or resigned to carrying out tasks that formulate the very definition of lifeless bureaucracy. If a public employee works hard, it’s only to climb the ladder of authority by cultivating patrons who will, in turn, drop a good line for them in the chance of open prospects. The selfless public employee is just a fictional concoction to ease the angst of state overbearance. He gives nothing back to society – just takes until, as Murray Rothbard puts it, “dwindling or eliminating the source of his own supply” of resources.
The entire edifice of government appears to be built on countless attempts to lull the mass public into believing they receive some value from their wealth being taxed. The “giving back” of tax dollars is more of the same bluff. Some may say this is a pessimistic way of viewing things. My only response is yes, it’s quite fatalistic. Then again, expecting the absolute worst out of an institution leaves room for pleasant surprise. And there is never the despondency of feeling let down when you choose to wear less-than-rose colored glasses. It is far better to be glum and right, then stupidly gleeful and wrong.