“Pray a little more, work a little harder, save, wait, be patient and, most of all, live within our means. That’s the American way. It’s not spending ourselves into prosperity or taxing ourselves into prosperity.” – Mike Huckabee (former Republican governor and presidential candidate)
The beauty of politics is that you can always redefine “the American Way” to be whatever you want when you’re on the stump. I saw Mike Huckabee on Morning Joe the other day, then later on some Fox talking-heads show. He’s out promoting his new book (which I have not read, and likely will never have time too), and drumming up support for a potential presidential campaign.
In the interviews he made some rather typical politician-style errors. On questions of budget and the massive, massive federal deficit, Huckabee said (I’m paraphrasing to the best of my remembrance) “we need to make cuts, but there are ways we can be smart about it and cut out the waste while not cutting off the most needy in our society.” This is just plain wrong, let me explain.
When I was at the University of North Carolina in the early 90s we had a pretty good football program under then head coach Mack Brown. At the end of the 97 season Mack Brown accepted an offer to be the head coach at the University of Texas, where he remains to this day. If I recall the news articles, he was making something like $150,000 or $200,000 a year at UNC, and Texas offered him $600,00 out of the gate. After he accepted, the new UNC athletic director, Dick Baddour (who replaced one of the greatest – John Swofford, and was in way over his head) reacted with shock and regret the Mack Brown didn’t give UNC a chance to match the offer. I didn’t know Mack Brown at the time, and hated to see him go, but I may well have slapped him if he had fallen for that nonsense.
If you can afford to pay me four times my current salary, and are willing to do it, then you should have done it yesterday. You want to make the change NOW that I’m thinking about leaving? No, I’m gone.
When Barrack Obama proposed his sweeping, now deemed unconstitutional, health care reform proposals, he claimed that he would pay for it by saving $500 billion through reducing Medicare waste. Ummm, right. If you could reduce Medicare waste to the tune of $500 billion you would have done it yesterday. You don’t need to wait until you want to spend an additional $500 billion to claim you can save it by reducing waste in some other program – where you have tolerated waste for the last few decades.
Mike Huckabee thinks that the federal government can cut spending in wasteful programs, but can still make responsible decisions in benevolent care for the needy. Tell me, when in the last 30 years did the federal government ever make reasonable, efficient budget management decisions? Yes, they balanced the budget in the 90s, but balancing the budget and not wasting money are two completely different issues.
It’s a common theme amongst well-intentioned Christians. We hate government waste but we cannot bring ourselves to actually cutting funding for a program that helps somebody in need. We have, for decades, dehumanized the working people in our compassion for the needy. But both are human.
People get up in the morning, pray, go to work, work hard, come home to help with the kids, get the kitchen cleaned, and devote whatever spare time they can to church, and friends, and yes, helping those in need around them. (Americans are the most charitable people in all the world.) Then, the benevolent do-gooders tell us “it’s not enough” – “we know you work hard to provide for your family, but there are other people who need help; and your personal, private efforts to help them are not enough, so we’re going to take (by the power of government) more of your money (that you use to feed and clothe your family, pay the bills, and put a roof overhead) and use it to help the needy.” You overstep, do-gooders. You run afoul of the simplest dictates – the Golden Rule. That do-gooders would behave in such a way is no surprise – that Christians would join in is quite troubling.
[Yes, I hear your arguments. “But how does helping people break the Golden Rule?” – you’re helping them with my money, which is to say you’re making me help them, but I thought I was a free man. “But you can’t be trusted to make all the right decisions on who and how much to help with your money” – hey, God is the one who entrusted me with this money, and declared that I should help those in need … are you saying He got it wrong but you know better?]
As for Mike Huckabee. I feel for you, brother. You know something’s not right, but you are not yet willing to put down your “use the force of government to make people do the right thing” approach. Maybe someday …