Thursday, August 24, 2006

Democratic President Cleveland v. Democratic President Clinton

While America is fixated with a 6-year old beauty pageant contestant whose murder was 10 years ago, I will find you a back page story that you may find interesting, that ties in with the philosophy on my blog (i.e., the philosophy of living in a free society).

Now to something interesting. To relieve the suffering in the drought-stricken counties of Texas, Congress passed an appropriations bill, but it was vetoed by the president. In his veto message, the president stated: "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encouraged the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."

The year was 1887, and the president was Democrat Grover Cleveland.

How times have changed! Over a century later (1998, like today), Texas suffered under another scorching heat wave. A different president, but the same party as Cleveland, had a different result. President Bill Clinton announced that he was rushing $100 million to Texas. "In times of crises," Clinton said, "we have an obligation to act."

President Cleveland understood that charity had nothing to do with compulsion. The essence of human liberty was the right to help one's neighbor--or not. If a person was not free to reject his neighbor (and his God), then he could not truly be considered free. And Cleveland knew that if compassion was to mean anything, it had to come only from the willing heart of the individual. Thus, for the government to force someone to share with his neighbor was considered a denigration of both liberty and morality.

President Clinton, on the other hand, believes that sending hundreds of millions of dollars of government tax revenues to Texans was an act of charity and compassion by the American people. In other words, kindness among Americans is now reflected by the willingness of the IRS to seize their incomes and of government officials to send their money to the needy.

And under Clinton's reasoning, every American--including those who would otherwise refuse to help--is converted into a good and moral person through the collective force of the democratic welfare government. Why, even the most selfish among us might be carried by his income-tax returns and the federal register all the way to Heaven!

Ultimately, the issue of government assistance to the needy is a moral one. Is it moral for the government to seize one person's money in order to give it to another? Is it moral for government to force someone to be good and caring?

But it is a psychological problem as well. Today, all too many Americans unfortunately have lost faith in themselves and in their fellow citizens. They honestly believe that kindness and compassion would disappear in America if government would leave the charity business alone and left morality and ethics to the voluntary choices of the American individual. Dependence on the socialistic welfare state has caused people to forget the strong sense of self-reliance, self-esteem, and voluntary charity that characterized our ancestors.

Modern-day political debate in America should not center on whether there should be more or less government spending to help the needy. The debate should instead center on the role of government in a free society. The debate should revolve around which president took the correct approach to suffering in Texas: Grover Cleveland, who said no to federal aid, or Bill Clinton, who said yes.


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