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Robert Byrd, Federal Bankruptcy, and Moral Debauchery

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Mainstream commentators were extolling the effectiveness of Senator Robert Byrd, who recently died. They pointed out how successful he was in bringing federal largess to West Virginia. Their accolades reflect not only why the federal government is broke but also the moral bankruptcy into which our society has plunged.

Indeed, how much federal largess a member of Congress brings home to his district has become a standard measuring rod for the mainstream press over how effectively he has represented his district. Whenever a U.S. Representative or U.S. Senator announces a federal grant has been awarded his area, which oftentimes occurs during campaign season, the local mainstream press goes gaga over what an effective member of Congress they have representing them.

Let’s examine how this system works to see how sordid it is.

Through the federal income tax, the American people are forced to send a portion of their hard-earned income to the IRS. Although federal officials sometimes tell people that America’s tax system is “voluntary” (see this video, for example), nothing could be further from the truth. If you don’t pay your taxes, they will prosecute you and do their best to see that you go to jail. They will also pursue you with civil processes, including liens, foreclosures, garnishments, and attachments.

All that money that people send to the IRS ends up in a giant pool, which becomes available for distribution. The members of Congress are the ones who divvy it up. Those who have been there longer oftentimes get priority over the others. That is, they get a larger share of the loot to bring back home. The newer members have to settle for a smaller portion of the pie.

As campaign season rolls around, some federal department or agency to which Congress has allocated a share of the largess contacts a congressman running for reelection and tells him that the department has decided to award a grant to his district. The congressman and a bureaucrat then issue a joint announcement that, say, a new public housing project or a new community center is being awarded his district.

Wow! Why, this is free money. The local press goes ballistic. “Community gets a free center!” the headlines blare. “We have the most effective congressman in the country,” the local editorial writers declare.

What they fail to realize is that this process repeats itself all across the country. State and local politicians and local citizens all over the nation fight vigorously to get their hands on some portion of the federal loot that is available for distribution. And with rare exceptions, when a grant is awarded, the congressman for that particular district puffs out his chest and proudly announces the grant, so that he’ll get credit for bringing home the bacon.

Some congressmen get less and some get more, but most all of them get something. Byrd was in Congress a long time. That longevity brought home a lot of federal pork.

This entire process has turned the federal government into a rotten, corrupt center of financial bankruptcy and moral debauchery. While these people are praised for bringing all these good things to their districts, the fact is that they’re not being good with their own money. They’re being good with the money that the IRS has forcibly extracted with the American people, many of whom are just struggling to make ends meet. And the people who hope to be on the receiving end of the largess spend vast amounts of time, money, and energy bowing, kneeling, and scraping before those who have the power to give it to them.

The worst part of all this is when the victims of this process express gratitude to the congressman, fighting to shake his hand, look him in the eye, and admiringly say, “Thank you, Congressman, for performing this fine service for us.” It’s bad enough that Americans condone this type of system. It’s so shameful when they’re grateful for being serviced in this way.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.