Stop me if you've heard this one before, but our nation is at a crossroads. This, my friends, is the most important election of our lifetime, and if we make the wrong choice now, the American way of life will be lost. I sure wouldn't want to have to be the one to explain to future generations how we sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.
To update an ancient maxim: the only things certain in life are death, taxes, complaints about taxes, complaints about government spending/waste/corruption/incompetence, and predictions that America is on the verge of decadence, decline, and ruin.
I direct your attention to the year 1816, as captured by William and Nicholas Klingaman in their engrossing THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER:
“By all accounts, the most controversial issue in the summer of 1816 was the size of the federal budget, and especially the Compensation Act—the pay raise that congressmen had voted themselves before adjourning in April. Now that the nation was once again at peace [following the War of 1812], critics complained that the Madison administration and Congress should have cut federal spending dramatically; instead, it remained at levels they considered extravagant and wasteful, especially for [an] administration ostensibly committed to a frugal government. ‘It would astonish the plain honest farmer to go to Washington and witness, with his own eyes, the extraordinary and unaccountable waste and profusion that prevails,’ argued the editors of the Maryland Gazette. ‘Unnumbered millions’ of dollars been wasted, claimed the Gazette, most of which had found its way into the pockets of ‘the inferior tribe of political pimps and panders [sic] who infested the nation’s capital.’
“At a time of economic troubles, when ‘commerce is languishing, manufactures are at a stand, the currency embarrassed, taxes heavy, and the people in difficulties,’ fiscal conservatives were stunned that congressmen had voted to double their own pay; their new salary of $1500 per year was more than twice that of a skilled worker who worked six days a week, albeit less than the wages of some government clerks.”
I will intrude on the Klingamans’ narrative just long enough to point out that congressional salaries today are $174,000 per year, while the median household income is just under $54,000. In other words, our elected representatives are now earning over three times what the median household brings in; unlike the situation in 1816, no one today, including fiscal conservatives, seems particularly “stunned” by this.
"In one state after another…voters vented their outrage toward their representatives. They held public meetings to denounce the Compensation Act, grand juries condemned it, state legislatures passed resolutions censuring Congress; and, in Georgia, a crowd actually burned in effigy their representatives who had voted for the pay raise.
“Critics issued dire warnings that the United States was headed down the same path of corruption and extravagance that had destroyed republican Rome. In a portent of things to come, early congressional elections held during the summer in New York State resulted in the defeat of nearly all the incumbents who ran for reelection…”
Ha! I guess that taught the greedy, profligate congressmen a lesson! Voters voted the rascals out, thereby solving the problem of government “corruption and extravagance” forever…or not.
The more things change, says I, the more they stays the same.