Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Wondrous Example of Harry Truman

Here's a question for your consideration this morning...How do career politicians become insanely rich? 

In America, we don't pay our politicians a ton of money. A United States senator, for example earns $174,000 a year...not exactly slave wages, but compared to most CEOs, professional athletes and entertainers, it amounts to a rounding error. The Secretary of State earns $186,600. The President of the United States gets paid $400,000. Yes, I know that the benefits are quite nice what with an otherworldly pension plan etc... But still, compared to the private sector, the owner of a reasonably successful small business in this country can earn more than the President of the United States. This is as it should be. So, the question is it that a guy like Harry Reid comes to Congress in 1982 as a man of modest means, never earns more than $194,000 a year, but now is worth over 10 million dollars? Savvy investing, I guess. But let's not pick on Harry. He's got a lot of company on the rags to riches gravy train that is public service. Even short timers who come to Washington, serve a couple of terms as a Congressman, then land of job as a lobbyist with some consulting firm, end up as millionaires. I'm not talking about the guys and gals who were already rich before they went into the politics racket because there are plenty of them on both sides of the aisle. No, no...I'm asking about the relatively normal folks who go to Washington and suddenly develope the Midas touch when it comes to their personal fortunes. It's uncanny.

Leave it to our poorest President, Harry Truman, to explain this phenomenon. Old Harry entered the White House without two nickels to rub together and left it the same way. As an Ex-President, he received not one dime of pension except for his $112.56 monthly army pension. He was given no secretarial allowance, no expense money of any kind and was forced to move back into his not very elegant family home. He refused to cash in on his status as a former President in any way: 

"I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable," Truman later wrote, "that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency." 

Luxuriate over the simple, decent goodness of that statement for a minute, and notice how exotic it sounds to 21st century ears. 

" An honest public servant cannot become rich in politics."

...oh, but Harry, the dishonest ones sure can!