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History Reacts to the Economic Stimulus Package
I invited some distinguished members of American government past and present to talk about the economic stimulus package. Let's hear what they had to say:
Me: "Welcome former and present government employees. As we now know, the impending economic stimulus is going to cost a lot of money, which means the government is going to incur a lot of debt. What do you think of that idea?"
George Washington: "No consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt. On none other issue can delay be more injurious, or speedy action more valuable."
Thomas Jefferson: "I agree. The government must not burden the people with perpetual debt. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, we will have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account."
Me: "But Mr. Jefferson, that is our state of affairs now."
Thomas Jefferson: "Then we should be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet the chains upon the necks of our fellow-sufferers."
Me: "Many of us are so employed, Mr. Jefferson."
Thomas Jefferson: "This is without surprise because it is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent until the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery."
Me: "So most of us are, Mr. Jefferson."
Thomas Jefferson: "A sorry state of affairs, you'll most certainly and unequivically agree."
Me: "How could I not?"
Thomas Jefferson: "And the first ugly horse in this frightful parade is public debt! Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."
Me: "And wretchedness and oppression brings us exactly to where we are today! Thank you, Mr. Washington, Mr.Jefferson. Now let's see how, exactly we got here. Clearly Mr. Washington and Mr. Jefferson had no intention of sliding down the slippery slope of taxation and debt. What happened?"
Hilary Clinton: "Don't look at me. Bill and I had a surplus. Government should have paid down the national debt, secured Social Security and provided affordable tax cuts. Instead, certain people had to have about a trillion dollars worth of high end tax cuts..."
Me: "Thank you, Ms. Clinton. I was just thinking of calling on you. You must have sensed my eagerness to hear your opinion. Mr. Lincoln, I believe the first income tax was put in place during your administration, was it not?"
Abraham Lincoln: "It was. I did reluctantly sign such a bill into law in 1862 to help pay for the war to keep the United States united."
Congress: "But we got rid of it in 1872. But then later we needed the money, so we brought it back in 1913."
Me. "Because you needed the money?"
Congress: "We're not sure. Nobody seems to know. Things costed more."
Me: "Okay. We were finally stuck with the income tax forever. What do you think of that, Mr. Jefferson?"
Thomas Jefferson: "I will be eternally glad I did not live to see this eventuality come to pass."
Me: "Yes. Congratulations. Good for you. So then there was the Great Depression, a time people are fondly remembering during this time when we are all in danger of losing our SUV's and wide screen TV's. Mr. Roosevelt, how did you deal with it?"
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Those were unhappy times that called for plans that built from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."
Me: "What does that mean, Mr. Roosevelt?
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "We had to help out Joe the Plumber!"
Me: "Joe the Plumber? Who's that?"
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Good question, indeed. I think Joe is a different person depending upon whom you may ask. The 'Joe' I'm referring to here is the man dependent upon his employer for his living. Too many businesses engaging in commerce in the United States depend upon so-called 'cheap labor' in order to survive. In my opinion, no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country."
Me: "What about the new global economy?"
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Make no mistake that the United States can have great influence overseas. Yet too often we have the uppermost econonic class using globalization as an excuse to underpay their employees. These very rich people are complaining that those who want to bring help to the worker in this country seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. What is needed is to create work here, where our people need to make a living wage. "
Me: "What do you think we should do?"
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment. If it doesn't turn out right, we can modify it as we go along."
Me: "Sounds like a plan, kind of. Thank you Mr. Roosevelt. Does that sound reasonable to you, Mr. Kennedy?"
John F. Kennedy: "There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction."
Me: "Fair enough. Do you agree, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Carter, Mr. Johnson?"
Richard M. Nixon: "We must always remember that America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people but because of what people did for themselves and for one another."
Jimmy Carter: "Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. People have the right to expect that these wants will be provided for by this wisdom."
Richard M. Nixon: "But if we take the route of the permanent handout, the American character will itself be impoverished."
Lyndon B. Johnson: "Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else."
(There is a silence as Carter and Nixon stare at Johnson, who grins at them.)
Me: "Well. Thank you all. Speaking of trickle down economics, Mr. Reagan, what if there is a continued deficit?"
Ronald Reagan: "I'm not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
Me: "You're not worried about the deficit?"
Ronald Reagan: "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it."
Me: "Thank you, Mr. Reagan. You're a million laughs. Mr. Greenspan, what do you think?"
Alan Greenspan: "Under a range of reasonably plausible assumptions about spending and taxes, we could be in a situation in the decades ahead in which rapid increases in the unified budget deficit set in motion a dynamic in which large deficits result in ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years. The resulting rise in the federal debt could drain funds away from private capital formation and thus over time slow the growth of living standards."
Me: "In other words, if we keep increasing the deficit, we may accomplish the opposite of what we intend."
Alan Greenspan: "Right."
Ron Paul: "I agree. Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple. Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers."
Me: "Thank you, Mr. Paul. Is there such a term as, 'tax hiker'? Never mind. President Obama has published his budget proposal on the White House web site. What do you think, Mr. Bush?"
George W. Bush: "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."
Me: "That's true. Mr. President, what was it you said?"
President Obama: "I said I pledge to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. I said It's not about helping banks -- it's about helping people. I said History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. And I have told the Congress that we have been called to govern in extraordinary times."
Me: "What do you say, Congress?"
Congress: "We don't know. Will it be popular? Will it make us popular?"
Me: "Nothing will make you popular."
Me: "Mr. Jefferson?"
Thomas Jefferson: "Given the magnitude and gravity of the predicament in which we do find ourselves as of this date, it seems the President does understand the imperative of cutting the shackles of debt from the ankles of the people. If all goes well, it should only be a matter of the time it takes."
Me: "Mr. Roosevelt?"
Franklin D. Roosevelt: "The President is facing his destiny and the destiny of our nation with optimism and without fear. We should take his example."
Me: "Mr. Kennedy?"
John F. Kennedy: "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. And I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Samuel Adams: "I'll drink to that."
Me: "Thank you, everyone. Sam, I'll have one of those. Thanks."
This piece is based on actual quotations from American political figures.
- Full text of Barack Obama\'s speech to joint session of Congress | World news | guardian.co.uk
- Lyndon B. Johnson Quotes at Branyquote
- Trivia on President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Quotes From and About Roosevelt | Trivia Library
- Deficit quotes and quotations from brainyquote
- The Ratificaton of the Income Tax Amendment
- thinkexist.com quotes