Politicians lie. A few politicians are honest. Sometimes, even, what appears to be politicians’ lying is just incompetence and cluelessness. The point is that when politicians are trying to sell the public on a big program, they don’t let the actual costs and consequences of the program get in the way.
In fact, the next time a tax or a program costs what politicians say will be the first time.
In 1913, proponents of a federal income tax promised that only the top one-half of 1 percent of income earners would be subject to the tax, with the maximum tax on the super-rich at 7 percent. How did that work out?
In 1936, we were promised in an official pamphlet that the Social Security tax would rise gradually until it hit 3 percent from the employee and 3 percent from the employer on the first $3,000 of income. “That is the most you will ever pay,” according to the pamphlet. Today, the maximum Social Security tax, adjusted for inflation, is eight times that amount. With the Medicare tax, it’s 10 times that amount.
In the official pamphlet, Americans were told that “the United States government will set up a Social Security account for you” - saving your money as in a bank account. No such accounts were set up. The pamphlet promised, “The checks will come to you as a right.” The Supreme Court ruled later that there is no such right.
Medicare, in the mid-1960s, was likewise sold to the American people with false promises. The Johnson administration projected that the cost of Medicare in 1990, inflation included, would be $12 billion. The actual figure was almost 10 times as much.
Today, adjusted for inflation, Medicare costs nearly 900 percent more than it did in 1970. Compared to the size of the population, the cost has increased about 600 percent. Compared to the size of the economy, the cost has quadrupled. That’s without counting the prescription drug benefit that was added to the Medicare program during George W. Bush’s administration.
Today, the unfunded liability of Medicare works out to more than $700,000 for each family in America - which means that the Medicare liability alone will eventually bankrupt the country, if the country’s not already bankrupted by other programs.
The people paying for Medicare were cheated. So were Medicare beneficiaries. The Medicare Act of 1965 prohibited the government from restricting the provision of medicine or medical services, or the compensation therefor, or the selection of health care providers. Today, Medicare is so restrictive that Obamacare advocates cite it as a model for controlling costs.
Where are the politicians who knew, or should have known, that the rosy claims about Medicare were phony? Today, most are retired and living the high life, or they’re gone on to the afterlife. None will pay an earthly price for being crooked, disingenuous or clueless.
Conversely, what happened to those who warned that Medicare would bankrupt America? They were libeled as heartless and hateful toward senior citizens, and, as a result, many of them were defeated for re-election or never got elected in the first place.
But it’s more than just Social Security and Medicare.
Of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, Hubert Humphrey said: “If the senator can find in Title VII any language which provides that an employer would have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there.” Today, racial discrimination, including the “affirmative” kind, is ingrained in the policies of universities, major corporations and the government.
Politicians who called themselves Keynesians promised falsely, especially in the 1930s and the ‘70s, that government could spend our way to prosperity.
Politicians promised the United Nations would promote the democratic, freedom-loving values of the American people rather than the values of the thieves and dictators who control the majority of the United Nations member states.
History proves voters cannot trust politicians. They can’t trust politicians’ allies in the bureaucracy, the media or academia.
Today, Americans’ level of skepticism has risen, yet they are mocked and criticized for that. The political elite have grown increasingly desperate, and their claims increasingly preposterous. Voter skepticism, though, intensifies with every media “fact check” that turns out to be false (no new taxes on the middle class in the health care plan, no coverage for illegal immigrants or for abortions - yeah, right). Does any sane person really believe Obamacare is going to pay for itself, or that it’s going to be paid for by tax increases only on the rich?
Voters have learned to apply greater skepticism to each and every claim politicians make, and are calling them on their promises. At Tea Parties and Town Halls, in blogs and in protest marches, Americans are declaring: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for a hundredth time - well, that just ain’t gonna happen.
Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, pioneered the use of direct mail in politics and has been called “one of the creators of the modern conservative movement” by the Nation magazine. Steven J. Allen, a journalist and political analyst, is the creator of the satirical comic strip “The Gentleman From Lickskillet.”