Hallelujah! - morality comes to Washington - and not a moment too soon!
Aug. 19, the New York Times quoted President Barack Obama as saying he considered health care "... to be a core ethical and moral obligation." In his address to joint session of Congress, the president quoted the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, "What we face ... is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."
Generally, we think morality and ethics are concerned with telling the truth and knowing right from wrong and keeping your promises, and being consistent in word and deed. I don't want to get in trouble with the word "liar." I'll just say I have trouble reconciling what the president says with what he does. Let's look at the facts.
During two years of campaigning, Obama promised time and again he would work in a bipartisan manner and wasteful spending would be stopped by using a line-by-line check of the budget. Little or no progress has been made on the promises that swept him into office.
The John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pa., is a classic example of wasteful spending. The president signed the $787 million stimulus package; $800,000 went to the airport for a new runway. There are six arriving and departing flights per day with a flight averaging 20 people. Each ticket purchased receives a $100 subsidy from the taxpayers. The $8 million radar tower never has been used. Is this an immoral use of taxpayers' money? It is in my book.
Obama promised in February he would cut the national debt by one half by the end of his first term. This promise has little chance of fulfillment considering there has been the sharpest drop in tax collections since the Great Depression and the biggest increase in spending since the Korean War. In late summer, the White House predicted the nation will have to borrow an additional $9 trillion over the next decade to finance annual deficits and the accumulated national debt will be $23 trillion in 2019. It isn't ethical to place all the blame for this mess on President George W. Bush. Bush doubled the debt, but the debt is to be tripled during the next decade.
During his first month in office, Obama had cabinet candidates who had ethical problems in qualifying for office - Tom Daschle, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Killefer, Hilda Solis, Timothy Geithner, etc. Some of these were tax dodgers. Can you imagine what would happen to a person in Seneca County who failed to pay his or her taxes? Well, in Washington it's a different story - one of the tax dodgers was made secretary of the treasury.
Fortunately, one of the worst offenders of ethics and morality has resigned - Van Jones, the "green jobs czar" at the White House. Apparently, Jones is quite knowledgeable about global environment, but other facets of the man were not investigated. He was an avowed communist, arrested during riots in Los Angeles and Seattle, and signed a statement suggesting Bush "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps, as a pretext for war." Strange ethics here, Mr. President.
In February, Jones used gutter language in describing Republicans and in March, Obama appointed Jones. It is inconceivable neither the president nor his advisers did not know about Jones. Not only was morality and ethics forgotten, it appears judgment and managerial competence is scarce in the White House.
Should ethical conduct and morality be an obligation for health care? Of course - and the way to do it is to serve the people rather than glorifying a president or a political party. In his health care speech before Congress, Obama promised, "... I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits, either now or in the future." That surely puts an end to the health care issue - Obama will not sign a bill after his Congressional Budget Office in no uncertain terms told him of the huge deficits ahead with his health care plan.
Look at the government's record on business matters. The U.S. Postal Service was established in 1775 and even with subsidies, it now is broke. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were directly under the supervision of Congress and both of them went broke spearheading the housing crisis. According to the Aug. 24 edition of The Washington Post, the federal government has poured $135 billion into Amtrak, but of the 140 million who go to work every day, only 78,000 use Amtrak. Everything the government in Washington touches turns into a deficit.
My advice to the president: Stay at your desk and work on your problems - let Vice President Joe Biden do the ceremonial duties - and you might also consider some turnover in your staff.
I think it was Will Rogers who said, "This country has gotten to where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation."
of Fostoria is a guest columnist.