Congressmen Say Their Own Personal Debt is OK, but not Government Debt

Flickr user: Images_of_Money (CC)

Ah, “elected” government, where hypocrites are paid to advocate for causes they may or may not even agree with, and legislate rules that they themselves don’t follow. And apropos of budget hysteria and economic terrorism being wrought against popular public programs, the trumped-up fears are not only false (the debt crisis is imaginary, and only 6% of the country is aware that the deficit is actually falling) but it’s no surprise to anyone that the ‘debt-fixing’ warriors don’t have the same view of their own debt as they do of the country’s, or yours.

As Josh Israel of ProPublica points out, fourteen of the most vitriolic enemies of vital programs themselves live with the personal irresponsibility of private debt (to the tune of millions).

These hypocrites include:

  • House Budget Committee Member Tom Rice (R-SC):Wrote: “At a time when hardworking American families are living off of a budget, the federal government should be no different. My colleagues and I believe it is time for America to change course and get back on a path of prosperity. This begins with a balanced budget plan.” Reported five mortgages totaling over $4 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Diane Black (R-TN):Wrote: “The state of Tennessee balances its budget, American families and businesses balance their budgets and so should the federal government,” and “Balancing the budget is not extreme; it is what American families across this country do on a regular basis.” Reported four mortgages on three properties, totaling more than $3 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Roger Williams (R-TX):Said Wednesday: “We have to have a balanced budget. I have to balance my budget. Everybody in America has to balance their family’s budget or their business’ budget, not every ten years, not even every single year, but every single day.” Reported more than $2.5 million in business debts.
  • House Budget Committee Member Scott Rigell (R-VA):Boasted that he voted for a balanced budget amendment because: “I know that American families do what they have to do to live within their means; and so too should the government.” Reported $1.5 million in lines of credit, a $500,000-plus mortgage, and over $10,000 in credit card debt.
  • House Budget Committee Member Bill Flores (R-TX):Wrote: “It’s time Washington was forced to finally live within its means and cut up the credit cards. Every American family and 49 out of 50 states currently abide by some form of a balanced-budget requirement. If they can make the hard choices to pay their bills and live within their means, then Washington should too,” and “American families and businesses must live by this principle every day, and they want Congress to abide by the same rule.” Reported two mortgages on residences totaling over $1.5 million.
  • House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): In a joint editorial with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), wrote: “Just as any family or business has to do, Washington needs to learn to live within its means.” Reported three mortgages totaling at least $1 million.
  • House Budget Committee Member Vicky Hartzler (R-MO): Said in a floor speech: “Families I talk to, they say, Every year we balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every small business I visit says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t? Every farmer and rancher I visit with says, We balance our budget, how come Washington doesn’t?” Reported five real estate mortgages totaling more than $900,000.
  • House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA):Wrote: “Balancing the budget isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. When families in Eastern Washington balance their budgets, they don’t consider it a liberal or conservative policy; it’s just a requirement of life,” and “Families, small businesses and even the State of Washington must balance their budgets. It’s difficult and it forces some hard choices. It’s time for the federal government to do the same.” Reported three mortgages totalling more than $600,000 and a student loan of at least $10,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Reid Ribble (R-WI):Explained that he’d backed a bill because “we need to put a stop to the irresponsible deficit spending in Washington. Families across Wisconsin have been forced to scale back their spending and balance their budgets, yet the federal government has failed to do the same.” Reported several mortgages on properties and a home equity line of credit, totaling several hundred thousand dollars.
  • House Budget Committee Member Rob Woodall (R-GA):Wrote: “A Balanced Budget Amendment is crucial to ensuring fiscal responsibility in our government, not only today, but in the years to come,” Woodall said. “American families and businesses must decide how to spend their money responsibly; it’s time that the folks in Washington do the same.”Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Alan Nunnelee (R-MS):Wrote that “businesses, large and small, are working on their budgets for 2012. Each of these groups, local governments, state government, and private businesses operate with a very practical consideration…they must make their budgets balance. This is a concept that American families understand. Thirty years ago, just before I was to be married, a very wise friend taught me a simple but important principle of family budgeting, ‘If your outgo exceeds your income then your upkeep will be your downfall.’ The only entity in America that does not seem to understand this concept is the federal government,” and “Families and businesses in my district have been sitting down, cutting spending, balancing their budgets and making tough decisions. It’s time for the federal government to do the same. A balanced budget amendment will legally force the federal government to only spend what it takes in and start living within its means – a practice Mississippi families and businesses are asked to do every day, yet a practice our own President refuses to participate in. Reported four mortgages on two properties, totaling more than $145,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member James Lankford (R-OK): Said in a floor speech: “Nineteen years ago my wife and I married. I was still in school, I was working as much as I could, she was also working, but we were barely making it, but we made the decision, we were not going to run up credit card debt and live beyond our means. We paid our school loans, we tied to our church, we ate a lot of peanut butter, and we lived simply. As Dave Ramsey said, we determined to act our wage. It’s a biblical principal for myself and my family; Proverbs 22:7 states, ‘The borrower is a slave to the lender.’ Proverbs 22 applies to families, and Proverbs 22 applies to nations. If we were living within our means as a nation, almost all the debate in the last six months in this chamber would have been different.”Reported that he “is a slave” to Bank of America, with whom he has a mortgage of more than $100,000.
  • House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):Wrote: “In order to make ends meet and plan ahead, hardworking American families and small businesses budget to manage their finances. Why can’t Washington?” and “In the past two years, discretionary spending has increased by 84 percent and our debt has grown by over $3.5 trillion. No family or small business in Bakersfield, or anywhere for that matter, would ever budget like this, and the federal government cannot.” Reported a mortgage of over $100,000.
  • House Budget Committee Member Sean Duffy (R-WI):Wrote: “Congress must learn what every working family and small business in Central and Northwestern Wisconsin has known for a painfully long time: the path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future is paved by fiscal responsibility and smaller, smarter government. One of the most commonsense measures we can enact is a balanced budget amendment which simply dictates that the federal government must live within its means. This is a lesson well-learned by the hardworking citizens of Wisconsin and there’s no reason why Washington should live by different rules than Wausau, Chippewa Falls or Rice Lake.” Reported two mortgages totaling more than $150,000, a line of credit, and a student loan of more than $50,000.

As AllGov points out, forty-six lawmakers in Congress owe thousands of dollars in college loans, totaling between $1.8 million and $4.3 million (via OpenSecrets data). But we’re still not see much action in the way of student debt justice.

They probably don’t care a whit for their own debt because they know the next big bribe or revolving door contract is just around the corner. And they don’t care about your debt at all, because elites in the bubble don’t think the same as we do. And to be perfectly honest, they don’t hate the government debt either, as their buddies continue to get rich off of it (and the big drivers of debt and deficit, Pentagon spending, will not shrink an ounce). But they need a fear engendered in the populace so they can have an excuse to take things away from the populace. And if you complain that the programs you have known and loved on for decades are being austerely destroyed, well, you’re just a ‘moocher’ who wants ‘more free stuff’.

The ProPublica piece reminds us that the government is not the same as a corporation, and shouldn’t be run like one. But even considering that corpo-fascism has already taken hold of our once-public infrastructure that used to serve us, they’re still running it like a pretty piss-poor business.

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  • eric82

    I find it hard to believe Sean Duffy has said “no government debt is acceptable.” I’m sure he’s said “government debt at a level where you’re paying $1 in interest for every $6 you take in is unacceptable.”

    If Duffy has 20 years left on his mortgage, he’s paying about $1 out of every $20 he takes in on interest, a fairly reasonable and responsible credit load.

    Also … in addition to the misleading, disinfo title of this article, one fact that goes from disinfo to just outright lying is that Josh Israel is with the news organization ProPublica or that the info in this article came from it. He’s not and it didn’t. The links that say “the ProPublica piece” actually link to CAP*, the lobbying group of former White House CoS John Podesta, which is funded by people like Herbert Sandler (he became a billionaire after the S&L he owned was bought by Wachovia with bank bailout money) and Wal-Mart. So it’s sad to see disinfo.com being used as a platform to disseminate thought pieces paid for by Wal-Mart and bailout billionaires.

    (* There is an unrelated link to an unrelated article about FOIA exemptions by Theodoric Mayer at P/P at the start of the post, however, the “story” [editorial policy paper] about congressional credit is at CAP.)

    • Breshvic

      So I got all my information AllGov. Sorry if they led me astray, they’re usually quite reputable and list their sources.

      • eric82

        No, my comment was unnecessarily harsh – after I re-read it I feel safe to assume the link mix-up between P/P and CAP was most likely unintentional. Your post served as a good and important reminder either way, and was thorough, nicely composed and provided useful information. Looking forward to your next post –

        • Breshvic

          Thank you, but always feel free to call me out. I’m open to reasonable criticism.

        • Breshvic

          Josh Israel is an investigative reporter for Think Progress in addition to his other work, so this article went out over both. After some more reading, I am dubious of Josh Israel’s CAP connection. Like any organization that holds so much political sway, they’re bound to do some good work and some shady dealings we don’t agree with as well. But Josh has typically been a pretty good source for ‘money-in-politics’ investigating, and ProPublica has been heavily critical of titans like Wal*Mart. I still understand the trepidation, though.

          If it makes us all feel a little better, the Center for Responsive Politics (which runs Open Secrets) data has been the most reliable and independent.

          • eric82

            ThinkProgress is the official blog of the Center for American Progress (CAP), which is funded by Wal-Mart, bank bailout billionaire Herb Sandler and others. CAP – almost maniacally – puts the word “progress” in everything they do because they know that will bowl over most people (like if a slaughterhouse named themselves “the Center for Animal Rights”). They are strong proponents of rallying support for increased federal spending, presenting this as necessary for things like education, health, etc. Ultimately, those increased dollars are transferred from taxpayers to billionaires, which is why people like Sandler fund CAP (he got $3 billion from the U.S. public – after Wachovia used its bailout funds to buy his sub-prime mortgage lender – so has a strong interest in making sure the federal government is well-funded). Sandler got lampooned on SNL in 2008 over his cash windfall and threw a fit … video of that skit has since been removed everywhere; money buys immunity from criticism (http://articles.businessinsider.com/2008-10-05/wall_street/30031197_1_wachovia-ceo-ken-thompson-pick-a-pay-herb-and-marion-sandler). Josh Israel writes for ThinkProgress – CAP’s blog. He is not an investigative reporter because lobbying groups don’t have investigative reporters. They have PR reps. Sometimes they give them make-believe titles like “investigative reporter,” though, because it looks better than “Publicist.”

            ProPublica doesn’t have anything to do with Josh Israel, ThinkProgress or CAP.

          • Breshvic

            Oh, now I see what you’re talking about. That definitely should be edited then to say ThinkProgress instead. I don’t know why I got the two confused. Perhaps somewhere in my news-stream? I won’t make that mistake again.

  • Anon Nom Nom

    This is the dumbest argument imaginable.

    • Breshvic

      Would you identify which part you have contention with? It helps me out.

  • BuzzCoastin

    pointing out the hypocrisy of politicians
    is like pointing out that shit stinks
    interesting, but hardly revelatory

    • Breshvic

      I always love your comments; humbling, satisfying, and accurate

      • BuzzCoastin

        thanks, this stuff should be pointed out from time to time
        as should the fact that
        pointing it out is political masturbation

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