Pond scum or cow dung?

When you discover someone has lied to you, do you usually become upset? I usually do. And so the memory of our leading politicians lying to us last week is not a nice one. It reminded me of the lies of Richard Nixon. And those of Bill Clinton. And those of Spiro Agnew. And the lies of politicians in our lifetime who ended up in jail for them.

The lies of which I speak came from our president. And from the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. You remember they waged an almighty battle over cuts to the rest of this year’s federal budget. They settled on $38 billion.

Before they fought with each other to come to that figure they camped out before TV cameras. They portrayed the pushing and pulling and threats they used to protect our interests. They threatened to close down the government. The President waded into all of this. I’m sure you remember.

These were massive cuts, painful cuts they told us. Even though they amount to little when compared with the entire budget.

Well, they were lying. No sooner had they spelled out the cuts than various analysts sniffed out the truth. Then Congress’s own Budget Office ran the numbers and revealed the truth.

The truth is that these cuts were not cuts at all. The CBO calculates they will make a difference of only a few hundred million dollars. The rest of the over  $37 billion in cuts are fake.

Some axed jobs that did not exist. Some simply moved money from unspent corners of the old budget. About $10 billion in cuts came from money set aside for future earmarks. Well, the House had already banned such earmarks.

The whole project was one of sleight of hand. Of legerdemain. And the presentation to us, the public, was a series of lies.

These politicians knew, absolutely, that what they told the American public was not the truth. They knew of the things I mentioned above. They knew what the CBO told us, before the CBO told us. That there were virtually no savings.

I resent this. It smacks of big-time politicians treating their fellow citizens as if they were a pack of rubes. “What do they want to hear? Okay, we will tell them that. They’ll believe us. If we call them cuts, they will too.”

It smacks of elitism. The public has made crystal clear that big majorities want serious cuts in government spending. These snobs have ignored those wishes. They protected their pet programs. And their big donors. And they concocted the story that they were cutting the budget. The story for the rubes.

Many of us expect distortions and exaggerations from politicians. Especially in the heat of campaigning. We expect politicians to backtrack, to adjust the record in their favor. We expect them to shift positions and concoct whacky stories to explain their shifts. However, most of us feel we deserve truth when our president addresses the nation. Most of us feel we deserve truth from congressional leaders when Congress threatens to shut down our government over a major issue.

The entire project to create $38 billion in cuts was a lie from start to finish.

Various surveys suggest the popular view of politicians is somewhere between pond scum and cow dung. Is it any wonder?           

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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