The Senator and Democracy

Column by Paul Hein.

Exclusive to STR

Our political system is based upon democracy, as we are frequently told. Democracy is such a good thing that our Rulers would like the whole world to enjoy it, even if it means introducing it and maintaining it by force, as seems to be happening in the Middle East, for example. Yes, people may be dying and cities destroyed, but in the long run, democracy is worth it, despite the objections of the widowed, orphaned, or homeless who will, we are assured, benefit from it, somehow, in the future--if they survive.

Another pillar of our political system is that our Rulers are wiser and more virtuous than the rest of us, and thus entitled to set aside democracy when circumstances warrant it.

That is the conclusion that I was forced to reach after receiving an email from Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill, who kindly keeps me informed of her labors on my behalf. Her latest missive told of her resistance to legislation that would have permitted cuts in the Central States Pension Fund, which would adversely affect Missouri’s Teamsters. The Fund is guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Fund, which is in deep financial trouble. Providing the funding for the Central States Pension Fund would pretty much wipe out the PBGF. Hence the entirely logical, if not inevitable, recommendation of pension cuts.

Senator McCaskill points out that she is the only Missouri Congressperson to vote against the pension fund cuts. I was struck by the un-democratic nature of her action. If majority rule is the hallowed basis of our government, shouldn’t she have accepted the rule of the majority of her fellow legislators?

McCaskill is fighting for Teamsters who “worked hard and played by the rules” and thus should receive the benefits they are owed. To this end, she has invited Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to a meeting with some of the 32,000 Missouri Teamsters who will be affected by the pension fund cuts. What, I wonder, will the Teamsters tell Mnuchin? What, for that matter, does Senator McCaskill expect Mnuchin to do? Can he provide funds for a fund from a fund that lacks funds? Will McCaskill and her Teamsters demand an investigation to find out how the pension funds have been handled, and who is responsible for their disappearance? Somehow, I doubt it.

I’m going to make an assumption here. I think that what the Senator and her supporters will demand is that the government provide the monies which have somehow been lost—stolen?--from the Central States Pension Fund. After all, the Teamsters are hard-working individuals who paid into a retirement fund, and now face the loss of the pensions which they thought they were funding. One can sympathize with their plight.

But what about democracy? If Uncle Sam, who himself owes trillions, decides to fund the Teamsters retirement, where will he get the money? Well, of course, you know where! Other hard-working individuals, who are not Teamsters and do not live in Missouri, will find that monies which they had hoped to set aside for their own retirement may be demanded, with threats for non-compliance, for the pension benefits of strangers. Moreover, these people--call them taxpayers--will vastly outnumber the Teamsters. So what, I ask, about democracy? Is it democratic to force the majority to provide for the benefits of a minority? Charity might recommend it, but can the strangers calling themselves government command it? And without putting it to a vote, which would be the democratic thing to do?

The Teamsters may, and probably certainly do, have a justifiable complaint, but not, surely, against total strangers in Hawaii or Montana, for example, with whom they have no sort of agreement whatsoever. How can our Rulers, worshipping at the shrine of democracy, impose burdens upon the many for the benefit of the few?

I admit that I may be entirely wrong in assuming that Senator McCaskill and the Teamsters will demand assistance from the government. Programs such as food stamps, Medicare and Social Security, for example, may be aberrations, atypical of the operation of government, which consistently, more or less, defends the rights of the many against the demands of the few.

Of course, I may be entirely right!

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Jim Davies's picture

Delightfully logical, Paul. You maybe forgot the Money Trees, though; I'm told they grow all along the National Mall and their fruit provides unlimited funding for anything. Even the petals of their blossom, at this season, can be used as IOUs.

mishochu's picture

That was awesome.

Note too, "we" are supposedly those Money Trees from which the legislative gangs derive unlimited funding for anything. By hook (inflation) or by crook (taxation).