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Calvin L. Schaible, Published November 07 2010

Dorgan unworthy of praise

I suspect that as we approach the new year, newspapers across the state will run flowering editorial tributes to United States Sen. Byron Dorgan. I for one will find this puzzling. I surmise it will be their way of thanking Dorgan for the campaign funds he contributed to the newspapers through advertising and the amount of “pork” he was able to bring to North Dakota.

I evaluate his Washington career in quite a different manner. I believe the economic and political policies of Dorgan have contributed greatly to the decline of the United States as a world power. What I will remember most about the Dorgan legacy is his pivotal vote against the balanced budget amendment in March 1995. Had Dorgan voted in favor of the amendment, it would have been sent to the legislatures of the states for their approval. There is a good chance our nation would have passed a balanced budget amendment to the United State Constitution. We may have been able to avert the entire financial meltdown of 2008.

He said he did it to protect Social Security. Does anyone else find it a bit ironic that this year Dorgan voted to cut $500 billion from the Medicare program? Dorgan did not vote against the balanced budget amendment to protect Social Security; he voted against it because he did not want politicians to be held accountable for the budgetary decisions they made. The “credit card mentality” of politicians like Dorgan contributed greatly to the fiscal problems now faced by our nation.

The second aspect of Dorgan’s legacy that bothers me is his loyalty to the economic maxim “from each according to his ability – to each according to his need.” The Dorgan legacy is one that promotes class envy and diminishes achievement. Dorgan failed to understand that the economy is not a zero-sum game. He believed that for one person to benefit, another must not benefit. This is a fallacy. As the economy grows, all people benefit. Regretfully, Dorgan promoted policies that redistributed wealth and not policies that encouraged economic growth. The national result has been a lowering of living standards among all classes.

The “big government” philosophy of Dorgan envisioned a nation ruled by politicians and bureaucrats. The rest of us were just serfs. Upon reflection, Dorgan’s legacy is one of fiscal irresponsibility, economic failure and political elitism.

Frankly, it rubs me the wrong way. Let’s hope for better things with Sen. John Hoeven.

Schaible is an occasional contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages.