While the word “integrity” is a bit difficult to define, we all know what it means when we see it. And we saw it recently when Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning stood alone on the Senate floor to object to what he knew was an illegitimate attempt to pass a new spending bill without providing the money to pay for it.
He and the entire Senate knew that the measure containing extended unemployment benefits and transportation projects would pass, but that was not the question at hand.
The question at hand was whether the Senate would obey the law and provide the money to fund the legislation, as is required by a very recent mandate signed into law by the president. The requirement, known as “Pay Go,” provides that any future spending legislation must be accompanied by necessary funds to pay for implementation. In other words, new spending shall no longer be placed on the nation’s credit card to burden future generations.
Apparently Sen. Bunning takes his oath of office seriously when it comes to supporting the Constitution and the laws of the land. Too many in public office today demonstrate a more cavalier attitude about the Constitution and the laws of the land, especially when presented with opportunities to pass out favors to special constituencies without regard to where the money will come from. Bunning, former Major League baseball pitcher, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, has a history of being unafraid to stand for what is right – irrespective of political consequences.
Years ago in the Kentucky State Senate, he stood on the floor to chastise colleagues for their support of the infamous “Greed Bill,” which granted extraordinary retirement income benefits to special groups of state legislators. While it did not set well with his colleagues, he knew it was the proper position and his integrity commanded him to stand up for principle and against the elitist self-interests.
Congress and the administration must grow some backbone in facing up to their folly and fantasy of explosive spending without any ability to pay for it. It demonstrates a complete lack of integrity and plain good sense to continue this agenda of dependency and profligate expansion of government. Croesus himself could not afford the outrageous spending and government expansion presently occurring in Washington.
There is no need for all things to come from government or for all things to come under the control and power of government. In fact, government has a way of strangling good community initiatives with layers of rules and regulations. America is a great country, not only because of the genius of its founders in developing our Constitution but also because of the helping spirit of our country’s civic volunteers.
History is replete with legions of private citizens who have built and strengthened communities for generations. Some are unknown outside their own communities, yet their footprints loom large as they have guided, lifted and uplifted the civic lives of others around them.
Businesses, corporations and individuals performing acts of civic kindness and charity impact how all of us live and work every day. They leave a legacy of volunteerism and fulfillment of social responsibility to their communities in Kentucky and America. No government commands these things and no government can replicate them. In a culture that emphasizes living for the moment, they affirm an older and more lasting set of priorities. As citizens, we need to stand with these people and these values. They are the foundation of our free society.
Integrity commands that budgets be balanced, whether for families or governments. And it commands that promises be kept and that oaths be taken seriously. It commands forthrightness, fairness and personal responsibility. A country cannot endure unsustainable debt and uncontrolled spending forever, and Americans must choose their political leaders from among those who understand this axiom.