The Founders of the American Constitution did not use taxpayer dollars to stimulate private businesses. In the beginning, the entrepreneur was on his own, free to fail or succeed according to his vision, the strength of his character, the measure of his intelligence and the sweat of his brow.
The American entrepreneur did well. He invented the airplane, telegraph, telephone, light bulb and computer. He built a railroad that spanned the United States from the east to the “Left” coast. He gave us California—Well, no one’s perfect.
But then, times began to change. In the 1840s Congress fell finally to the smooth tongue of one Edward K. Collins, a hearty man of charm and style, of bold plans, big appetites; and a proudly conniving and witless mind. Collins was a word merchant could build out of the fabric of hot air castles suspended in the labyrinth of heaven—that is, so long as there was a Congress to pay for it.
Larry Schweikart, author of What Would the Founders Say? writes that Big Eddy approached a Congress concerned with British domination of passenger and mail service across the Atlantic. Eddy struck a pose, hand held sacredly upon his heart, from which he trumpeted a scientific proposition. If he were to be stimulated—that is, if there were a sufficient number of congressional lunatics ready to pony up $3 million in cold cash and say, $385,000 or so per year, he would upon his oath build ships would drive the British boats from “all the seas.”
Well, they say that God and good luck is with the Irish. The American Congress bought Big Eddy’s plan and stimulated him with the People’s cash. Big Eddy, amazed and grateful,
…built ‘luxurious ships’ and each of his four enormous vessels had an elegant saloon, ladies’ drawing rooms, and wedding berths. He covered the ships with plush carpet and brought aboard exotic rose, satin and olivewood furniture, marble tables, exotic mirrors, flexible barber chairs, and French chefs.
And there was nothing too good for Big Eddy. He dazzled the fine ladies in their silken gowns. He impressed with stolid gravitas ambitious government gentlemen bejeweled on most fingers and too well dressed. But though a grand old time was had by all, he simply could not deliver passengers or mail cheaply enough to compete with the British line.
And so as failure beckoned, as Big Eddy contemplated in horror his imminent impoverishment, hunger and social obscurity, as he saw in a macabre nightmare the vision his political extinction—a thing worse than physical death itself, he experienced a revelation, a rebirth; he saw before him a shining path, a divine finger pointing the way out, a deliverance, an inspired plan.
He would stiff Congress again—and if necessary again and again. But then he wondered could Congress really be stupid enough to throw additional millions his way? Well Yes! In any event it was certainly worth a shot.
So Big Eddy became a professional lobbyist: He wined and dined the Congressional big wigs, who once replete with Big Eddy’s port wine, their surfeit of vintage Scottish whiskey, English Stout and marbled steak, stimulated Big Eddy with truckloads of the peoples’ cash.
But then alas appeared a serpent in the garden. Businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt told Congress, “that he would build and run an Atlantic mail service for $15,000 per trip,” much cheaper than the British or Eddy Collins.
Congress in its wisdom immediately refused Vanderbilt’s offer and promptly increased Eddy’s subsidy from, $385,000 to $858,000 per year. After all, the big wigs figured: They had invested big bucks in Big Eddy. Why then should they suffer the consequences of their primordial brainlessness simply because they had given millions of dollars to a half-wit whose daft adventure was from the get-go doomed to failure—and after all, let him who is without guilt cast the first stone!
In the meantime Vanderbilt, without government subsidies, built his own line and produced a service far superior, efficient and cheaper than Big Eddy’s still floating love boats.
Tragically Eddy Collins started going broke in a big way. But going broke did not at all deter Congress from his stimulation. After all, it wasn’t like it was their money.
Well then, whatever happened to Big Eddy Collins? Did Congress finally recant his stimulus? Did Congress, then as now, manifest that prudence by which its members claim to honor their oath of office, preserve and protect the American Constitution: and insure that American children are born unburdened into a vibrant nation free of debt?
Alas, no! Congress stimulated Big Eddy right up to the time he went down, along with half his fleet, when his fine, gilded ships sank to the bottom of the sea with all five hundred ladies and gentlemen aboard. Oh but what a ride. Big Eddy had dazzled the ladies in their silken gowns; and impressed with stolid gravitas ambitious government gentlemen bejeweled on most fingers and too well dressed.
It is reassuring to know that America learns from its mistakes; that president and congress never again called upon hard working Americans to stimulate the likes of Big Eddy Collins, a man blessed by God with all the luck and a moronic congress to boot. Stimulus? No. Never. It is far too pernicious an idea to ever again take hold of the American people.
And so it goes, of course.