At a time when the American taxpayer is on the hook for trillions in current and future federal spending–when the Congressional Budget Office warns that the current rate of federal spending is “unsustainable”–liberal Democrats in Congress have earmarked over $68 million of taxpayer dollars for a Boston shrine to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
In a detailed report, the Boston Herald describes the planned Edward M. Kennedy Institute as a “temple for Ted Kennedy built with pork.”
According to their account, congressional Democrats–especially Massachusetts senators John Kerry and Edward Markey–have been cramming earmarks for the project into various government funding bills. The Herald found that Kerry and Markey even intend to siphon $28.9 million of the institute’s funding from the Defense Department budget, with almost $19 million of that amount already signed into law.
Why do they think taxpayers should be paying for this shrine? A statement from a Kerry spokesman declared that the institute will bring “knowledge and good citizenship to thousands of young people.”
This has raised the ire of taxpayer watchdog groups. “If the Kennedy family wants to honor the senator, they should find a way to fund it themselves,” David E. Williams of Citizens Against Government Waste told the newspaper. Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense agreed that “this could be independently funded and doesn’t need to be getting taxpayer dollars.”
Clearly, it’s not as if the Kennedy clan is without financial means to fund the project themselves. Or, if they wished, they could send out private appeals on the family stationery to, say, George Soros–or to John Kerry’s wife, catsup heir Teresa Heinz Kerry–right from their posh family compound in Hyannisport. I’m sure Laurie David could be prevailed upon to throw a fundraiser in memory of “the lion of liberalism” at the Beverly Wilshire.
However, their reliance on federal funding suggests a broader agenda is in play. After all, in an era of trillions in red ink, why would congressional liberals insist on adding tens of millions to a national debt that their president has promised to “get serious about”? Why earmarks for something that most Americans would find to be a frivolous expenditure?
Obviously because liberals don’t think of it as a frivolous expenditure. In fact, it is a project of great importance to them–because it’s meant to establish an official, symbolic, governmental shrine to political liberalism.
Consider: What, exactly, is significant about Senator Kennedy? What does he symbolize?
To millions in Flyover America, “Teddy” was despised as a pampered playboy, known for decades of drunken philandering even after his unforgivable role in the death of a girl in Massachusetts.
But to the left, Ted Kennedy was and remains an icon of liberalism–and specifically, a lifelong champion of socialized medicine. That, after all, was his signature cause.
So, I believe that establishing Teddy’s Temple with millions of taxpayer dollars is meant to serve twin purposes.
First, it is intended to enshrine the pretense that one’s politics is more important than any other aspect of one’s personal character. The issue here transcends Kennedy. A central pillar of the liberal worldview is its sweeping rejection of self-responsibility–its claim that no one is ultimately responsible for his actions, but is instead a victim or plaything of circumstances beyond his control. Liberals forgave Kennedy for his personal failings just as they did Bill Clinton–because in their worldview, nobody is to be held individually accountable, either for his sins or his virtues. The ironic flip side of this premise is that everyone is instead his “brother’s keeper,” responsible for everyone on the planet except himself.
Thus, professing liberalism gives you a free pass for all manner of personal immorality and irresponsibility. All you need to do to dry clean your reputation is to advocate policies that promote egalitarian “fairness” toward your fellow “victims of circumstance.”
Second, Teddy’s Temple is a means to an even broader end. That end is to elevate his liberal ideology to the status of an official, government-approved “ideal.” You can be sure that the “good citizenship” propagated at his shrine will translate into speeches, writings, video clips, totems, classes, and materials extolling his liberalism generally, and his advocacy of socialized medicine specifically–all paid for with your hard-earned dollars.
The leftists backing this institute know all this, and they intend for precisely these lessons to be preached there and absorbed by future generations. They understand perfectly well the power of moral symbolism and government-imposed “standards.” So, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute is calculated to establish liberalism’s anti-self-responsibility ideology as a national moral doctrine, to supplant the American legacy of individualism and personal self-responsibility that they despise.
I believe there is a third, more subtle goal here, too. Senator Kennedy was a fierce opponent of a strong national defense generally, and of virtually every specific military action our nation has conducted since World War II. Diverting millions from the Defense Department budget to the Kennedy Institute can only symbolize the liberal value hierarchy, which places a moral priority on domestic social-welfare programs over national defense.
Opposition to federal funding for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute has focused almost exclusively on its ballooning costs to the taxpayer. But we should not oppose this simply as a wasteful and unnecessary expenditure of federal funds. We should oppose the use of taxpayer dollars for this project on grounds of ethical principle–as both an explicit and symbolic rejection of American individualist ideals, and as a deliberate slap in the face of our men and women in uniform.
Thomas Jefferson summed up concisely the moral issue at stake: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”