Earmarks — Feather Stealing?

by former Calif. State Senator H.L “Bill” Richardson


In opening my remarks to college students I always began the discussion with a friendly cheerful smile, a thank you for inviting me and then I would say ” I’m well aware you already know that I am called a conservative and some of you consider yourselves to be liberally inclined. However, Let’s not rush to judgment.  First, let us both check our epistemological presuppositions and see if we  us have anything in common, a set of  ideological assumptions with which we both can agree.

Let first me ask all of you a simple question that I ask myself before I vote on any issue. Do any of you believe that anyone has a moral right to feather their nest at someone else’s expense?”

At that point the class would quizzically look at each other, because some, if not most of the young class had never  heard the expression.

Smiling,  I would explain, “In case some of you don’t know what the expression “feathering your own nest means. It’s a folksy old saying that our forefathers often used. Unfortunately the last couple of generations seems to have forgotten it. To put it in the vernacular, it means to have a bad case of the wants for something that doesn’t belong to you.  It means to covet. Webster’s dictionary  defines coveting  “is to want ardently something that another person rightfully has— to long for with envy —greediness.” In other words, to hanker for and to connive to possess that which doesn’t really belong to you. Plucking goodies ” feathers,” out of someone’s nest  and putting them in your own nest.

Now, how many of you students believe you have a moral right to put another persons “feathers” in your nest”? Come on now— let’s see a show of hands.

Believe it or not, not one hand would be raised.

Terrific, I would happily exclaim, “Neither do I. None of us really have a right to improve our lot at some one else’s expense. In fact, the moral thing to do would be for each of us to help our fellow citizens keep their feathers from another citizen’s covetous desires, in hopes that they would do the same for us.

Now, let me ask you another question. How many of you believe you can morally delegate to a third party the right for them to feather your nest at someone else’s expense?  In other words,  you can employ, encourage a friend or elect some one to take  feathers from someone and giving them to you?

Let’s see a show of hands.  Again no hands were raised.

Terrific, I would happily exclaim. If you thought it morally wrong to feather your nest at some one else’s expense, you certainly couldn’t delegate the task to another, Once more we all agree,

Well now…would it be OK  if you took from somebody who owned a big nest of feathers and give their feathers to some poor soul who has a skinny nest with a few feathers? Is that moral either?

I think not—same principle, you wouldn’t do it for yourself then how could you justify doing it for someone else?

Now, just one more question. How many of you believe might makes right?

that sheer numbers are always right? that if you are in the majority you can feather your nest or anyone else’s if the majority jolly well desires?

Believe it or not, when I called for a show of hands, most would still agree with me that might doesn’t constitute right.\ I would then ask them one more question, How many of you support governmental earmarks?

Most of the students raised their hands.

“What’s this?” I asked. Isn’t earmarks someone getting money at someone else’s expense?  Isn’t someone feathering their financial nest at someone tax payers expense.?

The students would usually justify their response “Well, the majority of the legislature voted for it.”

Oh, I would answer, might makes right? Sheer political numbers justify the stealing of someone’s  feathers to satisfy the desires or the benefit of another? Think about it, I’d ask the class —you can’t contradict yourself –now can you?

By this time, the class would be in turmoil and I’d be having the time of my life. Hopefully,  some of the students would be thinking for themselves and re-assessing their own fundamental assumptions.

Earmarks are nothing more than covetous actions of legislators stealing from one to benefit themselves and others, in the process breaking two Commandments out of Ten. That’s big time feather stealing don’t cha think?