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An Unsavory Profession

David Henderson – in an EconLog post titled “Do These Politicians Hear Themselves?” – expresses his justified suspicion that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) lies about the financial struggles that his (Kelly’s) family experienced when he was a child. Such lying is no surprise, of course: Politics rewards dishonesty and penalizes honesty. I’m quite sure that Kelly hears himself with perfect clarity; he simply has no scruples about being dishonest.

Here’s a comment (slightly modified) that I left on David’s post:


Excellent, spot-on post.

Sen. Mark Kelly was born in Orange, NJ, in 1964. Therefore, his supposed recollection from his boyhood of times being so tough that his mom couldn’t pay all of the family’s bills is likely a recollection from the early or mid-1970s – precisely the time that, we are told today, was the pinnacle of American middle-class prosperity. Many people advocate policies to restore those imaginary good ol’ days, the days before deregulation, tax cutting, the Reagan-fueled era of ‘greed,’ and the imposition of unfettered dog-eat-dog neoliberalism that has robbed all but the superrich of economic abundance and hope.

And so if Kelly’s recollection is accurate, that’s yet another piece of evidence against the commonplace assertion that the mid-1970s are a time to which Americans should look back with longing.

But of course Kelly is almost certainly lying.

I, being born in 1958, remember the mid-1970s very well. My own family was relatively poor by American standards. My dad, who dropped out of school in 6th grade, worked first as a bus driver in New Orleans and then for most of his life as a pipefitter in a (non-unionized) shipyard. (My dad later earned his GED, but he nevertheless kept working as a pipefitter.) My mom started working in 1973 as a clerk in the shipyard’s secretarial pool. I do not recall that my parents ever did not pay a bill. Perhaps they kept such hardship from their children. But had such hardship been routine, my siblings and I certainly would have known of it and now remember it. And my parents, on their meager income, chose to send their four children to Catholic school – so they paid tuition that most parents didn’t pay.

Kelly is now in a profession that not only tolerates, but encourages, untruthfulness. He should be – but, of course, he won’t be – deeply ashamed.