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Washington Wasn’t Always This Way
I was too young to have ever seen Will Rogers appear on stage. Even if I had been old enough, my parents never could have afforded tickets to see him, especially for the entire family. Still, I read a number of remarks he made during his performances and enjoyed his down-to-earth humor and the clarity and common sense of his messages.
One of my favorites was: “There’s good and bad news out of Washington. The bad news is that Congress is in session. The good news is that they’re hopelessly deadlocked.”
Think about that for a minute. I’m sure my figures aren’t exactly accurate, but since Congress first convened, there have been somewhere in the area of 80,000 laws passed to interpret the Ten Commandments.
In my opinion, legislators have too much time on their hands. My wife has a direct ancestor who served in the 23rd Congress. I’m not much on genealogy, but I think he was her great-great-great grandfather. His name was William Marshall Inge, and he was elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee when Andrew Jackson was elected president.
Inge, a huge man of 6 feet 6 inches and weighing 300 pounds, rode a horse to and from Washington two times a year at a time when the typical session in Congress lasted something like a month. Congressmen could transact the nation’s business within that time without having staff assigned to do all the research on bills they were voting on. After the session they would return home and earn a living, not relying on a pension from Congress. In short, they worked outside of Congress so that they could take care of their families. They served their country because that was the right thing to do.
All of this is background for what’s occurring now. We at BetterInvesting have never been political. We don’t endorse candidates or try to influence how people vote, and that isn’t my intention with this column.
Still, I’m a great believer in capitalism. I firmly believe that when people want to work hard, put in far more than 40 hours a week and take risks, they should be compensated. Those who choose not to take chances, work to be successful and advance their position in life should not be rewarded.
We, as investors, take chances. No one guarantees we’ll make money when we invest in stocks. What we do with our excess income is to invest instead of spending it on items that will make our lives easier or more enjoyable. The capital provided creates jobs that aren’t paid for by tax dollars but by people who risk money so that the country can continue to grow.
I’ve been to Bermuda many times since first seeing it from an airport tarmac during my return to the U.S. after serving in the Army. On one visit to this beautiful country several years ago, I met with an investment club to provide my thoughts on its portfolio. As I reviewed the stocks, I mentioned something about capital gains and dividend taxes. It was then that the members told me they didn’t have those taxes.
Here was a nation that had thrived and continued to thrive without taxes on capital. It was a lesson that has stayed with me.