For everything that Obama got wrong, he’s right about this

The former President recently gave a speech overseas. What he told his audience should hit us right on the nose. Maybe it’s too raw and too real to say to voters back home…

The ex-President gave a speech in Milan, Italy, at a “food innovation” seminar. There was a Q&A session held afterwards, and it was there where Obama delivered the hard truth of politics:

“You get the politicians you deserve,” Obama said without mentioning President Trump. “And if you don’t vote and you don’t participate and you don’t pay attention, then you’ll get policies that don’t reflect your interests.”

“Politicians can help guide policy,” he added. “But change is going to come from what people do every day.”

The news article that reported this exchange suggests that he was throwing jabs at American voters who didn’t actually go to the polls and vote in the 2016 Presidential election. Even if that’s the case, his words are true in general.

We get the leaders we deserve.


Politics is about representation. Our politicians are elected political representatives whom the voters appoint on their behalf to represent them in the political realm. The politicians are supposed to bring the concerns of their electorate to Congress. Their actions and behavior are reflections of the people they represent.

The nature of modern politics is this: deciding how the federal budget will be allocated. Which group of citizens gets how much funding for their particular program? That’s because the budget is so huge: about $4 trillion in 2016. That’s a lot of money that needs to be spent, and everybody is eager to get a piece of the action.

In general, politicians know where their bread is buttered. They rarely vote in ways that they know will flat out get them ejected from office by the voters in the next election. The politicians seek political power and influence, and the way to capture those treasures is by the only currency that matters in politics: votes.

An exception to this was Congress’s decision to bail out the richest and most privileged banks in the 2008 financial crisis. The politicians exposed their true allegiances in that vote. The Rolling Stone provides a good summary of Bohner’s mud-sandwich moment:

“None of us came here to have to vote for this mud sandwich!” he declared during the infamous vote on September 29th. “I didn’t come here to vote for bills like this!” Then he paused, took a $4 million gulp of air into his lungs, and pulled out all the stops to move his caucus — hilariously whipping out his Coffee Talk crying act on behalf of JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

“So I ask all of you, both sides of the aisle,” he said, tearing up. “What’s in the best interest of our country? Not what’s in the best interest of our party! Not what’s in the best interest of our own re-election! What’s in the best interest of our country!” He choked back tears again. “Vote yes!”


Since politics is about arguing where the money goes, let’s ask ourselves: well, where DOES the money go? This pie chart shows Obama’s proposed 2017 fiscal year budget:

Seventy-six percent of the federal budget is already spoken for by various entitlement spending programs (Social Security, unemployment benefits, Medicare) and the military budgets. In FY 2015, 24% went to Social Security and 25% went to Medicare and Medicaid, about half the total budget.

There are no protests about entitlement spending. No politician would run on a campaign to cut Social Security: he would not be elected, or else, if already elected, he would be ejected in the next election. In other words, counting interest on the debt, Americans are united on where almost three-quarters of the money ought to be spent.

The electorate appears divided, but in reality they come together to defend those three-quarters of the budget. They are locked in place.

The heart of entitlement spending is this: theft by taxation. Tax your neighbors to pay for your [whatever]. Old-age welfare. Public schools. Medical care. Most Americans think there’s nothing immoral about this. They have ignored the eighth commandment: thou shalt not steal.


Since the majority of the American public believes it is okay to steal, then it should come as no surprise when our politicians betray us and go back on their campaign promises. This was the complaint of Isaiah against the Israelites:

How the faithful city Has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. (Is. 1:23)

The people were corrupt, so their leaders, their representatives, were corrupt. As a population, they were morally debased. This showed up in their eroding silver coinage and watered-down wine.

Today, we don’t even have hard money (gold, silver) to debase. Instead, we have fiat-backed paper currency that continually depreciates through a process of perpetual price inflation.

Presidents and politicians cheat on their wives. Why? Because Americans cheat on their spouses in general. Divorce rates are high. People generally don’t think adultery is a serious crime. Americans cheat. Our politicians cheat. Then they cheat on us.

Obama is right. We get the politicians we deserve.

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