Daschle was elected to the Senate in the “prairie populist” era of the mid-1980s with others swept into the chamber on the waves of organized farm movement anger that spread across the heartland and turned red seats blue. He served humbly and honestly and seldom seemed to lose touch with his roots. In 2004 he unexpectedly lost his Senate seat and, apparently, his grounding. K Street and the allure of millions apparently beguiled him, and for a lousy car and driver and unpaid taxes it’s likely that health care reform will not move forward in the near future.
One has to wonder how Daschle, Geithner (who escaped unharmed from his near-tax experience), and all the other gilded Washington players of both parties wander so far astray from simple honesty and basic ethics. How ironic that the new ethic-bound Administration has had to deal with three, highly qualified key players whose lapses have brought both embarrassment and travail, to say nothing of ridicule. Put K Street and Wall Street together and you have a golden highway to entitlements for the powerful and rich that are nothing less than obscene. Not many folks in South Dakota or on Pine Ridge are making five million dollars in a few of years off of earlier “public service” connections.
“We deserve it. We earned it. We had it coming. It’s ours. We worked hard for so long for so little. We didn’t know the tax code. We didn’t mean to.” The excuses are endless. The entitlements for the rich are not. Their scathing indictments of “entitlements” for the poor—Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, pensions, public assistance and other similarly “despicable” programs—fog their own deep reach into the public trough.
Millard Fuller ran in the golden crowd for a while, but had a conversion experience that led him to dispense with his wealth and use his entrepreneurial skills to found Habitat for Humanity. Amazingly, he recognized that his wealth was not an entitlement, but a responsibility, a gift to be shared. As a result of the work that he and his spouse took on, well over a million people in thousands of communities worldwide have homes to live in. Poor folk, in his estimate, were indeed entitled to live well in good homes.
Fuller was buried yesterday at Koinonia Farm, the Georgia settlement where the rascally Clarence Jordan penned his “Cotton Patch Gospel” that so audaciously called Christians to adhere to the radical reality of the sacred text. Jordan started the Farm back in 1942, scandalously bringing African Americans and whites to live together. His vernacular version of the gospel stuns the ear to this day. Fuller will rest well there, in the good earth of the good folk who taught and lived lives of truer discipleship than are ever seen in the halls of power and riches.