The Right Opinion

No Skin in the Game

By Cal Thomas · Dec. 6, 2012

An Internet search is inconclusive as to where the phrase “no skin in the game” originated. Some ascribe it to the late columnist William Safire; others to investor Warren Buffett. Politicians often use the phrase to justify policies to their liking. It can also be applied to the latest in a long list of their outrageous behaviors, as well as to those of President Obama.

Like an increasing number of politicians, the president has never served in the military, nor has he ever run a business. He has never headed a company that needed to make a profit (and thus employ people who create things people wish to purchase). He has likely never had to produce a balance sheet. His entire career – and that of too many other politicians – appears to have been about redistributing other people's money and organizing “communities” to receive government benefits.

Very few elected officials see themselves as stewards; even fewer practice stewardship. It's an old word, stewardship, but it is a word that carries weight and authority. One entry on dictionary.com defines it as “The responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.”

We the people grant power to political leaders. Along with that power goes – or ought to go – a presumption that the men and women we elect are stewards, or caretakers of America; that they will behave as responsible overseers of what has been entrusted to them. We expect them to see our country as worthy of protection and preservation, for us and for future generations.

Can this president and Congress credibly say their irresponsible spending and the “fiscal cliff” they are driving us toward meet this definition?

Have you ever been entrusted with someone else's property? A car, a family heirloom? Unless you are terribly irresponsible, you probably took care of it, making sure it was not damaged and that you returned it to its owner in the same, or better, condition than when you received it.

Politicians operate differently. They take what is not theirs and irresponsibly tax, spend or over-regulate it. Too many are not invested in America. They have no skin in the game. And so they treat America's economy as unworthy of their care and do not feel it their responsibility to protect it.

Democracy as practiced in our constitutional Republic is fragile. It is not the natural state of humanity. Look around the world and see how many nations come close to America in economic strength, endowed rights and standards of morality. What we have is not inherited, as from a will. It must be fought for, sometimes in war, but always against our lower nature, which too often succumbs to the temptation to give people what they want, rather than what they need; to trade goodies for votes, preserving not the country, but political careers.

A self-indulgent nation cannot long exist, at least not as the nation delivered to us by our forefathers. Our ancestors learned to do without in order to retain things of real value. I was taught that excessive debt was a great evil because it contributed to a loss of freedom. If that is true for individuals, it is truer still for our country.

America is slowly descending into a kind of economic slavery. We are increasingly in servitude to others who are financing our debt. We are shackling our posterity with a debt load we are unlikely to pay off.

Things might be different if the president and Congress saw themselves as stewards. Instead, they behave as they do because they have little or no skin in the game.

© 2012 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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11 Comments

Patriot Pat in in Pacificica, Ore said:

Cal Thomas knows from whence he speaks. I would go a step or two further and add; self-indulgence and greed to this recipe. Top it off with a big helping of deceit and corruption and we have the soup that will sour our souls. Mass communications has given the politicians a powerful tool in which to inflict the populi. The charlitans have caught on - and with various tricks influenced the takers to put them in and keep them in power. Now, all it takes is hands in the till - and pass it on to the gullible.
Some wag recently called it - the Santa Claus Syndrome: Get a big bag of goodies - and give them away. Previously it was just buying a few votes. Now they give the whole store.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:40 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Yes, the fiscal cliff belongs to the smelly rat Democrats--who have managed to out spend all previous Presidents, with their left-wing LUNACY!!!Self indulgent,blind sheep, must be converted to Patriots, with Divine intervention and God's GRACE. Austerity and restraint must win out over "I want, I want, gimme, gimme!"Merry Christmas Cal (our Pal)

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 6:40 AM

Arabiascott in Indiana said:

We should not be electing people to positions of responsibility who have nothing to lose. In fact, people with nothing to lose ought not to be voting. They have no skin to lose in the game. They're not playing the game I'm in at all. My game has no software, only hardware. There's no such thing as a reboot, only steel-toed boots. In my game, when you're dead, your restart isn't even here on earth. When you're broke, your wife and kids suffer real hardship. When I vote, I vote for someone who plays my game for keeps, like his own life and livelihood depended on it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 7:57 AM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS said:

Great article Mr. Thomas! It saddens me to know that the America I grew up in won't be the same America my kids and grand-kids see - IF they do get to see it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Robert in NEW Mexico said:

I disagree. Washington politicians have a lot of skin in the game. All you need to do is see where they have their money invested, and then look at the laws or policies they support.

They all stand to make money off the game. And we pay the price in taxes and in complying with the regulations.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Another great reason for term limits. Citizen legislators who serve their terms and go home. No more making it a way of life. Prime examples are anyone who has been in Congress more than 10 years. They aren't there to represent their constituients anymore but the lobbyists who wine and dine them. We talk about the Demorats buying votes by using welfare programs and the lobbyists are doing the same thing with Congress. This also happens in the State legislatures.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:47 PM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio replied:

Roger those term limits, Sarge. Tom Coburn, Okla., fought hard for term limits back in the 90s as a freshman House representative. Newt was Speaker and bailed on the term limits and Tom was forced to resign after two terms because that was his promise.

When Newt and his boys stood on the steps of Congress and announced a "contract with America" and included term limits, I was ecstatic. When just a few months later,.Newt killed the deal, I was broken.

Will we ever get term limits?

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 8:14 PM

p3orion in Midland, Georgia replied:

George, I also used to be enthusiastic about term limits, but of late I've decided that they would probably serve little real purpose.

Certainly it would be good to have a few "bomb-throwers" enter Congress, who can do what needs to be done without worrying about re-election (which seems to be the point of term limits.) But I fear that they would be matched , if not overwhelmed by those who would inflict their leftists ideologies on us all, also secure in the knowledge that they have nothing to lose in a future election.

Further, while I'm not one of the "both parties are exactly alike" crowd, I think a constantly-changing array of legislators, none of them ever staying long enough to make any real difference, would simply magnify the importance and power of the eternal staffers and unelected bureaucrats that cause so much of our troubles now.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Tapdaddy in Indiana said:

"America is slowly descending into a kind of economic slavery. We are increasingly in servitude to others who are financing our debt. We are shackling our posterity with a debt load we are unlikely to pay off."
Unlikely to pay off? There won't even be an attempt to pay it off because those who received it think they are entitled to it regardless of the amount of skin.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio said:

Mr. Thomas: It seems obvious to many that the job of the politicians is "stewardship". But this is the first time in my memory that I saw the term used in that context. The word just perfectly defines what is needed and sadly, what is missing.

Thank you for another good piece of purposeful and useful journalism.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

Just curious, but Senators and Congressmen come to Washington, D.C. and are usually already rich. They become much more rich over multi-decade careers. They have spouses, children and grandchildren just like the rest of us. I'd call that "skin in the game." If America tanks, so do they and their families. I just can't understand their motives to destroy this great country.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:08 PM