I Sit And Look Out: Moynihan, my father-in-law worked hard to achieve dreams

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During most of the years Elaine and I lived on Park Lane South in Richmond Hill, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of our U.S. senators. That is how his life intersected with the life of my father-in-law, who lived with us for 14 years, when the senator sent that great letter to Dad on the latter’s 90th birthday.

Like Dad, Moynihan was a poor kid. His father deserted the family when Pat was 10. Pat helped out by shining shoes on the West Side of Manhattan. His mother was a determined woman and her children received good educations. Before he went to college, Pat was a longshoreman.

Pat was a scholar, but is best known as a political figure. He served under four presidents: two Democrats and two Republicans. In his controversial career before the Senate, he was ambassador to the United Nations and ambassador to India, among many other posts.

Not long after he became a senator, he began to publish a report which we received on a regular basis. It was always well-written, erudite, witty and informative.

Early on, in one of those reports, Moynihan wrote at length about a matter to which, until then, I must admit I never paid much attention. But what he wrote about then is just as germane, if not more so, than it was some 30 years ago.

He researched carefully and found out that New York citizens pay a great deal to the federal government and get much less back. That holds true today.

The largest winner of our largess is Alaska. Federal spending in Alaska is 71 percent above the national average. A third of the jobs in Alaska are supported by federal dollars. Not long ago, a Republican state legislator in Alaska, who, like many of his ilk throughout the nation, wants to roll back many federal government programs, pointed out, gleefully, that for every $1 Alaska sends to Washington for highways, it gets back $5.76. Of course, he wants to keep it that way. He does not want his largess rolled back.

And, by the way, Alaskans pay no sales or income taxes.

Where is mama grizzly and Princess of Banality Sarah Palin when these facts are made known? Happily spending the money you and I send to her subsidized state. The laugh’s on us, folks, while she enjoys her multimillion-dollar home in Arizona and other perks as a result of her media empire.

Next time you hear one of these states’ rights, hands-out politicians denouncing the federal government, find out how much their states are pocketing of your money and mine. Try not to cry too much.

As Pat once famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

I have been reading a fascinating book published last year. It is “Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary.” It is worth reading. He was a visionary in many ways. You might not agree with him some of the time, but you have to admit that he had a sharp mind and he used it well. And he wrote beautifully.

I said my father-in-law and Pat Moynihan “intersected” once, when the senator sent that wonderful letter. But I have come to believe they intersected, throughout their lives, on something else: a distaste for hypocrisy and cant. I can just imagine what both of them would think about those who swat government with one hand, but hold out the other for what they have come to believe are their “entitlemen­ts.”

Maybe that comes of both of these marvelous men being poor kids in America, who made their dreams come true through hard work, integrity and determination. It is especially appropriate, I believe, to remember them and so many others like them on Independence Day.

Only in America.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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