Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who is stepping down to fight cancer, delivered an impassioned farewell address yesterday, and his remarks reminded us of just how much we will miss this staunch foe of government waste.
Delivering his address in the shadow of a presidency that has seized powers not granted to it by the Constitution, Coburn made an emotional plea to the Senate to uphold and adhere to the Constitution. Recalling that many republics before us have fallen, Coburn said that loyalty to our founding documents is our best hope:
“Can we cheat history? Can we do something better than has been done in the past? I honestly believe we can,” he said in a C-SPAN2 video of his Senate floor address. “But I don’t believe we can if we continue to ignore the wisdom of our founding documents .”
Coburn, a medical doctor who served 20 years in Congress, became famous for his annual Wastebook, which publicized outrageous and outlandish ways in which taxpayer money is wasted. In his crusade to rein in government spending Coburn offended many people over the years. Known as Doctor No, Coburn was never afraid to criticize those who wasted the money taxpayers send to Washington:
So my criticism isn't directed personally, it is because I truly believe that freedom gains us more than anything we can plan here. I know not everybody agrees with me, but the one thing I do know is that our Founders agreed with me.
They had studied this process before. They know what happens when you dominate from a central government. This didn't mean intentions are bad; the intentions are great. The motivations of people in this body are wonderful, but the perspective on how we do it and what the long-term consequences are of how we do it really do matter.
We see ourselves today with a President whom we need to be supporting and praying for, with an economy that is not doing what it could be doing, and we need to be asking the question, Why? Is there a fundamental reason? And there is.
We are too much involved in the decision making in the economy in this country that inhibits the flow of capital to the best return, which inhibits the growth of wealth, which leaves us at a standard of living the same as what we had in 1988. That is where we are, yet it doesn't have to be that way.
Coburn ended recollecting his father, who knew an America with more liberty than the America we know today:
“I think about my father,” he continued. “He had a fifth-grade education. A great believer in our country, he wouldn’t recognize it today. The loss of freedom that we have imposed by the arrogance of an all-too-powerful central government, ignoring the wisdom and writings of our founders that said above all we must protect the liberty of the individual and recognize that liberty as given as a God-given right.”