The new king of Saudi Arabia has been bestowing gifts — lots of gifts. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has given an estimated $32 billion to students, government workers, soldiers, and retirees.
Those not directly receiving cash payouts are still expected to reap profit. Shop owners reportedly filled their shelves with luxury items as eager beneficiaries of the King’s largesse sought to spend their “bonuses” on the latest gadgets, fashions, and luxuries. Others, seeking the Saudi version of the “gift that keeps on giving,” have set aside their money for a second or third wife.
Out of the five million people in the Saudi workforce, three million are expected to directly benefit from these cash outlays. And those not lucky enough to be direct beneficiaries may still get a “bonus” if the company they work for is among the many in Saudi Arabia taking its cue from their King and honoring his reign with gifts of their own.
American papers and news programs have covered this, providing us an amusing insight into a kingdom trapped in another time. Reports have been scattered about as filler in our news pages, odd news meant for us to ingest as trivia.
We scoff at this blatant practice of bribing the people. We read of billboards purchased by Saudi companies proclaiming their loyalty to the crown and pledging their allegiance to their new King and we give thanks that our businesses are independent and free and under no obligation to pledge fealty to the policies of the latest party in power.
We read it and come away grateful for our having thrown off the trappings of monarchy by sending the armies of King George III packing at the conclusion of our War for Independence.
But are we really that different? Are our leaders not well-versed in the practice of trying to buy loyalty and dependence?
Mitt Romney dared to touch on the concept with his infamous “47 percent” comment and was never allowed to live it down. The idea that government programs or government entitlements may create a dependent mind-set is not exactly a concept well-explored outside of explicitly conservative media.
Democrats promise, like King Salman, to “spread the wealth around.” Democrats sought never-ending expansions of unemployment benefits.
They seek the expansion of food stamps as a sign of their compassion rather than of their failures. They seek to define health care as a “right” to be bestowed upon the people in a manner seen appropriate by government rather than as a necessity to be purchased and prioritized by the individuals whose lives will be most impacted.
They promise “free” higher education, “loans” that don’t have to be paid back (if you prove loyal to the state by working in an approved job), and tax credits even if you didn’t actually pay any taxes. The list could go on, and with the coming of the 2016 presidential election, it inevitably will and new promises will be added.
When President Obama showed he’d be playing hard ball on health care reform, insurance companies danced to his tune in order to survive, pledging their loyalty like so many Saudi billboards.
And they are not alone. Obama donors who use their wealth on behalf of Democrats have found favor in certain policies and regulations — favor that can mean millions of dollars for them and ruin for their competition.
Businesses that fail to reinforce the policies of the king, er, president, can find themselves specially targeted — just ask Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor. There’s an increasing hostility among the Left for all businesses that fail to heed their cultural or financial demands.
We don’t know if President Obama has bowed to the new Saudi King yet or not — hopefully not. But one does get the sense that the President likes the idea of being bowed to.
President Obama now feels comfortable “rewriting” laws that he doesn’t like — even laws that he himself, the Constitutional Lecturer-in-Chief, has been filmed proclaiming he lacked the authority to change.
Now he does so and his allies in the legislative branch thank him for doing what they couldn’t even if that means they’re making their own jobs superfluous.
In foreign policy there is a bit more resistance, but judging by the willingness of Democrats to manufacture outrage like paid-mourners in Middle Eastern news coverage over Senator Cotton’s “open letter to Iran,” the few Democrats still willing to assert their power as members of an independent branch of government feel disloyal for having done so.
We’re not Saudi Arabia. Women drive here. Women run for President here (Hillary) — even accomplished women run for president here (Carly). We have freedom of religion (mostly), gays may get stoned (Colorado, Washington, Alaska), but we do not stone gays. Our leaders are not chosen for us based on who they are related to and no, Jeb Bush doesn’t count.
Despite the countless differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia, we should use the imagery of the new Saudi King’s royal generosity to reawaken our sense of independent spirit. We should ask how it is that our elected leadership seeks to buy our affections, and what it would do to our national and individual character.
If we don’t, someday, somewhere, people will be reading about the election of a new president in this once-great Republic and marvel at how dependent Americans have become.