Wineke: Hovde not ready for prime time

C3K columnist questions senate candidate's recent comments
Wineke: Hovde not ready for prime time

Eric Hovde would very much like to be the next United States Senator from Wisconsin, but I’m afraid the poor guy isn’t quite ready for prime time.

He thinks the press spends too much time writing about the problems of poor people. That, in itself, probably doesn’t set him too far apart from other Republicans. What Hovde did wrong is that he said so in public.

Speaking to the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, Hovde turned to a reporter and said “Stop always writing about ‘Oh, the person couldn’t get, you know, their food stamps or this or that.’ You know, I saw something the other day – it’s like another sob story and I’m like, ‘But what about what’s happening to the country and the country as a whole?’ That’s going to devastate everybody.”

OK, Eric. Here’s a couple of things you ought to understand about running for office.

One, if you are a multimillionaire and the son of a multimillionaire (Hovde manages a hedge fund; his father, Don, was a prominent Wisconsin developer), it is dangerous to talk about the poor. If you do talk about the poor, it is probably better not to attack food stamps.

People will think you are a bit crass if you do.

Two, if, for some weird reason, you do talk about food stamps, it is better if you don’t suggest too many poor people are getting them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 1 percent of food stamp funds are wasted in fraud. Hovde told a Wisconsin State Journal reporter that that percentage is “woefully off” and that food stamp fraud is “massive.”

And why does Hovde think that? I have no idea. My guess is that he has no idea, either. But, again, food stamps are designed to make sure hungry people can eat. If you are a multi-millionaire hedge fund manager, you really ought not be against people eating.

Three, once you put your foot in your mouth with a remark like that, it’s better not to defend yourself by challenging others to a contest on who is most helpful to the needy.

Hovde came to a Madison forum and announced that he is very, very generous. “I have done more for people who are economically disadvantaged than probably – and I’ve never talked about it publicly because I keep it a very low profile – than all but for a very few people in our society.”

I’m sure he has. Not only that, but I’m sure that he has given more to the poor than I have given. Not only that, I’d bet even on a comparison basis of percentage income, he is more generous than I am. I am sure he is a wonderful human being.

I am also sure that he hasn’t given more to the poor than has the federal government.

Feeding the poor ought not be a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice.

Four, don’t justify your position by saying that you are also against corporate fraud. On the one hand, you’re talking about food for poor children. On the other, you’re talking about fellow rich people gaming the system.

A lot of people won’t understand the equation.