Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has a new campaign ad out. In it, he talks about how hard finances were for his family when he was growing up. Nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to see that someone has a concept of a tight family budget. Maybe that would make him more sympathetic to opponents of the government’s white elephants, such as the medium-speed rail in California. These white elephants cause huge waste, which means fewer resources for other projects or higher taxes at some point.

The problem comes with this statement Kelly makes at about the 0:07 point:

I remember my mom sitting at our kitchen table, all these papers scattered around, and she was having to make decisions about what bill to pay.

The clear implication is that she was deciding not to pay some bills.

Why? Check his bio and you learn that he’s the son of two retired police officers, who must certainly have been active police officers at the time. That would seem to have given them a decent middle-class income. Even if not, what kind of people don’t pay their bills?

I understand deferring payment by a month or two to the providers of goods and services who don’t charge interest. Is that what he means? He doesn’t say.

I think we’re supposed to think that his family was really strapped for funds. But ironically, less than one second after the part about choosing which bill to pay, he shows a home movie of, presumably, him and his twin brother. So his parents had enough money to buy a video camera and the expensive tape that those cameras used. My family had priced them in the mid-1960s and concluded that there was no way we could afford a camera and multiple films. Of course we could have afforded them, but it would have meant not going to movies or not doing something else. My parents made tradeoffs. Our family of 5 people and one dog lived on one income, the income of a high-school teacher. There’s no way my father and mother refused to pay a bill.

My guess is that his parents did pay their bills and what he saw was a parent feeling some distress because the bills made up most of their income and made it hard to save. Fortunately for them, they are retired police officers and, I bet, are making a good retirement income.

My objection here is not partisan. I remember Senator Phil Gramm from Texas, when he was running for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination talking about “my mama” trying to decide which bills to pay and which bills not to pay.

If Gramm’s memory is right, his mama set a terrible example.

My guess, though, is that both Mark Kelly is doing and Phil Gramm was doing was what politicians often do: lying.