Former senator Stephen M. Young, who died recently at age 95, is remembered for his terse and wittily intemperate letters to constituents who disagreed with him. For instance, this letter to a critic: "Some crackbrain sent me a telegram to which your name is affixed." Or his response to a voter who accused the Ohio Democrat of trying to pull the wool over his constituents' eyes and asked, "What kind of fool do you think I am?" Young replied: "In your letter you ask what sort of fool I think you are. Am not interested in cataloging you."
Then there was Young's reply to a man who objected to the Air Force's providing free transportation for a horse given by the president of Pakistan to First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The writer said he had bought some horses overseas and wondered how he might get them delivered free. Answered Young: "Dear Sir. Acknowledging the letter wherein you insult the wife of our President. Am wondering why you need a horse when there is already one jackass at your address."
My favorite, though, was Young's response to a constituent who complained of federal "handouts" to the poor. Young answered with this story: "A young man lived with his parents in a low-cost public-housing development in Hamilton County. He attended public school, rode the free school bus, enjoyed the free-lunch program. Following graduation from high school, he entered the Army and upon discharge kept his National Service Life Insurance. He then enrolled in an Ohio university, receiving regularly his GI check. Upon graduation, he married a public-health nurse, bought a farm in southern Ohio with an FHA loan.
"Later going into the feed and hardware business, in addition to farming, he secured help from the Small Business Administration when his business faltered. Hifirst baby was born in the county hospital, built in part with Hill-Burton federal funds. Then he put part of his land under the Soil Bank Program and used the payments for not growing crops to help pay his debts.
"His parents, elderly by now, were living comfortably in the smaller of his two farm homes, using their Social Security and Old Age Assistance checks. Medicare covered most of their doctor and hospital bills."
The senator's story had the young man receiving help from the Rural Electrification Administration, the Farmers Home Administration, the Federal Housing Administration, and the National Student Loan Program, which financed his children's college education. Then: "A little later it was rumored that he had joined a cell of the John Birch Society and also the Liberty Lobby, both right-wing extremist groups. He wrote his congressman denouncing excessive government spending, Medicare, big government, the United Nations, high taxes, etc. He wrote:
"'I believe in rugged individualism. People should stand on their own two feet, not expect government aid. I stand on y own two feet. I oppose all those socialistic trends you have been voting for and demand return to the free- enterprise system of our forefathers.'"