On Jun 4, 1996, Andrew Riggsby Wrote:
I have seen the following quotation on a number of web-pages, and heard it quoted by a couple of politicians, most notably Ross Perot:
"The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
It is always attributed to Cicero (with varying dates and never a specific citation). There are enough small variations between versions that it looks like they could be different translations of the same Latin original. The problem is that there are several anachronisms in the content (e.g. a budget, a public debt, foreign aid), which make it impossible that Cicero ever said this (though he probably would have approved of the ideas).
The earliest citation I can find is a speech of Ronald Reagan's in 1984, where he attributes the ideas, but not the words to Cicero. However, this can't be the origin, since it doesn't contain the final bit about pubic assistance.
Can anyone tell me when, where, or by whom this "quotation" was invented?
On Jun 10, 1996, Bill Thomas wrote:
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.)
Budget-balancing quote "The budget should be balanced. The Treasury should be filled. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officials should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest we ourselves should become bankrupt. The people should be forced to work and not depend on government subsistence."
In an editorial on January 15, 1986, the _Kansas City Star_ quoted Cicero at length to bolster its own views about government spending. But the editor gave no source for his quotation and, when pressed to do so by skeptics, was unable to come up with any documentation. The Cicero statement sounds more like a disgruntled American critic of the welfare state than the Roman statesman.
-- Boller, Paul F., Jr. and John George. _They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions._ New York: Barnes & Noble, 1989.