The Difference in Principles in Arguments over the Debt Ceiling

–Richard E. Vatz

Blessed reader, you may be wondering why no one is commenting on the debt limit increase.


I don’t think I can add any empirical analysis that will elucidate the talking past one another that characterizes the plethora of commentary on this and related issues.

I do think I can tell you the values that are operating which cause utter incredulity in those who support and those who oppose the increase in the debt ceiling and government spending levels and revenue increases.

In this labyrinthine dispute, the liberals and conservatives disagree on some value premises that are unbridgeable and irreconcilable:

1. Liberals believe that continued increases in government spending, government pensions, etc. are sustainable, and conservatives do not.

2. Conservatives have little problem with some “survival of the fittest” economy measures that will leave some people in relatively terrible straits, and liberals believe that the government should help everybody to have rising minimal standards. Exemplary of this disagreement is the fact that throughout Maryland we have “Move to Opportunity” programs (known also as “Section 8”) by which the public subsidizes middle class neighborhood habitation for those who cannot afford it.

3. The class hatred engendered by the convincing of those on the left that we must take more in taxes from those who make over $250,000 is accomplished by rhetoric which conflates “millionaires” and “billionaires,” a rhetoric which ignores both the crippling effect even current taxes have on small business and the reality that about 47% of the public pays no income taxes. Parenthetically, also conflated in public discussion of taxes is “income tax increases” and “income tax reform,” the latter of which is critical and the former of which is anathema to many serious conservatives.

Some underlying beliefs:

1. Liberals and progressives have believed that single-parent homes are just a lifestyle choice, wherein conservatives believe that they are the root of all major social pathologies and constitute the path to economic Armageddon. This sea change in the country’s value hierarchy began around the time of 1964’s social engineering and is represented by the “Do Your Own Thing” (and social responsibility be damned) philosophy.

2. Self-ennobling misperceptions abound: Social Security, wherein people get much, much more than they put in-plus-interest is just one such example.

3. Unlimited health insurance, the synecdoche for which is the new, unlimited psychiatric coverage for which you can get nonmedical counseling for life, will further break the already broken bank of the national budget. See Robert Samuelson’s recent piece in the Washington Post, even though he doesn’t even get to all-covered psychiatry.

Democrats are appalled and infuriated that the welfare state may be attenuated and that some people will suffer. Republicans cannot believe that Democrats would rob our children and children’s children for the advantage of entitlement-hungry and government-aid-hungry current citizens.

They are both correct empirically, but the conservative position is the one which is socially and economically responsible in the long run.

Professor Vatz teaches at Towson University

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