I do not write about politics on this blog. I view this venue as a respite from the turbulence and deceit of the political world. I write issues that affect families and the moral education of children. Commenting on the following article for this blog was initially rejected because it seemed too political. For whatever it’s worth, I do not have a favored position on this debt debate. However, after further thought, points made in this article impressed me as relevant to the mission and vision I have for this blog.
Here is the article that appears in today’s blog on National Review Online. I have edited it.
JULY 27, 2011 3:00 P.M.
No Ceiling on Morality
Responsibility, dignity, limits, and the debt.
(Political leaders of both parties ) have called the debt issue a moral one. The Acton Institute exists to address and help work through the moral issues that come up in a classically liberal society. NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE’s Kathryn Jean Lopez talks to its president, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, about the moral dimensions to the frenzy over August 2 and beyond.
REV. ROBERT A. SIRICO: There are three important things any legislator must base his decisions on: First, our responsibility to future generations requires that we keep our fiscal house in order. Second, the dignity of individual citizens must be protected by allowing wealth-creating institutions to flourish and respecting the importance of voluntary charitable associations. Third, he should remember the limits of the federal government as set forth in the Constitution.
Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. ….. But we can cause severe economic problems with misguided policies that will suffocate growth, further depress job creation, and push millions farther away from any hope of rising out of poverty. Another more subtle consideration is to reflect on the impact such policies have on the culture — on individual initiative and the work ethic. It is not a bad thing for a society to have a cultural and moral bias in favor of productive work and to sanction the easy acceptance of charity and welfare payment when these are not necessary and when one can provide for oneself. That old-fashioned notion about the American Dream is what’s at stake today.
LOPEZ: Is there something immoral about all this debt in the first place?
SIRICO: Of course, debt per se is not immoral. But to the extent that all growing debt decreases the economic opportunity of the next generation, yes, it’s immoral to keep piling it on. There is no example that clearly highlights the lack of leadership today more powerful than the debt crisis in America.
LOPEZ: So many spending cuts can be spun, some perhaps legitimately so, as mean. How should we be thinking of such things? Does it require a change in thinking?
SIRICO: The question should be right-or-wrong, prudent-or-imprudent, not mean-or-nice. Religious leaders bring their principles into the political debate, but the application of those principles is a prudential question, not an emotional one. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect upon what governments really need to do, and what is more appropriately done by non-state entities — and I’m not talking about the ones (such as many religiously associated charities and relief agencies) that receive the bulk of their funding from various federal-government contracts.
Yes, a change of thinking is required. If cuts are to be made, then Americans cannot operate under the mentality that “it is acceptable to cut government programs as long as it isn’t government programs that I benefit from.” The core problem is that few are eager to take the pain now. If we don’t, the pain will be much more unbearable down the road. Consider how we got into this situation in the first place.
In the end, reining in spending will protect programs that aid those truly in need, and provide the space for non-state and non-government-funded agencies to undertake much-needed work — that is, to secure the entire infrastructure that makes prosperity possible. That not only creates the grounds for economic flourishing, but preserves human dignity.