Budget battles

A quick thought on the recent budget battle. A big win for Republicans, I think. The entire debate occurred on their turf as the Democrats ceded all of the philosophical ground. Why do I say that? If the Democrats wanted to draw a line, they could have. They could have said, “No, right now people are suffering and the recovery is still pretty shaky. What we stand for is a commitment to growing our way out of the recession through government spending” (call it “stimulus” if you like). But they did not make that argument, instead they abandoned their Keynesian economics and granted the Republicans the playing field. I honestly don’t see how Obama can be doing a victory lap over this. The Republicans represent ⅓ of the government but got ⅔ of what they wanted. Senator Reid had called cuts even smaller than what we got “draconian” last week. Today Obama is touting them as a “historic achievement”?

We did, in the course of these events, discover the one thing Democrats really will stand up and fight for, the one thing on which they will draw an absolute line in the sand. According to reports, when it came down to Title X cuts to Planned Parenthood, Obama looked at Boehner and said “Nope, zero.” That was where he drew his line. Not on principles of economic policy, not on principles of the role of government, but on Planned Parenthood. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the modern Democratic Party’s one absolute principle – public money for the country’s largest abortion provider. I know, I know, the Title X money supposedly does not go to abortions. But let’s be honest here. Commitment to abortion, and even the public funding of abortion providers, is a today a basic part of the definition of the Democratic Party. That is why, no matter how much more I might like Dems on the environment, immigration, and other issues, I could never vote for a Democrat in a national election.

Regarding Paul Ryan’s plan: For whatever one might think of it, it is hard to not see it as politically heroic. Obama and the Democrats have done basically nothing to put forth a real plan about how to deal with the debt crisis (they couldn’t even agree to a budget when they controlled the whole government). Ryan has put forth a plan (some of which I agree with, some of which I do not) and it is bold. I read an article today that said that by pushing against Medicare entitlements, Ryan was not just pushing the envelope but was “dowsing the envelope in kerosene and waving a match near it.” Credit the man for staring down what both sides have to agree is unsustainable entitlement structures. But is being willing to take on the big entitlements political suicide? We’ll see.

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About Kleiner

Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.
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