Monday, March 07, 2005

Budget Morality

Two very different views on Bush's budget proposal are provided by Myron Magnet writing on and Jim Wallis on

Whatever his personal beliefs may be, Mr. Magnet is not burdened by representing a faith-based organization and so can apparently speak as he wishes. When I first saw this article, linked to with little comment from the OrthdoxyToday Blog I thought it must be a parody. Nobody really thinks that do they? But apparently they do.

Mr. Magnet says, "What's called for is the traditional American 'opportunity society,' as much a boon to the poor as to everyone else." I thought our country stopped telling Horatio Alger stories decades ago.

The theme of his article seems to be that the poor are poor simply because they don't want not to be. If you're poor, implies Magnet, it's your own fault, and we shouldn't further burden you with a welfare worker that might "try to persuade [you] that [your] plight stems from an unjust economy."

One of the readers who left feedback on the OrthodoxyToday site said, "Sometimes I think that Leftism amounts to no more than ignorance of economics." I'll plead guilty to that. I am basically ignorant of economics. What's more, I don't really care about economics. I do, however, care about people who are struggling to make a living, and I'm not convinced that this class of people is going away. Individuals may manage to lift themselves out of poverty -- maybe even because of opportunities created by policies that favor corporate America -- but the lower class itself isn't going anywhere.

Magnet says, "The War on Poverty rests on a false premise: that capitalism creates a permanent class of poor." This may be true. It might not be capitalism that creates the permanent class of poor. Nevertheless, there they are. What are we going to do about it? Extend some help, or give them a stern lecture?

One of the reader responses asks when you've heard a liberal utter the phrase "personal responsibility"? Well, I heard a funny bit about it on Garrison Keillor's show a while back. It's definitely been more recently than I heard a conservative say "living family income."

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

I'm reminded of a recent Beliefnet CtoC Debate topic thread on the budget. There are a few individuals on that forum who are sincerely, deeply convinced that the government should entirely divest itself of any responsibility for taking care of people...but when the rest of us ask them, "Well, how do you propose that a patchwork of churches and religious institutions, a few rich altruists and other private charities fill all the gaps and provide services with the same equanimity and efficiency as the government is in many cases able to do" -- they want to end the conversation right there. So I wouldn't be too quick to assume that the other side has any better grasp of economics or social policy.