Attention: Liberals and Progressives
By Arnold Kling
Take it as given that U.S. fiscal policy is unsustainable. It was unsustainable before Obama became President, and one can argue that he has made it worse. It was unsustainable before Bush became President, and one can argue that he made it worse. That is not the issue here.
The issue is whether this unsustainability should be considered a moral problem. What “unsustainable” means is that the current government is making promises that it cannot reasonably expect to keep. The promises that are being made to future beneficiaries of Medicare and Social Security, to bondholders, and to others will not all be kept. In other words, our leaders in Congress and the Administration are lying, but we are not sure at this point who is going to bear the burden of those lies.
I think that this is a serious moral problem. What would a liberal or progressive say? Some possibilities:
1. The problem is a lack of willingness to pass tax increases.
2. The problem is a lack of willingness to have the government take over health care and lower costs. Warning: I have difficulty accepting this argument. It ignores the fact that government already controls Medicare. Saying that the government needs to take over Medicare sounds as silly as saying, “Keep government away from my Medicare.”
3. There is a higher good served by government making promises that cannot be kept.
4. Government making false promises is a not a big deal. The analogy would be with people driving faster than the speed limit, not with Bernie Madoff running a Ponzi scheme.
Can you elaborate on any of these arguments to make them persuasive? Or come up with other arguments?