Nickels, Dimes, and Souls

by Michael Walsh

My New York Post column today is about Paul Ryan and his path to prosperity — not its dollars-and-cents aspects, but its call to responsibility. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and to lose sight of the real issue here: the moral implications of our budgetary choices. For too long, we’ve ceded the premises of the New Deal and the Great Society to the Left and have been content to argue around the economic edges, which suits the Democrats just fine, since they can demagogue every “cut.”

Time to change the playing field:

Which brings us back to the moral issues. What, if anything, do we owe “future retirees” that those retirees ought not to have provided for themselves? What, if anything, does society owe “working families” in a functioning capitalist system? What, if anything, does society owe “the poor” that charity cannot provide and that, in any case, ought to be voluntarily offered instead of coerced?

And what does any of this have to do with a federal government of limited enumerated powers?

These things can and should be vigorously debated; they aren’t issues that were permanently settled in 1936 or 1965. If we can no longer afford a vast welfare state (and the evidence is that we can’t), then what is the “moral” response — not to real or imagined needs but to lack of means?

The answer won’t be pleasant for some. “Morality” doesn’t simply dictate that the nation’s productive taxpayers allow themselves to be bled dry in the name of some vague notion of “fairness” or, worse, “economic justice.”

Rather, morality must apply universally, not just to so-called protected classes. Indeed, the notion of “protected classes” is something that should be seen for what it is — fundamentally un-American — and dispensed with. Either we are all in this together or we really have become “two Americas” — the givers and the takers.