Government spending run amok

Congress needs to reacquaint itself with fiscal restraint and make some tough choices.

With all of the current debate over Social Security, funding the war and the federal deficit, it seems to me that as a nation we have forgotten what sane political discourse looks like.

Before the ’80s, neoconservatism, “Greed is Good” and all of that, U.S. politics looked very different.

The Democratic Party stood for deficit spending in the name of future growth of the economy and compassion for the least well off in society.

The Republican Party stood for running a balanced budget and helping the least well off in a way that was affordable. Notice that both of these positions are self-consistent and sane.

Even though I consider myself more left-wing than the Democrats of today, I still see the merits of the position of the Republican Party during the 1960s.

Fiscal responsibility is a laudable goal, as is social justice. A debate over a budget between these two sides would truly reflect all sides of the issue. Helping the poor makes sense; fiscal restraint makes sense.

The question before Congress would be: How do we as a society best balance these sometimes conflicting interests?

The present-day budget debates bear almost no resemblance to this ideal we once practiced. After former President Ronald Reagan and the ’80s, the entire process has been given a rude shove to the right.

The modern Democratic Party resembles, on fiscal policy anyway, the Republican Party of the pre-Reagan era.

Now Democrats are the ones advocating a balanced budget and toning down their calls for social justice. This is essentially the same position their colleagues across the aisle were taking back in the ’60s.

Meanwhile, the modern-day Republican Party has constructed a far-right platform that combines unfair tax cuts and ludicrous budget deficits.

This is a “lose-lose” combination of fiscal irresponsibility and needless harm to the poor.

Including the cost of the Iraq war, MoveOn.org reports that the federal budget, currently being pushed through Congress, will add more than $400 billion to our national debt, giving disproportionate tax cuts to the rich and cutting social programs to the other 95 percent of us.

Having 100 percent of the United States stuck with a national debt resulting from tax cuts that essentially only 5 percent of us get just doesn’t seem fair to me.

Students are hit triply by this budget. Not only are we (typically) nowhere near the top 5 percent income bracket, but Pell Grants are cut by the budget, and the deficit continues to contribute to higher tuition.

We need to re-evaluate just what it is that should go into a budget. We need to remember that fiscal restraint is an important consideration.

I’m not allowed to spend more than I make for no reason, so neither should my government. Also, we need to remember that society is judged by how it treats the least well off.

In a nation that is as rich as ours, we ought to set some aside for those who have fallen through the cracks. The debate over the budget should be framed this way.

Frankly, because I am not a policy-maker, I do not know how much of the budget should go toward paying down the deficit or how much should go toward social programs.

I do, however, think that we could learn a little from the past about how we make that decision.

Sean Bryan is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]