Cultural Roots of a Fiscal Crisis

We ought to think about the cultural roots of the budget crisis in Washington.


The political left says the shut down is all about an ideological tantrum of a handful of Republicans.

Certainly Tea Partiers have an ideology and vision about what ground rules would produce a more prosperous, freer, and fairer America.

But let’s be honest. The gentleman in the White House, our president, is as hard-core in his ideological dispositions as any Tea Partier.

Each side believes America would be better off if it were run according to their vision.

What’s the crucial difference?

As a Tea Partier, I’d like my neighbors to agree with me that personal responsibility, traditional values and limited government is the best way to build a healthy and prosperous personal life and nation. But if they don’t agree, they can do what they want.

But the world according to the big government, morally relative left is much different. In this view, yes, nobody is forcing me to agree that personal responsibility and traditional values don’t matter. But in their view it’s also only fair that I pick up the massive costs of their failures.

Take, for instance, poverty.

We all agree that we want to get as many people out of poverty as possible.

The evidence abounds that a lifestyle that reflects personal responsibility and traditional values, like traditional sexual attitudes and marriage and family, reduces dramatically chances that an individual will wind up in poverty.

I hope people live according to these values. But if they don’t want to, that’s their business.

But not so with the left. They want to foster a culture that says do what you want. They think to promote traditional values in schools and popular culture is inappropriate and small-minded and at times even unconstitutional.

But then they say that it is only fair that everyone pay the costs of the mess this culture of moral relativism makes.

According to Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, in 2009 the poverty rate for children in homes with married parents was 11 percent. The poverty rate for children in homes headed by a single mother was 44.3 percent.

The incidence of homes headed by a single mother has gone from 6.3 percent of all households in 1950 to 23.9 percent in 2010.

In a Gallup poll done this year, 71 percent of respondents between 18 and 34 years old said having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable.

So we have promoted a culture, a culture fostered by the political left, that sanctions behavior in which poverty is more likely to occur. And then those that promote this culture say it is only fair that everybody pay the costs.

Worse, the evidence is overwhelming that government spending on poverty has little or no impact on the incidence of poverty.

Again according to Haskins of Brookings, from 1980 to 2011, spending in constant (inflation adjusted) dollars on means-tested (poverty) programs increased $500 billion, with a tripling of the amount spent per person in poverty. Over the same period the poverty rate was virtually unchanged.

Also worth noting is that over this same period, the percent of babies born to unwed mothers went from 18 percent in 1980 to over 40 percent in 2011.

In the first three years of the Obama administration, spending on these means-tested programs increased almost $150 billion, or 31 percent.

ObamaCare will add up to 20 million more individuals to the almost 60 million already covered by Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor. Medicaid now pays for 40 percent of all babies born in the country.

Price tag of big government, moral relativism – hundreds of billions. Price tag of limited government, personal responsibility – zero.

Is this an ideological battle? Of course it is.

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can do About It.

Also See,

Tea party is the Solution, Not the Problem

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