Democrats are offering this explanation of the budget impasse: the cuts have been agreed on, but the GOP is insisting on battles over social issues. In the most important fiscal debate of the year, the Republicans are waging a culture war. Taking a page from the 2010 GOP election playbook, Senators Reid and Schumer are insisting that we need to focus on money issues right now. We need to make sure people have jobs!
The press is incredulous that social issues, like abortion, would come up at a moment like this. Those are debates for a time of plenty. However, the harvest is meager and we have no time for frivolities. Mouths must be fed!
Of course, in the US, it costs relatively little to keep brainwaves flowing. We have enough food. In a fiscal debate then, what is the money for? When you appropriate funds to the Department of Transportation, where do the roads go? When you create or save a job, what is being manufactured? Money is a means, so fiscal debates are also debates about the ends!
This is looking like a continual Washington opposition refrain: in the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama justified bills on health care and education funding because the policy ends and the fiscal long term were inextricably tied. Republicans said he needed to focus explicitly on jobs. “How can you focus on your pet projects at a time like this!”
Whether or not a policy rider about Planned Parenthood funding actually is hanging up the budget, the label of “social issues” has been used to bracket and marginalize a set of policy concerns. However, even in tough times, the Tea Party is at least as concerned about abortion as generic Republicans are. What is an appropriation for? Better life in this country? Here at Humane Pursuits, we consistently ask, “What is a good life like?” All of our contributors agree on this: Brainwaves for everyone!
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.