Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2011

THE MORALITY OF BUDGET CHOICES.... House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised an interesting rhetorical point in Tennessee over the weekend, which is worth considering in more detail.

In a speech Sunday night to the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will frame the current debate on federal spending as a moral question, not just an economic one.

"We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face," Boehner says in his prepared remarks. "That means working together to cut spending and rein in government - not shutting it down." [...]

Boehner also will cast the problem of America's $14.1 trillion national debt in moral terms, arguing that Congress has "a moral responsibility to deal with this threat to freedom and liberate our economy from the shackles of debt and unrestrained government."

"Yes, this debt is a mortal threat to our country; it is also a moral threat," Boehner says in the prepared speech. "It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children's future and make them beholden to China. No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily."

Now, at face value, I'll gladly endorse the idea that there's a moral component to policymakers' decisions, and I'm perfectly comfortable with Boehner talking about "moral threats" and "moral responsibilities." Indeed, I'm actually glad to hear him framing the process in those terms.

But I'd love to hear more from the Speaker about the extent of his moral commitments. Do we have a moral responsibility to address the needs of children? Boehner doesn't seem to think so -- he wants to gut funding for nutritional aid for pregnant women and women with young children, as well as education. Do we have a moral responsibility to tend to those hurt while wearing the uniform? Boehner doesn't seem to think so -- he wants to take money out of veterans' care.

Indeed, as long as the Speaker brought it up, what does he consider our collective moral responsibilities in the 21st century? Do they include environmental protections, which he's trying to eliminate, or health care coverage, which he's trying to destroy? Do they include job training, which he's sought to eliminate, or consumer protections like food safety, which Boehner has voted to dramatically scale back?

If none of these areas of public life count as "moral responsibilities," what would Boehner consider worthy?

As for the importance of not treating our "children so shabbily," I'd also remind the Speaker that he's already fought -- and continues to fight -- to cut Head Start, student loans, Title I grants (which help schools with kids who live in poverty), and nutritional aid for pregnant women and women with young children. This, in the mind of the nation's most powerful Republican, will help make children's futures brighter. (I suspect most families would prefer "shabbily" to this.)

And as long we're on the subject, I'm curious when, exactly, Boehner discovered that "this debt is a moral threat to our country." Was a $6 trillion debt a moral threat? How about an $8 trillion debt? The answer matters because it was none other than John Boehner who enthusiastically supported Bush-era policies that roughly doubled the national debt in just eight years, and handed Democrats a $1.3 trillion deficit and a $10 trillion debt to clean up.

Boehner never saw any of this as a "moral threat" until after he'd made the mess he's now whining about. I wonder why that is?

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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And if it's such a "moral" issue to not leave our children and grandchildren deep in debt, why do the Republicans continue to push so hard for tax cuts NOW? Isn't that a form of stealing from our children? What loathsome hypocrites.

Posted by: menthol on March 1, 2011 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner and his fellow social conservatives must worship the same Jesus that Joel Osteen preaches the Prosperity Gospel about. Obviously, as Osteen preaches, great wealth is a sign of God's favor.

They must fervently believe in the parable of Jesus that It is easier for a camel to fit thru the eye of a needle than for a poor man to go to heaven.

As one of those horrible members of the United Methodist Church that believes in social justice, I have trouble understanding the morality of screwing the poor to transfer wealth to the wealthy!

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 1, 2011 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Is going to war moral?
Is going to war, and asking my children to pay for it, moral?

If so, then I am going to go buy a new car, put it in my children's name, and skip town. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 1, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

And as long we're on the subject, I'm curious when, exactly, Boehner discovered that "this debt is a moral threat to our country."

November 2008.

Simple answers to simple questions.

Posted by: martin on March 1, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

I believe that the larger moral threat is to leave our children a world that is contaminated by toxic crap spewed out in the name of business and wealth and industry. It's a larger moral threat to encourage scientific discovery and then, to dismiss it when the results aren't what you want them to be. All the money in the freaking world isn't going to mean anything if we don't have food and water.

Posted by: JustaNobody on March 1, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me."

Matt. 25:40

Posted by: Virginia on March 1, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

If running up the debt is immoral, then the Republicans are officially the Immoral party.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on March 1, 2011 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

"It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children's future and make them beholden to China. No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily."

Jeez, for 8 years you and your Republican buddies didn't give a sh*t about debt, and basically sh*t all over the kids futures, when you weren't sending our kids to get the living sh*t blown out of them, and also blowing the living sh*t out of the kids foreign countries.

Now, you're worried about this sh*t?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 1, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Reagan proved [moral threats to the very fabric of our civilization] don't matter."

-Dick Cheney

Posted by: Fargus on March 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

And, here, I thought the RepuGs were only interested in their "moral responsibility" of creating as many jobs in China as possible. Some day, perhaps, a Chinese missionary will come to the USofA and lead a group of our impoverished children over a mountain trail, singing, "This old man, he played......"

Posted by: berttheclock on March 1, 2011 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Love to help you with that moral crusade, Mr. Speaker, but I'm booked through at least the next decade. Good luck!

Posted by: rich people on March 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Call Boehner's office -- (202) 225-6205 -- and let him know you think his so-called morality is misdirected.

Balancing the budget on the backs of working people and children while giving enormous tax breaks to the wealthy is immoral.

Where are the jobs, John Boehner? Where are the jobs that are continually promised in exchange for massive tax cuts to the rich?

Posted by: karen marie on March 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

If none of these areas of public life count as "moral responsibilities," what would Boehner consider worthy?- Tax Cuts for the wealthy

You must understand that when Republicans talk about "The Children" they are only talking about potential children. Those who aren't born yet. Once they are born, then they are expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps like the rest of us.

Posted by: atlliberal on March 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting that when Boehner talks about 'freedom' and 'liberating', he's talking about money, not people.

Posted by: JoyceH on March 1, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"the extent of his moral commitments"
leaving aside the oxymoron committed when the word "Republican" is used with the word "moral", the answer to the question regarding "extent" is this:
Up until the point when the GOP is in the White House. Then the "moral commitments" go out the window.

Posted by: T2 on March 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily.- Boehner

That sounds like a line John wrote himself and inserted into "his" speech.


"We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face. That means working together to cut spending and rein in government - not shutting it down."

Translation-

We're sorry for kicking you guys to the curb last election, so let me pay you some lip service to make things right again.

Posted by: BetweenTheLines on March 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget how the Veep was excoriated and mocked for suggesting that we all have a moral obligation to pay our fair share of taxes. If the debt is such a threat to our children, don't the rich have a moral obligation to forego tax cuts - and not go Galt by shipping jobs overseas - in order to help pay down the debt?

Posted by: Reginald Perrin on March 1, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Boehner never saw any of this as a "moral threat" until after he'd made the mess he's now whining about. I wonder why that is?"

He discovered that a black man is living in the White House.

Posted by: arkie on March 1, 2011 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen - are you sure your Boehner quotes are accurate, because if they are, Mr. Boehner's reasoning and hold on current reality is tenuous at best and down right borderline delusional more probably.

This talk about debt and children is gibberish, as any parent knows we go into debt to help our children get their start, knowing we will be paid up just before retirement if we keep our economic house in order after the kids have gone.

The kids in this case are known as The Bush Years where those little munchkins in the WH and Congress kept demanding more and more spending for themselves and their sandbox friends!

Now, we need to actually spend more to help our real children as we move into the future!

I want my government to spend on infrastructure! On energy research and development! On the unemployed! On tax relief for the middle class while demanding more alimony from the top 2% of our nation (It was a nasty divorce in 2008)! On education! On fire protection! On raising the quality of life!

Yes, I want the government to do many things the private sector refuses, only does for its own profit, or does inefficiently!

Republican leadership wants the government to shutdown, come to a crashing halt, and quit taxing its friends in the top 2% income bracket here in our beloved America!

Our politicians, particularly the ones with the red stripes, don't represent the middle class so much as they are in government to make their own profit from representing the filthy Koch Bros and their friends at the expense of the rest of us! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 1, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, Boehner could talk about the moral dilemma of cuts in government service creating jobs (of a sort). Vallejo, CA became debt ridden and declared bankruptcy. The city officials had to cut their existing police force from 150 to 90. However, it appears this move has created many new jobs within the city. Hookers are pouring in from Mexico and Oregon. Yes, John, you do get what you either pay or pay not for.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 1, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

While I vehemently disagree with the Speaker on what he considers our "moral responsibilities", I think it is smart of him to frame the issue this way for his base. Now they can claim a "moral" victory and ignore all of the carnage and chaos that results from their actions. They can blame the "lazy, unemployed, criminal, black/brown, immigant, thugs" for what happens. No accountability whatsoever.

Posted by: TalkTaylor on March 1, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

If none of these areas of public life count as "moral responsibilities," what would Boehner consider worthy?

Boehner considers it his moral responsibility to make ultra-rich people, uber-ultra-rich. Particularly, his campaign donors.

Posted by: ckelly on March 1, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

No, no, True Morality© applies only to sexual matters. /snark

Posted by: Athena on March 1, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

We have a moral responsibility to give more money to the Koch Brothers. As long as anybody anywhere still has some, the poor dears don't have nearly enough.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on March 1, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

"It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. "

You guys seem to think that "our children" includes your own kids. Don't you get it? The only kids that count as "our children" are the children of the uberwealthy who don't use the programs that Boehner plans to cut. They don't serve in the military so why have programs that aid veterans, just for buying weapons so that the war profiteers can make a bundle? They don't use Head Start so why fund it? They don't qualify for Pell Grants so why not cut them? They don't need the programs for expectant mothers or to supply health care to the average person so why even have those programs?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on March 1, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Bring it, mofo.

My only question: who on the Dem side will openly challenge Boner to debate the moral aspects of their respective positions on national television?

I don't mean a "back and forth" in the press. I mean a formal challenge to a debate.

This is a serious issue and Boner has thrown down the gauntlet. Who's going to pick it up and hammer him with it?

Posted by: bdop4 on March 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner's sole solution to the "immorality" of leaving debt to our children is budget cuts. But another way to resolve the debt is to increase revenues. Unfortunately, Republican ideology these days seems to be that tax increases are more immoral than leaving debt to the next generation.

Posted by: dsimon on March 1, 2011 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

@JustaNobody They will of course have control over the little food and water, and will make massive profits. No surprise, the rich play the these games against themselves, and when the day is done, they benefit for decades and the rest of us are screwed. However, they are denying climate change, and in a couple of decades they could literally be taken out due to the propaganda they've been spewing from any and all who will act as their shills.
In the meantime, as climate change becomes increasingly obvious, these folks won't only lose their pants (poker reference), they are like to be criminally prosecuted (if they are lucky) or torn apart by government/protesters/shareholders.

Ironic isn't it? And, of course, they will do everything to make you think that these outcomes are totally impossible...
Perhaps Mr. Boehner will let you know whats going on.... I doubt it, but it might be worth a try...
Best of luck.

Posted by: Doug Wieboldt on March 2, 2011 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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