A natural selection: Fiscal Realism
Political evolution produces strange rhetorical mutations. For instance:
Some conservatives draw deserved ridicule for rejecting Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some conservatives even ludicrously demand that “intelligent design” be taught in public schools.
Such backward thinking, which should have gone out with the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, drives many independent (and scientifically enlightened) voters away from the Republican party — and distracts the GOP from the genuinely conservative causes of limited government and personal responsibility.
But on Tuesday, President Barack Obama didn’t accuse conservatives of rejecting evolution.
Instead, he accused them of “thinly veiled Social Darwinism” in the budget proposal that passed the GOP-run House 10 days ago.
Gee, make up your mind. Are we conservatives supposed to embrace or dispute Darwinism?
OK, so “Social Darwinism” was a laissez faire 19th century economic philosophy tainted by some uglier notions. Based on Darwin’s biological breakthroughs (but not necessarily his social views), it advocated letting the strong not just survive but thrive — and letting the weak take their lumps.
The president wants voters to believe that because the House bill from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., features deep cuts in domestic spending, the GOP is telling Americans who depend on federal assistance to sink or swim: “Social Darwinism” redux.
Yet Ryan and the rest of us who can still count the unsustainable costs of the federal-spending status quo don’t want to eliminate the safety net. We just want to avoid stretching it past the unaffordable tearing point.
And as our distinguished state legislators in Columbia can tell you while struggling annually to meet ever-rising Medicaid costs, this isn’t merely a federal crisis.
Yes, Social Darwinism can sound appealing to such high achievers as captains of industry, brilliant innovator, savvy investors, gifted entrepreneurs and insightful editorial writers.
Yes, we fiscal conservatives know that when you pay people not to work and/or excel, they’re far less likely to work and/or excel.
We also know that the greatest economic threat to Americans of all abilities and incomes isn’t a plot to resurrect Social Darwinism. It’s the relentless growth of positive-incentive-sapping (and national-wealth-draining) Nanny Statism — a losing trend that began long before Obama moved into the White House.
A nation where the populace once took hardy pride in self-reliance has become of nation of whiners trapped in a contagious entitlement mentality.
The sad truth is that this habit-forming reliance on government doesn’t really help “the poor.” It hurts them.
Another sad truth: Medicare and Social Security are tumbling ever faster toward bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, this truth should hurt Obama’s re-election chances: We’re en route to the fourth highest federal deficit in U.S. history — all on this president’s one-term watch and all more than double the pre-Obama record.
So what does this president propose to slow that red-ink flood?
Check out this revealing exchange between Ryan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a Feb. 16 House Budget Committee hearing.
Part of a question from Ryan: “And so what we’re saying is, in order to avert a debt crisis — you’re the treasury secretary — if we can’t make good on our bonds in the future, who is going to invest in our country? We do not want to have a debt crisis. And so it comes down to confidence and trajectory. Do we have confidence that we’re getting our fiscal situation under control, that we’re preventing the debt from getting at these catastrophic levels?”
Part of the answer from Geithner: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.”
Hey, Mr. Secretary, both parties in Congress don’t like yours, either, Last year’s White House budget proposal was rejected unanimously (97-0) by the Senate. This year’s was rejected unanimously (414-0) by the House.
So down with Nanny Statism and up with Fiscal Realism.
And heed not the false alarm from Obama about Social Darwinism, but this enduring warning from Darwin about natural selection:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.