Friday, November 2, 2007

Coburn and the Morality of Deficit Spending [Jay]

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has asserted that deficit spending is a moral issue that now surpasses abortion. To be clear, he has been saying this for years and this new attention is probably as much a product of a slow news cycle and Coburn’s current commitment to hold the Senate hostage to his agenda. But lets give Coburn the benefit of the doubt that he is not a raving loon and examine what he is actually saying to see if it has merit.

I assume that by framing deficit spending in moral terms he is trying to craft the argument that deficit spending is immoral. His basis for this is that it “is robbing the next generation of opportunity…you are going to save a child from being aborted so they can be born in to a debtors prison.”

The immorality of deficit spending is defined by the future financial climate that we will create based on bad fiscal decisions. Arguable but lets stipulate the point to move on. It surpasses the abortion issue in moral importance because even if we were able to curtail or eliminate abortion the lives saved would be born into a system that robbed them of opportunity. Now this argument is not novel. It is just odd to see it pop up in fiscal policy discussions.

Coburn is arguing that a negative financial situation is such an impediment to a quality of life that it is of higher importance to address the financial climate than it is to preserve life. This is the same pro-choice argument that we have heard for years in a whole new venue. It only works if you agree that it would be better for people to be aborted than to be born into desperate financial situations.

Again, this fails to recognize a fundamental difference in assessing a situation and the measures that are taken to address it. If you honestly believed that allowing a child to be born into difficult financial circumstances guarantees a loss of opportunity and a life of struggle (this is both NOT obvious and is time and again confounded by people who live incredibly successful and fulfilling lives after being born into a harsh financial climate) it does not morally justify killing them to prevent that loss of opportunity. What are we doing and why? That is always the question. If the unborn are not human beings with a value inherent in the type of being they are, then abortion is not a moral issue at all. If they are human beings with value, then comparing an arguable financial policy to the widespread unnecessary destruction of innocent human lives shows a lack of understanding of moral issues that borders on the imbecilic. Would he assert this if we started killing 8-year olds living in households struggling with poverty and debt? Would he still say that the financial climate itself surpassed what we were doing in moral weight and urgency? I hope not.

This is an indication that Coburn either clearly does not see the unborn as human beings with a natural right to life or that he does not see abortion as something that is being done but as some natural part of our policy discussion. People propose and debate radically different fiscal strategies all of the time. Some of them work better than others and some lead us into recessions and weak economies. People also kill an average of 1.3 million unborn lives in the United States through surgical abortion alone since Roe v. Wade in 1973. It is hard to see how a doctor and a Senator could be so daft and insensitive as to not see the moral difference between those two.

HT: The Drudge Report

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