Opinion

Lemonade Lessons: Tough choices?

What do progressives (liberals) want? Just how many decisions do they feel they need to make for us? How much control of our lives do they think is appropriate? If they could wave a magic wand, what would America look like? Would it look like France or Britain or Germany? Are they thinking Canada or Switzerland or Sweden?

It is difficult to imagine there are many Americans who believe that the government really knows best or that it is capable of effectively and efficiently delivering any significant promises of relief or service to a broad section of society, but against all evidence, many do believe.

In support of this belief, many liberal arguments (like the following) are offered on a regular basis: Don’t you think people like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? Do you want to end these necessary entitlements? As a conservative, wouldn’t you agree that the military is run well? Most government spending is for these safety-net programs or for defense.

Of course, the people receiving these services/entitlements like and want them. If the only measure of the success of these programs were whether or not the recipients found these benefits useful or desirable, then progressives might have a point or two. However, for every entitlement there exists a duty to pay for that entitlement. As has been said many times, when you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always depend on the support of Paul.

And how about military spending? Does anyone think that all of our military spending is necessary for a strong defense? How many military bases are located in any given state or district just because a powerful elected politician represents that state or district? How many weapon systems are purchased only for provincial political reasons? Does it make anyone weak on defense because they want to address these political military spending priorities? I don’t think so.

The problem is that resources are limited even for an organization as large as the United States. This means there will always be more good things to do than there are resources to do them. Limited resources is not an argument for abandoning those in need, it is an argument for setting priorities. Just like a family or a business, if everything that might do some good cannot be funded, we must do the most important things first.

Does this mean that America may not be able to help everyone in need? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Does the fact that resources are limited imply that the government itself has limitations? It does. So, how do we go about setting priorities? How do we determine what we can do and what we cannot do, whom we can help and whom we cannot help? These are not easy questions for a compassionate citizenry or for our elected politicians.

Where do we begin? My suggestion is that we start with defense. We need to understand and support our strategic interests, but cut out politically motivated defense programs that do not materially add to our security. We all agree that without a strong defense we are all in jeopardy, but most of us know there is waste and abuse in our defense budget. Next I would fund those programs and agencies necessary to ensure homeland security and domestic tranquility. Then I would task our citizens and our elected officials to determine where the need is greatest.