Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Moral Implications of the Budget Debate: L. Randall Wray on Moral Majority v. Moral Minority

I like very much the way in which L. Randall Wray turns the tables on those who claim that morality demands that we attack government, curtail much-needed government services, and transfer the burden of paying for such services as remain onto the backs of the working and middle classes. As Wray points out, the position espoused by neo-conservatives and tea baggers represents not the position of the moral majority whom they claim to represent, but a position of a moral minority in the U.S.

The majority of Americans want a society in which educational opportunities for all citizens are stronger, better, and spread around more widely.  Most of us want to see the sick cared for and the elderly permitted to enjoy productive and happy lives in retirement.  One of the huge mistakes of the Democratic party in recent decades has been to yield the language of morality to those who represent the minority position of the tiny wealthy elite whose ultimate goal is to safeguard obscene tax cuts for themselves, and, if possible, to pay even fewer taxes than they already pay.

Given that these folks are in the minority, how do they keep so many of us hoodwinked about their real agenda?  Here's Wray's take:

So what can the Moral Minority do? Deceive. Obfuscate. Scapegoat. Talk about "unfunded mandates," "unsustainable deficits," "debt burdens on our grandkids," "government is running out of money," "welfare queens," "illegal deadbeat aliens," "national bankruptcy." All deceptions.

I hope that Rep. Paul Ryan's admission that deficit hysteria is really about morality, not economics, gets wide coverage. The American people need to know that the morality campaign is well-financed by hedge fund manager Pete Peterson's billions. He and Ryan want to push their Moral Minority views on the Moral Majority.

But the Moral Majority of this country wants more education, not less. Americans want more publicly funded healthcare, not less. They want to help the homeless get off the streets. They want to help grandma and grandpa live a decent life in retirement. They support nutrition programs for mothers and infants. They want to rein in Wall Street and to jail the crooks. And they want government to play its appropriate role in all these matters.

And most of all, they want to leave the world a better place for the generations of Americans to come. As such, they do not, as Ryan put it, "choose to relegate America to another chapter in the history of declining nations." They want no part of the "dog eat dog," "every man for himself," Hobbesian vision hawked by the Morality Minority.

I think Wray (who is a professor of economics) is correct here.  And as I said yesterday, we need to educate ourselves more about precisely how the tiny elite who want to control our political process manage to keep us divided with tactics of  deceit, obfuscation, scapegoating, etc.

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