Sunday, January 06, 2013

Your Country's Finances Are Exactly Like Yours

Many scoff at the conservative analogy that the American government should manage its finances like a household, but little do they realize the idea doesn't strengthen conservatism, it weakens it.

After a fiscal cliff deal that only increased taxes, many right-leaning politicians are preparing for a fight in order to cut spending. To bring the budget debate of Washington to the kitchen table, many fiscal conservatives are comparing government finances to those of a household, progressives should not just let them, but they should do the exact same thing.

Republican Rep. Dave Camp from Michigan recently said that Americans know that “when you have no more money in your account and your credit cards are maxed out, then the spending must stop.”

Democrats shouldn't fight this nation-as-a-household analogy, they should fully endorse it. Yes it argues for much needed fiscal order, but it also argues for the provision of much needed social services like post-secondary education and health care, as those too are the responsibility of each and every household.

Blue Dog (a euphemism for a conservative Democrat) Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon a few days ago touted, "The federal government needs to tighten its belt just like every hardworking American family has had to do during our economic recovery."

On Saturday, in response to the pervasiveness of this government-household comparison, Robert Reich former US secretary of Labour under President Bill Clinton and current Berkley professor tweeted, "Those who analogize the federal budget to a family's budget must know nothing about either."

Robert Reich does have a point, large stable economies can often borrow while in debt and engage in counter-cyclical stimulus spending whereas households cannot. However Mr. Reich in attempting to rid the right of their commonsensical analogy fails to realize it is just as powerful, if not more so, for those on the left.

If Republicans are going to make the US government out to be like a household in order to get what they want, Democrats should let them. After all a household doesn't just have to manage its debt, it has to find other sources of revenue, ensure their kids aren't going hungry, that their post-secondary education is provided for, and that everyone has health care.

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