Monday, April 4, 2011


Whether it is Majority Leader Boehner saying that struggling American families "don't see government tightening its belt," while arguing for budget cuts or spending freezes, or GOP state legislators saying government must be like families who live within their means, my hackles go up.  I agree as one of my wise friends says, “I don’t want the government to be like a family, I want it to be a government.” But accepting this rejoinder as true has not been enough to assuage the irritation I feel, or calm the nagging sense that there is something very wrong with this analogy as a rationale for the GOP positions on budget cuts.

Thinking about it, the first thing that strikes me is that the analogy is most used when the GOP is rationalizing cuts to education, environmental preservation and protection, healthcare, programs for elderly, disabled, and those living in poverty. Funny how it is never applied to proposals to cut subsidies for industries and businesses turning record profits, like oil companies or the financial services firms, or the wealthiest who got tax cuts under the banner of job creation.  Funny too how most of those espousing the cuts are among the loudest in proclaiming their “Christian values”. Guess they just skip over the part from Mathew 25, “What you do to the Least, you do unto me,” or the part in Acts about selling goods and distributing proceeds according to each persons need.  Hewing to the interests of the well-to-do, and thoughts about un-Christian behavior aside, it is precisely in thinking about us as a big family that the logic of the analogy is totally shattered.

If we look at the U.S. population as a family, there are family members who have means that are vast, many who more than enough or enough to keep the family comfortable, some who are struggling, some on the edge and some with neither shelter nor regular sustenance.  Now if we sat down at our collective kitchen table to tackle our current budget problems, surely we would expect those members of the family with millions or billions to contribute more to the solution than the members struggling or those who have next to nothing. For sure we would also look to cut expenses, but I do not believe any healthy family would leave the poorest or most vulnerable members of the family at the mercy of fate, and we should not do it as the American family.  I believe that in most families there is caring, loving and concern for one another and that the wealthiest in the family would give up their Ferraris, third home or another luxury rather than see another member go without basic needs. I know it is true in my family which has some members doing okay, some with more than enough and some struggling—we share as needed to ensure each other’s well-being and security.

I know it is tempting to be drawn in by this analogy and believe that spending cuts will mean fewer struggles for the middle income earners. But, like the GOP tax cuts which have meant more only for those with income above $1,000,000 and increases on middle income earners, the spending cuts they propose will only spare those making well above $100,000 a year.  It is tempting to believe that cutting the cost of care and caring for the least able members will make it better for the family as a whole, but beyond being morally bankrupt it is simply not so. So come on people now the next time you hear a Republican using this analogy, call their office and challenge them to ask the most well to do in our national family to contribute more. It is the morally, AND the economically sound thing to do.