Marvin Olasky: Arrogance and the federal deficit

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The arrogance of the human heart is so great that even truth that should be obvious to us, we miss. WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky has some thoughts on that.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: On April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank. The following year a Constitutional amendment made possible the graduated income tax. Congress set a maximum rate of a whopping 7 percent. That’s increased a lot as government arrogance has grown.

Titanic arrogance caused 1,500 deaths in 1912. A century later, the United States faces a $22 trillion iceberg of debt. 

Here’s one strange aspect of the Titanic’s sinking: Author Morgan Robertson, 14 years before the great disaster, wrote a novel with the title Futility. In it, Robertson described the sinking of an enormous ship. It had almost the same length and tonnage as the Titanic. It had a high-society first class passenger list. It had an insufficient number of lifeboats. 

In Robertson’s novel, the ship struck an iceberg on a cold April night and sank. The title of the fictional ship was (drum roll please) The Titan.

No one, to my knowledge, has written a novel predicting our current financial disaster-in-the-making. If any of you listening want to do so, how about giving it the title Futility? 

Here’s a possible plot: We once had a virtuous cycle in Western culture.  Parents worked hard to provide for their children. When the parents could no longer work, the children provided for them. That was social security through the centuries. 

Given life’s tragedies, it was not always secure—but in general it worked. When it did not, extended families, churches and charitable ministries helped widows and orphans. 

A new book entitled Futility could show government replacing children as primary provider for the aged and needy. The change gave elderly Americans the freedom to move away from their children. They often did. 

Florida and Arizona grew, but intergenerational contact decreased. Social Security also had an unanticipated effect: Children became financially optional. 

That change does not alter the goals of Christians and others who know the true value of children. We give up some liberty because we trust God when He says children are a blessing. 

The change has altered the life trajectories of materialists. Without having to care for children, some men and women don’t grow up. They often define a good life by consuming: things, places, people. 

The demographic consequences are also severe: We replace the virtuous cycle with a downward spiral. Fewer children, fewer workers to support the elderly. Societies allow in more immigrants to do the work that never-born members of the next generation would otherwise have done. Tensions rise. Deficits increase.

Now, social security and Medicare are running out of money. We have an ever-growing $22 trillion of debt. Our ship of state is not unsinkable. 

Lots of the political speechifying we hear can be summarized in one word: Futility. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

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One comment on “Marvin Olasky: Arrogance and the federal deficit

  1. Paula Garcia says:

    Department by department and bureau by bureau there is the push to “spend all of our budget” at the end of the fiscal year, lest someone think you could get by with less. Preserving some slack in the budget is a reasonable approach when next year may be the year your area has unexpected expenses.

    Here’s a thought. Make across-the-board cuts, perhaps incrementally over a few years. Put the cut funds into a departmental emergency fund. Give priority access to those emergency funds based on how well an office has underspent previous years’ budgets.

    We need to find a way to reward those who demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

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