Truth Deficit

Four Myths about Government Spending

It is not uncommon for a parent being pestered by a child to purchase a toy to say something like, “Mommy can’t buy it because she didn’t bring enough money.” The hope is that the words “we can’t” will end the pestering faster than the words “we don’t want to.”

The recent effort by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional Republicans to reduce or eliminate entitlement programs has followed the same formula. The Republicans are telling voters that the country can’t afford to help the poor, the elderly, and the sick as much as it does now. They warn that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are quickly running out of money, and that without cuts to these programs the federal government will soon face a debt crisis like the one now crippling Greece. The result, fiscal hawks say, will be high interest rates, inflation, low economic growth, and possibly “widespread protests, riots and violence,” as Ryan put it in an April 29 letter [pdf] to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Because two of the most prominent deficit hawks are Catholic politicians (Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner), the debate about the national debt has occasioned a debate about the ethics of...

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About the Author

Charles Michael Andres Clark is a senior fellow at the Vincentian Center for Church and Society and professor of economics at St. John’s University in New York.