2009 Archives

Texas Faith: Is passing on a huge federal debt a moral issue?


The following is from the April 4, 2009, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Robin Lovin, the Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics at SMU, and Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson of SMU's Dedman College provided expertise for this story.

April 13, 2009

Texas Faith is a weekly discussion that poses questions about religion, politics and culture to a panel of religious leaders.

This week's question: Is there a moral dimension to passing a huge federal debt on to future generations? Should being a good steward apply here?

Here are excerpts from some of this week's answers:

Robin Lovin, Cary Maguire university professor of ethics, Southern Methodist University:
"The problem is knowing exactly what it is that we are passing along. (Faith also teaches us not to be too confident of our ability to predict the future.) If going into debt means that we pass along a working economy, sustainable energy use and affordable health care, our neighbors in future generations may think they have been treated pretty well, after all. The hard part, in political as in personal choices, is being honest with ourselves about when we're trying to do the right thing, and when we're trying to escape the hard choices that loving our neighbor sometimes requires of us."

Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science, Southern Methodist University:
"In shaping national budgets in years to come, I would hope (perhaps vainly) that a few principles of basic honesty and morality would prevail. To begin with, we should observe the basic principle that new initiatives should be paid for. Neither President Bush nor President Obama has done this. Major tax cuts and a costly war in Iraq might have received more critical consideration had the public been forced to face the trade-off of real spending cuts. The goals of expanding health care and capping carbon emissions might face more sober assessment if their real costs were disclosed forthrightly to the American people and funded through immediate, substantial tax increases. Instead, both parties seek to use accounting gimmicks to hide the real costs of their initiatives and pretend that they are being fiscally responsible. More dangerously, both parties seek to create unsustainable imbalances of revenue and expenditures and to kick the catastrophic consequences down the road a generation."

Read the full story.

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