'Tis the season to be jolly, but you can forget about that in political circles. The current angst about the economy and taxes is so intense that even Santa's reindeer are spooked. Speaking the other day on a cable news program, liberal Congressman Jim McDermott put it this way: "This is Christmas time. We talk about good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won't give you a check to feed your family. That's simply wrong."
As I wrote in this space a couple of weeks ago, the liberal agenda in America is expanding and now includes demands for guaranteed jobs at good wages for all who want to work. Unemployment benefits were extended this year for the seventh time and, if the Obama tax compromise is passed, $150 billion more will be added to the deficit. Adding it all up, the total debt of the United States will soon exceed $14 trillion.
By invoking the baby Jesus, Congressman McDermott puts an important question in play: What does a moral society owe to the have-nots? How much public money should go to those in financial trouble?
Many liberals believe there should not be any limits. Just this week, California Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency because his state is bankrupt. The liberal legislature in Sacramento has spent so much money on entitlements for the poor and state union workers that it owes an astounding $158 billion.
If the wild spending continues on the federal level, the entire country will be adversely affected. Right now, the financial future of most Americans hinges on the dollar retaining its dominant position in the world. But if our currency collapses under unpaid debts, so will personal assets.
There comes a time when compassion can cause disaster. If you open your home to scores of homeless folks, you will not have a home for long. There is a capacity problem for every noble intent.
America remains the land of opportunity, but you have to work for it. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 5%. For high school drop-outs, it is 16%. Personal responsibility is usually the driving force behind success. But there are millions of Americans who are not responsible, and the cold truth is that the rest of us cannot afford to support them.
Every fair-minded person should support government safety nets for people who need assistance through no fault of their own. But guys like McDermott don't make distinctions like that. For them, the baby Jesus wants us to "provide," no matter what the circumstance. But being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive.
The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?