A lot has been in the news about Obama's remarks to business owners. I have to admit, the more conservative news outlets have made it sound that Obama is giving credit to government for the success of private businesses, which is not precisely what he said. He was pointing out that businesses succeed when governments help facilitate the process.
But what is Obama really arguing for? That America needs to have a government? Who would say, No? America has very few anarchists, and most of them are a little nuts from what I understand. Is he arguing that government should step in when major projects -- highways, for instance -- are not easily or efficiently achieved by private persons or small communities? Again, who would say No to that? Even hardened libertarians agree that governments are good for something, and things like interstate infrastructure and national defense and things of that nature are precisely the sort of thing the federal government should be focusing on.
But what is he arguing for? He's arguing for higher taxes to pay for the things government does so that businesses can be successful.
If only our taxes went only to such things.
Obama has never seen a budget get passed during his administration. Do you realize that? Now, over at Politifact.com there is an article from a couple of months ago that describes the modern process of federal budgeting. Yet it nitpicks on terminology and fails to describe the Constitutional process accurately. According to the Constitution, is it Congress who has the responsibility of determining the budget. It has become a custom, not required by the Constitution, that the sitting president offer an opinion, and nowadays Congress tends to use that as a starting point, as the article says. But the budget, officially speaking, originates in Congress, specifically in the Senate. Still, the president has a role in making sure that Congress does its job. And while it may be true that a budget passed by Congress does not require the president's signature, budget-related appropriations bills do. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a single budget during the Obama administration.
So, the government is spending money hand-over-fist on God knows what, and Obama is asking people and businesses to pay taxes for it all. Everyone agrees that it is hemorrhaging, and one way to deal with it is to increase taxes. But no one really knows what the budget is, or what is in it!
The questions being begged are these: What does Obama want the money for? What in his view is the role of government in the life of this nation?
It seems to me that he's saying, "Look, you couldn't have your success without the infrastructure and key services that government provides with your tax money. And we need more money to keep the infrastructure and services functioning so you can continue to be successful. So, all we're asking is that the folks with more money to pay more taxes. That's fair, right? And isn't it what businesses need after all." Well, that would be fine if all he were talking about were essential government activities. But the reason the government is spending so much money is that it is spending way too much on the wrong things.
So, here's what I hear Obama saying: "You're dependent on the government, and that's a good thing. The dependency of business on government is what makes business work. So, what we need is more government dependency, and in fact, Americans in general should all become more dependent on government. For education, food, rent, medicine, doctor's visits, preschool, after care, and now also jobs. It's what American success is built on, so what we need is more of it."
Now, does any of this have a bioethical dimension?
Not really. Just letting off some steam in an election year.
And I'm not saying Romney is wonderful in all of this -- I'm saying I'm philosophically opposed to Obama. And even if conservatives have somewhat misrepresented his words, I think his underlying message is way more controversial and dangerous than the superficial stupidity the conservatives are accusing him of.