The Democrats and Immorality

In a recent radio show, Rush Limbaugh said something that encapsulates the dilemma of achieving the genuine fiscal reform envisioned primarily by the newly-elected class of Republican Congressmen and their standard-bearer Sen. Paul Ryan (R-KY).   “Republicans own the facts,” said Mr. Limbaugh, “but Democrats own the narrative.”  The facts are simple:  the Obama administration is running a deficit of $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year and our national debt is approaching $14.3 trillion. The narrative is equally simple: any significant spending cuts constitute an “assault” on the American public.  So how do we achieve genuine fiscal reform?

In my early twenties, I taught study skills in after-school programs at various locations in New York City.  This was a time when the crack cocaine epidemic was in full bloom. It wasn’t unusual to see rows of drug dealers openly hawking their wares along several major thoroughfares throughout the city.  It was also not unusual to see police cars drive right by without stopping.  Thus, for many young New Yorkers, selling crack was seen as a lucrative way to generate a fairly substantial income with relatively little risk.

Whenever the subject of earning money came up in class, kids would ask me what they should do.  I told them I used to work in a hamburger joint when I was their age, and that taking a job at McDonald’s seemed like a pretty good choice to me.  Such advice was always greeted with a level of scorn, and there was always one kid who asked the inevitable question:  “Why should I work at McDonald’s when I can make ten times as much selling crack on a street corner?”  My answer was always the same:  “The only way I can convince you to work at McDonald’s is if I can convince you that selling crack is morally wrong.”

In terms of morality, or more accurately, faux morality, Democrats have owned the narrative for decades.  Thus, while Sen. Ryan offers facts, as in “I asked CBO to run the model going out and they told me that their computer simulation crashes in 2037 because CBO can’t conceive of any way in which the economy can continue past the year 2037 because of debt burdens,”  House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweets the all-too-familiar narrative that fiscal responsibility “is a path to poverty for America’s seniors & children and a road to riches for big oil #GOPvalues.”

Typically, Republicans respond to such charges factually, as in saying they’re not true, even as they abandon the narrative that Democrats, who controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency until 2010, failed to produce any budget at all for the first time since 1974 when the current procedures for enactment were adopted–and that such gross irresponsibility is immoral and has done far more to endanger all Americans than any attempt to address the problem would.

Republicans must also explain that taking revenue from the future to pay current expenses is fundamentally immoral because it consigns the very same children and seniors Ms. Pelosi ostensibly cares about to a future which, absent fiscal reform, will yield a dramatically lower standard of living than Americans currently enjoy.  They must seize the narrative and tell Americans that borrowing from the future to pay for today is nothing less than stealing–and that stealing is immoral.

So is lying.  “Any plan to reduce our deficit must reflect the American values of fairness and shared sacrifice. Congressman Ryan’s plan fails this test,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday. “It cuts taxes for millionaires and special interests while placing a greater burden on seniors who depend on Medicare or live in nursing homes, families struggling with a child who has serious disabilities, workers who have lost their health care coverage, and students and their families who rely on Pell Grants.”

The truth: this chart from the Heritage Foundation demonstrates that “shared sacrifice” consists of the top one percent of earners paying 40 percent of all income taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay less than three percent.  What the chart doesn’t show is that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes at all.  Furthermore, absent substantial reform, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, which consume almost 60 percent of the budget, are on a trajectory towards bankruptcy.

Yet Democrats are never pressed to explain why allowing America to go bankrupt is not only illogical, but indecent.  They are never asked to justify why the obvious moral failure of keeping millions of Americans dependent on government with all its attendant pathologies, most brutally expressed in the destruction of the nuclear family, is better than fostering self-reliance.  They are never taken to task for fostering fear instead of hope, for playing one group of Americans off another, or why the accumulation of wealth is something to be envied instead of aspired to.  They are never challenged by Republicans to explain their “compassion” whose goal is to put more people on government programs instead of weaning them off such unseemly dependency.

Republicans must understand that while facts matter, they are less important than countering a narrative with a narrative. For the last five decades, American school children have been taught that feelings are just as important, if not more so, than thinking.  Thus, facts, no matter how compelling, will never resonate with a substantial portion of the electorate, unless the narrative which accompanies them is equally compelling.  They must realize that Democrats, going as far back as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, have been fostering a culture of self-entitlement for fifty years and many of it adherents, five decades later, are virtually immune to facts.

I’ve mentioned this in previous columns, but it bears repeating:  one of the best emotional appeals Republicans could make would be to announce that, as part of their overall budget plan, Congress will forego their Cadillac heath and pension plans, and put themselves into the same Social Security and health programs available to ordinary Americans.  Factually, it wouldn’t make much of a dent in the budget deficit, but it would be one of the most compelling narratives ever engendered by Congress, and would demonstrate that “shared sacrifice” is high on the Republican agenda.  It would simultaneously expose the hypocrisy of any member of Congress in either party who dared to vote against it.

There is no question that Republicans have the facts on their side.  No one can argue that we are not $14 trillion in debt or that the current annual deficit is not approximately $1.6 trillion, or that America isn’t headed over a fiscal cliff.  But they have to learn how to fight emotional fire with emotional fire.  And they must do so proactively, not reactively.  If they can’t put the most spendthrift administration in the history of the country on the defensive, America may never recover.  More importantly to Republicans, they may never recover.

In 2010, a substantial majority of Americans, via the Tea Party movement, demonstrated that they are no longer interested in a choice between bad and awful with respect to the nation’s fiscal integrity.  Republicans should recognize that the rise of that movement was as much a desire to change the narrative as it was to explain the facts. With so much at stake, the 2012 election may be one of the most emotional election campaigns the republic has seen in quite some time.  Republicans can ill-afford to cede so much of the playing field to Democrats.  Governing with facts is fine.  But without winning the hearts of Americans along the way, Republicans may never get the chance to govern at all.

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.


  • waterwillows

    Why do democrats charge ahead to a sure bankrupcty of the nation? I suspect it is because they, in their idealised world believe that will not really 'share' in it. Bankrupcty is for the evil white capitalist to endure.
    They on the other hand will all come together, singing songs and each one looking out for the best interests of the other. So no real poverty or misery.
    But in this they are dead wrong. They will turn on each other and blame each other. There will be no coming together in their misery, there will be a coming apart instead.
    When the facts of reality finally intrude on their looney tunes uptopia; their sainthood will fly out the window.
    It all could have been so much easier. If only they would listen. So we must not let it happen.

  • Skandinav

    Yes, but conservatives need to make some stringent analysis of your/our own arguments.

    For example this thing with envying wealth instead of aspiring to it is actually insulting. You don't get votes by insulting people, even if is sometimes somewhat true. And I don't think Americans are immune to facts, we have every indication that the electorate is one of the smartest in world history – so if you are not getting the facts through don't offend the voters by calling them stupid or emotional: look at your own effort and continue challenging the main stream media babble. Here, in Denmark I see people coming around all the time, when they realize how extensive the twisting of news coverage is.

    I too find it incredible that the left wingers are so immune to the urgent needs of the economy and cultural-clash issues etc. but I fear that the wording of conservatives sometimes reveals a preference for pampering one's own ego rather than actually reaching out to potential voters and try to understand what bits of information they need/have been deprived of, to make a sound choice. Don't start with the assumption that the people you want to vote for you are daft and ungenerous… that is one message you can be sure will get through.

  • Phil Sullins

    Arnold, it's important to get your facts straight. Paul Ryan is a congressman from Wisconson. Rand Paul is a senator from Kentucky. Ryan the congressman is the chairman of the house budget committee.

    Of course you are correct on your analysis.

    • arnold ahlert

      you're absolutely right. my apologies.


  • Gary from Jersey

    Fine analysis save for one small fact: getting that message acress to the millions of people who still rely on the MSM will be impossible. An all-out assault on the gatekeepers iss going to be ugly, time consuming and expensive, but that’s where it has to start. Americans are not educated. They are indoctrinated. That has to change first, and I want to know how to do it. Otherwise, without an effective, cohesive plan of attack we are doomed to failure.

  • jacob

    The more I read about, the more I'm convinced our Republican congresspeople
    are no better than the Democraps, which is why in the next election, we should
    send TEA PARTY choices ignorant of politics but endowed with common sense
    to Congress…

    TEA PARTY people did show somehow that power is with the people, which is
    what we did with ousting our Miami mayor and one too long time commissioner
    and, since as NIXON once said,MEDIA MAKES YOU OR BREAKS YOU, knowing
    the real reason why the abject media (save for few and honourable exceptions)
    backs shamelessly OBAMA and the left, since their employers won't fire them,
    then WE THE PEOPLE should boycott these leftist publications by hitting them
    where it hurts the most :
    After all, doesn't the rotten NY TIMES survives thanks to its subscribers ??

    • Syrin23

      Yeah, but there is a modern media that was never foreseen. The internet is game changing, and we need to STOP CARING about what the propagndist press wil say. EDUCATE the populace. point out the media lies, the media cover up, the media puppetry. Do it here, do it at the Drudge report, emerican thinker, big governemt, etc..

  • Syrin23

    This article is ASBOLUTELY accurate. I've said this for the better opart of 2 decades! WHY won't conservatives educate the populace and REALLY attack the liberals on these topics? Not even the conservative media does this.

    Remember Ross Perot? What made him so popular? He not only spoke plainly, much like Trump today, but he also had didactic sessions in which he took the time to educate the voters about the FACTS !!! Now THERE'S an idea !! The GOP should be running the Cato and Heritage foundation graphs ALL OVER the airways. Those numbers and figures are scary and sobering.

    I have little faith in the GOP to be able to take back the reins. Aside from the women, the GOP men are spineless. They are afraid of what the propagandist media will say about them. Guess what. THEY'RE ALREADY SAYING IT !!! Stop being weather vane politicians, educate the country, get in the faces of these idiots, and TAKE THE BATTLE TO THEM !!!

  • Cindy

    The reason that the people are not falling for this crock of BS is because they know where the real problems lies. SS would not even be an issue if Bush had funded all the tax breaks that he gave to the rich for the last decade and if he had funded 2 wars. That is why we have a deficit problem. We should not have to give up our retirement money because our government likes to spend more than they take in. If they are going to allow corporations such as GE, Exxon and Bank of America to not pay taxes, and in fact get billions of money back in refunds, then they can't go around saying we are broke. Stop the tax credits and the loop holes so that everybody is paying thier fair share in taxes. Stop the useless wars in handouts to foreign aid.

  • Amused

    Ahert loses his argument from the getco . Why ? By quoting a blowhard like Limbaugh .People ar not losing their retirement due to any parties poltics , but rather to CROOKS who have politicians in their pockets .Lobbies that pay for "look the other way legislation " .Thescammers on Wall Street egregiously broke the law ….have you seen any jail terms ? [ besides Maddoff] For heavensake the misinformed or just plain DUMB voters in Florida , elected a CROOK as their Governor . His firm found guilty of Medicare Fraud , which in my opinion when you steal from your country , is TREASON .Yet some "editorialists " here whine about "the immorality of democrats " . HYPOCRITES ALL !!

  • Amused


  • debarrio

    One of the reasons the Democrats control the "narrative" is because the liberal MSM is holding the microphone. Until conservatives and real Americans "punish" the media by turning off their programs and sporting events and divesting, this will not change.

    • Flit ASndersen

      Not all. The "Narrative" is also told & retold in all of our public grammar schools & all (95%) of our colleges & universities. It's also told & retold via Hollywood and in the "music" industry. Nobody understood controlling the narrative like the communists.
      And that's what this is all about.

  • kafirman

    Very nice article Mr. Ahlert.

    The GOP needs black leaders who can stand up and say that just as slavery conscripts one man to another, so socialism conscripts producers to the entitlement class. For the same reason that slavery is immoral, socialism is immoral.

    The poor are not the envious lot that the wealthy dems are. The poor are not the envious miscreants that the class warfare sector make the poor out to be.

  • Jim_C

    Wow, kasandra–if you are going to blame the democrats alone for the spending to which you refer, and not even go into why that spending increased, then I'm not sure you can be taken seriously. And if you want to go to bat for the corporations who can easily afford to make up the budget shortfalls by actually, you know, PAYING taxes, by all means, throw you hat in with that lot and see where it gets you. If all these tax breaks haven't put people back to work YET in the last 10 years, guess what? it ain't happening.

    • Flit Andersen

      Who's controlled Congress since 2006, Jim?

  • Jim_C

    I can't believe it's 2011 and people are still complaining about the "liberal media" to make excuses for when they don't get their way in a representative democracy. Well it's not 1994 anymore. Take a look around. Fox News, just by the numbers, is just as mainstream as any "traditional" news. The most popular radio shows are all conservative. Conservative media is just as present as whatever is considered "liberal." Most of us are on the internet, and we can choose whatever we want. No one is forced to subscribe to the NYT!

    Consider: If you ever go to a liberal, or better yet, progressive opinion website–guess what they all think? They think the media is totally in the bag for conservatives. Now, why on earth would this be?

  • Amused

    What a bunch of whiners and suckers . If you're too diumb to disseminate and parse the news , or process information without the likes of idiots like Beck , Limbaugh , Maddow , and the rest of the talking heads Fox , Cnn ,and MSN…then guess what ? You're too stupid to vote , too stupid to even comment on politics , and way too stupid to have a credible opinion on anything . You most likely are a birther , trufer and tea party buffoon .
    I'll quote the immortal words of Frank Zappa : "I was told that hydrogern the most abundent element was the building block of the Universe , but now I know that there is far more stupid in the Universe , therefore STUPID is the building block of the universe" [paraphrased] but accurate .

  • StephenD

    Name ONE corporation that pays taxes; just one! You can't because regardless of the mantra that the "big corporations are getting fat while the middle class is burdened with the taxes" is appealing the truth is any taxes levied against a corporation they can't wiggle out of gets passed on to the consumers. You think GE will reduce it's profit margin if it had to pay a tax? I'd bet instead the price of their product would go up enough to cover any tax. So the fact ends up being that these folks saying they want to "help" us in the middle at the expense of the "big, bad corporation" are full of sh*t. We end up paying and they are hailed as the good guys. We get what we deserve.

  • kafirman

    Very nice article Mr. Ahlert.

    The GOP needs black leaders who can stand up and say that just as slavery conscripts one man to another, so socialize conscripts producers to the entitlement class. For the same reason that slavery is immoral, socialism is immoral.

    The poor are not the envious lot that the wealthy dems are. The poor are not the envious miscreants that the class warfare sector make the poor out to be.

  • Maxie

    "Congress will forego their Cadillac heath and pension plans, and put themselves into the same Social Security and health programs available to ordinary Americans."

    That's definitely a key issue. We have morphed into an untenable system in which Congress exempts itself from the laws it passes. Our courts make laws which have no impact on the social-engineering judges who live safely in gated communities insulated from the consequences of their irresponsible decisions.

    We are now a nation of serfs and masters.