Beware Debt-, Deficit-, and Budget-Fundamentalism

These days, the Constitution is practically the 67th book of the Bible.


“What we are witnessing is the rise of a new strain of politician: the budget fundamentalist,” writes Michelle Goldberg in a brief and biting piece in New York magazine (hat tip: Stan Collender).

The phrase “budget fundamentalist” is perhaps a loaded one, especially coming from Goldberg, but she’s nonetheless onto something. I’ve been toying with a similar thesis—namely that the line between culture and economics is disappearing. Small-government conservatism is seen more or less as a philosophical extension of Christianity, and the Constitution is practically the 67th book of the Bible.

And David Brooks wonders why Mitch Daniels is vacillating on a presidential run.

Goldberg pulls this quote from the Tea Party’s surrogate godfather, Sen. Jim DeMint: “It’s no coincidence that socialist Europe is post-Christian, because the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets and vice versa.” [Check out a roundup of Tea Party political cartoons.]

I have no idea how DeMint would deal with the coexistence of medieval Europe’s absolutist monarchies and holy empires in this theorem. Tyranny, feudalism, slavery—these were norms for most of human history, independent of culture. Small-l liberalism—and, one could just as easily argue, true biblical Christianity—was able to emerge once church and state became separate.

In any case, Goldberg is, alas, right about the new “quasi-theological approach to economics”: “debt has come to replace homosexuality as a symbol for American decline, and the fervor of past culture wars is being deployed in budgetary battles.”  [Check out a roundup of cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

As any reader of this blog knows, I’m second to no Tea Partyer in my level of anxiety about America’s long-term debt. But I also believe we can solve these problems by agreeing to turn a few arithmetical knobs. And, as a conservative, I’m becoming equally worried about what appears to me a radical assault on the continuity of American society.

A potential debt crisis is bad enough. There’s no need to raise the stakes any higher.

  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.
  • Follow the money in Congress.
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