The Propaganda of Sacrifice

Over the last few years, it has become fashionable for neo-liberals to blather on about ‘shared sacrifice’: the rich will have to pay a bit more in taxes, while the middle class and the impoverished will face cuts they simply can’t afford. Michael Hoexter exposes the fundamental ethical flaw in the concept of ‘shared sacrifice’ (boldface mine):

For starters, let me quickly review what the Grand Bargain is supposed to entail: We are according to you and your current set of close advisors in a major crisis in terms of the size of the public debt and yearly federal budget deficits. After an era of low taxes, tax breaks and rising federal budget deficits, tax rates are supposed to go up, in particular on wealthier individuals. In “exchange” for raising taxes, supposedly a goal of Democrats, the Republicans will “get” three times the amount of cuts in social spending as the increase in taxation, in particular Medicare and Social Security as well as other government spending programs. The idea is that government must balance its budget by taking in “revenue” via taxes (this is not actually how the federal government finances itself in our era as you may or may not know) and cutting spending. The idea is that “shared sacrifice” is required to solve what is viewed to be the problem of the public debt and budget deficits….

Also, apparently, you are very much attracted to the notion of sacrifice and “shared sacrifice” which also might be meaningfully linked to the notion of national grandeur and greatness: one sacrifices for others to make the nation, the group or the team greater and better. You know, you are probably right that in some areas more public-spiritedness and sacrifice of individual wants and needs may be desirable. Yet you have chosen to praise and seek to impose sacrifice on others in an area where, for ordinary people, for the most part, sacrifice is gratuitous and damaging.

You and your advisors are diverting people’s natural impulses to help other people to a false and actually a counter-productive goal, reducing the budget deficit. It would be far better that Americans would, for instance, sacrifice trips in fuel inefficient vehicles, until such time that they have workable low- and zero-emissions options, than to pay more income taxes to reduce a budget deficit. Or that some Americans choose careers that are not the most remunerative but serve public needs, like teaching school, social work and sustainable agriculture, and yet can get adequately rewarded for their work. These are real individual and group sacrifices for the good of the country not phantom sacrifices for a false ideal.

The notion that it is awe-inspiring or grand to unite the two major political parties around the narrow interests of Wall Street is to make a mockery of the idea of a grand sweep or arc of American history. Or to invoke individual sacrifice and people’s desire to help to address the phantom issue of the public debt is, as you will see below, an outrageous misappropriation of people’s desire to help others. It’s a travesty of grandeur and of greatness….

Amen selah to that.

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One Response to The Propaganda of Sacrifice

  1. joemac53 says:

    Everyone wanted to know why I worked so hard in the summer (at a variety of wild jobs, all of which paid better than teaching). I always told them it was so I could afford to do my charitable work during the other ten months of the year.

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