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If you can’t afford it …

President Biden seems to lack some Scranton sensibilities

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My father-in-law, William C. Jackson, didn’t live long enough to compare notes with our new president, Joe Biden. In fact, both men were born and raised in Scranton, Pa., with mostly World War II blue-collar values. But both of them ultimately left.

Grandpa Jackson—a man of modest means—died seven years ago, debt-free and with his faith, his family, and his value system pretty much intact. Biden was just inaugurated president of what is still the wealthiest nation in the world but did so having joined in the fracture and forfeiture of most of the commonsense structures that have shaped life so beneficially for Americans—including millions toward the bottom of the scale.

It’s hard not to compare the trajectory of the two men’s “practical economics” over the years.

Keeping that focus on economic issues, I should report that all of us in Grandpa Jackson’s extended family were indoctrinated again and again with the simple warning: “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” He built a house mostly with his own hands and mortgage-free. He never owned a new car. He tithed.

If Biden ever embraced such values, he seems to have left them in Scranton.

If Biden ever embraced such values, he seems to have left them in Scranton when he moved to Washington. He’s spent most of his lifetime campaigning and legislating for public policies that promised quick and easy access to benefits voters typically used to think they’d have to wait for. I stress here that Biden is by no means the only spokesman for such unrealistic economics. Nor are Democrats the only party so glibly offering so impossible a future. They are, however, the folks now mostly in charge first of drawing the plans, then of making them happen—and finally of suffering the consequences if they don’t. They’ll also have to face up to hordes of jilted and terribly angry taxpayers.

Be watching, then, for such destructive values, policies, and habits to become rapidly visible in at least these three broad areas of public life: healthcare, education, and provision for old age. I don’t have to go out on a feeble limb to make such a prediction. Our new president himself was pretty explicit during the campaign.

Expand Obamacare. It was the most oft-repeated promise from Biden’s lips. He guaranteed that the Affordable Care Act—which has not worked well to this day—would under his leadership be expanded and amplified, and the government may offer a “Medicare-like” public option in the marketplace.

Free college. Tuition is to be free at all public colleges and universities, along with all historically black institutions. But no grants if the family’s annual income tops $125,000, or if you’re enrolled at a private or religious school.

Elder care for the aged. With fewer details, but just as much chutzpah, the Biden team is also grandly proposing extended facilities for the nation’s ballooning population of aged people. With better medical care leading to longer life expectancy, expectations of other kinds are creating a drain on cash that used to go to other calls.

But can we really afford all that?

If the new Biden government were to add nothing but those three items to the coming year’s outlays, our current deficit would explode more massively than any U.S. federal budget in history. (More on that in a later issue.) Our national debt would leap to a figure well past $30 trillion. And all this doesn’t touch the enormous costs currently associated with COVID-19 or committed earlier to the high-priced facets of global warming.

And we’ve focused here only on the dollar costs. What about the high costs to society of passing on to the federal government a host of new value systems that would reshape our society?

Maybe it should prompt our new president to run up to Scranton, find a few folks with a worldview like Bill Jackson’s, and ask with all sincerity: Can we really afford all that spending?

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things. Visit WORLD’s memorial tribute page.


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