Apr 182011

Richard W. Stevenson writes in Sunday’s New York Times Week in Review section that the debate in Washington over spending, debt, deficits and entitlements amounts to the most fundamental reassessment of the size and role of government since Ronald Reagan and perhaps since Franklin Roosevelt.

The battle ahead “is the big one, and goes to the very major questions about the role of government,” said G. William Hoagland, a former Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee. “This is going to be a very fundamental clash of ideologies.”

This is what politics is about. At the extremes are the disciples of Ayn Rand (every man and woman for himself or herself) and those of Karl Marx or perhaps Jesus (we’re all in this together, we must look after one another) .

We will be debating where the line should be drawn to the end of our days. I think Stevenson is right. This feels like a turning point, a watershed. We have promised one another more than we can deliver. A slow-growing economy exposes our vulnerabilities. I think most people, except perhaps those at the extremes, understand this. We must, as The Economist reminds us in its current issue, work longer, save more and expect less. The sooner we get started, the better.

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