Does ‘our children’s future’ matter beyond fiscal problems?

When he was on The Colbert Report in October, Brendan Steinhauser, the director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks (a nonprofit that advocates for small government and lower taxes), refused to discuss Tea Party views on anything unrelated to fiscal conservatism and smaller government. He said those were the core values of the Tea Party, and people’s viewpoints on “social issues” or anything else were outside the scope of Tea Party ideology.

Along with fiscal conservatism and small government, however, another often-discussed Tea Party value is in “our children’s future” — how we shouldn’t burden our children with an outrageous federal debt, high unemployment rates, etc. Though Steinhauser doesn’t want to talk about anything except fiscal conservatism and small government in the broadest sense, Tea Partiers aren’t shy about pulling the “children’s future” card as a reason to be fiscally conservative and downsize government — but what about when things negatively affect “our children’s future” outside the scope of small government and lower taxes?

Under this ideology of not wanting to burden children in the future with the problems we cause in the present, Tea Partiers should theoretically be environmentalists, too. The environmental movement is all about reducing negative impacts on “our children’s future” — creating tons of waste and just shoving it underground or into the ocean leaves a big mess for our children to clean up; tapping resources for energy and only thinking about what we need for the present leaves our children without sustainable energy sources — and not researching or developing renewable and efficient energy sources now leaves our children behind in the future when it comes to dealing with a lack of resources or an inability to easily reach resources.

When the food that you feed your children is so processed that it can sit out for months (e.g. anything at McDonalds) without changing in appearance, or eating enough of it will alter the hormone makeup of your body, that’s not good for our children’s future health. When the water children drink is orange or brown, that’s not good for their future. When a child’s home can be washed away from flooding or coal sludge because of mountaintop removal mining, that’s not good for their future.

So for the Tea Partiers — or anyone using the “what about our children’s future?” slogan — who also happen to be anti-environmental, the question remains, why does a child’s future count when it comes to the federal deficit but not when it comes to anything else? I’d like to note that I didn’t once mention climate change. Anti-environmentalists like to pull the “I don’t believe in climate change” card to invalidate the environmental movement as a whole, but there can be a discussion on environmental degradation and its negative effects on our children’s future and the discussion need not even mention climate change — what then?  

Many politicians in the recent elections used “our children’s future” as a reason there needed to be change in Washington. I’m curious to see if those same politicians are willing to keep “our children’s future” in mind when it comes to the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the resources available for them and their own children. After all, if you don’t want to leave your kids with a lot of debt, why would you want to leave them with a lot of garbage, pollution, and health problems?

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