The task of every government is to protect human rights and Primary Social Goods, such as “income, wealth, rights, liberties, opportunities, status, and self-respect” (Shaw & Barry 2011). The issue of business ethics is a primary point that should be taken into consideration when it comes about the economy of the country, reforms that can influence the welfare of citizens and national budget.
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The positions of justice, economic distribution, equality of income, etc are to be considered when a particular political decision comes to action. In this paper we are going to analyze the business ethics of eliminating the federal debt through cuts to entitlement programs that are under close consideration these days.
There are many opponents and supporters to the Obama’s project to push cuts in popular programs in order to reduce the budget deficit. The question to be discussed is how this program can influence citizens and what the ethical issues of this project.
In order to explore this question, first of all, we should consider the sense of business ethics, its basic points and how it is applicable to political issues. According to William H. Shaw (2003), “business ethics is a set of principle or reasons which should govern the conduct of business, whether at the individual or collective level” (p. 2).
The purpose of the business ethics is to introduce the moral issues and a set of values to guide the actions of individual and organizations in the business environment. Everyone who is engaged in business or politics should follow the ethical code to reach the harmony with the community in which one lives.
Some aspects of the business ethics can be explained from the political perspective. “Politics represents the commitment to different basic values and will represent liberal and conservative extremes or some compromise in-between” (Betz 1998, p. 693). It is very important for politicians to follow the ethical code, as they are responsible for lives and well-being of many people.
The case under consideration undermines such issues of business ethics, as justice, morality, distribution of social benefits and burdens. Thus, the case under consideration is presented in the article by Lisa Lerer “Ryan Budget Plan Defended as Republicans Return Home to Voters”.
The case is about the 2012 budget plan “a proposal that cuts more than $6 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, privatizes Medicare and caps Medicaid” (Lerer 2011, n. p.). The budget plan was met with a criticism and provoked many debates. The “fights” around address the political risk opposing Republicans.
The spotlight of the plan is “long-term government deficits that will shape the country’s economic future and frame next year’s elections” (Lerer 2011, n. p.). One of the issues is to reform the Medicare which suggests the cuts in entitlements. This can influence the vulnerable members of society.
The attempts to trim the budget deficit can have negative consequences for people and lower the standards of living.
However, first-term Republican Representative of Pennsylvania Lou Barletta commented on this decision, “This is a defining moment for this generation, that this Congress has the courage to go forward and reform a very difficult issue such as Medicare. We’re doing it even at risk of our own political future” (Lerer 2011, n. p.).
The plan provided by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan suggests to: slash U.S. spending by $6.2 trillion over a decade by cutting Medicare and scores of other programs including Medicaid, food stamps, farm subsidies and Pell college tuition grants. His plan would replace Medicare by providing those under the age of 55 with subsidies to buy private health insurance (Lerer 2011, n. p.)
This plan was taken by Democrats as a headstone of the Republican’s 2012 strategy. They claim that this plan will impact the senior citizens of the United States depriving them of the Medicare benefits. The debates around the program continue to develop. The outcomes of this plan are crucial for U.S citizens, as well as for the political parties, as they will influence the results of the 2012 elections.
It seems that the core idea of this article to shed light on the impact of the 2012 budget plan, but the debate that we can observe in this case raise more important questions, the questions of business ethics. In particular, the responsibilities of government before American citizens, moral issue, justice and social goods.
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In this regard, the case reflects the points raised in the Shaw and Barry book Moral Issues in Business. The first issue that seems to be explicitly discussed in the article is justice. According to Shaw & Barry (2001), “justice is one important aspect of morality.
Talk of justice and injustice generally involves appeals to the related notions of fairness, equality, desert, and rights” (p. 122). Thus, in the article we can see that Democrats emphasize that the plan will be vulnerable to citizens as it will impact their interests and benefits they get.
Thus, we can assume that the plan suggested by Republicans confronts the idea of the distributive Justice that suggests “proper distribution of social benefits and burdens” (Shaw & Barry 2001, p. 104).
In fact, the plan can really seem to be provocative and disadvantageous for senior citizens, however, one should look at it with “open mind” and consider that it is not aimed at impacting people, but enhancing the economic situation in the country, thus the results of this plan will improve the situation in future.
It is crucial that “economic distribution might be based on pure equality, need, effort, social contribution, or merit” (Shaw & Barry 2001, p. 122), and plan seems not demonstrating these traits (which is the main argument of Democrats) and Republicans understand this.
In addition, they understand that they are putting at risk their political future, but they do not see other way to enhance the situation.
What they should do is to provide convincing evidences that their plan will be beneficial for all Americans and that their final goal is to improve the economy of the country so that everybody was satisfied with policies and standards of living because as stated in the book by Shaw & Barry (2011), “Mill contended, more specifically, that the concept of justice identifies certain rules or rights the upholding of which is crucial for promoting well-being and that injustice always involves violating the rights of some identifiable individual” (p. 122).
Thus, it can be very difficult to achieve “common benefits” without some “sacrifices”.
Another ethical issue that can be discussed in this case deals with the relations between parties. Though both of them debate about the plan, the situation reminds the struggle for the political dominance.
They often mention the elections of the 2012, and it seems that they use the plan as tool to protect their political positions and attack a contestant. In this light, they are focused on their personal interests, and not on the interests of citizens, thus, they do not follow the principles of the business ethics.
What they might do is to stop fighting and focus on common aim: to improve the plan so that it was effective and met economic interests, as well as interests of Americans.
Shaw & Barry (2011) provide that “society is a cooperative project for mutual benefit and that justice requires us to reduce the social and economic consequences of arbitrary natural differences among people” (p. 123).
The main task of the government it to remember this statement and make it serve a guide for their actions and decisions.
In the case provided in the article, we can see that political parties do not follow this rule and forget that “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others” (Shaw & Barry 2011, p. 118). Moreover, they seem to protect their personal interests in their debates and not the interests of the nation.
Thus, on the one hand, the case illustrates the points stated in chapter 3 of the book by Shaw & Barry about business ethics, on the other hand, it demonstrates how the principles of the business ethics are violated by political parties. We should emphasize that business ethics is crucial for politicians and they should always remember about it, otherwise they may lose trust and respect of people.
Betz, J. (1998). Business Ethics and Politics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 8 (4) (Oct., 1998), 693-702. Web.
Lerer, L. (2011). Ryan Budget Plan Defended as Republicans Return Home to Voters. Bloomberg Businessweek. Web.
Shaw, W. H. (2003). Ethics at Work: Basic Readings in Business Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shaw, W. H., & Barry, V. E. (2001). Moral Issues in Business. Belmont: Wadsworth.