I don't agree with conservatives about much, but I do about this: sometimes we think we're entitled to things we can no longer afford. Our rights are, in truth, subject to our right nows. When times change, rights change. To reduce the deficit, we'll have to cut across the board, including entitlement programs.
Conservatives are, obviously, inconsistent about rights. Many cling with pitiable shortsightedness to their right to global supremacy, claiming that it's America's right to win, no matter what. Everyone has to adjust but us, by whom they mean them.
Still, among some deficit hawks like Wyoming's Alan Simpson, there's a sober sense that rights can become beyond our means, and when they do, rights have to be renegotiated.
That's the funny thing about rights. We think of them as permanent, as though they're all inalienable. But no right is inalienable. Rights are man-made priorities. They're pledges we make, ambitious, declared commitments to high aspirations.
We talk about God-given rights. If there is a god, which I doubt, judging by this world, God doesn't grant rights. If God granted rights He would enforce them with laws of nature. Calling rights God-given may facilitate our work to uphold them, but it's still our work.