IF we extend the metaphor of families to government, we need to extend the whole metaphor. Do American families really live within their means? Or do they do the debt thing?
Think about it. One thing the most successful American families do is strategic debt. They consider some debt to be investment. For example, they invest in infrastructure (a home). The infrastructure debt is not expected to be paid off for an average of 30 years. They are willing to carry this debt as a benefit to the family of having a stable (not meaning animal house) place for the family to live. Payment on this debt is typically about a third of the family income. If our government were to invest as much in our infrastructure, our roads and bridges would be in excellent shape for years to come.
Families invest in transportation. Few buy cars for cash. It is important to have good transportation in order to go to work (job creation) and earn the money to pay the bills (not unlike more people working generating income for the country).
Families invest in energy. Many families are paying more now for high efficiency appliances and insulation in order to save on energy costs in the future.
Families invest in education. They save for college and supplement it with student loans.
Finally, families provide health care and basic living for all members of the household regardless of contribution. There is no grumbling that junior doesn't pay his share. The parents make the most, the parents pay the most.
The conservative argument should be challenged. In light of what really happens in successful families, it sounds like the winner is Progressivism.