Forgive Us Our Debt Ceiling?
The recent debate over resolving the debt-ceiling increase saw a religious coalition’s involvement. This isn’t good news. Its members want to prop up the welfare state and wrench even more hard-earned dollars from America’s families.
A handful of traditionally more conservative Christian groups have joined their left-wing counterparts in trying to force working families to underwrite more government spending on “the poor.”
This is the modern fiscal equivalent of Pharaoh ordering the enslaved Israelites to make more bricks but without being supplied the straw to make them.
Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, the U.S. Catholic Conference and other usual liberal suspects include ethnic and racial religious groups. Now they have recruited formerly conservative entities such as Bread for the World and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” the political activists tried to browbeat conservative lawmakers into pumping taxpayer dollars at full force into welfare and wealth redistribution programs.
They claimed to be doing this for the “poor.” The coalition’s slogan, “What would Jesus cut?”, equates federal spending levels with degree of morality.
The “Circle of Pretension” has employed lefty political stunts such as show-prayers in and across the street from the Capitol building, political radio ads in congressional leaders’ states and Beltway lobbying of Congress and the White House.
These big-government activists pled in person to President Obama not to cut spending on welfare programs, including food stamps, Medicaid and WIC (women, infants and children).
Such political activism is its own reward—there’s unlikely to be much of a reward in Heaven for being “compassionate” with other people’s money. Jesus noted that the Pharisees, who excelled at imposing layers of human standards to the Lord’s, practiced their “righteousness . . . [merely] in order to be seen” by other people. The “circle” follows the same practice.
Further, “circle” members advocate indiscriminately for all types of “poor.” Rather than abject destitution, those under the official poverty level live quite well.
The Heritage Foundation recently reported that the officially “poor” in America live in an air-conditioned house or apartment. They have “considerably more living space” than today’s average Europeans or middle-class American families of the 1950s.
The “poor” have a car, cable TV service, two color TV sets, DVD and VCR, a game system like Xbox, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, clothes washer and drier, cordless phone and ceiling fans. They typically aren’t missing meals, many being overweight.
This picture of how the “poor” live and the fact they pay virtually no income taxes (many receive taxpayer subsidies, such as through the Earned Income Tax Credit) should inform every budget and spending decision in Washington .
After all, the bottom 50% of income earners (wages below $33,000) pays only 2.7^% of all federal income taxes. The top 10 percent of earners (total household income of about $114,000) pays almost 70% of the taxes. The “progressive” income tax scheme is working as intended.
This raises a question of fundamental fairness and morality toward the hardworking, taxpaying segment of the public. The self-righteous “circlers” flaking for more and more government spending have avoided this essential question.
Despite the “circle” claiming to speak for Christians, its advocacy has sparked a countervailing effort. An ad hoc coalition is called Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CSE).
CSE’s letter to the President (available at case4america.org) is signed by more than 80 people. Signatories include Mark Tooley of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Marvin Olasky of World magazine and Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
This coalition wrote, “To the question, ‘What would Jesus cut?’, we add the question, “Whom would Jesus indebt?’ The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.”
The bottom line for America is how to put our public sector on fiscally sustainable ground—for the good of all Americans. The welfare state, the disproportionate expropriation of private income and wealth transfer schemes embodied in public programs all make for unsustainable spending patterns.
Moreover, the government is robbing middle- and upper-income Peter to pay Paul—despite the fact Paul has what would amounts to middle-class or upper-income existence in most of the world.
The so-called “Circle of Protection” and the unfair, immoral policies it stands for represent one circle that should be broken.