Deal or No Deal

July 26, 2011

As Republicans and Democrats in D.C. fight over competing budget, spending, and tax visions, our nation moves closer to defaulting on our debt and seeing a downgrade in our bond rating. To allow either a default or a downgrade would be a disgraceful and serious mistake by the president and congressional leaders. At the same time, they must be careful not to pass a harmful and misguided plan. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner appear to be moving further apart instead of coming together with a compromise (the photo is one I took of Boehner speaking last month at the conference of Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition). Our nation's debt is clearly immoral (as Boehner correctly called it recently), but it would also be immoral to balance the shortfall by destroying the safety net for the poor in our nation. Last month, I joined people from around the nation for Bread for the World's annual lobby day (see post here). We urged congressional leaders to help form "A Circle of Protection" around programs that protect the poor and hungry. This effort, which is gaining momentum, is still necessary as some congressional leaders propose devastating cuts to programs that have been proven to help the poor and hungry. Last week, President Barack Obama met with a group of Christian leaders promoting "A Circle of Protection." Although Obama's proposals have not fully squared with this effort, he at least took time to listen to the concerns. Several of those involved with the meeting issued reports, including Bread for the World (here), the National Council of Churches (here), and Sojourners (here). Meanwhile, an interfaith group has been meeting daily near the Capitol for public prayer services to lift up the cause of the poor and hungry during the debt discussions. On a similar note, Sojourners and Faith in Public Life got more than 4,000 pastors across the nation to sign an open letter that ran in Politico urging support for "A Circle of Protection." Now, Sojourners is running radio ads in selected districts pushing the issue, such as one in Boehner's district. It is time for Boehner and other congressional leaders to work together to find a way to avoid default and reduce our national debt without hurting the poor and hungry.