July 26, 2011

Deal or No Deal

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.


  1. I'm definitely not a fan of Jim Wallis or Sojourners, or his view of Scripture or of the role of government, but I am sympathetic to his point on cuts.

    One of the points in the "circle of protection":
    "A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits."

    The standard Republican argument, however, as held up in the official GOP budget (the Ryan plan) is that cutting these programs is howyou create jobs and spur growth. Boehner was just stating last week that "every government job cut creates a private sector job," and every dollar reduction in government spending represents an increase in savings and investment in the private sector.

    So, the argument that cutting social programs hurts the poor runs counter to repeated GOP statements that spending on those programs is what prevents economic growth. One can't have it both ways.

  2. You are right that both sides cannot be correct (and in reality, there is some truth in both the Democratic and Republican beliefs). The Republican idea that no jobs are created with government spending, however, is simply not true. Although some selected cuts will help spur economic growth, that statement is not true for all programs. In fact, many of the programs being targeted (like SNAP, unemployment benefits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit) actually create more economic growth than they cost. Thus, although I agree with you that Wallis is not always right, he and the others are right on this.

  3. I didn't see this comment earlier, sorry. I was just giving the Republicans' talking point, it's not one I subscribe to. (Republicans quit listening to economists a long time ago...)