Monday, August 1, 2011

Who has better moral compass in debt debate?

Religious liberals and religious conservatives agree on one thing: In the debt fight, what matters more than money and politics is morality.

And even if Congress approves today's deal and default is averted, these moral considerations will continue to play a role in the continuing debate over debt, taxes and spending cuts.

But which side has the better moral compass?

The dominant view from the left: It's immoral to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly.

The dominant view from the right: It's immoral to saddle our children and grandchildren with debt.

Each side has quoted biblical passages to support their cause.

In fact, both even quoted from the same book in the Bible.

In a radio ad campaign launched last week, Sojourners' Jim Wallis and other liberal Christian leaders attacked a House Republican plan by saying that Proverbs "teaches that where there is not leadership a nation falls and the poor are shunned while the rich have many friends."

Meanwhile, earlier this year, on "The Coral Ridge Hour," a TV program broadcast by the conservative Coral Ridge Ministries, author William Federer cited Proverbs 13:22, which says that "a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children."

Then, in case you're keeping score, another group weighed in that tends to agree with conservative Republicans on some issues (abortion, same-sex marriage) and with liberal Democrats on others (immigration, budget cuts affecting the poor.)

I'm talking about the U.S. Catholic Bishops. In a letter last week to the GOP-controlled House, they said that "the framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”

Also entering the debt drama -- but from stage right -- was another heavyweight religious group: The Southern Baptist Convention. Its Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission joined more than 200 other conservative groups in sponsoring a "Cut, Cap, Balance Pledge" that amounted to an endorsement of the House Republicans' plan.

"Our government is borrowing 41 cents of every dollar it spends," said ERLC President Richard Land. "That is generational theft. We're stealing our children's and our grandchildren's future. If something drastic isn't done and done quickly, our grandchildren will spend their entire working lives paying off our debts."

So: Which moral compass should guide Congress and the Obama administration in the months ahead?

Is there a middle way that enshrines compromise? Or would that amount to an abandonment of principles?

Will the religious left ever admit that, for Medicare to be available for future generations, some shifts in benefits may be necessary?

Will the religious right ever see that part of the reason for the big deficit is that some programs championed by conservatives -- the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- were put on a the federal credit card?

And where does statesmanship figure in this discussion over what's moral and what's not?

One last question: What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think we shouldn't be looking for our moral compass from a book written in the Bronze Age.

Jesse said...

That book is far newer than the Bronze Age and certainly provides a better moral compass than any contemporary work. As for choosing sides in the argument, both points being made are correct. The error is in choosing to ignore one side over the other. A truly moral solution will require implementing significant changes to government at all levels that return government to the basic functions for which God ordained it, i.e., providing security for the people, along with insuring social, legal, and economic justice for all.

kantstanzya said...

You have posed a false argument.Typical for the left.

The right does not believe it is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and elderly. Vibrant Capitalism (fueled by low tax rates) is the best catalist to a strong economy. A strong economy equals increased tax revenues (which should be the goal anyway) and more money for the governemnt to help the truely needy.

In order to grow government and services the liberals will use a ridiculous definition of "poverty". According to the definition of "poverty" there are now 43 million Americans classified as poor. How do they live according to the census bureau?

3 out of 4 have air conditioning.

50% have a computer

3 out of 4 have cable or satellite

typical family has 2 color TVs,a VCR, DVD player.

1 out of 3 has a wide screen TV

only 1 out of 70 is homeless

only 1 out of 10 lives in a trailer, the rest live in homes or apartments.

only 1.3% of all children experienced "low food security".

99% of "poor" children did not skip a single meal during 2009 because of lack of financial resources.

If you want to see how the poor and elderly really live in adverse conditions go to a socialist country. A country where because of big government the GDP is low, unemployment high and standrads of living for everyone much lower.

The Democrats continue to promote programs that cause the very problems they claim to want to solve. But to them it is all about increasing the size of government.

Anonymous said...

Sounds as though the liberal confuse poor with lazy

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