I’m in Indianapolis today preparing for the Frassati Society’s LIVE OUT LOUD Conference, where I’m a keynote speaker.
But I wanted to offer a couple quick comments about the debt ceiling debate which is now entering it’s final critical days in Washington, DC.
As you may have seen, the U.S. Bishops – under Bishops Blaire and Hubbard (remember him?) – have issued a letter to the U.S. House entitled, “Budget Cannot Rely on Disproportionate Cuts in Services to Poor Persons, Requires Shared Sacrifice by All.”
Now this statement is interesting to me on many levels. First it is only addressed to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives … not the Democrat-controlled Senate or President Obama. It strikes me as odd that these two bishops would address their concerns to only 1/3rd of the legislative process.
Actually, on second thought, it isn’t so odd. Because Democrats have demonstrated that they are incapable –or at least profoundly unwilling– to cut or reform social welfare programs.
David French at NRO’s The Corner has an excellent post on this topic which asks the fundamental question that needs to be answered – how does giving money to failed programs actually help the poor?
After literally decades of failed social policies — policies that have helped create a permanent underclass, fostered a dependent spirit in millions of citizens, and helped explode the illegitimacy rate (all for the low, low price of several trillion dollars) — it would be tempting to roll our eyes at [these examples of] christianized socialism. Unfortunately, however, the evangelical progressive Left is gaining ground in American Christianity.
Sadly, this same progressive left is alive and well in (some) quarters of the US Bishops Conference. French goes on to illustrate – complete with charts and video – a strong argument for how social welfare programs have not only failed to do what they say they are designed to do – assist the poor and needy – but have actually made matters worse, for a price that more and more of us are coming to realize is truly exorbitant.
The line from the letter by Bishops Blaire and Hubbard about the need to “raise adequate revenues” and encourage “shared sacrifice by all” is particularly distressing, because translated into policy it simply means raising taxes on those who make enough to already pay taxes. As I saw someone put it in the comments to French’s post, “Charity is not the willingness to take from somebody in order to give to somebody else.”
I’ve been following the debt ceiling debate in Washington, DC closely, and I do think prudentially the debt limit must be raised. But the idea that the way to solve our mushrooming debt and ever-expanding deficit is to take more money out of our pocket and give it to government programs that will squander it is one we can’t discard too soon, that is, if we are truly serious about helping the poor.
I highly recommend you read French’s post on NRO and, if you have time, Yuval Levin’s post explaining what is the single biggest driver of our future debt and insolubility (as a preview, the Church’s teaching on end-of-life issues is only going to become more critical in the decades ahead).
In the meantime, please join me in praying for a good outcome in the debate over the debt and deficit this weekend. All of us have a lot to gain or lose in this.
UPDATE: For more weekend reading, Victor Hansen looks at the deeper ideological differences which he says are underlying the current debate over policy in DC.