The Common Good

Our Fiscal Soul and the Arithmetic of Protecting the Poor

Date: December 6, 2012

The discussion we are having about "the fiscal cliff" is really a debate about our fiscal soul. What kind of nation do we want to be? We do need a path to fiscal sustainability, but will it include all of us -- especially the most vulnerable? It's a foundational moral choice for the country, and one with dramatic domestic and deadly global implications. It is the most important principle for the faith community in this debate.

I had a recent conversation with an influential senator on these fiscal issues. I said to him, "You and I know the dozen or so senators, from both sides of the aisle, who could sit at your conference table here and find a path to fiscal sustainability, right?"

"Yes," he said, "we could likely name the senators who would be able to do that." I added, "And they could protect the principle and the policies that defend the poor and vulnerable, couldn't they?"

"Yes," he said, "We could do that too." "But," I asked, "Wouldn't then all the special interests come into this room to each protect their own expenditures; and the end result would be poor people being compromised, right?"