The Common Good

Mr. President, You Should Be Ashamed

Sojomail - June 4, 2003

Quote of the Week Woody's war wisdom
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Mr. President, you should be ashamed
Funny Business Finally, some real debate
Building a Movement Paul Loeb: Reclaiming hope after the war
Eco News Religious light-switchers: Devout or deluded?
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch African-American spiritual journeys
Web Scene Victims Trust Fund | Half-baked ideas | Beyond right and left

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If we fix it so's you can't make money on war
We'll all forget what we're killing folks for.

- Woody Guthrie, "Stetson Kennedy"

Mr. President, you should be ashamed
by Jim Wallis

If biblical prophets like Amos and Isaiah had read last week's news about what happened to child tax credits for low-income families, they surely would be out screaming on the White House lawn about the justice of God - and be quickly led away by the Secret Service. The New York Times reported that in a last-minute revision of the tax cut President Bush just signed into law, House and Senate Republicans removed the child tax credit from most families who make under $26,625. This will effectively prevent almost 12 million children, one in every six in America, from receiving any benefit. Middle- and upper-middle income families will see an increase in their child tax credits from $600 to $1,000, but low-income families and their children will be systematically excluded. The inclusion of these families in child tax credit benefits was in the Senate package, but was stripped out in the conference committee, reportedly to make room for more dividend and capital gains tax cuts.

Government spending programs sometimes provoke legitimate concerns about effectiveness. This was not a government spending program. It was a child tax credit that would have put money directly into the hands of our poorest mothers and fathers who are trying desperately to raise their children. "These are the people who need it the most and who will spend it the most," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), whose provision to include low-income families was dropped from the final bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted against the bill, calling the omission "ill-founded" and "unfair." So what does such a clear and revealing decision tell us?

Apparently, what is good for middle- and upper-income families and children is too good for the poor. Apparently, stimulating the economy with middle-class mall shopping is a good thing, but helping the grocery budget for low-income single moms is not. Apparently, reducing taxes on stock dividends and capital gains for our wealthiest citizens was the highest priority for the congressional leaders, and there was simply no room left, under the tax cut ceiling, to do anything for poor families. Apparently, the Republican preference of putting money back into people's hands, rather than spending it on government programs, doesn't apply to the poor. We do have our priorities after all.

Let's tell it like the prophets might have: The decision to drop child tax credits for America's poorest families and children in favor of further tax cuts for the rich is morally offensive. It is blatant disregard for the poor, and an outrageous bias toward the rich. In religious terms, the exclusion of any benefits for poor children in the new tax bill should be named as a political sin. And those politicians who utter the words of religion and faith, yet who supported this exclusion of the poor, deserve to be called hypocrites. The White House, which approves all these choices, engages in moral double talk when it espouses faith-based initiatives, then allows the abandonment of poor families. The Republican House and Senate leaders who made these choices against the poor should be ashamed of themselves.

The day after the Times report, the White House defended the decision to remove the child tax credit from poor families. So, Mr. President, you too ought to be ashamed for allowing something to happen that is so conspicuously wrong.

Perhaps it's time for our religious leaders to head for the White House lawn.

Call to Renewal: Pentecost 2003If you are like many people of faith, the decision to exclude millions of families from the child tax credit in the just-passed tax cut, you are deeply troubled by the blatant disregard for poor people. So are we. So are other Christians from across the country who will convene in Washington, D.C. June 9-11 for Pentecost 2003, a national mobilization to put poor people on the national agenda. We invite you to attend one, two or all three days of Pentecost 2003. Visit our Web site for details on the opening prayer service and processional to the White House next Monday, educational workshops and policy briefings, the Congressional prayer breakfast and more. For a complete event Pentecost 2003 event schedule please visit .

Finally, some real debate

Presented by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

In today's tense political climate, it's tough to express one's honest opinions about the war in Iraq or the Bush administration without being shouted down by the Dixie Chicks and their ilk. Finally, a man has stepped forward to present a courageous voice of dissent - and that man is Texas Governor George W. Bush, candidate for president in 2000. Here's one snippet of this historic debate:

President Bush: "We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free."

Governor Bush: "I don't think our troops should be used for what is called 'nation-building.'"

Whoa, fellas - settle down! We can talk this through diplomatically...can't we?

See the full debate at:
[requires RealPlayer]


CELEBRATION and CHALLENGE - Come hear and share the dreams God is giving to Christian leaders and workers and discuss the challenges as we strive to see these dreams realized at the 30th Anniversary Conference hosted by Evangelicals for Social Action, July 24-27th at Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA. Speakers and seminars will spotlight evangelicals' past accomplishments and future goals in the areas of justice for the poor and holistic ministry.

For more information, go to: or call: 800-650-6600.

Reclaiming hope: The peace movement after the war
by Paul Loeb

Because so many citizens marched, vigiled, lobbied, and otherwise raised our voices, we felt like we might stop the war. An amazing movement bloomed, seemingly out of nowhere. Then Bush invaded nonetheless. And many of us sank into despair.

"I did everything I could," a Minnesota college student told me recently. "I wrote letters and called members of Congress. I marched and held signs. So many other people did too. Then Bush said he wouldn't listen no matter what we did. I felt all our efforts were worthless." The student was young, but people 30 years older expressed the same demoralization - a sense of futility and dashed hopes.

This response risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where a movement that may still be our best hope to transform America dissipates in resignation. To move past the despair many of us are feeling, we're going to need to look at its roots. And then gain enough long-term perspective to remind us why our actions still matter.

Read the full story at:



Paul Loeb presents an alternative vision of hope and courage in his book, SOUL OF A CITIZEN. Loeb describes how ordinary citizens can make their voices heard and their actions count in a time when we're often told neither matter.

"Soul of a Citizen helps us find the faith we need to act on our deepest beliefs - and keep on." - Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund

"Thoughtful and encouraging, Loeb offers a rich spirituality of citizenship for both experienced activists and those just wondering where to begin." - Jim Wallis

To learn more about "Soul of a Citizen," now in its tenth printing, go to:

Religious light-switchers: Devout or deluded?

Umbra Fisk of Grist Magazine, the online eco-mag with a sense of humor, sheds some light on this question:

Dear Umbra,
I am a religious light-switcher, meaning I turn lights off in the bathroom or wherever they're left on. One of my colleagues was under the impression that it takes more energy to turn fluorescent lights on and off than it does to leave them on. I'm shocked! Is this true?

In the dark,


Dearest Dark,
The brilliant Anne Ducey, residential lighting program coordinator at Seattle City Light, laughed with delight when I asked her to settle this debate once and for all. Here's her unflinching bottom line: Turn out the lights if you are the last to leave a room, unless you are coming back within two minutes. Contrary to popular belief, turning lights on consumes no more electricity than they use when already lit. This is true for both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.


For more light reading, visit:

Sojourners Sustainers CircleBlessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
-Matthew 5:9

Join the Sustainers Circle, Sojourners' monthly giving program, with a gift of $10 or more per month and you will receive a complimentary subscription to Sojourners magazine. Join online today at:

Or call 1-800-714-7474 x248.


Mark Costanzo writes from Barberton, Ohio:

The SojoMail piece "FCC plays monopoly with media monsters" [5-28-03] by David Batstone was quite informative. Good job, Sojourners, for spotlighting this! It seems to be indicative of the social and/or economic "Darwinism" that took off in the Reagan '80s and has continued unabated since. Incidentally, does the FCC stand for the Few Control Communications?


John C. Jones writes from New Albany, Indiana:

The verbiage from Darth Rumsfeld regarding Iran sounds all too familiar, very much like that aimed at Iraq a very short time ago. Sounds like we are headed for Mideast domination of every country that does not toe the American line.


Eliacin Rosario writes from Puerto Rico:

After more than 60 years of military invasion, the peaceful people of Vieques and Puerto Rico finally won the war against the [U.S.] Navy. In a time when President Bush can organize, orchestrate, and lead a war with a big show of force, a small island in the Caribbean shows that peace is the real route to life.


Carol Dain writes from Oak Creek, Wisconsin:

In response to Val LeGore's thoughts on tax cuts [Boomerang: 5-28-03], I'm thinking maybe too many of Bush's team took that Tax Policy 101 class she mentions and actually believe it works! And perhaps it would work under less greedy circumstances, but apparently that is not the case in America today. I don't believe for one minute that the money being returned to the "rich" will result in investments in companies that will grow, producing more jobs for more taxpayers or that corporate boards will share their profits with the employees who work for them. The sad fact is that the "rich" don't pay their fair share of taxes now and giving them refunds is ludicrous. I pay approximately 1/3 of my income to one tax or another. If the "rich" were paying this percentage we would have so much money in the coffers we would never hear the word deficit again. Unfortunately, the current budget would indicate that is not the case. So, paying office buildings full of bureaucrats to "administer" programs may not be the best way, but it may be the only way to get them to pay any share, even though it's not their fair share.


Joyce Guard writes from Manchester, Missouri:

There are several statements in [Val LeGore's letter] that I do not think are correct. I have prepared taxes for others for 25 years. On the statement about stock, it really depends upon whether the buyer is purchasing company distributed stock or buying from another investor as to whether the money ends up with the company using it to increase production and jobs.

It is a myth that private companies are necessarily more efficient than government-run entities. After my husband passed away, I had to deal with both government agencies and private enterprise, mainly insurance and stock transfer companies. Social Security won as far as efficiency goes. The insurance company holding my husband's pension did a stall and only after writing the president and threatening them with a lawyer did I see any action. The stock transfer companies were totally inefficient. I have worked both in government and in private enterprise. How well each performs really depends upon the employee's own work ethic.

Bush [Sr.] and Clinton both raised taxes and this country saw one of the longest periods of prosperity. It remains to be seen whether this new tax cut will stimulate the economy or put a drag on the economy because it will increase the nation's debt.


If the "Name-your-favorite-film-of-a-religious-activist" question was a contest, "Romero," the story of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, was the overwhelming favorite.

Some other picks:

"Gandhi "
- from E. Julius Davis

"Brother Sun, Sister Moon," about St. Francis of Assisi
-from Steven Cain of Canton, Ohio

"The Ten Commandments"
- from Pat Cook of Minneapolis, Minnesota

"God's Outlaw," a film about William Tyndale and his experiences while translating the Bible into English.
- from Kristenea M. LaVelle

"Saving Grace" (not the Scot-pot flick, but the one about the pope), "The Golden Child," and for a satirical spin, "Dogma."
- from Father Sean-Michael Lyons of Sussex, New Jersey

"Entertaining Angels," starring Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day and featuring Martin Sheen as Peter Maurin.
- from Linda Coate of Omaha, Nebraska

"Dead Man Walking" (Sister Helen Prejean)
- from Steve Schwartz of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:

African-American spiritual journeys

"This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys" is a six-part series that will air on PBS June 24-26. The series traces African-American history from the early days of slavery in America to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s and into the 21st century, and explores the connections between faith and African-American cultural values. The series was produced by Blackside Inc. and The Faith Project. It was conceptualized by the late Henry Hampton, a filmmaker whose work included "America's War on Poverty," the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning "Eyes on the Prize," and "Malcolm X: Make it Plain." Hampton died in 1998. Lorraine Toussaint, of TV's "Any Day Now" and "Crossing Jordan," narrates the series. Check local TV listings for times or go to

*Victims Trust Fund

Part of the new permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), the Victims Trust Fund will provide direct reparations to victims of atrocities to help them rebuild their lives and communities.

Go to:

*Half-baked ideas

The Halfbakery is a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users. It was created by people who like to speculate, both as a form of satire and as a form of creative expression. It's also pretty hilarious. Caveat: Grammar and spelling are often creative, and taste and political sensitivity are sometimes absent.

Go to:

*Beyond right and left

The old one-dimensional categories of "right" and "left," established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. Take this five-minute quiz to help find your "Political Compass."

Go to:

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