The Common Good

The Ryan Budget and Moral Cowardice

Sojomail - March 22, 2012

 QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Iranians see our page and break down with excitement. They always thought we hated them. The power of this initiative is that it bypasses governments." - Michal Tami, an Israeli who with her husband, Roni Edry, launched a Facebook page to Iranians saying, “We will never bomb your country. We love you,” that has received daily responses from hundreds of Iranians. (Source: Haaretz)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

 GUEST COMMENTARY by Lisa Sharon Harper


The Ryan Budget and Moral Cowardice

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support
Sojourners

Remember Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget, The Path to Prosperity? Well, it’s baaa-aaack — and this time the path is smoother and wider and offers a quicker trip to judgment.

Christianity and most of the world’s faith traditions explicitly demand protection for the poor and the preservation of the lives and dignity of all. Well, the Chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan, high-tails it down his Path, budget rolled in-hand, in the exact opposite direction from those moral commitments.

Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), concluded that the Ryan budget “is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation's history)."

Any responsible budget plan requires a balanced approach that would both increase revenue and reduce spending. This proposal would cut taxes, merely hope for revenue, increase military spending, and slash most everything else that isn’t protected by large corporate interests.

Ryan gives further tax cuts to the wealthy in a plan that would simultaneously increase the effective tax rates on low and moderate-income people. This completely fails to acknowledge that on our current course, well over half of our projected debt by 2019 has been caused by the Bush-era tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, we have a revenue problem.

What you need to know about our federal budget is that about two-thirds of it is what’s called “mandatory spending.” Programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid mostly make up that part of the budget. The other third is “discretionary spending” and includes money for core defense spending, education, roads, scientific research, and other programs for low-income people. About half of all “discretionary spending” is spent on defense.

Ryan claims that the budget is bold and makes tough choices, but it doesn’t.

When it comes to the “mandatory spending” Ryan’s plan kicks any problems down the road a decade. Cost reductions — by turning Medicare into a voucher system — would start in 10 years and undermine the primary commitment of the program: guaranteed health coverage for senior citizens.

When you look at the “discretionary spending” side, Ryan not only takes the idea of cutting military spending off the table, he significantly increases the core defense budget. While the plan doesn’t yet specify all of the additional “discretionary spending” cuts Ryan would like to see, the CBPP put it this way: If the Ryan plan were enacted, “by 2050, most of the federal government aside from Social Security, health care, and defense would cease to exist.”

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) — an effective program that helps millions of families survive their toughest days by making sure that, if nothing else, they have food on the table — would end up squeezed and then block granted.

One of the reasons why SNAP works so well right now is that its funding has the flexibility to fluctuate up and down when there is a change in need. Block granting the program would send a fixed amount of money to states and take away one of the main reasons it works so well in the first place.

Ryan, as a Catholic, has flagrantly disregarded the moral counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which released a statement on March 6 affirming the following:

“Congress should base decisions on the federal budget on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity, whether they put the needs of the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed first, and whether they reflect the shared responsibility of government and other institutions to promote the common good of all, especially workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.”

Not only does his budget fail to meet the basic teachings of Ryan’s religious tradition, the plan shows moral cowardice. I don’t know any world in which a “tough choice” is piling benefits on the already rich and powerful while asking people who are already struggling to pay for it.

Though the vulnerable may not have Super PACs or gangs of lobbyists fighting for them, they do have us — people of faith. And our faith compels us to fight this immoral budget.

We are committed to pray and fast and write letters and raise our voices in the public square in the hope that America’s conscience might be awakened from a sound, silent slumber. And that together we might recommit our nation to the task of preserving the lives and dignity of all — especially the least of these.

Lisa Sharon Harper is the director of mobilizing at Sojourners. She is also co-author of Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat.

E-mailE-mail this article to friends
FacebookShare this article on Facebook
CommentComment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


 ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

The American Way of Eating Everyone Wants to Eat Well
by Rachel Stone

In The American Way of Eating, Tracie McMillan goes undercover in farm fields, in the Wal-Mart produce department, and at Applebee's to explore common assumptions that food-movement types make about the way many Americans eat: that many of us are overweight and unhealthy because we just don't "care" enough about the quality of our food--with people who are poor "caring" the least.

'Blue Like Jazz': The Sojourners Interview
by Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt sat down with the makers of Blue Like Jazz — Donald Miller, director Steve Taylor and lead actor Marshall Allman. The wide-ranging interview covers everything from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and what Miller calls "dangerous theological ideas" to the astounding grace of God and peanut butter cups. Fascinating and funny, the conversation with the hearts and minds behind Blue Like Jazz is a humdinger.

Remembering Pope Shenouda III: 'A Heart for Unity'
by Wes Granberg-Michaelson

One can hope that the outpouring of regard and respect for this Christian leader from throughout Egyptian society can be an occasion for reconciliation, easing the rising tensions and suffering of this ancient Christian community. As hundreds of thousands have gathered to pray and mourn during these days, Muslims have been offering them water and sandwiches.

Clooney and Others Arrested at DC Protest (Video)
by Sandi Villarreal

Actor George Clooney was arrested along with his father and several U.S. congressmen during a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. Friday morning. Clooney has been in Washington, D.C., much of last week advocating on behalf of Sudan--where he recently visited with Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast. He recorded his findings there, including the bombing of civilians in Sudan's Nuba Mountains. Clooney says Sudanese officials are blocking humanitarian aid to the region, effectively starving its people.

Mike Daisey’s #Fauxpology and other Media-Survival Hashtags
by Elizabeth Palmberg
 

And, as we all know, Daisey is just the latest link in a long chain of non-apologizers. #circumpentance: Giving a vague approximation of repentance while sidestepping the real issue, often by misusing the word "if" or other rhetorical footwork. For example, Daisey's statement: "the audience of This American Life … if they feel misled or betrayed, I regret to them as well." (Related term, already in use: #fauxpology.)

'I'm on Food Stamps. Don't Hate Me For It."
by Vicki Jones

I'm not writing this to ask for support. I am so blessed to be able to make ends meet and continue my education. I am writing this because I'm tired of the hate. I'm tired of being embarrassed. And I'm tired of the ignorance. Unless you've lost everything, you cannot possibly understand what drives someone to accept food stamps. How hard it was for them. How they cried when they submitted the application. How they are made to feel ashamed for accepting help.


 SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Why Liberty Needs Justice: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film by Lisa Sharon Harper
Christianity Today
This is not a film about political pundits bantering back and forth exchanging policy talking points. Instead, it's about two very ordinary people, their deep faith in Jesus, and how that faith is leading them to engage two of the most consequential grassroots movements of our time. These movements have one beautiful thing in common: they are groundswells of ordinary citizens reengaging their democratic civic duty, letting their messages be heard and considered in the public square.

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

 
 

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!
 
 
 
  

Duke University Chapel in Durham, NC, seeks Director of Community Ministry. Successful applicants will be ordained in a mainline tradition, and have 3+yrs experience of community engagement around social disadvantage. More...
 

Scarritt-Bennett Center, an urban, non-profit education/retreat center is seeking an Executive Director. Click for more information.
 

Inspiring Christians to change the wind since 1971. Subscribe to Sojourners today!
 

Immigration - What do you think? Though most people living in the United States have immigrant ancestry, our nation’s immigration policy has not welcomed strangers. Explore this topic with Sojourners’ downloadable study guide.

 

  
 


Click Here!
 

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.