SOTU: Time for Common Ground for Common Good

By Jim Wallis 2-12-2013
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
President Barack Obama in the House Chamber during his State of the Union Address. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

There was truth tonight in the president’s State of the Union message.

There was truth that the rising costs of health care must indeed be addressed by serious reforms in our Medicare and healthcare system — but  that it’s wrong to put most of that burden on vulnerable seniors, while protecting the most powerful special interests. Truth that you should not reduce the deficit by cuts in crucial investments in education, infrastructure, science, clean energy, or programs for the most vulnerable — but leave billions of dollars in tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthy and well-connected. 

Truth in the compassionate and committed words about “poverty” and “poor” children and families who deserve our attention to find ladders up from poverty. Truth that no one who works full time in the wealthiest nation on earth should have to live in poverty but have a living wage. That quality pre-school should be available to every child in America to create stable and successful families. 

That the “brinksmanship” of moving from one manufactured crisis after another is not the way to find a responsible and balanced path to fiscal sustainability, and that deficit reduction alone is not a plan for economic growth. That our “North Star” should be creating more good paying jobs in America and helping to educate and train our people for them. 

That the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a responsible roadmap to earned citizenship. That climate change is real — that science and destructive weather patterns must not be denied, that our energy must become cleaner and efficient, and that for the sake of our future and our children we must combat climate change. 

That the victims of gun violence “deserve a vote” on necessary and commonsense gun laws, and that politicians deserve accountability for their votes. That we will join allies around the world to eliminate extreme poverty. That our endless wars of occupation should be over and are not the best way to defeat terrorism.

It’s time for Democrats and Republicans who care about common ground for the common good, to find a way to cooperate to solve these critical moral issues. The faith community will lead on “welcoming the stranger” by fixing the broken immigration system as a fundamental moral and biblical issue, and help enable the politicians to do the right thing. And whoever is willing to protect the poor and vulnerable in our fiscal debates while committing to overcome poverty with new opportunities will find the faith community at their back, at their front, and on both sides.

We will also protect the planet God has created for us against the bad science and religion that denies the threats. We will also no longer support the theology of war that has turned our foreign policies into such a disaster for so many lives.

It’s time for the ideological politics of the left and the right to yield to the politics of the common good. And its time not to trust in our politicians to enact even their best words, but to remember that citizens in social movements of conscience will be necessary to hold our leaders accountable.

Jim Wallis is the author of the forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good and CEO of SojournersFollow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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