government spending

Jim Wallis and Richard Land Discuss Evangelicals and 2012 Elections

Tonight, Sojourners and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission are co-sponsoring an event to discuss religion and the 2012 elections. Rev. Wallis and Dr. Richard Land will delve into what they believe the religious issues will be and should be from now until election day.

The event is already turning some heads. A Washington Post article by Michelle Boorstein summed up the unique nature of the event in a headline, "Evangelical opposites to hold discussion on 2012 presidential race."

The Democracy Deficit

THIS PAST SUMMER’S wholly manufactured “debt crisis” contains important lessons for those concerned about the poor. Right-wing Republicans committed to radically cutting government services, including Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, misused a usually routine vote about raising the national debt ceiling, the amount of money the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay its bills. Since everyone knew our bills would have to be paid and the debt ceiling eventually raised, the ceiling wasn’t the point. Cutting government spending was.

As damaging as the specific budget cuts will be, however, the implications of the process are much wider.

First, in addition to the agreed-upon $2.1 trillion in government spending cuts, more are virtually certain. Most economists state that the initial government financial stimulus two years ago was inadequate to revive the economy; most also acknowledge that another, similar or greater, stimulus is necessary and that now is absolutely the wrong time to decrease government expenditures. Despite that, President Obama and a majority of Congress have accepted without question the need to reduce the deficit immediately. Republicans have absolutely ruled out significant tax increases. Given their willingness to threaten the country’s economic stability, new taxes are unlikely. So simple logic requires that if the deficit must be reduced and income can’t be increased, spending must be cut even more. And if history is any guide, the hardest hit will be the poor.

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Can More Taxes Make People Happier?

A new study says that might just be how it works, as long as the taxes are progressive. The study was conducted in 54 nations with over 59,000 respondents. The polling tracked the expressed well being of respondents and then checked for correlations in taxation systems. The end result? On average, those who lived in a country with a highly progressive tax system reported a higher level of quality of life, more positive daily experiences, and fewer negative ones. Overall, people are happier the more progressive their tax system is.

It's an academic paper and the authors don't jump to any political conclusions, but they do provide at least one plausible explanation. The study notes that simply increasing government spending does not increase overall happiness. But people are happier in countries with higher levels of progressive taxation because they are more satisfied with basic government services, such as quality of education and health care.

Solomon's Wisdom and the Debt Ceiling

As the time shortens for Congress and President Obama to agree to the contours of legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, I am reminded of the story of King Solomon and his judgment regarding two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child (I Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon ordered that the living child be cut in two and half a dead child be given to both women. The woman who was the true mother insisted that the living child be given to the false mother. She was willing to give up her righteous claim to save the child's life.