Balancing the national budget and fixing our moral deficitBy Kurt Willems
The following is my contribution to the Patheos Book Club for Fixing the Moral Deficit.
I recently read, Ron Sider’s newest book, Fixing the Moral Deficit: a balanced way to balance the budget, and found it to be very timely. In an age when poverty is rampant and spending is through the roof, Sider cuts through political agendas and gets to the heart of a biblical approach to budgeting and caring for the poor. I highly recommend this book.
Many Christians are asking questions about the recent debates about our deficit and how best to balance the U.S. budget. Many of us lean a little to the right and hold that cutting programs is the only way to ensure the balancing of our budget and the stimulus of our economy. Others of us to lean toward the left and recognize that we need to cut areas like military spending but also need to ensure that the poor are taken care of and that we do not perpetuate systems of injustice. There are extremes in both directions. If we move too far to the right, we end up with an Ayn Rand sort of libertarianism that essentially functions for the good of the individual and no one else. If we move too far to the left, we end up with a Marxist philosophy that believes everyone should have an equal amount of income and property. Certainly this is an oversimplification of the extremes, but simply to point out that both extremes get things terribly wrong. This is why Ron Sider’s book is so important: It tries to present a balanced way to balance the budget.
Sider effectively gives an overview of the history of the U.S. budget. He also helps us to understand the way in which political philosophy plays into how many people approach politics and budgeting issues. If you feel like you don’t understand national economics as well as you would like, this book helps to cut through the jargon and get down to the facts of how the system works and how it affects rich and poor alike.
Rather than give away the conclusion of the book, I think it might be helpful to lay out some biblical principles Sider uses to guide conversations about government spending. No matter our political philosophy we ought to cling to these seven principles more than any governmental ideology.
(1) Persons are made both for personal freedom and responsibility, and for communal interdependence.
(2) Christians have a responsibility to our neighbors.
(3) God and God’s faithful people have a special concern for the poor. God measures societies by such a standard.
(4) Justice does not demand equal income and wealth, but it does require that everyone has access to the productive resources (land, capital, education) so that, when they act responsibly, they will be able to earn an adequate living and be respected members of society.
(5) Economic equality is not a biblical norm. But economic inequality that harms the poorer members of society and prevents them from gaining access to productive resources is wrong.
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