Why the national budget is a moral issueBy Ron Sider
This blog post is an excerpt from Ron Sider’s new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit.
For almost 50 years, the U.S. government usually has spent more (often much more) than it took in. Continuing that pattern for another 10 or 20 years would lead to economic disaster.
But the problem is not merely financial; it is also immoral, as we see in the two political proposals for the 2012 national budget.
The budget proposed by Paul Ryan, chair of the Republican budget committee, flunks the test of justice for all by providing tax cuts for the rich at the expense of effective poverty-reducing government programs. This federal neglect of “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) defies biblical principles of justice.
The Obama budget flunks the test of intergenerational justice by rightly preserving programs for the poor, but failing to provide a path to a balanced budget. We dare not indefinitely increase the national debt, which future generations will be required to repay. To continue indefinitely borrowing vast sums for current expenditures is like grandpa using his grandchildren’s credit card for things he cannot afford — it is intergenerational injustice.
So, what should we do?
We can start by returning to biblical principles.
A right view of justice. Contrary to what many believe, biblical faith does not demand equality of income and wealth. Wrong personal choices, creative genius and hard work all rightly lead to economic inequality.
But the biblical teaching on the land does provide a significant norm for economic justice. Israel was an agricultural society, so land was the basic capital that enabled people to create wealth. When the Israelites moved into Canaan, God told them to divide the land so that every family had enough to earn a decent living. Every 50 years (Leviticus 25), the land returned to the original owners no matter why they lost it. The prophets declared judgment on powerful people who took the land of the poor, and also predicted that the Messiah’s coming would enable each person to reclaim their own land (Micah 4:4).
The biblical teaching on the land provides an important principle for economic justice: God wants every person to have access to the essential capital so that if they act responsibly, they can earn a decent living and be dignified members of their society.
Comment on the blog post Why the national budget is a moral issue
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.