Whom Would Jesus Indebt?

Whom Would Jesus Indebt? August 2, 2011

One of the gravest dangers of the Budget Control Act passed yesterday is that it could provide Americans with a false sense of security.  Washington has finally taken action.  The crisis has passed.  The sky is brightening, the trees are parting before us and — we’re out of the woods.  Right?

Alas, but no.  Not only are we deep in the dark heart of the forest, but we’re still walking in the wrong direction.  The pace may have slowed, but the trajectory has not.  The immediate cash-flow crisis has passed, but the long-term solvency crisis remains.  We are still borrowing enormous amounts of money, still selling our children into debt slavery through our own spending insanity.  While the Budget Control Act (best summarized by Keith Hennessey) is intended to reduce the deficit (the difference between expected revenues and planned spending, or the amount we have to borrow in order to spend what we want to spend) in the years to come, it does not reduce the debt (the amount the federal government owes).  It slows — by a little — the rate at which the debt grows, but the debt is still astronomical and still swiftly growing.

So make no mistake: the Budget Control Act doesn’t put a dent in the mountain of debt our government has accrued.  If the commitments of the BCA are fulfilled, then we will add to that mountain at a slightly-less-manic pace than before, but the very purpose of the act was to enable the big Beltway spenders to make the mountain bigger.  Worse, the BCA leaves completely unchanged the social and political dynamics that have led to this debt in the first place.  Our political elite are addicted to spending.  It’s how they curry favor, it’s how they win elections, and it’s how they exercise and enjoy their power.  They’re perfectly willing to borrow money to feed the addiction, because they have a credit card.  The name on the credit card is: You and Your Children.

One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy.  A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.”  But we don’t need to protect the programs.  We need to protect the poor.  Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs.  Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations.  Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?

It is immoral to ignore the needs of the least of these.  But it’s also immoral to ‘serve’ the poor in ways that only make more people poor, and trap them in poverty longer.  And it’s immoral to amass a mountain of debt that we will pass on to later generations.  I even believe it’s immoral to feed the government’s spending addiction.  Since our political elites have demonstrated such remarkably poor stewardship over our common resources, it would be foolish and wrong to give them more resources to waste.  What we need are political leaders committed to prudence and thrift, to wise and far-sighted stewardship, and to spurring a free and thriving economy that will encourage the poor and all Americans to seize their human dignity as creatures made in the image of God, to be fruitful and take initiative and express their talents and creativity.

This is why I was a part of creating a group called Christians for a Sustainable Economy.  We wrote a Letter to the President and Congressional Leaders.  Here is a section:

Both parties have failed. Our common resources have been stewarded unwisely and the United States is trillions of dollars in debt. We have reached a breaking point. Fiscal recklessness must stop. Just as we should not balance the budget “on the backs of the poor,” so we should not balance the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

Even as the debt-ceiling crisis passes, the long-term challenge of making federal spending wise and effective remains. We recommend three steps:

1.                   Correctly identify the problem.

The debt disaster is a spending issue. Tax revenues are finite, while the growth of government is unceasing. By any measure, federal spending has skyrocketed, from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. We presently borrow over forty cents of every dollar we spend. While increasing taxes will generate additional revenues and reduce the deficit in the short term, it will ultimately harm the economy, constrain economic growth, and hasten the out-of-control growth of government. To give more money to Washington is to give the sickness the remedy it requests. The last thing the government needs is more money. It needs to cease its unwise and profligate spending.

2.                   Put narrow political interests aside.

Entrenched political interests stagnate reform. Every cent of government spending must be on the table, for ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ priorities alike. The stated intention of helping the needy does not make poverty programs sacrosanct. Some of these programs ‘serve’ the poor so well that they make more people poor and keep them in poverty longer. Stop the demagoguery against those who propose substantive changes to entitlements and social welfare programs.

3.                   Lead for the long term.

Americans yearn for, and deeply appreciate, leaders who embrace a burden of responsibility that transcends the implications of the next election cycle. While we agree that budgets are moral documents insofar as they reflect values and decisions for which we are morally culpable, long-term budget plans are morally meaningful promises we make to later generations. Right now we are morally failing our children and grandchildren by selling their future flourishing for our present comfort. In hard times, true leaders make hard decisions. We encourage you to put aside political calculations and the pressures of special interest groups to make commitments that are in the long-term interest of the American economy and the American people.

Read the whole letter here.  The religious left has monopolized the language of morality and justice when it comes to matters of government spending.  If we should ask, “What would Jesus cut?”, then we should also ask “Whom would Jesus indebt?” and “Whom would Jesus make dependent on government?”  Since the poor are the first ones hurt by a damaged economy and high unemployment, there is a deeply moral case to be made for serving “the least of these” through policies that promote a flourishing economy and culture.

I am deeply concerned.  Deeply concerned that we lack the political will, the political culture, and the general culture that will be necessary to rebuild an economy that flourishes and sustains.  I’d encourage you to sign the letter.  Let’s form a coalition of concerned Christians who are committed to rebuilding.  Promoting a broader vision of the full counsel of scripture when it comes to matters of spending and debt — and promoting a culture of thrift and stewardship, of creativity and industry, or liberty and opportunity, of life and family — and holding our national leaders accountable to look past the calculations of political advantage and make decisions that will serve our economy and our nation well for generations to come — these are all steps in the right direction, steps that will turn us around and lead us out of the woods.

Let’s begin now — prayerfully, charitably, and deliberately, but now.  The stakes are high.

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  • You have summarized my concerns very well here, Tim.

  • Kevin s.

    Yep. I’m glad this effort is moving forward.

  • RJ

    “The poor” – A catch all phrase that includes lots of different people. Poor because a natural disaster destroyed their livelihood, poor because they suffer a health crisis and lose their jobs, poor because a greedy lawyer was able to convince a moronic judgment against them without reasonable cause… I can sympathize with all of these people. I might help them too, but their need does NOT give them a RIGHT to somebody else’s property. Property rights are the most fundamental human rights and yet we seize (through taxation), the labor and property of others to help the “poor”. Then, you have those who are poor because they wouldn’t study, won’t work and aren’t responsible. Most of the poor fall into this category. Their demands for help are immoral, grand theft, highway robbery in the gravest sense of the word. Christians (and I use the term loosely) are always talking about helping the poor, but Paul said if a man won’t work neither should he eat, so clearly there are different categories of poor. When will we start making the distinction!

    • Gordon Richens

      Agreed. However there are many individuals who occupy themselves with “work” and “study” of subjective, or even dubious, utility. Society needs to acquire an ethos that encourages the individual to seek personal improvement for its own sake and in moderation, without expecting compensation from the state.

    • Strophios

      “Most of the poor fall into this category”? That’s insanity, you realize, especially now with unemployment running at over 9%. Just so we’re clear, unemployment is not at 9% because people don’t feel like working. Unemployment is at 9% because there are no jobs.*

      Also, is there are particular reason that taxes that go to helping to poor are so wrong, as opposed to taxes for other things, like the military, public roads, the police, public schools etc.? Cause I can think of no reason why they would be.

      Finally, just in case: no, taxes are not theft. Certainly not as any sort of principal (one could argue, for instance, that taxes imposed by an authoritarian state might be some sort of theft, but that doesn’t even really hold up for reasons that will momentarily be clear). I’ll keep this short: show me a dollar you earned without utilizing a government service (note that this includes police, fire department, public roads, public schools, laws, etc.) and I’ll show you a dollar which to tax would be theft.

      *You seem to imply that this can’t be the case, as your categories of poor are seem to be: irresponsible, “natural disaster,” poor by medical condition, and lawyered to poor. You are completely ignoring the unemployed (as noted), those with jobs which do not pay a living wage, those with jobs which do pay a living wage but a poor one, etc. etc.

    • Gordon

      Well said, but doesn’t fit well on a bumper sticker or as a zinger in a political speech. Therefore, most people can’t process it. What would Jesus cut? That I can digest with my morning pop-tart.

      • Gorden, what would Jesus cut???? definitely not the poor;
        New Testament passages
        “Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21
        “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35
        “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40
        “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” Luke 4:18
        “So he replied to the messengers, Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” Luke 7:22 [ E-book: The Kingdom strikes back ]
        “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33
        “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Luke 14:13
        “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Luke 18:22
        “Beware of the teachers of the law . . . They devour your widows’ houses . . . Such men will be punished severely.” Luke 20:46-47
        “‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” John 12:5
        “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36
        “Cornelius stared at him in fear. What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'” Acts 10:4
        “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” Acts 24:17
        “On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'” Romans 12:20
        “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” Romans 15:26
        “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Galatians 2:10
        “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” 1 Timothy 5:3
        “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
        “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” James 2:2-6
        “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
        They should cut their own budgets their paychecks no one should have the checks that all the government employees have.What a waste of tax payers money And how about the presidency, they keep getting paid till the die Why>? They should be happy they got the honor to be a president of a mighty nation,I bet if you tell someone they will only get minimum wages or a little better they would be jobs in this gov for allot of young kids just getting out of college. The house stays in until they die on the job most of them don’t even know where they are all day they just show up,what’s the intelligence in that?Step out and let someone else have a chance, we are still a monarchy just looks different with out crowns. As far a Social Security that is your own money they used for their own purpose to draw intrest on all those years and you are intitled to get your S.S.Retirement that is what is all about, if you live long enough to get it.

    • No Not really most of the poor are on medicare of some sort and are not able to work any more I have seen in my profession mentally retarded people working in Market Walmart etc. Also the ones who are not as educated some are drop out but others dropped out because they had to work for their family who could not use birth control and kept having baby’s You can’t have it both ways because of church and government and what people are told in churches and how they live their religious rights etc.The real stinker’s are the very young on drugs and having babies on drugs and staying home for years going to meth clinics etc. I do not agree with Meth clinics, they go right back out after treatment and they know they can go back to the meth clinic. Very costly.Abortion clinics are the biggest frauds in the world and they keep getting money to destroy innocent lives.KJV Psalms 94

      • John Atherton

        Just having worked in Medical Detox for 2 and 1/2 years, Methadone is a real problem.

    • It’s always real easy to blame the poor. Who are of course lazy and disrespectful. I call it grand theft of their dignity. We have no rights to property. It is all a gift from God which we are to use for others. I know plenty of rich people whose main labor is getting good lawyers to enable them to lie cheat and steal with impunity. And being Christian I don’t say most rich are like that.

  • Laurel

    The only thing I disagree with on this subject is the word “entitlement” as it is used politically for the purpose of taking away Social Security. We have paid into Social Security our whole lives and just as we are getting close to receiving the benefit of what we have paid into, some people want to call it a “hand-out” and get rid of it for “the greater good” of the economy. Social Security is NOT an entitlement, we worked and paid for it. Yes, the debt should not be pushed forward for our children’s children to pay for it but neither should millions of your parents be pushed into poverty.

    • Stu in SDGO

      Nonsense. Check out the total dollars you paid in Social Security taxes over your lifetime, and the compare that to what you are projected to receive over the course of 20+ years of SS checks. You (and we all) should receive that which we contributed; nothing more, nothing less – until separate accounts are established for all (which has been fought for a generation by every elected Democrat – and some RINOs)!

    • SonnyJim

      A common misconception. You have not paid into social security your whole life for you; you have paid into social security you whole life for your grandparents, or someone else’s grandparents. It’s not your money for your account, it’s your money for someone else’s account. I know that the demagogues try to make you feel that you are simply saving for yourself, but you’re not. You are now waiting on the new generation of workers to begin paying into your account. You need to hope that your parents die soon so that they don’t use up all of your money since your grandparents are already living too long and using up some of theirs.

    • SonnyJim

      On further thought, most of your money probably went towards paying for my immigrant grandparents-in-law who received Social Security for twenty plus years without ever having paid into it themselves.

      Sorry about that.

    • Hale Adams

      Laurel, you say that you and many millions of your fellow Americans (myself included) have paid untold sums into the Social Security system for many years, and that it would be wrong to dismantle it. What, precisely, have our SocSec taxes paid for? What tangible assets have those monies bought? Where is the “bank account”, so to speak, that our money went into? You can’t point to anything, Laurel, because there isn’t anything to point to.

      What our SocSec tax money paid for was a bunch of promises made by politician to previous generations, and it is those previous generations– now retired– that are living at your and my expense. Similarly, when we get old enough to collect SocSec checks, it is the generations after us who will pay for those checks. Can you say “intergenerational Ponzi scheme”? You can? I knew you could!

      If you want to argue that we can’t shut SocSec down tomorrow, I won’t argue with you. But it DOES need to be shut down, if only over the course of a generation, before it eats our children alive with the debt it would impose on them.

      To NOT shut it down is the immoral choice, Laurel.

    • b

      In a fuzzy way you are right, but the math is not so clear cut. The average person is receiving substantially more in benefits than he contributed.

      The situation is similar to these public sector pensions and the whinging refrains of the cops/firefighters/teachers/guards/etc who moan that the pensions are owed to them, because after all, they contributed for 20 years. But the value of the pensions *vastly* exceed the contributions. Now, regarding Social Security:

      “Example: A male average earner who retired at age 65 in 2010 paid out $345,000 in total Social Security and Medicare taxes, but will receive $417,000 in total lifetime benefits ($464,000 for a woman).

      A much bigger disparity in taxes versus benefits occurs for couples. In the case of a household with only one wage earner, the taxes paid out were $345,000, but the benefits received by both parties will be $778,000. For two-earner couples where one earned the average wage and the other earned a low wage ($19,400), tax payout was $500,000, but benefits will be $800,000.

      Source: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/retirement/social-security-benefits-vs-taxes

    • Susan

      At the time when Social Security was established-1930s before we were born-those those who worked paid to sustain those retired, the widows and the poor; The Theology of Social Security.

      We do not pay Social Security to fund our own retirement, help our own widowed mothers and our own poor in our community but through goverenment force we fund retirement of another, help another’s widowed mothers and aid another’s own poor in the community.

      The Theology of Social Security; taking away our own personal responsibily to provide our own retirement,help our own widowed mothers, and aid our own poor in our communities then turning this responsibility over to the government to provide is the great curse upon our nation which was passed down from our great grandparents, grandparents and parents.

      WHen we turned away from God’s blessings and began to tithe to the government our future became unsustainable and today we are witnessing the curse of our ways.

      Those currently on Social Security must be the first to stand and declare the moral argument for Social Security is a deceitful lie against God’s teachings.

      God offers the promise of eternal sustainment, Social Security offers inevitable bankrupcy.

      • Yes Susan, this is the issue American’s have to face, it started with women’s liberation and work, but most families were in the low to very low income because of the wages, so woman started baby sitting and then during the war they worked in the mills in place of their husbands, the need was there. The children did not suffer as much back then because they knew it was not a permanent fixture and i never believed this, that it would hurt womanhood and families but as you can see it has. Lock Key children with nothing on their hands and no supervision can get into, you name it and their parents would be the last ones to ever find out.So much has changed and i guess our country needs a complete overhaul. Our children don’t know their parents any more because they barely see them or have the fun and time to do things together Family deterioration has allot to go with the way people think and how they handle their lives. NO love? No caring,you reap what you sow.

    • richard40

      I don’t actually recall many talking about totally abolishing SS. But things like gradually raising the retirement age, having a lower COLA for those with means, and other minor changes would make a huge difference in gov debt, and even improve the long term viability of the fund. Opposing minor changes like that, and trading a few extra dollars now for bankruptcy later, is completely foolish, and selfish. I also think young poeoples hould have the right to partly opt out with private retirement accounts, so in the future they will have a retirement fund they own, and wont be dependment on gov.

    • Jordan

      I’m sorry you were lied to your entire life Laurel, but Social Security has never been a retirement fund you “paid into.” It is, and has been, a social welfare program, with your money being used to support people currently on it. Your whole life your money has been taken to pay for those currently receiving S.S. checks, and when (if) you receive S.S. checks, that money will come out of MY paycheck. I will be supporting you, just like you supported all the strangers you never met, and probably didn’t want to support. Well, guess what- I am 26, and I am pretty darn sure that Social Security won’t be around when I retire. Is it fair for you to demand that you be allowed to rob me, just because you were robbed your entire life? I feel for you, I really do, but we just can’t afford to pay for your retirement.

  • Brantley Gasaway

    RJ, I’d be interested if you have any evidence concerning your claim that “most of the poor” are impoverished because “they wouldn’t study, won’t work and aren’t responsible.” That is quite a bold claim.

    Tim, do you envision your group as the opposite of the religious left (Wallis, et al.)–or do you affirm some of their proposals? For example, Wallis and Ron Sider often compare the amount of money spent on the military to the amount put into social services. Are you also calling for an incredibly reduced military budget since it is disproportionately responsible for the government spending that is out of control–or only reduced “poverty programs”?

    What constitutes legitimate government spending?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Brantley, personally, I believe that a strong defense is in our national interest for a variety of reasons, but I suspect that we can strengthen the military and still find waste and unnecessary spending to reduce. If we keep spending the amount we’re spending, we’re going to find ourselves so mired in debt and economic stagnation that we’re unable to afford anything resembling the military we afford now.

      The group, Christians for a Sustained Economy, does not define itself against everything Wallis et al are for. We generally believe that every cent should be on the table, as we said, for Democratic and Republican priorities alike.

      • Brantley Gasaway

        Thanks for the response, Tim. I trust you’ll take the following two observations as helpful feedback from one who studies evangelicals and not partisan critique:

        First, how is this different than what Wallis does? Yes, yes, he claims to be neither right nor left, but we both know that he always comes down in support of Democratic economic policies. Fine. But, your group also claims to critique both Democratic and Republican priorities–and I don’t see that in your letter. It seems to include most Republican (albeit not Tea Party) talking points. What I see is that you all are (as you seem to admit) counterbalancing the ostensible religious left. Again, I use the military budget as an example. I am astounded that, as Christians, the letter of your group has nothing to say about that. (As an Anabaptist, I would be happy if we couldn’t afford anything resembling the military we have now, but that is for a different day.)

        Second, I find the defensive tone of your group’s letter a surprising development. As you know, it has been Wallis, et al. on the defensive for decades, lamenting the ostensible hegemony of the Religious Right. But to see conservatives now asking for the same access or influence as the Religious Left indicates that the grounds have shifted. Perhaps that is primarily due to our current president’s sympathy (and relationship) with Wallis and other political progressives. I need to think more about this.

        I do hope your group can truly transcend partisan divides. I am not convinced your initial effort does so.

        –Best, Brantley

    • b

      Without even getting to the argument about whether the military spending is worthwhile and justified, let’s just examine your premise. You tendentiously claim that the “military budget… is disproportionately responsible for the government spending that is out of control,” but in reality the entitlement programs are the drivers of sprialing federal spending. In fact, US military spending as a percentage of GDP, or in per capita terms–or whatever metric you choose–has been remarkably consistent over time (including the modern post-WWII era), even through years during which the US was engaged in major conflicts. (Speaking of which…)

      Realize that we’ve shrunk the military since the Cold War ended–your contention that military spending is “out of control” just doesn’t withstand even the mildest scrutiny. And the numbers aren’t even close, so forgive me for the tone of this response but I’m finding it difficult to believe your concern is genuine and that you instead are not just looking to pick a fight in a passive-aggressive way. Either way, I agree that defense spending is as valid a place to look for cuts as any other, but let’s all try to arrive at a common understanding of where the real spending growth is coming from.

      • Brantley Gasaway

        b–fair enough: I should have been more clear about the difference in “rising costs” (which are more related to what you label entitlement programs) and the greater percentage of the budget dedicated to the military. As a Christian, I am more concerned that the percentage going to the military is (and has been) “out of control,” and so for me the question is wether it is worthwhile and justified. I was trying to point out to Tim that I didn’t see much balance in the statement of his group.

        I am glad that you agree that defense spending is a valid place to look for cuts, and I hope that Christians for a Sustainable Economy will also agree. I’m not trying to pick a fight, passively or aggressively, but I am trying to understand how this statement is something other than a mirror image from the Right of what C.A.S.E. criticizes is the deficiencies of the Left.

        • tom beebe st louis

          remembering eisenhower’s warning about the “military-industrial complex” let us examine the purposes to which our military are put, select the worthy ones and scale military spending accordingly. Not to plunge this into a party vs. party debate, let me cite one example. The department of defense repeatedly stated it did not need a second source for a certain class of jet engine, but congress forced it upon them, until the recent revulsion against spending. the congressman from the district where it was to be made argued that it provided jobs. I would argue it took money away from useful purposes that would also provide jobs and wasted it. Before anybody rails against Democrats as the big spenders, please note that the congressman of whom I speak is the Speaker of the House. A pox on both parties!

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I think what keeps it from being a mirror image: We acknowledge the moral dimension of the the calling to care for the poor, but we also want to press the moral dimension of avoiding debt, stewarding resources wisely, and encouraging economy and creativity. So we’re trying to present the bigger moral picture when it comes to government spending and debt. Also, we acknowledge that there are all sorts of Christian perspectives on these things, and do not claim to be speaking for “the faith community.” We also are not defending particular programs or expenditures; the Circle of Protection itself does not defend particular expenses and programs, but the most Left-leaning parts of the Circle are.

          • Brantley Gasaway

            Thanks, Tim. What the idealist in me would love to see (and I’m assuming you would as well) is your group and the Circle group finding significant common ground.

            You’ve likely already seen it, but Tim King’s response over at Sojo’s blog (http://blog.sojo.net/2011/08/03/a-response-to-the-american-enterprise-institutes-ad-in-politico/) seems to express a desire to work together. Of course, he began by saying that y’all were basing your critique on “an error” and “misperception.” So I suspect finding substantive agreement regarding policies and programs will be difficult based on your groups’ competing biblical interpretations and economic philosophies.

  • Tom H.

    God condemns fraudulent weights and measures twice in the Torah, and twice in the book of Proverbs. Three of those times, God declares that such weights and measures are an “abomination” (Hebrew to‘ebah), that is, they turn God’s stomach, putting them in league with idolatry (Deut 7:25, also 27:15), burning one’s children in sacrifice (Deut 12:31, also 18:10), offering blemished sacrifices to God (Deut 17:1), witchcraft (Deut 18:10–11), the wages of a prostitute (Deut 23:19), and an official who justifies the wicked or condemns the righteous (Prov 17:15).
    I propose that government accounting is a far more grievous form of double-dealing. Such duplicitous measuring techniques turn God’s stomach. And they have put the public into hock for trillions of dollars by convincing us that “cuts” are being made, when nothing that could be honestly defined as a “cut” has been made.
    We have a man in the White House who lives by the Roman emperor Caligula’s philosophy, “One must be either frugal or Caesar” (Suetonius, Gaius 37), who expects us to sacrifice while he lives like Caesar, who throws stones at corporate jets, while flying in jumbo-jets he expects us to pay for. And we are just as bad. We want our electric scooter, even if we have to steal it from the milk money of tomorrow’ retiree.

  • Squid

    When you use your own time and treasure to help the poor among us, it is a laudable act of charity. When a government bureaucrat uses your time and treasure to help the poor, he’s just doing a job.

    Those who wish to promote virtue would be well-served to remind the “charitable” that it doesn’t count unless they do it themselves.

    • LordJiggy

      It’s been my experience that more conservative folks give of their own time and treasure to aid the less-well off (and see the studies that show Conservatives give more to charity than those who consider themselves Liberal/Democrats).

      Leftists/Liberals are more willing to outsource their compassion, and to make us all pay so they feel better about themselves. Less of their skin in the game, and more of the ego stroked for being “good” people, without having to do the work or make conscious choices about what and to whom they will contribute.

  • fss

    “Render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s. Render unto God the things that are God’s” – Jesus

    Translation: If lefties (or anyone else) want to help the poor, they can tithe, or give to charity, or whatever fits in their worldview. It is perfectly “moral” for a Christian to beleive that the purpose of Government is defend the nation and ensure domestic tranquility.

    • tom beebe st louis

      Think on your own comment: what is required “to ensure domestic tranquility”? It dissuades me from a complete renunciation of government transfer payments, but not far.

  • Al McAlister

    It’s not about the poor and it never has been. That’s just a smokescreen to cover the looting of the country by politically connected groups of people.

  • E L Frederick

    If more political leaders (on both the left and right) would actually follow the examples of Christ; help make people self-sufficient and LEAD; rather than just “brave the way ahead” the country would be far better off.

    They can start by reducing their salaries and use the extra it to pay off the debt.

  • In this post on my blog I state that government programs do not satisfy the Christian tenets of “charity”, and have an interesting conversation with a reader who disagrees. It appears that you and I might agree on this topic.

  • Passerby

    whenever I hear a politician or political ideologue asked, rhetorically, “What Would Jesus Do?” , I want to ask them this:

    Why are you worrying about what Jesus would do ** now **?

    What changed in *your* life?

    or I’d point out that, based on what information is available, Jesus would allow Himself to be given over to the authorities, endure public humiliation, scourging, followed by crucifixion

    so, you know, there’s that to consider.

  • styrgwillidar

    Well, Jesus taught his apostles that you have to work if you can and not be a burden to the community. And Paul passed this along

    2 Thesallonians ch 3 7-15
    You know how you should take us as your model: we were not undisciplined when we were with you, nor did we ever accept food from anyone without paying for it; no, we worked with unsparing energy, night and day, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to imitate.

    10 We urged you when we were with you not to let anyone eat who refused to work.

    Now we hear that there are some of you who are living lives without any discipline, doing no work themselves but interfering with other people’s.

    In the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

    My brothers, never slacken in doing what is right. If anyone refuses to obey what I have written in this letter, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will be ashamed of himself, though you are not to treat him as an enemy, but to correct him as a brother.

  • Tcobb

    Yes–let the children come onto me and sign a promissory note. Never mind that you can’t read little ones–just put an X and your fingerprint here.

    Yeah–its all about the children.

  • Koblog

    The borrower is the slave to the lender.

  • LeoD

    It’s a good idea to read what you write twice carefully before publishing, because when you make a ‘180 degree’ mistake it degrades the reader’s confidence in what you’re saying.
    I refer to your second from last para:
    “Since the poor are the first ones hurt by a damaged economy and low unemployment, there is…”
    I’m sure the poor are not hurt by ‘low unemployment’ but by ‘high unemployment’ and I’m sure that’s what you intended to say.

  • Contrary to common opinion, there is nothing in Matthew 25 that indicates that Jesus was talking about all the poor in the Roman Empire, that believers might eventually encounter. The formation of a community – note that the word “brethren” is specific – and the love that they would bear for each other, is not only what the text says, but far more consonant with Our Lord’s other statements about the community of faith that would come after, and Paul’s comments following on. The emphasis was on being willing to give up anything for the kingdom, not on setting up programs for the disadvantaged. That latter idea grew up more gradually as Christians became rulers a few centuries later, and the concept of being responsible for administering a just society (with significant reference to God’s commands to the Jews in Deuteronomy about the justice of their internal actions) came into focus. Later, in Christendom, when all residents of a town might reasonably be considered within the Church, it became an easy equivalence to imagine that “the least of these” in Matthew 25 were synonymous with “anyone who is poor.” It is perhaps a reasonable extension of a Christian idea. But it is not anywhere in the text. And advocating with the Romans or the Sanhedrin for policies which benefited the poor of Jerusalem is emphatically not in the NT text.

    This essay is a very nice reversal of the “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” “What Would Jesus Cut?” deceptiveness of the left. But the whole question is false. Garrison Keillor did a wonderful “Young Lutheran’s Guide To The Orchestra?” in which he asked What Instrument Might Our Lord Have Played? (He rejected the trumpet as too arrogant, the oboe as too sensual.) All in good fun. But the humor points up the vacuity of the serious questions the Campolos and Wallises ask. Jesus would in fact neither cut nor add anything in a government budget, according to the NT. Any further discussions about what he wants US to do must start there – we are reasoning out via a long chain, and we might misstep at many points, inserting our personal political opinion and pretending it is God’s command.

  • Robert Speirs

    Exactly, RJ. Would Jesus have used force to take money away from hard-working prosperous men and give it to scam artists, whiners and grifters whose only creed is “gimme”? Where’s the morality in that?

  • tom beebe st louis

    There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.

    [1] The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Person by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others…

    [2] A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from whom he received the gift. For this is performing a good deed solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator

    [3] A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy (like Gov Bureaucrats).

    [4] A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes so that they would not be ashamed.

    [5] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.

    [6] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.

    [7] A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.

    [8] A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly. (like taxes which are not really charity at all)

    8 levels of Charity by Moses Maimonides

    To the above I often add the question: “Did Jesus tell Rome, the government of his day, to give to the poor?”

  • Ryan

    As always, careful and well thought-out. I like it.

  • Typo, penultimate paragraph: “Since the poor are the first ones hurt by a damaged economy and low unemployment” — should read “high unemployment.”

    • Timothy Dalrymple


  • Greg Ransom

    If Obama’s political “ideals” came from anywhere they came from his mother’s & grandparent’s leftist Unitarian Church on Mercer Island in Washington State — classic unicorns & the U.N. 1950s left of center Protestant ideology.

    The residents of Mercer Island didn’t call it “The Little Red Church” on the hill for no reason — it regularly ran campaigns backing the inclusion of Red China in the U.N. and other such classic fellow traveler fair.

    “Radically changing America” into a unicorn & fairies utopia as imagined by Unitarians — Unitarians who no longer believed in Christ & had replaced Christ with a vanilla & sugar socialist dream — is exactly the sort of Christianity from which Obama comes.

    And when you come from a unicorns & fairies background, the reality what is required for a sustainable economy is the LAST thing that ever comes to mind to these “Christians with Christian “Love” but without Christ”.

  • Joseph

    “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s.” I’m fairly sure Christ didn’t count the souls of the poor as belonging to Caesar, but the left sure does think that.

  • TK

    I think the Parable of the Talents found in Mathew 25:14-30 gives us some idea on how Jesus feels about not using money wisely. I can think of no organization that spends money more unwisely than governments.

  • John Potter

    “Since the poor are the first ones hurt by a damaged economy and low unemployment…”

    I think you mean high unemployment, or low employment.

    Great post. I have signed the letter.

  • Rick in NY

    I always ask in (supposed) religious discussions “which is the greater sin? To bypass the outstretched hand of the one in obvious need? Or the willful taking of bread from another’s table, earned by the sweat of the other’s brow, and then used for one’s own purpose?”

    I submit that greed and envy are both sins.

    I read recently “what good is your compassion, if your “compassion” makes the recipient worse off?”

    Good question.

    • Jesus used the parable of the workers and how they all were paid the same even though they did not work the same amount of hours. He also said,”The poor you will always have with you” As a believer does this mean that no matter what program you come up with it will not work if Jesus aid the poor will always be with you? We are going to have to take a mark for food i can see this coming, because no one wants to help each other it is like the “Six pieces of Wood” They did not die from the cold outside they all died from the cold within!!

  • george

    I’m on board, and I’m not a Christian. I would’ve been one but I had an over-bearing dad. It is a sound argument that true charity lives on the right – with the people who are the proper stewards of money and society.

    • KSM

      If an over-bearing Dad could not get you into heaven, then why are you letting him keep you out?

  • mcurt2s

    Excellent article.
    Suggested edits:
    “What we need our political leaders committed to prudence and thrift, to wise and far-sighted stewardship,…” should read “What we need are political leaders…”

    “Since the poor are the first ones hurt by a damaged economy and low unemployment…” should say “high unemployment”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Oops. Thanks!

  • DonM

    “Who would Jesus enslave to the Romans?” I submit the answer would be “None.”

    It was common for people who could not take care of themselves to sell themselves into slavery. Rather than force that outcome, it would be charitible to care for these people ourselves. I submit that enslaving Judea for the benefit of Roman Government would not be the will of G-d.

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    I confess terms like “the religious left” or “the religious right” for that matter. I hate the way we polarize each other with our language.

    The minute you refer to the religious left, I am tempted to quit listening to what you have to say, even though there are parts here of what you say that I fundamentally agree with.

    For instance, we haven’t changed our trajectory.

    What bothers me is that the language gets in the way of what we all know we need to do — spend less & increase taxes to even make a dent in the current debt.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      That should say those terms make me uncomfortable. Got ahead of myself.

    • Gerald

      I think you miss the point of the article, karenzach.

      You see, increasing taxes requires the use of government force (threat of jail) to take away that which one person has earned in order to give it to another person.

      The intermediary (government/bureaucrat/politician) gets to decide from who to take it, and how much to take, and who to give it to. This situation gives opportunity for massive corruption, because it places unlimited power in the hands of the intermediary. And this is the situation we have now: politicians who take what they want from whom they want for the benefit of their desired supplicants.

      It is essentially theft by government. It is wrong. It is immoral. Jesus would not advocate such abuse of the people by government.

      • John Haas

        I’m not sure what country Gerald lives in, but I live in the United States of America, where we are ruled by neither kings nor Caesars but by “we, the people.”

        If we don’t like the way the government works, we can alter it. If we don’t like our representatives’ decisions, we let them know, or vote them out.

        But when “we the people” act–to raise revenue, to support one another, to defend ourselves, etc.–it is “we” that are acting, not “the government.”

        • Not quite. We are represented by leaders. We don’t lead. Our leaders act, ideally on our behalf, and ideally not in a manner that simply uses our money to create more power for themselves.

          • John Haas

            Nothing about any “leaders” in my country’s Constitution.

          • tom beebe st louis

            You;re discussing the difference between a republic and a democracy. The former, the rule of law where all are to receive “Equal Justice Under law” while the latter is often difficult to differeentiate from mob rule. Even according a greater measure of respect for democracy, it is still an unpredictable form of government which provides an unstable political environment which, as we are seeing, improvishes us all.

        • KaiCea

          That is the theory but it doesn’t account for all the bureaucracies that have been set up and continue to function no matter who we vote into office. HHS, the FDA, etc. continue to oversee numerous handouts no matter what happens in the election. Those we vote in have to be willing to fundamentally change the power of the bureaucrats to have any long-lasting change.

    • Tom Grey

      Great article, but karenzach is totally wrong.
      We do NOT need to increase taxes.
      I KNOW we do not “need to” do that.

      She may want it; or may think it is politically necessary because so many others want it, but even if a vast majority wants it, I still dispute that we “need” it.

      Poor people need food, shelter, clothes. All can be given, materially.
      Humans, to be more fully human, need self-respect.
      Only those who earn it, in their own eyes, gain self respect.
      Too many gov’t programs give money to reward bad behavior, making the poor choose between rewards from the gov’t, or self-sacrifice and a tiny bit more self respect. Those who choose to avoid the gov’t dependency are called “suckers”, by those who feel entitled to Other People’s Money for no good reason.

      The addiction of spenders to OPM must stop.
      Withdrawal is always painful.

      The best help for almost every poor person is the offer of a job. Churches need to be promoting job creation — by the people who are to be admired. Those who, from greed or ambition or altruism (few!) choose to create jobs, those are the people who help the poor the most.
      Not those who want to take OPM and give it away.

    • “I hate the way we polarize each other with our language.”

      Is it better to pretend that what we believe fits no political category when it transparently does so?

      How you approach the debt is not really an ideological issue. The real question is how you want government to function. If you believe government has a strong role to play in the economy, you will want to fund that role, deficit be damned. If you believe it should perform a minimal role, you will want to shrink the role, deficit or no.

      There are those who argue deficit spending is beneficial, but that is pretty much hackery. You can support spending, and argue that its worth going into debt for this or that initiative, but ignoring the fact that deficit spending is bad is disingenuous.

      If you believe we should spend less, but tax more to cover previously accrued debts, that is a fundamentally conservative position.

      • We all want the government to let us know what they are spending our tax money on but we get lies or excuses why don’t we get a statement in the mail like our bills and see what they are spending money on and then at the voting peoples we will know what to vote for and what not. They have left people in the dark long enough, they see what we make and what they take from us why can’t we demand our ststement in the mail on what they are doing and spending???

  • Nigel Ray

    We are told to judge by fruits. When you take from the rich without their consent to give to the poor, the rich come to hate the poor; they call them dead-beats. The poor become filled with envy, and they hate the rich, because they feel they are entitled to the money that the rich have. The politicians who promote these policies actively tell the poor to hate the rich; they call them fat cats, and say they aren’t paying their share.

    The fruits of the welfare state are hatred. Thus we should judge it an evil.

    • Strophios

      Such fruits are hardly confined to the welfare state. For instance, have you ever heard of feudalism? Or every western nation for the past few thousand years. Naturally the severity and importance of class conflict has varied over that period, but generally speaking the sentiments have been there. In fact, we’re currently doing pretty well, given that we’ve seen what class warfare can really do (see Russia, circa 1917).

    • tom beebe st louis

      see my comments above on The Eight Levels of Charity.

  • It is simple.

    Is it moral to go to your neighbor, ask him for money to help the poor, and threaten to come back with a gun if he refuses? I say no.

    Is it then moral to join with many other neighbors as a group, form a political party, and make the same threat?

    I a group can threaten you and collect taxes “to do good”, then be aware that there is a world of good that could be done.

  • PeggyU

    So well written! I am passing this along to my children.

  • Agoraphobic Plumber

    You make a persuasive argument, and I’m glad someone is making it to counter the stuff from the other side.

    For my own part, however, I believe that religion has zero to do with government, right, left or indifferent. I was uncomfortable with Bush’s faith-based initiatives, not because I see them as a bad thing but because they seemed to be becoming affiliated with government. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, certainly, but keep the rest away from him.

    At least for Christians, charity NEEDS to belong at home. Help your neighbor. Help your friend. Help even your enemy as you can and as he/she will allow. But to force it at the point of a gun defeats the entire purpose so badly that the effort might as well not have even be made. That is what the religious left encourages. I don’t agree.

    I don’t know. It’s so hard to know the right thing to do, I guess, that I’m suspicious of any political activity in the name of religion. It just seems to muddy the waters even more. Others of course have a different view, but I guarantee that if everybody in this country was a Christian and was honestly doing their best to be a good friend, family member, neighbor and Christian that it would be a better place than it currently is, and we wouldn’t have ANY national debt, much less $Trillion yearly deficits. And the poor would not suffer overly much or for overly long either.

  • Gerald

    Thankfully, some honesty about the realities of debt.

    WWJI is a powerful concept…

    Seems like the idea of giving a man a fish or teaching a man to fish is apropos as well.

  • Tex Taylor

    Either many of these people calling themselves Christian are woefully confused, or they have an incredibly poor understanding of the New Testament and taking care of the poor.

    Whoever is calling for Caesar to take funds under the guise of social justice, taking by fiat that of others to reallocate as they deem fit, that is certainly not the charity Jesus spoke.

    I’ve heard great criticisms, mostly from the Left and secular, of churches not doing enough charitable work. Are these people not aware that much of that charitable work of churches takes place within the walls of the church itself? Are people so blind to not recognize that not all members of a church wealthy? That there are poor being taken care of every day without advertisement?

    Frankly, it sickens me what liberal theology teaches anymore. Most of it is an anathema to the Word of God, substituting Caesar in place of Jesus.

    Don’t be fooled by these charlatans masquerading under the banner of Christianity.

    • Strophios

      We no longer live in a world with Caesar. That is to say, we no longer live in a world in which Caesar just does what he wants to do and us plebs have to grin and bear it. Now we live in a world in which we plebs decide what to do. As such, we plebs can decide that we are going to pay taxes to support the government. We can further decide that we’d rather, on balance, try to ensure that the least of us are cared for, instead of leaving it up to the vagaries of individual cases of access or non-access to sufficient or insufficient charity. In other words, charity by government, though I’d certainly agree is no substitute for personal charity, is certainly not the sort of strange, blasphemous, evil you want to pretend it is.

  • hitnrun

    The government takes from the unwilling, collects by the well-paid, siphons off to the corrupt, and distributes to ingrates. No one is improved in the eyes of God by a transaction of government.

    The larger point missed by granting the “least of these” admonishment to liberals is that Jesus’ purpose was to save souls, not lives. The government has no soul. It does not love you. Our modern liberal democracy is a more humane update of Caesar, but it is Caesar, and it takes by force and distributes by whim, even if that whim is now spread among millions. It exists only so far as we pretend it does. The government is an abstraction, a fiction.

    YOU exist. YOU have a soul. Everyone who lives is dying. Material want will always be with us. There is a reason for this. That reason is you. Do something about it.

  • Koblog

    Whom would Jesus indebt?

    We are all completely indebted to Him because though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.

    He simply defines riches different than we do.

  • Nathan Rein

    Most of the argument of this post — and of the comments — seems to depend on four unspoken assumptions. (1) Programs that are supposed to aid the poor don’t really help the poor and may even harm them (that’s the “culture of dependency” argument that Tim Dalrymple makes several times above, though without citing any evidence). (2) Many of the people who benefit from these programs don’t deserve help (they are con artists, lazy, irresponsible, etc.) Tim doesn’t say this, but many commenters do. (3) Even if the programs actually have beneficial results, and even if the recipients are deserving, it is wrong to use coercive measures (i.e., taxes) to accomplish what is essentially a charitable goal. And finally, (4) anti-poverty government spending serves a short-term end but creates much more significant long-term harms (i.e., massive debt) as well as short-term problems (such as disincentivizing job creation in the private sector). Personally I take issue with every one of these claims. I would challenge anyone to spend six months working in a depressed community — say, parts of Detroit, where the unemployment rate is thirty percent or more — where food stamps and reduced-price school lunches are the only thing keeping kids from going hungry, and come back and tell me you still think benefits programs are the source of the problem for these families. I’ll skip point two, since it doesn’t deserve an answer and really appears only in the comments. Point three essentially says that the goals and results of antipoverty programs may be good, but they should be funded solely by private charity, not government. This may be a great idea in principle, but even food pantries and soup kitchens haven’t been able to keep up with increased demand lately. And finally, with point four, one wonders: faced with a policy choice between two options, one which will inflict massive and immediate suffering on the most vulnerable parts of the population (while protecting the least vulnerable from any additional impositions), and one which won’t, do you really think the first option is necessarily the more Christian one? In other words, future deficits are more important than hunger today? (The arguments that government spending kills jobs and creates bureaucratic boondoggles — well, those things can’t BOTH be true, can they?)

    • “where food stamps and reduced-price school lunches are the only thing keeping kids from going hungry,”

      Detroit has a major obesity problem. You are citing our nation’s most unlivable city, which is also one of the most dependent upon entitlements, as proof entitlements work.

      You assert anti-poverty programs work. The evidence suggests otherwise.

      • Nathan Rein

        My point is, do you really think taking away government benefits is going to help those people? I don’t actually understand what obesity has to do with it.

        • Agoraphobic Plumber

          Obese people are not people who are suffering severe privation. Especially when they have cell phones and cable TV, indoor plumbing and a car in the garage.

          I recently did some over-the-road trucking and had to pick up a load in a bad neighborhood in Detroit. While I was waiting for the load, a little girl, no more than 12, came up the street on a $2000 (minimum) crotch rocket that she had kyped from her brother and ran it into a telephone pole. I watched as she walked it back to their house and opened the 2-car garage to put it in next two two cars that were both better than either of mine.

          Then mom came up the street from the food pantry where she had picked up several boxes of food. Apparently she had gotten a call from her daughter (each had a cell phone). She came over and asked me what had happened and so forth.

          So while I do try to be as charitable as I can be, would you have me give my tax (or personal) money to people who are living better than I am? Because the government certainly is. That woman had food stamps and WIC checks in her purse.

          I feel that as a person who has taken the time and made the effort to become a foster parent and work directly with people who “the most vulnerable among us”, I am probably more qualified than most government bureaucrats to determine where my charitable efforts and/or money would make the most positive impact. Plus there’s the matter of motivations…I’m in it for the people. The bureaucrat is in it for the paycheck and benefits. Who do you think will husband resources more carefully?

          Finally, as to your point 3) above, no, it is not wrong per se for the government to administer programs for the needy. But neither does it show any virtue on anybody’s part. Politicians set them up to win votes. Taxes are forcibly collected to fund them. The workers that run them do so for money. Again, nothing wrong with any of that…but neither does it display Christian charity or virtue on the part of anybody involved.

        • Really? We subsidize food for much of the Detroit population, and you don’t see what obesity has to do with it?

          There are models of governmental intervention going well. Detroit is not that model. I absolutely think that city would have been better off without government benefits in the first place, but also without the pernicious mob influences that corrupted the unions.

          • Nathan Rein

            Spell out the obesity connection for me, if you don’t mind, because it still seems like a red herring to me. I mean, it sounds as if what you’re saying is that people who are obese shouldn’t be getting food stamps (or whatever) because they’re fat and clearly have too much to eat. Is that it?

    • Tex Taylor

      arguments that government spending kills jobs and creates bureaucratic boondoggles — well, those things can’t BOTH be true, can they?

      If you can’t understand the answer to that question is most definitely yes, then you haven’t understood a one of the comments you have criticized.

      Detroit epitomizes a failed Great Society. Detroit epitomizes the failure of Caesar. And national poverty is higher now than 1965. What benefit did we get for our trillions of investment? How were kids able to eat in 1965 without food stamps, of which almost 50MM people now participate in the program by the way, and without subsidized lunches?

      Your charity, though perhaps well intentioned, has created a dependence of several generations and negated the will of self-reliance. What more evidence do you need than that which you serve?

      • Nathan Rein

        The part of my comment that you’ve italicized was actually intended as a joke, though it’s obviously pretty lame. Sorry. But still, I’d like to see some evidence that government spending kills jobs. If that proves that I’m too stupid to understand anything, then so be it.

        And again, I can’t speak to what Detroit in 1965 was like. I wasn’t there. My only point is, I know people in poverty. My prediction is that cutting WIC, housing assistance, and so forth will create homelessness, malnutrition, illness, and misery, rather than generating “self-reliance” on the part of poor people and massive, spontaneous private charity on the part of everyone else.

        • Tex Taylor

          My prediction is that cutting WIC, housing assistance, and so forth will create homelessness, malnutrition, illness, and misery, rather than generating “self-reliance” on the part of poor people and massive, spontaneous private charity on the part of everyone else.

          That’s exactly the argument we heard when welfare reform was signed by dragging Bill Clinton the table. Didn’t happen. In fact, welfare reform has been one of the few real successes of the last fifteen years from the federal government.

          As to your question how government spending kills jobs. That too should be obvious, as the last three years have more than proven.

          Government by definition does not in large part create wealth. It consumes, it regulates and sometimes facilitates with public works and infrastructure. What government spends, it must receive from some place – that being person or corporation.

          Let’s take corporations as example to prove my point. The higher the tax burden on a corporation, the less capital is available to create something of value to sell.

          The only way your theory could hold true Nathan is if government could take the same dollar and create the same value with that dollar.

          I’ve made this way too simple as the issue far more complex, but hopefully you understand my point.

          • Nathan Rein

            Two follow-up questions, then: in what sense would you describe welfare reform as a success? And second, can you point to a historical pattern of unemployment going up when government spending goes up?

        • Agoraphobic Plumber

          “But still, I’d like to see some evidence that government spending kills jobs.”

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone seriously make exactly that claim, so I won’t support or deny it. But common sense tells me that government spending does not create decent, productive jobs more than temporarily for any but a small group.

          Every single time I saw a sign over the last year or two proclaiming that this bridge or that road repair was funded by the stimulus, it was actually kind of embarrassing. Either there were a lot of guys standing around doing nothing or next to nothing, or nobody was around at all and expensive equipment was just sitting there idle. And a few of these were projects that I have direct personal knowledge were not necessary, but the feds jammed it down their throat because they were desperate for “shovel-ready” projects.

          If these projects had been managed by a private sector company, there is simply no way that equipment would have been allowed to be idle for weeks on end, and the guys not doing much would have been canned in very short order.

          Whether we like it or not, there WILL be homelessness, malnutrition, illness and misery (and probably not a little disease, pestilence and death) among our population in your lifetime, if you have at least 10 or 20 years to live. 5 years ago I would have said that right about now was when it would all start, but the financial wizards have managed their games brilliantly so far, so who knows how much longer they’ll be able to keep things going? But they can’t do it forever.

          As a Christian, my advice to anybody is first to try to avoid being dependent on others during the trying times ahead. Now is the time to put away 7 years’ worth of corn for the 7 years of famine to come. Because it’s almost here. And try to put some by for charitable giving. Because Nathan is right in that respect…just stopping giving out government charity doesn’t mean the problems go away. When the government is unwilling or, more likely, simply unable to provide for its citizens, then other citizens will need to step into the breach. That’s us.

        • You may be right, insofar as government entitlements have created a welfare economy, to simply pull the plug would be disastrous. Would you agree, based on Detroit’s failed model, that we should at least reject new entitlements as they come down the pipeline?

          • Nathan Rein

            I don’t know. I’m not making an argument about that. My point is that if you are seeking to slash programs that, for whatever good or bad historical reason, are now the only thing standing between a community (consisting significantly of children, who I don’t think can be blamed for their plight) and hunger — then it seems to me that you should at least be clear about the likely consequences.

        • Eric Stewart

          Your comment may have been intended as a joke but it brings up an important point. I am not an ecomomist. I don’t even play one on TV. But I understand that it is not enough to just have a job. If govt spending kills some number of jobs in industry but creates an equal number of government jobs. The economy is harmed. Only jobs that create wealth are beneficial to the economy. The growth of government bureacracy is every bit as detrimental to the economy as is the welfare state.

          • Nathan Rein

            Why is that?

            I mean, let’s say the government pays a person to put on a uniform, carry a weapon, and patrol the streets of Iraq. Now let’s say a private security firm does the same thing. Why is the latter intrinsically better?

          • tom beebe st louis

            Love your phrase “only jobs that create wealth are beneficial to the economy”. If, as I suspect you do, you are including jobs creating anything of value (e.g., art, music, philosophy, teaching, etc.) then I wish everyone could read your comment. The use of government to help create wealth is laudable. Its use to distribute wealth is not.

      • Richard

        Wait, I thought Detroit epitomized the downfalls of building your economy around one industry and the unintended consequences of Global free trade agreements?

  • I have no problem with the government helping the poor.

    My problem is that the churches are not teaching their members to live honestly,soberly, and taking care of their family. The huge number of fatherless children should make these leaders ask themselves if they ever bother to teach about sexual self control outside of marriage, or against drug use.

    • Mike C

      The huge number of fatherless children should make these leaders ask themselves if they ever bother to teach about sexual self control outside of marriage, or against drug prohibition.


      Were more children fatherless before, or after, the adoption of the unconstitutional Harrison Narcotics Act?

      1 Samuel 8:10-18

  • Tex Taylor

    And second, can you point to a historical pattern of unemployment going up when government spending goes up?

    How about the last three years and Obama’s stimulus? We spent almost $1 Trillion for “investment” and unemployment went from 7.7% to 10.2%. Unemployment in 1939 after billions of dollars of government spending for infrastructure was still 14.7%.

    The proof of welfare reform? One of thousands:


    You’re still missing my point Nathan. We have spent trillions of dollars on the Great Society and war on poverty, and poverty is now higher than it was before the program implemented. If government is the answer to our problems of poverty, where are the results?

    What we are left with is 74% of children born into black families are now fatherless, public housing that resemble like war zones, and dead cities like Detroit more in common with Beirut.

    Hopefully, if nothing else good has come out of the Obama Administration, at least we have proven Keynesian economics is a sham.

    Nathan. I don’t question your heart, but I do question your wisdom with respect to solutions.

    • Nathan Rein

      According to that piece, and every favorable assessment of welfare reform I’ve read to date, the success of welfare reform is measurable by reduced caseloads. But as I’m sure you know, the transformation of AFDC into TAFDC made it automatic that welfare recipients would be kicked off the rolls after five years of benefits. So the fact that there are fewer people on welfare now doesn’t prove that welfare reform did anything good for them; it just means that they were made ineligible to receive benefits. I don’t want you to misunderstand me here. No one that I know thinks that the welfare system was perfect either before Clinton or after. I think assessing the success or failure of massive social programming is a tricky issue. But if your evaluation of welfare reform is based on seeing a large number of people eliminated from the rolls, then it would logically follow that the most successful “reform” would just be to kick EVERYONE off the rolls … and I think that’s problematic.

      • sdb

        I meant to post a reply here, but it ended up below by mistake. Here it is again…

        At the same time the rolls have been cut is there any evidence that HS graduation stats, life expectancy, or the infant mortality rate has not remained stable or improved? My understanding is that all of these are better now than in the 90’s. Of course a lot of other things have changed as well…we had a booming economy for much of that period which may have actually accounted for the drop in rolls. I don’t see how the pittance we pay towards WIC and AFDC is relevant to a discussion about dealing with a deficit that is a third of our budget.

    • Sorry to intervine, but this is only one state in our country and as you can see the cccost every year will continue to go up and why should children that go without food loose their food stamps? So these people that kill children can eat every day and your taxes keep rising????Prison vs. education spending reveals California’s priorities – SFGate
      articles.sfgate.com/…/17244077_1_school-dropouts-school-diploma… – CachedSimilar
      You +1’d this publicly. Undo
      May 29, 2007 – By the 2012-2013 fiscal year, $15.4 billion will be spent on … given the rank mismanagement plaguing California’s corrections system. … Prisons’ budget to trump colleges’ / No other big state spends as much to …

      • Prison vs. education spending reveals California’s priorities – SFGate
        articles.sfgate.com/…/17244077_1_school-dropouts-school-diploma… – Cached

    • tom beebe st louis

      Like Korea (a draw), Vietnam (a loss), Gulf War 1 (a victory in limited terms only, e.g. Iraq out of Kuwait), Desert Storm, which will provide a questionable, probably temporary victoey, and the adventures in Pakistan and Afghanistan, our wars on poverty by LBJ and on drugs are failures. the Levithan greatest and most powerful government force on the planet cannot change human behavoir. The love of fellow man is the only force strong enough to ameliorate poverty and drug abuse. Let’s stop looking to government to meet these challenges.

  • Jay

    I want to point out a valuable and instructive comparison.

    In the biblical social/economic system, the poor were provided for not through government tax and redistribution, but through direct support from the well off land owners. See Lev. 19:9-10, Deut. 26:12.

    In the Israelite system when the “rich” had a bountiful harvest, the poor got more. So it was in everyone’s interest for the successful to succeed.

    Another feature of this system was that the poor had to make the effort of going into the field and harvesting what they needed. Our system features “poor” people being provided free cell phones and internet paid for by our tax dollars. Food stamps have been replaced by debit cards that automatically refill each month.
    I live next to “poor” people getting food stamps and social security who have satelite TV. The biblical system encourages the poor to take what they really need and no more because it is not handed to them on a silver platter.

  • richard40

    If Jesus was a leftist dem he would have led a demonstration for a welfare program from Rome. He did not. He insisted that everybody do their charity individually and voluntarily, not through gov. The only thing Jesus wanted from Rome was to be left alone and not oppressed, essentially the Tea Party platform.

    • Richard

      Major quibble: Jesus didn’t say do as you wish, the TEA Party/Libertarian stance. He said take care of the poor who will be among you, not zone your communities to keep them out.

      • tom beebe st louis

        Ricahrd discusses welfare and you reply with a complaint about “red lining”, a realtor practice outlawed back in the ’60’s, way before and having nothing to do with Tea party/Libertarian stances against welfare. Get up to date, and abandon your anti-TP/L prejudices unless you can cite relevant and timely cases where they violate Jesus’ teachings.

      • sdb

        He also said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart. Is it unchristian to support the right to idolatry? If not, how does one determine which NT moral imperatives should be given the force of law? If the NT doesn’t tell us that, perhaps the NT commands for the church aren’t very helpful for determining policy in a secular republic. Advocates for the spirituality of the church working in the old school Presbyterian tradition (the so called 2k’ers), argue along these lines. I think their insights provide an important counterpoint to the influence of Kuyper among so many evangelicals.

  • David

    I have one simple but profound edit. Change:
    “…then we will add to that mountain at a slightly-less-manic pace than before…”
    “…then we will only add to that mountain at a slightly-less-but-still-unconscionably-manic pace than before…”

    Nelson’s Law: “The existence of a ‘political will’ is a theory.”

    Hear the clamor, “More cheesy Chicom goods! More distractory entertainments! More paper money! More for me! Take it from them!”

    The founders would be ashamed of their mongrel nation now. Do such deserve to be free?

    • tom beebe st louis

      WWTFS… what would the founders say? Their noble sentiments certainly matched those of our saviors.

  • sdb

    The problem with your initiative is that it lacks any specifics or really any sense of what should be cut. Eliminating foreign aid and food stamps won’t have any impact on the US budget. The chart at this link: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/07/getting-specific-on-spending/242240/ is sobering. Over half of our expenditures are pensions/interest on the national debt, military payroll, VA benefits, Social Security, and Medicare/aid. Toss in the cost of funding military operations and you have accounted for 2/3rds of the current budget and more than we bring in in taxes.

    More sobering is the fact that this is the cost of these programs right now. The cost of Social Security and Medicare will only increase as the number of retirees increases. On top of this we have generous state and corporate pension plans incredibly underfunded – why? Because you would need to save 20-30% of your salary to make them solvent. Typical employee/employer combined contributions are more like 10%. Political pressure will likely result in these being at least partially backstopped by the feds.

    Squabbling about whether food stamps make poor people fat and whether they should be cut so that we can live within our means (as some have suggested above) is not unlike an obese person thinking he can get his weight under control by foregoing ketchup with his burger and fries. Perhaps our welfare system warrants further reform, but it isn’t the cause of our deficit.

    I’m not sure there is a uniquely Christian response to reforming our entitlement system. It is a very difficult problem made more difficult by folks who seem to think that cutting food stamps and eliminating “fraud, waste, and abuse” are going solve our fiscal crisis. The reality is that bringing our budget into some sensible balance will require painful cuts to entitlement and/or a steep increase in tax revenue.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Speaking as an individual, I think we need to make very serious adjustments to social security, medicare and medicaid, as well as government pension programs at national, state and municipal levels. I don’t go into the specifics too much here because the point I’m making is to spell out the general moral imperatives and principles that, I think, obtain in the debate over debt and spending. I don’t believe there’s a biblical blueprint for, say, how to reform our entitlement system (to agree with you), but I do think we need to remind people that there is a moral case against chronic debt in the same way that there is a moral case to care for the poor. I actually see them as one and the same, but we often only hear one part of that, and a sanctifying of particular programs toward that end.

      • tom beebe st louis

        Would you support this in lieu of all tax and transfer payment programs?
        1. All persons residing in the U.S. shall come together in “tax units”. Members need not be related, need not reside together, and a tax unit may consist of as few as one person.
        2. Each year congress shall set a “minimum wage” and a “tax rate”.
        3. The following shall not be subject to taxation:
        • An amount equal to a year’s earnings (2000 hours) at the minimum wage, for each adult (age 20-65), decreasing 10% per year to 50% at age 15, and increasing 10% per year to 150% at age 70.
        • All payments for necessary health care including medical care, pharmaceuticals prescribed by a health care professional, vision and hearing aids, and fees for health-enhancing entities such as gyms. Health care insurance premiums may be deducted but not health care expense paid for by such insurance.
        • All educational expenses including day care for children or legally incompetent persons, the portion of state and local taxes used for education, and tuition, fees and educational materials for private school education, including that portion of parochial school tuition and other expenses going for non-sectarian education.
        • All income saved into an account for investments; withdrawals from this account for the benefit of any member of the tax unit shall be reported as income.
        4. The “tax rate” shall be applied to any income greater than the deductions listed above, regardless of amount.
        5. Any municipality having greater than 100,000 inhabitants or any state may impose on their citizens a surtax which shall be applied the same as the Federal tax.
        6. Tax units whose deductions exceed income, shall be paid a sum equal to the tax rate multiplied by the shortfall in income.
        7. There shall be no federal tax on corporations or other business entities.
        8. The Office of Management and Budget shall compute revenues to be expected using the newly set tax rate and minimum wage, applied to the previous year’s reported incomes. No expenses in excess of that amount may be made without approval by 75% of each house of Congress. This tax shall be the only source of revenue for the federal government.
        I’ll admit I digress from your philosophical arguments, but I offer this as a fulfillment of those discussions.

        • tom beebe st louis

          NO ANSWERS? Is nobody intereted in discussing solutions? Only in bitching about the mess we’ve got.

  • Your point about judging whether social programs “assist” or “protect” the poor is antithetical to Christ’s message. Christ taught us to give to the poor. Period. He made no mention of judging whether the act was creating a culture of dependence or keeping them down. In fact, he explained that the “poor will always be with us,” and that we should simply take care of them. He asked us to transfer our wealth by giving one jacket to the poor if we have two, and giving food to the poor if we have more than we need.

    Christ said pay your taxes, and he said be charitable above all else. He said you are your brother’s keeper. The idea that God helps those who helps themselves is from Benjamin Franklin. It’s not biblical, and it surely didn’t come from the words of Christ. I know what I hear in the Gospel on Sundays – and it’s not what you’re saying.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I think we should be thought and discerning by giving to the poor in the ways that are most helpful to them. It’s kind of a romantic notion that we’re just supposed to give, period, but I don’t think it’s practical or wise.

      • Nathan Rein

        Right, Jesus’ commands are nice and dreamy and all, but you shouldn’t take them TOO seriously. After all, we have to be practical.

        But remember, he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back …

        • Nathan Rein

          Sorry, I got a little carried away. I withdraw that comment. It was way out of line.

      • vervain

        Socialism, at its core, is not about helping the poor per se. Its premise is that “giving” to the “poor” rights an essential wrong–and that wrong is that some have more than others. The disparity ignites a socialist’s moral indignation and redistribution soothes it, if you will.

        The left, now in power, has adopted this view completely. In fact, they call for the government to redefine poverty in federal programs to be based on disparity, not on a set income aimed at providing a “floor.”

  • Richard

    When Christians are willing to relocate to blighted areas to live among the poor as neighbors, redistribute the tax base and resources naturally by moving, and work for reconciliation amongst classes and races then I’ll be willing to listen to discussions of why cutting safety net programs is a good, loving thing to do for the poor. Until there is an alternative led by local churches, all this is merely smokescreens for scaling back the size of government. We can have that debate but let’s do it under honest discussion, not out of a posited concern for the poor that doesn’t offer an alternative.

    Are the social programs perfect, by no means. Do they have unintended consequences like dependency and exploitation, absolutely. The solution is to reform them, not destroy them.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      There are all sorts of alternatives led by local churches and Christian institutions. Many of us are involved with many of them. And I didn’t say that we have to “destroy” “social programs”.

      • Nathan Rein

        No, but let’s be honest — the arguments you’re making are precisely the arguments used in favor of crippling or dismantling safety-net programs. In the richest nation on earth, we have convinced ourselves that the national debt is a higher-priority concern than the safety and welfare of the most vulnerable parts of the population, and somehow we are even managing to invoke Christianity in support of that view.

        • Jack III

          How exactly can we keep funding all those safety nets with such unsustainable debt? It seems equally absurd to me to invoke Christianity to support catastrophic spending and debt that jeopardizes the well-being of hundreds of millions. Is it somehow more Christian to spend ourselves into oblivion?

        • sdb

          How is means testing for medicare premiums and social security benefits an attack on the most vulnerable parts of the population? Why shouldn’t wealthy seniors give up some of their benefits to help stabilize our fiscal situation. A healthy economy is the best welfare as evidenced by the doubling of the food stamp rolls since 2007.

  • sdb

    At the same time the rolls have been cut is there any evidence that HS graduation stats, life expectancy, or the infant mortality rate has not remained stable or improved? My understanding is that all of these are better now than in the 90’s. Of course a lot of other things have changed as well…we had a booming economy for much of that period which may have actually accounted for the drop in rolls. I don’t see how the pittance we pay towards WIC and AFDC is relevant to a discussion about dealing with a deficit that is a third of our budget.

    Probably a bigger contributor to inner city poverty and fatherless homes is

  • Tex Taylor

    There are many here, some who I would guess are gov’t “benefactors” of serving the poor (like their livelihood), who undoubtedly live in an alternate universe.

    I’ll ask this question again if gov’t is to be our brother’s keeper coerced at the end of each paycheck.

    We have spent trillions since 1964 on the Great Society. Poverty is now higher than 1965. Can any of you gov’t do gooders tell me what we have gotten for our troubles? I see a lot of broken homes, schools in disarray and fatherless children. What else?

    Anybody that thinks 50MM people being on food stamps and welfare rolls hasn’t significantly contributed to our national debt flunked math and ventured out unto social work.

    To be a Christian has a prerequisite of honesty, does it not? And I’m not reading honesty in many of these contrarian posts.


    • sdb

      “Poverty is now higher than 1965. ”
      This is false. Poverty in 1965 was about 17%. In 2009 (the last year I see numbers), it was 14%. It bottomed out in 2001 at just over 10%.

      “Anybody that thinks 50MM people being on food stamps and welfare rolls hasn’t significantly contributed to our national debt flunked math and ventured out unto social work.”

      Take a look at the breakdown of the federal budget. Our annual federal expenditures are ~3.5trillion dollars. We set a record for the number of people on food stamps at 40million at a cost of 0.06 trillion dollars. This is nearly double the number on food stamps prior to the start of the recession (2007), so in good times, you might expect a savings of 0.03 trillion of if you canceled food stamps. This is less than 1% of the federal budget. Welfare is not the source of our deficit.

      I would like to see the federal government be much smaller (with spending capped around 18-20% of GDP), but when advocates of smaller government make incorrect claims about poverty rates, costs of welfare, etc… it makes it much harder to make a compelling case for reforming expensive programs such as Social Security and Medicare (which provide expensive benefits to all seniors regardless of income level).

      • tom beebe st louis

        How about taking a look at my suggestion above that we apply the same tax rate to everybody’s DISPOSABLE income? Shouldn’t we all share an equal portion of what we have above what we need?

        • sdb

          Your model has a pretty big marginal hit which is going to be distortionary. Hers is much smoother – essentially a smooth taxation curve that starts negative at the bottom and slopes up smoothly. Your plan exempts roughly 15% of GDP from taxation by exempting the first 16k you make, 18% of GDP by all health care expenditures, another 10% of GDP by exempting corporate profit and all corporate earnings (what about corporate benefits?), and another few percent by exempting education and investments. So something like 50% of the GDP is tax free. If federal expenditures stay at something like 20% of gdp, you would need an effective tax rate of 40% on every penny you make above 16k – a huge marginal hit. If localities can tax at the same rate, you are talking about an 80% rate. You are making progressives very, very happy I think. Perhaps I’m misreading you on taxes by the locals, but there are problems anyway with telling states how to tax. 40% marginal hit is pretty nasty though. I like a negative income tax for the poor that gradually slopes up. As taxes go up and down to varying budgets, everyone feels it. Megan McArdle has written on this far more eloquently than I have:

  • I can’t seem to put a site on here so I will say that I feel the churches are responsible for the poor and their needs, look at all the millionaire evangelists, why are they putting there money out of the country and i bet they use it for a tax write off. The American Dream has become the American Scream! To much money going out and nothing coming back just tax right offs, and you want me to pay for this???? Raise the taxes??? Why, don’t you pay any taxes?

  • Doug Allen

    Thank God for people like Nathan Rein who have experience and not just theory. I find it very ironic, very disturbing, very disgusting that some who call themselves Christians use His name vent about Caesar (we live in a democratic repubic folks) and deprive care to the needy.

  • Katherine Harms

    This piece says it all. I am appalled by all the people who feel relieved that we finally solved the debt crisis. We didn’t solve anything! The absolute only good thing that happened was that we staved off tax incresases for a while. I don’t delude myself that now we will further reduce spending and work for responsible government and good stewardship of the prosperity with which God has blessed this country. Thank you for a piece that every person in government, namely every citizen, should read and take to heart.

  • tom beebe st louis

    where did his blog start out at?

  • Tim

    Dear Timothy,

    Go to the following “budget puzzle” link


    Plug in your solution. How does it turn out?


  • Tom F.

    Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by “poverty programs”. For example, “welfare” usually refers to TANF, which makes up less than 1% of the federal government’s budget.

    If you mean medicare or medicaid, it becomes much harder to sustain the “this actually hurts poor people” argument. If you can’t get treated for medical problems, you definitely can’t work. Exactly which programs for “poor people” are we talking about here?

    But I agree, lets cut these programs, we are definitely in debt and its a problem. Let’s just have it be proportional. Every % cut in a program like TANF needs to be matched percentage point by cuts in medicare and social security. That means that a 1% cut in a program like TANF (would maybe save around a 300 million dollars) needs to be matched by a cut in medicare and social security. 1% from these programs would save around 13 billion dollars a year.

    So by all means, cut from these programs to be responsible, but do it proportionally. Don’t use the debt crisis as an excuse to get rid of programs you don’t like but that hurting people depend on.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007.png

  • Diane Reynolds

    To cut the debt, we people in good paying jobs who will then pay taxes that will lower the debt. We also need to cut the military budget. Our military budget is 48% of the entire world’s military budget. We can’t afford it.
    At this time, to get jobs going, we need to invest–ie., spend more. It’s the same as taking out a loan for college–you will pay that back and have much more to spare than if you just take the job at Wendy’s. We have to INVEST in job creation to get more people off welfare programs and paying taxes, which will lower the debt. We also need a regulated Wall St and banking industry so that a few individuals or companies can no longer throw all of us into this kind of crisis situation.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I agree that job creation is, well, Job #1 of the American government right now. But I disagree that job creation requires a great deal of spending from government. There are some programs that could be helpful, but the private sector is a much more efficient creator of jobs when the government gets out of its way. A smaller government would be more conducive to job creation.

      • Diane


        You and others assert that a smaller gov’t would be more conducive to job creation–and I want to believe–but why? How does that logic work? I don’t “get” the connection. A very important component of this, however is to generate well-paying jobs and safe jobs–if by getting the gov’t out of the way, you mean allowing companies to pay $5 a hour with no safety standards–no, I don’t want that.

    • Harold

      Diane, please use some common sense. Giving money to politicans is like giving money to drug addicts. The more you give, the more they want.

      The private sector is not perfect by any means but they are much more efficient (they have to be) than Washington’s politicans. They use our money for their own purposes such as buying votes, etc…..

      • Diane


        My deep concern as a person who loves this country is, aside from all politics, that when we see “government”–our own government of we the people–as the Other, as evil, and as a drug addict–we are in deep soul trouble as a nation. This is what concerns me. The “government” is not inherently evil. Given the trouble we’re in, we need to re-invest in the idea of government. It’s quite, quite arguable that the mess we are in is the fault of too little government, not too much. I still don’t see how less government will create more jobs when the private sector is already sitting on its money and not hiring … If the government jump starts job creation, more people will have jobs, and have money and spend money (as we little people do) and that spending will drive down inventories, causing business to hire more people, and we be on the road to prosperity again. Any investment the government makes in the initial job creation will be paid back in increased tax revenues paid by employed people and decreased drains on public services that keep people from starvation. And wages will be bid up, which will be good for the general prosperity.

        • Richard Stewart


          You said, “The ‘government’ is not inherently evil,” and you speak of “our own government of we the people.”

          Do you, therefore, believe that people are “inherently good?” And also that “government of we the people” is “inherently good?”

        • Richard Stewart

          Diane, are you there?

          • Diane

            Dear Richard,

            I am here. I was out of town. No, I don’t believe the corollary that people are inherently good or that government is inherently good. Government is not inherently good any more than any human institution is–however, I would argue that government is a good. In other words, I’m not an anarchist. We need government to avoid chaos–because we are not inherently good. Government that functions to improve the lives of its citizens and makes it “easier for people to be good,’ in the words of Dorothy Day, is behaving as it should. We can argue about what that government should look like it–whether it should be bigger or smaller (though I would argue with size as a frame) or whatever. But to start off a priori with the assumption that government is evil or that smaller gov’t is in every circumstance better than larger is to stifle the very conversation we need to have.

  • There some very good points here but we must reduce the size of the government. For example: 1) The Dept of Energy was formed in the 1970s to reduce the amount of oil imported. Today we still import the same amount of oil but the Dept of Energy costs us $25 Billion a year. 2) The Department of Education has NOT increased the percentage of children graduating high school but it also costs about $25 Billion a year. So cutting these two programs would not hurt the poor but their demise would save us $50 Billion a year. There are other programs which also need to go but no one is talking about cutting the size of government.

    • sdb

      We have a $1,600 billion dollar deficit, and you think $50 billion dollar cuts matter? Look, real budget reform is going to require very controversial cuts to ss, mc, and def budgets. Look, half the country disagrees with you about cutting the dept of Ed. Insisting on that will make it much harder to build the kind of super coalition needed to tackle entitlements. Entitlements and defense cost more than the Feds raise in taxes. This is the problem.

  • FINALLY, economically educated Christians who GET IT!!! Praise God for Timothy Dalrymple & friends!!! I heard a Canadian (a country not known for conservative/anti-socialist sentiment, to say the least) talk about their current prosperity and lack of debt, and he made this point: In the ’90s their center-Left government realized that their spending was unsustainable…and the welfare state they valued must be tied to economic realities. The phrase used then was IT’S ARITHMETIC NOT IDEOLOGY! I cannot for the life of me understand why liberals/Left in the USA assume (any sort) of fiscal responsibility/sanity is a conservative issue. Goodness gracious, if socialistic Canada, Germany and Scandinavia can all be fiscally sound…what makes a sustainable debt & deficit level JUST a “conservative” issue??? You want a robust safety net, THEN SET IT ON A SOUND ECONOMY!

    Personally, I believe in freedom and free-markets, however, even for those who don’t–PLEASE DON’T (continue to) BANKRUPT AMERICA!

    (Sorry for shouting, but I just cannot believe what’s happening in Washington these days.)

    • Diane


      We all want a debt free economy–btw, Clinton achieved that–but some of us want it through–yes!!–higher taxes and nuanced cutting, not taking a wild axe to programs that keep our grandparents from starving.

  • Richard Stewart

    To Diane:

    My questions about your fundamental assumptions concerning the nature and role of government were not intended to stifle the discussion. My desire is simply to make our fundamental assumptions about human nature, and also human government, as plain and explicit as possible. This makes frank discussion possible, instead of stifling it, shutting it down. So here are some more issues I am trying to think through. I’m afraid it’s a bit long. I humbly offer it in an desire to further the conversation, not turn this into a blog-ified shouting match.

    There seems to be a fundamental divide in the United States right now between two mutually contradictory positions, which I shall call the socialist/utopian position, and the democratic capitalist position.

    Regarding more on democratic capitalism, I highly recommend Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism for those interested in the why’s and how’s. He’s a brilliant American Roman Catholic thinker, and his tome is a reasonable and somewhat recent place to start.

    The socialist/utopian position, espoused by the current occupant of the executive branch and, until last year, the majority in Congress, seems to hold a quasi-millenarian faith in the potential of the federal government of the United States to do profound good and benefit to all of mankind. A reasonable summary of this creed, and that is precisely what it is, can be found in the book The Practical Progressive, edited by Erica Payne; the final paragraph of her introduction contains a summary of this belief in the all-sufficiency of the federal government to solve the problems of mankind. As best as I can tell, the utopians are a very long way away from government which merely “prevents chaos” or “makes it easier for people to be good.”

    I believe that the Bible is correct in its assessment of human nature, that human beings are corrupt, corruptible, fallen creatures. I believe in original sin, and the fact that no part of human life, human nature, was spared the scourge of original sin. I also believe that God, in His mercy and for His glory, sent his unique, only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the humiliation of being born on this earth, and living and walking on this earth as a Man. He lived a perfect life, kept all of the requirements (i.e., laws) of His Father, which we fallen people couldn’t keep (see the entire Old Testament for the history of that) and died on the cross to atone for everyone who will repent and turn to Him for salvation and reconciliation with God.

    Therefore, human governments, because they are made up of people, are not immune to the effects of sin. In the United States, we have a system which has had institutionalized restraints on federal power, through our constitutional separation of powers, because the founders believed that government with few limits has little to prevent it from doing evil to everybody. When restraints on government power are reduced, it is the “little guy” who suffers the most. I have seen this personally in other parts of the world (Central America and southern Africa, to name two.)

    That said, I am trying to understand what you meant by saying that the government’s job is to make it easier for people to be good. What more should our current federal government do to make it easier for people to be good? Do you claim that we are in our current predicament because the federal government was not doing enough, somehow, to make it easier for people to be good?

    I must admit am skeptical of the claim that the current situation is due to a lack of federal regulation, but I am willing to hear the argument.

    Finally, I am not very familiar with Dorothy Day; what little I do know is that she was a proponent of a economic philosophy called Distributism. Distributism, which originated amongst Roman Catholic theologians and philosophers, on the face of it, sounds difficult to reconcile with the other Roman Catholic doctrine of Subsidiarity. Nonetheless, I clearly have more homework to on both of those doctrines before I can intelligently discuss either.