The Common Good

Budgets Are Moral Documents

Sojomail - February 5, 2003


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 5-February-2003 ++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++ Budgets Are Moral Documents ++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Marcel Marceau: silence

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Budgets are moral documents

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *"High Flight": In honor of the seven astronauts...

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *European poll: Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace?

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Jimmy Carter: There are alternatives to war

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *I'm losing patience with my neighbors
 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply
 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Actors and musicians speak out on Iraq

 W e b s c e n e
     *Poets against the war
     *Try this experiment at home

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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Mime is the soul in silence."

- Legendary mime artist Marcel Marceau


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Budgets are moral documents

by Jim Wallis

A budget is a moral document. It clearly demonstrates the priorities of a family, a church, an organization, or a government. A budget shows what we most care about. This week, President Bush sent his budget to Congress - a budget he said reflected his most important priorities. So it is worth paying close attention to.

The president's budget of $2.23 trillion dollars proposes a record deficit of $300 billion, speeds up billions of dollars of tax cuts that provide most of their benefits to the wealthiest Americans, includes huge increases for the Pentagon, and slashes domestic spending - including core government programs that create affordable housing, curb juvenile delinquency, hire police officers, bring aid to rural schools, help make child care available to low-income working mothers, and guarantee children's health insurance. There are the Bush priorities.

The deficits increase each year and run up to $1 trillion dollars over the next five years. The Pentagon budget is increased by 4.2 percent to $380 billion, beyond what was already the biggest military buildup since the height of the Cold War defense budgets under Ronald Reagan. Most of the increases are not directed to counteracting the new threats from terrorist cells all over the world, but for weapons systems guaranteed to leave no defense contractor behind. And the cost of the impending war with Iraq isn't even in the budget! Administration officials estimate that cost on the low side at $50 billion, and on the high side at $200 billion (other estimates run as high as $300 billion). The president says the cost of a war with Iraq will be submitted to Congress as an "emergency measure." Emergency indeed.

There is no money in this budget for the states, which are confronting huge deficits and the prospect of draconian cuts in social services, mostly to the poor. In fact, the administration suggests states could meet their budget challenges with the "flexibility" to cut programs like health insurance for the nation's poorest children.

George W. Bush now sees himself as a war president. But in a time of war, there are no sacrifices for those most able to make them. This budget is not a choice between "guns and butter," as the traditional language goes, but is a budget full of both "missiles and caviar," as commentator Mark Shields so aptly put it. The rich get huge tax breaks, the military gets the big increases, and the poor get left behind.

The president should be commended for increasing the funding for combating AIDS in Africa. He apparently has been listening to the pleas of international aid organizations (many of them faith-based) and perhaps to U2 lead singer Bono, who has relentlessly lobbied this administration to address the AIDS pandemic. But even that increase, reports The Wall Street Journal, comes from shifting funding from a development-aid initiative for poor nations.

The rest of the programs for mentoring and volunteering laid out in the president's State of the Union speech, while good, are relatively low-cost and ultimately more symbolic than substantial. Without the crucial funding for programs that directly and effectively reduce poverty, "compassionate conservatism" is now in grave danger of becoming compassionless conservatism. And as far as the much-heralded faith-based initiative of this administration (which I have supported), equal access to funding for faith-based organizations (which I also have supported) has now been seriously undercut. George Bush's faith-based initiative has been reduced to equal access for religious organizations to the crumbs falling from the table. What a tragic outcome to the promise and rhetoric of the early days of the Bush administration.

Budgets are moral documents, and this one reveals the administration's true priorities.



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approach to education has been preparing minds 
and hearts for lives of renewal. We take seriously
our Christian calling to be God's agents of redemption,
doing his work in his world. God says:  "See I am
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And a call. Calvin: Minds in the Making.


S o u l   W o r k s
In honor of the seven astronauts...

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

- John Gillespie Magee Jr.

An American serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Magee died in 1941 in an air crash. He was 19 years old. Read Magee's fascinating biography:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
European poll...

"Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" With several hundred thousand votes cast, the results were:

North Korea: 7 percent
Iraq: 8 percent
United States: 84 percent.

*Source: Time magazine's European edition Web site poll


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Jimmy Carter: There are alternatives to war

January 31, 2003

"Since it is obvious that Saddam Hussein has the capability and desire to build an arsenal of prohibited weapons and probably has some of them hidden within his country, what can be done to prevent the development of a real Iraqi threat? The most obvious answer is a sustained and enlarged inspection team, deployed as a permanent entity until the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council determine that its presence is no longer needed. For almost eight years following the Gulf War until it was withdrawn four years ago, UNSCOM proved to be very effective in locating and destroying Iraq's formidable arsenal, including more than 900 missiles and biological and chemical weapons left over from their previous war with Iran. Even if Iraq should come into full compliance now, such follow-up monitoring will be necessary. The cost of an on-site inspection team would be minuscule compared to war, Saddam would have no choice except to comply, the results would be certain, military and civilian casualties would be avoided, there would be almost unanimous worldwide support, and the United States could regain its leadership in combating the real threat of international terrorism."

To read Jimmy Carter's entire statement, go to:

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
I'm losing patience with my neighbors

by Terry Jones
Chaucer scholar and Monty Python member

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: He's running out of patience. And so am I!

For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr. Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr. Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr. Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what. I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is.

As for Mr. Patel, don't ask me how I know, I just know - from very good sources - that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one.

Some of my neighbors say, if I've got proof, why don't I go to the police? But that's simply ridiculous. The police will say that they need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbors.

To read the full piece as it appeared in the Observer (U.K.), go to:,6903,882459,00.html

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B o o m e r a n g

D. Jonathan Grieser, assistant professor of religion at Furman University, writes:

I am on the faculty of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and saw the following on a flyer posted on the wall near my office: "Why the Left hates America," announcing a program sponsored by the Young Republicans. I just got my SojoMail and opened the link to Peter Gomes' article. What a comfort in this time of great anguish! I'm no great patriot; I may be a "leftist," but I certainly don't hate America. Thank you for making Peter's words more widely available.


Valerie Daly writes from Central Pennsylvania:

David Batstone writes in last week's SojoMail: "Bush assumes that bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age (just as we did to Afghanistan; if Bush wins a second term, he may successfully push all of civilization back to the era of dinosaurs)...."

While I agree that we should not see war as an early viable option, I think statements like this really undermine the value of valid arguments against the use of force. The state of civilization in Afghanistan under the Taliban, especially in its treatment of women, was not on what I would call a progressive level. Efforts to make the regime of Hussein appear in any way sympathetic ignores the treatment of the Kurds and those who have opposed the regime in any way over the years.

War is horrible; and we need to continue to voice our opposition. But I am grateful that we live in a place where we are free to do so, that we are free to work to try to hold our leadership to a higher standard of accountability. I guess I'm just a little tired of hearing our leadership being compared to some of the worst in history, while others who have committed truly heinous deeds somehow become portrayed as victims of American imperialism. We need to try to speak the truth in all contexts.


Sarah Stockton writes from San Francisco, California:

I appreciated David Batstone's editorial about the reaction he had after listening to Bush - how it made him want to hold his children close. We all watched his speech together as a family, and it was difficult as a parent to have to explain the truth underneath the rhetoric. Sobering.


Alex Araujo writes from Seattle, Washington:

Sometimes it is dangerous to make broad statements, David Batstone is a little melodramatic, don't you think, with his "I fear for my children's future" lament. There have been plenty of reasons for him, and me, to fear for our childrens' future long before G. W. Bush came on the scene. SojoMail has descended to the level of ideological harangue, a really unfortunate turn of events.

The lines are clearly drawn now: On the one side are the "all war is good" gang, on the other the "all war is bad." The issues have become so simple, all I need to do is choose a side and pick up my weapon of choice. There is no room for discernment, consideration of real and valid variables to the basic question.

For someone like me, who is not impressed by our government's policies concerning Iraq so far, it is a lonely world. I cannot in good conscience take seriously the line that SojoMail has taken, since it seems to be childish, naive to a level I thought had been discarded long ago as unhelpful in the real world.


Michael Eamus of Progressive Parks writes:

I couldn't help but be moved by "I fear for my children's future," by David Batstone. What a selfish bastard. Does he not know that 3,000 died on 9/11 and hundreds of kids already no longer have parents to "hold them." Thank god we have a president who will stand up to these "Stone Age" fanatics so that my kids AND his will be safe from future fly-bys. You peaceniks need to familiarize yourself with recent history and pray Saddam and the rest of his "Stone Age" buddies do not cast the second stone. An aside, David's emotional tactic of attaching himself to children is the oldest liberal ploy in the book. World affairs are won with heads, not with hearts. I bet most of your email list is women or sappy, hippie men.


Steffie Belcher writes from South Bristol, Maine:

I am writing to support Susan Hunnicutt in her letter about the silence in the churches. I am grateful that most denominations have spoken against this war but have found the silence in the church Sunday to Sunday and in denominational and seminary related meetings/programs to be frightening. This is a time of crisis and our faith demands that we speak, discuss, pray, and act. It seems that people are afraid of offending people with the message of peace that is very clear in the gospel! How did the word "peace" become offensive? In the '60s this silence was disappointing - now it is very frightening!


Rev. Anne-Marie Hislop writes from Davenport, Iowa:

As a pastor, I resent the sweeping generalization made by Susan Hunnicutt in last week's Boomerang. In her letter, she charges that the issue of the war is "not even raised" on the congregational level. That is far from true. I have just finished my third newsletter column in a row that speaks about the New Testament commands that we be peacemakers, love our enemies, and turn the other cheek. I remind them at every turn that "kill or be killed" is not a Bible quote. Try as I might, however, there is not much response. I agree with Ms. Hunnicutt that to some extent the war is a "non-issue," but not because the people do not care at all. They are frightened for themselves, their children, and grandchildren. Most of them have never met an Arab, few know a Muslim. Unfortunately, many listen to "Christian" radio, where they get a steady diet of fear-mongering and misinformation about "the other." Although I have spent time in the Middle East and try to educate them about the wonderful people in that part of the world, I am a lone voice crying for an hour or so a week. I am afraid my voice gets lost in a sea of other, louder voices that they hear on a daily basis beating the drums of divisiveness and calling for war.


Michael Bauman writes from San Francisco, California:

Susan Hunnicutt's letter to Boomerang last week is sadly true. She wrote that: "National leaders of denominations may be in favor of peace, but they do not even raise the issue at the congregational level. Morally, this war is a total non-issue in contemporary American culture, and the failure of the churches to engage in conversation about this amounts to a deafening silence." Clergy must start preaching what is on their hearts, and not what their congregates want to hear.

Thank God, though, there are thousands of congregations across the United States, including my own Mennonite one here in San Francisco, that are speaking up on the immorality of this (and any other) war. I would suggest that if she is not a part of one of those, this would be a good time to do some church shopping. Those of us trying to be Christ-like need to share in the comfort of God's love in a congregation with similar aspirations. Good luck, Susan!


Ron James writes from Detroit, Michigan:

As a new subscriber to SojoNet, I'd like to add my endorsement to the comment made by Susan Hunnicutt regarding "Churches united for peace." I am a Roman Catholic in the Metro Detroit area, and the pastor of my church has expressed clear opposition to this war on moral grounds, but the Archbishop of Detroit has been noticeably silent. We do have an admirable auxiliary bishop, Tom Gumbleton, who speaks out against this war unceasingly, but he is definitely a minority in the Catholic hierarchy. I think the Catholic press takes a very careful middle-of-the road approach on this huge moral issue, and it baffles me. For sure there are many churches opposed to this war, but not nearly as many as one would think.


Ron Messenger of Flemington, New Jersey, writes:

We have a pretty ordinary church, yet it is impossible to speak up for peace without gathering stares and muttered comments. Last Sunday, a young man came to worship with a T-shirt emblazoned with a tough-looking guy holding an assault rifle and sporting a pro-war sentiment. On the other side was a meek young woman wearing a small angel pin with the word "peace" on it. Can we create a movement toward peace with the likes of testosterone-powered Rumsfield and Bush? Will this war be their mid-life crises?

I lost my only brother in Vietnam. The last letter I got from him said, "Whatever you do, don't come here." To the tough bully boys in Washington, I say, "Don't go there. Please, don't go there."


Beth Ramos, of Holliston, Massachusetts, writes:

As I was holding my "War is not the Answer" sign last Wednesday night at our local vigil, a young child asked, "If war is not the answer, what is?" The adults around him were kind of stumped. He didn't respond well to "compassion" or "love" - we came up with three actions he could relate to: food, education, healing our own homeland. Do you think you all could add to the list?


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Actors and musicians speak out on Iraq

by James Sullivan

When some entertainers engage political ideas in public, their careers suffer. Others, such as contemporary folk singer Ani DiFranco and rapper Chuck D...are beloved by their core fan base precisely for their frank social commentary.

Either way, famous American entertainers - the country's version of royalty - are forever drawn to the allure of public debate. Singers, actors, writers, and other artists have spoken out during most of the past century's major issues - the Cold War, war in Vietnam, Watergate, the equal rights movements.

As with the general populace, though, opposition among celebrities to the impending conflict in Iraq has been relatively slow to build. Dissent in America, of course, was effectively silenced in the aftermath of Sept. 11; war protest just now appears to be coalescing.

Read more at:


W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web


Oh, the places you'll surf!
Quick, come look, come look and see! A Web site filled with fun for thee! All things Seuss, be they large, be they small, await to be found by one and by all! No matter your bandwidth, if high or if low, Seussville is calling:


*Poets against the war

A week ago Sam Hamill sent an open letter to a few friends. Word has spread like wildfire from mailbox to mailbox, and to date more than 3,600 poets have submitted poems or personal statements to register their opposition to the Bush administration's headlong plunge toward war in Iraq. Read Sam's letter and the poetic responses at:


*Try this experiment at home

The Exploratorium, located in San Francisco, was one of the first science museums to offer a companion Web site. You can download instructions for more than 500 at-home experiments. Satisfy your curiosity...go now to:


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