The Common Good

This is Not Fiscal Conservatism. It's Just Politics.

Sojomail - February 24, 2011


"Building South Africa is a multidecade project. We have embarked on a long walk to economic freedom. All South Africans aspire to these freedoms."

- Pravin Gordhan, South African Finance Minister, on a new budget that plans to spend more on housing, schools, health, developing rural areas, student aid, and welfare for the elderly, disabled, and for children. (Source: Boston Globe/AP)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

This is Not Fiscal Conservatism. It's Just Politics.

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support

The current budget and deficit debate in America is now dominating the daily headlines. There is even talk of shutting down the government if the budget-cutters don't get their way. There is no doubt that excessive deficits are a moral issue and could leave our children and grandchildren with crushing debt. But what the politicians and pundits have yet to acknowledge is that how you reduce the deficit is also a moral issue. As Sojourners said in the last big budget debate in 2005, "A budget is a moral document." For a family, church, city, state, or nation, a budget reveals what your fundamental priorities are: who is important and who is not; what is important and what is not. It's time to bring that slogan back, and build a coalition and campaign around it.

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, says he only really cares about his budget deficit; however, it now appears that he proudly sees himself as the first domino in a new strategy for Republican governors to break their public employee unions. (We are already seeing similar actions in Indiana, Ohio, and New Jersey.) Governor Walker's proposed bill is really more about his ideological commitments and conservative politics -- which favor business over labor -- than about his concern for Wisconsin's financial health. Thousands of working-class Americans are now protesting in the streets of Madison and have made this a national debate. Even protesters in Egypt are sending messages of hope (and pizzas) to the Wisconsin demonstrators.

The Republican governors' counter parts in the U.S. House of Representatives are also not cutting spending where the real money is, such as in military spending, corporate tax cuts and loop-holes, and long term health-care costs. Instead, they are cutting programs for the poorest people at home and around the world. This is also just political and not genuine fiscal conservatism. It is a direct attack on programs that help the poor and an all-out defense of the largesse handed out to big corporations and military contractors. If a budget is a moral document, these budget-cutters show that their priorities are to protect the richest Americans and abandon the poorest -- and this is an ideological and moral choice. The proposed House cuts, which were just sent to the Senate, are full of disproportionate cuts to initiatives that have proven to save children's lives and overcome poverty, while leaving untouched the most corrupt and wasteful spending of all American tax dollars -- the Pentagon entitlement program. This is not fiscal integrity; this is hypocrisy.

U.S. military spending is now 56 percent of the world's military expenditures and is more than the military budgets of the next 20 countries in the world combined. To believe all that money is necessary for genuine American security is simply no longer credible. To say it is more important than bed nets that prevent malaria, vaccines that prevent deadly diseases, or child health and family nutrition for low-income families is simply immoral. Again, these are ideological choices, not smart fiscal ones. To prioritize endless military spending over critical, life-saving programs for the poor is to reverse the biblical instruction to beat our swords into plowshares. The proposed budget cuts would beat plowshares into more swords. These priorities are not only immoral, they are unbiblical.

Now some members of Congress seem to want to force a government showdown over all this. They are saying there will be no shared sacrifice for the rich, only sacrifices from the poor and middle-class, or we will shut down the government. The only people whose lives have returned to normal in America are the ones who precipitated our financial and economic crisis in the first place. They have all returned to record profits, while many others are still struggling with unemployment, stagnant wages, loss of benefits, home foreclosures, and more. These representatives are claiming that we should restore fiscal integrity by protecting all the soaring billionaires, while forcing the already-squeezed to make more and more concessions.

Let me offer a word to those who see this critique as partisan. I've had good friendships with Republican members of Congress, but not the kind who get elected by their party anymore. But let's be clear, when politicians attack the poor, it is not partisan to challenge them; it is a Christian responsibility.

This is wrong, this is unjust, this is vile, and this must not stand. Next week, thanks to your support, look for a full-page ad in Politico signed by faith leaders and organizations across the country that asks Congress a probing question: "What would Jesus cut?" These proposed budget cuts are backwards, and I don't see how people of faith can accept them. And we won't.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog

  Building a Movement

Faith & Economics: A Teleconference for Leaders

The recession has hit our communities hard and faith leaders are often on the front lines responding to those who have lost their jobs, homes, and savings. Join Jim Wallis on a special call for clergy and faith leaders on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET, to discuss how the faith community is responding.

Special guests include: Elizabeth Warren, special advisor to the president in setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association; and Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed.

+RSVP today!

  Inside Sojourners Magazine

The Human Toll in Afghanistan

"In Kabul, it's clear that money was secured from somewhere to surround buildings on nearly every street with enormous concrete blast walls, sandbags, razor wire, and men with AK-47s -- turning the city into a massive open-air prison. Someone decided that razor wire was a greater priority than paving roads, providing clean drinking water, or building a much-needed sewage system for the city."

+Read more of Eric Stoner's report from Afghanistan in this month's Sojourners magazine.


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Contend for the Gospel, But Please Don't Be a Jerk
by Eugene Cho

In a pluralistic world of a plethora of thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and worldviews, it makes total sense to me that Christians need to be equipped and engaged in "contending" for the Gospel.
+ Click to continue

Will Gaddafi Fall?
by Eric Stoner

For the tenth day in a row, protesters in Libya took to the streets today, despite the use of far more violence from the state than what happened during Egypt's recent uprising.
+ Click to continue

How Do We Take Lent Beyond Chocolate and Caffeine?
by Tracey Bianchi

Lent. It's an odd word, not exactly one that shows up in the vernacular of our everyday. "Hey, how's it going?" "Good, just coming up with a plan for Lent. How are you?"
+ Click to continue

Why I'm Trying to Resist Political Prejudice
by Aaron Taylor

I'll be honest, I've been pretty disgusted with the callousness of our national discourse, how so many politicians, including Democrats, seem all too eager to balance state and federal budgets on the backs of the poor.
+ Click to continue

People of Faith United in Wisconsin
by Phil Haslanger

In the midst of the national uproar over the attempt by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to remove most collective bargaining rights for most public employees, there's another issue lurking in the budget measure that the governor is trying to push through the state legislature which takes aim at health care for the working poor, senior citizens, children, the disabled, and others trapped in poverty.
+ Click to continue

'Have You Tried Washing Their Feet?'
by Betsy Shirley

Growing up in the world of evangelical megachurches, I heard a lot of people who claimed to know "what the Bible says about homosexuality."
+ Click to continue

When Will 3.5 Million Palestinians Get Their Chance For Freedom?
by Gary M. Burge

I must confess I was dumbfounded. It was bad enough this winter when Israel refused to call a moratorium on settlements in the West Bank, even after the United States urged it to do so (and sent our latest $3 billion check).
+ Click to continue

Back in Business in Haiti
by Jacqueline Klamer

More than a year after an earthquake stalled the country's economy, some business owners in Haiti have recovered and expanded production faster than expected.
+ Click to continue

Showcasing Unsung Heroes in the Middle East
by Becky Garrison

During my interview in Sojourners (December 2010) with Julia Bacha, director and producer of the film Budrus, we elaborated on the ordinary grassroots activists she met in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories who are involved with nonviolent efforts to end the occupation and resolve the conflict.
+ Click to continue

Afghanistan Weekly Digest: Civilian Casualties. Drones. Solutions.
by Hannah Lythe

As part of Sojourners campaign to end the war in Afghanistan, we will run a weekly Afghanistan news digest to educate our readers about the latest news and developments related to the war, the U.S. military's strategy, and the people impacted by our decisions.
+ Click to continue

Loving Your Enemies (Even When You Don't Want To)
by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Sometimes when I'm bored I kind of like to fill in sound effects that I think the crowd listening to Jesus might have responded with.
+ Click to continue

Wisconsin: America's Tahrir Square?
by Jake Olzen

A week after a shocked world reveled in Egypt's incredible moment of freedom and people power, Wisconsin is reviving its own unique tradition of people power and creative protest.
+ Click to continue

Poverty Tourism Can Make Us Thankful
by Kent Annan

The jolt in Port-au-Prince herniated a disk in my lower back last month. The pain is making it hard to sleep at night. I've walked with a sideways bent and haven't been able to pick up my two young children since.
+ Click to continue

Wall Street's Plastic -- and Poison -- Ivy
by Elizabeth Palmberg

If corporate fronts designed to look like grassroots efforts are known as astroturf, what should Wall Street propaganda dressed up in fake ivory-tower endorsements be called -- fake ivy?
+ Click to continue

Friday Links Round Up: Mobilizing Hope. Gnomes. Afghanistan.
by Jeannie Choi

Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week.
+ Click to continue

Still Missing in the Arab World: Assembly and Free Speech
by Daoud Kuttab

Ten years ago, I established AmmanNet, the Arab world's first Internet radio that used technology to create audio and text content freely.
+ Click to continue

Lara Logan and Sexual Violence in Egypt
by Larisa Friesen Hall

Agree with her politics or not, Lara Logan is charting territory in which we still see very few women as the chief foreign correspondent at CBS News.
+ Click to continue

The Solution in Afghanistan: Get Out
by Jim Wallis

The small percentage of Americans who have borne the brunt of the human costs of this war, the utter corruption of the government we are supporting, and the toll in Afghan civilian casualties all make the continuing of this war immoral.
+ Click to continue

Memo to Governor Scott Walker from Pope Benedict XVI
by Duane Shank

An estimated 30,000 people converged in Madison, Wisconsin's Capitol Square and inside the Capitol building on Thursday to protest Governor Scott Walker's attempt to meet the state's budget crisis by breaking the public employees' union.
+ Click to continue

The Other Side of the Border
by Andrew Wainer

Even before the 112th Congress convened in January, we knew that advancing progressive immigration policy would be challenging.
+ Click to continue

I Was Attacked During Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton's Speech Yesterday
by Ray McGovern

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protesters and do not allow free expression, I was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized, and left bleeding in jail.
+ Click to continue


+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Religious leaders step up to defend workers
The Cap Times
Writing for The Cap Times in Madison, Wisconsin, columnist Phil Haslanger references one of Jim Wallis' recent statements: "When I read the Gospels, the narrative is clear: Defend the poor and pray for the rich. But our political leaders have taken to defending the rich, and if the poor are lucky, they might get a prayer.”

Should Christians Care About Unions?
The Huffington Post
Blogging for The Huffington Post, Christopher LaTondresse, of Recovering Evangelical, references a recent God's Politics blog post by Duane Shank.

Budget Cuts Target The Poor, Faith Groups Say
Religion News Service
In an article from Religion News Service, reporter G. Jeffrey MacDonald mentions Sojourners efforts to make sure deficit reductions are handled in a moral manner.

National Debt as a Biblical Issue: Did Selfishness Lead to Giant Deficit?
ABC News
Writing for ABC News, reporter Susanna Kim quotes Jim Wallis: "Budgets are moral documents. They reveal where our priorities lie as a nation. To protect the rich instead of the poor in the name of deficit reduction is immoral."

Polling Evangelicals: Cut Aid to World's Poor, Unemployed
Christianity Today
In a piece for Christianity Today, Tobin Grant refers to Sojourners' work to defend the poor and vulnerable during a time when budget cuts threaten important programs.

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Has your church been hit hard by the economic crisis? Jim Wallis invites clergy to join him on a special call on March 2 @ 3 p.m. EST. RSVP here.

Every Christian is an "undocumented foreigner" - in the world but not of it. Learn more about Strangers in the Land, a six-week devotional on immigration, the church and the Bible. From the editors of Sojourners magazine.

Free Gandhi poster with a new subscription to Sojourners magazine! Learn more.

Preaching the Word is Sojourners’ web-based Bible study and sermon prep service. Let leading voices on faith and social justice inspire you: Walter Brueggemann, Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr, Julie Polter, Ched Myers, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Paula Gooder, and more.

Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.