It is revealing to observe the budget cutting debates. As Jim Wallis of Sojourners rightly affirms, “A budget is a moral document.” So budget cutting reveals moral priorities. Where leaders are willing to cut and where they are not willing to cut is indicative of what interests they are willing to sacrifice and what they are seeking to protect.
As a citizen and a pastor, I am very concerned about this process for many reasons. Some are just common sense, some are very Scriptural, and some may be my own politics too. I read a recent thought-provoking editorial by Jim Wallis of Sojourners. For those of you who are looking for a Christian voice that is very concerned about the poor, this organization may be your choice. I am adding them to my blog roll. After reading Jim’s comments, I decided to make some of my own budget debate observations.
- I am concerned that there is a complete lack of political courage to address entitlements. I am in those pre-retirement years and am sensitive about some of them too. But anyone who has ever dealt with a budget knows that when you need to seriously cut a budget, the biggest items need to feel the knife too. If not, the program items, the discretionary items, will be disproportionately axed. And, if, as I understand it, as in the case of most federal and state budgets, the entitlements are also growing, then the situation will not be corrected anyway unless entitlements are addressed. So when will there be political courage to face this issue?
- I am concerned about the distortion in the budget processes introduced at all levels by un-funded mandates. For examples, local schools are told by NY state government what they have to do and then they have to raise the funds to do it. Now NY State is cutting funding but not changing its mandates. Unfair! Foul! Irresponsible! In most cases, a government level that mandates something should also be required to provide funds or be unable to mandate! The federal government does the same to the states. The problem is that such mandates shift the financial responsibility away from the body doing the voting which is not what our forefathers intended. It’s too easy to say something is fine with you if you know someone else is paying.
- It is hard know when the politicians are grandstanding and when they are trying to draw a line. Two Republican governors made a big deal of turning down huge public works projects. Now the Republican governor of Wisconsin has put himself in the middle of a huge labor issue and distracted the debate there away from the budget and onto union organizing rights. Now the Democratic senators in Wisconsin can do their own grandstanding by holing up in Chicago. We elect people to deal with the budget, not to see if they can get famous.
- I was thankful to see Planned Parenthood funding finally being challenged. The organization is an abortion mill and recent revelations have confirmed it is not worthy of federal funding. It never has been! I pray that the Senate agrees with the House and eliminates its funding.
- Programs that specifically help inner city and lower income people such as heating money for the elderly, day care for working mothers, recreational facilities for the inner city, are the kind that I believe should be given priority for preserving financial aid.