Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ten Common Sense Approaches to Overcoming the Federal Deficit

Quit letting the deadbeats drain the system of my tax money!

Corporate Welfare will bleed us dry if we don’t cut them off!

Obama Care is a dangerous waste of tax money!

They had better never touch my Medicare or Social Security Benefits!

We have to cut the military because it is killing our economy!

Big Government takes my precious tax dollar and wastes it in needless ways!

The welfare state is just another expression of socialism and should be abolished!

Charitable Tax Deductions drain our economy


There is something wrong with every one of these statements and many others just like them. They all make the dangerous assumption that any specific cut, any single program, any particular ideology on government spending or involvement in our common life will solve all our national financial ills. Furthermore, most of these statements become more than just suggestions. Rather, they stand for arrogant all-or-nothing approaches to resolving our nation’s fiscal worries.

And … none of them will really work!

The fact of the matter is simple. Christians, we have a sacred (Biblical) obligation to care for everyone in our society. As Americans, we also have a civic duty to uphold the common good that supports everyone in our culture. Unfortunately, much of what passes for political and economic solutions to our national economic problems are really only self-serving, one-sided, short-lived, and presumptively judgmental actions that will only exacerbate the nation’s economic woes and potentially drive us to economic collapse.

There is no escaping a tragic reality. Our economy is broken--seriously broken!

There are a few becoming exceptionally wealthy on stocks and trades, as well as boom industries. The vast majority of Americans are barely scraping along. A tragically high number of Americans live frighteningly below the poverty line.  The system cannot maintain such inequality forever.

The Government is one of the most inefficient spenders of money. There is countless waste and bloated spending throughout all sectors of the United States Government. The idea that some are justifiable and some inexcusable generally falls to the distinction of personal preference, partisan posturing,  or is postulated as the primary points of political platforms. Yet, the fact remains, if the federal debt is not contained, the economy will crash, period. The question remains, how do we do it?

Sequester, for all the political wrangling it contains, will accomplish nothing of any long-term benefit. It may save a few dollars here and there, and may actually promote an increase in spending in other arenas. This means the long-term benefit will be negligible. It was, and remains, a clever political distraction with no real substance.

So … what are Christians to do?

Rather than the commonly touted fixes, perhaps it is time the Christians and Americans who really care about the economic future of this nation really must stop shouting each other down and start working toward genuine, legitimate, and common-sense solutions.

Below are ten. They are not a final word, nor are they any presumption of a definitive solution. Yet they stand, as they are, as viable means of beginning down a road with a genuinely positive and effective outcome.

1. Understand that just because you personally do not use a government program or feel you receive any benefit from it, does not automatically make that government program wrong or wasteful.

2. Short-term solutions create long-term problems. It is vital that the nation look at the broad and long-term consequences of economic policy decisions rather than their immediate impact.

3. The dichotomy between “Big Government” and “Small Government” is false and needs to be abandoned completely. The fact is, government spending, incentives, and benefits are completely woven through the entire fabric of our society. Simply shrinking or expanding the government (or any sector of the government) will have a mix of positive and negative consequences that must be carefully calculated.

4. No government program is perfect. Likewise, there is no government program that has absolutely no positive value. Rather than an arbitrary all-or-nothing approach to what should be kept and what should be cut, a thorough understanding of a program’s strengths and weaknesses needs to be considered.

5. Health Care is a major issue and neither adopting nor abolishing Obama Care will significantly change anything until the fundamental structures of how health care is billed, funded, and compensated are changed.

6. Democrats and Republicans must understand that we need each other—neither party can solve the national economic crisis alone. Yet, by refusing to work together, we are actually securing our mutual self-destruction. To that end, we also need to remember that we are all Americans—you know, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Along with working together across partisan lines, we need to drop the distractive and prejudicial labels that confound our conversations and polarize our people. Just because someone does not share the same economic outlook as you, does not automatically make that person a Socialist, Fascist, Marxist, Nazi, Communist, or whatever negative and condescending labels are used.

7. Balance is essential. Left unchecked and unregulated, market capitalism will concentrate too much wealth into the hands of too few and create even worse inequity than we presently know. When government becomes too restrictive and regulatory, it strangles the economy unnecessarily. Either extreme will crash the economy and must be avoided.

8. Dependence on federal money and benefits or allowances is ubiquitous in our nation and cannot be simply minimized, overlooked, or eradicated.  Corporate welfare, federal subsidies, food stamps, non-profit tax benefits, federal aid, health care spending, tax deductions, as well as government salaries, pensions, purchases, and reimbursements, all feed into and take from the economy in many ways—some positive and some negative—and therefore must be carefully evaluated for benefit as well as cost.

9. The human factor is critical. No person deserves to be reduced to merely an economic value, factor, benefit, or determinant. When human life is reduced to its capacity to either give to or drain from the economy, the common good is not served and the human spirit is disgraced for us all.

10. The church needs to become economically wise—true wisdom and not the presumptive propaganda that passes for wisdom in most media news outlets. This involves biblical knowledge of understanding God’s Biblical calls for economic justice, equality, and protections, as well as understanding relevant economic realities, theories, abuses, and practices. As an economically wise church, we must work together to choose and make the necessary sacrifices that are essential for the common good. In addition, we can stand in solidarity to speak for and defend those who much need a voice in the economy so that the ‘least of these’ are never left out in the cold. Finally, we can stand in solidarity with one another in helping everyone make the transition from a broken economy to a healthy one so that, as a nation and global economic driver, we can be the positive change and meaningful financial example that honors God in all things.

Pollyannaish? Perhaps.

But then again, so is every other one-sided, judgmental, and short-term solution floating around out there. The only difference is that this approach at least tries to recognize the complexity and diversity of our economic system rather than propose immediate results from short-sighted solutions.

These ten points alone will not fix anything, but if everyone in positions of influence—even just influence in the privacy of our own homes and through the power of faithful prayer—begin honest, respectful, and meaningful conversations around these critical points, the Unite States will pull out of this economic nightmare with our unity, or dignity, and our national pride intact. If we don’t … Well let’s all just hope we can learn now, rather than be forced to pick up the pieces later.

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