Here’s a question: if I owed you boatload of money you know I’ll never be able to pay back, would you keep loaning me money? Think of the $14 trillion America’s in debt. Once despised, debt has become a way of living not only for individuals, but for the government. Some critics swear it’s driving us off a precipice while others insist it’s good for the economy. Kinda like arsenic is good for your fever blister.
The political brinkmanship both parties played last week before the S & P downgrade of US creditworthiness, shows that our so-called debate over the national debt really isn’t a debate; we’re on two different planets. At least two. Conservatives insist we must stop spending money we don’t have while liberals (“progressives” if you prefer) insist we must spend play money because the innumerable federal programs they pay for help so many people in need.
This blog’s not for analyzing national politics but when holding the line on spending is labeled “immoral” by people like NY Senator Chuck Schumer, I’m going to wade in. Suddenly, everybody’s got religion–even on Capitol Hill where they’re asking, “What would Jesus do?” Democrats insist that because Jesus favored the poor in his teachings, he would condemn the proposed cuts in increased spending demanded by Republicans. And Republicans claim that because delaying coming to grips with our soaring debt could bankrupt future generations–or even this one, Jesus would insist we get our financial house in order.
At the crux of any discussion on the morality of a federal budget and debt must be right thoughts about borrowed money. My wife and I are not wealthy by American standards but proportionate to our income, we try to give away a lot of money. Yet, we have never donated someone else’s money. Or borrowed money to donate to someone. I once heard of a pastor who borrowed $50,000 to give to his church’s building project. That’s just looney.
The Bible says that borrowing turns people into slaves. Meaning, since the lender could call in the loan at any time, we must dance to his tune. We are not free to do as we wish (think of China playing a flute in 2025). And, we have a spiritual/moral obligation to repay any loan (Let no debt remain outstanding… Rom.13:8).
What would Jesus do? It’s true that He advocated for the poor. He condemned the rich who mistreated them. He condemned all the people who were unconcerned about them. But when he was preaching to thousands on a hillside, what Jesus wouldn’t do is have one of His disciples write a letter to Rome demanding that they feed his audience. He fed them Himself. King David and King Solomon did not use the Israeli treasury to feed those who were in need. It was not the government’s responsibility to feed the poor, that was the responsibility of the citizenry; to be generous. Too often I see people apply Scriptures for individuals, to government. Careful.
Interestingly enough, the very people attacking conservatives for not caring about those in need, give away the least. Arthur Brooks’ book Who Really Cares? studied who gives the most to charity. Armed with certain assumptions, he was stunned to learn that conservatives give 30% more than liberals. Google’s research was even worse: conservatives give twice as much as progressives. Noted liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof says “We liberals are personally stingy.” In 2008 he wrote, Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.
If there’s no personal sacrifice, can you really claim to be compassionate? If to meet John’s need I reach for your wallet instead of mine, would you call me compassionate? When congressional representatives vote to increase taxes to fund both their worthwhile and their worthless programs, there is no personal investment or sacrifice.
And who with a straight face can define compassion as voting to spend money you know you won’t have? That too is immoral and something for which future generations will demand an accounting.
Part of the “immorality” charge against those promoting spending controls and tax breaks is that very wealthy people and large businesses are using tax loopholes to pay little or no taxes. Looking for additional revenue, critics want them to pay “their fair share”. I could not agree more that our tax system is inequitable. Which will not change until we send enough people with moral backbones to Washington to eliminate all tax breaks for anyone–especially those who can afford lobbyists–and impose some sort of a flat or fair tax. Now THAT would be moral.