Look at the moral side of the fiscal cliff
The Kansas City Star
As pastors, we believe the ongoing fiscal showdown in Washington over taxes, the safety net and the deficit is not simply a matter of dollars and sense — it is a question of right and wrong. The outcome of this debate has profound moral consequences for our nation, and potentially harsh human consequences for American families.
The way some politicians talk about these negotiations, you would never know that the health and economic security of real flesh-and-blood people hang in the balance. Instead of making apocalyptic claims that we are about to become another Greece, perhaps they should take a look around America. Across the country, many poor families work fulltime but still strain to make ends meet. Food stamps, unemployment insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credits kept 14 million of these Americans out of poverty. Millions of children, including hundreds of thousands in Missouri, would go to bed hungry without these programs and would have no access to healthcare without Medicaid. Seniors on fixed incomes depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for their very survival. We see this reality face to face in our neighborhoods and congregations. These are the people our leaders must represent and defend, not the special interests whose well-heeled lobbyists are roaming the halls of Congress.
Scripture is clear that nations – not just individuals — will be judged by how we treat the least among us. In order to pass this test, we must raise enough revenues to fund a safety net that reduces poverty, prevents hunger and cares for the sick. At a time of staggering economic inequality, robust corporate profits, large deficits and historically low taxes on rich people, our leaders need to summon the courage to make powerful special interests pay their fair share. That starts with ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans and closing loopholes for big, profitable corporations. Our current revenue levels are inadequate and will lead either to cuts that make people suffer or unsustainable deficits. Politicians who oppose tax increases on the richest among us but consider taking food assistance and healthcare away from poor families and seniors a necessary sacrifice have lost their moral compass.
The way the fiscal cliff debate is playing out in Washington clarifies the values at stake. Clergy leaders of the PICO National Network, of which we are members, have met with Senators, organized call-in days from our congregations to Capitol Hill offices, and sent letters calling on lawmakers to protect low-income families, end the Bush tax cuts on the top two percent, and not cut benefits to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Meanwhile corporate CEOs have intensely lobbied both parties to enact a “pro-growth” plan that cuts taxes for powerful corporations while undermining needed benefits for seniors and working families. And all the while, many politicians stick to the inaccurate refrain that we only have a spending problem.
Any fiscal cliff deal that undermines the health or economic security of American families and fails to require rich and powerful special interests to pay their fair share is immoral. Our elected representatives have a grave responsibility to uphold our values of fairness, justice and shared sacrifice.
Rev. Rayfield Burns is Assistant to the Pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Jennifer J. Thomas is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Both are members of Communities Creating Opportunity and Missouri Faith Voices.