One of the gravest dangers of the Budget Control Act passed yesterday is that it could provide Americans with a false sense of security. Washington has finally taken action. The crisis has passed. The sky is brightening, the trees are parting before us and — we’re out of the woods. Right?
Alas, but no. Not only are we deep in the dark heart of the forest, but we’re still walking in the wrong direction. The pace may have slowed, but the trajectory has not. The immediate cash-flow crisis has passed, but the long-term solvency crisis remains. We are still borrowing enormous amounts of money, still selling our children into debt slavery through our own spending insanity. While the Budget Control Act (best summarized by Keith Hennessey) is intended to reduce the deficit (the difference between expected revenues and planned spending, or the amount we have to borrow in order to spend what we want to spend) in the years to come, it does not reduce the debt (the amount the federal government owes). It slows — by a little — the rate at which the debt grows, but the debt is still astronomical and still swiftly growing.
So make no mistake: the Budget Control Act doesn’t put a dent in the mountain of debt our government has accrued. If the commitments of the BCA are fulfilled, then we will add to that mountain at a slightly-less-manic pace than before, but the very purpose of the act was to enable the big Beltway spenders to make the mountain bigger. Worse, the BCA leaves completely unchanged the social and political dynamics that have led to this debt in the first place. Our political elite are addicted to spending. It’s how they curry favor, it’s how they win elections, and it’s how they exercise and enjoy their power. They’re perfectly willing to borrow money to feed the addiction, because they have a credit card. The name on the credit card is: You and Your Children.
One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy. A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.” But we don’t need to protect the programs. We need to protect the poor. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs. Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations. Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?
It is immoral to ignore the needs of the least of these. But it’s also immoral to ’serve’ the poor in ways that only make more people poor, and trap them in poverty longer. And it’s immoral to amass a mountain of debt that we will pass on to later generations. I even believe it’s immoral to feed the government’s spending addiction. Since our political elites have demonstrated such remarkably poor stewardship over our common resources, it would be foolish and wrong to give them more resources to waste. What we need our political leaders committed to prudence and thrift, to wise and far-sighted stewardship, and to spurring a free and thriving economy that will encourage the poor and all Americans to seize their human dignity as creatures made in the image of God, to be fruitful and take initiative and express their talents and creativity.
Note: Articles are placed here to educate and stimulate conversation. It is not implied that the signers of our Letter to the President agree with the comments in the articles or blog posts.