While many of us hold our breaths waiting for the US Congress to resolve the Fiscal Cliff issue, I came across "Our Fiscal Soul and the Arithmetic of Protecting the Poor," a commentary by Jim Wallis that was published in the December 6, 2012 issue of The Huffington Post.
Jim Wallis is a public theologian, speaker, preacher and international commentator on religion, public life, faith, and politics. He has taught at Harvard's
and Kennedy School of Government
on Faith, Politics, and Society. He has written eight books, one of which is "Rediscovering
Values on Wall Street, Divinity School Main Street
and Your Street."
Jim Wallis says:
The discussion we are having about "the fiscal cliff" is really a debate about our fiscal soul. What kind of nation do we want to be? We do need a path to fiscal sustainability, but will it include all of us -- especially the most vulnerable? It's a foundational moral choice for the country, and one with dramatic domestic and deadly global implications. It is the most important principle for the faith community in this debate.
I had a recent conversation with an influential senator on these fiscal issues. I said to him, "You and I know the dozen or so senators, from both sides of the aisle, who could sit at your conference table here and find a path to fiscal sustainability, right?"
"Yes," he said, "we could likely name the senators who would be able to do that." I added, "And they could protect the principle and the policies that defend the poor and vulnerable, couldn't they?"
"Yes," he said, "We could do that too." "But," I asked, "Wouldn't then all the special interests come into this room to each protect their own expenditures; and the end result would be poor people being compromised, right?"
The senator looked us in the eyes and said, "That is exactly what will likely happen."
It will happen unless we have bipartisan agreement, at least by some on both political sides, to protect the poor and vulnerable in these fiscal decisions -- over the next several weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year, and then for the longer process ahead in 2013.
But for that to be viable, the arithmetic must work. Our principles won't survive unless we "find the arithmetic" to protect the poor and include the vulnerable in these crucial decisions about the nation's fiscal soul. And that moral arithmetic must ultimately be presented to the American people in clear moral values choices.
- Ariel Murphy