Is the budget a moral document?

Darren McCollester GETTY IMAGES CONCORD, NH – APRIL 15: Linda Dupere holds a sign at a Tea Party tax day … Continued

Darren McCollester


CONCORD, NH – APRIL 15: Linda Dupere holds a sign at a Tea Party tax day rally April 15, 2011 outside the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire. The event brought former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum as speakers, both considering a 2012 run for President. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

There is a new morality debate emerging quickly to the forefront of American politics. Many conservatives now talk about economic issues like the debt, deficit spending, and crumbling entitlement programs as moral problems our country must face head on.

Speaker John Boehner said recently, “It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children’s future and make them beholden to China.” Potential presidential candidates such as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty are taking to the campaign trial calling the national debt “immoral,” and tea party favorite Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says that the “mountain of debt is an immoral burden on future generations.” Speaking about his recent budget proposal Representative Paul Ryan(R-Wisc.) said, “Our debt problem is not just a fiscal challenge involving dollars and cents. It’s a moral challenge involving question of principle and purpose.”

Liberals who are pushing back against entitlement reform and spending cuts, preach a compassion message laced with fear and guilt. For example, President Obama, in his recent speech on the deficit asserted, “’There but for the grace of God go I,’ we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security ….” They tell us that if we reform Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, we are failing our obligation to take care of the poor, those in need, and the elderly.

While our country should provide services to those in need, we cannot be resistant to reforming our generous government assistance programs. Future generations, my generation, and your grandchildren should not have to pay taxes into programs that are likely to fail before they have an opportunity reap any of the benefits that they provided for you. As former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney recently argued, “(A) transformation of our approach to taxes is both an economic and moral imperative.” Of course, if future generations are not able to find adequate employment, there will not be any income to tax so that a social welfare program’s certain death can be prolonged. Job creation is a moral issue too.

If communicated correctly, this new economic morality message can resonate with young evangelicals, some of whom are moving to the political left. At the same time, older, traditional evangelicals who have become active in movements like the tea party will endorse this morality-based approach to economics, knowing that it will increase the likelihood of electing politicians with the backbone to usher sweeping reforms.

The social conservative base, like the pro-life movement, has never been resistant to a conservative economics message but making it about morality, and less about resisting the federal government, will make it easier for them to infuse their social conservative message with economic policy.

In a sense, economic morality has a major ability to unify the conservative movement and broaden our reach as we approach the 2012 elections. This is a defining issue for our country. Will we continue to borrow foreign money to sustain entitlement programs, fail to seriously tackle the growing national debt, and let the next generations deal with the fallout? If we do, we are unloading our problems on future Americans. That is immoral.

More On Faith and the budget:

Thistlethwaite: The Gospel according to Ayn Rand

Arroyo: Budget debates divide us politically, theologically

  • WmarkW

    Fine, but since you didn’t mention Defense, you’re just taking the “cut other people’s money” position, like everyone else does. It won’t get us anywhere.

  • YEAL9

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: a move to true morality!!!

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity.

    The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian “religions” and non-profits since there is there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

  • jimfoxvog

    Of course the budget is a moral issue. Does our money go to help the poor and sick, or the big corporations? Do we protect the environment we all must live in, or protect the profits of the rich? Does the money go to increase the power of the most powerful military on earth, the most powerful military in history? Or for people in need? Does the money come from the poor and the declining middle class, or from the wealthiest, who have greatly increased their share of the wealth these last few decades?

    God told his people to have a year of Jubilee every 50 years. This ended all debt and redistributed the wealth. This is the moral teaching that Jews and Christians need to push to put into practice.

    Christians are to follow Jesus who said (Luke 4.18-19) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” The acceptable year of the Lord is the Jubilee.

  • playfulboyatl

    Simply using the word immoral as a descriptor of budget deficits does not make it so. An over arching statement about the immorality of debt and passing debt on to our children is probably accurate and could be supported by an ethical argument. However this is an overly simplistic tool that conservatives use to emotionally sway supporters and potential voter. A more fruitful and morally worthy endeavor would be to discuss the morality of the specifics of the budget and its imperatives. Where are we choosing to spent money? who is served by a program? what protection is being provided by a department and how? or who is being served by tax cuts or increases and why? When speaking of morality large over arching arguments like the one set forth in this article are meaningless. Lets talk specifics about the choices in the budget and then you can talk about the morality and ethics of our choices!

  • edbyronadams

    Taking care of the poor and elderly can certainly be seen as a moral issue. So can borrowing at unsustainable rates, leaving debt to succeeding generations that had no say in its accumulation. Ultimately, moral philosophy provides the basis for political philosophy and that is expressed in prosaic decisions on taxing, spending and borrowing.

  • daniel12

    Are economic issues in America a moral issue?

    The answer to this question is obvious: Yes, we can speak of a moral issue whenever we discuss economics–but most people fail to see how big and intractable the problem is, how deeply rooted it is with ourselves as a species within a world of species. There are some people who are religious and hopeful, imagining a society in which all people are fed and considered equal, even if the true hope of man is in the afterlife with God. Other people are religious but harder, seemingly not so concerned about social equality or the afterlife but practical and monetary matters. Still other people are not very religious but are socialistic, communitarian like the more considerate religious people; and these latter people often speak of science, progressiveness to society.

    But despite all these types of people in society we are faced with what increasingly is scientific fact: That the human race is a species, that it evolved toward the present day and current intelligence, and that within society there will always be people genetically lagging until the day we somehow, if ever, increase genetic parity between people. This means that that extremely impulsive boy in school who just could not control himself might end up in prison. That the ugly, less accomplished boy who is constantly rejected by the beautiful girls will end up with a partner rather undesirable–if a partner is found at all. And so on. Need I elaborate?

    Our economic system–and the Federal Reserve which tries to keep inflation down while increasing employment within society–is much like our educational system and reflects the biological reality of ourselves as a species. If standards are too low, if wealth too easily and lavishly redistributed, we have the more valuable people wasted and swamped by the less accomplished. On the other hand if we get meritocratic we end up with so many people at the bottom of society for the simple reason that they have little to offer

  • acebojangles

    What’s the reason for thinking that cutting taxes for the rich will increase job growth? The top marginal tax rate was higher in the 90’s (and pretty much any time in the 20th century) and the economy seemed to be doing fine then.

    If reducing the debt is such a moral imperative, why are tax increases and military spending cuts off the table?

  • acebojangles

    Also, where was all this moral imperative talk when Bush was taking a budget surplus and converting it into a huge increase in government debt?

  • RCofield

    While I don’t buy the “evolution” argument, your application of “natural selection” (were it actually the case) is spot-on.

    Eugenics, anyone?

  • RCofield

    Same place we are right now–opposing it.

  • RCofield

    The year of Jubilee was a regulative principle that both curbed out-of-control borrowing (sound familiar?) and gave relief to the poor.

    Redistribution of wealth doesn’t seem to have been the objective of Jubilee at all.

  • RCofield

    Are “further details available upon request?”

  • RCofield

    Well, I think you are going to get your wish granted that the rich be taxed into oblivion. We will see how well your theory works.

    Double-dip recession, anyone?

  • acebojangles

    You really think letting the Bush tax cuts expire would tax the rich into oblivion?

  • RCofield

    Do you really think letting the Bush tax cuts expire will enable us to resolve the current (and ever-growing) deficit?

  • acebojangles

    On its own, no. But raising taxes is part of the solution to the budget problem. But if the national debt is such a huge problem, then why did we extend those tax cuts?

  • YEAL9

    Any one want to estimate what the Great Angel Con has cost global citizens? (some of the added details)

    The con:

    Joe Smith had his Moroni.

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this “tinkerbell” got around).
    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other “no-namers” to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.
    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these “pretty wingie thingies” to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals.

    Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

  • YEAL9

    Hmmm, the national debt per person

  • YEAL9

    “The estimated population of the United States is 310,416,722
    so each citizen’s share of this debt is $46,108.68 as of today.

    The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
    $4.08 billion per day since September 28, 2007!

    Send your donations to

    Gifts/Donations to the United States
    U.S. Department of the Treasury
    Credit Accounting Branch
    3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
    Hyattsville, MD 20782

    Bill Gates and Warren Buffet where are you?

  • david6

    It is clear that the Republican right is not remotely Christian. They mock what Jesus taught, they reject His views on how to treat others. They are the self-satisfied sanctimonious fools that Jesus repeatedly condemned throughout the gospels.

    Anyone who thinks that they can be a follower of Ayn Rand and her gospel of greed, while still claiming to be Christian, is far too self-deluded to be able to reform.

  • david6

    The GOP has a history of supporting massive deficit spending when they are in control. They only object when Democrats are in control. Democrats were once derided as tax and spend. Republicans have thirty years of borrow and spend.

  • david6

    Because Mr. Sekulow is hoping that moderates and liberals will be as silly as conservatives when it comes to listening to error-filled dogma.

  • david6

    Sociopaths find many reasons for not sharing their ill-gotten gains. The fact is that no one in the world has given the world a billion dollars’ worth of value. Every single billionaire in the world has benefited from an unfair lottery — either from birth or from absurdly unreasonable rewards for small accomplishments.

  • RCofield

    Or…the tax cuts were not extended because no one in their right mind believes that taxation will reverse this recession.

    Unless the economy is turned around there exists very little possibility of ever reducing the national debt.

    Only a combination of an improved economy and deep spending cuts will reverse our current situation. History has proven that increased taxation only results in increased spending by a mindless congress–Democrat and Republican.

  • RCofield

    That’s the problem with evolution theory [sic]. It is mindless, so it cannot weed out the sociopaths.

    And eliminating the “billionaires” in favor of socialism hasn’t really worked out very well in the past, has it?

  • RCofield

    You’ve posted that dozens of times. I’ve read it every time. Still doesn’t make sense.



    1. First a clarification: you cannot call “increased taxation” the act of letting expire a tax break that was supposed to die after certain time. What the government (we the people) is trying to do is just return the taxes for the rich to the level they where supposed to be.

    2. Cutting expenses and not renewing the tax cut to the rich is not enough to have a balanced budget and pay more debt every year at the same time. We still are feeling the effects of the recession, even if it already ended. A more accelerated recovery of the economy is needed.

    3. To attain a more accelerated recovery you cannot stop expending and investing money in things that are essential in a modern society, like education, health, research, etc.

    4. Reduction of “unnecessary expenses” and “inefficiencies in the government operations” must be part of the budget plan, but by itself this don’t suffice as the center of a plan to recover the economy.

    5. During Clinton years history proved that a higher than today level of taxation did not resulted in mindless expending. On the contrary, the budget was better balanced and the debt reduced.

    6. During Bush II years history proved that lower level of taxation to rich don’t necessarily result in more jobs. On the contrary, job were lost at unseen pace.

    8. During two years and some months of Obama, jobs have started to increase little by little due to bailouts in key industries, stimulus, investments, etc., no tax cuts needed.

    9. Based in all previous points, it can be said that had the tax break for the rich let expire at the first date it was supposed to, the jobs increase and economic recovery during the past year would have been even more accelerated.

  • edbyronadams

    Neither tax cuts nor government spending will stimulate sustained growth this time around. There is plenty of capital available so that tax cuts won’t work. The constraining factor is natural resources, chiefly petroleum. The run up in fuel prices presaged that last dip and the current run up is an evil omen for the future.

    This discussion digresses from the idea of morality. We will not grow our way out of our budget imbalance this time. It is imperative that we make hard choices if our offspring are to have any decent future.

  • stevie7

    The Right’s ability to gloss over, or re-brand moral issues never ceases to amaze. The term ‘entitlement’ programs is quite brilliant. Let’s not call Medicare and Medicaid what they are – a modern society not leaving its poor and elderly to suffer and deny them basic medical care. Instead, make the poor and elderly seem like blood-sucking leeches. Funnel money upwards, ’cause that’s been working out so well. Yeah, those wall street bankers need more money because they’ve shown themselves to be so responsible.

    Yes, it’s certainly moral to provide a balanced budget and not just pass on the price of poor judgement to later generations. But there’s plenty of fat to cut that won’t further punish the least of us.

  • stevie7

    Wait .. you mean lying to start a war in a country that never attacked us, spending billions in the process isn’t moral? Where was the religious right on that one? Oh, I forgot, that country didn’t share their religion, so its all good.

  • YEAL9

    Obviously, you still believe in angels aka tinkerbells, fairies or “pretty, wingie, singing thingies”.

  • RCofield

    Well, no, I don’t “believe in” angels who are “tinkerbells, faries, or pretty wingie, singing thingies.”

    The accounts of the appearance of angels in the bible state that their appearance struck mortal fear in those who saw them. Hardly the response you would expect if they were just “pretty, wingie, singing thingies.”

    Perhaps you are just unfamiliar with the bible?

  • YEAL9

    The Apostles’ Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)- a daily reading for those who still believe in angels

    I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.