How to Talk About the Federal Budget
June 14, 2011
Though the government has been funded for the remainder of 2011, the budget battle in Washington is not over. Treasury emergency measures keeping us from default will run out around August 2, and an agreement to raise the debt ceiling must be reached before then to prevent another global economic crisis. At the same time, the House and Senate are working on the appropriations process for fiscal year 2012, which begins in October. As people of faith, it is important that we defend programs that protect people who are poor and vulnerable.
Talking about the budget can seem intimidating. The process of funding the government is complicated, and most people do not have the time or the energy to learn about the intricacies of the tax code or appropriations process. But the good news is: you don’t have to! A moral response to this budget crisis prioritizes programs that provide for those who are poor and vulnerable, because our country’s future is dependent on the posterity of our entire nation, not just the wealthy. At NETWORK, we believe our values should frame the debate and our government should care for the common good.
- There are two ways to decrease the federal debt: reduce spending and increase revenue. In order to keep our communities strong, we need to do both responsibly.
- Over the last ten years, our national debt has doubled due to reckless tax cuts for wealthy Americans and corporations, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we deal with trillion dollar deficits today, we need solutions that address the problems, not solutions driven by ideology.
- Not raising the debt ceiling would have a devastating effect on people of all economic classes—especially people in poverty. Refusing to pay our bills would be a disaster for our economy—a default will cost us more than half a million jobs, dramatically increase interest rates on student loans, mortgages, and credit cards, and add to the deficit because other countries would charge more interest on our current debt.
Specific policy ideas that NETWORK supports:
- We should move away from fighting wars on a credit card and embrace smart security by investing in development and eliminating unnecessary defense spending.
- Our tax code needs to be simplified. Right now, our government spends more through tax giveaways than it takes in.
- Medicare and Medicaid reform should attack rising healthcare costs by building on cost-savings included in the Affordable Care Law, instead of shifting the burden of paying for these costs to poor and elderly people.
- Social Security did not cause this deficit and should be examined separately from debt-reduction plans.
- A balanced budget amendment would be a reckless response to the current debt problems. It would not allow future generations to respond to crises in a timely or appropriate manner. Additionally, it would force drastic cuts to programs that help poor people, instead of looking at shared sacrifice to resolve our country’s fiscal problems.