As I was reading PRISM magazine today (a publication of Evangelicals for Social Action, out of Palmer Seminary, where I'll be attending this fall!), I came across an article about the United States budget crisis by Ron Sider, presider and founder of ESA, and the leader of the research center where I'll be working this coming year. The issue of the national budget deficit seems to consume the nightly news each day and prompt a series of back and forth evening "special broadcasts" from both political parties. However interested and informed I would like to be, I've started to get a little lost in the muddle of all the back-and-forth.
Reading Ron Sider's article today vividly highlighted the issues at stake in the midst of this "crisis" once again, and posed some challenging questions that we must decide as citizens, people of faith, and as voters and influencers of policy makers in our country. Although we are to quite a large degree removed from the large decisions that are made by our government, we do need to decide what we as citizens feel are the right issues to stand up for and speak out to our government about.
One of the most major issues that stands out to me is defense spending. Our country spent $815 billion on defense last year alone - almost as much as all other nations of the world combined. Members of the Tea Party and Republican party, along with many others, feel that it is right to prioritize spending toward our defense and national security. However, there are also many Americans that are beginning to question the excessiveness of this spending and whether our priorities should be so focused on our military over our citizens and their well-being, in areas other than their security. As a blanket statement, safety is important. However, to most citizens, and many of the citizens who are voiceless in issues that affect them the most deeply: poverty, lack of fresh and sufficient food, and unjust access to quality education and jobs, the issue of military spending and national security just do not rank highest for their survival.
Sider calls for defense cuts of at least $100 billion dollars a year, and I must agree with him. He also speaks of the necessity of cuts in all areas of spending, including some ineffective anti-poverty programs. Along with those cuts, I believe all Americans will need to make some sacrifices in their tax burden, particularly the middle class. It will not suffice for only those in the highest tax bracket to carry that burden - it simply will not cover the deficit significantly enough. In the light of higher tax burdens, which is a frightening thought for many middle-class Americans (myself included), this may need to be a call to all of us to do our part by living more simply, reevaluating where our priorities truly need to be, and how we can volunteer our time and money toward the organizations that are making a difference in the lives of those who are most affected by low budgets, little government support, and the lack of representation and a voice.
I know that many people do not agree with me in my priorities and political views, but I welcome conversation on these points and discussion about our nation's priorities and where we go from here.
What do you think? How should we seek to close the deficit in our national spending? Where must we look first?