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Wallis writes: "Sacrifices will have to be made to put us on a path to fiscal responsibility and sustainability. But making those who are most vulnerable to sacrifice the most is morally and religiously unacceptable. We need a bipartisan commitment to protect the poor and vulnerable in the fiscal decisions the nation is about to make."

Will the fiscal cliff lead to more suffering for America's poor? (photo: Cynthia Wright)
Will the fiscal cliff lead to more suffering for America's poor? (photo: Cynthia Wright)


This Holiday Season, Don't Make the Poor Poorer

By Jim Wallis, Reader Supported News

24 November 12

 

lot of ink, pixels, and air have been used on the potential effects of the so-called "fiscal cliff." While many experts say that "cliff" is a misnomer (it's more of long slope in the wrong direction), there is at least broad agreement that it's not the right direction for the country's long-term health.

We've heard a lot about the potential effects on Wall Street, our nation's credit rating, and even the military. But little has been said about the devastating consequences for our nation and the world's poorest and most vulnerable people - or for the charities and non-profits that serve them.

This week, the Circle of Protection, released an open letter to the president and Congress with a simple message: during the holidays, please "advance policies that protect the poor - not ones that make them poorer."

America, by many standards, is a generous nation. We give about 2 percent of our GDP to charity. While that doesn't sound like much, it's nearly double what Great Britain, the next most generous nation, gives.

This season is when many in our country give of their time and money to help those in need. These programs are important. But according to Bread for the World, all the food provided by churches and charities amounts to only 6 percent of what the federal government spends. And, unfortunately, a recent poll commissioned by World Vision, shows that while Americans plan to spend more this year on gifts, they are planning on giving less to charity.

After this election, the nation is hungry for some common ground. And the best way to find common ground is by moving to higher ground. There is a clear voice within the Christian community: the higher ground that should unite us is concern for vulnerable people and hardworking families and individuals still struggling to make ends meet.

The holiday letter, released by the Circle of Protection, and many other Christian leaders and heads of charitable organizations including the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, outlines some common ground:

We see effective programs that meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable and help keep others from slipping into poverty: those programs and tax credits - such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit - should be maintained. As our nation approaches a "fiscal showdown," there are difficult decisions to be made, but we believe this can be done without putting the burdens on those who can least afford it.

(Full text of the letter and signers available here.)

During Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, there will be two kinds of holiday baskets sent by the faith community: baskets of food for the poor and baskets of letters to their elected officials with our message repeated over and over:

Don't make the poor poorer - and our work harder - by the fiscal decisions and choices you will be making.

Yes, reducing large deficits is a moral issue; but how we do it is also a vital moral choice. The 65 national churches and faith-based organizations represent by the Circle of Protection believe we can address the challenges without putting the burden on those who need our help the most.

There are people of faith on both sides of the political aisle. Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., share common faiths. Why not bring this faith factor, a commitment to protecting those who need it, to bear in our fiscal decision-making? This "fiscal cliff" and how we approach it is truly a debate about our fiscal soul as a nation. What kind of people and what kind of country do we want to be?

Sacrifices will have to be made to put us on a path to fiscal responsibility and sustainability. But making those who are most vulnerable to sacrifice the most is morally and religiously unacceptable. We need a bipartisan commitment to protect the poor and vulnerable in the fiscal decisions the nation is about to make.

The mutual decision to protect the poor and vulnerable, motivated by the faith on both sides of the political aisle, would provide the higher ground bipartisan commitment to finding common ground for the common good. And that principle would need to be tested by real policy choices that protect the sufficiency of a real safety net in tough economic times, help lift low-income families and children out of poverty, and save lives through effective international assistance around the world.

That kind of common cause and common commitment would be a positive and important sign for the health of our nation's political and moral future.

 

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+12 # readerz 2012-11-24 22:12
Jim Wallis is one of the only progressive-lea ning Christian leaders in America: he has pointed out that not all Christians buy the right-wingnut agenda. He himself has said that too many "faith-based" organizations have not addressed their calling to help the poor. This is a constant message, not a new message from him. Part of the purpose of his petition is to show political leaders that when they use the term "Christian," it does not mean right-wing, and if a person wants to be Christian, they don't have to switch from Democrat to Republican. And thankfully, there are those who listen to him, and have rejected groups like "Focus on Family."

Cleaning up the charities will go a long way to really helping the poor. Also, if there are groups that give money more directly, it might help: volunteer fire departments in the New York / New Jersey area have been coordinating efforts to help victims, for example. It helps to research what charity does what before donating. Good charities could use the funds, and do use the funds to help people; much better to donate than fill your home with more stuff.

But he is also saying that our government gives the majority money to charity, through both constant subsidies such as SSI, Medicaid, food stamps, etc., and also emergency subsidies such as FEMA. This is the money that should not decrease; I understand one of the things that could be cut is food stamps. We need to tell government to keep this help.
 
 
+13 # fliteshare 2012-11-24 22:16
"America, by many standards, is a generous nation. We give about 2 percent of our GDP to charity. While that doesn't sound like much, it's nearly double what Great Britain, the next most generous nation, gives."

Forgot to mention that the rest of the civilized world doesn't rely on CHARITY to take care of their poor.
 
 
+9 # NOMINAE 2012-11-25 00:24
Excellent article, whose heart is in the right place. However, please exercise caution in the reinforcement of total fabrications from the Govt.

The "fiscal cliff" is not a "misnomer", it's a full-blown fantasy designed to facilitate the gutting of New Deal programs under the cloak of a need to meet imaginary and totally manufactured "crises" such as this "cliff" turkey.

For RSN to so much as repeat this drivel from the Govt. is to be inadvertently complicit and culpable in disseminating fear and disinformation aimed at taking even more from the poor and giving it to the rich.

The remainder of the article clearly indicates that such is not the author's intention.

Time for a reality check, people.
 
 
0 # kyzipster 2012-11-25 05:43
I think you're overreacting, the opening paragraph made it clear that readers should question defining the debt as a 'fiscal cliff'.

"A lot of ink, pixels, and air have been used on the potential effects of the so-called "fiscal cliff." While many experts say that "cliff" is a misnomer (it's more of long slope in the wrong direction), there is at least broad agreement that it's not the right direction for the country's long-term health."
 
 
+3 # NOMINAE 2012-11-25 18:56
@ kyzipster

Republicans have been very successful at "defining" issues by controlling the language. "Death Panels", "Death Tax", ad infinitum.

This is an almost childish name-calling strategy, but I am personally appalled when it actually works.

The evidence *that* it is working ("Obamacare", "entitlements" etc.)is when the media and the left both absorb and regurgitate these Republican-defi ned fantasies.

I may also be "overreacting" to the present levels of cyanide we are discovering in our rice. "Overreacting" itself is, of course, such a subjective and relative term, meaning that I am more concerned about something than you are. Fine with me.

However, in the case of both of the poisons mentioned above, it is my choice to "overreact" rather than to "under-react" while people in general become increasingly anesthetized to both forms of poison.

You, of course, remain free to be as unconcerned about either or both as you choose.
 
 
0 # kyzipster 2012-11-25 20:41
I do not disagree with this perspective of yours and nothing in my post would suggest that I do.

I'm only saying that the author of this article was very careful to point out that the term 'fiscal cliff' should be questioned and I think your reaction was unwarranted.

Come on, this is a bit much..

"For RSN to so much as repeat this drivel from the Govt. is to be inadvertently complicit and culpable in disseminating fear and disinformation aimed at taking even more from the poor and giving it to the rich."
 
 
+2 # Kiwikid 2012-11-25 00:54
'newfound concern'? Really, Holyone (sic)? The Christian Church has historically been the bulwark against the worst kinds of oppression of the poor, has provided vital leadership down through the centuries in the areas of social justice and human rights as an imperative of the gospel and God's preference of the poor. Jim Wallis has been a consistent champion of faith based concern for social justice. There is nothing 'newfound' about this.
 
 
+3 # dryenko 2012-11-25 06:07
It is interesting to note the the Mormon LDS church is not a signatory to this group. That I can find.
Also, how about posting pics of how well these signatory overlords of Christianity live, on the contributions of others.
That would be revealing as well...
Many, many of them live far better than thier parishioners, so cleaning up their own "houses" may be a task to take before telling others, including the President what to do, in this case. Just Sayin'
 
 
+2 # readerz 2012-11-25 14:35
I agree about the mega-churches, but this isn't one of them. Some historic churches have large rectories, but often some of that space is used as office space, or house more than one clergy. I've known clergy who live in basically a closet, and only work for groceries, and others who work all week at a secular job (anything from taxi driver to programmer) and then do church activities including social justice activities all weekend with no break, because they have a family. Those who spend more than their salary, like Jim Bakker, serve time for felony fraud.
 
 
+1 # elmont 2012-11-25 16:23
Bakker was originally given a preposterous sentence. No argument from me. More than many killers. But he was not innocent, either. He was a felon. The answer, of course, which I can suggest with no fear that anyone might actually take my advice, is to get religion out of the picture completely. Yeah, good luck with that.
 

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