Indeed, There is a lot to celebrate about Congress negotiating its way out of yet another painful budget standoff. But the details are pretty sobering as well. Here’s a brief summary of the budget deal:
The plus side: It doesn't cut Social Security, Medicare, Medi- caid, etc. And it backs away from over two years of destructive actions: Fiscal cliff, debt limit, sequester, government shutdown... all very damaging to many programs -- and with the threat of default, they put both the U.S. and the global economy at risk.
On the negative side: The budget deal does nothing to reduce defense spending (or call for even the most obvious tax increases; or close tax loopholes). We are thus denied the resources needed to address the nation’s #1 priority: putting people back to work, esp. to help us take serious steps toward forstalling climate change, to expand renewable energy, to build infrastructure, to enhance rather than cut the safety net even further…
Yet the budget deal allows unemployment benefits to expire for 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers. It leaves the sequester cuts largely in place -- which consigns most safety net programs to reduced levels and vulnerable to further cuts. The budget agreement is more a cease-fire than a solution to our budget dilemmas.
What makes this especially unfortunate is that cutting the military budget offers a way out. It has huge programs that are wasteful. Others are unneeded in the new global security environment. A few notable programs are larger than even the Pentagon requested! This doesn’t point to thoughtful decision-making by Congress. Rather it’s evidence of the enormous influence of defense contractor lobbying.
Our priority this month is experiencing the real meaning of Advent and Christmas. Spending time with family, congregation, and friends...
Let’s also agree to share this information in our church groups and among friends. Let's use the Congressional recess to speak with our elected officials about bloated defense spending; and stingy levels to protect and serve the most vulnerable in our society. That's a holiday message our members of Congress need to hear!