A Biblical Budget


After reviewing President Bush's $2.77 trillion budget for 2007, I am convinced that he is a man who reads the Bible literally. Specifically Matthew 25:29: "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

During his first run for president George W. Bush portrayed himself as a "compassionate conservative." That is a new breed of politicians promising to cut taxes, while at the same time meeting social needs of people, specifically in the area of health care and education.

 

Now he is trying to keep the first half of that promise, but he is doing it on the back of the economically disenfranchised. The cost of making his tax cuts permanent for the richest-of-the-rich is estimated at $300 billion over the next five years and $1.5 trillion over the next 10.

 

It will contribute to a $400 billion deficit projected this year by the Congressional Budget Office and a $2.2 trillion deficit over the next five years. This is outrageous, considering that in January of 2001, the same Congressional Budget Office was projecting a $5.6 trillion surplus between 2002 and 2011.

 

The second-most-common phrase uttered in the Hebrew Bible concerns the responsibility the overall community should have toward the widow, the orphan and the alien within your midst. This phrase is a euphemism for the most marginalized among us.

 

In a patriarchal society, the most vulnerable members are those who are not under the care of a man; specifically the orphan who has lost her or his father and the widow who has lost her husband. Deprived of a male protector, they cease to hold any standing in a male-centered society. This is why the Bible makes their care the responsibility of all the people.

 

The moral prescriptive to care for the widow, orphan and the alien refers to the most marginalized members of the community. How I wish Bush would take this part of the Bible literally.

 

Because this budget rewards the richest, who can afford lobbyists to do their bidding, it reflects the immoral values of this present administration.

 

Thanks in great part to the tax cuts to the rich over the past few years of neo-con rule, the top 1 percent of households in 2003, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income data, own 57.5 percent of all corporate wealth. That's a 50 percent increase of wealth since 1991, when the figure stood at 38.7 percent.

 

With the exception of that 1 percent, every other group showed a decline in its share of wealth since 1991. One can only imagine how much of the wealth that 1 percent will own if Bush's tax cuts to them become permanent.

 

And the real danger is that when so much wealth is held in the hands of so few, our democracy is in jeopardy as politicians become more beholden to the few responsible for their election. So much for a rising tide raising all boats!

 

The budget delivered to Congress attempts to reduce the rising deficit by cutting deeper into social services, education, Medicare--that is from the budgets that have the greatest impact on the widows, the orphans and the aliens within our midst--the most marginalized among us.

 

An array of 141 domestic programs, which directly affect the lives of ordinary people, will be severely reduced.

 

Yet in spite of these mathematical realities, the Bush administration promises to cut the deficit in half by 2009, conveniently for Bush, a year after he leaves office. Hence if he does not meet his promise, who cares? He is no longer accountable.

 

I am old enough to remember another neo-con who ran high deficits, while promising to reduce the deficit by 1989, a year after he, too, was no longer in office. He didn't keep his promise, and neither will Bush.

 

Still, how does Bush propose to keep an unattainable promise of cutting the deficit in half? By two political maneuvers that have served him well in the past, specifically in leading us to war. The first is a "sleight of hand" the second is "smoke and mirrors."

 

The "sleight of hand" is accomplished through omitting half a trillion dollars in costs from his budget that will occur over the next year. For example, missing from the budget is the estimated $100 billion expected to be spent in Bush's Iraq War.

 

The "smoke and mirrors" is a technique perfected by Bush's friend Ken Lay of Enron. Enron's implosion was mainly due to an accounting practice that estimated future imaginary profits and then used those numbers in their present projections as though they were real assets.

 

Bush expects the economy to grow, hence producing more tax revenue, hence shrinking the deficit at--oh, let's say by half. But what if another deadly hurricane hits? Or if Bush decides to invade another country that is no threat to our security, say Costa Rica? Then his promise to reduce the budget becomes as worthless then as it is now.

 

I always say that if you show me your checkbook, I'll tell you were your treasures lie--whether you serve God or mammon.

 

If Bush's budget is his proposed checkbook for the nation, then it is clear who he worships, regardless of the rhetoric expounded.

 

I am left to conclude that this budget is immoral and unethical, because Bush is selling the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.

 

Miguel A. De La Torre is director of the Justice & Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

 

Order Miguel De La Torre's book Reading the Bible from the Margins now from Amazon.com

 

 

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