No sooner had a bipartisan group of U.S. senators put forth an "adult" plan to get the nation's deficit under control through raising taxes and reducing the growth of entitlements than right-wing bloggers threw a temper-tantrum against taxation and bipartisanship.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), left, and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said solving the federal deficit will require slowing the growth of entitlements and increasing revenue. (Photo: Virginia Chamber of Commerce)
Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told business leaders in Richmond, Va., this week that cutting only discretionary spending – 12 percent of the federal budget – would not solve the nation's deficit problem. They said the solution is to slow the growth of entitlements (Social Security and Medicare) and increase revenue (taxes).
"If you keep coming back to this 12 percent, and that's the only focus, then programs that have provided real value are going to potentially be fully eliminated or dramatically cut back," said Warner.
"For a Republican to put revenues on the table is significant. For a Democrat to put entitlements on the table is significant," said Chambliss. "The only way we're going to solve this problem is to have a dialogue about all these issues because there is no silver bullet."
Chambliss said, "We cannot simply cut our way or tax our way out of this problem."
Joining Chambliss and Warner are Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
Chambliss hit the right note when he said, "It's going to take every single American to sacrifice some."
That note deserves applause. The common good is built on the solid rock of shared sacrifice.
The wealthy and corporations must pay their fair share in taxes. The middle class must be realistic about entitlements. And while the poor must be protected from harmful budget cuts, they, too, must participate in advancing the common good.
But shared sacrifice for the common good was not a note that right-wing bloggers wanted to hear on RedState.org.
One blogger compared Democrats to "criminals" and criticized one Republican of being "misguided" in working with Democrats to solve the deficit problem.
"There is no revenue problem," the blogger claimed. "The budget crisis is a result of decades' worth of greedy leftist politicians who squandered tax payer dollars on programs and handouts to special interests."
Another blogger attacked Chambliss and the other Republicans of being "Obama accomplices."
He criticized Chambliss for wanting to reach across the partisan aisle to solve a national problem.
Character assassination solves no problems and soils the public square. Nothing is gained by accusing Democrats of being criminals and Republicans of being accomplices. It might juice up those who believe in hyper-individualism, but it doesn't fix what ails the nation.
Reducing the national deficit and debt will take shared sacrifice. As the senators said, everyone has to have skin in the game.
So, what's the skin in the game for the faith community? What is our stake in the process?
First and foremost, the faith community must start to connect faith and taxes. For too long, taxation has been a forbidden topic in congregations. The safe haven of ministerial silence about taxation is no longer an option.
Faith leaders must speak theologically and morally about taxes, which will no doubt bother those Christians who privatize faith and bow down to the idea of privatizing everything in the public square.
We need to speak up for a generous justice expressed in a progressive tax system. We need to speak against taxes that harm the poor, such as the lottery and the sales tax on some foods. We need to speak for some taxes that protect the poor from ill health – higher sales taxes on tobacco, alcohol and non-nutritious fast foods. We need to insist that the nation end the corporate tax havens that keep some corporations from paying taxes.
Shared sacrifice is a realistic guiding principle. Let's speak up for the problem-solvers and stiff-arm those at the ideological fringes.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Click here to learn more about EthicsDaily.com's documentary on faith and taxes, "Sacred Texts, Social Duty."