Passage of debt-ceiling bill prompts response from Stated Clerk

“Programs that serve the common good are bearing the costs”

August 3, 2011

Louisville

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a statement today (Wednesday) in response to the bill signed by President Obama yesterday that will increase the debt-ceiling by more than $2 trillion and cut a roughly equivalent amount of spending from the U.S. budget.

In the statement, Parsons writes, “While I am pleased that the nation no longer faces the impending financial peril of default on our national debt, I am deeply troubled by the deficit-reduction package that Congress passed to get us to this place.”

According to Parsons, the budget package “does little to address the underlying causes of our mounting deficits.”

Parsons had joined a number of religious leaders in Washington the previous week to urge Congress “to enact a deficit-reduction plan that would require a greater contribution from those who have been blessed with plenty, and not to sacrifice the poor and vulnerable on the altar of political ideology or deficit reduction.”

The ecumenical and interfaith leaders had also reminded legislators that religious communities and charitable organizations do not have the resources to make up the difference between the spending cuts and the “growing and monumental need caused by a severe recession, anemic recovery, and systemic inequity.”

Parsons writes, “Private charity needs public partnership in order to answer our call to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison.”

The Stated Clerk acknowledges helpful measures within the bill – exemptions for low-income programs, as well as and a reduction in military spending, which will help to push the country toward seeking “new and innovative initiatives for peace around the world.”

Parsons concludes his statement by inviting Presbyterians to join the effort. “United by our shared commitment to Micah’s call to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, and to the common good for our brothers and sisters around the world, we must urge our elected leaders to protect the vulnerable and restore equity in a society where imbalance of wealth has become the norm.”

The full text of the Stated Clerk’s statement:

This week, Congress approved and the President signed into law a bill that couples a $2.1-$2.4 trillion increase to the U.S. debt ceiling with about equivalent spending cuts. While I am pleased that the nation no longer faces the impending financial peril of default on our national debt, I am deeply troubled by the deficit-reduction package that Congress passed to get us to this place. With the enactment of this bill, we see ahead a few rays of light in an otherwise bleak landscape.

Together with our ecumenical and interfaith partners, the PC(USA) has been firm in calling on decision-makers in Washington to enact a plan for a just and compassionate budget. Last week, I joined other faith leaders to meet with Congressional leadership and their staff. During those meetings, we urged them to make responsible decisions that would protect the most vulnerable at home and around the world. We asked them to enact a deficit-reduction plan that would require a greater contribution from those who have been blessed with plenty, and not to sacrifice the poor and vulnerable on the altar of political ideology or deficit reduction. 

In addition, we reminded our elected leaders that we who engage in ministries of charity and mercy cannot meet the overwhelming need alone. Private charity needs public partnership in order to answer our call to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. As earnestly as we will try to fill gaps in services left by government spending cuts, we simply do not have the resources to respond to the growing and monumental need caused by a severe recession, anemic recovery, and systemic inequity.

The new law of the land is far from answering these concerns. On the contrary, it does little to address the underlying causes of our mounting deficits, while making severe cuts that will harm millions of people who depend on our humanitarian aid and the social safety net. It contains no increased revenues, fails to address the inequities in our tax code, and does not attempt to control growing health care costs. It places the burden of deficit reduction on programs that not only serve low-income and vulnerable people in the U.S., but also that provide international humanitarian aid, protect God’s good creation, conduct medical research, ensure food safety, and strengthen our transportation infrastructure. In short, programs that serve the common good are bearing the cost.

On a positive note, a significant portion of the spending cuts will likely come from the defense budget, thereby pushing our nation toward rethinking our defense strategy and seeking new and innovative initiatives for peace around the world. Likewise, exemptions for some low-income programs have also been included in the “enforcement” part of the bargain, protecting some important programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance from bearing the brunt of deficit reduction.

If nothing else is clear from the rancorous debate that culminated in this week’s final deal, it is that we still have a good deal of work to do. This deficit-reduction package sets up several deadlines by which Congress must meet more deficit reduction targets. This means that the Appropriations process ending in September as well as the deliberations of the new bipartisan, bicameral Joint Committee, which will meet throughout the fall, will be opportunities for us to continue raising the voice of the poor and vulnerable at home and around the world. In achieving exemptions for some low-income programs and in convincing Members of Congress to consider “the least of these,” we have achieved much. We must build on this success to lift up programs and services that make a difference in the lives of people across the world: people in our pews, in our neighborhoods, in our partner churches, and in our global community.

I invite Presbyterians to join me in this effort. United by our shared commitment to Micah’s call to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, and to the common good for our brothers and sisters around the world, we must urge our elected leaders to protect the vulnerable and restore equity in a society where imbalance of wealth has become the norm.

  1. It seems to me that many corporations are "addicted" as well. They are paying the lowest corporate tax rate in decades, they have rewarded CEOs with enormous bonuses, and have laid-off workers and closed USA manufacturing plants by the thousands.

    by Rich Hinkle

    August 8, 2011

  2. In 2008 it was "intergenerational theft" that concerned the leadership. My! how the winds have shifted. The best way to help the poor is to grow jobs. Addicting people to public support contributes to "intergenerational dependency". As the Good Book says, "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick..."

    by Paul Talarico

    August 8, 2011

  3. In addition to teaching poor and young alike, "how to fish rather than continue to beg," I would like large corporations and lobbists to stop begging for tax breaks and special treatment.

    by Rich Hinkle

    August 4, 2011

  4. Every means at hand? We are going to bankrupt this country and then let's see what happens to the poor in the US. There will be many, many more of them. There is not enough money being made by the top 20% of income earners taxed at 100% to make up the shortfall in government spending. We did not cut spending per Stuart's comments. Were we in such bad shape 15 years ago under another Democratic president that we could not go back to that level of spending as a percentage of GDP? The lack of economic literacy is appalling. We are not supposed to stop thinking and understanding how the world actually works as opposed to how we wished it worked, when we become Christians.

    by Michael Spires

    August 4, 2011

  5. Brothers and sisters, We have hands to act and voices to speak. Every church I know has a program to serve the needy. But it is not enough. Since we ARE the government, urging our leaders to work for justice and peace is not only a right but a duty. "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9)

    by Grayson Van Camp

    August 4, 2011

  6. Matthew 25: 35, 42, 45. Oh, dear, where does that leave us? Can't we at least try to follow after Him using every means at hand? We should do what we can as individuals, as church folk, and as citizens. All avenues serve God by caring for God's people.

    by Mary Charlotte McCall

    August 3, 2011

  7. Appalling - The Stated Clerk and the PC(USA) leadership needs to take a step back and realize that they are not being good shepherds. First, I do not believe they understand the economic impact of what they are asking. Second, they would be better served working with the presbyteries and congregations to better serve the less fortunate. The US government has proved to be very ineffective at dealing with the issues of poverty or the budget and sending them more money will not make it better. Please, I pray that we as a denomination will stop trying to get the government to do the things that we as Christians are called to do ourselves.

    by Michael Spires

    August 3, 2011

  8. There are no "cuts" only lessening the rate of increase. Please ask this church to help "teach the poor and young alike "How to fish rather than continue to beg."

    by Stewart Webb

    August 3, 2011

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