Jesus invited all people to the table to eat together. Unfortunately, if the United States today were one large economic table, it would not reflect his example. At our table, we find a growing gap between those with the highest incomes and those with the lowest. This is particularly troubling given Jesus' life example of drawing together individuals separated by the economic injustices of that period.
From 2007 to 2009 the country's wealthiest households didn't lose wealth, they just didn't make as much as they would have without the recession. However, households with lower incomes have had more difficulty meeting needs. Since 2007:
At our nation's table, the gap between the wealthy and the vulnerable is widening. Those with lower incomes have significantly less on their plates. Others may not have a table to come to at all.
Current conversations about federal budget cuts must reflect these needs and inequalities. Proposals in the House of Representatives reflect $61 billion in cuts, many of them to domestic and international anti-poverty programs. Tax breaks for couples with incomes of $250,000 a year ($200,000 for individuals) were extended for two years in the last Congress, costing $66 billion.
So, while tax cuts continue for those at the head of the table, those at the lower end may lose necessary assistance for food, housing, child care or health care.
Some tax breaks help to reduce inequalities. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), effectively reach low-income working families and are spent quickly because families use the savings to meet basic needs. In 1990 and 1993, deficit reduction packages expanded the EITC while the economy saw impressive growth. In contrast, much wealthier households receiving much larger tax breaks are less likely to spend their savings quickly. As a result, the economy sees much less of a return.
The budget debate has largely ignored that deficits are a result of both spending and revenue. Allowing wealthy tax breaks to expire won't fully balance the budget. But they are one example of how current proposals disproportionately (and unnecessarily) prioritize cuts to vulnerable populations, increase injustice and weaken the economy.
To cut the deficit we must address root causes including tax revenues, military spending and the needs of our aging population. Otherwise, current proposals will deepen poverty, creating neither a strong economy nor reflecting a table with space for all.
Congress can and should make cuts that would shrink the space on the table--not make it bigger than ever. They need to hear from us that revenue must be addressed, and that the budget can and should invest in vulnerable populations.