Let's Be Clear on the Budget

The upcoming battle over the 2012 budget may prove to be one of the most important legislative debates of the new century. A vast economic engine is set in motion each year with the Congressional approval of each annual budget. But the 2012 budget promises to reshape the United States and redefine the nation’s place in the world for decades to come.

As the nation’s political discourse becomes increasingly theatrical and incoherent, the bishops, along with other leaders and sectors of the church, need to speak with clarity about the budget as a moral document. After years of ignoring a national debt that has mounted dramatically since the last time a federal budget managed to produce a surplus, under President Bill Clinton, a bipartisan chorus in Washington has abruptly awakened to the reality of the nation’s crushing $14.3 trillion debt. Interest on the total federal debt is now one of the largest items on the budget each year, and deficit control has become the de facto priority in Washington.


Whether addressing the debt now is the best short-term way forward as the nation struggles to shake off the lingering effects of its deep recession apparently has become beside the point. Since deficit containment has become the primary goal this year, American Catholics must insist that the budget be balanced with attention to the many acute domestic and international needs that simply cannot be sacrificed to cost-cutting. That is especially true when many in Washington, in an unwelcome resurrection of supply-side economics, insist that tax reduction and the continuation of unconscionably high levels of defense spending are “non-negotiables.” It should be the Catholic position that there are indeed non-negotiable items within the budget, but money for defense and tax cuts for the wealthy are not among them.

Indeed, in his recent address President Obama has insisted that he will not approve a budget that continues Bush-era tax reductions that have contributed so grievously to the current fiscal crisis. The church must not cross this crucial line in the sand. No just deficit-management program can proceed over the next decade or more without raising taxes on those upper-income citizens who have benefited so mightily from the last decade’s tax cuts and economic realignments. The church needs to stake this position out now before the budget debate begins.

Many high-powered lobbyists will flood Washington in May. But when the red pencils come out, who will speak for the poor? The U.S. bishops have been among the few consistent voices in defense of the needs of the most vulnerable. That voice needs to be loud and persistent as budget allocations are hammered out and budgetary trial balloons are floated by both parties. Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicare and Medicaid into yet another free-market enterprise is wrongheaded. This would amount to federal welfare for the shareholders and chief executives of the nation’s for-profit insurance companies. Ryan’s proposal essentially assures millions more Americans that they will one day be cut off from affordable health care or impoverished trying to secure it. All sectors of the church need to speak up repeatedly and with clarity on the moral limits of further health care reductions before dialogue hardens into ideological concrete.

Bishops have shown no reluctance to speak authoritatively on issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Bishops and the whole Catholic community must speak with the same clarity and vigor about the budget and the direction it sets for the nation. The budget is an urgent moral matter that demands a consistent, unified message. Its line items are more than just quotidian allotments of monies; they are moral choices: whether to honor the nation’s commitment to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals or concoct another tax break for the wealthy; whether to protect the human dignity of our elderly and poor by ensuring they can rely on adequate health care or continue an extravagant expansion of military spending.

The upcoming struggle will be a matter of life and death. Will faltering education systems and deteriorating infrastructure go unaddressed for another decade? Will more Americans fall out of the middle class as health care reform falters? Will the nation’s public aid recipients, mostly women and children, discover their already tenuous support systems in nutritional aid, children’s health insurance programs and Medicaid compressed further to make way for “tax relief” for corporations and the inhabitants of upper income brackets?

All sectors of the church can help frame this debate. Absent the church, the debate will be framed by ideologically tainted “research” emerging from the media and Washington think-tanks. The church says the budget is a moral document; it should speak about it with the urgency that claim demands.

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Richard Hug
7 years 7 months ago
Dear Editors,

Your drift to socialism is now complete.  You seem to feel that the government can do things better than private industry in your discussion of healthcare.  My question to you is has the government ever done anything better than private industry?  Look at the current medicare and medicaid.  It is a disaster...just ask any health care professional.

In wandering around various Jesuit Institutions, lots of things are named after benefactors.  Here in Tampa, Jesuit High just dedicated Hyer field.  Can you seriously make an case that the government can actually do something better with the money than the Jesuits?  I think not.

We do have a moral issue here. Steal from the rich (opps, I mean tax) and give to the poor, has never worked.  It is immoral.  I believe that the Catholic Church (including the Jesuit Order) has done much more to assist peoples lives than the government. 

I hope that America Magazine can eventually see the success of the Catholic Church!
Dan Hannula
7 years 7 months ago
First, Mr. Hug, using the "S" word imparts noting to the discussion anymore that if I label you with an equally dastardly (if Socialist is dastardly) epithet.  Second, the government or the people in community do many things better than private industry.  Some things are "public goods" and thus more justly provided publicly-that for example, in my opinion, is the crux of the whole health care debate.  I believe that you know better and that was also just another useless hyperbole. E.g., can you imagine a court system that was contracted out?  By the way, my doctor loves Medicare. Does that count?  Finally, a system (tax) to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor is immoral you say: what a novel argument.  I wonder if Jesus ever addressed that issue?  Perhaps you should put down Ayn Rand and pick up the Gospels.  Pax Vobis.  
William Jaenike
7 years 7 months ago
As a retired senior executive with 30 years in securities operations and with 16 years of Catholic education, I find your 2012 budget editorial amateurish to the point of being an embarrassment. Who writes this stuff? Youngsters who weren't around when Bill Clinton managed a federal budget to produce a surplus? Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" forced Clinton to make reforms of federal social programs that, combined with a strengthing economy, produced those surpluses. Didn't you know that?

I read The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal daily. Reading the Times editorial page makes it unnecessary to reread it in America's editorials although I'll grant that yours are somewhat different-they're even more poorly thought out and off-the-charts, left.

You refer to the 2012 budget as promising to reshape the United State and redefine the nation's place in the world for decades to come. Really? For decades to come? And addressing the debt now has become "beside the point."  You go on, unwittingly (or is it wittingly), to screw our children and grandchildren, bequething them a third world country's standard of living. Our kids' economic survival is a "moral issue." Don't you understand that?  Or is it that you've drunk the administrations Kool-Aid? 

Usinig hyperbole like Bush's tax reductions contributed "grievously" is wrong-headed. I happen to agree that the rich could pay highter taxes. Any reasonable increase, even to 70%, won't come close to solving the deficit problem. The middle class, with the Obama definintion as not to exceed $250,000 will have to cough up significantly to make a real difference, which they will anyway as inflation pushes them into a lower standard of living.  You must understand that the $250,000 is never inflation-adjuusted.

Ryan's Medicare and Medicaid proposal does not convert them to a "free-market enterprise." They become managed by the states under federal block grants. If you're so devoted to the federal government running things maybe you can figure out how to help it keep air traffic controllers awake when on duty!     
Mary Sweeney
7 years 7 months ago

I read the April 13th letter of the USCCB to Congress. The Bishops do a fine job of advocating for the poor. And that is the problem. They use the word "poor" 13 times. "Rich/wealthy/affluent" in whatever flavor is a no-show. "Military" appears once.

Why is this a problem? Isn't that their task? Yes, and no. The issues are far deeper and far more deadly. Have a listen to the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7zwO88nRH8. There is a more in-depth analysis here: http://northdenvernews.com/content/view/2272/2/

Note the presence of Christians/Catholics in the video above. We have just celebrated the Paschal Mystery. We assemble as Christian/Catholic communities each Sunday of the year to remember - to re-member Me. Fundamentally it is our answer to the question "Whom am I following?". Jesus of Nazareth.

In contrast I hear very loud, emphatic, and clear answers to that same question from powerful Christian/Catholic politicians, and the answer is Ayn Rand. Furthermore, her philosophy is extolled by these same politicians as a true morality. I do not see the Bishops addressing that fundamental philosophical difference. I do not hear them engaging. I see them addressing the periphery of the argument, barely making a tangential connection. Perhaps they are not aware, or are not paying attention. Perhaps there is a conflict of interest because these same political figures are allegely "pro-life".

Jesus advised us to be wise as serpents, simple as doves. He pointed out that when one is in an adversarial position it is important to know the depth and range of the opposing forces. We need to do battle. It is fine to send a letter to Congress, but it needs to address those fundamentals. It is fine to send a letter to Congress, but the people in the pews need to get the message as well.

When was the last time you heard a sermon in your parish or community of assembly dealing with the theology of money and the civic community? When was the last time that a parish Justice and Peace Commission focussed on that? Do our Catholic Schools still teach the Social encyclicals as they did when I was growing up? Do they teach Vatican II or are they just hoping that it will be forgotten...? I come from the Archdiocese of Boston. Search The Pilot, our Archdiocesan newspaper, for the word "budget" and the most recent entry is for October 29, 2010 and it is talking about "low-budget, baseball matching franchises".

Exactly where are our shepherds?
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 7 months ago
It's interesting to look past the platitudes and to some of the actual facts when considering our disastrous deficit situation. One such relevant fact: of the OECD nations, there is a ratio that divides the percentage of income tax paid by the wealthiest by the percentage of total income of the wealthy. The highest ratio? The wealthy in the US, whose ration is 1.35, which indicates they pay 35% more as a percentage of the total tax bill than their percentage of earning represents. No other OECD nation matches that progressiveness (Canada is closest, about 1.3). Even Sweden comes in 1.01. By this important measure the US has the most progressive income tax of the bunch. This is not an argument against a tax increase but rather simply pointing out that our current income tax structure is currently very progressive in comparison to other industrial countries.
Likewise the corporate income tax rate, which excepting Japan the highest of all major industrial nations at 36% (our neighbor Canada is at 16.5%). Granted, the Murthas, Shelbys, Dodds, Daschles etc have contributed to a tremendous number of loopholes, which Obama's own bipartisan commission and Ryan'a have both proposed eliminating.
Another informative issue to consider would be to examine the editorial's reference to the Clinton era and its implied praise, which I certainly share, of its budget surplus.  One of Clinton's key accomplishments (granted, with a lot of republican arm-twisting) related to deficit reducation was his welfare reform act, in which 5.5 million, or about 40%, of all recipients were removed from the welfare roles, many of whom returned to the workforce and became taxpayers rather than welfare recipients. Was this reform, to "end welfare as we know it," by President Clinton, which discouraged the culture of dependence and encouraged independent initiative, self-reliance, and labor, slashing welfare payments and the deficit in the process, a moral or immoral act from a Christian perspective?
In all circumstances, should increasing the deficit by spending money the country does not have for a perceived good and passing the burden of debt on to our children a moral good?
I agree with America that our defense budget, being after all another government organization with the bureaucratic bloat and waste that seems to accompany most government controlled systems, must be cut. As personnel expenses, such as payroll, benefits, etc are over 60% of all defense expenditures , most cuts must materialize there. Do we really want to continue to subsidize the retirements of 38-year-olds for the remaining 2/3rds of their adult lives? More importantly, can we afford it? The healthcare costs of the military, particularly the retirement costs, are going to break the financial backbone of the military, according to Secretary Gates, and must be reformed. He has stated, for example, that the copay for the military has not increased for 15 years, yet his attempts to increase these unaffordably small copays are being met with fierce opposition. In sum, not only the teachers' unions have received and continue to expect cadillac benefits which need to be traded in for chevys; the military and other government branches must contribute as well. Are these cutbacks moral or immoral acts, in light of the circumstances?
Another thought. Is it Christian to hold persons accountable for their choices? An example. President Obama smokes/smoked cigarettes and stated that he used illegal drugs in the past. I am overweight (some, not me, would say fat) because I consume more calories than I expend. All these choices, smoking, excess eating, doing drugs, health science tells us, contribute to health problems and increased health care consumption.  Should I or President Obama have to pay an extra fee or deductible as a consequences of our poor health choices? What is the moral choice of disincentivizing poor health choices and incentivizing good health choices? Good? Unfairly discriminatory?
Finally, let's all be in favor of or against demagoguing the subject more consistently. You may remember how infuriated the president got when his medical board was demonized as a "death panel." Fact is, such a panel would make determinations based on age, cost, likelihood of success, etc as to whether or not medicare/medicaid recipients receive treatment for life-threatening health problems, and in the sense that some will be denied, the statement is true. But now he has resorted to the same sort of demagoguery himself by railing that his opponents' proposals would deny downs' syndrome kids medical  care. These sorts of demagogic political jockeyings are not helpful to considered decision making.
7 years 7 months ago

Did anyone read the next(fine) article by Mr. Diulio?I hardly found the editorial and the questions it poses  "amateurish?'(suggesting the editorial is "screwing or grandchildren" is way over the top.)

The issues, moving forward not only economically, but Morally, deserve  some nuanced consideration and balanced perspective on the "sacrifices" we will be called to make in some proportionality.

Mike Evans
7 years 7 months ago
The tea party and neocon folk are out in force. Their loyalty to the GOP approach of suddenly discovering deficits and balancing budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable is at least consistent, but morally wrong. In a time when more people are suffering than ever before, it would seem our best efforts should be to relieve the pain and restore people to productive and satisfactory life. Where is the call for jobs? For making investments in our future that employ people and give them pride and dignity? For alleviating the disasters that afflict the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and the children? The blind accusations of mismanagement by the government of the public funds when so many banksters and oilsters have conducted such outright raids of equities entrusted to their care? We must rediscover that we are a community which cares; like those first Christians of Antioch, may people say of us: See how they love one another.
Jim Lein
7 years 7 months ago
Tax the rich?  What of the rich going along with their being taxed, in effect taxing themselves?  At a very high rate?

The 90 percent rate from the early 1940s to the early 1960s surely couldn't have been maintained if the wealthy then had the mindset they do now.  Back then they were part of the Greatest Generation, not the Greediest Generation.  During those two decades of very high taxation, we paid our WWII debts and helped other countries with theirs, invested in the huge GI Bill program that built the middle class by boosting tens of millions into it, and built the freeways, to mention some ways the government did something the private trickle-down sector couldn't do.  Now we can't maintain the middle class or our freeway system. 
Trickle down is a failed theory.  Our medical costs, for example, are the highest in the world largely because of the profit motive, the incentive to do more, to focus on quantity not quality.  And the quality of our care is way down.  The problem is not Medicare or Medicaid; it is the practice and cost of our medical care.  1. We do little or no prevention; 2. We do too little early care; and 3. We do too much late and very expensive care because we do too little of 1. and 2.  Just one example of how the private sector comes up short.  
E.Patrick Mosman
7 years 7 months ago

"As the nation’s political discourse becomes increasingly theatrical and incoherent, the bishops, along with other leaders and sectors of the church, need to speak with clarity about the budget as a moral document." This memo to the Bishops continues the meme that government is necessary to "serve the all encompassing common good;" which certainly is not in keeping with Jesus Christ's teaching of who is responsible for dispensing charity.
'For you will have the poor always with you" Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local mayor or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example because he stopped at the nearest inn and asked that a 911 call be made but because he acted.
Jesus's words "I was hungry, and you fed me; thirsty, and you gave me drink; naked and you clothed me; ill and in prison, and you visited me.   Whatever you did for these least ones, you did for me,"
was directed to each and very individual not to any civil government or at the time the religious leaders of the Temple.
How did our Church leaders manage to subvert the teachings of our Lord on individual responsibility for the idea that "government is necessary to serve the common good?" in all social and moral areas.
Jesus Christ refused to negotiate with evil, the devil, three times and yet our Bishops, never really grasped the full extent of the absolute loss of Catholic moral teachings, on abortion, contraception, rationed care for the new born and the elderly, now called by Paul Krugman by its real name, death panels, resulting in euthanasia and no more conscience opt-out which were imbedded in and now are the law of the land.
The demand for a social program of government funded universal medical care made it possible for the one who paid the piper to call the tune. Now the government controls health care from conception to death.
There are many more Catholic moral beliefs, anti-Jesus teachings that have been ignored in Obamacare that the Bishops are remiss and derelict in their duties to uphold the Faith if they do not call for the repeal of this Obama abomination. 

Regarding the old canard about "regressive tax cuts for the wealthy'" the fact is only the wealthy pay income taxes,ie,the top 1% of income earners pay 39% of all federal income taxes, the top 25% of income earners pay 86% and the top 50% pay 97% of all federal income taxes. That means that the lowest 50% of income earners pay only 3% of federal income tax revenues while most actually receive checks from the government, welfare payments disguised as earned income tax credits, children's tax credits as well as a packages of federally funded programs for the poor too many to list here.
Instead of demanding bigger government involvement
The Bishops should be very concerned about the following;
-plans being put forward to eliminate the tax deduction for charitable contributions which would have a devastating effect on the financial well being of an already strapped Church.
-plans to control the teaching curriculum and diversity of what is taught through government accreditation of all higher education colleges and universities both public and private.
In every Communist country the first to fall was religion, followed by education. It appears that our Bishops need a history lesson and a detailed study of Obama's past.
The Bishops are headed for leading a Church which is subservient to the government as they meekly accept the idea "that government is necessary to serve the common good" even as it repudiates Catholic moral teachings.
Christopher Mulcahy
7 years 7 months ago

Whatever our politics or economics, we note  Church editorial writers  have long since abandoned any reference  to such ancient concepts as prudence, fortitude, or temperance.  Only “justice.”  (Reference to cardinal virtues, anyone?)  How about pride, greed, envy, lust, sloth, anger and gluttony?  Do you think any of these might inhibit economic welfare?  Failure to highlight elements of individual responsibility long taught by the Church to be essential to successful Christian life is commonplace in righteous economic rhetoric by churchmen.  And it occurs so universally today in Church literature, and in Episcopal utterances,  that it virtually disenfranchises the Church to speak authoritatively in matters of economics. This piece illustrates the point perfectly.   If you can’t urge the student to study hard, and the worker to practice his craft professionally, and  justly earn his wage, you can’t say squat about “the rich” or the duty of government toward the citizen. 

So hopeful to see the number of respondents (above) who recognize the sad naivete of the Jesuit position here articulated.
Jeanne Marie Dauray
7 years 7 months ago

As a person who is Catholic educated, there were a number of things I found interesting in the comments section:

1) Are the social encyclicals taught anymore? (I would answer no.)

2) Is Vatican II discussed? (Only in the most simpistic of terms.)

3) Is anyone discussing the issues of money, government, and civic responsibility from the pulpit? (No, and in fact I wrote to Cardinal George of Chicago about this issue.)

4) The USCCB appears to not be dealing directly with the issues at hand. (I would agree that the issue is a simple one and direct one and has very much to do with ideologies as well as a lack of morality.)

5) We're moving towards socialism. (As though it were a dirty word, and wasn't the Church accused of this before when it stood behind workers and the New Deal?)

These are just a few observations. The fact is, as Catholics, we should be reading the Papal Encyclicals, be aware of what our moral obligations are as Catholics, and then figure out how to weave this into our worldview. However, the problem I see, is that many people (even here and in churches across the land) are more tied to and fervent about their political ideologies and keeping their taxes low, than they are about being good Catholics and following Christ's teachings.

It's that simple folks.
William Atkinson
7 years 7 months ago
In all fairness, maybe church, religious, university leaders should really take deep concern with the enormity of Americas unfair tax system.  Ever since income tax came on the scene, pre world war I, corporations and wealthy individuals and groups have found more and more avenues to escape contributing to government by, of, and for the people they so beneficially exist under.  More and more financier today have recommended major revamp of tax system to even out support of our government and nation.  Essential a system that evenly taxes wealth no matter where in the economic system any person, enity, and/or business exists.   A 1% wealth tax on everyone and corporations, A value added tax  (tarif or national sales percentage) on all goods coming and going in the nation.  A entitlement tax on all business corporations and individuals, which can not be used except for the entitilement (Retirement [say 6%]; Basic Medical for everyone [say 6%] this would include VA, Medicare (100% coverage for anyone over 60), and emergency Medex [say 2%] for life care at any age for those who can not care for themselves.  And finaly, since America is a waring nation, start with [say 5%] adjustable for national defense and waring enteprises in case on national emergencies.  Since everyone and every enity having financial gains would have to pay and certain entitlements could not be used for anything outside their entitlement (Social Security monies have been used by every government agency draining its base funds for last 70 years), the national debt would go away as it essentially would be a pay as you go system.    Example someone or enity making 35,000 would pay same percentage [say 3.500]  as someone or enity making 350,000 [say 35,000].  A corporation, religious, education, and/or business having gross income of 3.5 million would pay 350,000.  there would be no deductions or exemptions, everyone would pay same percentage.
John Giovanni
7 years 7 months ago
As Communism is the Godless extreme of Socialism, Ayn Rand's Objectivism is the Godless extreme of capitalism
E.Patrick Mosman
7 years 7 months ago
It is said that President Reagan once said the most frightening words are “I am from the government and I am here to help you.” The industrial might of the United States did not result from government leadership but from the government getting out of the way of inventors, investors and entrepreneurs. The industrial might of the United States is slowly but surely being tied down by ill-conceived and unnecessary rules, regulations and mandates as surely as Gulliver was tied-up by the Lilliputians.
Did some Republican moderate write the following:
"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work ... After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!"
No, it was Henry Morgenthau
Treasury Secretary under FDR
Those who continue to advocate for more and more government spending and higher taxes obviously have never read or understood Santayana's words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," FDR's big government programs failed to end the depression of the 1930s as any review of that period's economy history shows conclusively. However, tax cuts and economic incentives to the private sector introduced by Kennedy, Reagan and Bush brought ends to recessions and generated economic growth. Following FDR's failed policies for the past 18 months led to higher unemployment, has not produced significant job growth except in the public sector, more IRS agents to investigate working taxpayers, many of those are temporary, and for some unionized workers, GM and Chrysler. Saving public sector jobs by robbing from taxpayers like Peter and Patricia or borrowing from lenders like Ping and Pong to pay Paul and Pauline is not a sustainable path to create jobs and end a recession.
It is "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" Albert Einstein
Tom Maher
7 years 7 months ago

America magazine is giving very bad economic, financial and moral advice by it's fundemental failure to appreciate the extreme impact that our national debt crisis will have on our economy. 

The United States government has a debt that exceeds 90 percent of our annual Gross Domestic Prodcut, the value of all goods and services produced in the country in a year. This high level of debtedness relative to GDP puts the United State in jeopardy of being refused further barrowing due to the higher risk of not being able to repay its debts.  This happened to Greece and Ireland last year when both  countries debt exceeded 100 persent of their GDP.  Both countries were forced to drastically cut back on all government expenitures or go into default and then bankrupt.   The lost of  credit worthiness as happened to Greece and Ireland should be avoided by reducing total Unitedd States government expenditures.  The loss of the ability of a nation to barrow puts a nation into immeadiate default and has hugh and long-lasting consequences of largely not being able to barrow any money.  

So more realistically it is not wise to "draw lines in the sand" that will destroy our  nation's finiancing for years.  The amount that any entity can barrow ,whether a person or a country, is limited to its certain ability to repay the loan.  When national debt exceeds 100 percent of GDP a nation its ability to repay all debt is put in doubt and the country credit is labelled "too risky" and will  be avoided by  investors.

Hopefully America magazine editors and its readers recognize that any new barrowing done by the United States is done through investors who purchase our debt securities.   such a Treasury bonds.  More than half of these investors are foriegn citizens or institutions who like any investor want their money and interest paid back.  Our debt with any investor is a loan not a gift.  When investor no longer believed they will be repaid with intrest, as happened with Ireland and Greece, the investors will predictably not loan these countries any money at any interest rate.

The United States must avod a credit shutdown by investors by keeping its debt to GDP ratio under 100 persent and then reduce this ratio over ten years to a safer ratio and more normal debt to GDP ratio of 60 percent according to the International Monetary Fund's semi-annual report  "Fiscal Monitor"of April, 2011, page 20.

The correct techincal and moral advice is:  the United States urgently needs to lower its excessive and out-of-control national debt.

Sandra Whiddon
7 years 7 months ago
Thank you for this clear and concise explanation of the upcoming debates over this issue.  For months I have been reading Sogourner's Blog.  Sojourners identifies the same issues stated in "America."  But I cannot say what the Bishops are saying.  What are they waiting for?
Dan Hannula
7 years 7 months ago
Mr. Mosman (and others) I keep hearing this mantra about the rich paying all the taxes.   Gosh, is that true? However, when you look at such statements it is always confined to "income tax."  I really do not have the statistics readily at hand, but there are other taxes are there not, other taxes that the poor pay as well as the rich; real estate taxes, sales taxes, gas tax, etc.  Why are not all these factored into those statements-and what would the result be?  Would that not be the fairer way to discuss this topic? Also, isn't the issue partly what can the well off afford to pay and what is their fair share?  And, why did the billionaire Warren Buffet famously say:  "I pay 17.7% on taxable income. My receptionist pays 30%." Something's not right here. The next (perhaps Tea party) President should say: "Ask not what I can do for my fellow man, ask what my lobbyist and accountant have done for me lately."  There was a time when we called it a "commonwealth" not a "country."  The first question in this debate should be: what is the end (purpose) of our commonwealth? 
E.Patrick Mosman
7 years 7 months ago
Mr. Hannula,
Since the subject of the artticle concerns the Federal budget and "tax the wealthy' is  major part of the President's solution supported whole heartedly by the editors "No just deficit-management program can proceed over the next decade or more without raising taxes on those upper-income citizens who have benefited so mightily from the last decade’s tax cuts and economic realignments." then my comments dealt solely with Federal income taxes paid and not paid by wage earners and were on topic. Of course there are other taxes many of which are State and local taxes which effect as you say the poor and the wealthy but are not part of the Federal budget. Mr. Buffet's comparison of income taxes paid is disingenuous for three reasons. First,he undoubtedly receives a large part of his income as dividends rather than salary taxed at a much lower rate, second he could voluntarily write a check to the US Treasury for any amount that would salve his conscience about the percentage discrepancy and third to avoid having the bulk of his billions taxed away by the Federal government on his death he gave a large part to Bill Gates's private charity.  
7 years 7 months ago
In my opiniont the second Bush tax credit was completely unnecessary, especially since we were opening another war in the Middle East.  That was just dumb.  Further, if anyone thinks we can get by the budget and debt mess simply by cutting costs, he or she ought to smoke a different kind of cigarette.  Conversely, to think we can reduce the debt simply by taxing the rich, same advice.  It will take a mix of increased taxes and decreased spending to get the country back on track financially.  Certainly the "rich" are going to have to pay more taxes, but so are the non-rich.  The 47% or so of people who pay no taxes will have to pony up something.  And, of that 47%, the folks who are getting government subsidies under the guise of refundable tax credits will have to see some (or perhaps all) of those refundable credits eliminated.  To do anything different is only paying lip service to the issue.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 7 months ago
When you cite Warren Buffett famously saying "I pay 17.7% on my taxable income. My receptionist pays 30%" followed by your comment, "Something's not right here," indeed, your suspicions are well-founded. To arrive at that 30%, not only does Buffett count his receptionist's 7.6% social security contribution to her retirement as her tax-private or public employees making a contribution to their retirement accounts out of their income are properly called their contributions for retirement benefits-he also counts the matching 7.6% her employer pays out of separate funds as a tax on her income. I admire Buffett not only for his business acumen and his brilliance at bridge and poker, but very much for his PR and marketing skills. Driving around in his old Buick and not having his private mansion, saying this sort of comment based on creative accounting, writing a big check for Senator Obama's campaign (though peanuts for him and his corporation) helps his crafted I'm-one-of-you despite my %50 billion image. This effective and cheap PR helps him greatly when Goldman Sachs gets into all sorts of trading scandals and suits with the Feds. He can pocket his billions from his Goldman deal and the scandal rolls off his back as if it were a duck's. Likewise when his right hand deal maker gets caught profiting off his insider trading, he can draw down his folksy image and escape relatively unharmed.
I'm not saying that he isn't overall a good and honest businessman, but there is a drop or two of The Donald's snake oil in his repertoire along with the rest.
But the larger problem with our tax system, as you might here suspect, resides mainly in the tremendous number of loopholes and boondogglesinserted over the years. Reagan cleaned out many of them, but lobbyists have inserted them and more back in over the years. We have a $7 billion a year boondoggle in ethanol subsidies that does no good for the environment, raises the price of corn for poor and underfed nations, and profits mostly large corporations. We have a subsidy on tobacco growing, a poison, of all things, and a sugar subsidy to encourage our obesity epidemic., huge subsidies for cadillac benefits,etc. Huge loopholes to close that not only cost tax revenue but distort the free market's efficient functioning. Fortunately, both the president's bipartisan commission and Ryan's plan fundamentally do away with most of that. We can hope.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 7 months ago
Meant Dan above, sorry.
E.Patrick Mosman
7 years 7 months ago

Mr.Collins and the editors,
Let a true blue democratic President speak to the fallacy of  higher taxes and the benefits of lowering tax rates:
"As the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. Prosperity is the real way to balance our budget. By lowering tax rates, by increasing jobs and income, we can expand tax revenues and finally bring our budget into balance." -President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
7 years 7 months ago
Dear Editors:

You write that Paul Ryan's proposal is wrongheaded, that the supply-side economic philosophy is unwelcome, and then infer that those who disagree with you are making terrible moral choices.  By saying this, you belittle good people who think differently than you.  I understand what you want to do and I know you mean well in practically applying the Gospel.  However, I do not think you are wrongheaded or immoral.  Do you really think that conservative people want to deny Americans healthcare and that they do not care for the poor? And the answer is YOU DO. But Obamacare is unaffordable as are the wars we are fighting. A new mindset needs to be created in the country for the rich and poor, for everyone.
Leonard Villa
7 years 7 months ago
The country has no choice but to confront the debt.  It is no longer possible to punt. The country is spending too much. It cannot continue the way it has with Washington spending out of control. Simply because programs advertise themselves as being for the poor, nutrition, etc does not by that fact alone mean that the bishops have to support such programs especially if they don't work and are administered by bloated bureacracies.  Catholic social teaching is clear on the principle of subsidiarity.  Slogans like tax breaks for the rich are unhelpful. Define the rich and first determine who is paying already the lion-share of the taxes and what percentage of the nation do not pay any taxes at all.  Simply stating tax-breaks for the rich and worrying about evil corporations makes you sound like the Hollywood left rather than an editorial about moral issues and the budget.  Please!! The budget is not on the same plane as abortion (Vatican II: an unspeakable crime) and same-sex marriage (an oxymoron). In the concern about profits, the rich, how many ask what's the government percentage of take?  With gas for example you only hear about the "evil" oil company profits, how about Federal, State, and local taxes?  What's their take and for what?  Compare defense spending increases to entitlement programs and waste and inefficiency there. It's clear that the Federal government must protect the nation. It is not clear that the Federal government must create dependents on government or the nanny state. Europe is reaping the consequences of that right now.
7 years 7 months ago

Mr. Mosman:

Since 1963 we've had plenty of good and prosperous years and yes, a few bad ones too.  But in all that time, the budget has been balanced very very infrequently.  It seems evident President Kennedy was wrong.  I'm not an economist, and while I believe that tax cuts can stimulate business in the short term, I believe that in the longer term they do not generate the revenues they cost.

As distateful as I am sure it will be, I nonetheless stand by my belief that a combination of both higher taxes and reduced spending is the only way out of this mess.  Assuming there is a way out at all.....

Greta Green
7 years 7 months ago
I thought stealing was a sin.  The Catholic Church advocating the forced theft of money from one person for use of others is stealing, no matter who you are stealing from. Since the Catholic Church now has no problem with stealing, I will steal from whom I please as it is obviously no longer a problem.

I also will deduct from my donation to the church the exact amount I lose as a result of this theft making sure the Church is the donar of this money, not me. 

It is obvious that the Church has no knowledge or interest in how an economy works think that taking money from the wealthy is going to make things better for the poor.  We have spent billions on the poor since LBJ declared war on poverty and the poor continue to expand. What part of government does not work do the liberals not seem to grasp.  I thought Clinton said the era of big government is over..

It is a simple process.  The rich tend to be those who know how to make money and in the process, most of their income is built around investing in companies that are worth investing in.  They are worth investing in bacause they have sound business practices and produce something of value that others want to buy. This investment thus moves the country forward creating not only jobs, but also products and services of value.  Instead, the socialist want to take money from these very people, and give the money to the federal government expecting that it will be used to the benefit of the country.  Most of it will be wasted.  Note that in the ObamaCare plan, they were saying that 500$Billion was going to be saved without impacting the program benefits in any way.  It would come from fraud, waste, and abuse.  If a company admitted it had a program or project wasting that type of money, if it was not already failing, the CEO would be canned.  So we take money from those who will use it productively and give it to the political hacks who use it to prop up programs that make no sense.  And we keep hearing the same thing from socialist over and over that more taxes are needed and they produce the same results, slavery of those who use the program and political hacks who use the money for their own power.  So it is not only stealing, but stealing and then throwing the money down a rat hole...over and over,,the definition of insanity and yet the left keeps singing this same song.
E.Patrick Mosman
7 years 7 months ago
The governent could confiscate all of the income and all of the wealth of of those earning more than $250,000 and it would it would hardly make a dent in the 14 trillion dollar deficit. Of course after that one shot effort tax revenues would shrink dramatically. Once you killl the goose that lays the golden eggs there are no more golden eggs. It is uncontrolled spending, not lack of  revenue, that is driving the ever increasing deficit.   
Dan Hannula
7 years 7 months ago
Reading all of you apostles of Ayn Rand one wonders where all the Christians are on this blog.  Oliver Wendell Holmes way back in 1905, in dissent, expressed exasperation with your grandfathers as they tried to read social Darwinism into the Constitution: 

"The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same, which has been a shibboleth for some well known writers, is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not. The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics."

Now apparently the same Social Darwinism and the virtue of selfishness is part of our Christian ethical code.

I wonder how you all explain the outrageous dynamism of our post-war economy with 70% margin income tax rates and New Deal economic regulations, e.g., Glass-Steigel, et. al.?  Spin that you social Darwinists and then pick up, as I suggested above, a copy of the Gospels 
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
How to explain the growth of the US economy after WWII despite high tax rates?
Pretty easily, actually. The US was in a depression, in fact 2 depressions, the 33 and 37 ones, and did not come out of its funk until after WWII. How did it manage to dominate economically worldwide the next 20 years despite high taxes? Every major industrial nation in Europe and the East, virtually worldwide, had had its industrial base totally destroyed during the world war. We had no competition. The playing field has changed. Most of these nations now have rebuilt their industrial bases, changed from basket case socialist economies to far more free market trading economies at least at the production level, have lower taxes, and constitute far tougher competition. Consequently we are no longer free to tax and spend as we once were.
Though I disagree with you that President Kennedy was mistaken to cut tax rates, as the subsequent growth of the economy seems to confirm, you are right to point out that the Bush tax cuts in their totality are the issue. President Bush, true to his image as a compassionate conservative here as well as his African Aids relief, cut taxes as a percentage of taxes paid far more for the lower income earner than the high end one, by a full third. This echoed thru the tax system. Putting aside the supply side argument, that lower taxes would increase revenue thru incentivized productivity, for a moment, the Bush tax cuts sans these effects are estimated to cost the treasury $4 trillion dollars over the decade. Doing away with those tax cuts only for the high earners as Obama has opposed saves less than 20% of this total. Dropping the tax cuts for all those earning over $83,000 would save 67% of this money. If the president were primarilty interested in cutting the deficit rather than collecting votes by promoting class warfare, he would look at the latter, serious, number rather than the former. Unfortunately that is not the case.
By the way, the 47% paying no income tax has recently risen to 51%. Now the typical American, in addition to the poor one, pays no income tax whatsoever.


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