Discussing
Why the U.S. debt deal should have us all reevaluating our values

Jordan J. Ballor

Rob T
August 2, 2011

Good thoughts.  I think people are finding it hard to not get jaded with all of this.  I mean, the american public was already cynical toward govt. to begin with.  I think prayer has to play a big part for The Christian--to change our own hearts and keep them from becoming hard.  thanks.

Epistrophy
August 2, 2011

It would be all well and good if the Church could step up and provide all of the social services that have been undermined by this bill and other prior legislation. But the Church doesn't, and it's a pipe dream to imagine that it would. The reason these government programs exist in the first place is because the Church has spent decades refusing to do all it could to help those in need. And now many within the Church are joining the ranks of the tea party, which worships at the altar of selfishness constructed by Ayn Rand (and whose philosophy, by the way, was used as the core of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan). Absolutely, we should think upon all of the things the article encourages us to think upon. But thought isn't action, and too many Christians have spent their lives thinking instead of acting. As a result, life just got immeasurably harder for tens of millions of Americans, and as usual, the Church en masse will sit back and do very little in proportion to the actual need.

Dirt Doctor
August 2, 2011

I am a strong believer that we must deal with the sin in each of us before we can affect culture or politics. Individual - family and then culture and politics. Great perspective, Jordan. Epistrophy, some blame must be placed on creeping progressivism in our government for displacing charitable giving. Paying taxes at a 50% rate makes charitable giving more difficult. The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.

SiarlysJenkins
August 2, 2011

The most important point is that indeed Americans think about taxes and entitlement as two separate and unrelated questions. We need to honestly admit that what we really want our government to deliver, must be paid for, and what we don't want to pay for, the government cannot deliver. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

I don't believe that tithing cash income is a Biblical mandate -- tithing it almost exclusively referenced in the Old Testament, where it referred primarily to the agricultural produce of the land of Israel. However, if I had confidence that tithed money would be used to  provide basic health care and education to all the poor of the earth, I would be glad to tithe. Right now, I have little confidence that either my church, or any church, nor my government, will use my money in this manner.

Bob Bohannon
August 3, 2011

We can make all the comments we went as to the validity of the above article, but it comes down to the individule and how they are going to respond.  Private response, through the guidance of God, to the situation of the poor always delivers just what is needed.  The response of the government is to provide the surpurfalous.  Where food is needed, government provides money so that drugs, alcoho, and tobacco can be purchased. Christian groups on the other hand provide food, clothing, and shilter not money that is used for all the wrong things.  All government is interested in is providing a base to remain in power.  The Christian is interested in meeting the real need of people.  Government must alow its people to be responsible for and rely upon themselves to care for those in real need.  We must understand the difference between thoes in real need, because of circumstances byond their control, and thoes who bring proverity onto themselves through their own efforts and lack of spiritual relationship with the one true provider of all things.  As a people we must stop relying on Government to provide for our needs and turn to God and alow him to provide according to his many blessings.

Mcm76
August 3, 2011

I loved every bit of this piece... except perhaps for the part about churches spending too much on building places of worship.  As with all things, balance is important.  I see this as a both/and thing.  Churches absolutely have a duty to show concern for those with material needs, but to your point in the paragraph on the individual, Churches also have the duty to serve the needs of the spiritually poor.  Never forget that beauty speaks to the soul. An exquisite worship space that demonstrates how much believers want to show their love and honor for God (giving Him their very best) is a powerful tool in overcoming our spiritual debt when it is connected with serving the material needs of others.

Jason Summers
August 3, 2011

Jordan is correct that the debt crisis is first an opportunity to reflect on the related issues as manifested in all areas of life.  In particular, he highlights the failings of the Church and the potential the Church could realize.  I might take issue with some details of those calculations, but certainly the spirit of them is correct.  Given the frame he presents, a large part of the challenge we now then face is addressing what I might term in economic parlance the "market failure" of the Church.  Jordan offers a solution of personal reform and renewal leading to institutional change.  His concern seems to be that, if that is not done, individuals will forgo that important work and seek "easy" political solutions.  While political solutions are not necessarily "easy" they certainly can give the allusion that one can abdicate responsibility.  And, in this, Jordan's concerns are real.  Of course, personal piety effecting bottom-up transformation is an equally tempting cure-all; one that speaks to a fundamental idealism.

In the business world we have many methods of addressing market failure.  One reason for that is that markets move quickly and the needs of consumers are not suspended while solutions emerge from a failed set of providers.  Often new providers emerge to address the failure.  At other times such failures are addressed by the Church (and by other organizations in the nonprofit sector).  That said, if consumer needs merit multiple solutions to market failure, how much more the ongoing needs brought about by the current debt crisis.  A viable, pragmatic, and Christian response recognizes the brokenness of the world in tandem with the value of individuals (which cannot be suspended) and seeks solutions to market failure through all appropriate channels.  This speaks to a fundamental realism: one that acknowledges sin, understands the value of individuals in the face of that, and seeks to do the work of the Kingdom in the world.

Hilltopnanny
August 3, 2011

Here in Texas, when government supplies arrived following Hurricane Rita, it was the local churches who ended up distributing those goods along with truckloads of donated goods from churches around the country.  The government officials didn't know how to do it nor where the people were who needed it.  The church people were way ahead of them.  Because the officials were local people they knew who they could trust.  Our church ended up with carte blanche access to FEMA generators, ice, gasoline and more.  That cooperation kept oxygen machines runnings, insulin cooled and children fed.  On the local level this cooperation is possible.  It doesn't have to be an either or situation. 
Whether people like it or not, our heritage is Christian charity as taught by Jesus Himself.  Christians do not mind tax dollars going to help the poor.  What we seem to be rebelling over is the bureaucracy that has developed and created fat cats who get rich off the intent.  We are also disgusted by the laziness the system encourages.  A hand to someone out of work is far different than hand-outs to those who refuse to work.  Health care and milk for children in needy families is a good thing.  Having babies just to receive government checks is a sham.  We can't continue on the road we're on and we can't go all the way back to the beginning.  There needs to be serious dialogue about what to do next and how to meet in the middle.  I'm not a politician so I'm pledging to pray.  In the meantime we continue to tithe at our church, extend free rent to people who are temporarily out of work, pull twenties out of our pockets when we can, pay our taxes and above all PRAY for God's will for the USA to be done.

Jamesggilmore
August 3, 2011

Paying taxes at a 50% rate makes charitable giving more difficult.

Please find me any individual in this country who is paying taxes at a 50% rate.

Tax rates right now are the lowest they've been in over half a century—and the rich, because they have access to tax shelters, creative accounting practices, and tax rates that are lower for capital gains than they are for actual productive work, generally pay a lower rate than average folks like you or me.

Jamesggilmore
August 3, 2011

I agree and disagree with you here.

I do think this crisis is, in many ways, due to the failings of the Church.

There are a grand total of seven passages in the Bible that talk about same-sex sexuality, compared to multiple places throughout the Bible (including in the Gospels) in which God talks about what God demands of the nations and of God's people economically: No usurious interest on credit, complete forgiveness of debts every seven years, paying workers a fair wage, not exploiting the poor, and wealth as enough of a barrier to a relationship with God that it is nothing short of a miracle if a rich person is actually capable of following Jesus.

Why, then, is it the case that a gay man must be "in the closet" in an evangelical church because his orientation is supposedly incompatible with the Christian life—while a banker, whose entire livelihood is based on practices the Bible clearly and plainly prohibits in multiple places, can be open about his or her profession and even sit on the Board of Elders?

Why do so many evangelical churches demand that gay men and lesbians "renounce" their orientation and try to push them into abusive "ex-gay" therapies, while not demanding that the wealthy renounce their wealth and live a modest lifestyle? Jesus doesn't say a single thing about whether or not gay men or lesbians can live in right relationship with Him, but He is crystal clear that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle—which is possible for God, but would clearly be a miraculous and rare occurrence—than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom.

Why do so many churches insist on supporting laws that discriminate against gay men and lesbians, based on just seven passages in the Bible, while not supporting laws that would prohibit usurious interest rates, require regular debt forgiveness, and require workers to be treated fairly—ideas that are supported throughout Scripture and are, as the prophets attest, a significant portion of God's judgment of the nations?

Quite simply, as a whole, the Church has "gone along" with our nation's economic system—a system that has ruined many lives while providing a very few with untold wealth, a system that is designed to redistribute wealth upward from the people who work to the people who hold capital, a system that rewards cravenness, greed, and exploitation rather than hard work or integrity—while pretending that its opposition to contemporary understandings of sexuality (which hurt nobody) are somehow "countercultural."

This debt crisis, and our economic system as a whole, are a stark demonstration of the complete failure by the Church in a supposedly "Christian" nation to be God's prophetic voice against the wealthy, against the exploitation of workers by the holders of capital, against our destructive and usurious financial system, and against the complete control of our economic system by the immoral power of capital.

If the Church wishes to become the Church, to truly speak with God's voice to our culture, it will drop its ridiculous concentration on who's sleeping with whom and speak against the economic destruction being wreaked by Satan and Satan's business forces on our society. 

It will tell the wealthy that their souls are at grave risk unless they renounce their wealth, give it to the poor, and live modestly. It will tell the bankers, financiers, and hedge fund managers that their "lifestyle" is incompatible with the Christian life and that a right relationship with God requires that they repent of their livelihood and find work elsewhere. It will tell business owners that God commands them to treat their workers fairly and pay them a fair and living wage for the work they are doing, even if it decreases the business's profits.

Until the Church does that, it is complicit—by omission if not commission—in the immorality of our present economic system.

Mcm76
August 4, 2011

Just a comment on how one is meant to understand the "eye of a needle" remark by Jesus... it is a cultural idiom most of us gloss over, but that His hearers understood quite well.  The phrase refers to the short doorways/gates outside of homes and public spaces in that time and culture, designed specifically to let humans in - but keeping large animals like horses and livestock out.  How could one get in?  By stooping down low.  Jesus wasn't saying it was a miracle for a rich man to enter heaven.  He was saying that many rich people have great difficulty humbling themselves enough to embrace obedience to the Truth and put themselves at the service of God and others.  Likewise, I would argue that many who experience homosexual orientation have a similar difficulty.  That doesn't make them or the rich any worse than anyone else who struggles with one attachment or another.  Many (most?) of us have a hard time setting some thing aside in favor of total surrender to Christ.

Peace.

Jamesggilmore
August 4, 2011

It always astounds me how conservative Christians will say that the entire Bible is to be taken literally, and that we should ignore issues of historical context on issues like the Bible's treatment of same-sex sexuality (or sexuality in general), or the Creation and Flood narratives, in favor of the "plain meaning" of the Scripture... until they get to that passage, at which point the mental gymnastics commence, and they look for any excuse to get out of the plain meaning of that phrase.

The vast majority of evangelical Christians—like the vast majority of people on this planet in general—aren't rich. They might be financially secure or solidly middle-class (although that's shrinking these days, thanks to the thieves on Wall Street and their bought-and-paid-for politicians), but probably not rich.

So why do they have such a hard time with the plain meaning of this passage? If they're not rich, they don't have anything to worry about for themselves; Jesus could just as well be saying "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a Klingon to enter the Kingdom," and it wouldn't change how that passage affects 95% of us.

The average evangelical is neither LGBT nor rich; why does demonizing LGBT people for nothing more than being who they are come so easily, while criticizing the rich for the choices they have made and continue to make is verboten?

My personal belief is that it's because Jesus's challenge here isn't going after their bogeymen, but against the very ideologies that make up the true core of their identity. Americanism tells us that the rich are good people, "pillars of the community," the elite who we should aspire to emulate; Christ tells us that, absent a miracle, they are incapable of being true members of the blessed community unless they renounce their wealth.

In short, this passage assails the very heart of the American ideology; the fact that evangelicalism is so troubled by a passage that's not about most of them at all is evidence that capitalism, not Christ, sits at the heart of American evangelicalism.

And what's worse is that the mental gymnastic act of "it's a really small gate!" doesn't fit with the rest of the passage. Why would those around, who heard Jesus say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom, then ask him "Who then can be saved?" If it's a small gate, that's a stupid question, because the answer is obvious: the person who crawls can be saved.

Why also would Jesus have to explain that "what is impossible with humans is possible with God"? If it were just a matter of the rich having to "stoop down low to enter," that's not something that's "impossible with humans"—it's just something people don't want to do. It wouldn't produce the kind of astonishment that we see in that passage.

No, I think the plain meaning of the passage is rather clear: It is nothing short of a miracle if a rich person enters the Kingdom. Absent something that is self-evidently a miracle (as a camel going through the eye of a needle would be), wealth and Christianity are completely incompatible. The phrase "wealthy Christian" is, for all practical intents and purposes, an oxymoron.

Jordan Ballor
August 4, 2011

jamesggilmore attributes hermeneutical shortcomings characteristic of "conservative Christians" as focusing on "literal" interpretations. (I find the continuing comparison with matters pertaining to human sexuality not to be germane to the topic at hand and will therefore restrict my observations to the actual points at issue). Let's move beyond that "literal" interpretation, then, and look at the encounter with the rich young ruler in its full context, including the church's historical interaction with the text. 

On the latter point, I nominate Clement of Alexandria's answer to "Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?" for consideration, from which I quote above. Clement is at pains to show precisely why the phrase "wealthy Christian" isn't necessarily oxymoronic. 

On the former point, I nominate the end of the passage, which includes the following: "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."

Jordan Ballor
August 4, 2011

I certainly didn't mean to imply that all brick-and-mortar expansion projects are illegitimate. Some are necessary. But some church expenditures are more about what's been called "theo-tainment" than the legitimate expressions of joy and spiritual values you refer to. I'll point you to the comment by SiarlysJenkins, for instance. Many people don't trust the stewardship decisions made by the
leadership of their local churches, to say nothing of their denominations. And at any rate, I suppose we can agree that large building projects that indebt the church at the very least limit the possibilities for other ministry expenditures, and therefore ought to be closely scrutinized.

On "theo-tainment," here's Michael Craven:

The “modern” idea of church, or ecclesiology, it seems is that the church exists as a venue to “attract” the lost through dynamic programs, performances and events—the more dynamic the better. What one pastor friend of mine referred to as “theo-tainment.” The problem with emphasizing this approach exclusively is that a disproportionate amount of the church’s time and resources go into these efforts at the expense of discipleship and training the already saved. The result is the proverbial church that “is a mile wide and inch deep.” Yes, the
local church may grow in numbers but rarely in spiritual maturity and the witness of the Church is often rendered lackluster.

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs...

Jason Summers
August 4, 2011

James is correct with respect to total tax rates.  It's quite difficult to have an average rate above 30% as a combination of all federal, state, and local taxes (cf. p. 40 of http://www.taxfoundation.org/f... ), and, depending on spending patterns, rate much above the middle thirties may be impossible. 

However, I'd hate to say people who invest (many of whom are not wealthy by the stereotypical standard) are somehow a devious bunch of tax avoiders.  Rather, they are instrumental in allowing businesses to raise the capital they need to function.  Also, note that, with a few exceptions (such as certain hedge fund managers whose salaries from the carry on the fund are taxed at the 15% rate) the top 20%, on average, pays the highest rate overall (again see p. 40 of the report).js

SiarlysJenkins
August 4, 2011

I first heard this bit of hermeneutical gymnastics in a sermon where my pastor was denouncing it as a contrived excuse, because when the text says "the eye of a needle" it means THE EYE OF A NEEDLE. I would of course be very interested to hear any detailed analysis of specific Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek words which might sustain the argument that "the eye of a needle" is a narrow door accessible to humans but not animals... but it seems a stretch. There is NO other reference to such a terminology EXCEPT in brief arguments by Christians intent on proving that wealth is too OK with Jesus.

Anny
August 5, 2011

Do you know anyone who has had a baby just to receive government checks? Even if you were successful in applying for all the relevant government assistance programs, I can't imagine that this would outweigh the costs of having a child, both financially and in terms of your own time and energy.

Anny
August 5, 2011

Thanks for your comment- very well said.

I have a question about capital. I recently started my first full-time, "permanent" (not an internship) job. I have some savings in a retirement account that I have invested in bonds and mutual funds. This seems like a sensible way of saving for the future, but it also feels strange to be making money by having money.

So the question I've been trying to answer for myself is whether I'm making a good, practical decision (that will allow me to give more in the future) or taking a destructive role in an inherently exploitative capitalist system.

Anny
August 5, 2011

I'm not sure if I'm reading your comment right or not. Do you mean to say that churches should distinguish between "those in real need, because of circumstances byond their control, and those who bring poverty onto themselves" in deciding who to help? (i.e. does this comment apply to churches rather than just to the government?) And if so, what is your basis for that?

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
August 5, 2011

Hi Anny, You might be interested in a recent post on TC in which contributor Paul Chaplin, new to full-time work himself, wrestled with some of these issues: http://www.thinkchristian.net/...

Anny
August 5, 2011

Thanks! I'd read that article with interest and, of course, am still thinking about it. I suppose it's not necessarily an easy-answer sort of thing. At the moment, I can certainly work on being more generous (increasing total monetary giving, looking for ways to help people, etc.) while still saving a good portion of my income. The investing aspect adds another layer to it, but it seems practical, I've gotten a lot of encouragement from family members I really respect, and I can't see any ways that I'm directly hurting anyone.

Jason Summers
August 5, 2011

James,

You write, "[the Church] will tell the wealthy that their souls are at grave risk unless they renounce their wealth, give it to the poor, and live modestly."  My question to you is, what would qualify as "modest" living?  Very few Americans live modestly by global standards.  We all routinely enjoy luxuries many in the world can hardly hope for.  One might then apply a standard that individuals should live in a way that is modest for their nation (e.g., refrigeration and running water are not immodest in the U.S., though they are luxuries in many places).  However, to apply this standard introduces other problems.  A family with an annual income of $50k (slightly above the median) can live quite comfortably within their means in many smaller cities and rural areas (a home, a car, parochial school, one parent working) while saving and giving away a portion of their income.  To translate those standards to a major city, however, might require an income of $200k or more.  Would an individual living in such a way on such an income become immodest by virtue of the expense of his or her family's cost of living, despite the lifestyle being identical in outward appearance to a rural lifestyle of much lower cost?  Would their soul be at risk because the cost to live in that manner requires an income that would make them wealthy in the minds of many Americans?

It is a dangerous proposition to establish absolute standards of wealth rather than standards of charity.  The latter is done biblically, not the former.  Besides, many of our brothers and sisters in the third world would no doubt find it insulting and ridiculous for anyone in America to suggest that he or she was living modestly and had renounced his or her wealth.

Again, you write, "[the Church] will tell the bankers, financiers, and hedge fund managers that their 'lifestyle' is incompatible with the Christian life and that a right relationship with God requires that they repent of their livelihood and find work elsewhere."  It seems clear to me that you believe capitalism is a system opposed to biblical principles, and thus, you believe no Christian can directly support the financial system.  I disagree with you.  But I am curious, to what extent would you extend this prohibition?  Which jobs are somehow dirty?  The broker who manages a pension fund for pastors or the money of any Christian foundation or nonprofit organization?  How can anyone as an individual extricate oneself from the benefits that the American financial system affords him or her by virtue of living in a wealthy nation with high wages, robust infrastructure, high-quality medical care, and the like?

Finally, you write, "[the Church] will tell business owners that God commands them to treat their workers fairly and pay them a fair and living wage for the work they are doing, even if it decreases the business's profits."  You seem to believe that "business owners" as a class somehow exclusively consist of powerful figures who must be reined in.  I encourage you to consider who they really are: often times sacrificing for their workers and customers, many times middle class rather than affluent.

js

Jay
August 7, 2011

How come there has been not mention for cuts in military spending?The US spends more on war then the entire world combined. This is supposed to be a Christian outlet of ideas.One of the commandments is "Thou shalt not kill."
The Bush administration took a surplus and added 5.07 trillion to the deb.Two wars and tax cuts the reason.Obama has added 1.4 trillion,mostly fighting the recession through stimulus packages.
The far-right extremist Republican tea-party are financed by the billionaire Koch brothers.They have taken over Washington and defied what the people have told polsters.The majority support higher taxes.
The tea-party puppets are fighting for the "rights" of people like the top 25 hedge fund managers.They make an average of 880 million dollars each a year and pay only 15 percent tax. Right wing mouthpieces like Rush Liimbaugh,Ann Coulter and Fox News call President Obama outragous names as he attempts to give all Americans health care!! (By the way,government run health care works well in Canada...do not believe the lies told by Rpublicans/insurance companies.)
The ultimate prize for the Republican party will be the dismantling of  New Deal social legislation...mainly Social Security.For now their guns are aimed at repealing the Health Care bill,removing the rights for a women to control her own body,disallowing a personal decision to have an abortion and making sure that social programs for the poor,elderly and students are picked over with microscopic precision.Meanwhile,the rich are still flying around in their private "tax right off" jets.

The extremities of this greed,the coldness of this selfishness and heartless attitude toward fellow man on such a large scale can only mean one thing.
The last person laughing on judgement day is going to be the devil as he watches the long line of souls that have been refused entry into heaven.

Paulvanderklay
August 7, 2011

well, kind of...

Is the debt crisis really because the US gov't is breaking the bank on social programs for the poor? Not really.

The government's big ticket items are 1. entitlements (social security, medicare/aid) 2. defense (wars)

It's a nice thought that the church could simply "replace" entitlements but I don't think the church should or could simply do so. Social security itself is part care for the disabled and care for the elderly. Prior to social security that burden fell mostly on family. The church picked up a bit around the fringes but it is not true that the church was at one point caring for the old and disabled and the gov't took its job away. Families were. Families that were living in communal, settled situations of generational interconnectedness. The world has changed dramatically since then. The gov't doesn't "care", it pays cash. Money pays for stuff like care, or at least subsidizes family dislocation, urbanization, etc.

Medical is the other huge area. For generations the church was deeply involved in the development of what today we look at as the hospital. Most of that care, however, more resembled someplace between hospitality and hospice. Today the hospital is where the fruit of scientific medical research applies what we've learned to sick people. When this fails, we revoke back to hospice. I don't hear anyone advocating that the church should replace the medical industry or try to pay for our current system of medical science dispursement. 

Would I like to see the church step up in areas of social care and community development? Absolutely, but to simply apply this to the current problem of government debt doesn't neatly fit IMHO.

Jamesggilmore
August 7, 2011

The church picked up a bit around the fringes but it is not true that the church was at one point caring for the old and disabled and the gov't took its job away. Families were. Families that were living in communal, settled situations of generational interconnectedness.

First, let's make one thing clear: Social Security doesn't contribute one penny to our deficit. It's a trust fund, run separately from the rest of the budget, and funded entirely from the Social Security taxes on our paychecks. Under the current configuration, it's already solvent through 2037; we could not only shore it up for the foreseeable future but also raise benefits so that it's actually enough for the elderly to live on rather than making them choose between heating and food by simply (a) eliminating the income cap on taxable Social Security income (only the first $106,800 of income is taxed, meaning the rich pay less of a percentage of their income than normal people do) and (b) applying the tax to all individual income, not just wage earnings.

The reason Social Security and Medicare exist is because families couldn't provide for their elders... simply because they didn't have the means to. When poverty is intergenerational, as it is in the US, a poor grandparent will more often than not have a poor child and a poor grandchild—meaning that when the grandparent no longer has the energy, capacity, stamina, etc. to work, his or her descendants aren't able to provide for him or her, because they simply don't have the means.

This goes doubly so for Medicare, particularly as you've accurately noted that medical care involves more now than it did even when the program was first created in the 1960s. A family could conceivably feed an elderly family member and house them without too much of a dent in their income (providing they have the means to); however, medical care for the elderly is, and will tend to always be, more expensive, for the rather obvious reason that as people age, they tend to require more medical care. Medicare will always be a bit of a losing proposition if only the elderly are involved in it.

The solution to fixing Medicare isn't to raise the age of eligibility, but to lower it—to get people who are 45 or 55, who will tend to be healthier and require less in benefits, paying premiums into the system. Ideally, we'd open Medicare to everyone, so that I could buy in at the age of 31.

As for defense, we're responsible for almost half of the total defense spending on the planet—devoting an incredible amount of our national treasure to the making of war and to instruments whose purpose is to kill and maim. Maybe that spending was justifiable when we were facing another global empire who wanted to destroy us, but that empire has been gone for twenty years now—and we're spending as much of our money to defend ourselves as we did at the peak of our silent war with that other empire. The defense budget, I think, should be the site of 90% of any budget cuts we make—starting with ending the Iraqi and Afghan wars, closing a bunch of needless military bases around the world, ending massive expenditures on contractors, and generally shrinking our military.

SiarlysJenkins
August 9, 2011

Social security is not a debit on the general budget of the United States. It is sustained by its own trust fund, with its own dedicated revenue source. It is a legitimate concern that if the money from that dedicated source runs out, there will be nothing to pay social security checks with. We cannot retire earlier, live longer, pay in less, and take out more in abundant benefits. But the numbers are very clear, and entirely separate from the federal budget deficit. The deficit is not, and never has, funded social security. Both so-called "liberals" and so-called "conservatives" spread this blatant lie, because each finds it useful, but there is no substance to it.

There IS however, one connection nobody is talking about between social security and the national debt:

Since for most of its history, the social security fund has run a surplus, the trustees responsible had to park the money somewhere. Investment in the stock market is, quite appropriately, forbidden. The safest investment has generally been assumed to be T-bills. Thus, as a perhaps unintended consequence, about $6 trillion of our national debt is OWED to the social security trust fund. IF the United States were ever to default on that debt, THEN social security would certainly be in big trouble.

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